A man in a suit carrying a blue folder under his arm at 11am is a pretty banal sight in Corporate New York. When the man in a suit carrying a blue folder at 11am is not at work but is standing in your living room and is your red-faced DH, you know that your life may have just been turned upside down.
Note: a post I was supposed to write and share 2 weeks ago but only found the right words now.
Things were starting to settle down nicely. My MIL (mother in law) was packing to go home after having spent almost 3 weeks slaving for us and allowing me to make a much needed push in my entrepreneurial adventure. I was on a kick ass routine:morning laundry/work/caring for L in the afternoon/grocery shopping/diner/kids’ bed routine/work.
G and P are to start pre-K3 in September and are actually excited about it. L…is still an irrational vampire wrestler baby who still refuses to say words but he he IS cute so I just let it fly. I think I even muttered last Sunday: ‘I got this, things are going to roll from now on.’ Stupid Mama!! I really should have known better.
I don’t even know how to say this so I am going to say it as quickly as a damn dirty rap chorus: ‘DH, my man, freaking lost his job. Yo! Job, job, no no more. Yo! Peace Off’
Shit happens but usually not to him. He is almost 40 and has all his hair, eats like a pig but still is in some kind of shape. Yep, shit does not happen to him. I am usually the one that gets shit all over, all the time. Anyway, In 20 years, he never has been laid off. Since 2008, he probably survived 10 or more RIFs (Reduction In Force or Rest In Filth). Many, many times we laughed about the day when he would be summoned into a room to listen to the Whys and the Sorrys and would not be allowed to go back to his desk before taking the exit door.
Turns out he was allowed to go back to his desk to (briefly) say his Adieu! but he refused to. Strangely.
Turns out I did not laugh either when I saw him. I did smile a bit because I do smile in most random situations. For example, I do not smile on pictures but I smile when looking at vegetables like Fenugreek. I am like ‘what a weird looking veggie. All vegetables must make fun of it, poor Fenugreek’. Yeah I do have random smiles so of course I would smile on the day we find ourselves raising 3 tots with no salary in Harlem, New York. So I smiled but then a few hours later at our local supermarket, I looked at green beans and my eyes started to get wet. Fuck. I used to love shopping for vegetables. And now it was like:
‘Oh an avocado – but what are we going to do?
Oh a tomato- I am going to have to let our beloved nanny go!’ Bla bla bla and Fuck.
It is the weirdest situation ever because what is really hard at the moment is not the threat of having to soon live on ramen noodles (which for my kids would be interpreted as ‘yeah our old folks must have won the lottery because it is party time every day!!! No more fucking organic red meat’). The most difficult thing so far has been to figure out who does what in the house. DH is now helping to look after L so every day is like a negotiation:
Him: ‘What are your plans tomorrow?
Me: Can you watch him from 1pm til 3pm and then I’ll take over? No, Ok until 2.45pm?
Me: What do you mean you need 1 hour on your mini I-Pad?
Him: Oh, that’s where you usually work?
Him: Is that really how much we spend in childcare?
Me: Are we having lunch together or not?
Me: Why the fuck were you late for our lunch?
Him: You said you would be back at 5.30pm…it s like 6pm!!!!
Me: I don’t think we should have lunch together anymore. Like ever.’
We’ll figure it out eventually. We always do, I suppose. Until then we’ll text each other shit like this: ‘What do you mean you are not with L? I thought that was your day? Oopsie…’
Meanwhile, the kids are ecstatic to have their dad home. They just can’t believe their luck and want to spend every second of their lives with him leaving the nanny and I watching the ‘massacre’ from the sidelines. So before I start stocking instant noodles from Chinatown in my kitchen or research how much the average rent in Washington Heights is, I am going to try and enjoy the following blessings:
– the kids having a blast because Daddy is home and he has always been the coolest ‘service staff member’
– DH seemingly increasingly blown away by Yours Truly and asking every hour ‘Ma Cherie, how do you do it? How do you actually achieve stuff’
So yeah DH has no paid job for now but I’ll take a smitten man any day mouaaaa
Below some great pics from the talented Helene McGuire who unbeknownst to her made my tough week much lighter
Last week I was very busy with different non-baby related projects (hence no blogging). I cannot go into details about these projects for the moment but let’s just say that I have my fingers in too many pies and by the end of the year either scenario could take place:
– I will be able to lick the stuffing from most pies out of my fingers, have a busy 2014 year and pocket my first real dollars since 2010
– One pie will prove tastier, I will jump into it recklessly with the philosophy of ‘no risks, no gains’ and thus drag my whole family into a full-blown entrepreneur drama.
