Archive for the 'attachment parenting' category

Baby vs. work: sometimes you have to choose.

Yesterday, my anonymous friend wrote a guest post about bringing her baby to work and how - for now - this works very well for both of them. On twitter, @crazygradmama said the following:

which I wholeheartedly agreed with. Obviously, not every baby is the same and then we're not even talking about babies with disabilities or illnesses that make it much harder and more intense to care for them. I'm not sure BlueEyes was officially colicky, but he pretty early on was able to make known what his preferences were. He liked to be worn, but only if the person wearing him kept moving when he was awake. Only if he slept, that person could sit down, and he usually only napped for 30-40 minutes at a time, in a pretty unpredictable manner. He did not like to spend much time by himself in a playpen or something like that. He did not like to sit in his carseat and he did not like to be held by unfamiliar people.

In addition, it took quite some time for me to get used to my role as a mother and merge my scientist/professional-me with my mother-me (there's a post brewing about this, but it's not quite done yet). Especially in the beginning this made it kind of uncomfortable to bring my baby to work or to a conference because it felt really weird to be those two roles at the same time. Also, being able to focus on work and a baby on the crappy amount of sleep I was getting seemed a bit much for my already foggy postpartum brain.

With Little Brother, working during my maternity leave was easier. He was a bit less intense than BlueEyes in making known what he wanted and I was a bit better at going with the flow. At home, I put my laptop high enough that I could stand and work, so I could bounce him while wearing him and type at the same time. I took him to work every now and then just to check in at the lab, but we were also moving when he was four months old, so it wasn't that crucial to find a long-term solution of bringing him to work.

With BlueEyes, we were incredibly fortunate that when I had to go back to work three months after he was born, he went to the daycare at our university, where the teacher:baby ratio was 1:2.5. They assigned a particular teacher for each baby, so the babies were mostly cared for by one familiar person. We were fortunate to get a scholarship, because otherwise it would have been difficult to pay for this daycare on two post-doc salaries (and impossible on just one).

Little Brother went to daycare after we moved back to the homecountry, where the teacher:baby ratio was higher, and the amount of different teachers during the week was larger. He really only started to get comfortable there after he was a year old and could walk and start to talk. Before that, on some days he would sleep for 6 hours and barely drink anything (which he caught up on at night). When I was a post-doc, I felt that I should keep working to keep up, and that is also what the amount of maternity leave in most countries suggests. I'm also not sure if I would even want to be home full-time (and I realize that for many, this is financially not an option to even consider). For me, the ideal situation would be somewhere in between: work a couple hours a day, but also be able to be with your baby during the first year.

In the end, I think it is very valuable to share these stories, so that we can learn from each other. I'd like to hear how academics from countries with much longer parental leave have experienced their first year with a baby. Do you actually stop working, and do you think it is harder to get back? Share your experience in the comments or email me if you want to guest post!

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Repost: To a conference in baby-attachmode

Yesterday, Potnia Theron wrote about why it is so important to go to meetings to hear new ideas and stay creative. In response, Christina Pikas wrote how incredibly difficult and expensive this is when you have children. I couldn't agree more after not having gone to meetings (other than our local neuroscience meeting) in the past two years because of being pregnant and having small children. There's only so many options: take your kid(s) to a meeting means either bringing enough support so that you can still go to social events in the evenings (which is expensive), or not going to social events which takes away most of the usefulness of going to a meeting, or being able to leave your kid(s) at home, which has its own challenges (ask my husband about not sleeping for a couple nights the first time I left without 15 month old BlueEyes to go ta a conference...). That's why I thought it would be fitting to repost my second blog post ever, about going to a conference with a small baby:

 

Last year’s society for Neuroscience meeting was right when I went back to work after my maternity leave. And since I had patched a whole bunch of cells while very pregnant, I even had something to present there. The meeting was right around the corner from where I live, which is why I decided that even though BlueEyes was only 4 months old, the whole family was going to the meeting (and in this case, with meeting I mean the actual science-part, and not so much the social and drinking part). So on Saturday and Sunday I put BlueEyes in a baby wrap (Girasol Chococabana for those of you interested), and walked around the conference.

