Saturday, April 30, 2016

Why Cloth Diapers Work For Us, and is Easier than I Thought

“I'm glad you have the velcro ones,” said my pediatrician this week as she was examining my baby at her 4-month wellness check, “I can never figure out the snaps!”

Cloth diaper choices seemed like such a big decision at the time. I didn't know if cloth diapers would work for our family. In pregnancy, I read review after review and watched countless YouTube videos. I had no experience with diapers at all, not even with younger siblings or babysitting. But I knew that cloth diapers were cheaper in the long run and produced less trash. And so I read and read until I found the perfect diaper brand, the one that everyone agreed was an excellent diaper that didn't leak and was highly adjustable. I knew what I wanted to try.

And then I totally forgot about that brand and couldn't even tell you the name anymore. Instead, I bought used newborn diapers from a friend whose baby is five months older than mine. She had a variety of brands and types that I think she bought used as well, but they were in good shape. We got an entire newborn collection for not as expensive as it could have been (but still not cheap!).

The decision to cloth diaper wasn't a given. I absolutely did not want those multi-part complicated designs where I needed to fold and clip together things in just the right way. Convenience was my priority, not cost. My husband didn't want to deal with washing poop at all and still isn't thrilled about it. We tried both cloth and disposable in the beginning, especially as we were getting used to new parenthood and didn't have a laundry routine down. Slowly, we decreased our dependence on disposables until we only used them if we were going to be out of the house for a long time.

This story would be different if our baby was in daycare or if we didn't own a washer and dryer. Because I work from home, I have the opportunity to put soiled diapers in their proper bin instead of carrying it around with me. I have the flexibility to do laundry at any time, day or night. Cloth diapering works for our family.

One thing I learned the hard way was not to get caught up on the hundreds of rules about cloth diapering. We use our normal detergent. We put them through the dryer until dry. Clothes lines aren't allowed in our neighborhood. Initially I was drying them partly in the dryer and then hanging them around the house to dry, which led to damp diapers when I needed them. Now I just throw them in the heat and tumble like anything else, sans dryer sheet. I don't add anything to the wash except detergent. I use the extra long option on my washing machine. Maybe once my baby starts on solids, diaper care will become trickier. But for now, it's way easier than online diapering communities led me to believe.

I was skeptical, but sunning them really does fade away stains. Because of the no clothes line rule, I have to put them on the floor of our patio and move them throughout the day to stay in the light. It's not convenient, but it works and it's free.

After approximately three and a half months, one-size diapers replaced newborn sized. I learned by browsing eBay that for the brands I wanted, new diapers purchased in bulk directly from the company cost around the same as used diapers bought from individuals. I bought two bulk packs from two different brands. I would like to try a third brand, but it's expensive so haven't made that purchase yet.

After trying so many brands and styles in my newborn collection, what did I value highly enough to buy brand new in one-sizer diapers? Convenience! I love the convenience of all-in-ones (AIOs). They are essentially the same level of convenience as disposable diapers. Straight out of the wash, they are ready to use. This means a lot to a mom who doesn't always have time to prep the clean diapers before I need them!

I bought more pocket diapers than AIOs, and I'm glad I did. Double-stuffing pocket diapers with two inserts instead of one ended the problem we had with her leaking through the night. I haven't tried it, though I'd imagine I could triple-stuff if I needed to. I don't know much about inserts yet, but I know there are different types and I could always upgrade to a higher performing fabric.

Back to my pediatrician's point: snaps or velcro? At first I was partial to snaps. Snaps felt secure, especially now as my baby is learning to pull on the velcro tabs. Velcro tangled up in the wash and led to minutes of untangling every single load. Velcro hooks got stuffed with loose threads and fluff, necessitating cleaning by hand. But more and more, velcro is replacing snaps as my favorite. It's the most convenient, the quickest to put on, and the most adjustable fit. In the end, it's a personal preference just like everything else.

A choice I previously undervalued: cuteness! I favor the adorable patterned diapers to the solid color diapers, and I favor the bright and pretty solid colors over the not-so-pretty colors. Pretty patterns have no impact on diaper use and performance, but they do look cute on my baby's bum.

Josephine napping with the cat in her red newborn Lil Joey.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Question: Dressing as a Work-At-Home Mom

As a professional work-at-home mom, do I dress the part?

Yes, absolutely, when I'm out in public or when I'm recording videos or on a video call. This part hasn't changed since my work-from-home pre-baby days when I dressed nicely when others could see me but was more causal when I was home alone. Now when I'm home alone with the baby, my style gravitates toward dresses (non-maternity pants still don't fit me), usually low-cut with easy access to whip out a breast. In fact, it's not unusual for me to spend half my day with a boob hanging out. But when I'm out in a professional setting, I look like a professional, even if I'm carrying my baby on my hip.

Current Challenge

Accomplishing everything I want to do in the day! Hours seem to zip and before I know it, it's the evening and I've only gotten through half my to-do list. As I elaborated in my previous entry, I haven't nailed the WAHM time balance yet.

Work-At-Home Mom Balance: Three Months On

I've been a work-at-home mom for approximately three months now. My biggest challenge by far, as I knew it would be, is balance. How do I, one individual, balance motherhood, work, household, and my personal time (lumping together “me” time, my husband, and my social life)? I could barely balance before I became a mother. Add to my life a helpless baby who depends on me nearly all day every day for survival and everything else that I couldn't quite fit in before gets pushed to the back of the line.

My Career

I'm working part time right now, a few hours per day. Someone recently asked me when I think I'll return to full-time work. The thought is so far from my mind, I can't even contemplate it. I'm trying to build a new scientific and technical consulting business from scratch which includes a large social media presence and writing a book. My company has one employee: me. At this point, I'm barely making any income. But every company starts somewhere, and a tiny income is still something. Not yet enough to give me a salary, but enough to cover expenses and get my name out there.

Last night, just before bed, I thought about what I could do to gain more clients. I formed a plan in my head and felt positive and empowered! The reality of this morning hit: I don't have enough time in my schedule to do everything I want to do for my work now, let alone sign another client. Plus I have a contract in negotiation which will bring in more work soon for me to fit in. I've been meaning to write a company report for weeks, even telling myself that this week was the week I'd get done. I'm now half way through Friday and I haven't even started it. I just haven't figured out the balance yet.


I'm a clean freak. My husband looks at the house and thinks it's fine, but I look around and see filth and unfinished home projects. One of my dreams is to hire a regular (monthly?) cleaning service. But my husband doesn't think we can afford it right now. My daily must-dos are keeping the kitchen clean and keeping up with laundry. But the carpets smell like the dog and the bathrooms are so gross that I dislike using them. I can make time to vacuum one room, but not the house. I can make time to clean one toilet, but not the whole bathroom, and not even both toilets. Everywhere I look, I think, “I could get on top of cleaning that if only I had a solid block of time!”

Household also includes necessary adult duties like doctors appointments, handling bills and services, and other not-fun things that suck up time. My current in-the-middle-of-it time-suck is refinancing our home mortgage. I spent an hour handling it all yesterday, but haven't yet taken the time to actually upload the necessary documents. An entire morning can be spent handling these necessary tasks without me even realizing that the morning is disappearing.

