Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Seemingly Simple Why

A friend of mine from Houston posted a personal, yet valid question on a Facebook status that I realized I haven't really addressed or shared when I talked about going back to work here and here. He asked me why. Why I decided to go back to work. Not accusatory, but curious. And it has me reflecting how to answer such a seemingly simple question that I fear has a complex answer, if I can even answer it at all. 

Obviously I have spent some time pondering this question throughout my pregnancy and maternity leave. And if I'm honest I thought about it prior to that as well. When I went to school for engineering I never dreamed that I would ever stay at home with kids. Besides, if that was my ultimate plan then why did I pick such a difficult university (Colorado School of Mines) and major (Petroleum Engineering) in the first place?

As we grew in our community in Houston the Lord began to soften my heart towards the idea of staying home. I remember very vividly sitting in the lunchroom at work one day and hearing one of the young professionals share that her daughter crawled for the first time the previous day and she didn't get to see it and was sad. 

Sad? I was devastated and heartbroken at the idea, despite being no where near ready got kids of my own. Is that something I'm willing to sacrifice? I began to wonder. Do I really want to end up in a similar conundrum someday? Fortunately at that time, I didn't have to mull over it too much since we weren't in that position yet. But it was the first time the idea was planted that maybe I would want to stay home one day.

Fast forward to 2012/2013 when I was pregnant with Madi. The possibility of staying home still lingering in the back of my mind and Jason and I began to have discussions about it, openly and honestly, and increasing in frequency during my leave of absence when I was home with Madi.

I shared with Jason that I'm selfish and I like having an income and external feedback on my performance and seeing the fruits if my labor that result from ratings and bonuses and job promotions. I shared with him that it feels like a waste for me to have put so much time and energy into my studies and career to stop now. 

I also shared with him that I'm scared to stay home and be with my child all day without an escape. That I'm not sure if I am strong enough to be a stay-at-home mother. I confess that the idea of my job including doing laundry and cleaning all day and planning our meals and grocery shopping fills me with dread. 

Yet through tears I share with him that I don't want to miss all of Madi's milestones. I love her more than my job and doesn't that mean I should stay home? Is returning to work purely selfish and mean that I care about my job more than her? All these questions and more continually running through my mind as I tried to navigate my way towards what I was feeling and what I thought was right for our family.

I'll acknowledge that there have been good times and bad throughout my time at home with Madi. Since I'm being perfectly honest here, I'll confess that I was ready to go back to work when she was six weeks old and in full-swing with her reflux. I couldn't take being home with her any longer if something didn't change. (Of course, Jason already knew this since I screamed it at him one evening when I was tired and stressed and fed-up...) Fortunately, once she got on heartburn medicine, Madi and my's world turned around and I began to actually enjoy my time at home with her. 

Jason listened to me endlessly go back and forth bouncing ideas/thoughts/feelings about returning to work versus staying home. He gently told me that ultimately I need to do what is right for me and that he would support me whatever I decided. I told him I appreciated his support and lack of pressure towards one way or the other, but that I needed him to have an opinion. That my responsibilities to our household would change once I returned to work and he knew that we'd have to find a new balance. He said he understood and would continue to be honest with me whatever way we ended up going.

Daycare was another obstacle. Since Norwegian women get a year off paid, we aren't able to enroll Madi in barnehage (daycare) until she's a year old and the new enrollment is in August. We would have to find a private nanny to look after Madi until and that might not be easy to find in Norway. Obviously we didn't want just anyone watching her and our options seemed limited in where we could find one. 

Throughout this time Jason and I prayed, together and independently, for wisdom and guidance on what to do. Jason's prayers always more patient and reverent. My prayers turned a different direction when I felt like I couldn't weigh pros and cons any longer and needed help. I prayed, "Lord, if I am meant to return to work, then You need to make it happen. Open the door for us to find childcare that we trust and I'll know that this is what I'm supposed to do."

God always answers prayers. He may not answer in the way we want or expect, but He always answers. And in this case, He answered me clearly and unquestionably. I sent one email to a coworker's nanny who had just recently ended her contract with my coworker because they'd gotten a spot in barnehage. I explained that I was taking six months off to spend with my daughter and was targeting mid-January for a start date. She had recently returned to Australia (where she's from) for a visit and to renew her visa. The process was taking longer than expected and she had been forced to turn down a job starting in August as a result. She hoped to return to Norway in October and said she'd be in touch. I knew if she returned in October we probably couldn't ask her to wait four months without working to start for us. My heart sank, but I trusted that if things were meant to work out, then they would. 

Come October, I received an email from the nanny. Her visa was still delayed, it looked like she wouldn't be able to return to Norway until mid-December and she would love to come work for us mid-January! I was thrilled and devastated simultaneously. This is it. I asked for Him to make it happen and He did. I am supposed to return to work. I was anxious and nervous as those final days with Madison began counting down. I was anxious and nervous for my first day, heck my first week, back in the office.

