“We” vs. “Them”

I woke up this morning (too early for a Saturday) to find my Facebook feed filled with links to an NPR article about an overparenting crisis in schools. I am in full agreement that such a problem exists, so I initially skipped the article. But when my son’s favorite teacher shared it, my curiosity was picqued.

Reading the article helped me see why I often feel like I am in a different world than so many of my “mom friends” here in the Bubble.

Stop saying “we” when you mean your kid. “We” aren’t on the travel soccer team, “we” aren’t doing the science project and “we” aren’t applying to college. Our kid is. These are their efforts and achievements. We need to go get our own hobbies to brag about.  

This practice has been driving me nuts since before my kids were even in school. In fact, recently I’ve noticed a shift towards just using “I,” which takes the kid entirely out of the equation. I suspect this is because the kids of the parents using it are getting older, and the parents are literally taking over because the kids don’t even bother to engage.

“I had to go to Suzie’s house last night to borrow a book for science because I didn’t have mine.” Suzie’s is a mom, and so was the woman speaking. For real.

Just last week, I was answering a group email with some friends who all have kids my son’s age. As I was signing off, I wished them a fun end of summer, and said, “Middle school is fast approaching! Everyone ready? [My son] is excited!”

One friend mentioned her son, to say that his excitement was making it easier for her. The other two didn’t even mention their kids in the response. It was all “I am nervous” and “I don’t want summer to end.”

I realize parents have feelings about their kids transitions (myself included), but we do need to realize that it’s THE KIDS who are going to school, right?!

Schools here in the Bubble are dependent on parent volunteers, so they are inviting the parents into the classroom daily. I think that may further muddy the waters for some parents – having physical access to school regularly may make them feel like it’s “their” thing. Even when I was heavily involved as a volunteer, I didn’t see the kids’ homework as “ours,” and would often find my friends befuddled when I didn’t know anything about the kids’ homework assignments. That reaction hasn’t changed since the kids got older.

One of our kids was once on the cusp of getting an A for a marking period in math, but missed it by a point or two. At a conference, the teacher apologized and said, “There’s really nothing I can do.” When we thanked him for giving the B, he nearly fell on the floor. This was 3rd grade. Why would we want our kid to get a “false” A if a B was deserved? Who on earth cares about a B in 3rd grade math?!?

I hear all kinds of crazy helicopter parents from Professor Sister, too. Colleges don’t require parent volunteers…..but it seems that some folks still have trouble with blurred lines there.

Here’s how I encourage my kids to be independent. “I” am going to sit here on the couch until “they” come downstairs and make “me” some pancakes.

Someday, when “they” go off to college, “we” will all be happy that “I” was so demanding.

My si

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Women at Work

I recently found myself in a Board of Directors meeting with 27 people around the table. Four of us were women — two staff and two board members. It was the day before this article was published by Fortune, in which Liz Dolan explains why unconscious gender bias led her to resign from the board of Quiksilver.  After just a brief time in the board room, I can easily imagine how something like that could happen, if only from the sheer force of majority rules. (But I suspect it usually goes much further than that.)

For our off-site board meeting, I chose to “dress like a man,” in that I wore long pants and a blazer over my (sleeveless) blouse. Most of the men were in suits. The other three women wore skirts or dresses, and they were all visibly cold throughout the meeting.  These women were considerably older than I am, and I suspect their pre-Hillary generation eschews pant suits for skirts in more formal business settings. (I mean, I wear skirts and dresses often – I just don’t feel like I have to.)

Today I was in another, more casual meeting, where I sat shivering in my seat, wearing long pants and a blouse with 3/4 sleeves. A female colleague wore a polar fleece to the meeting, although it was about 100 degrees outside today. She even discussed a NY Times article explaining that office temperatures are based on old formulas favoring the metabolism and wardrobe of 40-something men. Imagine that! The men in our conference room made light of it and joked about how there was no way they were going to tolerate feeling warm in the office. They were mostly wearing shirts and ties without blazers, and long pants.

Ladies, it’s time to lean in to the thermostats.

There are several of them around our office suite, but they are all located in men’s offices. I don’t think that’s intentional – it just worked out that way. (More men, better odds. As usual.) Lucky for me, I am on the sunny side of the building and my thermostat is in the office of a kind man who would respect my temperature requests anyway, but who also happens to prefer a warm temperature in his office.

A female colleague showed me how to crank up the heat to counter the overcranking A/C in our conference center. I’ll be using that feature. Generously.

