Crunchy Like Me

This past week was World Breastfeeding Week. Cool. There were events around the country (world?) on Saturday where women nursed at 10:30am. The Big Latch On was having an event in NYC, so husband and I decided to make the trek and check it out.

My husband is a good guy. When I told him about the Big Latch On, he was dubious. “So you’re gonna go 30 minutes uptown to feed the baby and then come home?”

We, Sweetie, we.”

“What’s the point?”

I had to explain that we were supporting breastfeeding and could meet other parents. He doesn’t have any Dad friends, so I was mainly doing this for him. (You’re welcome, Husband.)

While we’re on the train, I ask him if he thinks these people are going to be all granola and natural.

He replies he was just thinking that. Sometimes breastfeeding women can be a little granola and crunchy and natural. There’s nothing wrong with this; nature is awesome. Me myself, I like getting hair shaved off of certain places and wearing deodorant. So we started brainstorming how crunchy people there were going to be. “I bet they’ll cloth diaper,” I began

“We do that,” he reminded me.

“Yeah, but I bet they’ll be all sanctimommy about it. We don’t care if other people do it.”

“I bet they do baby led weaning,” he started.

“That doesn’t mean they’re crunchy, baby led weaning is just easier and cheaper than buying pureed baby food. Cave babies did it.”

Husband began to laugh and say, “so what you’re saying is if we do it, it’s not crunchy?”

“Exactly. Black moms aren’t crunchy.”

“Wait. None of you? In all the world, there’s not a single crunchy, tree-hugging Black mom?” (This is asked with an incredulous, dopey look.) Thanks for calling me out and demanding I support statement with evidence, Husband. (Jerk.)

We began to break it down as we passed stop after stop and heard the subway grind to a screeching stop each time. We cloth diaper, but only because we each had sensitive skin as babies. And we don’t wash the diapers ourselves, so we’re not super crunchy. We do love our Bummis though. (These are the covers that prevent leakage from the cloth diapers. They come is super cute designs.)

We breastfeed because it’s good for the baby; and it’s easier to travel with boobs than with a bottle. Yeah, sure we wear the baby, but a stroller is too heavy to take up and down subway stairs. And sure, maybe we did baby led weaning, but that’s just cause the baby didn’t much care for purees, and snatched food off of our plates anyway.

So what does this all mean? It means that some practices that used to just be considered ‘old-fashioned’ are now known as granola. My grandma uses vinegar and baking soda for cleaning, but would I call her crunchy? She’s been doing her cleaning that way for over 50 years. I don’t think Blacks are crunchy, but maybe I’m wrong. I’m sure a variety of ‘crunchy’ habits are used by lots of Black families. I’ve seen many breastfeeding Black mamas. What’s old is new again and all that.

It also means I am crunchier than I thought. I don’t think of myself as a hippie, but I will do what I think is best for my baby and makes our family happy and productive. He’s happy when I hold him and I like having my arms free, so we have a Boba carrier. That’s what parenting breaks down to for me. The toddler is happy and safe and Husband and I are happy and safe. Now if research backs it up and it turns out to be fantastic parenting, all the better.  Parenting is full of failure as it is. I recognize that I make mistakes. What I don’t need, and would venture that no one really needs or wants, is someone judging my parenting choices.

So here’s a crunchy quiz

  1. Do you know what Bummis or Fuzzibunz are?
  2. Did you go back and forth when deciding between a Boba, an Ergo and/or Maya Sling?
  3. Did you give birth at home or in a birthing center?
  4. Do you co-sleep? Have a family bed?
  5. Is this you?
  6. Did you have a doula?
  7. Do you make your own baby food?
  8. Do you buy organic food?
  9. Do you make your own cleaning supplies? (vinegar and baking soda count)

If you answer yes to 2 questions: Crunchy like cooked spaghetti.

If you answer yes to 4 or more questions: Crunchy like semi-moist pretzels.

If you answer yes to 7 or more questions: Crunchy like dried corn flakes.

