I Don’t Want to be Superwoman

“You are superwoman!” I hear it all the time. We all hear it, us working moms. And it’s nice, right? I mean think of all we do.

We not only bring home the money to buy the bacon, but we actually buy the bacon, fry it up, feed it to our families, clean up afterwards and wipe our children’s asses when they’ve, um, eliminated it. All while checking our email, taking conference calls, tending to booboos and shuttling the kids to and from school, sports, music lessons and whatever else they do after school and baking, crafting and doing whatever else our schools demand of us for bake sales, class parties and the like. Phew! That was a run-on sentence. Kind of like our lives. I’m tired just writing about it all.

We really are superwoman! But, wait a minute. Is this really a compliment? How many of us really wants this? How many of us would rather take some of that time to read a book or getting a pedicure or reading a book while getting a pedicure? How many of us would rather get a little more than 3 or 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night? I know I would.

To be honest the only time people every call me superwoman is when they require me to be more super, and I think it reeks of flattery. I don’t want to be superwoman. I want some damn help. I want someone to stop themselves from uttering the phrase and replace it with an offer to pitch in or take something off my plate. And even though my plate is overflowing, I resolve to do this the next time I see a woman being a little too super to also be sane.

Love, Loss and the Village

I think one of the most universal truths of life is that humans cannot help but take on situations that we know will one day bring us pain if only to experience short-term happiness. It’s a thing we cannot help. A person who falls in love with someone in the military knows that the price they pay for the joy of this love is the pain of separation and possibly loss. In my life I have typically made decisions with the goal of avoiding this kind of emotional pain.

And then I had children.

Parenthood is perhaps the most universal of these situations. From the moment the cord is cut, the separation begins. And the remainder of a parent’s life is filled with so many of these little moments where the band-aid is pulled from your skin so slowly, ripping each hair one by one. It’s so hard to handle at times. And so hard to not give in to it. I was determined for so many years to avoid the pains of parenthood, but eventually the pull was too strong.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t give it up, even when my children are testing the limits of my love. It is such an amazing thing, being a mother.

Later this year my little Atoosa will start preschool. That first day will be so hard for so many reasons, and already I am dreading the next little bit of separation that milestone will bring between her and me. It happened with Azita, but with Atoosa it will be a little harder. Not because I love her any more, but because it will also result in a separation from the woman who has cared for both of my children for the past 3 years.

I am so lucky that we found Parveen. I was in a desperate situation, suddenly finding myself with no daycare, and I called every licensed home daycare in Arlington looking for a place where Azita could start immediately. The very last place I visited on that fateful Thursday was Parveen’s daycare, and I knew instantly this was the place. And it was. She didn’t just feed Azita, change her diapers, care for her, potty train her, put her down for naps. She loved her. She still does. She loves all of the children she cares for. I was so lucky that a space opened up in time for Atoosa to start a few months after she was born.

My children love Parveen so much. And they love her husband, too. Atoosa calls him “grandpa,” and there is no one else she would rather read her a story. And I love them too. It is strange how much a working mother comes to love the village that helps raise her children — the family members, the daycare providers, the teachers. As our children grow up and grow apart from us, it is the separations from some of the more transient members of the village that really amplify the pain of losing our babies.

Of course, when we lose something, we often gain something in return. While we may lose our babies, we can eventually gain the closest friend in our adult children. As I think ahead to the sad day when I will pick Atoosa up from Parveen’s house for the very last time, I hope the relationship between our families is not a complete separation. But even if it is, these happy three years we had was worth it.

Marissa Mayer: Not Just Bad for Women

Last year, Marissa Mayer was named CEO of Yahoo! She was the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, she was about to be a mother, she was a SHE. It was amazing to a lot of us women who are making a career in the male-dominated world of technology and doing so while also raising families. Finally! Our time was coming. People would see that women could do the job, and “kids” is not a 4-letter word.

And then she slowly set about unraveling the progress made by working women over the past several decades.

She would only take a 2 week maternity leave, and she would be accessible and working as much as she could during those 2 weeks. Then she had the baby, and in a subsequent interview stated that motherhood is easy. It’s all about ruthless prioritization. In fact, she was working within hours of having the baby and back at the office full-time 2 weeks later. To quote my little Atoosa, “WHHAAAAAAAT?”

I’ll admit that my maternity leave was very similar to Marissa Mayer’s, mostly out of necessity. I won’t go into the reasons now, but I will say that I felt guilty. Not just about what I was missing with my children in those early days, but also for the precedent I was setting for the women that followed me.