– All the pies will rot and explode in my face because of the high level of Hydrogen Sulfide and I’ll only have my tears to clean the crust out of my face.
Does this sound cryptic to you? Believe me, it is probably even more confusing in my head right now. Anyway, let’s not play Nostradamus and just get on with it for now, I guess. I don’t know what next year will be but I can tell you what today feels like: Multiple Personality Disorder.
I have always had 2 or 3 people cohabiting in my head since I was ten: Good Me (Little Miss Straight As student), Bad Me (Little Miss I am going to punch everyone in the face) and Plain Crazy Me (Little Miss ‘My whole world is a freaking live Musical’). Nowadays, it feels more like 10 people failing to cohabit and fighting all the time for breadcrumbs. And as for the musical in my head, it sounds more like surreal ‘Jerry Springer Show: The Opera’ than say cute ‘Grease’.
I am aware that it is probably a very common plight among (working and stay at home) moms but I thought the following snapshot may amuse you.
– I have always checked my work emails in the middle of the night and when I was waking up so I knew what my workday would be like. I have never given up on this bad habit even though lately most messages were WordPress notifications about comments or likes on my blog. To these, I now get emails from collaborators on my different projects, from the teachers of the kids’ weekly activities groups, from DH to reminder about this and that (since I am a human Blackberry too apparently), and from myself to remind me about this and that (I do need to work better with that Calendar apps PRONTO). Don’t get me wrong I do LOVE the excitement. However, I am getting increasingly disturbed by the fact that I am on my IPhone emailing or texting away my eyes barely open, with DH snoring near me, L pinching my nipple, G sleeping by my feet and kicking my crotch with his leg and P standing by my bed watching me and making her best impersonation of a ‘I see DEAD people’ toddler…
– I try to cook the kids’ lunch every morning so I can barricade myself behind the kitchen’s safety gate to work and order baby diapers online while the chicken and veggies ragout simmers. But things got more complicated with the kids’ improved motor skills. Indeed, I am not quick enough to rush out of the kitchen to prevent L from pulling his weenie out of his diaper and spray pee across the room as if he was a freaking firefighter hosing down a fire. Not quick enough either to help G get up onto the toilet as he rushes to the bathroom diaper free…
– I very rarely get showered before 12pm these days. Partly because I am running behind every single thing I plan, and partly because I love that I can be on a Skype business call in my sweatpants. It feels dangerous 🙂 . The main problem is that I do not brush my hair in 4 days either. I thus started to avoid any conversations with my neighbors in the laundry room or in the lobby because I am self-conscious of my potentially very bad odor. They probably think I have started my metamorphosis into ‘The Fly’ or that I am a total social nutcase.
– Pre children I had a very specific routine before an important meeting: I would drink slowly my coffee gazing at the Thames river (I used to have a desk with a view…sigh), read for the thousandth time my meeting preparation notes, go to the restrooms to freshen up, and take deep breaths. These days my routine is: distract the kids, run to hide in my room, lock the door, get out of my room because they are screaming for murder asking for a hug (cute) or for me to clean the poop out of the diaper (because that’s the one thing Mama apparently does waaayyyyy better than the nanny, evil kids…), wash my hands 3 times, get a glass of water, and put a towel at the bottom of the door so they cannot put their hands through the opening like some kind of baby zombies wanting to tear my guts apart.
Things would be kind of OK if I could manage not to lash out at …my mom. Yes, among the different personas in my head, ‘Good daughter’ has been MIA for a while. To my defense, she ALWAYS decides to Skype video in the middle of mini breakdowns. I mean, EVERY time. It’s like she has a fucking sensor. She calls, and wants to see the kids. Of course it’s the middle of the night in France so the kids can only see a shadow in the darkness talking to them in Lao, which they don’t understand, and swearing to them it’s their granny… The Shadow then tells me that I should do everything in my power to prevent my kids from being sick this winter (?), comments on the level of screaming decibels in my house and promises that she really, really wants to early retire to come and help with the kids. So, of course I start yelling, hang up and then feel bad about it. I feel bad for about 1 hour…until my mom’s cousin calls me from France to apply for a position as a cook at my fictional Lao restaurant…What the fuck? As a joke, I told my mom a few weeks ago about opening a restaurant if I could not find a job and now the whole Lao community in France thinks I am planning to be the next ‘Nobu’. Insane, absolutely insane…I am schizophrenic enough as it is, I do not need a knife handling chef persona to join the crew in my head. Nope. Out of my head, you and your toque.
