Drawn and Quartered: Why I Quit Being a Working Mom

Drawn and QuarteredI considered naming my blog Drawn and Quartered, because that’s how I would describe being a working mom – like each of my limbs were being pulled in a different direction in one of the most brutal forms of execution ever devised (I have a penchant for the hyperbolic). I loved my daughter. I loved my husband. I loved my job. And I was failing all of them.

OK, I wasn’t actually failing any of them, but I felt like they were all getting my B level effort. My daughter was in day care for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. I did the math in my head all the time. After subtracting sleeping, commuting, and time spent at work, I was spending less time with my family than I was with my coworkers and clients, some of whom were certifiable. When I was at work, I was thinking about my family. “We need to get serious about potty training. There is so much laundry to do. I need to cook more. We aren’t eating healthy enough.” When I was at home, I was thinking about work. “I need to find a way to get in to work earlier in the morning. I need to do more outside of my client work. I need to show that I deserve the promotion I was just given. More is expected of me now. Am I being judged for leaving the cocktail hour to see my daughter before she goes to bed?” B level effort – there was so much more to be done.

I don’t like getting Bs, especially when I know I’m capable of more. During one semester of undergrad, I accepted a C in Biology so I could focus on getting an A in Calculus. It was better to relieve myself of the obligation to Biology, (who the hell needs to memorize the Krebs Cycle anyway?), and get my A in Calculus, than to work myself into a stress-induced coma only to walk away with two Bs.

So in March of this year, I quit my job. Not like a Jerry Maguire “Who’s comin’ with me?!” kind of quit, but more of a teary, “I’m so sorry!” kind of quit. It was so much harder to cut my employer loose than my thick-German-accented, jerk of a Biology professor. I really did cry, which made me feel embarrassed, unprofessional, and stereotypically feminine. I tried so hard to hold it in. I started off diplomatic and matter of fact. But my boss was so incredibly understanding, proud even, that I couldn’t help it. He told me that he thought what I was doing was brave. BRAVE?! That thought had never occurred to me.

I assumed that what I was doing was selfish and weak. Here I am, after generations of women have had to fight for the right to have a career, I’m throwing it away. I’m choosing to stay at home and care for my family. I’m choosing to spend my time on my own terms, and maybe even a little bit on myself. How dare I? How dare I put the full financial burden on my husband? How dare I abandon my employer, who praised me, promoted me, and needed more from me? How dare I waste the MBA I’d just spent two years to get? So what if I’m stressed? Isn’t everyone? Is B-level effort really so bad? Everyone else can do it, why can’t I?

But it’s not like one day I just threw my hands up and said, “I give up.” It was an extremely difficult decision. I spent months worrying about the repercussions. Despite my husband’s pushing me toward it, I worried that he would resent me for quitting. I worried that my friends and family would come to see me as a lazy housewife, lying on the couch all day eating bonbons. I worried that I would get bored. Grocery shopping, wiping up spilled milk, and watching 3-year-olds on the playground didn’t sound nearly as challenging and exciting as management consulting (granted, that depends on who you ask!). “What if no one will hire me once I decide to go back to work? What if I don’t live up to my own expectations? What if I’m not as good at all this as I want to be? What if I change my mind???”

In the end, this is what I wanted to do. The guilt was consuming me, and I needed it to stop. This is what I needed to do to be happy, now. I suppose I could have spent another decade of my life forcing myself to be OK with B-level effort, but so far I haven’t been successful. (If anyone has been successful changing a long ingrained, potentially inherited personality trait, please let me know!) I’d rather look back on my life and know that I always did what I needed to do in order to be happy at that moment, instead of making decisions that I hoped I’d be happy with in the future.

I still struggle with those fears. But overall, I am happier. I am a better mother. I am a better wife. And some day, when I’m read, I’ll be a better – whatever I wanna be when I grow up. I trusted my gut. I suppose that making the decision that makes me happy, in spite of all the fears I had, is brave.

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I braveheart. I am.

Insurance Boss: Movie Night

“Oh, fuck. I hate it when they make you read at the beginning of a movie.”

We finally get the Biscuit in the bed. We’ve wiped up the crumbs under the table for the eleventy-billionth time. We plop our asses on the couch and hit play. Oh, no. Uh-uh. These jerks have the gall to ask us to read??? Insurance Boss works his butt off at work every day, so when it comes time to relax and watch a movie, nobody better require any effort from his brain. He only has another 10 minutes before he falls asleep, anyway. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Biscuit on Her Favorite Pastime

Biscuit: [suddenly, angrily, from the backseat] MOMMY! It’s WINDY today!!!

