Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Second Shift

It's 9pm on a Thursday and I'm drinking a glass of wine while rain pitter patters on my windows...sounds lovely, doesn't it?  I can assure you it is not.  The wine is not a treat, it is a necessity.  And the rain, well...I'm pissed off at the rain.  Let's back up a few hours:

I get home from work, send my nanny home, and realize that I forgot to pick up/drop off dry cleaning on my way home...and, oh shit, my husband needs his black suit and he is working late tonight.  No problem, Plan B, I'll take Noah and we'll go pick it up together.  I get downstairs to our car and realize the car seat is upstairs in our condo and disassembled because we cleaned it.  Hmmm, ok...Plan C, I'll stick Noah in the stroller, carry the bag of clothes to drop off, and I'll just walk.  After all, it's a beautiful, strangely 70 degree October night, a 10 min walk will be nice.  About half way there, it starts raining.  Plan D:  Run.  By the time we get to the cleaners, I'm soaked and my bag of clothes is soaked.  Luckily the stroller protected most of Noah, but he is not impressed with his wet pants/socks.  Without many options, I drop off the clothes, pick up Adam's suit and wait 15 minutes for the rain to die down.  Then off we go, into a manageable drizzle.  And then, like a light switch, downpour.  As in, move-away-from your-windows downpour.  Plan E:  SPRINT.  So, there I am, sopping wet, still in the pencil skirt and flats I wore to work, carrying a man's suit, pushing a screaming toddler and literally sprinting as fast as I could through East Lakeview. (Remember the iconic ad image of the 90s supermom holding a briefcase in one hand and a baby in the other, with her perfectly blow-dried hair wisping in the wind?  Yea, I didn't look like that.)  We get home, we change, Noah is still wound up so I put on the Gangnam Style music video on for him (don't ask), and -- I take a breath.  We're home, safe, everything is fine.  I wonder what time it is and if Noah needs to eat dinner soon...I look down and realize my watch (an expensive one my husband gave me years ago) has stopped.  Frozen at 6:20, the time I was likely jumping puddles in my alley.  F'n awesome.  What's next?  I get dinner ready (thank GOD we were eating leftovers, I'm pretty sure I'd burn down our condo if I cooked tonight), get Noah washed up, go to put him in his high chair and realize our nanny had (generously) taken it apart to clean it.  I spend a few minutes trying to get it back together, as a starving, impatient child cries for me to hurry up.  Realizing I am about 30 seconds from crying along with him, I just stop.  Plan F:  both of us sit down and eat in the middle of the dining room floor.  Plan F...a big fat F it.

Some people wonder if the concept of "Second Shift" still exists (a term often used to refer to a working mom's second job of taking care of her kids/house/husband when she gets home from work.)  On a night like tonight, I have no doubt.  But tonight (thank God) isn't typical...while always busy, second shift for me involves consistently being with my favorite little person in the world (and often our whole family) in the evenings and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  And even on a night like this, I have to wonder who really drew the short straw...because while Adam is still slaving away on his First Shift, I am now on Plan Wine.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Forget the binders!

Buzz phrase of the week?  "Binders full of women."  I admit, it's sexy, it's just the type of meme that grips this country on the eve of an election.  A cute hash tag.  But the focus on such a phrase completely distracts from the responses to, I believe, the only question directly focused on women's issues in either of the two debates.  And it's an important one! That is, in what NEW ways do the nominees intend to rectify the gender pay gap?   I don't think either of them really answered it (surprise).  Do women in this country make less money than men?  Yes, absolutely.  But WHY?  Well one theory is that women are being paid less and promoted less frequently across the board simply because of their gender.  But is this type of systemic discrimination with regard to pay actually occurring today?  Many would say no.  The data tends to show that women in the same jobs as men are now generally being paid the same as their male counterparts.  So, Harry and Sally, both full-time chemical engineers at Company X with similar educational backgrounds and years of experience are making the same salaries.  The OFCCP (an agency dedicated to enforcing equal employment opportunity among companies who do business with the government) has been focused on finding systemic gender pay discrimination for years and has found very little. 

