Sleeping In

I was thinking this morning, as I was being shouted out of bed at 6:00am as usual, that it has been over a year since I slapped snooze on my alarm clock and slept in. For years, it seemed absolutely impossible to get up right when the alarm went off, instead of an hour or so later. It was a constant battle I waged with myself throughout my adulthood; it seemed just a fact of my own personality and of life in general that getting up at the first alert was ever aspirational, but as out of reach in reality as being rich or genuinely enjoying exercise.

And now look at me! It is very hard, it still feels impossible, but all that is necessary to achieve such an ambition, it turns out, is for it to be mandatory. What else about myself could I change if Edith insisted on it? The mind boggles.

Oranges

Edith is going through a phase where she’s once again completely uninterested in food, but she is extremely interested in feeding me. Every morning, I give her some Cheerios and a banana in her high chair, and for a week now, I have been made to eat all of it myself. I give her a little bowl of oranges every weekend afternoon, and both days this weekend I subsequently had to sit there and be fed an entire bowl of oranges, piece by piece. She’s very focused and patient as she inexorably pushes food at my face. It doesn’t work to turn away or hand it back to her or try to put it elsewhere. She doesn’t get upset about it, but she simply does not stop until I have cleared her plate of every last bite. Then, she looks at me with a sort of proud satisfaction.

Details

Life slows down a lot with a baby, so I have a lot of time to notice and wonder about small details that probably wouldn’t have registered before.

For example, in recent mornings I have spent quite a lot of time pondering this:

How did this partnership come about? Who thought of it, and when, and why? How and when was Ice-T approached for it? Why did he say yes? Who photographed him for this, and why this pose? How long did it take to get this shot, and what was communicated on either side the day of the shoot? What are the other 3 workouts involving Coach Ice-T? Why “Coach”? Again…why Ice-T?

This is a good thing to ponder, because no matter how much time I have to sit and think about it, I will never arrive at any answers.

Roseola

Edith has roseola (probably), which sounds very beautiful but is actually a virus. She’s had a high fever for a couple nights and I took her in to the doctor today. There’s nothing especially interesting about this, but it seems worth noting as I expect it is the first of any number of childhood diseases we will get to experience.

The most tricky thing about a sick baby it seems is deciding whether or not to wake them up in the middle of the night to give them fever reducer. The night before this one, I did not wake Edith up — she didn’t feel that warm, so I let her sleep. But last night, she felt very hot to me so I got her up and wrestled some Tylenol down her throat, but then she couldn’t go back to sleep. In fact, I later learned that she was still trying to fall asleep a full hour later! So I felt like it would have been better to have just let her sleep.

(I learned this because my mother, who is fully a night creature, makes a habit sometimes of peering at the sleeping baby via the baby monitor in the kitchen, because we are all insane here and can’t get enough of the baby, and she told me that Edith was still up at 3.)

Meanwhile the armadillo has demolished the beds in the front of our house, and left its poop all over the front lawn, so as we suspected it has neither moved on nor been successfully repelled. My mother has contacted the armadillo guy and is awaiting his response.

Role Change

Today is my last day in my current role at work, and tomorrow I start a new position at the same company. I don’t talk much about my job here, but I am currently the Head of Support for WordPress.com, which involves overseeing our largest support division. It’s over 20 teams of 200+ people. It’s a big job with a lot of responsibility. My company is very employee focused and so when I had Edith, I had six months’ paid parental leave — everyone in my company gets this when they add to their family, including men. That time was invaluable.

When I went back to work, I expected it to be difficult, but I just dove right in and for awhile it was fine. A lot of people I work with assume I habitually overwork, but I really don’t. I have firm work/life boundaries and my company genuinely doesn’t require working all the time in order to be successful. Plus we’re fully distributed, so there’s no pressure to put in face time.

But here’s the thing: at a certain point in a leadership career, your job becomes less about doing tasks and more about strategizing and making decisions. That is probably the main part of my job — there are constantly big decisions that need to be made, decisions that affect the working life of 200+ people plus our customers and the business itself. And decisions are something that you make 24/7, not just when you are at your desk. I mull about work fairly constantly, it’s just an always buzzing mental background noise, which didn’t used to be an issue. But now I was noticing that in my evenings and weekends with Edith, I just wasn’t as mentally and emotionally present as I wanted to be. And now in addition to work stress, I had all the worries of new parenthood — whether she was getting what she needed when she needed it, whether I was doing the right things at the right time, etc. It all just started to feel like too much.

