Cars and cable: two things America does badly

Just to balance out the recent happy, sunny weather posts, I do think it’s important to say that not everything we’re discovering about our new city/life has been wonderful. I feel like the ranting about France started after a few months, so I’m right on schedule for annoyances popping up on this side of the ocean! It’s funny that the two things that have frustrated me the most are cars and cable, the two things America is supposed to do well, right? And also the two things I didn’t see as “essential” when we first moved. We made it over two months without a car, and nearly four without a television. Now I really wish we had gone a little longer without both!

Not only was buying a car not so fun, we’re still waiting for the title over a month later, which was supposed to arrive in the mail two weeks after we bought it. I can ask for a copy at the RMV, but that costs 25 dollars I already paid the dealership, since that’s part of the package when you buy a car from them. Every time I try to call to speak to somebody about it, I’m on hold for a long time, and I haven’t had the patience to wait more than 10 minutes for someone to pick up. I’ll keep trying, but I’m almost tempted to be super French and send a registered letter to them informing them of the situation, rather than waste more time on the phone.

Most of my time on the phone in the past weeks not on hold has been with Comcast. They’re the only cable provided who services our building, and I’ve never heard good things about them. So I shouldn’t be too surprised that the hour long phone conversation I had with them led to nowhere. The issue was very simple: I was not told my internet was the basic, super slow kind, when I thought I was paying for the faster speed.

It all started when we moved in and I got the bundled fast internet and cable, but when the guy came to install it and we didn’t have a TV, they didn’t leave the cable box. Everyone told me I could just watch on the app. Which we did for a few days, until it stopped working. When I called, they said they couldn’t sell me cable (even just through the app) if I didn’t have the box, and I couldn’t have a box without a TV. So I said whatever, just internet is fine, and it cost less, so that was nice. The past few months we’ve noticed it was slow, but again, since everyone I know complains about it, I thought that was normal.

There was an offer for cable through the internet without a box, so we finally bought a TV last weekend, but I decided to call first to complain about the speed. No sense getting the TV if the internet was just going to freeze the picture all the time. And that’s when they offered an “upgrade” to the speed I thought I’d been paying for these past 3 months! So my choices were to pay 30 more per month for the high speed internet to start immediately, or 20 dollars more for the cable bundle, but I’d have to wait a week for the box, since they couldn’t upgrade my internet until I installed the box. I picked option three, complain to customer service, since a) I thought I’d already been paying for the faster speed, and b) why is it 20 dollars more now for the same service that cost only 5 dollars more 3 months ago?

The girl was super nice, but after a half hour of back and forth, she couldn’t offer me anything else. She said she put in a ticket so I’d get a call back this week to see if someone higher up could do something. Unsurprisingly, I have had no call, and I’m not really in the mood to call them back quite yet. I can’t decide if I am being unreasonable or not, but I honestly cannot understand why the exact same thing costs so much more 3 months later, just because I’m not a “new” customer anymore. I know 20 dollars versus 5 dollars more per month is “only” a difference of 180 dollars a year, but I’m just so annoyed I feel like complaining anyway, even if it won’t change anything. And after 8 years in France, I can do some pretty good complaining!

In the end, the TV works fine plugged into the modem and isn’t as slow as watching on the computer can be. My husband is a little disappointed he can’t watch the Euro right now like we’d planned, but there are plenty of bars he can go to, so silver lining. Except the bar tabs may also cost 180 dollars or more by the end of the tournament, so maybe it will be cheaper to just suck it up and get the cable!

Job hunting while abroad

First things first: I got a job! In Boston! Now, to explain in a very roundabout way how I got it . . .

We moved without jobs lined up, so we were hoping to find something before we left, or at least have a few good leads. I was honestly quite doubtful that we’d get on the plane with an offer to start as soon as we arrived, but I was very confident it wouldn’t take that long once we got here. Job hunting while abroad was still very stressful at times, mostly because we started a little too early and got discouraged by rejections, despite knowing perfectly well how ridiculous it was to apply in September when we knew we wouldn’t be there until January or February. We did get into contact with the HR people of our companies in the States, to let them know we’d be moving and we were open to different cities. We both had some good conversations, but in the end, nothing was opening up that fit our profiles, and they can’t create jobs just for us.

