When Are We Going to Hold Fathers to Higher Standards?

You know that Clorox commercial that shows the mom coming home from the grocery store or the gym, walking into a chaotic scene, with the dad unable to handle the simple task of watching his own son while mom is simply out for what appears to be a short amount of time? The one where the dad has managed to completely fail, with the kitchen disheveled and the baby is sitting bare-assed on the counter, while the dad proclaims, “everything is fine!”, when everything clearly isn’t? Where mom has to come in and clean up?

After seeing that commercial dozens of times, today, it struck a nerve.

Just curious, why is the father portrayed as entirely incompetent of watching his own child?

Why is this a thing in 2017?

I know I’m picking apart fiction here but it truly annoys me that we don’t hold fathers to higher standards. Still.

Before I dive in here, I will admit- I’m guilty of holding far lower standards for fathers than I do for mothers.

It’s true.

I see a dad alone in Panera with his well behaved children, eating their mac&cheese and talking about the grocery shopping they’re about to do and my nonexistent ovaries jump while my brain simultaneously goes into some ridiculous narrative of, “Awwww. What a good dad he must be!”.

Whaaaaattt? Why does this happen?

He’s eating lunch and going food shopping with the children that he actively agreed to raise into decent humans. There’s no big fucking deal, no bravery, nothing terribly challenging, there’s literally nothing to see here.

When I see a mom with her children in the same scenario, my brain registers very little emotion, except perhaps a little empathy.

Both examples are that of parenting. Both are capable. Both are competent. But perhaps because one birthed the children and carries a label of “nurturing by nature” more than the other, the scene plays differently in my head? I’m not sure.

So many of us do this. Why are our standards so different for each parental role?

And this literally starts happening in pregnancy.

A father accompanies his wife or girlfriend to prenatal doctor appointments and he’s praised as if he’s done some magnificent thing. When the truth is, he is just sitting there, scrolling Instagram and texting his buddies about how awesome it must be to be elbow deep in vag all day long as a gynecologist. Meanwhile, mama has a fist in her birth canal, checking to see if he cervix has started opening yet so she can push a watermelon out of the opening of a straw. You know, the actual work that goes into birthing a human.

But he’s the one everyone oooohs and ahhhs over. She’s just…the mom. The expectations are just beginning for her.

When the baby is new and everything is so fresh, forget it. The second the father does something we as mom’s do on an daily basis, the red carpet is rolled out.

He straps the kid into the car seat, heads to the mall for some new onesies and every passer-by is commenting about how “you just don’t see that often!”. And some women even look on in envy that someone else’s husband is so involved.

Meanwhile, mom is probably home doing one of the 50 loads of laundry that has piled up, trying desperately to get the shit stains out of the few onesies that have survived the body fluid explosion, or perhaps she’s actually taking her first shower in three days.

Is that really a break? And even if it is, doesn’t she deserve it?

When my (now ex) husband and I had our daughter, I cannot tell you how many people praised her dad. Because he fed her in the middle of the night. Because he took her to the grocery store. Because he changed her diaper. Oh, how he was held in such a high regard.

Well. Yeah. That’s kind of what he signed up for, isn’t it? We kind of both expected to raise this child. I sure as hell didn’t sign up to do it all alone.

Why do men get free passes in parenting, held to little expectation of actually participating in everyday tasks and responsibilities? Why does the double standard still exist?

Women have been equal financial contributors to many households for decades. We aren’t in Leave it to Beaver land anymore, yet, women are still expected to carry all of the weight.

I get it, some families have traditional roles, and that’s fantastic if that’s the agreement and that’s the expectation within the family, but as a whole, why are we still so shocked when that isn’t the case?

As a mom who traveled for work when my daughter was an infant and a toddler, I was time and again questioned, and almost ridiculed, for being away from my child while on business trips.

“How can you possibly stand that?!”, was said more times than I can count.

And now, as a single mom, when I get into a conversation with someone who asks if “the father is involved”, and I respond with “yes, he has her two nights a week”, I am met with, “oh, that’s great! At least he sees her!”

Um. Well. Yes? I suppose that’s great that he is a parent…some of the time?

But let’s switch that up for a moment. What if that was me that saw her two nights a week and her dad had her for five? Would that be acceptable? I am quite certain that I would be side-eyed and deemed a questionable mother. I’m sure people would speculate that I must be unfit.

Not to mention, single moms are often viewed as having “baggage” or deemed “complicated, while single dads are “such a good catch!”.

Why?

Just the other day, I was listening to this talk radio show with two male hosts and one was planning a Disney World trip with just him and his two children. The second host was losing his mind over this, praising him, telling him how lucky his wife is and how single moms will be hitting on him, swooning over him left and right. Like, literally making a hero out of him for taking his own children away for a 3 day getaway.

