What’s This All About, Then?

Long after I’d had my baby and returned to work, I got asked if I could share my reflections on why I chose to be a working mom over a stay at home mom. Let me be clear: that ain’t what Laid Off & Knocked Up was about.

I have curated a select few of my posts about being pregnant and unemployed and moved them here because my hope for 2012 was to resurrect and keep up more with my original blog, Funky-Ass Monkey, and I didn’t want to maintain two separate blogs. (Maintain is really the wrong word, though, because Laid Off & Knocked Up was designed to be short-lived – it was simply a way for me document my own very personal journey through looking for work during pregnancy). Because I’ve saved only a sampling here, I tried to select posts that showed the range of emotions I was experiencing – the highs in looking forward to welcoming my first child and in finding a job at 7 months pregnant – and some lows in worrying that I would never find that job. It’s simply meant to entertain, and not offer any findings on the working mom vs. the stay at home mom debate.

For me, this wasn’t a question of whether I should or wanted to be a stay at home mom or a working mom. I wouldn’t even get the luxury of entertaining that debate. It boiled down to the reality of my circumstances. There was no question that my bank account, which was already on the fritz (thanks to dedicating 10 years to low paying museum work) couldn’t survive without a steady full-time paycheck, even without motherhood lurking around the bend.

How soon to return to work, whether to return to work full-time or cut back to part-time, or whether to be a stay-at-home mom are questions that untold numbers of moms have grappled with, and their various decisions are fraught with all manner of guilt, obligations, expectations, and a wide spectrum of experiences, all of which you can read about in advice columns and bookstores. But I’ve yet to stumble on an advice book of how best to handle being a stay-at-home mom when the baby’s not even through the first trimester. When it’s too soon to join mommy support groups, and too late to start drinking. That’s what these posts are about.

The question of whether a mom should work or stay home often gets framed in terms of independence, family preference, and personal fulfillment – and I believe that you have the right to choose what you feel is best for you and your family and that you shouldn’t have to defend your decision to anyone. These blog posts aren’t commentary on that debate. I have a lot of (deeply personal) opinions about the SAHM vs. working mom debate and how heavily that debate weighs on any new mom (or at least how hard it was for me), but I don’t share my thoughts on that in any of these posts. If you’re looking for that whole debate, you better keep googling.

Uninspired. Or just plain tired.

I’m sitting here staring at my monitor ready to write a post. Why? Not because I have anything to say but because I have, for the 1st time today, 20 minutes or so to myself before I collapse in exhaustion.

Between working a full-time job and taking care of a 10 month old without a single full night of sleep in more than 10 months, I feel drained. Creatively. And physically. Spent, in every way. The time to write & the moments of inspiration just do not coincide. And when I do have time, like now, I flip to “inspiration, saved for later” and find…nothing.

I guess the good news is that it’s starting to dawn on me that perhaps the two (sleep deprivation/fatigue, and inspiration, lack of) are related….

What is this ‘window’?

I used to spend my lunch hour going for walks. I no longer am afforded that luxury because, unless I want to stay 10 hours a day (and I don’t!), I gotta use all my break time for pumping. But today I had to run across campus for something, and it is a spectacularly beautiful day. It may be February elsewhere, but right now it’s a blissful 75 degrees and sunny here. That’s not what I’m here to talk about, though. I would’ve had to forge across campus even if it were cloudy and a brisk 65. In my errand, I walked past the office building across the street and what I saw stopped me dead in my tracks.

They have windows.

That OPEN.

It is absolutely criminal that any of us should have to be inside on a day like today anyway. Especially given that our faces will be melting under the death star very soon. But an office with windows that OPEN?! I have never even conceived of such an enviable fringe benefit before that moment. I mean, anyone can have a window in their office cube. I have even had a window in my office before. Sure, it looked out on a dingy poorly-lit hallway, but still. But a window that functions?

Mind. blown. Then I thought, um, hello? This is not novel. The only thing that made this moment noteworthy whatsoever is that I’m unfortunate enough to work in an environment controlled entirely by someone else. Redoubling my efforts to work on my own business plan.

As If I Needed Another Reason to Work for Myself

There is an issue at work. A bathroom issue. The first time I encountered it, I decided to just hold my breath and deal with it because I really, really had to pee. I thought, Yikes! Someone isn’t feeling well today.

Unfortunately, time has proven it’s not just a “today” thing. It’s become a recurring issue.

To say it’s foul is not nearly strong enough. In fact, it’s as if an aged gorilla from the zoo ate some bad cabbage. When I really have to pee, I think, “Well, I could just rush & hold my breath…But then if anyone comes in, they’re going to think I’m the culprit here. And I AM NOT.”

So I’ve resorted to using the bathroom on another floor.