What about you, guys? How many people do you have in your head?
Have a nice week, everyone!
When I first discovered Betty, I felt like a firecracker on a 4th of July. Finally, I had found someone in the TV world I could perhaps relate to. I always fantasized myself as a Sydney Bristow (from the JJ Abrams’ show, Alias) because she seriously kicked ass, called Victor Garber ‘Dad’ and …, was humping super hot Michael Vaughn. For the latter reason alone, I would not mind dying and being reborn as Sydney Bristow; Sydney Bristow’s nipple even.
But Betty Suarez was me. Daughter of an immigrant family with unruly eyebrows and confusing fashion style. She was someone whom the viewers were rooting for and hoped she would end up with the financially comfortable, boyishly pretty and slightly rebellious Daniel. Young DH was a little like that before he married me. We then had 3 kids and one income for the whole family. He is now broke, circumstantially submissive to corporate America and with a beer belly. He is still kind of pretty 🙂
I am Betty Suarez down to my food diet. My last work meeting was a 2 pm meeting. The two model like women I met ordered a side kale salad for their lunches. A SIDE kale salad…Meanwhile I ate before the meeting thinking I would save some money and time and avoid having to swallow noodles or something tricky like that while I speak. I have done this once in a lunch job interview and it was ghastly. Anyway, guess what I had? I ate a fucking BBQ beef rib reeking of fatty juice with a lentils salad, dill rice…and a Madeleine. How more Betty Suarez can I be?
Betty was better though because she dared the tin can smile…I have been talking about wearing some braces for almost a decade to sort out my crooked teeth but I still cannot do it. Yes, the force was strong in Betty.
Age 37, I am feeling even closer to her. That is so retarded. I feel like an intern in my return to the work world despite 15 years working experience. Hell, this 20 year old blogger from Lost Gen Y girl seems to have it more together than I do. I am not on coffee duties but everything seems brand new to me. I also wonder whether I am going next. I am constantly asking myself: ‘can I really do this? Am I not dangerously winging it?’ Another very telling fact is that…I sweat a lot. Buckets load.
The difference is that now I am too fucking old to censor myself and actually say all the shit that I am thinking. I dress exactly the way I want without caring about how this may get interpreted. I also cut people in the middle of sentences to dash off home because my nanny’s shift was over. I am basically like an intern with a cocaine addiction problem.
But when your (still sole) client suddenly opens his eyes real wide during a meeting and excitedly says after listening to your demented rambling:
‘I think you have just nailed it! That thing you just said is a BIG, BIG idea’. When that happens, you feel what you would probably feel if you were removing hideous metal braces torturing your teeth. Suddenly I realize that teeth braces are the perfect analogy for my current anxieties. Being jobless burdens you, inhibits you, makes you feel ashamed and ugly. People see you differently, they try not to talk about it but it’s, sometimes, the only thing they see and they wonder when you’ll find a job again. Eventually, the braces always come off. Eventually, I hope I will smile again, this time though, a smile with straight teeth.
But before that, I actually need to put these braces on. For real.
NB: I looked online at what happened to Betty at the end of the series (I stopped watching after season 2). Apparently she left New York for a great career in London, looks fabulous; Daniel kind of followed her there and asked her for a date. Way to go, Betty.
NB2: completely not related to my post but needed to get this one out of my chest….I realized that we had 45 unmatched kid socks in our house…45!!!! How can I think I am better at laundry than our local ‘wash and fold’ launderette ? #delusionalhomemaker
‘Bob: What are you doing?
Charlotte: My husband’s a photographer, so he’s here working. I wasn’t doing anything so I came along.
Bob: What do you do?
