Thursday, October 30, 2008

Come Join the Joyride

We decided to try carpooling today. It's better for the environment, better for traffic, just better, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. At least in my case, it's just the wrongest wrong.

It usually takes me about 10 minutes to make it from the couch to the cube. I work about 3 miles from home. So, unless traffic has gone from bad to worse, my commute is gentle. But, all of our destinations are nearby, so we thought we'd do the carpool thing.

We made a quick plan the night before. We'd drop Spark at preschool, circle around to drop Buzz at work, I'd take Flower to my sister's house, and then I'd arrive at work. (I, the mom, would be last? Really?)

The optimum time to leave is 7:45. Leaving then gives a little breathing room to get Spark to school before he has to get a tardy slip. Nothing short of a miracle must occur to get everyone in my family ready and out the door by 7:45 a.m. Miracles do happen, but today was not the day for miracles.

We started out doing all right, but as 7:45 drew nearer, we realized we should have packed some things up the night before. Because I work from home a lot, I don't have a ready plan for taking Flower to my sister's house. I scrambled around grabbing some extra clothes, frozen food cubes, some toys, and the like while Buzz spread peanut butter on bread for Spark's lunch.

Then, I grabbed a bag and started stuffing it full of the kids' Halloween costumes and accessories. The whole reason we decided to carpool today was because we planned on attending a Halloween event in the afternoon, and Buzz's work schedule made it next to impossible for him to get there and back if I didn't pick him up for it. So, another bag stuffed full of items to take on our trek.

Meanwhile, Spark is standing in the middle of the living room wearing only his underwear and refusing to dress himself. I know we're supposed to wait on him and make him go ahead and dress himself. But, I just did it. Threw the clothes on, the socks on, the shoes on, brushed his teeth, combed his hair. Hey, I did it all in about 3 minutes, and it would have taken him much longer and many more yells than I'd care to admit to.

Also, my sister had to run an errand, so she had asked me to bring the spare car seat. So, I'm hollering at Buzz to not to forget to load it up, too, while he's carrying out the many bags: there's his two work bags, my work backpack, Spark's backpack, two bags for Flower (one with breast milk and food, the other with "dry" supplies), the Halloween bag, and my purse. So add the spare carseat and the Bumbo, and we're good to go for a weekend trip somewhere far away.

Buzz loads the kids up next while I throw some frozen fruit and orange juice in the blender. I race to the bathroom to brush my own teeth and put on a smidgen of powder so I look like I care to the coworkers I rarely see face-to-face. After grabbing a tube of lip balm and pouring my smoothie into a cup, I head out the door where Buzz has the car running, waiting on me. As I open the hatch to put one last item in, he smiles at me in the rearview mirror. "We're ready to go cross-country."

In reality, though, we were just going across town. As I buckle in, I notice the clock on the car says 7:57. Not the original "optimum" goal but not bad, and if we book it, we might not have to get a tardy slip at the front office.

We arrive at Spark's school with a couple minutes to spare, pull into the dropoff line, and we realize his backpack was packed in under a few things, so Buzz parks the car while I dig it out. I race Spark into the classroom, just beating the tardy cutoff.

Next in line is Buzz. I have the brilliant idea to try a new way to get there from Spark's school, which puts us smack dab in a bottleneck of interstate traffic. Southbound in the morning is a slow sludge at best, and we wait about 15 minutes through that. Though the traffic where I live is terrible, we don't really have any carpool lanes. So, there was no extra incentive for having four bobbing heads in my car rather than just my own. We just stuck it out with everyone else who was driving south.

The longest leg of the trip is from Buzz's school to my sister's house. Traffic is fine, though, so I make it there in record time, efficiently getting all of Flower's items out of the car and into my sister's house.