The lady in the polar fleece has apparently been going into the office next door to hers to raise the temperature while its owner is out to lunch. Now she needs to start doing it while he’s sitting at his desk.

Women of the workplace unite! Do not shiver and turn blue at your desks! Demand warmth!

(And maybe keep a fan handy for hot flashes, if necessary.)

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I’m Still Here

Two months on the new job, folks. Actually, a few days more than that. I hired my first employee today! Well, technically I promoted-her-from-within-slash-stole-her-from-a-colleague….but it still counts! There is so much going on, in so many directions, and I love it. The CEO has some seriously big plans for all of us, and I happen to be in one of the positions with the most ability to influence some of the change. Really, really great stuff.

What a breath of fresh air compared to the culture at the last job. Whew! Responsibility, trust, support, flexibility, freedom. All things I seem to enjoy in a workplace.

The family is adjusting well and we even have a child care plan for the entire summer. We were on the verge of desperation when the perfect solution pretty much fell into our laps. Procrastination can sometimes save you an awful lot of trouble, I find.

So the kids will be entertained here for the first few weeks out of school, by a neighbor/friend/brilliant college student who just may teach them a foreign language or two while she’s at it. After that, they are doled out to camps and cousins for the middle stretch, and then we’ll wrap things up with a not-yet-planned family beach trip. If we procrastinate planning that, I’m sure a free beach mansion will just become available. Right?

If you’re keeping track, you may realize that we are about to finish up our stretch as parents of an elementary school kid. The boy is “moving up” to middle school in the fall. This Friday and next Thursday I will be attending “last” events that are sure to make me feel sentimental. He’s ready, and the time is right for me to finally give up the last of the school volunteering gigs. I won’t miss those, at this point. But I will miss the school. I have become friends with so many of the great teachers there, and I’ll miss seeing them and the excitement they bring to the kids about learning and life. It will be strange to drive by and not feel a part of it anymore.

Eh, I’ll be fine. I’ll be busy with me and my thing. And, boy does that feel good.

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Questions

Why are all the books that have absorbed me lately meant for young adults? I find that curious, since I have always felt more mature than my biological age. Did my maturity peak and start reversing itself? Is it a middle aged tendency to grasp for my youth? Am I not getting enough “young adult” in my real life?

It’s not that one. I can assure you of that. 

What is it about my face that seems familiar to so many people? Not in the “Hey, where do I know you from?” kind of way, but in the “Are we from the same people?” kind of way. I often find people from other cultures gazing at my face and wondering. Like today, on the Metro in DC. A young woman of Middle Eastern descent, earbuds in, business suit on, across the car, looking at me every time my eyes went her way. Usually women just look and wonder, but men often ask — “What are you?” That seems like a strange question, but I get it all the time. And strangely, it’s easier to answer than, “Where are you from?” which has several answers in the context of my life’s trajectory. 

How do I feel about having seen some evidence of white male privilege in my son during recent museum visits? There is no simple answer to that one. He was polite, never rude. He raised his hand, and waited in lines. He had smart things to say and good questions to ask. But so did his sister and other people of all ages and varieties, and they did….but. 

I think it was more his lack of hesitation as compared to theirs. And it wasn’t just him. It was all the white boys. And maybe the men, but I was wearing my mom hat and more focused on kids and other moms. Interesting observations that I’m still processing and reacting to. 

And questioning. 

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New Beginnings

HELLO, blog people!

If anyone is still out there….big happenings since last I posted, when I was gearing up for a couple of interviews. One was a phone interview, and by the time that call was over – I did not want the job. And I didn’t get it, so that worked out well. But the other one was the one I really wanted….and I got it! The interview process was effortless and I got a great offer a few days later.

I start this coming Monday, so I’ve been getting ready as much as I can. Bought some new clothes, took the kids for their physicals and dental appointments, took care of several of my own medical appointments. Living large, folks! Tonight I even made two big batches of soup to begin stocking the freezer for busier times ahead.

The new job is full time. Gulp.

I very much feel ready and excited for this on a professional level. And come next school year, my hours and the kids hours will match up almost perfectly. But until then…..thank goodness for local grandmas who are willing and able to help! And here’s hoping our amazing sitter from last summer ends up being in town again this year.

