Recently, I returned to work from a year’s maternity leave. This time I took the whole year to spend time with my little children, to enjoy them while they’re young. When I left my job last February, there were about 9 people working in the office. Upon my return, our office staff in Toronto had grown to about 30 people or so. The positions and offices are mostly filled with people handpicked by my boss, which made the notion of returning to work intimidating. The folks he selected are star players! These people are the stand outs in the crowds with which he has shared his working life. And here I was, some lady he’d been stuck with, re-emerging on the scene. And this lady questioned her relevance and her capacity to live up to the tasks and mandate set before her.
That first week, we’d been to the doctor and/or hospital multiple times, where Alice was eventually diagnosed with a particularly disgusting and nasty bout of impetigo on both hands, after having some weird mouth virus and four days of fever. Impetigo is gross and it looks really really painful. It’s super contagious to other children and basically you have to keep it covered so it doesn’t spread. Have you ever tried to bandage a baby’s hands? I learned from this ordeal that babies think band-aids are some tasty shit. Our solution? Socks on the hands. And we got some antibiotics, which are an adventure all themselves when trying to administer them orally to a 11 month old.
At around the same time, I became painfully aware of how sharp Alice’s little teeth had become via an awfully wounded nipple, that still hasn’t quite healed after nearly two months. I’m convinced it will never ever heal, but there is a little glimmer of hope inside me that thinks that maybe one day in the near future, I might be able to nurse her on the left side without recoiling in pain. Maybe.
So my first week back was a literal hell, between the boobie wound, impetigo, and some shaky days with my husband’s job security (though luckily our concerns were quickly elayed). The stress of a new childcare arrangement, the TTC commute, and all the on the job learning required to get back up to speed were so much that I was literally collapsing in tears at the end of every day. I’m stressed just writing about it!
If you’d really like to keep track, you could add in a dash of serious sleep deprivation for the last 6 months and a healthy dose of mummy guilt. You know, the kind of guilt the eats away at you for not “being there’ for your family who needs you so desperately. I’d failed at meal planning, and doing the grocery shopping to stock our fridge and pantry with the things we’d need to keep us going. I was behind on laundry, and every room in our apartment had seen much better days. With all the things I had failed to do, I had no time to make up for it. No time to run the errands, do the preparations necessary to make this transition slightly smoother for all everyone in our little family.
But then the second week came, and then the third, and the fourth week. And now I feel as though I am rocking along at a fairly respectable and steady pace. And the pieces? They’re all falling into place. I’m learning a lot, I’m quickly getting back up to speed, and I remembered finally that I LOVE WORKING! I love my job and the people I work with are all really really awesome. More awesome than I ever could’ve anticipated. I’m starting to hit my stride and I just love everyone and everything that I’m doing. Then the end of the day rolls around, and though I have to fight my way on to a streetcar, I’m excited. I’m excited to come home to the perfect little faces that shine so bright with smiles when they hear mummy come up the stairs. I’m excited to kiss my handsome husband, who has already started dinner, folded laundry and worked a full day, and is waiting to greet me with a smile just as bright.
This new year, I set my motto as I always do. I knew it was going to be a challenging year with lots of ups and downs and that I would need to stretch to make it all work. That I’d need to put it all out there on the line to be successful in 2015. And so I remind myself regularly that this year, I’m going “All In”. How could I not, my friends……I’ve been dealt the royal flush.
The weeks and months leading up to my maternity leave were slightly stressful. Stressful only because the pressure I put on myself of course. I love working. I love working hard–I love accomplishing things and being good at what I do. I also enjoy being a part of a growing company and building a team and providing products and services I believe in. While it sounds like a cushy deal, taking a year off for maternity leave, for me, is a lot harder than it sounds.
Don’t be mistaken, I love my family, and I love being a mummy to Marigold and a wife to Martin, but it really doesn’t define me as a person. It’s not the be all, end all of me. Neither is my job. I am the sum of these things and many others–all of which make me who I am.
