(I know it’s not January anymore but I’ve been working on this post for several weeks! And so the photos are a mix of a few taken several weeks ago and some in the last few days.)
We knew January was going to be rough, in that way you push off a lot of things until the time “after the holidays”. And we were very right!
The most stressful project was to find a daycare for Benji a few months earlier than I wanted. And the whole search - which would ideally be done slowly and carefully - was very last minute, leaving us with not very much choice. Which is the last position you want to be in when searching for someone to spend more time in a day with your child than you do.
The big rush to find a place was all because, just before Christmas, I accepted a 6-month contract as a secretary at the anglophone elementary school. The inspiration to apply sprung from my worry about finding a job with a start date that timed with the conclusion of my maternity leave in April. In retrospect, I wish I had waited it out, both because being a school secretary actually has nothing to do with my career, and on second thought, what does a temporary job do for me, really? I still have no job security, I’ve just strung out the search a little longer… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Creeping self-doubt aside, taking the job flung us into the competitive Québecois daycare market. For all the high-tax perks of quality, subsidized and heavily government-regulated childcare, there has to be something that sucks, of course! The waiting lists are RIDICULOUSLY long. It’s even recommended (mandatory, really) to put your child on the lists while in utero. And even then, the average wait time can be 12-18 months for a first-born (at least siblings get big priority). And we weren’t helped by a recent law change that has cracked down on home-based daycares, for which new, heavier regulations have forced closures that put even more strain on the demand. We’re buyers in a seller’s market.
We found a solution that’s less than ideal, where Benji goes two days a week to one place and three to another, but it will work on the short-term. He goes to the daycare at Mat’s university Wednesday-Friday, but since they only allow for part-time, we had to find a second place to complete the week. At the very last minute (we agonized about it for weeks up until right before I was to begin working), I was able to find a good samaritan willing to take him part-time while we await a spot in one of our choice places (we’re probably on a dozen wait-lists). The mornings where I have to take him to the second place are a bit rough since it is located in exactly the opposite direction from work - I literally pass the school and drive 15 minutes away and back. But we’ve gotten into a rhythm and mornings aren’t too hectic, aside from being early, but we always knew that was coming.
Aside from the big daycare hunt, I was also feeling overwhelmed by the idea of going back to work so much sooner than expected, abruptly cutting short my time with Benji, as well as our nursing relationship. Not to mention figuring out the logistics of pumping breastmilk at work or coping with giving him formula (something we had wanted to avoid). In my ideal scenario, I would have stayed with him until around 10 months and then started him at daycare progressively, leaving both of us a few weeks to gradually adapt to being apart, and giving me some days to myself. Then, start back work around his first birthday, which is when I wanted to quit breastfeeding anyway, and wouldn’t have had to mess with pumping logistics or formula. Instead, he started daycare full-time almost immediately, one day after his 8 month birthday. And all for a job I honestly kind of regret taking…
Wah, the mommy tears are still streaming!
Though I have to keep reminding myself how good I had it to have paid maternity leave as long as I did, considering that many of my sisters Stateside get a whopping 12 weeks, mostly likely unpaid even, before having to dive back into work…
But back to complaining…
To top it all off, we had a trip to Georgia planned for the very last weekend before I started work! Initially, it was going to be a family trip - all three of us - to my cousin Rebecca’s wedding in Atlanta. After being on the fence since it fell in the first weeks of the school semester, Mat finally decided he would go for it. So we booked two tickets and planned to share Benji in our laps. When I flew to NM alone with the baby, I got him a seat and it ended up being a true life-saver. He’s just not a lap infant when you’re a lone parent!
But after a disapproving reply from a professor he’d written to alert to his planned absence, Mat got spooked. He decided to cancel his ticket, and so I was left alone with a lap infant… a true nightmare if I’d had one at this point. It was too late to buy back his ticket in Benji’s name (I can’t even get started on my frustration with airlines’ non-transferable ticket crap) because the price had spiked to a RIDICULOUS figure.
I seriously considered canceling the trip. Traveling alone with a child is really difficult, and Benji is not a good sleeper. I DREADED being stuck in a metal tube with him in my lap, centimetres away from some poor stranger who probably hates children. My mom even offered to buy the ticket (thanks, Mom!) but I just couldn’t get behind it even on principle, the ticket price made no sense.
A few snaps from the trip to Atlanta for my cousin’s wedding. Benji got a lot of quality family time out of it!
Ultimately, I decided it was too late to cancel. We’d already made Airbnb and rental car arrangements with mom, Jeff and Jeff’s girlfriend, Vanessa, that had been tailored to accommodate the baby - and to cancel on that would have been really awful for everyone. Not to mention that I really did want to go, as stressful as it had become.
It was really a rare opportunity to see a lot of family at once, plus a big highlight was to introduce Benji to his great-grandfather, his only living great-grandparent. A unique occasion for a photo bookending four generations!
It was a nice trip, if not a little too short for all the travel involved. It was difficult working the baby’s schedule into the schedule with the family and the wedding, so there were many moments where I had to push Benji to his maximum tolerance levels. Plus, being an only parent is really not pleasant - with all the new and unfamiliar people around, he really clung to me the first day or two, and so it was hard for me to visit and really enjoy the company. Though he did finally warm up to his uncle Jeff by the end… but by then it was time to catch the plane home! And the very next day, I had my first day of work and Benji his first full day at daycare.
And it’s already been three weeks since! Talk about whirl-windy.