Sunday, November 25, 2012

Unmarketable Truths from the Life of One Working Mom

I came across the following list in my drafts folder. I'd written it in July, in the midst of the Anne-Marie Slaughter and Marissa Mayer brouhahas. I labeled it "dirty little secrets." The list is still true. The title seemed wrong, though. I think my new title of "unmarketable truths" is more accurate- these are the things about me that fall outside our standard cultural assumptions about the lives of mothers in the workforce, and hence screws up attempts by marketers to profit off my angst. 

1. Going back to work relatively early, and staying in touch with my work while I was out on my (3 month) maternity leave helped me adjust to becoming a mother and I think it helped keep me from tipping over the edge from "sleep deprived and more than a little overwhelmed" to "seriously depressed and in need of help".

2. My work life has gotten easier as I move up the food chain. Now, the work itself has gotten more challenging/stressful, but the actual experience of working has gotten much easier. I have far more control over my schedule and much more leeway to work from home from time to time. I also have more negotiating power when I want something like a few days off without pay (because I've exhausted my PTO and still want a vacation, for instance). I try to keep this in mind and flow the freedom down to the people who report to me, but I am sure I am not perfect at that, and a lot of bosses don't even try.

3. I don't care if there are toys strewn all over my house when company stops by. Not even one little bit. My husband still cares, which used to be an occasional source of tension. But we've settled on a nice compromise now, because I do care that the bathroom not be gross. So he picks up toys and I spot clean the bathroom.

4. I wasn't all that concerned about missing milestones that happened at day care. I figured seeing the third rollover was as cool as seeing the first one. As it happens, I think I say the first crawls for both kids (in both cases, towards my laptop...) and the first steps. If day care knows otherwise, they aren't saying.

5. I don't care if my nails are manicured. I don't care if my hair is a little bit past the optimal time for a trim. I didn't care about these things before I had kids, either. Whenever some other mother is speaking wistfully about how hard it is to get time for a manicure these days, I just smile and nod. But to be fair... I speak wistfully about how I can't find a martial arts class that fits my schedule. So, to each her own method of stress relief, I suppose.

Note that I am not saying that these are true for all women. Just for me. Do you have any unmarketable truths about your life that you want to share? They don't need to be related to being a mom, or working- just things that our culture assumes is true for "all" people like you, but that aren't actually true in your case. Leave your unmarketable truths in the comments, if you'd like.


  1. Fun thoughts ...

    I share 2,3 and 5: I aimed to move up the food chain specifically to find this flexibility and negotiating power, and because I always assumed my work-lifespan might be dramatically or suddenly shortened due to poor health. I wanted to be able to be proud of the peak.

    Spent plenty of time in a barn so while I appreciate cleanliness I'm not obsessive. I'll pick up most visible clutter for company but I'm not going to vacuum.

    And physical appearance maintenance is basically cutting my nails so I can type. I'd probably be two years in between hair cuts by now if the last time I was in a salon for something else, the lady didn't just snag me and insist on trimming my hair. Hair styling by ambush, my favorite!

    I can't comment on the kids thing. But on that subject, while I've never had the biological clock feeling, I can't live without dogs. Kids: we'll see.

    Other things about people like me: I'm Asian but I'm neither great at math nor do I fit in with any version of "my people".

    I'm an introvert but not deferent. Highly irreverent, with the right people, in fact. I'm not a bickering harpy that is the alternate expected mode of the "assertive Asian woman" - I don't have the patience for that.

    I don't care for status items that would indicate class now that I have money, I'm happy balancing between frugality and conscious spending.

    I'm not a doctor/lawyer/engineer accepted 1st generation Asian professional and I'm a rarity in my chosen field - I guess it's still not a parentally approved profession but it's not a huge surprise. It's not stable or lucrative if you don't work hard, aren't lucky and very careful crafting your path. I AM proud that my med school cousins know and admire my career path though.

    I love both comics and sports. And you'd think the nerd and jock universes would have imploded from *that* particular collision, before factoring in my gender.

    I haven't ever exactly "fit in" anywhere ever but have enjoyed plenty of niches nevertheless because it rarely occurred to me that looking different or standing out was an actual problem. It was a fact, it wasn't something I had to fix about myself.

    I've liked choosing when and how I would care about what I care about.

