“I am a Working Mother”. Although that may not sound like a big statement, think of it as the name of a play, spelled out in lights on the front of a theater display. You can go buy a ticket, walk into the theater, sit in your seat and watch the play but you may never realize how much is going on behind the scenes to make the entire production run smoothly. That is how I feel every day, when I get out of bed and go to work.
My daughter is now almost 21 months old and I went back to my full-time job when she was just 7 weeks old. That means my production as a Working Mother has been running for about a year and a half now. During that time we have had changes in the cast (two in-home daycare providers), a change in the theater location (I changed jobs when Sophia was 9 months old), and the props have taken new forms (from breast milk, to formula, to actual food for the baby).
The main characters have not changed: Mommy, Daddy, and Sophia. We all have to work together to make this production run smoothly. Our dialogue has evolved over the past 18 months. In the beginning we were still learning our lines - I would get up early to nurse Sophia and prepare her bottles for the day. I usually changed her diaper, got her dressed, got in some snuggles and then daddy took her to daycare. Trey has ALWAYS been the one to take her in the morning. Not only does this fit his work schedule better, he has an easier time dropping her off in the mornings. I have to say this is because my husband hates the mornings and he is not really awake enough to have an emotional scene at 7:30 AM. I am lucky to get a kiss goodbye each morning as he grumbles his way out the door.
Now the props have progressed from pumping, preparing bottles and nursing (she weaned herself around 8 months) to actual food that needs to be prepared for each day. I have learned that it is best to prepare in advance (kind of like memorizing your lines). This means that I have to plan the night before for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Did I mention that I have to do all of my cooking after Sophia has gone to bed, or when Trey is there to occupy her attention? She provides us the most dramatic scenes in our play, with her insistent need to be outside or her persistent request to “old dee” which we have interpreted to mean “hold me”. Watching me turn my attention to the stove, the dishwasher, or even to my own food can result in my little drama queen dissolving in tears (talk about a scene stealer)!
Now that the props, I mean food is prepared and in place – we turn our attention to the costumes for the play. I am apparently the costume designer for the entire family. Although Trey does take all of his clothes to the dry cleaners (I could never keep up with the amount of ironing our work clothes require), I do need to select the wardrobe for us to wear each week. This entails selecting matching 5 outfits for Trey – he has good taste in clothing but has trouble matching his shirts with his pants and shoes. Sophia’s outfits require more consideration – what is the weather going to be? What did I pack for her lunch? What shoes still fit? My reviews will be poor if I happen to put her in a white shirt when I have packed spaghetti for lunch. Even worse – what if I forget to send a new “back-up” outfit and she comes home one day in a long sleeve shirt and pants that are too small and it is 85 degrees outside. Shoes must stay on her feet, but be easy for her to put on herself. Costume planning can be a lot of pressure – although somehow my clothes get the least attention. All of the planning for the rest of the cast leaves me drained, so each morning I usually resort to my standard black or gray pants and whatever shirt does not need to be ironed. (I guess I need to send more of my shirts to the dry cleaner’s with Trey).
While all of this may sound exhausting – the key is to pull off the performance of your life when you arrive on set, I mean the office. Those around you (your audience) must not see or hear about anything that goes on behind the scenes. They only want to see a brilliant performance EVERY DAY. To pull this off, you will usually find me putting on my lipstick after I pull into the parking garage each morning and I will check out my “costume” in the mirrors in the elevator (thank goodness I don’t have to check for spit-up on my shoulder anymore). No complaining about your lack of sleep preparation in a meeting. I don’t want to be replaced by another actress in this scene!
By lunchtime I am planning dinner in my head and checking in with Trey to determine our after performance plans (what are we doing that night). I finish each performance by picking up Sophia each day at daycare. I put a huge smile on my face, thank my supporting cast (Ms. Rose Ann) and give Sophia a big hug and lots of kisses. Then I go home and get ready for an encore performance the next day.