So how crunchy are you? Do you know any crunchy Black moms? Do you disagree with crunchy moms and think they should just get it together?

she’s always in my head

The mommy wars are battling in my head. They sound something like this:

he's not really choking

I can’t believe you chose to work this summer. You hardly get to see your children. I enjoy working. The two hours I spend with my kids in the morning are really great. It’s true that I don’t always get to see them before they go to bed…What kind of mother are you? You don’t get to see them go to bed, read them that story, even tell them you love them? That’s just a shame. Well, yes, it is sad that I don’t do that during the week, but by working, I’m bringing in much needed income so they can have other things…What is more needed than a mother’s love and time? Money can’t…Yes, but, they spend the majority of their time in preschool anyway, where they are very happy, happier, I think, than if they were sitting at home with me all day. And they are really well adjusted kids, who have tons of friends but still are attached to their parents. I think we have a great balance…Balance? You think it’s balanced to have other people – strangers really – raising your kids? Haven’t you noticed some of the bad habits they’ve picked up from these so-called friends? Well, yes, but…But nothing! You’ve abdicated the responsibility of raising your children to someone else, who isn’t necessarily doing a good job! And you didn’t have to – you chose to! Didn’t your son just ask the other night if you could come home earlier so you could read him a book before he goes to sleep? How did that make you feel?? Well, awful…

The lady in red has a lot to say.

When I decided I wanted to go from my PhD and JD and become an academic, it was for a myriad of reasons. Primarily it was for the lifestyle – the ability to do what I wanted as a career – study what I wanted, make my own life. It was also because I’m generally not a good employee. I don’t respect authority the way I “should,” I don’t like bureaucracy, I don’t kiss a$$, I don’t like small talk, I don’t do face time.

But I also knew that I wanted to work. Being a stay-at-home mom was never an option for me. From the perspective that I grew up with, a black woman who didn’t work was lazy, no matter how many kids she had or how much money her partner made. “Leave It To Beaver”‘s mom was not our reality; Claire Huxtable was. And furthermore, if you didn’t work as a black mother, then you thought you were “better than” the rest of us, with your nose turned up and all. Truth be told, it was not until I moved here, to this very wealthy suburb, that I even knew black mothers who didn’t work. I did not know any black mothers who had nannies or au pairs. And for me, even if the money was flowing copiously, as fascinating as they could be, being immersed in little people’s lives constantly is not engaging or enriching enough for me. And planning charity events would not be either.

This summer, I’m working a 9-to-5 to get a sense of what I might be missing by only going academic. And while I thought I would really not like it so much because of the bureaucracy, face time requirements, and other general BS, it’s really been the lack of time that I can spend with my kids that has really been the largest drawback.

And that’s a huge surprise to me.

At least in grad school, I’ve been a quasi-stay-at-home mom. Working around my class schedule, I can co-op at the preschool, pick my kids up from school in the middle of the day, be available to pick up a sick kid, skip class if I really need to. While I know being an academic is more structured than my life currently, I still see that lifestyle as much more flexible than being an associate at a law firm or working a 9-to-5.

But I’m still working. And hence the mommy wars are constantly going at it in my head.

The mommy wars are partly about privilege, and I think no woman can see the gift and the curse of working and having children more than a black woman. For me, being in this profession as a huge privilege, a privilege that feels uncomfortable. There are very few female law professors. There are even fewer black female law professors. And there are even fewer black female law professors with PhDs. I am (or will be) a rarity. And being rare, in academia sometimes, is a privilege. It’s hard to admit your privilege, especially when you understand the structure of opportunity in our society. Especially when you do not come from a historical place of privilege, and most of your family is not there with you. Yes, I’ve worked hard and yes, I’m bright, but I also had opportunities that had nothing to do with who I am but everything to do with where I happened to be, the chance of being born to certain parents and interacting with certain people who gave me a chance.

It seems that sometimes the meme of being Black in America is that we have to live the life that’s been handed to us. Especially for black women, especially for black mothers, not working a 9-to-5, or a 8-to-6, or a 7-to-7, as I remember my mom doing, is not an option. We, as black women, pride ourselves on working, pride ourselves on doing everything, pride ourselves on not being indulgent or lazy – sometimes taking that to mean that we should be at the bottom of the hierarchy when it comes to taking care of needs. And at one point this was our only reality. We had no choice.

