Back to Work!

 

Very official with my own yellow name badge - PD stands for postdoc!
Very official with my own yellow name badge – PD stands for postdoc!

I’m back at work this week! Everything became very real on Monday when I waited in line to receive my name badge and found my office already said “Dr. Lauren Freeman” on the door. It has been a hectic month getting ready to send me in to work every day and Joey to childcare. I’ve been outfitting both of us with the best of the back to school sales, from a little red lunch bag with bicycles for Joey’s daily snacks and two midday meals to new work-appropriate attire for me. NRL has a slightly more formal expected dress code than Scripps (as in just having walked in from surfing or swimming and hanging your wetsuit out of your office window is no longer an option).

Joey's day care bag is stocked with everything a baby needs - change of clothes, blanket, and lots of diapers, all meticulously labeled "Joey F." on the tags.
Joey’s day care bag is stocked with everything a baby needs – change of clothes, blanket, and lots of diapers, all meticulously labeled with “Joey F.”

The first week has been extra hectic because none of our carefully selected care providers were available until September 1 (a fact that didn’t become clear until a couple of days before I started work, due to a communication error on the other end). Simon and I have been working a dreaded “split schedule” this week. I leave the house at 6:45 and work until just after lunch while Simon gets up with Joey, takes him for a morning activity, feeds him, and puts him down for his nap. We switch off between 1 and 2, and Simon is able to work until 8, getting home just in time for a quick family dinner before we put Joey to bed. It has been intense, but surprisingly fulfilling. I enjoy my time with Joey more now that it is limited, and I feel proud after having accomplished things at my job, taken Joey to the pool, and made dinner all in one day. That said, I am also glad that this heavy schedule was only for one week!

I am genuinely surprised at how HAPPY we all are about this. Leading up to my first day was a bit of a roller coaster – some days I’d be very excited about working, but I often felt concerned or sad about leaving Joey. While I certainly miss him very much at the office, I am excited for all of the new things that he gets to learn and experience! He is currently alternating between a nanny that takes him out on the town and teaches him

Joey also fits into his daycare bag very well
Joey also fits into his daycare bag very well

Portuguese, and a home daycare where he is making friends with other little people and learning how to share. At the same time, I feel a marvelous sense of freedom when I reach the office and know that someone else is fully responsible for his care over the next couple of hours. I am still on call if there were an emergency of course, and Iove getting photos on my phone or email of his adventures, but I appreciate the break to be me (non-mom me, that is). I think more than anything, our whole family is a little relieved to be on a semi-regular schedule again.

We have been reading a variety of media that have all boiled down to the same conclusion – low stress and high life happiness is paramount for your kids (and for yourself!) Objective surveys and studies have found that children of working parents and stay-at-home parents do not have dramatically different happiness levels, nor is one group smarter, more prone to certain behaviors, or better at school. Parents of each group often tout their method as being ‘better for the children’ for a variety of reasons, but at the end of the day when kids are asked what they want they all ask for their parents to act less stressed out, please. In fact, the over-intense parenting that is becoming more common today is linked with depression in your kids.

I digress – the point I’m getting at here is to go forth and do what makes you happy. For us, that means me and Simon both working on science and Joey enjoying himself in daycare/with a nanny in the meantime. I wouldn’t have guessed it from the outset, but we’ve been planning together over the past several months for a setup that keeps all three of us happy. Reading about the Harvard Grant Study and surveys of what makes kids happy over the past couple of weeks has really solidified those choices for me. There are several books and articles linked throughout this post that we have really enjoyed – I hope that you do too!

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