February 2016 - Baby Steps in High Heels

Friday, February 26, 2016

I almost missed it

1:29 PM 1
I almost missed it
For those of you who are with me on Facebook, you might remember my sad post about a month ago that I would have to miss my daughter’s kindergarten play. The date the school had on the calendar was, unbeknownst to me, a placeholder, and that date was changed at the last minute. It was changed to a date when I was scheduled to be out of town. At a conference. A non-negotiable work obligation.

I was devastated.

I was going to miss this, her kindergarten “theater” debut, which was a big deal for my pop-star-drama-loving starlet. Shows are her thing. Performance is her personality. And I was going to miss it.

As a responsible working mom, I reacted fairly normally by calling up Husband and announcing that I was going to need to quit my job so as not to miss the kindergarten play. (Hmmmm … I wonder if we might have a drama gene in the family.)

He responded, as he always does, calmly and rationally. He just said, “No.”

“No, you’re not quitting your job. And you’re not missing the show. We don’t miss these things. We will work it out.”

His calm demeanor helped to deescalate my concerns. I took a deep breath and tried to think through everything. I explained to my manager that I couldn’t miss this school function, and an amazing friend at work stepped up to attend the conference in my place. It worked out so easily and smoothly, I almost felt like I had overreacted initially. (Not that I would ever admit to such a thing.)

But if you do feel that calling my behavior an overreaction is accurate, I might not disagree with you on this particular point. Balancing work and family is such a difficult act. From emotional aspects to logistics, it’s almost an entirely different job in and of itself.  And, it is so overwhelming, especially when you throw in components like travel or “lifestyle” jobs that do not follow a traditional 8-5 schedule.

My daughter was in a Kindergarten play. And I almost missed it.

I almost missed her belting out Fifty Nifty United States at the top of her lungs. I almost missed her flawless execution of every dance move and hand motion. I almost missed her impeccable performance as the bronze Statue of Liberty.

I almost missed her pre-show jitters, her fears that her costume wasn’t just right, her uneasiness at the height of the crown. I almost missed the opportunity to talk her through those fears and to make a plan to overcome them (make up and gold bracelet tattoos, of course). I almost missed the chance to watch all of her concerns instantly evaporate when the other kids admired her shiny outfit.

I almost missed it all.

But I didn’t miss a thing, not one single part of this very special occasion. Yes, I was fortunate enough to figure out the details of my work schedule, but there is another reason I was able to be there last night … We simply have a rule in our family, a rule that may have even gone unspoken until this very incident. The rule is this: We don’t miss these things. We will work it out. We do not choose work over family. Ever.

I am so grateful that Husband calmly said these words out loud to me that day, because my initial reaction was to worry. I was worried about how it would appear if I missed a work function for a school play. I was worried that I was asking for too much flexibility at work at the same time I worried about letting down my child, who arguably counts on me more than anyone else ever possibly could.

My initial reaction was to try to make it all work, to make possible the impossible. I thought that meant that I should find a way to be in two places at the same time or die trying (there’s that drama again).

But it didn’t need to be that complicated. Making it all work does not necessarily require me to say yes every time to everything. I had to accept that sometimes it’s okay to ‘make it all work’ by arranging for a substitute or rescheduling a meeting or delegating a task or even just by declining an opportunity.

On the family front, I may not be the Room Mom at every single party or be the parent chaperone on the field trip, but I will never miss the important things. Ever.

And this play …. It was one of the important things.

I almost missed it. I would have missed it. But we have a rule in our family … We don’t miss these things. Ever. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Your Job is Mean!

8:11 AM 0
Your Job is Mean!
I try to use this blog to write about my experiences as a working mom. I try not to delve too deeply into the philosophical issues surrounding working moms, because, honestly, I just don’t have the mental bandwidth for it right now. It’s not that issues of paid maternity leave or paternity leave or anything else aren’t important to me … it’s more about the fact that I barely have time to compose a blog venting about the 100th Day of School right now. I just don’t think I could do justice to larger issues at a time when gluing 100 teeny-tiny rhinestones onto a shirt makes me want to tear my hair out.

However, avoiding this conversation came to a complete halt this week as my tiny six-year-old yelled at me from the backseat of my car, “I don’t care about Daddy’s job!! YOUR job is MEAN!!”

We had a rough drive to school that morning, a drive that, at its longest, lasts about six minutes. That morning it felt like sixty. She was having a hard time. This happens every sales season -- we all reach a breaking point where we just don’t want mom to leave again. This time, it seems to have come much earlier, though, and I wasn’t expecting it at all.

She cried a lot that morning. She was clingy. She was frustrated, angry. And, she yelled quite a few other things about Mommy’s mean job always taking me away from her, never letting me have lunch with her, and keeping me from meeting any kind of appropriate daily snuggle quota. Her words cut like a knife. They were the perfect weapon in her fight against my mommy guilt. She was definitely going to win this one.

These are the moments where logic has no place. There is no explaining the need for health insurance or that a salary pays for our home and her ballet lessons. There is no reasoning that this job, the one that takes me away sometimes, actually gives me more time at home in the long run. There is no rationalizing need versus want with a child who is just asking for a little bit more time with her mommy.

On the flip side, there really was no reasoning with my own guilty conscious either.

But then she concluded her tantrum with that lovely little line, “I don’t care about Daddy’s job!! YOUR job is MEAN!!”

And, that brought to light for me all of those philosophical working parent questions that I’ve needed to avoid in order to maintain balance and sanity.  

Are we making the best choice, choosing security and comfort at the occasional expense of time?

How can I teach my daughter the importance of having strong women in the workplace if she grows up hating that I work?

And there is this:

The question is NOT: Why is my husband held to a different standard?

The question she prompted is: why does my very young daughter already hold her daddy to a different standard than her mommy?

Is the answer as simple as knowing that my travel requires me to be away at times when she needs me most (evenings), while her father is only away during the school day? I hope so. But I also wonder if it could be more. Is the standard different simply because our roles are different? Or are we modeling something for her that is already telling her that working moms are supposed to do more and be more all the while never doing or being enough?

I may not write about these heavier topics very often, but I am constantly questioning and worrying about these things and how they affect our family, and specifically our children. Sometimes I worry that my lack of conviction is the reason we have this struggle in the first place.  Other times, I feel incredibly frustrated that we don’t feel more grateful for our situation, but it is hard to be grateful when you’re unsure about something.

At the end of the day, I just have to hope that she sees how hard we try. We try to make the best decisions for our family, the ones that offer the best balance with the least risk. We try to give the best of ourselves at home and at work. And, yes, WE both do … Mommy and Daddy. We both feel the ups and downs of being pulled in too many directions. We both feel the struggle of never having quite enough time and always feeling like we are not giving enough of ourselves. We both have a hard time feeling like we are letting somebody down – work versus family – when we are with the other.