Thursday, August 30, 2007

All New Clothes

So on Monday morning, the Bug didn't fit into any of her clothes. No joke - on Sunday, she wore her "0-3 month" sized stuff. Snug, perhaps, but they fit. And on Monday, nothing fit. We're talking five pounds of bologna in a three-pound bag. I had to box it all up and move her "3-6 month" stuff into her drawers. When in the world did she grow?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Maternity Leave Musings

Before I got pregnant, I never gave much thought to corporate maternity leave policies. I knew that they existed, but I just hadn't paid much attention.

The first time I really discussed maternity leave was at my immediately prior job, which was at a start-up cable network. I'd been there for a couple of years before the employee handbook was printed. When it finally happened, women at the company were angry to learn that we offered no paid maternity leave. I was already interviewing elsewhere, so I didn't really get involved in the discussions.

My current company, a web 2.0 start-up, also has no paid maternity leave. Prior to these start-ups, I had been in the venture capital business. That experience firmly ingrained one primary belief regarding employee compensation. Employees are the hardest asset for a company to acquire, and the hardest for a company to replace; they are also the most important. While a company - particularly a young company - needs to be highly aware of how it spends its cash, nickle-and-diming employees is never worth it.

I understand that a start-up can't be paying people who aren't working. But I also understand that there is enormous value in the loyalty of key employees. For this reason, I viewed the no-leave policy as a starting point. I really thought through my request before approaching my new boss, who had joined the company only a couple of weeks prior. Given my year with the company and the fact that I'm not on their health insurance plan (a big cost savings), I asked if he would be willing to pay me for 5-10 days of sick time, plus allow me to take my full vacation even though it would not all be accrued by Memorial Day. He said, "no." No counter-offer, no negotiation, just "no." I would not be paid a penny between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but they would hold my job for me. The letter of the law, nothing more.

This inflexibility is very short-sighted. I was the top revenue producer; in fact, I was the only business development person with either meaningful revenue or large clients. I am also being paid a third (or less) of my market value. If my company had shown that I was valued - a few thousand dollars being a drop in the bucket to them, but quite symbolic to me - they would have earned my loyalty. As it is, I return to work in six days with none. I'm going back because the company has done well over the past three months and the technology and market perception are both on an upswing. If they'd fared differently over the summer, I would be starting a new job instead.

I have tried to put the pieces in place to make myself succeed: I stopped breastfeeding, we've lined up a babysitter who seems fabulous to take care of the Bug, and my husband is even able to spend Tuesdays at home with her. On the flip-side, though, I have a 1-hour commute, I am being paid nothing, my equity was just meaningfully diluted in the last fundraising a couple of weeks ago, and my boss is neither impressive nor fun. [Stay tuned: Lots to say there; probably a future entry.] I am hoping that within a couple of weeks I'll be able to realistically propose my working from home a day or two a week, which is both manageable and very important to me. But I am not sure there is any other way that the positives will be able to outweigh the negatives, particularly when the company has shown no loyalty to me. I certainly am not going to abide a situation I'm not happy with; ironically, I will have more time to look for a new job once I am back in the office.

Given my experience, I was not shocked to learn that the United States rates worse than many third world countries - and certainly worse than all of Europe and the former British Empire - when it comes to our treatment of women in the workplace. How is it possible that even with impeccible academic credentials and a proven track record, my company - which I've been with virtually since its inception - is all but encouraging me to look elsewhere for a job? It makes no sense at all to me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Travel with baby

We took the Bug on her first vacation: a five-day trip to visit my family in Colorado. We really wanted to introduce her to her great grandparents, and thought we should do it before I go back to work since god forbid I actually take any vacation later this year!

The pediatrician recommended that we buy the Bug her own seat and carry her carseat on to the plane. We of course declined to do this, not only because we purchased our tickets late and they cost a fortune. So we were going to carry her on and hold her during the flights. Terrifying.

In reality, travel wasn't so bad. We learned a few lessons. First, it takes a very long time to mobilize when you have a baby. I woke an hour and a half before our 6:30am departure time in order to get myself ready, zip up our already-packed bags , pour the coffee, and feed the Bug; she and I were ready with not a minute to spare. Second, if you hope to sleep on the plane, you need that extra seat. There was an empty middle seat on our return flight, so we were able to bring her carseat on the plane. It was much more pleasant. I don't know that it was $500 more pleasant, but it was definitely better. Third, if you are visiting your family, you will not hold your own child. Nor will you feed her, bathe her, or change her diapers. You might get to play with her, but only if her grandparents are in the front row and you're watching from behind. Bug even slept in a pack-n-play in my parents' room; she was up, fed and dressed every morning before I saw her.

We're already looking forward to the next visit with the family... and I know that the Grands and the Great-Grands are, too! I doubt we'll be back out there before Christmas time, but I won't be surprised to see my parents out here yet this year.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Remember Home Movies?

I have incredibly fond memories of our old home movie nights. Dad would set up the projector and the screen, and we'd watch the Super 8 reels in the living room. We had so many old movies that Mom had spliced some of them together to make larger reels; if you remember, each reel was only a couple of minutes tops. We knew our favorites by heart, and every member of the family believed his or her narration to be the wittiest.

