Saturday, July 21, 2012

Careful not to step in that...

UPDATE: Whoa, things just got "real".  A woman-owned communications company just published an infographic asking Marissa to reconsider and take a full maternity leave (3 months).  They believe her example is important enough to set the tone for other women who are trying to balance work and motherhood, not to mention showing companies the value of maternity leave.  While I agree her choice is a unorthodox, I'm not sure if anyone should be making requests of her like this.  

Marissa Mayer made headlines in the last few days by leaving a Google VP post to assume the CEO mantle at their much-ailing rival Yahoo.  Descriptions of her expertise, ambition, success and iron will filled the columns of articles and blogs everywhere.  As did the fact that she is pregnant and will give birth in October.  Many analysts and observers were trying to not step in the "sexist dookie" by making comments about how her leadership might be diminished by the arrival of the baby by only making a mere footnote mention of the pregnancy.  But others didn't give a "dookie" and are outright questioning her ability to "do it all."  Still others are looking at this as a watershed moment for glass-ceiling breakers everywhere as a lesson on how the BIG girls couple motherhood and career.

It brings up thoughts for me about how women define themselves.  Some women can't imagine life without their careers.  Their primary purpose or identity comes from the work they do.  If they were to stop or change for motherhood, it would devastate them.  (I thought before I had children that I was this kind of woman.)  Others find Motherhood upon it's arrival to be an all-encompassing role that should have no distractions.  If the ability to be completely devoted to the children and the home is possible, then they feel it should most certainly be done.  (But this is actually what happened to me.)  And the rest tend do something in-between where they cut their hours down or take a less challenging job or make some other compromises to balance work and family.

In Marissa's case, she's said she will take just a few weeks for maternity and then go back to work.  This is a shock to some because America is not known for supporting leave (vacation, family or otherwise) compared to other countries but maternity leave is a sacred benefit.  A highly visible female executive refusing most of it could seem like a step backward.  However, if you have spent any time with a newborn, the first 3 months (in my opinion) are the most boring.  The child can't really do anything yet and gives little feedback to indicate that it matters if you or a random stranger is taking care of them.  It's at the late 3 month/4 month mark when things start to get awesome and of course most moms go back to work right at that point.  Cool things like: sleeping through the night, smiles, laughs, recognition, tracking, sounds.... it's a shame really.  You work so damn hard those first months to keep the kid alive and "bond" with them but it's not until this point when the connection really materializes.  So maybe she is maternally clairvoyant and knows what she's doing.  Who's to say that she wouldn't take more of a break later when Yahoo is on it's feet and the kid is more interesting.

For those of us who have lived through raising a newborn it's hard not to just write off Marissa's situation with a "good luck with all that."  Clearly she will have help.  Lots of hired help.  She's in another league where all that is concerned so she will not be burdened with the same day-to-day stuff that us commoners are.  But the idea of turning around Yahoo's fortunes whilst at the same time riding the roller coaster of post-natal hormones & new mother guilt--well that doesn't sound like a great time.  Talk about pressure.  It harkens me back to what I was told in high school and college: women could have it all if they just worked hard enough, were organized enough and chose the right spouse/partner.  However, I don't think it really meant "Having it all at the same time."  Realistically, for me, being spread too thin means doing nothing well.  To muddle through and feel crappy about all aspects of my life doesn't seem worth doing.  So putting my career aside to focus on my pre-kindergarten-aged kids & household, well it feels like I get to see and experience things no one else will.  I get to see their "firsts," plant the seeds of everyday life lessons and be with them when security and consistency matters the most.  (Though I have heard when they become teens that it's just as important to be around because they are just as if not more so in need of guidance.)  But I'll be honest, it's a leap of faith.  I have heard how stay-at-home types are treated when they want to merge back onto the workforce freeway.  Not well.

I think I was as surprised as anyone when we decided that my staying home with our children would be the direction I took after 12+ years in corporate hi-tech.  I do occasionally feel lonely and a tad intellectually under-stimulated but I take responsibility for that.  There is a whole host of parent groups & activities we can join or engage with during the day and the advent of Facebook/Linked In/Twitter/Google+ have made it inexcusably easy to stay connected to former colleagues, friends (Read: ADULTS) who can share laughs, breaking news or support at all hours.  With blogs, NPR, RSS readers and my husband, there is no reason I can't stay in the know on technology happenings or any other professional interests that I have.  And in writing a blog & articles for parenting publications, I get to synthesize news, ideas and opinion while keeping my analytical and writing skills sharp.  