One positive thing about leaving without jobs was that we had the advantage of picking the city that we wanted to live in. We made a list of all the places that interested us and that would offer the best opportunities for both of us. While I can pretty much work anywhere in human resources, my husband is in a very specific branch of banking, so we had to stick to big cities. For the most part, we focused our job hunt on these areas, though my husband did have a tendency to apply for jobs at tiny banks in the middle of Wyoming, just because he liked the name (of the town, the bank, or both), saying he wanted to try a new field. And maybe we could have a ranch and he could ride a horse to the bank. (Hey, this is our “American dream” after all . . .)

Wyoming reveries aside, we mainly stuck to the East Coast, since my parents live in the DC suburbs and one of the big reasons for moving was to be closer to them. I went to college in New Jersey and have friends in all the major cities, so I knew wherever we ended up, we wouldn’t be totally alone. I had a sneaking suspicion that we’d be getting the most replies from places around DC, simply because we’d have a local address once we arrived. And while I wasn’t against staying in the area (having a baby changes your view on things like school systems and parks), I was worried it wouldn’t feel like much of an adventure if we just slipped back into the same life I’d had in high school, just with a kid and nicer clothes. I wanted something new for me too, so my husband wouldn’t be alone in his adaptation to a new life.

This was a chance for us to change directions a little bit if we wanted to, so I looked for things a little beyond what I currently do, in the direction I want to go. However, I also applied to a few entry level HR roles, thinking I’d maybe need a little time to learn the new laws and payroll systems. I looked for things that mentioned French, since I knew that’s one thing that could really set me apart from other candidates. Also, if friends mentioned their company was hiring, I would send them my resume if there was something I was interested in.

Once we bought our plane tickets and put an arrival date on our resumes, I thought things would pick up a little bit. But actually, all the calls/emails I got were from applications I made in the three or four weeks before we left. So it seems really silly now to think of how stressed out we were in October about not having found anything. I kept saying it was too early, but it’s so hard to not be actively doing something to look for a job. However, sending out so many applications probably helped get our cover letters into good shape, and after awhile, we started to get fed up with all the complicated online forms, so we only applied to things we really wanted or were sure we were qualified for. So in the end, it was maybe a good thing to start so early, in a way?

I had a few different interviews in the two weeks before we left, via Skype, email, and video, for jobs around DC, and one in Boston. It sounded like a great opportunity to keep doing what I know and enjoy but lots of new things as well (basically, exactly what you want when you’re looking for a new job). And there’d be opportunities to keep speaking French from time to time. I got an email the week we arrived, asking me to come up to Boston for an interview, which went extremely well and just confirmed what a good fit this was for me, since a week later, I got the offer! A pretty sweet offer too. Along with three other calls for interviews from companies I had applied to within the past few weeks, all in the DC area! When it rains, it pours, right? Added to that was the interview and offer my husband got last week as well, in Baltimore. A very busy week for us!

The choice was difficult but not really. Baltimore was not exactly on our “list of cities,” being so close to where I grew up and and not a financial center. Boston was at the top our our list. My husband actually had a call with a company there the week we arrived, so we know he’ll have lots of options there. And the job he was offered is moving to the Delaware office in a few years, which, no offense to “The First State,” did not sound even a little bit fun. So while part of me feels guilty for him having to turn down his offer and follow me yet again into the unknown, a bigger part of me knows this is the right choice. This is a big reason why we moved to the States, to have better career options, and I really think Boston is a place where we can both do that. Staying around DC would be okay for us, but not great.

And while I know one day is not like living there, I felt very comfortable driving around Boston, even downtown. It all seemed different in a good, familiar way, if that makes sense. Well, I did used to go there during college to see a boyfriend, but that was 10 years ago, and in one tiny area of the city, so it’ll all still be very new to me. We’re going up soon to look at apartments, and I’m hoping the trip will make my husband a little happier about our choice. I mean, he’s happy I got a job I’m sure I’ll love, but it was scary for him to say no to an offer, not knowing when another will come up. However, if the past few weeks are any indication, I really think he’ll find something quickly. But not too quickly, because finding daycare is my next challenge and is proving to be slightly impossible . . .

This was a bit long, so if you’ve made it this far, thank you! Here’s my summary of job hunting while abroad: pick good cities with lots of jobs, start very early, get depressed about all the rejections, start applying to only cool things, then apply to only things near your parents, move,  have everything good happen within the space of about two weeks, make a huge decision that will impact your child, your marriage, and your happiness, then cross your fingers it will all be fine.