Personal Time

When my husband comes home from work, all I want to do is relax and spend time with him. We're best friends and we rely on each other for sanity and happiness. Yes, I could hand the baby to my husband when he comes home and lock myself away to work or clean the house, but then we wouldn't have the pleasure of each other's company. And I value that more than I value work and chores.

I have a good group of friends who I try to hang out with once or twice per week. Sometimes, like this week, it just doesn't happen because I'm too worn out playing catch-up after our mini vacation. I value my friendships and my time to get out of the house and appreciate others. I'm an extrovert and a people-person. I enjoy adventure and experiences. I have to be true to myself, whatever is going on in my world.

“Me” time is what I sacrifice the most. A few weeks ago I actually spent a few hours straight on a Saturday reading a book. I don't know the last time I had done that previously, and I haven't done that since. I got so worn out yesterday afternoon, I called it quits at exactly 5:00 so I could sit by myself (with my baby) and watch the Game of Thrones episode that previously I would have watched immediately and not waited days. My normally well shaped fingernails and painted toenails have been recently been neglected so badly that I'm now making a conscious effort to care for them. And exercise to actually lose this baby weight – ugh. If I hadn't set a goal of 5 minutes each day last week, I wouldn't have done it. And because I didn't set an exercise goal this week, I haven't done a thing. And forget shopping!


Although my baby takes up a huge amount of my time and effort now, she has been the most welcome distraction. I never saw myself as a stay-at-home mom, but now that I have her, I see the appeal. Spending my days with her is what I look forward to the most each morning. She brings me joy and love greater and deeper than anything else, greater and deeper than I previously thought possible.

She's four months now, old enough to be put in daycare while I work or clean or do what I need to do. But I don't want to. I love seeing her day in and day out. I love experiencing life with her. This morning, she gave me a series of huge grins as I put her down so I could shower. It was so difficult for me to pry myself away from her beautiful smiling face in order to take care of basic personal hygiene. As the Aerosmith song goes, I don't want to miss a thing.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Take My Kid to Work, and to Work-Related Play, Every Day

Today is Take Your Kid to Work Day in the United States, and unofficial day originally created to expose girls to the workforce. As a work-at-home mom, every day is Take My Kid to Work Day for me. And I do take Josephine everywhere – meetings, networking events, science fairs, even workshops and conferences. Even if I worked outside of the home, I'd still take her with me to work from time to time, no special day needed.

I was invited to a networking reception for my industry yesterday. It began at 5:00 and my husband wasn't even home from work yet, so I took my baby with me. I still don't know if or how many people may judge me for bringing a baby to a professional event, but at this stage of my life, I just don't care. My baby is well behaved and people love her. She's a natural conversation starter and ice breaker. To date, no one has said anything negative to me about bringing my baby along, but many people have been grateful I did. One other person did bring their kid with them, but she's college-aged!

Mommy and baby at the reception

Josephine met her fourth astronaut yesterday, the Director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Bob Cabana. (I work in the space industry, if you were wondering.) He immediately took her in his arms and cuddled with her, calling himself the baby whisperer. His eyes shone as he talked about his upcoming visit to see his grandchildren. It was so sweet.

Astronaut #4 on Josephine's list: the baby whisperer

Unfortunately, no one told me that there would be a very, very long stretch of talking and presentations in the middle of this party! My baby can be quiet, but not for that long. I eventually had to take her to the next room where we bonded with the catering staff. Josephine had a giggling fit that apparently could be heard in the next room – oops – but no one minded, I was told.

I didn't wrap her, but she did play with my wrap on the ground before it got crowded.

Josephine eventually fell asleep on my shoulder as I wrapped up networking and said my goodbyes. As someone who works from home, it's nice to get out and about to see my colleagues and meet new acquaintances. And so long as I can, I'll take my child with me.

What does Take Your Kid To Work Day look for me on a regular day at home? It takes all forms. But in order for me to finish writing the latter half of this, it looks like this.

Mid afternoon nap on my lap in my outdoor office. How long will it last?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Home Birth That Wasn't Meant To Be

Being a first-time mom, I was quite cautious when I got pregnant. I did a massive amount of studying. I read everything I could get my hands on: books, articles, blogs, magazines, scientific journal articles, I even watched strangers' YouTube videos. I wanted to make sure that I was doing the right things for my baby and that I was prepared for what was to come. As prepared as one can be for the unknown, at least.

I knew that I wanted to go the natural route if I could. I'm a big fan of modern medicine and medical professionals, but I also knew that my body wasn't sick. I wanted to avoid medical interventions if possible. I especially wanted to avoid the unintentional cascade of medical interventions that seems to happen to every single person I've spoken to about their hospital births. As much as I could, I wanted to avoid anything that wasn't strictly necessary for the health and safety of my child.

I started seeing a group of midwives associated with a local hospital. But the more I thought about, the more I wanted to avoid the hospital altogether. I waited until my mid-pregnancy ultrasound to make a decision. I wanted to be sure that my pregnancy was low-risk and had no cause for concern. I received the go-ahead from two nurse midwives and an obstetrician to pursue a home birth if that's what I wanted to do.

I hired a certified and licensed home birth midwife and doula team. I took two hospital tours and attended a hospital birthing class in addition to my doula's birthing class just to make sure I had my bases covered. I wasn't against giving birth in a hospital if that's what was best. But my home was a lot more comfortable and relaxing for me. I was curious about a water birth and set up a birth pool in my living room just in case I wanted it, but I wasn't set on it.

Health insurance was an issue. Planned home births are increasing in the United States but are still very uncommon. A huge amount of fear and misinformation scares moms and insurance agencies against home births despite the actual facts and numbers. My health insurance policy didn't say one way or another whether a home birth was allowed, but my home birth midwife wasn't on the approved list. I had to file a gap exception request, jump through hoops, get my chiropractor involved, and even threaten to report them to the state government if they didn't approve it. Finally, they did.

(After the fact, they conveniently forgot my midwife was approved. I had to call and talk to multiple representatives every week for 8 weeks in order to resubmit each claim and have it paid. I hate health insurance companies.)

Even when my water bag broke at 5 AM on December 19, I hadn't experienced much in the way of contractions. It wasn't until the afternoon when I got oxytocin (the natural form of pitocin) going via my electric breast pump stimulating my nipples that contractions actually got moving. But I was still talking and joking in between contractions in the early evening. Being a first timer, I didn't know what I was in for.

I had been using the Hypnobabies method for the three months prior. I didn't listen to the recordings every day, but I did have a good grasp on how to self-hypnotize. I do believe that it did some good in calming me down during the initial period of the birthing process. I had read and seen videos of women  barely fazed by birth, popping out babies in calm, serene environments like it was nothing. I had even heard of so-called orgasmic births. It's mind over matter, they said. I was skeptical, but hopeful.

