A Flop

I was scheduled to have an interview at my workplace today for the job of a “Communication Specialist”. A colleague and I decided to apply for the job when it was advertised almost a month ago and we wondered since whatever happened to our applications since we did not receive anything, not even an acknowledgement.

The complication was getting someone to babysit Robbie for the morning while I was at work. Lucy works in the morning for Jackie’s mom and of course my only choice was to ask Mrs. L. if she can look after Robert (with Lucy of course) for the morning. I am not on very familiar terms with Mrs. L. but she does like Robert, and she often sends him baby food and toys with Lucy. Although I was prepared to get out on time, I had to rush back into the house when I realized the Robert needed a nappy change. In consequence I had to run all the way to Mrs L’s place pushing the pram (I have thanked heavens many times for the new lighter version). When I finally arrived at Mrs L’s block I noted with dismay that the lifts on her side of the building were not working, and I had to make a long turn to another foyer where I caught the lift to her floor and then run back to the side of the building where her apartment was located. I had no idea how to get there in the maze of hallways so it was really lucky that she came to get me from the lift. She knew I was there because I had to notify security at the entrance.  The adventure with the lifts cost me a few precious minutes, and despite all my efforts I arrived a few minutes late.

The person in charge of recruiting for the position was a former duty manager I worked with on the floor. As a DM he struck me as subservient to high management and not overly enthused or supportive to co-workers. But he wasn’t the worst we dealt with, I mean he was just traditional top down manager and not a worker’s manager, no big deal.  I was told that the interview consisted of a written assignment followed by a face to face question and answer session. The written assignment required about an hour and a half of work, after which D. will come and do the face to face session.  After my ordeal of the day I was in an extremely cynical mood and I found myself completely incapable of writing corporate spin and memoranda. One assignment asked me to write a notification to staff about the death of a colleague, another wanted me to write a speech for a station manager promoting our services, but when I arrived at writing a piece to inform workers that there will not be a pay increase this year due to the situation in the air travel industry I was completely demotiviated. I thought to myself, heck, they should have called this position “corporate spin doctor” I am not sure I am cut for this type of thing.  I like to think that I am honest by nature, and I only write things I belive in.  As a translator I come accross Arabic rubbish which I am required to translate from time to time. Writing it in English doesn’t cause me any discomfort or guilt because I am insulated by my role as a messenger, and my honesty is channelled into faithful transmission of the text, regardless of my mental attitude towards it, but I cannot bring myself to write from scratch about things I do not believe in.  This Friday morning I couldn’t anyway, so instead of sticking with the script I used poetic license and invented reasons and justifications that weren’t even part of the briefing in the assignment. I was still pondering the wisdom of what I wrote when D. arrived signaling the end of my allotted time, and once the face to face meeting got underway I came to the conclusion that what I wrote in the sheet didn’t matter anyway. My superior was obviously in a hurry to leave and I was given the impression that the interview was just a farce. I think by then they had made up their mind that they needed someone from outside.  I hurried home thinking what a terrible waste of time.

Mrs. L. said that she enjoyed Robert’s company and took him out for a walk on the promenade. She even showed him off to some of her friends who thought that he was a grandson. I was relieved that he did not give problems although Lucy told me that his diaper rash is still bad. Later this evening he cried bitterly when warm water touched his bottom and it was a very stressful time getting him to quieten down then to sleep. I experienced an episode of intense misery, cried, screamed and blamed the universe and my ex husband for everything that was going wrong in my life.  My situation hasn’t improved in over three months since I moved out and my life is in chaos, I just wanted order back in my life any way possible.

Once Robert got to sleep I had time to reflect a little bit normally on what is happening. For Robert’s problem in the nappy area I blamed the chocolates I copiously consumed in the past few days, so I promised him that I will stay away from chocolate. As for my problems though, they are more complicated and they need a lot of patience to fix.

Post Scriptum : The job of communication specialist was later assigned to a lady with a higher degree in journalism, who used to work as a crime reporter for one of the national newspapers.  Makes you think about people’s choices and career moves.

Feverish Daze

I do not want to forget how difficult these first few weeks in April were. I was trying to cope with the new environment, the new territory, and the rules of my new house mate. However, I still had to be thankful for having a friend to stay with. I don’t think I could have coped by myself for the first few days. On our second day at our new home I was off from work, Robert was recovering slightly from the injection’s effects and I was busy trying to organize our room and our life. On Thursday I started what will be my routine for the rest of the month for morning shift work. I woke up at six – before sunrise, fed and clothed Robert, then took him in the pram towards his dad’s place. The walk takes about twenty minutes, and I always aimed to get there at seven or just after. I delivered Robert to his dad, with a bottle a change of clothes and diapers then ran down the hill to catch a taxi to work. When my shift was over I picked up Robert and walked back home with him.

