Tag Archives: working mom


It’s never a good day when you’re called into a conference room and find a Human Resources representative sitting at the head of the conference table with a slim folder in her hands and an emotionless expression on her face.

The organization I work for is making cuts. Lots of them. We’re being re-engineered, re-shuffled, made leaner and meaner and more competitive. And unfortunately, the executive vision of the organization’s bright future only includes 3/5ths of my job. I guess I’m grateful that they didn’t do away with my position entirely, like they’ve done to so many others, but that’s a whole lot less money I’m bringing home to my family.

I refused the severance package and stayed on part-time, for now, despite the obscene increase in my health premiums now that I’m only working 24 hours a week. So obscene that you should probably stop reading this if you’re at work. My cost tripled. That is multiplied by three. Double it, and then add a bunch more. Yay, US health insurance system. So I’m working for benefits, essentially. But I have a job, we have health care, and it could be worse.

I’m using my not-at-work days* to write and get housework done so maybe I’ll be freer in the evenings and on the weekends to just hang out with my family. Theoretically, part-time work is great. The mom thing is a ton of work and it would be lovely to have a regular day or two during the week that I could dedicate to the job of parenting.  Our daycare doesn’t have a part-time option, so kiddo is still there all week – no savings there. But that does mean that I’m able to handle errands and appointments and cleaning without a baby underfoot. And I could easily pull him out of class early on days I’d like to do special activities with him. I was able to enjoy the Halloween parade there this morning, and stay for a couple of hours to get him into his costume, walk him around to see the decorations, and take a million photos.

Financially, though, part-time work sucks. A lot. Lots of people are infinitely worse off, and I’m not going to complain too loud, but this means fewer nice things, fewer house projects, fewer vacations. And more importantly than all that, I get a sense of worth from my work, and being cut really hurt. I need to work, and it would be wonderful if I could work somewhere I felt I was making a difference somehow, and growing as a person.

I’m not sure I want to go back to the hospital labs, working weekends and holidays and being stuck there if the next shift is late, because the blood bank never closes. Besides that, the hospitals are far, and I’m so tired of long commutes. There are research labs around, too, and I’m looking into those, but I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t time to re-engineer myself a little. Who am I, who do I want to be, and how do I get from here to there? Do I need to cut any of my efforts by 2/5ths in order to move forward?

I read Wil Wheaton’s post about “rebooting” his life this week, and it’s still bouncing around in my head. Reboot. Re-engineer. What better time for personal change than a time when everything’s changing around me anyway? What can I fix? What can I focus?

Well, I know I want to write more. So I’ll write more. And read more, too, because Wil’s right that input is necessary for good output. I have a very long reading list to get to, and maybe being part-time for a while will give me time to make a dent in it. I’ve also got more time for writing now, which is great because I’ve got a couple of paid gigs these days, on top of my volunteer projects, guest posts, and this blog. Maybe it’s time to look into doing this more seriously. Am I good enough? Can I get good enough?

*Don’t you dare call them my days off. This isn’t a vacation, it’s 2/5ths unemployment.

This working Mom thing? I think it’s working.

The calendar says it’s been a year. I’ve been a working mom for a whole year.

I took as much parental leave as my job would let me. Twelve weeks; some of it paid, some not. I spent almost three months with my son after he was born, and it wasn’t enough. I wanted so much more, but it’s awkward to say so when I know that many others don’t get that much. I feel equal parts grateful and cheated for what little time I was allowed.

My first month back was emotional, though I cried fewer tears than I was told I would. I was more out-of-sorts than sad. My brain was so slow, like I was having Benadryl for breakfast and lunch every day, and coffee hardly made a difference. I asked so many questions, over and over, about things I should have known well. It was embarrassing. My coworkers were kind and understanding, but my self-doubt imagined dozens of eyes rolling behind my back. I felt so hopelessly and terminally stupid.

I hid in an empty office three times a day to express breast milk, acutely aware that everyone passing in the hallway could hear the pump going. On my third day of pumping, the door creaked open just as I’d gotten everything hooked up and started – the facilities guy heard a “weird noise” and used his key to get through the locked door to investigate. I changed my “occupied” post-it note to an “OCCUPIED PLEASE KNOCK” legal-sized sheet and pretended his apology made everything totally fine and not embarrassing at all. Because I had to do it again the next day, and the next. Wash my pump parts in the break room sink, put my milk in a cooler in the fridge, and get over it.

Those weeks seem so far away now. A whole year ago. I measure that year by my son and not myself – inches and pounds and milestones and giggles. I rarely assess my own progress. I don’t stop often enough to take stock of how I’m doing and how I’m changing. But while I’m still figuring out the balance, things are improving. I still miss him every day while I’m at work, but I’m sleeping more and that’s definitely helping my brain function closer to its pre-baby capacity. I’ve taken on several projects that I’m very passionate about and very proud of, and I’m seeing glimmers of “me” under the “mom” now and then.

