Sunday, January 6, 2013

My New Year 2013

I mentioned in July 2012 that there were a number of worries bouncing around the House of Joy. Back then I wrote “I may share them, when I discover the words to express them, or I may see them float away into the realm of stuff-I-should-have-never-worried-about-and-quickly-forget-about before those words come to me.” Welp, it turns out that some of those worries did just float away but a few stuck around, pulling energy from me. For example, Aunt Sally? She’s doing great. But some other stuff…not so much.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. Instead, on my birthday I usually think about what I want my next year to be like; how I want to spend my time; and who I want to be. Yet, this year on my birthday I just couldn’t find the energy or time to think through my new year. I was far more focused on getting enough sleep to get through each week.
But then came the end of the year and a two week break from just about everything. I promptly got sick with strep throat, my nemesis. I slept and complained through Christmas. As I got better, the Mr. and I began the best type of vacation for parents: a sleeping holiday. Essentially one of us would wake up with PJ when he woke up (between 5 and 7am). Then when the other one got up (somewhere between 8 and 10am), the first one headed back to bed. When PJ laid down for his nap (between 10:30 and 12), we’d all sleep together. When PJ woke the second time, our day finally really got started. We’d spend each afternoon with friends or family or together out-and-about.

Rinse and repeat, with each of us taking the earliest shift every other day. Glorious, I tell you, glorious!
But back to the worries: the more sleep I got, the more energy I had and the more I started to think about this past year and, far more importantly, the year I am living in now. The fog started to clear and I gained a lot more clarity about what and who has been taking and giving energy. I also started to think through what I was going to do (or not do) for each of those ‘taking’ and ‘giving’ aspects of my life.
A number of those are too private for me to write about here, but two aren’t.

First, writing gives me energy and it is time for me to get back to my project. The characters and the plot have been running around in my head and I’ll start moving them onto paper tomorrow. I have no idea how I’m going to find time for this but like the very talented Katrina Kittle wrote on Facebook recently, “The secret to finding writing time is similar to saving money: pay yourself first. You will always find time later to clean the kitchen, shop for groceries, or grade the papers because you HAVE to. But the writing is too easily "put off" until everything thing is done...which means you never get to it.” This one, I’m going to start To Do. That feels good.
Second, the battle of being a working mom is exhausting.  Notice that I did not write ‘being a working mom is exhausting’ because being a working mom gives me energy. Its dealing with people who ask me, “Who is raising your child?”. Yup, got that question not once but twice. And who tell me, “Moms shouldn’t work.” Got that once followed by ‘I mean you’ll figure out what is okay for your family, but let’s be honest….’ And in an office environment in which “low performer” and “mother” can be used as synonyms in a meeting with no repercussions (in fact, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that got annoyed by it).  
I know for a fact that I have been passed over for interesting work that fit my profile, growth plans, and willingness to travel to the T. I know that I was passed over because the man in charge of pulling the team together assumed I wouldn’t “want” to attend a weekly project meeting at 6 or 7pm local time without first talking to me. I’m confident that this has happened more than once.

I’ve had women who have children say, “Well, I want to have quality time with my children” and “If you want to work so much, why did you have a kid?”
I’ve had women who don’t have children say, “When I have a family, they will come first” and “Don’t you miss your kid? I would” and “Why does work come first for you?”
I’ve had men tell me, “Children need their mothers.”

I’ve even been asked if my child was an accident because I “rushed” back to work after nine months and when PJ was 13 months old, I started working full-time.
This shit exhausts me. Because, like racism, each time I run into these comments and these situations, I need to push back. Not always directly and never forcibly. But I need to push back. For example: (this is the EXACT conversation)

“Wer erzieht dein Kind?” (Translation: “Who is raising your kid?”)
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question. Could you ask it in English?” – me (who totally understood the question)
“Who is raising your son?”

“Are you asking me if he goes to a day care because yes, he goes to a day care. Don’t you have children?” – me
“Yes.” Followed by more details that I won’t share here out of respect for this person.

“Where are your children?” – me
“With their mother, of course!”

This is NOT the exact conversation – but the general sweep of it.

‘I heard about the XCG work and thought I could fit the profile. Could we talk about it?’ – me
‘Oh, I already have the team together. You would have been great but since the work is global, the meeting is going to be held every week at 6 or 7pm. So I didn’t think it would work for you since you have a kid.’
‘That really is a pity because I work full-time and on global work. I hope the next time we can have a conversation about the work together. Then I can decide if my work schedule and other obligations permit me to join the team. Good luck.’

I’ll be totally honest after both of these conversations -  in fact, all of them - I stewed. I bitched to people I trusted (learning in the process that these aren't personal, lots of working mothers deal with absurdity). I stewed more. I found myself literally grinding my teeth. And then I stewed  even more.
Now after our sleep vacation, I realize that I stewed a shit load of energy right out of my soul. And for what purpose? Those people who believe that people with a penis or an unused uterus are better employees, better team mates, better colleagues, and/or those who believes mothers who don’t work or work part-time are better mothers…they don’t care that I’m stewing. Lord, I significantly doubt they even notice.

This one, I’m going to start To Not Do. I’m not going to assume the burden of pushing back and entering into the battle for all women who work full-time. I’m not going to stew. Instead, I’m going to continue doing my work to the best of my ability with the highest level of professionalism I can muster. I’m going to continue being the best mother I can be (which I’m pretty sure is a great mother). I’m going to continue doing both. That also feels good.
Now, wait, that feels great.
So, here’s to my new year. I think it’s going to be a great one.



MrsJ said...

I am so proud of you sister!

For hundreds of reasons.

Thank you for being such a profound influence on my life and being the person that you were, are, and are becoming.

Katrina said...

Excellent. An important subject from an insightful viewpoint. All best to you!

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