I've learned that if I want to accomplish anything, I need to combine tasks. Sometimes it's easy to do two things at once, but sometimes I get overwhelmed.
As a teacher, I need to spend time outside of my official workday doing work. Fortunately I've been teaching long enough (eight years) that I can do a lot of my planning in my head without writing it down. I can remember activities that I made up for specific topics, replay the lessons from previous years and make adjustments to them, all in my head. This can be done in the car while I'm driving, in the shower, or while I'm expressing milk at work.
But planning lessons doesn't seem to be enough. I've become a real pumping multitasker. While I express milk at work, I am always doing at least two of the following activities as well: eating lunch, drinking plenty of water so I can stay hydrated, grading papers, reading, mentally composing blog posts, or thinking about Joshua. It turns out, when I take deep breaths, relax and concentrate on Joshua, the milk flows more quickly and the bottles fill faster. And yet I still sometimes feel like I'm wasting time when I'm expressing milk.
The reality, however, is that I'm not wasting time when I express milk for Joshua. We all know that breast milk is the gold standard for infant nutrition and that breast milk is best for both baby's and mother's health. So why do I feel guilty that I'm spending time expressing milk at work?
I'm getting all my tasks completed and still taking care of my baby's nutritional needs while I'm at work. When I arrive a few minutes late to a meeting or scurry out of my room when the bell rings for lunch, some coworkers give me a hard time. In the beginning I was embarrassed to tell them where I was going, but now I simply say, "Milk." They all know I'm breastfeeding Joshua, since I've talked to them about it and warned them to knock on the door of my pumping room. I'm not broadcasting that I'm going to express milk, but when colleagues ask, I answer. I figure I'm normalizing breastfeeding and expressing milk in the workplace. While my priorities have changed since I became a mom, I'm still doing my best at work. My friends at work are used to seeing me in my room, but I'm trying to make the point that just because they may not be able to find me as easily doesn't mean I'm not still working hard. In fact, I'm working harder now than I ever have before.
Fortunately I've found a lot of support at work as well. A few friends have small children and understand how hard it is to balance family and work. Others praise me for continuing to breastfeed, since they know what dedication it takes to continue to express milk at work.
The other day, as I was feeling a little stressed about keeping up with everything, I ran to buy lunch and chatted with one of the women who works in the school cafeteria. She asked if I was breastfeeding, and when I said yes she gave me a big smile. She said she breastfed her children and it had been difficult but she was so happy she stuck with it. I still feel like there aren't enough hours in the day, but the camaraderie helps.
How do you multitask to balance work and parenthood?