Monday, October 10, 2005

How would I work?

How could I possibly work? As it is, I have no time for anything.

And by work, I mean a real, honest to goodness, red-blooded American, 40-plus hours per week job someplace outside of my home. I am NOT talking about teaching a yoga class here, a yoga class there, which is something I do primarily for the sheer pleasure of it.

When Brian (my firstborn) was born, I switched from a heavy-hitting, partnership-track, macho, deal-making job as a senior associate in a large Manhattan law firm to a paper-pushing, cog-in-the-wheel, heavily beaurocratic, slow-paced job as an "assistant counsel" at New York Life Insurance Company's 100-lawyer Office of the General Counsel. Even with a baby at home, the New York Life job was cake, what with four weeks of vacation and half-day Fridays in the summer and an on-site day-care center that I used liberally so that I could spend my commuting time with Brian. It wasn't mentally taxing, even when I took on management of the entire catalogue of New York Life-owned trademarks. It eventually BECAME mentally taxing when I was pregnant with Adam and beset with minor but annoying health problems, and my boss, who apparently never heard of Anti-Discrimination laws, demoted me from Keeper of the Intellectual Property to Trainee in Variable Insurance Products because, as he said, "What with the pregnancy and my due date, it would just work out better."

Where was I going with this? Oh spite of all of that, it was still relatively easy to work AND be a mom. Adam hadn't been born yet. Brian wasn't in school yet, so when I got home from work at 6 p.m., I could take him to the park (whether and daylight savings time permitting) and swing on the swings and have him in bed by 10 p.m. I also had a wonderful nanny, Ella, whom I nanny-cammed from time to time, just to set my guilty-mom mind at ease. These were the salad days of "having it all".

After Adam was born, I took a longer maternity leave than I had with Brian (I took five months), breast fed exclusively and quite happily, and looked for another job, one where my superiors would be more inspiring AND more mindful of the laws that protect women from getting screwed over because they dared to become pregnant and mess up their boss's calendar. I answered an ad in the New York Law Journal for a full-time position at a large firm job where a major client was a media giant. It turned out that the media giant was News Corp., the law firm was Squadron Ellenoff, which was so eager to hire me that they were willing to take me at FOUR DAYS PER WEEK!!! EIGHT HOURS PER DAY!!! (In the world of large Manhattan law firms, this is GOOD). It was an incredible coup, and I joyfully trudged to work in the mornings, now dropping Brian off at nursery school on my way and pumping breast milk in the office to feed to Adam when I got home.

It worked. It really worked. I don't know how. But it did. Brian was going to sleep more like 9 p.m., rather than 10, but I still felt like I had enough time with my kids, mainly because I had every Wednesday off, and no one I worked with at Squadron EVER called me on a Wednesday unless something MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR was happening. I carved out a really nice niche for myself in the technology area, and continued to prove to myself that I could "have it all".

Somehow, I managed during all of this to schedule playdates, rather than pawn this task off onto my nanny (a new nanny, Norma, because Ella wanted to work with an only-child, but it turned out that Norma was also a Godsend), to attend every school event at Brian's pre-school, to be a class-parent, to schedule Adam for music and gym classes to which Norma would take him, to bake homemade cookies and to take part in a Tuesday-evening working-mom's playgroup (with a group of women I still consider to be some of my best friends).

By the time Adam was entering nursery school - three years had now gone by - I was diagnosed with breast cancer and took some time off, always intending to go back. At this point, I had yet another nanny, this time a wonderful, compassionate, energetic, sports-loving 25-year old named Teresa, and it would have been easy to trust her to keep my kids busy and happy during the workday. In fact, while I was sick, she basically completely took over for me (and I will always be grateful for that because I never had a doubt in my mind that my kids were happy and well-cared for, as I sat like a lump on my sofa for, I don't know, nine months or so). But I digress....I was so goshdarned tired during treatment and in the year following my treatment, it didn't even seem like a remote possibility. Two years after my diagnosis, Adam was entering kindergarten, and I suppose I wasn't nearly as tired anymore, at least on the face of things, but the thought of working and mothering seemed to be beyond daunting for me.

Class trips, homework (which starts full swing in kindergarten nowadays), committees, my yoga practice and ultimately my yoga in God's name do working moms do it? I am seriously in AWE of moms who are able to get up early in the morning, get dressed for work, make their kids' lunches, get their kids off to school, go be productive at work and then at the end of a long workday, hurry home for dinnertime, homework and the whole bedtime routine, all of which is HARD and often physical labor (imagine wrestling an alligator into a bath and a set of pajamas, and you'll have some idea of what I am talking about).

I can barely read to my kids at night WITHOUT having the pressure of a dayjob. Is it just me? Have I lost my mojo completely? Or does it really take a village to raise a child (and a working mom comprises the entire village, herself, like an actor who plays every role in a play, or like Eddie Murphy in Coming to America)?

Susan, Julie, Paula, Lesley, Dana, guys rock. I bow to YOU.



Susan said...

All moms work, even at home moms. I think sometimes the at home work is harder. There are Mondays where I feel like I am relaxing when I get to work!
But, I have to work right now. Reese's work tends to be seasonal and I am the foundation paycheck.
So, do you need to work? Are you feeling like you want to? I wouldn't if I didn't have too. My practice would be way better!

boodiba said...

I don't know how you do it!! All I do is take care of a cat & myself. Maybe part time @ most if you can get by with that. You should go easy on yourself, having been sick.

Anonymous said...

Don't overfeed the self. It's okay to try to figure out what you want out of life, and make reasonable, strategic decisions toward that end. But these kinds of efforts to take charge of life can feed the self and strengthen its curse. Chronically setting and pursuing goals can lead to seeing the purpose of life today as the achievment of some goal tomorrow, causing you to forget that the only life you really have is the one going on right now.

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About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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