Monday, December 28, 2009

Morning Mika's great post on career/motherhood

Did you all see this? I'm re-posting from the Huffington Post. It's a fantastic column because she provides a more nuanced perspective than just "opting out" or "off-ramp/on-ramp" for moms in our careers. Mika acknowledges the truth of it-- it's hard! there are compromises! there are pros and cons! And then she picks a side and argues for it. And I have to say, I think she makes some strong points. What do you think?

Work and Babies: Women Still Have to Pick Their Poison. (But Men are Evolving!)

For many women, going back to work a few months after having a baby is overwhelming and unmanageable.

As strange as it may seem, things get even more difficult for a working mom after the second and third baby arrive. By that time, the romance of being a modern "superwoman" wears off and reality sets in.

Mom is exhausted. Dad isn't getting a good night's sleep. And older kids feel neglected.

Dads who want to be equal partners too often fall short because there are certain things they simply cannot do for you -- like breastfeeding, sleeping, or even taking a shower.

The new mother starts to question herself and whether it is all worth it. And too often, the money just doesn't add up.

Too often, childcare, taxes and commuting expenses often negate a large chunk of a young mom's salary. At the end of each year, many stretched mommys will do what I did throughout my late 20s and ask why I worked so hard just for the glory of feeling guilty.

Was the paltry profit of an entry level job drained by childcare expenses really worth
missing out on so many cute moments?

And what is worth being so completely exhausted at the end of the week that you feel like you can't give your all to your children, your husband and your boss?

The weekends only add to a destructive mental spiral of "self-second-guessing," trying to run after toddlers and please a husband who just needs a moment of quiet, but doesn't feel like he can ask for it.

Tension builds. You just can't come up for air in a sea of worry and "to-do" lists that all revolve around fixing up a strained household in time to rush back to work on Monday morning.

It wasn't supposed to feel like this? Was it?

On so little sleep, the day-to-day race of trying to manage each hour and everyone's needs robs you of your ability to visualize your long-term goals in life.

You soon forget to ask what you want to do.

You soon forget to ask who you want to be.

You stop remembering all the effort your parents put into your childhood so you would grow up to realize your own great potential.

My best friend and I speak of this often. Over the past three decades, she and I have often been mistaken for sisters. We finish each other's sentences, wear the same hairstyle and laugh at all the same stupid jokes. We look and sound alike. If I had a sister, it would be her.

But we have made very different choices in our lives.

She juggles a five year old and two stepchildren. She has an MBA from BU and worked for ten years at a Fortune 500 company, but quit at a time in her life when the balancing act was simply too much for her family. She could quit.

His salary was sufficient. And juggling the logistics and cost of childcare just didn't make sense. It seemed financially and logistically stupid to stay at work. And on paper, it was.

Five years later, she wishes she had pushed through. While she is blessed with an amazing husband and children and a beautiful home on the water, she feels unfulfilled and regrets that she did not stick with her career. It is a decision that impacts her relationships and her view of herself. She hates that she is completely dependent on her husband for everything. It is a concept that is not that attractive to him either. He also feels helpless that he cannot fill that void. While it was hard for them juggling the baby, the kids, and the jobs, maybe today would be better for her if she had stayed at work.

And here's the key. She feels she was being told by society that women could have it all. She thought she could just "jump back in" later.

That, like many women I know, has turned out to be completely unrealistic. More importantly, it is a bad strategic choice.

We often talk about our very different paths because while she marvels at my ability to balance horrifically challenging job schedules, I marvel at her ability to remember my birthday and to write thank you notes.

After the second kid, it seems like a woman has to pick her poison. Suffer now, or take "a few years off" and pay later. Women need to know that "taking a few years off" can often lead to a permanent condition of dependence and loss of identity.

I want to make a realistic, BS-free argument for suffering now and "pushing through."

There are women who have no choice but to keep on keeping on at work for financial reasons.
There are also women who have the choice to "take a few years off" until the craziness dies down.

I am speaking to both of you.

For the record, I went back too early both times. The second time I paid a terrible price, a story I tell in my upcoming book, All Things at Once.

I realize that of all people, I am no expert on parenting or marriage. My story can inspire just as many women to dial back for fear of making similar mistakes.

Still, I want to put it out there because the conversation for women with newborn babies and careers is for right now, not later.

I suffered from a mild case of postpartum depression after my second child and the physical challenge of maintaining an overnight shift at CBS, a marriage, and two in diapers made the symptoms worse and everyone in the house paid the price.

But I am still glad I did it.

Today, my girls are 11 and 13 and while the household is still chaotic, it is nothing compared to those years after giving birth. My body and mind were out of whack and recovering. The needs of babies and toddlers were constant and drained the life out my sense of self and my family's relationship with each other.

But it's not forever.

Just as those adorable "mommy-moments" go away, so too does the over-exhaustion, the instinctive need to be in charge of your baby's every move, and the guilt.

