Life Update, November 2020

Although it feels like the rest of Texas has “gone back to normal” in the past couple of months, we have not. I continue to work from home. My husband teaches only half of his classes in-person, and those are reduced, distanced, and masked. All performances are outdoor. Our children won’t be going back to childcare until May or June 2021–we’re lucky enough to have family to help us, and lucky enough to have kids too small for school.

It’s very difficult. Everyone is bored, everyone longs to socialize, everyone conversely longs for time when they aren’t with other people. The paradox of the pandemic, for us, is that although we’re isolated socially, we’re always with family, and that wears on you in its own way.

There was a lot of backyard water play in the summer. Halloween was actually fantastic–our neighborhood did a great job of making it safe and fun. Thanksgiving, which is tomorrow, should be nice. My father drove here from Florida after isolating for over a week (he is quite isolated anyway, but he didn’t even go on his usual weekend bike ride with his best friend). My father and brother will be here for Christmas, all without flying.

I’ve thought a lot over the past several months about how lucky we are to be financially well-off, to have a nice house with a safe yard, to live in a safe and beautiful neighborhood, to have our own transportation. All of that has enabled us not only to stay safe, but to stay relatively happy.

Now I’m going to move on to some more trivial things: what I’ve been doing for entertainment when I’m not working, parenting, or sleeping.

Doing

A few weeks ago now, I bought an exercise bike (no, not the ubiquitous Peloton). We aren’t returning to OrangeTheory any time soon, and running so regularly was starting to affect my knees. Both of my parents have had knee surgery, so I decided to back off and do what my dad did: start spinning.

I love the bike. I do a Global Cycling Network workout 5-6 days per week, weight training 1 day per week, and take 1 day off to just walk or do nothing. No knee pain and I find it easier to push myself on the bike than while running.

Watching

I’ve watched a lot of “comfort TV” recently, which for me means British detective shows like Midsomer Murders, Morse, and Cracker. But I’ve also got into Coronation Street, an excellent British soap that updates in almost real time on BritBox. Highly recommended for some engaging but easy-to-watch TV.

Because my oldest son is obsessed with bikes, we started watching the Tour de France when it began in August, and this has evolved into a near-daily habit of watching cycling. Because of the pandemic, the season was heavily condensed, so for the past few months there has nearly always been an event to watch in the mornings, or to catch up on the following morning. To my surprise, I’ve become very invested in cycling and have been following it very closely. I’ve always loved watching the Tour–since 2010 when I worked at a bike shop–but this is the first year I’ve really followed all of the road events.

Reading

In that same vein, I’ve been reading cycling books. First The Secret Race, then The First Tour de France, then Slaying the Badger, and now The Beautiful Race. All great.

I also finally read Portnoy’s Complaint.

Listening

Cycling podcasts. Food podcasts. True crime podcasts. And I’ve been rediscovering a lot of older Bob Dylan albums after listening obsessively to Rough & Rowdy Ways for a while.

Working Mom Diaries: Back to the Office & the Second Week(end) from Hell

February 11th was my first day back in my office in person. And it went so well! While I was gone my desk was moved to an even better location, and the nursing mothers’ room, which I think I’m the only person in the whole office using, was repainted and got new furniture. I trained a new content manager on my first day back, and enjoyed seeing all of my coworkers again.

Our baby spent Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at daycare and had no problems at all. I was worried because he often refuses to take a bottle at home, but in a new setting with new people, he ate well and didn’t put up a fuss. The girls in the infant room are very sweet and send me frequent updates and at least one cute picture every day.

Things did go downhill, but luckily not until Friday afternoon. My husband picked our toddler up from daycare and was told that within the past hour he had started crying and had a fever again. I assumed that his ear infection must have returned, but when he vomited twice overnight and woke up on Saturday with a 102.3 fever, I took him to the doctor. That seemed a little high for an ear infection or a stomach virus.

The doctor tested him for strep, flu, and diabetes of all things, because apparently it can present that way in children. His blood sugar was fine, but he tested positive for flu, and for Influenza B of all things, which only 4-5% of flu-positive people are getting this year! Because we have an infant at home, we were immediately prescribed Tamiflu for both kids, and they’ve been on it since Saturday around noon. It seems to have worked like magic, because by Sunday evening our toddler was fever-free and energetic, if still grumpy, and the baby has had no flu symptoms at all.

So it’s been another weekend of divide-and-conquer, keeping the kids as separated as possible and being trapped in the house since we don’t want to spread this around. Everyone will be back to work and daycare on Tuesday, since thanks to Tamiflu no one will be contagious anymore.

