In August and September, I got to experience being a stay-at-home mom of two. Well, not SAH, really, because I was on maternity leave from my job. And I was getting paid. In short, the ideal fantasy life for a working mother who often dreams of being with her kids all day but loves her job and needs the income. And I wasn't with both of them all the time - just Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. My husband was with us on the weekends and our preschooler was in preschool the two remaining weekdays. Many women recommended keeping the older one in full-time daycare during the leave, but finally a colleague with three kids said, "It's not a vacation, but it IS your time not working. You want to take advantage of that time. Even if you're sitting bleary-eyed, nursing under a tree at a playground, wouldn't you rather have her with you a few days a week?" In retrospect, I think I dug until I found that answer. It was the right answer for us.
That's not to say that those three days a week have been a cakewalk [!! ...who knew]. The first day I had Peony, I brought her to a gymnastics class I'd proudly found at a local studio and settled down with my new 2-week-old to relax and watch her play. But that first plan was too flimsy. Clinging and crying to me, she refused to join the other kids, despite her initial excitement about the class. I had nothing planned for the rest of the day, and it went very slowly, with her defiant at every turn and me distracted and stressed. After that, I decided, I needed to have a plan for every day with the two of them, and we needed to only take classes we could do as a family. Here are the visits we've done with our precious, unforgettable two months:
Harvard Museum of Natural History
Walden Pond x 4
Franklin Park Zoo
South Station, Dewey Square, "purple train" and harbor
Institute of Contemporary Art*
Boat tour of Boston Inner Harbor x2 (kids 3 and under ride free!)
Boston Harbor Islands by ferry
Discovery Museum and Acton Children's Museum
Gore Place Preschool Story Time
Drumlin Farm class: "Tractors, Trucks and Tools"
Cambridge Common playground
Shelburne Farms apple-picking and hayride-a-going
Porter Square Books story hour
Garden in the Woods**
Beaver Brook Sprinkler Park
Fresh Pond ranger-led hike: "Leaves" and visit with residents of assisted living facility Neville Place
Shopping at Fresh Pond mall - Whole Foods lunch feast (dates! plums! lemon cake! sushi!) and TJ Maxx (footie pajamas for everyone!)
Moody St. day in Waltham: Gourmet Pottery, Lizzy's Ice Cream, Eastern Coast Costume for a bee costume for Halloween
Artesani park playground
Long Wharf in Boston, with seals, boats, playgrounds and people-watching
New England Aquarium
Museum of Fine Arts*
MuckyKids Art Studio
Watertown Library Preschool Story Hour
Elm Bank for Caterpillar Club
Wilson Farms for Spooky Hayride
*just me and baby
**the three of us plus other family members
plus visits with friends (Nico, Molly, Ava, and new friends) and a couple relax-at-home days.
Phew! No wonder Tuesdays and Thursdays have been my relaxing "vacation" days! I never would have dreamed that being on my own with a newborn could feel so totally easy. We go to Mommy & Me workout classes at Healthworks, plan the upcoming renovation, and coo at each other. It is lovely.
We have a little over one month left, but the big girl's schedule is changing, so we'll just have 2 days a week as a trio. We'll hit up the Museum of Science on the 15th (library passes!) with a friend and I'd like to find one more ferry experience before the boats pull off the sea for the winter. And maybe we'll the Boston Children's Museum too! It's funny that we haven't made it there yet - I've been saving it for a rainy day, but we've had great weather. Finally, the baby and I will visit the Met before the start of work. And we'll get oysters. And we'll relax at Brookline Booksmith.
I feel so extraordinarily lucky. Today I imagined what it would be like if I got back to work only to be laid off (highly unlikely, but I have never quite gotten over getting laid off three times in my twenties, which probably makes me a pretty motivated employee by now) and I realized I'd feel mixed - lucky and unlucky at the same time. I really like working and I can see how it helps me parent. I partly parent by working, and being a person who teaches about working, collaborating, and self-discovery. On the other hand, these children are amazing, and so is our beautiful city. I could explore it with them forever.