Now I am on my third week back in the office. I've had lots of people ask how I'm doing and how the transition has been. And the only word I can come up with to describe my state-of-being is this: peaceful. Not peaceful in that I don't have to be running around chasing a newly crawling and standing baby. Not peaceful in that I don't have things to be working on already for my job. Not peaceful in our new routine where I feel like I am hurried in the mornings to get out the door. 

But peaceful. Peaceful in a way that only God can grant you when you know you are in the right place and doing the right thing for your family, for you, and for your current situation. I may not always feel this sense of peace. And when and if that time comes, then we will begin praying again and re-evaluate our situation. But until then, I'm confident in the knowledge that God opened the doors for me to return to work for a reason and I trust Him.

I'm still not sure I have answered the original question - why did I return to work. I guess I don't really have a better answer than what I've tried to explain above. But I am reassured and peaceful knowing it's the right decision.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Madi: Seven Months

How are you already 7 months old Madison!? It was definitely a challenge to get pictures this month as you are so active! You also had a lot of firsts and changes so let's get going on that list!

- You have mastered sitting up on your own. You have been close for awhile, but on Christmas Day everything clicked and you are a pro! You got very good at moving into a sitting position while we were still in OKC. It was super adorable - every time you would move to sitting up you would look around at anyone who was with you and smile really really big very proud of yourself. It was so much fun to see you learn a new skill and realize that you were doing it on your own!

- You have this little wave that you do (think royalty in a parade) that is so adorable! I don't think you realize you are doing it, but it's precious. And then you do things like this during our photo shoot... not so precious. ;-)

- Crawling. You are all over it. You aren't super fast yet, but you are on the move for sure. Especially now that we are home and you've noticed two new toys whose batteries never run out...aka the kittens. You smile super big whenever you see them and try to move to them. However, neither of them particularly likes you, especially Zoey. I am glad they are teaching you to crawl though! ;-) You especially prefer to crawl on your hands and feet though rather than your knees. One more sign that you are anxious to walk I think...

- Another new skill you are sharpening is pulling yourself up into a standing position!! You have always preferred standing to sitting, even at two months old, so I was always worried that as soon as something was put in front of you that you would figure out this whole pulling up thing. Well missy, I was right. We bought a sit-to-stand toy when we were in the States and sure enough, 1.5 sec later you pulled yourself up! You haven't stopped since then!! You now climb and pull up on me, Daddy, sofa, and anything else you can find. You have also started to move left and right. You are also fearless and will sometimes just let go, stand by yourself for a bit, and then fall or be caught. Let's just say there is a lot more crash and burn going on in the Stingerie household no matter how close of attention we are paying to you.

- Now that you are pulling yourself up, you've decided a few times that the crib is an ideal place to practice. However, you haven't figured out how to sit back down yet so you just hold on and start crying. You also do this when you've pulled up on other toys, getting very frustrated that you can't go back to crawling or get yourself down. This is going to make nap time a lot of fun!

- We've gotten into a new routine with Mommy returning to work this month. We've got a nanny, Miss Sally, looking after you and you two hit it off immediately! You are having so much fun with her! I sure do miss you when I am at work, but I think things are going well for both of us.

- Heaven help us when it's time for a diaper change, clothing changes, medicine, nail clipping, stroller, high chair, carseat or anything else that requires you to be laying down on your back or be strapped! You scream as though the world is coming to an end. I won't count the ones where we are having to snot suck you (because let's be honest, that is torture), but the rest are pretty ridiculous!


Can I help you?

I can climb this right?!

- Speaking of snot sucking torture, you got your first bad cough and runny nose cold this month. And then you were kind enough to share it with Mommy and Daddy (thanks baby girl!). You had a couple rough nights where you woke up coughing and unable to breathe because of being so stuffy. We got to cuddle and hold you at 4 am. Don't get me wrong though - I am not complaining. This was the first time you've woken up in the middle of the night since before you were two months old... (and now everyone who is a mother of infants hates me...)

- While we are on the subject of sleeping, this month you decided that you'd had it with the dream feed. Up until the week before Christmas I was still feeding you between 10-11 pm. Then one day you decided you were done with it. I tried a few days in a row to be sure it wasn't a fluke and you just wouldn't eat and would fuss until I put you back down for bed. Since then you've been going from 7:30 pm - 7:00 am. Have we mentioned that you are the most awesome baby ever and we already know we are going to be cursed with baby number 2 some day?! :-)

- You also decided to get your first ear infection this month. The day before we left for the three flights and 20+ hours of travel back to Stavanger. And have I mentioned that you handled it like a rockstar and didn't have any jet lag?! Best. Baby. Ever.

Haha, you think I'm going to sit here for this?

I'm done with you okapi!

Let's climb!

Okay let's go off the chair instead. 

