Friday, August 26, 2016

New City, New Mom Friends

Nearly a month has passed since we moved. We're still living in a hotel, so we're far from settled. Everything still seems new and temporary. But I'm trying to familiarize myself with the area and allow myself to ease into our new home town.

I'm a social extrovert. I love meeting and connecting with people! When we made the decision to move, one of the very first things I did was browse local groups to connect with: church-related, profession-related, and mom-related. After a few weeks of attending church- and profession-related events and not getting a chance to meet any other moms of babies, I decided to focus on that particular need.

Where I moved from, I also felt deficient in the area of mom friends. I would say I had one good mom friend whose baby appeared in this world 5 months before mine did. She helped guide me through my pregnancy and first months of motherhood. We grew close and it hurt to move away from her.

I tried to remain friends with the women I took birth classes with through our doula, but they didn't seem to want anything to do with me after classes were over. I tried to connect with other moms through a church group supporting breastfeeding women, but the group only met monthly and none of the moms were ever receptive to my invitations to hang out outside the group. I attended a moms group at a hospital once but the nurses who ran it focused on health-related Q&A and discouraged group socialization. I connected with two local moms groups on Meetup but was turned off by their policies. I mostly gave up trying.

Here, in a new town, I could reinvent myself and build a new circle of friends from the ground up. I decided it was worth it to pay a $25 membership fee to join the local MOMS Club. They seemed to have plenty of members with lots of activity. I also liked that the club is divided into tiny regions, so activities were likely to be very close and any mom friends made were also likely to be close. Convenient travel times makes it easier on everyone.

This morning, I attended my first playdate at a local playground. When I first arrived, I was surprised at how many moms and kids were present. I soon learned that none of them were part of the MOMS Club; they simply liked to visit the park at 10 AM on a sunny Friday morning. Josephine is still rather young for playgrounds, but she did enjoy being pushed in the baby swing. I struck up a conversation with the mom next to me pushing her toddler in the swing. It was pleasant.

After a few minutes, a mom approached me and introduced herself as the president of the club. We chatted as I sat on the grass with my little grass-eater. Josephine is a rapid crawler, but surrounded by so many people, she preferred to sit still, observe, and occasionally stick a freshly picked blade in her mouth. Another member of the club approached and made small talk. I didn't have an immediate BFF-at-first-sight with any of these women, but it was nice. I was laying the foundations.

Then, I got an unexpected urgent call which forced me away from the playground after only around 15 minutes of play. So goes life. I will try again another time.

Will I made any close friends through this group? I hope so.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Business Calls with Baby Background Noise

The cat and I will be quiet, Mommy. Promise!

What are the odds a baby will stay quiet? Being a work-at-home mom in a position that requires professional calling, while I care for my infant, has been one of my tougher challenges. Babies are unpredictable. She could be perfectly content to play quietly as I work. She could silently nurse while I chat. Best of all: she could nap. But there's no guarantee she'll stay asleep for my entire call. She's a noise bomb with an unknown timer!

What's a working mom to do? Honestly, I haven't mastered this yet. I've had a few calls per week for the past five weeks in this new position, usually 30 to 60 minutes in length. So, I've had some practice. But I'm still learning how to handle this and I don't always get it right.

My calls take two forms: internal and external. Internal calls are by far easier. I'm very fortunate to work for a company that is family-friendly. So grateful! Many of my coworkers are also stay-at-home parents and can empathize. When my little one woke from a nap during a conference call with two coworkers, she made herself known. She squealed and blew raspberries. She was entirely cute and unknowingly inappropriate.

Right now, I live and work in a hotel room. I tried to put some distance between me and the noise-maker, but she followed me. 'Mommy! I'm coming!' she conveyed in baby talk as she crawled after me. Wherever I was, she came making noise. My coworkers didn't comment. I hope they didn't mind.

External calls are a lot harder. The people I communicate with outside of my company don't know I'm a work-at-home mom and expect the professionalism of an office environment. I was quite embarrassed when my baby woke up from a nap and began to cry as I was wrapping up an interview. Thankfully, the call was winding down, but her screams encouraged me to hang up pretty fast. I have no way to know if the colleague on the other line was irked or understanding.

My baby is eight months old. She doesn't understand phone calls, words such as “hush,” or even the concept of quiet. Her instinctual need to communicate with me in any way often requires sound. She also enjoys testing and discovering her voice with singing, buzzing, and baby talking. I enjoy her happy noise-making and don't want to discourage it.

Here are some tips I've learned to help minimize background noise on calls:

  • Use the mute button. Best when on conference calls or when the person on the other line is monologuing.

  • Distract her. My baby is often quieter when given a new object to study. This doesn't work for long, but sometimes it's long enough.

