I didn’t mean to flash the window washer. The incident just happened.
Let me back up…
I took twelve weeks off for maternity leave when I had my first child. As I described in an earlier post, I gained an extraordinary amount of weight with this (and my subsequent) pregnancy. As a result, I was highly committed to breast feeding. Sure, I was excited about the health benefits for my kids, but what truly motivated me was the calorie burn. As any working/breast-feeding moms know, this means that you have to pump at work.
In case you’ve ever wondered if parenting is a humbling experience, try excusing yourself from a meeting at the most awkward moments, finding a private pumping location, hooking yourself up to a breast pump for 20 minutes, then slinking to the kitchen to clean all of the pump parts while acting like you’re just there to clean your coffee cup. And be sure to repeat this three times during the work day.
I get sweaty palms just remembering it.
Nursing was a big commitment. That said, I still found something nice about “unplugging” from work for a few minutes and “plugging in” to something so utterly beneficial for my child and for me. OK – maybe I’m exaggerating – most of the time the process felt like a discipline. However, I always used those times to catch up on a phone call with female colleagues or industry friends whom I had missed during my maternity leave. They were typically women who I knew wouldn’t be distracted by the low hum of the pump in the background.
My third day back at work my friend Cathy called right at pumping time. “Great!” I thought, “I can catch up with Cathy and pump at the same time.” I closed my office door, assembled the apparatus, put the phone in the crook of my neck, and began the pumping process. My office was on the eighth floor over-looking a one-story shopping center and an attached parking deck. There was always lots to look at, so I tended to gaze out the window whenever I chatted on the phone.
About ten minutes into the process, my pumping respite was interrupted by something (er, someone) entirely unexpected. As I sat, facing window and in mid-pump, down dropped a window washer that bobbed into place literally three feet from my face… (although my face wasn’t what I was worried about him seeing).
I screamed. Loudly.
Then I whipped my chair around, while still attached to the pump, and waited for the window washer to finish his job. I didn’t have much of an alternative.
My friend Cathy was utterly confused. I imagine her first thought was that my trusty Pump-o-matic 5000 had gone into uncontrolled suction overdrive or had sent electric shocks through me. When I finally composed myself enough to explain what happened, she couldn’t stop laughing. Seconds later I heard people down the hall chattering. They realized what had just gone down. Apparently the note about the window cleaning came out the week before my return to the office. They had forgotten to mention it. Thanks, team.
At that “mommy-meets-washerman” moment, an idea began to crystallize with me.
I was never going to have a compartmentalized life. I had naively believed that if I was organized enough, I could segue from home to work back to home easily. I figured with strong boundaries – with a solid work ethic – with enough effort. my roles would stay distinct and cleanly separated. I thought I could be “all in” at home and “all in” at the office; one environment wouldn’t have to creep into the other and, by sheer force of will, both would balance each other out.
However, like it or not, my little encounter with the window washer taught me that my home life was coming to the office with me… and I best come to grips with that.
That week was just the start of a new education for me…and I welcomed it.
In the next post, I’ll dive into what I discovered about the idea of keeping this new life of mine “balanced.”