It Has Been Made Clear to Me That I Cannot Have It All

I Dont Know How She Does It

This morning I woke up at 6:30 and the baby was still asleep. He usually wakes up at six and we all sit in bed talking to him for like an hour, praying he will go back to sleep soon, but today he is sick. I got in the shower, ate breakfast, got dressed, packed my bag. He was still asleep. I opened my computer to check on the site, tried to start working, but we had no coffee in the house and this was just not going to happen. I laid in bed and just stared at him for awhile, looking at the clock. I paced the apartment, put a granola bar in my bag, went and stood over his little bed. I can’t leave for work until I feed him, and then I have to leave immediately after I feed him so I can get the most of my 2.5-hour window. Two and a half hours is kind of pushing it, even, but sometimes I am gone for three. At two hours I start to get antsy. Guilty. My boobs start to hurt and I imagine the baby to be fussing and I’m panicking a little while I search for an image to go with a blog post. If I finish my work and come home early I am the family saint, a hero. “Look who’s here! It’s your mama!” The baby is smiling, I’m wondering if this means I get extra credit. Can I leave again after I feed him? Go do more work?

Before I sit down to nurse him I have the tote bag by the door, my shoes on my feet, hanging off the bed. I check Twitter on my phone and favorite articles to blog about.

He finally woke up at about 8:30 today. He stretched, made some noise, closed his eyes again. “Shit child,” I thought, “I don’t have all day!” I wanted to wiggle his foot, to shake him awake. Then I wondered if this was a terrible, selfish impulse. “Never wake a sleeping baby!” I looked around to see if I was in Dustin’s line of sight. I felt the baby’s forehead, figuring that was both maternal and served my current interests. He squirmed more and woke up. Yes.

By 8:45 I was tired again, wishing I had taken the time to wash my hair in the shower. I’d been up for two hours without coffee, which is not right by anyone’s standards. I could have gone for a run! I could have put on eyeliner! Dustin changed him and handed him to me and I put a boob in his mouth and promptly fell asleep. I woke up at 9:30 and thought, Fuck, I have missed a half hour of working time. Then figured if I fed him MORE, the clock started over again. I put him on the other boob and made sure to stay awake, so I could bolt as soon as he was done. 15 or so minutes later he stopped and I said, “Okay!” which is my way of saying, “OKAY take the baby I am running out of here and buying an iced coffee before anyone can stop me.” But then I sat the baby up and he started smiling and trying to laugh, which is this week’s new talent. We walked around the kitchen waving and bouncing him around and repeating unintelligible stuff and I slowly inched towards my totebag full of computer and was like, “Okayyyy.” I took a bunch of photos of the baby flying around the kitchen like superman and said, Okayyy a few more times. I looked at Dustin. My hair was falling out of its ponytail. I am wearing one of his v neck tshirts, maternity leggings, and purple Crocs. “Do I look like a blogger?” I asked him. “YES,” he said. It was a very definitive yes. I laughed. I put my hair in a new ponytail, looked at the clock — 10 a.m. — and swung open the door. I had been up for three and a half hours, and hadn’t even managed to put on real pants. I turned back and shouted “BYE!” and the baby smiled. They bounced away. I bounced away.

It’s so nice out today. All I want is time to work and yet when I walk outside to work all I want is to go sit on a bench somewhere and comment on the breeze. I text Dustin, “It’s so nice out today,” almost every morning. The thing is, mornings are amazing, weather-wise. I just never knew. I haven’t experienced mornings since like, high school.

Since it was so nice out I decided to walk to the coffeeshop further away. I walked in and it was full. I turned right around and walked out. I am no longer do the rookie move of buying a coffee and then there’s nowhere to sit and then how do you go work at another coffeeshop now, you fool? I walked back down the street in my blogger clothes and went into the first coffeeshop. It was full, too. It was 10:15. Prime freelancer in a coffeeshop hours! I got a coffee anyway and headed to the library. So many precious working minutes wasted walking around the neighborhood. And before I left this morning Dustin was like, And when you get home, we can go get lunch somewhere!” And I was like, “And then I can do more work?” And he was like, “Wait a minute. I have a ton of work I want to do today, too.” NOOOO. I was thinking about this as I crossed the street on the way to the library, about his work. “And how much are you getting paid for this work?” I asked him in my head, as if I am a highly paid consultant who is putting bread on the table and not working two and a half hours a day while burning through a windfall.

