Thursday, April 9, 2009

Working and Playing

This morning my guys let me sleep in all the way to 9 AM (a big big thank you to my husband who played Lego's with Q for an hour and a half) and so I missed the morning news and was listening to an interview with an author while I made my coffee.  She said that she lived in Ohio in a place where the family was the center of everything and people didn't leave their children to be raised by others.  She then went on to say how difficult that is but that it was worth it.

Funny, that line "to be raised by others."  So innocently thrown out there.  The judgmental high tone of it all.  It's similar to "I'm a full-time mom."  Hmmmm.   

I'm a full time mom too.  I just happen to have a job that pays our mortgage.  Actually, wouldn't that make me a full time mom +.  At work on Tuesday, I mentioned to a male colleague that I would probably be taking Wednesday and Thursday off but if I didn't get everything at work done I would bring Q into work for a couple of hours and then he and I would putz around the city.  He asked if Q was out of school and I told him it was Spring break.  He looked off in the distance and said "Spring Break,  huh, I think my kids have spring break soon.  Actually, it might be this week too.  They might be on Spring break now also."  Now, just to be clear, this man is not divorced, he lives with his wife and his children.  And his children are young like Q also.  And there you have the huge difference between a working Dad and a working Mom.  While most dads would know when there kids were going to be home for a week and not in school, I cannot think of a single working mom that would have any choice but to know.  It's the expectations on the mom that make the big difference.  If child is off of school and hanging out all day on play dates with Mom and doesn't see dad but for dinner nothing is ever made of that.  But if the neighbor of that child is off of school and is hanging out with dad, playing lego's and basketball and going to play dates and sees mom just for dinner, well, everyone feels sorry for the kid and worse starts making the kid feel sorry for himself too.

Yes, folks it's different being a working mom from a working dad.

But as much as I would stay home if the mortgage would get paid without my salary I do not for one moment think Q's life would be better.  It would be different.  For what he would gain in my influence he would naturally lose in my husbands.  One of the nicest things about working outside of our home is seeing the relationship my son and my husband have developed.  While my husband has never been a 'stay at home' dad, his flexible schedule means that on vacations and after school we do not have to have a babysitter.  It's nice because school can be tough (much tougher than daycare) and on vacation days he really needs a rest.

The world I've been able to give Q is larger and more varied than what he would be living in if I were at home.  In the last job I had, as an executive assistant to the CIO of a Hedge Fund, my boss was woman, and the owner of the firm was African American.  At the job I have now I work for a man who is Mexican and speaks four languages and the CFO who again is a woman.  This is rarified air in the financial world, let me tell you, but Q doesn't know that.  He thinks it's normal that in Finance world (which has got to be 90 % white and the 10% non-white is asian and east asian predominately) I would have two female bosses and one of the two men one would be Hispanic and the other Black.  Hah!  Let him keep that perspective.  

Q has always loved coming to my work places.  And why wouldn't he.  Yesterday, when he walked in the receptionist gave him a pack of gum, one of the other admin's called him sir, took his coat and asked him if he wanted juice and my boss, the owner of the company went into his office and brought out a book of paper airplanes (tear out a page and follow the instructions to make a dozen different types of airplanes.)  "Here" he said with his slight spanish accent "you can make some airplanes and fly them around the office."  And that is what he did.  And while he did he soaked in the environment.  Men and women hard at work 33 floors above Manhattan.  Well spoken and engaging they looked even while they argued a bit, happy to be there.  And when for a very brief moment it started to snow and then the wind kicked up and really the snow started roaring past the windows as if it was December and not April, everyone stopped and went to the windows and looked out.  "Wow!!!"  We all said.  Q too.  And the man who didn't know whether his children were off that week said to me and Q "It's great isn't it?"  And Q and I said "Yea!"  

After the paper airplanes Q spent some time looking out the window at all that was going on in the city 33 floors down, then he made some drawings of the city on some 3 foot by 3 foot paper that had been saved for him.  In his drawings, there are tall tall buildings and lots of cars and there are people in planes, and people walking on the city streets, and below that people in the subway in tunnels and all of them, all the people are smiling.

At 1 PM we left the office and went, per his request to American Museum of Natural History.  We have now been  there so many times we could work as docents.  This time I think we both realized that our next time in the city we're going to another museum.  "Maybe the Met, Mom.  I'm missing it."  Yup, I love me my Q.  After we walked through the museum we stepped out onto Central Park West and grabbed a city bus headed downtown.  A bus ride through Manhattan can simply never get boring.  The cast of characters is just to broad.  We went through Time Square and then the garment district and ended up at Madison Square Garden where that bus line stopped.  We then took a taxi the last bit of a way to our very favorite place in all Manhattan (that doesn't serve food - I should say) Strand Bookstore.  Strand sells discount books but it's so much more than the sum of it's parts.  The old wooden floor squeaks and the aisles are packed with books and people who love them.  Every type of person.  It's beautiful.  Really.  We take the elevator up to the third floor and start our calisthenics, down on the floor with my glasses falling off my nose to look at comic books and up on a small stool reaching as far as I can to look for books on mythology.  An entire section of chapter books at pretty much his reading level.  We have a system now.  We each separate (I can always see him of course) and we each pull books we think might be of interest.  We arrive at the low tables (I think the chairs are six inches off the ground) and begin to go through our stacks.  This time we had more than twenty books.  I read the jacket of the book and we make a 'no' pile and a 'maybe' pile.  Most of the books go to the 'maybe' pile.  Then I have about 15 books that I now read the first one or two pages of.  From this he says 'no' to some (to obviously boring or 'young' which he says the way a wine connoiseur might say about a wine that has gone to vinegar) and I say 'no' to some (mostly because we should 'leave them for next time' Mommy speak for 'they are too old for you.)  Finally we have it down to about 4.  This is when it gets really hard.  The only thing that helps at all at this point is that we are both really hungry and he knows by now that we will be back some time in the future.  With his stomach growling he chooses one comic book and one chapter book.  We've spent $14.00 and an hour and a half and we couldn't be more pleased.  