Why? Why is this hero status?

I’m full of questions about all of this.

Men put in mediocre effort into fatherhood and that’s sufficient. Women attempt to self care and we are guilted, mostly by our own conscience, into thinking this isn’t ok.

We have to work to change this narrative. We have to make it equal in our brains.

When we continually praise fathers for putting in equal, or often times less than, towards parenthood, we are suggesting that women should, and will, do it all.

And listen: we can’t do it all. Nor should we be expected to when there are two capable parents.

Perhaps some of you already have the proper equality in mind, and if so, kudos. But for the rest of us, let’s practice the thoughts in our minds that yes, dads are just as capable and competent in parenthood as moms. They are equal. They are able.

And, Clorox, please make a commercial reversing the roles because guess what? Parenthood can be difficult for moms, too. I know we appear to be superheroes, as we often are, but sometimes our kitchen is disheveled with our bare-assed kids on the counter and ain’t no one coming in to clean up after us!

Let’s continue to work towards changing the narrative and perception of what expectations we should put on fathers. Let’s reprogram our brains.

If moms can do it, so can dads.

Thickening of the Skin, Strengthening of the Spine

I had the first real heartbreaking conversation with my 8 year old daughter. The kind where she was sad and confused. The kind that began her story with friendships, fitting in, and feeling left out. The kind that makes me want to take her away to some island where her and I can just be together and safe and happy and free of hurt.

I knew it wouldn’t be long. I’ve predicted this conversation for at least 3 years. Most parents have to have these conversations in some variation, of course, but I knew ours would come a bit prematurely because my child doesn’t fit those traditional molds specific to her gender.

She does well with the one-on-one play. She has school friends, she has her neighborhood friends, but activities like recess and any type of party scenario, she tends to be a bit…awkward. Kids aren’t mean to her, they’re not bullying, and I certainly hope it stays that way, but, she struggles, internally.

A few nights ago, our community had their fall block party. There were probably 30 children there and I noticed that my child had been adopted by an older girl, an 11 year old, that just so happens to be on the autism spectrum. Their friendship seemed to happen quick and easy, despite their age difference. I observed them and it seemed to just make sense to both of them that they’re natural friends. I couldn’t help but feel and think that this was the coming together of two unique spirits, of sorts.

After this sweet girl left, my daughter wanted to leave, too. But I wasn’t quite ready, since I only socialize twice a year, and so I said to her, “why don’t you go play with one of the 30 other kids here? I’m sure you can find something to do with one or a few of them”.

She reluctantly took my advice and I continued to observe, noticing it wasn’t going so well. The boys tossed the football to her a couple times but then quickly divert to boys that could sustain more of an aggressive game. One thing my child is not is physically aggressive in sports. She’s not a tomboy.

The girls really don’t have anything in common with my daughter, being that they were in a group doing gymnastics and braiding one another’s hair, nothing my child would have any interest in, so that just left…my daughter.

As I put her to bed that evening, she said, “Mom, I wanted to leave the party tonight because I don’t fit in with anyone. The same reason why I hardly ever play with anyone at recess. No one is like me. I feel different than everyone”.

Ouch. Stab.

Open, gaping wound.

Blood spilled out of my heart.

Now. I don’t believe my child is immune to being dramatic, and she’s certainly bossy at times so I recognize that some of this falls on her because she wants to play what she wants to play, when she wants to play it. And I realize that many children feel like they don’t fit in for many reasons. But. That doesn’t negate the feelings of being different, feeling left out,…because she is, indeed, different.

It’s an awful feeling, at any age, to feel like you don’t belong. I’ve struggled with it more in my adult life than I did in my school years. We all just want to feel accepted and loved.

I could certainly go into the amazing wisdom I feel like I imparted on my child, how I told her that’s she’s incredible and unique and that because of that, she’s going to have to work a little bit harder to find her tribe. I could go on about how I told her that when someone dares to be different, and someone dares to live outside of “normalcy”, you should never compromise and your people will find you, like the sweet 11 year old found her. I could rehash how I stressed the importance of having that one really good soul that “gets” you rather than 25 fake friends that don’t really get you at all, won’t be there for you in the long run and highlighted all of the amazing friends she does have.

But here’s where I want to swing this into a selfish story:

Yes. I cheer-leaded for her last night. The first time of many, I’m assuming. I told her all of those amazing things about herself and how it makes her who she is, etc. but after I shut her door behind me, after our good, long talk, I cried. A lot.

Because this shit is hard.

