Wednesday, July 20, 2011

10 Simple Pleasures of Returning to the Workforce

A fake date appears above so this post will sit near the top of this blog.
Original pub date: January 29, 2010

After several years of stay-at-home motherhood and work-from-home freelancing I recently returned to the full-time, office-based workforce. (Hence my absence from posting on this site.) So far so good, at the job and on the home front. My three children are school-age now, and unlike in my past career, when leaving the office at 6 p.m. was considered skipping out early, my new job allows me to get home at a decent time.

Having been out of the traditional workforce, I'm finding joy in many aspects of work life I took for granted before I "stopped working" (yeah, right) in order to care for children. I'm listing my newfound pleasures here — while they're still a novelty and I'm appreciative and not jaded, exhausted or burned out from working 9 to 5.

1) The very nice building I work in has a very nice cafeteria. It's such a treat to eat lunch without having to shop for the groceries, prepare food for myself and other people, clean the kitchen, and do it all again 20 minutes later when someone decides he or she is still hungry, thirsty, bored ...

2) I can use the bathroom without someone walking in on me, screaming for me, or picking a fight with a sibling because I'm temporarily out of sight.

3) I enjoy having to get properly dressed in the morning. (Yes, I know a stay-at-home mom and work-from-home person can, and probably should, get herself properly dressed even if she's spending the entire day at home. But since I wasn't being seen much by the outside world, I didn't want to spend money on clothes for me. I also worried about ruining the few nice outfits I had that still fit.)

4) I'm able to concentrate on work without near constant interruptions.

5) I can have uninterrupted conversations with adults.

6) I like being able to spend time in a city (I work in Washington D.C.) as well as in the suburban, rurally beautiful (but sometimes isolating) area where I live.

7) When I commute by car, I appreciate the freedom to listen to my radio station. When I commute by train, I appreciate how public transportation frees me from my minivan and provides me with an efficient workout. (Climbing Metro station stairs and escalators while wearing a winter coat and carrying a heavy purse is exercise.)

8) I find that by having structure and variety to my day (i.e. work and home, not just all home, all the time), I'm tons more efficient.

9) Instead of my children and I being at each others' throats by evening, they're happy to see me when I arrive home and I look forward to spending time with them.

10) In this economy, I'm very thankful to have found a job. And after working so hard, for so many years, with little to no monetary recognition, it's really nice to receive a regular paycheck again.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Devoted Mother

My friend Beth is a divorced, remarried mother who happens to be gay.

However, according to her home state of Virginia, because Beth is gay, she's not divorced, she's not remarried and she's not even a mother.

In the eyes of the law in Virginia and much of the United States, Beth's eight-year live-in relationship with Donna was not and could not be a marriage. As such, Beth and Donna's painful break-up was not a divorce. And Beth's actual marriage to her current spouse, whom she wed in 2008 during the window of time that same-sex marriage was legal in California, doesn't exist. (California still recognizes the marriage even though new same-sex weddings are on hold while a challenge to the law moves through the courts.)

But worst of all, the law says that Beth is not a mother to the baby boy she and Donna adopted while they were together because, since Virginia allows single-parent adoption but not gay adoption, Donna is their son's only legal parent.

Regardless of what the law says about her as a parent, Beth loves her "non-son" unconditionally.

Beth adapted her career in order to be her son's primary caregiver. When she and Donna broke up, Beth fought to have a shared custody agreement (albeit a non-binding one) and bought a home near her ex's so the child wouldn't have to change schools. She now maintains a commuter marriage with her California-based spouse so she can remain in Virginia as a parent to a child the state says is not legally hers
and, as such, has no legal rights to or obligation toward.

The danger of the situation is that Beth is unable to, among other things, claim her child as a dependent, provide health insurance to him under an employer plan, authorize medical care. Beth can also lose her child, and he her, if Donna decides to sever their
again, non-binding parenting agreement or move to Timbuktu. (I'm not saying she would actually do either.)
It doesn't seem right that a deadbeat dad who conceives and abandons a child has more legal parenting rights than Beth does and that, according to the law, all that's really required to be part of a legal parenting couple is to be heterosexual.

If love and a personal, unwavering commitment is what makes a person a parent, Beth is a super parent. She won't abandon her child, even if the law says she can.

I'm sharing Beth's story here because she just wrote a thoughtful essay
"Same Sex Divorce: Another Reason for Marriage Equality" for AARP.org. Please read it if you have time.
 

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