I count myself to be a feminist. I believe that women are as capable and strong and smart as men. I believe we can just about anything men can do, except maybe pee while standing (although I saw these paper cone thingies…actually, let’s not go there). Mostly, I want to make help make things better for women. I want my daughters to have the resources and the flexibility to have the career and the family, and not struggle so much to have it. Because no matter what Marissa Mayer says, motherhood is a struggle. I’ll admit it. I am insanely organized and ruthless at prioritizing my to-do list, and balancing it all is a struggle.

I have fought pretty hard to get a little bit of this flexibility for myself in the past few years. I get it in the form of remote work. Two days a week, I work from home. Three days a week, I go in to the office, but I leave at a very reasonable hour, so my children spend a good chunk of their day with me every day. I am back at my computer as soon as their heads hit the pillow, but it’s not so bad. Yes, I’m tired all the time, but I have the flexibility to spend time with my children and still be a major contributor at the office.

This week, Marissa Mayer announced that remote work would no longer be allowed at Yahoo! “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” she said. Oh really? That’s news to me. Because those are two things that have improved for me since I started a partial telework schedule. Anecdotal evidence, I know, but I call bullshit on this one.

I’m not sure what she is thinking, but in making this announcement, Marissa Mayer is not just setting back women but all parents. See, men need flexibility also. One of the best things we can do for women is give men some flexibility in the workplace, so they can be equal contributors in the home.

Marissa Mayer clearly subscribes to the idea that women must learn to function like men in the workplace. I say the old way of doing things is unfair, not just for women but also for men, and for all of us to get ahead we should change the rules. With this new policy, she has set us all back. I hope she sees the error of her ways and retracts this policy. If not, something tells me there will be a lot of high quality programmers, product designers and other IT workers in the market for new jobs. Which is a good thing for my company, because we’re hiring.

Remember Me?

When I was pregnant with Azita, I signed up for those BabyCenter emails that compare your fetus to a different vegetable every week. They are corny, I know, but I couldn’t resist signing up again for Atoosa. And since I’m too lazy to ever unsubscribe to emails once I sign up — even if they always go directly to trash — I am still getting them. Well this morning I got one reminding me that Atoosa is 20 months and 4 weeks. Wait, what?!!! My baby is just a few months shy of 2. How did that happen?

Specifically, how did I resolve almost 2 years ago to get back to blogging more often and not write a single post in all that time?

I’m going to plead busyness. I know we are all busy, but I swear I am busier than most. Or at least some. I work all the time. Weekends, evenings, holidays…if my kids are asleep, chances are I’m working. It sucks at times, but honestly, I’m trying to do something important in my career. I really feel like I’ve finally arrived at a job where I am making a difference. I’m not just going through the motions to get paid. I am creating something that could change educational outcomes, and therefore life outcomes, for so many people.

Recently, I’ve been reading a book, Creating Innovators: Raising Young People Who Will Change the World, and last night I read that an important aspect to innovation is this quality of trying to do good in the world and make a difference in society. That really struck a cord for me, because I finally feel like I’ve found that in a job and I’m therefore producing some of the best ideas I have in a long time. So I work, and I work some more.

And while I am working all the time, I am trying to create a couple innovators of my own. And I’m trying to keep a sparkling, clean household, because I’m afraid of germs. So, I have a lot of waking hours (because, really, I never sleep), and they are all filled up with things I do for other people. And very little for me. I do take some time for myself. I exercise every day for an hour, sometimes more (albeit usually with at least one child asking me questions or getting in the way while attempting to join the fun) but I have neglected my mental health a bit. I haven’t written a thing other than functional requirements specifications and product documentation and email blasts about critical software defects and release notes and lots of other things that would bore most people other than me.

I miss writing about other, but it’s hard. It’s hard to find the time, and when I make the time, interruptions abound. In fact, while attempting to write this blog post, Azita and Atoosa have interrupted me no fewer than 20 times. In less than 5 minutes. And now Azita is yelling for me to come put her to bed because she literally cannot lie down in bed and wait for me for longer than 10 seconds…..

So, I’m leaving this post unfinished. And unedited. But you know what? I wrote something. And hopefully, tomorrow, I will write something else. And it won’t be witty or all that interesting for now, but I’ll be writing something. And if I remember one thing from all those writing classes I took in college, the act of writing every day does wonderful things for the quality of your writing and your creativity and thought process after a while. I look forward to remembering what those things are.

