My Writing Journey: Taking my Kids Along for the Ride

For the past couple of years, my husband, the kids, and I answer a few specific questions to formulate our goals going into the new year. For example:

  • In 2018, I want to learn…
  • In 2018, with my family, I want to…
  • In 2018, I want to help others by…

While we sat around in a sugar cookie coma, pine needles still littering the floor, 2017 barely behind us, we each contemplated our own goals. At some point, my eleven-year-old piped up:

“Hey, mom. Are you ever gonna finish that book?”

Ah, out of the mouths of babes. Thanks for being the outside voice to my internal self-doubt there, kid.

The fact of the matter is it felt like that. That I might never finish. Granted, there was a false start, tons of necessary research, a major move for our family, and the fact that I was/am still learning. I have to work really hard at this thing. I was coming up on two years on this project. It felt like forever to all of us.

“I will, honey,” I told him. “When it’s right. And this is the story I need to get right.”

I have been super honest about my writing journey with my kids. For one thing, it’s important to me, so of course I would share it with the people who are the most important to me. Despite my own insecurities of having a “job” that doesn’t pay, my husband has always made a point of asking how the writing is going in front of the kids, putting my work on the same level as his. They have helped me brainstorm titles and have come along on research trips. They love to read and write stories of their own, so sharing what I’m learning helps them, too. We are learning together.

But perhaps most importantly, I want to show them their mother following her dreams. I want them to see me trying, failing, succeeding. All of it.

I had that example growing up. My mom went back to school to forge a new path. My dad started his own business. Things were tough for both of them during those times. But they forged ahead. They didn’t give up.

Yet, somewhere along the way, the practical part of me showed up and talked the dreamer part of me into picking a college major and career that would pay the bills. And it did. And I liked it. Even loved it. But I wasn’t in love with it. Not like I am with writing. Even when the writing is bad or a struggle or the rejections drop into my inbox with a (friendly or was that an ominous?) ding, I can’t imagine doing anything else. (This might come as news to my husband since there have been many days I’ve threatened to pack up shop and go bag groceries at the local supermarket. Although, seriously, this seems like a satisfying job to me – like Tetris, but with a dozen eggs, a box of cereal, a half gallon of orange juice, a loaf of bread, a bag of grapes, and four cans of beans. Oh, the possibilities!).

I have learned, however, that practicality is just fear in disguise. Recognizing where I need to be – writing – has changed my outlook. I am no longer defensive about what I don’t know but curious. I am seeking ways to improve my craft, searching for new inspirations, challenging myself with new genres (essays, flash fiction, poetry), looking for opportunities to get paid for my work (beyond (hopefully, one day) selling the novel). And I’m continuing to be honest with my kids about that day’s struggles, victories, or detours. Because it’s my turn to be the example.

When I have a particularly hard time figuring something out or realize I need to study something a bit more before trying again or have to write twelve drafts of the same query letter, it shows them that effort gets results. When I get rejected and they see me keep going, it shows them perseverance. When I receive good feedback, they see me celebrating accomplishments. When I meet new writers or go to author events, it teaches them how to support others, network, and take risks.

Fast forward from January resolution making to this past weekend. While driving home from a family outing, I clicked on an email notification (don’t worry, the hubby was driving). It was a rejection on my full manuscript from an agent. A nice rejection. An ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ rejection. A keep querying rejection. But a rejection nonetheless. And no matter what, it still stings in the moment.

As I read the agent’s comments out loud to my husband, the same eleven-year-old reached his hand from the back seat and patted my shoulder.

“It’s okay mom. Maybe the next one.”

It can be a long journey as a writer. I’m glad I picked the perfect travel mates.

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Sounds of Silence

Every day, I tuck myself into my office. From 10 to noon, I ignore the outside world and enter another. This is my protected writing time. My work in progress time. My focus on the novel time. I keep the house quiet during this time. The door is shut. The heat clicks on. A bird chirps outside. A construction vehicle beeps as it backs up down the street. I settle in for the work. The silence is mine. I shape it and fill it with words on the page.

The afternoons are not silent. There is usually music or a podcast in my ears as I edit or run an errand or work through a plot problem. There is chatter and thought and ideas clattering up against my ear drums.

Then, it is 3:30. The focus shifts.

School dismisses at 3:45. At 3:46, the school’s bus alerts start dinging on my phone. One ding at a time.

The buses arrive on campus – ding by ding.

The buses depart – ding by ding.

My children’s bus is one of the last to arrive back at school (thanks to bus sharing between schools) and so I wait and wait for the bus three ding. My ding. The ding that means I should head for the bus stop.

