Tuesday Open Thread

Happy Tuesday y’all!

As a former journalist and a mom who is familiar with barfy kids, this headline caught my eye: “Vomiting Child Costs a Journalist Her Career.”


Here’s the gist: a TV writer for the Chicago Sun-Times reluctantly agreed to review the “Glee! Live” show, and her editor gave her the OK to take her kids and include some of their reactions and POV. I loved those assignments that let me combine work and motherhood, so I’m reading along and thinking, sweet!

And then: her squirmy 6-year-old son fell out of his seat. Next, her 7-year-old daughter barfed into a cotton candy bag. ACK!!!

Needless to say the writer hightailed it out of there halfway through the show, after 13(!) songs. Here’s where she screwed up: instead of fessing up, she looked online at previous set lists and wrote the review as if she had stayed for the whole show. Turns out the set list had been altered and some Gleek outed her, setting in motion a chain of events that led to her firing.

As a journalist, I get it: that was a cardinal no-no. As a mom, I say, OUCH. That was way harsh. Turns out the writer, Paige Wiser, had recently backed out of covering the Oprah farewell spectacular when she got vertigo in the pressbox. So she felt like she couldn’t flake out again.

“Of course I was in the wrong. I made a horrible decision at 1am when I was tired, but I know it was not worth throwing away a career. After the Oprah incident, I felt this one had to be solid. But I have no excuse. I know the rules.“

Until recently, the Sun-Times had made special accommodations for Wiser by allowing her to work from her far northwest suburban home to avoid what she called a “three-hour commute.“ But after a recent round of layoffs left her department more short-handed than ever, she was told she had to come in to the office each day.

“Trying to do this with the kids and a three-hour commute, and when every editor wants something different, let’s just say it’s become a very strange place. And because there’s not a lot of people with kids at the paper, I’m a little sensitive about coming across like I can’t do it because of my kids.“

All I can say is, I feel for her. Sometimes that work-life balance spirals out of control and it can lead to disaster.

I found it interesting that this Cafe Mom blog entry on the debacle drew absolutely zero sympathy from the commenters, who are presumably also moms. Incidents like this just burn me up, because it gives more ammo to the asshats. To wit, a comment:

RhondaVeggie on Jun 11, 2011 at 7:50 PM
She just proved that you can’t be a good mom and a good employee. Something always suffers and in this case she failed both her kids and her employer.

STFU, RhondaVeggie. Why are women so hard on each other?

I remember running across the street to the day care center, racing to get there before the 6 p.m. closing time, then hauling Maya back to the newsroom where I had to wait until my story was edited. Then it was a matter of entertaining her while not disrupting anyone on deadline, and praying my editor wouldn’t request a major re-write. I get where this woman was coming from. I like to think I NEVER would have made such a boneheaded move, but thankfully I never had to find out.

What do you think? Does this woman elicit some of your sympathy, or is she just a plain old f*ck-up? Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?

What else is on your mind today? Chat away!


Saturday Open Thread

It’s the weekend, y’all!

We’re heading into our last week of the school year. Maya’s kindergarten promotion ceremony is on Tuesday, and the last day of school is Thursday, where parents will staff a mini-carnival before all the kids are sent home early.

It seems like just yesterday I was so nervous about sending my little girl off to kindergarten. The thought that every year of our lives will somehow fly by this quickly just makes me feel overwhelmed and sad!

Adding to that is the fact that Alex will likely stop nursing any day now. Wasn’t he just born like, a few months ago? WTF happened? How did he get to be this walking, babbling, sentient little person?

Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the ride like crazy. But does it have to feel faster than the wildest theme park roller coaster? :-)

How are you feeling this weekend? Optimistic? Energetic? Nostalgic? Exhausted?

And what are you up to? Chat away!


Kids and cars, or, maybe I need to think on this a bit more …

Warning: This diary was written in response to an <ins>extremely disturbing</ins&gt article about death by hyperthermia—heat death—in children who were left locked in cars.

First, let me give you the backstory very briefly: Have always loved kids … other people’s kids. Have been firmly decided since I was about 6 that I did not want any of my own. Expat and I had not planned to have any, and certainly not by any means other than adoption.

Funny thing, biology. You hit 30, and … Anyway, the line I’m using nowadays is that “we’re less against the idea than we used to be” although once I get around to admitting it to myself, I’ll probably admit the truth is I expect we’ll have our first in the next 5 years or so. (Good Lord, did I just type that?!)

There are a lot of reasons I didn’t want kids, but the one I haven’t gotten over yet (because of course like any good, well-bred young woman whose mother came of age in the 60s, I believe I am Superwoman so the fact that I have a Very Busy Career is no impediment*) is that I am sure I will be a Bad Mother. You give me a baby to hold, even a baby I love and see often, and it will certainly start crying, and beyond bouncing it around I have absolutely no clue what to do with it. I’m not one of those women who immediately grabs the nearest baby and won’t let go, so I don’t tend to have them passed to me too often. I don’t know how to talk to kids; I want to talk to them the way I wished adults would talk to me and then I find myself talking to them in the same baby talk I use on the dog and one of the cats. (Weirdly, I have adult, albeit one-sided, conversations with the older cat.) I have nothing to discuss with teenagers except the same very dumb questions about school that people asked me when I was one. Heck, half the time I don’t even know what to say to my own sister, who’s (barely) an adult but as firmly entrenched in the Millennial Generation as I am in Gen X.