So if systemic discrimination isn't to blame, what explains it?  Well, some would argue that it's because women generally choose lower paying jobs (remember, the "wage gap" figure is just comparing median full-time earnings regardless of specific jobs, so if most women are choosing lower-paying jobs than men, then obviously women will earn less than men as a whole).  Ah, well this is interesting and begs the question...what makes women choose lower-paying jobs?  Are we hard-wired to want to be secretaries instead of executives?  Well F no - women have been paving the way over the past 40 years to create opportunities for us to become executives, doctors, lawyers, politicians.  Clearly, many of us want to have higher-level jobs.  The problem then?  Our pesky f'n ovaries.  Unfortunately, the Lilly Ledbetter Act did not change the fact that women are still the ones who bear children, nurse their babies, and take on the majority of the child-rearing duties.  Working mothers, on average, end up with about two-thirds of the house/child-rearing responsibilities in dual-working-parent families.  So what often happens is that a woman will work her ass off in school and in her career only to hit a point where she is presented with a few choices:  do I continue working 60 hour weeks to move ahead in my career and accept that that means less time raising my children, or do I scale back or even switch careers so I can be more involved with my kids?  Maybe I just wait to have kids, but then will it be too late?  Maybe I should have just chosen an "easier" 9-5 job instead?  These are tough choices, and many women who want the highest-level (and therefore highest paying) jobs out there end up opting to scale back or switch careers to chase the elusive "work-life balance", while taking a pay cut.  Many women do not even have these choices - they are forced to continue to work long hours/multiple jobs in order to feed their families, even if it means not getting an education (and therefore not really advancing) and not giving sufficient attention to their kids (bad for everyone).

Our society does not acknowledge this struggle for working moms and how it affects pay inequality (and a host of other issues).  If it did, then at the forefront would be policies designed to make the workplace more flexible, to allow for paid leave and to not penalize women who (by the nature of those pesky ovaries) ultimately have to take more time off work or be on reduced schedules.  We are able to get the jobs men get (thanks to many women who came before us) and I think we start off being paid to do the same work (thanks to legislation like the Equal Pay Act), but until government/company/society makes it easier for women to advance their careers after they have families (and this might mean giving more flexibility to the dads too! gasp!), there won't be pay equality.  (By the way, I of course realize that women today are often the bread-winners in a family and that men are taking on more and more responsibilities at home.  But the reality is that (at least for now) it's usually the other way around and it's more of a women's issue at this point.  )

That brings us to the debate. Mitt did bring up workplace flexibility in response to the question and I was chomping at the bit for more.  That's great he personally made an effort to hire women on his cabinet and lets his chief of staff get home to make dinner, but where is the policy?  Obama focused most of his response on the educational aspect (ok that helps, but not women-specific), systemic discrimination (arguably doesn't exist) and the Lilly Ledbetter Act he got passed (really doesn't do much except expand procedural rights to enforce pay discrimination issues).  In the end their responses transformed into an "easier" debate about health care and funding for Planned Parenthood.  And, by the next day, all we were left with were binders full of women. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The New 30

I'm turning 31 today.  It's a pretty anticlimactic milestone in the grand scheme of birthdays, but last year I was too distracted by my 9-day-old baby to realize I had turned 30.  I was too sleep deprived to hear the death knell and too brain-dead to remember to say goodbye to the best years of my life.  After all, that's what our twenties were supposed to be, right?  The years in which we are supposed to be our most attractive, have our most fun, finish school, start our careers, find our perfect mate, and have our first of 1.9 children?  By 30, we are supposed to have our shit together.  Isn't that what we used to think?  Sort of a tall order for one decade (especially when the first few years *or maybe half the decade, ahem* is generally spent under a waterfall of jager)...but that was the goal for many women I know until even their 29th birthdays (this will be MY year, dammit!)  But then...30 hit, and a strange thing happened.  The plan had gone awry.  Many of my girl friends (most, actually) found themselves celebrating their birthdays without sparkly somethings on their ring fingers or perfectly round burgeoning baby bellies.  What happened to the plan?  Well, make no mistake about it, these are not women who don't have their shit together.  They have finished college and many graduate school, they have flourished in professional careers, they have made themselves financially independent (and even downright well-off), they have fascinating hobbies and are involved in charitable organizations.  They are still searching for that right someone, sure, but not just someone who will neatly fit into the 30-year-old plan, instead someone who will respect them, their career choices, and can fit into their busy and full lives.  They may or may not want children and they have realized that they still have time (gasp!) to make that choice.  Even many of the women I know who were married before 30 waited to have children until later, instead focusing on their careers, their selves and building a life with their spouses that will (hopefully) stand the test of children.  Many of the ones with children (and many without) are already considering career changes, or are choosing to stay home full-time with their kids.  It seems that today's average 30 year-old woman is vastly different than the 30 year-old we pictured when we were younger, isn't she? 

