My kid asked me to help her choose an outfit the other day to shadow her dad in the workplace for Taking your Kid to Work Day.
I suppose she could have shadowed the reality show known as Mom Swears A Lot When She Writes. The basic plotline is Mom, anchored at home, poised for pickups, wallet unloads and meal delivery. Plenty of colour there. Forget fleshing in the years of bouncing my babies between three houses of family caregivers as I dashed off, usually disheveled, to a television newsroom. The evidence is in boxes of old TV tapes somewhere in a dusty corner. Someday I will dig them out and show them the time I discovered Sir Anthony Hopkins was a gent.
I did bring one daughter infrequently into my work in a television newsroom as we needed kids for background shots at times. She was on set with Barney once. Now there’s one way to trump the schoolyard follow-up. Yeah? Well, I was on set with a weird dude who dresses up in a giant purple dinosaur costume!
In 1995, I requested a shorter work week when my first daughter came into my life. My job as a writer and producer could be shared, I reasoned. I took my case to top management. They agreed and promptly slashed my salary in half. The network sat at the top of the broadcasting world and could well afford to adapt as banks and other wealthy employers had done for the last decade. Part-time, flex hours, job share; the zeitgeist had somehow missed my newsroom.
I was stopped in the washroom by incredulous colleagues who asked me who I’d slept with to win such a schedule.
I asked, was the simple answer, reminding them of my shrinking salary. A sexier story would have worked too—I wouldn’t have to venture far to find them but… I went with the truth.
Whispers and rumours of imagined trust funds drifted my way, but I was resolute, heading home daily to our cozy one-bedroom rental.
I would like to think now that it was hard, that I agonized over a long career about to slip away or endured sleepless nights of anxiety. In those first years of balancing work and children, it was the surest step I had taken yet: never without trial, always with intention.
Years passed. I had another kid. By then, I was part of a production team in entertainment, and most of the time, we had a hoot.
Sadly, new management concluded a different approach to covering entertainment was needed. They ditched our entire department and the sweep began with the easiest cut: the job-share chick. I remember the shock to this day. It never really goes away.
I was just getting to know my two small daughters. I loved my gig and losing my colleagues cut deeply, but I loved my kids more. So did my partner but his hours were insane. We did a collective long gulp and figured we’d make it up as we went along. Creative living was our brand.
I left the newsroom, ratings and steady pay and became Mom who writes.
Take Your Kid to Work Day, for this worker, is a day to ponder a thwarted career that no one remembers but me.
No regrets here. We live our lives in chapters and that one, unruly and rich, lasted a decade. Much of it is still with me in my work now: editing home movies—my children’s entire lives are on film; reviewing bits and bites on my blog; throwing events and committee work—at my kids’ french immersion school, I ran the cultural enrichment and brought in performers, including a calypso band that had the whole school shaking their sillies.
There are others to come. I’m still making it up as I go along but I’ve yet to be bored. Ever. The thrill of it is that I never missed my kids growing up.
My current gig lacks flash. I don’t own a briefcase. My hair, unlike that promo shot above, is hardly ever TV ready. There are days I don’t know what’s for dinner and I don’t care. There are days I play hooky and days I never stop writing. Missing my pals from the newsroom has faded although the sting of being let go lingers in weird shots of empathy: it lent me the awareness that life is precious. It can change in a single moment.
My kids don’t need special outfits to visit my office. It’s
usually always a mess but the viewing platform is open 24 hours. And the coffee break snacks are awesome.