But if I left the role, would it be a mistake? Would I lose career momentum? If I ever left my current company (I don’t plan to, but you don’t know what the future holds), would it look bad on my resume? What would other people think? Would I regret it?

I went back and forth on this for months, I talked to my career coach, I changed my mind a thousand times, but finally, I asked my boss if I could move out of leadership. I feel like this story is so cliched, it’s embarrassing even to write. I felt conflicted about moving to a role with less responsibility because when you’re a woman, especially one in what would traditionally be considered a high profile role at work, your actions don’t just affect you; they reflect on all women. I know this is a thousand times more true for POC and especially WOC, and other marginalized groups. I was talking to a friend about pay inequality recently and how women are still paid less for the same jobs and paid for their experience rather than their potential, whereas with men it’s the opposite, and she said “well, partly that’s because men don’t do what you just did.” I got really angry and defensive, but I’ve been thinking about it since, and I don’t even think it’s accurate anymore.

I’m forty, so my view on careers is probably more aligned with what people were doing in the 90s and early 00s than what they’re doing now. The landscape of work has fundamentally changed. Younger people and people in tech have a vastly different relationship with work and their employers than my parents’ generation did (and probably still in more traditional careers and businesses like law, which was my job experience before going into tech).

At my company, a lot of men have done exactly what I just did. Without even really trying, I can think of five right now. Some did it because they became parents, others because they didn’t feel like leadership was the right role for them, others because they just wanted to have less stress and enjoy their work more.

Likewise, almost all the women in executive roles at my company have small children, and they are not going anywhere. These things simply don’t break down along traditional gender lines anymore. But we still act as if they do, and we still pay people as if they do.

I will also say that my own company does a lot right that made this choice very easy for me and relieves a lot of traditional pressures that don’t serve employers or employees well anymore. For one thing, it doesn’t view leadership roles as promotions and it rewards people (including financially) depending on how much value they bring to the company overall, not according to whatever role or title they currently hold. This is to avoid the traditional issue of people going into management just because that’s “up” and sucking at it and hating it and making everyone’s lives miserable.

But the problem is that the rest of the workforce hasn’t caught up with my company. So when I make decisions about my career, I typically worry a lot about what it looks like in the “real” world which I always fear I will have to reenter one day.

In the end, though, what really helped me give up this concern is that ever since I was about 30, I have been prioritizing future security over present happiness, and the current state of, you know, the whole world is making that look like an increasingly foolish gamble. I can’t say if this role change will make things a little harder for me in twenty years, but I also can’t say if the economy will still be functioning in twenty years. So I ought to just do what makes sense for my family right now.

Anyway, the role I start tomorrow is perfect for me — I will be essentially an internal leadership coach, helping team leads all across our company support their team members and thrive in their own careers. This enables me to draw on my long experience in leadership to continue to add value to our company (and beyond just my area of the company as well), but without having to be in a leadership position myself. Also, my lead will be a good friend of mine who brought me into the company ten years ago and who I worked very closely with before, and the broader team I’ll be joining is also full of good friends of mine who I really enjoy spending time with. So, I’m really happy with the decision, and I’m also really happy that I work for a company that enables this kind of progression.

Princess

Edith does not prefer to help herself. My understanding is that this is unusual for a kid her age — they generally are trying to do things for themselves wherever possible. But Edith seems very comfortable with being served. She makes no attempt whatsoever at holding her own bottle or cup. She can. She has demonstrated the ability. But she isn’t motivated to. Usually she drinks in a reclining position, arms thrown out listlessly to either side, with me holding the bottle or spout in her mouth. When she wants a break, she swats it impatiently across the room. She knows how to drink from a cup, but she uses this ability to grab our hands, which are on the cup, pull them and the cup to her mouth, and then throw her hands down immediately so that we are forced to hold it up for her. She can feed herself also, but she vastly prefers to have the food placed directly into her mouth by her staff (which is everyone).

Incidentally, Edith and her nanny have finally come to an understanding about naps: Edith now will stay asleep only atop her nanny who now must lie prone on the nursery floor serving as a living mattress for up to two hours each afternoon.

I’m getting a little tired of all this, but I am at a loss for how to get things pointed back in a more appropriate direction. I manage people at work, but none of the tools I have learned there work with Edith. Whenever I try to assert some small bit of dominance, I end up capitulating yet further. If I’m not paying sufficient attention to her, she picks up the largest toy she can find and beans me in the head with it. I’m a little afraid to cross her.

