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Carving Out Time

It’s been a rough transition back to work, as it quickly became a workless situation. Lay offs are tough. It’s even harder when you have a child. I didn’t know I would be laid off (really, the entire organization folded in one week’s time). And, the sudden reality of finances, career paths, pumping, nanny sharing, becoming a stay-at-home mom all started to whirl in my head. The dust has yet to settle on this, and brace yourself, you may be reading more about these past weeks as I continue to process through it.

In my industry, we wax poetic about self-care. “What did you do to take care of yourself?” is often asked at the start of a staff meeting or a staff retreat or by caring colleagues. I usually laugh, uncomfortable in my own model minority, woman occupied skin of never taking care of yourself. Or, really, never admitting you are taking care of yourself because that is really, really selfish. The truth of the matter is that self-care, which is really carving out time for yourself, isn’t selfish. Especially when you are working with trauma survivors. Especially when you work overtime and are underpaid and underappreciated. Especially when you need to be “present” to deal with stress all the time. 

And, being an amma is all of the above, minus the state of trauma (although a strong argument can be made that growing up is traumatic). Carving out time is quite important and I’m learning that the hard way. 

My last day of work was February 3 (last, last Friday). On Wednesday, February 8, my milk supply dropped. I mean, really, really dropped. And, I freaked out. My internet research taught me that it could be a sign of cancer (b/c everything is), stress, child not wanting milk, genetics, or stress. Well, let’s go through the list.

  1. Cancer: Very serious concern, but big doubt. 
  2. Stress: Well, I took the news fairly well, said bye to clients in a week’s time, assisted colleagues, continued to lesson plan for my teaching gig, and was eating well. So, what stress?
  3. Child Not Wanting Milk: Unfortunately, toor daal is in her growth spurt and is fiending milk (was about to insert a crack joke with Whitney Houston at the butt of it, but realized a) it’s too early and b) she was probably self-soothing due to the DV she faced at home with Brown).
  4. Genetics: My amma shared stories of how her milk would flow from her like the Ganges. Even if I didn’t inherit the Ganges, I was flowing much more than February 8.
  5. Stress: I mean, could it be stress? I mean, I did lose my job after coming back from a 3 month hiatus in one state to my resident state. Remember how anxious I was to start? And now…and now it ended abruptly after being back for four days. So, maybe??

It had to be stress. And, I started freaking out again, which didn’t help. So one of my breast feeding mentors agreed that it was stress related dip and asked me, “Well, what do you do to destress?” That question, the sibling of “What did you do to take care of yourself?” gave me pause. Again, I laughed, while tears welled up. “Well, before pregnancy, I would have a glass of wine and go out dancing or something,” I said uncomfortably, “But, when I do that now, I fall asleep.” It dawned on me as we continued to poke through and find my avenues to destress that as a newly anointed amma, I have yet to figure out my destress routine. Something beyond going through the boards of Pinterest or reviewing Facebook status messages and articles. 

So after much thought, here is what makes me relaxed:

  • Working out, but in particular, running. Need to get back on the treadmill, especially with a 10 mile race coming up in April.
  • Writing. I truly enjoy this art form. 
  • Scheming with myself or with others. I love brainstorming, getting pads of papers and creating action items, while watching a vision turn into words.
  • Reading a real book on my favorite chair, with a soy candle lit.
  • Organizing. I know, I’m geeky, but I love organizing and it really, really makes me happy and makes me feel less anxious.
  • Sending snail mail. 

Quoting from one of my favorite shows, I’ve gots to learn how to Treat Yo Self. If it makes me happier that treating myself will make my baby happy, then damn it, it’s a selfless act! 

How do you treat yo self?

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Back to Life, Back to Reality

Whenever a vacation ends, the Soul II Soul song “Back to Life” pops in my mind (NB: I never saw the music video for it until I Googled it right now, and it’s AMAZING 90s). So, my “vacation” has come to an end. Maternity leave was sweet for the most part. October & November were priceless. December, I could have done without you and your drama. It’s January now, and I’m slowly, slowly come to the realization that in 12 hours I’ll be getting dressed (what, no maternity pants at work?!), packing toor dal’s bags for the nanny, eating breakfast, nursing, changing a diaper, taking my vitamins, and getting out the door in one piece.

As anxiety has creeped in these past days, I’ve had a few fleeting thoughts of working from home or even NOT working! Dreaming of staying at home and doing work, playing with toor dal, taking Chandi (our lovely Jack Russell Terrier) for her afternoon walks, cooking, and keeping the house relatively clean & organized are….dreams. Yet, when I awake and analyze said dream, I realize that a) I wouldn’t be happy in that reality and b) it sounds like a lot of work.

While working out today, I listened to the Harvard Business Review’s IDEAcast. I’m a super nerd when it comes to these podcasts around management, leadership, and revolutionizing one’s productivity and ideas. And by chance, I clicked on “Breaking the Work/Life Deadlock.” The title got me and I wanted to hear more. I pressed play, pressed start on the treadmill, and was delighted to hear about research on women in the workplace. I don’t want to spill the beans about this 20 minute interview because I think you should listen to it. But, I will say that it has solidified my desire to work. As toor dal grows up, I do want her to look up to me, like I do with my mom, and see that working provides financial and mental freedom that I can’t get at home.

And, after that podcast, listen to “How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions” by Peter Bregman. One piece of advice that I’m taking from him is to make sure that when I’m at home, I’m at home and not on my smartphone, iPad, computer and pretending to spend quality time with toor dal. I don’t want her to think that a 2×2 screen is more important than her smile, yells, and babble.

Even though I go back to work tomorrow and am happy with that decision, I’m anxious. Will I survive? How messy will the house get? Will the nanny treat toor dal with love and patience like she’s been used to these past three, almost four, months? Will I get sleep?

What advice do you have for me in this transition?


Got a Cold

It’s time like these that I am not happy to be breast feeding. It’s a combination of guilt + lack of medicine that makes me go cray cray. But, one of many pluses of spending my maternity leave at home is that I get to indulge in some ayurvedic practices to heal a cold.

For my stomach, my mom made rice porridge. Add a little bit of salt, ghee (or vegan butter), and smash up the rice with a small cup to make the rice easily digestible. To accompany the rice porridge, my mom gave me lemon pickle. This pickle is special because it is lemon pickled in its own juice, with ginger, and small peppers. This particular bottle has been aging for 8 years. The warm rice plus lemon is supposed to nourish the stomach, while calming any ailments coming from that area (gas, indigestion, acid reflux).

For my nose, my mom heated 4 cups of water in the microwave. In a bowl, my mom put 1.5 tablespoons of Vick vapor rub and poured in the water. I hovered over the bowl with a towel over me and the bowl. The vapors go into your nose and start allowing the mucous to dislodge. Be careful NOT to open your eyes, unless you enjoy that type of torture.

And finally, for my throat, my mom concocted a special tea called kasaai. She boiled lemon grass, dry ginger, black pepper, and rock sugar together in water for about 15-20 minutes. You have to drink this tea really fast when it is hot. It calms down the throat and soothes your stomach. I only had a third of a cup since I don’t what TD to taste this not so pleasant mixture in her milk.

I hope to get rid of this cold soon. TD is so kissable and it’s hard for me to resist!

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