Working moms' fragmented reality: PDAs and unicorns

By Petula Dvorak
Friday, March 26, 2010

The "schizophrenia" is everywhere. Maybe it's in the water.

A perfect example the other day was this woman on a Northeast Washington playground. One minute, she crouched low, looking eye-to-eye with her daughter, all smiles and mommy giddiness, glitter and unicorns.

Then her BlackBerry buzzed, and her face changed. She stood up: "Just a second. I'm working on this billion-dollar loan to Angola. I've gotta deal with this," and she began tapping away at the PDA.

Bizarre. She turned all serious, like a totally different person.

And then it happened at a Silver Spring gymnastics class about a week later. A woman strode in, heels spiky enough to kill, a suit sharp enough to cut.

Then she kicked off the heels, shed the blazer and jumped onto the trampoline with her daughter, laughing and giggling, her perfect hair a total mess, like she was in another world.

She must be one, too.

Most working moms live two lives. Total schizos.

Whether we're waitresses, cops, lawyers or journalists, finding a way to blend and balance the parent with the worker is our quintessential, contemporary conundrum.

We lie, we switch our moods and personalities -- even the pitch of our voices -- at least 25 times a day.

Sometimes our split personas collide, and we walk into a board meeting with a "Go, Diego! Go!" bandage on our hand, or we show up for a shift with a princess sticker on our butt.

We're answering e-mail on the playground, pretending we're at our desks. We're scheduling summer camps at our desks, pretending to be looking at spreadsheets.

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