The juggle

January 17, 2011 at 8:39 am | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM, the 'burbs, the firm, Uncategorized, weekend | 6 Comments

Yesterday morning, I drove the children to a suburb north of the city for a playdate. My friend has three children — a little girl just a week younger than Little Bug, and twin 17-month-old boys. She and I were classmates in college, and while we were friendly then, we didn’t know each other well. We reconnected a few years ago when our girls were infants — we lived just blocks from each other in the Back Bay and were both attorneys. Because she went right from college to law school, she is now a partner at her firm. Nevertheless, we have many of the same experiences being mothers and lawyers. Our girls play really well together, and Little O had fun chasing after the “big” boys. As the kids traipsed around her sunny playroom, we caught up in bits and snatches, and I found myself saying, “Now that we have such a great nanny, it’s really pretty doable.” And I believe that: with quality, reliable daycare, the working parent is free to pursue his or her career with much less anxiety. If the children are happy and well cared for, you can spend your days at work focusing on work, as opposed to worrying about what is going on at home. Our excellent nanny has made that possible for me.

But, then, there are the weekends. And holidays, such as today. When there is no nanny and, yet, because of the nature of our particular careers, we still have work to do. On weekends, Tim and I find ourselves in a seemingly never-ending negotiation about who gets to work when. Today, for example, he is going into the office from 10-3. He asked his mother to come over and help me out, which just means she and I will probably take the children to lunch at the local diner, and maybe she can stay with the baby while he naps and I can take Little Bug to the market with me or something. Fine — I’m grateful for the company and the ability to get some errands done. But I also have about three or four hours of work that I should do before tomorrow — two hours of which I absolutely have to do before tomorrow. When will I do mine? Before 10 or after 3, I suppose. When Tim works on weekends, I don’t begrudge him the time away from our family so much as I feel guilty that I should be working and I’m not. I don’t actually work all that often on weekends — but I always feel like I should be doing so (everyone else at my office seems to be) — and so when Tim steals away to put in a few hours himself, it reminds me that I’m probably slipping behind.

If I weren’t working at all, would these weekend tensions ease? Maybe not because I might feel like the weekends were family time or my time — a break, perhaps, from a long week spent taking care of the children. That would be a different negotiation between my husband and me. But I wouldn’t feel this constant sense of inferiority to my own colleagues, one that I fear manifests itself in my relationship with my hard-working spouse. In a two-career family, does one spouse’s career necessarily take priority over the other’s? And is that the career of the highest earner? It seems that things would shake themselves out this way, but I don’t feel like I’m in the type of job — junior associate at a big law firm — where my career can take second fiddle and maintain any sort of longetivity. Just as I’m starting to feel like maybe I am doing the right thing (and have the childcare to make it possible, at least during the week), I’m reminded that — while many of my colleagues are in the office on weekends and holidays — that will never be me, and I’ll probably never really measure up. This is frustrating, and I feel terrible that sometimes my family bears the brunt of this frustration.

New Year’s – again? (as in, already?)

December 31, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Posted in little bug, Little O, music, not yet written, NYC, read this, running, SAHM, Starbucks, tax law is sexy, the firm, Uncategorized, wine, yoga | 1 Comment
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You know I love New Year’s resolutions. Two years ago, my resolutions were clearly defined and yet highly unattainable. Last year, they centered around  simply finding happiness (hot showers, more wine, more yoga…). I understand why people eschew resolutions in that they set unachievable expectations, leading to disappointment, etc. etc.  Looking back over the past two years, it’s clear that I’m not one who makes resolutions and actually sticks to them, but I do get a lot of pleasure out of making them (in that I set up some sort of idealized vision of the future?). This year, I’m less able to articulate my New Year’s resolutions — I have some vague ideas about living more simply, lowering instead of raising my expectations, and trying to exist in some sort of more tempered universe. Of course, in the back of my head is a little voice saying, “Run more! More yoga! Spend less money!” but at the end of the year that included birth and death and health issues and lots and lots of sleepless nights — and somehow, in the midst of it all, a growing sense of contentment — I’m going to resist the urge (at least publicly) to enumerate my Resolutions.

Instead, my friend Lindsey had a fun and introspective little survey/questionnaire on her blog this morning, which I’m going to adopt. I’m answering these less thoughtfully than I otherwise might (blogging, as I am today, in the short window of Little O’s nap!) But maybe that will make my answers more honest.

