Shattering the Illusion

Tuesday morning, as Diego assembled a construction site on our living room rug, and I blearily prepped coffee, David returned from a run.

He was AWAKE. Energized! And concerned.

“Have you heard about Buffy Wicks?” He asked, scrolling his phone, still catching his breath.

I hadn’t. I’d fallen asleep the previous night to David tracking the waning hours of the California legislative session, anxious about critical housing votes.

As I sipped my coffee, David explained: the Speaker prohibited our Assembly Member from voting by proxy. While a proxy system was available for lawmakers exposed to COVID, maternity leave did not qualify for this flexibility.

Apparently, a deadly virus was not a strong enough justification to protect a mother and her newborn. So, committed to her constituents, Assembly Member Wicks drove to Sacramento, and voted with her baby.

David was visibly upset. I was still processing. I hadn’t yet seen the photos, or listened to the video of a mother, masked, cradling her crying baby, urging her colleagues to take important votes. All I my sleepy mind could think: what day is it?

September 1? September 1, 2020? 

I woke up.

September 1, 2020? On this day, in this year, a legislator in the most progressive state is not protected during parental leave?

On this day, after six months of quarantine, when mothers are at a diagnosable breaking point , when there is no “and” left between a job and motherhood, our state can’t set up a Zoom vote?

This is where we are?

Suddenly, my memory jolted to a previous morning wake-up. Three years ago, the day before my own parental leave, I woke up to a different viral video.

#BBCDad day ignited endless discussions about working parenthood. At the time, the video thrust two conflicting images into the world: a professional providing an interview, and a father interrupted by his eager child. We watched one man experience both things, at the same time, and the world was stunned.

That day, Laura Owen‘s perspective on work/parenting hit me hard: “none of it can be compartmentalized anymore. It’s often when you’re trying the hardest to keep up this illusion, that it comes crashing down.”

48 hours away from meeting my own child, I wondered, how will I keep these two worlds separate? How can I offer myself fully as a mother and a professional?

I would confront this challenge from a place of significant privilege. With an understanding and generous employer, in a state with paid leave, my immediate needs were more than met. And still, I felt tremendously insecure about upholding the image of managing dual demands.

Lacking a visual example of what this actually looked like made the challenge all the more daunting. I’d watched colleagues pursue their careers, I’d watched friends wrestle through fog-filled early motherhoodbut until I did it, I truly couldn’t picture the two together.

In 2017, #BBCDad reiterated that there was no public image for the convergence of professional and family life. Today, for those privileged to work from home, the two coexist in-person and on-screen, and the distinction is gone. This is not to downplay the COVID’s chaos and the damage to working parents. However, with this crisis, and the ensuing working-parenthood visibility, it feels like many are noticing what this looks like, and how hard it is, to fully commit to both.

And if we weren’t reflecting before, scenes from Monday night elevated the pressure to a new level. Tuesday afternoon, when I had a moment, I finally watched Assembly Member Wicks’ comments. This article says it best: 

It was if, for a single moment in the California State Capitol, the near-impossibility of the demands of new motherhood and work and pandemic living had converged in a swaddle in Buffy Wicks’s arms.”

In that moment, in a very public way, the illusion came crashing down, and people saw the tension. Assembly Member Wicks’ passion, as she advocates before her colleagues, is mighty. Almost as spirituous as her daughter’s cries, the cries Wicks tries to soothe throughout her comments. The sounds and the struggle are obvious, and for any mother, very familiar. She is trying so hard to do both so well. She does it, but it is not easy.

Pre-COVID, Diego and I used to swing by the neighborhood playground after daycare. I would sit on the bench near the sand, and dread the moment Diego would ask me to play. Like everyone, by 5:30 pm, I was tired, and just wanted to catch my breath. 

Sometimes, Assembly Member Wicks and her older daughter would be at the park, too. I never introduced myself, far too shy for that, but I always marveled at her energy. Here she was, after a day full of demands I could hardly imagine, feet in the sand, smile on, cheering for her daughter as she zoomed down the slide.

The phrase “I don’t know how she does it,” is totally overused, but that’s what I thought, watching her energy, as I pulled myself off the bench to join Diego in the sand.

