Saturday, March 3, 2012

Judgment Day

"When I tell them that I'm doing fine
Watching shadows on the wall
Don't you miss the big time, boy?
You're no longer on the ball."
Lyrics from "Watching the Wheels" by John Lennon

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a job interview for the first time in 14 years. I had been sending out resumes for six months. I was finally contacted by a local placement firm. They had an open position for a Project Manager at a local company. The recruiter asked all the pertinent questions, and then she asked why I thought I could do the job after having not "worked" for the last four years. My inner Bitch Switch was instantly flipped. ("Hey, YOU contacted me" was the first thought in my head.) I gave her a standard line of BS about how I would be perfect for the job, and how she had to look no further than two of my past positions where I had worked for ten years and nine years to see that I was an excellent employee. She asked me to come to her office for another interview.

I went out and bought an interview suit. I polished my interview skills with my husband. I was ready. When I walked into the recruiter's office, I was a bit taken aback. It was in a very dumpy office building. Cardboard boxes lay on the floor. I glanced around mentally noting the numerous changes I would make if I worked there.

The recruiter was very young. She laughed inappropriately and constantly. Her radio was on during the entire interview, and she even turned it up at one point and explained, "I just love Billy Joel, don't you?" I resisted the urge to stand up and walk out. She seemed satisfied with my answers to a few very lame questions, and she scheduled me for an interview with her client company a couple days later.

I put the interview suit on again and made my way to the hiring company. After a short wait, a young man who is an Engineer at the company took me into a conference room. He was very young, and he looked just like the actor who plays Jasper in the "Twilight" movies, except he had shorter hair. He went into a detailed explanation about his position in the company, and I kept thinking "You look just like Jasper the vampire." He asked me about my work ethic, my computer experience, how quickly I catch on to new things, etc. Throughout the whole process, he looked entirely unimpressed with me, and to be honest, I was a bit surprised at his lack of interpersonal skills.

I was trying to figure out what he thought of my answers. I had the feeling the entire time that I was trying to get back on a bike that I hadn't ridden in a very long time, and I couldn't quite get my balance. I used to rock interviews. I knew what people wanted to hear, and I delivered. But during this interview, I kept wanting to jump out of my skin. I would hear myself answer a question, and it was almost as if I were listening to someone who wasn't me. I was on auto pilot.

A second Engineer joined us half way through the interview. He was friendly and a bit loud. He put his hands behind his head and leaned back in the chair all the while complaining about his 16-hour days. He really didn't look at me at first. He was much nicer and asked questions about my previous jobs. He would smile and nod, and we had a good exchange of information.

At the end of the interview, I asked them if they had any other questions for me, and the Second Engineer leaned back, put his hands behind his head and said, "So, what have you been doing for the past four years? I see you haven't been working." I was ready for the question. I explained how I had some personal essays published; I had tutored second graders in reading; I was on my Neighborhood Association Board, and that it was the right decision for my family to stay home, but now I'm ready to return to work. The Vampire Engineer narrowed his eyes a bit. The Second Engineer looked down at the table and leaned back further in his chair. He pressed his lips together, raised his eyebrows and dismissed my answer with something to the effect of "Well, okay then. I guess we're all done here" and they showed me out. The Vampire never looked back or said goodbye. The Second Engineer showed me to the door and walked away quickly.

As I expected, I got the phone call three days later that they would not be hiring me. When I asked the recruiter what the reason was, she said it was because I had not "worked" for the last four years. I let it go.

So, since I am in the habit of using this blog as an outlet for my emotional catharses, here goes:

In my role as a stay-at-home mother, I have supported two young children and a husband every single day. They always have clean clothes, prepared food, and just about anything else they could ever want or need.

I have held my children when they were screaming from vaccinations. I have held a small boy who was getting the open gash in his knee stitched by a doctor. I have slept upright in a chair while holding two sick, feverish kids the entire night.

I make sure the homework is done, the permission slips have been signed, the activity fees are paid, and the library books are returned. I have helped with every school project, chaperoned many a school outing, worked to put together and hold holiday classroom celebrations. I have baked for bake sales. I have signed-up and accompanied my children to a myriad of sports and extracurricular activities. I am the Mom on the sidelines that cheers her kids on loudly.

I have helped children learn to read when they were way behind their classmates because they transferred to our school from some crappy inner city school where they fell through the cracks. I have gotten into the face of a little girl with a tremendous chip on her shoulder and made her realize that she is too smart not to be able to read. I celebrated every little milestone with the kids I tutored. And I felt a "happy sad" when they no longer needed my help. I cried out of frustration when one little girl who was making a great deal of progress got taken from her home and sent to Iowa (after her mother was arrested for prostitution and dealing drugs from her apartment) and I knew I would never get to see or tutor her again. I pray every night that she has kept on reading and has found someone who would care about her and would teach her well.

I do mountains of laundry and dishes each week because I love my family, and I love being a wife and mother. So, if someone feels that the last four years of my life have been some sort of "Mom Vacation", they can kiss my a$$. I can only hope that I will have the opportunity to interview with and work for more enlightened people in the future.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Eleanor Roosevelt