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.

Phase one of the move

The big move is now about three months away, so phase one has begun!

It started with my reduced hours at work. We gave up bébé’s October spot at a creche, and the plan was for me to stay home with him and pack/sell all of our stuff. We were a little sad to give up his spot, since it was a really nice Enlgish creche in Luxembourg, but it made zero sense to only pay for three months. I originally wanted to stop working entirely, but after discussing it with my boss and my mother-in-law, I’m in the office 2 days a week until the end of the year. A little extra money will help with the move, I know all my projects are understood by my replacement, and bébé gets more time with mamie. Everyone wins!

This was the first week of the new schedule, and it went pretty well. The days I work are very long for everyone, since bébé has to be woken up a little earlier than usual so my husband can drop him off at mamie’s house on his way to work. They got home both days about half an hour after his normal bedtime, but he naps really well during the day now, so he’s not delirious from lack of sleep or anything.

Our days together with me at home involve lots of playing, lots of park visits, and lots of organizing and picture taking during nap times. We’ve managed to sell a few things both to friends and online, but the big push to sell will come at the beginning of December with phase two! Phase one is hard because we’re still using a lot of the things we want to sell, like our refrigerator and bed. So for now, I’m mainly clearing out bookshelves, sorting through books and dvds, and selling all of the kitchen gadgets we’ve accumulated over the years that sadly won’t work in the States. It’s hard to imagine life without a raclette machine, but my mother said she found a crockpot on sale and is saving it for us, and I’ve never had one before, so at least I have something to look forward to when we arrive!

Firsts and lasts

With bébé’s first birthday behind us and his first steps coming soon, I’ve been thinking a lot about firsts. As a mother who works outside of the home, it’s inevitable that I miss a fair number of firsts. Almost without fail, when I see him doing something new, I yell for my husband, “Look! See what he’s doing!” and, much to my chagrin, he almost always answers “Yeah, he’s been doing that for awhile”. I usually try to hide my disappointment, though I definitely got visibly cranky when my mother-in-law gave him his first baby teething cookie the other week, because I wanted to be there to see how he reacted the first time.

Lately I’ve been trying to reign in these feelings, and to put things into perspective. I’m still trying to keep a positive outlook and not react so negatively to what is a very common situation for many people (being away from home and bébé for most of the day).

 

First of all, besides things you control, like first visits somewhere or first foods, it can be very hard to determine when the exact “first” time something happens. Was that a smile, or gas? Do we count rolling over by accident, or just when he meant to do it? Did he put the banana in his mouth on purpose, or just because he puts everything in there?

While it is very exciting to see him do something for the “first” time, unless it’s a truly unique face or word, it’s never going to be the last time, so I’ll always have another chance. Sometimes it can take a few days, but it’ll happen. When he first started eating bits of banana, he did it once, then seemed to forget how for a few weeks. Babies don’t work on the same skills all the time, and tend to do one thing a lot for a bit, then stop and do something else. This also makes the true “first” time difficult to pinpoint, because is he really doing something if he only does it once or twice, and then doesn’t do it again for awhile?

Also, he obviously doesn’t do things particularly well at first, and while his attempts can be heartbreakingly cute, it can also be frustrating. I think it took about 30 minutes for him to gnaw his way through a cookie with me, meanwhile getting it all over his face, hair, and clothes. It’ll be nice when he can just take a few bites and be done with it!

Finally, there are some firsts that I’m not too fussed about because I know he won’t remember. I spent a fair amount of time planning his first birthday, but that was more for the adults (we called it our “one year anniversary of being parents”!) And his first Christmas and Easter were cute, but I know he didn’t really care one way or another, as long as there were people to pay attention to him.

 

This first year has also been full of last times, which are more bittersweet, but at least we have a little more control over them. My last day on leave before going back to work, the last night he slept in his bassinet before switching to the crib, the last time he was in his baby stroller.
I decided when to stop breastfeeding, and made sure to get a few pictures of those last few nights, and really be present in those moments with him.

