When I RSVP’ed “yes” to the dinner I made 4 rules for myself:
1. No using the phrase “just a mom”
2. No denigrating myself for laughs
3. No apologizing for my choices
4. No pretending that any of the decisions were easy or cut & dried
BONUS RULE: No playing victim about how I left the law firm after maternity leave or what I am doing now.
The day of the dinner I hoped the babysitter would cancel. In my whole parental life (2 years, 11 months, and 3 days), I have never wished that– it’s blasphemy to wish the babysitter to flake out.
I double-checked the dinner invitation in hopes I had gotten the wrong date. I emailed Jeff at work in DC and told him I was sick and probably wouldn’t make the dinner, but it’s hard to make a fake cough sound believable over email. He called and said, “just go.”
It was weird to wear real clothes and leave the house at 6 pm. I stood anonymously on the train platform. I could have been any old person going any old place. Once on the train, I packed in next to rowdy Cubs fans clad in royal blue and reeking of happy hour brewskies. I thought, “I should have brought my big foam finger,” then I would really fit in.
I thought about what my kids were likely doing at 6:15 pm (practicing screaming at the top of their lungs and marking the walls with crayons) and again at 7:00 pm (throwing food on the floor and trying to convince the babysitter they are allowed to have popsicles for dinner).
I considered simply riding the train back and forth to O’Hare for several hours so I could read my book, watch the sunset from the dirty train window, and send out mordantly funny tweets.
But I didn’t; I just went to the damn dinner.
When I finally got there, I hugged my former colleagues and filled them in on my life without using the phrase “just a mom.” I looked at the pictures of their kids on their iPhones. We talked shop and then talked about schools in the city and the evils of travel sports teams for kids.
I excused myself after dessert so I could take the train back home.
“Damn, look at me! I showed up at a dinner and had a lovely time. I followed my rules!” I skipped down Grand Avenue on the way home. I couldn’t believe I actually showed up for the alumni dinner at my old law firm.
I went to the dinner to say a proper goodbye to my former life– the life of a law firm lawyer. It felt like when you have coffee with an ex-boyfriend a few years after the break-up, and you leave Starbucks proud of yourself for having grown so much and for offering to pay for his coffee and biscotti (even though he was sort of cheap and asshole-ish about money when you dated him). For me, law firm life is like that boyfriend from a long time ago, who didn’t treat me that great, but now that I have moved on, I am grateful for what he did give me. And the better boyfriend, perhaps even the husband, is just around the next corner.
Yep, it’s just like that.
Have you said goodbye to a former life or self? Did closure come right away or some months/years later? Do old jobs or careers feel like old boyfriends?