By the end of last week, I decided - broken bones be damned - to make the trip to Detroit for Ford's annual trend conference. After all, some of my favorite people were going to be there, and since money has been extra tight this year, it might be my only opportunity to see friends I usually catch at blogging conferences.
Everything was set: I had my flight arrangement. Husband was to take me to LAX this morning. The teenager has spent most of the summer sleeping past noon, and the rest of the time in her room, reading and Facebooking - so she would barely notice me gone for three days. This was going to happen.
And then - over the weekend - she informed me that she had to go to tennis tryouts this week: Monday through Thursday, from 9:00 a.m. to noon.
She goes to a magnet school, which means that the students come from all over the city. There is just one other girl on the team who lives sort of near us, and she is on vacation this week. There will be another week of tryouts next month, but it will be occurring when Megan is attending the California State Summer School of the Arts and residing on the CalArts campus.
And so once again - as I've done so many times before - I had to put her needs above my wants. I let Ford know I would not be attending, after all. I also had to apologize to my editor at AskPatty, which hurt, because this is not the first time I have had to cancel an assignment that involved travel - at the very last minute - because my family needed me.
To add insult to injury (no pun intended), my broken toe has rendered me unable to drive. So Megan (who won't be eligible to get her license until July 4) has to drive herself to school for the tryouts - with me beside her. So I am spending these mornings in my car, in the school parking lot in Reseda...
...which is where I am right now.
As school is out, it's strangely peaceful here. The only sounds I hear are the birds chirping and occasional random cars driving by.
I have not had this much undistracted quiet time since the kid quit gymnastics. And once she gets that license, I may not have it again, as she will no longer need me for the one thing I do for her now.
Yesterday, I realized that I've been at this job (as Megan's mom) for longer than anything else I've ever done: longer than my time as a writer and producer of radio shows, longer than the years I spent as a PA on the Tonight Show, longer than any of my secretarial gigs, or the years I spent managing conferences for the country's largest state trade association. It is a job I have loved, and I think I've been good at it (although my daughter is the type of kid who has made it easy to succeed).
And now, this job is ending. Not in the sense that I won't be a presence in my daughter's life - but I'll be tangential to it, at best.
I now understand why people have that last-minute baby 10 or 15 years later. If I had not become a mother so late in life, I'm pretty sure I would have had another one when I got the first glimpse of the adult my daughter will soon become. I never planned on being a full-time, stay-at-home mother. I also never planned on what I would do when the best job I ever had came to an end.
This week, the Atlantic published a couple of articles that at first glance, seemed like yet another attempt to fire up the "mommy wars," pitting feminist working women against stay-at-home mothers. The first one, by Elizabeth Wurtzel, accused educated professional women who choose to become SAHMs of abandoning feminist principles so they can spend their days getting pedicures instead of holding real jobs.
That piece made me so angry that I almost didn't read the second, more thoughtful one: the cover story by Anne-Marie Slaughter with the conclusion that work-life balance in this country is impossible until we make our workplaces more family friendly - including aligning work hours with school hours. This is something I've been saying for years; I just haven't articulated it as well as she.
Even before the publication of these pieces, my quest to re-enter the job market has had me re-thinking my life choices. Should I have tried harder to find a way to hold on to my old job when I realized I couldn't do it well AND be a good mother? Would I have tried to re-enter sooner, had I known the economy would tank just as she was starting high school?
Would I have had any of the wonderful experiences I've enjoyed over the last nine years of writing this blog?
I don't like to waste a lot of time playing woulda-coulda-shoulda. (only a little.)
I prefer to keep moving forward.
Staying home this week, I've been privileged to spend some real quality time with my "little" girl while she's behind the wheel on our way to and from the school. We've gone out to lunch together, done some grocery shopping and are planning to get much-needed haircuts and finish her summer wardrobe before she leaves for CalArts in July.
It reminds me of how it used to be, before she got so big and teenager-y, when if she wanted to do anything, I had to take her. And we would spend hours in the car, talking. This week has been a little like that - only she's the one doing the driving. It's been something of a gift.
This week, I got another gift in the form of a job opportunity. It's just a contract thing, for just a few weeks. But it's a solid offer from a good company and directly related to the work I did before I became Megan's mom. It's a start.
And I could not have accepted it if I hadn't been stuck at home instead of on a plane to Detroit. Which brought to my mind the old saying:
The Lord works in mysterious ways.
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