Archives for category: Reflection

I attended the Women’s March on Washington “Sister March” in Trenton, NJ on January 21, 2017. I was inspired and in awe of the energy of my fellow marchers, but soon realized that I had to address the many people whom I know and love who were critical of the march.

womens-march

That’s OK if we don’t see eye to eye,
That’s OK if you think things are fine the way they are,
That’s OK if you did vote, didn’t vote, or can’t yet vote,
I marched for you, and for those you love.

That’s OK if you’re happy for a change of pace,
That’s OK if you choose to look past actions of hate,
That’s OK if you believe that this administration has your best interests at heart,
I marched for you, and for the bond we share.

That’s OK if you’re tired of politics and its ugliness,
That’s OK if you are confused or feel betrayed by how your vote has caused division, not unity,
That’s OK if you need someone to direct your frustration at, and you’re pointing fingers at me,
I marched for you, and I will do it again and again and again.

That’s OK if you refuse to see the beauty in fellow Americans marching with open hearts and minds,
That’s OK if you made a disparaging remark about several million people, here and abroad, exercising their right to assemble,
That’s OK if you don’t think that a march for equality has any relevance to you,
I marched for you, and for those who look up to you.

While you may say what you want to discount the extraordinary turnout of American citizens, the largest demonstration in our history,
There are a few things you should know,
I am not going away; I have the best of intentions at heart,
I love you, and respect you, and I celebrate the differences between us,
But I just want to be clear, YOU WERE THERE,
I carried you in my heart, along with my love of country,
I marched for you, and for all that is good in the world.

-Elizabeth Fiore

Having my first born start kindergarten next week is bringing out all of the ugly in me. I’m so conflicted and resistant and upset, not because I’m going to miss her or that I don’t think she’s ready, it’s because I am being forced to confront some truths about myself. I am a firm believer in public schools and I have no qualms about seceding my everyday influence to a teacher that I haven’t yet met (ok, maybe not ‘no qualms,’ but very little qualms). Many of my friends and family work in public schools and that is precisely the reason I am not concerned with the kind of people she will have as role models. And it’s because of this fact that I, and my husband, believe that schooling is the most successful when parents and teachers are a united front. No undermining one another. Keep the child’s best interest at heart. Get through the school year with dignity and grace. But, I am having cold feet about such a big commitment. The way I see it, when she gets on the bus, we are committing to 13 years of backing up teachers’ rules, a school calendar, curriculum, and all that goes with it, whether we agree or not. Granted, most of the time we will align, but there will be times when we won’t. I feel like this is when parenting will get even harder. Ugh. This transition is a tough pill to swallow after being home with her for 5 years and making all of the decisions on her behalf. But now, we’re on someone else’s radar, and schedule. Gone are the days of impromptu day trips or moving on from an activity at our own pace. Gone are the days of hand picking who she will take classes with and with whom she spends most of her time. I know, that’s what weekends and summers are for, but it’s absolutely not the same. The overall time that she is out of the house will just barely be less than when she is in the house. I’m happy for her because she will have experiences and learning opportunities that she doesn’t get at home, but I will miss that freedom to do as we please and to answer to no one.

I know she is ready for kindergarten and she will love every minute of it. There are so many positives and things to look forward to her in her school year, but I am just not there yet. I am crying over the mere mention of the word. Next Tuesday, she’ll be shepherded into a well-run machine with little more than a card around her neck stating her name and homeroom. She’ll have some hard lessons right up front. As will I. We’ll learn that what is best for her personally, may not be the best for the whole class, or the school, or the district. It’s a great thing to learn, to change one’s perspective, and to see oneself in relation to others, but there is definitely a part of me that mourns for her loss of individuality. At home, she is the center of my universe. At school, she will share that center with 19 other children, and several hundred more. I see the importance of this life lesson, and I am excited to see her grow among her peers, but I am just not ready to accept that she’ll be lost in the sea of children sitting in the lunchroom or bobbing on the playground. I seek comfort in knowing that she loves being around people and this will not impact her in the least, but for me, this transition is huge.

I am not ready for this. And worse still, I can’t slow down the clock. I’ve been told to wear sunglasses at the bus stop, so she can’t see that I’m crying, but I already know I’m going to ugly cry, and there aren’t sunglasses big enough to hide that.

