Friday, December 23, 2011

The Working Dad

My husband is awesome.  I think that he is typical of a lot of modern husbands and daddies.  The dads of the mid-twentieth century sort of left the heavy-lifting of parenting and housework to the mommies, even if the mommies worked outside the home.  It was the curse of economic equality for the ladies:  you get to have your job, ma'am, but you've still got to cover all the bases at home.  That's not the way we are, now, not at my house, and not at a lot of houses I know.

There's been some criticism of the "companionate marriage" in which the husband and wife are contented friends as much as, or even more than, lovers.  (Does anybody else hate that word?  I couldn't come up with a better one.)  These sorts of marriages are criticized for being sexless and devoid of romance and excitement.  Rather than romanceless, I would say that a companionate marriage, like mine, is realistic, practical, fun . . . and still very loving with room for romance.

I think that our mid-twentieth century mothers helped us out by raising their sons to be helpmeets.  My mom has often spoken with pride about how she taught my brother how to do the laundry and other "women's work" sort of chores.  And I know that my brother is an awesome daddy and househelper.  He does not leave it all to his wife.

Neither does my husband.  My husband is also a lawyer.  His job is, pretty much, just like mine.  It's stressful.  It's demanding.  It's frustrating.  It's enervating.  And, just like me, he's got to balance that job with home and family.  He definitely does not leave it all up to me.

Here's a typical evening at our house:  I come home first, with The Boy.  I try to get dinner started for my husband and me, if The Boy will let me.  I may throw a load of laundry into the washer or dryer.  I feed The Boy.  At some point during the feeding, his dad comes home.  Dad immediately gets to washing all of the bottle parts and other hand washing stuff.  He loads the dishwasher.  After that, he either starts dinner, or picks up from where I left off.  Meanwhile, I finish feeding The Boy, change his diaper, give him a bath (or at least wipe him down really well), get him dressed for bed and then put him to bed.  My husband, during this time, also cleans up the kitchen, cleans the floors and, sometimes, even changes my cat's catbox.  He helps me fold the laundry.  He pays the bills online.  And sometimes, when The Boy is cranking, he comes to help me settle the little guy down and put him to bed.

In the mornings my husband gives The Boy his first bottle of the day so that I can attend to The Cat, who is diabetic.  He fixes The Boy's bottles for school.  He makes his coffee-addicted wife a cup of coffee every morning as she scoots out the door so that she can get to the office early.  If I have not had time to change The Boy and get him dressed for school, he does that too.  Then he takes The Boy to school.  Only then does he get a shower himself, get his own breakfast, and get to work.  And maybe he will play his piano for a few minutes before he heads to the office.  He deserves those few minutes for himself.

Honestly, sometimes I feel guilty that my husband does so much.  And here, in this blog, I have been calling him "Mr. The Working Mom."  Well, that's not fair.  He's not just my husband, defined solely by his marriage to me.  He's his own person, just like me.  And so, he shall be called in this blog, from now on, The Working Dad.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mom Jeans

I bought some Mom Jeans.  Not Mom Jeans like these:

I bought some Not Your Daughter's Jeans.

I'd heard of them many times before, but it took me a long time to actually buy some.  Well, a long time and the birth of my child . . . .

I know it sounds a bit scary, but hear me out.

I was intrigued by the higher back, lower front design that, nevertheless, looks stylish.  My sweet and adorable husband often points out that I get plumber's crack when I wear jeans.  The problem is that in order for jeans to fit my rather generous thighs, they end up being too big in the waist and the result is a little too much exposure in the posterior.

Still, I was hesitant to buy them.  I mean, Not Your Daughter's Jeans is just code for Mom Jeans, right?  I wasn't excited about wearing Mom Jeans, even though I am, you know, a mom.  I like to think of myself as a moderately fashionable, even youthful, forty-one year old.

But then my boyfriend, Nate Berkus, and his show-guest, Tyra Banks, talked about Not Your Daughter's Jeans.  And Tyra mentioned how they did a really good job covering her booty.  I think that she may have even mentioned, in not so many words, that these jeans have excellent crack coverage.  As a sufferer of chronic plumberscrackitis, I was sold.  I got online and I ordered two pair, a straight legged pair and a boot cut pair.

