Not only am I a work-at-home mom, but this year I resumed the position of head of Press Relations for Otakon. Trying to balance these two important jobs is like juggling greased watermelons. I'm just waiting for the next thing to go splat.
For those who don't know, Otakon is one of the biggest conventions in the United States that celebrates Japanese animation (anime), as well as Asian culture in general. At our latest convention, which ended this past Sunday, we brought in over 33,877 people (not counting children, dealers and other special badges, like press). As the head of Press Relations, I serve as the liaison between Otakon's staff and official guests, and the media. It's my job to vet the press for press badges, schedule interviews with our key guests, and deal with any questions and concerns that come up relating to the registered press's coverage of Otakon.
In the weeks before the convention, I spent every free moment on marathon sessions of Ota-work. In such moments, I felt less like a mom and more like a "mom," whose claims at parenting skills should be subject to derision. I had moments where I truly doubted my ability to fulfill both expectations: especially one afternoon when I discovered that my 4-year-old had peed his pants because he didn't want to interrupt me in my work.
It brought me back to the last time I had served as the head of Press Relations, when my son was a newborn. I was literally answering Otakon e-mail while breastfeeding him in my lap, feeling incredibly guilty the whole time. At that convention, I was often distracted, running up to the hotel room to hold my baby, who was being cared for by my awesome sister. It was just too much.
So I passed the leadership chair to someone I felt could handle it, and he turned out to be both competent and forward-thinking. In fact, he even streamlined our operations and solved some longstanding problems. But then he decided to move on, taking a position as the assistant to the head of Industry Relations. He asked me if I minded taking over the department again.
I thought about it for several months before confirming. Things were different now, I reasoned. My son was old enough to talk to me when he needed things, instead of simply crying. Plus, he was used to my habit of working on articles during the afternoon. As long as I stayed on top of things, I should be fine. I said yes.
The months slipped by, and I missed deadline after deadline for requesting the things we needed to have for our department. Fortunately, the other staffers knew me and sympathized with my attempts to balance my home life with this time-consuming volunteer position. They helped me out every time, to make sure we got what we needed. I owe them all a debt of gratitude.
At the convention, we had a few minor issues -- a couple scheduling miscommunications, for example -- but again and again, my fellow Otakon staffers stepped up and helped us out. Even my son played patiently while I made phone calls for two hours on Saturday night to let all the press who had signed up for tickets for the Yoshiki concert know personally that they would receive a ticket. This time, my son took himself to the bathroom, completing the whole process himself for once, including pushing a stool into the bathroom so he could wash his hands. He's going to be a staffer someday, I'm sure of it.
That spirit of teamwork, that dedication, is why I keep coming back. And when we all unwound at the end-of-convention staff Dead Dog Party, a small group stood around waving their arms while I crooned a truly awful rendition of a David Bowie song. My son watched me, smiling, from his daddy's arms. For those few minutes, I felt not like a "mom" or like a "press relations head" but like a success who had balanced two very important roles through challenge after challenge, and won at both.