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Staying at Home

The first member of my tribute band goes into “share care” today, making me think about how lucky I am to be able to stay at home with little A.

Before we get to that though, let’s talk about my tribute band. It might be in my head. But here’s the thing: friends of ours named their daughter Emma. They say it had nothing to do with me – family name, blah blah blah – but I’m just saying, she’s named Emma, I’m named Emma… You do the math.

There are a lot of other tiny Emmas floating around out there too: “Emma” has been a top baby name pick for four or five years now. Some of them are bound to meet up with each other eventually, some of those are going to take up the tambourine and what not, and voila: my tribute band. They don’t have to know me for it to be a tribute band: my influence as the older Emma is just a felt thing, don’t you think? Yeah. It is.

Until that time though, Emma’s headed to a share care while her mom goes back to teaching. (Share care is where two or more kiddies’ families hire a single nanny who watches the kids together in one of their homes.) Most moms I know were upset to head back to work and I would’ve been too, especially since I’d have been heading back to a job I didn’t feel was that important to the world or my identity. (I mean, yes, who doesn’t want a potato ricer? But let’s not pretend world peace depends on it. Also: I don’t like to cook, so there goes the global and the personal relevance.)

I hope most of us believe firmly that moms should be able to head back to their jobs without a burden of guilt about leaving their kids to be cared for by others. (For every piece of research suggesting worse outcomes for kids in day care, there’s another one saying that’s bunk, so clearly there’s no one conclusion.) That set aside, even the moms I know who love their jobs have had a hard time heading back, a lot of them an unexpectedly hard time. Babies are much more attractive than you think they’re going to be before you have them. They’re interesting companions and they need a lot of attention that – surprising to some of us, myself included – you actually would like to give them. So heading out the door for most of their waking hours five days a week is a big adjustment after months of full-time care and company.

I never thought I’d want to be a full-time mother, but that’s mostly because I had a lot of hang-ups about being a mother at all. (“Had” might not be 100% accurate, but the ones I have now are about the “how” not the “at all.”) But through coincidence and choice, I am. I won’t lie: taking on a high-stakes 80-hour/week job with little to no supervision or guidance is a hard transition when you’ve been a successful professional in a completely different field for several years. There are days when the learning curve seems too steep to climb, and it seems like the sane choice for everyone would be to hand off my responsibilities to the real professionals. You know: the ones who like to cook tiny meals and know how to check for broken bones.

But parenting is about the long game, not the six-month project. You’re going for a general target of “happy and healthy” which is tough to define and hard to measure as you go. Mistakes are inevitable, and, disconcertingly, the ones you can identify are rarely the ones that your little ones remember to hold against you. So, as far as I can tell, you’re shooting for generalities, best of the current choices, and constantly trying to loosen your grip, ease up, just be with the baby, let her be who she’s going to be.

It’s a good lesson, that grip-loosening, for someone like me – one I anticipated as being the most challenging and beneficial for me specifically, in becoming a parent. Growing up with as much uncertainty and conflict as I did, I have a preference for “safe and certain” on the home front. I like reliable people. I don’t, in general, like surprises. (At least not in scheduling. Expensive gifts are fine. Parties? Yes. Last-minute changes to plans? No. Unless it’s a party. With presents. Then go ahead. Don’t let me stop you. Really. My birthday’s in a month. Go for it.)

I’m not an iron grip girl. Privately though, between myself and myself, I like to know where my hand rests steadily. It took some years to sort that out and still takes some time and quiet to reassure myself that I’m on-course, especially after a destabilization, a panic, or a surge into new circumstances. I just wasn’t raised to feel naturally steady, so it takes some work.

Babies aren’t big on the steady though, nor on the quiet and reliable. And panic is a big thing when you’re trying to keep someone small, fast and interested in electrical sockets alive. Flexibility is the name of the game. It’s a very hard game. For anyone, I imagine, and especially for people like me. Going back to work, getting my bearings a few hours a day, being in a predictable familiar environment would be very welcome. But I decided to leave the work I used to do and take on something more important to me, writing, and then, almost immediately something else important, parenting. So on we forge, creating a new career, a new set of bearings, while simultaneously flexing (almost flat sometimes) with good-natured A.

It’s a heavy lift all at once. I’m struggling, particularly with the move to a new home thrown in. But it’s a good choice for me, for us, for A., I think. For now. We’ll see what the spring brings, besides flowers and earlier sun, which will both be welcome.

So to the moms heading back to work, bon voyage and good luck. All will be well. To the moms staying home, let’s sort out our schedules to get some coffee because this new job is keeping me up nights.

Don’t Adjust Your Sets

tv-static.jpgAs you may have noticed, Displaced has been experiencing some technical difficulties recently. We’re in the process of upgrading some of the features on the site and trying to decide if those upgrades might just be easier if I shifted platforms entirely.

Couple of the changes in the works? Font size, for one. Don’t rush out and get new glasses – we have been messing with it and, no, you haven’t gone crosseyed. We’ve also been trying to simplify the commenting process to allow regular and non-spammers through the net and still keep spam out. It turns out that net may have been tightened too far, so if you haven’t seen your comments posting, I sincerely apologize. We’re on the case.

