Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why would she lie?

A few days ago, a friend of a friend of a friend was going on about how great it is to work from home. She has a seven-month-old and a two-year-old, and she works in a field that requires a great deal of client interaction. She has no sitter ("Such a waste of money!" she sniffed). She claims to work thirty hours a week from her house.

I'm calling bullshit on this one.

Unless her children are narcoleptic (they're not), or she doesn't actually have to speak to another live human during all those hours of client time, there is no way she's getting thirty hours of work done while home alone with a newly mobile little person and a toddler whose settings appear permanently tuned to search and destroy.

Maybe, if her kids rank among those urban legend champion nappers and she devotes zero nap time to personal matters such as grooming or household management, she could manage two or three hours of work per day while the kids snooze.

She brightly explained to a small crowd of disbelieving moms that she's been working from home like this for several months. I presumed she was lying, or at least grossly exaggerating her professional responsibilities, which helped alleviate the surge of inadequacy her soliloquy inspired. What I can't quite put my finger on is why she'd lie.

First, here's why I was virtually certain she was lying. If it was as easy as she claims, everyone would do it. Who doesn't like the idea of extra money and a foothold in the working world if it costs nothing and fits nicely between snacks and story time?

I personally love the idea of working from the apartment. A home office with a door is a long time fantasy of mine, one that present square footage doesn't permit. There's no commute and no suits to dry clean. But my dream scenario always includes a sitter. Because unless someone else takes charge of The Grape while I work, nothing gets done. I don't mean literally nothing, but pretty close. And because I've been feeling inadequate about this state of affairs, I've been busy polling other moms. Universal consensus: Any previously simple task, such as cooking dinner, cleaning out the junk drawer or making a phone call, has about a 50/50 chance of getting done while responsible for the baby.

Today, my extra-child care accomplishments include baking one slightly crooked cake (which required an extra half-hour jaunt with The Grape in the steady rain when I realized, after the pans were greased and the carrots shredded, that I lacked both eggs and vanilla). And I've written the paragraphs you've just read, which are probably disjointed due to the countless times I've gotten up from my computer in the past twenty minutes.

I am neither Superhuman nor woefully incompetent. But The Grape, like any little kid, is a full time job. For me, or a sitter, or his dad. There is no such thing as working while watching the baby.

So that's clear. Now onto the more interesting question: Why would she lie?

I can't figure that out for certain, but my best guess is that she feels inadequate. Being a fantastic, involved, positive, loving mother to her children doesn't give her the sense of self worth she got from saying, "I do ______ at XYZ Company."

In turns out that, mere hours later, I learned for certain that Ms. Fabulous Job From Home was lying. Boston is a small place and nobody is the requisite six degrees from anyone else (it's usually more like one or two). Without spilling her secret or expending any energy, I confirmed she hasn't been with the company in over a year.

It's not my business to out her. If she continues to run around telling people she works there when she doesn't, I'm sure someone will catch her sooner or later. In the meantime, you might bump into her. She'll gush about having it all, and perhaps you'll walk away feeling like a bit of an underachiever.

Just remember this: She's doing the women who actually juggle childcare obligations and professional ones a great disservice by pretending it's easy.

I wish she'd give herself a break. There's value in raising children. Just like there's value in keeping one's career forging full steam ahead. She's made a choice to be home with her little ones.

I wish she would own it.

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