What you are left with is you.

And by the time they are in school and beyond, what are you?

That question can damage your relationship with your life partner and your children just as much.

You also may need practical options as a family or on your own.

If you are haunted by decisions made in the throws of breastfeeding, weight gain and night terrors, you may actually be left with a bigger challenge; how to jumpstart your sense of self.

I have friends who struggle with this question and because of that, also struggle to maintain their relationships. Yes, I am talking about being mentally and physically interesting to the one you love, your life partner.

This may sound harsh, but when you step out of the career track, those attributes get harder to maintain. It is a risk you take and it is worth talking about openly.

Don't just assume that you will be the same cute, interesting girl who entered the work force and marriage ten years and three kids ago. That is the reality that many of my peers are coping with and it is not pretty.

It is also impractical to assume that your husband will always take care of you. It is just as foolhardy to think he will find your total dependence on him to be an attractive characteristic.

But there is some good news to report as I open myself up to another round of beatings on Twitter.

The attitudes of men seem to have really evolved on this issue. Over the past couple of years, four male friends and colleagues of mine have asked my advice regarding their wives and their apprehension toward returning to work in the months after the second or third child. Wondering how and why I did it. Looking for the right words to bring home.

And they have all expressed something completely new and different about how they feel. Each of them wanted their wives to go back, worried about exactly what I have expressed in this blog.

They also worried about finances because this economy poses risks that make them feel vulnerable. They need their wives to help secure the family's future.

But they also felt a worry their partners would regret the choice personally. I know two of them were encouraging their spouses to stick it out for her sense of self, and ultimately for the sake of the relationship. These guys were not thinking of the short term. They'd rather NOT have someone there to make dinner and get the dry-cleaning and change diapers and to make their lives run smoothly. They'd rather have a partner, with her sense of self in tact in the long run. Wow.. refreshing!

But ultimately it is a woman's dilemma. None of the options are easy. My contribution to the conversation is this. Strategically, women may want to "push through the pain." Get the kids out of diapers and into school before pulling the trigger on any decision, IF they have the luxury of choice.

New Year's Resolutions!

It's that time of year again! I love making New Year's Resolutions. I love the feeling of a fresh start. But I've always been a morning person.

I'm putting these out there in the public domain so that I've got the time-honored and worthy tradition of peer pressure to keep me going! But don't get me wrong-- these are things I really want to accomplish for myself, which I think is the best way to make and KEEP resolutions.

Without further ado:

1. Lose 10 lbs! Yep, it's the last 10 lbs of baby weight. Actually, it may be less baby weight and more cookie weight.

2. Do the advanced moves at Bar Method class.

3. Find my Tracy Anderson post partum butt kicking DVD. :)

4. Do Tracy Anderson DVD ALL the way through. This is a major goal. I have not-bad abs and I had a hard time finishing many of the exercises in this thing.

5. And a couple of work related goals...

And we can't make new resolutions without looking back to see what we've accomplished, right? Motivation to keep moving forward!

Here's what I'm happy about from 2009:

1. Started getting back in shape with Bar Method classes. Once you take the first step, it all seems possible.

2. Began reading for pleasure, not just for learning.

3. Enjoyed quality time with Derek every single day. Even if just for 5-10 minutes!

4. Kept my daughters pretty healthy!

5. Worked hard at my job and loved it

So, that's stuff I can be happy about from last year. BUT! Can't rest on the laurels, and who wants to anyway? Like I said, I love a fresh start, like most people do. But I don't want to go it alone! I need to hear from you about your resolutions for 2010! I heard from PhDInParenting that there are circles of bloggers out there who support each other with their goals throughout the year. I am all in. Would love to read your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I went to New Moon

Last night, Wednesday at 8:43 PM, I threw my cell phone into my purse, zipped up my puffy light blue jacket as I wiggled into a pair of shoes, grabbed the car keys and kissed my husband goodbye. I had just agreed with a friend to see a 9:00 PM showing of "New Moon" at a theater 15 minutes away.

I made with two minutes to spare, and watched my breath as I waited for L to show up. It was chilly chilly chilly.

So it was a good thing L smuggled in a bottle of red and a couple of cups. We got warm and comfy along with the slightly older than us (Italian?) couple in front of us and the two African American men a couple rows behind us. This series has really surprised me with the range of audience it's attracted, I've got to say.

So up come the previews. Four of them-- all the exact same Romeo/Juliet, guy+girl formula. One with RPattz, "Remember Me." TWO with Amanda Seyfried-- one a Nicholas Sparks based movie (ick, I think his stuff is way too schmaltzy) and one that literally invokes Juliet. And a fourth that I don't remember but was another lurv story.

Hmm. I guess Summit Entertainment is sticking with the formula it knows works on its core Twilight audience. Much as I have enjoyed being part of something mainstream for once, I don't think I'm going to be shelling out tons of money to see any of those.