These messages taught me to believe that even if I wanted to not work, being able to live the life that I’ve fashioned for myself feels…wrong. That to decide to use my talents to make life a little easier on myself is somehow…lazy.  And being on the “side” of the mommy wars that favors being at home more than being at work, well, that just feels like being a traitor.

I didn’t write this because I have an answer. Five years into this mommy thing and thirty into this black woman thing, and I’m still just trying to ask the right questions.

Single Mommy Blues

It seems we mothers spend a lot of time – and ink – talking about how hard it is to be a mother.

Numerous books, parenting blogs and websites are devoted to the topic. On playgrounds and playdates, mothers huddle together and talk about how incredibly difficult this motherhood game really is.

And yet the voices of some of us mothers mostly remain unheard.

The point of this post is not to compare notes to see which moms have it worst. Mothering is hard. It’s hard whether you’re single or married, whether you’re successfully co-parenting with a cooperative ex, or doing it all by yourself, whether you have the help of a village or only the help you are able to pay for.

But I want to talk about the special hardships faced by single mothers who are doing it alone. Really alone. Without the help of a reliable spouse, co-parent, or a network of friends or family members who pitch in whenever possible.

For several years after my divorce, I sacrificed having a personal life for the sake of my kids. Weekends were consumed by soccer, gymnastics, baseball, softball, tennis, golf, ice skating – you name an activity, we probably tried it. Dating? Hah! I wasn’t ready. Focusing on the kids was a great way to avoid thinking about how badly I’d flubbed the whole “picking the right partner” thing.

I didn’t become SuperMom because I wanted to. I did it because I lacked an alternative. I live in New York City. My family is in Michigan. My ex-husband was – and is -absent and uninvolved.

I had the help I was willing to pay for. I paid full-time rates for part-time babysitters to ensure I had someone to pick the kids up from school and care for them on half-days and school holidays. The extra expense killed my budget, but my work schedule was too demanding to enable me to rely on afterschool programs.

Recently, I tried co-parenting with my ex-husband, an experiment that now seems short-lived. His last overnight visit with the kids was New Year’s weekend. He is too unreliable to keep a regular visiting schedule, and I don’t have the energy to deal with the litany of excuses.

Although single parenting would be tough even if I worked at home, my demanding executive job makes the juggling even more difficult. Plus, in addition to my day job, I do speaking enagements and lectures. I write, for this blog and others, on my own time.

I even finally started dating again.

The writing, the dating, the lecturing, and some occasional exercise are things I do for myself. But they take away from the time I spend with my kids. I can no longer devote every weekend to their activities. And I feel incredibly guilty about it.

For example: my son is a natural baseball talent. Yet I don’t have time to take him to a baseball coach to work on his skills. I don’t have time – or a good enough pitching/throwing arm – to take him to the park and help him work on his catching, fielding and hitting. I haven’t found time to have him try out for a travel team – and even if he did, I’m not sure I would be able to haul him around from game to game.

His father, who played baseball in high school, takes no interest in his son’s baseball development. I get angry about this sometimes, and then I realize being angry is futile.

Well-meaning friends tell me to stop beating up on myself. They tell me to focus on the fact that, all by myself, I have raised smart, independent thinkers who are thriving in some of New York City’s most competitive schools.

I do acknowledge my blessings. But still, I’m tired. So please forgive me for indulging in a bit of whining.

Mothering is hard for all mothers. It is especially hard for us single women who are parenting completely by ourselves. And because we’re so used to doing everything all by ourselves, we don’t ask for help easily. Or always know how to accept it graciously, without constantly thanking the person who agreed to step in for us. Or apologizing for being burdensome.

So if you know a single mom who parents by herself, maybe you can offer her a little help. If your kids are friends, maybe you can offer to pick her kid up from school and host a playdate at your house. Or you can invite her kid to a weekend playdate or sleepover. Let her be the last parent to pick up her child from the birthday party. Because whether she says it or not, she values every single moment she gets to spend by herself. But she may not feel she has the right to ask for that time.

And try not to get too annoyed when she keeps saying “thank you.”

Is it (Attempted) Murder?

