Well, all that changed, as I knew it would, the day my first baby was born. Ms. Leila Estelle Conser rocked my world. I knew she would, but I was not prepared as to how much. I loved my nieces and nephews sooooooo very much that it was going to be just like that, except I could call her my own and didn't have to give her back. Right? Well, the love was surely there, but I had no idea that my own child would give me such an incredibly deep and unconditional love. Amazing I could feel that much love for another person so instantly. And then my second baby was born. Oh dear, could I ever love him as much as I love Leila? Mr. Nathan Frederick Conser popped out and was placed in my arms and WOW. Yes I could love him as much as his sister. No question.
Now, back to work... I really hated these moms that would sit around and tell me that they loved their children sooooo much that they just couldn't imagine going back to work. It trivialized my situation. I am sure they didn't do it on purpose(Some of them anyway- there are those who I am sure were making digs), but it filled me with doubt and feelings of inadequacy and a lot of jelousy. It made me feel like I must not love my kids enough because I wasn't finding a way to stay at home with them, even though every night I stretched my brain to find a way to stay home. I never wanted to be a working mother, but our financial situation didn't leave us much choice. I had great benefits at a minimal cost(The pregnancy and birth of both kids only cost us one $15 co-pay each), and Jeremy had so-so insurance and an astronomical cost, so high that I would need to get a part time job to help pay for it. So we did what we could- Jeremy and I worked opposite shifts. He worked a swing shift, and I worked a very early shift(6-2:30).
When I first went back to work with Leila, I didn't work on Mondays, which allowed the three of us a wonderful three day weekend together. Actually I was still going to school and had some Saturday classes thrown in there, but we felt very satisfied with Monday Mornings together. We enjoyed so many wonderful things. We took a "Your Growing Baby" class together on Monday mornings before Jeremy had to go into work. We experienced Leila's first laugh together. Her rolling over, sitting up, all those cute baby things. Tuesday-Thursday I would get home in time to kiss Jeremy before he left. Fridays my wonderful mother would watch Leila as Jeremy had to go in a little early on those days. Mom was a great sitter, and cheap. I paid her in diet coke and beef jerky for a bonus. My mom and I would spend good time together on Friday evenings, and I treasure that time together. My Mom and Leila still seem to have a very special bond from that time together. I see a very special gentleness between them, and Leila is very interested in all my Mom does, and my Mother is very interested in everything Leila does. I missed Jeremy in the evenings. Leila was harder to deal with at night and hated bedtime(Still does!). But it worked for a while. We tried to maximize our weekends, although we ended up being out of sinq a bit and our relationship suffered.
Then... we went to the beach when Leila was about 6 months old, thanks to a bonus from my job, and when she was 7 months old... we found out she was going to be a big sister! EEEEK! This was not my plan. Funny how things like this happen and we learn a little lesson: Gods plan for us is not always our plan for us. I knew I did not want to work after my second baby was born. It was hard enough with one, I couldn't imagine going back to work with two babies at home. I couldn't imagine having two alone in the evenings if we kept up this schedule. I tried to talk my mom into retiring and we would PAY HER to watch our children so Jeremy could move to day shift, but of course she wasn't ready to do that. So, I stressed and stressed about it for the next 9 months. Again listening to moms tell me I must not love my kids enough to stay at home. I didn't fit into their crowd since work hung over me like a dark cloud, and I didn't quite fit into the working mothers crowd either since I didn't really want to be at work. Thankfully I had very sweet friends(two in particular, and you two know who you are) at work who understood, or least simply listened to me while my heart broke on a regular basis as I looked at photos of my angels at home, so far away from me.
Those nights of my being pregnant and being alone with Leila in the evening were some of the most challenging for me, both physically and mentally. When I was first pregnant I was sick and tired. All of my pregnancy symptoms seemed to be magnified because I believe I was simply not getting enough rest. I would come home from work and my sweet little Leila would play with her toys next to me, while I would take a short nap on the floor. I felt like I missed out on some of her growing years, by doing this, but I had to do what I had to do. When she was still eating baby food, my meals weren't much better. I would have soup or left overs and then a big bowl of popcorn after she went to bed. I found I really liked kettle corn. I would sometimes go to my parents and eat with them. We would often go over to the Dollar tree just to get out of the house and give Leila stuff to look at. I figured how much could I really spend? As I got bigger and bigger and much more uncomfortable, putting her in her crib was harder and fighting her the bedtime battle routine was harder. I remember going to sleep in my bed hearing her crying, because I didn't know what else to do. I was exhausted, knowing I had to get up at 4:30 for work, and she wouldn't go down any other way. There were nights I would cry with her, I felt so very alone, yet at the same time so very thankful I really wasn't a single mom. Funny how when I look back on it, it doesn't seem so bad, but when I really sit and think about it, those were really hard days. Some of the hardest I've had.