I’ve survived a whole year as a working mom. I’m still good at my job, and my son still loves me. I’m going to go make myself a cake to celebrate.

Liam at 14 months

Liam is 14 months old! We zoomed right past his birthday and somehow ended up here!

Happy birthday, baby!

Happy birthday, baby!

We’ve celebrated his birthday, gone to the beach, played in the pool, and had a pretty great summer, despite an unexpected shakeup in his daycare situation and all the chaos that inspired. He’s getting big and strong and fast and LOUD and he’s just the greatest.

Sleepy beach baby

Sleepy beach baby

Current Liam status report:


He started army crawling in May, and now he zooms around the house chasing the cats and yelling. He’s gotten fast, and we gated a bunch of doorways to keep him from getting too far when we blink. With some help from the physical therapists, who’ve taught us how to properly facilitate his movement, he’s gotten very good at pulling up to his knees and even pulling to his feet if we sit him near a box or table. He still mostly needs to support his weight by leaning his chest or belly on whatever he’s standing beside, but he’s slowly gaining control and in the past few weeks he’s gotten better at just holding on with his hands. He still doesn’t move his feet and cruise along, though. Instead, he pulls his whole body up onto the table and then crawls across it. Smart baby, going for the route that’s easiest for him! He’s very clever and thinks up workarounds when he hits an obstacle. I can tell we’ll be in for trouble as he gets older.

On the move

On the move

Over the summer, he also learned to push himself from a lying position into a sit, which is huge. It was a major source of frustration for him not to be able to get up and change his position to see better or play with a taller toy. And now that he can do that, he’s shifting his energy to learning how to pull into a stand. He can hold himself in a standing position for a long time once we help him up, and that’s a whole new way for him to look at the world. He LOVES standing.


His hypotonia means he has to work harder than other kids to do the same motions, so the fact that he’s come so far means he’s working really, really hard. We’re very proud of him.

The newest delight: he dances. In the high chair or on the floor – he’ll bop side to side with a big grin. He’ll also wave his hand back and forth like he’s conducting whenever he hears music. Adorable.


Sleep is pretty good right now, but god love you if you take our WubbaNubs. We have a short bedtime routine and he’s able to put himself to sleep within a few minutes most nights. When he’s sick or upset, he still needs company in his room to fall asleep, and sometimes even on a good night he’ll be up chatting to himself and rolling around for an hour or more. That’s been happening more as he gets more physical. I think that’s normal for a kid who’s making big leaps in abilities. He still wakes up a few times a night, but for the most part he’s able to settle himself again without any help, and we just watch on the monitor as he settles into a new spot with his butt in the air. He’s still napping twice a day most days, but sometimes the daycare report says he only took one nap around midday. At home, though, it’s always one morning nap around 9 and an afternoon nap around 2. He likes his sleep.


We’ve started getting some signs out of him, which is wonderfully helpful. He uses the “milk” sign to mean both milk and water, and I think it’s also extended to “cup.” He taps his mouth to mean hungry/eat/food. He signals “safe” when he means he’s had enough lunch, and he lifts his arms for “up.” He has a few proto-words, like Bubba for his WubbaNubs and “gak” for cat (he used that for three days and then dropped it, so I’m not sure). He’s doing ah-ah for uh-oh, and “ga-row-ga-row” for the ceiling fan (it goes round and round). He doesn’t know when to end a word, though, and “bye bye Wubba” becomes bababuhbuhbuhbuh!” But he uses that every time we leave his room and toss the Wubbas back in the crib, so I know he’s connecting it with that activity.

He understands a ton now, too. He knows how to point out a ball, a cat, mama and daddy. He understands “up,” “bring me,” and If I ask him what a dinosaur says, he’ll RAWR. He also started singing. Not words, just a string of syllables, but he’ll do it when he hears music, and it’s the sweetest thing. And he claps his hands!

Still no real mama or dada, though. I hope that comes soon.

Toys & Games

Simple shape sorter: he can get the circle in the hole very easily (and claps his own YAY when he does), and he’s getting better with the square and triangle. If we play when he’s too tired, he’ll give it two tries and then fling the more difficult shape across the floor in disgust.

Boxes/cups/bowls and small toys to put in them and pull back out. Any combination will do. We’ve got a huge coffee can he likes to fill up, and a cardboard box with a hole cut in it. Both are fun to stuff rubber ducks and plastic balls into.

He gets a huge kick out of holding things to his head or feet and then looking at us so we can tell him whether the item is a shoe or hat. He will also place things on our feet, because everything is shoes. Except when it’s hats. He likes “where’s Liam” peekaboo games but doesn’t try to hide himself yet.

Liam, is that a hat?

Liam, is that a hat?

