“Isn’t it wonderful that you can bring her to work with you?” I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this over the last three years.
Three months after opening our business, I found out that I was pregnant (you can read about that here). Money was tight, time was tighter. There was absolutely no room in our new budget for daycare. And I certainly didn’t have the time for a new baby. It’s amazing how interested folks become in your life when something happens that they cannot fathom. So began the questions: “What are you going to do?” “Will the baby go to daycare?” “Will you be able to keep working?” “What about the business?” We had no answers. I am a planner and we had no plan. We had eight months to come up with a plan or accept that there wasn’t one. We went with the latter.
This was the first time I had ever felt completely out of control.
We rolled along, without a plan other than taking it one day at a time and going with whatever came our way. Thankfully, Ruth was born AFTER Christmas, in the month of January, our slowest business month of the year. I returned to work, baby attached just four weeks after she was born. Instead of panic about how it would all work, I tried to remember that throughout the world, in many cultures, for many, many years women have worked with baby in tow. If they could do it, so could I. The office doubled as a nursery, there was a baby swing in the kitchen, and I learned how to wear my child and work.
And it has been exhausting!
Three years have gone by. The equipment and toys around the kitchen have changed. The pack and play was traded for a cot. Ruth goes to daycare two days a week and comes to work with me on the other days. Our customers love her, our employees love her, and the spirit of a little girl in the workplace is irreplaceable.
I AM thankful that she can come to work with me, but some days it is hard. Really hard! I signed up to record, through Instagram pictures, a “Day in the Life” for this blog site this week. It was fun to give a few glimpses into our lives throughout the day but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun it would be to write about a “Day in the Life (of Bringing an Infant, or Toddler, or Preschooler to Work with Me).” It would be fun, but far too long. Even the most blissfully distracted reader would become painfully confused and uninterested in reading a post THAT long. So here it is:
An Afternoon Hour Few Minutes in the Life
6:50am (Ten minutes from opening, aka Crunch Time) – Filling the last donuts, plating scones, topping cinnamon rolls and…
Ruth: Mommy, can I watch a show?
Me: Not now, maybe after breakfast.
Ruth: But I want a show
Me: hold on a minute, honey. (Answering phone) Hello, Eastman’s Bakery…
7:00am (Open shop. First customer walks in)
Me: Good Morning. How can I…
Ruth: (from Kitchen) Mommy, then can I have breakfast?
Me: Just a minute, sweetie.
I go back to helping my customer and carrying on small talk when my leg is slammed with the weight of a three year old.
Ruth: But Mommy, I’m hungry and I want to watch Caillou!
Me: (Hand on Ruth’s head) One minute.
Customer: (Appearing slightly amused but mostly in a hurry) I’ll have…
Ruth: Can I have a donut?!?
Me: Hold on, Ruthie.
I finish with customer and head back to the kitchen to tend to Ruth. Then the phone rings again. This time it is home, one of my teenagers is asking me an urgent question before she heads off to school.
7:08am Another customer walks in and I go up front to wait on them. In the meantime Ruth tries to turn on a television show by herself and gets frustrated because it is not working.
Me (to customer): Good morning, how are you?
Customer: Good, and you?
Me (through a weary smile): I’m well. What can I get for you?
Enter Ruth, iPod in hand repeating over and over again, “It won’t turn on. It won’t turn on. It won’t turn…”
The day goes on. And somehow, miraculously, I might say, my little one eats breakfast, we battle our way through agreeing that one show, ok two shows, alright two hours of television is enough. My projects get done, mostly. The phone is answered, pleasantly and our customers leave with smiles on their faces. Some are smiling because of the goodies in their bags and boxes. Some are smiling because they too have little ones and understand the amount of juggling they just witnessed. Some are smiling because their littles are grown and they have enjoyed a brief interaction with the sweetest little kind of human. But my hope is that they are smiling because they know that she matters to me, that they matter to me and that while it is exhausting and frustrating and stressful, I wouldn’t want her to be anywhere else.