Tuesday, August 16, 2011

La Familia

We don't have many pictures of all four of us together, so I especially like this one. Yes, our children are being held against their will, but we wanted a family picture. This was during Sadie's second birthday party (towards the end) so the energy was starting to wane for our junior members. I do love this picture though, because it's funny and imperfect and happy and warm, which is how we roll.

Jeff is out of town this week so I am stepping up with the help of our part-time nanny (actually her replacement because Sabrina is in Algeria getting her trousseau all situated) and additional babysitting at the end of the day so I can do bedtime for my bonzos without losing my freaking marbles. And, I am extra exhausted today because I have been busy schlepping around all this shame for using so much babysitter help to get through a day. I am so tired of feeling like I have to apologize to my babysitters for needing their help. Last time I checked, we paid the upper market rate for helping with our children. Also, they haven't expressed one iota of judgment about me and my putative inability to raise my children alone. (Actually, it's not putative; I can't do and hope I never have to prove that to myself.) Finally, why do I care if my babysitters think I am lazy because I take a nap everyday or because I want to go on a run before heading into bedtime? I always feel like hiding the fact that I am upstairs napping during the kids' nap time or pretending I am running an errand for the Baby Jesus instead of just going to the gym.

Why all the guilt and neurosis?

Because this is all supposed to be harder. Good moms DO errands for the Baby Jesus, which does not include going to the gym to sit on the bike to read a marvelous piece of fiction while breaking a modest sweat. I can't even think of what a worthy errand would even be, even though I pretend to do "IMPORTANT ERRANDS" all the time. I guess if I was going to donate blood for earthquake victims or get my own kidney dialysis, that would be a pretty important errand. I am sure it would be really great for my kids to have a mom with failing kidneys or one who was busy draining her veins to assuage her guilt for NOT WORKING.

Nice logic. How come the logic of shame is never remotely logical, yet I believe it all day long?

I am done. I am done hiding and acting like I can be up 2 times in the middle of the night and then up for the day at 5:40 and NOT need a nap. I am done pretending I am Jeff who really does get by on shockingly little sleep. I am done pretending like I am torn about not working. Guess what? I am not. I used to sit at majestic tables in fancy conference rooms with unlimited sodas at my law firm. My job, while sitting at that table, was to review documents. These were not manuscripts of Great Books, it was more like 2,000 copies of the same PowerPoint presentation that some sales team down in Atlanta did 4 years ago, and I was looking for one of two things: 1. Proof from those sales "decks" as they are called that the company committed securities fraud; or 2. See if there were any lawyers' names on any of the documents.

Days and days went by. As technology got better, we were able to review documents from our desks. All alone sitting in an office clicking through millions of pages looking for those two elements. I sometimes shut the door to take a power nap. One summer we were asked to bill 12 hours a day reviewing documents. This lasted for about 4 weeks. If done correctly and ethically, it should take about 14 hours in the office to bill 12 hours, because you can't bill for time away from the task. That means when you get your lunch, take a bathroom break, go to the ATM, run to a colleague's office to sob uncontrollably about the futility of life, you are not billing. It means you eat dinner at the office with the other chumps who sit down the row from you doing the same thing all day long.

How meaningful was it for me to read millions of pages of other people's sales documents or emails? Do you read your own spam email? I don't read mine, yet it was my job to sift through spam emails and look for document to build our cases. I never found a smoking gun email. Once I found a document where a sales director told his direct reports to "stay the course," which a certain federal agency thought meant "keep on violating federal securities laws." Eventually, we were able to convince that agency that "stay the course" meant "sell the hell out of our products if you want to see a year-end bonus."

I could convince myself that work was meaningful because my firm paid me six figures to do it. Nothing like a huge paycheck to create an illusion that my work was vital. And, of course, someone had to the document review. That's what first and second year lawyers are for. I absolutely knew what I was getting into.

But how come today when my days are filled with laying on the floor while Simon tries to crawl or dancing on the table with Sadie to prepare her for ballet class tomorrow I tell myself that's not meaningful because I am not getting any money to do it? When did my priorities get so out of line that I can only measure meaning by money? It's sort of insane to think that shuffling paper and pulling privileged documents out of a stack of millions is "more important" than teaching Sadie how to bake banana bread (with agave nectar) or nursing Simon throughout the day because he's sick and needs the comfort?

No one has ever suggested to me that being a mom is not meaningful or important. I know some mothers have made other choices, but there is a tacit understanding that we respect each other. I feel lucky that during my motherhood tenure, I have had part-time work, full-time work and now mostly full-time off of work. I would like to stop minimizing what I am doing and assuming that it's easy or insignificant just because I am doing it.

I actually don't think other moms are judging me. I think the real issue is judging myself. I don't really care if someone else is on partner track and has 3 small children. Nor do I care if someone has never worked a day in her life and has 1 child and 2 nannies. I am too freaking tired and self-obsessed to worry about how it's working for other families. Certainly, I have spent time judging other people, including mothers, but that hobby has lost its appeal amid the reality that it's all hard; all choices have serious pros and cons; and nobody does it perfectly.

The other day I heard a male friend (who happens to be a father) complain about another mother. He claimed this other mother is "insane." I asked for a specific example of her insanity. He said, "Well, she has no wipes in her house." Laughing, I asked him, basically, what the fuck he was talking about. He said that when her 20-month old son has a poopy diaper, this other mother takes off his cloth diaper and sticks his bum under the sink instead of using wipes. My favorite part of this story is that I don't give a shit. I don't care if this other mother uses hemp wipes or Evian to wipe her son's ass. I assume she has either thought this through and decided that for her family and the environment that wipes were a pain in the ass (no pun intended). Otherwise, it could be that it's very easy to be too busy to buy wipes (we've been there) and the next best solution is to just belly your kid up to the Moen and let the river run. Either way, it's the first time I noticed that I was cutting another mom some slack. It was my first instinct to assume all was well or at least safe enough and that there was nothing she was doing that I might not do myself.

This is a good development because it's only a matter of time before I start cutting myself some slack. Then, what the hell am I doing to do with my thoughts all day if I am not criticizing myself?


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