Charlotte: I’m not sure yet, actually’. Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola (2003)
I was very excited to attend Kiera’s baby shower because it was taking place in the beautifully designed Isola, the trattoria at the Mondrian Soho hotel. It was also going to be my first mom and daughter outing since P was born more than 2 years ago. I usually never bring a kid to an adult gathering. However, DH’s hyperbolic enthusiasm for my off-the-cuff suggestion to bring P was in fact a not too subtle plea to not leave him alone with the 3 kids. Thinks got pesky from the outset. I am slowly realizing that my daughter and I disagree on a lot of things. Style being one. She is a ‘total look’ toddler obsessed with dresses and whose style can be summarized in 3 words ‘girlie, girlie and…girlie’ and I am like, eh, eh…well, I’m like something else. P started to bully me into removing the headpiece I was wearing. We argued. And I went on and on about respecting people’s self-expression, and risk-taking and this included the way they dressed. She said: ‘Fine…but I just want you to leave it home, that’s all’. At this point, G knew better and fled to the backyard to join DH and L… My eyes were throwing darts and I was bloody keeping my headpiece!
The lunch was lovely despite my well known prejudice against ‘only moms’ stuff. Indeed, although my blog universe was quickly filled with other moms it took a while to ease myself into real life moms’ circles or conversations. In some narcissistic ways, I am petrified that I would eventually realize that my woes are so banal and common that I would then feel utterly ashamed to even have a blog to rant about my experience of motherhood. In fact, once a girlfriend mentioned my blog to another mom who said:‘yeah, I don’t really need to read about it…I do live it.’ I think I blushed, me with my Asian dark skin, I blushed!
Anyway, when eight moms have lunch together, conversations can quickly switch from diapers’ brands and best kids iPhone apps to the dreaded question of: ‘what are you doing next?’ You hesitate between the positive and cheerful scenario and the complete ‘I don’t fucking know’ meltdown. And then sometimes, you discover something very valuable in the middle: honesty. After one hour of getting to know the other ladies, I had an epiphany: bare one mom we all left some satisfying or successful careers behind us to move to New York because our other halves got a job opportunity here. All of us pushed our other halves to accept the transfer so we could live the Big Apple dream and fantasy. And now a few years later, we honestly asked each other: ‘So what now?‘ Should we have stayed in our respective countries, this would have been a no brainer: we would have kept our jobs, got on maternity leave after getting the babies out of our wombs and got right back behind our desks after experimenting with breastfeeding for a couple of months. Chop, chop and chop. No drama (hypothetically), no forced self-introspection.
Instead, we are trying to play the American game of self-reinvention; some with better success than others. Some are trying to figure out how to act American i.e. instead of saying that ‘you are jobless’, you say ‘I am exploring different opportunities’. Most of us are now looking into things or careers we never dared dreaming about. Inchallah! I have always been amazed about how Americans proudly use words like: ‘reinvention’, ‘in transition’, ‘in between this and that’ , ‘exploring’ etc. It really opened my eyes. Where I am from, you are often ashamed of life changes or so called soul searching. People around you get uncomfortable. They are concerned that you may have lost your way. They sometimes suggest that you see a therapist or swallow anti-depressants to get you back on the horse…Forget the ‘caterpillar-butterfly’ metamorphosis metaphor, I sometimes feel that over here it’s more like friggin’Mystique from the Marvel comics world!
I concluded as I was paying my bill that I was pretty happy to be a confused mom in New York. Every day I wander across the buzzy avenues of Manhattan and through the limbo that is my soul in search for my next incarnation. But I know damn well that there are maybe about 8 million of other lunatics doing just exactly the same fucking thing. I also looked at P, who fell asleep in the restaurant and wondered how many future versions of this mademoiselle will make my head spin and my blood boil 🙂
Random: bumped into the gorgeous Tawny Cypress while leaving the restaurant. Her beauty left me speechless. I was mesmerized by her but snapped back to reality when I heard her squeal ‘Oh my god!‘, turned around and saw P standing next to building workers throwing big wooden poles on the ground…Bad parenting. #dorkymama.
NB: this was my version of ‘today we are all New Yorkers’ on this 9/11…
1. (in Hinduism and Buddhism) The sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in…
2. Destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.
When I closed the door on my kids’ face to rush to some networking drinks, I had a weird feeling in my stomach. Was it because I had caught P’s cold by nursing her all day? Was it because I was having butterflies thinking of meeting up with successful ladies in a swanky bar? Was it just because my high heeled mint pumps were already hurting? Or was it because I fled the chaos of my home and 3 crying babies and that deep inside, I knew I was going to pay for this.