Oh boy, was mine the opposite of an orgasmic birth! I don't have a worst enemy, but if I did, I wouldn't wish that level of pain on him/her ever. I was the worst pain and exhaustion I could have imagined times 100. I vomited everything I tried to eat. I went into a natural drugged kind of state. Despite no anesthesia, I went in and out of fuzzy consciousness like when I had general anesthesia for my wisdom teeth removal. I was delirious and hallucinating. I hadn't slept since 5 AM and overnight I dozed for seconds or minutes at a time in between contractions. Each dream was like someone was flipping through stations on television and each contraction woke me into the nightmare that was my reality. It was the worst experience I've ever been through – and I didn't even have any complications!

Finally, at 5 AM on December 20, my midwife and I decided that it would be best if I transferred to the hospital. I wasn't even close to fully dilated, I didn't seem to be making progress, and I was utterly exhausted. I remember saying that I just wanted them to make me unconscious and wake me when the baby was out. I was tapped out, or so I thought.

It wasn't that I thought I wouldn't transfer to the hospital, I just assumed that I'd bag a hospital bag if I decided to transfer. Rookie mistake. I was out of it, so my poor sleep-deprived husband tried to pack my bag for me. It's totally understandable that he didn't do the best job. Even worse, he was forced to get behind the wheel of a car while convinced that he was unfit to drive and would end up killing us all in the 6 AM winter darkness.

Without my doula applying counter-pressure during my contractions and with my husband focused on not killing us on the road, I was left to deal with what was probably transition contractions myself. Counting to ten repeatedly was no longer working for me, so I began saying the Our Father prayer over and over and over again during the half-hour drive.

Getting into the hospital was no better. I fell to the floor in the lobby as my husband was signing me in. I fell to the floor in my hospital room before I could make it to the bathroom. I was making a scene but too out of it to even know it or care. The world could have ended around me and I wouldn't have known or cared.

I wanted a natural birth. I did not want a scary epidural. But at that moment, I was begging the nurses for ALL THE DRUGS. ALL OF THEM. RIGHT NOW. It took them a long time to get an IV me in because I was flailing and they were messing up which left some nasty bruises. They attached a fetal monitor around my belly which applied the worst pressure imaginable during my contractions and I screamed at them to take it off, but they wouldn't. I also begged for water which they refused to give me at first for some reason. I was a mess.

But somehow, among the chaos of driving and walking and thrashing in my hospital bed, I had transitioned and was ready to push. The doctor had left the room because no one expected it so soon, just an hour after arriving at the hospital. The doctor and nurses kept telling me to lay still on my back to labor and in my mind (I couldn't form coherent words at this point) I thought, “F that!” and kept flipping over on my hands and knees.

Pushing was the easiest part of labor for me. By far! I didn't feel a ring of fire. I felt the strong urge to push out a bowl movement, only this time it wasn't a large poop. I had been seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist since my second trimester who helped me control and strength my pelvic floor, and it made a world of difference. Three pushes and that baby was out, to everyone's surprise! If my midwife hadn't been standing there as an observer and hadn't pointed out that the baby was crowning, the nurses wouldn't have even noticed. Apparently I was on my side when I gave birth, though I had no real spatial awareness at this time.

Josephine Claire was born at 7:25 AM on December 20, weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces.

Around 12 hours post-birth, still exhausted.

So there it was. I had done it. I gave birth to my baby, in the hospital but drug-free. I was still so out of it, so my husband held the baby first while I regained consciousness. I had the shakes for at least half an hour later. I had two little tears that needed sewing, but otherwise my birth was complication-free.

The worst part of being in the hospital was having to follow their silly “better safe than sorry” rules. I had to stay for 36 hours post-birth, and one doctor wanted me an extra 12 hours “just to be sure,” but I argued against it and won. I wasn't allowed to have my unused IV removed until 12 hours after the birth “just in case.” I wasn't allowed to hold my baby outside my hospital room. At least it was a modern hospital with rooming-in and lactation consultants. But as anyone who has ever stayed in a hospital knows, there is no rest for patients, and rest was what I needed the most.

One benefit to being in the hospital: an unlimited supply of disposable granny panties and gigantic pads. I need to stock up on those for my next birth.

I'm a little disappointed that I didn't have a home birth, I'm not overly so. It all worked out just fine. I'm still going to try for a home birth again next time, assuming I'm low-risk and a good candidate. Now that I know that I can survive an unmedicated birth and that the horrific pain is temporary, I feel empowered for the future. Or, should I need medical assistance, now know what an IV feel like and that medical interventions aren't the end of the world. Medical interventions are what saved my 6-weeks-premature self in 1984 and could save a future child of mine as well.

Our little cutie, minutes after birth.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tall, Thin, Blue-Eyed, and Vaccinated

Yesterday was my daughter Josephine’s four month wellness check. Admittedly, I never go to the doctor for a wellness check, but I do believe it’s important for my little girl. She looks great to my eye, but I appreciate the look-over by trained medical professionals. It was a doctor that spotted the cancer in my 4-year-old little sister that unfortunately ended up taking her life. I’d rather know than not know if something is brewing.

My husband and I were also curious to know how much she has grown in the two months since her last check-up. We could weigh and measure her ourselves, but we don’t. Our little girl was born full-term but small (despite my high weight gain!) and has grown tall while remaining light. The weigh-in yesterday confirmed this trend: she’s around 70 percentile for her height but around 15 percentile for her weight.

Another oddity: the nurse practitioner thinks that her eyes will remain blue despite no one in my or my husbands’ family having blue eyes that we can think of. There must be a recessive gene somewhere in us to give us this thin, tall, blue-eyed beauty!

When the nurse practitioner walked in the room, Josephine let out a fit of baby giggles longer and happier than my husband and I had ever seen before! Adorable doesn’t even begin to describe it. Pretty soon, giggling fits will be a regular occurrence. I’m glad the first one happened with the nurse practitioner who probably doesn’t see many happy kids.

And then, the main reason for the visit: the regular shots. She took them better than I would have! Along with her newborn and two-month shots, she is now vaccinated against rotavirus, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis/whooping cough, polio, sepsis, hepatitis B, meningitis, pneumonia, and epiglottitis. All horrible diseases. I am a very strong advocate for childhood vaccinations to protect my and your children from these terrible, preventable diseases. Thank you, modern medical advances!

We will repeat it all again for her half-year check-up. Maybe by then, we’ll add teeth to the list of what to check on!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Baby's First Vacation

The beauty about being a work-at-home-mom and my own boss is the flexible work schedule and freedom to take off almost anytime I’d like. My husband’s job is past its busy season, so he had some free time, too. We decided on Thursday morning to skip town and have a 3-day-weekend elsewhere – our first family vacation with our 4-month-old Josephine!

Vacationing with a baby is quite a bit different than vacationing with just the two of us adults. Babies take work, inside and outside of the home. Thankfully we were just driving so we could stuff as much stuff inside our car trunk as we wanted: the portable crib, diapers, wipes, toys, burp cloths, and many spare outfits. But an overlooked consequence of this freedom to haul was the responsibility to bring it into our temporary home and then take it all out to the car again. We paid for valet parking and tipped a bellhop with the luggage cart just to make it feasible to get everything into our hotel room while also caring for a baby who had been in a car for too long.