What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before? I spent seven months as a stay-at-home mom. I took a weekend trip to Florida with my college girlfriends. I participated in a competitive blogging challenge. I went three (almost four — since September 1, basically) months without running. This last one sounds like a crazy thing to list, but it actually imparted to me an important lesson. I used to think I needed to exercise for weight-maintenance. Eleven months of nursing, however, took care of that for me, and I realized that running in fact gave me much more than the ability to wear skinny jeans. If I have any resolutions at all for 2011, it is to remember that running keeps me sane, not thin.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions and will you make more for 2011? Of course not. And of course — albeit with a more measured approach, I hope.

Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes! I did! But also my sister. And several close friends and seemingly half the tax department at my firm (literally — nine women in my relatively small department had babies this year!).

Did anyone close to you die? My great-uncle. And, just last week, a close family friend.

What countries did you visit? None. Sigh. Again, if I do have a resolution for 2011, it is to “remember Italy” (a metaphor and theme in a striking book I read recently, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson — see Lindsey’s interview with her, here) — although in my case, it would “Remember Paris.” More on this in another post.

What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? Patience. Acceptance. Faith. Confidence.

What was your biggest achievement in 2010? Having a healthy baby would have to be it. But I’m also proud of myself for going back to my job. It wasn’t clear I was going to, but I do think it was the right choice, and perhaps the first time in my life I’ve done something truly rational, career-wise.

What was your biggest failure? A few work-related ones come to mind. But mostly I regret the times I’ve been short-tempered with Little Bug and a less-than-present daughter, sister, friend, and wife. I didn’t put down my iPhone/work email enough to stay focused on my family.

Did you suffer illness or injury? I feel like I’ve been sick a lot this year — an immune system no doubt compromised by severe sleep deprivation and preschool germs.

What is the best thing you bought? My iPhone and Pilates. (Am I a yuppie or what?)

Where did most of your money go? Starbucks and J. Crew. Ha ha, just kidding. Sort of.

What did you get really excited about? My girls’ weekend in Florida. My husband would tell me that I’m being all “Joy Luck Club,” but oh, god, there was something so refreshing and invigorating and inspiring about spending three days with the women who were with me when I became the woman I am, the women who have been there for me for the biggest hardships and greatest joys in my life, the women with whom I speak an abbreviated shorthand language and who can finish my sentences. And now, at this stage of our lives, the women with whom I can discuss my career, daycare, siblings, husbands and parents. Even though they may not be part of my day-to-day life, the are a part of the foundation of my life.

What song will always remind you of 2010? Have I listened to so little music that I can’t answer this? Probably, however, something country (since that is all Tim and I seem to listen to these days). I really like that song Welcome to the Future by Brad Paisley, though I suspect that was not released in 2010. OK, so, maybe I’ll make another resolution: listen to more music. It makes me happy — just as Glee made me so so happy this year.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

— happier or sadder? Happier
— thinner or fatter? Well, as I was eight months pregnant, this isn’t really a fair question!
— richer or poorer? It’s probably not a good thing that I can’t really answer this literally, but I imagine that since we spent most of 2010 paying two mortgages, poorer!

What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I’d written more — here on this blog and elsewhere. I have a great idea for another blog, but I can’t seem to find the time to make it happen. I wish I could let myself go with my children — really play with them, focus on them wholly, without thinking about what’s next (be it cleaning up lunch, or what’s for dinner, or how much work I have, or even who has posted what on Facebook).

What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I had spent less time agonizing over my job — both preemptively before I went back and then also on a daily basis once I was back. I think it affected my relationships with my family. It’s just a job. It’s not the greatest, most important job in the world, it’s not the end of the world, and I’m not a victim. I have to remember this.

How did you spend Christmas? As we do every year, in New Jersey, with my whole big crazy family. We snuggled in during a blizzard and took Little Bug in to New York City to the Museum of Natural History the day after the blizzard — rather ill-advised when it took us 4.5 hours and four different trains to get home!

Favorite TV program? Glee and The Good Wife.

Favorite books? I actually had a lot of time to read and finished more books than I have in years, both fiction and nonfiction. In the former category, the three books that stand out are: Dear Money by Martha McPhee, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. They weren’t earthshaking, but I just loved each one. In the nonfiction realm I really liked No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (the Roosevelts on the home front in WWII) and The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison.

Favorite films? I only saw one movie in the theater this year — Eat, Pray, Love. (But I loved it. Sue me for my questionable taste!) Recently, I’ve seen The Town and The Kids are Alright on OnDemand, and, surprisingly, liked both (as you know, my taste in movies runs towards the saccharine, e.g., Eat Pray Love…)

What did you do on your birthday and how old were you? I can’t even really remember my 36th birthday! Luckily, I blogged about it. It was spring, and I was still home on maternity leave, and Tim took me to a local Italian joint for dinner because I was craving a real Bolognese.

