Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Monday, August 20, 2007

In the Wide World

With all the transitions my little family has made recently, a big one has been relatively ignored – my return to working outside the home.

My nervousness about returning to the office had been preempted by the whole day care issue. Why fuss about my wardrobe and the paper’s new software when chances were good I wouldn’t be in the office at all? But Reema’s “Princess School” has worked out for Benny, and he will go there until the Dinosaur School returns from summer break on Aug. 27.

So off I went on Monday, Aug. 6, to the city’s Financial District. After four years at home, I was anxious to return to the newsroom. I missed the routine and sense of purpose of an outside job. I wanted to have picky discussions about topics other than apple juice or Thomas the Tank Engine. I wanted to be part of the Wide World, moving and shaking (in a non-seismic sense, I hope).

It turned out that the Wide World is a bit smaller and goofier than I remembered. Take today, for example. I started with a high-level conference call with a major utility company so some mid-level manager could tell me about his school volunteer work. I felt a bit silly -- after numerous phone calls with the communication departments and Written Requests to High Places – to be asking questions like, “So, um, did you like the kids? Did they do a craft project?”

As for other intellectual stimulation, picky discussions abound about such topics as “did you see that weird pigeon on California Street?” or “Why does the newsroom vending machine throw our beverages at us, so that the can sprays soda when we open it?”

Still, it’s good to be out and about. I work in the newsroom three days a week this month. Then I stay home freelancing for six weeks until an editor goes on maternity leave. Then I get four more months in the Wide World again.

It’s a great setup, really. The Dinosaur School called last week, asking if we’d like to up Benny's schedule from three days a week to five. We pounced on the opportunity, which gives me even more flexibility (and hopefully, more earning power).

We’ve developed a weird little routine, but it’s working. I made Benny two little charts: a yellow one for morning and a blue one for night. I cut Benny’s head out of various snapshots and drew little cartoon bodies showing Benny brushing his teeth or eating his cereal or being tucked into bed. Now instead of Ron and I hustling Benny through our morning and evening routines, he tells us what to do next, frequently referring to the charts.

Ron’s grateful because Benny’s time at Reema’s is nearly over. The twice-daily commute to her house is killing us. We’ve been reserving a City Car Share twice a day to take Benny to Reema’s home-based daycare. Next week he begins at the Dinosaur School, which is a short bus ride from the apartment.

We appreciate City Car Share getting us through this awkward patch, but the evening routine is especially tough. Ron and I pick up the car after work and drive across town to pick up Benny. Then Ron drops Benny and me off at home, drives back downtown to drop the car off again, then takes the bus home. Bleah.

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