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Sending an infant to daycare for the first time, and other major anguish

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My maternity leave ends in six weeks, and I’ll probably spend at least four of those weeks stressing out about what to do with the baby when I go back to work. (I’ll spend the other two ignoring the issue completely.)

When I went back to work after my first son was born, I made the switch from full-time to part-time (in the office Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), and my husband was also working part-time then (Tuesdays and Thursdays), which meant whoever wasn’t on the job that day was the stay-at-home parent. Bottle-feeding problems aside, this was a wonderful solution, since I didn’t have to go through the agony of handing my baby over to a caring but paid stranger until said baby was a year and a half old.

This time around, my husband is working full-time and, between steady contracts and freelance gigs, so am I. I could probably give some of that up (and likely will have to), but for now I’m researching solutions that will allow me to keep the jobs I love without sacrificing quality time with the baby I also love (and happen to love more than I love work, for the record).

The good news is I work entirely from home, so I have a lot of options. We don’t have any family in the area who could help, but the next best thing might be hiring a babysitter to come in for a few hours every day, so at least the baby could stay at home. There are also nanny-shares in the neighborhood, as well as in-home daycares and more formal ones not too far away. (My older son’s awesome daycare doesn’t have room for more infants right now, so we have to wait on that.) I’ve also thought about just trying to do it all, all by myself, but having been in this position before, and I know that I’ll only be making a hard situation harder, and that all bets are off once the baby figures out how to move himself across a room.

I know there’s no option that will make me feel happy to pass my newborn over to a stranger at this point, but I also know that it’s probably necessary and definitely worth a shot (especially considering that sending my older son to daycare was one of the best things we ever did, for him and our family).

Here’s my call for advice and words of encouragement and/or warning. What did you do when you went back to work while your baby was still a baby? Did you find a solution you loved? Did you suffer through one you hated? Did you figure out something that felt sort of in between–maybe not ideal but a good enough fix for the time being?

The time my office caught on fire because I was on maternity leave

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It seems like every woman who has ever been pregnant can recall a handful of crazy dreams about all things impending motherhood. They’ve dreamt about giving birth to toddler-sized babies who come out fully dressed and speaking in sentences, they’ve dreamt about nursing kittens, they’ve dreamt about giving birth while co-piloting in a twin-engine plane with Hugh Jackman. (Okay, I made that last one up, but it’s probably happened to someone.) I’m sure I’ve had some crazy pregnancy dreams along the way, but I can’t remember anything specific. What have I been dreaming about, though? Work. Yay.
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Switching from Work Mode to Mom Mode

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I go on maternity leave next Monday, and although I can’t help thinking of it as a (glorious, hard-earned, much deserved) break, I know, intellectually, that I’ll have plenty to do while I’m not working. More than plenty, in fact, and none of it involves afternoons spent sipping lemonade or getting a foot massage or lovingly monogramming a stack of burp cloths as high as the moon. Nope, for however long I have off before the baby comes, all of that “extra” (HA) time will be spent preparing for the baby by finally taking care of things I feel like I should have dealt with months ago. Something tells me this isn’t unusual for working women who already have at least one child at home, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still frustrated with myself.
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Slacking on the (non)job

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My jobs are all deadline dependent. If I miss deadlines, I miss production windows, I mess up someone else’s schedule down the line, and I disappoint clients who then might not hire me for future jobs. I’m lucky I don’t have any bosses breathing down my neck on a daily basis, but those deadlines, man…they’re not joking around.
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Do you know how much your coworkers earn?

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Money is always a touchy subject, but it’s even touchier when you compare apples to apples–i.e., what your peer coworkers are making–instead of the apples-to-oranges guessing you might do of the doctor/lawyer-income couple down the block.
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Do your kids know what you do?

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When we were in Utah visiting my parents a few months ago, we drove by a Walmart and, apropos of nothing, my three-year-old son announced proudly, “That’s where my mom works!” I don’t know where that came from (kid hasn’t been to a Walmart in his life), and although it was probably just a random comment, it did make me wonder if he has any idea what I do all day while he’s at daycare.
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Working for the money vs. working for the work

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My husband had three job interviews last week, and although no official offers have been put on the table yet, let’s just pretend everyone thinks he’s as wonderful and accomplished as I do and that in the next few days he’ll have his pick of positions.

Aaaaahhhh. So that’s what it feels like to breathe again.
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Thou shalt keep strict office hours…unless you’re on a roll?

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I’ve read everything anyone anywhere has ever said about working from home.

“Create a dedicated office space!”

“Get dressed every day!”

“Take a shower!”

“Put on makeup!”

“Get out and talk to real adult people, even if it’s just the cashier at the Starbucks drive-thru!” (No offense to cashiers at Starbucks drive-thrus. You make the world go ’round.)

It’s funny that so many of these Helpful Tips are hygiene related (funny cuz it’s true) and that, together, they make us WAHMs out to be a bunch of unkempt cavewomen who, save for the civilizing grace of the revered drive-thru cashier (and her gift of caffeine), are assumed to be perpetually one eight-hour shift away from losing our ability to walk upright and speak in full sentences.
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Delegate

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I have a hard time letting people help me, but lately I’ve been fantasizing about what it would be like to have a personal assistant I could delegate all my less-than-desirable tasks to.

A basic list of responsibilities might look like this:
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How do you measure success at home?

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In the comments to this post about career ambition (and my near-complete lack thereof), WIM reader Elaine asked this question:

How do you measure success at home? Other than seeing the kids and spending time with them, where is the satisfaction?

GREAT question. TOUGH answers.
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