Unfortunately, this weekend marked the mid-point of my maternity leave. I technically am taking about 11.5 weeks off, but one week and 2 days were before SJ was born due to my OB taking me out of work early. That means I really had 10 weeks home as "maternity leave" with both kids, and last week was the fifth week since SJ4 was born. So, now begins the sad countdown towards going back to work, back to daycare for KA, and leaving SJ with a non-relative caretaker for the first time. Although I would love to stay home longer - because of her birthday's timing in the school year, I was able to be home with Katie Anne for the first four months of her life, and that was awesome - 12 weeks is all I'm legally allowed to take, and since a lot of this time is leave without pay for me, it's about time for me to go back to work. Also, I made a commitment to the kids and parents who decided to loop up to first grade with me, and I'm anxious to get back into the classroom to make good on my word that I'd do a bang-up job once I returned from maternity leave.
Here in lies the working mother's dilemma. Once you see the end of your time at home with the baby in sight, do you work on transitioning him to a more daycare-like schedule and environment, or do you let him enjoy every last minute of being at home and accept that the transition will be hard? It's such a hard call because - on one hand - you want the transition to be as smooth and easy for him as possible. So, it makes a lot of sense to start him off and let him get accustomed to that way of doing things - less-than-constant holding, occasionally waiting on things, not keeping the house dark and quiet all the time. It seems like the "nicer" thing to do to set him up for success since it is inevitable that he'll be in daycare in five weeks. On the other hand, I want to kind of "bank up" all that love and holding and cuddling that babies simply can't expect in a daycare situation for all those days that I won't be there. I don't want to waste this chance to snuggle him because most of his awake hours will soon be spent away from me, and I'll miss these chances 5 days a week. That seems like the more "loving" thing to do ... to hold him every chance I get. So, it's a very tough choice to decide what to do.
I have been through this before. With Katie Anne, I never considered how different her life would go in the space of one day from being at home to being at a daycare with bright lights, loud sounds, and a lot less one-on-one time. Sleeping was her #1 problem once I went back to work. I spent a vast majority of the four months I was home with her just holding her while she slept or creeping around in semi-dark silence while she was asleep in her crib. So, when she started school, she had about 6 weeks of horrible transition where she never napped, spent a large part of the day crying, and was totally exhausted when I picked her up in the afternoon. It meant that I worried about her even more all day because I knew she wasn't happy or resting peacefully ... I knew her constant crying was stressing her caregivers ... and I knew she'd be too tired at night to spend any time with us.
I vowed I would not do this again, so I've really worked from day 1 to get Baby SJ4 to be a better sleeper. I try to put him down drowsy but awake a few times a day/night so he can learn to fall asleep on his own, and he does pretty well with that. I don't keep his room totally dark - sometimes I open the blinds or leave the lamp on while he sleeps on purpose so he won't be dependent on total darkness to sleep. I try to keep KA and the dogs semi-quiet while he naps, but of course that doesn't always happen. When he cries in his sleep, I try to pat his back, gently talk to him, or put his paci back in as a first response instead of running in and picking him up the minute he fusses. And, let's face it ... I've got another kid to take care of this time, so I can't just spend 8 hours a day silently holding a sleeping baby like I did with Katie Anne. KA now needs her own time and attention from me, and most of that comes while he's in his bed asleep. So, I think the sleep part of SJ4's daycare life won't be too hard.
However, he's got another area of concern that started to become apparent last week. As I've mentioned before, he hates to sit in his bouncy seat or swing in the papasan swing. I haven't really thought about this problem outside the realm of A) what a pain that I can't put him in these things if I need to do something while he's awake and B) what a waste of money that we just bought both those things new before he was born. So, I've just been holding him anytime that he's awake. When he was only awake for short periods of time at first, this was fine. However, he's starting to spend a lot more time awake - usually a good long while in the early morning, afternoon, and evening. Naturally, I've got to have my hands to do some things for KA or myself during those times. I've been using the Maya sling, and he loves that ...
but he also thinks he's being held when he's in it. Plus, he tends to fall asleep after only a few minutes in it because it is so cozy.
So, that's okay - I'm glad he enjoys it, and it makes me life easier. However, it doesn't teach him to be happy when he's awake and not being held, and it doesn't remotely resemble what will happen at daycare. So... what to do?
Well, my mother and mother-in-law both expressed the opinion last week that I should start getting him used to the swing and bouncy seat because that's where daycare babies spend a lot of time awake time when they aren't being changed or fed. And, when your mother and mother-in-law both tell you something, it's like the cosmos telling you to listen up! Plus, it echoed the back-of-my-mind sentiment that he really shouldn't get used to being held every second that he's awake.
So, I have embarked on the campaign to break SJ4 in. I'm thinking of this like breaking in a pair of shoes ... it hurts at first, but only for a short while - and then the shoes feel great! Or, maybe like breaking a horse ... it takes a rough ride or two to teach them what's up, but then everyone enjoys it! At least, that's my attitude going in - a little pain for a lot of gain for everyone in the end.
I explained the situation to Katie Anne first. Like any good sibling, she doesn't like to hear her brother cry. Anytime he cries, she says to me, "I hear the baby - go get him." She is definitely not a fan of the cry-it-out method. So, I told her that we were going to be working on getting SJ4 used to his swing, vibrating seat, and just laying down and chilling a little bit on his own so that he'd be ready for school in a few weeks. She thought this was a good idea. Then, I had a firm talking to with SJ4 while he was on his changing pad (that's where he does his most attentive listening) about blooming where he's planted, and we were ready!
Luckily, it all seems to be going pretty well so far. I'm trying to put him in either the seat or the swing (or both) during a time when he's changed, fed, awake, and reasonably happy. Sure, we've had the odd complaint and crying jag ... we give him 5 minutes to cry and see what he does. If he's doing the full bleating goat pitiful cry at the end of that time, I pick him up and we try again later. However, I think he's getting used to them and starting to enjoy the ability to stretch out and relax.
First, we worked on the vibrating seat.
At first, he was confused...
and even sullen.
But after awhile, he started to really enjoy it.
Of course, having big sister chatting with you as she colors next to your seat does up the entertainment factor:
The swing has been a little more difficult. I don't get it - the plush, comfortable self-propelled papasan swing seems like an ideal situation to me. Baby SJ isn't as sold as I am, though. He'll try it for a minute or two...
and then he gets ticked off. My parents brought over their swing for him to try here, and he does better in that sometimes, but it is hit or miss for him. We'll keep trying and see how it goes! Hopefully, he'll learn to enjoy hanging out in his seats and swings. My fingers are crossed that we can achieve the ever-elusive balance of holding vs. seat time to make that daycare transition easy and painless for everyone.