Thursday, December 05, 2013

Ch-Ch-Ch-Choices

I haven’t blogged in three months. I haven’t thought about it much, but when I have, I’ve considered closing up shop for real and for good, packing up my writing and shutting down the whole operation. What has stopped me is the feeling that this would be an overreaction because really, there’s no one waiting around to read my Next Great Post, so why bother making it a thing?

I dunno. Anyway...

The past several months have been filled with choices—decisions primarily regarding work/life balance and whether or not to pursue some part-time work opportunities. After much internal struggle, in August I decided that I would continue to work full time. But with that decision, I knew I had to prioritize my hobbies, including this blog, in order to function better as a human person--especially as a human person with another little human person counting on her.

It’s been a process to say the least.

So, after making the BIG choice of continuing to work full time, I made some other choices. And to be real, I did not give up important things; these choices are hardly sacrifices in the 'grand scheme' and whatnot. But they needed to be made for personal reasons, professional reasons, financial reasons, and mental health reasons. I prioritized, cleaned house, and made compromises about time, money, the things I would hold myself accountable for, and the things I would let go of, in an attempt  simplify my life and my family's life and focus on some of my more basic needs that had been neglected for, oh, let's say 16 months, five days and roughly four hours.

So I let some things go, like...

Teaching Zumba. This was a goal of mine for a long time for, like, ever, and I finally did it in 2011. After you get certified to teach Zumba, you pay a small fee each month that allows you to remain certified indefinitely. The fee is arguably worth it even if you’re only teaching a class or two a week, if you enjoy it. And I did… for awhile. It was a hobby, but toward the end of my pregnancy/Zumba teaching career, I was feeling the pressure of not having enough time to devote to learning new choreography. I knew that would weigh on me more as a new mom--and would be damn near impossible to manage as a mom working 9-to-5. Even though I hemmed and hawed about whether or not I’d give it another shot post-baby (a few job opportunities even came my way, which shocked no one more than me), I finally decided it was time to cancel my certification. Being a Zumba instructor--really, being any kind of fitness instructor--is not in the cards right now.

The idea that I could be a full-time working/part-time stay-at-home mom. This was my version of having it all--making close to full-time work money while still being able to take advantage of the perks of being home with Emme one or two days a week. In my head--for reasons too complicated to go into here--this seemed like a totally reasonable option, but unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. I belong to a mom’s group, a large one that’s very active in the western suburbs of Chicago, and I would almost daily see events pop up--playdates, park outings, the zoo, music classes--all during the workweek of course, that constantly made me second guess my choice and resent my situation. I had to stop. I had to let it go. And eventually I did.

The idea that I would take what little work flexibility I do have and use it solely to spend time with my kid. Is that, like, ‘way harsh Tai?’ Maybe, but maybe not. I work from home on Fridays and have an unofficial agreement with my boss that these work hours can be made up in a flexible way and do not necessarily all have to happen on Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. My intention with this gift of time was to pick up Emme at daycare right after her noon nap and use the afternoon to schedule a playdate with with my mom friends and their babes or head to the park or just hang out at home. But, this arrangement never panned out quite as perfectly as I imagined it would. What does work is if I take that day for myself and multitask like a literal and figurative mother. I send emails and work on projects while washing clothes, folding piles of laundry, and picking up the house. Sometimes I throw in trips to the grocery store or dry cleaner, dentist and doctor appointments, and about a week ago, I hung up new blinds in our bedroom (all by myself thank you very much). If I can manage it, I go to the gym. So while it may seem harsh, having this day at home (and I swear I do get work done) allows me to check a lot off of the life to-do list that would otherwise hang heavy over my head and take up precious time on the weekend. So I do it on Friday, by myself.

A jam-packed social calendar. I am someone who typically wants to do everything. When MM and I were a carefree, child-free married couple, it was not unusual to pack our weekends with multiple events. But I am also someone who needs downtime. Packed social schedule + young child does not leave one with much time to recharge, so something had to give and my understanding is that the young child is here to stay. It’s not that I don’t do anything or that Joey and I never go out anymore, but we pick and choose. We prioritize things like being home early and getting a good night’s sleep. I have backed off of some friendships, especially newer friendships, because I do not have the time or energy to devote to them. It’s not ideal, in my opinion. I’d love to strengthen newer friendships in our neighborhood and get more involved in the community, but just because I have the desire doesn’t mean I should spend my time that way. It’s just not that simple anymore. I am hopeful that with time, this will change.

This blog. Writing for myself, in general. Dreaming about something different. OMG, depressing much? I mean, clearly I haven’t truly given it up because you’re reading it right now. But I don’t know where these hobbies/dreams fit anymore. And it’s bigger than this blog. For many years, I felt strongly about getting out of marketing and doing something else. I was generally split on which direction to take my life--become a ‘writer,’ whatever that means, or go back to school for something health/wellness related. Neither seem realistic from where I’m sitting. And the truth is, as far as making money goes, my options have come down to the following: stagnant where I’m at in my career or move forward on the path I am already on. It’s becoming clear that the choice is truly mine to make--options to move forward will be there, if not now, then eventually--and while this isn’t really what I want to be doing five, ten years from now, the time-is-money-is-time/freedom-to-choose-all-of-the-choices clock (did you know that such a clock existed?) seems to have struck midnight. And I am a marketing pumpkin.

