Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Part time everything

It took 2 weeks but I have realised that my job cannot be done on a part time basis. I simply run with too many projects with too short deadlines with too many very senior people looking at them and although my boss is being very good, Asia is not geared up for this.

I was getting tired and annoyed at not doing my job very well and not being doing the mother thing very well either. Something was going to have to change. Thankfully I have a boss who is a) Swedish so very family friendly b) likes me and we get on well c) knows I do such a specialist job that finding a workable solution is preferable to him having to replace me.

So now I work from home two days a week, and so far so good. I can shut down my laptop and brain at 6, have found I am stupidly productive at home, and much happier for the odd cuddle during the day. I have also finally found a great way to spend my lunch breaks, playing with my delightful little bundle of fun.

This working mother thing isn't easy, but I am determined to figure it out. You just need a few people to cut you some slack and work extra hard when you are there to show you are still pulling your weight.

Email exchange of the week:
Me to boss: "I would like to leave the meeting at 6 if possible because I am still nursing and want to be home by 7, hope this is OK"
Boss to Me in reply: "Of course! Food must always come first!!"

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Quiet confession

I am now the owner of 4 glass baby bottles (all the other BPA free ones had sold out).

I know... I know... I know...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Storm in a baby bottle

One of the worst things about being a parent is the constant worry that you are not doing the best for your child. This extends to how you start them off (routines, dummies, breast feeding), their intellectual development (Baby Einstein videos anyone?) and their physical progress (if you have not yet come across something known as "tummy time" then be grateful as the midwives obsess about it otherwise your child will never walk... or something).

All this is not helped by the endless "experts" and new studies that the great and the good in academia seem obsessed with undertaking. This week, two reports have come out that have parents turning to drink in confusion.

The first, surprise, surprise, is on breastfeeding. Apparently rather than feeding on one boob first to empty it and then trying the other, we are now supposed to feed 10 minutes each side. Also, you are not supposed to feed on demand but feed by schedule every 3 hours or so. My question to the researchers is who on earth they did they conduct research on? When Eve is hungry nothing, and I mean nothing, will shut her up except food. If I make her wait 5 minutes, let alone another hour, she would scream the place apart. Secondly, no-one I know who breast feeds only does it for 20 minutes. When the babies are little they get tired and take ages, and now when Eve is of an age that she can happily chomp down all in one go, she gets so distracted by the lights, noises, even the cat that it is an effort to remind her that she should be attached to the boob! Apparently the logic behind much of the finding was that parents who didn't feed on demand were more likely to keep breastfeeding. Duh, of course! Feeding your child at any time of day or night when they demand it is bloody awful (see all my January posts), but that doesn't mean it isn't a sensible thing to do.

The second research is about baby bottle containing a chemical called BPA. I must confess I would know nothing about this unless my midwife centre had sent us an email telling us which bottles don't contain it. There then followed a number of emails between new Mums about the issue revealing such titbits as there being a 6 week waiting list now to get non-BPA bottles in Hong Kong, and others wondering whether to move to solids early. I must admit I went online and found that a study, done on animals, showed that if you force fed them the plastic then they got ill. I then panicked mildly until I looked out of the window. Anyone who lives in or has ever visited Hong Kong will know how dreadful the pollution is. Yes, the bottles I use are probably not best for Eve (although people have been using them for years and most kids seem fine), but in the great scheme of the pollution she will inhale, the hormones and chemicals she will ingest in her food, and if she one day takes up smoking or taking drugs - the few months she spends drinking breastmilk out of a bottle are probably the least likely to have an impact.

I downed a glass of wine and went to bed, although still with a slight nagging guilt...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Left to their own devices

Although I am a control freak, I have been trying as a parent not to get too stressed about everything and adopt the principle that most things pass with time (the "she'll grow out of it" approach) and that babies are surprisingly well designed things and tend to figure things out in the end.

And so Eve has managed two key milestones in the last week, with very little prompting from me, both of which make life considerably easier. The first is that she seems to have slotted back into a nice 3-hourly routine without too much effort from me. It still goes a little to pot when her wind wakes her up during a nap, or she falls asleep as she is eating and our nanny is not quite as strict on it as I am. But, in general, our nice little pattern of eat, play, sleep in a 3 hourly cycle seems to be settling down.

The second is that she is taking after her Mum and turning into a little thumb sucker. In the great dummy debate (helpfully contributed to by my Mum who has some amusingly middle class ideas about dummies) the Boy and I spent so long wondering whether we would or not that Eve has simply decided not to bother to wait for a decision and adopt her thumb instead. This now means that she happily goes into her cot, awake but sleepy, and then if you gently guide her thumb to her mouth, pops herself to sleep on her own. It also means that, at night, no longer does she always need me to get back to sleep when her wind wakes her up. This morning, at 6am, I simply guided her thumb into her mouth and she slept for another hour.

So, with very little effort from her disorganised parents, Eve has sorted herself out quite nicely.

Children - probably more clever than their parents.