The car ride down was a pleasant surprise. For the first three months of her life, our baby hated the car. For the past month or so, she has tolerated it, mostly occupying herself or sleeping. But she still screams like she has been abandoned at times. Half way through our drive down, we took a break for lunch, splitting the drive into 90 minute segments. And she was just fine! It was a peaceful start to a vacation adventure.

Florida Baby

The first thing we did after settling into our hotel room in Miami Beach was take a stroll on the beach. People watching, we noted that there were very few kids. When evening arrived, we realized why there were few kids. The party town gave off a vibe of drugs, alcohol, and smoking all kinds of things, not exactly kid-friendly. After a delicious Cuban dinner, we were in for the night. This was the first overnight anywhere other than home and the hospital she was born in for Josephine.

Baby in the Pub

Further in the city is Zoo Miami, a much more kid-friendly location. Even though my baby won’t remember a thing, her parents love zoos and enjoy watching the animals. The baby has shown interest in fish tanks, banging on the glass and staring at the moving creatures in fascination. It was difficult to tell if she noticed any of the other exhibits.

Fish! Turtles! Rays! Oh My!

Carrying a baby around a huge zoo complex is a lot of work! We opted not to bring a stroller because previous attempts to use a stroller have been met with the baby crying to be held, but it may have been worth it to try again. Even with the unlimited monorail pass, we were exhausted hauling our 12 pound squirmer from one section to the next. We carried a giant umbrella to help protect us from the hot Florida sun, but even the shade couldn’t keep us cool. Thankfully we spent a good amount of time resting in air conditioned areas.

I’m so grateful my strong husband bore the brunt of the weight. I don’t know how we would have handled more than one kid! By the time Josephine is old enough to enjoy zoos, we do hope to have a little sibling for her, so I guess we’ll have to learn to manage two squirmers at once. But that's a skill for later.

The best part of our little vacation was Saturday evening through Sunday evening: visiting the grandparents / my parents. This was the first overnight at my parents’ house for my husband and me as well as Josephine. It was more peaceful than the hotel the night before and we got more rest.

The best part of the vacation was yet to come: pool time! We all went down to the community pool to relax the morning and afternoon away. And a great perk about grandparents: free babysitting! First Josephine napped in her carseat under the tent while my dad watched her and my husband and I swam. Then my mom decided to head back to the house with the baby who slept even longer while my husband and I read and swam again. It was almost like our pre-child days!

Sleepy Baby, Relaxing Husband

Unfortunately, the vacation ended the opposite way it began: a baby screaming in the car for nearly the whole ride back. Even a break in the middle to nurse didn’t calm her or put her to sleep. We were so grateful to get home last night! Overall, it was a lovely little vacation, a good test for future trips to come.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

My Baby is Proficient in the Morning News

... if she understood English, that is. Maybe she’s starting to. That’s what I’m counting on.

My morning routine for years included catching up on the news first thing: national & international news, industry-specific news, and interesting articles that my friends share on social media. It’s a nice way to leisurely start the day.

Having a baby has made my mornings a bit more hectic and interrupted, but even in the hospital immediately post-birth, my routine remained the same. I’m a news geek. I love knowing what’s going on in the world and learning new things.

I’ve read so many baby experts proclaiming the importance of speaking to the baby and reading aloud for language development. Babies learn their mother’s vocal patterns in the womb and are comforted by her voice. Over time, the baby picks up on spoken sounds and begins to mimic them, learning the language(s) she is surrounded by.

In this household, we’re typical Americans who only speak English. But we have many different types of conversations. My husband and I can speak about our days, whine, flirt, and debate politics. My phone calls to customer service representatives take on a different tone than phone calls with my parents. We talk to our pets, constantly, words they may or may not recognize (and often choose to ignore).

And we talk to our baby, all the time, even words we hope she doesn’t quite understand like, “Go the … to sleep.” A baby book advised, “Narrate everything you do for your baby.” Without knowing if this does any good, I do narrate my entire day, every day as I hold my baby. I speak to my baby in normal English, baby-speak, and occasionally in sing-song just because. I don’t care how silly I sound to other people.

Who says babies can only be read baby books? My baby gets read a large amount of information related to my technical industry, a fair amount of national and international current events, and an occasional article about every day living. I also read aloud my own writing a lot of the time, not only to catch errors, but also to read to her. If I’m reading it anyway, I may as well read it aloud. It only takes a little longer.

She may not understand what I’m saying now, but someday she will. I would be proud if she grew up knowing her A, B, Cs and the names of newsworthy countries across the world. I would think it was neat if I could tell her about a work project I’m working on and have her actually almost understand it because she’s familiar with the vocabulary. If she can learn that Spot is the name of a dog who runs, maybe she can learn that Obama (or whoever is next) is the name of a president who runs our country.

I don’t know if it’ll turn out this way. Her young mind barely knows there’s a world around her, so comprehension of what she hears is undoubtedly low. I’ll keep reading to her regardless, whatever is in front of me. Maybe I’ll renew my lapsed newspaper subscription and let her tackle that along with Green Eggs and Ham. And it wouldn’t matter if she destroys and tries to eat the newspaper, which is also part of the learning experience.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

An "Unmentionable" Benefit to being a WAHM

This isn’t one of those types of blogs. But it isn’t a family blog, either. I’m an adult with adult issues; no use labeling them as taboo.

One amazing benefit of being a SAHM/WAHM is that when my husband also works from home for the day, we can spend time together. We chat, we sometimes go out for lunch, and sometimes we can be intimate.

My husband doesn’t work from home regularly, maybe once a week if he feels like it and if his work schedule allows. Today isn’t a full day of working from home, just the morning, which worked well for us. He has an ideal time to “get busy” – mid to late morning. This usually means our martial activities occur on weekends. However, if we’re together during a weekday morning, we take the chance.

During our child-free days, we only had to consider what worked well for us. Now, we have a third person to consider. She usually does nap in the mid to late morning, but on top of me. Transferring her to another surface to sleep during a light nap is difficult, sometimes impossible. Sometimes she’ll stay asleep when I move her, but more likely she’ll wake up and immediately want to be held again.

This morning was a close call. She drifted off to sleep in my arms, light catnaps that she would fall into and wake from just as easily and suddenly. When it appeared to me that she was in deep enough sleep, I slowly transferred her to the swinging chair, one of her favorite places to sleep. She stirred, then closed her eyes again and the nap continued. My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief.

That lasted less than a minute. We had only just begun when I heard the movement of a blanket and saw that she was wide awake once more. But she wasn’t complaining, so we went for it. And success! Just in time, too.

There were days when we’d cuddle in bed after, not wanting or needing to move from each other’s arms. Not these days, not usually. I had just enough time to savor the aftermath before needing to calm an increasingly vocal baby who had spent enough time entertaining herself. It won’t always be like this, I know. Someday, we’ll have a mobile and talking child to sneak distract!