Here’s the thing: At some point, you have to stop fighting against the reality of your life and circumstances. You choose your choices and when you are done whining about them and wondering ‘what if,’ you move forward, hopefully as a grown-ass woman. There's something freeing about acceptance. ‘Having it all’ is not a real thing, probably under any circumstances, but especially when you become a parent, and especially especially when you become a mom.

Sorry dads, we've cornered the market on not having it all. Better luck next time. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Baby to 10K

Remember when this was a blog about running? Haha. Me neither. But it was! And if I did anything right in August, it was decide that I was going to set a running goal and start, well, running again.

Even though I’m starting from scratch here, I decided that I needed something bigger than a 5K to convince myself that I needed to train for a race. Not that a 5K wouldn’t be a challenge for me at this point--it would--but in my head, I can rationalize not needing to “train” for a three mile run, even though I would need to train for a three mile run.

Makes total sense, right?

So I picked a local 10K, convinced Running Buddy Meg to do it too, and then wondered how we would approach training. After having babies in 2012, we needed to start at the beginning, but we needed something that would ramp up faster and go farther than the Couch to 5K program.

What makes programs like Couch to 5K so successful (I think) is that mentally it’s easy to wrap one’s head around short running intervals followed by walking breaks. And before you realize it, you’re running a lot more than walking. So, I created a program for us, and we’ve been following it pretty successfully. By Oct. 20, we should be ready to run 6.2 miles.


These days, I’m actually excited to be running again and excited to be thinking about other race possibilities. By spring 2014, I might even be ready to think about double digits again.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Good News

Overall August has been good for a lot of reasons, but after spending about half the month completely exhausted with YET ANOTHER cold/cough, despite the fact that I was eating better, exercising more, and generally happier and shit, I started to wonder if this was just how it’s going to be.

I considered the culprits of my sheer exhaustion and subpar immune system. Was it that:
a. I am a mom of a toddler who is extremely active and being constantly tired and regularly ill is simply my new normal.
b. I am just getting back into a regular exercise routine which, in addition to my extremely active toddler, is straight up killing me physically, but it will pass as I get stronger.
c. I tried to come up with other excuses for feeling shitty and effectively ignored the fact that I had walking pneumonia for two solid weeks.
If you guessed “c,” you would be correct. So the good news is that this is not the new normal. My life is not so exhausting that I have to nap every day after I put Emme to bed in order to have enough energy to face the tasks of cooking dinner and vegging out on the couch. I just had pneumonia.

The even better news is that I was so committed to getting into a healthier and happier routine this month that I didn’t let that shit stop me. Since the first full week in August--so going on four weeks now if you’re counting, and I am--I have been attending a boot camp twice a week and running (FINE--run/walking) three times a week.

And, it feels fantastic. I feel more myself than I have since giving birth, even though I didn’t realize that I didn’t feel myself until the haze of baby’s first year began to lift and the edges started coming into focus. Shortly after Emme turned 1, I stopped nursing and I haven’t looked back. I took my new found freedom and MM took on even more of the house management, which allowed me to make myself a priority for the first time in a long time.

I also realized that I spent much of this first year fighting reality, not wanting the choices I had to be the choices I had, failing to find acceptance in where I was at. I think I could have made things easier on myself if I had just been a little more accepting, made some decisions, and stopped living in the space between reality and a potential better reality that might exist.

But it’s easy to say that now, right? When you’re in it, it’s hard to see out of it.

Decisions have been made and reality has been accepted. I have decided that it’s better to move forward with imperfection and compromise and understanding than it is to stagnate in “what ifs” and fantasy scenarios. This life includes laundry and bills and annoying trips to big box stores on the weekends and a work schedule that isn’t ideal and a job that isn’t perfect. But this is it. This is life. 

In other words, I’m back.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ready for Round 2?

So maybe I'm not training for marathons or even half marathons these days (I am training for a 10K!), but I still enjoy invoking the life as marathon as life metaphor whenever possible. I’ve started running once a week on Monday evenings with a local moms group. Last night, I was running next to a newer-than-me mom, and as new moms tend to do, we started sharing our war stories—labor and delivery, sleepless nights, work-life balance, nursing, pumping, daycare.

Then the subject of second babies came up. Our family has hit the one-year mark, which, if nothing else signals to nosy family members and strangers that it’s time to start telling me that Emme “needs” a sibling. So I asked the new mom running on my right, “Have you ever run a marathon?” She had not. (I totally recognize that this makes me sound slightly obnoxious, but that was not my intention and I had a point.)

