It sounds so perfect. Those four words convey what is, theoretically, the best of both worlds. With them, I gain access into both consortiums: My working non-mom friends nod with approval, relieved I haven’t fallen backwards off the professional platform and into the abyss they consider to be a daily scheduled dictated by nothing other than play dates, naptimes and onesie changes.
But I also wear the spit-up decorated badge of the “stay at home mom,” the benefits of which are so heartily endorsed by those other parents who are present for their kids’ every daily action, from the morning’s first smile to the evening’s final diaper change.
I’m blessed to have the option of being at home with Elodie everyday, while also fulfilling my professional aspirations (and padding our bank account, if only just a little bit.). This I realize. Yet “working from home” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Another Working Stay-at-Home Mom (a title that is redundant, since any mom who’s at home with a baby is working) painted the “working from home” picture as this: You can be a mom and you can be working, but if you’re a mom and an employee at once, you’re doing a half-assed job at both. Which, unfortunately, rings true much of the time.
My lack of daycare doesn’t often present a major problem, thanks to a flexible work schedule, a husband who owns his own business and a mother who can’t stand more than a few weeks away from her granddaughter. Yet work and motherhood inevitably face fiery showdowns, most frequently in the form of approaching-deadline turmoil. Elle’s stuck in her Exer-Saucer and not happy about it, while I’m stuck in front of a computer screen and equally frazzled. Or I’m trying to jot down what somebody’s telling me about their new business/sports team/what have you, cringing simultaneously as my daughter licks the tire of her stroller. So I pick her up, and try to pick up where I’ve left off in my note-taking – except that Elodie now has a hold of my pen and won’t let go.
Last week, our daycare deficiency and its subsequent effect on my work was made glaringly obvious. The term “Press Conference” doesn’t imply an infant-friendly atmosphere; however, the subject of this press conference was the state of Telluride’s early childhood education, and how the current dearth thereof affects local parents’ abilities to work. Elle is one of the hundreds of kids currently on a waitlist at one of the day care centers in the region, and so I thought it would be, if not necessarily appropriate, than at least understandable that she would accompany me to the meeting with Colorado Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien, in town for the Telluride Foundation-sponsored Summit on Early Childhood Investment.
Elle was, miraculously, fed and rested when we arrived, only three minutes late, to the 11 a.m. press conference. O’Brien, whose professional resume touts a long history of supporting education and children’s health issues, was effusive in both her support of San Miguel County’s Early Childhood Education Ballot Initiative (Little Mill for Little People) as well as her delight in little Baby Elle, who she deemed “The Cutest Baby on the Western Slope” – to my secret satisfaction, despite my knowledge that politicians are hardwired to say such things about their potential supporters’ progeny.
My hope was that Elodie would stay amused with her toy truck just long enough for me to scribble out some quotes, and that she would fall into a one- to two-hour nap immediately following the press conference allowing me to then whip out the article and send it to the Watch just before deadline. Ha. Dream on, working mama, dream on.
The toy truck was a complete flop, and within two minutes Elodie was searching for more entertaining alternatives. Say, that electrical cord over there. Or my notepad. Or better yet, the Daily Planet reporter’s notepad. Luckily, I had a backup. Neighbor and fellow mom Katie Singer swooped in for the baby grab. I hastily handed Elle over, but not before noticing that her jumper felt a little damp on the backside. Of course! Diapers never fail when you’re at home and in easy access of a fresh change – they only malfunction when you really wish they wouldn’t.
Well, it was too late, since Katie had already plopped Elodie onto her hip. It looked like a skirt that would require dry cleaning … but back to O’Brien, and what did she just say?
Thanks to the 15-minute respite offered by the stand-in sitter, I managed to focus on the press conference and left the meeting with enough pages of scribbled notes to put something together for the following day’s paper. Between breaks for feeding, diapers changes and quick games of peek-a-boo, Elle and I managed to get the article sent to the editor, only half and hour after it was expected.
Then we had the rest of the day to play and pick up the pieces after yet another hectic deadline morning. I knew we’d do the same all over again on Thursday morning, but I felt good. I was an involved, stay-at-home mom, and I was also a press conference-going reporter who landed a front-page headline on Tuesday. Working from home isn’t so bad… I can maintain parental sanity while working without daycare… right? I thought to myself, scanning the article. Until I get to the part about Prior to her appointment as Lieutenant Governor in 1997… AAAH! 1997? Did I really write that? It was 2007! I was mortified. Was I in some kind of crying baby-induced stupor, or lack of sleep-caused time warp, when I typed in the numbers 1-9-9-7 instead of 2-0-0-7? I tried to expunge my rising feelings of inadequacy by telling myself that maybe, no one would notice the oversight… but the reality was that it didn’t matter if anyone noticed or not. I knew I had made the mistake, and it was a mistake that I wouldn’t have made had I been able to focus my full attention on writing the article; instead focusing half of my attention on writing the article, the other half on caring for my seven-month-old.
I don’t hope to deposit Elodie in five-day-a-week daycare just because of a reporting error. However, it stood as just one of the many reasons that I wish we at least had the option of daycare – daycare that we could afford, daycare that we felt good about – at least a few days a week. At least on Monday and Thursday mornings, in the hours leading up to the newspaper’s deadlines.
A vote for 1A is a vote that will benefit our community on a number of levels… one of those being better reporting from this working mom.