Somehow I managed to get married at 27 and have my first child 9 days before I turned 30 (phew, I just made the deadline! :)).   But only because I got lucky and found my perfect someone in college, and we still dated 9 years before getting married.  During those 9 years, I put myself through law school, was well into my career and Adam worked for years, and then began law school himself.  It was after all of that, and even after buying a home, that we began picking out wedding china.  Not the model I probably would have imagined years before, but the one that allowed each of us to get our shit together on our own.  It seems to me like the modern path is to get yourself straight by 30 and then (should you choose to) get married and (should you choose to) have a kid sometime by 35 or even 40.  As our life ambition increases, it is extremely common and perfectly acceptable (I only use that word because 10 years ago I don't think it was the case) to be on this new path.  And though our biological clocks might make you move fast with kids if you want them (but probably not as fast as you think), you will be a far better parent for having waited until you were ready and with the right person.  It's worth waiting for.

As I look forward to my 32nd year today, I'm not most proud of the fact that I married the best guy in the world and am raising the sweetest little boy...these were wonderful blessings that came to me when they were meant to come.  They were gifts, not end-goals.  But I AM proud that at this moment in time, I feel like I have my shit that is a real accomplishment.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Modern Ms.

From Wife/ Mom/Wife/ Mom/Wife/Lawyer/House Manager/Amateur Chef/Travel Planner/Family Mediator/Events Organizer/Runner/Girlfriend Therapist/Master Online now, Blogger?  Yeesh!  My guess is that you too have 18 different roles and you play them (mostly) with a smile.  When did we get so busy?  And, well,  so....badass?

See, having always been more of a guy's girl, I always had the mentality that girls could do anything boys could do and that we were, well, equal.  The truth is, we are not.  I realized after having my son in 2011, not for the first time but certainly in a different way than before, that women are extraordinary.  We do everything that men do, plus about a thousand other things... and we do it all at the same time.  All the while, we face a different set of pressures, and are judged by a different set of rules....though the prefix "Ms." has been encouraged by the women's movement since the 1970s as a way to refer to women without revealing their - arguably irrelevant -  marital status, doesn't it seem like we are still sometimes summed up by the ring on (or not on) our fingers?  And our ability to have flourishing careers, 1.9 exceptional children and run marathons on the weekends at the same time?  If only it were that easy, and if only we talked more about it!  When I struggled through parts of the newborn baby experience, talking about it with a few other women really got me through it.  BUT I also found myself often asking, why doesn't anyone talk about [X]?  Why didn't anyone tell me how hard [X] was?  And I realized that the hush-hush mentality about difficult "female" issues begins well before motherhood.  From an early age we are taught to keep it together at all times and that any emotion other than sheer joy over being a teen/student/careerwoman/single/married/working mom/stay-at-home mom/etc. is viewed as unladylike, weak or some sort of hit to the feminist cause.  So, women say things like "I love being single" when very few 30-somethings I know really want to be single, or moms tell new moms to "enjoy every moment" even though they have to know that's not actually possible!  I would love to honestly discuss issues that do-it-all women probably have to confront at some point or another and, most of all, be a supportive voice to anyone who may need it.  And, of course, I want to dish on food/restaurants and other fun stuff because, well, it's impossible for any of us crazy bitches to just focus on one thing :) 

By the way, if you don't know me, I am a 30 year old lawyer living in Chicago.  I am a  first-generation Indian-American and I grew up in Texas.  I've been married since 2009 to my husband, Adam, and we had a son, Noah, in September 2011.  I worked for 5 years for a large law firm as a Labor and Employment attorney, and then in April 2012 I became the Employment Practices Director for a manufacturing company.  In my spare time (ha), I am most passionate about cooking, eating, and traveling.  And tv. 

I'm so excited to start this blog and hope you will find it interesting and/or helpful!


p.s. I don't know much about blogging and don't have a lot of free time, so if I over-generalize, make grammatical mistakes, or my links don't work, etc., just, well, forgive me :)