We can say all day long that every child struggles, every child goes through the proverbial growing pains, and that’s very true, but I cannot ignore, for my daughter, that this is about her gender identity struggles.

30% of kids that struggle with gender identity attempt suicide and 42% engage in self harm and the stats for depression and anxiety are even more staggering. And between 5-10% of all LBGTQ youth attempt suicide. This is scary. Like, fucking terrifying, knowing this is the reason why she’s different. It is and there’s no reason to sugarcoat that fact.

She’s realizing she’s different, she’s realizing she’s not like anyone else. It’s getting harder for her. The confusion is just beginning.

And this shit is hard as a parent.

I feel it, as a mom. I feel the struggle. My friendships have changed since it’s been apparent who my child is and especially since I have written about this topic. Not all friendships, but some. I feel the distance. I feel the chatter behind my back. It’s palpable. Its like a thick cloud sometimes. It’s tangible.

I don’t have many local friends anymore, in this small, conservative area. I notice the lack of Facebook friend engagements. I notice the lack of invites to social events. It’s not in my head. It’s real. The distance is there.

People think this is my doing, that this my choice. That I want this for my child. That being out of the ordinary is my thing and I thrive on it. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: no one wants their child to struggle, ever. For any reason. Being deemed “normal” or more “mainstreamed” would be much easier, yes? A parent would not choose this.

And even if these people know that this is who my child is, they want my silence. They don’t want me to make a deal out of this. They don’t want me to talk about it. They say it’s because they worry how my daughter will feel about these writings someday when she’s older, but I call bullshit. It makes them uncomfortable. They don’t say these things to my face, but they don’t have to.

And sometimes it’s painful. I’m slowing giving away my fucks, little by little, one by one. But sometimes it stings.

Then, little things happen. Just a nudge to remind me that my voice matters.

Just yesterday, my daughter and her dad went to get her hair cut. One of my friends from high school, whose son goes to my daughter’s school was there, too. I received this text from my friend:

Hi there. Just wanted to let you know that my son and I were waiting to get his hair cut here at the Great Clips. Your daughter was getting her haircut. First of all I have to tell you, she is the most beautiful little girl or handsome boy- whichever she prefers. Well, when she and her dad left, the older gentleman next to me said to the stylist- ‘was that a girl or a boy, I sure hope with that haircut it wasn’t a little girl!’ The stylist QUICKLY said. ‘Her name is in our system as a female name and she is a just a kid being who she wants to and obviously has supportive parents’. He just looked like he’d been hit in the face with a bag of bricks. I just looked over and said, ‘yes, she is my friend’s daughter and likes to associate as a boy, but I don’t believe that makes or breaks who she is as a child’. He just gave me a blank look. It was very eye opening to see what you and Lily have to deal with first hand probably on a day to day basis. It really opened my eyes to how cruel some people can be and especially regarding a child! So I truly admire you and all that you do for your daughter!”

Validation. It exists.

This text validated that, yes, people do spew their unsolicited, hateful opinions behind my back, whether they’re strangers, friends, or even family, but more importantly, someone else was able to see how hard this can be. And also? How incredible was that stylist that shut that man right up?

I was so thankful for this text, for this moment. I cried happy tears that people can open their minds if they so choose.

We see the pendulum swinging a bit in terms of LBGTQ acceptance, for sure. Just yesterday, the first openly trans political officials were elected (way to go, Virginia and Minnesota!!). And amazing as that is, the absolute HATE I read spewing online today because of those election results was so fucking depressing and made me realize how much work we still have to put in.

We’re are headed in the right direction, but it’s just awful to see so much hate, so much division over this topic, still. All because people want to live within their ignorance. They want to deny the science behind this discussion, they want to pretend it isn’t real…because it makes them uncomfortable. It’s much easier to call people “freaks” than to open their minds to other possibilities.

The take away here is: there is far more hope right now than hate.

And at the end of the day, my spine is stronger, my skin is thicker, because of raising this child of mine, thereby allowing me to teach her that she is a badass.

My child will only know how to stand tall and take no shit, letting no one talk her out of who she is. She will rise above the hate, she will look down on the ignorance. She will only know self confidence and never apologize for who she is. Her skin will be so thick that she will feel sorry for the idiots that believe that her lifestyle is a choice, whatever that ends up to be. She will be firmly planted in her truth and have no problem telling someone to “fuck off”.

We’re getting somewhere, one political office, one high school friend, and one hair stylist at a time. So, my child and I stand tall, and sometimes we will stand alone, and that’s totally ok by me. I’m more than up to the challenge and, more so, the privilege of being her mom.