When I first put on a pair of Not Your Daughter's Jeans, I wasn't sure that I liked them.  They've got a lot of lycra, so they're pretty stretchy.  But they covered my behind, even in a squat . . . and the stretchiness meant no muffin-top (which has become a special blight, post-partum).  I got used to them pretty quickly.  It doesn't hurt that they are actually pretty stylish and super-comfortable.  So I like my Mom Jeans.  They may be "not your daughter's jeans," but they're also not your mother's.

P.S.  Check out my friend's recent blog post about her Mom Jeans experience!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Do you work?"

My sweet little son has RSV, respiratory syncytial virus.  Merry First Christmas, right?  He caught it at school.  Actually, I'm pretty sure who he caught it from.  I think he caught it from The Dude.  Poor little guys.  RSV is highly contagious, so I fully expect that nearly every kid in his class will catch it.  It's one of the well-known downsides of daycare:  your kiddo is going to catch everything.

Yesterday, we took The Boy to the doctor because we had learned about the RSV outbreak, and The Boy had a cough.  We wanted to get on top of it if it was, indeed, RSV.  My fellow working mommy friend, whose daughter just had RSV last week, also encouraged us to get in there early to get on top of the disease.  So we did.

The pediatrician, not our normal one because of the holidays, watched him breathe and determined that his breathing wasn't too bad, especially given that his blood oxygen level was 100%.  She noted that his nose was quite congested, and had two nurses come in to suction his nose.  It took three of us to do it:  Mr. The Working Mom and I to hold The Boy down, and one of the nurses to do the actual suctioning.   The Boy is an incredibly strong little creature.  That same nurse also swabbed The Boy's sinuses to get a sample to test for RSV.

While all this was going on, the other nurse, who was in there for God knows what reason other than to annoy me, prattled on about the benefits of nose suctioning, even going so far as to imply that The Boy's RSV infection may have been prevented had we but regularly suctioned The Boy's nose.

Give me a break.  The Boy has RSV because he, The Dude, and all the other kids in his class suck on the same toys five days a week.  For Heaven's sake, they steal each other pacifiers.  When one of those kids caught the virus, it was inevitable that The Boy would get it too.

So I was a frowny-faced mommy.

They offered me the bulb syringe, when it was all over.  I responded, snippily, "I use a NoseFrida to suction his nose," and did not take the stupid torture device.  Mr. The Working Mom, however, politely took the bulb syringe because he doesn't like that I tend to catch whatever The Boy catches by way of the NoseFrida.  (Mister is, generally speaking, more polite than I am, I would say.)

And I really do feel that this nose suctioning is torture for The Boy, even with the NoseFrida, and I don't really like to do it.  Here they were telling me to do it every couple of hours!  (Anyway, I always understood that you shouldn't do it too often or you could give the kiddo a nosebleed.  But nevermind that, 'tis not the point of my tale.)

Around 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon, I got a call that the RSV test on The Boy had come back positive and the doctor wanted us to come back today for a recheck.  So I made an appointment for 1:15 p.m. today.

I took The Boy to the doctor on my own today, which may have been a mistake.  (See superior politeness powers of my darling spouse.)  The Boy and I arrived in the exam room and among the questions asked of me by one of the very nurses who attended to us yesterday was, "And what is the purpose of your visit today?"  Really?  That's not in your notes on your little computer screen there from yesterday?  But I just said, "Recheck because of the RSV," flatly.

Not-Our-Regular-Pediatrician came in to check The Boy.  Among the things she said was that she had heard that I had gotten mad yesterday about the nose suctioning and so she wanted to apologize that the incident was so upsetting.  I wasn't planning to say anything about it, but since she brought it up, I explained to her that it was not the nose suctioning itself, but the unhelpful commentary by the, to my observation, superfluous nurse.  She didn't seem to understand the distinction.  For all I know Not-Our-Regular-Pediatrician also believes in the miracle cure that is nose suctioning.  I sort of let it drop, though.  No sense beating a dead horse.  We were there to get The Boy medical attention, not belabor a trivial personality dust up.  And besides, we are suctioning his nose, not every two hours, but several times a day.  And it comes right back.

