That Time of Year

Today is the beginning of December. It also marks the beginning of what could be my final month of exclusively breastfeeding my 3rd baby, my final month of pumping, and my last time weaning.  In years past, it meant it was time to start planning for another pregnancy, or at least start thinking about it. By this point I’d started to tip the balance with my calorie intake and my weight had returned to my “high normal” but I didn’t worry about it because I expected, or at least hoped, to be expecting again soon. I’m one of those rare and lucky preggos with a progesterone-fueled super-metabolism during pregnancy. I “gain” the prescribed amount of weight for my pre-pregnancy BMI, give birth to huge babies, and net about a 10-15 lb loss after delivery.  As a bonus to the miraculous bonding experience of breastfeeding, and a reward for the hard work it takes, I eat everything in sight and lose another 5 or so pounds in the course of a year. Again, because I was planning for my next pregnancy, I didn’t worry too much about diet and exercise, outside of eating my usual mostly organic, low-processed, mostly-homemade diet and avoiding alcohol.  My exercise regime was chasing after my kids and doing housework. But now that we’re done with baby-making, things are different.

Although I’m considering continuing beyond the 12 month mark (I went as long as I could with my first two – 13 and 18 months), my body is already getting the message it’s time to start weaning. When it comes to milk supply, my body is pretty sensitive to caloric intake. For my son’s first 3 months, I found the idea of water or vegetables revolting because my body basically rejected anything that wasn’t extremely calorie-dense. I had more cravings after than during my pregnancy; my body needed a lot of fuel to provide for a 10 lb newborn. The amount of food I craved made me nervous about my weight, but I happily obliged and my weight stayed at a healthy average all year.  At times I tried cutting calories, but each time I suffered with bouts of fatigue, headaches, and mood swings, and my milk supply took a hit, but the scale wouldn’t budge.  My body hung on to reserves to protect my supply, and Bub would start waking for frequent night sessions until balance restored.  But now that we’re close to the year mark and baby is wolfing down solids and drinking from a cup at meals, things are winding down, and I can feel my metabolism resetting. And since I haven’t had a normal metabolism in the 6 years while I’ve been pregnant or nursing, I’m terrified of what my new, older normal is.

My pre-pregnancy normal was healthy, but I’ve never been naturally slim or athletic, and I haven’t been happy with my size and shape for a while, except when I was pregnant – I actually felt like a cute pregnant lady.  I’ve always wished I was one of those people who is naturally and passionately into healthy eating and exercise. But reality is I love food, all kinds, mostly stuff you should consume in moderation but really don’t want to. And I hate the gym. But this last year, knowing it was my last to lean on breastfeeding to keep my weight down,  I did make an effort to make exercise a habit, and it worked. Although I didn’t lose any weight, I improved my tone and shape. More on how I did that here. But I still want to lose a size, maybe two, and I know I’m going to have to overhaul my eating habits just to avoid putting on weight once I stop breastfeeding. And now that it’s almost time to start weaning my baby, I’ve decided to start preparing now by challenging myself to make good choices this Christmas season. Of course I plan to kick off the new year with a shiny new health and fitness plan like pretty much everyone on the planet, but I figured why not start from right here or maybe even at an advantage, rather than over-indulging on treats and slacking on workouts until Jan 1. And if I can make good choices a habit now, when temptation is at its height, making good choices the rest of the year should be a piece of cake  walk  run in the park.

(c) Folding A Fitted Sheet 2014

(c) Folding A Fitted Sheet 2014

How Much Longer?

On a recent vacation with my newly rounded out family of 5, I found myself unable to relax and shake away the stress of a hectic few months. The beach sweltered in the August sun, absent the ocean breeze I’d been yearning for, daydreaming about, for weeks sitting in a midrise office building. Finally here, on a beach it had taken me the equivalent of my weekly commute time to reach, I could feel my fair skin burning, exposed in patches by my haphazard application of what sunblock was left between my fingers after coating the children. I was exhausted, but my crew demanded their God-given right to my dwindling energy reserves. A desperate question hung on my sun-scorched lips along with a dusting of the infuriatingly fine sand that had lured me to this so-called untouched beach location in the first place: ‘How much longer?’