As my mom keeps reminding me, having two kids 22 months apart is an immersive parenting experience! We are learning a hell of a lot.

Working Mom Diaries: 2019 Goals (aka Improvements)

2019 began with my family, including my mom who had been with us for over two months, flying back to Florida. All of a sudden, we were really a family of four, instead of a family of four + grandma. My husband and I both returned to work on January 7th (luckily I am still working from home!), and our older son returned to daycare after a long holiday break.

The start of the year has made me think about what I want to change in 2019. Usually I’m thinking about what I want to accomplish, but with two little kids, I’ve decided not to make any big goals for myself until 2020. Cool things might happen for me, but I’m not pushing it. Instead, I have some problems I’d like to correct and some improvements I want to make.

  1. Reconnect with friends. This is huge for me, and I struggle with it daily. I have no girlfriends who I can see regularly in person since we moved to Utah, and between having kids and working full-time, I have really, REALLY struggled to stay in touch with the people who are important to me in other parts of the country. It isn’t that I don’t want to give people a call, it’s a combination of things: being a little phone-shy, being tired by the time I’m free to talk, and having something like friendship imposter syndrome. Are we really close enough for me to call you to talk? Do you really want to hear from me? Do you feel the same way about me as I do about you? This can be so bad that I won’t pick up the phone when a friend calls me. So I want to start picking up the phone every time, and I want to start dialing it a lot more myself. I never, ever regret it.
  2. Reconnect with my husband. There’s nothing like kids to make you feel like two ships passing in the night (sometimes literally). Between the sleep deprivation of a new baby and the constant attention-grabs of a talkative toddler, there is not a lot of time for uninterrupted adult conversations that aren’t about the logistics of daycare pick-up. I remember this becoming a lot easier once our first child was 5-6 months old, but I’m hoping to make some time for us to connect as two adults and not just as parents well before then.
  3. Control the scroll. I decided before our baby was born that during my maternity leave, I wouldn’t worry about how much time I spent on my phone. When you’re on the couch with a newborn and you haven’t slept much, it’s a lot easier to scroll through Instagram than to crack a book, and I decided to just let myself have the phone as entertainment for a few months. But now the baby is over 10 weeks old, and I think it’s time to start limiting my phone habit again. I’ve charged up my Kindle, downloaded Flipd, and I’m planning to get serious about it this week. I don’t want my toddler seeing me stare at a screen this much. I’d honestly rather have the TV on in the background than have my head down in my phone.
  4. Return to exercise. I totally fell off the workout wagon about halfway through this last pregnancy. I just didn’t have the energy to parent a toddler, be pregnant, and exercise. Now my energy is returning, and I want to get stronger again too. I’m currently three weeks into GlowBodyPT’s 12 Week Post Pregnancy Plan, and I’m loving it.

I think I can handle these four improvements, especially since they’ll all serve to make me happier and more fulfilled in 2019. Can’t really go wrong with that!

Working Mom Diaries: Adjusting to Two

Our second son was born in mid-November, and we’re deep in the process of adjusting to life with two kids instead of just one. So far, it hasn’t been as difficult as I expected it to be, and there are a few reasons why that I’d like to pass on to other moms out there.

  1. Accept all of the help you can. I decided very early on to ask my mother to come and help us for as long as she could stay. With our first, we had a total of about ten days of help from anyone, and I felt like I needed more this time. My mom stayed with us for over two months, from around Halloween until January 2nd, and it was fantastic. If you can get this help from family or if you can afford to hire a night nanny, do it.
  2. Continue childcare. I got very anxious about germs and kept my older child home from daycare for a couple of weeks. Things were much easier once he went back, for him and for me. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have disrupted his routine just to quell my own anxieties.
  3. Lower your expectations (of yourself). Don’t expect too much of yourself too quickly. Plan on eating a lot of frozen Trader Joe’s meals. Set up a meal rotation so that you’re making the same 5-7 easy meals every week. Get takeout. Hire a service to clean your house, at least for a few months. Push non-crucial projects out a couple of months. Say no to events, visitors, and opportunities that make you feel stress or dread.
  4. Prioritize rest. This might be the hardest thing for me to do. It’s very tempting to spend time when you could be napping cleaning the house, working, cooking, exercising, etc. Try to let the messy living room go and sleep instead. Or, if you can’t sleep, just sit on the couch and veg out. You don’t always need to be accomplishing something; you’ve already got plenty going on.

This makes it sound so simple… and honestly, it is simple. There’s nothing complicated about having two children, at least not right now. But that doesn’t make it easy. It’s tough, and it’s time-consuming, and I’m more than glad that I can have a cocktail at 6pm again!

