Working Mom: What’s Chicken Got To Do With It?

Take a good look at this picture, folks. This is me and my boy, almost six years ago, on the job. He couldn’t have been any older than five or six months. I was a lunatic in the midst of my “Every Woman” phase; energetic and naive enough to think I could do it all. Even though I tried at the time (and subsequently failed) to juggle all of the balls of my life with equal parts love and attention, I don’t remember being this tired.

Power suit, cell phone, to-do list…baby.

It’s not like I haven’t done this before, the work-mom thing. I worked through my entire pregnancy, right up until my water broke seven weeks early. I spent a week in the hospital getting steroid shots in the rump for part of it, peeing in a bed pan for all of it and calculating how I’d make it back to the office before college basketball season (I worked at an arena). I was a bit of a workaholic. Fine, I was a lot of a workaholic. And as soon as I got the chance, I hit the ground running with a portable breast pump in tow. Yes, folks. I pumped everyday at work (twice a day) then came home and breastfed my boy for 9 1/2 months. Other positions followed over the years, but one thing was consistent, I spent more time at work than I did at home.

Until one fateful day, in a position a year and a half ago, I was told to pack my iPod docking station and go. Bummer, right? Kind of. As much as being laid-off sucked (and it did indeed suck), what didn’t suck was all the time I got to spend with my boy. I was exhibiting real SAHM (stay-at-home mom)-type behaviors. I picked him up from school. I went to the Halloween costume parade in the middle of the day. I took him to the park while the sun was still up instead of putting it off until Saturday. We ate dinner at 6! Even when I started working part-time, there was a flexibility to my schedule that allowed me to be with him in a way I would have never gotten to if I had to work five to six (sometimes seven) days a week. I enjoyed that part of my career hiatus. The other parts still sucked.

So, here I am again. Living just enough for the ci-tay. Well, I’m working in the city (New York City, that is), full-time to boot. I like what I do and my pockets like what I do too, but…there’s always a but. I’m tired. Did I say that before? And I miss my boy. Here’s the thing. I wake up at 5:30am and set foot back in my apartment at 7:30pm. We cram a lot into the hour and a half before his bedtime. After he lays down and we say our I-love-yous, I sit on the couch long enough to realize I have to do this all over again tomorrow. Why am I frustrated by that? Ask any mom with a job. Better yet, ask any mom with a job that’s going back to school or is starting a business. Being is mother is not light work, whether you have a paying job or not. I actually don’t get how SATMs with more than one child do it. Respect. But with working moms there is always this guilt of not being there and I’m still too young to be that guilt-ridden…again.

I’m a 31-year-old woman with aspirations of being useful to my job without being useless at home. Does this sound reasonable to anyone else? It can’t just be me. I want to work and I miss my boy, but I don’t want to be the mom that has to bring her kid to work in order to spend time with him (i.e. me circa 2006). The road I’ve traveled to this point in my life has made me a lot wiser about the ways of the world and I’ve learned that the world doesn’t care if I get home in time to thaw out some chicken. So, where do we go from here? I’m trying to figure it out. There is no easy answer. I HAVE to work and I AM a mom. In my world, those two are constant. In my world, those two will always be at odds. In my world, we go to the park on Saturdays, thaw the chicken on Sundays and figure out the rest as it comes.

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Taekwondo Fo’ Sho’

My boy does not have the glow.

Extracurricular activities were a HUGE part of my growing up. I played piano for 10 years and competed in pageants for seven. I did gymnastics for six months, I think. Then there was the drum and bugle corp where I was a baton twirler. I was in a couple of plays through a theatrical group based in Newark, N.J. Oh, I took karate for a little bit. I walked in a few fashion shows. I was a member of a performance choir that sang classical hymns (five-part harmonies are dope!). At 14, I joined a youth symphonic ensemble (yes, I said that) where we played the english handbells (yes, I said that too), among other things. By the time I got to high school, I was a member of the basketball and track teams and I traveled with the volleyball team my junior and senior years as a statman of sorts on top of doing four of the other things I mentioned earlier.

“Idle time is the devil’s time”, so sayeth my mother. And now that I’m a mother, so sayeth me too.

It’s very important to me that my boy be well-rounded; to have learning experiences outside of the classroom. He needs skills in something other than Wii Resort is what I’m trying to say. Maybe we’ll find something he loves and is good at. Maybe we’ll find something he hates and I’ll make him do anyway. Who knows. Point is, how am I supposed to know if I have the next Bruce Leroy on my hands if I don’t get him some lessons?

So, his daddy and I started him in taekwondo two months ago. Note to self, I do NOT have the next Bruce Leroy on my hands. My boy has the killer instinct of Steven Segal with the physical ability of Steve Urkel. It’s hilarious to watch. He’s getting better though. After he earned his green tape last Saturday, you couldn’t have found a kid with a bigger toothless grin in that dojang. We were high-fiving all over the place!

And so that begins my boy’s journey to something else. Piano is next, with his parents as his teachers. I pray for our collective strength.

Parents, what are some of the activities you have your child involved with?