Finding balance

One Friday in August, I conducted two interviews for an article I was working on. I had planned to make one more call on Monday before writing the story. But a few hours later, my water broke – more than a month before my due date – and by Monday morning, I was a mom.

My original plan was to work up to the week before that much-anticipated due date, then take a few days off to finish any last-minute preparations. Meanwhile, during the weeks preceding our baby’s debut, my husband and I would set up the nursery, meet with a doula about a birth plan – to learn those breathing exercises – and maybe even get away for a weekend in Northern Arizona.

Yeah, right.

Now I know that it was one of my first lessons of motherhood – making plans is nice in theory, but it doesn’t guarantee anything.

In one weekend, the focus of my weekdays changed from copyediting and proofreading to breastfeeding and diapering. Instead of the “AP Stylebook,” I consulted “What to Expect the First Year.”

The decision to have a child is one of the most important, life-changing decisions you can ever make. But what makes this different is that it doesn’t only affect your own life but also your husband’s and a little person whose very existence you’re responsible for.

After the pregnancy test results show that plus sign, the decision-making begins: What foods should I eat? Am I getting all the necessary nutrients? Do I eat fish because it’s supposed to help strong brain development or do I avoid it because of mercury content? Do we find out if it’s a boy or a girl beforehand? What should we name the baby?

And after the baby is born, there are countless decisions that you as parents have to make: When should we introduce him to the bottle? Will crying himself to sleep scar him from developing intimate relationships? And the really big one – should one of the parents step out of the workforce to stay at home with the baby?

In my third month of maternity leave, I opted to ease back into the work world by devoting 10 hours a week to work from home. My first interview started off well – the baby was sleeping and I felt focused. A few minutes after the interview began, my son started screaming, and I tried to soothe him with one hand while typing with the other, balancing the phone between my ear and chin. Fortunately the woman on the other end was also a mother with a young child and was very understanding.

During a second interview, not only did the baby wake up, but this time the dogs joined in, barking and romping in the hallway. Not the ideal working environment.

On my maternity leave, one of the books I read – in scattered moments when I had a chance – was “Mommy Wars,” a book of essays by 26 women, edited by Leslie Morgan Steiner. The women, who were successful in their chosen professions, told stories of their own decision to either continue to work outside the home or stay at home with their children.

Some who returned to work felt guilty for leaving their baby each morning, while others felt it contributed to their sanity as a mother and set a good example for their children. Many who stayed at home missed their career but felt that their role at home was more important. Others were able to do a little of both; for example, working at home or shortening their hours to part time.

I’m attempting to find my own balance on this issue. I’m fortunate to have an employer who is extremely accommodating – I’m able to do some work from home and bring my son with me to work the rest of the week. My co-workers have been wonderful, volunteering to hold him while I run to the restroom or being patient when my attention is diverted.

Sometimes the dual role of parent and employee can be challenging, and my husband and I are planning to send our son to daycare twice a week soon, but I’m not ready for any more hours away from him yet.

I’m not sure how this will all work out once the little guy learns to crawl. But for now I treasure being able to continue a job I enjoy while being fortunate enough to get regular doses of smiles and laughter from my son throughout the day as I do so. Sure, there’s a dirty diaper to change every few hours, but it’s all worth it.

This article first appeared in the Feb. 2, 2007 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

In pursuit of a balanced life

A guy once told me that he doesn’t think that single women who buy a condo or a house are interested in getting married and he tries to avoid them.

I realize that he said this before interest rates fell so low, but it’s a comment that stuck with me, although I never agreed with the assessment.

Should a single woman continue to throw money away on rent, waiting for a prince in shining armor to come whisk her away into a big castle?

I don’t think so.

I recently moved into my new place and although it’s a huge commitment, it doesn’t affect my attitude about marriage. In fact, I still wish I had someone to take out the trash and rake the leaves in the backyard. Just kidding. Sort of.

I also recently became a single mom – by adopting two puppies.

So within a couple of weeks I went from being basically a responsibility-free renter to a homeowner with two little furry dependents. Whew, I don’t think I quite know what I’m getting myself into. Or so I’ve been told.

I haven’t actually brought the puppies home yet – I’ve only bought a big bag of puppy food, snacks, bowls and Bitter Apple, so it’s been easy so far. I figure I can train myself as I train the puppies – in this house, we don’t leave our shoes on the floor; if we do, there’s a danger they will be chewed.

I know these changes will transform my life dramatically and although I had always thought of buying a house and training puppies as something you do after marriage, how long are you supposed to wait? Are you supposed to put your life on hold until you meet the right person?

When I was researching online for this article, trying to get some statistics on single women becoming homeowners, I came across a Web site called “Leather Spinsters on the Web: An E-zine for the Happily Unmarried Woman.”

I did find the statistic I was looking for: According to a 2000 article, statistics show 57 percent of single women now own their own homes.

But wait – what is this Web site?

On the site, a leather spinster is defined as (1) a happily unmarried straight or asexual woman and (2) a happily single woman who is not gay.

Whoa.

Maybe this is the attitude the guy meant when he talked about women who buy their own houses. But that’s not me at all! I don’t consider myself one of the people who must be dating somebody to be happy, going from relationship to relationship because I can’t bear not to be in one. But I wouldn’t say I’m “happily unmarried.”

Can you be “happily single” while at the same time be “unhappily unmarried?”

I think so.

Like with most everything else, moderation is a good thing. On the one hand, you need to still be open to meeting someone (JDate, singles events, giving up an evening to go on one more blind date) but it doesn’t mean that the pursuit of finding a partner should be the entire pursuit of your life.

This article first appeared in the June 13, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.