Fondant Pigs And Other Fun Reasons I’m Falling Apart.

It’s been a year, don’t you think? With economic crashes, dickhead presidents and the death of several entertainment leaders, we are all feeling a little “what the fucky”.

On top of the state of the nation and all that drama, work is the busiest it has ever been, my child is almost one – so I’m trying very unsuccessfully to plan a Pinterest-worthy party, I’m studying a pretty intensive course and training for Half Iron Man. So yes, a massive pity party for one happening here, except it’s not really a party, because that would involve time, and music and probably applying makeup.

Being a working mom is so hard. And I think you only ‘get’ that when it happens to you. I now have a KZN approach of zero tolerance, and try my best to manage my time like a German soldier – but every so often (read, every day) something slips. And the more it slips, the more it feels that I’m going to start cracking.

Yesterday I bought a tin of formula for Carter. No big deal – he’s been on the same formula for 9 months. Except, the formula I brought home yesterday was a completely different brand to the one he has been using for nearly a year. It doesn’t even look remotely that same. It’s a small thing as exchanging it is minor, or so I thought until I arrived at work today without a handbag, and the till slip I needed to swop out FOOD TO KEEP MY BABY ALIVE. Thank god I keep a tube of lip ice and a tampon in my back pocket, because that’s pretty much been what’s kept me going the entire today. Finding gifts and snacks for a dinner party I’m attending this evening though is another story. Reckon I’ll steal a 2l milk and someone’s tuna from the work fridge and hope for the best.

Let’s not even get started on the errands I need to run just to keep my house and life ticking over. When do other working moms get to these? I’m talking about grocery shopping, downloading photos from an 18-month-old memory card or going to the dentist? Is there a secret? Tell me, quickly, before my teeth fall out (it’s been 3 years since I last had a checkup).

And then there’s traffic, and money (or lack thereof) and getting home after a stressful day to start my 3rd job (yes, I have a 2nd job writing for these guys) to feed, clean, love and bath my baby. Then fit in a run of sorts and spend the next 5 hours standing in sweaty running gear making fondant icing figurines for a first birthday cake which generally ends in my downing fondant and picking up my laptop to carry on with work that just never seems to end.

And then someone – without a kid, a stressful job, a race or a party to plan looks at me and says ‘You have no idea how busy I am’ and I want to simultaneously fall to the floor and weep while punching them in the face with my notebook.

Then, I count to 10 and count my lucky stars that I have a supportive husband, a (newly acquired) domestic helper who works 5 days a week (thank the baby haysus) and a child who I love enough to spend 4 hours making an icing pig for.

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But still, it’s hard, and not because of one thing, but because of everything, and suddenly a pound of flesh needs to be 10, and 24/7 needs to be 365 and burning the candle at both ends means your candle just doesn’t have enough wicks.

Moms, fucking hell. Way to go. Good job. Pat yourselves on the back – because I’m pretty certain I’m not alone in feeling like I’m breathing in water and treading in mud. Every single day.

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I Love You. But You're Being An Arsehole.

Human beings can survive many things. In South Africa we survive just by surviving, but lack of sleep? That has got to the fastest sense of humour killer out there.

My child. My usually happy, smiley and content almost 7 month old has been displaying signs of what I refer to as ‘close to adoption tendencies’. He will not sleep, he will not eat and he moans at pretty much everything. When he does eat, he projectile vomits (his hand blended lamb and vegetables) minutes later and when he does sleep it’s when I’m wide awake at 2am wondering if I’m a terrible mother for calling my baby an A-Hole.

I can’t remember when last I wasn’t bending over his cot, shoving any form of pacifier or drug into his mouth to make him stop moaning for just one minute. Short of swatting him against a wall like I would a mosquito guilty of the same annoyance (and also, who has time to clean up all that 7 month sized blood anyway?) I find myself praying with the gods above to please just let him close his fucking eyes and sleep.

