This week we celebrated labor day in Costa Rica. I would like to share some thoughts around the question, what does work mean when you have such a small baby?
If I have learned something in this time, is that all mothers work. In or away from home, we all do. I have been back to work for 3 months after my maternity leave expired and vacation was over. I really wanted to recuperate my space but to be honest sometimes I feel 3 years older. To balance work, home, taking care of a baby and your personal life is an heroic task that it is only until you live it that you can understand it.
I wake up at 5am and go back to bed at midnight. Sometimes I feel I’ve done a lot and sometimes I feel I still have a lot pending. Even after 7 months, my tasks aren’t finished when I finally put my head in the pillow. My baby wakes up sometimes one time and some others 5 times. I “sleep” at the edge of the bed trying not to fall down.
I actually don’t think I sleep. I would say I close my eyes and I rest…
Teachers already have hard jobs, but when we become mothers, we strech the hours to try to take advantage of every single minute in the day. We leave our houses with 3 big bags and we go and teach children and serve parents, we make administrative work and when we get back home… we continue working in our plans, registries, materials, commitees. I’ve found myslef pumping out milk on the way back from work, trying to strech the hours even more. And to that, we have to add the house work and the baby care. It gets very hard very quick. Sometimes is 3 pm and I find out I haven’t take lunch yet. As new moms, we have to organize our time very well, split the tasks with our partners and definitely ask for help.
When I get home, I try to disconnect myself from work. I prefer to leave everything what’s pending to after my baby gets asleep and get all necessary items for the next day ready also at that time, so I don’t have to sacrifice my time with her. If she takes a nap in the afternoon, I take a nap too. If she doesn’t, oh well…
To stay at home can be also tragic. There is always something to do in a house. To mantain your sink with no dirty dishes should be considered a halftime job. But we also have to cook since we all need to eat. We have to do our laundry since we all need to wear clean clothes. But most important, we have to play. Our babies could have all toys in the world, but nothing will replace the attention from their parents.
Couples who live away from family and that have decided to work not only deal with the fatigue, we also deal with the thought of who is going to take care of our baby. When I planned to have my baby, that was one of my biggest concerns. Would I be able to afford it? In Costa Rica, 25% of your income will go for babysitting or day care. I’ve found out in other countries the data is similar, 26.6% in the UK, 23.1% in the USA. Some more developed countries like Canadá extend the maternity leave up to a year. Seems they understand better the needs of their babies.
Our reality here, is that even though we would love to stay home, in the majority of the cases, we can’t. Two incomes are necessary to mantain an average, balanced and healthy lifestyle. I really don’t know how do single moms make it. Our country has care netwroks but only people with a very low economic situation can access to them.
Going back to the initial question, what does it mean to work when you have such a small baby? Either you work in or away from home, it means some nights you are going to want to go to bed not even to sleep all night, but only to rest enough to re-start the next morning. It means you will sacrifice your own wellness to give it to your little one. But… when you see that smiling baby as soon as you come back from work and that all they want is to get on the breast as soon as possible or when they get mad because they want more of that food you prepared with so much love is when I say, I’ll do it all over again.