We’ll Be in Touch

My mom uniformThere are number of intimidating aspects of a job search for moms (and dads…but mostly moms, let’s just be honest here) who have been out of the employment market for an extended time while raising children. For example, trying to find an appropriate outfit when meeting a potential employer may be difficult.  Digging through my extensive collection of skinny jeans, boyfriend jeans and high-waisted flare jeans (friend to many a muffin-topped mom, myself included), I find not one pair of appropriate pants.  As for tops, I own just about every available color of this v-neck t-shirt from Everlane, but nothing “blousy” or even “shirty” that looks professional and doesn’t showcase my tattoos.  And my shoe stash consists mainly of flip-flops, Vans slip-ons, boots and sexy sandals for going out to fancy events, like preschool fundraisers.

But the single most frightening part of the job search has got to be the interviewing process.  Think about it.  You’re completely out of your element and not exactly set up for success.  The interview itself consists mainly of sitting in a room with another adult and having a conversation that does not revolve around your children, your children’s school, the neighbors or the irritating thing your husband does that’s driving you bat-shit crazy.  You’re meeting with someone who is already reluctant to even consider you as a potential candidate for the job because of the glaringly obvious Grand Canyon-sized hole in your resume and is probably just doing a favor for a friend-of-a-friend (a testament to your stellar networking skills at the kids’ weekend soccer games).

Little Biggie in Mom's shoesSince just forming a complete sentence is a challenge at times for a stay-at-home mom, coming up with intelligent, witty, informed and mostly truthful answers to interview questions is likely the biggest stumbling block there is when attempting to return to the job market.  So, I have done some preparation to work through my responses to some commonly asked interview questions and help give a leg up to other readers who may find themselves in the same predicament.  Please note that, while I suspect your answers to the following questions would be strikingly similar to mine, you really should alter them a bit to fit your specific situation.

A Stay-at-Home Mom’s Responses to Commonly Asked Job Interview Questions:

Q:  Tell me a little about yourself.
A:  Well, I am a graduate of X University where I studied art (just an example of my largely useless undergraduate degree. Yours may be something like marine biology or philosophy or Russian literature.)  From there, I went on to X University School of Law (or medicine or business…you get the drill now) where I graduated with honors (or at least in the top half of my class).  That led to an offer at a somewhat prestigious law firm in X world-class city (where I no longer live because I wanted to be able to afford a house and send my children to a decent school).  Blah, blah, blah, job successes, promotions, raises, etc.,…and then I had a kid and threw it all away.  (OK, maybe not in those exact words.)  I am now looking to reenter the job market.

Q:  What is your greatest strength?
A:  I am a very strong leader and have led teams of varying sizes with a number of successful projects.

Q:  Can you point to a recent example of when you displayed your leadership skills?
A:  Absolutely.  Just last year, I managed an unruly team of 20 preschoolers to develop a project that was sold at a hefty profit at the yearly school fundraiser.  I managed to get my group to act as a unified team despite a number of obstacles including needing to use the potty, a disagreement over who got the last of the pink glitter and a tantrum over having to take the blueberry Go-Gurt when all the strawberries were previously claimed.

Q:  How do you evaluate success?
A:  At the end of the day, I ask myself, are the children all still alive?  Has my husband officially filed for divorce?  If I can answer those two questions with a yes and no, respectively, I call it a success and pour myself a glass of wine.

Q:  Why are you leaving your current position?
A:  Because my employers are tyrants, the pay sucks, the working conditions are abominable and I haven’t had a vacation in 7 years.

Q:  Give me some other examples of times you used your strengths to solve problems at your current job.
A:  Well, more than once, I’ve used my chest or my cupped hands to catch flying vomit from an ill child in order to avoid having to try to scrub puke out of a white flokati rug.  I believe this shows my creative problem solving skills as well as my ability to sacrifice my personal comfort for the greater good of the organization, or at least its interior design.  Also, I have found food on the floor on various occasions when I’ve been in a rush to complete another project and I’ve just eaten the abandoned food rather than taking the time to walk to the trash can.  This demonstrates my impressive time management skills.  Lastly, when faced with an epic exploding poopy diaper situation, rather than pulling the soiled onesie over the head of a screaming child which would have smeared feces into every orifice on the child’s face further angering her, I quickly grabbed a pair of scissors, carefully cut the putrid article of clothing off the child, yelled “Fuck it!” to no one in particular, threw the onesie in the trash and dumped the kid in the tub.  Again, creative problem solving and, um, maybe multitasking?

Q:  How do you handle stress and pressure?
A:  A daily cocktail, varying somewhat, but generally consisting of Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Xanax and alcohol.

“Fantastic, thanks for coming in.  We’ll be in touch.”

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

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first_day_school_blog_picIt’s the first day of school for my daughters and I’m kind of (really) freaking out.  It’s Biggie’s first day of 2nd grade and Smalls’s first day of kindergarten. The first day that I’ll have a chunk of time from approximately 7:15 am to 3:15 pm with no children in the house, no questions to answer, no fights to break up, no snacks to retrieve, no butts to wipe, no tears to brush away, no screen time to monitor. In an attempt to talk me off the ledge, my dear friend A. tells me to think of this newly found extra time as an opportunity (“Just think…you can go to a movie in the middle of the day or have lunch with a friend.”), but I’m having a hard time imagining it as anything but the big, black void I’ve been fearing for 7 years now.