(In other news – I take back all the judgey judgeroo thoughts I ever had around moms co-sleeping, drugging or doingwhateverthefuckittakes to get your baby to nap)

Before you get all waggy finger in my face and ‘calling Childline on you’ I get that babies are tiny and helpless and teething happens and fever happens and they feel sore and yuk and miserable, and if I could, I would take away all the shitty pain that growing teeth presents, because it shatters my heart to see my small child in constant pain. Sadly though, teething in babies seems to be the equivalent of genital waxing in grown men, and Carter is feeling the effects more than any male salon go’er I know.

My lack of sleep, all consuming work load, loss of interest in anything and general ‘eff you’ mood has left me with one simple conclusion: You cannot have an easy newborn and an easy half year old. The world does not work that way. If everyone’s experience with raising a baby was a constant joyful affair, then even the most hard core anti mom would be walking around rubbing her engorged belly and picking out cot linen and hospital pads.

So, whilst I love my child with all my heart, I really don’t like him (lately) between the hours of 6 and 6. And that’s OK, right?

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I Can't Remember When Last I Pee'd

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, being a mom is hard. Being a career woman is hard. Putting the two together and being a working mom is probably the hardest thing I have ever done.

For anyone who has ever really wondered why I, and thousands of woman may ‘change’ when we become mothers, I’ll give you a little glimpse of what really goes into the day in the life of a working mom.

Its 4 pm. I’ve been up since 4 am, and several times throughout the night tending to you, my baby, who needed a dummy, a blanket or simply a reassuring cuddle.

My husband was flying to Cape Town today, so I managed to squeeze in a 30 minute jog before he left home. It felt awesome. At 6 am I fed you, changed you, then changed you again because you decided your morning poo would be better in a brand new nappy. In between showering and dressing for work I checked emails, sang to you with my hair dryer, fed the dogs, made my lunch, packed your bags, packed my bags, and managed to leave the house to drop you off at crèche. All without you falling off the bed (again). I managed to avoid most of the traffic fuckery and got to my desk just after 8:30. There were a few raised eyebrows of course.

I worked hard today. I even landed a new client, and managed to get everything done on my list, and then some. I drove very far for a meeting, secured some budget for a new client campaign, and man, I enjoyed every second of my hot cup of coffee. I bantered with colleagues, ate my salad whilst typing a report, and declined the after work drinks invitation in my diary.

I work harder than ever before, baby. I guess its what happens when you feel like you have something to prove. When you feel that people assume you cant have working ovaries and a brain.

At 4 pm I bolted from my desk. There were a few raised eyebrows. I managed to get to your crèche by 5 pm, the time was filled with a call to a client. Yesterday I wasn’t so lucky. Yesterday I got stuck in a terrible hailstorm for 2 hours and reached your school last. You were so forgiving and gave me that toothy grin that melts my heart.

We normally race home from crèche, because you go to bed not long after. Today I had to pop into Woolworths for dog food and wine. The store didn’t have those baby seats on the trolleys, so I carried you instead. I couldn’t manage the dog food and the wine while carrying you, so I sadly put the Merlot back on the shelf. I really needed wine today.

The store is decorated in Christmas colours. I get a lump in my throat. I’m so worried about money. How am I going to afford Christmas presents this year? The closes I’m getting to a bonus is 2 for 1 tampon specials at Clicks.

At the till I remembered we also needed baby food for you, because after cooking 3 kilograms of organic mince on the weekend, you decided you hated mince. I got a few raised eyebrows from other women in the store.

We got home not too long after and the dogs went mad with joy. I lay you on the floor with them – surrounded by pillows of course, because you still topple over sometimes, for just 2 minutes so I could wee, but somewhere between yesterday and today you’ve realised when I leave the room, and the sound of your frantic screams stopped me midway to the toilet.

You’re in your high chair now and I’m about to feed you the overpriced baby food from Woolies. You’re very distracted and I realise I have to change your nappy. 5 minutes later you’re back in your chair and I’m a plethora of aeroplane sounds as I try and convince you that pureed chicken and broccoli is more exciting than eating the plastic of your chair.

We skip the chicken and start on the yoghurt and fruit. Then the finger biscuits, grated cheese and dried mango. All along I’m teaching you and chatting to you about your day. For every mouthful you swallow, another 4 mouthfuls end up on you, the hounds and in my hair.

