A case of the mondays

Two weeks ago, Baby got viral gastroenteritis for a couple of days and shared it with me for all of 8 hours while I was home from work with him, but we both recovered. Last Friday, as I was picking up Dawdler Toddler from daycare, she starts hurling. She had it all through the weekend, meaning we got nothing whatsoever done except tending to her. Side note: why is it that the weekends where I want to sit around on my arse and do nothing do not coincide with the weekends I get to do that? I had TONS of errands & stuff I desperately needed to get done, because I’d gotten nothing done being home from work with a sick Baby.

By Sunday, I was feeling very stressed – faced with missing even more work and still needing to get tons of stuff done outside of work, I texted every sitter as well as any contacts who could potentially serve as an emergency stand-in sitter, asking if by some random chance anyone could possibly watch her on Monday. I’ve been missing TONS of work with sick Baby. My Better Half doing fieldwork during the workweek means that I’m the only one ever available when daycare calls telling me Baby has a fever and has to leave, so I feel like I’m walking a fine line at work. I don’t know if I am. Maybe I’m just super sensitive to the rolling eyes one of my coworkers gives me (a childless jackass) whenever I’m dashing out to grab a sick Baby or Toddler. Maybe I’m just super sensitive because it’s performance review season and I’m paranoid that it might appear as if I’m not accomplishing much other than occasionally and unpredictably occupying a chair after returning from maternity leave this time around. Maybe I’m super sensitive because I have a new boss, who, while he has four children of his own, has never once experienced the “my kid has a fever above 100, so s/he has to be picked up from daycare within 30 minutes and can’t return for at least 24 hours” because his wife has always been a stay at home mom. I’d like to believe that my work worries are all in my imagination but I’m not quite convinced that’s true. But, alas, no sitters or would-be sitters were available.

So I crossed my fingers and held my breath and the next day, Dawdler Toddler seemed to be back to her normal self, and after being able to hold down her breakfast, I took her to daycare. And her Baby brother. Even though he had a fever. I didn’t have an alternative, given that I had no sitter available. And I HAD to make an 8:30-10:30 meeting, if nothing else. So I just prayed that he was just running a low-grade, teething? minor thing? fever and would be fine. After having to wait in the morning to make sure Dawdler Toddler was okay enough to go to daycare, I was super late to work – more than an hour late. Let’s just say the clock read 8:32 when I was getting ready to leave daycare for work. I got to work only to discover that my meeting was way far away in another building, so I was about 30 minutes late for that important must-not-miss meeting. And I was there about 25 minutes before daycare called and said Baby had a fever and was vomiting and had to leave.

So I excused myself with yet another quick missive of “sorry! gotta run! I’ll try to get in some work from home!” apology and dashed out. Got Baby, got him some Tylenol and he went down for his afternoon nap. That just dragged on and on and on. By late afternoon, after I’d picked up Dawdler Toddler from daycare, I was starting to get concerned. He seemed a little out of it, listless if you will. And his fever, rather than going down with Tylenol just kept going up. And he wasn’t the least bit interested in eating anything at all. By the time his breathing seemed to be getting strangely irregular, I left My Better Half, home from 10 hours of fieldwork in 111 degrees, to put Toddler to bed while I took Baby in to the children’s hospital, the only thing open at that hour. I get to the children’s hospital and have a text from My Better Half saying: I have the stomach flu now too, can’t stop throwing up, but keep me updated. I get us checked in and while we’re waiting in triage, I start hurling. Repeatedly.

They kept an eye on Baby, checking his vitals every 20 minutes, trying to coax him into taking pedialyte (unsuccessfully), giving him medicine for nausea first in order to then administer more Tylenol so he could keep that down and then waiting for him to demonstrate that he wanted and/or could eat. They kept him far longer than I would have expected. Which is why I was more miserable by the moment. I couldn’t stop throwing up, my stomach was doing somersaults, and I had nothing with me. Nothing. Not even a water bottle to go fill up, not a sweater to stave off the fever chills that were washing over me in waves. So every 20 minutes they came in to give him medicine and make sure he was improving and I’m getting worse by the second but they couldn’t even so much as bring me a goddamn apple juice because I’m “not the patient.” I get it on an intellectual level – liability of treating someone who’s not a patient in this letigious world of defensive medicine we find ourselves in – but at a visceral, physical level I was furious. Your whole purpose as nurses and doctors is to help people feel better, and if mom is doing this horribly, how can she be expected to take in all the information you’re giving about Baby’s condition and respond?

