Unless you consider getting through an emergency C-section at 41 weeks having special powers. After my V-BAC exactly two years and two weeks later, my OB nurse called me a super-mom and had all the other nurses come into my room to watch me breastfeed standing up as I packed my things. My secret? A sore bum! After my first child was born, it was hard to stand up straight – this time it may have been even harder to sit down.
But this isn’t a birth story, so… Fast forward to when my older son was 6 months, I took him on a train to DC so I could give a presentation at the World Congress for Music Therapy. He sat beside me on the train looking at books, toys, and a sweet girl across the aisle. As a nursing mom, I couldn’t leave him behind and my husband couldn’t come along – so my mom met us there. Despite her superhero status, there were times he just needed mommy. My son really liked to nurse…bottles didn’t usually cut it, so while I was able to give my own presentation, attending others solo was a challenge. My son and my mom got some ears-full about music therapy that weekend, and “working mom” took on new meaning for me!
Just over two months later I launched my own business. The foundation for Baby Fingers is based on research from my master’s thesis, which I completed before having children. I’d been working very part time as a music therapist and special educator, allowing flexibility in my schedule as a new mom. Running my own business has afforded me the opportunity to set my own schedule as well, but it requires 24-hour dedication – like another child.
In January, that child – Baby Fingers – will turn 18. Hints, tips, things that helped me balance work and family over the years? Here are a few:
1. A young, beautiful, playful (and very reliable) part time caregiver with whom my children fell madly in love. Luck of the draw, maybe – and I had to be okay with them wanting her instead of me now and then…
2. A supportive spouse who has always been a true partner, in parenting and more.
3. A smart phone, so I could check email and finish some administrative tasks on my way home, no longer needing to rush to my computer after providing classes or therapy all day. (Yes, I have always had a love-hate relationship with technology and was reluctant to move into the 20th century, but I had a smart phone before my children did!). It truly helped to make home time family time.
4. A cooperative preschool as the first educational setting for our older child; all the parents took turns helping in the classroom once or twice a month, allowing a little more time with our children. It helped us remain connected as our paths diverged.
5. A business that is family-friendly. I worked/taught for as long as possible and when I was pregnant the 2nd time; my pile of pillows in the mommy & me circle got taller as my belly grew larger. My children came to several of my classes and programs with me as infants and toddlers. I also had a small preschool alternative that my younger son attended as his first school experience. Not everyone is going to start their own business, so at least have some work that you enjoy – it helps if your supervisor and/or colleagues are understanding of family matters, though you can’t always control that. It’s hard to say goodbye to your child whether it’s because you’re leaving or they are – if you can’t go together, liking where you’re going makes it a little easier to separate (they’re not the only ones who get separation anxiety!).
6. A social group – getting together with friends now and then, even for a walk through the park, and maintaining some work outside the business, providing non-parent adult interaction (since I was working mainly on my own and with children/families) and intellectual stimulation (not to mention a regular paycheck, no matter how small).
7. A sense of humor. My husband says (jokes?) that I don’t really have one – and he’s pretty much right! But the times I do respond with humor, I can totally understand the hype. It helps get through the sticky moments, and as a parent there are a lot of sticky moments.
I’d love a magic wand. Or to be Mary Poppins. But I’m your run of the mill muggle. And not only did I make it through the “terrible twos” (but oh, just wait for the threes!), I’ve nearly made it through the teens as well, with my own business and other work along the way. Warts and all! Parenting is a full-time job – but if you have other work that you enjoy, keep those tips in mind. It’s worth the time away…You’re likely to have a greater appreciation for your time together.