What one thing would have made your year more satisfying? Just knowing from the start that I was going to go back to my job and that it would all be OK.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? I have to divide this in to two parts: January – September and September – December. In the former, it was black yoga pants and spit-up stained black t-shirts. In the latter, it was black Theory pants or skirt and cashmere cardigans or blazers.

What kept you sane? Red wine. For reals. And phone calls with my mother. Daily, sometimes twice a day. Also, emails and texts from my hilarious friends.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010? You are not your job. In fact, I suspect that nobody really cares what you do except for you. You’re not a victim of some amorphous FIRM that is out to get you (a la John Grisham?) — you’ve made your choice and you can unmake it at any time. You’re not trapped.  Also, even though you may get frustrated that your husband doesn’t like to hash out the nuances of your day, he is listening. More important: baby boys may not sleep and pre-school girls may whine, but it’s all doable. You can be much happier being grateful for what you have than wanting more, more, always more — this easier said than done, of course, especially for me, but slowly, slowly I feel like I’m on the verge of grasping this. I haven’t actually grasped it yet, but at least its a tangible concept now, something I can turn over in my mind, rather than something completely inaccessible.

The Nanny Diaries

December 15, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM, the firm, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Sometimes I am convinced I am working to afford a wife.

After Little Bug was born, we hired a nanny.  Janet was a shy, 40-something mother from the Caribbean who was an unassuming balance to Tim’s and my rather type-A, talkative personalities. Leaving a new baby for the first time with a stranger is terrifying. Janet came highly recommended by a friend of a friend, and all I wanted was for her was to love and keep my baby safe.  Which she did — I couldn’t have asked for more.

But also: I didn’t know to ask for more.  For the first year JJ worked for us I was still in law school, and she only worked part-time. When I started at my firm, we upped her hours, but never discussed her doing anything other than what she had already been doing so well: strolling Buggy around the Back Bay in the Bugaboo, swinging her on the swing, reading her stories, cooking her spicy chicken curries.

Then we moved to the suburbs and had another baby. For a variety of reasons — most of which had to do with my fear of other people driving my children around — I decided not to hire another nanny when my maternity leave ended (JJ didn’t stay with us through my long, seven-month leave). Little O went to a wonderful family-based daycare where the majority of the working moms I knew in town (and, granted, I don’t know that many people yet!) sent their children. For Little Bug, I took advantage of her preschool’s full-day option.

I went back to work September 1. By October 15 we had to make a change. Trying to pick up two kids in two different spots by that hard, 5:30 deadline was difficult even when the Expressway didn’t have one of its usual afternoon fender benders. Then we’d get home and I’d throw together some dinner (which my exhausted toddler usually didn’t want). The kids were melting down, they were dirty, they were tired. And so was I.

A very senior associate — a friend and mentor whose career and family-life choices I admire more than perhaps anyone else at my firm — had a come-to-Jesus talk with me. “You have to hire a nanny,” she said. “Like, now. And you have to hire more than a nanny — you need a household manager.”

Two weeks later, it was done. I pulled Little O out of daycare and scaled Little Buggy back to mornings-only at preschool. Gail showed up at 7:30 a.m. in her fleece (spit-up friendly!) sweatshirt with a steaming travel mug of coffee, and all of our lives changed for the better. Now she oversees the end of the children’s much more leisurely breakfast — Little O still in his pajamas — while I finish getting ready. Tim or I still drop off Little Bug at school. Gail spends all morning with Little O (one-on-one attention this poor second child rarely gets!), and then picks up Buggy at 1 p.m. In the afternoons she takes them on outings — the library, the Children’s Museum, the playground. They make crafts (which you know I wouldn’t do!). She cooks them dinner and gives them a bath. And I come home and get to play with my well-napped, wet-haired, pajama-clad kids.

She also takes care of me. A good friend once told me she thought her nanny was the only person who had her, my friend’s, back. When Gail started, I immediately felt the same way. Gail makes sure I have my own travel mug of coffee when I walk out the door. Before she started, the house always felt like a disorganized disaster, the laundry never done, and we were always running out of something essential — orange juice, Cheerios, diapers. I now come home to a calm, straightened up, orderly house where the laundry is folded and — get this — dinner is plated and tented with tin foil, waiting for me to heat up after I put the kids down.

