Being back at work has forced me into a balancing act. I want to do my best at my job, while also taking care of my tiny person. Harley isn’t a particularly difficult baby. Yes, she cries at times, but once I hold her, feed her and make sure she’s clean, she’s generally quite happy. But that doesn’t make balancing both activities easy, and I realized a big part of my guilt lies in feeling like I’m not doing enough with Harley.
I have these images in my head of orphanages when communism fell in the USSR. You know, the rows of cribs and babies crying for hours without any attention. These poor neglected babies who weren’t raised with love, who didn’t get the necessary stimulation, who were condemned at an early age to a life without opportunities every child should get. Now, obviously Harley’s experience is nothing like that, but it doesn’t get the mental image out of my head. I’m not neglecting my baby, but I am focusing on other things from time to time. But how bad is that? How much attention does a baby need?
I’ve written about the ways I try to stimulate Harley – games we play, massages I give her and how I want to help her become a book worm. I am determined to give her the best start in life, developing her mental, social and physical skill sets. Of course I want to do the best for her.
When I was on maternity leave, she had my attention all day. Sure, I would do other things, but when she was awake I tried to do all those things with her to stimulate and encourage her. Now that I’m working, I often work while looking over her when she’s nursing. I let her lie in her carseat and check out her little mobile. I spend as little time engaging with her during the day as possible, using that time to focus on my work instead. She doesn’t lie in her cot and cry – she spends most of the day sleeping on me – but I can’t help but feel like I’m not stimulating her enough.
Of course, then I have to think about what is “enough”. I was telling my mom the other day that I felt bad that I didn’t always have a running commentary with her. I know that the more I talk to her, the better her language skills will be. In theory, I could talk to her all day, babbling to her in the car and explaining everything that’s happening as I feed her, cook, or whatever else. Instead, I enjoy the moments in my own head while I’m driving. I explain what’s happening when I change her nappy, but I just don’t talk to her all day every day. As I talked to my mom about it, I realized that she would still learn to talk without constant verbal stimulation. She’s hearing me talk to other people, she’s listening when the TV is on, she gets talked to throughout the day – it’s not like she’s being raised by wolves. I hold her throughout the day, stimulating her during odd moments, and spending my evenings looking after her and playing.
I suppose every mother wonders if she’s doing enough. Despite studies saying that the children of working moms are better off, I still wonder if Harley isn’t going to miss out on some form of development because I’m busy in my own world.
But then I remember, I want Harley to grow up and be a strong woman. I want her to know that she can work and have a family if she wants. I want her to know that women can do and be anything. What better way to teach her that than to be a positive example of it? I can show her that women can follow their dreams by following my own. I have my dream job. I love what I do every day. So maybe that’s what will rub off on Harley… once she learns to sit up and talk, of course.