Friday, January 22, 2010

Everybody's Workin For the Weekend

We love tummy time! 

It's been a busy few weeks at Chez Creath. Once the holidays were officially over, it was time for me to figure out what I am going to do about work when my maternity leave ends next month. Since we are lucky to be a two-income family, we have the luxury of making some choices. I don't want to engage in the "Mommy Wars" so I'm going to keep this post specifically to what we wanted to do as a family.

For those not familiar with the "Mommy Wars", that's the age-old debate of stay home with kids vs. work outside the home. It's a stupid term, and doesn't encompass a bunch of other viable options, like (gasp!) the dad staying home, working part-time, working from home w/ childcare, etc. And Internet discussion boards and blogs always have really annoying viewpoints on both sides, so I try to stay away from those as well.

Rewind back to the late 1990s. I read an article about some college students who already knew that when they had children they would quit working, assuming their spouse had a healthy income. I was infuriated by this, and thought they were "letting down the sisterhood" and already preparing to "waste their education". (Stick with me here, I swear I'm not judging *now*.) At any rate, I couldn't imagine staying home with kids all day, especially after a long, painful, and expensive education. (I think the wounds of Caltech and grad school were still healing at that point, and I needed to make myself feel like it was "worth it".)

So for many years, I assumed I would either a) not have children, or b) go back to work as soon as I could in the rare event I did have any. a) was the option until the aforementioned biological clock alarm went off.

When I got pregnant, and we were reasonable sure it was going to be ok, it was like a switch had flipped. Suddenly I GOT IT. I understood why people would *want* to stay home with their children.

It wasn't for any of the sanctimonious reasons I read about, like "I want to raise my own child rather than daycare/nanny/etc doing it". That particular one bugs the crap out of me. Because someone chooses to outsource the mundane tasks of daily childcare while they work, it doesn't mean someone else is RAISING their kid. Duh. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to keep a baby entertained, cleaned up, and fed, so I totally understand why people choose to pay someone else to do this while they go and exercise their brains and/or make money.

But we agreed not to make any decisions about what to do until I had really experienced my maternity leave, and the day to day drudgery. And we were really lucky in this regard. First, I have a nice long maternity leave, probably one of the longest in the US (12 weeks paid plus another 8 weeks unpaid). Second, our baby is awesome. She was a good sleeper from the beginning (knock on wood!) and seemed content to eat every 2-2.5 hours. And third, the whole birth thing was easy-peasy, and I recovered really fast.

So after the first 8 weeks, or so, we got to the fun part of maternity leave. I tried to get out with her a few times a week, to have lunch with friends, or hang out with other baby/mama pairs. We went for walks, we read books, we did a lot of cuddling. I tell you, there is nothing better than a happy, smiley baby. We have spent a lot of hours staring at each other and making noises, because she's just so cool. Of course, we also spent a lot of hours trying to get her to go to sleep, or figure out why she was crying, but I'd say it was 80% fun/20% not-so-fun.

And I was surprised to find I liked it. A lot. the Internet helps here too. I have a bunch of friends on Facebook so it was like having a lifeline to the outside world. I read a few parenting blogs regularly. I read the New York Times and USA Today on my iPod while I'm feeding her. (Go multi-tasking!)

So, the New Year came, and with it, the end of my leave is fast approaching. The plan we were developing slowly started to come together. TJ and I both felt like we aren't ready to leave her with anyone else for childcare yet. (At least not on a regular basis.) Even on the fussy, yelling, spit-upy, diaper malfunctioning days, I can't imagine *anyone else* handling it.

And more importantly, *we* want to spend that time with her.

She's changing so fast that I don't want to miss any of it. As dumb as it sounds, the first time I saw her grab a toy and pull it towards her, I squealed with excitement (which promptly made her drop the toy). And if I do miss some milestones, I want TJ to be the one who sees them. (Like the time he saw her roll up on her side. She's only done it a few times, but the fact that he saw it first, made it ok for me that I didn't see it at all.) I waited a long time to have a baby, until I really felt ready for it, and now I want to experience it in all its awesome, messy, fun, crazy, difficult glory.

But, we also live in a not-exactly-cheap part of the country. And we've got a certain lifestyle we've been accustomed to. We could scale it back, but relying on one income is a very tight balancing act. Not to mention the fact that my job is very cool. I have a great manager, nice teammates, and I actually LIKE the day to day work. Oh, and they seem to like me too. That's pretty hard to find.

