No regrets

There was a point in time about two months ago where I made a decision not to go on a business trip because I didn’t have to, and things would be so much easier at home if I didn’t go.

I passed on a golden opportunity to shine in front of senior management so that I could help my husband set up my son’s ginormous plastic kitchen.  The moment I made that decision, I felt the weight of all the mommy guilt I’ve ever known lifted off of my shoulders and I was as happy as I’ve ever been since I had my son.

I knew then that the working thing just wasn’t going to work anymore.

There also was a point in time two days ago, after having SpaghettiO’s hurled at me (I experienced a whole new meaning to “uh oh, SpaghettiO’s”), when I read a client e-mail that said, “too bad you’re leaving us, we’re really going to miss you” and thought, “what the hell did I just do?”

The working thing wasn’t working anymore, but would the stay-at-home mom thing work better?

I think so.  But if you’re neurotic and nervous like me you can never know if you’re making the “right” decisions.  All I could do, I told myself, was weigh all the options (including not being able to buy everything on winter sale right now) and do what my gut told me.  That I want to retreat from corporate America and stay home with my son. 

With no regrets.

Some people may think I’m making a huge mistake.  Others may peg me as part of the opt-out revolution, just wasting my hard-earned degrees.  I’m going to think of myself as semi-retired.  Taking an extended honeymoon from conference calls, deadlines (of the client imposed kind), performance reviews, management headaches and just about anything that forces me to dial in, strategize, plan or “noodle.” (G-d I HATE that last word.)

Instead, in my retirement, I’m going to put on makeup when I want to, eat breakfast with my son every morning, hang out at Gymboree and catch up on the latest style of sneakers (how’s that for stereotyping!?) I’m going to figure out how to fill my days with playdates, home cooking, story time and lots of cuddling.  I’m hoping I can turn around my son on that last one.  He’s not so into cuddling.

I’m not going to wither away into Wisteria Lane, though.  I’ve still got a few things up my sleeve.  But I’m going to say no to the distractions that were making me feel that I was doing neither the mom nor the work thing well.  I’m going to stop juggling, and balancing, and doing whatever it is that was barely keeping my head above water for the last 17 months. And the thing is, as I enter my last day as a working mom, I feel more optimistic about my future career plans, whatever they are or aren’t, than I ever have. 

I know that I’m extremely lucky and fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity and I’m not going to take it for granted. I’m going to seize it and channel my inner Bree Van de Kamp.  No! I’m not setting performance goals for myself anymore.  I’m just going to be me.  Mom of a toddler, wife of a lawyer. 

With no regrets.

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You know it’s office holiday party season when…

Santa looks like he threw up in your office lobby…

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‘Tis the season to be tacky.

Your coworkers bring flat irons to work so they can do their hair…

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On the fourth night of Christmas my true love gave to me a flat iron instead of a Japanese perm.

And leave clumps of makeup on the counter after primping themselves…

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Squint and you’ll see lots of bronzing powder.

You know you’re a mom faking it at the office holiday party when…

You eat leftover goldfish out of a snack trap on the way to the shindig…

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Goldfish.  It’s the perfect prelude to a glass of Pinot.

And leave 30 minutes later to put your son to bed…

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You thought I’d really take a photo of that sacred moment?

Happy Holidays.  And if you were the one to get sloppy drunk with your coworkers and have a hangover tomorrow I’m jealous.

I’m such a liability they should take out an insurance policy on me

insurance.jpgThis blog post on whether pregnancy (or working motherhood) is a liability really caught my eye.  Based on a response to the allegations that Bloomberg LP demoted female employees after they announced their pregnancy, the post’s author, BusinessWeek writer Lauren Young, questions whether or not being pregnant or returning from maternity leave inhibits your ability to move up the corporate ladder.

She thinks it does and so do I.

I am not the same worker that I was before I had my son.

I don’t hide in the working mom “closet” pretending everything is alright on the homefront.  I can’t stay late in the office every night to finish up work (that’s what going online at 8 pm is for!)  I’m working at home more than I’m not because I have some crisis to monitor, and when I should be writing a communications plan I’m usually texting my nanny to see when my son went to bed.

My head’s not in the game lately and it’s costing my team. 

I’m trying to make it all work, but I realize in my head that my priorities have shifted.  I’m not the breadwinner and don’t want to be.  So when push comes to shove and there’s an emergency at home or an emergency at work, guess where I’ll be?

My new boss should have inherited the old me – dilligent worker, top of her game all the time, going the extra mile.

