Tag Archives: St. Louis

SAHD (does not equal) SAD

(This was originally posted on www.STLFamilyLife.com on July 12, 2010)

As we pack up the house to head back to Chicago, I am bracing for how different our home will be.  We are a new family; we married in 2007 and had the bub in 2008.  Every year of our lives together has been rife with change and adventure.  This past one was no different. 

My hub was a Stay-At-Home-Dad in Chicago.  And although he ran his own business here in St. Louis, he still took responsibility for our daughter two or three days a week when I worked.  He loves it.  I’ve never met a more nurturing man in my life. The truth is that he is a gifted father.  He has a patience and an attention to detail that has given the bub a blanket of comfort and a safety net of consistency. 

It just makes me love him more.

I consider us progressive, evolved, and trend-setting, even.  SAHDs aren’t common.  But here in tha Lou,  many folks have barely hidden their disdain for the concept.  It makes me sad for my husband to be disrespected like that but it also makes me ashamed.  Before I had my daughter, I had those same exact feelings about Stay-At-Home-Moms.

Long is the battle between moms who work outside  v. those who work at home.  Before I had even earned the right to have an opinion, I had relegated women who chose to stay at home as traitors to the feminist manifesto.  I wondered (too often aloud) how they could live with themselves for not pulling their own weight, earning their own scratch, exercising their minds and ambition.  I wondered these things about my FRIENDS… about my FAMILY! I’m disgusted with myself.  Please accept my mea culpa.  I was an idiot who didn’t know any better.

Becoming a mom changes everything.  It’s cellular.  You are no longer the same as you were.  You can still pull out your previous self for special appearances but she is no longer a familiar skin, in a good way.  Kelly Corrigan describes it beautifully in The Middle Place, “In fact, once you become a mother, being a wife seems like a game you once played or a self-help book you were overly impressed with as a teenager that on second reading is puffy with common ideas.”

Why then, is it surprising for a man to feel that way?

The truth is, as much as it complicates our double-income aspirations, that being with a parent is the greatest thing a kid could hope for.  Raising your own child full-time is a privilege that seems available only to those willing to live on little or those who make an extraordinary amount of money. 

After attempting it myself during periods of unemployment over the last two years, I can tell you first-hand that it also requires a skill-set that not everyone possesses.  I think I am a good mother.  I am firm but loving.  I teach; I play; I cuddle/sing/dance/cook/wrestle/read/build/splash/protect.  But Daddy does all those things too.  And he doesn’t shout or need a drink at naptime. 

So what’s a mama to do?

Well, this  Mama went back to work.  In economics, it’s called comparative advantageIn our house, it’s called harmony.   

When we return to Chicago, Daddy will most likely go back to work outside the home.  Bub has thrived in the montessori-like environment of her super-awesome-we-love-them-so-much school here.  We are both confident that she is gaining more stimulation, diversity, and socialization in that environment than we can provide at home.

It will certainly be different for hub and bub not to be at home together every day.

And I think that makes us all a little sad.

(Although not all SAHDs – there are some great dads who blogs @Dadcentric/dadbloggers.)

Small Town, USA

This weekend marked the anniversary of our nation’s decision to initiate our independence.

During the celebrations with fireworks and bar-b-ques, family gatherings with apple pie, flags, parades, and gratitude, I really want to live in a small town. 

And I do, sort of. 

Many here in St. Louis will roll their eyes at me and gripe that at nearly 3MM people, St. Louis isn’t “small.”  But that population number includes all the little municipalities surrounding the city, including Webster Groves where we live for another 28 days. 

Yesterday, hub and I took the peanut to the Webster Groves Independence Day parade.  Nama and Papa came too.  It was every bit of a July day in St. Louis (think swamp but with sunburn and without gators).  We found a scrap of shade on the main street and camped out to watch the scene. 

The floats were mostly amateur.  Many of the signs were hand-written by someone who had never taken art.  Politicians dominated the line up (annoying), Planned Parenthood (5 people) and Pro-Life (50 people) marched for their causes.  There were beauty queens and politically-correct queens.  There were football teams, cheerleaders, clowns, cops, firefighters and military.  It was all very conservative and small town. 

I loved it. 

Watching my daughter ‘Oooh’ and ‘Aaaah’ over the bubble bus and the big trucks and the nice people tossing candy just about choked me up.

This is why we decided to move out of a big city in the first place.  Family was the primal pull, but giving the bub access and exposure to simple joys like home-town parades, neighborhood aquatic centers, and a yard were paramount in our decision.

One woman I met at the gym summarized it perfectly.  She said that not long after she and her boys had moved from Chicago to St. Louis they had walked by a man outside a shop who smiled at them.  She returned his smile.  Her boys were VERY alarmed asking, “Do you know him, Mom?”  She explained that no,  she didn’t know him.  But that when someone smiles at you, it is polite to smile back. 