It was my first group networking drinks in New York. Pre-New York me would have been absolutely irked by such an idea. New York me realized that it is the only way you get anything done over here or at least it is the only way to get a job. Here is how it worked for me. Successful Lady A (SLA) and I get hooked up via Facebook thanks to my friend and a friend of SLA. We talk, hit it off, and she introduces me to Successful Lady B (SLB) during a charity gala. A few months later, SLA decides to get SLB, Successful Lady C (SLC) and a certain Redlipstickmama together to discuss about our past, present and future and see where chemistry can lead us. So here I was sipping Rose wine on a roof terrace bar by a pool in the middle of the Meatpacking district trying to figure out my career, getting tips on how to take over the world and occasionally getting compliments on my earrings and pumps. It was absolutely surreal and weirdly enough, not weird at all. Have I become the consummate New York gal? I always believed that if you always treat others gracefully; one day you would reap some fruits. And if you are lucky enough, they won’t all smell like Durian fruit (South East Asian fruit that smells like a gas leak or rotten egg).
Anyway, after 3 hours floating on my little ‘I am Successful Lady D’ cloud (can you hear Beyonce’s ‘(Girls) run the world’ Anthem? Can you hear it?), I got home and that’s when the shit hit the fan. L woke up at 3am; I took him onto the couch and the ‘Karma-Sutra’ lesson started, below a quick selection of the Classic positions:
The Flying Angel
L rolled across my chest and projected himself over the couch. I groggily caught him with one arm which he then used a hammock. One word: cramps.
The Blood Sucking Bite
L decided that teething rings were lame and started to bite and pull every single piece of skin, cartilage and fat hanging out from my body (double chin, extra tummy, nose etc.). And to finish me off, he went for the kill: the flabby ‘chicken wings’ arms.
L twisted my neck with his big thighs. This boy is strong. Seriously, I swear I heard a crack. I usually like Thai massage because the masseuses crack all your knuckles and vertebrea but when it is done by a chubby Chucky doll at 4am, it is traumatic.
The Shaolin Soccer Free Kick
Mama’s head = leather soccer ball. No further explanation needed.
Yes, L acted as he was on a mission to make me feel the wrath of the abandoned tot. Or at least, that’s what working Redlipstickmama started to think. I thought: ‘Am I guilt-tripping here or what?’. Well, I didn’t think that for long… When P & G woke up, the three of them started to shake frantically the safety gate dividing our open plan kitchen and our living room. I barricaded myself in the kitchen and thought out loud: ‘I need a job. Whatever it is. Fuck the smell. Give me some shit loads of Durian!’
I woke up with a spleen. In fact, I have been waking up with a spleen for the last three days. Another good old shower could not wash away my gloominess so I wikipedia-ed ‘postpartum depression’. I finally self-diagnosed myself as not going through the big D. Note: It is stupid to self-diagnose when it comes to D so if you have doubts, please see someone. I have learnt some interesting stuff though such as ‘Some cultures believe that the symptoms of postpartum depression or similar illnesses can be avoided through protective rituals in the period after birth. Chinese women participate in a ritual known as “doing the month” in which they spend the first 30 days after giving birth resting in bed, while the mother or mother-in-law takes care of domestic duties and childcare. In addition, the new mother is not allowed to bathe, wash her hair, leave the house, or be blown by the wind.’ Amazing, right?
If it was not depression, then what the hell was it? How did it start? And more importantly how the f*** can I make it go A-W-A-Y??? I wondered if it was just a question of numbers. I decided, a long time ago, to laugh in the face of numbers such as the extra pounds still to be shed, the shrinking level of her savings or the non existent number of interesting job postings out there. However, I was in a funk because of stupid numbers.
3 years ago was the last time I received a salary check.
1 year ago was when L arrived in our lives and he is still not sleeping through the night; which means 1 year ago was the last time I might have had a decent night sleep.
38 is how many candles my BFF, Natasha will blow Down under without me…again.
2 unpleasant phone conversations with people who were trying to screw me by double charging me. Guess whom? The building rental company and a health provider. Typical USA, I suppose.