I got to the library feeling good, my iced coffee already almost halfway gone. There was only one person at the laptop table. I felt like I was really ahead of the curve, getting there early or something. I opened my computer and it was 10:25. Fuck, man. I wasted half an hour walking around between places. I sat down and then the little, “I agree to not whatever whatever” library wifi prompt never popped up. I turned off the wifi, turned it back on again. Nothing. I restarted my computer. Nothing. I looked around. Nothing. I tweeted about how I saw a LDS missionary duo at the library and one of them was drinking a Coke. Scandal! I turned Wifi on and off on my computer again. Tried Firefox. Tried Safari. Closed my laptop, opened it. Texted pictures of the baby to my mom. “Feeling better!” I watched little kids run around the library. I checked my @-replies on Twitter, tweeted more things. The one other guy sitting at the laptop table had come back from wandering around and I asked him if the internet was working for him. It was not. He said he asked the librarian earlier but it still didn’t work. Maybe the librarian forgot to fix it? “I’ll go ask!” I said. More people had come to sit down and were opening their laptops. They were all sighing. I was like the Norma Rae of restarting the wifi. I marched up to the guy behind the circulation desk, noted his Warby Parker frames which looked pretty great considering he was like a 50-year-old harried librarian in a khaki short-sleeve button up. “Hey,” I said, trying to establish that I “got” his job and knew how stressed he was. “What’s up?” he asked me. He either sighed or exhaled. I took it to be an exhale like, “Wow finally someone who gets me is asking for help.” “So,” I said, VERY breezy. “Something’s up with the wifi?” He launched into an extended apology and told me how many times he’d try to restart it then said he would again. “Ooh,” I said, “Damn, ok.” He hustled over and plugged and unplugged something and I resisted the urge to ask if I could try. I walked back to the table and everyone looked at me with puppy dog eyes and I just shrugged. “He’s gonna restart it again.” The guy walked over shrugging and told us he didn’t know what was going on.

We all sat there refreshing and closing and opening our laptops for awhile, stubborn. No pop-ups popped up. I texted Dustin that I had been to two coffeeshops and now the library and the wifi was busted so I was coming home. He made a comment about a certain co-working space in the area that is $75/month but doesn’t have air conditioning and is furnished with street trash furniture and for whatever reason, the mood I was in at the time we visited I guess, makes me SO MAD. When we walked in to check it out I just shouted, “NO!” Dustin told me I was ruined by my time in startups. He said he should have known, implying maybe correctly that I was a brat. I wondered where everyone’s $75 was going. “The rent?” Okay fine. I shut up, figuring I should be happy this place made Dustin happy, and that he would go there, and I would have some time to myself with the baby, which was almost like being alone. Almost. I wondered aloud, joking, if I could bring my own Aeron chair there and back every day. Just shove over the plywood bench and make room for my french press and put on my noise-canceling headphones and off I would go.

By the time I got back to the apartment, greeted by a smiling baby, it was 11:30 a.m. I’ve been up for five hours, haven’t done a lick of work, and have to feed the baby again at noon. I can hear him crying as I finish this, his dad is consoling him. “Your mom is going to feed you, she just has to find an image to go with the post.”


38 Comments / Post A Comment

julebsorry (#1,572)

This post basically just has me terrified of how, exactly, I’ll manage when my 12 weeks of maternity leave is up. All the responsibilities, but with a 9-5 schedule…erk.

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

My take away is that breast feeding is hard and time-consuming and, should I ever happen to produce a child, I shouldn’t do it. Because you are tethered to a schedule vs. “here’s a bottle with formula I can make and feed the baby immediately no boob required.”

Note: neither my sister nor I were breastfed, and we are both incredibly healthy and intelligent and are getting along in the world just fine.

My take away could also be residual annoyance at #worldbreastfeedingweek on Facebook which left me really irritated at how self-congratulatory a certain set of breastfeeding mothers has become (Not you Meaghan, I get that that wasn’t the point of this post at all and didn’t read any self-congratulation in the subtext, just a lot of hard reality). I don’t care if mothers breastfeed in public, do whatcha gotta do for your kid, but why do you need to post selfies of it on Facebook?! I get that breastfeeding is a good and maternal thing but it is also natural and people have been doing it forever, much like pooping, and you don’t see me posting photos of myself on the toilet with two thumbs up like, “look at what i just did,” do you? Blargh.