A mother was recently convicted of attempted murder for withholding cancer medication from her child, a child who subsequently died when his cancer returned after a period of remission. The mother admitted to withholding the medication, but defended herself by claiming that she did so because she thought the side effects of the medication were too harsh:

LaBrie said she told her son’s doctor two or three times that she was afraid that “he just had had it.”

“He was just not capable of getting through any more chemotherapy,” LaBrie said. “I really felt that it could out-villainize the disease — the medicine could — because he was very, very fragile.”

The little boy, only 7-8 years old at the time, was also severely autistic, and his mother was caring for him alone. She and the father had a contentious relationship, although after the child’s doctors found out that the child hadn’t been receiving the cancer treatments, the boy went to live with his father. The mother was suffering from depression at the time she chose to withhold the medication, but the doctors testified that they told her that her son had an 85-90% chance of surviving the cancer if she stuck to the medication plan. It was after it was discovered that the mother deviated from the plan that the doctors discovered that the cancer returned, and a year later the child was dead. (The father died in a car accident several months after the boy’s death.)

Murder is not a term to throw around lightly, and in fact, the law does not. Murder requires the intent to cause death, or at least to cause grievous bodily harm. Intent cannot be inferred from the results of one’s actions; in other words, just because someone dies, or is grievously harmed does not allow an inference that the person who caused such harm intended for it to happen. To charge murder, the prosecution has to show that regardless of outcome, the accused intended, through their conduct, to cause death.

This is an attempted murder charge, which simply means that the accused must intend to commit murder, which is already a crime of intent. So the accused must intend to intend to cause death – they must intend to do whatever will cause death and they must intend to actually accomplish the act, i.e., cause death. One cannot attempt murder unconsciously or involuntarily. Courts use many different tests to determine how far the accused has to go to actually attempt a crime, but in Massachusetts (where this case is from), the accused must take a substantial step and come “reasonably close” to executing the crime through an overt act. An overt act is the point of no return – “an overt act must be of the type that a reasonable person would expect to set off the events that would naturally result in accomplishing the crime but for an unforeseen interference.” Attempted murder is simply murder that was unsuccessful in actually producing death.

In this case, to convict this mother of attempted murder – and not just murder – the jury had to believe that this mother intended, through withholding the medications, for her child to die, but her conduct – withholding the medication – did not actually cause the child to die.

Am I the only one who sees a problem in this?

The doctors testified that there were five phases of treatment, and if all five phases were completed, the child had an 85-90% chance of survival. The mother testified that she followed through four of the phases to completion, but withheld only the fifth phase. When the doctors reexamined the child, that’s when they noticed the cancer had returned in a more aggressive form.

First, where is the intent to kill? Nothing in this article, at least, indicates that this mother intended to kill her child, or that she knew that in withholding the medication that death was certain to occur.

Second, and closely related, there was no guarantee that if the child completed the treatment completely, meaning all five phases, that he would survive. So no reasonable person would expect that not finishing all the phases would certainly lead to death. There was no overt act that creates the attempt to commit murder.

Third, the child died from cancer, but not the original type of cancer he once had. The fact that the child eventually died is really not relevant, but I’m sure that the prosecutor used the fact that the boy died to their advantage. They couldn’t charge her with murder because there is no way to prove that her withholding the drugs is what led to the cancer coming back and ultimately the child’s death. But ironically, if her conduct was attempted murder, then what stopped the attempt from being full-out murder? What stopped her conduct from producing the result that she intended? Again, its clear that there was no guarantee that the child would have survived had she given him the drugs, and no guarantee he would have died from withholding. Why did the jury find beyond a reasonable doubt that this woman intended for her child to die when no reasonable person would believe that death would be his outcome, and the prosecutor could not even charge murder because the causal chain is too tenuous?

We put a lot of pressure on moms to be superheroes. We expect them to make all the right choices, the choices we say we would have made. We chide them, punish them when they make a choice that turns out to be the wrong one, one that we think they should have chosen differently on. We expect mothers to be martyrs, and saints. We call them murderers when perhaps they were choosing compassion.We constantly second guess what they do, never really stopping to put ourselves in their shoes.

I hope this mother and her lawyer passionately pursue an appeal. While she is probably guilt-ridden, I don’t think she is guilty.

