The report will be short. Or short-ish.
Yesterday, I arrived like a school girl on her first day of school. New sweater, old pants, old shoes, a small bag full of a few small things that make a desk feel like mine. Y. who is my boss in one sense– greeted me, took me into her office, walked me around a little bit and gave me some instructions, some words of welcome and a sense of a start. She is a black woman, younger than I am by a lot, a veteran by legislative staff standards (5 years) and someone about whom, after listening to her in my first interview I thought, ‘this is a smart woman, a principled woman. I’d follow her leadership. For real.’ The elected legislator who chairs the committee I was hired to staff is actually my boss– and I saw him later in the day.
One of the first things I learned yesterday is that the other lawyer in the office has resigned. Don’t know when he is leaving. I had all those feelings, interesting feelings of excitement–putting my mind to something new, trying something new, learning a whole universe (as legislatures of any kind are– even more so than your average workplace)– full of people and their layers of relationships, strengths, worries and compromises, rules, ways of doing things, of getting things done and of relating to one another. The office is in a beautiful, old but refurbished, government building. I love the building.
I’ve had a year and a half of being a stay-at-home mom. I’ve juggled, driven, organized impossible schedules, gone, helped, observed and been present with my daughter in so many settings; I’ve changed plans on a dime, and made things work. I’ve spent a lot of time healing about the many feelings about loss of my former job– and the many more feelings about what that job and workplace had been (not so good) for me.
I’ve built a couple of rock solid relationships– one with my mom-friend with whom I’ve shared a weekly meeting to listen to one another, laugh and cry together, strategize and keep ourselves on track– one of the most satisfying, effective and efficient relationships ever. I built a small community of others who are free during the daytime and I tried a number of things. I’ve worked hard on the many hopes and worries and struggles I have as a parent– on strengthening my relationship with my daughter, other mothers, fathers, teachers, administrators and many others.
I am a different woman in certain ways. It is interesting to feel. I’ve felt at times, increasingly fragile but I think I may have been developing secret strengths. Secret, first and foremost to me.
What I hated about the first day was the dispiriting feeling that went with 9:00 6:30– which is how long I worked yesterday. It is simply too long to be away from home, my daughter and the goings on at which I belong and want to be. This week I will miss a school play in Spanish, where my daughter has her teacher blown away by how she aced her lines. And I will miss the first (and possibly the only) basketball tournament game in which my daughter will play. And she missed me too which is another story.
Here is what I loved. After years of having and worrying about having my own office in various workplaces, we work in a space that is configured like this; Two inner offices at the back. The resigning lawyer and Y., the committee staff director, have those offices. Then there is a big gangly L-shaped room with four other desks/ cubicles and a large table for meetings and assembling documents, a sofa-waiting-area and files and two closets, one of which serves as a small kitchen. And in the midst of all this, in a big modular work station, is where I work. As a woman who knows that the all-over-each-other-never-alone— is one of the biggest gifts of mothering, I loved working in a big room where people call out to each other, see each other come and go, bustle around each other and have a sense– if only because of the design of the workspace, that we are in this together.