Long distance running is (kind of) like giving birth

Last weekend my husband and I ran a half marathon. It was his second, and my fourth. However, it was the first time we’ve run a race together. I usually manage to motivate myself pretty well, but I hadn’t run a half since 2009, and I knew I’d need a little extra encouragement. The half he did this summer went well (he finished just under 2 hours), so he  didn’t feel any pressure to push himself, and ran along with me for the whole 2 hours and 22 minutes it took me to finish. Which is actually my second best time, after the first one I ran in 2007 in 2:10. And just in case you’re interested, I did one in Germany in 2008 in 2:38 (I blame the hail), and another in Annecy in 2009 in 2:27.

Even if it was my second best race, this was a hard one for me, despite the gorgeous weather and totally flat route. While running long distance is really nothing like giving birth, in some ways, it kind of is . . .

  • I pictured it going a certain way, but it was different than I’d imagined
  • Breathing was very important
  • The food and water provided was not sufficient
  • At various moments I felt terribly sick
  • I said things like “This was a stupid idea,” “I can’t do this,” and “Ahhh everything hurts!”
  • My husband was wonderfully encouraging and said things like “You can do this!” “You’re doing great!” “I’m so proud of you!” “Just a little longer!”
  • After a certain point, words were impossible, and I communicated via grunts
  • It seemed endless, but actually went quicker than expected
  • Walking the day after was all sorts of painful
  • While it was happening, I was sure I would never do it again, yet once the pain faded, I started to think “Maybe another wouldn’t be so bad . . .”

It was my husband’s encouragement that first made me think of all the similarities, since he was saying, word for word, the exact same things as during labor. And just like last July, he saw how hard it was for me and helped me the best he could, but in the end, no one else could do it for me, I had to do it myself.

I’m not in any way an expert in running, or giving birth, but having someone there next to you the whole time rooting for you definitely makes a difference!

Crazy week

This week has just kicked everyone’s butts. This three-day weekend could not have been timed better.

It all started last weekend, when a friend came over to do some baking. About a week before bébé was born, I went to a “tupperware party” for Guy Demarle cooking products, and they’ve been sitting in their bag ever since they were delivered a few weeks after he was born. Last Saturday, the friend who invited me to the party (and who recently took the same patisserie classes  as I did last year) came over and I FINALLY used almost everything that I bought. While I’ve made a few things over the past 10 months, I haven’t done any serious baking since before bébé was born. Most weekends we spend cooking and preparing his food, so it was nice to do something for the grown-ups instead!

We were just going to make a pâte à choux to make eclairs and religieuses, but we ended up making escargots au chocolat as well. It was a good thing we did, because it meant easy and quick breakfasts for most of the week, though the eclairs were pretty much gone by Sunday night!

pastry

Saturday night was our date night, so my brother-in-law came over to babysit. But he called us around 9:30 to say bébé had thrown up! He’s never done that before (spitting up is something different), so we rushed home to find a very sad, sick baby. His tooth was finally cutting through the gums, which was hurting him like crazy, plus he was a little regular sick too. BIL did great though, and handled it very calmly, especially considering that at 22, he’s never really been around babies that much besides ours. I do wonder if maybe bébé was also kind of freaked out to wake up in pain and not see his parents, but I think he was just in tons of pain and would have been sick no matter who had been there.

After a night without much sleep, Sunday was pretty miserable for everyone, but we knew that teething is never a fun experience. So unfortunately we started the week without the usual chill weekend to regain a bit of energy, and for me at least, this week at work was always going to be rough with someone on vacation and a new intern to train.

Somehow we struggled through on even less sleep than usual, but bébé still had a runny nose and was pulling his ears more than usual, then my husband started feeling sick too. He ended up being put on sick leave for Thursday and Friday by the doctor, and bébé stayed home from the nanny’s. Ear infection and cold for bébé, pharyngitis for my husband. It’s interesting because bébé seems to get sick every three months, so we’ll see what happens in August  . . .

Of course by now, I’m starting to get a sore throat too, but tomorrow we’re headed up to MIL’s so at least we’ll have some help for the next few days. It’s the annual football fête this weekend in her town, and hopefully we’ll all be able to have a little fun despite not feeling our best. For last year’s fête I was almost 8 months pregnant, so it’ll be nice to be able to walk around normally and fully sample all the different food and drinks this year.

Already February!

Hey look at that, it’s already February!

