So, my trip to San Francisco was amazing. I met so many incredible women who are doing incredible things with their lives, and so many people came up to me and said how much they enjoy this column, which was really nice to hear because sometimes I definitely wonder if anyone aside from my mother reads this thing. I had dinner on Wednesday night with the moderator of the panel, Leslie Morgan Steiner (author of Mommy Wars), who, for all of her success, is so totally down to earth and so much fun. Also at that dinner was the owner of Flexperience, one of the co-hosts of the event. I’m not at all being paid to say this – I had no idea what they did before I went to that dinner – but Flexperience is the most brilliant company EVER. It is basically a high end temp agency; when lawyers or marketing executives or other high-level people go on, say, maternity leave, Flexperience finds experienced people (moms, mostly) to fill in for them while they’re gone. Brilliant.
And then there was the event itself. It started off a little sketchy – I accidentally went to the Moscone Conference Center instead of the Mission Bay Community Center (hey, they both start with M and end with Center), and once I realized I was in the wrong place I couldn’t get a cab for the life of me, all of which caused me to arrive both forty minutes late and unpleasantly sweaty. I met the other panelists, who were lovely, and then I went to sit at a table for the book signing that took place just before the event. Now, I usually find book signings to be kind of depressing, and this one was no different. I always start off hopeful, thinking that I’m going to sell bazillions of books (it’s my target audience, all in one room!), but then I end up selling like, six of them, and feeling like a total loser. And it didn’t help that a ton of people came over to tell me how much they LOOOOVE the tv show, which I don’t write. I told them all to buy the book, because its way better, but nobody did. (Except for Marilyn. Thank you, Marilyn!) But lucky for me I had just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love on the plane, so I was very zen about the whole thing, and refused to let it get me down. Or maybe it was the Chardonnay.
Afterwards, I headed upstairs for the panel, which was fantastic. For the record, I totally count as a working mom. There were so many different definitions of “work” represented – I quickly realized that I never should have worried about it in the first place (but then again, what kind of writer would I be if I weren’t completely neurotic?). I got asked the first question, about whether I find that I’m flaky sometimes, which is just absurd because I am the queen of flakiness – my middle name could be dandruff, I am so flaky – and I gave the example of how I went to the Moscone Conference Center that very evening. The other panelists had great things to say, too, whether it was about working from home, or negotiating flexible hours, or how to on-ramp, or just funny working mom moments. And the audience members had interesting, thoughtful questions and comments, which got us talking about everything from generational work habits to sex (yes, sex. I won’t repeat the discussion here, but let’s just say that Friday nights seem to be lucky for a lot of moms in the Bay area).
Overall, it was really an invaluable experience. I’ll be honest, before I went, I was shocked to hear that it was sold out. I just couldn’t believe that six hundred working mothers thought it was important enough to miss bedtime with their kids in order to be a part of it. But after the whole thing was over, I totally got it. It was about networking, but it was also about having a night out, and socializing with friends. And it was also about support; supporting other working moms, supporting the choices that we all make, and supporting ourselves. It feels to good to hear that other people are flakes, that other people are a mess, that other people can’t do it all, and don’t have everything figured out. Because if there was anything that I took away from that night, it was that there is no formula to follow, no right way to do it, no one role model to be like. We’re all just muddling through, doing the best we can, and learning from each other in the process.