Anyways, good luck, it will get easier some day, I hope, maybe when the baby is weaned? Or like, in college? But appreciate these missives regardless, it is good reading for those of us who have yet to make the baby trek.

On that note, would love a Billfold article on baby feeding expenses, both breastfeeding vs. not breastfeeding and then what happens when the little buddy starts eating solid foods.

Yeah, I am too “in it” to make any pronouncements yet but I will say that part of me is convinced that there can be no feminism with breastfeeding. I am only half joking!

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

@Meaghan O’Connell The main reason we were not breastfed is because my mother went back to work very quickly. She’s an attorney and when she started at her firm (the firm she is still at I should note) she was the only lady attorney (now the firm is nearly half lady attorneys, progress!). Breastfeeding was also much less of a “thing” in the 80s I think. But I know that “I have to go to work and meet with clients and be an attorney, I can’t see clients with a baby attached to my boob” was a huge part in the decision making process. Now she’s one of the most senior attorneys at said firm and has been managing shareholder a number of times. But we also had a full-time live-in nanny as a kid (dad’s an attorney too), so, who knows. You can have it all, I guess, if you can afford full-time live-in help. =(

So yeah, I don’t know. A coworker of mine at my previous job had a baby and came back to work riiiight before I left. The two weeks we overlapped before I left she barely got any work done because she had to pump like, every two hours. It was driving her crazy.

So maybe you are right, feminism + breastfeeding = hard or maybe even impossible. Ungh. =(

@Meaghan O’Connell You are so right about this, Meaghan. I would love to write an article about how expensive it is to breast feed. I am four months into exclusively breastfeeding my second baby. Made it a year with my first and was so excited about weaning. People don’t realize that breastfeeding takes a whole community of people – especially the rich old white men who make laws. I have many many thoughts on this. Also, coffee, Yes.

sherlock (#3,599)

@TheDilettantista I am totally with you on this. Disclaimer, I am not a parent (and there’s a good chance I never will be), but I just wanted to throw my support behind what you’re saying. I second the idea of a Billfold article on baby-feeding expenses. I remember a piece I really liked on this countering the “it’s so much cheaper than formula argument” by pointing out that that is only obviously true if you value the mother’s time at $0. I have no idea how expensive formula is, but I am willing to bet that your mom’s hourly rate was high enough that buying formula was much cheaper than sacrificing four hours of her time per day.

sheistolerable (#2,382)

@xtinamartinson I would love to read this!

theotherginger (#1,304)

@sheistolerable yes I would love to read this. Also to shut down the women who irritate me by justifying their staying at home by saying “my salary is barely more than a nanny”. WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE WOMAN’s salary. AND IS YOUR TIME WORTH NOTHING???? Also, it is good to stay at home if you want to. It is good to work if you want to. Men should be allowed to agonize over these things also, and NOT be congratulated for the agonizing women do all the fing time even if they have no children and are unlikely to bear them (like me).

beatrixkiddo (#226)

@theotherginger – Its the woman’s salary when the woman really makes about as much as a nanny before they give birth and they try to go back to work. I had to wait to go back to work after I had my baby until I could find a job that paid me more than childcare in NYC costs, which is a lot. My husband makes like 4x as much as that so clearly he wasn’t going to be the one to stay home. So, as much as I wanted to work, I didn’t want to work for nothing, so I stayed home for a while. Its not a cop out, its a financial reality for a lot of people. My time is totally worth something, but it doesn’t make sense to work for free and then also not see your kid.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@beatrixkiddo this is going to sound like i am not sincere except I am! thanks for telling your story and helping me understand.

SkipToMyLou (#2,438)

@Meaghan O’Connell I’m pretty sure the deal is there can be no feminism without flexible workplace practices. If the issue is that babies need breastfeeding, the answer isn’t not feeding them so as to placate our corporate overlords, it’s making that happen in combination with work.

Oh I am 100% pro more support of parenting at work, though this wasn’t really about that. What I mean is at the end of the day, only women can give birth and breastfeed and men can’t. My partner and I totally co-parent so he does more of other things to compensate, but it’s genuinely frustrating and feels oppressive (sometimes) that only I can feed the baby, in an essential biological way.