Instead, she’s been saddled with a neurotic mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old trying pretty fruitlessly to make what others deem “the perfect balance” work.  This is definitely something a Band-Aid can’t fix.  And I hope to g-d she has an insurance plan.  Because I could be liable to do something crazy one of these days and just walk away from the scene of the crime.

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What’s in your office?

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I showed you what was in mine, so I think it’s only fair I get to see what you all are collecting in your offices.  Especially because I’m working in a remote office this week and am feeling a little lonely without that trusty Handspring CD. Plus, I got a huge kick about this post and the response about a similar repository of “stuff,” and I thought it would be fun to see what is in your drawers.  Office drawers, that is.

So post on your blogs what you’ve got in your workspace and link to me so I can see it.  Then I’ll aggregate it all.  And then we can all laugh at the junk we’re keeping away from our kids’ grubby hands.  C’mon it’ll be fun.
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What you’re hiding from your coworkers:

Nataly’s cafe hideaway

Robyn’s file organizer

WkSocMom’s tsotchke

A Room With a View

So a higher-up at work stopped by yesterday to tell me that I’m moving offices some time in the next few weeks.  Normally, this would have brought on intense annoyance. I hate moving. I hate packing, and especially hate unpacking. With 3 1/2 years of clutter around me, I really don’t feel like coming in on a day off (which, of course, is how most moves take place) to shlep my crap down the hall just because someone said “we’re running out of space and Sally has to work on the floor.” I mean, seriously, can’t I get a better excuse here?

But instead of annoyance I received the message with a sly grin. Why, you ask? Well, well! It’s because I’m trading my stylish closet office for a grand palace with windows.  Having an interior office is such a tease. Yes, I have a place where I can shut the door on sick coworkers, but I am constantly reminded that I haven’t quite achieved greatness a window view yet.

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A room with no view.

Which brings out a bigger issue.  Why do windows make me giddy with glee? Could it be my proposed new view of Chicago’s fine south side?

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I’m so important with my new bad-ass view.

Or the fact that I get to make the movers bring me my file cabinets which shhh… aren’t really filled with anything important after all?

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Three years of work and all I have to show are some lousy trash bags.

Oh, how I’m loving moving up in the world. 

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It was bound to happen…

First there was True Mom Confessions… then True Dad Confessions.  Then today, in my e-mail box, a promotional note for another site called: True Office Confessions.

 

They had me at Office.  Who doesn’t love to dish about work?

 

And if this quote is any indication of what’s in store, then I’ll be sure to check back and read it often:

Mommy talk isn’t any less interesting than listening to you youngsters talk about who you saw at the bar the other night or what you Tivoed.

You go, working mama!

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Typhoid coworkers

sick.jpg“Back away from my mouse.”

I actually said that to a coworker this week.  He was sniffling and coughing in my office trying to show me something on my computer screen and well, after recently enduring the bronchitis epidemic of 2007, I really didn’t want to catch his sickness for fear that I could potentially pass it along to my son.

See that’s one of the problems with this working mom thing – I now have more places to catch icky germs.  It’s bad enough that at Mommy and Me classes and restaurants and the park shared drool and messy handprints are the norm.  Now, I have to fight off pesky coworkers who decide it’s okay to come to work a little bit under the weather.  And then stand in my office.

You can call me paranoid, you can call me crazy, but if you’ve just come off two weeks of sleepless nights and puke and ear aches, you’d understand where I’m coming from.  So please, if you’re not feeling well, just call me on the phone. We don’t really need to talk in person now, do we?

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“Knocked Up” knocks around stereotypes

knockedup.jpgIn the movie, “Knocked Up” (which I saw over the weekend) the main character, a woman in her early twenties, happens to get pregnant accidentally. (Warning, plot spoiler ahead.) 

She’s also very career-focused, saying she didn’t envision having a baby “for another 10 years.” (I’ll save that for another blog topic.)  In fact, when she was eight weeks pregnant she actually got a promotion, to her nauseous surprise (she had just puked in the middle of a major assignment.)  And while I thought the movie was hilarious and entertaining, I still sort of can’t get past how the lead character decided to divulge her news (and growing bump) to her bosses.

She didn’t. Not for 8 months.

Okay, I know I shouldn’t overanalyze a silly Hollywood movie that according to the New York Times is an “instant classic,” but something about why people think it’s so funny that an up-and-coming young woman feels too nervous to tell her work that she’s pregnant gnaws at me. Maybe the writer and director of the movie made the plot take that turn to amplify or critique common stereotypes of today’s workplace.  Maybe it was just for comic value. 