We will figure it out, and the kids have been really sweet and excited for me. I am a little sentimental about our son, though….only one more day to meet him after the bus for his entire elementary school “career.” I’ve been so fortunate to be here almost every single day for him, and I have really enjoyed it the last two years when we’ve had one on one time. I’m glad my mom will be able to enjoy that with him the next few weeks, but I will miss it. 😦

So, next year the kids will be in middle school together. That wasn’t a definite, as our son needed to be accepted into the program our daughter attends outside our neighborhood zone. He got in, which is awesome for him AND for us, in terms of simplification. It also keeps him out of the house an extra 30 mins in the am and pm, which works better for full time working momma.

Did I mention my new commute? 5 minutes vs. 30-40 minutes. Sweet!! (Except for my NPR intake. I’ll need to work that into my morning routine in a different way or I will have serious withdrawal.)

I’m such a nerd that I’ve been doing some reading about current events in my “new” field (which is really my old field) — and I’ve been enjoying it. Things have changed a lot since my previous days in the hospital world (the Mr. would say “Thanks, Obamacare!” in a totally tongue-in-cheek manner) — but I am excited to get back into it. And a little nervous, too, of course.

That’s my news. What’s new with YOU?!?

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Surrealism in the Suburbs

I wrote my last post nine days ago, about my first day of “freedom” after leaving my job. Since that day, our kids have not had one single hour of school.

This happens almost every year – a snow event that becomes a weeklong (or more) loss of education because of the lack of snow and ice removal plans around these parts. And yet – every year, even when I mentally prepare myself for the possibility – it shocks me.

Last weekend was a 3-day weekend because of President’s Day. That evening, it snowed 8″ here – so we knew they would get at least one snow day, and we figured two were pretty much a given. Yup – no school Tuesday or Wednesday.

It worked out, because I was home! I spent the days encouraging children to get out of pajamas,serving food, stumbling over snow gear in entry ways, giving permission for sled outings on hills of varying levels of safety. It was all good.

But I had a ticket to get out of dodge and visit my mom in south Florida, leaving Wednesday afternoon. I had SO many ideas of how to keep the kids busy after school on those days I wouldn’t be here. Rides, activities, play dates. But they had NO SCHOOL AT ALL. The Mr. had to work. I felt like I was leaving behind a Lord of the Flies reality for the kids when I left.

They managed just fine, with friend outings, and intermittent rides and visits from dad throughout the days. And I got to FL just in time for its mini cold spell. 🙂 At least it was warmer than it was here.

I returned very late last night. I could see the snow was still on the ground as we approached the airport. We landed in pouring rain, and my car was coated in ice. Will the schools open tomorrow??? I honestly don’t know, folks. It’s crazy up in here.

I’ve planned a lunch with a good friend and former co-worker for tomorrow. I have an interview on Tuesday for one job, and a longer, much more intense interview for another job on Tuesday. I hope the kids are in school for any or all of those things. Not because I don’t love them, but because ENOUGH ALREADY.

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Freedom

Yesterday was the last day on the job.

After the empowerment of the actual resignation came a less fun period of awkwardness, tension, and anxiety as I went through the process of extricating myself from my work, and dealt with the reality of leaving some of my friends/coworkers with the burden of “covering” for me once I was gone.

But that’s all over now, and the friends/coworkers even threw me a really sweet farewell party and gave me some really nice parting gifts. It tells you a bit about the culture there that it’s commonplace to attend farewell parties — there’s a LOT of turnover, but it’s also a really tight knit group. I will miss (most of them) very, very much. So there was definitely some sadness to deal with, too.

Our kids picked up on my mixed feelings over the last two weeks, and were really sweet trying to temper their excitement for me with sensitivity over the impact to friendships I value. That’s something that kids can relate to, I think. Kind of like being psyched that school is over, but then realizing you won’t get to see your friends 5 days a week in the summertime.

Today was my first day of “freedom.” Our son wanted to know what I had planned. A massage? Shopping? Lunch? Since it was one of those polar blast days around here, I told him I was going to enjoy the morning at home, and maybe watch some tv or read my book. Instead, though, I applied for a job online, sent emails related to scheduling interviews for a different job, and updated my resume. Do I know how to kick back, or what?!?

Once that was done, I did go for a brief but enjoyable (if arctic) run and enjoyed a nice lunch out with the Mr.

Now I’m home listening to the dog bark his head off at the floor repair guys who are making a racket upstairs, trying desperately (with little success) to schedule and reschedule various doctor and dentist appointments, and waiting for my little guy to get off the school bus.

So, you know, just a regular “free” day for mom. 🙂 But, I’m not complaining. Not one bit.

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