Why wouldn’t I just text My Better Half and say “for chrissakes, bring me some gatorade?” you ask? Because we have one vehicle. One. With both carseats in it. So even if he would have wanted to drag Toddler and himself out of bed and then out of the house at an ungodly hour to come bring ME medicine at the children’s hospital, he couldn’t have. Not to mention he was throwing up at home too.

So all in all, I’ve managed to make it to work one whole day this week. My Better Half seems to have improved, as have I. Although now that he’s back to working in 110 degrees, we’ll see. Baby still has a fever and is vomiting and was seen again yesterday and will be seen again Saturday. So I’m not counting on getting ANYTHING done this week or weekend either. Good thing my folks are coming in town Tuesday. Oh wait, that means I gotta somehow clean & disinfect this disastrous house. And take 48 hours vacation time. Right before my annual performance review. I’m beginning to think the rumors circulating yesterday that anyone who was getting a raise this year got notification yesterday is true. Like that asshole coworker who shoots me a dirty look every time I rush out, scrambling to go get a sick kid, just doing my best not to lose it.

Bringing children & work together every day

Yesterday, at least at my workplace, was Bring Your Child to Work Day. It was also, at least in my job, Bring Work to Your Children Day. Aka Thursday. Aka my telecommuting day.

I think when you say ‘telecommute’ a lot of people picture some kind of tech startup employee who works from cooler-than-thou hipster coffee joints all day. In my case you should envision me surrounded by the detritus of toddler & baby toys trying to respond to emails with one hand while nursing and shushing Baby with the other, sipping room temperature coffee all day (so as not to burn Baby when he inevitably flings his hand into the mug sending its contents all over my applesauce and GoGurt-encrusted jeans). I’ve telecommuted one day a week ever since the nearly 3 year old Dawdler was born – and it was fine when it was just her. Now my telecommuting day just feels so overwhelming. It’s impossible to compartmentalize anything. I’m trying to work while also pick up the ever-growing clutter around the house, I’m trying to put away laundry amidst work and a crying Baby, and I’m trying to convince the toddler Dawdler to shuffle off to daycare so I can focus on only two things at once, with the ability to give neither my full attention.

It’s nearly impossible to give my full attention to anything at all anymore, least of all myself. I get it, it’s a mom thing to never have any time to myself, but for crying out loud, I’ve got to find some time for myself. At my cubicle, I’m occupied with work. At home, I’m occupied with the kids. And during the rushed commute in between? I’m trying to slough off the day’s work and get into parenting mode with no space for my own occupations in between.

I have turned to working out before to solve this problem and decompress. Before I had kids, I went to the gym every night right after work before I got home. Now that just seems unfair to My Better Half. Right now, he has the responsibility of getting the kids up, dressed, fed, and off to daycare (and in the case of Baby, full-time parenting some days of the week), on top of adjuncting and trying to write and make dinner and. And, and, and. So it feels awfully selfish of me to tack on an extra couple of hours to his days to stop off at the gym for myself. When I explained this to someone, they said “oh! So that’s just mommy guilt! You gotta shut that sh*t down.”

Please don’t ‘just’ that. That ‘just’ you threw in there implies that it’s all in my mind, that it’s ‘just’ a small problem, that it’s insignificant. Baby is now 7 months old and I’ve never managed to get in a single workout or find any regular routine of time for myself since he was born. That doesn’t feel insignificant. Sure, it’s true that this is just a phase, as my mom says. But it doesn’t feel temporary living in the midst of this phase.

So until I can sort this out and/or afford a gym membership, you’ll excuse me while I carve out time for myself at the bottom of this bag of Pepperidge Farm Molasses Crisp cookies. It’s ‘just’ one bag. A week.

Try, try again

Well, well, well. Here we go again. A new year, the same resolution to blog more. I should know better, especially given the 2012 experiment, but clearly I just get older, not wiser.

I could take a glass half empty approach as to why I didn’t blog more in 2012. Let’s see: it started with a 6 month old who got RSV, which then morphed into me having sinus infection after sinus infection and strep throat after strep throat for months on end (up to and including this very moment in 2013) and having trouble managing my hypothyroidism. On top of being a mom and being sick and way low energy, I still worked full-time and though I aspired to get other things done, I rarely did. See: being sick. It doesn’t help that my computer at home died and has remained unreplaced. Hey, iPod touch? You’re awesome for most everything. Just not writing extensively.