So, the long and short of it is that beyond ooh-ing and ah-ing and an occasional stroke of genius in present-giving (went 3 for 3 with gifts to my best friends’ boys this Christmas!) I have no idea what to do with a child of any age and am convinced I will do the wrong things most of the time, a doubt not helped by the fact that of course I don’t want to grow up to do all the wrong things my mother did, half of which I see myself doing anyway.

And then, and then, I read this article by Pulitzer-winning journalist and erstwhile humor columnist Gene Weingarten in this week’s Washington Post magazine.  It’s about parents who have killed their children by leaving them in cars. He screened carefully and reported only on parents who were otherwise known to be good and loving parents who adored their children, but who do to stress and changes in routine and environmental factors simply forgot that their children were in the car with them. It’s quite an article: he interviewed families; he interviewed prosecutors (both who prosecuted the parents and declined to do so); he interviewed neuroscientists about how we can forget our children and psychologists about why we need to hate parents whom this happens do. I have not quoted any of the article here because there is no part of it that is not utterly horrifying. (He was also online today to chat about his article. I won’t give away the backstory he gives for wanting to write it.)  

Here’s the thing: I have no doubt whatsoever that I could forget my child in a car and very little that I would actually do so. I forget things all the time. I have had something on my desk for a week that I need to fax to the city with a copy of my car registration. Every day when I come to work, I forget to bring my registration to my office. Every day at lunch, I forget to go down to the parking garage and get it. Every day when I go home, I forget to take the form with me. And if I did, once I got home, I’d forget I had it and/or to actually fax it. I fail to see things all the time, too. I hunt for shoes that are sitting in the middle of my bedroom floor. I have (more than once, no less) spent a long time looking all over for the glass I was drinking out of until someone pointed out that I was actually holding it already. The reason I don’t have houseplants is that I forget to water them; I’ve never kept one alive more than a month. (And I’m sure the cat, pre-Expat, went hungry more than once because she didn’t happen to meow at precisely a time when I was in range of her food and had nothing more immediately pressing to do.) Or in short, I was already utterly and completely convinced that only by the grace of God** would my children live to adulthood without my locking them in a hot car, running them over as they played in the drive way, letting them fall into a swimming pool, or otherwise being negligent at a time when it was the difference between life and death. (Not to mention, of course, my more minor worries about teenage rebellion, learning disabilities, potty training, and all of the zillions of other things parents have to cope with, all of which I’m sure I’ll get dreadfully wrong.***)

So, in my first diary I’m sorry to be such an incredible downer. But I guess I wrote this to ask you-all a couple of questions: am I the only one who felt this way before having kids? how do you get over it? (did you get over it?) how do you avoid becoming one of the parents in the story?  

(*) Said tongue in cheek, of course … intellectually I know kids + career = mind-boggling, but it’s not what’s holding me back.
(**) I’m an atheist, but “by the amazing fortune of the universe lining up favorably” doesn’t sound as good.
(***) I’m an optimist by nature, actually, why do you ask?


My Bleeding Heart

I’ve noticed life has a way of kicking me in the butt when I’m wallowing in self-pity a little too much.

My husband’s car broke down Monday, and yesterday we found out it needs major repairs to the tune of $2,400. We’re lucky because paying that amount won’t break us…but it sure doesn’t feel good to part with that money, especially as we’re scrambling to save for that elusive house.

The past couple of days have been inconvenient, and the next few will be kind of difficult as we juggle how to get me, DD and DH where we need to be with one car. There’s lots of taking off early for me, and being late in general. Being torn away from your routine is always aggravating.

Then this morning I interviewed a family from Afghanistan. The father was biking to work last week when he was the victim of a hit-and-run driver. This man is comatose and clinging to life; the driver has yet to be found. The family, which includes four children ages 8 to 22, is keeping vigil at the hospital and trying to figure out how they will pay their household bills, much less hospital bills.

This job can be difficult and depressing. Even after 10 years as a reporter, it doesn’t get any easier asking questions about situations that are so tragic, and witnessing pain that is so fresh and palpable. But this family wanted to talk. And I’m willing to grapple with a little discomfort if it means this story prompts witnesses to step forward, or people to donate to a fund established for the family.

The job is also humbling. It reminds me to be grateful for everything I have, and to take the public’s trust seriously, even if the surveys say it’s diminishing every day.

Then there are the many snarky remarks made by the right wing about how all journalists are bleeding heart liberals. To that I say, what else do you expect? We are exposed to so much suffering and need and greed and corruption. On our best days, we try and do something to rectify it.

Bleeding heart? Call me crazy, but that’s never struck me as much of an insult. It’s a label I don’t mind being slapped with. To me, it describes someone who cares about the way other people live, who sees injustice in gross inequities. Someone who doesn’t think of themself first in every situation, who tries hard to banish the “Me, me, me” tendencies that are all too common in society.

And should my daughter grow up to have a bleeding heart…I will be one proud mommy.

What do you all think? Is “bleeding heart” a true insult or a meaningless put-down? Do you have a bleeding heart? Should ALL mothers have them? Share your thoughts…