After I had my daughter, I went right back to work. Well, practically.
I did take about two weeks off completely (fourteen surreal and blurry, virtually sleepless days). But, then I started writing ad copy again, gradually building up my hours and transitioning into halftime home, halftime at the office. By about the six-week mark, I was commuting into the city each day and my sweet child was safe and sound in a family daycare.
I had started the job while I was pregnant. I would be building a creative department for a new agency and it was important to me that my bosses (all men) understood how serious I was about it. In honesty, we also needed the cash. Regardless, it never occurred to me to stay at home permanently. I loved what I did, felt absolutely comfortable giving it my all while giving my new baby all my heart as well. For me, these were never mutually exclusive roles or passions.
Of course, going right back to work made some things a little more difficult. Like breast-feeding. Early on, our pediatrician had encouraged me to switch off between breast and bottle and that certainly made things more convenient. I was also very fortunate; my body adjusted quickly to our new schedule. I nursed my daughter in the morning before we left and again as soon as I got home. After the first few days, I had no discomfort and never spent my lunch hour with a breast pump behind closed doors. (Ugh — thank goodness!) The only real problems I ever had occurred on an early-post-pregnancy business trip, and a single and overdue overnight at the Ritz with my husband. After a wonderfully romantic evening, he slept soundly in the sumptuous hotel bed, while I sat on the cold tile floor of the bathroom, you guessed it, pumping.
All in all, I was lucky though, and I planned to nurse for six months. Less than the fascists at the La Leche League might have liked, but more than many professional women get to. Then, at five months, three-and-a-half weeks (literally four days before I had planned), my daughter stopped. She changed her mind. "No, thank you very much." She simply turned her head away. Clearly, there was more going on in the world than my boob, and she wasn't going to miss any of it.
To say I felt rejection is an understatement. Silly, though. Her natural dismissal actually made my life a lot easier. But, it hurt all the same.
A similar thing happened with her pacifier. My husband and I never had an issue with letting her have a "nipper," as we called it, and we had a healthy stash strategically situated throughout the house, in cars, purses and jacket pockets. But, neither of us wanted her to grow into one of those strapping toddlers you see, greedily sucking and taking their pacifiers out of their mouths to speak because — guess what? — they're old enough to speak. So, we agreed we would wean her off of it at twelve months. Lo and behold, she jumped the gun again, losing all interest a couple of weeks ahead of schedule.
(I won't now narrate a detailed story of her potty-training (because I promised her I never would). Suffice it to say, it involved M&Ms and a Princess Barbie, and she acquiesced — when she finally did acquiesce — in her own sweet time.)
Nursing and nippers and shameless bribery are all behind us now. My daughter just started senior year of high school. In addition to her course load and exams and training and competitions and a part-time job, she has college applications looming. And that's all anyone wants to talk about. Family, friends, strangers we met on our vacation ... as soon as they hear she's about to turn eighteen, the first thing out of their mouth is the c-word. "Where are you looking?" "Where are you applying?" "Where do you want to go?"
By now, my daughter isn't even bothering to give any updates. "I don't know yet," she replies to every query, not even acknowledging the half-spirited research she's done so far.
The Common App is now open online and most of the schools on her (extremely short) short-list are accepting rolling applications even as I type. But, she has yet to fill in a name or address, much less outline an essay or even meet with her guidance counselor.
She's not ready. Period. And, I have to bide my time, bite my tongue and wait. She'll get there.
In her own sweet time.
If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.