Posted by: Elizabeth | April 16, 2012

Taking Your Baby to Work

For the last four weeks, I’ve been working (supposedly) half-time, and taking Carter to work with me. I wasn’t sure how this would work – even if this would work – but can now say that it’s possible. It has not, however, been easy.

I know that it’s a gift to even be able to consider this arrangement – so many offices would not be conducive to having an infant around all day, and mine has been totally fine. I bought a little swing (on consignment) that sits by my desk, and having the little guy there has just worked into my regular routine. There are lots of advantages to doing it this way, the most obvious being more time with my tiny guy while he is tiny. Since Carter was born, the longest we’ve been apart is about 5 hours one Saturday when he hung out with my parents. I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to leave him in childcare when he was super-tiny, before he got some of his vaccinations, before he was strong enough to hold his head up, before we figured out some of his skin issues. It’s also super-easy to continue nursing him while he’s at the office with me: when he gets hungry, I just put a “do not disturb” sign on my door and feed him, simple as that. Delaying those dates with the pump has been a wonderful gift. Carter’s also a fantastic companion on pastoral care visits: he’s better than a therapy dog, grinning at folks who need a little joy in their lives, lighting up each room he enters. And of course, there are few things better for me in the middle of a tough day than turning around to see my sweet boy smiling at me, right there in person.

But it’s not terribly easy to have a baby at work, either. For one, I am never fully engaged in work and I’m never fully engaged in parenting, doing each with an eye toward the other. My attention is always split, which certainly means I’m not doing either job at top capacity. My work day is full of interruptions, too – sometimes from the tiny guy, and sometimes from folks poking their heads in the office to SEE the tiny guy (I can’t blame them – I think he’s pretty cute). Carter doesn’t necessarily know when I’m feeling really swamped and need to buckle down and get a lot done, and he might pick that day to be a bit on the fussy/needy side, which makes everything feel more challenging. Then there’s always the sheer stuff involved in working with baby: I regularly have to take two trips from car to office and back to get my work stuff, Carter’s diaper bag, and Carter into the office – or I schlep it all at the same time and end up with terribly sore shoulders and back.

The most difficult part, though, is that I feel like I never get a break. When I was home with him full-time, if he was napping, I could nap or get some housework done or watch mindless television (or check in with the office, should I so choose). Or Carter would entertain himself for a few minutes in his floor gym or the bouncy chair and I could check email or make a grocery list. Similarly, when I am at work full-time sans child, I can run get a cup of coffee or take a walk or put my head down on the desk for a few minutes if I need a break. But when I’ve got the little guy 24/7 AND I’m working, every quiet moment from Carter must be capitalized on for work productivity. No errand is uncomplicated, no time is totally free.

This arrangement has been a great way to ease the transition from maternity leave to full-time work in many ways: emotionally, as a mom, it’s been ideal to have the tiny guy with me these last four weeks. But having been gone for 10 weeks on leave this winter, the more helpful thing for me as a pastor would have been to do the opposite: to send Carter to daycare before I officially went back to work, so I had some time to tend to all the things that piled up on my desk at work and at home before the daily grind began again. Oh, what I would do for a day without kids AND without the regular daily work obligations, or Sunday responsibilities looming…

All in all, I’m glad we did things this way. I’m thankful that Carter is a content little guy, in whose presence it’s possible to do a little work every day. I’m not looking forward to being gone from him all day, starting this week, and perhaps that will actually be more difficult since I’ve gotten so used to having him around. But I do long for a moment all to myself, when I might breathe deeply or take a walk. I’m looking forward to being able to work for longer stretches, getting things done as quickly as I can so I can get back to my sweet kids at the end of the day.

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Responses

  1. I can’t imagine. Thinking of you, and your need for a break, and not for a break, and everything involved. love to you!!

  2. When I had Canon, I worked at Lovers Lane UMC. Had my own office and did essentially the same thing you are doing. I had all kinds of baby stuff in my office for him. It worked out so well! I was breastfeeding, and trying to figure out how to be a mom.
    I am thankful for Stan Copeland and Lovers Lane for allowing me to do that for 6 months!

    Love to all of you!


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