Biscuit and the Black Guy

2014-10-20 08-51-35-510Since the day she was born I have dreaded Biscuit’s first “from the mouths of babes” moment. You know, when they repeat something they heard at home that was not intended for anyone else to hear. (“Mommy says Uncle Mike is a deadbeat.”) Or maybe they share a too personal piece of information. (“Daddy only likes the toilet paper with the lotion in it!”) I’ve been very cautious about what we say around her, and I frequently remind Insurance Boss that words like “douche bag” can be repeated after only a single introduction. So we were completely caught off guard when her first act of mortification was something she came up with all on her own.

Biscuit is a very social little girl and will talk to just about anyone, including the pizza delivery man. In fact, every time we order a pizza she runs to the door and comes up with something, no matter how insignificant, to tell her unsuspecting victim. Fortunately, they are usually good sports and respond with an encouraging, “Wow, that’s so cool!” So the other night when the doorbell rang, she came running right behind me. She stepped into the doorway, looked up at the delivery man, and excitedly exclaimed,

“I found a new show, see! It has the black guy!”

She was pointing at the TV screen where she had just turned on a game show for kids, who’s host was – you guessed it – a black guy. From this statement, it was obvious that the “black guy” was a major point of interest for her. It was a defining characteristic of the show and how she’d chosen to name it, since she hadn’t caught the show’s actual name. It sounded as if this “black guy” were a new, rare, fascinating species she had never encountered before.

The delivery man’s response was silent, open-mouthed, and wide-eyed. I froze, embarrassed and bewildered. I had never heard her refer to anyone that way. What I love about her pure, literal, 3-year-old view of the world is that people are just people. She sees things exactly as they are with no learned biases or nuances. I was certain that if I had pointed to any human being and said that person was “black”, she would have corrected me immediately and said their skin was brown or pink or even gray. So where the hell did this come from?

I could feel the blood rushing to my face, and I blurted out some mumbling, fumbling garbage like, “I don’t think she meant – that – like that – I…” In order to avoid making a big deal out of what she’d just said (at least not yet), I calmly looked down at Biscuit, assumed ignorance, and said, “The black guy? What do you mean? Show me.” Instead of pointing at the face of the host on the TV screen, she grabbed the Apple TV remote, hit the Menu button, and pointed at the show’s icon.

 

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There it was: a human figure that was, literally, black.

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.