I ask if he's willing to try Ethiopian and he looks unsure.  He's tired.  I say let's go look at it and if there is nothing on the menu that sounds good to you we'll go somewhere else.  We take another taxi and wind up at the little store front Ethiopian restaurant in the East Village.  There is no one in the restaurant and nothing on the menu that looks appealing to him.  No problem I say.  There are a ton of restaurants in this neighborhood.  We walk 1/2 a block down and there is a pizza place on one side (New York Style, lower east side pizza) and right in front of us a hamburger restaurant.  He hears hamburgers and we walk in.  It turns out to be a local food, grass fed beef type of hamburger joint with an acoustical guitar version of a Chopin tune coming from the speakers.  We are both happy, Q and I and we are the first people there so have the full attention of the waitress.   I decide to split a hamburger (much to his chagrin) and when we do finally take a bite of our sandwiches I regret that decision.  It was the best burger I have ever had.  Q too.  We ordered the cheddar, bacon burger with sauteed onions and mustard.  The look on Q's face was pure bliss.  The waitresss, a woman in her late fifties had been watching us and when she saw him bite into his burger she came over and started talking to us.  We talked about good food and not good food and she gave us a far too detailed story about why we should never again eat at McDonalds.  Before we left she gave us some home made chocolate chip cookies.

Outside of the restaurant the sun was going down, judging by the orange glow on the buildings and as we stood waiting for a cab to come down the street I pointed up at the 6 story tenements and told Q this was the neighborhood that a book we read recently was written about.  We talked about the jewish immigrants who came here from Europe, how they lived and how the streets had changed but the apartments maybe not so much.  We talked about all the people we saw on the streets now and how it wasn't one group but a mix of many different kinds of people.  He asked where all the jewish people went and I said I'm sure some people are still here but many families moved out once they began to succeed in America.  They moved out to the suburbs and other immigrants moved in.  As we stood there we could see Hispanic, African and Asian immigrants walking by.  And then a taxi drew up and we got in and the taxi driver was wearing a turban.  I love me some New York City.

We got out of the taxi onto the now dark street and entered the door with thousands of others.  The schedule told us we had 2 minutes 50 seconds to get from one end of Grand Central to the other.  "Can we do it?!"  I fake shouted and he shouted for real "Yes!"  And we were off holding hands, running and laughing like lunatics.  "Why did we move to B...If we lived in Connecticut THAT would be our train " I laugh yelled and pointed to the train nearest us.  Q was laughing so hard he had to stop running and literally fell to his knees laughing just near the big clock in the center of the grand hall.  "Get up, Get up, if you don't get up we'll have to take the 7:15 train.  I can't stand the 7:15 train the people are the worst!!!"  I tell him, to more peels of laughter.  "OK OK but you MUST STOP TALKING until we're on the train!  You are 'ridiklis' "  and we ran some more, hoping on the train 30 seconds before the doors shut behind us.  The train was packed and we were 5 min late for getting seats together.  We walked all the way through the cars and I finally found a single seat on the aisle and asked the woman next to it to remove her bag please from the seat.  She did so kindly and I began to take off our coats and put them and our bags over head.  "The books mom!"  Q said and I was retrieving the chapter book from the bag when I noticed an aquaintance of ours from our town.  I smiled and he said hi and then he stood up from his coveted third seat with a free seat next to him and offered it to us.  Yay!  Q wouldn't need to sit on my lap!  The woman saw us moving and I told her she had just been spared listening to the story of Lenny and Mel, investigative middle school reporters.  She laughed and when she saw how handsome our friend happened to be, she was even more happy.  Everyone won, except perhaps our friend who had given up his precious leg and elbow room.

For the hour + ride we read the book, which was a great one, very very funny and enjoyed the last bit of our delightful day.  Y picked us up at the train.  And the stories of our day would have to wait.  We both could hardly speak.  "The shoes are smokin'" said Y.  And Q and I looked at each other.   I love my Q.  I love 6.  And I love that I can give him this great big, big, wonderful, diverse, world.


rebekah said...


I don't know if I've dropped a note before (my old mom brain is fried) but I've been reading for a few months at least.

There's so much about this post that hit home, or wanted to (as in my long standing desire to live in NYC). There's something special about being the primary working parent and the mom, yes, I feel split a lot of time, and my brain can't switch gears as often as I need it to, and my financial planning business is surely not what it could be.... but when my Q places a tea strainer and coffee scoop on the reception desk and says 'Mom! These must be here at all times!' - well, I manage:)

Really makes me want another trip out that way. We were there a year ago seeing Dr. Aronson.

Julie said...

Kristine, Kristine- You need your own column, in a big metropolitan newspaper, so that millions can read what you write. I admire you so much. I can't imagine a better atmosphere to raise a child; access to the world's greatest city and all that it has to offer, and a respite in the country, to view nature and all its beauty. You are remarkable, and I wish you had raised me.

-C said...

Kristine- another great post/story from you. Sounds like one of those days that you wish you could just put in a bottle and save forever. I am with Julie, you must get a column. I love Strand's book store too, it's full of character and soul. Always try to stop by when I am in town.

Oh and I am glad you enjoyed the video. Sorry it took me so long to send it to you.


Michelle O'Neil said...

"I do not for one moment think Q's life would be better. It would be different."

Loved this line. No wrong decisions, just different ones, all having positive aspects along with negative ones.

(Thanks so much for visiting my blog today. I appreciated your comment).