After Nathan was born I had three months off. We enjoyed our time together as a family of four. I didn't worry about a schedule for him like I did with Leila. I just enjoyed being a mommy because I knew I had to go back to work. I was going to hold my baby every chance I got! That is how much I loved him(I sure showed all those stay at home moms! They probably put their babies in cribs to sleep)! I had a few weeks of pain with a gallbladder surgery, which I endured several attacks during my pregnancy. All that lead to was a very uneventful staying around home LOA, which is what I wanted anyway. Jeremy's schedule changed a bit and we had to find day care for two hours a day to cover our overlap between shifts. I was also back to work 5 days a week and my mom could no longer watch on Fridays. A good friend of ours in our church was able to watch the kids, and I know she loved them. She was happy to have a baby in her home, but I worried. I imagined an earthquake or tornado ripping thru the area and my kids being scared out of their minds. She wouldn't have enough arms to comfort my kids as well as her own four. Maybe she would, but I worried about it. It took me about 35 minutes to get home from work and that would be a long drive in the event of a natural disaster.
And then, a miracle happened. We refinance our house in May after Nathan was born. Jeremy got a new job in August. Now the benefits were still so-so, but much more affordable. I was still concerned to switch since our Doctor was not on the plan. Nathan had some health problems and was on several medications for asthma and allergies. I was determined to keep him with Dr. Darling thru his 1 year appointment in December, and his benefits didn't kick in until November anyway. The refinance and job felt like answers to my daily prayers, or rather daily pleading and crying, to be home with my children. My job was going crazy-- my company had been bought out by another company and we were going thru internal audits, the Sarbanes Oxley Act had just been put into action and we were being externally audited. Upper management had a revolving door on it and we never knew who we were going to be reporting to. I had one boss come to ask me for things, and then his boss would tell me not to do that and do something different, oh but she didn't tell my boss and he would get upset when I didn't do what he wanted me to do and then get mad when I told him she told me not to do it... Very uncomfortable. I was glad to finally hang up my working mom hat in February 2006 and switch to my stay-at-home mommy hat. To supplement my income I would be helping my Dad and sister Amy with taxes. I think I will blog on that a bit later...
The adjustment to Stay At Home Mommy Life was brutal. Thank goodness my sister Amy was home and I could talk to her on the phone almost every day and she could totally relate and tell me I was normal for all of these feelings. I was not used to living in a world where piles didn't stay neat, lists got chewed up or colored on. How many ways could I brainstorm laundry or meal lists. Why did I feel like such a failure when I could only come up with so many ways to cook with chicken or ground beef. I couldn't really delegate jobs to my baby and toddler-- not yet anyway. I didn't like that I could clean a room and not have it be clean at the end of the day. My husband had a very different idea of what a SAHM should be too. He was constantly disappointed when he came home to messes(Whether they had been there all day, or just the five minutes before he walked in the door I will never divulge to him- and still won't). He also didn't understand my need to run upstairs the minute he walked in the door for some much needed time alone. In fact the whole idea that I need time alone and to myself was an odd idea- for both of us. This has gotten better over time, he is much more supportive and understanding. I still fight the feelings of guilt to run away from the family at my first chance of a break. I still have to work on my alone time. But it is getting better.
I found out how lonely it is to stay at home. Even on those really busy days at work when I was chained to my desk working numbers and dealing with irate customers and collecting my million dollar accounts, I could still walk to the restroom and peek over a cubical wall and smile at a friend and get some sort of positive feedback. These days I only get yelled at, I get my achievements(OK , so its only PBJ or micro-waved hotdogs) tossed back in face, when I go in to break a fight and I end up being laughed at and ganged up on by BOTH of the ones fighting. I am simply not gaurenteed adult conversation like I was at work. Granted sometimes it didn't feel like I was talking to adults when I went off to work, I could find some equal socialization somewhere in that building.
I don't say this to complain, but its a much different way a life at home. I have to say its harder to be at home and validating my existence when I had years and years of wages and bonuses, I was president of a professional organization to educate people in my career field, I spent a lot of time training and overseeing coworkers, heading up mini-teams to resolve issues and implement new processes. It was a major adjustment to be home. One I am glad I made. But it has made me realize that all of us who have children work or don't work for any number of reasons. We might work because we NEED to. We might work because we WANT to. We might stay home because we LOVE it. We might stay home because we THINK we SHOULD. No matter what, we love our children. We want what is best for them. We are all full-time mothers, no matter what we have going on in the background. The only person who can truly judge if we are doing our jobs is ourselves, and we are ultimately too hard on ourselves to be a fair judge.