So today I bought us a movie camera, too, to capture the Bug's first (or, more likely, her second) steps and other /mis/adventures. But this isn't a movie camera like the old Super 8, audio-free days. It's also a far cry from the first VHS camera that we bought - that thing was a little bigger than my coffee maker. No, this thing is about the size of a beer mug (and can also be easily managed with one hand) and takes high-definition video. Yeah, that's right: high-def home movies. Maybe in the future, when we pop some corn and watch the hilarity on a 42-inch plasma TV, we'll hit the mute button for old times' sake.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The trouble with mothers

Does every mother drive every daughter absolutely crazy? Will my tiny, perfect little Bug someday be driven crazy by *me*?

As mothers go, mine is just about as good as a girl can hope for. Not just because she's put up with a great deal of crap from my brother, my sister and myself. But because she really instilled in us all the need to think for ourselves and to build our own lives. My mom and I have never had the explosive, blow-out fights that she and my sister have had, but she can absolutely drive me up a wall. During each of her last three visits - including the week when the Bug was born and Mom did all of the cooking and cleaning and errand-running - she put me through the ceiling more than once.

I really would love to believe that I'll be the coolest mom on the planet, a kind of Lorelai Gilmore meets Joyce Summers. Cool, fun, hip, yet sensible, understanding, and the Bug's emotional rock. But from the time she's 12 until the time she's 35 (excepting the college years, when she'll only talk to us a couple of times a year) will the Bug actually think I am insane and completely out of touch? If it can happen to my Mom, how do I break the cycle?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Gathering of the Vibes

I never could understand people whose lives came to a screeching halt the moment they had a child. I've always been of the mind that you bring a new baby into your family - inviting the little one to your party, so to speak. So I've strongly felt that you should continue to do the things that you enjoy, and that your game plan just has to evolve to accommodate your moppet. I would be the parent who brings the kiddies to our gatherings, whose kids eat whatever the grown-ups eat.

We took the Bug to her first music festival yesterday: Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport. It seemed the perfect candidate for a day trip - less than an hour away, and the lineup sounded excellent. Mid-August should bring breezes off the sound for a comfortable summer day. We'd been talking about going since before she was born, and it was to be the first major practical test of my assertion.

The day could not have been better. The weather was gorgeous - sunny, not too hot. We parked within walking distance from the venue so didn't have to deal with the shuttle bus. We sure rolled into the show differently than we ever had before - pushing a stroller laden with bottles, blankets and extra baby clothes. We got there around 1pm, and by 2:30 were settled into a great spot in the shade, in the way-way back of the concert field. We saw Strangefolk, Donna Jean & the Tricksters, Assembly of Dust, Keller Williams; all sounded great, though we were watching from quite a distance. The vendors were fun to walk past, we enjoyed Magic Hat on tap, people around us were super nice, and the Bug had a great time - she rolled around on the blankets, napped, smiled at our friends. Other people around us had their children with them, and all were very much enjoying themselves.

We left the festival just after dark, the Bug sleeping happily in her carseat, listening to wierd old Les Claypool as we walked towards the car. Was it a far cry from the days of partying until dawn? You bet it was! But it was one of the most fun days I have ever had - spending time outside with my husband and baby, listening to great live music, and knowing that we haven't stopped living - we've just brought a new friend to join us. A tiny, pink little friend who is destined to have the best taste in music of her entire preschool set.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Aspirin, Boku-maru and martinis

I'm two months into a three-month, unpaid maternity leave. More later on just how wrong that really is.

My little Bug was born Memorial Day weekend. She is beautiful - I know, everybody says that, but she actually started out gorgeous - and very smiley. I really like her, and I love her, and I am very excited to see what kind of a person she becomes. Early indications are all very positive.

The first month was rough. I did not know what I was getting myself into. I guess I thought that since my husband and I are both very capable and laid back people, we would get the hang of parenthood right off the bat. I was a little bit mistaken. Bug cried a lot, probably because I had no clue what to do with her, or for her. I was really tired, and my bosoms were killing me from my early misadventures in breastfeeding.

The worst thing about the very first weeks is that motherhood is very isolating. I went from a very demanding, fun and high-energy existence, to entire days where all I accomplished was feeding the baby. I missed talking to adults, I didn't feel like I was getting anything done, and I resented all of the normal lives continuing around me. The baby doesn't even smile for about 5 weeks, so there's no feedback to indicate whether even that job is well done. And to top it all off, when you're breastfeeding you can't drink. For months I had been longing for a glass of gin like I had never longed before. And could I enjoy that delicious martini? Let it take the edge off? No. Hell no. That sucked. Crumpling to the floor in tears because the baby wouldn't stop crying (oh I get the irony there), and unable to have a tasty cocktail.

But ultimately I stumbled through those first weeks. And every day, Bug gets easier and more fun to take care of. Plus, the martinis await (although after this much time, I think I am probably looking at martini rather than martinis).

I intend this blog to document the entertaining mistakes of the first-time mommy, as well as random observations on literature, current events or pop culture, and really anything else that comes to mind. So rather than recount the past couple of months in excruciating (and boring) detail, let me begin today and we will experience life together. My life, that is, from here on out.