As soon as the clock hits 5:45, I begin to sweat bullets. I shift in my seat. I obsessively check my phone. All of the wonder and excitement of the writer's room transforms into a small ball of nausea casually traveling up my throat.
I have 15 minutes to wrap everything up and get to my child's daycare before it closes.
Elle Magazine contributor Katharine Zaleski wrote an article this week entitled: "I'm A Successful Working Mom Thanks To My Nanny." In the article she details the "dirty little secret" of high-powered women who seem to have it all. That secret is that someone helps them. I am at the age where all of my friends are just beginning to have babies. A new mother friend shared the article, with the caption: "thoughts?" I prepared myself to have my choices deemed irresponsible, non-motherly, and non-loving. I braced myself for the question "Why have children if someone else is going to raise them?"
My husband and I wanted to have children. When I became pregnant, it was not planned, but it was welcomed. Both of us had moved to Los Angeles some six years earlier to pursue our lives' dreams. He is a drummer. Within his first six months of being in Hollywood he was on his first world tour with an American Idol.
The trajectory for an aspiring Performing Showrunner was much different. I had grown up on television, but after a hiatus to attend college, I might as well have been a new face. I had to write, take classes, schmooze with this person and that person, all while figuring out how to still make money in the meantime. It would take me 4 1/2 years before I would start getting paid in film and television. Everything after that was based on momentum. In this industry, your momentum matters.
It never once was an option for me to stop my career to raise my child. That just wasn't our plan. Besides feeling that the best thing I could do for my children was live my purpose so as to inspire them to live theirs, we live in LA. We need two incomes. My husband leaves for tour periodically throughout the year. I am lucky enough to have a grandma that does not work and can come help in those times. But those one-off shows? Those random gigs? Studio sessions? Those happen in the off time. Child care is needed.
Three months after giving birth I was offered a job as a showrunner's assistant. I would get to learn exactly what I wanted to do, under someone who was doing it, and do it with him. He would allow me to be in the writers room. Give input. It was the perfect job. In many ways, it was the stepping stone to go from independent productions to break into network/cable television. There was a glimmer of light at the end of this hustle tunnel. It was also not set hours as my former job had been. I couldn't work from home when there was no help as I had with my former job -- nor would I want to. I would miss everything happening in the room. My family would have to get help. Long-term. Permanent.
As we searched (and remain searching) for a nanny, my child is in daycare. A daycare that had a two-month waiting list. A daycare that literally takes almost half of my weekly pay. Because of my husband we can afford it. But if he's out of town (as he is right now) I have to be out the door at 5:50 or I will be late getting my son. I nervously have to tell my boss "I have to leave by a certain time to get him." For less than $100 more, I could have a nanny 30 hours a week and not have that problem. Or the continual runny nose.
I want the nanny.
I have been enormously blessed to have bosses that get it. My current boss, the showrunner, has two daughters of his own and is a world-class parent. He never makes me sacrifice my child for the job because he wouldn't. When you're off, you are off. If you need to leave early, leave early. He gives me parenting advise. He's a Godsend. He is also not the norm. Most bosses, male or female, would hear my parenting woes and consider me a woman with baggage. "She's great, but she has kids..."
Men do not have to make the same sacrifices. If a man has to leave early to go pick up his kids he's hailed a "great father." If he watches his children alone, he's even more incredible. Conversely, if he needs to leave for work, works late, or has to miss an important event, it's acceptable. Daddy has to work. That treatment is not afforded to mothers.
Many women would laud my personal and professional life until they found out I missed every one of my son's monthly checkups except the first one. His Dad took him alone. The daycare knows my husband much better than they know me. Often, he gives me time to sleep in and he bathes and feeds the baby because I went straight from work, to mommy duty, to wife duty, then back to work until I fell asleep. Probably in the clothes I wore all day. Maybe still in my shoes.
I am painfully aware that to many he deserves the father of the year award. I would support that. In comparison, many of those same people wouldn't think so highly of me.
Some people would ask why do all of that? Isn't that too much work? Don't you miss enjoying life? I say no. Because I enjoy the work. Because this work will ultimately (hopefully) lead to a career where I can afford my son and his siblings a very comfortable life. Because I believe that the work I'm doing is important to shaping culture and I want my children to work hard on things they believe in too. I can show them much better than I could tell them.
More importantly, I know mothers and fathers who stay at home or work shorter hours and their relationships with their children are still fractured. I know parents who are home all the time and are never present. I know men and women who silently resent their families because they had big plans for their lives that they never pursued; or worse they become dependent on their children because they gave up their dreams to raise them. Their children's lives are stifled because their parents don't know who they are or what they will do outside of being a parent. I have my passions. My husband has his. We plan on cultivating that same inner knowing and awareness of purpose in our kids. My son is still breastfed. I read him stories. We take swimming lessons and have silly songs and rituals. My family has a home-cooked meal every night. I am still VERY present.
I also shouldn't have to explain any of that to anyone simply because I am a woman, nor would I be any less of a mother if one of the responsibilities mentioned was my husband's.
I want my son and any other child I have to live their life to the fullest. They will learn to do that through us. To make that happen, we need help. Sometimes that means friends. Sometimes that means family. For the day-in and day-out, it seems that will mean a nanny.
Thanks to Katharine Zaleski, I am no longer ashamed to say that.