Despite the challenges, mid-day mid-week sex is a great benefit to being a WAHM.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Losing Baby Weight with Pole Fitness: Five Minutes Per Day

My weekday morning routine: wake up around 8:00 these days, eat breakfast with my husband if he’s still home, catch up with emails and news, shower and dress sometime in the mid to late morning, eat lunch when I can, and get real work done in the afternoon and early evening (baby allowing, and assuming I don’t have other commitments). Somewhere in there, I’d love to have a fitness routine.

I gained 8 pounds in the few months between getting married and getting pregnant. I gained 60 – yes, 60! – pounds while pregnant. Even after postpartum recovery, I didn’t look or feel like myself in my body. To this day, I still can only wear a subset of my wardrobe. No normal pants for me; I’m still in maternity clothes because I haven’t gone clothes shopping in many months.

I lost a bunch of weight during and in the few days following the birth, of course. On my quarter-of-the-year weigh-in on March 31, I showed 37 pounds lost, an average weight loss of 1 pound per week since January 1. Slow progress, but progress. My goal is a 68 pound loss, so 37 pounds gone, 31 pounds to go.

But then – the horror – I gained weight. I’m not sure why; I haven’t changed my diet or routine. Today, 19 days later, I’m back down to where I was on March 31. Even at my slow rate of 1 pound lost per week, I was hoping to be down 3 more pounds by now. Something has got to change.

My exercise routine is minimal. I’ve gone through periods when I’ve been a regular at fitness classes, but that doesn’t last long. I am not a gym rat at all. The equipment bores me and working out solo but surrounded by people watching me is awkward. I hate running, preferring a leisurely stroll.

My solutions: fun, unconventional fitness. I was really into yoga for a while, especially power yoga, until I moved and never found an instructor who I clicked with again. Back when it was easier for me to do so, I would walk on the beach fairly regularly. Swimming in the current, fighting the waves is a great work-out but I rarely have the chance. I got a pair of ice skates in January and have been free skating every Saturday early afternoon except for days when I have social commitments.

One of my favorite ways to exercise is with my vertical chrome pole, erected in my living room. It’s a misnomer, but most people know it as a stripper pole. It’s fantastic and challenging. A few years ago, I was inspired to take a class, and I continued taking classes for a year until my instructor moved. But with any fitness class, it’s a struggle to get somewhere on time every time, especially when the class is half an hour away.

At my peak, I was an intermediate pole student. I could climb to the top of the pole by four different ways, invert (hang upside down) in multiple poses, and do all kinds of fancy spins. I had so much fun with it! And as a plus, I was toned. My tummy has always been an issue, but I had arms and shoulders that strangers commented on. I felt great.

During wedding planning and in my newlywed months, I got too preoccupied to focus on regular pole practice at home. When I got pregnant, I stopped altogether for fear of harming my developing child, though I probably could have continued at a lower intensity. By the time I recovered in postpartum enough to think about exercising again, I was so out-of-practice that I was back to beginner status. It was embarrassing.

Slowly over weeks of practicing here and there, I’m getting stronger. But I’m nowhere near where I want to be. The only way to get better is to practice, practice, practice. And as I lose weight, it’ll become easier to lift myself. And all the exercise will help me to lose weight!

The problem: I have a baby who loves being held, rarely naps if she’s not on my lap, and doesn’t always entertain herself for long periods of time. Plus, I work at home. Where do I carve out the time in the day to practice pole?

I set a goal this week: practice pole for at least 5 minutes every day. Five minutes is almost nothing and ideally I’d love a 30 minute block, but that’s a dream. Five minutes daily is an attainable goal. Maybe.

Yesterday, I only achieved four minutes of pole practice before the baby started fussing loudly enough for me to give up and pick her up. Today, I’m aiming for five minutes. Will I succeed? I hope so! I want to lift and spin this baby weight off, five minutes at a time.

In 2013 at my peak pole abilities, pre-baby. I will get there again!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

7 Most Useful and Unuseful Items for My Newborn

I attended a friend’s baby shower yesterday, the first one I’ve been to since my little girl was born. Generally I’m not a fan of baby showers and therefore don’t think about them much, but I go to express my support and love.

Sitting on that couch watching my 8-month-pregnant friend unwrap her many gifts for her baby daughter got me thinking about my own experience over the past four months. I read so many pregnancy and baby books, blogs, and articles and watched so many YouTube videos I can’t even tell you, but nothing quite prepares you for your own situation. My gifts were among the last to be opened and after reading my card, my friend thanked me for the practical items and advice.

Seven Most Useful Items for my Newborn

1. A swinging chair, a bouncing chair, and a playmat/gym. Anything that can offer a few minutes peace and distraction while also providing a safe space where I can leave the baby to do something with both hands. The swinging chair is the single most useful item for us because it helped put our baby to sleep countless times – priceless.

2. A wrap carrier. I’m sure slings and structured carriers are equally useful but I don’t own those. My wrap allows me to wrap my baby in multiple positions, including a sling for discrete nursing or napping and an upright position for curious baby to look around. I use my wrap every time I go out in public with my baby, and the one time I forgot it in the dryer, I missed it.

3. Wipes, and lots of them. I bought my friend a box of 800 wipes because my own box of 800 wipes plus all the single packets only lasted me 3 months. When there’s poop everywhere, I don’t stop to count how many wipes I’m using, I just keep grabbing.

4. A pack n’ play with a newborn napper attachment. Even though we set up the nursery with crib space, we moved the portable crib next to our bed immediately after she was born and there it has stayed and will continue to stay for a while. The newborn attachment lifts her mini bed to the same level as our bed, making middle-of-the-night rescues a piece of cake. I just roll over, lift her up, and roll back over to side nurse, barely having to move.

5. Electric breast pump. I’m thankful that I got it free through my health insurance. Despite using it sparingly, it was a life-saver when I really needed it. Especially when I was away from my 6-week-old for 36 hours, my breasts felt like they were about to pop and milk leaked out uncontrollably. I was in agonizing discomfort until I was able to have some alone time. With the breast pump, I was able to survive that trip. It was only after stimulating my nipples with the breast pump hours after my water broke that I finally went into active labor. I bought a cheap manual breast pump thinking I could use it in the car, but it was useless, making me even more thankful for my electric.

6. Swaddling/receiving blankets, especially the non-stretch cotton ones we got from the hospital. Swaddling her did wonders for helping to calm her and put her to sleep! It was routine every night to wrap her into a baby burrito until just a few weeks ago when she started breaking out so she could suck on her fingers.

7. Baby sunglasses, inexpensive at Target, the kind that wrap around the head with a cloth band and close with velcro. We live in Florida. Even out of the direct sunlight, the bright light reflects. Her head was too small for the band at first so I sewed a few more pieces of velcro on to have a tighter fit.

Seven Items that Weren’t as Useful as I Thought They’d Be

1. A closet full of baby clothes. Because we’re mostly cloth diapering and because we have an impressive spitter, we do laundry frequently. We didn’t buy any clothes, receiving lots as gifts and hand-me-downs. I thought that filling the nursery with more clothes than in my own closet would cut down on laundry. But instead it just meant that individual items of clothing were only worn a few times before she grew out of it. We also didn’t need any specific sleepwear at all for her; babies fall asleep in anything.

