When Bun Bun was a few months old and Mr. Bunny had been back at work for a bit, I asked him to wrangle a four day week. He’s the VP of a tiny company with a boss who raised two kids while starting the company. She is extremely understanding, and generously agreed to let him take Fridays off.
The first few Fridays, Mr. Bunny urged me to go out, to take some time for myself. I didn’t want to. Where the hell was I going to go? Plus, I didn’t want to be separated from Bun Bun. So I’d just hang around, interfering with his attempts to be a solo parent. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, to be honest. I’d made this request because I felt like the weekend was just too short, that there wasn’t enough time for me to see him, AND be a family, AND accomplish anything I couldn’t do with a baby tied to me. But soon enough, the semester started. Since I’m technically supposed to be doing research this semester, I’ve started going to the office on Fridays.
It’s a weird experience, having this professional alter ego.
There’s the fact that the rhythms of the two parts of my life are so different. Monday through Thursday, it’s an incredibly fine-grained existence. I live from book to tidying to finding a sunny spot for Bun Bun to practice rolling to nap to laundry to walk to another book… and then on Friday, a week’s worth of meetings and e-mail and writing and thinking and paperwork. Considerably more hectic, and I’m required to think about things happening on a much different scale. How to analyze data I won’t have for six months, for example.
There’s the weirdness of being a lactating professor. It’s strange to shut the door every few hours and hook myself up to a machine, while trying to relax and think about my baby so I can maximize milk output. To shift gears from thinking about experimental design to thinking about nursing. And I feel like there’s a giant sign on my door that says: BREASTS. BREASTS. BREASTS. THINK ABOUT YOUR PROFESSOR’S BREASTS. THINK ABOUT MILK COMING OUT OF HER BREASTS.
Then there’s the horrible ache of having to say goodbye to Bun Bun in the morning. My throat constricts, I feel tears coming, and I shut my mind down so I can get the hell out the door. She’s always so smiley and happy, and it’s an awful moment. For me. She doesn’t care.
And of course there’s the experience of my husband as primary caregiver. When I was around, he felt so scrutinized. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t resist making recommendations. If I were you, I’d…you might want to try…ummm….NO, DON’T DO THAT! Alone, he gets to make his own discoveries, and of course he does brilliantly. Plus, he seems to find the whole thing very taxing and difficult, and as a result, has a vastly increased appreciation for the work I do. Which is fabulous. Meanwhile, I’ve learned that she can adapt, and that I don’t always know best.
For all the weirdness, I’m enormously grateful for this gift of a day. Walking home from work, the air pleasantly autumnal but still warm, the bustle of campus giving way to the quiet of my neighborhood, I wonder if I’ll look back on this as the happiest time of my life.
Of course, I’ve been wondering that since the day she was born.
Except for when I was FUCKING DEPRESSED and my nipples were bleeding.