The interim arrangement I had for April was to continue in this way, with dad looking after the baby when I worked morning shifts and Lucy, Jackie’s nanny/domestic worker taking over on the afternoons when she is off. Miriam let me completely down and I was left without a back up plan. To complicate matters further, I could not just employ whomever I choose, because Jackie is extremely paranoid about admitting strangers into her place.
I thought that the best solution to work around these problems was for me to work at night. I put in a request through to my managers for permanent night shift work. My rationale was that Robert sleeps through the night, and only needed someone to be there in case he woke up, which he rarely did. I was waiting for an answer for over a week now, and as luck would have it, I received my answer on that first day at work after moving out.
When I was notified by their refusal I was so upset I broke down and cried. It was something I have never done before in a professional environment, and it made me feel so ashamed. It was really enough for me to deal with the humiliation of telling my story, and asking for special working conditions, and now this. What I thought was the perfect solution for my problem was no longer possible but management compromised by allowing me to plan my own schedule, working whenever I can, until such time when my boy can be accepted in day care, and I can have normal working hours like everyone else. I was back to the drawing board on that one, trying to find another plan at work.

As if I did not have enough on my plate, Robert became feverish on Thursday afternoon. I gave him infant drops, bathed him and expected the fever to break quickly but it didn’t. I wasn’t feeling great either, my immune system must have buckled under the strain; I had a runny nose and the symptoms of the cold. I did not feel like facing the floor either, so I called in sick for then next day (Friday) and planned to take Robert to the doctor as well. Early on Friday morning I had a very bad fright; Robert woke up at dawn, and he was boiling hot. I took off all his clothes and started putting cold compresses on him, but I was in panic when the ear thermometer showed 42 degrees. I didn’t know what to do but wake up Robert’s dad and ask him to take us to hospital. In his usual calm manner he pointed out that at a temperature like this the boy would have been comatose, so perhaps it wasn’t correct. So I took another measurement with the rectal thermometer which arrived in Auntie C’s package, and this time the temperature reading was 39 degrees. This was still fever but not a death threat. I gave Robert more infant drops, and stayed up with him giving him cold compresses until he felt a little cooler and went back to sleep.

In the morning I made an appointment for him to see a GP in our area. Since I did not have access to the car I thought I might as well get used to the services available at walking distance from us. My appointment with the doctor was at eleven and after that I had also a meeting with the lawyer at 12 in town. The timing was a little tight but still doable. We took the long walk to the doctor, and made it just in time to see Dr. L. I was impressed with her gentle and thorough manner. It was clear that she was a good physician who was very good with children, she looked like she was expecting one of her own too. Robert’s diagnosis was upper respiratory tract infection, and Dr. L advised symptomatic treatment. She gave him a prescription for a different type of syrup to alternate with the infant drops I was already giving him. She also instructed me to monitor him for the next few days, and bring him for a follow up if the fever didn’t break. On Saturday I was supposed to work an early morning shift starting at five, so I had to get a certificate from Dr. L. to prove the reason for my absence. The last thing I wanted now was trouble with work. After the doctor I had to rush into town to catch my meeting with the lawyer. I had to call Robert’s dad to fetch him, and save me the time and effort of walking all the way up the hill to his place, then running down again to the taxi stop. Ron met me halfway up the hill and I rushed into town.

At the lawyers I had to sign some legal paper, then he gave me an affidavit that needed to be signed in front of a commissioner of oaths. So on my way back I had to make yet another stop at the police station to get this done, before walking back to get Robert. When I arrived he was asleep, and his dad said that he did not mind if I stay with him until he wakes up; he was leaving to gym anyway. While I waited I checked on my internet accounts and downloaded my mail. This turned out to be the last time I would use my computer in a month.