Me: You need to try that again. Nicely please.

Biscuit: Mommy, it’s windy today.

Me: Yeah, it is a little breezy.

Biscuit: No! You say, “It’s NOT windy!”

Me: Are you trying to argue with me on purpose?

Biscuit: Yes.

Me: No, don’t do that. Arguing isn’t fun.

Biscuit: It IS fun!!!

Me: No, it’s not.

Biscuit: Yes it is.

Outsmarted by a 3-year-old. I’ll just hang my head now.

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Shitbarf: Our Hurricane Sandy Story

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Today is October 22, and two years ago today New York was having a really shitty day. That really shitty day was just the beginning of several weeks of major shittiness – epic traffic jams caused by blocked bridges and tunnels, gas shortages, days and weeks without electricity, and damaged cars and homes. Our family was fortunate enough to make it through the storm safely and with very little damage to our property. But we had our struggles in the aftermath.

Starting on October 21, the Sunday before the storm, Insurance Boss worked every single day for over a month. He finally took a couple of days off at Thanksgiving, but we spent Thanksgiving day touring the badly damaged areas in Brooklyn, and delivering pies to adjusters who were sacrificing their holiday to help their customers. For two weeks we had one adjuster from Nebraska sleeping on an air mattress in Biscuit’s nursery because all the hotels were full. (Yes, I actually met a human being from “Nebraska”. He was bizarrely polite.) Insurance Boss had to borrow a friend’s car to get to work, not for the car itself, but for the gas in his tank. Halloween, my absolute favorite holiday of the year, was completely canceled.

But the worst part for us was returning from evacuation. We lived in “Zone A” which is the mandatory evacuation area. The day before the storm hit we packed up the Biscuit, who had just turned one year old, and our dog Bailey. We managed to snag a room at a hotel in the middle of Long Island, less than a mile from Insurance Boss’s office. — See, when there’s a disaster, Insurance Bosses especially gotta get to work. I call the adjusters “Second Responders”. After all, they are the next person you call after police and paramedics, and you want them to show up just as quickly.

I spent several days in a small hotel room with my one-year-old Biscuit and my insane rat doxie (that’s the mutt name for a rat terrier mixed with a dachshund). Both of my little beings were going absolutely bonkers from being cooped up in less than 350 square feet. I was still working as a consultant at the time, and I actually tried to get some work done, but that was more ridiculous a notion than expecting a brain surgeon to work with a coked up Axl Rose and a rabid ape running loose in the operating room. Our building manager wasn’t answering the phone, so after several days of scouring Twitter, I found reports that the water had receded from our neighborhood and our building had electricity. I determined with 85% certainty that it was safe for us to return home.

406945_10152241763940438_1417324387_nSo on Wednesday afternoon (Halloween) we started out drive home. With normal traffic it would have taken about an hour, but with most bridges and tunnels into the city still blocked, it was more like three, long, miserable hours of inching along the Queens Midtown Expressway. The last half of that was spent going just one fucking exit right before the Midtown tunnel. We had been in the car for about two hours when we noticed a lovely fecal scent coming from the backseat of the car. We figured Biscuit had baked a loaf in her diaper, but when Insurance Boss turned around he saw a single shitty Bailey turd lying on the backseat. He hopped out of the car (we were stopped anyway), grabbed some baby wipes, and, walking beside the car, cleaned up the singular offense as we inched along. After he got back in the front seat, we lamented Bailey’s lack of class and wondered why his movement was so small. Did we miss a turd? What happened to the rest of it? Did it roll under the front seat? Is there more coming?

Fast forward ten minutes. This time we heard the unmistakable, slurpy, gagging sounds that a dog makes right before he- Oh, shit. We quickly turned around to see the absolute horror of Bailey yacking up about thirty-two liquid ounces of SHITBARF all over the backseat. If you’re confused about what exactly happened, I’ll spell it out. The dog not only shat in the backseat, but then he ate it, and then he puked everywhere! Shitbarf was between the seats, under Biscuit’s carseat, on the seat belts – everywhere. So once again Insurance Boss heroically hopped out of the car and grabbed a roll of paper towels that happened to be in the trunk. He attempted to clean the mess while also keeping Bailey, the criminally disgusting pooch, from hopping out into the road.