Something's got to give

After my first week at work I have found that leaving Eve gets easier so long as I know I am going to have some quality time (apologies for that dreadful phrase) with her each day. It is all a case of being organised so I feed her at the beginning of the day and am home before her last evening feed so we can play a little bit. Even better was last week when some meetings worked out such that I couldn't take two full days off and had to work two half days instead. It is, however, a military operation with Eve having to eat her fill before I leave for work, no easy task if she is tired or in a fussy mood. I have had to put meetings in my diary to block out when I need to express the milk (3 times a day!). To get home and spend any time with Eve I have to leave the office at 6, a time when business in Asia is very much still going on.

All of this has made me realise how tough being a working Mum is actually going to be. Aside from the ever-present guilt and feelings of being replaced by her nanny, there is the realisation that my career is going to take a big hit if I want to actually see my daughter.

Despite the age of Mums being the sole or main caregiver being long gone in theory, I have found that I am the one whose career will suffer because Asia is not particularly family friendly in its work culture, and because I seem to feel more acutely than the Boy that a parent should be with Eve as much as possible so am prepared to change my work accordingly. So it is I who will, inevitably, not get such a good performance rating or bonus next year because I won't work the long hours required in my job. it is I who, for the next 2 months, will take a 40% pay cut so I can work part time and Eve can have a parent at home a bit longer. It is also me who gets up in the night with her so when I am in the office I will be a shadow of my former, 8 hours a night, self.

The Boy is much more involved and better than most Dads and none of this is directed as a slight to him, but he was away last week for 2 nights, is away for the next 6 nights, and rarely can leave the office before 7pm. This means that something has to give, and I refuse to let it be Eve never seeing either parent during the week, so the only thing left is my career.

I am not inconsiderably annoyed about the inevitability of all of this, and that something I worked so hard for will not continue on the same path whereas any man's career can continue as before. Why this inequality?

I used to row with a great girl, H, who had a very high powered City job. I remember after her first baby and return to work I asked her how it was going. Her reply, "I have realised I will always have a job, but never again have a career". I have just come to the same conclusion.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Two days in

Today I only worked a half day, but went in as usual this morning. I am much happier leaving Eve today than yesterday, and no tears. This may be because I knew I would be coming home at lunchtime, and had a great afternoon playing with her. It may also be because I am actually rather enjoying being back at work, at a job I love, in a team full of really nice people. It probably also has something to do with me just getting on with it.

Sadly, the timing of my return to work has been awful. The Boy was away last night and tonight (he is also away all next week - you can imagine what a sense of humour failure I have had about that one), so no support or even anyone just to give me a hug at the end of the stressful first days back. Secondly, Eve's farting seems to have returned with reinforcements and she is waking up at least twice in the night and squirming through the rest of it. Less than 6 hours sleep, in two bursts, is not great preparation for a full day in a busy office.

Still, I am starting to think that I can do this whole work and mother thing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Smiles and tears

My first day back at work. I didn't sleep at all last night, Eve was restless and so was I. This morning I cried at an HSBC ad on TV while I was feeding Eve (it featured a little girl) and fought back the tears most of the way into work.

When I got here the first person I saw was our lovely head of investment solutions (Italian, 3 kids), upon whom I promptly burst into tears.

However, now I am here it isn't too bad. I am really busy, enjoying getting back into it, and trying not to think of Eve too much. I have deliberately not called home because if she is crying I will want to go home and comfort her, and if she is giggling I will feel awful for missing it. And I have blocked out my time off this week in my diary.

It is now 3.15 and I am counting down the minutes until I can leave.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

And another (celeb) thing...

That J-lo article has started to really rankle me, and I feel the need to rant again.

The first issue I have was that her babies slept in their own nursery next to her room. As any new parent knows, after about 2 nights of getting up every 2-3 hours to feed the little blighters, you move them as close to you as you possibly can. Unless there are a couple of night nannies in the nursery that she didn't confess to.

The second is that she has decided not to breastfeed, but formula feed after she "looked into the options and what is best for the babies". Yeah, right. Personally, as anyone who has read this blog will know, I wholly believe in each to their own and formula is fine, but for J-lo to fly in the face of all medical evidence proving breastmilk is best for babies (however it is delivered) is just ill informed.

She is also unsure whether to send the children to public schools or home school them because she will be away so often that a regular school might not be practical. Well, firstly, hiring tutors to come on tour with you is not home schooling. Secondly, dragging small children around the world might be fine for you but isn't desperately fair on them. Finally, it's not like you will be teaching them anyway.

I can't help wondering whether all these celebs actually have an impact on the choices of young women. Certainly, pretending that child raising is easy must give all sorts of false impressions to your average 15 year old who may find herself pregnant either by choice or circumstance. Claiming that formula is "best" for babies puts the breastfeeding debate back about 20 years.

That said, there can be some positive outcomes. I read an article ages ago in that bastion of top quality journalism, Now. It was a horrible feature on how much weight celebs have lost after birth and how they did it. It covered a couple of Spice Girls, Catherine Z-J et al. In amongst the very sensible tips on fitness and healthy eating they all attributed their weight loss to breastfeeding.

For every J-Lo there is a Geri Halliwell.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tell it like it is?