Do Black Mothers Raise Daughters, Love Sons?

I’ve seen and heard the saying, “black mothers raise their daughters and love their sons” repeated enough to know that some people actually feel this way. Sonja Norwood, mother of Brandy and Ray-J, even weighed in on the question for Essence last year.

My 14-year-old daughter has accused me, on many occasions (usually when being denied something she wants), of liking her little brother better, or loving him more. I would be lying if I said I never treated them differently. I never thought that saying applied to me, though, because I think that I treat each of my children in accordance with their particular needs. 

But a recent conversation with a woman I know gave me pause. My friend admitted that she does more for her son than her daughter “because he needs more from me.” She asserted that her girl is more self-sufficient, more reliable than her son, even though he is older, and that her son “needs her more.”

That may be true. But is it fair?

Maybe girls are just more responsible than boys, period. My daughter is more responsible than my son, but I assumed it was mostly due to their age difference. My daughter is almost 5 years older than my son. She’ll be a freshman in high school in the fall, and he’ll just be entering 5th grade.

Truthfully, my daughter was more responsible at 10 than my son is now. For instance, at 10, my daughter started riding the public bus to school by herself. She had paid close attention to how we got from point A to point B on the buses and subways. She didn’t need instructions on how to get to school. She needed instruction on how to avoid trouble on the bus. I told her, “Sit near an older black lady, in the front. She’ll make sure nobody messes with you.”

My son, however, freaked out the one time I thought I would have to put him on the public bus to go to school. His school bus didn’t show up, and I couldn’t take him to school because I had an early morning meeting. It’s a straight shot from our house to his school on the nearest MTA bus, just as it was for my daughter. I told him all of this.

He cried.

“I’m not ready!” he shrieked. I sent him to school in a taxi instead.

Because my daughter is more responsible than her brother, I expect her to be responsible all the time. When she’s irresponsible, I get angry because “she should know better!” When my son is irresponsible, I chalk it up to his immaturity. When my daughter is petulant, whiny, tantrum-prone and defiant, I can’t stand it. When my son acts that way – well, he’s still a little boy. My daughter feels and deeply resents the difference.

My daughter says I “baby” my son and that I “forced” her to do more at his age than I force her to do. I deny it. But maybe it’s true. I admit I sometimes forget she’s still a kid. Or that I, too, can be petulant, whiny, pouty and tantrum-prone. Maybe my standards for her are a little higher than they are for him. That’s a balance I need to evaluate and correct if necesary.

I don’t think I “raise” my daughter and “love” my son. I do make distinctions between them based on their age, what I perceive to be their respective level of maturity, and their personalities. I think it would be unfair if I did anything else.

I check myself to make sure I give them equal time and affection. And as my son approaches his 10th birthday, I am giving him more responsibilities, such as household chores. He is fast approaching his teens, and I know it’s time to stop treating him like the baby of the family.

Still, I suspect there always will be an imbalance of some sort. Imbalance doesn’t have to mean unequal or unfair. The burden is on me to make sure that even if I’m not treating them the same, that I am nonetheless being fair.

Move and Stand

I used to think that people couldn’t change. I used to think that no matter what, when folks entered a “discussion” there really wasn’t a lot of true back and forth going on, unless it was just the back and forth of voices going in one ear and out the other. I used to think that either people were truly set in their ways because they really believed in them, or because they were too proud to allow another opinion to seep into their consciousness.

I think there was a time that I was both of those things. I took a stand – I didn’t believe in being equivocal. “If you don’t stand for something, then you stand for nothing” was my motto. Everything had a right side and a wrong side and I didn’t really care much for people who couldn’t pick a side and then stick to it. Wishy-washy-ness just seemed like the creed of the follower, the person who didn’t have opinions of their own but could easily be swayed one way or another. It also seemed like intellectual laziness, too – I thought that if you just thought long enough about something, the right answer would come to you.

And then I had kids. I changed. But other folks with kids….they haven’t.