Dear Neighbors, Thank You For Being A Part of My Village

I live in the retirement capitol of the world. Literally.

The median age of my town is 67. It’s been referred to as “Heaven’s Waiting Room” and all of the other “near death” jokes you can think of. Bunko, golf, and pickle ball are the focus of most conversations and no one eats dinner after 5:30pm, (which, I’ve somehow comfortably melded into this). The speed limit here is 45 but you must drive at least 15mph under that in the left lane. And, if you’re looking for any establishment to be open after 8pm, you’re out of luck. Our Walmart is open 24 hours, though. That was giant news when it opened.

I have been here the majority of my life and it wasn’t always the most exciting place for children. When I was school-aged, most communities were strictly 55 and over (and still are), meaning, yes, that they discriminate against anyone younger living in them. That said, young families were just dispersed throughout our town since there was not one community that was geared towards that demographic. We were lucky to have one or two kids within a 3 mile radius.

I now have an 8 year old who happens to be an only child. And truth be told, I am one of those moms that hates playing with their kids. Sorry, but it’s true. I am not that kind of fun mom. I will do dance parties, watch movies, go on hikes, go to the beach, go to the pool, but if the play involves my child telling me what to say during imaginary play….nope. Sorry. I suck at it. So, she does rely on her friends, as I believe she should.

About 4-5 years ago, a home builder of those cookie-cutter type housing communities acknowledged the need for a community that appealed to younger families, noticing that this population is growing here.

Low and behold, he was building a monster community where he put in a….water slide.

:::Cue opening gates of heaven music::::

A water slide. Fucking genius. Build it and they will come.

And so all of us young families marched in like zombies to purchase a new home and asked, “Where do we sign?”, declaring, “Take my money!!”. I don’t even think any of us cared what the house necessarily looked like, what the quality was like, or how much it even cost.

There was a water slide. And playgrounds. And walking trails. And kayaks. And even promotional pictures posted of….children playing. It was a Christmas miracle.

So, I’ve painted the picture. My neighborhood houses approximately 75% of the young families of our town here. Slight exaggeration but not really.

The amazing result here is that my child now has built in friends. A plethora of young kids her age. So many that I cannot count. She’s so fortunate to have this. I’m actually envious of her childhood, at the risk of patting myself on the back.

But she’s not the only fortunate one. I am, too.

My neighbors are a huge part of my village. The village it takes to raise a kid. And I’m so thankful.

I’m able to have her put on her handy little GPS watch-phone thing and off she goes, sometimes for hours. Maybe playing video games, maybe playing and outside game of kickball, maybe playing Legos somewhere.

So, yes, my kid is the one that’s always at your house.

But it works both ways.

As I type, I’m listening to fort building and nerf gun wars upstairs after a sleepover, that was complete with popcorn, donuts, and massive amounts of YouTube viewing. Sometimes I have as many as 7 children playing at my house, recording videos, destroying my daughter’s room. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope I’m able to give other moms and dads the same breaks, breaks that they certainly deserve, that they give to me.

It might not always be an even amount of time spent between houses. I don’t keep score. My guess is that no, it isn’t. My child probably spends far more time at others’ houses than they spend here because it’s always more fun at someone else’s house.

And if that’s an issue, I would hope someone would speak up and tell me, but I’m assuming we are all in this together. We’re all here for one another, watching our kids grow up together, helping raise them together. (I do expect you to say no to her, as I’ve had to say to your kids, and I expect you to discipline her as you would your own. Again, in this together.)

I love the independence that this neighborhood gives my daughter. I love the freedom it affords her. I’m a huge advocate of breeding healthy independence and freedom because if it can’t start in early childhood, when does it start? When do we stop hovering? When they’re teens and then they go insane with their new freedoms, not knowing exactly how to channel it? I know these are controversial questions, so I’ll answer that for myself…

I’ve realized that having wonderful neighbors allows me to feel safe about letting my child experience things on her own. It has allowed her to make some of her own choices, which aren’t always going to be the right ones, and that’s ok. I trust her. And no, I don’t trust everyone else. Yes, strangers can be dangerous, and I hope I’m doing a decent job of teaching her that. I feel comfortable allowing her to find her way, within reason, because I’m surrounded by a great support system.

I understand that my style of parenting isn’t everyone’s style. We establish that day in and day out with one another, based on the online parenting wars. But I do understand that not everyone agrees with giving their children as much freedom as I give mine. And I definitely respect that. No two parenting styles are alike, which makes the world go round, and ultimately will help my child become more well-rounded, having been exposed to so many different families.