So the pie-in-the-sky idea was to get some extra months of unpaid leave, then go back to work around 2 days a week, with a little bit more work from home in evenings and on weekends. And then maybe TJ could rearrange his schedule to be home on the days I am in the office, and do a compressed work week. HAH! Like that would ever happen in this economy.

Except that it seems to be happening. TJ's boss was fine with him rearranging/compressing his schedule. And then my boss said they could accomodate a part-time schedule for me because there is a job-share slot opening on my team. And 2 days in the office with some hours from home would be fine. The tradeoff? I don't get the extra unpaid leave, but I can take some vacation to ease back into work over a few weeks.

So how could I *not* go back? This is such an amazing scenario. I get to keep my very cool tech job, but scale it back so I can also keep my new awesome non-technical job, hanging out with my baby.

TJ gets to spend 2 days a week with just the baby himself. (We realized this week that he's never taken her anywhere by himself yet! Yay for daddy-baby field trips!)

And Trillian and the pups will have someone at home with them all day. Win-win-win for everyone!

So I'm actually excited for it now. We have some things to work out, like getting together enough milk for TJ to feed her on the days I'm at work. Surprisingly we have made it to 4 months of exclusive breastfeeding. I can honestly tell you I never saw that coming. And luckily she takes a bottle just fine (almost too fine!) so that's one less headache for the back-to-work transition.

The one thing that's likely to suffer here is my small handmade empire. I am super-busy on my Etsy site, and getting steady orders on 1000Markets. I'm definitely going to have to scale that back when I start working, so I'm not stressed about filling orders when I should be enjoying time with my baby. I'm still working out the best way to do that - maybe by offering more ready-to-ship items, or having a set number of "slots" for custom items each week.

I'd love to hear some thoughts from you about how to balance work and babies. I'm sure there are lots of experienced mamas out there who are doing this!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

You look wonderful tonight

Aaghh! My Baby Bean is getting bigger! She's nearly out of the Size 2 (12-18 lbs) diapers, as evidenced by several diaper failures the last few days. (I won't go into details there.) We also had to put away *most* of her 0-3 month sized clothes this week as they're either too tight or too short.

Baby clothes are even wackier than womens' clothes when it comes to size. They do it by age, but it's a total crapshoot whether something will fit. BabyT has a "6 month" size sleeper that she's busting out of already at 16 weeks, yet she can still wear a few of her 0-3 month ones with room to spare. So at our house we just leave stuff in the drawer and when she needs a new outfit, we try one of those old items on to see if it fits. I don't have the patience to just have a mass-trying-on session to see what's left, and T doesn't love having things pulled over her head, so this works for us. I've got quite a pile of things that no longer fit - it's pretty amazing to think she was that small just a few months ago.

So I went through the 3-6 month size clothes I was saving from the Craigslist purchase I made before she was born. I realized that the woman I bought those clothes from apparently really liked dressing up her babies in mostly-impractical clothes. There were tons of shirts, pants, and little dresses. All very cute (since I weeded out the stuff I didn't like when I first bought them) but also very "fussy" to deal with when you're still doing 8 diaper changes a day.

Pants, for example, have to come all the way off before you can change a diaper. Contrast that with a one-piece sleeper or onesie which has snaps at the bottom so that you don't have to remove the whole thing. Little baby T-shirts are adorable, but they ride up when you pick up your baby. And then you need to find pants, plus a sweater or jacket to put over it.

And layering is a hassle when you have a baby that spits up, or has diaper failures, because then *everything* needs to come off. I'm totally in favor of easy, which is why I love one-piece outfits. So as long as it's socially acceptable for my baby to be in a sleeper in public, that's what we're going to do. I'm still REALLY picky about what she wears - no stupid sayings (especially the gender-specific ones), brand advertising, or licensed characters, a limit on the sickly pink, overly-cute baby animals and super-girly florals and hearts. So it's been a bit of a challenge to find inexpensive clothes that fit all these criteria. (We did let some pink sneak through, and many baby animals, but I shop both the boys' and girls' sections to get some better colors and at least different animals.