But let’s look at the glass half full version of 2012’s resolution: I wrote more than I had in previous years, including much more long-form stuff that’s still in progress offline (along with all the half-formed blog posts I have still rattling about in draft). I started another blog co-written with a friend of mine, and I reconnected with how writing helps me work sh*t out in my own head. So take that, 2012 resolution!

So, since I’m trying on 2013 for size, how’s it measure up so far? Not good. I think part of it is I have a tendency this time of year to look back on the previous year, and in comparing right now to 2012 at the same time, I was much more settled and content then than I am now. I was confident in my abilities to parent a 6 month old. Now I’m facing new toddler-sized issues (no impulse control, limited ability for us to understand what she’s trying so desperately to communicate, chasing her down at the most inopportune times because running away is FUN!, and trying to determine how to make meals out of the 3 things she’ll eat) that make me less sure I know what the hell I’m doing. A year ago, I had an awesome boss and felt, for the first time in a long time, that my work was a good match for my skills and background. Now? A reorg at work has left me working in the same place but with a new, totally absentee boss, and a new role in a new career path that does NOT suit me at all, leaving me utterly dissatisfied. A year ago I was much healthier. I was working out habitually, I felt good, had high energy, and then having drifted off that course from being so sick, I now find myself still on steroids and antibiotics, feeling pretty gross. And a year ago, I wasn’t faced with the prospect of our nearly 13-year old dog’s final weeks. That part, I’m not prepared to talk about or deal with yet. But it’s there, lurking in the shadows of the weeks to come.

I know myself. I know that I have a tendency at this time of year to feel the post-holiday blues. The trips to look forward to have come and gone. Regardless of whether the job sucks or is awesome, coming back to my cubicle after a few days away is always a let down as it means the end of hanging out in pajamas, playing with the girl, and taking naps. So I’m trying to be extra-cautious right now not to let my feelings of unrest cascade over into other areas and color the otherwise excellent things that I’m sure are to come in 2013. I’m trying to compartmentalize – not in some unhealthy way but to try to prevent my general anxiety disorder from trampling all over everything and mixing it all up so that all of my worries won’t get inextricably tied up together until they’re one giant sinkhole of suckitude. Trying to deal with one thing at a time, and then putting it back up on the shelf when something else needs to be dealt with instead.

Trying. Maybe that’s my guiding word for 2013. I will try. I will keep trying. If I fail, maybe I will learn something. If I succeed, who knows what could happen?

What To Expect from a Job Interview When You’re Expecting

I finally managed to land a job interview. For a real job I would actually love to have! I’m beyond excited, but the interview is TOMORROW. Btw, seriously, people? You call up a job candidate to ask “What are you doing tomorrow between 11-12:30?” because that’s your only available window for an interview? Hmmm. I’m guessing I was on the alternates list.

I can’t afford any interview clothes but lucky for me, my pre-pregnancy wardrobe still fits okay (mostly). I can barely zip the skirt, but with my cheap imitation Bella band, it should be fine. So, if you find yourself in this situation, here is my advice:

  • Wear prints on top. It’s distracting and no one can tell that there’s a growing bump.
  • Wear a jacket or sweater, or even just a long scarf over the printed top. (Maybe she’s just locally fat?)
  • You could do crazy make-up. Then they’ll be puzzling over your face and too distracted to look south at your belly.
  • Don’t accept the bottled water they’ll offer you. You have to pee every 3 seconds anyway, so don’t press your luck.

And when they hand you a document to sign that says:

“[Employer] takes pride in the quality of employees to whom we have extended employment opportunities. In an effort to ensure that you are taking every advantage of your new employee training period, we highly suggest that you maintain 100% attendance during the training phase. Tardiness and/or absenteeism may result in disciplinary action. To ensure your employment success, we ask employees to keep their schedules free of extended appointments and vacations during the first 6 months of employment. Please provide us with the information below if you are not able to currently modify any future appointments. Requests for time off are not guaranteed and may not be paid during your first 90 days of employment. Leaving this section blank indicates your schedule is free of appointments…”

Lie. Lie, lie, lie.

Here’s the thing: if I were obviously pregnant, I probably would have been honest on the form because my interviewers would just march back to HR and say, “Either she’s pregnant or she swallowed a bowling ball.” But I’m not obviously pregnant. Even though I’m due in 3 1/2  months, I’m not really showing. I was able to wear my regular non-maternity clothes to the interview, and by wearing busy prints on top, I can further distract from what’s going on.

