Every mother has had her bad mommy moments, but working moms have the exciting possibility of their bad mommy moments coinciding with their workday, providing a doubly embarrassing memory nugget that can be savored long after the awkwardness or shame has worn off. Of course, these bad working mom moments can also provide fodder for hilarious stories you can tell later. Or not. Sometimes you’d rather keep the story to yourself, using the memory to occasionally remind you that even fabulous, amazing women, such as yourself, can occasionally be complete boneheads.
I don’t work in a corporate nine-to-five workplace, and my working mom moments are not as easy to tally up. I don’t have any “that time my boss walked in on me pumping breast milk,” or “that time my two-year-old called in the middle of the board meeting” type stories. I will admit to one horribly memorable moment when I felt I couldn’t miss an audition and dragged my feverish one-year old boy, sick with the flu, into a casting director’s office while I read some now-forgettable part on a TV show. My sick baby sat whimpering pathetically on the floor, while the young casting associate read with me. It had to have been excruciatingly uncomfortable for her, and even now I’m embarrassed at the memory. What was I thinking? Well, at the time, I needed a job, which trumped all reason. A proud, proud moment for Mommy.
Another awkward on-the-job situation occurred when I was shooting an episode of “Seinfeld,” when my oldest son was about a year old. This particular episode was not shot in their usual way, on their usual set; it was a series of vignettes all centered around the Seinfeld characters attempting to meet and see a movie at a movie theater, which was a set on a backlot. In those days, when I had voice-over jobs at various studios, my husband would bring our baby to wherever I was working, so that I could nurse him on my breaks. But this particular job was on-camera and a night shoot, and more complicated getting husbands and babies on and off the lot. So baby and dad were home, on the other side of town. I figured my little scene would be shot, and I’d whiz homeward a few hours later.
I had been on the set since my call time of five o’clock p.m. and since there is always a lot of waiting around on sets, my scene wasn’t shot until sometime around seven or eight p,m. After it had been captured from every possible angle, I assumed I’d be signing contracts and heading home, as I was starting to feel that tingly feeling that comes when it’s time for a certain small someone to have a little nip at the trough. Yes, I was still nursing when my baby was a year old, but since he was bigger and eating solid food, it didn’t have the urgency of the early months. So of course, ever the optimist -- or just incredibly idiotic -- I had neglected to bring any pumping apparatus or extra bottles, blithely thinking I’d be wending my way home in plenty of time to serve my baby a late-night snack. Around the time I was informed that they needed me to stay on “a little longer” so they could shoot my scene again for backgrounds, the first bit of leakage started up. So there I was, a pretend twenty-something movie-theater popcorn server, in a very authentic, very synthetic, movie-theater uniform made of light tan-polyester. Light an polyester. Have you ever seen tan polyester get wet? As we inched toward eleven o’clock, and then midnight, the small, identical twin wet spots that had appeared on top of each breast slowly started spreading like a dark oil spill as my milk-drenched nursing bra started soaking through my costume. It was a full on gusher, which could not be stanched with mere wads of tissue. My fabulously horrible ‘70’s era uniform tunic was now another shade entirely, and smelled of sour milk. It looked as if an entire soda had been poured down my front. I thought there might be a problem with what they call “continuity,” when it appeared that the popcorn girl had suddenly inflated breasts and had apparently had been selectively hosed down. Luckily, I was only needed for some quick background coverage, and no one seemed to notice the spreading wet spot or the pervasive scent of curdled milky goodness that followed me around. Or if they did, they were too polite to bring it up.
When I was finished, I raced to the bathroom and stood over the sink like Milky, the Marvelous Milking Cow, trying to ease the pressure. And then I went home, to my sleeping baby. Not the most embarrassing mom moment ever, and not the most awkward workplace moment, but a moment that may only truly be appreciated by working moms.