I was talking with a good friend of mine today who has a six-month-old baby and a 2.5-year old toddler, and recently returned to work full-time from maternity leave. She was explaining to me how challenging it is at this stage, because her infant prefers nursing over the bottle and recently went on a bottle strike and wouldn't eat anything at daycare, or at home, unless it was consumed via nursing. And when the daycare center called and indicated that this was a very serious issue, and she feared they might expel her baby from the program, she realized that she had to stop nursing altogether because she can't have a baby that goes on a hunger strike when she's got to work out of the home during the day.
So we discussed this and while she is mostly OK with having to stop nursing cold-turkey, my heart broke because I loved nursing and if I had to stop because some damn job kept me out of the house away from my baby all day, you know I'd have a meltdown. The only reason I stopped nursing Henry was because he was 2.5 and it does get a little awkward to be nursing a child that can carry on a conversation.
(Speaking of which: Did I ever relay that story about the friend who went out to breakfast with her neighbor, who was nursing her child, and when the waitress came and took their breakfast orders - the child stopped nursing just long enough to pull her head out from beneath the privacy wrap and tell the waitress, "I'd like the pancakes and bacon, please!") Ha! That would be uncomfortable.
Anyway, my friend is doing much better than I'd be doing, given the circumstances. But as we talked about this today, we both concluded that it would be so much better and healthier for working mothers if they were at least given the option of flexibility to work reduced hours, or from home, so that they could tend to their children's needs better than when they're forced to be in an office 40+ hours a week.
Then we went on to discuss that any way you dice it, it's not easy. It's especially difficult when both parents are working out of the home, as both she and her husband are doing. But it's not easy with one parent at home, full-time, either. She told me the story about a friend who gave up her career to stay home and raise her children and every night, when her husband comes home from work he expects the house to be clean and dinner to be ready. She looked at me and asked, "Can you imagine?" And I had to take pause because I'll admit, when I come home from work at night, most of the time there is some kind of comment from me to Charlie along the lines of, "Sweet Mother of Moses, it looks like a tornado came through here. Have you done anything to clean-up?! By the way, what are we having for dinner tonight?"
Because, well ... he's home all day and I'm not.
Charlie tells me that I put so much pressure on him to have a clean house and food on the table and when I see the mess and ask, "WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY?!" he gets really bent out of shape because he did a lot that day, and everyday. He makes breakfast and lunch for four children; he volunteers at the school at least three days a week; he does laundry and coordinates Cub Scouts and a whole lot of other things. He also tries to convince me that the house was clean before our little hellions came home and messed it up again.
Anyway, it's a topic of conversation at least four days a week for us.
So when I was telling Charlie this story tonight, about the woman who is home with her children and stresses out all day because she needs to have a clean house and dinner on the table when her husband comes home, he vigorously nodded in agreement. "Yes!" he said, "Exactly! You're out of the house all day and you expect SO MUCH of me at home. You have absolutely NO IDEA how hard it is to run this ship when you're not around!!"
My husband then continued, "If you were home, you'd probably lay around all day and eat Bon-Bons." I told him, "Yes, you're right. Somedays, I probably would lay around and eat Bon-Bons and I would love it and when you asked me what I did that day, I'D TELL YOU THE TRUTH!"
Charlie looked at me in shock and said, "Oh my gosh, if I ever told you that I laid around and ate Bon-Bons all day, I'd be single and living by myself in a condo." Then he added, "Actually, I doubt I'd be completely by myself .... I'd probably have the dog."
That conversation happened four hours ago and I'm still cracking up over it.