 

Yes, Virginia, There is Such a Thing as ‘Too Much Coffee’

This morning, baby woke up to feed at 2 a.m. and, as is her usual pattern these days, just needed a little top-off to get her back to sleep, so she was back out within 10 minutes. Me, on the other hand, could not get back to sleep.

At all.

So when it came time to get up, I stumbled into the kitchen to get the coffee that I so desperately would require to make it through a workday. I poured a gigantic mug full and drank it, and packed another mug for the road. Drank most of it en route.

When I got to work, I poured another cup.

And now I feel ill.

All This Thinking is Counter-Productive

Yesterday’s work day was simultaneously one of the best and worst work days ever. Our network was completely down (and remains largely down today), giving me a very limited subset of tasks I could work on. Simple tasks that I blew through in just a few minutes. So I basically goofed off on the web all day.

I feel guilty about that in the sense that I know I’m not getting paid to just goof off. But I also feel guilty about it in some other, more profound way. That I don’t give a sh*t that that’s how I spent my day.

After months of un- and under-employment in 2010 and 2011, I finally landed this job. And I was, and continue to be, grateful for that. Even more grateful for the fact that I was more than 6 months pregnant when I started here. And that my workplace is so accommodating and understanding of the new rhythm of my life. Like needing some time to adjust to the schedule of getting to work with pants on. I have a lot to be thankful for: I have an amazing boss. I make a decent living. I have benefits. But I don’t love my job. I don’t love the line of work I’m in. It just doesn’t excite me or inspire me. If it’s too much to ask to do work that you’re really designed to do, that you are enthusiastic about, that provides the work environment and work style you desire, and at which you are driven to excel, then honestly? I’d rather just be home with my baby.

Having nothing to do but idle time to pass away in my cubicle yesterday was not a good thing because it sent me down a path of re-examining my career and life path yet again. I sat there in my cubicle thinking. And while thinking may be dangerous, it’s all I could do. Well, I mean, besides watch youtube videos of dogs.  Or babies. Or dogs and babies.

The result of all that thinking was a deafening cry inside my head: I want to be productive. I want to work hard. But I want to work for myself. If nothing else, if I worked for myself, woke up one morning, and the network was completely down? I wouldn’t sit there and stare at a blank screen all day like an automaton. I’d go out and live life. Read, nap, go for a hike, take a scenic drive. The possibilities are endless. Bonus: a little break would have reinvigorated me for when it was time to work again.

Coincidentally, I happened to read a blog post last night by someone who talked about losing his job suddenly and needing new work ASAP, who wrote “All I need is to be working with smart passionate people, flexible hours and the ability to work from anywhere. A cubicle is my death. I’ll take it if it’s all I can find, but I’d prefer to work from home and fly anywhere for meetings/face to face time.” Well said, my friend. I work in a cubicle, though that, in and of itself is not the problem. The last museum I worked for, I worked in a cubicle and worked with some of the most talented, funny, amazing coworkers friends ever. If we could have run away to found our own creative firm offering our services as a web designer, writer, graphics/visual artist, and editor, I totally would have. Except that we would have needed insta-clients, and lots of them, because all of us have piles of bills to pay.

Some of it has to do with the stupidity of playing working by the rules. Whether it’s that I have to show up & sit here in a cube for 8 hours even though none of us can get to a single work file, or that I can’t install Flash because I don’t have Admin user privileges even though I produce Flash videos for my job, or that I can’t listen to music on my computer even though I work at a music museum, whatever the workplace is, it has inane, inexplicably dumb rules. I want to live life by my own terms and work by my own rules. Work when I’m ready to work, rather than staring at a blank screen trying to get motivated because I haven’t yet had my coffee and had to be at work at 8:30 even though I’ve been up with a baby since 3:30. Or that I didn’t get to bed with the baby til 3:30. Cuz everyone knows, if you work from 11-7, your quality of work is just total sh*t compared to the quality of work you produce on no sleep between 8:30-4:30! Write about topics that I’m interested in, rather than digesting & regurgitating the most boring information to a general audience. And produce deliverables that match my expectations of high quality rather than pass off “meh, it’s ok, but at least it’s on time” stuff because of someone else’s constraints.

That could be the biggest thing. There’s nothing more frustrating at work than having to compromise, or even abandon your vision. That’s been one of my frustrations with everywhere that I have worked since grad school: not being in control over the quality of the work products I deliver. In grad school, I was in total control over the quality of my research sources, the level of my analysis, and the craftsmanship of my writing. But working for someone else is a whole different story. It’s awful to have a product “represent” you that you don’t feel is the type or quality of work you do best. Because I have worked only for nonprofits, I’m always on a shoestring budget, but I don’t always know the external constraints. Like when your boss tells you you’ve got a $25,000 budget for an exhibit, and you spend $4,000 only to be hauled into her office and told that you’ve “gone over budget.” How? Because she was working on the assumption that $22,000 of that “budget” was for your own salary. (And you were working on the assumption that budget = money one can spend. Because that’s what the word means). Or how you get “voluntold” at work to produce a professional instructional video in 3 months but you get told by the videographers that they can’t work you into their schedule in that time frame, so the best they can do is hand off some B-roll footage and let you work your own magic. When you’re in control of your own product, you know what’s within your abilities and limits and don’t overextend that by taking on projects and agreeing to ideas that compromise your vision. And you’re clear on the rules of engagement.