January was pretty awful (husband’s grandmother passed, nanny quit, work situation has gotten even more stressful) and I didn’t really feel like documenting any of it in detail. I’m glad this month is over and am looking forward to a “new start” in February. And even if turns out to be just as hard the past month, at least it’s shorter, so I won’t have to deal with it for long . . .

However, there were some good things this month, that I’ll use to inspire me for February:

–  While I didn’t get my monthly “me” time, my husband and I did manage to go out on our monthly date night. It was his brother’s first time “babysitting,” though I don’t know if you can really call it that since bébé slept the entire time . . . We went to a restaurant only a few blocks away, though, just in case. We spent a lot of time talking about bébé, so my goal for next month’s date is to talk a little bit more about other things.

– I worked out a lot. Not as much as I originally intended, but more than I expected, considering my mood/energy was pretty low most nights after work. It did seem to help lift both a little, so  I’ll try to do just as much, if not more, in February.

Hmm, I thought I had more, but I can’t think of anything else. Well, there were lots of good moments with bébé, of course, and some nice chats and emails with friends around the world, all of which helped make things seem a little less dismal. But overall, this crappy first month of 2015 made me realize what I need to do during the next 11 months to get to a happier place overall by 2016.

Goals for 2015

I hope everyone had fun last night for New Year’s Eve! Ours was very low-key, since bébé is teething (like sleep wasn’t hard enough before!) and neither of us was up for trying to get him to sleep at a noisy party somewhere. It was just me and my husband and his brother at our apartment, watching funny movies and eating all the things we swore we’s stop eating once we got to 2015.

However, I am one of those people who sets goals for the new year, rather than make resolutions. Instead of saying “I won’t eat sugar/bread/chocolate/etc” it’s more like “I’ll eat veggies twice a day.” Easier to track, and easier to stay motivated.

I wanted to get them all written down today, just to make them feel “official.”

My goals for 2015:

– Monthly dates with my husband.

I read a lot about weekly date nights, but since bébé goes down pretty early, we get a fair amount of time alone in the evenings during the week. This goal is more about getting out of the house together on a regular basis. Hopefully as the year goes on, and bébé gets bigger, we’ll be able to go out more often. But for now, asking his mother or brother to babysit one evening a month seems like a pretty big deal.

 

– Monthly pampering time.

I got a haircut and my eyebrows waxed in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and it felt great to have someone else take care of me for an hour. Eating well and exercising are also ways to feel good, but those are things I do myself. I think I could do with a little more TLC from talented strangers: a manicure, a massage, a solo trip to the thermal baths . . . I’ll probably try to do it right before our monthly dates, so I feel extra special before going out. For this goal, more often seems a little selfish, not to mention financially difficult.

 

– A 10k or more in May/June, a 10k max in Autumn

Most companies in Luxembourg sponsor their employees for the marathon in the Spring. If there are enough people interested for me to join a team, then I’ll do that, otherwise, I’ll find another race. I know I’d be able to do another 10k, but if by March I’m feeling okay, maybe I’ll try to train for a half marathon. Training for a shorter race after should keep me motivated by changing my routine, and I’ll make speed my goal rather than simply finishing.

 

– Finish a Coursera specialization

I have taken MOOCs before, and really enjoyed them, but I wanted something more in-depth. Coursera has specialisations now, and one really caught my eye that I think will help with my future career goals. I started it last month and while I could technically finish it by this summer, I think by the end of 2015 is more realistic. Two online courses a month + running + bébé seems like a recipe for total exhaustion. But I’ll keep summer as a soft deadline, since I am the type of person who hears “by end of the year” and won’t start doing anything until December 15th.

 

Relationship, me, health, and career. All of them changed a lot in 2014 with the arrival of bébé, and it was too big of a change to really call it “good” or “bad,” if that makes sense. Is my health “worse” now than before I was pregnant? Was my career or mariage “better”? How can you even compare them before and after? It’s a totally new life situation, like starting from zero. So hopefully with these goals, by the end of 2015, these four areas in my life will be in great shape, and I can start to think about more long-term goals.

Running a 10k four months postpartum

10k four months postpartum

I am super happy that I managed to meet the goals I set for the 10k race I ran this past weekend. I ran the whole thing, and I was faster than I had anticipated, despite missing two runs the past two weeks because of a nasty cold.

While pregnant, I read a lot of posts about postpartum running, and wanted to share my own reflections on the process. None of this is intended to replace medical advice, it’s simply what I learned and observed over the past four months.