While my current job isn’t exactly my dream job, it’s still awesome and I like the company and love my boss and the people I work with. The hardest part is the timing, of course. Putting my career on hold when things are positioned for growth in a major way isn’t the ideal scenario I had imagined when I first found myself with child. I hadn’t expected that I would be getting a new boss, and that I would need to make a new and lasting impression on someone when I was tired, bloated and irritable. I didn’t think that I was about to miss out on something really rad for the next year. I hate to miss out on things–I love to be right in the action!
I’m sure tons of other women and men go through the same thing when they take their respective parental leaves. I truly am grateful for the opportunity to take the full 50 weeks to spend time focusing on my new baby and growing family.
The last time I went on mat leave, I was literally counting the minutes before I could walk out the door and not return for several months, even though I was still there late on my last day. This time I was really sad to go. I was having sleepless nights thinking about the many projects I had on the go just before clocking out for the next year, and as my last day crept closer, I had expected my stress level to spike, but it slowly dissipated. I was ready to go, and I know that I’m not in any real danger of being left behind at work. I’m confident that I’ll be able to return and pick up where I left off and just spend this year focusing on real life–and my family. What a treasure.
Almost three years ago now, I revived my blog because of this overwhelming need to write it all down. I needed to tell everyone how I had never loved as much as I loved right then. With hormones running rampant, I’m sure, I was plagued with so many feelings and emotions, but it was the love that overflowed.
When I first discovered I was pregnant with my second child, of course I was thrilled, but there were hesitations that I hadn’t expected. I was worried about how I could possibly have TWO children (people survive with many more, I know I’m ridiculous) and look after them successfully. I was worried about our finances, and the size of our apartment. I was worried how Marigold will adapt. But most of all I was worried that I couldn’t possibly have any more love to give to another child. I just loved my little Marigold so much that I didn’t think it possible to have the capacity to love a new addition to our little family.
Martin gently reminded me that love multiplies as a family grows–and we have a never ending supply! We have found love in places that we never even knew existed.
The hardest part has definitely been dealing with my feelings for Marigold. It’s weird, but I miss her. I still spend time with her everyday, but she’s no longer my one and only, and I feel bad that my attention is divided. This has been the greatest source of postpartum tears. She is the most amazing big sister in all of the land, and I’m so proud with how she is handling it all. She is a huge help with Baby Alice, and I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve heard her say “Don’t worry, Baby Alice. Big sister’s right here” in the last 10 days. And it melts my heart every time.
One night I went to lay in Marigold’s bed with her before she went to sleep because I just missed her so. I couldn’t stop the tears from coming, as they so often do these days. I talked it over with Marigold, and for a not yet three year old, I’m impressed with her understanding. I apologized for not spending as much time with her as I used to. I got up to let her fall asleep, she said to me as I was leaving “Baby Alice needs you, Mummy.” She totally gets it, and it just made me cry harder. I’m so proud of her and I’m amazed at how awesome she is every single day.
Baby Alice is just perfect from head to toe and I loved her just as much as I did Marigold when she was placed in my arms. It’s like there’s a love explosion in your heart when you give birth–I would do it over and over again because the feeling is incredible. And the results–well, they’re incomparable.
So our love has grown. Martin was right–I didn’t have anything to worry about. We’re a family of four now. I’m truly grateful for all the things that I have in this life, and I honestly don’t take it for granted. I came from nothing, and now– I have everything. And it’s definitely not lost on me, this extraordinary life of love.
As you may or may not have noticed, I haven’t been writing at all. I am a bit disappointed in myself because one of my goals for 2013 was to write more to ensure that I remember it all. I started the year off pretty good, but as life began to change, writing became less of a priority, more of a chore, and frankly, I felt like the things I have to say on the inside are not what I want other people to read. I hope that I was still focusing my energy on my output and creative pursuits rather than consumption of things. But a small part of me thinks that I’ve spent far too much time in front of the television in the last few months–television is a soul-sucking-life-eating time waster, and if I stop to think about it, I shudder at how it seems to drain the motivation right out of me. I’ll have to work on that this year.
