Much of the parenting conversation has centered on the notion of having it all, but anyone who has even some of it knows that it’s less about “having” and more about “doing.” Going to work, caring for your kids, fitting in friends and fitness — it’s a lot to juggle. But it has to be possible, right? We seek that answer in our new series Mother's Day by asking some of the most highly functioning parents we know how the hell they do it. For Bridgette, a design director in NYC who works full time and does a majority of the logistical parenting of her 18-month-old, the answer is by burning herself out to an almost dangerous degree and sometimes sleeping on the floor of her daughter’s nursery. Read on to see what this Mother's Day looks like.
I parent with: My husband, Aaron. He stayed home with Olive for the first year of her life, taking on the role of homemaker — he’s recently reentered the workforce a little more than part-time.
Olive wakes me up and I nurse her while trying to squeeze in another 15 to 30 minutes of sleep. She eats breakfast in her high chair, which I wedge in the doorway of the bathroom and start getting ready. I have a rigorous morning hair-and-makeup routine — I’ve gotten it down to 30 to 45 minutes from an hour and a half — but it’s the only thing I’m super-insistent about having for myself. It’s my morning meditation, how I prepare myself for the day. Next, I get us both dressed. I’m specific about her outfits, so I usually handle this and let Aaron sleep in or go to the gym. On rare occasions when the stars align, we trade, and I go to yoga in the morning and he handles school duties.
I pack all our stuff in our respective bags (sometimes I do snacks and lunch the night before). I pile on my leather jacket, her backpack, my computer bag, her stroller (the Babyzen YoYo is a godsend for our four-flight walk-up), and Olive, and we are finally on our way. Three days a week she goes to a nature-based preschool that's a 10-minute walk away. It costs $1,700 a month (woof). We are excited that she just got into a great 2's program for next year and we got financial aid, so it will be somewhat affordable.
After drop-off, I run to the bus (literally) to catch the bus and get to work on time.
She’s such a huge part of my identity now, I’m not sure how to not talk about her.
During the work portion of the day, I'm usually multitasking in back-to-back meetings. When Olive first started preschool, I used to call a lot, and they weren’t into it. Now, I sort of turn off that part of my brain. I’m sure it’s some self-preservation tactic so I don’t worry too much. At home we have a Nest Dropcam — I can access it on my phone — so I check in a lot when she’s home with Aaron. It’s a nice way for me to see what they’re up to. I sometimes am a creep and talk on the monitor, which they hate.
Throughout my day, I often squeeze in things like ordering essentials online between everything at work. I’ll have like 30 tabs open all day. I’m sure this makes me far less efficient than I think I’m being. (It took me three days to fill out financial aid forms for preschool.) And I talk about her all the time. I’m annoying about it. I love talking about the crazy shit she’s doing, her milestones. She’s such a huge part of my identity now, I’m not sure how to not talk about her.
I try really hard to leave work so I can pick Olive up before 5:30; she gets anxiety when she’s one of the last ones at school, and I feel like it’s my duty to be on time. So I run (again) to the bus in order to catch the right one to make it there.
I usually make her a snack and get dinner started. Making dinner is new for me, and it’s been interesting trying to get a recipe right while having Olive bang around; she holds onto my legs while I cook now, which feels hazardous. Making a healthy dinner for the family is a struggle, but steaming vegetables is relatively fast. The hard thing is to get rice made in time. We just upgraded our $20 rice cooker to this amazing Zojirushi rice cooker, which has a timer. Aaron starts it on his lunch break, and usually by the time Olive and I are home, we just make the veggies/fish/chicken and boom — dinner is served. (Pro tip: Making extra dinner so Olive and I can eat the leftovers for lunch has helped us to save money.)
Aaron gets home. We all eat fast so he can run to an AA meeting and I can get her ready for her bath. Somewhere between all this I should note I’m still on the clock with work and am usually answering emails on my phone. I try to be clear with my team before I leave that if there’s anything they need from me that’s pressing, they can text. I’m always available and plugged-in.