Just imagine the scene: Insurance Boss is standing beside the car in the middle of four lanes of traffic. He’s leaning in the backseat, alternating between wiping, gagging, yelling, pushing the dog, and laughing hysterically, all the while having to pause periodically to run alongside the car as traffic creeps forward a whole ten feet. I was laughing so hard I could hardly see through my tears. People in the cars around us had literally nothing better to do than to stare, point, and laugh.

Hurricane Sandy sucked. And these are the memories we will cherish.

Insurance Boss: Oscar dela Who???

Me: Oscar de la Renta died.
IB: Who’s that?
Me: He’s a fashion designer.
IB: Oh. I thought he was a boxer.

I know that my husband is smart. He’s brilliant. He is, after all, the big insurance boss, and he’s earned that title. However, he has a tendency to get… mixed up. Fortunately it’s usually not regarding anything important.

A Totally Basic Guide to Halloween

Halloween is no joke. It’s go big or go home. I put hours and hours into piecing together my costume every year. That’s the fun part. If you are one of the people who just buys a costume every year, you are missing the point. However, if you insist on being completely lame, I’ve created a quick, handy guide just for you. Feel free to print it, laminate it, and tuck it just inside your Uggs (because your legging don’t have any pockets, duh!).

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All basic costumes are not created equal; some are basic-er than others. Here are a few of the worst offenders:

“Classics” (a.k.a. Generics)

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Here’s a test: If you are telling someone about your costume, and you say, “I’m going to be a ________,” you’ve probably picked something basic. A firefighter. An astronaut. A nurse. A pirate. A bore.

These costumes are particularly painful to see because with just a couple of small tweaks they could easily be used as the foundation for a specific, original costume. Don’t just be a criminal – add a name tag and a wig and be Piper Chapman from Orange is the New Black. Don’t just be a priest – cary a pan of ziti and be Father Intintola from The Sopranos. Don’t just be a rockstar – tie one arm behind your back and be Rick Allen.

90% Sex / 10% Costume

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I’m going to go out on a limb here (but honestly, not a very long limb) and say that sexy costumes are not inherently a bad thing. Do women use Halloween as an excuse to dress a little (or a lot) sluttier than they normally would? Absolutely. Is that a crime? No, not really. I mean, I get it. Everyone wants to be hot sometimes. Everyone wants to know that if they wanted to they could reveal all they’ve got, and they’d get a positive response. Halloween is one night a year to get that validation, and then go back to life as usual. So go for it. Wear a tight bodysuit and a push-up bra.

But don’t forget to have a brain, too. There are way, way, way too many costumes that are far more about the sex, and not enough about the costume. They don’t even remotely resemble what they’re supposed to be. That’s not a peacock. It’s a peacock themed cocktail dress. You’re a panda, huh? I didn’t know pandas shaved that much of their body. Oh, you’re a bag of Skittles? It’s been a while since I’ve had some, but I don’t remember them having tits and ass. Wait, let me guess: You’re a unicorn! It was the white thigh-highs that gave it away. Unicorns always wear thigh-highs.

Hey, you know what’s better than a hot chick? A hot chick with brains and a sense of humor. So put in a little effort and come up with something that shows off who you are and what you’ve got.

Humor in a Bag

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I think there is a male version of the “sexy ______” costume, though fortunately less prevalent. You can find them in the Humor section at Spirit. If you are completely void of original humor, but you want people to think you’re “the funny guy,” you can pick one of these. They usually involve a pun and/or a reference to genitalia. Also, farts.

Ears and a Tail Do Not a Costume Make

Ears and a Tail“I’m a cat!”

“I’m a devil!”

“I’m a bunny!”

“I’m a fox!”

No. You are just YOU in a tight dress.

“But I even drew on whiskers!”

No. Just no.

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Last Year’s Jokes

Last Years JokesBe careful with topical humor. If it was really funny last year, it will be super lame this year. So don’t even think about it. However, if you really want to plan ahead, you can buy it now and hang onto it for a decade. When you pull that thing out of nowhere in 10 years it will be HILARIOUS.

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In fact, it has been scientifically proven that the funniness of social and political references follows this basic pattern:

Topical Costumes

So go forth and dress up. Make the most of the best holiday of the year.