|Yes, this side-by-side photo is the entire reason this post exists. Totally worth it and you haven't even read a goddamn word yet.|
1) "How does he sleep?"
People can't resist this one. It used to be annoying, but I've learned how to respond. Like a baby, I say. That phrase has gone WAY off the rails in terms of meaning, FYI. If you sleep like a baby, I feel sorry for you, since apparently you feel the need to wake up screaming at least once a night for no apparent reason, and then proceed to stress eat while half conscious. But people think it means he sleeps through the night. And I let them. After all, they seem to care way more than I do how he sleeps. Why not throw them a bone?
2) "When are you going back to work?"
Let me preface this with a series of brief disclaimers:
A. Being a parent is, in and of itself, full-time work. I know some of you childless readers are probably rolling your eyes so hard right now--and once upon a time, I was one of you! I was all, Yeah, sitting at home all day watching Yo! Gabba Gabba and playing with toys--cry me a river. But dudes. You do not even know. Your day starts when the kid wakes up (note: this generally falls around "ass crack of dawn") and includes 0 unsupervised bathroom breaks. Yes, there are fun times to be had, but you will never forget that you are on the clock 24 hours a day. You are a one-wo/man nanny, personal chef, chauffeur, maid, court jester, teacher, tour guide, body guard, punching bag and feedlot. It is a JOB. And the salary is zero dollars, ever (come to think of it, the salary is more like -$5,000,000, since you have to pay for your boss' entire existence, for life).
B. Leaving aside whether you want to go back to work after having kids, it is an insane privilege to even have a choice. Most women in the country, and in the world, don't get to decide whether or not they want to "have it all" (more on this whole shit storm later). So full disclosure, I have to admit that when it comes to this particular topic I am the asshole 1%. I can't afford not to work in some capacity, but I have free part-time childcare thanks to my immediate family, all of whom live within 30 minutes of me, and I have accepted some financial help from my parents, who can afford to give it. My maternity leave was totally unpaid, and without their generosity I wouldn't have been able to pay rent for the three months I took off before my freelancing income picked up a bit.
So, where was I? Oh yes, when do I go back to work?
Well, that depends on how you define work. Back in February, I decided not to return to my full-time office job as the managing editor of a weekly newspaper--a decision that was amicable and mutual and which has resulted in a monthly parenting humor column for me, something I’m much more well-suited to than I was to yelling at people to meet their deadlines. So I'm not working full-time, and I'm not working in an office.
But I am definitely working. I've been working since S. was a few weeks old, increasing my workload steadily. Yes, I'm a working girl... except not a prostitute and also not Melanie Griffith in pastel power bitch suits. I'm a stay-at-home freelancer, which means I get to work on my couch, sometimes in my underpants (hello, heatwave!), a job perk which is admittedly pretty sweet. And yes, occasionally I just get paid to drink wine in my bathing suit while reading old diary entries (if it makes you feel better, it was only $25). But in the past six weeks I’ve written over 70,000 words and logged countless graveyard shifts by the light of my Macbook while Jeff and S. sleep, working until I keel over from exhaustion, or until the light Lloyd Dobler holds up for me night after night is finally snuffed by low battery.
|Best Etsy purchase ever.|
Clearly, I was already feeling insecure, and then the Anne-Marie Slaughter article came out. In case you're not caught up: Slaughter, the woman on the right next to RuPaul (the first time, I bet, she has ever been described that way), is also a Princeton professor and former State Department head. A few weeks ago she wrote a piece in The Atlantic about why women can't have it all, after all. If I may offer an extremely simplistic summary of her articulate and controversial argument: a woman can either pursue a high-powered career path or spend quality time attending to the needs of her kids, but not both.
There's been a lot of debate over her thesis. Some wo/men are furious, and suggest that she's setting feminism back years. Others celebrate her for finally debunking the myth that's kept women up nights biting their nails to the quick for decades. My dad, who leans more towards the latter, wrote a thoughtful post about it on his very own blog. And of course it's ignited a basically unrelated fight between working moms and stay-at-home moms, who've never met a message board they didn't feel like trashing each other on.
My response--aside from, or perhaps a precursor to Photoshopping a drag queen and her signature slogan next to a distinguished scholar and policy director--has mostly been relief. I have always operated on the assumption that I should want (and have!) it all, although the "it" is tricky to define.
I suppose if pressed, I would define "it" as: a successful career; a loving partner (not "husband"--my parents were very sensitive about pronouns, just in case I ever decided I was a lesbian); happy, well-adjusted kids with whom I can spend as much time as I want, thanks to a flexible work schedule; the ability to whip up a perfect roast chicken and bake sale-owning cupcakes from scratch; enviably toned upper thighs; a beach house designed by Nancy Meyers' set decorator; an adorable small dog that rings a tiny bell every time it needs to be walked; hair that doesn't frizz in humidity; preternatural beauty; wisdom; calm under pressure; inner peace; a truly idiot-proof espresso maker. (Also, a good night's sleep--so I guess the first question people ask me is relevant in the end.)
This post has up and run away from me, and between us, after RuPaul and Cusack and using all of those semicolons just now I don't know if I even have an original point. So I'll open it up now. What do you think about the whole "having it all" debate? Does it burden or liberate us? Do you even want it all? Do you feel like people judge you for your decision to work, or not to work, after having kids? And can you make a decal of Duckie Dale dancing to Otis Redding in the record shop? Because that would make my life. If I had that, maybe I really would have it all.