“You work? What do you do?”
“I manage a worldwide marketing program for one of the software brands at xyz company.” (As I write this, xyz company has an advertisement running on the “Welcome To The Mom Blog” screen on this website.)
The conversation ended so abruptly that I didn’t even feel like I could add the disclaimer, “I telecommute,” as an attempt to bridge the gap between me and the at-home mom with whom I was sitting, and the other two at-home moms to whom she had introduced.
We were at a bandstand concert in the town next to where some of our other sons were at baseball practice. She had warmly extended the invite to join them. My oldest and her oldest, as well as several of her friends’ sons would all be playing on either the same summer baseball team or the same football team or both. So we had all that in common and while two of their husbands coached football and would be coaching my kids, I had gone to high school with one of the people who started the football league in our town, so we had a lot to talk about. Until my disclosure that I worked.
Oftentimes a mom’s – especially a working mom’s – circle of friends is influenced by who their kids’ friends are, which is influenced by the activities in which kids participate, since our “leisure” (i.e., “nonworking”) time overlaps with our kids’ activities (I normally do not bring my work with me). It was a beautiful day and the band sounded great. I had felt particularly elated that I had met these ladies. Until my disclosure. Then I began mentally tallying my litany of faults.
As I squirmed uncomfortably, I realized it was more than just the ants on the ground and my youngest in my lap (since this was an impromptu thing to do, I did not bring a folding chair or blanket like seemingly all of the other people at the common.)
I also became self conscious about the poison ivy rash on my arms, which I had become convinced “everyone” must have noticed when I shook their hands. They probably don’t do their own yardwork, either, I thought to myself.
Hmmmph, I continued. I work because I like to work and it is an economic necessity for our family ten months out of the year. Does it make economic sense to work in the summer months when I operate at a deficit after taxes and the cost of keeping my kids in camp full time? No. But I can’t work with them at home (and anyone who thinks I can is welcome to take my three to his place of employment and see how much he gets done). Do I really want to work full time? No. But the corporate world doesn’t get school vacations and summers off. Do I think the government should let us subtract 100% of the cost of childcare from our taxable income? Yes! If it weren’t for childcare, I wouldn’t be contributing to the economy at all.
I knew I had to stop before I went too far down the path of defensive indignation in my head, where I would only be widening the chasm between my new friends and me. Of course, I had no idea what my friend was thinking; I am not a mind reader!
After what felt like an eternity (fortunately for the band, it was not silent), I said, “Well, I’ve got to get back to pick up my son…”
My friend turned and smiled at me. “My husband will be picking mine up. Make sure you introduce yourself and see you next week!” she replied with a smile.