SfN turned out to be very baby-friendly, since they even had a specific room for infant care, where you could nurse and change your baby. The only disadvantage was that this was kind of far away from the poster hall, so after I had checked out a poster or two I had to walk back there to nurse a hungry baby or change a diaper. Oh well, most people walk around the poster hall to meet people they know instead of actually look at the posters anyway, right? A major unexpected disadvantage was that when you show up at someone’s poster with a baby attached to you, they automatically assume that you’ve come to show your cute baby instead of ask a serious science question. So not much science talk for me that weekend…

On Monday BlueEyes went to his usual daycare, and I traded the baby-in-wrap for my breast pump. This was potentially even bulkier and certainly more annoying to drag around all day. The same sort of thing as before happened where I would check out a bunch of posters (at least now I got to ask science-questions and have people answer them), and then have to walk back to the infant care room to pump milk. And after I presented my own poster I realized that whoever thought of four hour poster sessions had probably never lactated him- or herself….

A last thing to note is that the night after we took BlueEyes to SfN, he had his longest night sleep so far (a 6 hour stretch of sleep!). And mind you, this was in November... So I guess nothing puts our baby to sleep like a couple 1000 neuroscience posters!

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Reverse cycling

No this post is not about anything related to bicycles (although I did sign up for my first spinning class in ages today). Rather, it's about Little Brother's breastfeeding habits. He's now 10 months and he used to drink 3 big 5 ounce bottles at daycare (5 ounce is 150 ml for everyone in the world using the metric system). Then he turned 9 months and all of a sudden he is only drinking about 1,5 ounce during an entire day at daycare. I already knew that this is called reverse cycling: he catches up on milk at night.

But where with BlueEyes around this age I was exhausted, now I'm actually pretty well rested. I think I finally mastered the art of co-sleeping. Little Brother is in a cosleeper next to me and most nights I wake up and find that he is already right next to me. So apparently I woke up just enough to pull him towards me and have him nurse and then immediately fall back asleep. It's awesome to not feel as tired as I was with BlueEyes and it makes me wish healthcare providers wouldn't scare the shit out of people with the movies they make you watch* about dead babies from SIDS. Rather, I wish they would tell people how to co-sleep safely.

*At least I had to watch this movie about SIDS and co-sleeping in the hospital hours after giving birth...

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It's been a while since I wrote about sleep

It's 1 am and I wake up because Little Brother is stirring and wants to nurse. Since he sleeps in the co-sleeper right next to me, I can just pull him towards me and breastfeed while I'm still half asleep. Normally I would fall back asleep but now BlueEyes wakes up too: "Mama miiiiillk!!". So I turn over, because he sleeps  in between me and Dr. BrownEyes and nurse him too. More for show than for real because he only takes two sips and then tries to sleep. But he stays awake and can't seem to manage to fall back asleep for the next hour and a half.

That whole hour and a half I lay awake wondering if this attachment parenting is screwing up my career or at least my ability to make smart remarks during lab meetings or while meeting new people. I wonder if I would have gotten more sleep had we trained our kids to sleep in their own room. Or if I would get more work done at night if it wouldn't be necessary to stay with BlueEyes until he sleeps in the evening which sometimes takes more than an hour. Or if I wouldn't need to pump milk at work twice a day.

These are the things that seem important at night. But then in the morning I realize that I'm really not that tired (perhaps because of this?) and that there's really no way of testing this hypothesis because there is only one me and only one time that I get to parent small children. And then I'm glad that I only read a two 'parenting' books, the most important one being "Our babies, ourselves" (If you're the parent of small kids: go read it!!).

And to conclude this post I will quote the second sentence my new (German) department head said when I first met hir:"Good, back to work then!".

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