It’s amazing to me how childrearing has been happening for thousands of years but yet there still is no right answer. But instead of just accepting that, we keep fighting about it. We take stands every generation on something only to have that stand be overturned the next generation, and turned back the generation after that. This morning I saw a story on potty training, and how it was the newest front in the mommy wars. The story says that moms today are being pressured to potty train their kids “earlier and earlier,” but I know that older folks were telling me that back in the day kids were potty trained at two. So this “new” pressure isn’t really new; it’s just a generation gap, a old war that’s being recycled.

Little A way before the potty training bug bit her

Back then the stand was that no child wants to be potty trained – who wouldn’t prefer to pee and poop as you go, not stopping your daily activities, and have somebody else change you? Of course you need to go hard on the training. In the 50s, 90% of kids where potty trained by 2. Then the next generation came in and said – “Hey, wait! That’s emotional abuse! Let kids take their time, do it on their own time. They’ll be more successful, and you’ll save their psyche in the end too.” So 50 years later, by the 2000s, potty training wasn’t achieved until 3 and later. (And the diaper companies cheered.) Now, with more and more kids in day care and preschool, the centers are like – whoa….3-year-olds in diapers? If the child can say, “Change me!” then that child can go to the toilet! When parents start putting the hard work of toileting and diapering 30 pound children on somebody else, that somebody else is bound to start complaining.  It’s also some of the backlash against this child-centered parenting.

It’s telling how rigid some folks are on these issues. I’m happy to say that many of the conversations we’ve had on this blog have greatly impacted my own parenting. I am one of those people who used to be rigid in my beliefs, because I thought taking a stand meant something about me as a person. I still do. But now I think that being able to be flexible in one’s views – not wishy-washy, but being able to move, and stand, move and stand – is the better place to be. When we’ve argued about spanking, I’ve cut back on my spoon action a bit to contemplate what my other mamas have said. Our homeschooling discussions have really made me reconsider whether public schools can – and will – ever properly serve black children. I’m glad I’m out of the potty training phase with my kids – finally – but if we ever have another one, I’m sure I’ll deliberate about what approach to take given my experiences and the experiences of others – instead of being dogmatic about one way or another.

I still think its fascinating though: How can it be that after all this time, after all these children, that we are still learning – and fighting about – “what’s best?”

A Legitimate Question, I Think

I’m going to act like a a martyr in this post. I apologize in advance for that. People who act like martyrs have always rubbed me wrong. For one, I was raised in a suck-it-up kind of a family in which you might get some measure of sympathy if, say, there was a lot of blood or a broken something or other. But anything short of those two and you were more than likely on your own. And it was not until I met my husband—who comes from a quite sympathetic family—that I realized anything may have been out of the ordinary in my upbringing. At my husband’s urging (and particularly since we’ve had kids), I’ve tried to be more “compassionate” about complaints that I would have been laughed out of town for when I was little. (Let’s just say there’s a lot of “I’m so sorry your feeeeelings are huuuurt” bandied about in our home and I even manage to not say it sarcastically.)

In the last ten days or so, most of us had that big flu slash respiratory sh*t storm that seems to be going around lately. First my daughter, then my son, then me. We fell, one by one, like dominoes. When my daughter got sick, I was there 24/7. When my son got sick, I was there 24/7. And then when I got sick … well, there I was. My two beloved girlfriends helped me out with rides here and there, but for a couple of days there I had to slog through about eight hours of the most essential chores, including driving (and trust me, I had no business behind the wheel), when all I wanted to do was collapse under the blankets. And given how much school my kids had missed when they had been sick, not going to school and a half-dozen after-school classes was not an option.

And my husband did his best to be helpful but ultimately he had to go to work and even though I wanted to beg him to stay home because I really, truly, could not move, I didn’t. I felt guilty.

I even tried to hire someone but as it turns out that is not so easily done: (a) at the last minute; (b) on a short-term basis; and/or (c) on a budget.

So here comes the martyr part: I want to take a moment and ask a question. I really need to know the answer because maybe I’m missing something here: When anyone in the family’s sick, mama’s looking out for them. But who exactly is looking out for mama?

Killing My Superwoman…I think

I’m a Superwoman. But I don’t want to be.

But maybe I do.

The Superwoman concept, as applied to Black women, is often called a myth. As in it’s not really true. No one can do it all, really, people say. I beg to differ.