  2. Anonymous5:09 AM

    All of that is true for me as well, except the martial arts (and DH and I have never fought about cleaning for company-- he just declutters and I just clean the bathrooms without comment... it's that midwestern upbringing). Instead I really need a haircut. If I have any hair left after DC2 pulls it all out.

  3. Here's an unmarketable truth that applies to my life (and yours as well, I think): Men are not useless! Rather they are actual grown up humans fully capable of taking equal responsibility for their families and homes.

    Also, I love to work, and I don't feel guilty about it at all, ever.

  4. A couple that came to mind are:

    - I craved going back to work after being at home with my son for 10 months, and am a better mom because of it.

    - I'm a very introverted person, but can socialize and give talks to audiences of all sizes easily.

  5. Joanna8:29 AM

    Hmmm....well I love reading your blog, even though I don't share your affinity for being a working mom - I am one by economic force only. However, my biggest unremarkable truth is that I don't hate daycare nor do I think it's the root of all evil and/or strangers raising my baby.

    My daughter just turned two, and she loves daycare (we call it school). Of course it helps that it's an expensive daycare with lots of opportunities. But, I often think of what would happen if I stopped working - how could I provide all of the things she gets at daycare myself?

    She gets: outdoor time 2 times per day on a large playground which would make me hyperventilate to watch her climb on (but she does it just fine); Spanish lessons; intro to outdoor sports; an assortment of friends; other adults to learn to listen to and trust; and intro to the school environment, including how to line up, take turns, listen to a teacher, etc; access to different books and toys than we have at home; the list goes on!

    And I think she has learned so much, too! She just turned two, and for months has known her colors, shapes, letters, numbers, how to count to 20, how to sing her ABCs and a variety of other songs, and now knows her colors in Spanish, too! Yes at home we encourage it all, but I know that her daycare has provided her with so much. While I would love to spend more time with her, I would definitely keep her in a preschool at least part-time even if I did stay home, just so she gets these experiences.

    One thing is for sure, and that is I wouldn't trade daycare for a nanny. I just don't see how a nanny could give my daughter the same experiences that she is getting now, unless of course I not only paid for the nanny, but also a variety of classes, preschool, etc for the nanny to schlep my daughter to. I don't have anywhere near those kinds of funds, and am thankful for our daycare experience. Even if we do all get sick a lot! I guess we are just building up our immune systems early, right?

    1. Yes, I have to say I'm a big believer in daycare/preschool for every kid as soon as s/he hits 2. Before that, I think nannies can be good/better (depending). But definitely by 2, more socialization is better.

    2. I preferred a nanny (or any consistent caregiver really) during my kids' attachment phases (9mos - around 2.5 years). But once the kids were 2.5, they loved being with groups of kids at all-day preschool (aka the same concept as a daycare).

      The only negative we've experienced with preschool/daycare is some aggression/bullying from a couple of the other kids. And more colds. Both of which arguably confer some long term benefits (more emotional and immune system resilience

    3. Yes, we've had bullying problems too. It's so sad to see it early! But as much as I would love to wrap him up and keep him away from any unpleasantness, alas that's not possible, so you're right it's about emotional resilience (within reason of course). I had kids who weirdly never went through separation anxiety, but I could definitely see 2.5 being a better time to start daycare/preschool.

    4. Before 9 months old is also a great time to start daycare - my firstborn started daycare at 4.5 months and had no issues. But once he turned 10 months old, he screamed bloody murder whenever I tried to take him to the 2-hour max drop-in daycare at the gym - even though at his original daycare he was still fine. All about timing the developmental phases, I think.

    5. I think the day care vs. nanny thing depends a lot on the nanny and the locale. A really good nanny in a place where most people use nannies (and therefore there are a lot of socialization opportunities at the park, etc) is probably just as good as day care for socialization. And of course, some day cares are better than others!

      That said, we've always been happy day care users here. I agree with @hush about the developmental phase issue- my kids both started day care at 5 months and had fairly easy transitions. The 9-12 month time period has got to be one of the hardest times to start day care for most kids, since that is the first big separation anxiety phase.

  6. I am with Joanna and Alyssa on craving work and not feeling up to providing everything daycare can. My other apparent unmarketable truth is that I lose all my weight after having a baby very quickly (a week and a half) and can't find nursing clothes that don't balloon out on the belly. Nobody likes to hear how much effort it takes me to maintain my weight while nursing (I overproduce and am almost always engorged), but I have a new respect for anemic and thin people who can't gain weight.