Stay tuned, because I’m planning on some more frequent updates in 2019.

Working Mom Diaries: Online Role Models

This topic is why I’ve begun this blog series. There aren’t many working moms writing and posting online—that I’ve found, anyway!—who I can really identify with and admire. And I’m focusing on online examples because 1) not many of my close friends even have children yet, and 2) where I live, full-time working mothers are quite unusual. I have to find my support online.

I have some specific issues with a lot of “working mom blogs.” Here are my biggest problems:

  • “High powered.” Vocal working mothers online definitely seem to skew towards “high powered” or “heroic” careers, like lawyers making $350k, surgeons, lab scientists, etc. This creates an atmosphere in which women feel like they shouldn’t work full-time unless they’re doing an “important” or extremely lucrative job. As a content manager, I just can’t identify with a working mom who is a trauma surgeon or who is completely financially unrelatable to me. It’s not that these women shouldn’t be proud of themselves! They’re amazing. But it’s also okay to have a “regular” job.
  • Pumping. I’ve found that working moms tend to put an intense focus on breastfeeding and pumping once they go back to work, and that it becomes a borderline obsession for a lot of women. This just isn’t important to me, and I wish it was less of a focus for working moms. I think we have bigger and more important issues as working mothers than pumping. Sorry. (In the past I might have recommended The SHUbox blog in my list below, but I would not want any other women to be affected by her recent pumping posts.)
  • MLMs. I just can’t with multi-level marketing schemes (also known as “network marketing” or “direct selling.”). This means stuff like Lipsense, AdvoCare, Young Living, LulaRoe, Mary Kay, etc. Go ahead and get involved if it’s your thing, but don’t call yourself an “entrepreneur” or “businesswoman” based on your involvement in an MLM. I personally do not count MLM sellers as “working moms.”
  • “Influencers.” Kind of the same thing as MLMs. If your “job” is running an Instagram account… it’s simply not the same as the type of job that I do, and I cannot relate.

Here is the short list of blogs and online presences that I like best (and even some of these have caveats):

  • julmarie: Julia has a blog and Instagram, and I found her via her writing on The Everygirl. She has a job similar to mine, her kids will be close in age to mine, and she even bought a house around the same time I did! Her freelance hustle is really inspiring to a writer like me, and yes, she works full time and employs childcare for her son. No caveats here; I find Julia extremely relatable and feel like I have a ton in common with her despite never having met her.
  • Carolina Charm: Christina has a blog and is also active on Instagram and Pinterest. I only recently found her blog, and have been reading some of her archives from when her kid(s) were the same age as mine. There are some really big things that I don’t have in common with her, like her affinity for girly stuff (like makeup and cute clothes) and her strong faith, but nevertheless I find her incredibly relatable and personable online. She works full-time and employs childcare for her two kids, who were “two under two” for quite a while! She gets super real about family life, food, exercise, and more, and I really love her honesty. She is also responsive on social media and feels like a friend whenever I have reached out. No caveats at all.
  • Sweet Tooth Sweet Life: I think that Courtney’s blog used to fall into the “healthy living blog” category, but I would say that now it’s a very general working mom’s blog, a lot like Carolina Charm’s, that includes Friday facts, recipes, meal planning, and life updates. She had a bit of an epiphany about “healthy living” in 2013, and revamped her attitude towards diet and exercise. I am not sure if Courtney’s two boys are in daycare or if they have family care or a nanny, but she and her husband both work full time and she’s very realistic about the challenges and rewards of that lifestyle. No caveats at all.
  • Rising*Shining and The Girl Next Door podcast: Rising*Shining is the blog of one of the co-hosts of The Girl Next Door podcast. Caveat: I can only recommend past blog entries and podcast episodes, because Kelsey recently quit her job to stay home with her two kids. But in the past, she was a very relatable full-time working mother who used childcare and worked as a science writer for a university. I still enjoy her blogging and am still subscribed to the podcast, but I was disappointed to lose a vocal working mom.
  • The Everymom. This is a new site from The Everygirl. I can’t really pass judgment yet, but I’m hoping that it will be a good resource for finding some other working mom bloggers. Caveat: There’s plenty of sponsored content, and the blog is not working-mom focused, so it’s a grab bag.

And that’s pretty much all! I would love to hear about more if you know of any! I’m sure there are plenty of great working mom bloggers who I just haven’t stumbled across yet, and I can’t wait to find them. I’ll write follow-up posts as I discover more.