She’s a better “mom” than I would be were I home. I mean it. Ok, well, she’s a better “housewife” at any rate. A repair person can come if we need it, library books are returned before we’re fined, and she can run to the market for milk. Of course, the obvious flip side is that I have to work my crazy job to afford a professional like Gail — and she is a true professional. She is former preschool teacher and a mother who considers nurturing children her calling.

But she also sees it as her job to make our home run smoothly. Every time I have an idealistic (or even realistic) urge to chuck it all and stay home with the children I think, “I wouldn’t have Gail!”  Being a household manager-type isn’t my natural affinity to begin with, so it was increasingly stressful for me to try to be both lawyer and house manager (i.e., housewife). Am I working, then, to be able to hire someone to — apart from caring for my children — do what I would do were I not working?  I might just be. And I’m a bit unsettled as to whether I’m actually OK with that…

On second thought…

December 6, 2010 at 9:34 am | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM | 1 Comment
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Remember how last week I wrote this really upbeat post about how I loved my job and how great it was, in essence, to be a fabulous working mom?  Just kidding. 

Today: Monday morning. More work than I can possibly get done in my “reduced time” 8:30-4:30 day.  I left a croup-y baby at home, clutching his right ear and rasping out a barking, snotty cough-cry hybrid (while making a mental note of course to call the pediatrician while on drive into work so the nanny can take him in…).  My three-year-old screamed from the second she woke up until somehow we got her out the door (breakfast: baggie of goldfish and a sippy cup of apple juice for the car. Mmmm, healthy…). She wanted to wear this no not this that, no not those underpants, I can’t go to the potty I’m too cold (OK, let’s get dressed), no I can’t get dressed until I go to the potty.  A friend refers to them as “threenagers” – ha. Perfect. It’s like being two-and-a-half again, yet more articulate and thus able to throw ever more spectacular tantrums. Anyway, my husband comes in to help and the shrieks grow louder, “NO I WANT MOOOOMYYYYYYYY!!!”

I get in the car late already and, already, defeated. Both of my children need me this morning. And all I can think about is how I’m going to get x, y, and z emails out before 9 a.m. I may be wearing nice clothes, but I have bags under my eyes from being up in the night with the croupy baby. I can’t fool anyone. Am I fooling myself?

How did I get here?

December 1, 2010 at 8:27 am | Posted in little bug, SAHM, Starbucks, tax law is sexy, the firm, weekend | 2 Comments

Sick Little Bug, with the “ellie”, watching our favorite movie, Madeline. Actually, her favorite movie might be anything featuring Dora (groan). But this is mine!

We’re all a little run down at our house. As usual, I packed too much into our Thanksgiving weekend. It was wonderful: we visited with my baby nephew and a whole slew of Murphys and beloved cousins; we invited some of our new neighbors and friends over for cocktails (so adult! so suburban!); and we celebrated my brother-in-law’s 40th at an 80s-prom-themed birthday, complete with 80s DJ and several costume changes for the birthday boy (insane). Against my better judgment, I sent Little Bug to school yesterday with tired tired eyes and feeling slightly warm (I asked repeatedly if she wanted to stay home but she begged to go to school), and so of course by 9:30 the head of the school called to say she was running a fever and had to come home.

She is inordinately sweet when sick (so much so that we realized yesterday morning that she was probably ill when she kept repeating over and over, “I love you, Mommy. I love you, Daddy. I love my baby brother…” etc. etc.).  This morning it was difficult to walk out the door when she kept running over for “one more big hug. No, wait, just one more kiss!”

As is often the case, though, by the time I got to work and navigated the Starbucks line downstairs, my mind was focused on my day’s client meetings, conference calls, and revisions. By the time I rode the elevator up to my office, with its sweeping views over the Charles, the Salt and Pepper Bridge and MIT, and the airport, I was happy I was here. Happy because sometimes I still get a little thrill that wait, I’m really a lawyer. I wear lawyerly clothes to work (today: Theory shift dress, black tights, heels, and a tweedy, Chanel-esque [emphasis on the “esque“] jacket in honor of my client meeting). I have conference calls and meetings with clients in glassy conference rooms on the top floor of our skyscraper building. I write and say things like, “It is reasonable to conclude that…”

Yesterday, I looked on as a very senior partner marked up a document I had drafted. His lawyerly edit marks mirrored those my father used to scratch on the reams and reams of documents he brought home. Again, I thought: I’m a part of this tribe — a life so familiar to me as a child, but one that I still can’t wrap my head around that I actually inhabit and perpetuate. 