It’s been a little rocky and I appreciate everyone bearing with the chaos.

New content’s been a little low of late too, I know. I’ve been absorbed in other work lately. That combined with navigating the challenges of the late stages of our first pregnancy, the blog has been sadly neglected.

We’ll get back on track here shortly on all fronts. Thanks for your patience!

A Brief Review of Microsoft and the Horror They Bring Upon Us All

Note: This is one of two entries this weekend. The first was a perfectly harmless review of Cellular, which I hope you read. It’s below. In its second version because of what happened in this first piece.*sigh. Well, now there’s more of me to go around.

I realize that I am not the first to comment on the Evil Empire of the North. I am not even the 4000th. I am likely also not the first to make another erroneous decision to stay on the Windows platform when faced with a choice of new computers. A couple years ago, Apple aimed a whole ad campaign at people like me, intent on winning over the sunk-cost Windows crowd. I feel like a Nader supporter in Florida: I just didn’t think this through properly.

I have one reason for my stupidity and recalcitrance in not having gotten that Apple: I have an outstanding boyfriend with a Windows server who provides patient and (unfortunately for him) frequent tech support, Windows only. Of course, I ignored the oft-made point that Apple doesn’t require that kind of support. Which brings us to the second reason I didn’t think of before. I am a baroque, macro-using New Yorker who wants what she wants now and cannot fathom a system-shift with so many shortcuts to set up. Frankly, it would make me feel inadequate and we all know that if mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy. So really, I did it for you.

Of course, today, I feel worse than inadequate. I feel that violated, object-less fury you get when you know that your righteous anger will make not even a scrap of difference in the situation or have even the slightest effect on the offender. The schoolyard bully has moved into my home. Hell, he’s moved into my office and there isn’t enough room in here for the both of us, so someone had to go. Last night it was me.

Here’s the backstory. I got a brand, spanking new IBM in June (see above for irrational justification). It was a package deal: new computer = Windows XP. So far, “XP” seems to be some sort of numeral/acronym meaning “We have round cornered pop-ups now.” That’s really the only perceptible difference. Until last night. MS (short for “Microsoft”, or, aptly, “Multiple Sclerosis”) prompts users to update their operating systems often because they have no conscience and keep releasing shoddy code. (They don’t tell you that, but I can read between the lines.)

At the end of the update, the window asks if I’d like to reboot now or later. Invariably, as I am generally doing what people do on computers, namely WORK, I say “later” and go on with my day. This system has always worked for me and Windows 2000. We understood my “later” to actually mean “later” and we all trusted that I would eventually reboot and that working on a newly and possibly incompletely updated system was not in my best interest but was, at the end of the day, my friggin’ stupid choice. Good riddance and done deal.

XP, however, has a new “feature”: a window pops up every 20 minutes asking me again and again if I’d like to reboot. This is, needless to say, an annoyance and only makes me more belligerent in my refusals.

“Bastards!” I say. “Get off my screen and return from whence you came!” (I assume the “whence” is someplace punishing and unpleasant.)

It turns out however that Windows is one step ahead of me now, having set up a fully functional base in the Ninth Circle of Hell. Once I’ve refused their request to intrude on my day several times, they start getting pushy. It’s like MS thinks that because they made the op sys, it’s really their computer that they’re just letting me use. A window comes up:

“Pshaw, silly user: we’re just going to go ahead and reboot now because we know what’s best for you. How you like them apples, be-atch?”

or words to that effect. Unfortunately, when they posed this rhetorical question, I was away from my computer, having left open several Word documents on which I was working and which I had not yet named or saved because I was writing furiously and then on my way out the door (to a mediocre night, just to heighten my misery). Why would I worry about this? Never before has my computer shut itself down spontaneously in my absence without my permission. I understand that my audience will be chortling,

“Oh that wacky Emma! What a rookie mistake!”

But here’s my point: aside from my bad habits, what #$(*#&$ computer program closes down the entire system without permission and ignores all program warnings that data has not been saved? You know which ones? VIRUSES, that’s which ones. Except you can generally recover data from a virus strike, given enough time. Even in a blue-screen system crash, Word will offer temp file auto saves of your open docs. In my case, that means the version from two minutes ago.

Not XP and that jolly crew up in Redmond: they run my world now, so they’re fine with agreeing amongst themselves not to save the temps and shutting me down. It’s their own little masterful virus: you can’t uninstall it, you can’t clean it, you can’t live on the faith that some Norwegian virus-tracker guy whose main personal relationship is with a tiny painted figurine is going to eventually get ’em with his rapier-like code and triumph for us all. All you get is another window,

“Now isn’t that better? For your added convenience we had a look at some of your other saved documents and went ahead and deleted a bunch of stuff out of them too. Plus, we messed with Quicken, just to give you an added sumpin’ sumpin’ to look forward to. You can thank us later. Cheerio!”

For all of you whom I promised to call this weekend, I apologize: I’m busy re-constructing the last week of my life.