You may have seen it on Facebook. You know. I work there now!
It's been hard to parse the events of the last six months. But I want to.
So. How did it happen? In March, Hot Studio, the design firm where I'd worked for the last six years, was acquired by Facebook. I'd expected an eventual acquisition by some larger company. I wanted it for Maria. As the badass company founder she was, she deserved it. Still, it came as a surprise. There may have been rumors, but that's not the same as sitting in rows of white chairs in a company-wide meeting listening to your long-term leader spell it out.
It was shocking, the bigness of it. Facebook! In Menlo Park! And Hot would close!
We didn't know what would happen to everyone. It was a hard time, the unwinding of Hot. The splitting up of family.
But I got an offer to work in the Content Strategy group at Facebook. And I said yes please.
And now every weekday morning I pull off the Dumbarton Bridge in my vanpool (more about that later), onto 1 Hacker Way, and go to work.
What is it like? My electronic badge beeps me in. As a n00b (new person) on my first week, I felt I was staring up into the underbelly of a vast spaceship. Around me, I saw a diverse group of talented people, and a different world. What's it like?
- There's graffiti and posters and color-splashed walls
- Light streaming in
- Art everywhere
- Open desks and more desks and more
- Vending machines with electronics (headphones, power adapters, mice, etc.)
- Snacks and more snacks and lovely nonalcoholic drinks
- Hundreds of esoterically-named conference rooms (e.g. "Puff the Magic Drag and Drop")
- Plants inside and out
- Bikes to ride (they are quicker - and give you an unexpected sense of joy)
- Free food! Rich food. Healthy food. Fresh and varied. (Low blood sugar is never an issue.)
People move around me, hustling from building to building in the sunny interior courtyard. They're developers and designers and people with MBAs. Content Strategists like myself. Good sharp people who help with all of the details.
So many brains in one place! Lots of data, numbers, metrics. People with strong opinions. An intensity of purpose. Strong charisma. It's optimism and realism, combined in a way I've never seen before.
There's also a surprising humility at Facebook. A willingness to examine problems. An understanding, among everyone I know, that the perks aren't ubiquitous. It's a privilege. So we work very hard. We work to make Facebook a great experience for everyone who uses it. If that were easy, we'd be done already. But it's not easy. That's why we're there.
After I get home in that same vanpool, I see Rafael and Alejandro and Story. Our beautiful family. Before I walk in the door, I stop on the porch and take a deep breath. I tell myself, "Steady, lady. Steady." I want to leave work behind, but I'm still excitedly solving problems with my co-workers in my head. I take another deep breath. I admire the late sunlight streaming over the hill in front of our house. I calm down.
I walk into eight streams of information coming at me through the three people I love and the many devices in our home.
"Mommy's home!!!" It's a lovely chaos of hugging and kissing and sharing of toys and drawings and video game news updates. Then everything needs to be done.
I'm not good at everything. I'm still me. I'm still learning balance, and about how to be the very best mom I can be, and a caring wife, and about creative fulfillment, and this new job. (I'll take a another deep breath now. Ahhhhh. Okay. Whew.)
But I'm where I'm meant to be. At work I feel like I can do what I'm best at: Writing. Connecting. Communicating. Being of service. Making stuff.
And at home I can just be with the kids, which is all we need.
Thank you for being here, and for knowing all sides.
...I'm not going to finish that headline. But I will tell you I've recently had three trips away. And I'm diggity-dogged happy to be home.
Then I flew to Austin to represent the Fernandez-ez at a good friend's wedding. There I was surrounded by people who've loved us long time. I thought of the early days of R and I, and got my friend-full.
Then, the "break" of a modern parent's dreams: a 3-day conference in one city followed by a day-long client workshop in another! Yeah. Dreamy. But I had my own hotel room. A chance to see my dad and stepmom. (Pack it in, baby.) But most importantly: a few days to think big, meet people, and pass out in neutral-town when done.
Then, best of all, home! And my guy and babies! Blessed be. That's what I'm talking about. Gorgeous moments when I'm just holding them, and I'm so happy I could cry. They missed me, and I can't get enough of them.
So I'm home, and happy, and ready to hang for the summer and beyond. You know what they say about breaks.
The return to work was rough, mostly because it coincided with my husband being out of town for like, two months. Sure, he was back for a week here and a few days there, but it was intense. With a five-month old and a three-year old, plus a half-assed plan for childcare, it really sucked. There. I said it. No, wait, I'm not done! It REALLY REALLY SUCKED. But since we're not planning on having more kids, at least I can say: Well then. I won't have to do THAT again.
I have the option to bring Story Jane with me to work since Hot Studio has a formal, and awesome, babies-at-work policy for returning parents. It's a great benefit, and it helped the first few weeks, but I couldn't swing it any longer. I was a single parent returning to the workforce in a new role. After being off for almost seven (!!) months, I was ready to just get back to work. And frankly, I'm not the most chill mom in the world. More specifically, I freak out when my kids aren't sleeping. So trying to get Story to take a nap–while meeting new people and setting up new processes at work– was a recipe for a mommy meltdown.
The ongoing identity crisis: I didn't say "I'm a mother," but "a mommy." I also have a full time job and a fancy new title. Transitioning between these two roles is what's most awkward. I can get so into work, and so fulfilled by it, to be honest, I don't leave at 5:30 as planned. I probably haven't pumped at the designated time. My commute home is super stressful, 'cause I know I'll miss my daughter being awake. My husband, if he's home, has to cover for me. We haven't made dinner plans. Even leaving at 6:00, I'm too late. I've f'ed it up, and I'm not even home yet.
When I walk in, I've got to be on. I want nothing more than to squeeze my boy. Usually Alejandro doesn't have pants on and he's doing ninja moves. He desperately wants someone to decapitate action figures with him.
I give him a big hug and many kisses. That's the best, for both of us. Then I deny his requests to play. I may make dinner, or feed Story, and put her to bed if I'm not too late. That means patting her back and singing and letting her cry. I walk out of the room for five minutes at a time as she screams. I give Ali a Popsicle, then return to pat her back some more. I hear Ali stomping towards their bedroom. "Mommy!?" His Popsicle has dripped all over his privates and the hallway, and as soon as Story hears him, she wakes up and cries louder. She's frustrated she isn't part of the violence in the living room.
It's really fun. No really, it's not.
I don't know why I expected it to be "fun." What Kool-Aid did I drink, way back when I was envisioning myself as a super chill, relaxed, loving and art-inspiring parent? And can I please have some more?
I wouldn't change anything about my life, of course. It's my design, rough edges and fuckups included. I wouldn't trade our two gorgeous babies or their amazing dad who has a creative job at which he excels (but requires him to travel)–not for anything. Or give up my job, for that matter. I love it. I love going to it, and I can't deny that.
So here I am, a modern parent.
My friend Katrina, who writes the profound workingmom'sbreak blog, told me long ago that she and her husband sometimes said to one another: "There's just not enough to go around." It's a sad state, but a good reminder to avoid the blame game between partners. It doesn't seem like enough, but it has to be.
Experienced moms tell me that it'll get much easier when the kids are in elementary school. "It's just five years away," my boss and friend Maria told me tonight. Just five years. Only a parent would be crazy enough to say that.
Only a mommy like myself would accept that decree with a bowed head. And then mourn those years' passing.