2. Little burp clothes. Our baby knows how to spit like a champion and unleash a waterfall. We still use those little towels all the time for minor spitting or drooling, but usually we use normal adult-sized towels to keep up with her messes. (And no joke, she spit up a pool of liquid just as I was typing this.)

3. Pacifiers/binkies. I envisioned our baby happily sucking herself to sleep with one of those every day. Instead, she preferred my real nipples, not taking to plastic at all. Only in the past month or two has she decided that she also likes her fingers and fist, though she hasn’t quite isolated her thumb yet.

4. Socks, shoes, and mittens. It was difficult to get them on a squirmy little thing. They didn’t stay on long. Then the weather turned and it became too warm. I keep her fingernails short so she doesn’t cut herself (or us!) up too badly. I’ll try shoes again when she starts cruising.

5. A baby audio, video, and breathing monitors. So far she has only slept close by. Maybe these will be great later on, but we just didn’t need them with this baby.

6. A nursing pillow, nursing pads, nipple shields, and other breastfeeding aids. I count myself lucky that I didn’t have much difficulty. Many of my friends did.

7. A stroller. I bought a carseat/stroller set and envisioned walking the neighborhood with the stroller regularly. I use the carseat almost daily, but she hasn’t taken to the stroller. She just wants to be held. To be fair, she hated the carseat in the car too, but it’s the law to use it. She has grown much more comfortable in the car, so maybe she’ll grow into the stroller.

These lists hold true for our baby girl and may not hold true for the next baby or anyone else's baby. Each baby and each family circumstance is different!

Josephine rocking her baby sunglasses this afternoon.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Question: What Do I Hope to Achieve as a WAHM?

What do I hope to achieve as a WAHM?

I would like to build my business, my clientele, and my reputation in my industry while simultaneously caring for my baby daughter and watching her grow. I love the flexibility I have being my own boss, working on my own projects, working my own schedule, and being able to pause work at a moment’s notice to take care of or play with my child. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that her mom was both a present mother and a working professional, and to know that she can be both if she chooses to be.

Current Challenge:

Getting work done when my baby is having a crying fit. When she’s overly tired or gassy, she’ll cry and there’s not much I can do about it except hold her and try to comfort her. Usually nursing her in my lap calms her down enough that she’ll quiet and maybe even sleep, but not during her worst moments. Sometimes it takes all my energy to calm her while I feel the pull to get work done but can’t. As much as I hate it, sometimes I just need to let her cry.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Calm, Quiet Home Office Environment? Ha!

My husband is working from home with meetings on and off all day. I can hear the stress in his voice as he talks on the phone. After working a little this morning, I was out for a long lunch meeting with a reporter talking to me about a story. The baby and I got to tour the local newspaper headquarters with him – how cool! I’m about to head out with the baby for a late afternoon meeting. We’re home for only an hour and a half stop-over to get a few things done.

The baby is going through a singing phase. She makes loud squeaks, shrieks, and squeals, neither happy nor unhappy, just to test her voice. I don’t want to discourage her from vocalizing, and she wouldn’t understand my shushes anyway. Instead, I’m trying to distract her and move her around the house away from my husband’s teleconferences. It’s all I can do to keep her happy on her play mat or on my lap as I work on my laptop.

The troublesome noisy cat likes to pick fights with one of our other cats. The dog doesn’t want to miss the action and races over to the cat fight, prepared to bark. The baby is finally comfortable and quiet nursing, but I have to get up to separate the cats before there’s even more noise. In my head I’m hoping that my husband’s phone is on mute during all this chaos.

Before I know it, it’s time to leave for my next meeting. Sometimes working from home isn’t as calm and distraction-free as I’d like. Thankfully, there’s still a day left in the workweek. Friday, I’m in love!

Being a WAHM can be a productivity sacrifice. I can be very productive work-wise on some days and much less productive during others. Today was one of those days. I keep my spirits up and resolve to accomplish more the next day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Free the Boobs!

I’m Christian (Catholic, specifically), but I’ve never been a fan of the modesty clothing trend. I could write an entire entry on it, but I won’t, I’ll just say that it rubs me the wrong way. In the privacy of my own home, I’m a bit of a nudist. I usually don’t walk around naked for fear of someone walking by windows or the doorbell ringing, but I’m not afraid to be scantly clothed. I like my body (even my current post-baby 30-pounds-heavier body) and I’m not afraid to show it.

I spend half the day at home these days with a boob hanging out of the top of my shirt or dress. I sometimes don’t even notice if a breast has popped out or a nipple is showing because I didn’t put it away properly. It’s not sexy, it’s sloppy. But I have a 3 (almost 4) month old who loves to nurse and currently refuses a bottle, so this is my life right now.

I’m getting braver about releasing the boobies in public. For the first two months, I only nursed around people I’m not married to if I was covered. I have a carrier wrap that I tie in a sling that holds the baby to me and covers my entire chest so that breastfeeding can be completely discrete. This is how I feed the baby the vast majority of the time I’m not in my home.

Emboldened by a friend of mine whose baby is a few months older, I’ve felt more open to nurse uncovered when around other women in private homes. If they don’t mind, I don’t mind. We’re all women here.

I surprised even myself on Sunday on the beach. The baby was fussy and I put her to my breast without bothering to cover up. It’s the beach – there’s skin everywhere! I refrained from openly displaying my breasts when the baby wasn’t attached. No one said anything or even noticed as far as I could tell.

Last night at dinner and again today at lunch, I nursed without the wrap. Both times, I just put cloth over me, not even completely covering the area, just rushed sloppiness. I think I’m already at the stage of not caring much. If anyone (aside from my husband) had been looking at me, I would have wrapped her. But in the semi-privacy of our own table, it just didn’t seem to matter whether I was completely covered or now. Boob indifference!

One great thing about being a work-at-home mom is not having to worry about discretion or privacy when feeding my child. I don’t need to pump. I don’t need to set aside times to feed her in privacy. I can (and do) nurse while doing my work, a lot of the day, every day. This is my life. And none of the people I’m working with need to have any idea.

When working outside of the home attending meetings or professional events, I use my wrap. People can still figure out that my breast is out of my bra and the baby is feeding on it, but they can’t see a thing. If someone wants to judge me for feeding my child, let them. This is what works for my family and I don’t apologize for it.

Calling Mommy Bloggers - Where Are You?

I haven't given up my search. There have got to be other moms out there who write about raising their kids. I know mommy blogs exist, but I can't find many of them. The majority have gone inactive or turned into sales pitches.

It's like some clever marketer realized that there is a sea of mothers at home looking for income and something to do, so they filled the internet with useless blogs, articles, and websites of work-at-home or sales schemes. The true mommy bloggers have gotten buried so far deep that I only know of them through others' recommendations.

If you've stumbled upon this lonely blog in a sea of noise and you can recommend a favorite mommy blog, please do. Even better if it's currently active. Even better if she's not trying to sell me something.

