To assume…

May 18, 2009

The other day while we were out and about, F, M and I ran into a family friend who hadn’t seen M in a long time.  She told us how cute he was and then immediately asked, “so where is he in school?” There was an awkward pause and then I said, “he’s not. He’s at home.”  F, bless his heart, then jumped in and said, “yeah. He’s home-schooled.”  She replied, “Oh.” And then turned to talk to someone else.

I was stunned and embarrassed.  I felt like there was this huge weight of judgment hanging in the air, that I am depriving my son of important educational experiences by taking care of him myself.  

But then I realized.  She is just another symptom of the Type-A city in which we live.  This woman is in her fifties, does not have young children, and still managed to assume that our one-year-old should be in school, not daycare, school.  There is so much pressure to succeed, not only professionally, but also through your kids.  Your kids have to go to elite colleges and the preparation for that, apparently, starts when they are one.  Otherwise, forget Harvard.

M will, eventually, go to daycare or preschool because I do think that the socialization that happens is important.  But right now, even with all the career angst and struggles to keep my professional life afloat, I am very grateful that I am lucky enough to get to have this time with him.

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Neighborly Love?

March 23, 2009

Whenever I watch movies or TV shows that show neighbors sharing their sugar and eggs or sitting out on their porches talking to one another, I think, “who really lives like that?”  Most of my neighbors have been strangers or someone you said hello to in passing, and that is especially true in Type-A city where it is almost like the monuments are a constant reminder of the importance of stony silence.

That said, we have a new neighbor.  She seems to be a single mom of a 3-or-so-year-old-boy, or at least the dad doesn’t seem to be around.  And they have been having some troubles.  The boy has been trouble getting to and staying asleep in his new bed- he keeps climbing out of it.  This has resulted in nights of screaming crying on his part and screaming on hers.  There have been times when my husband and I have stood at the wall, waiting to see if she is going to hit him. 

I was talking about this with someone recently and they suggested that I should say something.  My reaction was, what can I really say?  “I hear you screaming at your kid- here’s how I think you should parent…”  She offered that maybe I could share a parenting hotline number, but again that feels intrusive, especially when she doesn’t seem to be physically harming him (in which case I would, of course, call the police).  And the truth is, I feel for her.  I can’t imagine being a single mother, living in a new place, with a son who is struggling with the transition. 

I don’t want to be that nosey neighbor who offers cookies glazed with unwanted advice.  But when do you offer help?  When do you act like a neighbor?  And what is the neighborly thing to do?

 

 

There has been discussion recently about whether Michelle Obama’s focus on being a mom is a marketing ploy, authentic, or a hybrid of the two.  She has been described as  enamored with an idyllic past when her parents were able to support their family on one salary and her mother was able to stay home.  While I believe that to be true and do think that is part of the story, I think we also need to remember that if she had really wanted that life for her family she could have had it (God knows Barack Obama makes enough money for them to live on his salary alone), but her career was important to her and so she found ways to keep working while also being actively present for her girls.  And that is exactly what I think makes Obama so intriguing- she is struggling with and trying to find the right balance for her and her family.     

Whether Obama ends up focusing on being the mom-in-chief or takes a more active role as a spokesperson for her husband is such a focus in part, I think, because many of us, especially those of us in the nation’s capitol, wonder what decision we would make in that position and how it reflects on the decisions we have made in our own lives.  Am I more or less of a woman because I am not working full-time?  Am I more or less of a mother because I am trying to keep my career alive in some way, shape, or form by working part-time from home and not focusing completely on my child?  Am I betraying my feminist ideals by not working more? Etc., etc.

In the end, she is so exciting because she truly has the potential to do either (or both) insanely competently, with poise, and with seriously hot clothes.  And for that I truly envy her.

Mile-High Tango

February 19, 2009

Well, we not only survived the whirlwind trip to California but the baby did so with some serious panache (the same cannot be said of the husband and me).  

Signs of the week to come were clear from the six-hour plan ride out to the West Coast.  Not only did M not cry, but he made friends with the three rows surrounding us.  He was a flirting machine.  He especially put on the charm for two, very hot, young Argentine couples.  By half-way through the flight he was sitting in the lap of one of the women.  And at the end of the flight, all four of them shook his hand as he smiled his two-tooth smile and batted his ridiculously long eyelashes.  No drinking problems, no vomiting up eggs, no inflatable pilots, just overdoses in baby cuteness.

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And the rest of the trip was like that.  Whenever people were around, he was wide awake, cheerful, and all smiles.  It made the trip so much easier. 

I think the other thing that helped was that everywhere we went people were friendly and insanely excited to flirt with a baby.  People were constantly stopping us on the street, talking to him, smiling, and striking up conversations.  It felt like a different world from Type-A City where it is rare for people to even acknowledge the baby, even when he is smiling at them.