They were dumbstruck by this revelation.  It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

At the opposite end of the spectrum of living in a small town is the risk of  “otherness.” 

During a client meeting here in St. Louis, we were marveling at how all of us lived in Webster Groves.  My colleague, however, singled me out by saying, “Yeah, but you just rent.” 

It would never have occured to me to categorize someone that way or to judge them so baldly for it.

People have many ways to say, “You are not like us.  We don’t know what to do with you.”  We’ve experience quite a few in our short stay from strangers, frenemies and even family.

I love the line in “My Cousin Vinny” where Pesci tells his girlfriend she ‘sticks out like a sore thumb.’  In her hilarious Jersey accent, Marisa Tomei retorts sarcastically, “Oh, yeah. You blend.”

Growing up here, I felt like a sore thumb most of the time.  There was a certain expectation of conformity that I both craved and rejected desperately.  Rejection won.

In big cities, the population is rife with “others”. 

The first time I moved away from St. Louis, I was pretty certain that escape was necessary for survival.  This time, however, we were so fortunate to find some “others” who were transplants by marriage, ‘misfits’ by profession or creed, or simply cosmopolitan spirits who don’t give a damn where we went to high-school.

In the end, it was an economic decision to pick the big city over the small one.  We believe in reading what the universe writes out for us and in taking the next step when it is revealed.  For our family, for now, we belong back in Chicago.

And to the friends whose welcome has made us feel cherished and valued, I am reminded of the closing lines from “The Prince of Tides”:

“Admit it.  You just love [them] more.”

“Not more, [my friends].  Just longer.”

This One’s for the Girls

I once had an interviewer tell me that his favorite hires were single women.  Why?  Because they had to support themselves (necessity is the mother of invention) and they were hell-bent on proving themselves (ambition, competition, workaholism).  I wanted to be offended but couldn’t be.  In my case, he was absolutely, bang-on right. 

It’s hard to argue with the truth.

My career was one manifestation of “Fake it until you make it” after another.  I own this; I don’t even hide the fact anymore because I actually did ‘make it’ in some sense. I’m also reasonably sure that 92% of people are full of crap so what’s the use of impressing them?   I know that I have a particular set of qualities and experiences that might be interpreted as skills to some.  I also know that those skills are pretty damn valuable. 

So when I was recently offered a consulting role in addition to my full-time position with Technorati, I had no problem turning down the opportunity because it didn’t pay enough. 

What is ‘enough’?  That’s highly subjective but my calculation went as follows: 

What is my hourly wage for my full-time job?  Easy enough:  Salary + Commission / 50  weeks / 40 hours.  But consulting would be in addition to those 40 hours.  It would be subtracting from time spent with my daughter and  husband.  They’re worth every bit as much as I am so the answer is 3x(hourly wage) = HIRED. 

Do I need three times my hourly wage? No. 
Would I do work for less than that?  Probably. 
Do I deserve to be paid that much?  You bet your @ss.  And so do you. 

Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge your value before discussing your bargain rate doesn’t KNOW your value. 
Why work for anyone who doesn’t know your value?

But what absolutely bewilders me is that women who are wildly accomplished in their field still feel that tape-worm of doubt gnawing away at their moxie.

Last night I enjoyed a social media event here in St. Louis that was well-attended by some such women.  These women have marked achievements in marketing, journalism, social media and the like.  They are successful writers, speakers, strategists, and entrepreneurs. And every single one of them said some version of the following:

“I don’t know what I’m worth.”

WHAT. THE. BLEEP.

There’s no easy way to say this:  If you don’t know your value, don’t expect anyone else to know it.

Now that I’m back in the comfy embrace of my media world, the reciprocity switch has been firmly locked in the upright position.  Peers, colleagues, strangers, clients, and headhunters have all materialized with ideas, projects, jobs, searches, requests, and business. 
The universe has affirmed my decision with a dance in the end-zone.

When connecting some industry friends to one particular job opening, I heard it again – the hushed tone that ordinarily uninhibited women use when admitting some perceived shortcoming.  This time, that shortcoming was social media knowledge.  This branch of marketing is so nuanced with tentacles in search, design, writing, word-of-mouth, reputation management, and CRM that nearly everyone I have ever met in my entire life has some kind of knowledge to contribute. 

Yet, these women were essentially counting themselves out because they hadn’t written the book, or any book, on the topic.  This is just crazy talk.  Everyone can’t be Chris Brogan, and even the man with the plan makes mistakes.

Me thinks there be a branding opportunity here:  The Dove Self-Esteem Project  for business women? 
No?  Ok, well we’ve gotta do something because y’all are too damn talented to keep underselling yourselves. 

Next time you forget that, call me.

I’ll tell ya.