|Annie's Valentine's Day greeting, courtesy of Matt.|
Every day I put my heart – my everything – in daycare for 11 hours. I hold my daughter tight and say, “You know your mommy loves you, right?” How many working mothers have said this before me?
I had a spectacularly bad day at work last Thursday. And then yesterday. My job is harder than I remembered. I cried. I have now cried at every job I’ve held. I’m not proud of this fact, but it is what it is: I am an emotional creature. I thought for maybe 30 seconds, “I do not NEED THIS, I do not deserve this, and I’m going to quit this f’in job!” but then I settled down, took a long shower, and went to bed to just get up and do it all again.
I bring magazines to read on my train ride home, but end up just staring at the person's head in front of me. I need a pause button: a timeout from my now life to visit my former life, just for an hour or two, where I had many less responsibilities. Where I wasn't pumping breastmilk all day long, and where, if I wanted, I could leave work and head straight to bed.
My day starts at 5:30 am when I rise and pump. At 5:50 I then go to my bathroom and get dressed, put on my make-up, do my hair, brush my teeth and take my pills. I do everything in the bathroom because Matt is still asleep, and because I'm stretched for time I have my outfit for the day already hanging on the door hook, and my shower already taken the night before. At 6:15 I exit the bathroom and wake the baby, whom I nurse until 6:45 am. I then pack my bottles for pumping, which Matt washed the night before, and her pre-filled bottles for daycare, and drive her to daycare. There I unpack her bottles, unpack her, talk to her providers, sign her in, and head to the train station. I'm at my desk in the city at 8:15 am. An hour and fifteen minutes after I arrive, it's time to pump again. I dutifully grab my pump parts and bottles and head to the fourth floor where they have a lactation room for working mothers. I also pump around 12:30 pm and 3:30 pm.
The baby is tired too. Matt picks her up from daycare and she is either asleep or irate (or irate because she's so sleepy, presumably). I nurse her for a good long while and then she's through with us. "That's it!," she says. "I had the boob and now I'm ready for bed!" My little girl, who used to look me in the eye and smile and coo now gazes off into space with droopy eyelids. Actually, she looks pretty stoned. Her head bobs to the left, a little more to the left, and she quickly jerks it back up again, fighting her fatigue.
This morning my daughter smiled slightly at me, but beamed at Fran, who watches her at daycare. I laughed and said I’d glad she’s finally getting used to daycare and that she likes it here (and that is so true), but cried on my way to the train station three minutes later.
A tug and pull that doesn’t cease.
Not that’s it’s all bad, because it certainly isn’t. My long commute is my time. Buying a coffee and drinking it at my desk is all me, too. I have missed that. I have missed conversing with my wonderful team members, and meeting my dear friend for lunch. And the continuous churn of the pump in the lactation room isn’t all that bad, either: I’m proud she’s only had breastmilk and I feel closer to her as I fill the next day’s bottles. I used to tearfully tell Annie that I was doing all of this for her. But I now know it’s for both of us.
So we’re making do: perhaps not gracefully and definitely not perfectly (and when was I ever graceful or perfect?!), and we both have our crying spells – me at my desk, her in her bouncer - but every morning when we pull into daycare I know both of us girls are making our way, together. And I am proud.