Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday afternoon

Tomorrow is the first day of Spring - Dia de la Primavera. Today nature gave us our first taste of sun and warm air. So, we went to lunch with our good friends Carolina and Pablo (they left baby Isabela with Abuela for a change) at a local parrilla for 5 different cuts of beef, a rucula salad and ice cream for dessert. Valen got her first taste of chocolate and for awhile I forgot that my sweet sister just gave birth to her first baby - a boy named Anthony Nicolas Serrano who we won't meet until March next year. We skyped this morning so I could "meet" him virtually (they're still at the hospital) and chat with my mom, Aunt Sea Jai and cousin Elan who had stopped by for a visit. Today I wish we hadn't left. boo hoo


Maureen Dowd posts an interesting column in the NY Times today about the declining state of happiness among US women. It got me wondering whether my girlfriends in the states seem happier now with kids or before (studies show we are happier pre-babies). Certainly moms complain a lot more than childless women though maybe its just topic based. My friends without kids kavetch about their bosses, stressful lives, not having enough money or the right relationship. My friends with kids all share a longing for more sleep and more time for themselves.

Last week I took Valen to the English speaking playgroup we attend a few times a month. I'd posted a request for a maid referral on the group site when we fired Rosa so a few of the moms wanted to know how the situation panned out. I explained that we'd received a great recommendation from a mom that recently moved back to the US and was trying to help her maid find a new permanent situation. Also named Rosa, she started last week and things are going well. I'd mentioned that the new Rosa is a better cook than the other. She's from Peru and likes to use fresh herbs and spices. Hello delicious ceviche. One of the moms (just moved to Argentina from NY a few months ago) looked at me with wide eyes and blurted:

She COOKS for you?
Like lunch AND dinner?
Usually, yes.
Then what do YOU do!!!!!??????

(This statement was loaded with so much vitriol and a mosh pit of other hateful sentiments (anger, resentment, envy, disgust, indignation, disbelief, disapproval) that it sucked the air out of me. Then I sputtered..

I take care of the baby...and I teach yoga!

I quickly realized my response was absurd mostly because I did not need to defend my life or priorities to some twit on the playground that demonizes moms with maids. So after a deep breath I followed up with:

Listen, this is why we live here.

Still I fumed about the exchange the rest of the day. Who is this person? Why are women so mean to each other? Why are moms in particular so damn critical? This is a woman who I've met on several occasions on group playdates. She seemed warm and down to earth for the most part. She'd chosen to give up a high paying career in NYC to be a stay at home mom but obviously she had her doubts. Was she happy? I don't know but she's not the only american mom I've heard from that seems to pride herself on doing it all herself - without any help. The martyr syndrome. As if any time for oneself while raising a child is pure evil. What - you hire someone else to vacuum your living room so that you can exercise!? What kind of mother are you? Fifty plus years since Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique and women still form their identities through housework and childrearing. No wonder we're so unhappy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

You're Fired!

In my past life as a corporate wonk, I had the displeasure of firing and laying off more than a few employees. It's the worst part of being in charge. It's the dirty work, the heavy, the bleh. I never got used to it, enjoyed it or numbed myself to the prospect of telling another human being with feelings and expectations of themselves that they were OUT. Usually I fired for poor performance. By the time it came to the final conversation, I'd have months of paper trail to document absenteeism, inadequate reviews, conflicts with peers or an occasional drama. In California, you are an at- will employee but any HR person will tell you you better have good reason and evidence of it before firing someone or you'll(the company) get sued. In my early days as a team manager, a woman suffered a bad breakup and came to work semi-suicidal. Locked herself in the bathroom crying and upsetting everyone within shouting distance. I had to call the employer paid for psychiatric hotline for support on what to do. She didn't get fired for the mental break down but the subsequent performance problems sealed the deal.

I don't miss that part of the working world but even here in Argentina as a mom, yoga teacher and writer I am still someone's "boss". (other than Hugh's haha) Today my employee,our maid/Valen's nanny Rosa got the boot. It was just like all the other firings and layoffs - the serious and perfunctory delivery of the news, the paperwork, the payoff, the signature to assure no future suit, and lastly - tears and a huffy puffy exit. This time Hugh took care of it and I listened apprehensively in the other room with Valen. We agreed that he'd be in charge of getting rid of bad maids if I'd take care of finding new ones. I'm not sure which is harder but I'm glad the first part is over.