An Open Letter to Netflix

netflixMy Dearest Netflix,

First I want to say thank you for seeing me through the many highly productive, wine-fueled television marathons I’ve come to cherish over the past few years. Thanks for catching me up on The Walking Dead when the rest of the world wouldn’t shut up about it. Thanks for introducing me to underappreciated gems like The United States of Tara and Raising Hope. Thanks for being my patch when I was weaning off The Office but couldn’t get Jim and Pam off the brain. Thanks for the parental control options that give me a reason to feel slightly less crappy about the kids binge-watching on their tablets while I get work done. Thanks for filling many a late-night hour with old rom-coms I’d almost forgotten and new ones I won’t publicly admit I’ve watched.

Basically, Netflix, you’re awesome.

You were awesome long before August 4, 2015. But a few days ago, when you announced that you’d be allowing your employees up to a year of unlimited maternity and paternity leave, you brought “awesome” to an unsurpassable level of fucking fantastic-ness.

A year of maternity and paternity leave. A year! Unheard of.

For me, this is a majorly sensitive subject. When I got pregnant with my son unexpectedly at the tender age of 25, just months after getting my first huge promotion, I promptly learned I was ineligible for paid maternity leave from the MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR CORPORATION where I worked simply because I hadn’t signed up for short-term disability (because a baby is totally a disability, right?). My story gets uglier, but I won’t get into it. Let’s just say I don’t work there anymore.

My story aside, I’m writing today to simply say a heartfelt thank you, Netflix. And I think I speak for moms and dads everywhere in my praise….

Thank you from the mom who is forced to leave her child in the care of another, merely weeks after giving birth, because she can’t afford not to work.

Thank you from the moms who can’t afford to go back to work at all because child care is so damn expensive.

Thank you from the exhausted parent who often stumbles blearily into work on two hours of sleep after being up all night with a crying infant.

Thank you from the parent who is tired of missing milestone after milestone.

Thank you from the parent who wears guilt everyday like a pair of tired mom jeans.

Thank you from the parent who spends too many extra hours just commuting to work, wasting away precious time that should be spent with family.

Thank you from the parents who have opposite schedules, causing stress on their marriage because they never see each other.

Thank you from the mom who contemplates quitting every morning as she leaves for work.

Thank you from the parent who fights the urge to wake her sleeping children when she comes home at night, just to spend some time together.

Thank you from the mom who wonders how the bills will get paid if she is fired for taking yet another day off to care for her child.

You see, Netflix, although you can’t employ every parent in the nation, we thank you for leading by example. We thank you for setting a precedent, one that should have been in place for decades. We thank you for doing the one thing that other countries around the world already see as a no-brainer.

We thank you for proving what most other companies don’t have the balls, the decency, and the common sense to admit: there is NOTHING more important than family.

Signed,
One Grateful Mama

Mom Guilt: The Working Parent Edition

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Want to hear something ironic? I work for a parenting magazine, and a huge part of my job is finding fun stuff for people to do with their kids and sharing the stuff I find with the community. But I spend so much time looking for fun stuff other people can do with their kids that it takes a load of time away from me doing fun stuff with MY own kids.

First, let me say this: I love my job. Let me repeat (and not just because my boss may or may not browse through my blogs from time to time), I LOVE my job. I can’t say I’ve ever had a job that I love, doing something that I truly enjoy, and feeling like I am making valuable contributions to society using the skills and creativity that I have always known I possessed. As much fun as it was slinging pastrami sandwiches at a kosher deli in Brooklyn for eight years, it wasn’t exactly my calling.

But this job? This is as close to “my calling” as I’ve ever been. Don’t get me wrong, it comes with quite a bit of stress and pressure, but what job doesn’t? At least, what CAREER doesn’t?

I did the Stay at Home Mom thing for a very long time, and it certainly had its ups and downs. Now that I’m working, I never realized just how much of myself I was available to give to my children when I was literally always available for them. We could pick up and go whenever we wanted. There were no schedules to coordinate, no deadlines looming, no emails to answer first. If we wanted to go to the park, we went. If we were low on groceries, to the supermarket we’d go. If they wanted to watch all three Toy Story Movies in a row, I knew we would just play together later. We were together all the time and they loved it.

