A Chanukah gift from my sister arrived yesterday – a book called “Becoming Grandma” written by the TV journalist, Leslie Stahl. The timing of the gift was impeccable as my husband and I just returned from four fun, albeit diaper-change-filled, days taking care of our two grandkids while their parents spent a few nights away. I saw the author’s photo on the cover of the book – and was reminded of a draft blog post (see below) I wrote but never published. I’m still not sure if it was Leslie Stahl who had the seat next to me on the plane that day in 1990 – but seeing her photo prompted me to revisit the choices we make as working moms (and for some of us, working grandmothers.) And to think about the consequences of these choices.
Looking back, I still wonder if I made the right choices. Maybe Leslie Stahl or whoever she was on the plane wonders too?
Life presents many choices – and one of them is whether or not to read a women’s magazine on a an airplane.
Some years ago when I was a Young Mom I took a late afternoon shuttle flight from New York City back to Washington, DC. I was returning from a business trip, traveling solo. A rare thing in my Young Mom days.
On the plane I found a seat and glanced to my right. My seat-mate was a Famous Tall Blonde TV News Person. I no longer remember her name.
Immediately I thought, “Here’s my chance.”
I will make a casual but clever remark which will lead to an intelligent conversation with another adult (defined in my Young Mom days as someone who (a) did not wear diapers and (b) was not related to me by marriage – a successful, talented woman, one who loves the news, all things media, as much as I did – and still do.
Or – I could just flip through the pages of The New Yorker magazine that I had brought with me on the plane – and the Famous Tall Blonde TV News Person will no doubt look my way, see me reading an Intellectual Magazine and initiate a thoughtful chat.
We would likely end up conversing all through the flight and as the plane taxied to the terminal, we would exchange business cards and talk about getting together in a week or two.
But being a Young Mom I had also brought another magazine on board with me.
Should I open up my women’s magazine and catch up on my Young Mom required reading such as: “10 Tips for Tantrum Free Toddlers”- OR should I stick with the New Yorker?
I chose “10 Tips for Tantrum-Free Toddlers.”
About ten minutes into the flight the Famous Tall Blonde TV News Person looked my way and glanced at the magazine on my lap.
By then I had moved on to “8 Exciting Easy Recipes for Week Night Dinners.” She turned her well-coiffed head and ignored me for the rest of the flight.
So I never got to find out if the Famous Tall Blonde TV News Person and I would have hit it off. Probably not.
In my Young Mom days I always felt like I had dual personalities – a Mom at home and a Lawyer at the office but never the twain shall meet. We were advised to low-key the Mom thing if we wanted to be successful at work.
A young partner at my first law firm once “helpfully” suggested to me that I should reduce the amount of kid-related decor in my office. Too many photos of my kids and their crayoned pictures sent the message that I cared more about spending hours with my family than billing time for my clients.
Why was it, I wondered (although I didn’t dare say this aloud) acceptable, if not outright admired, for men to show off their Dad sides? If a male lawyer in my office decided to leave early for soccer practice, he would be lauded as a “family man.”
Funny, isn’t it, how the term “family woman” doesn’t exist?
But if I had to do it again – reflecting now on 30 plus years of working mom status (where is my badge?), I’d probably make the same choices. The office display of family photos and kiddie-drawings. Leaving mid-day to go to the school play. Not missing a school conference. Taking criticism from certain of my male law firm colleagues when they “caught” me by the elevators, exiting the office at 6:30 p.m. and asking – “taking a half-day, Nancy?”
And not feeling guilty about reading a women’s magazine on an airplane, no matter who had the seat next to mine.