Having all of these amazing people surrounding us, allowing my child to come in and out of their homes, eating their food, playing with their children, even sleeping over at times? I can’t say it enough: I’m so thankful. It’s an amazing advantage and it’s so comforting to know you’re all here. (And special kudos to those parents that imaginary play with my kid. You’re fucking rockstars.)

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being a part of my village. I’m forever thankful. And I hope you feel the same.

 

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The Sneaky Moments of Motherhood

Motherhood is full of moments. Moments that are new, moments that are scary, moments that are frustrating, moments that are full of emotions. Motherhood is this string of moments that sometimes just seem like one long, everlasting moment.

Sometimes you wish for these moments to disappear forever. You wish some away so desperately, because they’re fucking hard. Sometimes you wish you could remember what you felt like in certain moments because things happen so quickly. Time is so accelerated within motherhood. Sometimes you wish you could relive the moments over and over and over because they’re so full of love.

Tonight, I had a moment.

It was a moment with a familiar emotion…but it’s an emotion I have a difficult time describing. It was a moment that I have a difficult time explaining. But it’s worth noting because I know every mom feels this. I know we all have these moments.

It’s this moment of realizing that your child is yours. That your child is growing. That your child is maturing. That your child isn’t little anymore. They’re these moments you realize…it’s happening. They’re becoming…them.

It’s this moment that I can only describe as those “sneaky moments”, because, for me, it’s an emotion that totally sneaks up on me and surprises me from time to time. It overwhelms me.

These moments aren’t to be confused with those of “firsts”. Not like their first word, first step, or first day of school. They aren’t to be confused with moments we’re flooded with pride because of good grades, or a good game, or where their kind heart shows. It isn’t that feeling of simply feeling how much you love them or appreciate their existence.

No. None of those are the same.

Tonight, as I was watching my daughter get ready for bed, she put on some music. This song Capsize that she loves. She sang every word, words that I couldn’t quite make out, but she knew them. She sang these words with such passion and confidence. She was brushing her hair and singing as she looked in the mirror.

She didn’t know I was watching. I was just observing her. All 4’5″ of her 8 year old self. All 74lbs of her.

It wasn’t anything new or out of the ordinary. But I had that sneaky moment. That moment where her life kind of flashed before me.

That moment where I realized she is the same human that was once 7lbs2oz in my arms. The one I didn’t know what to do with as a newborn. The toddler that that loved the word “uh-oh” and that hated sleep. The one that loved her purple baby and her green hospital pacifiers. The one that hated P.E. in kindergarten and didn’t want to learn how to ride a bike until she was almost 7. This is that same little, tiny human that grew inside of me. None of this felt possible in this moment, it didn’t feel real.

These moments take my breath away because it’s kind of too much to take in. It’s too much to reconcile in my mind that this is happening, this tiny human is growing up and becoming a bigger human. In these moments, it’s when I’m blindly reminded that I’m responsible for who she’s becoming and that she’s who she is because of me- the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s these moments where I catch a glimmer of me in her actions, or her body language, or her mannerisms.

It’s in these moments that I feel cheated because I let too many moments go by without noticing.

You know these moments?

I’ve had these moments before, like the time she told me she was embarrassed when I kissed her outside her classroom this past year. And like the time she told me I didn’t need to walk her to class anymore. Or, even in less obvious moments, like the one tonight, and sometimes it’s happened when she simply says something like, “Bye, mom. I’m headed out to play. I have my watch-phone on if you need me”.

Some days, these moments pass me by without evoking that feeling of sneakiness. They’re just another moment of motherhood. But, these sneaky moments. They’re real. They’re powerful. They’re beautiful, magical, scary, and almost frustrating all at the same time. Frustrating only because you know one thing is for sure: you can’t rewind, there is no replay. This is it. It’s happening.

I’m certain some moms have these moments more than others. I’m sure maybe these moments don’t even feel sneaky to other moms like they do to me. But I know we all know these moments. These moments, they’re different. They’re defining. They’re earth shattering, to some degree. They’re sobering because you’re reminded of the tremendous job we have as moms. The enormous and wonderful responsibilities we have to these little humans.

These moments are teaching us. Sit with these moments and listen. Absorb these moments. These moments are telling us ever so subtly to slow down. And they’re also telling us we are doing one hell of a job.

Don’t blink, mamas. The moments are all around us.

 

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Please Don’t Thank Me for Being A Working Mom.

I read this wonderfully sweet post today, thanking us working moms for basically holding down the fort, if you will, in the work force. It was endearing and not at all condescending like some pieces similar to this have been. I felt the author was genuine and all of her words came from a beautiful place. Calling us “true feminist heroes” felt amazing. It really did. I admit, I puffed out my ego for one second. ‘Yeah. Hell yeah. We are feminist heroes. Damn right”.