There’s another storm brewing outside, so I start running your bath while cooing at you in the next room. The sound of running water reminds me just how badly I need to pee, except you start crying again. You really do hate it when I leave now. You love the bath and we splash for several minutes until the first lightning bolt strikes. I whisk you out and take you to your room where you fight me and the onesie to the bitter end.

It’s too early for your bottle, plus I haven’t made it yet, so I bring you to the kitchen where I try start on dinner for myself while trying to give you my undivided attention. Your father phones to tell me about his holiday work conference in Cape Town. He’s been on a wine farm all day. I want to stab him in the face.

We read a book. I choose ‘The Gruffalo’, because even though you’re too young to enjoy it properly, I love playing the characters and putting on the voices. You don’t enjoy the story too much, but the pages are apparently delicious.

I let the dogs outside and play with them and the Frisbee for a while. I almost threw you accidentally, you thought it was hilarious.

The smell of burning brings me back inside. I’ve scorched my supper, for the second night in a row.

It’s now nearly time for your bed, and I take you into your room to give you a bottle, which you refuse. Ten minutes later though I’m hanging over your cot feeding it to you again, because apparently that’s how you like it now.

Eventually, you’re asleep. Its 7 pm and I start cleaning the house, wiping yoghurt off the floors, walls and ceiling and steaming fruit for tomorrow’s meal. Dinner ends up being a box of popcorn and a beer. Your dad messages me to tell me about the curried pasta he’s eating at some fancy restaurant.

It’s 9 pm now and I’m signing off on a few emails. The house is quiet, and clean. I lock up the house, brush my teeth, and eventually I sit down to pee. You cry out, I think you’re experiencing nightmares.

That pee can wait.

 

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Moms, I Need Your Help.

“Aren’t you glad you’re past that stage?” Someone asked me this yesterday. She was referring to Carter being a bit older and past the whole newborn/infant part of his life. She asked this because just minutes before, my brand new pink shiny niece had been born in to this world, and I was gleefully counting down the hours until I could leave work and go visit her.

Truth? I’m not glad. I’ve had a heavy heart since yesterday. I envy my sister in law. A fresh mom, drugged up and in a love coma. Those 4 days in hospital are some of the greatest memories I have with Carter. It was 4 days of chaos, of people, of snuggles and of learning all about my brand new baby. What then followed was 4 blissful but hard months of being a stay at home mom. 4 months of the most quality time that I will ever have with my son. Nowadays I see him for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Weekends actually feel long in comparison – I feel like I’ve forgotten how to be a great mom – and it’s breaking my heart.

My Niece, Lea.
My Niece, Lea.

The thing is, I want to work. Coming back here has rejuvenated my soul. Adult conversation, healthy lunches, Excel! (Look, I’m still using a calculator to work out simple maths, but they do say one the mommy brain hits, it never goes away.)

I started writing this piece, with no answer in mind. For once, I’m at a loss for ideas. How can I utilise my time better with my baby? I don’t want to think back on his infant years and only remember the mundane; wiping drool from his chin, mixing up bottles and buying nappies. I want to remember the play, the laughs and the learning.

So, I need your help. How have you mastered the art of a work/baby balance? How do you counteract the guilt? Do you spend less time socialising and more time at home? Do you attend mommy baby classes, or are you too just trying to fit everything in, while trying not to panic at time wasted.

(While you have a think, browse through the latest selection of Carter photos. because hes cute as fuck, and because, as MD, owner and director of this blog, I’m allowed a little shameless self promotion.) 

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10 Reasons Working Mothers Make The Most Valuable Employees

There’s something quite terrifying about going back to work after maternity leave. Despite your hardest efforts, you change a lot as a person during your time off. I tried to keep my brain busy with online courses and adult stimulation, but the change goes deeper than that. It’s an internal shift that happens with or without your permission.

When I was pregnant, I would often carpool with my bestie, Amy, to work. Coming from Fourways, and traveling into Hyde Park, means traffic, always. A stresser by nature, I hated the fact that I was spending more than 3 hours a day sitting on a congested Jan Smuts, when I could be doing something productive with my time. Amy, mom to Ben (nearly 2) would always tell me that my anxiety for things that were out of my hands (read: traffic) would diminish, if not disappear entirely when I had the baby.

