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A Tectonic Shift in Priorities (Or Collateral Damage in the Mommy Wars)

We have a new person at work, who I will refer to as "NP" for purposes of this blog.  NP has an infant.  Today NP's boss, one of the highest-ups in the food chain where I work, blithely stated that NP would be assigned to work on an urgent assignment this weekend, without the slightest hint of prior consultation or consensus with NP.  NP sat there with a shit-eating grin and did not protest.  It sucks to be new.

Whoa, Nelly.

I thought to myself that if my boss had similarly committed me to work this weekend without consulting me, I would have said, "I have plans." Because I do.  And I plan on having plans for the weekend for the next fifteen years or so years.

Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) and I are getting closer to adopting a toddler-age sibling set through foster care.  As we get closer, I am alternately excited and nauseated at the prospect of what our life will become as late-life parents to young kids.  We're marking some major milestones as of late -- BMNB turned fifty last year; I will turn fifty next month; and we'll mark our tenth anniversary five days after my birthday.  If all goes as planned, we'll be parents by the end of the summer.

All of this has brought about what I'd call a tectonic shift in my priorities. 

It is now more important to me than ever to have my weekends free for the family I'm trying to build and the life I'm trying to create for them.  I don't want to be told with little notice and no opportunity to refuse that my weekend will be yanked out from under me.  That's one of the reasons why I hated litigation -- the lack of control over one's schedule.  When BMNB and I got married, we agreed there could only be one trial attorney in the family, and since I didn't want to be the trial attorney, it worked out well.

It is also more important to me to create the kind of family life for my kids-to-be that my parents created for me.  We always ate dinner together as a family, and my mom cooked almost seven days a week. McDonald's was a treat for us because we only went there once a month, if at all.  We ate huge Sunday dinners as a family, so much so that we were spoiled.  We got to the point where we kids were turning up our noses at roast beef, turkey and ham.  I'd give my left arm for my mom's roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy right about now.  Hell, I don't even know how to make gravy.

Unlike most women my age, I've never taken time off to raise children.  I've never had a maternity leave.  My one and only pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, brought on in part, IMHO, from stress doing -- you guessed it -- litigation.

I want more living and less working.  I have the nerve to expect more of life at this stage in my life.  I actually feel I deserve to be happy in my career and home life, and if I can't be happy in my career, well, two tears in a bucket; motherf*** it.  It just doesn't matter as much to me anymore.

I'm not like BMNB.  He's happier than a pig in you-know-what practicing the law he practices.  He has more freedom than I do -- an alternate work schedule, the freedom to work from home, and no bosses looking over his shoulder.  It works for him.

Me, not so much.  And I know that I'm running out of time to figure out how I'm going to make this all work because, sooner or later, that urgent assignment will come in, it will be my turn, and I will be expected to work over the weekend.  My refusal will be considered insubordination.  I'm already wearing a target on my back at work (it's a long story -- let's just say I'm in someone's cross hairs); any misstep can and will be held against me. 

How much time will I take off to get our kids acclimated?  How much time can I afford to take off? 
Do I quit altogether and see if we can make it one BMNB's salary alone, even with the debt we have? That I can even consider such an option is a blessing that most women don't have, and I don't take it lightly.   Do I just jump into motherhood and a new mother-friendly career (ahem, blogging?) at the same time and let go of the possibility of a pension, 401(k) and health care benefits in old age?  What will our social worker think? 

While other women are contemplating leaning in, I just feel like collateral damage in the so-called "mommy wars."  Working moms and working-at-home moms (I think the term "stay-at-home mom" doesn't fully capture all the work that the term entails) seem to still be working this motherhood and career conflict out on each other instead of together opening up a can of whupass on the labor market to better accommodate parenthood.  I would have thought that by this stage of the game, all the things that women need to parent and stay in the work force would have been standard issue by now in America -- paid parental leave, a child care center or pre-school on every corner, common and accepted part-time and shared work situations.  But they're not, and each woman contemplating motherhood is left in a feral state to try to patch together some semblance of work-life balance.   Lean in?  At this stage, I don't care to lean in.  I'd rather lean back, hold my kids-to-be, and read every single Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein book to them without worry.  It is no longer a priority of mine to impress my superiors at work and continually prove myself to people whose opinion of me, in the end, doesn't really matter.  What really matters to me is to know what it is to love children of my own and to share that love with BMNB.  Everything else pales in comparison.

And the irony of it all?  NP's boss is constantly out of the office with her sick children and doesn't work weekends.  How's that for leaning in?

I don't know how this will all turn out, but I'm excited about what the future holds for BMNB and me.

Stay tuned.


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