But listen.

Don’t thank me.

I needed work more than feminism and work needed me.

I am unapologetic for wanting- no, needing- my career.

Yes, I need to work to pay bills, especially as a single mom, but I also need to work to stay sane. I never aspired to be a stay-at-home-mom. I never even aspired to be a mom, if I’m being honest. Not to be confused with not wanting to be a mom at all. I did want a child. It happened, it’s wonderful, and I’m thankful but it wasn’t my sole goal in life. It wasn’t my end all, be all. It wasn’t what would define me. I knew it would probably be a part of my life but I also knew it wouldn’t be my whole life.

And quite frankly, I don’t understand why we shame moms who aren’t fulfilled by motherhood alone. Why we still, in 2017, make moms feel like they should be fulfilled by motherhood alone. Why do we pity working moms?

I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “Ohhhh, you have to work? That must be so hard!”, when my daughter was little. I remember blatantly lying and saying, “yes, yes it is so difficult”. She’s 8 now and I still hear this pity from time to time, especially when I travel for work. I don’t lie anymore.

No. It’s not hard. I mean, yes, motherhood is hard in all of it’s forms, but working is not the hardest part of it. As a matter of a fact, working might be the easiest part of being a mom for me. At least there’s a job description and a manual for my day job. And at times, my job is far easier than being a mom, (especially in the “threenager” years. AmIrite?) It gives me time to myself in some ways. It gives me a break. It gives me my own idenity. It gives my life an additional purpose. It gives me something my child cannot. And, when I travel for work? Hello? Hotels! Alone!

No, It’s not difficult for me to be away from my child while I work. I don’t ache for her during the day, I don’t feel guilt that I’m not with her 24/7. I’m not sad that I’m missing moments. I returned to work at 7 weeks postpartum and I was happy to do so. I was looking forward to having that piece of my life back.

And I don’t feel bad about admitting these things. We, as moms, are sometimes shamed into feeling that we should solely be a mom once we have a child.

Think about this: do we shame and judge fathers this way? Do we hold dads to the same expectations? No. Never have and never will.

Although women have emerged as “bread winners” of families over the last few decades, it’s still far less common and it’s still widely scrutinized. And it’s unfair. The feminist movement fought for equality (and yes, we’re still fighting in so.many.ways.) and I am a proud female business owner, I work my ass off, and I am a mom.

And for those that do choose the path of staying home – wonderful. That is equally as amazing. If some moms are fulfilled by the very, very difficult job of staying at home with their children, kudos. Big fat kudos to them because I wasn’t built for that life. And I’m ok with that. My response when moms say they stay at home is, “Ooohhh, I’m sorry. That must be so hard!”. I am not envious. At all.

I’m certainly not writing this to take sides in any sort “mommy war” of who has the harder position. We are all in the trenches of some tough, tough shit. And that common denominator is simply motherhood. We are all warriors of that same battle, of that same beauty.

The true “thank you” goes out to those feminists who paved the way for women to join the work force, those that gave us a choice in the matter. I am eternally grateful for the pioneers that got us here. I am also grateful for all moms raising amazing, kind-hearted humans, no matter what else they do with their time.

Carry on, warrior mamas. We are all fighting the good fight of raising children the best we know how.

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It Takes Balls To Be A Woman.

“It takes balls to be a woman”. I saw this quoted somewhere and it resonated with me.

Sixteen days ago, two months into being 40, I evicted all of my woman parts. Full hysterectomy.

And yeah, I’m going to go ahead and talk about this because there are a lot of emotions tied to it. But I promise it will be empowering if you stick with me. Let’s Trump-style this conversation and grab it by the pussy. Pun intended. (Too soon?)

First, let’s start by stating the obvious as a gentle reminder- women are goddamn warriors. We are given the glory of all of the burdens throughout life: periods, pregnancy, birth, cramps, hormones, cysts, tumors, pap tests, and alas, menopause. I’ve now traded super-plus tampons and pads for hot flashes, bone loss, and (more) mood swings.

From a young age, we have historically been taught that period talk is taboo. It’s embarrassing and it’s gross, apparently. It took me, like, 20 years to stop hiding my tampons under my paper towel purchase at the grocery store. (You know you’re guilty of it.) Women are side-eyed if we’re in a bad mood, immediate accusations of hormones being to blame ensue, and rightfully so because this part of being a woman is fucking hard. And guess what? It’s life for each and every female alive.