My answer isn’t to give the baby formula, I feel lucky to be able to feed him this way and very very lucky to have the most flexible, supported situation imaginable. All that aside, I do think it’s worth talking about what an adjustment it is, to feed a human from your body. Even when you WANT to, it is still a lot of work. Even when everything goes perfectly, it is still a lot of work. And I think it’s all about expectations, so I am happy to talk about my experience publicly. I wasn’t trying to make a statement with this but hey! It seems people are hungry to know “what it’s like” and I am happy to talk about what it’s like for me, which is all I can really speak to, albeit v. honestly.

SkipToMyLou (#2,438)

@Meaghan O’Connell it was always clear you were supportive of parenting combined with work, but yep, it’s an adjustment alright. I breastfed mine for a year each and cried, bled, cried some more each time. Even through all that though, the upside (FOR ME) was so worth it, but women in my mother’s group who switched to formula quickly were doing the right thing too- why make the baby latch on and cry/scream at each other when I can give the baby a bottle and we both smile? Biological men can’t breastfeed. They can’t. They can’t be pregnant and they can’t give birth. Feminism won’t change that- all feminism can do is make the world deal with our biological hand in the fairest way possible.

SkipToMyLou (#2,438)

@sherlock It’s only “sacrificing four hours of her time” if you think that time with the baby is valued at $0.

theguvnah (#2,351)

@beatrixkiddo but that’s the wrong calculation – if you imagine taking half the nanny’s salary out of your husband’s paycheck and half out of yours, is it still “working for nothing” via your point?

It’s not a question of who makes more money, it’s a question of long-term planning – how will staying home for 2 years (I’m making this up as an example) impact your lifetime earnings and career path, not just a short-term question of “is my salary higher enough than a nanny’s to justify me going to work?

many parents just say “the nanny pays the same as the wife” and therefore it somehow makes sense to stay home – but that assumes the nanny’s salary is only coming out of the wife’s paycheck. which is not and shouldn’t be the case.

beatrixkiddo (#226)


Kate (#1,408)

Oh man, new baby + trying to work is the worst worst worst. You are doing a great job.

theballgirl (#1,546)

Oof. It’s so so tough juggling all that you want to do and all that’s expected of you as a mom in this day and age. As always, much of the struggle with “have it all” would be mitigated if this godforsaken country had paid maternity leave. A feminist cause if there ever was one.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@theballgirl YEPPPPP. I am so mad that my workplace pretends like FMLA is generous. Like, I’m Canadian, so I laughed at it. Also, I work for Christians. Who “love babies” as long as they are cared for by someone who is at home. (they never say this but I think it’s true).

madrassoup (#929)

Maybe the co-working place does allow you to take your own french press? Or at least to bring your own coffee mug. When you do the math that $75 is probably what you’re paying to relieve your guilt for hogging the table at the coffee shop. I’d kill to pay $75 (as I write from a coworking space that costs twice that but that is very nice, I will give it that).

Meaghano (#529)

@madrassoup I know, I keep thinking more about doing it. Plus you get a key and it’s open, effectually, all hours. And no one is ever in there. But it isn’t nice… and isn’t air conditioned… Hmm.

This post was supposed to be about that but veered off. Because I totally spend more than $75/month at various coffeeshops buying muffins and pie and the like. I could probably also lose 40 lbs by using a coworking space, too, RIGHT? Haha.

clo (#4,196)

@Meaghano my company just moved out of a coworking space. IMO at that price, despite lack of niceness, it’s worth it. Less time wasted looking for a place to sit, stuff to buy and moving seats to be near the power cord.

cryptolect (#1,135)

@Meaghano If you keep breastfeeding you may lose that 40 pounds anyway!

NoReally (#45)

I always thought the Never Wake rule was about being able to use that time, and you’ll be sorry. Not that it will explode or be broken. I woke a sleeping baby all the time, when he’d been asleep long enough and I needed to get his breakfast into him and be ready to jet when the babykeeper arrived. Do it.

And, get a pump.

lemonadefish (#3,296)

@NoReally YES get a pump, for real! There is some effort in pumping, but it’s quicker than feeding the baby (for me anyway) and you can do it without going back home and seeing how cute the baby is.

