Thursday, 6 June 2013

Why I'm Going Back to Work

I took the baby for a walk one sunny spring day, and we crossed at a school crossing, where the crossing guard complimented me on my beautiful baby girl. We got to talking—as you do when on mat leave, starved as you are for conversation with anyone over the age of five—and I told her that we moved to Oakville a year and a half ago and that I have another little girl who's three years old.

"Where is she?" the lady asked.

"Daycare," I replied. I explained that I'm on mat leave but will be going back to work in August.

She wasn't impressed, commenting that she would "never put her kids in daycare" when they're little. "They need three years with you," she said firmly.

I played the finances card, explaining that we need two incomes to live the life we want. We chatted some more and eventually, I went on my way.

But here's the thing: I'm not really going back to work for financial reasons. Having two kids in daycare is a huge cost. I'm going back to work because I need something more.

Let me first give a huge shout out to stay-at-home moms: I don't know how you do it. Seriously. When I'm on my own with both kids, I run out of activities that will amuse a three-year-old and a baby. And I find my patience and good spirits draining away like sand through an hourglass.

Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed this mat leave—perhaps even more than my first one. I like the lazy, relaxed pace and not having to worry about what day it is. But I can't do this forever.

I miss the work environment. I miss drinking a coffee before it gets cold and making decisions that don't involve my children. I miss talking to people who can talk back. Heck, I miss going to the bathroom alone (if you have kids, you totally know what I'm talking about).

Most of all, I miss having an identity outside of my family. Of course I want to be a mom. But I was somebody before I had kids...and now I'm wondering exactly where that person went.

She'll come back, I'm sure. As soon as I'm back at my desk, sipping my morning coffee, reading my emails and getting ready to kick off a productive day. 

And then, I'll miss my kids again. 

Monday, 3 June 2013

Trial By Dinner

Without kids, dinner was a relaxed affair, often involving wine and adult conversation with my husband about our respective work days.

With kids, dinner has become a race against time, a potential battlefield for all kinds of preschooler issues and the single most stressful point in my day.

Dinner time at our house usually goes something like this:

5 p.m. - Witching hour begins. Previously happy-go-lucky baby suddenly becomes whiny and clingy, refusing to be put down. Begin dinner preparations with the baby on my left hip, while also attempting to keep her away from all sharp/burning/potentially hazardous kitchen objects. This is a task that surely requires at least another hand.

5:15 p.m. - Realize that if I attempt to put dinner together entirely one-handed, it will take all night. Try to put baby down. Baby cries and climbs back up my legs. Eventually force baby into high chair and throw some finger food on her tray. Keep working on dinner.

5:25 p.m. - Baby decides she doesn't like whatever I have put on her tray and wants something else. Looking me straight in the eyes, she slowly and deliberately starts chucking her food on the floor.

5:30 p.m. - Husband and three-year-old arrive home. Three-year-old runs into the kitchen and, seeing that the baby is eating, immediately decides she's hungry too. Naturally, she wants whatever the baby's eating—even if it's something that shouldn't appeal to a three-year-old. Send her off to wash her hands.
5:45 p.m. - Dinner is on the table, and we all sit down to eat. Three-year-old wants a different fork, a different spoon, ketchup. Complains that she doesn't like [insert any food here], even though she shoveled it in like it was going out of style two nights ago. Asks for milk. We tell her she has to eat some dinner first. 

Baby, who's done eating and is bored with the lack of attention, takes whatever is stickiest on her tray and fists it into her hair.

Give the three-year-old milk, which she immediately spills all over the table and floor. Clean it up and get more. 

5:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. - Three-year-old is doing everything but eating. She talks, sings, turns around in her chair and puts her feet up on the table. 

"Feet DOWN, please." 

"I don't want to!" 

"I'm not going to ask you again." 

"I don't want to!" 

"Okay, then go to your corner until you're ready to listen." 

Three-year-old goes to the dining room corner, crying and screaming, "I WANT TO EAT MY DINNER! I WANT TO EAT MY DINNER!"

Eventually, she calms down and comes back to the table. Everyone but her is done eating. We remind her that if she doesn't eat enough dinner, there's no dessert. 

"But I WANT dessert!" 

"Then eat your dinner!" 

We negotiate exactly how much she needs to eat. While arguing, she spills her milk again. Clean it up again.
Meanwhile, baby is crawling around underneath the kitchen table, occasionally eating dropped bits of food that she finds there. 

6:30 p.m. - We decide to call it. Three-year-old says she's not finished. We tell her she's had lots of time to eat. No dessert because she wasn't well-behaved and didn't eat enough. 


Three-year-old goes off to cry and sulk in the corner again while we clean up the kitchen, which looks like we've had a holiday picnic on the floor. Baby has now embarked on a path of destruction in the family room.

By the time the three-year-old gets over the egregious insult of no dessert, we squeeze in a few minutes of play time, then it's pretty much bedtime.

I don't understand why dinner time is such a struggle. Why doesn't my precocious and verbal three-year-old learn that if she just does what she's supposed to, when we ask her to, dinner will be over, and she'll get dessert and lots of time to play? Why is it so often a battle of wills?

When I go back to work, I'm thinking maybe I'll just leave the pantry doors open and let them fend for themselves, zoo-style. That's got to be easier.