So while we all may still be jet-lagged, not really know which way is up, and fighting off colds, at least we know that our child is a social butterfly of epic proportions who will rise to any occasion, especially if there is a hot argentine woman involved…

Beep Beep!

February 4, 2009

 

There was an article in the Post yesterday about how the neighborhood with the longest commute in the nation is in our area.  Not only that, but three other neighborhoods in the region made the top 12! Yet again, proof that we are a special breed of workaholic crazoids.

Now in my own selfish way I am grateful to the people who are willing to live that far away because it means that I am able to live where I live (can you imagine how much more out of control the housing prices would be if everyone wanted to live within walking distance of the Metro- yeesh!).  But at the risk of putting my housing status in jeopardy I have to say- I cannot imagine spending so much time in the car going to and from work!

Now, of course, somedays I kind of wish that I had a long commute because it would mean time to myself- and some days even hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic sounds pretty nice if it would mean time by myself.

I also got thinking about how these families make such a long commute work. I would guess that for most, one spouse is at least working closer to home, if not staying at home.  And, my question there is: how does that spouse manage it?! That many hours alone with the kids?!  It makes me nauseous just thinking about having to do that myself.

Like I said, though, I am grateful to the people who are buying into that life, because otherwise I’d be stuck out there, twiddling my thumbs, pulling out my hair, and praying for my kid to take a nap (even more than I already do).

The Tyranny of Choice

February 2, 2009

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I don’t do very well with choice.  I freeze when I need to decide what kind of candy to get in the candy aisle (am I in a chocolate mood? a gummy candy mood? and, if a gummy candy mood, do I want twizzlers or gummy bears?  and if I want gummy bears do I want the cheap-o generic ones or the Haribo?), choosing a prom dress was a drama-filled torturous experience (even by teenage girl standards), and deciding which movie I move up on the net flix queue can have me paralyzed for half-an-hour. I am always worried about what I will miss once I make my choice.

So when I heard this great piece on Radio Lab about choice I felt like maybe I wasn’t such an indecisive freak after all.  According to the show, one often ends up regretting decisions that are made when there are many choices in the table.  Apparently this is because you are often left knowing what you didn’t take and missing that option.  So, really, I am just being very, very careful in my deliberations.

So then, of course, I started to think about how this relates to the decisions we make as parents/mothers and professionals.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to have a choice of whether or not to stay home with our kids in some capacity- whether it is to be a stay-at-home parent, or to work from home, or to work part-time- these choices are often a double-edged sword.  We are often left wondering what our other life would be like, had we stayed working full-time.  We wonder if we have screwed ourselves over professionally.  We sometimes feel like our brains have turned into complete mush given that the vast majority of our conversations (if they can be called that) during the day revolve around which is the best technique for knocking over block towers.

And I was thinking- it is kind of like being in the candy aisle at the grocery store.  You are overwhelmed by the choices you have in front of you because many of them look really good.  And whether you choose the Sour Patch Kids or the king-size Twix- in the end, you are going to end up with a stomachache from eating the whole thing and yet still a pang of regret for the one you left on the shelf.

Pump it!

January 22, 2009

 

The New Yorker

Image credit: The New Yorker

There was a fascinating article in The New Yorker last week by Jill Lepore about the historical ebb and flow in the popularity of breast feeding.  One of the points I found most intriguing was how the use of breast pumps has actually hurt women’s chances of gaining truly family-friendly policies in the work place.

She argues that with the rise of pumping, employers have been able to opt for creating pumping rooms and have then not needed to allow for flexible schedules or provide childcare on site or offer more generous family leave policies.  

A number of my friends pump at work and I admire them for doing so.  But in Type-A City it is also an issue.  One friend has talked about her discomfort with the pumping making too much noise and disturbing her colleagues.  Others have spoken of the trials and tribulations that go along with pumping- decreased milk supply, lugging the stuff back and forth, forgetting pumped milk in the bag and then losing it.  All in all, a pain in the breast.

It also got me thinking about something that happened over the weekend.  A friend who has a six-month-old baby was in town from California for the inauguration.  We met for brunch and at the end of the meal she went into the coffee shop’s kid room to pump- a much nicer place to do it than a bathroom stall.  My husband mentioned later that he was surprised that she had done that and had worried that parents would be scandalized to see a woman with her breast exposed.  And the sad thing- he was totally right to worry!  In California, I wouldn’t think twice about whipping out the boob to pump in a coffee shop, but here in Type-A land I would definitely feel self-conscious. 

So here we are, trying to do something good for our kids.  Hell, we are pressured to do it so that we can maintain our careers and parent at the same time, but God forbid we be public about it.  The hypocrisy is staggering.  

So I say we have a pump-in.  Pump in our cubicles.  Pump in the lunchrooms.  Pump in the conference rooms.  Pump during conference calls- and not with the mute button on.  Show our employers what this really requires.  Play on their discomfort- maybe that’s how we can get better family policies!