- Focused. That is a very accurate word to describe you. (Although the way you acted in the photo shoot doesn't appear that way...) When something has your attention (albeit a toy, a person, a book, a cat, a movie, etc.) it is very hard to distract you or get your attention. It's definitely not a hearing problem because you turn towards a loud sound. Rather, it's a "I-am-concentrating-here-so-what-do-you-want" type of focus. I think you inherited this from Daddy rather then your slightly-ADD Mommy.

- We have a discovered a fun way to make you laugh and are taking advantage of it. We swing you back and forth and pretend like we are coming at you and you absolutely go crazy! It's become part of our evening routine when we get home from work. :-)

Madi -

You are so smart and beautiful and wonderful. We feel truly blessed to be your parents and are having more and more fun with you every day. You are very talkative and it almost sounds like you are saying "hi" sometimes which we just cherish. You are such a joy to be around and smile so big when we get home from work. I love that smile that you reserve for just Daddy and Mommy. There's nothing better than coming home to that smile after a long day in the office. We are so excited to see what this next month will bring, but we are not happy with how quickly you are trying to grow up and start moving We did not expect to have to baby proof this quickly. ;-)

Daddy and Mommy


Monday, January 13, 2014

The Time Has Come

My last week with Madi went by as suspected - quickly. Too quickly. Despite Madi getting a pretty bad cough this weekend and waking up in the middle of the night for the first time since... well pretty much since she was two months old (I know, I know, I can't complain because we are SPOILED that she sleeps from 7:30 pm - 7:00 am!)

However, she is feeling much better and currently playing with Sally - her new nanny. Sally will be taking over tomorrow when I return to the office. She's spent a couple days with us getting to know Madi and learning her routine. Madi is taking to her amazingly and I feel more relaxed and comfortable knowing she's in such good hands.

Tomorrow is going to be hard - harder on me than Madi I am sure. And I'll need lots of prayers please! Because I'm sure going to miss this beautiful, happy, active, and joyful baby girl!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cuddly Kittens

Two members of the Stingerie household are extra cuddly these days (and I'm not talking about Daddy and Madi!)

We were greeted by two very needy kittens when we got home. Lots of snuggles and purring has taken place the last couple of days. No matter where we are located...

Fortunately, they were in good hands while we were gone. We used a company, Stavanger Pet Sitter, to come visit the cats every other day and play with them. Svenja and Pablo were so kind and sent us pictures or videos every time they visited!

When they stopped by to give us our house key back the kittens were happy to see their visitors! We will definitely be using them again when we go out of town!! :-)


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What Do You Think You Are Doing Missy?!

Really, it's my fault. I am the one who told Jason that we should buy a walker before we left Oklahoma. I knew Madi would need one soon and when it looked like we'd have the suitcase space (I mean we checked five bags after all...), Jason relented and said we could buy it.

That same night, just minutes after setting it up and putting it in front of Madi, she did the unthinkable at just barely six months old - she pulled herself up. What do you think you are doing missy?! You are WAY to young for this!!


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Oklahoma - The Final Stop

After spending time in Chicago, Houston, and Colorado, we headed to our final stop on Madi Across America tour - Oklahoma. We stayed there the longest arriving just before Christmas and staying until after the New Year. We definitely got the chance to relax the most here because we didn't have to pack up everything and move around and we got to take advantage of grandparents willing to babysit. :-)

We got to take Madi to the park for the first time !

And watch her play during nap time...

We snuck away to the casino multiple times (including our first overnight without the Mads!) and for a couple date nights.

There were Mommy snuggles.

And lots of yummy food. Including placemats apparently. :-)

Madi opened lots of wonderful Christmas presents -

And got to meet her Uncle Timothy Justin.
You gave me to this guy?! :-)
We watched my mom shoot at morning doves stealing food from her cardinal and squirrel feeder.

And saw Madi avoid a few more nap times...

But mostly we played and spent time with these two amazing grandparents!

It was a hard goodbye at the airport and Madi didn't want to leave (we'll pretend that's why she was crying, not because Mommy gave her to someone else...)

And the three of us made the three flight, 20+ hour journey home to Stavanger. We arrived safe and sound this past Saturday and our amazing daughter traveled fabulously (especially considering she got her first ear infection the day before we left) and didn't have any jet lag!


7 Short Days

7. I blinked and suddenly there is a single-digit countdown of days until I return to work. I know this week is going to fly by too quickly and that next Tuesday, my first day in the office, is going to go by so slow. Isn't it funny how time works like that?

I'm spending this week focusing on how I'm blessed:
  • Blessed that I was able, financially and otherwise, to take the previous six months off to spend with Madison. 
  • Blessed to have a found a nanny with great references and with minimal searching effort on my part. 
  • Blessed to be able to go back part-time and have every Friday to spend with Madi. 

I'm going to enjoy and savor these next 7 days and soak up as much Madi-time as I can get! It's going to be a hard transition and I'm sure going to miss this little one. 

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