25 is the number of unknown ‘busy moms’ I agreed to meet for a work lunch at Bryant Park. I don’t do moms support groups – strange, I know. However, for some reasons when I saw this vague but somewhat simple and endearing tag line ‘busy moms networking’, I thought why not? I am a mom and I am busy…kind of. But as my red lipstick broke while I was applying it and thus trashed my shirt, I almost bailed out. Not only I don’t do moms support groups but I don’t do chit chat either. I am more like an intense geek-o-mama who scrutinizes you from head to toe, punches you hard when she laughs, swears like a truck driver and wants you to start some kind of rebellion somewhere. In other words, I am not good material for casual work lunch breaks.
But I kicked myself in the a** once, twice and three times and found the perfect outfit to fight my blues: a Flip Jackson jacket from Natasha, a combination of beads and chains (I liked the cute and tough combo), a LINKS friendship bracelet, a stripes shirt by good old Marks&Spencer (can you feel the British nostalgia vibe?) and a pair of Jhay shoes. Yes, if you cannot snap out of it, you may as well wear it!
And it did help. The Busy moms group thing was actually very good. Yeah for strong and kind women. Most of them were working moms with only one child: lawyers, branding specialists, fashion designers, business owners etc. And then, the weirdest thing happened. One of them brought her tot who chose me out of the whole lot to feed her. Everyone was in awe and seemed to think I was some kind of Mama guru with 3 children. I blurted: ‘Ok, now this freaks me out. I am not even a great mom and my kids never want me to feed them!’ Most moms actually got my humor and laughed. It was getting weirder and weirder indeed because as I took the bus home, I realized I no longer had the blues.
Just shut up
Shut up [3x]
Shut it up, just shut up
Just shut up
Shut up [3x]
Shut it up, just shut up
We try to take it slow
But we’re still losing control
And we try to make it work
But it still ends up the worst
And I’m craaazzzy (Black Eyed Peas)
I have previously detailed the rules not to break with a headhunter. After today’s social-work lunch with a FoF (Friend of Friend) who is doing your F (Friend) a huge favor by carving some time out of their busy schedule to help me on my job search, here is my list of rules not to break with a FoF. And before you ask, yes, yes and yes I did ALL the creepy things detailed below.
1- Try to remember that you have already met FoF. In my case, at least three times in the last 10 years. It is mortifying to reminded of this ‘little’ detail after you have just said ‘nice meeting you‘ or worse, after you try to save your face by saying ‘oh but you had your hair shorter then, right?’ Lame excuse, plain lame.
2- Withhold unnecessary information and in particular lie about parenthood. FoF turns out to be extremely engaging and you feel like you have a natural connection? FoF asks how you are coping with 3 young children? You feel like you could share everything? Well, don’t. Just don’t and bloody control yourself. Our lunch has turned into a semi-monologue on motherhood, gender neutral upbringing, breastfeeding, property investment, my complicated relationship with my mother, raising kids in expensive New York, and so on and so forth. At some point, FoF who has just confessed that she and hubby are thinking of starting a family seems to be tearing up. This should have been my cue to move on. FoF is either over empathic and takes pity on me or is suddenly having an anxiety attack about parenthood right there in front of her tuna salad.
3- Stay focused. The problem with meeting with a nice FoF is that you start questioning whether or not to ‘cheapen’ the conversation by asking for career advice or their contacts. Don’t be a fool. They know it is coming. Haven’t you just mentioned like a zillion times your out of work status: ‘I stopped working since…’, ‘I no longer want to be a stay-at-home mom’ or ‘I used to do x and y for a living’? So, just get some balls and bloody go for it because when FoF decides that this lunch has lasted long enough and she is the one giving in by asking what she can do for you, then you understand the real meaning of A-W-K-W-A-R-D.
4- Let go. FoF is nice, has a body you are jealous of, wears a jacket you wish you had bought and has a job you could enjoy. All this is great but when FoF starts fidgeting while waiting for the check or pacing in the street while talking to you because she now really needs to go back to work (remember, the thing that you do not have?), you really, really have to let them go. And do not, EVER, grab their forearm while nervously chuckling: ‘I am sorry, I am always around kids so I cannot shut up when I meet with adults hahaha…’
As I walk towards the subway, DH calls and I tell him everything.
He says: ’Oh dear…you went all neurotic chatter box, didn’t you?’