Meaghano (#529)

@lemonadefish I do have a pump! One of those medela double electrics, since they are free with insurance now! I have used it some but not regularly yet. Maybe now is the time to integrate it more into our routine (not that I can quite call it a routine yet, wahh.). I can’t really pump at a coffeeshop while I’m away but I bet I could do it a different time and he could take that bottle while I’m gone, and I could be away for more like a four hour stretch. Right? Eek. I don’t have any supply issues, not yet anyway. HMMM.

@NoReally “I can’t really pump at a coffee shop” hahahhaa i love that you need to explain this WHY NOT MEAGHAN YOU SLACKER come on, multitask! they have outlets, right? what do you think those outlets are for?

annie (#534)

This is mainly down to the lack of maternity leave, right? I’m about to go off for a year (I live in a civilised country).

eatmoredumplings (#3,808)

This is kind of terrifying. What happens if you don’t get back in time, or if the baby gets hungry early? Does he just cry or is it somehow physically dangerous? Asking…for a friend….

Meaghano (#529)

@eatmoredumplings well hunger for babies is like THE WORLD IS ENDING, for them, and then for you, when they scream. But no, there is pumped milk in the freezer and usually in the fridge too. He can totally take a bottle, it’s just a moderate pain the ass to defrost the milk and then my boobs will hurt because they’ll be full of milk and the baby will have eaten. Not the biggest deal. Also Dustin knows he can text me and I am only a few blocks away if the baby freaks out. Not that he ever really has, he tries to let me do my thing.

All of this aside — it’s partly my neurosis and partly a total mindfuck to be bodily responsible for a tiny being’s nutrition.

theballgirl (#1,546)

@Meaghano and of course NIPPLE CONFUSION. At 3am when my exhaustion made me hallucinate I was thrilled to recall all the “non judgey” articles I had read that basically said bottle feed = instant latch issues forever. Thankfully my kiddo seemed fine with whatev but damn was it stressful. I hope its better for you – sounds like you’re doing great. It’s tough stuff!

honey cowl (#1,510)

I love this article. Meaghan, your parenting book would be one I would read SO MUCH. Thank you for being a sane person writing on the internet, from the bottom of my heart and with no sarcasm in the slightest!!!

PS. I love the picture that accompanies this.

Meaghano (#529)

@honey cowl Ha, THANK YOU. <3 Please forward this comment to 8-10 literary agents.

WriteBikeBobbi (#3,938)

I know breastfeeding is hard at times (inconvenient, painful at times, ugh cracked nipples) — but take it from a new mama who cried for a week because she was unable to breastfeed: you’re lucky :)

Meaghano (#529)

@WriteBikeBobbi I do feel lucky. It’s a big adjustment if anything, but that’s more the baby than the boobs, as you well know! I can only imagine going through that hell on top of everything else in the early days. You deserve a medal.

WriteBikeBobbi (#3,938)

@Meaghano Oh, I suppose we all have our particular hells to go through with newborns :-) Sounds like you’re doing quite awesome, all things considered! We’re at week 10, and it’s SO much better than the first four weeks. If I ever talk about having another baby, I have instructed my husband to remind me of those, and that will be all I need to return to the idea that 1 baby is best! :)

rebeccasue17 (#6,627)

Well, you could pump out in public…just have a nursing cover and get to it. To be perfectly honest, there is a point in breast feeding when you are really over modesty.

I liked breast feeding, but there definitely is a lot of stress around making enough and/or having enough in the freezer. The upside is, around 6 months you start feeding them food, so less nursing is required — and likely you’ll be done nursing by about a year. But it is a big commitment to pump — having a job that understands you’ll need some dedicated time and space is essential!

katylemieux (#7,635)

I’m currently nursing a 4 month old, have a 6 year old in school, am working and supporting my husband through a full-time MFA program. IT CAN BE SO HARD. Besides the fact that breastfeeding is exhausting and time consuming, there is the part where you can hardly put your baby on a schedule because you’re always about to head somewhere. And then the guilt that comes with feeling like you aren’t doing what’s best for your kids (i’m ignoring the older one to put the baby down for a much needed but probably too late in the day nap, i’m screwing the baby waking her up to go get the big kid so she doesn’t have to stay in after school care) OR yourself. And then if I even think about the dream scenario that would make MY life easier or fulfill me creatively I am letting everyone else down again.
Thank you for writing this. I needed it today.

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