Robert recovered slowly from his ailments and fortunately I had three days off work where I could finally relax from running around. I just sat at home, played with Robert in our backyard, warmed my chilled soul in the gentle autumn sun and read. Jackie is very supportive of us, she loves Robert and interacts with him all the time. He responds to her quickly when she asks him to “clap handies” and loves it when she rough-houses with him. Robert is benefiting from our different styles of play, and Jackie has somehow -at least during playtime- jumped into what is supposed to be dad’s role.
When I am home I still have many things to do. I need to go shopping every other day, because I cannot carry too many groceries while pushing Robert in his pram; I wash our clothes by hand on every dry and sunny day; and I cook us some extremely simple meals. In the meantime I am still taking a lot of emotional strain; I am deeply aware of the chaos of my life, and I find myself craving the perfect order I used to reject in my previous life. I know that I am grasping at the outward order to compensate for the complete emotional and personal collapse. I get stuck on small details, and cannot get past the need to organize things that under normal circumstances I would have found unnecessary. A few days ago I wanted to replace the silicon nipple on Robbie’s bottle, and I walked all the way down our main road, asking in every shop. Then I retraced my way back to the other end of the main road where I finally found a replacement set. The exercise took two hours and Robert and I arrived home past dark, both extremely exhausted. It was one of the few days where I put him to bed without a bath.

Although things are extremely difficult for us at the moment, there are also moments of happiness that shine through, and kindness that comes when least expected. Jackie’s mom bought Robert a set of colourful stacking cups which I am now use for his bath. She also bought him a couple of jars of baby food. I guess Robert now has a Cape Town granny.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Kak Day?

In light of the ongoing developments in our life, it is a fitting title.
I planned that Miriam will babysit today while Ron and I were out attending to the legal issues pertaining to out impending divorce. The good woman, however, dropped me late last night saying that she had misunderstood the day. Of course this is not true. I think she has found another job and I will be surprised if I hear from her again.

Jackie was the emergency babysitter for the day. We dropped Robert at her house and went into town. The meeting was less stressful than I expected, and relatively painless considering the circumstances. After we finished, Ron dropped me unceremoniously at Jackie’s and left me there. I was so hungry and agitated, so we went out for an impromptu lunch. Robert kept us company in his pram while we enjoyed smoothies and wraps. I gave him some sips of the smoothie with a straw, and he enjoyed that immensely. We had just finished with our lunch when Robert delivered the package of the day. Unfortunately his diapers were already wet and could not absorb the stinky mess, and it leaked out, green and wet down his legs.

Jackie got me some additional napkins while I tried to stem the flow with our unused paper towels. Fortunately we were only a few blocks away from her house and we rushed home after covering baby’s diaper and the offensive leak with a blanket. Halfway home the funny side of the situation kicked in and we laughed all the way to her front yard. Jackie suggested that we hose Robert’s sticky butt right there on the front lawn. It was a good suggestion, and the little one enjoyed it. What followed was a meticulous routine of cleaning and disinfecting the pram, soaking blanket and clothes, and generally getting things back in order.

No pictures of the incident are available.

Working Through It

Robert is thriving despite our problems, and it is a balm to my heart to watch him grow and share moments of play and laughter. This week he started clapping his hands with enthusiasm. I don’t know whether it is the rhythm of the music or just a reflex, but he did it for the first time as we were listening to some of the songs on my MP3 phone. Yesterday, he gave me such a laugh. I wanted to put him to bed for one of his morning naps, but he wasn’t ready to go to sleep yet, and his complaining kept getting louder and louder, so I went to check on him and found him standing up, holding the edge of his crib, with an indignant face. At the sight of him I burst out laughing, and I guess he took offence because he started crying bitterly with real tears. Of course, I had to carry him in my arms, and hold him for a little bit, and apologize for making fun of him.

Saturday Miriam showed up and we went through the whole baby routine together, and I was hoping that she will show up on Tuesday, when Ron and I had an important appointment, but she has something else planned, and now I need to find alternative arrangement. Thank God for Jackie, she always comes through for me at the correct time.

Thank God for Friends

I went with Jackie this morning to drop off Kirsten at the airport. The sun is just starting to rise over the Atlantic and it is going to be another gorgeous day on the southern tip of Africa. Last night I had a chance to go out with the girls for a little farewell dinner, and we all had a nice evening.

Robert’s adventures during Kirsten’s visit to Cape Town included his first time at a restaurant with mom. Kirsten invited me and Jackie to a Sushi lunch at Saul’s. It was a special occasion for me because I haven’t had sushi in over a year. Robert was mostly obliging but needed some attention midway through the meal, where I had to take a break and give him a feed. It was great that we decided to go out during lunchtime, the restaurant was not too busy and we could pass the baby around and entertain him between us, without much disturbance to the patrons.

During the past week I spent a lot of time with the girls either visiting at Jackie’s or at the park. Kirsten came over to dinner one day, and stuck around many times for feeding sessions, bath and bedtime, while I was home on my own. Her visit was a godsend for me; it helped me deal with the current stress of my life at the moment. I am still trying to get re-licensed for my load control work, and Ron is proving to be a reluctant child-care provider at home. Things are not going to get any easier for sure. I still haven’t heard from Miriam, and if I contemplate the emotional and financial cost of having a nanny it makes me sick, but that is the way things are going to be in the future. From the moment of conception, a baby is by and large a woman’s problem, and this is proving true in my case as well. But no matter how things turn out, having Robert in my life is worth it. He is the reason why I wake up every morning; he simply makes my life worth living.

