The dreaded day came at last. Yesterday, I returned to work. I was actually excited to go back, crazy of all crazies. I never look forward to the first day of TEACHING, but the first day back seeing all of my old colleagues and meeting the new teachers, counselors and administrators is always enjoyable to me. Believe it or not, I’m a people person. The faculty and staff are so wonderful at my school. I was surprised and delighted by all of the hearty, “Welcome back! We missed you!” greetings. Haven’t you heard what a dark, hateful, evil person I am? Don’t you read the blogosphere?
The first day back at school after a summer off is an emotional rollercoaster. I love the opening of the meeting where we watch a slide show of what our colleagues did over the summer. Were you just filled with nightmare dread of sitting through someone’s boring vacation Powerpoint? It’s more charming than it sounds. I have worked at this school for eleven years, so I am quite attached to the people and it’s fun to see the buttoned up social science teacher sitting in an inner tube, floating down Niagara Falls balancing a pina colada on his chest. Okay, that never happened. But it COULD happen, and that’s what I hold on to.
Then, when you’re feeling all warm and fuzzy, the principal makes fun announcements! This person had a baby! That person got married! That asshole we all hated finally retired! That last one is only ever implied. There is a motivational talk by someone about how we are a great staff and our test scores are higher than last year (mostly) and “Pat yourselves on the backs, teachers.” But don’t break that arm, because here is where we need to improve…
And out comes the list of all the NEW expectations which are never accompanied by more money or more time.
Oh, and if any one of my Facebook friends posts that “What Teachers Make” clip again, I’m going to have to take drastic action. Drastic. (UNfriend)
Long about noon, when Baby V usually goes down for a “nummy nap,” I noticed the top buttons on my blouse were working harder than ever because my milk had let down. As my colleagues skipped hand-in-hand off to lunch for an hour of free tacos and yummy gossip, I had to go to my classroom, hide under my desk and pump my milk. Talk about a learning curve.
Everyone kept asking me how I was doing, being away from Baby V, which was so sweet, but thank GOD I remembered my breast pads because I would picture her crying face, mouth agape with despair while I walked away from her (feels like an amputation), and tingle tingle, drip drip drip.
There were the usual technology tutorials where the technology failed. The typical frustration of expired passwords and broken wheelie carts and missing books. As for me, I kept so busy freaking out about not remembering how to do this fucking job, I barely had time to miss my baby girl. So THIS is what “working mom” is like?!
Luckily, Baby V was only at daycare in the morning and Odie had her all afternoon. I say this with relief that flows from two sources.
One: Yay! She’s with her daddy, whom she trusts and feels safe with.
Two: HA! Not so easy to get the laundry done with a screaming baby who won’t nap, is it, HONEY?
There is nothing that builds empathy faster than doing each other’s jobs. After a long day of meetings, getting my messed-up schedule fixed, tracking down books, and working with a computer from the Clinton era, I wanted nothing more than to come home and put my feet up with a glass of wine. Odie was like, “Thank God you’re home! Take the baby; I need a shower.” To be fair, the house was quite tidy when I returned, but I never had daycare for 3 hours in the morning to get stuff done like he did.
Mrs. Odie, it’s not a suffering contest.
Truly, though, I found myself apologizing to Odie for all of those days I expected him to walk in the door and give me a bathroom break before he’d even had a chance to put his backpack down. It was so easy for me to be in my self-centered world of diaper changes, baby barf, and tedious, repetitive, endless housework and not consider how hard he had it. My logic was always, “I’ve done his job,” (Odie is also a high school teacher) “He’s never done mine.” But I’d never done his either. I’d never been a WORKING parent. Not “outside the home” work. Cue the chagrin.
In spite of it all, I’m looking forward to the year. Mostly for the two paychecks.
And Odie has really impressed me with the stay-at-home dad stuff. She napped both days, albeit after lengthy crying sessions, without me for the first time in her life. He really stepped up, felt good about it, and didn’t complain in the slightest. The naps were only an hour each, because she wakes up and wants to nurse, but it’s a good start. Bedtime is a new battle.
Since she misses me during the day, Baby V is waking up every 20-30 minutes at night to nurse. This is mildly annoying after I’ve come to bed in our Family Bed, because it does disrupt my sleep slightly when she rolls over and latches on. What is greatly annoying is that when I put her to bed, she will not stay down for a few hours like she used to so Odie and I can have an evening. She’s up every 30 minutes. Thursday and Friday, I went in, lay down beside her and nursed her back to sleep every 30 minutes until it was time to go to sleep myself. I missed her too. I was delighted to comfort her with my presence and sniff her sweaty hair and sob quietly to myself. Why-hy-hy can’t I just BE WITH HER? WAAAAAH!
But now it’s Friday night, and it’s much worse. Every 15 minutes since I nursed her down at 7:57, she’s been up crying softly, “Mommmmmy!” I went in three times, and then I had it. Odie’s been in there for 20 minutes trying to put her back down, because if I keep going in, she’ll keep waking up, wanting more.
I want to say something profound and funny, but I am just defeated right now. My baby is crying for me in the other room, and I feel shitty not going to her.