So I guess what I really miss is just the reinforcement of what I do being valued and recognized by the greater society (see comment about trying to get back in the workforce above).  I don't get a paycheck, an expense account, praise from clients, brushes with cutting-edge technology or the satisfaction of "closing deals."  My victories are counted in smaller, almost imperceptible ways and witnessed by very few.  And that adjustment has been the hardest for me because it requires a major restructuring of expectations embedded during years of schooling and work life.  Early in my stay-at-home tenure when Sidney was a newborn and I was just starting to venture out in the car, Ken asked me what I had done that day.  I said, "Bought Post-Its."  Months earlier I would have said something like, "Located the agent responsible for the Twilight license and started negotiations to make a mobile game out of it."  Luckily I have graduated from Post-It procurement to more challenging daily activities but when you have to reinvent your reality as I did going from a working professional to a stay-at-home domestic project manager, it can feel like a never-ending rerun of Groundhog's Day.  So I get why even if you had the option to stay home, some moms just can't make a go of it.

Nevertheless, Marissa's situation has sparked a renewed conversation about the meaning of "having it all." But if anyone knows of some cloning technology that could churn out a few more "me's" I'd be willing to try it her way...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

37 Weeks: Loading...Please Wait

The blood pressure drama got a little out of control over the weekend and I got to pay an early visit to the hospital.   I was seen in OB triage where they ran a few tests, did some monitoring and sent me home a few hours later.  Now I'm on blood pressure meds but no other preeclampsia signs which is awesome.  The meds make me a little rummy but overall I do feel better.  

37 weeks was the point at which Sidney was born so we're all poised and ready for something to happen.  The doctors are especially saying that they think this week or next week something will.  I've dilated to 3 cm now so clearly progress is being made.  I'm glad all these Braxton Hicks contractions are doing something because they sure are annoying.

Ken took these pics at the dinner table tonight.  

Monday, July 09, 2012

35 Weeks & Seahorse dreams

Never a dull moment.

So last pregnancy update I mentioned how I'm starting to dilate and efface a little.  I was also told not to lift anything or take long walks or exert myself.  Those would be easy instructions to follow if I did not spend most of my waking hours chasing a toddler and running a household--but I do.  In my infinite wisdom, I folded a basket full of laundry the other day and instead of picking it up and "exerting myself" I decided to scoot it across the floor.  I swept it sideways with my leg instead of pushing it straight forward and wouldn't you know it?  I pulled a groin muscle.  Kind of an important thing to have working properly when pushing a tiny human out of ones body.  Delightful.

When I went in to the OB last Thursday, they simply advised hot-cold-hot treatment with ice packs and heating pads.  I had not progressed any more in the dilation/effacing department but as a matter of routine they took my blood pressure.   It was high and then they took it again several minutes later: high.  When I was pregnant with Sidney, in the 37th week, I had a blood pressure spike at an OB visit which was eyebrow raising but anomalous, then 5 days later I went into labor.  This time as a precaution, they took a blood draw to see if I had any signs of pre-eclampsia.  Luckily it was normal.  But they wanted me to buy a cuff and take my blood pressure twice a day then report back at my visit this Thursday.  Still, I cannot help but wonder if this was a sign of the end.

Since that visit, the Braxton Hicks "practice" contractions have kicked in with a vengeance.  I've even had contractions I've felt in my back which are supposed to be the "real" ones.  But none of these contractions are close enough together to warrant a call or run to the hospital.  They are just annoying.  Early this morning I had sharp pain in my ribs and sternum too.  I don't know what to think of that unless I have a baby alien in chest also.  We're at 35 almost 36 weeks and that's still earlier than one would want but it's become extremely hard to function.  I feel like sleeping during the day yet have lots of energy at night which is totally unfair to Sidney.  She's rolling with it but has had to play on her own a lot in the house or backyard because I can't do much.

I've already had to come to terms with the fact that I won't be going to my reunion.  The doctor said that the very fact that I'm starting to dilate means I don't get to travel.  I accept this but I am not going to be pleased if I have to endure weeks of these practice contractions on top of it.  The heat in Seattle has also kicked in.  Luckily we are holding in the 70's which is merciful compared to the rest of the country.  Still to a pregnant lady who runs hot anyway, slightly cooler temps would be welcome and slightly invigorating.  However, this week we are having a heat pump installed which was originally chosen to get us off of burning oil as a heat source but does have another awesome auxiliary benefit: air conditioning.  

I really don't mean to sound all "complainy" since I know friends who have had much worse pregnancies and have endured so much more than me.  It just gets frustrating when things start to crop up like this while my energy plunges and my activity level become even more limited.  It becomes hard to keep perspective and not take it out on those closest to me, like my husband.  But it doesn't keep me from wishing sometimes that we were seahorses.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Peevish Social Media

After writing a blog for over six years and being on Facebook for five, you start to consider yourself a connoisseur of user generated/social media--especially being able to distinguish between what is “within the norm” versus “cringe-worthy.”  I have learned from bloggers before me that obscurity is a protection from ridicule until the moment it’s not--in other words, once you are found to be interesting in either a good or bad way, you’re anonymity can be erased by one well-followed tweet or blog entry with a hyperlink.  Bolder bloggers than I have fallen upon their own words and found this to be true.

