I feel like this could be a long one…feel free to skim or not read at all! Hah!
So, let’s be honest for a minute here.
My life has felt like a giant clusterfuck since I returned to work from maternity leave. I mean, sure, there’s the normal stuff. The anxiety of leaving my baby behind. The struggle to settle into a childcare routine. The “newbie” feeling of returning to work after three months away.
Week after week after week, I would tell myself… “It’ll get better. Give it time. Things will quiet down. We will get into a rhythm. We got this. It’ll get better.”
But it didn’t.
The Anxiety Didn’t Die Down…
…but I’ll save the details of that for my #snapshotsforsanity post at the end of the month.
The Childcare Situation Didn’t Resolve
Yes, we had a plan. My husband would have him in the mornings after I left for work. My mom and my cousin would alternate days of the week when my husband left around 3:30PM (Monday-Thursday). I would come home from work and be on baby duty until we went to bed. My husband would come home after midnight, shower, eat, and get to bed sometime before or around (occasionally, after) 3:00AM. And then four to five hours later, hit repeat. Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. And then Friday, his day off, my husband would have the baby all day while I worked.
From the outside, it looks like a brilliant plan, right? No daycare. Little to no money needing to be spent (my cousin was paid, my mom wasn’t). My husband and I both got our own quality time with the baby, and everything would be perfect.
That’s what I thought it would be like. That is not reality.
My husband was not getting enough sleep. He would try to go to bed earlier, but it usually wouldn’t happen. By the time he was relieved by my mom or my cousin, he was at his wit’s end. The baby was too fussy, or the baby wouldn’t nap, or the state of our house was driving his OCD up a wall. The exhaustion fueled the frustration, and vice versa. His mood got worse as the days wore on, and by the time Friday came along, he was done. Then he would spend the entire weekend trying to do the things he wasn’t able to during the week: laundry, mowing the lawn, cleaning the pool, cleaning the house. He would sleep half the day away on Saturday.
I spent every day at work trying to ignore the knot of anxiety in my stomach. Among other things, I worried that my mom wouldn’t be able to watch Joey and I would have to leave early. Initial aggravation at my husband’s “inability to handle his shit” gradually became the realization that he was burning out. I had to cut him some slack with sleep, because I once worked late hours and I once knew what it was like to not be able to go right to sleep. I knew how frustrated I could get when I wasn’t sleeping well and the baby was teething or on a napping strike and my husband was at work. I felt guilty. I would try to wake up earlier so I could feed Joey and keep him occupied while I pumped so that my husband could sleep until the very second I left for work, but this cut back on my own rest. I started to become exhausted myself. And when I got home from work, it was all baby all the time. I would feed and play with Joey, put him down for a quick nap, pump, feed him again, cuddle him, put him down for bed, wash and refill the bottles for the next day, load the dishwasher, and attempt to eat dinner before Joey woke up for a dream feed, put him down for bed again, pump, and go to sleep. The whole evening was spent walking past dirty clothes on the floor and unfolded clean laundry in the hampers and shit stacked to the ceiling on every available surface and toys on the floor.
And then the weekend would come…and I would be with my baby, which was fine because I would’ve missed him the entire week. But things I wanted to do or chores I wanted to get done remained untouched. Quality time with my husband was a distant memory. Yeah, okay, sure, I get it, parenthood changes your life, but I still think it’s possible to spend time with your partner even if it’s with the baby. Not even that was happening. For him, it was eat, sleep, and work around the house. For me, it was eat, sleep, and be with the baby. Our paths rarely crossed. And I think we both started to feel alone.
Work Continued to Be—Feel Like?—One Speed Bump After Another
I think it’s expected that several months away can throw you for a loop. In a way, you return feeling like you’ve started your job new all over again—especially if you only just began that job a year ago. I had a few days to settle before the work started coming in. And at first, I was managing okay. For the most part, I was dealing with the separation anxiety (mine, not my son’s) and the crying. Everything else was okay.
But then we hit an uptick in production, and the workload started coming faster. And I was struggling to keep up. I felt like I was working in a constant haze—trying to remember what I was working on, trying to remember what was due when, trying to remember how to do things that I hadn’t done in what felt like forever, trying to reassure my boss that I knew what I was doing and that I was okay and that I was on top of shit, trying not to freak out that I could possibly seriously fuck something up and it would result in losing my job. It was exhausting. And scary. And adding to my anxiety.
There’s More, Too
All of the above seemed to form a negative virus that just started leaking into the rest of my—our—life.
Our house was (and still is!) a disorganized mess. We moved in when I was just toeing into the third trimester AND trying to finish a semester in grad school, which made unpacking and getting settled difficult—and let’s not forget the horrible winter we had with storm after storm after storm! Boxes remained unpacked; the dining room table, and the end tables, and the kitchen counters, and the floor, all became surfaces on which we would put anything and everything; nothing had a home; chaos reigned. Our son arrived, and I did what I could during my leave, but it wasn’t enough. And gradually, we fell further and further behind. Even with my husband busting his butt on the weekends, it was a “one step forward, two steps back” situation. He would never really make progress, but only reverse the damage that had been done that week.
My self-care went out the window. I stopped doing things for myself. Again, when you have an infant at home, you always hear “your life is all baby, all the time,” but that’s just not true. It’s all baby, 99% of the time. But there should still be a little slice of 1% left for you—to watch some TV, to read some of a book, to blog, to relax, to write, to chat with a friend. Even just spending some time with my son and enjoying myself seemed impossible, because I would spend it thinking of all the things I had to do before bedtime. I had no time to do anything that made me feel good about myself. I wasn’t taking my medications for my thyroid or deficiencies, not even a multivitamin. Socializing became a chore—something I didn’t look forward to anymore. I was on the weight loss train for about a minute and a half before I got sick, and it was my birthday, and a host of other excuses as to why I just stopped. The anxiety continued to be a problem, and began to weave a web of depression and insecurity that started to slowly wrap around me.
And as for my husband and I? Lately, we just…haven’t been a married couple. We coexisted. We passed off the baby. There was no intimacy, no affection. There was no time or energy for it. We communicated more by text apart than by voice in person.
Something—maybe multiple somethings—needed to change.
Part II comes tomorrow, but in the meantime, go read my incredibly wonderful friend’s blog post about creating a sustainable method for good self-care that more or less inspired me to get to changin’ some stuff.