Monday, November 16, 2009

Leaving her behind

This is Hobo Mama's first in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Molly Jarrell. Since I work from home, I very much appreciated a look today at a topic I don't generally feel qualified to cover: the perspective of a working mother's relationship with breastfeeding and cosleeping.

Molly and Eden in leaves -- Michelle Curnow of Evergreen Photography

Guest post by Molly Jarrell

It's 1:30 in the afternoon and I'm sitting here at my desk, at work. I've got pictures of my little girl all around me, and my Mother's Day card (with its abrasive, low-budget recording of her little laugh, which I love) all within arm's reach.

My heart aches for her.

This morning we decided to let Daddy sleep in a little longer so I took Eden into the shower with me. Pretty soon Daddy (who figured I was running late and needing to get ready for work) came in and asked Eden, "Want to come with Daddy and get dressed?" She immediately buried her head into my shoulder and her little arms grabbed me tight around my neck.

She stayed like that for the next — oh, I don't know — 20 minutes or so. Nate kept coming in to see if she had fallen asleep. I couldn't bring myself to break the spell. It was just Eden and me, together, standing under the stream of hot water, feeling each other breathe and reconnecting. She didn't even stir.

And I thought, "She misses me. It's Friday. I've already worked 5 days this week and we're going on number 6."

So I stood there with her in my arms and a towel draped around her back, wasting water and not caring a bit.

It hasn't been easy, working full time. Granted, I've got a pretty easy gig as far as working moms go. I have my own office. She spends her days with her dad, mostly, or with other family members. I have a super-flexible boss who lets me set my own schedule as long as the work gets done. And I can take my laptop home and work at night if I need to.

But it still wrenches my heart to leave her.

People often ask how it's going. How is it, being a working mom? People seem to have a lot of opinions about it. They either think I'm going to be a basket case of motherly longing, or am giddy with excitement to escape the restrictive confines of motherhood for the wonderful world of personal achievement and intellectualism.


Eden was 3 1/2 months old when I went back to work nearly a year ago. Everyone told me I needed to get her to sleep in her crib before I went back so I could get a "decent night's sleep." I think she had been sleeping in bed with us ever since we brought her home from the hospital. I never intentionally decided to co-sleep (never even really thought about it) but I don't remember ever putting her in her crib. Bringing her in to bed with us just seemed like the right thing to do.

I do remember feeling really, really conflicted about it because it seemed like everyone was telling us it was something we were supposed to "grow out of." Instead, I felt like it was something we "grew into." It just felt right. Even my husband felt the same way.

Thankfully, and for whatever reason, I just couldn't bring myself to move my daughter to her crib when I went back to work like everyone told me I should. I am, oh, so very glad I followed my heart, because if we hadn't kept up the co-sleeping I am pretty darn sure we wouldn't still be breastfeeding.

I don't think I could have gone through the transition back to work full time without breastfeeding (and stayed sane). Nursing is the single best way for me to connect with Eden when I get home after being gone such long hours. It's the single best way for Eden to feel that all is right with the world, no matter how chaotic her day has been. It's our landing place, our reset to zero, our anchor in any storm.

I can't say that breastfeeding and working full time hasn't been hard. It has. Hey, breastfeeding itself isn't always easy. But it's been my lifeline, my connection to home. It has helped me meet my baby's needs even when I wasn't there in person. And being able to co-sleep through it all has been the greatest gift of all. Many days I wake up and wish that I worked from home, or could take Eden with me to work, or that somehow life was different so that I could spend my whole days with my family. So I didn't have to leave her behind.

For now, I'll just take comfort in the fact that when I get home from work we have nursing to bring us back together again.

And I'll just tuck my worry about weaning away for another day.

MollyMolly is a relatively new mother of one from Southern Californira who is trying to take motherhood, a full-time job, and all the rest of the whirlwind of life one day at a time. She likes wine, reading, and scrapbooking; she's also a terrible gardener and can't remember birthdays to save her life. Five days a week, she heads off to her job in corporate communications while Mr. Molly, a professional musician, stays home with The Peanut. Motherhood has been making Molly more eco-concious, more patient, more tired and more aware. You can visit Molly's neck of the woods at

Photos of Molly & Eden courtesy
Michelle Curnow of Evergreen Photography


amy friend said...