She was right. Something in me has shifted, and I’ve found a backbone and will that I never knew existed. My life is no longer just mine, and going back to work means adjusting to a new kind of normal. Do I strive to succeed in the work place any less? Absolutely not, but my priorities in terms of my timings have changed. I no longer have the luxury of dawdling over a task until 6 pm. 6pm is my child’s bedtime. I now steamroll through my work in order to leave at a decent hour and make the painful commute back home, to fetch my baby from crèche.

The past two weeks, of re-learning how to adjust to a full time job, being a mom, and not losing my sanity has taught me some very important lessons. And this is why I believe that working moms make the most valuable employees**. Here’s why:

  1. We are efficient. We keep humans alive, so running a team, managing a client and getting things done comes as second nature to us. Trust me, work is a hell of a lot easier than being a stay at home mom. For any mom who raises their baby on a routine, implementing a similar routine at the office becomes second nature. Timing is everything (just ask the parent who’s been shat on when they took too long to replace the nappy.)
  2. We have empathy. I used to have sympathy for moms when their sick child meant they worked from home, or when they left early to go attend little Johnny’s underwater basket weaving tournament, but now, I totally get it. Sadly, the world does not stop spinning after you have a child (the fucking thing doesn’t even slow down) so getting anything done is twice as time consuming. Just this morning, millions of parents woke up, bathed, changed, fed, burped and played with their kids, before packing their school bags, making their lunches, wiping their nose for the 18th time and shuttling them off to school. They did this all before bathing, feeding and getting themselves to work. I’m not asking for a medal, I’m asking humans to have some compassion towards other humans.
  3. We don’t fuck around. Yesterday a colleague mentioned to me that she’s hardly seen me since I’ve been back at work. That’s probably because I get in, sit down, work harder than hard, and make sure my shit is done before I have to leave for the day. I know that I get 45 minutes with my baby every day, and I need to be able to do that with a clear conscience, knowing that I have achieved my work goals for that day.
  4. We have a zero bullshit tolerance. I no longer have the energy, nor the time, to tolerate bad behaviour. Be it in a personal relationship or a working environment. I will never be rude, but you can bet your ass that your behaviour will no longer go down with me rolling onto my back.
  5. We are patient. Sure, we have a low tolerance for rudeness, but we are possibly the most patience specimens on earth. Any mom of a toddler will tell you that, compared with her child’s “but why” questions 1000 times a day, helping someone with a work related, laborious task, just ‘aint no thang.
  6. We will deliver. Listen up, I have sucked snot out of an infants nose, using little more than a plastic tube and a prayer. That means I am resourceful as hell, and can probably go the extra mile to ensure you get what you need.
  7. We are trustworthy. I’ve kept my child alive this long, right?
  8. We can work under pressure. Having a baby is like giving birth to a ticking time bomb. In the early days, one never knows how long the nap will last, how long the nappy will stay clean, and how long your bebe can go between hunger screams. We live our lives like brave explorers, fitting in hundreds of chores and activities between naps and poos. That means, the more you pile on us in a working environment, the more we can do, You’ve all heard the saying – if you want something done, give it to a busy person.
  9. We are resilient. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in almost half a year. If that’s not resilience, then I don’t know what is.
  10. When we are there, we are there 100%. Having a family means spontaneity disappears faster than your figure. So, when we do commit to something, it means we have lined up a plan in our absence in order to be there. That also means, we are going to take full advantage of the situation, and be present in the moment. Unless it’s a finance meeting, because I mean, snore.

** I’m not saying every single working mother is a win though. I have worked with a mother of 2 who proved more useless than Eskoms delivery promise. I’ve also worked with childless people who couldn’t arrange a piss up in a brewery. So, basically, some people are great, some people are dicks. You can’t win them all.

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Today I Feel Like The Worst Mother In The World.