I think: ‘Oh dear…she is probably thinking about crazy “Single White Female” right now? Or more likely crazy “Married Asian Mother”…Or whatever…Oh, just shut up, woman, just shut up already!’
I gave in to a very old addiction: enrolling into a class. I am officially a part-time student of NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies. When growing up I was an excellent pupil who turned into a good high school student who turned into an average business student. I only excelled in Philosophy and English, which is problematic when your major is Mathematics and Physics. I would rather do extra essays for friends in different classes than work on integrals and derivatives. I should have known I was never going to earn big bucks in Corporate America. I guessed I fooled everyone including DH, met at my Graduate Business School. Poor lad.
Anyway, I do have a M.O.(Modus Operandi): I move countries, I need a new job (there is no such thing as ‘relocation’ or ‘job transfer’ for the middle people in the social justice field), I am freaking out, I enroll in a class. It is better than drugs, I suppose. So far, the list includes:
Edinburgh, Scotland: Heriot Watt University, MA in Business Management with a major in Marketing. No surprise since I was studying Business in France.
London, England: University of London, MSc Development Studies, which I nailed big time, by the way 🙂 Can you guess the major freak out in my head at the time? and especially in my folks’ head: ‘What do you mean you don’t want to become rich and want to save the world? Do you realize we had to sell the house to pay for your studies?‘ It was a little exaggerated but remember, my parents are LAO…
New York, USA: Fashion Institute Technology, Millinery, Accessories Design and Small Business Management. While doing this I was heavily pregnant with the twins and thus heavily hormonal and pissed off about being sick all the time. I therefore decided to hammer down some studs on leather and tie ropes around hat blocks. At this point, I probably looked like a pregnant Dexter, the serial killer, understudy. DH knew better than not to discuss what my career endgame was with all those classes and all those push pins and needles scattered around our living room floor.
And now New York University, Non-profits 3.0: Technologies and Practice. Stay tuned.
Of course as years pass by, I might be older now than my professor so my ego better gets ready for this. I am not sure what students look these days but for me, I felt like a messy hair bun, Oliver’s people reading glasses, old tee-shirt from 80s boy band A-ha, denim jacket and pumps by Celine.
It is not often than I get work connections through my family – mainly because they still don’t know what I was doing before having kids and more comprehensibly what it is I actually want to do now. My sister’s boyfriend once candidly asked: ‘I am confused…your sister has two Masters in Business and Management, worked in Market research, then studied a Masters in Development studies because she wanted to save the world and then took some accessories design classes at the Fashion Institute Technology …I am lost’. What is truly awful about this is that my career schizophrenia has been correctly articulated by a 21 year old boy. I don’t know what is going on but younger generations seem so much more together and so much more serious. Perhaps one of the many consequences of the economic recession: the youth is scared shitless of being unemployed for the rest of their lives. People in our 40s; let’s watch out because our competition is ruthless. Mark my words: they will eat us alive.
Ok back to the topic … For once I had a family connection, an ‘aunt’ with at least three degrees of separation and through marriage but it still counts. Can you feel how desperate my job search has become? My aunt thus hooked me up with a headhunter for a ‘please find me a well paid job’ coffee chat. After my one hour meeting, my first one since 2010 that did not involve talking about my eggs, measuring my hormonal levels, monitoring my fetuses’ growth or weighing my kids, I learnt a lot. A lot about what not to do at a first meeting after your maternity leave:
1- do not forget to ask people’s cell phone number. It is obvious but somehow two years with my head in dirty diapers made me forget this simple rule. It would have avoided the awkward search around in one of the busiest Starbucks coffee shops in town, which leads me to
2- even though you are not working you should have in mind business like places for meetings in business areas because people who work will NEVER come all the way up to Harlem for a coffee in your local quiet Senegalese bakery. And you want to look like you are in charge and know the cool places.
3- Do not start talking about your résumé while looking for a coffee place because they are not listening!!! It is cold, it is early in the morning, they have caffeine withdrawal so you should really shut up…in fact the next rule is probably the most important
4- you have missed conversation with another adult, especially one that makes you feel that you are more than a breeding cow or a living exercauser but it is not a reason to start sharing every single detail about your life. Repeat after me: A HEAD HUNTER IS NOT YOUR BFF (Best Friend Forever). They don’t care about you not sleeping because your little brats wanted to watch TV at 3am. They do not care!