My mind will, of course, be half at home all day, thinking of my sick little girl. But I also know that, all the usual BigLaw firedrills and false deadlines and general anxiety aside, I do like what I do. And this is what is sometimes very hard to reconcile with my life “at home.”

TGIF

November 14, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM, Starbucks, the firm | 4 Comments
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Trapped in the playpen

I’m currently on a reduced-time schedule at work. (They call it “part-time”, which makes me cringe, since I work more than 40 hours a week.) My firm, in addition to its very generous maternity leave policy, has a return-from-leave policy by which, for your first six months back from leave, you can work almost any schedule you want, down to 50% time. As many families know, ramping back up from maternity leave is difficult: if your baby is anything like mine, you’re still not sleeping very well; perhaps you’re trying to pump; perhaps you’re still sorting out daycare. I think that, prior to this policy, many women came back to the firm and immediately quit under the pressure, or perhaps they didn’t return at all. (And, yes, I do realize how great this policy is. Sounds almost socialist, no?)

I’m currently working 75% time, meaning I work Monday-Thursday, 9-5. Of course, as any attorney will tell you, reduced time is not really reduced time unless you are quite strict about saying “no” to work. I am still so junior that I find this almost impossible to do. Therefore, probably three nights a week, after I get home at 6 p.m. and put the children to bed, I work until 10 p.m. or later on my laptop. But what this policy does let me do is walk out the door at 5 p.m. without any guilt (kind of). And it give me Fridays. Though I have ended up billing two or three or sometimes four hours almost every Friday since I have been back, I do so while O is napping, sitting in my home office or at the kitchen table, clad in yoga pants and drinking coffee.

And then the rest of the day is mine. The entire day, in fact, has the air of a surprise holiday, like a snow day. We don’t rush in the morning. I let Little Bug sleep as late as she likes. I make her breakfast, NPR on the radio in the kitchen. Little O and I drop her off at school, usually at least a half-hour later than her normal drop-off time. Then Little O and I hit Starbucks and maybe the grocery store. We play before his nap (these days, playing consists of him trying to crawl up the stairs and me pulling him down). During his nap I work, or clean up the house. When he wakes up we do errands or just play before picking up Buggy at 1. While he takes his afternoon nap, she and I read books or maybe even watch a show for “quiet time.” Once he’s awake, we walk to the library or have a playdate. Then it’s dinner, bath, bed.

Of course, I’m checking my work email (on my laptop, on my iPhone) all day long, and dashing off a response here and there. Most people at work now remember that I’m not in the office on Fridays. I have to be available, but I don’t have to actually work.

But I love these days. I feel as if the weight of the world is off my shoulders. I am on the floor with the children, we sing and dance. I catch up on my favorite blogs. My People and US Weekly arrive in the mailbox. I have the whole weekend head of me.

And I ask myself: would I feel this anxiety-free, this happy, were every day like this? Meaning, of course, were I not working and home with the children. And, of course, every day wouldn’t be like this. Or would it? If I let it? I’m dreading March 1, when my six-month post-parental leave period is over and, more likely than not, I will be expected to work full-time again. (One argument in favor of going back full time is that I’m pretty much working full-time hours anyway, so why not get paid for it — but I cherish these Fridays so much that I wonder if it’s not worth the pay cut.)

Sigh. I’m a grass-is-greener kind of person — if I could change one thing about the way I am wired, it might be this restless tendency to wonder “what if?”.

…and they shall have their pie

November 9, 2010 at 5:00 am | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM | 2 Comments
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I am the least craft-sy person on earth. I was, however, proud of myself for this little project. Look — I made mitten-“clips” for the children. We were going to a tailgate this past Saturday, and it would be cold. The children would be wearing mittens, and I knew that the entire time, in the back of my mind, I’d be wondering if their mittens would be falling off. So I cut some pretty ribbon and stitched each end around safety pins. One end pinned to the mitten, and one to the jacket. Voila!

Of course, were I truly craft-sy I would have used material that was more elastic or hardy, and I would have used a more durable stitch. About once a year, for whatever reason (an undone hem, the strange urge to whip up a curtain panel), I wish I had a sewing machine. (Of course, if I actually had one, more likely than not I would never motivate to read the directions and it would sit forever untouched, much like the external hard drive for my computer that I bought 14 months ago.)

