I have one vivid memory from around four years ago, when I was working for some very small men with very big voices. That’s how I described my employers at the time to Roan, who was three years old. It was an accurate description. I hated my job. There were lots of name dropping opportunities: 50 Cent, Britney Spears, Kid Robot etc., and under better leadership could have been an awesome place. But I didn’t enjoy the people I worked with (with the exception of one forever friend, also named Jodi.) The environment was misogynistic, it was cut-throat and back-stabby, and I was the only mother working there. I was often the victim of major stink-eye from the young turks that worked there when I would have to leave to pick up little Ro from daycare. I kept working there because I was the breadwinner of the family at the time. Anson was just getting his feet under him professionally here in the big city, and we needed a reliable income while he built his inroads.
At lunch everyday, I’d go to a gym on the third floor of a building that looked out over Union Square. I’d run on a treadmill instead of burying my head in hands and sobbing. Everyday, I’d see mothers or caretakers playing with kids in the park. And I’d remember dropping my Roan off at daycare that morning and feel even more depressed. I’d wonder if those mothers knew how lucky they were to have time with their kid on that particular day, instead of being surrounded by small men with big voices. I’d feel super envious. I’d feel like I couldn’t run fast enough on that treadmill to make it any easier to walk back into that office instead of playing with my boy.
Then one day, I got fired.
The company shut down a few months later (probably because I was gone…ha!) and I collected unemployment long enough for Anson’s current boss to throw a safety net under our family financially and let him start being the dude what brings home the bacon. I got to start spending every day with Roan and couldn’t believe how much I loved it. It was a revelation. It was liberating and freeing and felt like I had won the lottery.
I started thinking about this a few days ago when my friend Kara asked me if I felt boxed in, trapped, tied up, etc. because these twin boys make it hard to leave the house.
A steadfast and happy “Not at all! I get them out of the house in-between naps. Usually for about 1/2 hour a pop – you know, just a walk or somesuch to tell these boys to suck it up, we’re getting out into the world.”
And then she laughed.
Kara told me that being friends with me was like studying women from an Aboriginal Tribe [no offense to my readership in the Aboriginal Tribes.] I’m something she finds interesting but can’t relate to. She labeled me an optimist and asserted that she is such a cynic and that’s why I make her laugh so. She went on to explain that most people would probably get a little cagey and cooped up and unhappy if they could only get out of the house twice a day for 1/2 hour per pop. These are the things that drive mothers crazy, Jodi Call.
But not me.
And then a baby boy started crying and I had to get off the phone and the conversation played ping-pong in my head. Am I an optimist? I don’t really think so. I mean – I’d like to be. But I don’t really think I am. And is Kara a cynic? I don’t believe she is. She’s full of more hope and help than anyone I know. Maybe a bit analytical….but somehow always analysis with hope.
Then I remembered those days running and watching moms and their kids and the despair I felt spending time with people that made me want to stick toothpicks into my eyeballs rather than being able to spend time with my son. And then I realized that my twin-enforced house arrest is such a beautiful thing. I have landed in such a better place and the fact that I am able to spend these days with these boys – a gift. Not always one that I am holding like a treasure, mind you. Twin infants are hella hard to take care of. But a gift that I want and one that I will protect. One I am grateful for. It’s a gift that I have because of where I’ve been, because of the experience I’ve had. Perspective rather than optimism, I believe.
So possibly optimism and cynicism don’t actually exist? I’m operating on that assumption now. People are who they are because of where they’ve been. The distance from one experience to the next is what makes us enjoy or loathe our lives, not the propensity to feel hopeful or negatively. Maybe. What do you think? Have you ever had to leave your kid to work at a job you hated? Are you in that situation now? If so, do you feel it changes how you parent – or at least your perspective on being a parent?
[I feel it's important to add: When I first had Roan I had a job that I loved, and worked with people that I respected and could call friends. That was an entirely different place and time than what I'm talking about in this post. I enjoyed going to work at that time, and felt it was a fair trade for my time away from him. This post is not about being a working mom vs. a stay-at-home-mom. It's just about how it sucks to have to leave your kid to go somewhere you hate. So don't beat me up.]