The salvo of emails stacked up in my “inbox” faster than I could read them. “Helene Got Engaged — Let’s Go for Drinks!”* One after another, each member of my work group (about a dozen of us edit three magazines and a Web site) weighed in with increasing wit and irreverence. Giselle offered to come dressed like the groom on the wedding cake. Someone else demanded that we go to a bar that served stiff drinks. It seemed that no one could agree on a single day for a tamer, more respectable celebration, like a lunch. What made me chime in on all the hubbub, finally, was the proposal that we all go to a local bar right after work:
“Because we’re all here now,” said one editor.
“Yes, but that excludes the working mom who has to get on a train back to New Jersey. Not enough notice, if I’m to be a part of this.”
My argument fell on deaf ears, although it mattered little in the end, because an immediate jaunt out to a local bar didn’t seem to strike everyone as the best idea. But it was for their own reasons, not because the only person in our group with a baby at home needed more notice before socializing after work. One by one the crowd thinned out as people left to go home, or go on dates or whatever it was they had planned. I returned to my computer and checked my personal email account. I pulled up an invite for a local networking event for young professionals – it was being held at a funky new coffee bar a few doors down from my hair salon. I hatched a quick plan: I would go home, breast feed baby, change her, cuddle for a bit and get her settled with Hubby, then walk in for a touch-up at the salon. Afterward, I could walk into the networking event all professionally done up! Now, this was my speed. Alas, when I double checked the date and start time for the event, my plan seemed improbable. It started at 9 p.m., that night.
They’ve done it again! Those smug singletons have failed to give everyone — and by everyone I mean young married people with babies who don’t see why their careers and social lives ought to be abandoned on account of having a baby — ample notice before staging of a social/networking event that seemed inviting.
If I were single, I might still have wanted a couple of days’ notice before taking that celebratory trip after work with my co-workers. That’s because as a single person living off of an associate editor or senior writer’s salary, I wouldn’t have dreamt of paying Manhattan prices for a little studio! It’s chic to be solvent. And as for that networking event for young professionals — it’s fine that it began at 9 p.m. My city is trying to pull off a transformation of its downtown, and it makes sense for professional networking events to be staged on an up-and-coming trendy street after work hours. But less than one days’ notice? Not enough anymore, I’m afraid.
I think my attitude has some cultural underpinnings. Black women have always had to balance work and child rearing, mainly because their families needed the extra income. I have to make an effort to count on more than one hand the number of black women that I know who are stay-at-home moms. Obviously they exist, but the numbers are very small. For a lot of black women, choosing to continue working after having children is a luxury. And anyway, I’m from a very matriarchal family, where the women are always on the move in one way or another. When the winter weather breaks, I envision popping Baby into her Bjorn carrier and bringing her along to just about all of our outings to cultural and civic events in the future!
Anyway, that evening, I went home with a tentative plan to nurse Baby, change her, get her settled with Hubby and take off for the networking event. Maybe one hour of glad-handing and passing my business cards around would do. Instead, Baby worked her charms on me and we ended up doing several rounds of tummy time and singing nursery rhymes until she was tired out. Considering that I hadn’t seen her during most of the day while I was at work, I think it was time well spent.
Ah well, I guess these things can wait until after she is six months old, and her diet is more varied beyond breast milk. But after that — shape up, Smug Singletons! There are working moms who want to stay in the game and get ahead!
* Actual life events have been changed to protect the privacy of smug singletons.