Anyway despite my verbal diarrhea the headhunter managed to pep talk me: strong résumé and logical career moves (the key word here being logical my friends). He told me to write down the top 5 companies I wanted to work for and he would check if he had any connections. He seemed confounded that I could not answer straight away but I am sure he would have struggled with my spontaneous list: Alexander Wang, the Ford Foundation, any big Women’s rights organizations, President Obama and myself…
Not sure where this meeting would lead me but it was worth doing this exercise if only to wear grown up clothing and get the free coffee.
Today is the second day of my job search. Considering that my first day of job search was three weeks ago it is becoming slightly pathetic. I had a horrible night since my 3 month old baby L woke up every hour and a half and I basically had to use my breasts as a ‘will you shut up?’ pacifier. Obviously my angel-demon is not sleep trained, feed trained, poop trained. He is not trained at all. He is basically ON DEMAND for every single basic function he has at his age.
I could however not postpone this whole thing anymore because:
1- my husband nudged me about finding a job twice in two days: ‘Oh you want to start a blog, what about your job search?’ and the next day even less subtle ‘hurry to find a job so we can buy our vacation home and pay the nanny next year’. The ‘paying the nanny’ business did the trick; I cannot live without her. When she arrives on Monday morning at 9am after a chaotic week end, the kids are barely alive and I am very close to kissing her feet. And I don’t mean this in a figurative way.
2- I had my child care covered: G & P my 18 (or is it 19) months old twins were with their trustworthy nanny and my 3 month old baby L was being taken care of by my British model like summer au pair/teenage niece Alice. And when you have your child care organized for the day you really have to make the most out of it…In my dreams that would mean going through my old Vogue and Grazzia magazines and cut out jumpsuits, dresses, boots, hats and more jumpsuits and caressing the pictures one by one. In reality that means paying my dentist bill, doing 7 wash loads, procrastinating about L’s birth announcement (considering I have never sent my thank you cards after my 2004 wedding, I still think I am on track for this one) and of course looking for a JOB. A JOB is financially remunerated as opposed to jobs, the ‘little things’ that stay at mums do for the survival of her progeny.
Plus I had a starting point. DH (aka Dear Husband) suggested ‘Go and get LinkedIn’ before leaving for his big bank job while I had my head under my pillow partly snoring with one breast still hanging from L’s mouth.
‘Go and get LinkedIn’. Said like this, it seems pretty easy right?
So what is this LinkedIn business about? It is social networking based on your professional identity so that bankers can smooch online with other bankers and head hunters can screen out zillions of profiles for the lucky candidates they think will be their next cash cows. As I start building my profile and network (almost feverishly I must admit) here’s what struck me:
1- From a quick glance I can see that not all vocations might be represented such as male prostitutes , burlesque dancers, surrogate mothers or stunt doubles etc. So really it is professional working for Messieurs and Mesdames SUITS, isn’t it? Oh dear… Since I am out of business school I never really branched out of ‘my crowd, have I? I am so conservative …or am I just a snob? By the way where is my skinny emotionally retarded childhood friend artist Jan on LinkedIn? Jan is my hip-o-meter; he once made holes in a t-shirt for me to wear because I was embarrassing him clubbing with my 9 to 5 ‘uniform’. I fear Jan would not approve of this LinkedIn business…
2- I had no idea I knew so many people with good jobs. Everyone seems to be so bright, successful, a specialist in something. The picture is the real deal. It says it all; that is probably why a lot don’t put pics at all. I struggle to recognize DH, he looks a little constipated. I should really mention this to him at some point.
Anyhow I started to ask peeps to get connected using 3 filters: my mates (so they know I am not completely procrastinating about my job search), the people who have jobs that make me jealous (e.g.Mr Artistic Director chez Christian Dior) and those who have jobs who make me look as if I had some sort of influence (Partners, MDs I am talking about you). As I completed my profile, I again looked at all my connections with these busy, employed, and perhaps very important people. I did feel this burst of pride in my chest almost as I was somehow doing a little bit of their day job. Pfff I am tired already. Oops I have just received a message from Mr Christian Dior in my inbox, wow this thing is as fast as Facebook!!!
The email says:
I just received your connection request but not sure if we know each other?’
I AM MORTIFIED!!!!!!!!!!!