It’s bath, lotion up, hair comb, pajamas, and then either read or play before bed. Lately, I’ve been nursing her till she falls asleep. I have a tiny mattress on the floor of her room, and we cuddle and nurse until she’s snoring (I often fall asleep too). She usually sleeps through the night just fine, but with bouts of sickness lately, we were sleeping on the floor together on the tiny mattress.
While it seems like Aaron isn’t present, he is. He will come in for a bedtime story from time to time, but because I was absent during the daytime for Olive’s first year, the nights became my time with her and a break for him. He has his own thoughts around how much I indulge her by sleeping with her or nursing for hours, but it’s our thing, and I can’t help but feel obligated to be there for her when she’s not feeling so great.
This is my role, as a wife, mother, whatever.
Usually by this time I’m back online with my laptop in bed, catching up on emails, tying up loose ends, and designing the projects I can never get to in the office because I’m stuck in meetings.
Sometimes at night, Aaron and I sit together and look through all our photos of her, starting from the beginning, like when she was born. We miss her at night. Or I rewatch all my Snapchats of her, and we discuss them at length. We’re total freaks about her — she’s our firstborn, and while life is considerably harder to navigate, she has made it so well-rounded and fruitful. Things can feel high-energy all the time, so these moments, at night in the dark in bed, looking through photos, are how we appreciate those moments in her life and how quickly she’s growing up.
By now, I’m usually in bed in the dark. Lately I’ve been trying to sleep early, but sleep escapes me. I have a lot going through my brain and I can’t shut it off, so I lie there in the dark until 1 a.m. Olive hasn’t even been waking up, yet I just can’t get a solid night’s rest. I get about five to six hours of sleep a night, and Aaron gets about 10 to 11 hours it seems like. He says he doesn’t sleep well either, but...who knows.
How do you and your partner decide who handles what?
We got into a few arguments about schedules and “free” time, and in the end I put together a huge Google calendar for taking Olive to school — and somehow I still have subsumed a lot of the responsibilities. It’s partly that I like being the point-person. The other part is unspoken: This is my role, as a wife, mother, whatever, and not because I think so, but because it’s what society instills in us. I can’t fault Aaron for not being as involved as he used to be — he’s still adjusting to working while having his own life of going to the gym and AA meetings, making sure he takes care of his own sobriety and well-being. And on the flip side, I have my weekend a.m. routine of yoga before he goes to work. Aaron and I have slightly opposite schedules, which is good for taking care of Olive, but the downside is not a lot of “family”time.
Your biggest struggle right now is…
Can I say life? I mean, I’m getting the hang of it, but I struggle with juggling everything, trying to manage our routines and planning for the future and making sure we’re all taken care of, emotionally, physically, and financially. I’m sure everyone says this, but it’s really tough making things work when you lack the resources and support. I sometimes think things would be easier if we had a steady nanny we could afford, or a relative nearby who could help take care of Olive from time to time, but we just have us.
Are you still dealing with any postpartum symptoms?
LOL. I totally still catch myself peeing myself from time to time…is that fucked up? After I had Olive, I had “menopause” dryness and had to be prescribed estrogen to help heal down there. And I only literally last month had my first period (woohoo!) after almost two years without it, mostly cause I am still nursing in some form, although I’m not pumping anymore (thank god!).
What has your sex life been like post-childbirth?
We were crazy and had sex at four weeks — like, literally the day after my doctor said I was healed and could do it. In hindsight, that seems so soon after, but four weeks is the longest we’ve ever gone without having sex. It’s definitely a lot less frequent now, which has affected our relationship some. We’ve been working on it, because sex is really how we engage with each other. Actively making time for ourselves and to have sex helps release any resentment or tension or stress we have.
What were you the least prepared for about life as a working mom?
Oh man, I think I was shell-shocked right after birth. Like, WTF, I spent so much time preparing for the birth, I didn’t realize how crazy-hard it was taking care of an actual baby: the rigorous feeding schedule, barely sleeping, and on top of that trying to heal. And mourning the drastic shift in your life. I’d tell other working moms to really be up-front with your job with what you can and cannot do. Don’t expect them to understand — vocalize what you need in order to manage both jobs.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of participants.