The Boy's oxygen level was down and he was showing signs of labored breathing, so the doctor recommended that we do breathing treatments.  We did the first one in the doctor's office, me and a nurse (not the offending nurse).  The nurse commented several times about how strong The Boy is and how difficult it is to control him.  Yes, try to suction that nose all by yourself without two other adults to hold him down.

The doctor came back to check him again after the treatment and he was, sort of, instantly better.  His oxygen level went up a little and his breathing was not as labored.  She told me that she was sending us home with a nebulizer and that the nurse would give me the breathing treatment schedule.

So the same nurse who did the breathing treatment with me came back to give me the schedule.  Twelve days:  four treatments on the first three days, then three treatments for three days, then two treatments for three days, then one treatment for three days.

I somehow feel that it is necessary at this juncture to make crystal clear that I will do anything and everything to make The Boy well again.  Anything.  Everything.  Name it.  I'll do it.

After being given that treatment schedule I muttered (which I am want to do when stressed, I am given to understand) that the schedule might pose a bit of a logistical challenge, especially in the early days with so many treatments a day.  She said, sort of surprised, "Do you work?"


She never would have asked a dad that question.  Never.

I snapped back, "Yes, I work."  I went on to say (mutter) that I barely have any leave because I was on bedrest before The Boy was born, and that this will be hard, but we will figure something out.  It is not a question of whether or not to do it, but managing it.

Still, I was so angered by that remark that I really couldn't think of anything else.  Do I work?  Do I work?  Shit, lady, do you?  Look, some girls actually have fulltime jobs that are just as important as boys' jobs and stuff, golly!

I know I over-reacted.  I wanted to cry.  I just left the office and did not make a follow up appointment. I just could not stay and burst into tears and make a fool of myself.  (And the follow up appointment that I will make when I call back tomorrow is going to be with Our-Regular-Pediatrician.)  I was already stressed about the work that I am missing, deadlines that I have to meet somehow while not actually being in the office, and even more stressed about my very sick little boy.  Do I work?  I have two fulltime jobs, lady!

I called my aforementioned working mommy friend as I was walking out of the doctor's office.  And while talking to her, I did cry.  (And, she also rightly suggested that I was overreacting a bit, and very patiently listened to me and calmed me down.  Yay, friend!)

But this question that nurse asked carried with it all sorts of assumptions that just would not be made of a man.  To assume that I don't work, that I do not have other obligations that need juggling, just floored me.  I haven't asked him, but I suspect that when my brother, just last year, was staying home with his daughter while his wife worked, no one ever asked such a question of him or made any such assumptions about him.  You just wouldn't do that to man.

Who knew that I would face gender inequality at the pediatrician's office?  Certainly not me.

Man.  Wo-man.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Taking Christmas

I guess every new mom and dad faces the same dilemma at holiday time:  We've got our own little family, now, and we want to start our own traditions.  And, still, we want to honor our parents and their traditions.

It can be stressful.

Fortunately for me, I've got some pretty easy-going parents and a doting mother-in-law.  Still the guilt and the stress remains.  Above all you want everyone, especially your husband and your child, to be happy.

This year holiday plans just seemed to pile up and up.  They really weren't any different from the plans of years past.  It's just that, this year, we have The Boy.  Above all, I do not want The Boy to be cranky for the holiday.  But I saw plans with my immediate family, plans with Mr. The Working Mom's family, and plans with extended family as opportunity after opportunity to crank.  Now, The Boy is an incredibly good natured little guy, but when he starts to crank, he is a full-bore master cranker not likely to fill the room with holiday cheer.

So I decided to invite everyone -- grandparents, uncles, aunt and cousin -- to our house for Christmas Eve late-lunch/early-dinner.  The plan was that we would have a lovely meal, open presents, have coffee with a tasty dessert, listen to the Mister play the piano . . . .  The Boy would be in his own environment and would not be wagged around the near geography in the car, minimizing the opportunities to crank.  I was so pleased with the simplicity of the plan.  One big celebration on Christmas Eve with our nearest and dearest.  And then on Christmas Day we would go see my 94-year-old-sharp-as-a-tack grandmother and my extended family.

My Type A, organize-and-plan-everything personality was at peace.