Books are his favorite thing ever. He will scoot across the floor dragging one to toss at my feet and stare at me, which means I have to read to him within the next few seconds or he will push the book INTO my feet to make his point. His favorites right now are Peek-a-Zoo, Carry Me (full of pictures of BABIES!) and Who is That, Cat the Cat? I know them by heart. I now understand why my parents repeatedly hid the Grover at the Farm book when I was a toddler.


We’re in a food slump. On his hungry days he’ll eat a ton, but the variety of foods he’ll accept has declined horribly in the past month or so. He doesn’t want to touch anything squishy, except to squish it. Many very serious experiments on the compressibility of grapes and blueberries taking place on his highchair tray. He’ll mash fruit pieces gingerly with a thumb to see what will happen – and sometimes if we’re lucky and it sticks to his thumb, he’ll bring it up to his mouth and pop it in.

He’s very into cheese and crackers, holding the big round crackers triumphantly to the ceiling before chomping on them, He also loves applesauce and meatballs. He wants to feed himself with a spoon but his aim is still horrible, so we mostly keep that activity for bath night. For the moment, I can get veggies into him by making purees into pancakes or smearing them on bread to make a sandwich. It’s so sad, because he used to love broccoli before (much to the diaper genie’s dismay), and he refuses to touch it now.


Every week there’s something new going on, and he’s starting to put the pieces together and make sense of the world and his place in it. He’s trying to move and communicate and he’s developing his personality, and every change amazes us. It’s hard work for him and for us, but it’s so much fun to see who he’s becoming. Love you, little man.

Who am I?

It’s been almost a whole year since Liam was born. He’s such a different baby now than on that first day. The changes are remarkable and bring me so much joy. But he’s not the only one who’s spent this year growing and changing. I’ve stopped and looked at myself several times over the past year and asked “who am I?” Covered in gluey banana chunks, hair in a limp ponytail, eyes circled with exhaustion and frustration… through all of that, I think I still see me. I still like board games and cheese and windy days. I still swear too much and leave pretzel crumbs in my car and post Simpsons gifs to Twitter when appropriate to the discussion (spoiler: ALWAYS appropriate to the discussion).

I feel like I haven’t changed. But my entire life has. And I suppose that means that I have, too. I’m not just Jen anymore. I’m Liam’s mom.


My body is different. It goes so far beyond the stretch marks. None of my clothes fit quite right, but not in the ways I was expecting. I’m squishy and my boobs are too big and I have no idea where my ass went. My hair fell out and is growing back in very slowly in awkward little tufts at my temples. I find myself looking under my glasses when I’m trimming Liam’s nails, and I think that might signal the start of my bifocal years. The quality and quantity of my showers have declined. I don’t get to shave my legs as often as I’d like, and I haven’t had time to get my hair cut or paint my nails in months. My back is sore from hoisting a baby up from the floor multiple times a day, and from angling him just right so he doesn’t hit his head as I put him in the car seat. I have intermittently debilitating pain in my hip and pelvis that sometimes leaves me trapped on the couch in tears. I’m older. I feel older.

My brain is different. My attention span is shorter than it used to be, and I can’t seem to focus on a book or TV show for more than a few minutes at a time. When I’m tired from a long night of interrupted sleep, which is more often than I’d like, my brain isn’t working with a full crew. My memory is a mess and I rely on lists and reminders in my phone – which only work if I remember to note them in the first place. I can’t juggle as many thoughts as I used to, but I have more thoughts to juggle than ever before. It’s exhausting. Overwhelming.

My priorities are different. I wake up earlier than I want to, so I can feed him and get him to daycare. I wash dishes and do laundry and get lunches ready every evening instead of watching TV or catching up on sleep, because those things are more important. I commute almost three hours a day and work 40 hours a week because my salary and health insurance are necessary to my family’s well-being, even though that means that I only see my son awake for two hours every work day before it’s bedtime for him and dishwashing time for me. It’s hard. It’s so hard. But it’s what life has to be right now. Everything is about him and nothing is about me, and while I have a nagging feeling that it’d be healthier to pay attention to myself now and then, the guilt nags louder and keeps me from many flights of self-indulgence.


See? Told you. Always appropriate.

But it’s not all bad. I’m wiser now. I’m a calmer parent than I thought I would be. But I’m also a louder advocate and stronger fighter than I ever thought I could be. I’m much more bullshit-averse, and that seems to apply to everything, not just matters involving my son. My depression and anxiety did a number on me in the months after Liam was born, but I think I’ve gotten better at dealing with them. Not perfect – I still have my triggers, and it can still get pretty bad. Just ask my husband what happens when we’re running late for something. But I think maybe I’m more aware of the gray areas of life and working on accepting that sometimes none of the answers are completely right or completely wrong. And maybe it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. Maybe it just matters that I love my son and my husband and that they love me. All that’s really important is that my family is safe and happy and healthy, and that I’m trying my best. Maybe.

Maybe when you add everything up, I’m a slightly better me than I used to be. Thanks for the nudge, kiddo.