Wednesday, August 28, 2013

straddling

I had to take our minivan to the dealership for a physical (I don't know--what do you call it when you have to take your car in for a visit to the car doctor? A well-car check? I plead ignorance and this parenthetical is now threatening now to take over the whole intro) and at the dealership they have honest to god carrels in a room off the waiting area, like a damn library. On one hand--how great! A quiet area with a desk and a chair and a power outlet to get some actual work done! And on the other hand--how long do you expect that I'm going to be sitting here, exactly?




Well, nothing like a stretch of captivity to force you to update your foundering blog. Ahoy hoy.

Last week was my last week of working full-time. My first "official" week of working at a 60% schedule is actually the week of Labor Day, but I had this week fortuitously scheduled as a week off from almost a year ago, like I planned it this way the whole time, for transition. It's not so much a vacation as purely a maintenance period for our family (MAINTENANCE! That's the kind of car visit I'm at now! Le mot juste!) meaning yesterday I took Mack to the dentist and tomorrow I'm taking Nina for her one year well-child check and now I'm here looking at a wonderful hubcap display and wondering if I should get purple under-light effects to make our suburban splendor-mobile that much more splendid. I mean, it seems excessive and yet this pamphlet makes such a compelling case for them...

I am so excited to enter this next phase of being more engaged or at the very least present for my out-of-hospital responsibilities, but I acknowledge that various internalized cultural attitudes have been a little difficult for me to shake. Namely, I find that I really have to check myself from being too defensive when people talk to me about my part-time status. 


JOE
(As we are engaged in high-level strategy talks about managing yet another week of juggling 
call schedules, OR and clinic times, childcare, meal timing, and after school activities)
Man, this is hard. I can't wait until you start slacking off at work a little bit.

MICHELLE
SLACKING OFF?

JOE
I mean...not slacking...I mean...you know what I mean! Working less! Working less at the hospital!

MICHELLE
THERE IS NO SLACKING INVOLVED HERE. NO SLACK
ALWAYS WORKING! HARD WORKER ME!



Or possibly this:


CO-WORKER
So, you're going part-time, huh? Sounds nice.

MICHELLE
(Cautiously)
Yes...

CO-WORKER
Gotta go be mom. I get it. I wish I could do that.

MICHELLE
DO YOU THINK THIS WAS AN EASY DECISION OR SOMETHING?
BECAUSE IT WASN'T! NOTHING EASY! EVERYTHING HARD!

CO-WORKER
Uh...
(Starts backing away, feeling for the doorknob)


And also:


RANDOM PERSON
Hello--

MICHELLE
(Pointing)
AND YOU! I'LL HAVE YOU KNOW THAT I HAVE AN EXCELLENT WORK ETHIC.

RANDOM PERSON
Aha. Huh. Well, as I was saying, "Hello, and welcome to Target."


Anyway, sorry world. Obviously I am having feelings. It's like I'm all messed up on my Erikson's stages. Instead of "Generativity vs. Stagnation" I've regressed back to "Identity vs. Confusion." (Also, can we all acknowledge that the fact that I even remember any of this from second year med school psych is pretty fucking impressive? OK, not so impressive, but notable at least.)

I don't know why I default to the defensive--maybe I need to prove to myself and everyone that I'm not "slacking off" or "opting out" or taking some slow boat to Shangri-La. Not that anyone has implied that, I think it's pretty clear that going part-time at work amounts more to scaling back on one type of (rewarding, highly-paid) work and scaling up on another type of work which is both unpaid and elicits a less direct, calculable form of appreciation. Not that I need my head patted constantly, but I think many of us have experienced the Moebius strip that is the endless cycle of keeping a three-kid household running smoothly, and how the loss of old workday landmarks can make things both easier and harder.

I know I'm probably stomping all over the landmines with this but just hear me out, I'm sitting in the backroom of a Toyota dealership waiting for them to finish checking my brake fluid or god knows what else so this is a bit of a rush job. I realize that my defensiveness is just part of my natural adjustment to our new situation (see also: guilt at bringing home less bacon than I was before, particularly after many years of being the primary or equal bacon...herder) but this all makes me happy that I have the option to partially scale back as opposed to having to make a binary choice to be all in or all out. The identity loss I'd have without some career focus would definitely be traumatic, and I think that this option, the part-time option, might allow me the best of both worlds. That's the theory anyway, and hopefully once I see that, I'll stop alternately taking everyone's head off and showily doing one-armed push-ups to prove that I'm JUST AS POWERFUL AS I EVER WAS.

(Psychological problems! I has them!)


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I was going to write some more stuff here, but in the interest of just getting this up and saying BLOG UPDATE: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED I'm going to save that for next time. My goal in general, by the way, is for there to be a next time more consistently, and to do a little more writing in addition to the other thousand things that I've been neglecting in the past year. And now I have no idea how to end this  entry so I guess I'll just put in this video of Nina lurching around because didn't you hear, she's a toddler now.  Unreal.