But as a blogger and social media consumer, I would like to think I have grown with the medium.  At first, I wanted to pour my soul out and unleash heartfelt notions and confessions into the internet ether.  But my husband who was usually tangled up or mentioned in these passages objected to my rush to pull back the curtain.  It annoyed me at first, especially with us both being hi-tech professionals, that he could not embrace the power of this global community.  After all, shared ideas and experiences were the ultimate promise of the Internet.  But Ken was right to be prudent and thoughtful about what one posts.  After all, the Internet is forever and the Internet never forgets.

I feel a responsibility as someone who creates content.  When I was back in school taking things like Media Ethics, Media Law, Comm 101 and News Writing, it’s clear that you establish a bond of trustworthiness with your audience.  As a news writer, you are clearly obliged to write the truth and corroborate your facts--something that CNN and Fox unfortunately didn’t do very well when they tried to be first to air with the Supreme Court Healthcare Ruling last week.  As a blogger, I feel my responsibility exists somewhere between the realms of informing and entertaining.  I take it seriously enough that I don’t want people to feel they’ve wasted their time, but in this case “my facts” may only be corroborated with my opinion.  With status updates, I believe there is a fine line to balance between informing, entertaining and promoting.  One of my Facebook friends and former co-workers is a master at status updates.  He is amazingly witty and whip smart.  I tell him constantly he should compile his statuses in a book.  I am not that epic but I try to bring something to the table.  “Try” being the operative word.

So with Facebook, I have a tempestuous relationship. It is irresistible as a sharing forum and gives me insight to my friends that I would never have otherwise.  More often than not, I hear breaking news from status updates before I see it in any other medium.  Plus as a stay-at-home mom who has limited adult contact during the day, Facebook is a way I feel part of the larger world and can keep up on things/people I care about.  But on the other hand, Facebook gives everyone a narcissistic platform on which to promote and expose their most favorite topic: themselves.   Also, Facebook’s contempt for privacy, creating dossiers on its members to better advertise and creating a culture of exhibitionists, makes Facebook like cheese: I know it’s not the best thing for me with my high cholesterol but I have to have it everyday.  And so I do.

There is a whole website dedicated to nothing but exposing the truly ridiculous things people put on Facebook called Lamebook.  For Christmas, Ken got me their daily calendar so everyday I tear off a new page and feast on yet another example of someone’s blatant lack of judgement.  The biggest area of “lameness” I see over and over again on my calendar is forgetting that your parents are FB friends and then posting something very sexual or revealing upon which they comment.  In my own circle of Facebook friends, past and present, I see patterns of lameness that ebb and flow too (though I would never submit them to this website--I do have standards).  So I’ve carefully identified my Top 5 Biggest Facebook Pet Peeves because this could be informative, this could be entertaining but this is definitely something I want you to know about me and what I don’t like.

1. Setting your status to “<Your Name> is.”  
This used to happen more in the earlier days of Facebook but I see it every now and then.  How clever, edgy and original:  you simply “are” or “is”.  Why would you even waste my time with that?  Don’t have anything else to say?  How about wait until you do.  I’ll still be here.

2. Taking a picture of what you cooked or ordered for dinner.  
Yes, lots of people do this.  If I had to guess, I bet 25-35% of my overall news feed contains pictures of food.  I just can’t help but feel people are saying, “look at what I’m having/made that you’re not.”  I guess if we really boil it down, that sentiment is the true spirit of Facebook.  (But this aversion to food posts could stem a bit from my personal lack of interest in cooking or food preparation.  Just a bit.)

3.  Quoting song lyrics.  
I may have done this once or twice but I learned my lesson. You might be at work with headphones on listening to your favorite 80’s hair band or watching videos on YouTube but don’t expect the rest of us to understand how this song so describes your mood right now by typing out the lyrics.  It reminds me of coming in on a movie when it’s halfway over.  Context?

4. “Chain letter” type status updates.  
Any status update from a friend requiring me to repost as my own, gets an eyeroll and a “hide” click.   I’ve seen them ranging from caring about people who have had cancer, to whether I love my mom/daughter/dad/husband, to obscure, provocative statuses that practically beg people to comment to find out more.  I know, I’m a monster--how could I be so callous?  By posting this stuff, what you are really saying to your friends is “I mean well but I am a proverbial lemming.”  People who start those kinds of things just want to see how far the ripple will go--like a football stadium wave.  I cannot abide.  Sorry.

5. Game accomplishments or calls to join a game.  Full disclosure: at the very beginning of joining Facebook, I played Ninjas vs. Pirates.  I really got into it.  Then a few years later, I would blast my friends with Collapse Chaos scores.  But now I hide any game update and ban them from my news feed.  Yes, I used to work in the games industry and, yes, I worked on an early plan of how to bring Real Games to Facebook but I’ve got limited time to read all the statuses now and I can’t have the feed clogged with game stuff.  I don’t even get to play games anymore if it’s any condolence.

So what are your Facebook Pet Peeves (besides outspoken friends who make lists of things they don’t like about common Facebook behavior)?