Folding A Fitted Sheet 2014. All Rights Reserved.

How much longer before their excitement turns to exhaustion and the midday meltdown ensues?

How much longer before the next application of sunscreen is due, again?

How much longer before I can get back and wash off all of this sand and sticky salt water?

How much longer before I can get the kids to bed and blend up something frosty?

How much longer before we can get back to our own beds and all the millions of things we have to do to get ready to get back to school and work?

How much longer before this vacation ends and I can finally relax? 

Finally a breeze arrived, blowing a long lock of salty, sticky hair across my nose. As I brushed it back and pinned it with my sunglasses on top of my head, I caught a glimpse of a cigarette butt in the sand.   “What sort of jerk would litter on a beautiful state-park beach?” I growled. Annoyed, I whisked it away, along with my tendency to let something comparatively insignificant dampen my ability to enjoy the bigger picture. Relieved that the kids hadn’t seen it or, worse, adorned their sandcastle or shell collection with it, I turned my eyes back toward the breeze. I glanced briefly over my peacefully snoozing 7 month old to my 3 year old intently building a sand castle, and finally to my 5 year old dashing in and out of the surf with his dad. In that moment, the question I’d sent out under my breath and over the ocean, found its way back to me on a prevailing wind, across my distracted mind, perhaps even from another dimension: ‘How much longer?’ this time with more urgency. 

How much longer before they notice the cigarette butts in the sand instead of how the sand feels between their toes?

How much longer before they feel the heat of the sun rather than the warmth of it?

How much longer before they’re no longer waking me up in the morning with their sand shovels on the bed, bursting with energy and laughter and wanting animal-shaped pancakes for breakfast?

How much longer before they no longer need my architectural genius to build the preeminent sand castle, or be the sea monster in the surf, or sway them to sleep in the respite of our beach tent?

How much longer before an incoming text is more interesting than the glittering pastel treasures left behind by the outgoing tide?

How much longer before they squander less time on play, joy, and togetherness than work, chores, and lists?

How much longer before they no longer see the world as a giant playground, and see it the way I do?

 

Tempted

Now that the decision is made, we’re in free fall. It’s a treacherous time for our little plan. It’s vulnerable, susceptible to temptation.  And we even expected it.

After I handed in my notice, it got quiet. Too quiet.  I knew something was cooking in the upper managerial ranks of my division, behind the suddenly, and often, closed doors in our office.  It was an offer, and a pretty generous one.  One I didn’t see coming, nor prepare myself to respond.  It was an offer of exclusive telecommute with a salary increase. I expected the salary offer, but not a home office, and certainly not both.

I’d prepared myself to politely decline a salary increase, even a generous one, rationalizing that after taxes and higher expectations, it wouldn’t net me better off.  But a 100% telecommute scenario was something I thought only existed in blogs and at start-ups.  No more traffic. No more fussy work clothes. No more scrambling to get everyone’s teeth brushed in the morning.  Was this the best of both worlds scenario I never thought was possible? Or was it too good to be true?  These questions collectively became the subject of several days of discussion in our house.

On the surface, we can’t argue that it seems like the perfect setup.  I’d continue to earn a great salary, keep my group health and other benefits, and with less time and energy spent on commuting, blow-drying, and applying makeup, I might even tip the scales in favor of our home life. The hard facts are even harder to ignore:  I’d no longer spend 6+ hours on the road or the couple-hundred dollars a month in fuel and tolls, but I also wouldn’t be cutting our income in half or paying a heist in monthly health-care premiums. It’s not the all-or-nothing option we’d planned on that would have me totally focused on running the house and caring for the children, but it’s a compromise worth considering. On the other hand, less time in the office could mean less control of my staff and projects, less face time could lead to political alienation, and the trade-off in expectations could mean longer hours and more travel.  We could actually end up worse off, and at best my children would still spend their weekdays in daycare.  I’d still be splitting my attention, and probably working harder to compensate on both ends, a scenario we already know isn’t working for us.

So now what? Am I crazy?