And while I wait, I finish whatever task I’m working on. I click off the music, pause the podcast, turn away from the book’s voices. The house settles and is suddenly quiet again in a way it isn’t the rest of the day. The heat clicks on again. I hear car doors slam at my neighbors houses as older kids return home. Someone laughs or hollers at another kid across the street. I hear the trash cans being dragged up a driveway.

This silence is no longer the same as the writing silence. This silence is the quiet pull back of the tide before it returns the quiet water in a rush and crash of a wave.

I suddenly long for my boys, crave them, can’t wait to see their bodies and minds return to me to tell me about their day. The attention they grant me is fleeting. Sometimes only as long as it takes for us to walk back from the bus stop or for me to help get them a snack. I remind them to put their bags and lunch boxes away. They pull out their homework. They disappear to play.

But their breath, their laughter, their stomping feet, the rustle of their turning pages, their whirring brains fill my silence and I wrap it around me like a blanket. My mother silence is anything but quiet, and yet it stills my soul and calms my anxieties.

It is 3:34 and the house is too quiet again.

I wait. For the boys to fill the silence.

I crave it. Like a drug.

I wait.

Adjustment Period

It’s been awhile since I posted. Part of that was calculated. The election season was fraught. The aftermath even more so.

And a lot of why I wasn’t here wasn’t on purpose. Not consciously. But the fact was, I was struggling with what to say. Struggling with a lot of things.

Struggling since the move.

A few weeks ago, some ladies on my street got together for breakfast and invited me. I had a wonderful time getting to know these different and wonderful women I can see as part of my new village. They are good people. Fun people. People that get it – most of them have also moved here from somewhere else at some point. But I got in my car afterwards and felt a strange compulsion to cry.

And I didn’t know why.

The next day, I was meeting up with some ladies that also live in my neighborhood that I had only met through an online exchange about helping to coordinate an upcoming event for the neighborhood kids. I was a little nervous about this meeting. I didn’t know these people.

My husband told me to try to have fun as I walked out the door.

Try.

That’s what it was. I was just so tired of trying.

We are settling into our new lives, but there is a constant amount of trying. At our old school, I had already gone through the random volunteering to finally land the position I wanted as newsletter writer for the PTA. A position I sadly had to abandon after a year of shadowing when we moved. Now I’m starting over. I’m back to randomly picking up shifts at the book fair and spirit night events. It’s all great – these are all events I love – but I’m taste testing, meeting folks, working out where I best fit here.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s all great. I love our neighborhood. I’m in love with our school. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) has been nothing but welcoming and supportive.

But it’s still all new. All the time.

Even yesterday, I wanted to take the boys Christmas shopping to pick out gifts for the cousins. I had to Google where the independent toy shops were. Then map them so I wouldn’t get lost.

And Facebook reminds me daily of all the Christmas traditions we had in Atlanta. The santa we visited every year. The lights at the Botanical Garden we visited each Friday after Thanksgiving with the rest of the city and their out of town guests. The neighborhood Christmas party. The streets with the best lights. We knew how early to get to church on Christmas Eve and to head straight for the cathedral’s gym since the cathedral itself and overflow room were filled hours in advance.

Now, I feel like I’m starting from scratch again. And while the boys are just happy that their Elf on the Shelf is back and our advent calendar of activities is as comforting and fun as usual, I’m left trying to make sure that I find a Santa with a real beard since my kids have never been to one with a fake one (something that probably means nothing to them and I have latched onto as being of the utmost importance).

Trying. Again.

Then there’s today. Today the boys went back to school. They’ve been out since Veteran’s Day. Adjusting to year round school means adjusting to their three week breaks every nine weeks. The bonus was we took a nice trip to Washington, DC – partly because we love our old stomping grounds, partly so I could do some research for the current book and partly because most everything to do in DC is free (yay Smithsonian!), we hosted Thanksgiving in our new home, we hung out with my sister-in-law in town from Louisiana, we went for walks, the boys learned how to ride their bikes (no more training wheels here), we shopped small business Saturday with my sister in our new, adorable downtown. But through it all, I didn’t do a lick of writing except for scrawling down on a post it note the physical descriptions and mannerisms of a guitar player at a concert the hubby and I went to who will most definitely be showing up in the work in progress.

But when I sat down in the chair today. Ugh. I had lost it. Three weeks was too long to be away. I reread the last two sections I wrote, determined not to edit as I went but to find the thread. I went back to some research materials I collected on our trip. And hopefully the words will start to come back tomorrow.

So I sit here blogging instead. Trying.

And that’s all I can do. I keep trying. Trying to meet people. Trying to find new experiences. Trying to balance being near family during a time of year when we were used to being alone. Trying to write this impossibly daunting work in progress.

The trying isn’t bad. It’s everything really. It’s just that sometimes the trying can be, well, trying.

So if I’ve been missing or I’ve been distant, it’s not you. It’s me. Trying.