My big secret: honesty. With yourself, your doctor, and your spouse/partner.

Honesty with your doctor: it means not lying about how you feel just so he’ll sign off on the race (in France you need a doctor’s note to participate in competitions). It means telling him every single problem and concern about breastfeeding, exercise, and sleep and listening to his answers, even if you don’t like them. I thought he would ok exercise at my 4 week appointment, but he said only walking and yoga until 8 weeks. This was frustrating, but in the end, a very good thing. Postnatal yoga focuses a lot on hips and lower back. Guess what runners need to work on too?

Honesty with yourself: it means asking yourself lots of questions and thinking very seriously about the answers. I think these could apply to any hobby, be it quilting, running, writing, dancing, stargazing . . . whatever makes you feel connected to your pre-baby self.

Questions like:

  • Am I willing to give up x y z to make time for it? (For me, TV mainly, and couple time, but my husband just got a new video game so it meant more time for him to play!)
  • Will I really be able to stick with it through the craziness and exhaustion that is life with a newborn? (Even having just 20 minutes to myself a few times a week really helped me stay sane, so I looked forward to my runs as fun, rather than having them feel like an obligation to avoid.)
  • Will I be disappointed if it doesn’t turn out how it did before? (I was okay with a slower time but I knew I’d be a little upset if I had to walk)
  • Do I want to share my goal publicly to help motivate me? (My family and colleagues knew, and they asked about my progress, which I found very motivating. I mentioned it on the blog, but not on Facebook until it was over.)

Honesty with your spouse: it means asking similar questions, to make sure they understand how much support you’re going to need from them.

Some questions for spouses/partners:

  • Can you put the baby to bed/cook dinner/do laundry X times a week? (My training schedule had me running less than 30 minutes two weeknights, which was very manageable for us. More than that would have been hard.)
  • Is it ok if you see me a little less while I do it? (see video game comment above)
  • How will we set up a schedule so we both can do the things we want to do? (It’s only fair to give if you get, so I made sure to make time for his hobbies as well.)

Ok, so honesty is great and everything, but non-runners may still be wondering how running a 10k at 4 months postpartum is actually possible. (Or maybe there are runners like me going through their first pregnancy wondering that as well.) A few things to keep in mind:

– This is not my first race. Or my fifth. I actually don’t know the exact number, but I’ve been running at least one or two a year for 9 years. This means I know my body, I know what my limits are, how fast I can go, when to run through a cold, when to stay home (and do yoga!), what a real injury feels like, etc. If I’d only ever run one or two races, I probably would have set a much easier goal with less distance, and more months of training.

– I trained with a walk/run plan. This kind of felt like going backwards, but again, knowing my body meant knowing that after almost a year off, it wouldn’t be ready to only run at 2 months. Or 3. But by 4, I got to a place that felt like running the whole 10k would maybe be possible. Maybe not. But at least with a walk/run plan, I knew I’d be able to finish it either way.

– I worked out during my pregnancy. Swimming, yoga (so much yoga!), light weights, walking. While “knowing” my body didn’t really apply during pregnancy, since it was doing all sorts of crazy things I couldn’t control, I did listen to it. And I often felt really great after an easy workout, so I kept at it as long as it felt good. But if I was too tired or achy, I didn’t do it.

– My husband is working part-time right now. Since he can do laundry/shopping during the day, evenings are free to pursue our different hobbies. He is also really really great about dealing with the bébé at night, which means I can sleep, since I have the more demanding work schedule, and so that I can be rested for my runs.

It’s definitely the support of my husband that has helped the most these past four months, and obviously not just for running, but for everything. Even when working full-time, he didn’t hesitate for a second to take a crying baby so I could get out of the house for 20 minutes, or to get up three times a night to change diapers. I told a friend that running this race didn’t make me superwoman, but it definitely made me realize I’m married to superman!

2 year wedding anniversary

Today is our 2 year wedding anniversary, and we managed to get a little bit of time this weekend to celebrate. We dropped off bébé with my mother-in-law and headed to the thermal baths at Villa Pompéi for a massage and some relaxing (it’s only for adults, so it was nice and calm). Then we went for a fancy lunch, with wine! I have to be careful about timing drinks since I’m breastfeeding, so usually I just stick to water, but I had my pump in the car, so I went crazy and had 2 glasses! It was a little strange to be able to eat more than three bites of food without getting up to soothe a fussy baby, though I am reassured by friends that all babies seem to have that “mom and dad are eating” sensor and pick that exact moment to start crying.

