Tuesday, September 27, 2011


When Bun Bun was a few months old and Mr. Bunny had been back at work for a bit, I asked him to wrangle a four day week. He's the VP of a tiny company with a boss who raised two kids while starting the company. She is extremely understanding, and generously agreed to let him take Fridays off.

The first few Fridays, Mr. Bunny urged me to go out, to take some time for myself. I didn't want to. Where the hell was I going to go? Plus, I didn't want to be separated from Bun Bun. So I'd just hang around, interfering with his attempts to be a solo parent. I wasn't sure what I wanted, to be honest. I'd made this request because I felt like the weekend was just too short, that there wasn't enough time for me to see him, AND be a family, AND accomplish anything I couldn't do with a baby tied to me. But soon enough, the semester started. Since I'm technically supposed to be doing research this semester, I've started going to the office on Fridays.

It's a weird experience, having this professional alter ego.

There's the fact that the rhythms of the two parts of my life are so different. Monday through Thursday, it's an incredibly fine-grained existence. I live from book to tidying to finding a sunny spot for Bun Bun to practice rolling to nap to laundry to walk to another book... and then on Friday, a week's worth of meetings and e-mail and writing and thinking and paperwork. Considerably more hectic, and I'm required to think about things happening on a much different scale. How to analyze data I won't have for six months, for example.

There's the weirdness of being a lactating professor. It's strange to shut the door every few hours and hook myself up to a machine, while trying to relax and think about my baby so I can maximize milk output. To shift gears from thinking about experimental design to thinking about nursing. And I feel like there's a giant sign on my door that says: BREASTS. BREASTS. BREASTS. THINK ABOUT YOUR PROFESSOR'S BREASTS. THINK ABOUT MILK COMING OUT OF HER BREASTS.

Then there's the horrible ache of having to say goodbye to Bun Bun in the morning. My throat constricts, I feel tears coming, and I shut my mind down so I can get the hell out the door. She's always so smiley and happy, and it's an awful moment. For me. She doesn't care.

And of course there's the experience of my husband as primary caregiver. When I was around, he felt so scrutinized. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't resist making recommendations. If I were you, I'd...you might want to try...ummm....NO, DON'T DO THAT! Alone, he gets to make his own discoveries, and of course he does brilliantly. Plus, he seems to find the whole thing very taxing and difficult, and as a result, has a vastly increased appreciation for the work I do. Which is fabulous. Meanwhile, I've learned that she can adapt, and that I don't always know best.

For all the weirdness, I'm enormously grateful for this gift of a day. Walking home from work, the air pleasantly autumnal but still warm, the bustle of campus giving way to the quiet of my neighborhood, I wonder if I'll look back on this as the happiest time of my life.

Of course, I've been wondering that since the day she was born.

Except for when I was FUCKING DEPRESSED and my nipples were bleeding.


  1. I really liked that post. I am finding it terribly hard to switch gears. If I could I would quit my job this second, walk downstairs pick up my baby and go home. But I can't and I know I will appreciate having a career when my kids are in school. At least I think/hope I will.

  2. Nice post. I have such a different work experience with the home office and daily onslaught of bullshit. I wish that I had the ability to work one day a week, lucky duck

  3. are you saying you don't have that sign? you will when you're back to teaching classes, right?

    i have a shared office, which means i never know if some other adjunct will stumble in and find me with my shirt yanked down. luckily, danger aids letdown

  4. As I've eased back into part-time working, I've begun to appreciate the duality of "working mother." I NEED to use my brain and I NEED some time to be an adult, away from the baby babble and diapers. But I also feel terribly guilty about it. Over time, that guilt has diminished and only resurfaces briefly, and rarely. I think some of us are hardwired to do this mothering thing one way or another (working, part-time working, not working), and finding the right fit is a trial and error process.

  5. This is good to read. People have been asking me what I might do about going back to work, which seems like a whole other universe, because I still don't know what it's like to have a kid. So who the hell knows. I'm glad you're getting time in both worlds.

  6. Awww! Love this post, Bunny. Because, as Popeye says, I yam who I yam, I've been stressing about going back to work since the day I left it. I don't go back until mid-November.

    Enjoy the duality, and especially Mr. Bunny's newfound appreciation for parenting. I'm beginning to feel like Hubby is all "what do you DO all day" when he comes home and the house is still a mess and there's no dinner and I'm a walking zombie.

  7. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't resist making recommendations. If I were you, I'd...you might want to try...ummm....NO, DON'T DO THAT!

    Yeah -- there was a lot of that in our household too, and then I went to a wedding alone for a weekend, and he was JUST FINE and so I have shut up. Sort of.

    The duality is kind of interesting and makes me appreciate how resilient we as mothers are (and how resilient our little ones are -- they are fine when we leave). But man, I miss the daily rhythms.

  8. Great post, thanks for sharing this. Baby isn't even here yet and I'm so nervous about going back to work in January! Will I ever be competent again? Will I be able to leave my baby? Who know, it's really up in the air, isn't it. I'm so glad you have this Friday schedule that helps you transition back to worklife. You're a lucky one!

  9. I LURVE the part about Mr. B appreciating more fully the work of caregiving.

  10. That's fantastic - in so many ways. It's wonderful that the Mr gets the experience of being with Bun bun for a day and you get to live a bit of alter ego. I was so terrible at this. I hated to leave and I hated to be at work (and the pumping in the office!). When g came down with intense separation anxiety at 7 months and I came home to the news that he had done nothing but scream the entire time I was gone (no eating, no sleeping), I gave up. I'm so glad it doesn't have to be this way for everyone.

  11. No one makes me laugh like my friend Bunny, is what I say to anyone who wants to hear it. I can picture your sign on the door of your office, with you behind the door pumping and turning away from the scrutiny of your students' gaze piercing through the door.
    I'm really glad that you are finding a nice rhythm between the two very different tunes in your days. I read this and wonder if you have a new sense of wholeness.

  12. I'm glad you're in this place - glad that you are able to keep a hand in professionally, that Mr. Bunny gets unscrutinized bonding time (I'm already afraid that I'm going to fail this one big-time), and that Bun Bun is so adaptable and, well, goodnatured. But I can imagine that the split life is very strange, sort of like passing between two worlds.

    (And most glad that the bleeding-searing-nipple incident is a thing of the past).

  13. Isn't life a bizarre thing, bunny? All these roles and being professional and all the time we are just sophisticated monkeys? If we are, indeed.

    (I am waffling on like this because you mentioned the Bleeding Nipples again. Gaah. That is always Upsetting.)

  14. I like imagining you all busy productive, yet milky, at the same time tomorrow.

  15. Wow...I am still afraid to leave my house in fear that I'll find myself behind the door of my office! I admire your ability to do this. Honestly I am developmentally behind on this one. Thanks for the inspirational post. You make it sound doable.

    And I'm not being a smart ass!