A friend once asked me whether or not I liked my job, and at the time I was working full-time at a web design shop in Los Angeles. My answer was that I loved my job approximately three days out of every month, and during the other 27 or so days our relationship was more platonic, at times resembling the highly volatile relationship of two college roommates who happen to be on their periods at the same time.
I figured that three whole days worth of love was much more than most people could claim about their employment, and so I didn’t mind lugging my hungover body into the office most of the week to deal with Account People Who Wear Pantyhose Even Though No Dresscode Requires Them To Do So. For three days every month I got to work on an original design, and then I would spend the next four weeks redesigning and tearing apart that design, all to the specifications of those Account People and clients who thought that the internet was a person who lived inside their computers.
(quick side story that surprisingly has nothing to do with my baby: I actually worked for a client once who asked me to program their homepage so that when a user brought it up on a browser it would disable the printing function on their computer. They didn’t want anyone printing out their website because they were worried that someone would steal their great ideas, the great ideas that they were putting on the PUBLIC internet for THOUSANDS of people to read. I asked them if they also wanted me to include a piece of code that would break a user’s fingers, thus preventing anyone from printing or even writing down their great ideas, and they asked me if they could get in trouble for that.)
Some of my friends at the time said that they were envious of my job, that I got to work with big name clients and that I got to surf the internet all day long, and from the perspective of someone who was washing dishes and waiting tables for hours on end, I can see how my job would have seemed alluring. But the reality was much less glamorous than the idea of it, because there’s nothing fancy or prestigious about spending 40 hours on one background color because some fat ego-drunk executive who thinks his own shit smells good can’t decide if he likes purple or dark purple.
And some people wonder why I got fired for this website.
Maybe all jobs are like this in the sense that there are the good parts and the bad parts, the bad parts occupying the majority of the space because it is a JOB after all. If you have a job where there are more good parts than bad parts then you’ve obviously made a deal with the devil and you’re going to spend the rest of eternity being tortured by fork-wielding elves to make up for the imbalance. I’m just saying.
I remember when I was single and living alone and wondering what it would be like to be married and have a family, and whenever I saw people with kids at the park I couldn’t wait to have my own kids to play with at the park, because that’s what having a family was going to be like. Playing at the park. Having a family was going to be so fun and there would be ice cream cones and tricycles and round baby cheeks and everyone would be smiling all the time. I couldn’t wait to have a kid that I could dress in a soccer uniform, someone whose hair I could braid, someone I could train to say mean things to the Mormons. My God, the fun you could have with a family.
And I know that what I’m about to say is completely obvious, and it will be the least profound thing I have ever written. But to those of you who have suffered the unmerciful pangs of an angry biological clock, who have felt weak in the knees at the sight of a newborn baby, who daydream like I did about what your own kids will look like (will they inherit my hair? how about my great taste in shoes? please let them get my great taste in shoes!), what the biological clock isn’t telling you is that the job of motherhood is NOTHING like what you think it will be.
Yes, there are baby smiles and yesterday Leta giggled for the first time — at least, it was the first giggle I heard. Jon heard her giggle the other night while I was in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner, and I think she did that on purpose, laughed when she knew I couldn’t hear her. She’s evil that way.
Yes, there are transcendental moments when I look at her and she looks at me and there are traces of recognition and THE WORLD STANDS STILL I LOVE HER SO MUCH.
But there is all this other stuff about this job that I didn’t bargain for, and I feel foolish for being so unprepared. The day to day minutiae of raising a baby is at times so boring that I want to bang my head against the changing table. There are only so many ways to entertain a three month old baby (let’s walk into the kitchen again! let’s look out the window! here, chew on my finger!), and it only gets worse from here. Next year I’ll be repeating words ALL DAY LONG, reading the same books over and over and over again, and changing diapers that will redefine my entire definition of offensive.
I’m discovering that this is just like any other job, that the good and fun parts are there, it’s just not good and fun all the time or even most of the time. I now understand that the family with the kids at the park had to get those kids dressed and fed and into the car, and that on the way to the park the kids probably all threw tantrums and spit at each other. And then they had to get back into the car, drive home while everyone was complaining about how hot it was, and then they had to feed them dinner, get them ready for bed, and fight them to brush their teeth. And those kids probably don’t even have the redeeming fresh baby smell that makes so much of this job endurable.
The good thing is that where other jobs only offered three good days out of the month, this one offers at least three good moments every day, sometimes even four. At other jobs I wanted to hurt my boss with sharp instruments and write nasty things about her on my website (and oh! how I did!), and now . . . now I actually like my boss. We have lunch together every day and talk about ladybugs. Well, I talk about ladybugs and she just sits there and drools. And the great thing is, she can’t fire me because of my website.