We just finished breakfast. The kids were doing their usual picking of their food, distracting each other from eating, while the baby was whining to get out of the high chair. He got up to clear his plate, about to run out for the workday ahead, and made his way around the table to give each of us a goodbye kiss. I saw a post on Facebook about it being my Sister-in-law’s birthday and I had a minor fit about what day of the month it was, and did we forget our anniversary. We have a chuckle about it every year. We usually don’t remember the day or year we were married. This year he was on it, he said it was this Sunday and it’ll be ten years. Really, I asked? Time is speeding up and I cannot fathom what life will be ten years from now. He said, yup, simple math, it was 2006. He also said I should get him some flowers and I quipped that he better get me some, too. And then he suggested we pick some from the garden. It’s moments like these that make me realize how much I am madly in love with him.

This is going to be a love story, so I completely understand if you don’t feel like reading further, but it’s not a mushy fairy tale, it’s a story of two weirdos who found each other and decided to make a go of it.

We started dating in high school. Usually when I tell people that, I hear a nasally, drawn-out Awwwwwww. But, nope, there’s nothing cute about that. High school is awkward and ugly and volatile. If you still have relationships with people from high school that means you can look past a lot of pimples, insecurities, and awkward moments. We met on a marching band trip to Orlando. He played tuba; I was in color guard. He knew my older brother (who by the way, had a nickname of Fart) before he knew me, and I’m still baffled as to why he didn’t run fast in the other direction. Well, I think I know now what our initial attraction was. He craved adventure, I craved stability. And over these 18 years together we’ve grown so close it’s a coin toss who brings more adventure and who brings more stability.

When I think of our anniversary, I think of the day we started dating. Two teenagers at a greasy, local diner, smiling incessantly at each other. When I think of the day we got married, I start to chuckle. And not that blushing bride, happiest day of my life kind of chuckle, I’m chuckling because it was weird, and funny, and it felt like we were gaming the system. A chuckle in a dark sense of sense humor. I’ll explain. We eloped in San Francisco and then spent a few days hiking in Yosemite. We hiked a lot during that time of our lives. Nature was our stability and serenity, and the city was our adventure. We had already been together eight years and neither of us wanted to get married. Like, ever. We were perfectly happy with the way things were. Our feeling was, and still is, that our relationship is just that, ours. It is a commitment to one another, and doesn’t need the blessing of family, the government, or religion. I’m also not a fan of the history of marriage and the idea of brides as personal property, but I won’t delve into that. I am trying to keep it light for the sake of the story. So then why did we get married? At the time, I was working a retail job and he was working for Corporate America. We got married because I needed health insurance. Plain and simple. Nothing romantic about it. He didn’t get down on one knee, although that would have been funny. I can imagine him saying, would you be my co-dependent on my health insurance policy? Hahahaha. I told you we were weird. So since we really didn’t want to have a legally binding document declaring that we were a couple, we decided the only way to go along with the process was to make it our own. We picked San Francisco because they were the leader in marriage equality laws and their Mayor was issuing licenses to same-sex couples back in 2004. Even though we didn’t value government recognition of marriage, it felt appropriate to get married in a city where everyone was equal. I always chuckle about our marriage license because, first of all, there is a spelling error on it, which basically means it’s not legit, and secondly there is a picture of me holding it up with a funny face. No, I will not show it to anyone. We got married at City Hall by a woman who looked exactly like Dr. Ruth. It must have been her. There was another couple before us, they had family members there, were all dressed up, the bride was noticeably pregnant, and it was pretty clearly a shotgun wedding. We were dressed in normal clothing, I had khakis on, no rings exchanged, I don’t even remember a kiss. It was perfectly nonchalant. We were trying very hard not to start laughing and to take the process seriously, mostly for this other couple’s sake. I do very clearly remember a group from Japan who were touring City Hall that morning. We were very prominently in a bunch of their pictures. Yup, there are photographs of us out there, but you’d have to track down this group to see them. Right afterwards, we went to an Indian restaurant for breakfast and then found an awesome bookstore to spend the rest of the day. I have no regrets and I’d do it all over again a million times over.