So my PSA to new or soon-to-be parents who are wondering what baby clothes to buy:

1. Try to get clothes used or on sale - your baby won't wear most things long enough to wear them out. That said, items from Gymboree, Osh Kosh or Baby Gap hold up better than those from Target so keep an eye out for those brands.

You'll also need enough so that you won't have to do laundry every day. If you buy at thrift stores or on super-sale, or better yet, have a friend who'll give you the hand-me-downs, you can afford to stock up enough clothes so that you might be able to do laundry just twice a week or even less. Here, we run out of burp cloths long before we run out of clothes for BabyT.

2. Think about the season when your baby will be in that size (roughly). I made the mistake of not thinking like that and got a ton of short sleeve onesies that were really too cold for my fall/winter baby. Cute, but not practical. Ditto for fleece items in the summer.

This is especially important when shopping clearance sales for large sizes that your baby will grow into. Kind of like grocery shopping when hungry, it's hard not to snap up that fleece sleeper in December until you realize she won't be that big until June.

3. Simple is best. When your baby is small and going through 12 diapers a day, you won't want to do up elaborate buttons, or take pants and socks on and off each time. One piece items are your best friends, and if you buy the ones with feet you don't even need to worry about socks.

4. Check the method of fastening (buttons/zippers/snaps). My favorite are the ones that snap on both legs, because it's so much easier. But a lot of clothing manufacturers are lazy/cheap so they make things button or zipper only on one leg, and you have to shove your baby's other leg in, which is hard when they're tiny and seem so fragile, and hard when they're bigger and kicking all over the place.

For things with zippers, make sure the tab isn't pointy, and there's a little piece of fabric that snaps over to cover it so it doesn't poke your baby in the neck. You'd be surprised at how many sleepers don't have this.

And OMG, who are the idiots that design baby clothes with buttons and zippers *on the back*?? Not only do they poke your baby when they're lying down, but it's really hard to fasten those with one hand while the other one holds your floppy-headed baby.

5. Choose quality, sturdy, washable fabrics. Most polyester/cotton blend stuff looks cheap and ratty after a few washes. Even a lot of the fleece stuff gets pills and doesn't look so good after a while. 100% cotton is your friend.

And if anything says 'hand wash', 'dry clean only' or even 'cold water wash only', run far away. You are NOT going to want to do that for baby clothes, especially if you're going through multiple outfits a day, and diaper malfunctions are going to require you to wash those items in hot water.

The idiotic award here goes to the changing pad cover I bought that supposedly can only be washed in cold water. Uh, it's a cover for the changing pad. I NEED to wash that in hot water. So far, so good.

I saw a 0-3 month 100% silk dress on the clearance rack at Janie + Jack (and it was still $79!!!). You could make your money back by starting a pool and offering bets on how many minutes the baby will wear it before spitting up on it, or having a leaky diaper. (or in our house, having a dog drool on it).

And after all that talk about easy outfits, here's a pic of T in a dress she got as a gift.

It's gorgeous - a nice soft heavy cotton jumper, with just a hint of shimmery silver in the rich plaid. Hell, I'd wear that dress if it came in my size! But it needed a onesie underneath it, and pants and socks to keep her little legs warm. (Because lord knows I am NOT going to make my baby wear tights - that's like the ultimate punishment.) We got through two diaper changes with it, and then just left her in the onesie with a fleece sleep sack over it because it was too difficult to deal with all those pieces. But not before we got a picture, and went out to lunch with her in her cute outfit :)

So what are your baby clothes tips and tricks to share?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A gigantic nuclear furnace

It boggles my mind that I am such a fan of music but can't for the life of me think of many songs to sing to my baby. I know the lyrics to hundreds of rock songs, but when I try to sing to her, my mind draws a complete blank.

So now we're stuck with the following limited repertoire:
The Little Drummer Boy
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas (she especially seems to like this one)
You Are My Sunshine (I only know one verse of this so it's too short)

Add to the fact that I am NOT a good singer, and it's pretty much a disaster. I guess I need to learn some more songs. I don't even care if the lyrics are "kid-friendly" - I suspect we have plenty of time to worry about that up ahead. I just would like to remember the lyrics to a song without having it playing at the same time. Maybe I need some of those karaoke backing tracks or something.

Or we could just wait until she can sing her own songs. She's well on her way:

sharing is nice

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