Of course, here in the real world, this is no laughing matter. One of my close friends who’s pregnant with number two just told her boss her news last week, 4 1/2 months pregnant. She was incredibly nervous and kept putting it off, but of course she could only hide it for so long. It was getting obvious.  Sort of like the 32-week bump in the movie.

I will admit it – there is something inherently funny about a girl waiting eight months to tell her boss she’s pregnant.  It’s ludicrous.  But what’s more ludicrous is the fact that in today’s society, us working moms still get the willies about this topic because we fear our boss’s reaction.  And if you sit and think about that premise long and hard enough, it sort of really isn’t all that funny.

Update: The WSJ Juggle Blog wrote about this topic today and poses the question: when should you tell your boss? A good discussion for sure!

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Bringing my B+ game

abc.gifToday at work, during a team meeting, my boss told our group that we should “bring our ‘A’ game” to a client project some of us are working on.  Being a consultant, I have heard this term a gazillion times, and usually I always nod in eager agreement. In theory, this concept makes a ton of sense: strive for greatness and be a high achiever.

Until I became a mom.

Now, deep in the throes of working motherhood I’m finding hard to consistently be in the “A” game range both at work and at home. I do try often, but most of the time I score a little bit lower.  But the more I thought about it, the more I wonder, what’s wrong with a B+?

I got good grades growing up, but never had an all-A average. I was always successful, but never the smartest. No Greek letters at the end of my name in graduation brochures, no special tassles. But yet, here I am working at a great company with my ideal-flexible- working-mom schedule managing some tough assignments.

Admittedly, though, some days are better than others. For instance, if my son decides to sleep a little later, I can usually pull off an A-.  An extra half-hour of sleep can go a long way when it comes to conference calls.  Plus, it gives me a little more time to get my son out of his PJ’s before the nanny arrives.  If my mom’s in town (as she is currently), I’m good for a solid A. I can leave as early and stay as late as I need to and not worry about rushing home.  I can walk in the door and relax while putting my son to bed.

But there are days where I’m so tired and brain-dead that crafting coherent sentences reminds me of pre-Calculus.  And I end up saying things like “cool,” on a client conference call when really, the story my client just told wasn’t all that.  Or I give my son jarred baby food because I’m just too tired to deal with crafting a toddler meal.  Those days I’m lucky to squeak by with a B. (Ok, B-.)

Overall, though, if I had to grade myself on average, I’d say I’m hovering in the B+ range.  I’m just a few points away from greatness, but at least I’m at the top of the heap of my group.  And, I just read that even Einstein was expelled from school when he was young.  I guess making the good grade really is all relative.

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Are you out of the closet? I am.

Nataly, over at Work It, Mom!, has started an interesting debate over women hiding the fact that they are moms at work because of the perception that being a mom will negatively affect their careers.  Part of the issue discussed is how one woman doesn’t want to be associated with a “mommy” site or “mommy bloggers.” Pshaw, I say. Anyone, client or colleague, who I tell about my blog thinks it’s cool that I write on the side. So I personally don’t get that.

But when Nataly asks,

how many of us are hiding in the closet and limiting how much of our “mom” life to include in our professional interactions?

it makes me think: am I too much of a “mom” on the job?

I personally shout my mommy-ness from the rooftops at work. I’m not obnoxious about it (at least I don’t think so), but I do tell clients and colleagues I have a “mom blog” and I do talk about the things that happen to me as a mom.  Like when I ran out of diapers and had to leave work early to go get some, which ultimately led me to taking a client conference call from home.  I shared that little tid-bit with my client on our call.  Since my client’s also a mom, she first laughed, and then said she could totally relate to my experience.  I think telling her this story made our professional relationship a little more personal and definitely made me feel better about running out of diapers!

Perhaps it’s easier to flaunt being a mommy at work when you work with a lot of women (and moms) as I do, but I personally think that being a mom actually adds to my character instead of detracts.  I’ve talked before about traits that I now have that I think help me be a better employee – I can multitask better and have more stamina than ever. 

Of course, I try not to let the minutae of mommy-hood get in the way of work, but it sometimes cannot be avoided. My son gets sick and occasionally I have to leave early.  But I believe being up front and honest will get me farther with my co-workers than if I try to cast my mom-persona to the side.  Maybe I’m being really naive or unrealistic, but I can’t hide it: I’m a mom now, and really, that’s the most important job I have.  I’m not ashamed to admit it.

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