Here’s the thing: I feel like I finally deserve to find work that works for me. Until this job, I spent my work life trying to make a career out of museum work, and it’s just not there to be made. Museum work is tireless, thankless, and undervalued. It demands a lot of your time, your efforts, your patience, and your resources, but does not deliver equivalent opportunities for personal and professional growth, upward mobility, and, most importantly, work-life balance. Sure, you can rise through the ranks. Either incrementally and over a long period of time, working your way up in a large institution where you must summon the patience to spend years doing menial work that inexplicably demands a Master’s degree waiting for a vacancy for which you have been groomed over time to materialize. Or you may rise through the ranks at a tiny institution well before you are equipped with the skils, abilities, leadership, and network to tackle the frequently insurmountable problems of a small and increasingly irrelevant institution. I gave both a shot, and neither path worked out for me.

Then, when I was laid off by the last museum, I spent my time scrambling, trying to find any job that fit my existing skill set, hoping things would work out for the best. And the side effects aren’t shabby: a steady job that uses the skills that I learned used in museums – research, writing, editing, teaching, and a little design  – a decent paycheck with benefits, and the best boss I’ve had since 2006.

But I want more. I don’t want to try to squeeze myself into a new career that doesn’t fit me exactly right. All that thinking time yesterday reaffirmed that I’ve got to figure out how to make my next work move be to work for myself.

Productivity at Work

Today, all of us at work are offline because our login/password files have been hacked. So until they assess the damage & repair whatever it is that needs to be repaired, we are offline. Which means the only things I have access to are my desktop and the interwebz.

If it weren’t for the interwebz, I would have stabbed my eyes out by now. Back to streaming Netflix on my phone, I guess. Nah, that would be wrong. I’ll play Angry Birds instead.

This is going to be a loooong day. Not a bad day, just a loooong one.

Ah, the Taser

I just came across a notice of a research project awarded to someone here at ASU and it has the best research title. EVER: “Examining the Effects of the Taser on Cognitive Functioning.”

I’m guessing the research will take this into consideration:

And this:

Luckily, a lot of the evidence was already summarized and analyzed by The Daily Show:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Taser War 2007
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Seeking Personal Intern

I’m catching up on email after the weekend, and there is a tremendous amount of it. I should clarify: personal email. I have found that I do not have time to get online on the weekends. At all. My hats off to those professional mom-bloggers who do have the time have hired help to watch their little ones. But I don’t have time to check (and, more importantly, respond to my email), write a blog post, or just scroll through gawker. And while I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, it does feel overwhelming to open that inbox come Monday morning. Just another reason I’ve decided I could use a personal intern to help cope with everyday demands (read: anything lower on my priority list than (1) hanging with baby, (2) walks with baby, and (3) napping with baby) on my time and energy. So, here goes:

Funky-Ass Monkey, Inc.

Position Description: Funky-Ass Monkey, Inc. is a small, privately held company focused on writing and editing. Our mission is to help call attention to items that deserve both rants and raves. We’re looking for an intern who is genuinely interested in helping us grow comedy, baking, photography, babies, and reality tv that is of the highest quality of the lowliest, most awful television life form.

This entry-level position is ideally suited for a student wishing to gain experience or someone interested in a career change in web-publishing and/or writing and editing making coffee, checking email, dropping off and picking up dry cleaning, vacuuming, and running errands as needed.

You might be the right candidate if you possess:

Excellent written and verbal communication skills

Strong organizational and time-management skills

An eye for detail

The ability to proactively identify and solve problems

A sense of humor

A strong understanding of the importance of naps, diet coke, and dog walks

A music catalogue that enables you to dispel any earworm that gets stuck in my head with a better replacement

The ability to draw the wickety wak scenes that spring forth from my imagination

While this position is unpaid, I can offer a flexible work schedule, close proximity to my awesomeness, nearly unlimited coffee, diet coke, and leftovers, yummy baked goods, my dogs’ undying devotion, and a casual work environment.

Interested applicants should submit a cover letter that tells me why you think you’d be the right fit for the position.

Chocolate Monster

Thanks to all the holiday goodies, I find myself back at work, sitting in my cube jonesing for my next fix. It’s 2:00. Where the bleep is my sugar?! How will I get through this day?! This is bad.