Now, however, I sit in my living room as The Boy sleeps in the pack and play, occasionally coughing a very congested, sputtery cough.  This was not part of my master plan.  The pediatrician seemed to indicate this morning that he would be better, or at least on the mend, in a few days . . . . still in time for Christmas celebrations, in other words.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

So I thought I was going to take Christmas for my little family and start our own traditions.  I still may be doing that, but here lies the lesson . . . one that I should have learned a thousand times over by now, with a nine and a half month old boy.  Something unexpected will always come up.  Plans, it seems I needed reminding, are merely suggestions when you have an infant.  In the end, The Boy makes the plan, whatever it may be.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Girl Power!


Something of a controversial word.

Feminism means the "theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes."

I think that as we close out the first decade of the 21st century, everyone agrees in principal that women deserve "equal rights."  It's just that we all seem to have different ideas of what that means or the means toward that equality.

I am a feminist.  I used to not like to use that word to describe myself because of the negative implications.  Some people don't like feminists -- for some good reasons and some not-so-good reasons, I think.  Feminists of the past -- of my 1970-80s childhood memories, anyway -- seemed less pro-woman and more anti-man.  They countered misogyny with misandry.  They were hard and they were angry.  But, in ways, they had to be.  These were radical times and the world wasn't made for women who wanted more than to be homemakers.  Maybe they felt that they had to be aggressive in order to be heard.

Still, I think it left a bad taste in everybody's mouth for the word feminist, even for some women.

But there is no doubting that I would not be where I am now without the hard work and sacrifice of those women.  And probably their anger too.

There's no doubt that I believe that women should have equal pay, equal access to work, and equal status to men.  And we're getting there, I think.  I believe that women are as capable as men in all areas except, perhaps, physical strength.

And there's also no doubt that I have entered a traditionally "male" profession at a time when it is still dominated by men.  It's changing right before my eyes -- female law school graduates have out-numbered male law school graduates since, at least, the mid-90's -- but the dudes, the older dudes, still dominate the legal profession today.

There's something that I've noticed recently about the younger women of my profession.  A lot of the younger ladies are dressing pretty darned sexy.  There's cleavage.  Some of them will even let you get a peak of their very pretty bras.  There are tight pencil skirts.  There are super high heels with a slight platform sole.  There's a lot of make-up and, especially, red lipstick.  Take a look at this website to get an idea of what I mean.

The 20-somethings are bringing sexy back to the workplace.  I wonder if this is a consequence of the female graduates out-numbering the male graduates for the past approximately 15 years.  Maybe their numbers make them feel more comfortable being a little racy.

Still, I and many of my late-30-something-early-40-something female peers find this development a little disturbing.

Whereas my generation has, by and large, rejected the "bra burner/man-hater" brand of feminism, I think we all feel somewhat uncomfortable with the new sexy female professional.  We middle-aged gals like to be stylish.  We like to be pretty.  We even, and perhaps especially, like to be feminine.  But not sexy, not at the office.  No way.

I think that, fundamentally, we feel that a sexy appearance means that you are less likely to be taken seriously by your peers.  And, too, and maybe as a result of that feeling, we do not take a sexy woman in the office as seriously as we do a more conservatively dressed woman.

Is this fair?  Why should a sexy woman be any less of a lawyer than a mutely-attractive one?  Maybe these young women are pushing that boundary and are really getting to the heart of feminism:  it's not about what you look like, it's about what's inside your head.

But I kinda don't believe that.

Nah, I really don't believe that.

It's always going to be, a tiny bit, about what you look like.  Older guys command more respect than younger guys.  Guys dressed in nicely tailored suits get more respect than schlubby guys.  It's no different for women.  So this phenomenon of the sexy female professional baffles me.  Where did feminism make this crazy left turn?  Did we do something wrong?

I recently heard a new phrase:  "erotic capital."  This is what is really at work, here . . . in overdrive.

Catherine Hakim wrote about erotic capital in reference to the very attractive and stylish Christine Lagarde, the new head of the International Monetary Fund in this Wall Street Journal article (and discussed the concept of erotic capital at length in her book).  She said,

"Ms. Lagarde possesses an abundance of what I call 'erotic capital,' and she has used it knowingly and to great advantage.

"Women in the U.S., Britain and other outposts of the Anglo-Saxon world tend, by contrast, to resist the idea that their physical appearance should matter to their professional advancement. In our age of feminism and meritocracy, women who emphasize their looks are thought to be superficial; it somehow seems like cheating.