In total, we had 6 hours of “us” time, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it felt like ages. I was a little surprised at myself for crying when we first left, and again randomly a bit later, but I relaxed as time went on. Bébé behaved very well for his mamie so I am less nervous about starting with the nanny this week. I have no idea yet what I’ll do for 6 hours on my own, but I have a feeling chocolate and Netflix will be involved . . .

Right around this time is also my 7 year anniversary of moving to France. I can never remember which day exactly without looking it up in my old blog, but it was sometime towards the end of September. I met my husband just a few weeks later, at a student party, when he stopped to say hello to a friend from class (my flatmate’s girlfriend) and introduced himself to the smiling blonde (me!) next to her.

We spent a lot of time Saturday playing the “what if” game: what if he hadn’t gone that night (he was mad at his friends and almost didn’t), what if he had walked along the side of the dace floor instead of the middle to get to the bar, what if I had left an hour earlier when some of my other friends had . . .

We laughed about how we both thought it would just be something fun for a few weeks. Obviously feelings changed pretty quickly, since here we are 7 years later, married for 2, with a little bébé and a largish cat.

I’ve lost a few computers since I’ve been here, so I don’t have many pictures from the very early days, but thanks to Facebook, I managed to find one from every year so far. There are three from the wedding since that’s what we’re celebrating today!

MeandHim

The central picture is the very first one I have of us from 2007. We look so much older in the picture next to it from our maternity shoot in May!

On the bottom (L to R): 2012 wedding, 2012 wedding, 2010 in Sarrebruck, 2011 in Berlin.

On the top (L to R): 2012 wedding, 2013 in London, 2008 in Metz, 2009 our PACS days in Metz.

(Both our wedding and maternity photos were shot by Aurélie who also did our gender reveal.)

Feelings about going on maternity leave

Today was the first day of my 16 to 20 week maternity leave. I’ll write more later about the more administrative details; today I was having all sorts of feelings about going on maternity leave and legally not being able to work for the next few months.

Since I work in HR, I read A LOT about the different gender equality policies around the country and around the world. Which companies have the best male/female ratio, which country gives the most maternity leave, which countries give parental leave for the father, which countries have quotas for female board members . . .

I don’t think there’s really a “best” answer. I can say that while it’s very reassuring to know I won’t lose my job because we chose to have a baby, and we won’t go into debt because of hospital bills, it’s also frustrating that I can’t continue to work longer when I am perfectly capable of doing so. I’m not sure how imposing a long break for women is supposed to help them gain workplace equality.

Not that I am at all upset to have this break! And it’s something we knew would happen, so it was a deliberate choice (well, as much as timing these things can be deliberate) to have a baby very early in my career rather than wait until I was more established. But I still had a few big projects I’d been working on for a while that I had to pass on to other people, which was extremely hard to accept. It feels like there’ll be this big blank in my CV and I’ll always have less practical experience in the field than others my age. So I really want to use my “time off” to continue developing skills and knowledge (languages, computers, policy, etc.) that I can put to use once I go back. (Those of you who are moms are probably laughing yourselves silly at my naïveté thinking I can study German vocab while sleep-deprived and nursing a colicky newborn. Don’t break my utopian bubble just yet, pretty please!)

I’ll actually be going back as soon as possible, since my husband is going to work part-time for a year instead of me at the end of my maternity leave (this option is made possible thanks to Luxembourg’s parental leave policy). It means taking a step back in his career as well, which we discussed at length before deciding what to do. The way we see it, he’ll get a “break” and get to spend more time at home than he otherwise would with his crazy hours. The housework/baby burden will hopefully be slightly better balanced than what often happens, making us both more efficient at work. (Again, no breaking my bubble moms! Trying to go into this as positive as possible!)

In the long term, we realize it will probably mean less money and less promotions for both of us, but making our family a priority now, before we have to make bigger career choices, seemed to make sense to us. In 20 years, will he really care that it took him an extra year to get a promotion when he was able to be so involved with his son’s early life? And I’m sure in a few years I won’t give two figs about these “empty” months in my CV when it meant being able to take care of our new baby myself instead of leaving him with strangers when he’s just a few weeks old.

