Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Work It

Last week was hard.  I flew from Albany to Chicago, switched planes, and flew the rest of the way to Seattle, with Paul strapped snugly to my chest.  We checked one bag and one car seat, and carried two bags and a stroller through the airports.  Let's be honest: the stroller was for the duffel bag, not the baby.

We landed at 11 am, hopped in a taxi, and off-loaded at the Conference center. I checked my suitcase, grabbed my conference badge, and met my coworkers outside my session.  They took Paul while I changed in the ladies room, put in my contacts, and slapped on some make-up. A quick lunch and a venti coffee later, I was up on stage speaking to 100 Chinese museum professionals.  And while I knew Paul was safe outside the meeting room, I heard him cry a few times and I knew he was as exhausted as I.

We spent most of Monday in the exhibition hall, meeting vendors in person and scoping out the coolest freebies to bring home.  We did go to the general session, and I'm glad I did.  The speaker was fabulous (and Paul was quiet).  Monday was great. I was on a high from my crazy Sunday itinerary going off without a hitch and I felt confident in Paul's easy personality.

Tuesday brought sessions I wanted to hear.  And I tried.  So hard, I tried to sit through sessions.  But a crying baby in a crowded meeting room isn't fair to anyone.  So I left every session I went to within the first 10 minutes.  And I sat in a corner and cried for feeling like bringing Paul was a mistake.

But that was stupid.  I didn't go to the conference to hear things, at least that wasn't my sole reason.  I went to the conference to represent my museum.  To speak and be heard.  And actually, yes, to be seen as a strong working mother with my child in a front pack on my chest.  There aren't a ton of working mom role models in my field.  I am proud to be one of the few.

Tuesday night, after telling myself it was ok to skip the sessions, I went to a fabulous evening event.  The venue was packed, so imagine my surprise when several people elbowed their way to me - me! - to tell me they had seen me all week with Paul and that they were inspired by seeing us together at the conference.  

So when I walked into my second session Wednesday morning I didn't have Paul strapped to my chest (he was at the hotel with my aunt), but I was carrying instead pride and confidence.  My session was fabulous - a packed room with great audience response and questions.  

I hope my fellow conference goers attended great sessions and went home with some fun freebies.  I didn't attend a single full session, but I came away with the best freebie there is - a great deal of confidence in who I am as a woman, mother and professional.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Doing It All

I leave on Friday for a whirlwind of a week abroad, just me and Lil Paul-Paul (as Laura calls him), traveling the US.  We'll first be attending my sister's college graduation, as she has been to every single graduation for me and my two brothers - we owe her!  Next, Paul and I will be hopping on a plane to fly to the West coast for a work conference.  I won't simply be attending... I am presenting.  Twice.  Because I'm crazy, right? 

But what mom isn't a little crazy.  We do everything we can to be everything to everyone.  We are first a daughter and sister, because they have been there from the very beginning: from the toddler tantrums, through the bad glasses and braces of middle school, the drama of high school and college, weddings and babies.   We are a daughter and a sister, so we go to graduations, to show our love and support by being there for such a big achievement.

We are a wife to the man we met so many years ago on a Friday afternoon, and to whom we have promised a lifetime of love and devotion.  So before we leave him with two young children for a week, we write out schedules and lunch plans.  We prepare a birthday present for a friend's party.  We buy easy dinners for the nights we are away. 

We are mother to our beautiful sons and daughters.  The children for whom we have wished and prayed and hoped for and continue to love every minute of every day.  We want the very best for our children.  For many mothers, that means staying home.  And some of us go to work, trusting with every fiber of our being that they're okay all day without us.  So we lovingly pack school bags, and ask for that one last hug at drop off, and eagerly await stories of their day away.

We are friends and colleagues.  And sometimes that means we have to put work a little ahead of our families.  We leave before the sun rises, and get home in time to help tuck in.  Sometimes we travel - all the way across the country - to advance our careers.  Sometimes this means we miss important things at home, like birthdays - both our own child's and a dear friend's.  We miss packing lunches, and folding tiny pairs of shorts, and bath time and stories.  We miss the beautiful mundane...  but we miss it to ultimately to better support the families we so love. 

So Friday I leave home, leave Laura and Gavin and Nate for seven days.  I will spend time with my family - the original six of us (plus Paul), as none of our spouses will be there.  I am so excited for this quick visit with my parents, sister and two brothers, just us, for the first time in years. 

On Sunday, I fly to the West Coast and my first of two presentations.  I'm missing Gavin's 2nd birthday.  My big boy, turning two years old, and I'll be on a plane and speaking in front of strangers.  But even while spending a week as a professional, I'll still be a mom first - with Paul attending every session in the front pack with me.  I've been a little stressed about this crazy itinerary, I have a packing list a foot long, I'm not exactly sure how everything will go, I'm still tripping on my words for my presentation, and I'm a little worried about how well Paul will travel.  But I know I can do it, because that's what moms do.  We do it all.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Life's Perfect Moments

AKA: Why you should never leave a four-year-old in charge of anything.
Laura not squashing the baby

We have had a lot of rain in Maryland this week.  A lot.  And while the skies are clear today, my basement is still a little damp.  I may have been home all day Wednesday during the worst of the downpours, but that doesn't mean I remembered to check the french drain by the basement door for clogs!  Which brings me to this:

I went down to the basement for one quick second to do something I can’t even remember anymore, and saw a line of mud along the door sill with an area of darker carpet spread (of course) through the dress-up clothes and a large pile of books on the floor next to the bookshelf.  The drain!  The blasted drain had to be clogged - and it was in that moment I remembered I'm supposed to check said drain for clogs before things get messy... oops!

I ran back upstairs to grab Laura to help me clean up the books, and noted that Paul was on his activity mat on the floor, so, like, sort of safe-ish enough.  Gavin followed to “help” move the books that had been strewn about the floor to a dry part of the basement, so Paul was totally fine!  We got everything cleaned up inside, so I needed to move outside to clear the drain before the flooding got worse.  

But then I had to go outside in the deluge of rain to unclog the drain and shovel the masses of wet leaves out of the area.  I left Laura in charge with Paul still on the floor… even though it would have taken me 20 seconds to put him in the swing.  The drain too longer to clear than I anticipated, but I was so focused on my task, I really didn't notice how much time was passing.  The kids were dry inside, and in my brain that meant they were safe.  
Gavin not squashing the baby

I finally got the drain cleared and went inside bleeding from two spots on my hands from doing god only knows what while cleaning the drain, to find Gavin sitting on Paul whacking him with a remote, while Laura is pulling Gavin’s feet and sobbing that he needs to stop and listen to her because she’s the oldest and why is he not listening!  (I don't know, Laura, but if you get him to listen please share your sage wisdom!)  Nate walked in right at that moment, as I am standing in a puddle of rain water and blood next to three crying children, and asked if I could help gather up water glasses for the dishwasher… I laughed, told him to save the infant (still on the floor), and walked away.

The rain has stopped.  The children survived.  The basement is fine, minus a few books.  This is my perfect life.