I felt like I managed having a newborn so much better than last time around. And I think I did, but I suppose that led me to overestimate how the transition back to work would be. I've been back to work now for nearly two months, and quite frankly, it stinks.
There are bright sides. I love picking the boys up most days, especially now that I get a real smile from Carter when he sees me. The condensed time with them means that I appreciate the evenings and weekends so much more than I probably would otherwise, and I'm fresher on the mom front (despite a long day of work) than I would be if I were home with them all day. Obviously the income is important, my brain gets a nice workout, and I get adult interaction. But that's about where it ends.
I am exhausted. Every. Single. Day. I'm not sure there's been a day since I've been back to work that I haven't been nearly nodding off at my desk at one point or another during the day. I suppose I can't use Carter as an excuse since he's an amazing sleeper who almost never wakes up in the middle of the night (well, at least until the past week). But I still can't get enough sleep. Sometimes it's Jacob waking up in the middle of the night with bad dreams or a wet bed. Sometimes it's shallow sleep because I'm always listening for noises over the monitors. But most of the time it's just that my bedtime is too late and my alarm clock is too early. Carter wakes up somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30 to eat. If he's at the early end of that range, the good news is that I get to sneak a few more minutes in bed after I put him back down, but the bad news is that I am basically up for the day at 5:30 because I don't really get any more quality sleep after that. If it's at the later end of that range, I need to be up before then in order to ensure that we're all ready to leave the house on time. I used to be able to snooze until at least 7am before Carter was born, so the early wake-up is a little painful. Easier than expected most of the time, I suppose, but it comes back to bite me later in the day.
So after a full day of work where I can hardly keep my eyes open or focus like I should, I head home. Pickup, dinner, a little playtime, and then bedtime. Jacob usually goes down first, sometime between 8:30 and 9pm. Carter usually takes his last bottle around that same time, and he's in bed between 9-10pm, depending on how smoothly the feeding and last diaper change go. My target bedtime is 11pm, but it's rare that I make it when I only have an hour or so after Carter is asleep. I have bottles to wash, dishes to do, laundry to fold, and endless spots in the house that need cleaning up. I have to pay bills, sort mail, clip coupons, read papers, or reply to emails. Usually we try to fit in a TV show clogging up our DVR, or I'm trying to write a blog post (it's therapy, people...very important to my mental health) or do some online window shopping or Pinterest browsing for one thing or another. Suddenly it's after 11pm and I'm behind the 8-ball again. I always try to fit in "just one more thing" and inevitably it leads to something else. I search for one more thing online and then remember something else. I clean up the pile of mail only to find something I need to take care of. I go into the kitchen to dump off snack dishes and realize I forgot to get Carter's morning bottle ready to go. It's a never-ending cycle.
All of this doesn't even take into consideration all of the other things that I'd like to be doing. I'm lucky if I can get my once-a-week workout in, and at the same time I'm trying to make sure Craig has opportunities to fit in his workouts. I'd love to go shopping to fill in a few of the holes in my wardrobe right now, but finding the time and patience is hard. I really need to do Christening thank you notes, doing some filing, and start planning Jacob's birthday party (or parties, if we end up allowing him to have a friend one). I feel bad because I've been putting off scheduling play dates for Jacob because weekends are already so jammed that I can't quite fathom fitting in that, too. And the worst part is that because I know I'm going to be tired by the time the kids go to bed, I sacrifice time with them so I can try to get a few things done earlier. I have so little time with them in the first place that it kills me to do that, but sometimes I have to. I'm so overwhelmed by everything that I can't seem to focus on anything. I forget things, or walk by the same pile of stuff for days (weeks!?) before I ever get around to doing something with it. Time flies like crazy.
Work is definitely a challenge, and over the past week I seem to be going through the same funk that I go through once every few months. Usually it's triggered by a bad day at work, or a day where I just feel like what I do is not worth being away from my kids. Something has to suffer, and I don't want it to be my family, but that's often how it ends up. And quite frankly, some people might argue that work suffers too, since I'm always running out the door at 5:15 to get to daycare on time. It's not fair to anyone, and it's hard to go through every day knowing that your priorities have to be backward. At the same time, I know I'm not cut out to be home 24/7, but every time I get into one of these funks, I go over a dozen scenarios in my head about how I could work part time. But none of them ever work, mostly because there's just no way to recoup the lost income, make daycare cheap enough, or cut enough corners on our household budget to make it doable. It's so disheartening every time I come to that conclusion, but never more so than right now when I'm just craving time with Carter, my little smile machine. I like my job, but more and more I feel like the job is changing and I'm not suited to changing with it. I feel like my brain is not wired to do the things they want me to do, and it's hard to want to bother with learning new things or taking on new responsibilities because I know I can't dedicate any more to this job than I already do. I'm overwhelmed by the thought of doing anything more because I can barely handle what I do now. Then I feel like a bad employee, but the thought of rectifying that generally makes me fear becoming a worse mom, and so on and so forth.
Long story short, there just aren't enough hours in the day. There isn't enough time to work, spend time with the kids, spend time with Craig, do what I need to around the house, and get a little me-time in so I'm a happier person doing all those other things. And there isn't enough time for sleep, which makes all of those things that much harder. There are so many things about my current schedule that I'd love to change, but I'm not a morning person either so that's not happening. I feel like I'm missing out on Carter's babyhood, just like I did on Jacob's, and I know now more than ever how quickly this time passes...and since we won't be doing it again, it's that much harder. I just feel like I'm treading water, at best, and never really doing anything well. I spend my rides to work dreaming about what it would be like to be able to be well-rested; to spend time with other moms; to do activities with my kids without feeling like I'm shirking other responsibilities or rushing them along so I can get back to something else; to have the time to think through organizing my house better; to keep my house clean; to plan dinners in advance and make better stuff; to have the ability to think clearly about planning parties or trips; to not have crazy daycare bills or worry about what my kids will do after school or during summers; to at least be the kind of mom my mom was for me. Heck, I think my mom is the reason why I'd love to work part time. She did it starting around the time I turned eight, and it brought a nice balance of independence (which I didn't abuse, unless plentiful after-school TV counts) and care. She was always available for school things or doctor's appointments, and I worry about things like that with my own kids because I only have so much vacation to go around. It's a different era, now, though. We have to pay for things like cell phones, internet access, and $4 per gallon gas. College (even state schools) costs thousands more than it used to, and I'd feel bad not giving my kids the same sort of help my parents gave me (or at least attempting to). As I've said, despite the cost of daycare, there is no combination of cuts that we could make to our expenditures that would make it possible for only one of us to work, even part time. At least not if we want a comfortable savings account or any amount of entertainment in our lives.
Eventually I will come out of this funk and settle back into acceptance of this less-than-ideal way of life. It's not that bad, after all, and we're beyond blessed in so many ways. It's just frustrating to see a different way of life that seems so much more natural and fulfilling just beyond your grasp. I'm sure there's some degree of "the grass is always greener" here, too, and I've have some issues to contend with even if I got my wish. But man, it would sure be fun to try...