It’s time to normalize pumping at work.

I work full time, and there are days when I’m in back-to-back meetings all day. There’s never enough time to get my work done, because if I’m not at work, I’m picking up my kids and starting the second half of my day. And when that’s over, preparing for the next one.

The reality is there are days that I end up with a rushed 20 free minutes midday and I have to make a choice – find food because I’m about to collapse, or pump.

Why am I bringing it up? Because I feel like when we talk about working moms and how insane it all is, we don’t get into the messy awkward stuff. Like boobs exploding in pain in the workplace. Like having an extra personal, physical thing to take care of during the day aside from feeding ourselves. Like feeling disappointed if I didn’t pump one day because I prioritized meetings over having extra milk for my baby. Like getting over knowing that all my coworkers know where I’m going when I walk away from my desk with my bag, and the answer I give is ‘no’ when they ask if I’m leaving for the day.

I guess I’m sharing this because 2.5 years ago I decided I wanted to normalize pumping in the workplace to help the next set of moms coming up under me. It was harder last time around (I was the first and only one doing it, hello freezing server room), but this time I do feel change, both in myself and the company.

Today, my workplace is very pump friendly, and there are four of us now, and though it gets crowded, they keep adding new locks and shades to close off private offices.

So here’s to normalizing pumping, friendly workplaces, and hungry, tired moms overcoming the added daily challenge of exploding boobs.

I cry over spilled milk and closing chapters.

I had an unexpected emotional trigger when, as I walked toward the office fridge to grab my pumped milk at 18:45, I saw the fridge door already open, with its glistening empty shelves, and the cleaner standing in front, putting new garbage bags in the trash cans.

The office manager had emailed earlier that everything in the company fridges would get chucked today at the end of the day… I frantically asked the bewildered cleaner if it was really all gone, ‘no, I don’t need milk, it was my pumped milk, mother’s milk, that was in there, in a special bottle,’ and he did feel sorry for me… and had been just doing his job…

I left and stood by my car watching the other cleaner toss the day’s garbage bags into the parking lot dumpster. I debated looking through them. I debated crying. I debated going home.

It wasn’t a lot of milk and I have more bottles. But finding 30 minutes during the day to put my baby first is hard. Every. Day. And finding time to give her special attention is hard. She doesn’t even drink it… she eats it sometimes, as a meal. She never accepted bottle feeding.

She’s nearly nine months and I’m sad to come to terms with moving on from pumping. Because it’s just another little chapter to close up in our lives together.

[UPDATE January 16 2017:  Is now a good time to mention my frozen stock just fell to the floor and cracked and broke?]

Zooey update: eight months

Durable. Is that a weird way to describe you? 

Persistent. Attentive. Problem-solving.

You’re proving more by the day that you can keep up, especially with Nettles. The thought of the pair of you… well… makes me realize I’m going to need to up my game.

In the meantime… stay innocently curious, deliciously cute, with that face that reads, yeah, I’m in the joke.

Zooey update: seven months

Zooey,

No joke – you’ve made it clear. You may be four, but you’ve given me a run for my money. This doesn’t get easier just because you’ve done something similar before.

Going back to work has been extremely difficult – that has always been the case – but your refusal to take a bottle was incredibly frustrating and a little scary. For a couple months, I had to contend with the fact that I’d have to go back to work and you would just not eat enough. You wouldn’t take a bottle and you wouldn’t let a spoon enter your lips.

We got through it – you’re eating beautifully, and you’re getting your nutrients your way. And you did me a favor. Us a favor. You’ve forced me to slow down. You’ve shown me I have to make time for you, make sure we spend time together. You won’t fall between the cracks. You won’t be neglected or forgotten.

You’ve made a point of not being just #4 or the baby or another kid to feed.

You are THE kid to feed. The kid I have to stop what I’m doing and sit with.

So thanks, Zooey. Thanks for creating the space for that. Thanks for making me slow down with you.

Also… I love when you high-five me as you start your meal.

Homeland insecurity: An expat on the labor of love and land

An expat is neither here nor there, not completely. An expat has their heart in two places. An expat has passports updated, ready.

An expat’s fomo is just another part of the gig.

United States of America:

I don’t know if it’s an apology I owe. It’s an acknowledgment, at least.

Over the last five years or so, I started feeling really, significantly disconnected from America. I started giving up. The feeling I’d never move back there by choice developed into more than a feeling; eventually a ‘known’.

I felt if I ever moved back, I’d be relocating to a new unfamiliar country. I mean this on a personal level. I came to feel I didn’t fit in the landscape. The culture.

I had fallen way out of love, way out of like, with my country, my people, my culture. Not a government thing – an everything thing. The whole picture. The inaction. The action. The priorities. The sensitivities. The personalities. The close mindedness.

I had cared so much but then I just couldn’t invest any more care.

And then this happened. A year and a half ago, everyone started talking about 2016. And it was ridiculous and I laughed. And I still couldn’t make the feeling come back. I stood by and watched. Until I started watching closer, until I started thinking again, until I started caring again. Until I realized I have something to say and for me, there’s still a place in the conversation.

And I didn’t have to ever want to move back to know that I do care and always will. Being away is what keeps me with you. Being away helps me be the best version of a patriotic citizen I can be. It’s an acknowledgment of the kind of relationship we have. It’s an odd but honest one.

Being away keeps me American.

Israel:

It’s time.

For too long I’ve used the American elections as an excuse to ignore you. The fact is, 2015 was so devastating and I just couldn’t pour anything else into this. Ever since, I’ve been angry, and ‘busy’ was a fine excuse.

But what if I was angry and busy, but for you, and not at you? I came here to be counted, I came here to cast my lot. There’s value in that and I will find it again. I will uncover it again.

