August: Dog Days of Summer

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Crazy Pills and Ginger Rogers

"I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!!"- Mugatu, from the movie "Zoolander." This is exactly how I have felt lately. I went through so much to have my kids. I was so focused for so long on having them, everything else in my life was put aside. After they were born, I found I was having difficulty focusing on work when I was at work. My work schedule itself, had to become severely cut back so that I could even breathe. I stayed home for the first 12 weeks with them after they were born. None of this time was "paid leave," and I had to ask my family for (yet even more) help to supplement our income. My Grandmother had given us a gift of paying for a nanny for the first 6 months of Sophie and Alex's lives. We found someone who came for a few hours every day, starting when they were about a month old. She also would spend one night a week sleeping in the guest room (now Alex's room) with the babies so that my husband and I could get in one good night's rest a week. This all sounds very cushy, I admit- but with twins it saved our sanity. When I had to go back to work, when the babies were 3 months old, the nanny came every day from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. This was such a hard time for me. Here I had gone through IVF for years, only to have to leave my babies every day and go sit in a cubicle like a veal. I was so distracted at work- all I wanted to do was to go home and be with my precious babies. I tried to believe everyone who told me that my time away from my children would make me a "better mother." I sincerely did try. But I really had no idea of what was to come...
I decided to cut back my working week to 30 hours, and not work on Fridays so that I could get some things done on that day that I couldn't or didn't seem to be able to get done during the week: grocery shop, pet food shop, laundry, running around doing all sorts of errands. Not to mention trying to get my house somewhat clean! I also decided to continue to be paid hourly, rather than on a salary (something I began when we started doing rounds of IVF)- the only way to be able to be "erratic" with my time and not have to worry about making up hours. I would be paid for the time I was at the office, and that was all. When the babies were about 10 months old, I switched firms to be closer to home- with the same working agreement about hours and time. This seemed to work out fairly well for a while. What I wasn't prepared for, however, was my own sense of frustration and powerlessness. I find the whole "working mother" notion to be a complete myth that no-one ever tells you about. Growing up in the '70's, we had Gloria Steinem telling us girls we could have anything we wanted, and that we could and should go out and have families, AND jobs, AND equal pay!! While I'm all for the fire-in-the-belly women who really want to have it all, I truly think that this is impossible for women. At least, I have found it to be for me. I was on a career path- nothing was going to stop me from being successful, and someday having my own firm, blah blah blah. And I wanted kids. Badly enough to go through 6 rounds of IVF, countless thousands of holes poked into my body from injections and acupuncture, and a court process of formal adoption of my own genetic material. The reality of what all of this really meant, however, was something I had to live to learn. Working became something I had to fit into my "other" schedule of life: as the kids got older, it meant juggling school schedules, volunteering at their schools, coordinating extracurricular activities, playdates, doctor's appointments, staying home with them when they were sick, etc. Work and especially career took somewhat of a back seat. But here's the thing: I have a really good work ethic. I don't do things half-assed. And when I make a commitment to do something, I really try my damndest to see it through to completion. I made a commitment to this new office, and they were actually really great to me about my schedule. Until recently. I'm not going to get into a long winded tale of how my job came to suck so badly for me that I thought I might have a nervous breakdown or anything. Suffice it to say that things came to a head so badly today, that I really felt as though I had taken crazy pills this morning. It was one of those days where it started out weird and negative and accusatory, and it only got worse and worse. I felt as though any moment someone was going to jump out from behind a corner and say, "Just kidding! You're on Candid Camera!" But no. No-one did. Instead, I quit. What had started out 5 years ago as a great place for me to be, slowly deteriorated into such a toxic environment I felt like coming to work every day was like re-entering an abusive relationship. And here's the kicker: I felt so beholden to that place, my routine there (including the abuse I put up with daily), and to the idea that I could NOT leave, the thought of leaving filling me with such deep anxiety that I stayed- even through situations where 6 or 7 years ago I'd have slapped me silly and said "what the F are you doing!? RUN!" But I just couldn't. Every morning I would brace myself for whatever BS was to come at me that day, almost priding myself on being able to put up with so much. Really sick. I knew I was going to snap sooner or later, and that snap happened today. And I can only imagine what I'm feeling about it now must be what it feels like to suddenly break from an abusive situation: panic, fear, exhileration, panic, fear. I actually left the ball in their court and said that I cannot afford to just quit, and that if they want me gone so badly, they'd have to fire me. Tomorrow should be interesting- although I do not work on Fridays. I may just go in and clean out my desk over the weekend anyway. Don't know yet.
What I DO know is that whatever job I take next, I am going to do so with great trepidation. I no longer wish to come home to my kids being emotionally exhausted and cranky- snapping at them and being a bitch. I need to have better time with them, when I do get time with them. I'm not going to get these years back- there are no "do-overs."
For those who do not know, November is NaBloPoMo – National Blog Posting Month over at BlogHer. I intend to try to write 30 posts in the next 30 days. Today's prompt was, "What is your favorite quote, and why?" While it would seem that "I feel like I'm tkaing crazy pills" would be mine today, in fact it isn't. MY favorite quote is actually from a 1982 Frank and Ernest cartoon (it is often mistakenly attributed to Faith Whittlesey), which is:
"...don't forget that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astair did, but she did it backwards and in high heels."
I think that this is the quote of the century for any working mom. We try to juggle nine thousand and one things, all while being a perfect employee, career woman, mommy, volunteer, wife, partner, EVERYTHING. And the truth is, we are teetering on tiny points, dancing backwards, barely keeping our balance, making our feet bleed, causing ourselves pain, and not really being able to see where we're going.
I walked into Starbuck's this morning, after taking my kids to the dentist, then school. It was late enough in the morning that all the "regular working hours" people were not there. Those who WERE there were all the non-working mommies with toddlers. Looking fresh and clean, with good hair and nicely worked-out figures. Wearing designer-ish clothing, and toting their adorable toddlers in their latest Mini-Boden catalog clothing. I found myself insanely jealous, and a bit bewildered. Wasn't I trying to dance backwards in high heels, having a job and kids and EVERYTHING!? Did I take crazy pills this morning, because what I think I REALLY want is to NOT work, and to be a great mom who gets to spend great time with my kids and go to Starbuck's at 11:00 in the morning looking NICE, G-Damnit!!!