I wish I could say that the motivation behind this project were thrift, but really it was instant gratification. The children’s store in the lobby of my office building didn’t carry mitten-clips; if I ordered them from Amazon it would take at least three days for them to arrive and I wanted them before Saturday. Well, anyway, it made me feel like a good mom.

I do, however, admire people who are truly creative and skilled with sewing projects, e.g., my friend Sara who, with her sisters, has a fantastic blog in which they write about all their scrumptuous baking and enviable sewing and knitting and quilting. For some real talent, then, check out  Three Clever Sisters. It makes you feel very cozy.

The Yes Experiment

May 18, 2010 at 5:00 am | Posted in little bug, SAHM, the 'burbs, Uncategorized | 23 Comments
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(Today’s Five for Ten topic is Yes)

Attorneys are trained to think around a question. We do not say “yes,” we say: “It is reasonable to expect…” or “It is likely that…”  Instead of no, we might say, “That is not the intent.”

Anyone who has a toddler, however — or anyone who knows a toddler or who has ever been a toddler — understands that most of your days are spent telling that child “No.” No, you may not: climb up on the stool, stand on your chair, touch the stove, watch a movie, drink Diet Coke. No I will not: read you another book, lie in bed with you, bring you another glass of water. It is exhausting for you both.

What would happen if we could just say “Yes”? We tell our children no for their own safety and so that we don’t go broke buying them every toy in CVS.  But those little things that, for one day, in the grand scheme of things, are pretty inconsequential? What if you did read another book or bring another glass of water?

I conducted an experiment on Little Buggy, my 2 3/4-year-old today. After a weekend of being sick, culminating Sunday afternoon with projectile vomiting all over the car, she stayed home from school. So not only would I be with her all day, but she could probably stand a little extra TLC. Within the bounds of safety and functionality, I’d try to say “yes” to every request. We’d go through the day without that enervating back-and-forth of “Can I…”/”No.”  Here’s what happened:

8:08: I want to wear a dress. (Normally, for just hanging around the house, I’d suggest shorts or pants. But who says you can’t wear a dress whenever you want?)
8:14: Can I call Daddy at work?
8:20: Can I have apple juice?
8:27: I don’t WAAAAAAANT a cinnamon raisin bagel. Put it back on the counter.
8:28: I want to go in the sprinkler. (To this: “Maybe later,” which technically wasn’t “No.”)
8:40: I want to go for a walk.
8:43: I want to walk to the cupcake store.
8:50: I want a movie from the library. (Outcome: we walked to the library and then to the bakery/cupcake store.)
8:51: I want to bring an Easter treat in the stroller (an “Easter treat” is a duck- or bunny-shaped SweetTart left over from Easter and usually reserved for bribes. But, why not, just today.)
9:15: (At the bakery) I want a cupcake. (How about a muffin?)
9:48: (Leaving the bakery and walking past another store displaying a big advertisement for ice cream in the window) I want an ice cream. (Again, a diversion: maybe later.)
10:30: (After arriving home) Can I ride my tricycle down the street?
10:36: I’m too tired. Can you push it?
10:40: Can you carry my tricycle home? I want to run.
10:42: Can we play red-light, green-light?
11:50: I want to eat lunch outside.
12:03: (After it was suggested that perhaps she shouldn’t drop her food on the ground, as it might attract animals.) I want to feed the animals.
12:28: I want to play on my playground {i.e., our swingset} and THEEEENNN I will take a nap. (OK, for five minutes.)

“If I throw my spaghetti on the ground then awlllll the animals will come: bees and bears and MONSTERS. And squirrels.”

After a nap, we went to the local nursery to look at flowers and plants for the patio. Little Buggy loved the flowers and especially the disco-like reflective balls that I guess some people put in their gardens. She wanted one, of course. I had to turn back into nagging, nay-saying, no-fun mother: No, we can not buy a disco-garden-ball. No, we are not buying that palm tree or that running fountain or the rose bush.

Dinner: I want Arthur Mac & Cheese and a red popsicle and apple juice. (Not what I would have made for her, but, OK. No arguments.)

7:02: I don’t want to take a bath; I want to watch the Madeline movie from the library.

And, finally, here, I had to stand my ground. I suppose my experiment was destined to revert back to push-and-pull toddler mode under the stress of bathtime and bedtime and “I don’t waaaaaaant to go potty; I don’t waaaant to brush my teeth.” No, you must go potty. No, you must brush your teeth.