Away I go again. As I make my way to my cube, I notice it's 9:03. After just a little more than an hour of carpooling, here I am all of 3 miles from home.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Hate Playdates

I'm not a huge fan of playdates. Most of the time, I hate them. This lack of interest in meeting up with another mom who has a kid close to my kid's age might spur from the fact that I am a loner to a fault. Maybe subconsciously, I'm trying to make my kids more like me than my spouse. Buzz is a 100% extrovert; I'm a 100% introvert. He LOVES meeting people and making small talk. I have no problem with conversation. When it's meaningful, I actually enjoy a good discussion.

The first playdate I attempted was with a former coworker who had quit work to become a stay-at-home mom to her daughter, who is about a year younger than Spark. We met at an indoor playscape at a mall. As a mom, a lot of my life revolves around my kids. Not all of it, mind you, but quite a bit of what I do is kid related: pediatrician appointments, waiting in line to ride cable cars in San Francisco, working a second job as a short-order cook.

Naturally when I get together with another adult who has kids, we should talk about our kids some. But, I would like to talk about other things. It's hard to discuss adult books with my almost 4-year-old son. It's even harder to discuss politics with my 6-month old daughter. So, I meet with my former coworker friend and her daughter. Every time I try to talk about something not kid-related, she would stare at me blankly. Then, she would change the subject back to the kids, something like:

Me: "Hey, have you read The Secret Life of Bees?"
Lisa: "No. Is Spark eating a lot of vegetables? I can't seem to get Mary to eat her vegetables anymore. I'm wondering if it is a phase."
Me: "Hmmm... Spark eats just about anything we give him. Do you like Barbara Kingsolver? I recently started reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and it's fascinating!"
Lisa: "We read a lot of the Baby Einstein books. Mary JUST LOVES THEM. Does Spark like those? What's he reading?"

Towards the end of the playdate, Lisa mentions that she has one afternoon left open for a playdate. She wants to know what my work schedule is like. Is that a day/time I can commit to? Suddenly, I realize she is trying to book her last open slot for a playdate with me and Spark. Fortunately, I'm a working momma, so I can blame it on the job. "Gee, you know, I just never know. I couldn't say right now that every single Wednesday at 3:15 will work for me..."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I am not a SAHM

I'm a working momma.

When Spark was a baby, I had a flexible work arrangement, but I still worked full-time, and I worked the majority of my hours in the office. I am not a fan of daycares, and I was fortunate at that time to have a wonderful sister who lives in the same city as me and who happens to specialize in childcare. For Spark's first two years, she gave him tender loving care when I was working. Then, he started preschool, and I rearranged my schedule again so that I could pick him up most days, getting my sister to pick him up 1-2 days a week so that I could work later if necessary. But, it was a good setup, too. I got lots of time with Spark.

After we had Flower, Buzz and I decided that we needed to make our schedules even more flexible. So, we crunched some numbers, talked about options, and I approached my supervisor with our plan: I would reduce my workload (and also my paycheck) by 25% and work about 50% of my time from home. My boss thought it was a great plan, so she pitched it to the higher-ups for me, and they were on board, too, provided we have 90-day checkins to be sure that everything is going well.

I recently had my first 90-day checkin, and according to my supervisor, everything seems to be working out fine. I'm happy, the boss is happy, and Flower is happy. My mom comes into town twice a month so that I can work in the office for three days every other week. It's a sweet setup. I get the benefit of a good job with good benefits, flexible hours, and time with my baby girl. This schedule also allows me to pick Spark up from his preschool and to volunteer more at his preschool. Yay! Everbody wins!

Except that we all have to remember that Martia is not a stay-at-home mom. No, she is not. She is a working momma who has deadlines, projects, schedules, and planning to do in addition to all the "mommying." 30 hours a week of it.

The big difference is that instead of adults stopping by my cube to chat for 5 minutes and breaking my concentration after a good 20-minute focused drive, I have a nearly crawling baby to track down after a good 15-minute push. Instead of walking to the cafeteria with a work pal, I set up the Bumbo and feed Flower sweet potatoes. When I'd rather just zone out for a few minutes or stare into space, I can't. Because Flower is sleeping, and that's when I have to work the hardest.
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