My friend S., who is a professional recruiter and therefore qualified to make such proclamations, tells me I need to write a book.  I’ll be honest, I’ve been told before that I give good Facebook, but I’ve never written “officially” unless you count legal briefs.  With the first day of the rest of my life looming though, I figure what the hell?  I’ve got nothing to lose…right?  My first reaction upon setting off on this journey however is, “Oh crap!  I need a notebook!  And pens!”  As someone with a sprinkling of OCD on top of a big dollop of depression, this is a task that could take weeks to complete to my satisfaction.  Because I am well-medicated, however (big ups to Dr. A!), I’m able to acknowledge that the risk of not finding just the right pen could derail this whole train before it even leaves the station. So, I make the momentous decision to spew my thoughts into one of those new-fangled home computers that are all the rage these days rather than writing by hand on actual paper that may or may not have the right level of porosity.

So, I decide to start slowly, recording in blog form the incessant rattlings of my childbirth-addled brain beginning with this, The First Day of the Rest of My Life (henceforth to be referred to as “This Day”).  This Day begins with a 6:30 am alarm going off in three different bedrooms simultaneously.  Biggie is already up reading and immediately shuts hers off. Smalls has never been woken by an alarm a day in her 5 years of life, but is raring to start checking off the items on her “Morning To Do List” which I wrote and she illustrated just the day before.

The Ad Man and I, however, are far less perky after having spent the entire summer waking sometime between 8:30 and 10 am., occasionally yelling out to the girls instructions for operating the television or toaster from our warm bed.  I am particularly difficult to rouse due to my 2 hour crying jag the previous day followed by a handful of melatonin with a white wine chaser in order to avoid laying awake for hours imagining my sweet 5 year old lost and crying out to me from somewhere in the bowels (I’m picturing a boiler room) of her new elementary school.

I’m actually feeling quite proud of myself for putting pen to paper (cursor to screen?) since, I’m sure, had I not captured the events of, and my fragile feelings toward, This Day beginning on This actual Day, I would have undoubtedly scrapped the project altogether. Then I would have to add it to my pile of unfinished (i.e., never started) projects like the documentary I never made about our infertility woes and struggle to conceive Biggie because we didn’t start filming with that first negative pee stick.

I know all mothers feel a mix of melancholy and euphoria the day their youngest fledgling finally leaves the nest (at least for 8 hours a day).  This Day is particularly significant for me, however because it was never my plan to be here in the first place.  My vision for my life with children included either a hunky, but tender stay-at-home dad or well-trained nannies, enriching after-school programs, character-building summer camps and me, blissfully cradled in an Aeron chair in my law office or production company receiving respect, accolades, money by the bushelful and compliments on my chic wardrobe.

Anyway, fast forward past law school, moving to Los Angeles, passing the bar, joining my first law firm and proudly using the obnoxious title “Esquire” after my name.  Continue past my years as corporate counsel at a thriving and then failing dot-com where 18 year-olds actually rode around the office on scooters and drank beer in the middle of the day.  Speed by the small but scrappy production company where I worked on Important Projects like the one with all the living Nobel Peace Laureates and the obscure but (minor) award-winning documentary about a theater group in Skid Row, Los Angeles made up of homeless and formerly homeless actors and the overall issue of homelessness in America.  Whew!  And, finally, you will arrive at today, when my to-do list looks like this:

to_do_list_09131.  Buy groceries
2.  Pick up cupcakes (for our annual first-day-of-school celebration)
3.  Straighten house (because I was too busy filling out school paperwork, labeling backpacks and sobbing yesterday to do any cleaning and the disarray is making me more crazy than usual)
4.  Pick up antidepressants at pharmacy (see above)
5.  Exercise?
6.  Mix bread dough and let rest
7.  Buy notebook and pens

In the end, This Day wasn’t much to write home about. The morning was a blur of the requisite photos of cute kids posing with spanking clean new backpacks and getting on the school bus, confusion over turning on the Today Show and seeing Matt Lauer and Al Roker instead of Hoda and Kathie Lee, and forcing myself to leave the house though depressed and distracted to hunt and forage for sustenance at the grocery store.

I somehow controlled myself during a few tense moments at said grocery store (“Don’t tell me you’re out of cilantro or I swear to god I will lose my shit right here in the produce aisle!”).  I received texts and calls from friends concerned with my well-being (“So.  How are you doing?”) and other depressed moms looking to commiserate (“I feel like I will never laugh again.”).  I made a list of things I’ve been meaning to, or dreaming that I would, do when I had both girls in school full-time (hence the dough mixing).  And, finally, I received back two relatively well-adjusted girls who had a great time in school, loved their teachers, made new friends and couldn’t wait to do it all over again the following day.

As for me…I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.

If Mom Could See Me Now

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One of my most vivid memories of my mother, and the one that haunts me the most, is the day when I, as an omnipotent, know-it-all 17 year-old, said that I’d “never be JUST a housewife” like her. She slapped me right across the face (as well she should have) and told me that any sacrifices she made, were made for me and my brother and that she was happy to do it. There’s not a day that has gone by in the last 11 years in which I haven’t regretted my stupid, spiteful words.

I’d prefer not to begin this blog with an unbearably sad entry, but today is the anniversary of my mom’s death and a wise friend suggested I honor her by making this my first blog post. It seems only fitting since the overriding purpose for this blog is to give you a bird’s eye view of my attempt to claw my way back up the cliff that once was my career. That was, of course, before I went on permanent sabbatical to become, yes, “just a housewife” and stay-at-home mom to my smart, adorable, infuriating daughters, aged 5 and 7, who already bear more than a passing resemblance to that smart-ass 17 year-old.

I promise we’ll have lots of laughs along the way. In my family, we have a long history of using humor to help deal with life’s twists and turns. In fact, my sweet mother would be laughing her ass off if she could see me now! (As well she should.)