This week, Momma went conferencing. I attended The Israeli Presidential Conference at the Jerusalem International Conference Center, as a blogger. That meant I got a nice little press pass and access to all of the sessions and panels. They had a number of blogger only sessions, which included one with President Shimon Peres, venture capitalist Yossi Vardi, Tablet Magazine’s Alana Newhouse, and author Peter Beinart. I’m an avid Tablet reader so I was really excited about the session with Alana, and was completely lost when it came to the Peter Beinart session.
But for me, the thrill was getting back into the business world. It was opening up the closet that holds all of my business suits, the ones I haven’t worn since I lived in New York City, and getting dressed up again for work. It was putting on makeup for the first time in, I don’t even remember, and wearing nice shoes. It meant wearing my “good wig” instead of my very comfortable but completely beat up bandana. It was leaving my 14 month old to spend two days with her Daddy, who took off from work so I could attend the conference, and that was the longest I’ve been away from her since her birth. It was the allure of 48 hours of consistent intellectual stimulation, which has significantly dwindled since my girls were born. It was an opportunity for me to talk to people about things other than my children, their developmental milestones, potty training and nursing.
I’ve had months to prepare for this conference, and that meant dieting enough to fit into my black Ann Taylor suit pants. And when they closed and fit, nicely, I was so proud of myself. I set a weight loss goal and I accomplished my goal.
But practically, I was a fish out of water. I am very hard on myself, but six years of working from home and being with two children under the age of four, has really taken a toll on my social skills. And let me tell you, I used to be able to work a room like a pro.
Back in my 20′s, when I was working at a PR firm in Manhattan, I would attend an event practically every single night. Whether it was a conference, networking function, party, press event or press conference, I knew how to work the room. I was smooth, it was effortless, and I knew how to make small talk with even the most closed, shy person in the room. But, unlike riding a bike, that is a skill that needs to be practiced constantly. And, I’m afraid to admit, that I’ve completely lost my touch.
That isn’t to say that I didn’t meet and mingle with people. I definitely did, but I no longer felt as comfortable doing it as I once had. It was a lot more awkward than it used to be, and I’m not exactly sure why. I think part of it is that, I was single in my 20′s, and flirting was fun and a good way to break the ice. I never worried that I was being inappropriate or flirting too much because I was single, and it was okay. Now that I’m married, I’m much more reserved, making sure that I’m not flirting so as not to give off the wrong idea. Flirting is definitely a lot more natural to me than not flirting, so constantly being cognizant of that was really draining.
Add to that that most of the people at my past events weren’t Orthodox Jews, and you can understand my comfort level (or lack thereof). I never had to worry, when extending my hand, if that person would actually shake it or just leave it hanging. At this conference, I held back, worried that the guy was frum and didn’t want to shake a woman’s hand. On guy completely surprised me by extending his hand that I accidentally scratched him when trying to shake his hand. Fortunately, I didn’t draw blood. That would have been horrifying.
Back on the home front, Daddy worked super hard for two days. When I got home tonight, he was ready to collapse. Now he completely understands why, at 5:30 p.m. every night, I call him to find out when he will be home. It is a lot easier to sit in one place and do work, then it is to chase after two children under the age of four, tend to the house, run errands and do many other odds and ends that pop up unexpectedly throughout the day. I thanked him for working so hard so that I could go to the conference and it was nice to hear how much he needs and missed me during the past two days.
Now my kids, well, Mommy getting dressed up and not being there to put them down for a nap, feed them lunch, change their diapers, play with them, give them snack and pick them up from daycare, definitely took a toll. My baby was really, really attached to me after the first day. She had an absolute meltdown when I got home; putting her to bed and detaching her from me was really hard. My eldest daughter was just in awe about everything. She wanted to understand why I was dressed nicely, wearing “shiny black shoes,” wearing makeup, what my badge was all about, and what I was doing at work. I think she was excited about this new Mommy, even though she kept repeating that I didn’t pick her up from daycare. I explained the conference as best I could, and I felt like she was finally able to understand that I too go to work. Since I work US hours, she is always asleep while I’m writing press releases, having conference calls with my clients, pitching the press and tending to my social media responsibilities. But after these past couple of days, she can at least say to her friends that Mommy wears makeup and shiny shoes and goes to work. It’s a start.
The conference was a wonderful experience for me, and I would definitely do it again next year. But I wonder, how do other SAHM or WAHM handle re-entry into the work force?
I contemplate whether or not I should give up my current career and forge a new career path that includes going into an office every single day, and I wonder if that would take longer to get used to. It’s no longer a question of am I ready, but would it be better for me?
Or, let’s face it, does this experience just mean that I need to get out more. And, if so, who’s around for some tequila shots at Casino de Paris?