I always wanted to come back around to political activism. This place is a fucking disappointment. It’s too painful to get involved but I don’t want to look back and know I didn’t do enough to show my kids what could be if we only work towards it.

America taught me that about my adopted homeland. After everything there in the past year and a half, I still care. I care about a place where my heart doesn’t beat.

Surely it is time to pivot back to the here and now. To where my heart beats in real-time. To where I chose to live. To where I’ve built a home. To where I cast my lot.

So what’s next?

One last thing: Consider why your mothers, sisters, daughters wear the veil

The first time today I was able to really consider it all – how to verbalize the anger and frustration and loss – was after I passed a couple male colleagues in the hall, after a joke was cracked, and I lashed back that this was not the time to speak to me about elections.

I didn’t even realize I’d feel such a loss before it happened.

I was on the verge of losing it all day, of letting out a verbal barrage of why their offhanded remarks or cable-tv inspired thoughts were not the reason why so many of us are so hurt and disillusioned today. Why it’s more personal than a party thing or political leaning thing. A why-do-you-even-care-you’re-an-expat thing.

I felt raw and I got raw. I showed my rawness. It was open and I wasn’t privately licking the wounds. I let them show.

That is never my strategy at work. It never has been in all my career.

And maybe it was because I never really believed this outcome could happen, that it took me so by surprise, that suddenly I was so so incredibly, deeply, painfully sad today. Sad for her. Sad for Hillary.

Because she may be flawed; she may be toxic; she may be power hungry; she may be criminal – but one thing she is, that I am too, is veiled. We women are veiled.

We veil ourselves in the workplace. We veil ourselves because it’s the extra credit we have to fulfill to be on the same page as you. We veil ourselves to help alleviate the pain and progress the potential of decreasing that pay inequality.

We veil ourselves so we avoid the pain and hypocrisy of being called bossy or nasty or bitch. 

The veil is invisible, but the fact is, every woman I know in the workplace wears one. Some are thinner than others. But it’s been taught to us, ingrained in us, through the way our parents spoke to us, through the education system, through religion, through society.

Be good.

Be perfect.

Put on a smile.

Don’t complain.

Don’t say no.

Even if all things were equal – paychecks, experience, power, chances of winning the presidency – the woman still wears the veil. All things being equal, she’s ten steps behind.

Hillary wears the veil.

I wear the veil.

A world where a presidential candidate can claim he’s great for women, and then threaten to sue every woman with a story to tell, is a world where we still wear the veil.

A world where a presidential candidate advises victims of sexual harassment in the workplace to find new careers, is a world where we still wear the veil.

The veil is thin, it’s sheer. You can’t see it unless you know it. That’s why the men who are disappointing me don’t even know why.

I grew up in the 90s; I only knew a strong-headed first lady. I grew up in the 90s; I attended Bring Your Daughter to Work Days. I grew up in the 90s; I believed wholeheartedly the glass ceilings were being shattered and I’d get a taste of that one day.

I was fed this by parents, education, society. But I knew the only way to do it was don the veil.

I button up my feelings at work. I’m complacent and cooperative. I don’t let my anger get in there. The 25-cent difference in my paycheck is eaten up by being agreeable and tame and a woman.

So when I passed the colleagues in the hall; when I swatted away stupid comments by privileged clueless well-meaning men; I lost it, when I let feelings out through my pores; when I got nasty – I thought of her.

All things being equal – and so many of you made that point – ‘they’re both horrible’ – as if all things were indeed equal – you don’t see what it’s like to be marginalized, veiled. When your whole life you lived the experienced of being marginalized, and one of your own is up there breaking down the way for you to follow – you have no idea what that means, how it reverberates. The ripple effect of knowing the veil paid off.

Privacy. Secrecy. Coldness. Power hungry. Overprotective. Flippant. Elitist. Pantsuits. Not a hair out of place. No home baked cookies.

It’s not all the work of the veil. But so much was born from it.

We can’t just be. We have to be in comparison to.

We have to lean in. We shouldn’t come off too strong.

We have to have it all. We can’t possibly achieve 100% at everything we do.

We live up to a standard. But we were asking for it by living up to that standard.

It was a strong, tiring try. I wanted a reason to put the veil away. Or peek out from behind it. Or know that maybe my daughters have a shot at not needing one.

Hillary made a crack in the ceiling. She did it with decades of veiled attempts.

But I think the truth is, the woman who becomes the first she-president of the United States will not wear the veil.

 

‘I’m sorry.’

Before I share this: I’m a classic American millennial unregistered independent. I’m also an expat. My dog in this fight is a different shade than an American resident’s. That said, I did have opinions, I did have a worldly view, I did have a dog nonetheless.
Federal elections are my SuperBowl. This one was a bit more than that. I don’t recognize America and it’s clear I was right that I never really fit in or lived in a different reality as a New Yorker.

All that weighed on me this morning, after hours awake watching the coverage. My kids watching me watch the coverage. 

My daughter was watching me as I let out a sigh and I turned to her:

‘I’m so sorry.’

Her face asked, why?

‘I’m sorry we couldn’t do better.’

Her face asked, how?

‘Remember I told you there was a man and a woman running for president in America?’

‘Yes.’

‘And the man is a bully? And the woman had made a lot of mistakes, and we make mistakes and we all do wrong things sometimes… and how no one can be perfect…’

‘Yes.’

‘And even though neither of them are perfect, I really didn’t want a bully to win.’

‘You wanted the woman to win?’

‘Yes… I really wanted you to see something different.’ 

‘And the man is winning?’

‘Yes.’

‘Who did grandpa want to win?’

Now I was holding back tears. 

So they say the healing has to begin. But to what end? The chorus stays the same. The song never ends. 

Sleep well, America.