Thanks for this post Molly. I may be returning to work, and leaving my 18 month old with dad. Though I've had this time with my little guy, the decision to leave him is not an easy one. (Sometimes I lay awake at night and piece together a different life - we sell the house, become gypsies...all so we can be with our child!)

It sounds as though you have followed your heart in this endeavor. Congrats on tuning out the voices that didn't make sense to you.

CaroLyn said...

Thanks for sharing Molly. I had to go back to work when my baby was 7 weeks and it's been tough, but we're making it. I feel the same way, fortunate that my husband is the one caring for her, and glad that we didn't really use the crib much other than for naps.

Baby Led Weaning is a book that I've not read but had recommended to me on how to do a natural weaning and has an interesting approach to introducing solids.

Olivia said...

I feel like I could have written this. Circumstances left me going back to work full time when my baby was 3 weeks. I feel fortunate that she is able to stay at home with her father otherwise I would have truly been a basket-case. Creating a family bed and breastfeeding have kept my baby and I close and makes my time away from her easier.

I remember reading on Parenting PhD about how co-sleeping can help working parents reconnect and that settled the crib question. I love the looks of confusion when people at work ask me how I'm sleeping and I say I'm more rested after giving birth than before.

molly said...

Cypress Sun - One of the benefits for you now that your son is 18 months is that it will be easier for you to communicate that you'll be coming back! He'll figure that out a lot quicker and more easily than he would have when he was younger. Good luck to you! The fact that you've labored over the decision lets me know you'll do everything you can to help your little guy through the process. Sounds like he has a great mama!

CaroLyn - thanks for the book recco - I will see if I can order it from my library! My friend and I jokingly decided the other day that we'll just breastfeed until they go off to college. Right? :)

Olivia - Oh, how my heart would break to have to leave my 3 week old! You are a strong lady and I'm so glad you've been able to stay close through bfeeding and the family bed. Isn't it funny how our society is programmed to think that sleeping together means poor sleep? On the contrary, my baby is my sleep elixir!

Lisa C said...

If I were away from my baby all day there is no way I would want to be away from him at night! (I've been with him all day from day one and I still don't want to be away from him at night!) I can definitely see how co-sleeping would save a breastfeeding relationship, especially one that was so new, after a mom goes back to work. Good for you, for following your heart!

Anonymous said...

Oh Molly I got all teary eyed as I read your post! "My heart aches for her." describes my feelings so very often!

I had to return to work at 6 weeks. I had worried how I would do. Sasha had a hard time with the first day, but has otherwise adjusted.

No matter how exhausted I am when I get home from work at 9 in the evening, I am always quick to take her up and offer her the breast. I am lucky to be able to come home for lunch every day, so I always get that extra connection in the middle of my day. If I'm lucky, I help her to sleep. It makes for a nice break for Daddy.

We also cosleep, only because of our schedules and her finicky sleeping, that means we mostly only sleep in pairs. We never even asked for a crib, but I coslept with my previous baby, too.

I am so thankful that we are able to keep Sasha with a parent all the time, but it is definitely hard to do - especially with both of us working.

I, too, sleep MORE with Sasha usually. Because at night she doesn't want to sleep without me. I cave and just sleep with her so she can sleep. So I wind up sleeping more than I would have before, too.

Sorry my comment is so long and jumps all over the place. I'm exhausted from work, but just SO understand what you're saying! I wish wish wish I could stay home with my baby like I did with my last one, but it just isn't in the cards for us.

Anonymous said...

I returned to work when my daughter was 1 year old. I am Canadian, so I am lucky to have generous maternity leave.

I also found that breastfeeding and co-sleeping saw us through. It was the best way to re-connect. And after a long day spent apart, there was no way I was going to put my daughter to sleep in another room. I'm glad you've found a way to make things work for you, and maintain the strong attachment to your daughter.

Lauren Wayne said...

Thank you again for writing such a powerful post, Molly! I don't know how you wonderful work-out-of-the-home moms do it. I also went back to work pretty early, but from home, so my schedule was flexible and my boss is a pushover. I'm so glad that you (and the commenters above) have had the closeness of breastfeeding and cosleeping to reconnect and power you up.

P.S., everybody: Look for another post by Molly soon! Yea!

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