How Things Change

Last year around this time I was heading to BlogHer 2010. I was excited and fired up about my blog. I was looking forward to a few days of interacting with smart and interesting women, and looking forward to giving Azita her first taste of New York City. I was also thinking about having another baby.

This week as I read the tweets and blog posts of other women heading off to BlogHer 2011 I can’t help but reflect on how my life has changed in the past year.

This year I won’t be flying off to San Diego and learning more about how to improve my blog. Then again the biggest improvement my blog could get this year would be for me to actually write something in it. I actually have a lot to write about. Or should I say I have more people to write about. Namely, this little person….

Atoosa

Introducing... Atoosa

My little Atoosa was born a little over two months ago. In my last blog post, she was a little shrimp floating around inside me. Now she’s a little person who coos and stares at everyone and everything. And laughs and smiles.

She smiles

My life has changed so much and also remained so much the same. And, this year even though I won’t be going to BlogHer11, I resolve to get back on here and write about it a little more often.

The Precious

When Azita was a newborn I used to stare at her and murmur “the precioussssssss….maman loves the preciousssss” in my best Gollum voice. I’m sure that had no ill effects on her whatsoever. Roger, on the other hand, was completely freaked out, but this isn’t about him. This is about my baby girl, who is now 2 years old as of, well 3 months ago (yes, this is a very-belated birthday post for my daughter).

Two years ago I had no idea just how much more precious she could be. I stared at her in amazement, mostly because when a person gives birth to a child it is so hard to believe that this little human was once the thing that kicked your insides just days before. It is so hard to fathom that you made this person — a living thing that breathes and moves and thinks and does so much more than anything else you will ever make in your life.

Over time things change. While I was one of those lucky mothers who had an instantaneous, deep love for my daughter when she was born, it was a very different love. Now I love Azita not just for what she is but also for who she is and who she is becoming.

My little girl is one of the most strong-willed people I’ve ever met, and that’s saying a lot coming from me because not only am I annoyingly stubborn, Roger is ten times more so. While this character trait frustrates me to no end it also makes me inordinately proud of her, because I know nobody will ever push her around. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Azita is so smart and brimming with personality. At only 2 years of age, she has a sense of humor that surpasses that of many adults I know. She amazes me daily with her observations of the world and the connections she makes between the theoretical and the tangible. She loves letters and numbers and almost always has a book on hand. She loves music and is always singing, not just songs she has heard, but also songs she makes up.

And she doesn’t just have brains. She is nimble and fearless and already shows some athletic abilities of which surely neither Roger nor I can claim to be the source. She can kick a soccer ball the way it should be kicked and throw a ball to someone with actual aim.

In my eyes, my little girl is a marvel and the most beautiful person in the world to me. I stare at her sometimes and wonder how she could possibly be as amazing as she is. The best thing is that when I stare at Azita, she looks back. And when my precious looks at me I can tell that she loves me as much as I love her.

Ladybug Birthday Cake

Azita turned two yesterday. I have a lot to say about that, and I will in a later post. Today, however, my focus has been on birthday cake. Last year I bought a birthday cake from the famed, thanks to Oprah, Cake Love. It was a great birthday cake. Beautiful and delicious. But it missed the thing all birthday cakes, at least those for a loved one, should have — love. This is especially true when the birthday girl is the daughter of someone who fancies herself an above-average baker.

Alas, I don’t have much time to bake anymore, but this year I vowed to plan ahead and make amends. My plan was to make a ladybug cake. Azita loves ladybugs. Who doesn’t, actually? They are cute and pretty and a universally likable member of the Insecta class.

Now if I was going to make something super cute and fancy, I would have used fondant. The problem with fondant, however, is that  I’ve never worked with it. And motherhood has imparted on me the wisdom to know my limits. I didn’t have time to practice with fondant, so I stuck with things I have worked with quite a bit — ganache and sanding sugar.

The cake was chocolate. I used this recipe from Bon Appetit. For a filling, I stuck with raspberry. I love raspberry and chocolate together, and I wanted to brighten up the cake a little. To make the filling, I simply used a half pint of raspberries, a little bit of confectioners sugar, a few tablespoons of lemon juice, and a few tablespoons of raspberry jam. I cooked until bubbling and thickened, then mashed through a strainer to get out all the seeds. The result is an intense red, raspberry sauce that I spread on both layers of the cake.