Ron deals with problems differently. He has now a new constellation of friends, with whom he hangs out frequently. I am not needed in this arrangement, and I don’t think he wants me to ever meet his friends. It is his way of having his own life. He pointed out to me once that I should never try to pursue other interests while looking after Robert or breastfeeding him. “You have to understand that you have no life anymore, your life is the little boy”, he said. Of course, I knew that from the moment Robert was born. He is my life, and I am happy to have it that way. The way Ron said it, however, makes it sound like a prison sentence. At the moment I am trying to come to terms with this attitude, but our relationship has taken strain as a result. Caring for Robert is not a chore, and it makes me really angry when he views it as such. It is a privilege to be around and care for a healthy, happy, and intelligent child. It is wonderful to look into his innocent eyes and see the unconditional love and trust he bestows on us as his parents. I would give anything in the world to be able to care for him myself rather than hand him over to a nanny. In this respect, our priorities and attitudes – as they are over almost everything else- are vastly different.

I am glad that Robert is still blissfully ignorant of the stress. He is mostly happy and contented. If ever he is fussy, then it is because of his itching gum. I noticed also that putting him onto solids is giving him some constipation, and I bought him a natural laxative which the paediatrician recommended. On my next visit to the nurse I need to ask whether it is advisable to use it regularly.

Today’s funny pictures: I tried to catch him on camera in the middle of one of his razzing sessions, and the result is what you see here. It looks like the symphony of razzing requires a lot of concentration. This week also he is starting to make up babbling syllables. I am very excited that he has mastered: ma ma ma, and is starting on ba ba ba. We await the first incident of da da da any day now.

Mommy’s Separation Anxieties

It has been a busy week, and I have many things on my mind. I am still trying to find a nanny to look after Robert on the weekends when I am supposed to work for full 8-hour shifts. Initially I shrugged this problem off, Scarlett O’Hara-style, and thought I would deal with it later. It proved to be more complicated than I expected.

Agencies that provide domestic help cater only for regular working hours, and want to place people on full-time schedule, not what I need. An Au Pair, on the other hand, will claim more than my salary’s worth. I am also extremely paranoid about handing Robert over to somebody who posted on the notice board, and would prefer somebody who has known references. I am still putting the word out there, and starting to look at possible candidates.

Robert has made so much progress in the last weeks, he is now completely at ease in an upright sitting posture, and I have taken so many pictures to prove it. He can also lift himself up, when there are things around to hold on to. This first happened at the worst possible location; the changing table. He holds on to the side of the changing mat and looks down at me while I fill his bathtub. I no longer trust to be more than a foot away from the changing table.

The weather is starting to change slowly. Last Sunday at the park, Robert and I spent some of our time sitting basking in the warmth of the sun, where previously we sheltered from its blistering heat under the shady trees. For Robert, the park is much more fun than the promenade, because we can sit on and play on the grass in the park. He also meets a lot of little friends. For me it is my main contact with prospective nannies.

Last week we started introducing formula bottles to Robert. It was a struggle initially. He kept playing with the silicon nipple and chewing it, until he figured out that there is actually something to drink in there, but even then it took him some time to get to the taste. Formula milk looks much thicker and more substantial than breast milk, but he is starting to get the taste. Last week I spent almost half an hour trying to talk him into drinking 25ml, now Ron gives him a 100ml bottle in the morning, without much difficulty.

I feel a mixture of pride and sadness at my baby’s growing independence. Soon he will not need me as a source of sustenance, and it makes me a little bit sad. But this is one many lessons that I will definitely need to learn, and the first of many occasions where I will have to let go of my son, and be proud and happy about it.

It is very humbling, to look at my child and know that this little person is somebody I will love for the rest of my life, no matter how or what he turns out to be. He is my heart and my very soul, but he is a person in his own right, and I still need to prepare him for his own life, where my role will gradually diminish while my love remains the same. Bless you my mother for giving me the gift of unconditional love. I only started appreciating it when I looked into the eyes of my newborn son.

Being a mother is a very emotional experience, but I am in good company. Don Mills Diva has a lot to say about the ultimate transformation in a mother’s life, becoming a mother-in-law. And I thought I was the only mother who fretted prematurely about the day my baby will bring along his girlfriend.