"But do we have this all wrong?

Beauty is not limited to supermodels and A-list celebrities. It can be achieved by wearing flattering styles, getting in shape, improving posture and putting some effort into choosing clothing and hairstyles."

But, to me, all Ms. Hakim is talking about is all we middle-aged ladies are already doing.  Ms. Lagarde isn't erotic; she's stylish and fit.  Perhaps she is unique for her age cohort (but I'm not even so sure about that).  Christine Lagarde isn't sexy, she's attractive.  She looks like this.  Not like this.

Now, granted, Lagarde is probably 30 to 40 years older than the DFW Law Lady (her name is Melissa Dubose, by the way, and she appears to have a thriving criminal practice), but so is Sophia Loren.

There's something fundamentally different going on with the younger professional women that I occasionally see around downtown Dallas than what Christine Lagarde is employing.  Is this sexier image merely an extension of the muted femininity of Lagarde and of women of my generation?  Is it something else?  Is it merely good advertising?  If it is good advertising, what, exactly, are they selling?  Is it costing the younger professional women anything to be sexy?  If it is good advertising, is that okay with the Sisterhood if these young women actually achieving success looking like the DFW Law Lady?  If it's not okay, how is getting clients because you're kind of hot any different from getting clients because you're a guy in an expensive suit with gray at his temple?  And why do I, nevertheless, sort of look down on it and reject it?  Am I an ageist snob?  Are these young women asserting some form of female power that we, the slightly older generation, are a little too timid to tap into in the workplace?

I don't have any answers.  Only questions and one observation:

Feminism isn't universal and it isn't easy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Every woman deserves a man who....

Periodically, in my Facebook feed, I will see a post that say something like this:

"Every woman deserves a man who calls her baby, kisses her like he means it, holds her like he never wants to let her go, doesn't lie or cheat...."

It tends to go on for several lines cataloguing a list of fairly predictable, romantic-movie-eligible characteristics of a man who treats his beloved "right."

In sentiment, I completely agree with the notion that every woman deserves to be cherished by her spouse or partner; every man does too.

But I cringe a little bit every time I see posts like this.  They actually make me go a little dark.  I'm not entirely sure why.  Maybe it's because the lists seem contrived.  Maybe it seems sort of like a demand.  Maybe it seems like an Oprahfication of romance.  But, probably, it's because it really doesn't line up with my experience of life and love in these our modern times.

I mean, I feel totally and completely cherished by my husband, and I'm not sure that Mr. TheWorkingMom has ever called me "baby."

And my personal experience has been -- in my close to 20-year dating/single life prior to meeting, befriending, dating, and then marrying Mr. TheWorkingMom -- that every guy I have ever dated who fit the romantic bits of that list never turned out to fit the "doesn't cheat or lie" bit. Pet names and lying cheaters just seemed to go hand in hand in my history.  And I might be so bold as to suggest that guys who call you "baby" and "sweetums" might tend to be doing so to hide something.  But maybe I'm just being cynical.

Nevertheless, today, I hereby commit to cyberspace my list of what I  think every woman and man deserves in a partner for life:

  1. Everyone deserves a person in his or her life who will always tell them the unvarnished truth, even if the truth is not pleasant or complimentary.
  2. Everyone deserves a person who respects their intelligence and seeks out their opinion.
  3. Everyone deserves a person who laughs at their silliest jokes.
  4. Everyone deserves to sit on the sofa every night with their best friend.
  5. Everyone deserves to have a partner who does things for you without asking, and who thanks you when you do the same for him/her.
  6. Everyone deserves to live with a person who has got your back.
  7. Everyone deserve a person whose favorite person is "you."
  8. Everyone deserve a partner-in-crime.
  9. Everyone deserve a sympathetic ear.
  10. Everyone deserve to be loved, no matter how it is expressed.

Well, even my list seems trite and Oprahfied.  So I guess I will stop cringing when I see that list, seeing that my list isn't so much more profound.

Still, here's my point:  it's not about what's classically considered to be romantic.  It's about friendship, respect, and fun . . . at least, for me it is.

And I guess I'll say this to close:  I'm glad that I sit on the sofa every night next to Mr. TheWorkingMom.  I hope everyone else finds the perfect sofa companion too.