Today, I still don’t know how she does it. Assembly Member Wicks should not have been forced to vote in person, but, I’m so grateful that Monday night, she shattered the illusion of separating motherhood from career passion, before the Legislature and all of our eyes.

July

July was mostly a stay-close-to-home month, with a few adventures to the forest and the beach. Memories from this month below :)

We spent a very windy and cloudy morning at Baker Beach in early July. Our beach tent is the unsung hero of our summer, and we spent most of the morning huddled from the wind, watching other brave souls venture to the water:

Back in Oakland, it was much warmer, and Diego did a taste test of Tia Sonia’s salsas. Much to my surprise he LOVED the hot one, and could not stop dipping in that red container:

Silvia joined us for a hike in Muir Woods (and took the incredible photo below). We’re at a point now where we can *almost* confidently go on a 3ish mile hike with Diego, with the first half-ish pretty smooth, and the last part full of multiple cries for carrying/bribes/treats/and games:

We celebrated our anniversary with a day at Tomales Bay in Point Reyes, and the sun even decided to join us!

We also spent a lot of time at home. I’m having a tough time figuring out my comfort level with COVID-socializing, and am finding myself very much in retreat-mode. We had plans to visit friends two different weekends in July, and both times, I got too nervous to go. This isn’t like me, and I’m frustrated at how isolated COVID is making me. I’m trying to remember this is just a wild time and life wont always be so insular.

Diego is on the COVID Home Reorganization bandwagon, and spent one morning moving everything out of our spice drawer.

I also attended (from home) two excellent breast cancer workshops. For the Breast of Us, hosted an informative webinar on breast cancer equity and advocacy.  Prior to my diagnosis, I had a general understanding of treatment disparities. In observing the system close up, during my diagnosis and surgery, I became hyper-concerned about the systemic furtherance of inequality throughout the breast cancer experience. In particular, after the FTBU presentation, I’m learning more about advocacy for equity in genetic testing, as well as in screening and clinical trials.

Image from For the Breast of Us

Another weekend, I experienced the true gift of attending an all-day writing retreat organized by Bay Area Young Survivors and Wildfire Magazine. I’ve always wanted to attend a writing retreat, but have been too shy and overwhelmed. Turns out, a Zoom retreat was exactly what I needed! It was an energizing and restorative day, filled with thoughtful prompts and many, many words on the page.

Daily walks continue to be soul-giving and a true gift of so much more time at home. I’m always a little giddy when it is sunny and clear enough to see the Headlands and Mt. Tam.

And at the end of July, we finally left home!! For a real, long-distance trip! We’ve been counting down the days to visit Camp Dewberry (my parent’s house :)) and the day finally arrived. Diego is thrilled, we are relaxed, and I hope to write more about our family vacation to Irvine soon!

Cambridge!

Greetings from…Irvine! It is the end of July, and while we are definitely not in Europe, a year ago this time-we were :) My phone reminded me of our day in Cambridge and I realized I never added it to my travel diary. So, in a year where we are decidedly home-bound, it feels nice to do a little travel-memory-writing.

After three wonderful days in London with Katie, Kevin and Evie, we started our final morning with brunch at Alice House. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, but we knew we wanted to get in a full day in Cambridge, so after a few more sweet baby hugs, we left for the train.

One of many, many photos of Diego on a trains during the trip. It was a quick and easy ride to Cambridge.

Walking from our hotel to the university, we saw a wedding! It felt like a good sign for the day.

After my freshman year of college, I did a summer program at Cambridge and loved the town. I was eager to show David the colleges, but when we got to the city center it was PACKED. We were pretty lucky that most of the trip was not terribly overwhelmed with tourists, but Cambridge was the exception. Completely overwhelmed by the crowds, we detoured to a pleasant walk along the River Cam. Eventually, we found our way to…

The Orchard Tea Garden!

This was my favorite place 15 years ago, and it is still a beautiful escape. I devoured my scone with clotted cream, and only wish that I could beam myself back there right now.

After tea, we walked back along the River Cam before making our way to Pembroke.

The college was technically closed for a wedding, but the after asking at the Porter’s lodge if we could quietly explore, we were able to take a few quick family photos.

Showing Diego my dorm from the summer of 2004 :)

We walked back toward the river and decided to get some pints and burgers at The Mill before walking back to the hotel. We had a super early flight the next morning.