Monday, July 28, 2003

The High School Reunion

I survived the high school reunion. I wore the right clothes -- pants and heels. I didn't get loaded and tell people how much I hated them 20 years ago. And I even made plans to get together with an old friend from Girl Scouts. Not bad.

Lots of lawyers and accountants. There was even some business networking on. I got three business cards and a fridge magnet advertising laser surgery for eyes.

One guy was a doctor who just came back from Iraq where he was fixing up Iraqi children hurt by the war. Yes, that's cool, but he sort of knew it. The most amusing character was a guy who is now an artist in San Francisco. Amidst all the GAP shirts and ties, he stood out with an old Hawiian shirt. He sulked about carrying an unlit, unfiltered Camel. He had a kind of weather-beaten, Keith Richards look.

Almost everyone had kids except for the weather beaten burner and the self-conscious doctor. Maybe that's why the rest of us had less interesting lives. Got to do boring things to support the kiddies. Someone has to take the job doing contracts at the Top Secret Wall Street Firm. Someone else has to sacrifice their plans to take care of the kiddies at home.

All of the women with kids were trying to figure out how to work part time. Three days a week seems to be the magic amount of time that everyone wanted to work. Some had figured it out. Some had given up.

Later in the week, I will discuss who's done it and who hasn't.

Here's my story:

I spent my twenties and early thirties in graduate school and working part-time at research center to pay for tuition and rent and beer. The last year of disseration writing was difficult because Jonah joined us. I wrote during his naps. I dropped him off with Juana the babysitter for a few hours. And my husband also watched Jonah for part of the day, because he was also home writing his dissertation. It was a very tough year because we were so poor, but we did it. Both Steve and I got our PhDs and jointly raised our new baby.

But with our savings dried up, we had to become employed. Steve turned a temp job into a permanent one at the Top Secret Wall Street Firm. He had a real job with health insurance and benefits, but we missed having him around. He leaves for work every day at 7:30, and we don't see him again until about 7:00. Those hours seem pretty typical these days. 9 to 5 jobs don't exist any longer. If his responsibilities increase at work, we may see him even less.

For reasons that I'll discuss later, we were uncomfortable putting the kids in child care full time. But I also didn't want to completely stop working. I had put so many years into getting my degree that I wanted to do something with it. I wanted to earn some money. I wanted to put on a nice skirt every day and use my brain. For just a few hours a week, I wanted to turn off the world of diapers and tantrums, and hang out with grown ups. This would turn out to be very difficult.

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