We have to say “no” — to instill safety, boundaries, values. To make sure they get enough sleep and their teeth don’t rot out. But it feels so good to say yes, especially when you see your child’s eyes light up, like, Really? I can have a piece of candy right after breakfast? Really? You’ll take me to the library and the bakery? Just like that? I was reminded that she is just a small person — a baby, really. I have such power over her innate wants and needs. I have never worried before that I say “no” too often, nor have I thought that I spoil my toddler. But this tangible effort today to ban the word “no” — which I realized we throw out almost unconsciously — gave me a glimpse into the small universe of the young child whose wants and needs are so, so simple.

Thank you Sarah and Jen of Momalom for inspiring me to write again (regularly!). As a former journalist, I embrace being given a topic and a deadline upon which to write it. I actually often find it easier to write when I am not spending my creative energies thinking up a topic, but can run with a given idea. Thanks to all the new readers (and Tweeters) who visited my blog and commented; conversely, I have stumbled upon so many new blogs that my Google Reader may overload. Last night, as I was hunched over my laptop, writing and reading and commenting and Tweeting, my husband said, “What are you doing? Competitive blogging?” Well, yes, kind of, but competitive only in the sense of pushing oneself and expanding one’s horizons. These past 10 days have felt like an event — a kind of Olympics of camaraderie and support and fun. I look forward to meeting many of you in August!

Me at 36

May 12, 2010 at 4:30 am | Posted in running, SAHM, Starbucks, the 'burbs, Uncategorized, wine, yoga | 14 Comments

(Today’s Five for Ten topic is Happiness)

I have a birthday this week. Today, in fact. I can no longer claim I am in my lower- (or even, really, mid-) 30s. I have wrinkles on my forehead and my dimples seem to be elongating into deep smile lines. I’m in the midst of the three-month postpartum hair evacuation. (My hair quite literally falls out in clumps with every shower.) While supposedly I have lost all of the weight I gained with the baby, things have settled a bit differently. I’m not sure my clothes quite fit correctly (e.g., button-down blouses and jeans).

Here’s what else is going on at 36.

Coffee. My automatic coffee maker is getting more attention than Starbucks. This, for those who know me, is shocking. But I can no longer think clearly without a cup of coffee right away. Like, there is no time to even get to Starbucks. My mother always said, “I just can’t function without my first cup of coffee,” and I kind of laughed at what I thought was motherly exaggeration, but I get it now. Before Tim leaves in the mornings (which is usually while I’m still tucked into bed with the baby), I beg him to throw the coffee. Now, we did buy one of those coffee pots that you can program to turn on automatically, but far be it from me to actually remember to do so each night. I read recently that one tip to getting your baby to sleep through the night is to give up caffeine entirely. Ah, the Catch-22.

The ‘burbs. In addition to a grill and a swingset, we now also own some patio furniture and all sorts of lawn equipment (long and short trimmers, a fertilizer spreader, etc., et al), and we drive around town critically noting other people’s yards and gardens. And I think I am becoming more sure about our new town. I can still hop on the Red Line and into the city in 15-20 minutes (the other night I even visited a friend up the northern reaches of Cambridge via the Red Line!). I’m also slowly starting to meet some “friends” in town, as people start to emerge from the long winter. No one that I could call up yet and invite over for dinner, really, but perhaps a playground date. One friend, herself now a two-year veteran of a different suburb, tells me that I have to be extra bold when making new friends. “Get their cell numbers and text them!” she told me. “You have to stalk at this stage in life!”

Along those lines, at 36, with small children, I’ve realized that one’s social life necessarily revolves around others with children the same ages or else one actually will have no social life. Getting together with other couples, then, goes something like this: 8:30 a.m. brunch at the diner or 11 a.m. lunch at someone’s house while the preschoolers run around in the sprinkler (extra points when Bloody Mary’s are served along with the coffee) or a 5 p.m. barbeque. And, of course, even these earlier get-togethers happen more frequently than “date nights” because it is easier to drag the children along than deal with a babysitter. Some of my close friends have children older than mine, and some have no children, and — while they remain dear friends — we just do not get together as couples. It’s easier for me to see these friends one-on-one (and, since that in itself involves leaving children home with either Daddy or a sitter, this does not happen as frequently as I’d wish).