There will be more things like this in the future that we can predict, like his last night his crib before a big bed. But there are others that will be more fleeting. I don’t remember the exact last time he fell asleep nursing, or the last time he took a nap in our arms. So when I read that you have to cherish every moment (seriously, every single thing you’ll ever read about being a parent includes these words, it must be a law or something), I really try to, since for every first, there’s also a last. The first time is the first of many, and it will happen again and again. But the last time means it won’t happen ever again, and that part of “growing up” is over.

There are important milestones coming, and I’m not going to purposely be absent for them, but he’ll always be learning and doing new things (he already does certain things only for me, and other things only for my husband). I’m looking forward to his first steps, but I’m also trying hard to get these last few weeks of crawling and wobbly standing on film, knowing that the last time he crawls instead of walks to greet me at the door is right around the corner. And while we’re super excited for his growing language skills (he could just be playing with noises, but it really sounds like he can say both “cat” and the equivalent French word “chat”), his baby babbles are so funny and fleeting, I want to follow him around with a tape recorder all day.

 

I’d rather save my energy for trying to remember and capture those unexpected lasts, rather than stress about missing a few firsts.

 

 

What no sleep for 5 months feels like

Ok, so the title is a little misleading. I have obviously gotten some sleep since bébé was born in July. But it’s definitely nowhere near enough, which is to be expected with a baby. However, this week, it seems like it’s finally caught up with me and there have been a few meltdowns, both at home and, embarrassingly, at work. While I could say it feels like I haven’t slept in five months, I don’t really have a long period of insomnia from before to compare it to.

My monthly letters to bébé are meant to be cheerful and focus on the positive, so while the 8 to 9 hours he usually sleeps really is a wonderful thing, I don’t go into how extremely hard the 3am feedings have been lately. Because sometimes it’s 2am, or 4am, and sometimes he goes right back to sleep, other times he’s awake for 2 hours . . . there is just no way to know. He goes to sleep between 6 and 7pm, usually around 6:30, so it’s not like we’re putting him to bed at random hours. Just to see what would happen (and to get my MIL to stop suggesting it), we tried putting him to bed an hour later for a week, and he woke up at 9pm and 11pm, in addition to the usual 3am (ish), so that is definitely not the solution.

Though I’m not even sure there is a “solution” since again, getting 9 hours out of a baby this age is pretty good. What I keep reading is that 6 hours is “sleeping through the night,” and that sleeping 12 hours isn’t always a realistic goal for a breastfed baby until he starts eating solids. Also, night feeds help keep my milk supply up, so I am very reluctant to let my husband give him a bottle at night. Plus, it would be physically uncomfortable so I’d wake up anyway. There have been two nights this month when he slept 11 hours for some reason (I log everything, and the two days were completely different, so no idea why he slept so long), and I woke up around 4am anyway out of habit and because of the pain. However, at this point, I am so tired I can’t even write my name correctly, so I will probably take him up on the offer this weekend.

This week has been the hardest, so I stopped pumping at 9pm so that I could start going to bed closer to 8:30. Before I was usually in bed by 9:30. Maybe I should have made this change earlier, but giving him as much breast milk as possible is important to me. But I am starting to realize that having a happy, well-rested momma might be pretty important to him, so I’m trying not to feel too guilty about this decision.

Though in reality, I’m much too tired to feel guilty about stuff anymore. Or happy, or sad, or anything else. This week at work, I could feel my brain forcing itself to pay attention. I have never felt anything like this. We all get distracted at work, but this is very different. It’s like, I have to push my brain into shape. It’s all mushy and flowing all over the place. My head feels both full and empty at the same time.

The first month back went really well, since I wasn’t nearly as tired, so I think everyone assumed I was 100% back. I even got a comment about how much more efficient I was. It’s really this past week or two that has suddenly gotten very difficult. I can feel myself making mistakes, then having to correct them quickly. My mushy brain can’t remember anything without writing it down, but I have to remember to actually write things down. My fingers can’t hit the right keys, so I have to retype things fifty times, and I keep calling the wrong people .  . . . I get very upset when others point out my mistakes, even under normal circumstances, so I have been rather short with people recently, and finally just exploding the other day when there was yet another comment on something I didn’t do correctly. I feel like because I did so well at first, they assume I’m worse now because I don’t care or don’t want to do well. (No one has actually said this, it’s just me being hard on myself.) Also, because the beginning went so well, I keep getting more and more things to do, plus people are starting to go on vacation for the holidays, so there’s even more to do in the same amount of limited time with the same mushy brain.