And I…liked….it. Kind of. Well, as any Stay at Home Mom will tell you, being around your kids 24/7 can be draining. There are no breaks, no real help from anyone else. It’s on YOU to keep those kids happy around the clock. It’s tough stuff. So when the opportunity arose for me to take a job where I could keep a flexible schedule and often work from home, well, mentally and financially speaking, turning it down was never an option.

So while I’m very familiar with the Stay at Home Mom depression, I’m new to the whole Working Mom guilt. And, boy, is it something else entirely. When I tell people I can work from home, I think they envision this utopian ideal wherein I’m simultaneously baking cookies, overseeing fun craft projects, and emailing my boss all in perfect unison. How lucky I must be, to be able to accomplish so many tasks at once!

Well, in fact, I DO accomplish all of these things at once, but perfection it is NOT.

Allow me to set the scene for you.

It’s 3:30pm on any given weekday. My son is working on his math homework, that hellish Go Math common core homework book open in front of him. He’s crying a little because he doesn’t understand how to solve 15-7 by “making a ten” first. Quite frankly, neither do I, and I’m about to cry along with him. At the same moment, my three-year-old daughter is climbing on my back, shoving her Princess Sofia floor puzzle in my face and begging me to help her finish it. I glance over at the clock and see that if I don’t start dinner soon, I’ll have hunger meltdowns thrown into the mix. So I get up and head to the fridge to start cooking.

I wash and chop and slice and prep while my son reads his “book buddy” to me, hoping he’s actually reading what it says and not just making up random things to avoid using his brain. My daughter lingers dangerously over the cutting board, narrowly missing my razor-sharp knife with her tiny fingers as she tries to reorganize the veggies in a futile attempt to “help” me cook. I stop for a quick minute to check my work email, remembering something important I’d forgotten to do earlier. I see that I have 15 new emails and realize that the thing I forgot to do has spiraled into into an entirely new problem, and I absentmindedly spend another 20 “quick minutes” attempting to rectify it.

Suddenly I hear the sizzle of hot liquid hitting the stove and I realize my potatoes are boiling over, which is my reminder to check the oven and find that I’ve overcooked the crap out of the chicken. I look up and find Princess Sofia puzzle pieces and sliced vegetables strewn about the living room— my daughter’s passive aggressive way of displaying her resentment for my ignoring her. My son hands me his homework to check and I try to explain that “We bilted a snwmn” is spelled incorrectly, which immediately prompts a tantrum because, according to him, it IS spelled correctly and I’m the MEANEST MOM EVER and he just wants to go play video games but I WON’T LET HIM and his homework is DONE…..

And then my night-shift-working husband emerges from hibernation, bitching about us all making too much noise and waking him up, and wanting to know why the house smells like burnt chicken.

Fast forward a few hours; dinner is done, baths are done, husband’s off to work, kids are tucked in bed. And me? I’m on the couch, laptop open, typing away—finally able to get some work done.

The sad part is that I actually AM lucky to be able to do this with my family because I’m home from work in time to make dinner and oversee homework. Some working parents don’t get home until well after the kids are sleeping. And as insane as the afternoons with my family are, it’s a whole other type of insanity when you don’t even get to see your kids during the day at all.

The part I hate is when my daughter looks at me with her heart-meltingly innocent baby blue eyes and asks me “mommy can you play with me?” and I have to say no because I have work to do. Or when my son’s school sends home a note about yet ANOTHER school fair and I try to move heaven and earth to make it there, every single time, because I never want to let him down.  Or when I’m up very late, typing away into the wee hours of the night, and it causes me to wake up like Oscar the Grouch, ready to bite the head off of anyone who dares to ask me for plain Cheerios after I’ve already poured milk on an entire bowl of the honey-nut ones.

Sometimes I worry that my kids’ happiest childhood memories will be overshadowed by mental images of Mommy hiding behind a computer screen.

I love that I love my job. I don’t know how many people can say that and mean it, but I love having a job I enjoy, a job I’m proud to do. And financially speaking, I REALLY love that I can finally start putting some money away to someday, somehow, possibly, hopefully, maybe be able to afford my family’s first real home. Or our first trip to Disney. Or maybe even start up a college fund (well, after I’m done paying for my own college loans).

