Sex and the City: The Working Parent's VersionLauren Young
Last night I got together with a group of women for a late dinner. Three out of five of us are working moms. One is a stay-at-home mom. And one is still looking for Mr. Right. We toasted ourselves over Prosecco for juggling crazy schedules, and childcare to find the time to whoop it up without kids clinging to our legs.
For a bunch of mommies, we looked hot: T* had on a long flowing red dress that hugged her yoga-toned body. M was wearing a beaded halter top. J was wearing an adorable eyelet skirt. C’s hair was down, and she was wearing sexy, wedge sandals. I had on my groovy Marimekko-inspired pants. The scene was a happening Italian restaurant across from New York City’s Lincoln Center. Paul Schaffer and Felicia Michele Collins from the “Late Show with David Letterman” were just a few tables away.
Such a beautiful night. Such a glorious setting. So what did we gossip about? Angelina and Brad…Nah? Sex? Well, maybe a little bit. But the big topic of the night: Parenting.
Off the bat came some dish from T, who works in the fashion industry—which is arguably one of the least family friendly businesses. (And that confounds me, since so many women work in the biz…but I digress.) T has the worst luck in the childcare department. She burns through caregivers the way Samantha burned through men before she met Smith.
I feel a bit responsible for T’s most recent childcare fiasco because I was there the day T’s ex-nanny came in for the job interview. The candidate seemed perfectly nice—a young Hungarian woman with lots of enthusiasm and energy. Looking back, I should have raised a red flag when she mentioned that she was leaving a babysitting job because she had problems getting along with the family she was working for. They apparently treated her poorly. But the nanny got my endorsement, and T hired her, paying TOP dollar for a four-day workweek.
It turns out the new nanny wasn’t very flexible. When T got home from work at 5:34 p.m., she was chided for being late. The new nanny considered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as standard dinner fare. T said Vizlat (Hungarian for "bye bye") to that one. Now she’s desperately hunting for a new caregiver.
By contrast, my best friend C has a nanny that literally fell into her lap. When C’s first child was born, a neighbor cornered her in the neighbor and told her she needed to hire the family’s caregiver. (I think the kids were heading off to school, and it didn’t make sense to keep her full-time.)
C’s nanny has been working for her for five years. “She’s young. She’s energetic. My kids love her. But she’s not perfect,” C told the group as she picked at her salad. Last year, the nanny asked for Columbus Day off, mainly because when she was in college (which C and her husband subsidized) she had it off. The caregiver is taking a three-week vacation this summer, which doesn’t work well for C’s schedule.
But, as C says, dealing with your caregiver “is a very gray area.” On one hand, this person is entrusted with the care of your children, so you want them to be as happy as humanly possible. But, on the other hand, they are an employee, and the business arrangement costs you money. Every morning off for a doctor’s appointment puts the parent (which, we agreed, means moms) in the hot seat to find an alternative plan.
The group also compared notes on finding the work/life balance, which is getting harder to harder to achieve as our families grow. And then we dished on other parents, which brings me to M, who lives in the Midwest and was in New York on business.
Typical of the second-child syndrome, M had no photos to share of her twins, aged 4. In the midst of a busy advertising job and a struggling marriage, she forgot to document her kids' milestone moments. “Am I horrible mom?” she asks. (She’s not—she called home to check in with the kids during the meal.) Then she told the story of a friend who tracks her child’s every move behind the lens of a video camera. Apparently, this friend had several years’ worth of videotapes stored in a camera bag, which was recently stolen with the camera.
“You’re going to think I’m awful,” M confided. “But I felt a little relieved when I heard she’d lost all of those videotapes. Now she has nothing. Isn’t that awful? But I have to say it makes me happy that the slate is clean, and we are in exactly the same place.”
Later that night I go thinking about parenthood and work…
(This is where I pretend to be like Carrie Bradshaw)
There are parents with whom you can share gossip, humor and toilet-training techniques, those that give you support and hope, those that will pitch in when you need an emergency babysitter, and those that may make you feel like an inferior parent. But the most exciting, challenging and significant parent of all is you.
To grossly misquote Carrie, “If you can find someone to love the way you parent, well, that's just fabulous.”
*Names are cloaked to protect the innocent, who had no idea I’d be blogging about our dinner
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