We all have friends that do this, but you know that friend you have who always does this: who asks you a question about your life in a voice carefully modulated with just the right amount of pity and concern, the one who can barely hold back her excitement as she prepares to hear a woeful answer? The one who nods sympathetically and cocks her head just so, even before you begin speaking? Imagine her.
I'm surrounded by her this week. She comes in shades of exaggeration and grades of concern but it's like I've entered the funhouse mirror room at the traveling carnival. There are a gazbillion reflections of her, that friend. The skinny, straightforward versions just want to make sure I'm okay. The distorted, ugly ones expect to hear of turmoil and forgotten items and missed deadlines. They all ask in varying tones and degrees of head-cock: "how is it to be back at work?"
To the versions I've smiled at and to the trollish naysayers I've disappointed the answer has been the same:
As it turns out, getting three kids out the door is only marginally crazier than getting (my first) two kids out the door. And returning to work after being home with my baby isn't hard when I enjoy work, am fortunate to work in a near-stress-free environment, and have as much access to him throughout the day as he or I wants.
And the lactation room where I go pump milk for the babe is so comfy (upholstered armchair in a key-access-only small, quiet, private, single-user converted broom closet with a wall cheerfully covered in photographs of users' and alumnae's babies' faces), I've been setting the alarm on my cell phone to wake me from my naps when I'm done and need to return to my desk.
Is it crazy to have three kids and work full-time? So many people think so. Even my friend with four children asks me once a month or so, "I don't understand how you do dinner." She works out of the house, but only until 3pm. Then she juggles the rest of her work load via unofficial extra work time, with 1am emails and Sunday morning meetings.
To me her schedule proves my point: dinners in my home can be quite haphazard but we all do what we need to do to fulfill the choices we want to make.
I don't think it's crazy that I continue to work full-time. I think what's crazy is that so many mothers feel they cannot. (Please note the difference between that model and those women who choose not to work after children.) I've always wanted a fulfilling career and I can't imagine walking away from it now as it becomes ever more and more interesting.
So I'm back, and it's nearly a non-event. G took naturally to the daycare environment. His sisters kiss and hug and fuss over him throughout the day and when they're not watching over him, he's being watched over by the same loving women who watched over the two of them. And I'm back at my desk, which feels anticlimactically natural.
There are, I promise you, many ways in which our family's chaos is a spectacle. It turns out that adding G to the daycare roster and returning to work, though, isn't one of them.
Welcome back, me.