The way I feel about having a second baby is the way I feel about training for and running another marathon. I think about it; I watch other people run marathons and think, ‘I could do that’; there are moments that it seems totally doable—a good idea even. And then there are times I think, ‘never again.’ But mostly, now that I know what I know what to expect from training for and running a marathon, I just can’t wrap my head around doing it right now. I haven’t been able to wrap my head around 26.2 miles for four years. I honestly can’t tell you if I’ll ever run another marathon, and yet, I have a hard time believing that I won’t give it another go at some point.

That pretty much sums up my feelings about baby #2. Maybe we will; maybe we won't, but right now my head's not in that game, and I'm not ready to go back.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

This Is The End

We've come this far, I might as well tell you how the story ends. Right?

In July, I stopped pumping and we starting weaning Emme, at 11 months old, to whole milk. It was kind of the plan, but once I spent the first half of July mostly out of the office, the thought of coming back to work and locking myself in an office for 40+ minutes twice a day was unbearable. Not the mention the fact that I wasn't pumping enough to justify the time and effort. And, moreover, I was in so much pain while nursing, I knew I had reached my limit.

Knowing I couldn't just quit, I refilled my prescription-strength ibuprofen that I took after giving birth, and I took that several times a day to get through nursing sessions. No joke people. I was in near-constant pain. We started dropping nursing sessions one by one until by late July, when we were down to one morning feeding and one evening feeding. By then, I was pain free, thank god.

We've continued like that until last night when I unexpectedly was away at bedtime. My supply has very obviously tanked, most evident by the WTF? look I keep get from Em when she nurses, so I figured now was as good a time as any to drop the bedtime feeding. Tonight was the first night I put her to bed without feeding her. Since she's now far more interested in running around her room like a crazy toddler before bedtime, it really was a non-issue. I'm not sure she even noticed.

And then there was one.

I'm in less of a hurry to completely wean her since I'm not in pain, but the truth is that mentally I'm just done. And while I think Emme will keep nursing if I keep offering, I think she's at the point where if it's not offered, she's not going to miss it. It will probably be another week or two--taking it slow is always the best way to wean--but we've no doubt reached the end of nursing relationship.

I'm hopeful that my hormones don't go completely haywire, and I don't completely lose it emotionally. I expect I may get a little upset,when it's truly over, but mostly, I expect to feel relief that we're moving on with our lives.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

We're Number One

Oh hello. Did I just manage to skip an entire month of blogging? Yes. Yes I did.

Is it really possible that just over a month ago we were celebrating the 4th of July? It seems like it was a million years ago. July was jam-freaking-packed and there are so many things to talk about. More on that later...

First, the most important update: Emme is one!

I cannot believe that this fuss who came into the world just one year ago:


Has turned into this fuss. who is practically running circles around us. 
 

We've already celebrated this major milestone several times, and we have one more party to go. On her actual birthday--a Thursday--MM and I both took off work so that we could spend the day together as a family. We went to breakfast, to the zoo, and for ice cream--just a fun family day. 

On Saturday, we had relatively low-key celebration with some of Em's baby friends and family. We had perfect weather for our party in the park complete with ice cream cart (are you sensing a theme here?).

This weekend, my MIL is throwing a final bash for some of the older relatives on my husband's side of the family. And, with that, the celebrating will be complete. Thank god.

There's more to come. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust

Oh my gawd, I’m 34. I keep accidentally typing 35, but no, I just feel like I’ve aged two years in the last 365 days.

Man, the last year, what can one say? It’s been amazing... and hard... and it’s crazy to think of all the changes. Last year this time, I was hugely pregnant. It was one million degrees outside. I opted out of birthday celebrations after having been baby showered twice in weeks leading up to my 33rd birthday. It was just me and Joey, and I couldn’t even tell you what we actually did on my birthday.

Of course, this year was different. Between working, taking care of the bug, and attempting to keep up on life, I was pretty serious about having some “me” time. I took Friday off work so that I could spend the morning going to my favorite Zumba class, taking myself to lunch, and getting a massage. I realized this: Massages are like crack. Every time I have one, I feel like I desperately need another one. After my morning alone, Emme and I met some neighborhood friends for a little playdate in the park. Friday night, my MIL came over to watch the Babe sleep, and MM and I went to dinner and got yogurt at Red Mango, my favorite make-your-own-fro-yo place.

On Saturday, we decided a small cookout would be a solid way to celebrate, so we invited family and a couple of friends over for an afternoon BBQ. The weather ended up cooperating, which was a nice surprise. The food was fantastic, other people entertained my extremely fussy, clingy baby (I swear we’re on the edge of a developmental leap that I'm hoping happens soon), and I had a few drinks in the sun.

It was a really good birthday. Just enough celebrating.

Like I said above, for all the amazing stuff that has happened this year--Emme is without a doubt the absolute light of my life--it’s also been hard. Adjusting to being a new parent is never easy, and MM and I have spent a lot of time re-evaluating what we want moving forward. I am hopeful that my 34th year will bring lots of changes that will not only allow our family to have more balance, but will also allow me some space to really figure out what’s next for me. I truly believe this is going to be fantastic year, and that when I write a post this time next year, I’ll be blown away by how far I’ve come.