    1. I also dropped weight fairly quickly with nursing (not as fast as you, though). Sadly, I didn't pay enough attention when I stopped nursing, and now I'm 10 lbs over my pre-baby weight. Oops.

  7. I'm glad that I didn't get my diagnosis until after I had a baby. If I had known that it would have placed my life in danger, I don't think I would have ever had the courage. After the diagnosis, I had a moment of clarity. My highest priority is to stay alive long enough to teach my cub how to hunt on her own. Everything else is just noise.

  8. All 5 of your points are true for me, too, although I don't have as much flexibility to work from home as I'd like. Also, replace martial arts class with time to go to my knitting group.

    In addition:
    Getting someone to clean our house once a month has made me a happier person. Much happier.

    Some nights I ignore all of the chores in order to have two uninterrupted hours of me time to really get something for me done or just to relax my brain.

  9. All of 1-5 apply to me except the martial arts; I have never had a manicure and went through a phase of cutting my own hair (not to good effect, it should be admitted. But it was easy, and cheap!). I care a lot less about much of the cleanliness of our house than my DH does and am not the least bit unwilling to tell him that if it matters to him, he should take care of it (NOT that this means I never do anything simply because it is important to him or that I don't pull my own weight overall; I do).

    Given that my kid is in the middle of "where he should be" developmentally etc., I don't worry about why he isn't "more advanced." And while at times doing so annoys me (i.e. I wish he had a sibling to play with), I feel it is far better to e.g. play Go Fish with him than to have him playing with (many) "educational" toys, especially if they are electronic/digital. I mostly have the patience of a saint but do sometimes worry I tolerate too much (expression of) grouchiness etc. from him. OTOH I get lots of compliments on how well-behaved he is, but this in part reflects his being very much a rule-follower with everyone except (sometimes) me, i.e., mom. Somewhat par for the course, I know, but I do worry I don't always draw the right lines, or pick the right battles, or ... . But I don't, in fact, worry that I am getting it all wrong and messing him up for life.

    If going somewhere to get something done takes more time than doing it myself, I would rather do it myself (see: haircuts. Also: oil changes).

    I do not like to shop. For anything. Ever. Basically if I have to, I want to get in and out of the store in as few steps as possible. If I have to search for it in a physical location (versus a google search), I'll likely decide I don't really need it.

    I am pretty unwilling to negotiate the logistical complications involved in doing stuff with people, which is somewhat unfortunate, as I do enjoy doing some things with some people some of the time. But the thought of trying to coordinate with friends to do activity X at time Y often results in my heading out solo to take the dogs for a walk in the woods. And means DS doesn't get playdates, leaving me playing Go Fish. Thank goodness for kindergarten.

  10. Thanks for the comments, everyone! These are fun to read.

  11. I share your 2-5. I would have liked a year maternity leave though. I also totally share Alexicographer's one about the logistical complications of doing stuff! Other UMT:

    1. My husband does 80% of the grocery shopping in our house, 70% of the cooking and overall probably slightly over 50% of the household chores.

    2. I don't separate my whites from my darks

    3. I'm not on twitter

    4. I don't do any craft

    5. I enjoy exercising and have no trouble prioritizing it

    6. My kids are almost never sick

  12. Zed's 2 & 3 apply to me also. And I realized two more I'd add: (1) I'm not a germaphobe. And (2) if it's more than a 15 minute drive away, I'm unlikely to want to go there (applies to restaurants, shops, movies, and many cultural social events, though exceptions can be made; as I work a half-hour drive away from home I do combine the drive to or from work with errands that would otherwise be too far away to contemplate).

  13. I'm not a mom, but I do 'live the dream' with my own business, and it makes me laugh that everyone thinks its just sitting around making pretty flowers, or maybe waltzing around the kitchen in a pretty apron with a little flour on my nose.

    It seems that most of my time is spent washing dishes, answering the phone/email to tell people that they cant have a pirate ship cake tomorrow (and it will be more than $50 if they did call with enough time to place an order) and general admin/accounting!

  14. I am pretty much with you all all five points (I mean, really--I never got my nails done or wore make up before I became a mother; why would I start now?)

    I have hired a baby sitter once a week for a couple of hours since my son was about seven weeks old so that I can (depending on my greatest need at the time) take a nap, go to yoga, or go out for a beer or something.

    The most unmarketable thing about me, though, I think, is that I am a single mother who gets along well with her child's father.


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