Let’s get rid of the stigma and the un-sexiness of having reproductive organs that function. We have them. Sometimes they function in a healthy fashion but many times, they don’t. And it sucks. It actually sucks either way. Sure, we’re so fortunate that our bodies are able to do this. The miracle of life and all of that bullshit. Sure, it’s fucking beautiful and all but for many of us, it’s all hard.

It’s easily dismissed when we say we’re dealing with a lot of female issues. I feel like most don’t know how hard it can be, how debilitating these female issues can be. Fibroid tumors, chronic ovarian cysts, severe anemia, years of terrible bleeding and pain. These were all my female issues and my reasons for needing the hysterectomy. I needed my life back, physically and mentally. I was circling the drain, no exaggeration.

And I’m certainly not alone. Thousands of women need hysterectomies every year for issues far more intense than mine, even. Our bodies take a beating and it’s difficult and certainly under appreciated.

Solidarity, sisters. This is some tough shit to navigate.

All of this and in spite, here we are being head of household tasks, raising children, being cruise directors for the family’s social calendar, and many of us are career women.

I mean, shit. This is a lot. We are fucking warriors.

Self care immediately comes to mind when thinking all of this through.

I realized that, yes, all of these physical issues I was having were out of my control, of course, but what really struck me was that I was excited to have a major surgery…so I could rest. Isn’t that crazy? I was actually looking forward to an invasive, life altering surgery so I could actually self care and self preserve a little.

With or without said female issues, knowing the women in my life and what they do on a day-to-day, self care seems to be a far off fantasy for most. Some sort of unicorn. We just don’t do it because we can’t. We do too much, we take on too much, large in part because we have to but also? Because we don’t say no.  This is why we talk about living off of wine and coffee so much. Our lives are fucking crazy. This isn’t an illusion, this isn’t being weak, this isn’t being selfish. Being a woman is taxing, tiresome, and sometimes downright grueling.

So, here’s my plea: women, take some time. Any time. Make a plan. Hire the babysitter. Utilize the aftercare at school. Drink the third glass of wine with your girlfriends. Call in sick because yes, period cramps really fucking hurt. Explore your hobby. Or go bigger and take the trip. Shit, take the trip by yourself. Even sit down and schedule the time you need to be the best version of you. Stop making excuses. You need it, your kids need it, your relationships need it, your body, spirit and mind need it.

Don’t wish for a surgery to get some rest. Live. Don’t burnout.

Carry on, warriors. Back to your regularly scheduled chaos. Much love to you all for fighting the good fight of womanhood. It certainly does take a huge set of balls.

6 Ways You Can Judge Me On My Parenting.

As much as we all like to say we’re not judgmental, let’s all come together to confess right here and now that we all judge one another. It’s a human race thing. I know it thrives in our DNA to rip each other’s morals, values and ethics to shreds and pat ourselves on the back for doing everything perfect. We certainly wouldn’t be doing the things we do if we didn’t think they were the right way.

I have noticed, especially recently as my daughter gets a bit older, I seem to be a bit of an unconventional parent. And I know we all know that we are the best fucking parents ever to have lived! But seriously, parents judge one another so harshly because, let’s face it, it’s the toughest job known to mankind to be a parent. There’s no training manual for it, there’s no salary involved, and we are literally creating human beings, trying to raise them the best we know how without completely fucking them up. So, we become one another’s worst critics on how not to turn these little humans into drug dealers and prostitutes.

Judging one another certainly doesn’t get us anywhere with the whole solidarity thing, but because I know it’s what we do, I offer you some of the ways you can judge me as a parent…