Little buglets and the existential questions they raise. I have really enjoyed this time at home on my maternity leave. Does this surprise me? A bit. I had looked forward to not working perhaps more than being at home (there is a difference). But it turns out that I like knowing what my daughter had for lunch (because I made it) and what time she woke up from her nap and, especially, our car rides home from preschool when, on the verge of her nap, she tells me (somewhat deliriously) about her morning (“Remember, today, at school when we learned about spider webs and CHARLOTTE’S WEB and horses eat HAY and pigs eat SCRAPS and Michael Foley liked the ORANGE popsicle best but Michael Murray liked the green one…”). At the same time, I do know that for various reasons I’ll be going back to work in the fall. I had told myself that I wouldn’t even think about work, or what comes next work-wise, until Little O was three months old. So only recently have I started to reconsider the inherent value in being home with one’s children versus the continuity of one’s career, and the conversations this balance has started with friends — both close friends and people with whom I’ve become reacquainted since having children — have been provocative and encouraging.

One close friend accurately and bluntly identified one of the issues I grapple with the most — that of affirmation (whether internal or external) of my law degree. She told me, “You have to ask yourself whether you are always going to want to wear a t-shirt that proclaims, ‘I made law review and worked at [BigLaw Firm].'” This from a woman who used to manage billions of dollars before leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children — but who would never, ever mention this unless you got to know her and asked. She lives in the present, and I so admire that, and her point to me was whether, if I pursued a career that was less intense, I’d always be justifying my decision. Or could I accept that different choices provide meaning and value in different ways.  [The subtext to this, I feel compelled to point out — again — is that I have a choice. I’m not talking about the “Mommy Wars” choice to work or stay at home, but, rather, knowing that I do want to work, to choose in what capacity I will do so:  big, fancy, stressful job with lots of cache, or a less-stressful, less-lucrative job that would allow me to work part-time but that may not “use” my law degree? Obviously, the former is attractive to me for all of sorts of intellectual and self-validating reasons and the latter attractive because, as it turns out, I like spending time with my children.] These are the more weighty issues that preoccupy me at 36.

The less-weighty issues include:

How many followers do I have on Twitter? Why didn’t I think of the concept behind my new favorite TV show, The Good Wife, before its writers? (I should have.) Did I waste money on my Kindle because the iPad is so much cooler and I want one? When do I make the seasonal switch from red wine to Oyster Bay Sauv Blanc? Are all the inchworms falling from the sky going to destroy my trees and how many carpenter ants should one see in one day before calling the exterminator (two? six? ten?)? Can I sneak in a run before the babysitter leaves or should I suck it up and take out the double-jogger? When will my hair stop falling out? Will I ever, ever sleep past 7 a.m. again? Should I go to BlogHer in August? Should we have our neighbors over for cocktails, even though we don’t know very many of them? What is the suburban protocol after one moves to a new neighborhood?

In Conclusion. At 36 I am:  a woman with two advanced degrees, two children, two mortgages, and two cars. I am still a voracious coffee-and-wine consumer, reader, and pop-culture junkie. I used to be a voracious yogi and runner, and while I miss the intensity of these pursuits, I can accept why I had to dial it down. I love my family fiercely, including my large extended family of aunts and uncles and sisters and step-parent and my many, many in-laws. I love my friends, too, in ways I could not have foreseen a decade ago. I notice that I am getting older chronologically in that those close to me are getting older, too — my children, my parents. But I don’t mind it, really, and I do like the mellowing part — more so mind than body, of course. My sister remarked recently that I’m so much more relaxed these days. Maybe this is because I’m on maternity leave and not working, but I’d also like to think it’s just me.

Halfway there (so near and yet so far…)

April 22, 2010 at 5:00 am | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM | 4 Comments

I am nearly halfway through my maternity leave. Can this be possible? There are so many things I still want to do.

1. Sleep through the night. Ha!
2. Take some day trips with Little Bug to Drumlin Farm, that museum in Easton, the Children’s Museum, the Science Museum.
3. Take the children to Tim’s office for lunch.
4. Learn to play golf. (Indeed, I have visions of myself in preppy clothes swinging away with a handsome golf pro at our “club”.)
5. Get in killer shape. For me. I want triceps.
6. Get the house organized. In particular, the office and the closets. Maybe call one of those closet pros — a cheap California Closets or something.
7. Take the children to the Regal Beagle for lunch to see their Uncle Rich.
8. Go to New York City for a day.
9. Take Little Buggy to high tea at the Taj.
10. Create a new blog.
11. Write a book.
12. Figure out what to do with my life (yes, on a macro level).

All of these endeavors are somewhat compromised by the fact that #1 has not yet occurred. I remember a close friend of mine, whose son is about six months older than Little Bug, telling me a few weeks after Buggy was born just not to worry about exercise or cooking or whatever until I got my energy back. Which she promised would happen around four months. And it did. I keep reminding myself of that!

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