I started this blog when I was frustrated that I couldn't find any professional work-at-home mom bloggers. I still haven't found any. I don't know if my circumstances are truly rare, or if I just haven't cast my net widely enough. But I'll keep searching.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

May I Introduce You to My Associate, the Baby

What to do when a work-at-home mom needs to work outside of the home? Coordinate with my husband, find alternate child care, or bring the baby with me!

I had two phone calls on Thursday which are easy enough to handle when the baby is nursing, asleep, or distracted by play. But I also had a lunch meeting and a professional networking reception. I was out all day Friday to serve as a judge for a university science fair. For all the out-of-the-house business to attend to, the baby was my companion.

Meetings with children lovers such as my lunch meeting on Thursday are relaxing and anxiety-free. She even held the baby a little while I ate – eating with both hands! It’s freeing to feel that I can be both my professional and my maternal self without being judged. I like knowing that although the person I was meeting with may judge me differently after lunch with my baby, they won’t judge me negatively because of it.

Networking meetings are a little more risky. Some, even most people in attendance may be just fine with the presence of a child. Some may think it unprofessional and bad judgment. I just don’t know who and how many will think negatively. Do I care? Mostly, no. But I’ll never know if I’ve lost a business opportunity because I brought my baby.

Bring the baby as my science fair co-judge was a necessity, but it was also calculated. Students tend to be very anxious when being judged, but a judge holding a baby isn’t nearly as intimidating. One student loved the baby so much that she asked to hold her twice. Students, being young themselves, don’t seem to mind the presence of a child in their midst.

The difficulty being a first-time WAHM is not knowing where the line is between okay and not okay to bring my baby. I know that I haven’t crossed it yet, but I also know it exists somewhere. Perhaps I’ll someday cross it by accident, and then I’ll know.

Earlier this year, I left my baby with my husband when I attended a local two-day workshop. In retrospect, I could have taken her with me. A baby in the audience wouldn’t have been a big deal. I was asked to give a short, impromptu speech while there, and even then I could have held my baby while speaking or passed her to someone to temporarily hold.

Earlier this year, I attended an out-of-town legislative advocacy effort., leaving the baby with my husband for 36 hours. I don’t think it would have been feasible or appropriate to bring the baby with me as I rushed from legislator office to office with limited time to discuss my industry before the next meeting. A baby would have been a distraction that would have slowed us down and taken away from the business conversation.

I don’t know the best way to proceed sometimes, but the important thing is that I proceed. And now, another business phone call while my baby naps on my lap.

My co-judge at the science fair, half in the wrap.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A WAHM's Version of Hump Day

One of the best things about being a WAHM? I can make my own schedule. It was a light work day for both my husband and me. So, in the middle of a Wednesday, we went out to lunch and a quick stop on the beach. This is living!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Building a Community as a Work-At-Home Mom

I am an extrovert. I love people and I love interacting with many people. This may come as a surprise to other bloggers and others who work from home. Don’t I get lonely? Don’t I miss interacting with coworkers?

No, not really. I still have a community within my industry, both local and global, and I interact with them daily. Sometimes I get to see them in person and love it. But on most days, I connect online, and that’s good enough for me.

I’ve read advice to teleworkers about avoiding social media. I defy that advice. Interacting with my industry via social media, especially Twitter, is my connection to the outside world. Twitter is how I read most of my industry news through micro-blogging and posted articles. Twitter is how I communicate with people in my industry around the world, no matter where I am. Twitter along with LinkedIn, my industry-related blog, my industry-related vlog, email, and my consulting firm’s website are how I communicate and stay relevant in my industry.

Almost daily I initiate some kind of conversation with colleagues via Twitter, either throwing out open-ended questions or talking points to my general audience or by engaging with colleagues directly based on what they post. This is my coffee break conversation. They are my sounding board. They are often a source of knowledge not easily found via Googling.

Just because I’m a WAHM doesn’t mean I’m a shut-in. I get out to in-person meetings and events as well. Most of the time, my husband watches the baby while I’m out at professional functions. But I think I’m about to become more open to taking the baby with me now that I have so many events lined up. I have nine semi-professional or professional events to attend in person in the next few weeks. I’m also attending a conference or two in the next few months. I also have a very active social life that died down a little during my first month postpartum but has recovered now. I don’t lack adult conversation.

Generalizations aren’t true for everyone. I work from home but I’m not lonely or alone. I prefer the company of my online colleagues to many of the office coworkers I’ve had in past jobs. I love the balance I’ve found in connecting with people online and in person. It works for me!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Glorious Mornings

I think mornings are my favorite part of being a WAHM. I am not a morning person. Never have been. Setting alarms and waking up at the crack of dawn (or before dawn!) was a miserable existence for me. No matter how much sleep I got, I never felt rested when a noise woke me from my sleep and forced me from my bed every morning.

Being a WAHM, I wake up naturally and feel rested! You heard that right: I have a 3-month-old and I feel rested. I know how fortunate I am to have a baby that enjoys sleeping at night as much as I do. She and I wake up a few times over the course of the night to nurse, but it’s usually not for long and we fall right back to sleep. Unless I have an early morning appointment, we can get up when we please. On a good morning, that’s around 7:00 or 7:30. If it’s following a night like last night that was a bit rough, it’s closer to 8:30. But that’s okay: I have no morning commute and no boss or company policy telling me when I have to begin working!

Almost every morning, I’m given the gift of being able to watch my baby wake up. She catnaps in the morning, drifting in and out of dreaming and awaking. I stare at her in wonder and love. When she finally wakes enough to notice my face, her whole face brightens up and she smiles. She is so happy to see me and I'm so happy to spend another day with her! All is well in her world and in mine.

First thing’s first: a new diaper. I kiss my husband goodbye if he’s off to the office. I tidy up the kitchen. I sit down on the couch leisurely to catch up on email and news. Before I know it, it’s 10:00 and I haven’t showered or dressed yet. And that’s okay. I’m a WAHM, my baby is happy, and my schedule is mostly my own.

And just as I was finishing writing this and ready to post it, we had a poop explosion which prompted an emergency baby bath and couch cushion laundry load. Good thing I hadn’t showered yet. Ah, the life of a mother.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

My Home Office of Comfort and Baby

So many work-at-home or telework articles emphasize the need for a home office or at least a desk. The U.S. tax code is even written to allow a home office write-off if it’s used for strictly business purposes. I never understood this mentality.

Our house is too small for a dedicated home office, so that’s out. I don’t find office desks particularly comfortable, so why would I voluntarily subject myself to sitting at one all day if I don’t have to? I don’t work any better sitting at a desk than elsewhere.

I work best when comfortable. Two jobs ago, I got my first private office and was finally able to kick off my shoes and curl up my legs into the chair when no one was around. I sat cross-legged, legs to one side, and only sometimes upright with legs crossed, whatever I fancied at the moment. I love a hot pair of high-heeled pumps, but I don’t need to wear them all the time, and I prefer barefoot over any footwear.