Finally, I made a dark chocolate ganache. Ganache is one of those things that sounds really fancy and complicated, but it’s super easy to make. And let me tell you that if you are not a fan of frosting, it’s probably because you’ve never tried a ganache frosting. I, myself, am not a fan of buttercream, but this frosting is rich and sweet, but also slightly bitter. The bitterness is the necessary ingredient here as it downplays the cloying sweetness I so dislike in a frosted cake. If you’ve never made ganache before, try Martha Stewart’s recipe. You will be a convert.

Once the ganache was made, I put a few dollops on the bottom layer of the cake and spread it out over the raspberry puree. Then I put the top layer on and frosted the cake. Finally, I cut two pieces of parchment paper — one a long thin strip and the other a big rectangle. I placed them on the ganache to leave only two, partial semi-circles of frosting uncovered, and I went to town with some red sanding sugar. Two well-placed yellow M&Ms and 4 chocolate discs later, and I had myself a ladybug.

Ladybug Birthday Cake

Ladybug Birthday Cake

So, what do you think? I’m counting this one as a success. Happy Birthday my sweet, little Azita.

Christmas Traditions

Merry Christmas

I was the last kid in my class to believe in Santa Claus. I believed against my classmates claims, against all evidence to the contrary. It wasn’t until my mother broke the news to me, the last year we would celebrate Christmas, that I realized there was no Santa Claus. I was 8.

Secretly, I still believed, not necessarily in Santa Claus, the person, but in the idea that there was something magical about the season and the day. I still believe this. There is something magical, and it is the kindness and gratitude and love for our fellow humans that seems to permeate the air. Even when people exhibit behavior that makes me cringe, I think the good of the season outweighs the bad. For me, this is what the Christmas season is all about.

In adulthood I pull together every year the Christmas I always wanted as a child. I attempt to create traditions of our own, that one day Azita will remember fondly. Traditions that can make us feel warm and safe and happy when we reflect upon them in future dark times. Hands down, my favorite tradition is charity and kindness. We always make sure to give as much as we can to those less fortunate than us. And I hope all of you will find it in your hearts to do the same.

Merry Christmas, friends. I hope your season is chock full of love and happiness.

What a Difference a Year Makes

I hate to admit it, but I think this year’s picture is so much cuter. There’s something about the forlorn look on her face and the way she is wringing her hands that melts my heart and makes me want to giggle all at once. I just love her to pieces.

Back in the Saddle

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog post. Life has been eventful and non-eventful all at once. I’ve been busy. I was out of town for a while. The dog ate my homework. And, that’s it for my excuses. I once read in another blog that the blogger’s life was going really well, and it made it hard for her blog. I can completely empathize with her. Because my life is going pretty well right now. I mean I’m still not in love with my job and I’m so busy and tired all the time. And I haven’t suddenly reconciled with my parents or found out I’m a princess or anything.

But life is good, and it’s sometimes hard to write about my life when it’s all good. With that said, since I feel like I wasn’t thankful enough last month let me count the ways life is good to me:

  • The baby is moving a lot. I can feel her bouncing around like a ping pong ball from one side to another, and her kicks are pretty strong at this stage. I don’t know if she’s a her, by the way, but I will find out next week. And I’m really excited about that. I remember Azita being so active when she was in utero, and I keep thinking that means this baby will be as sweet and wonderful as my darling little girl.
  • Azita wants a pony. She walks around sing a little song she made up that goes like this. “A pony, A pony, A pony, A ponyyyy. A pony, A pony…” You get the idea. We’ll probably get her a My Little Pony for her birthday, but I’m really excited about this development. Mostly because I’ve always wanted a real, live pony, and I think this ups the chances that we’ll one day buy a pony. And maybe if I start now with the lessons on sharing, Azita will share the pony with me.
  • I met my newest nephew over Thanksgiving, and he’s the sweetest little boy ever. I’m so in love. I couldn’t stop holding him, which is good because he really likes to be held. The best part? I remembered what baby heads smell like, and now I’m really excited to have another baby whose head I can sniff all day long. What? Other people don’t sniff baby heads?
  • I’ve finished my Christmas shopping, and I didn’t spend a lot of money. There’s nothing I hate worse that the thought of going into debt to buy stuff for a holiday. I’m not a religious person, but Christmas does have a non-material meaning for me. I think it’s a time of year to refocus on family and the things that matter in life, and I take that really seriously. So, I’m thoughtful but cheap, and our Christmases are all the more wonderful for it.