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.

Meetup for Moms Who Hate PHX

Lately I’ve been longing for a simpler, smaller, more navigable city. Well, strike ‘lately’ and that would be true. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Phoenix. It’s difficult to articulate, but it’s partly that it’s so huge that it’s hard to find an anchor. Like finding moms/babies for an age-appropriate playgroup for Baby – something that has, thus far proved impossible. I thought it would come naturally to find playdates for Baby. Step One: enroll Baby at daycare. Step Two: get folded in to existing social calendar filled by other daycare moms who can’t wait to welcome the newest member to the playgroup!

Well, that didn’t go so well.

So then I thought, oh, it must be more like this. Step One: someone at work sets me up on a friend blind date with another new mom who has a baby the same age who has just returned to work too. Step Two: We fast become besties while our babies giggle and play with one another for years to come.

Hmmm. That didn’t work either.

So I broke down and finally joined meetup to find some playdates. I went to my first meetup playdate yesterday. While I was a little sad that it came to joining some impersonal website to meet like-minded moms, I thought, well, it’s the cost of living in today’s modern age (or, more likely, such a giant, impersonal metropolitan area). Baby is nearly 9 months and I still don’t really know any other moms with even remotely similar-aged babies to hang with, so I figured it was time to suck it up and give meetup a shot. Especially since it’s about to be hotter than hell and I’d like to pre-emptively develop some mom friends so that I have someone to call to come over for an indoor playdate once the Death Star arrives.

But I was kind of over it before I even attended an event. Searching for groups isn’t that user-friendly. Not only are there all these bullsh*t sponsored ads within all the search results, there are also tons of groups that are really just sponsored groups under the guise of an ‘authentic’ meetup group, groups for whom you have to pay lots of money for each event (Stroller Strides, anyone? Only $35 each time!). Then there were pages upon pages of groups with whom I would have NOTHING in common: the stay-at-home moms, the conservative Christian moms, the tattooed self-rigteously deal-with-it alterna-moms.

When I did find groups for working moms, I was surprised that their events calendars showed  meetups at 5:30 p.m. on a weeknight or at 10 a.m. on a weekday. Y’know, so I could forgo making dinner (nevermind feeding Baby hers) or dash out of a meeting at work because “I have to get Baby to a playdate!” The groups I finally found that really were for working moms were for Type-A moms – tons of red tape that seemed more trouble than they’re worth for a social gathering. Must attend at least one event a month; in addition to the one you attend, you must also plan your own event at least once a month, you must prepare and bring an hors d’oeuvres to share, and I thought, I really must stop reading your rules, stupid mom group. Anything with more than one use of the word “must” must be told to F off. (Sorry, I guess so many imposed rules and regulations just brings back the defiant and oppositional 15 year old again.) It just seemed so damn unwelcoming and unfriendly – a closed society. I decided I’d just create my own group and see what happened.

I made it clear that my group was (1) for working moms, (2) for uncomplicated get-togethers on the weekend, and (3) for moms of babies and toddlers. I didn’t really expect anything to happen. I was glad that a handful of folks joined my group and even RSVP’d for a walk in the park, but I still had a lot of anxiety about it. Who knows that people really are who they say they are online? For all I know “Candice” with a 2 year old is actually some ex con named Bruiser with a windowless van and rag that smells like chloroform who grabbed a screenshot of some mom & her kid off of Google Images for the meetup profile. But I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only were all of the women who they actually said they were, I have a lot in common with 3 of the 5 women, perhaps the most notable item being that all of us are lukewarm on living here in Phoenix.

None of us are from here, none of us planned on living here long, and yet all of us have found our ‘temporary’ stay here to be a much more extended one than we ever would have expected. (I moved to Tempe in 2006, and thought I would be here just a couple of years, yet here we are nearly 6 years later with no other destination in sight. Everyone else had similar stories). And, without exception, when the question came up of “Do you like it here?” the answer was a polite, “Uh….well….there are *some* things that I like about it….but…ummm…” without finishing with a ‘no.’ Basically that response is the only way anyone like us could answer in an initial meet & greet. Because if you answer off the bat that you don’t like it here, you might appear negative, even if you’re not a particularly negative person. And if you don’t equivocate or qualify your response, it appears you don’t even try to make something fun out of a place that you don’t like. So until I live in a small town where other moms just come over, barge in and strong-arm me into joining the community playgroup, where we compare notes on which children’s books suck the most and where in god’s green earth one can buy baby girl’s clothes that aren’t pink (but also aren’t $30 an outfit), meetup will have to do. And thankfully, from the answers these women gave at this first playdate to ‘do you like it here?’, I can tell that we are going to get along.

An Unofficial Mommies Group

It turns out that 4:00 on a Wednesday afternoon is prime-baby time at Safeway. I think they might not even let you in the door if you’re not toting a wee little one. Too bad I don’t know any of these ladies. We could be friends. But since my only opener is “OMG! How old’s your baaaaaby? Can I see how cute?!” I think I’d be considered a weird creeper and not friend potential. Well, there’s that, and the fact that the other moms seem to be able to get their act together enough to be properly attired out in public. Me, on the other hand? I’m wearing sweatpants, I’ve got toothpaste on my sleeve and spit-up on my shoulder, I’m sporting mis-matched Christmas-themed socks, and my only makeup is that I have 2-day-old mascara flakes still lingering on my eyelashes.

I don’t belong to any mommies groups, and honestly, I’m not sure what the hell they’re about or if I’d have anything at all in common with them. But as a working mom, I don’t really have much of a choice. All the baby-mommy events seem to be during the week. Story time at the bookstore? Mid-morning on Tuesdays. Story time at the library? Mid-morning on Thursdays. Breastfeeding support group? It’s on Wednesday mornings. Kindermusik? That’d be during the workday, too. Baby swim classes? I can barely get to work and home on time, nevermind scoop her up and get her to a swim class that starts at 5:00 and is half an hour away. I keep thinking about how much of my time with Baby is spent taking her for walks to the park or to go see the duckies in the canal, and how that activity probably won’t even be possible once it gets hot (which is Any. Minute. Now.)

I’ve got to figure out how to make some mommy friends so, if nothing else, she (and I) can have some friends over for indoor playdates once it gets hot. But they better be mommy friends who don’t make me feel inadequate since I seem to be the only one here not sporting skinny jeans, a fluttery but immaculate tank, and hair that doesn’t look like it’s been poorly corralled with vaseline after six hours in a wind tunnel.