More importantly, I’m not sure how I was supposed to handle this.

After I’d been laid off, I got in touch with my HR representative at the museum where I’d worked to ask how to handle the pregnancy disclosure at job interviews and negotiations, and she said in no uncertain terms that I should not say anything until I recieve an offer. (An aside: My friends have been incredibly naive about this, btw. They’re all up on a soapbox screaming “You can’t do that! Employers can’t not hire you just because you’re pregnant! That’s discrimination!” News flash: Sure, employers can’t discriminate against you because you’re pregnant, but they can find *other* reasons not to hire you, including the all-purpose “It just isn’t the right fit right now.”)

So by saying on the form, uh, I’m going to need time off during the training phase to keep up with my bi-weekly, soon to be weekly, doctor’s appointments, that could be a major red flag and they could just say, well, maybe the timing isn’t right right now since you can’t commit to our training attendance policy. And by saying, uh, I’m going to need at least 6 weeks off this summer, they could not hire me because I’m asking for extensive time off during my probationary phase. So I left it blank and signed it. We’ll have to wait to see what unfolds

So I’m Not (just) Crazy?!

For a couple of years now, I’ve thought that something was a little wrong with me. Besides the obvious mental defects, I mean. I’d slowly gone from being an active energetic woman managing a full life of work, school, friends, relationships, hiking, dogs, happy hours, and just all-around awesomeness to feeling tired all the time, not being able to focus and concentrate, and just wanting to pull the covers and sleep the day away. Every time I brought it up with my doctor, she brushed it all off as stress. Am I stressed? Yes. But I’ve always been stressed. I’m an anxious person by nature. So that didn’t sit well with me. I talked to my mom about it and she suggested that I get my thyroid checked. I had my doctor check it. Twice. And both times she insisted it was in the “normal” range. As the doctor assured me I was just stressed, I’d basically checked out of the life I had been living and moved into Lethargic Town. All the while blaming myself for being lazy, tired, unfocused, unmotivated, and inactive.

So fast forward to two years later: it’s only gotten worse, and still just trying to make it from day to day on a diet of caffeine. I’ve gained 35 pounds. I struggle to function through an entire day without a nap. I can’t summon the energy to walk my dogs or go do something fun. And I’m completely, utterly burned out. I need a vacation in the most major way. I need a month off just for starters, just to catch up on sleep.

My Better Half was hanging out with his friend Chris and when Chris’ wife asked where I was, My Better Half said that I spent almost every moment off from work asleep. She called me to strongly urge me to get checked for hypothyroidism. Again. I am lucky that she called. She knows a lot about hypothyroidism because she has it. Was I cold all the time? Yes. Did I have really, really dry skin? Yes. Was I depressed and anxious? Yes and yes. Did I have dark circles under my eyes? Yes. Did I have regular periods? No. Does my face flush with exercise? Yes. Did my family have any hypothyroidism? Yes. And when I pinch the skin on my upper arm, does it pull away from the tissue, or is it puffy and thick? Puffy and thick. All classic conditions caused by hypothyroidism. The problem, she told me, is that a) it’s so multisymptom that many doctors fail to pull together the trees into a forest and see the big picture and b) attribute way too much diagnostic power to lab results alone. Sounded right. My doctor: You’re tired? Get some rest. You’re anxious? Relax. You’ve gained weight? Get some exercise and eat better. And so on.

Last week I saw a new doctor and told her all of my symptoms, and she immediately diagnosed me with something called Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, the most common form of hypothyroidism in the US. Finally I had confirmation that all of this was not in my imagination. That someone who’s 32 should not have the energy level of a 60 year old. I’ve finally found the right doctor and have started taking medicine that will hopefully bring me back to my old self. But I’m also kinda pissed. Really pissed, actually. That for over two years, doctors did not hear me, did not listen to me, didn’t piece together the signs. Because I feel like I’ve lost two years of my life, and it’s a long road ahead back to my normal energetic self. But I also feel like I’m on the right path. I’ve found an accurate diagnosis for what is “wrong” with me, and I’m ever more committed to find new work that enables me to have a healthy work-life balance. That might mean abandoning the nonprofit world, something I hold near and dear. But the reality is that working in the nonprofit world often entails working in places that are poorly managed and under-resourced, exposing yourself to being severely overworked and underpaid. And it’s starting to become apparent to me that maintaining strong boundaries between work and my personal life might be more important to me than the kind of work that I do.