As I was lying flat on my back today having hot wax poured onto and ripped off parts of me most recently seen by my obstetrician (it's amazing what counts as "me time") I was reading an issue of People which had J-Lo and her husband talking about their one month old twins. It was a schmoozy piece with J-Lo looking perfectly groomed, holding babies that looked equally preened and clearly never cry. The interview was ridiculous with such statements like "When the babies wake at night we fight over who goes to them" and other such rubbish. It really made me annoyed that celebs portray motherhood as this easy ride, a bit of a break from their career, and prattle on about how wonderful it is - with not a mention of baby vomit in sight. I was grumbling to myself (in between sharp intakes of breath as the wax was ripped off me) when I found in the same issue someone had written a letter saying how annoying and unrealistic they found these celeb mother articles and wishing someone would tell it like it is.

How true.

Side winder

We have managed to migrate Eve to sleeping on her side, which means she sleeps a lot better and the wind seems to bother her less. The Boy, pleased by this progress and hoping it will lead to an eventual migration back to her cot so he can turn over and cuddle his wife rather than worry about crushing his child, found online some sort of side-wedge thing so that we can put her in the cot, wedge her on her side and not worry about her rolling onto her front.

It arrived in the mail yesterday.

I must admit, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I rather like the fact that Eve cuddles up next to me to sleep, and have stopped feeling guilty about it after finding so many positive co-sleeping websites that it feels quite normal now. However, to show willing last night we used it in our bed. I am even less of a fan this morning.

Firstly, it means Eve needs three times the space to sleep because of the wedges either side of her. Of course this is eaten up from my side of the bed, meaning that for the first time since I was a child I came close to falling out of bed myself. I was uncomfortable, miserable and lay awake listening to Eve, the Boy and the cat all snoring while I grumbled to myself.

Secondly, it doesn't work. Eve now wriggles so much that she managed to lift the front wedge off its velcro holder so she had enough room to roll onto her back and front anyway.

Finally, she has wind and needs to wriggle and roll to get rid of it. The lack of movement overnight meant that her wind was worse than usual and we were up twice overnight as she woke herself up in pain.

When she woke up at midnight crying, I took her out to help her wind and then fed her (Eve being a bit of a pig takes every waking opportunity to demand food!). I was then all for her sleeping like she normally does with me, however the boy wanted to put her back in the contraption. It didn't work. So we were left with a small firm barrier and a child between us, not quite what the Boy was hoping for!

Of course we will try again tonight but I already look upon the seemingly harmless foam item with venom and fear.

At 4am I gave up and took her out of the thing and lay her next to me.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Employ a professional

In my pre-baby days I used to say that I would always have a nanny, after all you employ someone with experience in every other facet of your life so why not employ someone more experienced than you to look after your child. In no other part of life would we put something as precious and important as a baby in the hands of people with no experience! Of course, now I actually have a child I find myself feeling quite differently and that a parent should be with their child. I think that emotionally this is best, but 3 hours this morning have found me reverting a little back towards my former position.

Nanny H is back from her 3 week holiday and already I am breathing a sigh of relief. I was due to have a call with my boss this morning to discuss my return to work next week, so I hid myself in the bedroom after breakfast leaving H and Eve to battle with the nap. Within 10 minutes, Eve was asleep, in her chair (the Boy and I have never managed that before!) and H was merrily getting on with the ironing.

I don't know how she does it. Of course she has worked with lots of children, has 2 of her own, and not being a parent and getting enough sleep probably means that she is more likely to have a firm hand whereas I tend to take the easiest path. However she does it, I am very glad she can!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Pursuit of happiness

The Economist last week had an interesting article (see Lexington column) about happiness. It cited a book called "Gross National Happiness" written by Arthur Brooks. The Economist article focused on the part of the book that looks at how happy parents are and whether they are happier than non-parents. Interestingly American parents (the book only looked at research data from the US) are much more likely to say they are happy than non-parents. Brooks argues that this is for two reasons: children lend meaning to life in the long term; people who are predisposed to being happy are more likely to have children.

The review of the research data did, however, show that if you ask what parents enjoy doing they are more likely to say almost anything other than looking after their children (worryingly, praying was more enjoyed). Mr Brooks is quoted as saying, "There are many things in a parent's life that bring great joy. For example, spending time away from children".

In amongst all the guilty little secrets that exist around parenthood, expressing a desire to not be with ones child seems to be the worst. However, this research proves that parents relish their time without as much as with their children. I wholeheartedly agree.

I have recently been in a position to give advice to a couple of friends and friends of friends about motherhood and the future. I am the worst person to give advice because I change almost daily between thinking this is the best thing I have ever done to being very resentful about what I have had to give up (a couple of significant things I have had to give up this week has brought the resentment to the surface). However, my advice has been very simple to those contemplating parenthood or even just life's direction - what do you see your future being in 5 years, 10 years? Who and what will it contain?

When I think about my future I see Eve. Which, above all else, is why I know that I made the right choice and even though there will be times that I hate it, motherhood ultimately brings me joy and happiness.