Flight of the Working Mom Bee

When I was a little girl, my BBF and I had this game we played that we loved more than anything. On her rickety old record player, she’d pop on “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and we’d whirl around in crazy circles until we dropped from joyous exhaustion.

Cut to four decades later, and we are still doing that frantic dance, albeit not to the urgent strains of Rimsky-Korsakov’s classic, nor is it just for fun and kicks anymore. And although she now lives across the country from me, we still reach as far as we can — through email, texts, and by Bluetoothin’ like a mo’fo on my way to work/her 15-minute lunch break — to hold each others’ hands as we are whipped around in life’s frenzied flow.

My BBF has been back to work full-time for the last few years and she’s my touchstone now that I’m in the thick and full(ish) time myself. We like to discuss the horrors of long school vacations, the utter terror of a child’s weekday illness, and the anxiety that snow days or “teacher enrichment pupil-free” days bring. And we also enjoy daydreaming up the ways we’re going to make our exhausted faces and aging bodies look and feel better…. just as soon as we have a minute to breathe.

If this sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. I’m fully aware that these are the good old days, and I’m also grateful to have a job I love and a place to go where I’m valued for things beyond my ability to say, figure out ingenious ways to pick-up two kids at the same time when they are at opposite ends of the Earth. (This kind of mommy math is more an existential problem than a mathematical one anyways.)

Still, at a dinner party this weekend, when I asked a couple of my BBFs what blog topic they wanted, they said in unison: WORKING MOMS!

The conversation that ensued was less of an intelligent debate and more a Chris Rock-esque riff on how hard it is to even get in the front door after a long day at work.

(For an intelligent debate about working women, pick up a copy of The New Soft War on Women: How the Myth of Female Ascendance is Hurting Women, Men — and Our Economy by Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett. It’s not funny in a comedian way, it’s funny in a strange, I can’t believe how far we’ve not actually come at all way. Similarly, what President Obama said in his 2014 State of the Union address about how women make up 50% of the workforce but still grapple with incredible inequities was right on the money — well, at least $0.77 out of every dollar. Not to mention antiquated workplace policies that leave working moms up the proverbial creek without a boat, never mind a paddle.)

Remember the bit, “let a man get situated” from Bigger and Blacker when Chris Rock went off on how women start talking to her man the second he gets home after a long day at work? (“Let me get my other foot in the fucking door. Let me get something to eat! Let me get something to drink! Let me take a shit!”)

That riff in a working mom’s context is aimed not at a partner, but at her kids. It includes a lot of head bobbing, wide-eyed listening, and the unmistakable mutter of a mutha: “Okay, okay, I got it. Right now? But I just walked in… I see… it can’t wait, so sure let’s do that thing you want done right this minute.”

The interesting thing about the struggle of the working mom is that society tends to focus on women with babies. In fact, when I Googled, “working mom,” I was met with a million articles and pictures of women in business suits holding a briefcase in one hand and a baby in the other. As if a business suit would look so clean in a real-life scenario.

Not to be snarky about my younger counterparts, but in my opinion, the whole gig of raising a family and trying to advance your career gets trickier as the children age.

First off, my kids are too old for me to stick them in daycare or hire a nanny, and honestly they don’t need that anymore — which sounds like a good thing, and it is — but then again, it also does not make things easier.

The harder part is that from the minute the school day ends, which is hours before most work days do, children have to be driven, fed, checked in with, driven again, fed again, checked in with again (which potentially includes helping with homework, now at a level way beyond normal adult comprehension), fed again, maybe driven or checked in with again (or both)… until everyone stops their whirling around and collapses in a heap.

Hiring help to do this is possible, but it’s also more complex then getting someone whose main job is to push a stroller or stick a straw in a juice box. (Not to minimize nannies and care providers of the past! Which in my case was mainly me as I stepped off the corporate ladder when my kids were babies. I was lucky enough to do that, and that’s exactly why my Mommy War has been fought almost entirely within.)

And yes, there are carpools — love it, worship it, live and die by it — but payback’s a bitch, and the nuances of today’s tweens’ and teens’ schedules are exhausting just thinking about them, never mind describing them to someone else in order to get some damn help.

Then there’s this: once you’ve committed to the whole childrearing thing for a decade or more, you don’t necessarily want to farm these years out — you’ve earned your stripes by now, damnit! Some of the sweetest times of my day happens in the car when we all sing along with the endless loop of catchy pop songs on the radio, in the bleachers while I watch my daughter’s batting practice, or chatting with my kids as I make dinner and they do their homework.

There is something to be said, too, about collapsing in the same heap at the same time, even if it means I spark up my computer after they go to bed.

And so the bumblebee analogy is actually a pretty good one. There is so much work to be done, and once the day job is over, the flitting from place to place often increases before knocking off for the night. But that is a mother’s work; alighting on every little flower, doing her business to be sure that everything is taken care of and praying that her work will yield beautiful blossoms and a happy, healthy world.

So if you see me buzzing around, don’t try to stop me. That’s how us moms work, honey!

Now if you you’re looking for a soundtrack to increase the creative frequency of your day, enjoy internationally renowned concert pianist and Liberace doppelgänger (less sequins, more sexy) and my BBF (Best Bastard Forever) Dr. Wayne Bethanis playing the masterful riff on the Rimsky-Korsakov original, “Bumble Boogie” (arrangement by Jack Fina):