I haven’t quite put together my intentions, goals or plans for 2014 just yet. That is disappointing in itself, but I’ve been having a rough go of it since the holidays started. I’ll spare you the details but I’m just not feeling myself. It is a real let down because I love the New Year. I love the chance to start fresh–to create a purpose for myself and my life and re-focus my energy on all the things I want to accomplish in the coming months. The truth is that I’m in this funny place–my life is about to be consumed by another human, I’ve got 5 weeks left on the job and there are no real and desirable goals that are jumping out at me aside from all the things that need to get done RIGHT NOW! I don’t even have a fucking motto or theme song for this year yet.
But I can’t let that get me down. It will come. It just didn’t come before January 1st. And I’m trying on a few candidate songs for 2014, so that’s something…
Though I’m not quite ramped up for 2014, I can still take the time to reflect on the things that have happened in the last year. It seems, based on my facebook feed, that people were happy to leave 2013 behind them. When I first started thinking about it, I realized I had a lot of great things to remember. So here they are, in no particular order, 8 things that happened in 2013 that make me happy.
Pee and a Plus Sign–We knew that we wanted to have more children, so what better time was there after we got married? I was late 4 whole days before Martin would let me take a pregnancy test. He didn’t think it was likely after only a few weeks, but I knew deep down there was a baby in my tummy. Sure enough, we put Marigold to bed, I peed on a stick, and a plus sign appeared. It’s been a bumpy ride, this pregnancy. I’ve had some minor scares, I’ve found myself much more emotional and much more exhausted. Only 7 weeks left to go until this child is scheduled to arrive. We’ll see if I can last that long.
The Begonia EP–While I didn’t do anything personally to accomplish this, it gives me a great deal of pleasure that Gord finally released some of his own music. It was a long time coming and I’m proud of the time and effort he put into it. It really is a great album.
I’ve got a New Boss Now –I really liked my last boss. He was awesome and hilarious and I literally cried for days when I found out he was leaving. I was certain that there was no way that the new boss would be awesome or good or that really anything positive could come of the change. Well, I was wrong, new boss is great. Awesome and amazing even. I’m actually quite sad to be going on maternity leave!
Hoops and Skeins and Fabric, oh my!–I’m not too sure where I got the idea for needlepoint from, but I had been thinking about it for a long while (I guess as an extension of my sewing dreams). Finally one day, I went to the Workroom and dropped less than twenty bones on the supplies I needed to get started. Turns out embroidery is a really simple and inexpensive hobby. It’s similar to tracing, except you’re using thread and the results are really impressive!
Paying it All Off–I have had this deep dark secret for so very long that I have ignored and shoved aside as much as I possibly could, but it was still always bringing me down. When I put my list together of things I wanted to for 2013, I included details on the things I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t want to acknowledge my financial issues–so I just put a line in my list that said “get financially on track”.
I had terrible credit and huge amounts of debt for a really long time and thinking about it made me feel ill to the bone, so instead of dealing with it head on, I just pretended like it didn’t exist. Turns out that doesn’t make it go away, and it doesn’t make you feel good, because no matter how hard you try, you can’t actually forget about it.
Anyways–through a variety of methods–tax returns, savings and what not, I was able to pay off my student loan, and the majority of my debt in 2013. I am no where near as good as I want to be with handling my cash, but I’m definitely a lot better than I was in 2012. I’m paying my bills and saving–I think that’s a good place to start! And for the first time in a really long time–I’m not afraid to answer my phone when it says “unknown caller” because it’s definitely not someone that I owe money to. The tremendous relief I feel is inexplicable.
Everything I’ve Longed For–I have loved Hayden and his music since the 90’s. I would have to say that “Everything I Long For” is probably the most played album I have ever owned. Actually–come to think of it, I don’t even think I own it–I borrowed it from my pal in 1997 and just never bothered to return it because I loved it so much.