I am raising two children under the age of 5. Two boisterous, active, strong-willed, opinionated, brown beauties. I’m up at 6:30 am, with my kids doing dressing, breakfast, brushing of teeth, putting on of jackets, and the long, slow bike ride to day care every morning. I co-op at the day care at least once a week, three hour shifts taking care of not only my kids, but other peoples’ 3-5 year-olds as well. I don’t do it alone, I have the support of my wonderful husband, but we all know – in the early years, mommyhood is a 24-hour job.

I am a 4th year sociology PhD student and a law student. I am currently writing my dissertation proposal. When I defend it in January, I will be ABD. I don’t technically have to defend until May 2012, but my project requires collecting my own data over time, so defending early is necessary. I’m also taking law classes, at least two each quarter, six a year. Exams start next week. I do pro-bono work too, helping homeless people with disabilities get social security benefits.

Are you impressed yet?

I’m such a Superwoman, I simply have no time to take care of myself. Yoga? Meditation? Girl, by the end of the day, I am dog-tired, with all that mothering and student-ing I do all day. Eating better? Did I tell you about my stomach issues? Going to bed at a reasonable hour? But then how would I get to get in my twitter and facebook and nytimes and, my god, my TELEVISION time?

And furthermore, many of my needs are met by being a Superwoman. You are impressed, and I like impressing you. (Don’t act like you’re not.) You ask me, “how do you do it all?” and I can say, “I don’t know…” when I do know. It really feeds my ego. When I drop a ball, or a few, I have ready made excuses. Nothing is really ever my fault. I can fall apart and go to bed at 4pm and everyone understands. Or at least they should. And if they don’t understand, well, fuck ’em. I don’t care. (sniff.)

Don’t you see I need to be a Superwoman? I love Her.

She’s a superhero. For everyone.

Except me.

I have fibromyalgia, aches and pains over my entire body. And bipolar II, which is mostly depression in my case, with some highly damaging hypomanic episodes interspersed. I checked myself in the hospital 2 years ago. I have anxiety that grips my chest and makes me think I’m going to die. I have gastroparisis, where my stomach doesn’t empty in a normal way. It means I’m nauseous a lot, and have developed a fear of eating a lot of foods. I have to eat low fiber and low fat. That means I don’t eat a lot different foods. I have an irritable bladder, which means I have to pee constantly and it hurts, but I’m supposed to hold it to retrain my bladder. And I recently found out I have a virus that’s been suppressed for years but my immune system is weak so now its reared its ugly head.

My body is shutting down, saying its taking a break, forcing a time-out whether I want it or not. My Superwoman is killing me, from the inside out.

What will it take for me to kill my Superwoman, before She kills me? Obviously the fear of changing is greater than the pleasure derived from staying the same, even given the pain.

I want to change, be healthy, be the woman I urge other women to be. But if I kill Her, my Superwoman, who will I be?

Will you still be impressed with me?

Should I even care?


How exactly did women used to take care of three, four or more children, clean the house, wash the clothes and make several meals a day? I can tell you that I’ve been in the house with only my two children for less than a week now and by the time my husband gets home around 7 pm, I am on the verge of hysterics, the house looks like a disaster area and as far as I’m concerned, it’s each man for himself for dinner.

I had all these visions of lazy, sunny days spent building castles from recycled milk bottles and toilet paper rolls, and the three of us frolicking on green lawns in the park or trekking on adventures through the neighborhood. So far we haven’t made it past our driveway and the kids are lucky to get out of their pajamas by noon. I only signed them up for one week of camp all summer and now I fear that I may have made a strategic error.

I don’t understand. What am I doing wrong? I mean, I never expected to be Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart but surely I can do better than this. I have several post-graduate degrees, for goodness sakes. I can figure this out, right?

How’s everyone else’s summer so far? Chillin’? Or are you ready to throw in the towel?

She Works Hard For The Money

I am a working mom. I LOVE working. I LOVE being a mom. I have found a way to be successful at both in ways that allign with my own personal definitions of success.