Marathon

Edith seems to have entered an especially exhausting age. I realized this at about 10 am today when I wondered how long until swimming (which is at 1:45) and when I looked at the clock, seriously pondered shutting her into the closet for an hour. She’s just everywhere all the time, and her needs are constant and demanding but she won’t let me fulfill them. She needs to eat ALL DAY and she’s supposed to be mostly eating food now, but she has no coordination at all and she also doesn’t want it, so she’s starving and I’m always having to think of something to give her and then she won’t eat it, and then she cries because she’s hungry and then she makes a simply unbelievable mess with whatever food and liquid she (constantly) has access to and while I am cleaning that up, she is pulling the one remaining lamp in the house off the table, and while I am cleaning that up, she is falling off the rocking chair and screaming, and then she has pooped, and then she is starving again, and then she needs to nap but will not, and then she is in the laundry room somehow, and then she has found an apple and is throwing it down the hall and then while I am cleaning that up, she has fallen off another chair as well as having pooped again, and I just…don’t know if I’m up for this level of caretaking at my age.

It’s not even like I can take her to the park and just let her go, because she still wants to eat acorns and play with used tissues, so the park requires constant vigilance. What I need, really, is a giant padded room with play equipment in it, which is basically what baby gym is, but I need access to it all weekend long, not just for 45 minutes on Saturday morning.

Anyway, at swimming Edith graduated to Swimboree finally and then when we got home, she passed out for two hours.

(Still no armadillo. I do not think we are going to catch this armadillo.)

This

I’m pretty sure Edith said her first word today, or at any rate her first English word. I was holding her stuffed bunny and she was pointing at various parts of its anatomy and I was naming them, and then she started saying “this” pointing at, say, his foot, and looking at me expectantly and we did that probably a dozen times. She baby talks at me a lot, but this was the first time I felt like she was really communicating verbally, saying the exact same thing each time and expecting a specific response.

Not the most fascinating word in the world. “This.” When she’s older and asks what her first word was, I’ll say it was “this!” and she’ll say, “what? This?” and I’ll say, “yes, this!” and she’ll say “finger?” and I’ll say, “no, this!” and we’ll have ourselves a right little routine.

(Still no armadillo, but my mother discovered another hole just to the side of the cage, and also the flower beds in the front yard were torn up today. We might have underestimated the armadillo.)

Clothes

I don’t want to overly gender Edith one way or the other, but it’s a tough balance to strike because focusing too much on not gendering her makes gender even more central and explicit than it otherwise would be.

I actually think my parents did a really great job with this when I was a baby and little kid. They just let me pick out my own clothes and toys and they related to me as an individual. I had tool benches and dolls, I loved ninja turtles and my little ponies. I never got into Barbies, but I wasn’t discouraged from doing so. I dressed like an insane person, but I never thought about being a girl and what that meant until fairly far along in school. After that, I was fucked — when I was growing up, we didn’t have options about what social role we filled, and it’s too late for me now, but I am happy that Edith looks likely to have a lot of different identities she can try on.

Edith is too little to dress herself for now, though, so I’m just picking out what I like for her. Much of her first year was taken care of for us, as many kind relatives sent her tons of cute things. When she needed more for winter, I gravitated toward more muted colors complimented with bright primaries, cozy-looking things with dinosaurs or stripes, so I dressed her pretty much fully in boys’ clothes. But for this summer, I am into bright fun prints, rainbows and fruits, and the baby girl summer clothes are just way more fun and cuter, so I got her all that stuff for the warm weather. I bought way too much of it, it’s so adorable!

I know it’s stupid to buy her cute stuff — she mostly goes naked in the house and outside, it gets immediately covered in dirt and food, plus she outgrows it in two months. But I indulged myself. She won’t be a baby long.

(P.S. – Still no armadillo.)

Language

Edith has her one-year well check tomorrow and so I got the paperwork inviting me to check off her benchmarks and share any concerns. She isn’t talking yet at all, and I don’t know how much she understands what we say verbally. But she is in a bilingual environment, so it’s difficult to say for sure. On her birthday, I watched as Edith’s nanny prompted her in Spanish to point to all the various facial features on a stuffed bunny and Edith did it readily! We have no equivalent English interaction. So maybe she she is just better at Spanish. Both her nanny and her grandmother insist that she understands everything and also that she is talking some.

I am extremely confident that she knows what she wants and how to get it, and to some extent understanding what I am saying to her does not necessarily serve her interests. So it is very difficult to say for certain what she does and doesn’t comprehend — she is smart enough to play it close to the vest.