Working Mom

24 Oct

Baby’s first meeting: he came to campus with me last week and slept the whole time 🙂

I worked until I was 38 weeks pregnant; I have been working since before he was 2 weeks old.  Since I work at a university, my schedule follows the academic calendar. Since I’m a poor student, I couldn’t afford to take a quarter off.  All summer I worked full time teaching English as a second language and luckily an awesome Research Assistantship opened up this fall. The RA position allows the flexibility I need with a new baby while still giving me a very needed paycheck/benefits. And the best part – it is with the director of the writing program at our university, so it is a GREAT learning experience. I am already learning a lot about writing, our university, and the politicking that goes with doing anything at a large university.

In the past month, I’ve had a couple meetings a week and I’ve led two major events. First, I led a panel of ESL ‘experts’ in a training for new English department teaching assistants. It was a 2-hour seminar and in some ways it was not a big deal to me because I had done it before (I created it last winter for a class, I led the seminar last spring). But this time the other ‘experts’ on the panel included the director I’m doing the RA-ship with, the director of the freshman composition program, and other people with a lot of expertise and power. This part was stressful–I knew that they would be judging the work I did.

It went really well! The night before, baby hardly slept. I was pale, loony, and only moderately unprepared (I updated my power point during the night between baby’s feedings when I just couldn’t get back to sleep). All week I knew that at 3:30 on Thursday I had a big thing to do. But babies don’t follow schedules and if they’re cranky, well, they’re cranky. That unpredictability is one of the hardest things about being a working mom.

The second big thing was a conference I presented at over the weekend. It was a local conference and I had presented the two previous years, and I knew it was important to do it this year and get it on the resume. Both presentations were with others–the first with a friend and the second was a panel. I just couldn’t get my act together to prepare, so again I was left to the last minute (i.e. Friday from 10pm-12am) to get things done. I drank a bunch of coffee, got baby down to sleep, and worked!! But the coffee kept me awake and I couldn’t get to sleep. At all. So by the time I needed to wake up at 6:15am to feed baby, get dressed, and drive down to the conference, I hadn’t slept at all.

Again, I was loony, underprepared, and high on adrenaline. But it went well – I presented the two times back to back and got home to a baby that had just awakened and hungry. He ate, we settled under the covers and I slept.

I tell these stories because I’m managing – I’m managing to keep doing what I need to do for work/school/career and to care for my baby. But other things suffer. My husband works from home and he can’t just babysit/support me all the time. He has huge deadlines coming up. For now, it is working to trade baby duties, but there will be a day when we can’t do it all on our own.

One of my professors called me ‘superwoman’ and in some ways it is a compliment. I am proud of the fact that I can be a mommy and a student and a teacher. But I also worry that doing too much too soon hurts my relationship with my baby, my health, and actually hurts the plight of mothers in society. As a teaching assistant on a 9-month contract, I was entitled to 1 week of maternity leave and technically I didn’t take it. I am lucky to have this RA-ship with a director that is very empathetic to my role as a mother. I have a healthy baby and a supportive husband and a supportive university–but not everyone does. And I worry that as baby gets older that things will get HARDER: i’ll have a child with needs (and less naps). Sleep deprivation goes from days to weeks to months (to years!). The supportiveness of my university may fade as being a mother becomes normal.

When I hear about women who get to have extensive maternity leaves–a year or more in Europe, a few months in the US–I am jealous. We might have figured out these breastfeeding issues much faster if I could just sit at home and care for my baby. My home would be cleaner and my husband happier. But we don’t have a choice so we make it work. I know I would not be happy as a stay at home mom and I am so lucky to have a job, money coming in, a flexible schedule, a supportive workplace, and a happy healthy baby. So for now, I am managing and I am thankful.

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