15 December 2011, by Tan Yi Lin
Happy holidays, everyone!
While the rest of the office logs out of their user accounts and heads home for the December holiday season, I go back to work!
Not that I mind terribly or have been dreading my return to life at the desk. On the contrary, I was kinda looking forward to pitching in again on the work front and this time, as a working mama.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t treat my job as an excuse to escape from the responsibilities of motherhood by leaving my baby to other caregivers, whether hired or asked to help out, for the bulk of the day. Call me greedy but I like to have the best of both worlds – the joys of parenthood as well as the perks of being an independent working adult. Of course, double the advantages also means double the responsibilities – and half the time to manage them all.
December is the perfect time to head back to work. At this time last year, I was in a different department handling marketing and events and the festive season is a typically busy period for the team. I’ve since switched to a more administrative role in another department and December is a quieter period for me now. Plus, I’ve got my annual quota of six additional days of Unconditional Childcare Leave to clear before the year ends, in addition to my weekly Wednesdays off (I’m using the balance of my 22 days maternity leave to work a four-day week till May 2012.) I feel a little guilty because with all this leave, I’m hardly in the office for the entire month!
Other than forgetting which level my department was located on and getting locked out of my various user accounts, I slid back into working life smoothly, thanks to my capable teammates who helped cover my assignments while I was away. It was really nice seeing my colleagues again and I’m happy that everybody was really glad to see me too – even if it was just so they could throw my work back to me to handle!
The only thing that got me anxious and flustered was expressing milk at work.
I’m fortunate that my organisation provides a nursing room in the building. However, I realised too late that I had never looked inside the room before and so had no idea what amenities were provided for nursing mums. BAD BAD mistake. New mums or mums-to-be out there, make it a point to collect the nursing room key (it’s usually locked for privacy reasons) and recce the room BEFORE you go on maternity leave.
In panic, I called my colleague, whom I know has used the nursing room, for help. She walked me through the process of expressing at work and rattled off a list of items to bring.
This is what I packed for my first day at work:
1. Double breast pump
I was fortunate to be given three sets of used electric pumps. The double pump works best for office use as it cuts down pumping time. I leave the single pump at home so that I don’t have to cart pumps to and fro everyday. The remaining pump is a lightweight one that can be operated using two AA-sized batteries, which I carry in my handbag when I go out in the evenings or on the weekend without the baby.
2. Cooler bag and ice-pack
The bag is for carrying the expressed milk home at the end of the day. The first thing I do when I get into the office every day is to pop the ice-pack into the freezer.
3. Bottles and container/bag
The number of bottles varies depending on how many times you intend to pump at work and the type of pump you use. I pump twice a day and since I’m using a double pump, I need to bring at least three bottles to last me through the day. I leave a plastic container (like the type you use for takeaways) labelled with my name, in the fridge and stand the bottles in the container when I get into the office to keep them cool.
4. Big container, bottle detergent and sterilising tablets
I sterilise the pump funnels and bottles at home every morning. However, after the first round of expressing at work, I need to wash and sterilise the funnels again.
My colleague’s advice was to completely submerge the funnels in an airtight container, pop in a sterilising tablet (available for about $7 a box from Kiddy Palace) and let them soak for 30 minutes before use.
What I did was bring an electric kettle and instead, soak the funnels in boiling water in a container at my desk. Dan and I aren’t the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder type and believe that a few germs won’t do any harm. We haven’t had any run-ins with tummy troubles so far (*touch wood*) so that seems to work for us and our baby.
Some working mums place a mini steam steriliser that can hold two or three bottles at their desk.
So, whatever works for you.
5. Box of tissue
To place next to you when you pump to catch the dribbles.
6. Other good stuff to have with you
Extra stash of breast pads, a change of clothes and a jacket (black is good)
I really like the office nursing room. You can tell that much thought had been put into making it nice and cosy despite the room being a storeroom in its past life. There are comfy armchairs and couches, and curtains that can be drawn for privacy.
There is a large fridge and freezer and a microwave. I’m not quite sure what the microwave is for but I heard that some colleagues use it to create steam and sterilise their bottles and funnels in it. There are even free breast pads which somebody kindly donated and magazines.
Yeah, the plastic roses and the Aiwa cassette player look rather dated, but it’s the thought that counts!
There is also a message board for nursing mums to leave a note or to just say hello to one another. I’ve added my name and Coco’s to the list! 🙂
The only thing I didn’t like were the pictures of babies that decorated all four walls of the room! Yes, the babies are cute but they are not my baby, so I found it very disconcerting to have random stranger babies staring at me while I pumped. I wasn’t making milk for them! It was almost as if I was betraying Coco by looking at other babies….
… so I made Random Baby on my side of the room turn around and face the wall. That’s better.
The only thing I wish the nursing room had is a washbasin so that I don’t have to wash funnels and bottles in the restroom or the pantry. But that’s a minor complaint.
Every morning before I leave for work, I stand three bottles of expressed milk in the fridge for my caregivers to feed Coco while I’m away. It’s a good thing that she’s a greedy baby and is totally undiscerning when it comes to who feeds her, whether by breast or bottle. The caregivers have reported no fussing from her while I’m at work.
And finally, to answer the burning question: Do I miss Coco when I’m in the office?
Of course I do! She gives me the incentive and the extra push to get my work done quickly so that I can get off work on time and run home to my baby. It’s a bit of a juggle having to play with the baby, clean her, feed her, put her to bed, handle the expressed milk, wash and sterilise funnels and bottles, and the occasional pumping session all in one short evening, but I manage. I’m proud to be a full-time working mum and I hope to be able to continue to be one as Coco grows bigger and should more babies come along. Of course, I can only do so with the support of our families, so I’m very grateful to them too.
Just to end off the post with a laugh, look what my friend specially designed and made for Coco:
Her very own Angry (Sock)Bird!
Wah wah wah wah wah! (attempted Angry Bird squawk)