Sunday, November 16, 2014

9:21 PM
Double Agent
Last Thursday night at 8:30 PM I found myself standing with a group of women at a networking event in San Francisco - everyone of us a president, partner, or principal at a law or consulting firm. As we sipped wine we chatted a bit about work, a bit about life, and then (as it always seems to when I am with one, two, or a group of female friends or strangers) the conversation took a hard left into the discussion of default parenting (i.e., the demands of being the one responsible for the emotional, physical and logistical needs of our children in addition to working and otherwise trying to lead an autonomous life). This is, of course, all said after acknowledging the tremendous efforts our husbands do make.

And yet...

As one attorney so aptly put it - I bring home the bacon, I shop for the bacon, I cook the bacon, I clean up the bacon, and then you want me to do what with your bacon?!?!?!

Well said, sister.

Some variation of this conversation has become my new norm - in the way that morning sickness, prenatal yoga and birthing plans were the staples of my conversations while pregnant and sharing deep belly laughs with other incontinent and roly-poly women - in the way that the discussions of sleep training, baby weight, breastfeeding and THE TIRED carried me through the haze of the early months - in the way that we supported each other to lean out or lean in and reassured each other that our most precious ones would be well cared for and that we were doing the right thing by ourselves and our families as maternity leave drew to a close.

And now here we are - living the dream (i.e., making sure everyone has everything they need for the day; scrubbing spilled coffee, snot and grubby fingerprints off our clothes as we dash into work in the morning; working all day; checking email in the late afternoon while we watch dance and gymnastics classes; feeding and putting everyone to bed still in our work clothes; pouring a deep glass of wine and turning the computer back on for the second shift; squeezing in a workout; and then finally collapsing into bed in a desperate race against the countdown to the alarm).

And because it seems so surreal, we one, two or more women start by tentatively asking each other - how is it going? how are you doing? how is work?

And then as we begin to acknowledge that we are all ducks (smooth, unruffled on the surface, paddling madly underneath), we begin to share the stories - like the time she forgot to pick her son up from preschool; like the time I almost had to take my daughter to a meeting because she got sent home from school with lice; like the morning she spent tidying the house the day she got promoted to company president; like the talk she gave at a conference with her 3-week old strapped to her chest...

And as the stories continue, the laughter comes. It comes from a deep place, providing a sweet and momentary relief in the acknowledgement that we are not alone, that we are not crazy, and that we are doing a lot.

And then the conversation usually turns to yes, I know but how..? and the tips are shared - the negotiated flex schedules, the carefully orchestrated divisions of labor with the husband, the college student afternoon babysitter who covers pick up and activity-shuttling, the workout app that gets it done in 20 minutes, the service that picks up or delivers X, Y and Z for you, the prioritization, the letting go.

So this is now the default conversation of my life. It is not highly intellectual. It does not directly solve solve any of the worlds problems. But what it does do Every.Single.Time is give me and one, two or a group of women the support and resolve they need to forge ahead the next day, the next week and the next year. The acknowledgement inspires us to have those difficult conversations at work and at home to make things more equitable and doable. The validation allows us to prioritize time for ourselves without feeling guilty. The inspiration motivates us to keep doing our best to raise our kids, do our jobs, tend to our marriages, and tend to ourselves. And this my friend, women doing this, is what will change the world.

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