Following up with the first post about this topic, I would like to share my personal experience in case it can help anyone who will be becoming a new parent here in Spain.
At first I felt really guilty about leaving her for so long at nursery school, and the neighbor ladies who tell me “pobrecita” every time I tell one of them she goes there didn’t help at all (it seems to not be a popular option with older generations here), but in the first couple of months she spent so much of the day sleeping anyway (sometimes 5 hours in total between naps), and as she started nursery school so soon, at just 4 months, it was before she started experiencing separation anxiety (which can hit around 6-7 months) so there was no crying involved, at least on her part. For this reason, it seems that really young babies manage to adapt better than those even a few months older.
Something else that I really like about the nursery school is they use an agenda every day and write down what and how much she ate, diaper changes, nap times, and developmental things they work on, so it’s like a nice little record of what’s happening in her life that I would never have thought of to keep track of on my own. One con I have to mention is that if she is sick she cannot go to the nursery school, so I either cancel classes that day or take her to her grandparents’ house. For people who don’t have that flexibility, I would strongly recommend having a few babysitters interviewed in advance who you can call as needed.
Apart from arranging childcare, as I had to reduce my working schedule I have found little tricks to handle the same workload in fewer hours (efficiency), to look for extra time in every nook and cranny of my day (time management), and apart from that to forgive myself for my current limitations (mental health). For example, I have increased my data plan so I can send wifi to my laptop and work on the metro and train to make the most of my commute. I’ve gotten really good at balancing my laptop and typing even standing up. In the past, I normally just read a book or listened to podcasts during my commute.
Those days I also simply ignore emails that are not really worth my time, or forward along a pre-written template email, so I feel setting boundaries is really important in order to not go crazy. This was and still is really hard for me because I am a people pleaser and want to go above and beyond for everything. For instance, from time to time teachers not currently working with me write to me for advice. I really would like to help everyone and am flattered by their requests, but I know now is not the time in my life to take on mentorships. So, I have an email prepared with links to interesting resources that I forward along to them, with apologies for not being able to be of further help at the moment. Also, I normally try to squeeze in work when my daughter is sleeping, or after she goes to bed, at the expense of my Netflix, ukulele playing, or sewing habit. It’s not the perfect solution, but it’s one that gives me peace of mind that I am keeping up with my workload and I know that it is for a limited time while my daughter is little and so dependent on me for everything.
The last thing I would like to address is the mental health issue. New parents can have a lot of guilt and feel that they are doing lots of things but none of them good enough. I make it a point to affirm on a nightly basis that I am human and did my best with the time and energy I had available that day. It’s helpful to me to forgive myself for not being able to answer every email, for not having proactively gone after every business opportunity that occurred to me, and even for not being as present as I should have been during my time with my daughter. It’s important to me to include “energy” in this affirmation, as sometimes I’m too tired to use every single second on the train for work and sometimes I just need to veg out and spend 30 minutes looking at Pinterest. That’s totally fine.
Amber Lattimer is the co-founder and Director of the A-Academy.