Kid, you and me, we’ve been inseparable these past four months. Even before that, when you were physically a part of me for 38 weeks and 4 days. From the second you were born, your body has always found a way to be connected with mine. From the way you rested on my chest, just seconds after taking your first breath, to the way your fingers will always find mine. When you sleep, you curve your proud little chest into me, and when you wake, your hands swat my face in play.

I’ve always battled to be without you. Not in a ‘helicopter parent’ kind of way, but because I miss you when you’re not around. From the very beginning, being your mom has been my proudest role. I love how we read each other, and how happy you always are to see me (although, you’d smile at a brick wall if given a chance and I’ve watched you flirt with anything with a face, so I guess you’re not quite at the monogamous stage just yet.). Even when you were tiny, and the pain meds from my C section forced me to sit on the loo for hours on end, you would always be nestled on the bed within earshot, whilst I coo’d sweet nothings from behind the closed door, holding back tears of pain. Soon after, I stopped taking the meds altogether.

Maternity leave for me, albeit not ‘leave’ in the true sense of the world, has been the most intense four months of my life. You have come pretty much everywhere with me. Ive 4×4’d your pram up steps to friends houses, I’ve plopped you in a Pick n Pay trolley to buy groceries and you’ve experienced the sounds of the bush house more than once. You come to the gym with me 3 days a week, and you watch me from the floor of the kitchen while I make dinner.

I wont lie, at times I’ve dreamt of a nanny, to help relive my aching arms at the end of a long day, to watch you for “just 5 minutes” so I could shave my legs or to unscrew the lid of your bottle when my hands were needed for rocking you, but we can’t afford one (have you seen the price of education?). I’m proud of the way that we’ve done this together, you and me. Thank you for your patience when I nearly let you fall off the changing mat, or when I placed you in a way-too-warm bath. You’ve made this easy for me.

Tomorrow, I go back to work. I’m trying to rationalise with myself that I’m not a bad mom. That me leaving you for a full day in the care of strangers is acceptable. That this will make you a well rounded boy, and that you will know that it wasn’t without severe deliberation or self blame. The thing is, a part of me wants to go back to work. My brain has fossilised these past 4 months. My friend Sheena and I (also a new mom) laugh about our ‘mum dumb’ daily. I love my job, I’m excited to see my colleagues and meet my new team. I’m excited to reunite with my favourite client, and push myself again. I am happiest after a busy day and I hope you know that you will always still be the favourite part of my day, and that when I see you, it will always be the best of me. I know that your new creche teachers and carers are going to fall into the Carter trap. You’re bloody cute, and everyone who meets you is taken in by your comical smile and sweet nature. I know you’re going to a place where you will be treated with love and care. Your two cousins are some of the greatest kids I have met – and I know that the school will help you get here too.

I also know that there’s a good chance that the only thing I’m going to achieve tomorrow is trying not to spend half the day in the bathrooms, sobbing. That I’m going to be looking at my watch every hour, counting down the minutes until I can fetch you from creche. That if Eskom initiates load shedding and I get stuck on Jan Smuts, that you may be visiting your mom in a state prison.

I also know that in a weeks time, and a months time, I probably wont cry anymore. And that in a few years time, you would rather be at school with your new friends, than stuck at home with ‘boring dad and me’.

Kid, you are going to be so great. So am I. We are not the first mom, nor the first baby to have to do this. In fact, I have a feeling being a working mom is going to help me more. You’ve given me a new found strength and set of balls. I want to work for me, and for you. I’m working so that I can be an employable and well rounded person, and so you can get that fancy new cricket bat when you need one.

So, while I may feel like the worst mother in the world today, I know I’m not. I also know that when it matters, I will be there for you. I’m going to be at your parent teacher days, and your first swimming lesson. I’m going to embarrass the shit out of you at your first athletics day, and your art is going to drip off every available surface of my fridge.

Here’s to new things, kid. But please, just always remember, if you have a bakerman day at school, your mom bloody better get that first cupcake.

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Sheena, my partner in ‘mum dumb’ gave me this ‘back to work’ survival pack.
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My mom gave me this beautiful locket, so I could always keep Carter close to my heart.

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