I am always looking for new personalities and points of view for the blog. Recently, I had tossed around the idea of getting the perspective of a working mom with a preschooler. That was right around the time one of the Primrose Schools in Atlanta shared a blog post with me from one of their moms, Ryan Swanson. After reading a specific post, titled “The Side-effects of Daycare,” I knew we had found our mom! It seems that Ryan had been documenting her journey through motherhood on a personal blog – with the original intent of keeping family and friends updated on her journey through pregnancy and motherhood. I have found Ryan’s point of view to be genuine and relatable and I think you will too! Welcome Ryan, we are so glad to call you our “Friend”!
Hello! I’m so happy to be here among Dr. Z and her Friends. I can’t wait to share my parenting tales with you and I hope we become fast friends. Oh, who am I? I’m glad you asked. My name is Ryan Swanson, but don't let my name fool you. My parents named me before learning they would be raising a little girl (apparently they assumed the 50 year boys-only streak on my dad's side of the family would continue with me). I sure surprised them! So now that that’s cleared up, a bit more about me. I recently turned thirty and I consider myself a lawyer by day (and, by many nights…) and an around-the-clock mommy and wife.
I met my husband Todd in law school (Go Dawgs!), married him a year after graduation and then settled into life in Atlanta along with our dog and cat. We were enjoying life as newlyweds. We’d spend our weekends eating out at restaurants, fixing up our 1930s bungalow, checking out local bands and going to movies. And then our world was turned upside down. Why? Well, we learned we were expecting our now 15 month old son, Lukas. And our life has been a wild rollercoaster ride ever since.
When people first found out I was pregnant, after the initial questions: When are you due? How have you been feeling? Is it a boy or girl? Have you picked a name? I found that many people then asked me if I was planning on returning to work. After my response was yes, the next question was always: What are you doing about child care? When he was exactly 14 weeks old, Todd and I dropped Lukas off in the infant 4 room at our local Primrose school.
I was a little nervous at first about school, especially since my childhood revolved around my mom who stayed home with me and my older brother. Taking care of us was her career. She was passionate about it and she's an amazing caregiver. But for my child, I made the difficult decision to return to work and enroll him in (gasp!) outside-of-the-home child care. I know what some people think of this decision (which they are entitled to), but I am happy with my decision. I've also been pleasantly surprised with a few unexpected “side effects” along the way.
The first thing that I wasn't expecting from school was for the "strangers" who are taking care of Lukas every day to become an extended part of our family. His teachers and the administrators spend more time with my son than most of my family. They may not have the same kind of love for him that my family does, but they love him. And we love them. They are not strangers by any definition of the word. They are amazing, patient and loving caregivers who I feel 100% confidence in caring for my son.
Thankfully, I came to that realization quickly, because in those first couple weeks when I went back to work I felt like I was a horrible mother. How could I possibly choose to return to work over staying at home devoting all of my time to raising my son? There was a lot of doubt and we won't even talk about the guilt (Oh, the mom guilt...). But over the past 15 months I've realized that I am a better mother because I work outside of the home. I am fully present with Lukas when I am with him. I devote all of my attention to him and whatever game we're playing, book we're reading or song we're singing. I don't take the time I do spend with him for granted, and I think I would if I were not working.
And let's be honest, I'm no super-mom. They do more with him at school than I probably would at home - painting, drawing, learning sign language - I'd like to think I'd do these things with him, but the reality is that I could on the weekends and I don't. Finger painting with a 6 month old? Nope, not for me. But I'll proudly put the art Lukas painted at school in his scrapbook! And the last thing I expected from sending Lukas to school was making new friends myself. But I did. I have met some hilarious, amazing ladies in the other moms in Lukas' class. It's comforting to have other mothers who understand what I'm going through at any given time, be it doubting my decision to keep working; dealing with horrible diaper rash; projectile vomiting; feeling spread too thin; or not sleeping for more than two hours at a time. You name it, if it is toddler or mommy related they've likely experienced it. I find that at the end of each work day I don't just look forward to picking up Lukas, I also have the added bonus of seeing friends. It’s not easy making new friends, and it is even harder to find honest tell-it-like-it-is mom friends. I’ve been lucky enough to find some of those friends.
So the next time I'm pregnant and someone asks what I'm doing about child care, I'm going to happily tell them that my baby will be going to school with his or her big brother. And then I’m going to turn back to being the best, imperfect mom that I can be.