There are many forums in which mothers from all over have the great Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) versus Work Out of Home Mom (WOHM) debate. SAHMs argue that WOHMs should not have had kids if they did not want to be around them and raise them full-time. WOHMs argue that they should not have to sacrifice having careers to be mothers or vice versa.  Some SAHMs can afford to stay home, as their partners earn enough income to cover all of their expense and luxuries. Some SAHMs are struggling to make ends meet, some even relying on government assistance. Some WOHMs work because they can’t afford not to, while others do it for the love of having a career and doing something stimulating and engaging. Then there are the minority WAHMs (Work at Home Moms), women who have managed to have both careers/jobs and be able to stay at home with their children full-time. They chime in, but those numbers are so much smaller than the other two groups.

I realized when my son was 5 months old that I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home mother, at least not in the capacity I was one.  His father and I discussed the idea of me staying home for the first year of his life and I said I’d try it. I don’t know if the Post Partum Depression had anything to do with it, our financial struggles going from two paychecks to one, or something else, but after about 3 months, I’d reached the “This shit is for the birds” point. By 5 months, I was so eager to get out of the house that when he came home, I’d be dressed and ready to rush out to do something, ANYTHING. I craved adult interaction, time away from my infant, and something else to do that made me feel like I was important and not just a waste of good air.

Because being a mom wasn’t important enough, right?

I loved my son, but I felt like my life was being wasted just sitting at home feeding, burping, and changing him. I didn’t go to school just to stay home and be someone’s mama, right? God, that sounds so horrible. What’s wrong with me?  My mother even, as she was sick and frail, said to me, “Are you going to waste all of that education sitting at home? If I had known you were going to end up like this, I would have saved my money”  (You see where I get it from lol)

It made me feel like I had more to do with my intelligence, skills, and capabilities. So I went back to work, finished my Master’s Degree, and have since been strongly building upon the career foundation I set pre-motherhood. I couldn’t be happier with that decision because: 1)I love what I do; 2) I love feeling useful; 3) I love feeling like I’m contributing to the overall improvement of society; 4) I love feeling influential and managerial; 5) I love the adult interaction; 6)I love having the time and space to be “Benee”, not simply “Mommy”.

How is it that some of us are perfectly content staying home with kids, taking care of the home, relying on our significant others for material resources, and some of us prefer to work hard at our educations, careers, networking, climbing ladders, etc?  What about the women who get the education, have great careers, and just walk away from it all to become SAHMs? How does a woman come to prefer one or the other? It is reliant upon how she was socialized and/or nurtured? Is it the influence of the examples set by the females in her life? Is it racial/ethnic/cultural? Socioeconomically-based? What is it?  I’d love for people to weigh in on this.

For me, every woman who has ever had any influence on my life and the decisions therein has been a working woman. Not necessarily a highly educated working woman, but a worker nonetheless. Also, I did not grow up with many positive examples of loving, enduring couples or have much exposure to families headed by a man.  Most families I knew were headed by women, with men in and out of the picture sparsely. The only long-married people I knew were in my grandparents’ generation and their happiness is always debatable. That’s another blog though…

So, here I am and I work. I’m not independently wealthy. I’m not interested in being dependent upon government assistance. I want to be a positive role model for my son and in my opinion, a strong work ethic is one of the most admirable qualities a person can have.  So, I go to work, earn my living, and strive to grow and climb higher in my field. I rely on myself financially, make my own financial decisions, and feel empowered by the ability to do so.

This is not to say that under the right circumstances, I would not redirect my focus towards caring for my home, my partner, and my children. I was willing to do it once, so I know I would be willing to do it again. I do feel, deep inside, the desire, need, and even obligation to take care of my family and home. What a paradox lol  But there is something in me that fears being 100% financially dependent upon a significant other. I’ve borne witness to TOO many horrible outcomes from these situations where the women are left destitute, alone, suffering/struggling with the children with barely the clothes on their backs because one day, their husbands decided they were done. I’d have too many stipulations and the man would probably be like “Nevermind. Go work!”

Some argue that means I do not trust my partner 100% and I would disagree; it is not so much about how I feel about my partner so much as how great my desire to always be able to care for and protect myself and my kids overshadows any emotions for or attachments to someone else. Then there is the need to have something just for me. I will not apologize for wanting something of my own.

So, I continue to work.


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