As stressed as I feel most of the time, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I’m sacrificing a lot, I know. But I do believe that in the end, it’s worth it.

I just wish it wouldn’t feel like my kids are the ones making the biggest sacrifice. Hopefully someday they’ll understand why.

Doin’ My Working Mom Thang

If you’ve stopped by my blog in the past few weeks, you might have heard crickets chirping in place of the usual 1500+ words on what’s been pissing me off lately.  I promise I haven’t decided to call it a day on my little writing adventure.  Nor have I been vacationing in the Caribbean, in case you were wondering (and also don’t know me at all).

The truth is that I’ve crossed over to the other side, folks.  I’m going back to work.

As much fun as being a stay-at-home-mom has been (at times), I think it’s time for a change.  Those of you familiar with the six things I’m too broke to do will understand that I’ve simply come to a point where I’ve seen one Magic Kingdom picture too many.

So I’ve accepted a position at a wonderful company that allows its employees to maintain a flexible schedule in order to more easily balance time between work and family.  I feel extremely blessed to have stumbled upon such an amazing opportunity.  To my new boss, if you’re reading this:  you’re seriously awesome.  I really appreciate you giving this mama a chance.  And I swear I’m not just saying that because, well, you’re my boss and stuff.

Now that I’m doing my working mom thing (which I still kind of can’t even believe), I’ve been understandably distracted.  I started work about a week ago and my mind has been going a mile a minute ever since.  So, being the open book I am, I figured I’d share some of my (in the moment) first-week thoughts with you, in case you’re wondering how the transition is going.

  • Holy crap, I’m in an office.  There are only adults present.  And people are doing work—quietly. There are permanent markers and breakable picture frames very visibly displayed on desks barely two feet off the floor.   Nobody is crying, or whining, or asking for orange juice, or biting anyone.  I thought places like this only existed on TV.
  • Not only did I shower and do my hair this morning, but I also put on MAKEUP.  And then?  I put on pants.  No, not SWEATpants.  Real pants.  Pants!
  • I wonder what Big M is doing with Little D right now.  I hope they’re playing together.  No, wait.  I kind of hope she’s driving him crazy.   What do you do all day, my ass.
  • This is a lot different than my first day at my last big new job.  Last time, I went out afterward to celebrate with friends and drinks at the bar.  This time, I went food shopping afterward, then celebrated with an early bedtime and some herbal tea.  I’m a real wild woman in my 30’s.
  • What happens if my son’s school calls my phone and I don’t hear it?  Last time they called, it was to tell me that someone had hurled on him (yes, that happened).  Will he have to sit in a pool of some other kid’s upchuck until I finally look at my phone next time?  I better take it off of vibrate.  Not that people are vomiting on him left and right, but just in case…
  • How is it possible to miss my kids so much all day long, and then come home and still find myself anxiously awaiting their bedtime?  What kind of crap is that? Go away, mom guilt!
  • Pretty soon I’ll be less broke than I am now.  Woohoo!  I’m going to Disney World!  Which we’ve already established.  So…
  • I really need to update my blog.  My thousands of adoring readers must be wondering where I’ve been.  Ha!  Couldn’t even type that with a straight face.
  • This doesn’t actually feel real yet. I feel like I should be home right now, knee deep in dirty diapers and Doc McStuffins.
  •  I’m just gonna go ahead and say it.  I’m proud of myself.  It’s been tough saying goodbye to my babies every day, but I need to do this for me and for them too.  It would be great if I could just stay home with them, but this scraping-by thing is kinda bullshit.  So yea, I’m about to grab this working mom thing by the short-and-curlies and rock it out.  Go me.  Insert happy face here.

Slippers Vs. Stilettos: The Working Mom/Stay-At-Home-Mom Feud

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There’s a war going on out there, ladies, and it ain’t a pretty one.  Moms– awesome women who should always be united on the sippy cup front, who should stand together as one in all of the trials and tribulations of motherhood —are currently battling it out in a bitter feud so controversial that I almost didn’t want to weigh in.  Almost.

