Maternity leave

My glorious 10-day vacation on Cape Cod is coming to a close, and so out of habit or obligation, I’ve spent most of the day thinking about my life direction.

Life planning used to be just about me. Then it was about me and my husband. Now it’s about  me, my husband, our two boys, and possibly another child, who knows.

Perhaps to help me wrap my head around where my life is heading before I even make any plans, I have this compulsive habit of charting out my children’s ages/stages by year.

For example,

2011 Judah turns 2, Isaiah 3.5, me 35

2012 Judah turns 3, Isaiah 4.5, me 36

2013 Judah turns 4, Isaiah 5.5. Isaiah starts kindergarten. Me 37 (last year to have another baby?)

2014 Judah turns 5 (starts kindergarten?), Isaiah 6.5 in 1st grade, Me 38

2026 Isaiah graduates from high school (ahhh that’s a little better–nice and far away)

And so on.

Seeing my life through this lens, a few things surface.

  • My god, how quickly it really is going to go by. I mean, kindergarten? First grade??
  • I probably have two years or less to decide if we’ll have a third child. Not necessarily based on ability but personal preference.
  • How will my work schedule change when my children are in school? If I have a third child? And how does that affect the career choices I need to make now? Work more? Work less?
  • What kind of milestones do Ian and I want to hit before the kids start school?
  • Do I want to get a Ph.D.? If so, when? And in what?

The boys will wake up from their naps soon. We’ll go down to the water and collect hermit crabs and snails. I’ll have one of my last Sankaty Light Lagers of the summer.

And all of this will have to wait until another day.


Image from jackmck54

When I was on maternity leave with my second son, I somehow made it to one of those morning mothers’ groups in the dead of winter. Just like the mom’s groups I dragged myself to with my first son, I was the only mom there.

In this case, though, the group was hosted by an infant and toddler expert–one of those wise, patient types who dedicated her career to non-profit work and whose wisdom seemed to transcend a lifetime.

“How are you doing with your newborn?” Wendy asked.

“Oh him? He’s fine. It’s his toddler brother I can’t seem to handle,” I blurted.

As it turned out, Wendy loved toddlers (and authored numerous publications about them).

This was a concept I hadn’t ever considered–there are people who love toddlers? Those little dictators who have Category 5 hurricane breakdowns hourly? The ones who fall apart at every transition point throughout the day? The ones who see you on the daycare playground at the end of the day, scream “nooooo!” and run the other way? The ones who could qualify for the Baker Act as “a danger to themselves and others.”

Fortunately, Wendy seemed to have all the time in the world to help me see the magic in my own little guy. I left the mom’s group  that January morning with a shift in my thinking and a list of new tricks to engage my oldest son’s mind in a new way.

That was more than a year ago, and after volumes of research combined with getting to know my older son’s temperament better, I’m enjoying him more and more. Wendy’s suggestions on play that was not toy-based made me hungry to discover other ways to surprise and engage my children. (Which is one of the goals of this blog–to pass them on to you as I find things that work.)

And today, after surprising my 2.5-year-old with an under bed storage container filled with 25 pounds of uncooked rice, I actually thought, “I’m going to miss this stage.”

This stage when it’s relatively easy to “wow” him. This flash in time when he responds to my creative efforts with pure wonder and complete lack of sarcasm.

So thank you, Wendy, for helping me find ways to embrace this season in my children’s lives rather than trying to rush through it. Thank you for shifting my perception and for taking time to sit with a frazzled new mother of two that cold morning.

Tomorrow marks three weeks since I gave birth to my second son, most commonly referred to as “Barnacle” since he wants nothing to do with his bouncy seat or his crib or his swing, or even the Hotsling for that matter. He only wants to be held, in an upright position, and for the most part by me only.

Meanwhile my 16-month-old demonstrates his dissatisfaction with this arrangement by playing with electrical outlets, slapping the Christmas tree on each lap around the house, and melting down to historic proportions on the playground knowing that I cannot pick him (c-section recovery) to haul his screeching, flailing self to the car.

And sadly, the precious days of staying in bed and having meals delivered to me on pretty, cloth-covered trays are over. My mom left for Florida today and probably won’t be back until March, when I will have no excuse for staying in bed all day and having meals delivered to me on pretty, cloth-covered trays.

So now it’s me on maternity leave with two babies (one of whom, by the grace of god, is in daycare). Two more months of trying to figure this mothering business out before I return to the job I’m really good at–

The one where I get paid good money to sit comfortably and quietly in front of a computer all day.

The one where people don’t kick and scream when it’s time to go home.

The one where results can be measured and packaged up with a bow.

But the one that, ultimately, doesn’t offer sweet smelling infants in blanket sleepers to snuggle with at night. Or toddlers who, after throwing fits at the park, click their tongues to the sound of the car blinker on the way home, perhaps as their little way of saying they are sorry.

That’s what family is for. And that’s what this is all about.