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This is the first week in 31 months where I’ve had to make myself look presentable before 7 a.m. Three days in a row. And counting. So now you know it’s true: I’ve made the leap back into paid employment.

KidsVT, that esteemed magazine whose editors kindly publish words I’ve written, printed an essay where I did some reflecting. On my life. And the lessons I’ve learned recently. Follow this link to read it: From Working Mom to Stay-at-Home Mom… and Back Again.

To prepare myself for the shock of reentering the workforce, I spent the last 30 days of my “mommy sabbatical” focused not so much on my family but on myself. I hosted and went to mommy coffees, sweated liters of water during Body Combat, lunched out, went skiing, practiced taekwondo, attempted yoga, caught a few shows, ran a 5K, went on a Downton Abbey sleepover, and otherwise thoroughly enjoyed the company of an amazingly wide circle of women (and a few men) who I am so incredibly fortunate to call “friends.” It was an amazing month. Thank you all!

Oh, don’t worry. I hardly neglected my family. I also made elaborate dinners (a departure from my usual scrounging around in the fridge for edibles), scrubbed the house, hoed out the kids’ rooms and spent quality time with the OINKdaddy. On three Wednesdays in a row, I let Small, Medium and Large play hooky (One child at a time – I’m not totally insane!). We spent our days together doing whatever they wanted to do (snowboarding, arts and crafts and skeet ball – guess who wanted what). We had a ball and I hope they will forever remember our “Mommy Days.”

Because they weren’t just these last three Wednesdays.

My husband went to see Avatar with a friend while I stayed home to watch The Proposal by myself. Hands down, he got the better deal, and not just because he escaped from the house for the evening.

While I wasn’t expecting The Proposal to be a tour de force, I was hoping it would be moderately entertaining. By the time the credits rolled, my jaw hurt. Not from laughing, but rather, because there were too many moments that made me grind my teeth.

At first, I dismissed my reaction to a bad mood. But here it is, more than 48 hours later, and the sexist undertones are still bugging me.

I find it so aggravating that Hollywood continues to portray successful women as ice-cold bitches. Somebody seems to think that women do not (or cannot?) rise to the executive level if they demonstrate their feelings. God forbid they have a family. I don’t want to say that these on-screen women are “masculinized” because that would imply that successful men are similarly unfeeling, but who am I kidding? Isn’t that what our society trains us to believe?

It’s not personal; it’s business.

And then there are the tired stereotypes of woman-who-secretly-wants-a-man-to-take-charge and man-who-will-make-everything-alright. It’s the 21st century, people. Don’t we all know that in reality this formula is unstable? I about gagged at the end of the movie when Ryan Reynolds’ hero chases down Sandra Bullock’s witchy victim to rescue her from certain death (deportation, really, but a year outside of the U.S. clearly meant death to her career and by extension, to her life). Worse was when the stars seal their happily ever after with the predictable supposed-to-be hot-but-was-not close-mouthed kiss, and one of the lackeys in the peanut gallery yells, “Yeah, show her who’s boss, Andrew.”

Disgusting.

I understand that this is a light-hearted rom-com made for the masses, a showcase for Sandra Bullock’s skills at falling down, acting goofy and being naked. And although this largely forgettable film works on those levels, it’s the subtexts—purposeful or not—that resonate.

I watch Mad Men. Or at least, I’ve watched the first two seasons and am waiting for the third to come out on DVD. I watch because the show is so well done – the acting, the writing, the set design. Because it’s a period piece, I can be both horrified and fascinated by the blatant sexism and discrimination. That’s what it was like back then, I tell myself. It’s different now.

Isn’t it?

You might say, “Look who’s posing these questions. The woman who gave up a career in government to stay home with her kids. Now, there’s a big step forward for feminism.”

I get that.

But the way I look at it, I am a feminist. I made a considered choice. And like lots of big choices, it was not made without some regret. That said, I know that I am lucky to be home with my kids. I’d like to think it’s what feminists want and have wanted: equal options for women. If there are people in our society who do not consider raising children to be as challenging or as important as climbing the corporate ladder, then feminists like me have more work to do.

Real life is complicated. Pass the popcorn.

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