Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Working Baby's New Pastime

We were somewhat chagrined last weekend, on an outing to the zoo, to realize that the Working Baby is rather loud for a person her size. She spent much of the day perched on Dad, Esq.'s arm, pointing at animals, plants, streams of water, other children, and crowing gleefully. Admittedly, the zoo is not exactly a quiet place, but still, trailing behind my family in the buildings, jockeying with the other moms pushing child-less strollers (someone's gotta do it, I guess), I could hear the Working Baby's squeal above the not insignificant noise of the crowd.

Since she doesn't have many words yet, the squeal is pretty primal--it sounds sort of like something from Jurassic Park, maybe a cross between the adorable, creaky sound the cute-but-vicious little guys in the second (or is it the third?) movie make, crossed with the T-rex's roar (but much, much quieter). And sometimes it's just the kind of high-pitched scream the humans on the island make as they're being devoured by the dinosaurs.

Thankfully, her noises are generally happy ones; but still ... they're loud. And since her big sound lately is "B," there's a percussive element that by the end of a day at the zoo starts to jab directly into the front of the brain.

There was a street fair outside our office a few weeks ago, and since the Working Baby had been all about pointing out balloons in her books, and there was a private school handing out balloons practically next door, I got her one. Big mistake: who would have thought a balloon would be a loud toy? She spent the rest of the afternoon walking around screaming BALLOON--or, at least, her version of that word, which is a little short on the LLOON part but still sounds significantly different from her version of BALL, of which she has two at the office. Very small ones. And when she learns how to throw them, they will leave. But in the meantime she enjoys a little game of fetch with the Cool Boss when he stops by of an afternoon. Really, sometimes it's like having an office puppy. (More about that later: have I mentioned that apparently 20% of American employers let employees bring dogs to work?!)

Anyway, Cool Coworker has been holding the Working Baby up to the window (we're on the second floor) to look out at people lately, and the other day she started trying balancing on part of a radiator to get a good view on her own--which was a disaster waiting to happen, especially since the radiator in question is in the other room. So I've set her up a box under the window next to my desk, and she can climb up and look out the window and--this is the not-so-good part--yell out when she sees BOYS! or BABIES! or BALLS! or BALLOONS! or DOGS! But it does keep her busy for a good long time.

Except today she made a proud squawk, and I looked up to see she had climbed from the box on to the top of the garbage can next to her, which is maybe a little to high and too unstable for her to jump down from, so we may need to tweak this system a bit...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Is Office Mom Paranoid?

So, a couple of months ago our office manager quit to get married and move away for the summer. This was sad for several reasons, not least that as a former anthropology student she was very keen on the opportunity to work in an office with a baby--she found it to be an organic antidote to years of being artificially surrounded by only her age-peers at college.

And, without getting too wubby-wubby and starry-eyed about it, this is an excellent point: the world is full of people of different ages, sizes, races, etc. etc. etc., and shouldn't the workplace reflect that? Do people become useless at 65? Does it make sense to regard women who have had children--which, let's face it, is still by far the majority of women--as some kind of liability? (More about that later.) As if, by having stopped to take care of their children--or, increasingly, aging parents--they have somehow given up their minds?

Anyway, we've been in the market for a new office manager. And one of the things you quickly realize at a small nonprofit--maybe anywhere--is that finding the right person to fill a position involves a sort of alchemy. We, for example, need someone who's flexible but responsible; detail-oriented but adaptable; experienced and competent but not too expensive and not in need of benefits--and if you think this is an easy combination of attributes to find, well, I'm guessing you haven't been interviewing job candidates lately.

But we thought we had found someone. Or rather, my Cool Boss (as I'm dubbing him, because a. I'm no dummy and b. he actually is pretty cool) thought he had found someone--as it happened, I didn't know he was actually seriously interviewing candidates until he popped his head in the door the other afternoon and said there was someone he wanted me to meet.

It was 4:30 or thereabouts, and the Working Baby and I had been at the office since 11 or so. It should be acknowledged that because it was rather late in the afternoon of a hot, stuffy day, the W.B. was not at her absolutely most charming. And, since no one else was around--I had had a meeting earlier, but the intern who would have been in the office had called off sick--I had sort of let her wreak havoc on the office: she had emptied her toy hamper completely, so there were bits of plastic and stuffed animals and wooden blocks spread out all over the floor, and she had pulled her collection of library books from the shelf and scattered them everywhere. Admittedly, this is not exactly an unusual state of affairs. but when there are people around and particularly when we're expecting company, I do tidy up regularly, make sure the books are shelved and the toys in the hamper, etc.

So Cool Boss popped his head in, with our newly-hired office manager in tow, to introduce her--a woman who had taken years out to raise her now-grown children and had recently retired from managing a small business's office but had discovered she wasn't quite ready to retire. Potentially just what we were looking for.

She was wonderful--friendly, polite, eager to get started, excited about being able to wear jeans to work. She even coaxed a smile out of the rather cranky W.B. We made plans for her starting date, shook hands, smiled all around. ...

A day later she emailed Cool Boss to say she had changed her mind, that there were "things" she hadn't considered fully when agreeing to take the job.

And, yes, as a defensive mother, the first conclusion I leap to is that the "things" were the mess and the small child squealing and tugging on the refrigerator door.

I'm conflicted, though: after all, this is a mother, someone who dropped out of the workforce for 17 years to raise children. Surely she wasn't shaken by a little squealing?

Or maybe--because it's no secret that women can be harder on other women than even men, sometimes--she believes babies should simply squeal at home, or in daycare?

(Did I apologize for the cranky W.B. and for the mess and try to explain that they were unusual? Of course I did. And would I have believed me? In the absence of other evidence, perhaps not.)

Or, third, fourth, fifth possibilities: she didn't like the colors of our office walls; our dingy and unvacuumed carpet spoke volumes about our general disorderliness; our somewhat lengthy discussion of the computer programs with which she's unfamiliar convinced her she wasn't right for the job; she contemplated the abysmal parking situation in our chichi neighborhood and decided it would be a major hassle; she got caught in traffic on the way home from the interview and rethought the commute; she did the math and figured it wasn't worth her while to take the job; she just didn't like us, whether as an organization or individually.

And since once can't exactly write back to a gracious "thanks for the job, but no thanks" note to ask for clarification, I suppose we'll never know.

But I'll always secretly worry that it was the baby...