So, you see, the actual date of our marriage doesn’t register in our minds as being significant. In fact, that day is but a blip on our radar. It is a reflection of us, in that it was quirky and fun, and that we made it our own, albeit not in the traditional sense. When June 12 rolls around every year, I think of an awesome vacation we took together, biking over the Golden Gate bridge, amazingly delicious sourdough bread, the shear beauty of our National Parks (complete with a woman asking if there is a store at the top of the waterfall), Dr. Ruth reading our nuptials, and I think that as crazy as all of this all sounds, I found someone to share this amazing journey with and he’s just as crazy. Cheers to finding someone who is YOUR KIND of crazy.

Last week when I read about the comments to female Bernie Sanders supporters by Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton, I was surprised that their message was one of judgment and derision. I always thought that feminists tend to raise women up, not tear them down. Right? I initially shrugged both of them off as bitter and out of touch. I read an article today about Adele’s Vogue cover photo, prominently displaying a tattoo of her son’s name, and how she touts motherhood in ways that other famous women have not been able to get away with. I believe the author of that article suggested that perhaps she is not a feminist if her family has higher priority than her art. Really? So, naturally this got me thinking. Am I a feminist? Can someone like me be a housewife and a feminist? This is not a new question. I have struggled with this personally over the past 5 years, as have many others. I have always considered myself to be a feminist, I believe in equal opportunities for women, and yet I gave up my career to stay home and raise my children. When I first decided to stay home, I was deeply conflicted about living on someone else’s merits. I always considered myself to be an equal partner, but once I gave up my earning power, I felt inferior in my relationship. I put that pressure on myself, this was not coming from my husband. Feminism is about achieving equal status as men in work, in politics, and in life. Feminism is deeply rooted in the notion that procreation is not the end-all for women. I understand what the movement was rejecting, but now that I somewhat embody those rejections, I have to say that I don’t think I am a feminist.  And I’m ok with that. However, I still believe in the basis of feminist principles and I’ve modified them according to my situation.  I don’t know if there is a word for this yet, I’m sure it’s somewhere in the post-feminist movement, but there has to be a place for women like me, women who elect to put others first and are equally contributing to society. I really do wonder if the movement is dead. It’s fascinating to me, that at a time when biologically I am the most feminine that I have ever been in my entire life, having given birth, that I feel the least feminist. Is that really the intention behind this movement? I guess I always saw feminism as advocating for myself, and making elbow room for my career, and not being willing to compromise. I never extended those principles into motherhood. Is it even possible? These days,  I have taken on a more holistic and conciliatory approach to my life and family in that everyone plays a unique role, and yes, sometimes it is gender normative, yet we are all equal and appreciated. I still advocate for myself, but the difference now is that my career is not in the public sphere. I know, a big feminist no-no.

When did I make this switch? I’m really not sure. When I first became a mother, it was a jarring transition: physically, emotionally, and in my marriage. Up until that point, my husband and I shared the load, and I had every intention of continuing that equality into our growing family. Something changed though. Carrying a baby in the womb and giving birth is a completely female experience, there is no equivalent for men.  That experience was my first clue that the balance of power shifts sometimes and it’s not something to fear, but rather embrace. It is not and cannot always be equal. And that’s ok. If anything, having a baby was the first time, that as a woman, I felt superior to men. Yup, superior. That is a pretty awesome feeling.

So where does this leave me? I’m not sure. I feel women should have equal say and equal compensation and equal rights, but also that we should be open to different interpretations of what it is to be a strong woman. I don’t feel like I am a subordinate for making the choice to put my family first. In fact, I feel the opposite. I find empowerment in bringing happiness, love, and order to my household. While I am home, I have also helped other working women by caring for their children, and I feel that I am helping them achieve their highest potential. I’ve elected to take on these roles because I thoroughly enjoy them, not because I was told that I should enjoy them. What would Madeleine or Gloria say about that?!

Read this.

The author touches on many topics like pandering and invisibility and white privilege and motherhood, but to me, her take on sexism so clearly articulated what I had experienced in my short time blogging, that even as someone who is keen on it’s presence, I needed to be reminded that it was there.