This sudden downturn is partly because of the failed later bedtime experiment, but also just the accumulation of such a random sleeping schedule. First, a few months months of 3 hours or less at a time. Which wasn’t that bad because all I did during the day was sit around. Now it’s sometimes 5 hours, sometimes 7, sometimes an extra hour before dawn, sometimes not, and I am asking my body and brain to do so much more than before. It really is the irregularity that’s hardest for me, not just physically, but psychologically. There’s nothing else I can do to change the situation. I’m going to bed earlier, feeding him as much as possible in the evenings, getting him to sleep on his own, not in our arms . . . It feels like I’m doing everything “right” but it doesn’t matter. There are things you just have to accept won’t get better for awhile.

But obviously in a work situation, they can’t be as forgiving. You’re hired as one person, you can’t suddenly change who you are without consequences, or tell them that “things will get better . . . one day”. (Again, no one has said this, just my crazy mushy brain freaking myself out.) My schedule is already adapted for pump breaks, and I legally can’t do overtime. But I come in early anyway to get as much done as I can, since I have the most energy in the morning. I feel like I can’t ask for any more concessions, because A) without a baby at home themselves, they literally cannot understand what I’m going through, and B) if their personal stuff doesn’t interfere with work, why should mine. I also feel like I don’t have the right to complain since I chose to go back to work full-time. I don’t feel like it was a bad choice though, since the more I see how amazing my husband is with our son, the more certain I am it was the right choice. However, part of the choice was knowing how much I like going to a job that I’m good at. So right now, I don’t like that I don’t feel like I’m good at it.

Anyway, that’s what no sleep for five months feels like. Like I’m not even close to the person I was, which I’m okay with at home, but I know work is a different story. Like my brain isn’t even there anymore. Like there is absolutely nothing else I can do but wait until it gets better, which is both very encouraging and insanely depressing at the same time.

I promise a return to cheerful posts soon, but all new moms are allowed a few rambling rants, right? If nothing else, I can look back on this in a few months and think “Phew, glad that’s over!”

Going back to work after baby

I’m going back to work this Wednesday, and I’m having the typical mixed feelings a new mother can expect. I’m excited to go back to doing something I enjoy, but nervous about how pumping will fit into my schedule. I’m also very nervous about not being able to pump enough, since I don’t have a big freezer stock. I’m not too worried about bébé being with the nanny, since he’s been there a few times already, but I still don’t know how he’ll react to his daddy being the one to drop him off and pick him up. I don’t know how either of us will handle not seeing each other for over 11 hours.

I did or will do all the things the different books and blogs suggest. I’ve been pumping for awhile, so I’m used to my pump. I got a haircut. I’ll get my nails and eyebrows done tomorrow. I have some new clothes to wear the first week back. I’ve been to visit the office, and I’ve been sending emails regularly to stay in touch.

I’m not sure how to spend these last few days. My husband needs to learn the daily routine, so should I stay out of his way and do my own thing? Or should I spend as much time as possible with bébé? If I had gone back a month ago, I think I would have been fine doing my own thing. The first weeks I really felt like a glorified milk bottle, and with all the nap issues he had, I really looked forward to my husband getting home so I could finally have a few minutes to myself. But now bébé is so much more interactive, and the smiles and giggles come so easily. It feels like he’ll notice more when I’m not there.

However, I am looking forward to an entire day without the same mobile songs playing over and over and over . . . And eating lunch at a normal speed. And reading more than three pages of my book in one sitting. And wearing somethings besides leggings.

But then I think about how I’ll see him awake for less than two hours during the week, and my heart gets tight, and those annoying mobile songs don’t sound so bad anymore.

So yeah, like I said, normal mixed feelings! We’ll see how I feel next weekend!