  • Feed her milk. If she's in the mood, she'll nurse silently for a long time. She's often content to silently play with my top, my necklace, or my face while she suckles. Or she'll just stare into my eyes. If I'm very lucky, she'll drift off to sleep. If I'm unlucky, she'll grab at my phone or my laptop. If she was bottle fed, same principle.

  • Feed her snacks. My eight-month-old has an insatiable appetite for solid food. If I continue to stuff her mouth with small bits of whatever food I have on hand, she'll keep consuming it. If I give her something she can hold onto such as a baby carrot or a celery stick, she'll keep chomping on it with her two little teeth so long as I keep picking it up and handing it to her when she drops it.

  • Stuff her mouth with non-food. Teething toys are good mouth-stuffers, but she'll lose interest after a few minutes. She used to suck on blankets and plush toys. She especially loves ripping up paper and putting it in her mouth, but I have to take care that she doesn't actually swallow much of it.

  • Distance myself. This is difficult when stuck in one room, but even a few feet can make a difference. When desperate, I've left the room to talk in the hallway for a few minutes at a time, knowing she's safe in a blocked-off baby-proofed area of the room. In the future when we're settled into our new house, I'm considering creating a closed baby-safe playroom with a video baby monitor to observe her from another room while I'm on calls.

  • Get back-up. Rarely is my husband home when I'm on a business call, but when he is, he can watch her while I slip away. I haven't yet hired childcare while I work, but I am considering it.

How do you handle calls with a baby in the background? Any tips?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

6 Weeks of Hotel Living

Have you ever stayed in a hotel room with your entire family, including the pets? Could you imagine doing so for over six weeks? Welcome to my life!

We have survived living in one large hotel room together – my husband, my baby, three cats, a dog, four fish, and myself – for two weeks thus far. In exactly one month, we'll be moving into our new home. We're so excited! It's a huge, beautiful house with plenty of space for all of us and then some. I dream of having all that space. But while we wait, we're in extended stay hotel living which very much reminds me of college dorm room life.

One of the first things we did upon arrival was create a safe space for our quick crawler to move around. We blocked off half of the room with creative furniture rearrangement to separate the dog and dog's bowls from the baby's prying hands. The number of times I've had to wipe up water, refill the water bowl, and change the baby's wet outfit grew too many times for me to stand. She didn't take much notice of the dog food, but inevitably, some would have gotten in her mouth if the opportunity arose. It was much easier for us all to keep her away.

In the other partition, using a wall and three cat carriers, we blocked off the litter box. However, our little cruiser is turning into a climber and pusher. She has almost demonstrated the ability to push those barriers out of her way. It won't be much longer now. I don't even want to think about what she'll do when she finally reaches the cat litter box when my back is turned. She has already attempted to scale the air conditioner radiator when I wasn't looking. She landed on her back with a great thud, thankfully more startled than hurt.

But I want to get to the cat! I must climb!

When we made the hotel reservation by phone, the agent made a note in our file to include a crib. The problem was, there were no cribs at this particular location. He never bothered to check! Thinking we wouldn't need it, our crib was packed in storage until our move into our new home. When we realized the mistake, we were stuck. Although we were trying to wean our seven-month-old from co-sleeping, we now had no choice. She was to become our sleeping companion once again.

And it was miserable. Our squirmer kicked and rolled, frequently waking me and occasionally my husband. For the first time in all our months of cosleeping (pretty much her whole life), she rolled off the bed, waking me from sleep with such dread upon hearing her screams from the floor. Thankfully, she was unharmed. I took extra care to protect our sleeping space from then on, leading to more physical separation from my husband. After a week and a half of this, it was clear that something needed to change.

So we went to Babies R Us and bought a crib, a portable inexpensive one with cute star patterned sheets. We probably should have done so from the start. She now has her own safe sleeping space at the foot of our bed. Unfortunately, with the whole family in one room, we no longer have the ability to kick the cats out while we sleep. A cat jumped into her crib last night and woke her, therefore waking me. I've also experienced a cat sleeping on my head or meowing for the love of it at 4 AM. Hotel living is not great for sleeping.

Surrounded by cats in the big bed.

Not to be wasteful, we decided to use one crib in the nursery on the third floor of our new home and one crib on the ground floor. Our previous home was only one story with any part of the house easily accessible while carrying a sleeping baby. But carrying a sleeping baby from the ground floor to the third floor sounds like a poor idea to me, especially when navigating a set of baby gates at each stairwell. Our new crib is useful when we're cramped and will be useful when we're spread out!

A benefit of hotel living: easy baby watching. There's only so many places she can go, and all of them are within view when I'm sitting on the room's couch! As a work-at-home mom, I've claimed the couch as my office and spent much of the day here with my laptop and my phone. The baby can roam in front of me and to the side of me, she can nurse on me, or she can nap in the crib. Wherever she is, I can see her. This doesn't mean I get a ton of work done these days as an employee, but I'm trying. It has been a greater struggle than I expected, but that's a story for another day!