It is not easy.
In this picture I’m lulling a baby to sleep with one arm while a pump is attached to my breast to catch let down milk. Bottles of milk, lampin (cloth diaper) and baby wipes are occupying as much space on my table as unfinished inventories, requisitions and notepads. This is the nth time that my baby tries to sleep in my arms today. She couldn’t find her position and couldn’t sleep long so she keeps on crying. The telephone keeps on ringing, so does the doorbell the doorbell. The sound of my keyboard wakes her up. The voices of my co-workers, the printer, my coughing, the scooters outside. I pick her up whenever she cries, dance with her, feed her, cradle her, everything just so she’ll stop crying and won’t annoy my colleagues or God forbids that the person on the other side of telephone asks why a baby is crying in the background. And when she doesn’t stop, well, there’s always the breasts.
I don’t know what my colleagues think of it. I don’t even dare ask. Although I have an agreement with my boss, I know I am not delivering as much as I used to. In moments like this, I am very grateful to work for a company that allows me to work and be with my child at the same time. And to have colleagues who are very understanding. I won’t exchange this for a bigger paycheck or a higher position.
Two whole days. I only bring my baby to work two days in a week. For the rest of the week, she’s either with her father or I’m at home with her. But those two days are exhausting. Sometimes I wonder if it’s better for the both of us if she just goes to daycare. Maybe a stranger can give her more attention than I could while we are in the office or while I am working at home. But I have my doubts. She’s barely four months old.
This working mom thing is hard. I couldn’t emphasize how difficult it is to combine child care and working full time. How do they do it in the Philippines? I often ask. Because there, it looks so easy. Of course I know the answer. My husband and I are alone in this. And we are both working full time.
Then there’s still dishes to be cleaned, clothes to be washed and ironed, house to tidy up, kitchen to renovate and the God-damned sewage to be fixed. And don’t forget breastfeeding on demand (Yes that is an actual term, Google it. This article provides an interesting perspective.) and expressing milk as early as 4AM. Tired doesn’t even come close to describe how I feel right now.
My only consolation is that my baby sleeps through the night. Not all nights but on most nights. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep at night saves me from hanging myself. I am not exaggerating. Ask any mother.
And when she smiles at me with her big, brown eyes, the exhaustion melts away. For a few precious minutes, all that remains is that indescribable tenderness in your heart. They call it love. Cliche I know. But that does not make it any less true.
This sounds like a rant. It is. If you compare me to mothers in third world countries, I sound like I am just whining. But this is the reality for all of us women who dare combine career and motherhood. I chose this. I decided to do this even before I decided to have a child. And I will stick to this decision. In Dutch we call it “doorbijten”, persistence in rough translation. Sometimes it feels like foolishness.
So kids, don’t try this motherhood/career combi unless you’re ready to give up your sanity (and your maiden figure. What happened to my body?!)