When I started blogging earlier this year, I decided that I would write about topics that are important to me, as my creative outlet, and to keep my writing skills fresh. I guess I never thought much more into it, about who my audience is and how it will be received. Early on, I would ask my husband to edit them, because I was self-conscious of my grammar. On at least one occassion, he would offer an opinion or praise and sometimes I would go back and edit based on his feedback. But, I quickly didn’t like going down that road, so the next few times I needed editing help, I would ask him just to check grammar and keep his opinions to himself. Ha! (He didnt take any offense to this and is incredibly supportive of me). What I was doing, without realizing it, is what I was trained to do my whole life, was getting permission/approval/praise/whatever you want to call it from someone other than myself, because as a woman, I don’t/shouldn’t have total control over my body, mind, or spirit. Needless to say, I won’t be doing that anymore because 1)I want to be true to myself and 2) I want to see what it feels like to write like a man. Well, sort of. That’s my goal. I still heavily censor myself because of my own insecurities about offending people, but I’m working on it.

Now, I don’t consider myself a writer, because I didn’t study it in college, but I do enjoy it very much. While most of the feedback from my blog has been positive, I did have 2 digs: that I complain too much (not even sure this person read my blog) and that it’s just another mommy blog, which is offensive to me because we don’t call men’s blogs ‘daddy blogs.’ Care to guess their genders? Men. But I digress. Don’t get me wrong, I get feedback positive and negative on individual posts, almost exclusively by women. My point is that I think I was subjected to criticism of the overall integrity of my blog by men, because I wasn’t pandering to a male audience. My posts are either not interesting or irrelevant to them, so the only response they had was to ‘put me in my place.’ I hadn’t made the connection at the time, but reading this article solidified it for me.

So naturally, I am going to keep writing what I want, when I want. And from now on, I’ll be more aware when my gender intersects with my writing. Thanks, Claire Vaye Watkins, I enjoyed your piece.

What did you take away from the article?

Who cares? What does it even mean to be relevant in today’s workplace? I’m still trying to figure this out myself, but I suspect my yearning to stay relevant has to do with human psychology. This is not my area of my expertise, but I am going to take a stab at it anyway.

I should back up a little bit. I wasn’t planning to be a stay-at-home parent. Here is how it went down for me. I worked my ass off in college and did what I could to stand out, particularly in my departmental studies. I did the whole, work for free for a summer because it looks good on your resume, internship. I took on leadership roles in different clubs to show I was well-rounded. I graduated top of my department and was ready to take on the world. (Mind you, I selected to major in Geography, a liberal arts degree, which I am wholeheartedly passionate about, but I admit has not lead to a stable career path). I found a rewarding career in non-profits and gave it my absolute all for the next eight years. In that short time, I relocated, was promoted, was laid off, was hired, managed a team, and was finally settling in for the long haul. My husband and I were ready to start a family and the plan was that I was going to continue working. At the time, I didn’t think much would change career wise. Amateur move! I went from managing a department to being a full-time parent in mere seconds (or so it felt that way).

So here is where the psychology comes in. At first, the rollercoaster of emotions after welcoming a child into your life overshadows any thoughts you have about your career (or pretty much anything else). But once the dust settles, and the little one is toddling around, you start to realize the more entrenched you are in baby world, the further away you are drifting from the professional world. It’s a very unsettling feeling, especially if you weren’t planning to be home full time in the first place. What makes it worse is that you are battling a corporate culture that looks down on the dreaded ‘gap in your resume.’ This is why I am so focused on staying relevant. I’m staring down the barrel at eight years of work experience and an eight year gap, which in reality might land me back in entry-level positions. (I have absolutely no regrets. I love being home. I loved working outside the home, too). Hopefully, when you are applying for positions, you get a hiring manager that sees past the gap, but if not, you will have to be diligent in crafting your experience.

Am I still boring you? I’ll admit this isn’t the most riveting topic, but it means a lot to me. I’ve spent a lot of time and money building my career and to watch it fizzle away (if only temporarily) is a hard pill to swallow. I am pretty sure I am not alone.

Do you have any suggestions on staying relevant? Am I the only one who thinks about this sort of stuff?

Today I’m trying something new. yikes. I’ve never blogged before. I’m pretty much over Facebook and haven’t found a social media site that suits me. Having recently relocated, I am in need of friends. haha, no shame in my game. But really, I  need a community, physical or virtual, to express ideas and get me through those rough days of parenting toddlers. It’s pretty amazing and refreshing to step out of mommy mode every once in a while and engage in a real adult conversation. It is also nice to be seen by other people as more than a caretaker. I’m hoping to capture that feeling on this blog. Hopefully you find something inspiring to share.