“Um, sure, I’d love to help you produce a show to raise money,” I said, a little less enthusiastically than I probably should have. But it was early, and I was running on a caffeine deficit.
“Is this a paid position?” I blurted next, more directly than I usually do. But I’d just met with a piano teacher who costs $320 a month, since she insists on twice-weekly lessons. Children get more expensive as they age.
“Yes it is,” she replied.
I sat up straighter in my chair, imagining the lilting sound of ivories being tinkled. Let’s do this, I thought. What I said was, “Tell me more.”
By the end of the conversation, we came up with a real job, my first in 15 years. It’s not that I haven’t worked in the past decade while wrangling my boys. I’d produced live shows, written articles and just finished a second book that I hope you buy millions of copies of this summer, but my work has always been on my terms and my scheduling. And sure, I’d been talking about getting a job, particularly on that day of the month when all of the extracurricular activities need to be paid for. But I hadn’t been aggressive about finding one. Then this call came in. The woman told me they needed someone to produce a live event honoring some kick-ass Holllywood women ASAP. She agreed to let me out in time to pick up the boys, making it the offer one I couldn’t refuse.
For three days in a row now I have put on heels and an "outfit." I put “outfit” in quotations to reflect what a unique idea this was for me to wrap my newly employed brain around. My mom “look,” again with the quotes, is, more often than not, items grabbed from the end of the bed or floor. It is about accessibility, comfort and flexibility. Never knowing when I might have to field throw-up with my chest, leap in to a finger-painting class or dive for a random soccer ball doesn’t inspire me to don silk and pearls. But since none of these tasks were mentioned on the phone, and the office is in Beverly Hills, I figured I had to step it up.
The office is clean, there are floor-to-ceiling windows, an office supply room that my 20-something self would have a field day with and a community kitchen with an unusual assortment of sandwich bread.
I pulled out some old skirts, bought a few pair of grown up heels at a discount store and even raided the closet of a friend who always plays successful women on TV. I can currently and safely say that I have the resources to look like a professional woman for five days in a row.
This week, I have driven my boys to the bus stop and headed into commuter traffic as an actual commuter. I get buzzed through a glass door, say good morning to a cheerful receptionist, get myself a mug of tea and walk around with a yellow legal pad taking notes on what our goals are and what these incredibly dedicated woman expect of me. Let me just say that it is decidedly different than what my children expect of me, which is basically fatty, sugary snacks and more time on Minecraft.
I am in at 9 a.m., out by 2 or 3 most days. The office is clean, there are floor-to-ceiling windows, an office supply room that my 20-something self would have a field day with and a community kitchen with an unusual assortment of sandwich bread. Not unsurprisingly, the women who work at The Feminist Majority are smart, articulate and earnestly committed to educating young women around the globe about equal pay for equal work.
I have landed the perfect mom job.
And yet, there are moments when I find myself distracted, worrying about the boys or projecting way into the future. The other morning, I got an e-mail from the school saying my 6th grader was absent that day. I didn’t even consider the fact that he was on a field trip and, perhaps, wasn’t entered in to the system right. Nope, he had obviously been abducted and I was 45 minutes away. Even when there are no inciting e-mails, my thoughts will spin in a completely crazy panic spiral.
Perhaps you’ve deduced that I’m not the most relaxed person by nature, my mind is often racing ahead to the end of some story I make up and it’s rarely one with a happy ending for me.
I don’t have to be Freud to understand that these maelstroms of anxiety are an obvious reaction to my childhood, wherein my mother went to work when I turned 9, and I basically never saw her again unless I was performing in a play. And you don’t have to be Freud to now understand the makings of an actress. TA DA!! Consequently a few times so far, usually stuck in traffic on the way in, my mind starts connecting dots heading to dire conclusions:
“What a great job. It’s so civilized and nice and for a good cause and I think I’m really helping people and uh oh, what if I really, really like it? What if, compared to making a difference globally, making a difference domestically, like in my own house, is kind of a so what? What if I start to enjoy work more than my children like my mother did? What if there’s an earthquake and I’m sipping ginger tea at my desk strategizing world dominance and I never see my children again?"
What if, what if, what if?
Perhaps you’ve deduced that I’m not the most relaxed person by nature, my mind is often racing ahead to the end of some story I make up and it’s rarely one with a happy ending for me. But taking this job has made this highly flawed habit more obvious than ever. Because there are no problems with this new situation. The boys are fine. The dog is fine. My husband is fine. I’m fine.
And let’s not forget it’s temporary. Like everything. Like being single was when I thought that would never change, like being pregnant was even when I felt, at 41 weeks, that I was going to stay permanently swollen with child. Like the sleepless baby years and terrifying toddler years and the panic about getting the boys into schools. All of it passed, and none of the negative daydreaming became a reality.
All it did was keep me from laughing with my children, with my husband and most importantly at my myself.