Ok then. On to the movie. I won't recap but will offer some highlights:

- RPattz's American accent was a little wobbly sometimes, wanting to teeter back to British. I am totally ok with the wobbliness-- I like it.

- Like others, I liked the circling camera to symbolize the passage of time but the absence of growth or change for Bella.

- Taylor Lautner! Dear God, those white teeth could blind a person.

- This is a small point that I don't know if others saw or cared about, but I thought it was so creative: at the start of the chase scene with Victoria, the camera is positioned way up in the trees looking down. We see a black bird (crow?) flying across the corner, its wings flapping slowly. It's an elegant way to indicate speed, how fast they're moving so that even a bird's flapping wings seem to be slow motion.

- Thought the ghost Edward was funny, like a 70s era special effect

- Think Jasper's ramrod stiff back is too much

- The costumes were WHA--? Not even a little fabulous. Disappointing.

- I really connected with the parents in this one. Charlie, what a devoted dad! Getting up every time his 18 year old daughter has a wake up, as we say here in toddler-land. That's devotion. I bet he was thinking "DAMN I thought this ended!" Maybe parents are always just a little sleep deprived. :)

And Esme and Carlisle (the fancy Charlie, I like to call him), taking care of Bella in their own ways.

- Oh Italy. So glad I live in Northern CA, which is very like you, you beautiful countryside, you land of the olive trees and rolling hills.

- Oh Porsche. How I wish I could drive you one day.

- Dakota Fanning. Not scary to me. Just Dakota.

- Love the actor who plays Aro. He was also a great Tony Blair, and also amazing in "Dirty Filthy Love."

After the movie, I came home and remembered how great it feels to be all intensely in love like that, the way you feel when you're sixteen seventeen eighteen ish, and there's nothing more you want than the love you imagine, to be REAL. But now I'm married and it IS. And, ok, it's a big Hollywood mainstream movie, the kind I never see, but I think that reminder was worth the price of admission.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

activism in the twilight community

I swear I am not an activist snob. Just because I happen to thank my lucky stars and God every day that I work for, which is one of the greatest nonprofit organizations ever, it doesn't mean I can't also appreciate good organizing that originates in a fan community.

In fact, I respect it! It's pretty beautiful that a community decides to organize. And make no mistake, this is a juggernaut of a community. Surprisingly diverse, surprisingly well-connected over the blogosphere. Enough that when there were some upsetting paparazzi pics taken of one (or more? I haven't been following this closely) of the Twilight stars, fans conjured up a grassroots action to prove their displeasure: photos of themselves with their hands over their faces to symbolize not wanting a picture taken.

I thought it was a fabulous demonstration of the community in action, mostly women, standing up for their beliefs and values.

Some even made fun of the paparazzi pics with their own fabulously snarky take on the situation. Even while participating in the organized action.

But apparently there was a backlash within the community, where some thought this was an overreaction and some thought "there's nothing we can do to change the paparazzi."

Personally, I think that's just making excuses. Now everyone is free to think what they want to think about paparazzi behavior, but I think it's pretty well-rooted in fact to say they do what they do because they want to make lots of money from their pictures. It's pure supply and demand incentive. Therefore, in fact, there IS something people can do to change paparazzi behavior, and that is to not put money where the paps are. Avoid websites and magazines that feature tons of these (literally) cheap shots.

Does a few people avoiding a purchase of a magazine make a difference? Maybe not right away. But eventually, there CAN be a cultural change, and it has to start somewhere. It has to start with the small group that loudly stands up to say no. And say no again and again, every time they're challenged, every time they're ridiculed.

But wait. The Twilight community does have something else on its side besides a deeply held value of respect. It has sheer numbers. This is a HUGE movement, and furthermore, it's made of precisely the demographic that stands in lines at supermarkets and purchases tabloids-- women, 18-44+. Precisely the demographic that COULD, if it threw its weight behind it, could make enough of a dent in sales and enough noise to change how things are done in marketing tabloid shots. It just has to be consistent, and there has to be media attention.

It's possible ladies, never let anyone tell you otherwise. Go forth and organize!

Friday, December 04, 2009

sensible thinking on The Great Debate

It seems to never end, right? The debate between stay at home moms and work out of the home moms-- or actually, the debate ABOUT them. I just saw a great post about this whole thing that offers some very sensible thoughts.

Basically, those sensible thoughts are:
- if you want to work outside the home, it doesn't mean you're a bad mother
- if you want to stay at home, it doesn't mean you're inferior outside the home
- if you worked your butt off in school to get a strong career, it makes sense that you might miss it when you leave it
- and if you worked your butt off in school and didn't try to get a strong career and now you're at home with your kids and you're feeling pretty good about it, well that's ok too

Ok? Ok. I'm so over the manufactured mommy wars.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

funniest video ever- MST3K guys are BACK!


Get the tissues out because I promise you will be laughing so hard the tears will be rolling. I am so glad the fun didn't end with MST3K (remember waaaay back?).