Now, I work at home. The only people who see me are my husband and my baby except for those rare video calls. I dress well when I go out, but when I’m home, I dress however I please. Usually that’s still in a nice dress with jewelry and make-up if I can manage it, but with the baby, dressing isn’t always easy. I don’t wear shoes, I don’t sit at a desk, and I’m not surrounded by staplers, pens, and other office ambiance.

My office is my living room overlooking my porch garden, my backyard trees, and the lake. My desk chair is my main couch, though I sometimes switch it up and use the other couches. My desk is my lap, my couch cushions, and my living room table. Instead of upright at a desk hunched over a computer, I sit back or recline on the couch with my laptop. I’m comfortable, I’m relaxed, and I’m ready to work!

And of course, I almost always have my work companion: Josephine my 3-month-old. I’ve taken some quick shots with my phone over the past few days to highlight how she usually spends the time with me: sleeping, nursing, or awake on my lap or propped against the couch cushions. She usually catnaps during the day so I almost never get away with putting her in her crib while she naps, so she sleeps contently on me. I get my work done with one or two hands, depending on her position. When she’s awake and wants to play, I pause work to play with her on the couch, on her play mat, in her bouncer, in her swing, or elsewhere. Because she’s not yet mobile, she’s an easy work companion!

I also have a few additional work companions: three cats, a dog, and a husband when he’s around. It makes for a pleasant work environment! I’ve learned how to get what I need to do done without being too distracted. That is, unless the baby is crying. Then all bets are off.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Accidental Work-At-Home Mom

I love the sense of community and togetherness that blogging can create. Blogging is a creative outlet. Blogging is entering into someone else’s world. Blogging is getting feedback on my own world. And blogging is a means of finding friends next door and a world away.

When I became a work-at-home mom, I began to wonder whether my pursuit was even possible. I know working moms, I know stay-at-home moms, but I don’t know many work-at-home moms. Of those WAHMs I know, their work is out-of-the-home sales or crafts. The more I searched, the more perplexed I became that I wasn’t finding professional women who work out of their homes while raising their children. I know these women exist. Maybe my Googling skills have failed me. If you’re out there and have a blog, let me know - I’d love to meet you!

I didn’t know if I could pull off being a WAHM. Still don’t. I searched the blogosphere to try to find examples, models to live by. Finding none (yes, none!), I resolved to put myself out there. I’m not an expert at this WAHM thing; I’ve only just started. But if I can do and others find this blog wondering if they can do it, they can read along in my trials, failures, and successes.

First, a quick introduction: My name is Laura, I’m 32, I work in a technical field, and I have a 3-month-old daughter Josephine, my first. I’ve known for a long time that being a wife and mother was a calling of mine. I’ve known for even longer that my career was also a calling of mine. I love what I do. I love it so much that I’ve worked and continue to work for free. I went through a lot of higher education and both tough and amazing experiences to get where I am today in my career.

I didn’t put off being a mother for my career. It took me longer than some to find the man I was meant to marry. My husband is also a 32-year-old highly educated professional. We’ve been married for 14 months but we’ve known each other for almost a decade. We wasted no time in conceiving our first child and we’re jumping on the chance to conceive our second whenever I’m fertile again.

I’m a WAHM by accident. A year ago, I was in a mid-level management position for a start-up company. We found out I was pregnant last April around the same time we figured out that my company’s temporary financial troubles weren’t temporary. As the months went on, it was clear to me that I would soon be out of a job. It was only by the kindness of my direct boss that I had employer-sponsored health insurance for the birth. My office closed its doors in November and I resigned at the end of the year.

For the first couple of months of my unemployment/maternity leave, I job searched. I found little that would be a good fit for me. The few possibilities I applied to did not get back to me. Discouraged, I turned my attention to my alternate path: the consulting company I began in August that I created so I wouldn’t have an unemployment gap on my resume.

Then, the unexpected happened: I secured a paying client! Everyone I had reached out to for advice thought that I was too young and inexperienced to be a consultant, yet someone hired me on an on-going basis to help with a nonprofit start-up. I’m also working for free for a client who doesn’t have the funds to pay me now but may someday, though I’ll believe it when I see it. I found other means of bringing in income as well, such as writing reports to sell on my company’s website. I’m even writing a book about my industry that I hope to publish by the end of the year.

I do all this and care for my infant child. I’m very fortunate that I have a husband with a well paying, stable job who can provide for our family on just his income alone. Not everyone has that luxury. I’m also very fortunate that my husband has some flexibility in his schedule so he can work from home almost any time he wants, so he has been able to watch the baby when I’m out for a meeting. We haven’t yet had to pay for child care.

I worked from home a lot during my last job and loved it. I’m much more productive and efficient when I work from home! I don’t miss the office, I don’t miss coworkers, and I don’t miss the commute. I find that I can easily balance my professional work and my domestic work. Teleconferences are great times for me to fold laundry, put away dishes, stretch some yoga poses, or even decorate for Christmas. I can wash clothes, wash dishes, and write emails at the same time.

And now these days, I have a baby at my breast or napping on my chest frequently as I use the computer, including as I type this. Video calls are the only time that I need to hide this fact, and those are rare. Phone calls can be difficult as well if the baby is fussy or crying, but I’ve learned how to handle this. Josephine is my constant work companion and I love it!

I get such joy being with my baby most of the day every day, watching her grow, appreciating the little moments. At any time in my day, even when I’m on the clock, I can pause the clock for a baby break. I play with her, I read to her, I carry her around the neighborhood for short walks. One afternoon this past week, we spent some time out on the porch enjoying the storm together. Hypothetically I could run errands with her during the day, but she hates the car.

When Josephine was 4-weeks-old, I left her with my husband for two full business days so I could attend a local two-day workshop. That was difficult, but we managed it. When she was 6-weeks-old, I left her with my husband and went out of town for a day and a half. That was really, really hard, but we managed it.

Three times thus far I’ve taken Josephine with me to a professional setting. The first two times were casual networking dinners. The third time, just last week, was for a meeting at a university campus. I’ve been so hesitant each time I’ve decided to blur the lines between my professional life and my personal life by bringing her with me. But each time, my colleagues didn’t seem to mind. Some were really excited to see a baby. Some may have minded, but said nothing. Each time, I ended up being glad that I took her.

It’s hard for me to know at what point I’m paving the road for working mothers and at what point I’m damaging my reputation, or perhaps both simutaneously. I work in a male-dominated field. Will colleagues take me seriously if I bring a baby to workplaces with me or if they knew that I worked from home with a baby? Will other women feel empowered not to hide their motherhood from the professional community? I don’t know.

As with all new mothers, I’m making this up as I go. Yes, I read books and listened to the advice of both young and experienced moms everywhere, but nothing really prepared me for motherhood. It’s a new adventure that Josephine and I are embarking on together. Will I be able to successfully work from home when she gets older, more mobile, and more in need of my attention? Will I be able to successfully work from home if I’m blessed with multiple children? Will a full-time dream job call into my lap tomorrow, inspiring me to return to the world of office work?

I don’t know, but I’ll find out. Keep reading along to see how my journey at a WAHM progresses.

Josephine and me at the local fair this week.