I have cried more tears over the lyrics and songs on that album than I could ever dream of counting. They were a solace I could always count on for any break up. My good friend, Ryan T., also loves Hayden as much as I do. It is a special bond that we have shared for over a decade. At the end of November, I finally got to see Hayden in concert–with Ryan T. sitting a few rows behind me. It was pretty rad–the show was great, Hayden was hilarious and awesome–it was everything I ever could’ve wanted in seeing him live for the first time.
Nothing Better–Seeing Hayden live was a lot more likely than ever getting the chance to see the Postal Service. They did one album 10 years ago, and I think they only ever did one tour. I had often dreamed about getting the chance to see them live so when they announced a 10th anniversary tour, I would’ve paid just about anything to see them.
I went alone to the show at the ACC–it was a night just for me. I ate dinner at my favourite Mexican restaurant, did some shots of tequila and went to the show. As an added bonus, Mates of State were opening–they are always good live and also another one of my favourite bands.
Seeing the Postal Service was surreal. The music was fantastic, the lights were amazing and they loved every minute of being on stage. My heart was practically beating out of my chest and I felt like I had been tele-ported to 2004. The show was outstanding.
From this Day On–I always wanted a husband, pretty much for as long as I can remember. It was getting a bit dicey 5 or 6 years ago–I was beginning to think it was never going to happen. I was happy with my life, and was ok with the idea that maybe I wouldn’t get to have a husband one day. I always thought that I would make a pretty good wife. Turns out I make a great wife–just ask Martin. And really, being a wife and having a husband isn’t really what makes me happy–it’s the person that my husband is. His personality, his beliefs and convictions, his compassion and interests, his strength and honour–all of those things make him an amazing person. I’m thankful on a daily basis that he chose me to become his Mrs. McWaters. I laugh to myself from time to time about how unsure I was in the beginning when we started dating. And now, I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I really do love him more and more each day and really look for forward to spending the rest of my life with him.
2013 was great in a lot of ways. Of course there were some bad times–but what good is it to focus on that? It’s the bright spots that will keep you going…pining over the dark days will only bring you down! 2014 is going to be a busy one for us, and it’s a little scary to think about what we’re up against, but after writing this, I’m finally getting excited about setting some goals and planning for what I want to accomplish in 14.
I got all setup to sit down and get a few things done. I have been thinking through another post, and I had intended to write about music this afternoon. I realized that it’s going to be a monster to take on, and I think I’m going to have to put more thought into it than I have at this point.
Anyways, I’ve spent the majority of the week doing things for other people. Which, I guess, is the nature of my job and the nature of being a mother. I’ve pretty much got the chips stacked against me in the whole “take time for yourself” game. I’m not complaining…I love my life. And I’m really lucky that I have a partner who bears so much of the load around the house. That, however, does not change the fact that I’m just never done..at work, or at home.
Today I wanted to set aside some time for me. I have about 2 hours while (and if) Marigold naps on the weekend, which I usually use to get caught up on some housework. Martin was headed out for the afternoon and I wanted to write and also prep a recipe for his birthday cake on Sunday, so the housework was going to wait. I brewed some tea, tidied the office space (which is typically a disaster from the two McWaters’ with whom I share my abode) and sat down to find a chocolate cake recipe. I had time enough to copy down the recipe, take a photo of my favourite tea pot, and jot down these few lines.
Marigold’s nap was cut short. I heard her cry out for me a lot sooner than I’d expected. There’s laundry, dishes, and a pre-birthday dinner to prepare. But the hour I spent on myself this afternoon has priceless value for my life. While it may sound silly, the time I spend doing the things I love enables me to tackle the challenges that arise in my day to day life.
Though not likely as gratifying for anyone else as it is for me…this, my friends, is the product of my Saturday Afternoon for me. A lovely photo of a few of my favourite things.