  1. For pulling her out of school often to do fun things: So, there’s this thing called life that passes us by while we’re all working our asses off 50-60 hours a week and if we’re missing out on life, our kids are, too, in some ways. When I was young, my dad worked a gazillion hours a week, however, there was never any shortage of awesome memories. My parents used to take me out of school for about 3 weeks a year for vacations. They were never extravagant, usually just to see family or take a week at a lake, but it was time together. Honestly, it could have been at the hotel down the street for all I cared. It was a change of scenery. Yes, kids needs structure, absolutely, but I’m that parent that plans a quick weekday getaway (in advance so school work can be attended to) just so she can see that on the other side of all of this work, there’s fun. Life is too short. Childhood goes much too fast to not let my daughter see that work is a necessary part of life that allows us to also have fun. And no, I don’t plan on wavering on this as school gets more difficult. As long as she’s pulling decent grades, I’ll probably allow her even more time off.
  1. For not raising her with organized religion: This is a big one and I could probably write an entire chapter on this. Let me start by saying, I recognize that organized religion works for many, many families and I think that’s amazing and wonderful. Faith is an integral component of life. I get that, however, it looks different for all of us. I am agnostic and her father is an atheist. I’m just as firm in my agnostic beliefs as others are in their religion. And that’s ok. I don’t believe I’m going to hell, just as other believe I will. I have respect for others beliefs, just as I will have respect for what my own child believes.
    Religion played a role in my life as a child and I arrived at my own belief system by simply growing up and living, not by what was shoved down my throat. I hope she will do the same, minus having to navigate through what was shoved down her throat. Personally, I have just been privileged to entirely too much hypocrisy within that space, within the church. It certainly doesn’t make sense for me to tell my child what to believe when I don’t own those beliefs myself.
    I do not turn my child away from religion or fail to acknowledge more mainstream, traditional beliefs. She attended a Catholic pre-school and she attends a Methodist summer camp, so she’s deriving a general understanding of Christianity. She has enjoyed learning about the bible, and I’m so glad she’s getting that exposure. However, now that she’s 7, I’m cognizant of incorporating other religions into conversation and I’m beginning to have open discussions about how different people believe different things about God, Jesus, and what religion means to them. Here’s what she knows for now: love and kindness are our religion. That should be the basis of any religion anyway, right?
  1. For not pushing her to play sports: I had her try soccer, gymnastics, tee ball, and flag football…all between the ages of 3-7. The rule was, if I signed her up for the season, she had to finish it but if she didn’t like it, she didn’t have to sign up again. And exactly that has happened with each sport. Listen, I’m not going to ruin my Saturdays and any other practice day during the week so I can push her to do something that’s supposed to be fun, yet hearing her bitch all of the while about how hot and sweaty she is, asking how much longer until it’s over. Not worth it for either of us. I will admit, I wanted her to latch onto a sport, and maybe she still will, but it hasn’t happened yet. If this isn’t the way she expresses herself and isn’t something she enjoys then I’m fine with that. Something will be her thing eventually.
  1. For not limiting her screen time: to my last point, right now her thing is YouTube Minecraft videos and some extremely boring game called Slither.iO or some shit. She likes gaming and she like Legos. Those are her most creative outlets for now. Of course I monitor what she’s watching and I do make sure she’s exercising at least one hour a day but if she wants to sit on her iPad for an hour…or two…or six- no problem. This also allows me some time to do a load of laundry or clean the house a bit. It’s a sanity saver a lot of the time and to be honest, she tends to self regulate her usage. She’s never sat on a device for an absurd amount of time. Like anything, she gets bored and moves onto the next thing within an appropriate amount of time. I might know way too much about Dan TDM and RoBlox but hey, it could be much worse and she could still be watching Stampy Longnose.
  1. For not doing more than the recommended reading homework: School has become a bit of a different beast than what it was when I was young and I’ll just say it: I think it’s bullshit how our children are being pushed beyond what I consider normal limits. The tests, the homework, the Common Core shit that very few of us as parents can understand…it’s too much. The work she was completing at the end of 1st grade was that of a 3rd grader in my day. What was wrong with the way we did it? Yes, I’m sounding old, but seriously, what’s with the intensity these days? Why not play more, homework less? All of this pushing and testing cannot even be proven effective by research so why should I push her beyond her limits? I love when she reads and wants to read. I certainly encourage it but if 20 minutes is her limit, fine. We are done and we are going for a bike ride.
  1. For allowing her to be her own person:  No.Matter.What. My daughter doesn’t conform to gender norms. Never did and probably never will. She has been wearing boy clothes since she was 3 ½ years old, has only ever played with boys toys, likes being called a boy and gravitates towards boys as friends. And guess what? I don’t care. And neither should anyone else. I find it odd when people immediately proclaim her a tomboy or ask what I’ve done to “make her this way”. Y’all, she’s just who she is. I’m not making her any way. It’s not my choice to individualize her or choose her identity. Even if this wasn’t what makes her different, I’m open-minded to her just being her no matter what that looks like. I don’t need a label for her. She doesn’t need a label. She is just her.

I’m sure there’s more to judge about my parenting, like feeding my kid so much processed food that she will have a shelf life of hundreds of years, or that I tend to cuss around her quite a bit so the word “shit” doesn’t even remotely make her wide-eyed anymore. But, the thing is, we are all in this with the same end goal: raising humans we can be proud of. So, if my daughter ends up to be a devil worshiping, illiterate, deviant who doesn’t know how to be part of a team, I will be one proud mama. Ok, so not really, but I would have sure as hell tried my hardest to do what I felt was best for her.

Parenting is all about throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks. None of us have any concrete answers and there is no true right or wrong. Here’s to hoping the right components of what I’m throwing against the wall sticks.

And I’ll accept your judgment if you’ll accept mine. Solidarity in parenting, friends.