How did I, a women determined to live a life modeled after Mary Tyler Moore, end up as a stay at home mom with four kids? That’s a very good question. In order to explain how I got so far off the track of my original goal, I have to take you back a few years, actually more like twenty. I was married and had a beautiful baby girl. So, I had to make some adjustments to my plan. Tweak it a bit. Maybe find a new role model, at least on a temporary basis. I needed to find a working mom that I could emulate. I re-imagined my life like the scene from the movie Mrs. Doubtfire. You know the scene, an impeccably dressed Sally Field arrives home after a long day of work. She opens the door to her well-appointed home to find her family seated patiently at the dining room table, candles are lit, and the table is adorned with a gourmet meal. That could be me, I thought! Okay I was delusional, but one can dream, right?
In order to better handle the demands of being a working mom, I switched careers to a job that offered me more flexibility. I became a salesperson in the home furnishings industry. This is just a fancy way of saying I sold furniture to furniture stores. Part of my week was spent working from home; this part worked flawlessly. However, a few days a week, I needed to be on the road making day trips to local or regional accounts. It was on these traveling days that I discovered that my daughter seemed to have magical powers over me, most notably, my boobs! They, my boobs that is, acted as a homing device connecting me to my daughter. On one occasion, I was driving to meet a buyer at a furniture store in Buffalo, New York. Suddenly, I was overcome with a strange feeling, a yearning. It was as if my daughter was at home with the sitter thinking in her little four-month-old brain Hokus Pokus, I want Mommy to come home now! And abracadabra, just like that my boobs began to tingle and the flood gates opened. I looked down to see that my entire shirt was soaking wet. I’m exaggerating, not my entire shirt, but two lovely dripping wet circles you know where!
Arriving at my appointment, I said as confidently as I could muster, “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m sorry, but I need to use your ladies room, and do you, by the way, have an extra shirt that I can borrow?” This was especially uncomfortable due to the fact that my appointment was with a human being of the male persuasion. And as you may have guessed, men don’t understand leaking boobs. Of course, the appointment was very quick with no success in securing an order. Thus, achieving my daughter’s original intent of employing the homing mechanism—I drove home.
My daughter’s second talent at this early age was refusing to take anything but “the boob.” In fact, stubborn as she was, she could go for long periods of time refusing to take a bottle or sippy cup, from her sitter, her dad, her grandmother, or anyone for that matter. Basically, for her, it was the boob or nothing at all.
This posed a significant challenge for me in the spring of that year when I had to travel for a week to the furniture market taking place in High Point, North Carolina. My daughter was now six months old and still nursing. My husband volunteered to take time off of work so that the three of us could travel there together. He would stay with our daughter during the day while I worked. Because I wouldn’t be able to nurse her during the day, I would have to “pump” one or two times throughout the day in order to avoid a boob explosion. So I rented, and yes I did say rented, a breast pump machine. My plan was to sneak away to a private room to pump, a secure comfortable spot, maybe someone’s office or private lounge. Yes, once again I was delusional.
The first day of the show, I found out how difficult all of this would be to pull off. My original plan was to pump at eleven o’clock and then again at four. The showroom was busy with customers, and before I realized it, it was one o’clock. I was working with the buyer from Higbee’s Furniture Store; in other words, I was working with Mrs. Higbee. Everything was going fine until I noticed Mrs. Higbee staring at my chest. Looking down, I saw that my light pink blouse was turning dark lavender with two dripping wet circles. You guessed it, I was leaking, lactating, practically spraying milk. I had to make a break for it before those puppies erupted and poor Mrs. Higbee was covered in high grade, unpasteurized breast milk. Unlike my fairytale idea of a comfy secluded office where I would be able to expose myself discreetly, the only place available to pump was the public restroom. Lovely. So I grabbed my rolling suitcase that contained my breast pump and tore down the hallway of the furniture mart towards the ladies room.
I entered the restroom and made my way to the first available open stall. Luckily, this was years ago when it did not cause alarm, just confusion, for a person to bring a strange piece of luggage into a bathroom stall, close the door, unpack the suitcase, and proceed to assemble a mechanical device complete with tubes, cords, and batteries. If this were to happen today, I’m sure that just as I sat myself down, exposed my breasts and attached two cold plastic siphoning cups to my boobs, the doors would be broken in by a swat team yelling “Put ‘em up!” Or maybe more appropriately, “Put ‘em down!”
After surviving the rest of a mostly humiliating day, I headed back to the hotel to meet up with my husband and daughter. “How did the day go?” he asked.
“I’d rather not talk about it. How did you guys do?” I inquired.
“Well she was fine but, she wouldn’t eat or drink anything all day.”
“All day! That’s bad. Really bad! I better nurse her right away,” I said and pulled
her onto my lap. Well let me tell you, she made up for the whole day of not eating. She stuffed herself full of milk. That was good, or so I thought.
“The sales team is meeting for dinner and would like us to join them. What do
you think?” I asked my husband.
“Sounds good to me.”
Everyone was looking forward to meeting my daughter, so I made sure to dress her up in her most adorable outfit, matching hat and all. At the restaurant, people took turns holding her. She was passed around. They ohh and awed and tickled her belly. Finally, she was handed back to me. Okay, I thought, this is all going to work out. We hit a little bump in the road earlier but look at us now. It was right about then that my daughter turned to face me. “Are you okay honey?” I asked. I heard a rumbling sound, then she blew like Mount Saint Helens. All I could see was white. Milk shot everywhere. Rather than rinse and repeat we apologized, excused ourselves, and headed back to the hotel. The next day, I called in my resignation and we packed up and headed home.
My fairytale ending is this, I never needed the role model of Mary or the mom from Mrs. Doubtfire. My role models are all of us moms and dads that do this crazy wonderful parenting job, one day at a time, feeling our way through each and every bump that we hit along the way. My daughter is twenty years old and in college now. I have three boys in high school, and I still think every day about going back to work. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the working mom thing hasn’t happened for me, yet. I also believe that it’s never too late to try again, when I’m ready.