  1. Wow. GOOD for you for deciding that enough was enough and just quitting. That must have been such a liberating feeling!!! Best of luck to you in the next chapter of your life with your kids. :)

    1. Thank you, Josey- but I should clarify: If I indeed, had a spine, I deserve that congratulations. But I don't I didn't end up quitting, which I wrote about the very next day in the post entitled "Chicken shit." Yep. Couldn't do it. Things have gotten somewhat tolerable again at work, and my outlook is this: I try to just think of work and the people there like my OTHER dysfunctional family. No family would be complete, or dysfunctional without some fights now and then. And so, I can expect to have some fights and disagreements here and there at work, and not have to walk out. It's my fight-or-flight personality and it's always been my biggest challenge- stick to it. Even if it's horrible sometimes- it's a steady paycheck, health insurance, security. And while my kids are still young, and I'm too old for a do-over, I will stick to it. And get paid every two weeks. And have health insurance for the whole family. Yep. I'm a big sell-out. Oh well. Writing has become my therapy these days. So- THANK YOU for the well-wishes! And I will strive to deserve them!

  2. I've been at my place of employment for over 10 years now. It really is a great place to work, however some of my coworkers are so toxic I nearly did the same thing back in August. Instead I took it to HR and things have improved some, but not to a point where I would say the environment is great. It's not my dream job as staying home with my daughter and any future children we may have is my official dream job. But the benefits of where I work are so good, I can't leave and expect to find something with the same benefits and not a similar atmosphere. Fact is in my field of work, there is always going to be a few toxic beans. Just have to work around them

    I hope you are able to find something that works for you. You have worked hard for a long time and you deserve a great job that doesn't leave you feeling threatened. And I hope things remain bearable for the foreseeable future for your sanity!

  3. Thank you! My profession is very prone to toxic- lots of big huge egos running rampant. Which I'm not into at all. It's hard to be a mom and work- so many sacrifices all around-

  4. First of all, I shout that line from Zoolander about once a month. No big deal!

    Secondly, I can't believe you quit! GOOD FOR YOU. That takes real guts, on so many levels. Not just realizing that you are worth more than they tell you, but taking the leap of faith and believing in yourself!

    Thirdly, I am a SAHM and I cannot figure out how the hell those Starbucks women can show up anywhere, ever, looking like that. I blow dried my hair today while my kid splashed the crap out of his bath. Literal crap. By the time that was cleaned up, I was a hot mess again and we did not go to Starbucks. HA!