I do realize how incredibly lucky we are to even have these options available to us. But the one option that wasn’t available was for me to continue working as long as I could physically, which annoys me. It would have saved the government money, and would mean a higher salary potential over the course of my career as well, which is also good for the government, since it means more taxes. It would have saved my company money since they’d need a replacement for less time. Even the train company would make money from me keeping my commuter pass longer.

Coming back to this idea of equality, maternity policies aren’t even fair to all women, since not everyone has children. If a company doesn’t replace a woman on maternity leave, it means more work for others without increasing their pay. The same goes for men and parental leave. Everyone knows the time isn’t being spent lounging around on the beach, and that having children is just as much work as a full-time job, if not more. (Ok, probably definitely more work.) But that doesn’t mean those you leave behind at the office aren’t feeling a bit of resentment seeing you walk out the door, or that when you come back you won’t feel some as well for all the opportunities you missed. I feel like the only way to be really equal is for everyone to get an extended period off at some point during their career, so that the career advancement and workload issues apply to everyone. (This is an insanely impractical suggestion, I know, but hopefully the reasoning behind it makes at least a little bit of sense.)

Most of these confusing ramblings are the result of the guilt I feel for getting this time off when it seems like I did nothing to earn it other than do what humans have been doing forever, and when so many other women around the world don’t have my options. I am grateful, I am annoyed, I feel guilty, I feel relieved, I want this, I don’t want that, I want everything . . . Basically all the feelings I can expect once I’m a mother, right? So if maternity leave is supposed to help me prepare for motherhood, it seems like I’m off to a good start!

 

Crazy stuff said during pregnancy

I am nearing the end of week 31, which in theory means less than 9 more to go! But it could be as little as 6 or 7 weeks . . . Either way, I thought it was time to write about all the crazy stuff said during pregnancy. By me as well as my husband. I know it’s our first baby, and I know there are no “stupid” questions, but sometimes I think we could have maybe thought things over just a little longer . . .

Him: “We know a few other Franco-american couples, and their kids are all redheads. Does that mean ours will be?” (During one of our first doctor’s appointments. Because obviously hair color is dependant on nationality, not silly things like genetics.)

Me: “Wait, how can we see his brain?? Doesn’t he have a skull?!” (During a sonogram, when he showed us the two hemispheres. He answered, quite patiently actually, that we can see though the skull, just like we were seeing through my belly, thanks to modern technology.)

Him: “So he showed us the diaphragm, it must be a girl! Only girls have those!” (Said in the car after the same, apparently very confusing, sonogram appointment. Biology was not his favorite class in school . . .)

Me: “Since it’s a boy, if you test my blood, will I be both male and female?” (During my most recent blood test. I still feel like this is a legitimate question, but my husband laughed a lot about this. Whatever, I was more into chemistry anyway.)

Him: “When he’s born, he’s all covered in stuff, so what if they give him to me and he just slips out of my arms??” (The other night when discussing our birth plan. I’m sure he’s not the first future papa to worry about this, but it was the motions he did while saying it that were just priceless.)

Me: “He’s been kicking really really hard lately, he can’t like, tear through anything and suddenly burst out of my stomach, right?” (I blame this on Twilight/Alien. He kicks super hard! But again, the midwife was very patient and explained all the physical reasons why this is not possible. So maybe I am not the first to ask this!)

Him: “But if I put the baby in the stroller in the apartment, how will I get him down the stairs?” (This is actually a recurring theme with my husband, wanting to know how he’ll physically manage things like getting both groceries and the baby into the car, or where to put the baby when he’s getting ready for work in the morning. It’s sweet, to know he’s already picturing it, but also funny to hear all the various complicated situations he can imagine for himself. I feel like once bébé is here, it’ll all make more sense to him.)

 

And maybe it’s just hormones, but my doctor has been getting on my nerves lately, because he says stuff like: “Really? You were crying? Contractions don’t hurt that much.”

I realize he was just trying to determine what exactly had caused a very scary pain a few weeks ago, but I am kind of regretting my choice now to stick with my male doctor, even if I’ve been with him for years, since things like this make me want to punch him in the face. At least the midwives are almost all women (notable exception being our patient sonogram guy), and unless something goes wrong, they are the ones who actually deliver babies in France.

 

Writing them all out makes me feel a little better, since they don’t seem as bad as when we first said them and there was an instant “d’oh!” feeling. Everything about the pregnancy is still perfectly normal and boring, so maybe our questions are too, I’ve just never heard them before because I’m not a doctor!