My son smiles as he’s falling asleep in my arms after a middle-of-the-night feed. Besides the fact that I’m providing nourishment to him,
this is probably the best part about life at 3am. He chuckles most nights also, just as he’s drifting off, and Aly and I both wake from a
drowsy stupor, while we’re holding them up before putting them back down to bed, every time it happens. It’s an amazing sound. One we
find ourselves imitating throughout the day to him to try to entice him to reproduce it.
Parenting has turned out to be so many things. A great joy, to be sure. Perhaps the greatest alongside going through life with the love of
my life. It also happens to induce the greatest fear, when your child is running a temperature, the greatest guilt, when at the end of the day
you’re sure you haven’t done enough, and the greatest sorrow, when you realize that one day, you will have to share these perfect beings
with the world and you know that the world isn’t always kind.
A few weeks ago, I returned to work after being furloughed for 5 months. The challenges and blessings that came from being furloughed
can probably fill their own blog post, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll skip to what it’s been like post-furlough.
I’m working remotely, like most who can. I’d like to say that this has only been the best thing ever. I mean, how couldn’t it be? I get to be
home, with my new babies and wife, away from exposure to the pandemic, and I’m saving on gas. Win, win, win, right? I’d like to say
that. But, here’s the truth: there are so many more wins and losses in that scenario that get weighed against each other on a daily basis.
“Balance” is a word that gets thrown around a lot lately in the Albrecht household. This is the ideal. To find the right “balance” has been
my greatest struggle so far in this post-furlough reality. I think perhaps, I naively thought it would be as simple as picking up my
computer at the start of my day, putting on my employee hat, and then, at the end of the day, I would take that hat off and just slip on my
mom/wife/homeowner hat. Do you ever feel dumb sometimes when life just gives you a reality check about your expectations? Not only
is the idea of a hat that only fills one role ridiculous, I’ve found. I’ve also found that taking the proverbial hats off and on happens so
much more frequently throughout the day than at the start and the end.
I’ll address the first point first. I don’t think, since I’ve returned, there has been a moment, where I can be just an employee. This isn’t a
product of working remotely, the more I think about it, it’s a product of just parenting. Throughout the day, as I build my reports and
adjust my spreadsheets, I’m very aware of the fact that I am in the very fortunate minority to have been brought back from furlough. The
inordinate amount of pressure this creates as a parent of twins and wife and homeowner, can be crippling if you focus too much on it. The
understanding that there’s an inherent expectation to perform, whether that expectation is intrinsic or extrinsic, is enough for deep
breathing exercises. So, throughout the day, I’ll help with feeds and make up my working time in the evenings, and while I hold my
beautiful new babies, and have supposedly taken the employee hat off, at least for the moment, that pressure is still there in the back of
my mind, distracting from what should be a very precious moment.
To my second point, my changes in proverbial head wear happen very literally, all day. Even in short moments, when I’ve allowed
myself the reprieve of just observing our children sleep as I’m waiting for a meeting to start or less pleasant but just as valid, when one of
the babies has a blow out that necessitates a bath and now I’m watching the other while Aly manages the crisis. I wish it was easy to take
these hats on and off and isolate what each one represents. The adage, “leave work at work,” seems like an impossible ideal to strive for
as in one moment I feel guilty for not momming enough on a given day, and when we have a blowout emergency, or the like, throughout
the day, that draws me away from my computer, I feel guilty for being pulled away from whatever I was doing.
I’ve heard it called before, “every parents dilemma.” I’m not sure I’ve been generous enough to the ones who have to make this work and
do. That also says nothing for the other role that requires attention and care: wife. It’s very easy for work and babies to be the only things
in your world if you don’t have a constant reminder that you need balance.
Since I’ve returned, I’ve been frustrated at my lack of being able to find that balance. It’s still no where near perfect and I’m constantly
reprioritizing as Aly and I keep communicating, but it keeps getting better. It’s a ridiculous help to have Aly by my side. Taking care of
the twins, basically by herself, barring catastrophes of the pooping kind and feedings unless I have a meeting conflict.
Our days are longer, as we find our focus shifts after we put the babies to bed to maintaining our home and our relationship. And then we
have weeks like the last two where my balance has been horrible, at best, as I work until almost midnight during the week to try to finish
a report I’ve been building during uninterrupted time.
We’re figuring this thing out and that means recognizing that when we’re taking breaks from whatever we’re respectively doing, we’re
focused on each other and our family. It means, finding what works, in terms of understanding that I’m productive with work in the
evening when I’m uninterrupted by the twins feeding schedule, which in turn means, I can be more forgiving of myself when I do get
pulled away from work throughout the day and enjoy feeding my babies and soak in the after feeding cuddles without the guilt of having
to return to work immediately.
All of this is to say, momming/parenting is hard. It’s not for the faint hearted because it’s an emotional rollercoaster of the highest highs
and the lowest lows. Also, if someone has figured out how to “leave work at work,” or get rid of this pesky mom-guilt thing, could you
please feel free to leave a comment with the secrets of the universe below? I’m asking for a friend…