The working mom verses the stay-at-home-mom thing.  You know all about it, girls.  It’s a major source of tension between mamas these days.  From sisters to best friends, to strangers, to people who are closer on Facebook than they’ll ever be in real life, we are ALL guilty of it.  Whichever end of the rope you find yourself on, you can just go ahead and admit to having the occasional feelings of jealousy, animosity, resentment, and even actual anger for the other side at some point or another.  And it’s totally normal– it’s human nature.  The grass is always greener on the other side, right?  It’s hard not to sometimes wonder how that lush, green grass would look on your own weedy, toy-littered front lawn.

But before we allow this petty rivalry to continue, we should probably take a few steps in each other’s shoes for a moment just to see what life is like in the slippers—or stilettos – of the women we are often too quick to judge.

The stay-at-home mom has probably found herself on the business end of a nervous breakdown at least once or twice, brought on by a potentially lethal combination of neither seeing nor speaking to another adult for several weeks at a time and the 24/7, nonstop, earsplitting shrieks of a colicky infant all day and all night.  She is home ALL THE TIME, she hasn’t showered in days or worn anything but pajamas for a month, and all she hears from the moment she wakes up to the moment she goes back to sleep is “mommy she’s hitting me,” and “mommy I want more juice,” and “mommy I peed on the couch again.” And if she sees ONE more fucking episode of Dora, she’s going to take that horrible, singing map and stick it so far up Swiper’s ass that he won’t be swiping anything again for a long, long time.  Yes, it’s a pretty lonely, exasperating life.

The working mom, on the other hand, is eternally plagued with stress and guilt.  There are assholes everywhere she goes trying to make her feel bad for doing something as basic as GOING TO WORK EVERYDAY, as though we live in some kind of utopian society where one measly income could effortlessly provide any family with everything they need.  And it’s not like there is some mathematical equation for balancing home and work and everything in between.  It’s not like she ENJOYS coming home to a messy house, the kids needing homework help at 8p.m.,then having to fold laundry until 11p.m., then waking up at the buttcrack of dawn the next day to chop vegetables for the stupid crockpot, so she is literally making everyone’s breakfast, lunch, AND dinner at the same time, and then sitting in rush hour traffic or next to some smelly person on the train for over an hour just to get to work and have some dickhead boss up her ass all day, making sure she isn’t Instagramming pictures of her kids instead of getting work done.  Does that sound fun to anyone?

I, myself, am actually kind of a work-at-home-mom these days, as I do freelance writing in between refilling juice cups and cleaning pee off the couch.  The amount of money I make doing it is practically laughable, but I can use all the help I can get with bills and writing experience, so I do it.  When I started, I thought that working from home was going to be the best of both worlds.  I can work but I don’t need to find a babysitter!  How awesome, right?  Um, not quite.  My daughter literally climbs on my head whenever I attempt to get work done, my son is always on my laptop playing computer games when I need to use it, and I usually have to wait until everyone is sound asleep to get anything remotely productive done, often finishing my work just a couple of hours before the kids will be awake.    

So you see, we need to understand that we are ALL amazing women, and we’re just striving to do the best we can with the hand that life has dealt to us.  If you are familiar with me and my blog, you know that I’m rarely serious about anything.  But I take this seriously because I am so incredibly tired of seeing women tear each other down over something that doesn’t even need to be an issue.  I don’t go to “work” every day, but so what?  Sometimes I’m happy about it, other times not at all.  But that’s my life, my decision, and no one’s business but my own.  The same goes for each and every one of you in the decision you have made for yourselves.

And as frustrating as the working-from-home gig can be, it’s allowed me to see things from the other perspective.  It’s given me a chance to see how stressful, exhausting, frustrating, debilitating, and downright miserable ALL of these situations can be.  But it’s also proven what I’ve known to be true all along:  that being a mom is insanely difficult, no matter what you do for a living.  It doesn’t matter if you have a job, a career, a business to run, a house to run, or maybe some hectic, hybrid version of it all.  Because, at the end of the day, there’s a good chance that the hardest thing you will EVER do is something that we are all doing— raising children.

Can’t we all at least agree on that?