 

10

Ten years ago, I spent 30 of the most excruciating, boring, horrible, wonderful hours in labor with my first. I could probably recount in infinitesimal detail those 30 hours, how I felt, what happened, what didn’t, and who said what to finally get me through the finish line of labor. It felt like forever.

And yet, somehow the last ten years have flown by. First teeth, first steps, preschool, kindergarten, soccer, baseball. Now he’s a fully formed person with his own sense of humor, anxieties, skills and dreams. He’s lovely. Truly. Sure, he’s got his foibles, but I love those, too. As much as one can. And I do my best to help him navigate this world with them so that one day those weaknesses can be strengths.

Ten.

Five years ago he was five, barely able to read.

Five years from now he’ll be a freshman in high school with a driver’s permit.

Ten years ago he was swaddled and safe in my arms.

Ten years from now he’ll be twenty and making his own decisions in a big world where I won’t be able to protect him.

We are here in the middle at ten. And it is glorious. He is funny and smart and annoying and goofy and tries too hard at some things and not hard enough at others. He is finding his way in this world. He is rereading Harry Potter while begging to read The Hunger Games. He’s trying to stay a kid and trying to grow up all at the same time. He loves Battlebots and Jeopardy. He hates taking showers, his feet smell and he’s got morning breath. He would eat a breakfast burrito, PB&J at lunch and cheeseburger for dinner every day if I let him. He still wants me to sit with him on the porch swing while he’s having a popsicle and snuggle with him at bed time.

He mirrors the best and worst of me. He teaches me every day how to best be his mother, if I’m paying close enough attention. He is curious. He is introverted and kind. He has set the tone for this family by his mere arrival into the world and every day I work to earn him.

Ten.

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Amazing.

I am in awe of all that he is and all that he has yet to become. Mostly, though, I’m just grateful that he’s mine. Today, I will do my best to make sure he feels special, that it’s not just an ordinary day. Because his mere presence has made my life extraordinary.

Saying Goodbye Begins

I am in pain today. Tears and heartache. I am raw and vulnerable. My soul feels exposed and uncomfortable as it tries to hide from the harsh light and dry air of the outside. I want to crawl back into my bed and pretend it’s all not happening.

But it is.

We are moving. Away from Atlanta. Back to North Carolina. A choice we made of our own free will and with excitement. As much as we are looking forward to all that this move means for our family, I am sitting here today devastated. For 18 years we have been away from “home.” For 12, we have been here in Atlanta. Building a life. Having babies. Surviving late night feedings and preschool and first days of kindergarten. We have made trips to the emergency room (one trip per person). We have made friends and changed jobs. We have laughed and drank with friends and chased the ice cream truck down the street. We have spent Christmases with neighbors, made casseroles for new babies and illnesses, gossiped on street corners and around fire pits, shared stories and histories and filled our neighbor’s yard with tacky inflatable Christmas decor. We have hiked the banks of the Chattahoochee and plodded down the sidewalks of Peachtree Street. We have seen art and exhibits and eaten in the best restaurants. We have taken our fill of Atlanta, will carry it with us always and be back for it will always be my children’s origination point, their home, their stories’ beginning.

But today there is an end.

Today is the last day of school. The last day the boys will ride bus 752. The last day they will walk the halls of their precious, wonderful, amazing elementary school. The last day they will hang with their friends in the silly goofy way that they do when they are all together on the most euphoric day of the school year. And I am an emotional mess.

In my logical head, I know they will again ride a bus to school. They will make friends. They will have a new wonderful school. They – we – will be fine.

In my heart? Well, there’s no telling my heart anything today. And that’s okay. Today I am taking care of me by wallowing. By allowing all of the emotion to be whatever it needs to be. I will cry when I have a private moment. I will feel joy at the Kindergarten last day of school splash down as the local fire men spray my giggling bundle of six year old boy with the fire hose. I will pass out the popsicles when the afternoon bus brings them home. I will cheer my nine year old on in his league’s AA baseball championship game tonight. I will hug the teachers and the moms and the kids that cross my path. I will not avoid the pain. I will invite it in because it only proves how wonderful this journey has been.

And, Atlanta, it has been wonder-full.

 

 

 

 

Do For You

I remember when my first was born and someone told me about the airplane model of parenting – attach your own oxygen mask first before assisting others. Seemed like a no brainer in that last month of pregnancy, but it wasn’t until I realized I was dashing out of the shower with barely rinsed out shampoo, trailing water and suds down the hall to his room in response to his smallest whimper on more than one occasion that I realized it was easier said than done.

By the second time around, I had two little people’s needs to balance as well as my own, and after landing in the emergency room when the little guy was only twelve days old, I had no choice but to take care of myself. And it was heartbreaking. Honestly. I felt like I was letting someone down. That the new baby wasn’t getting the best of me. The most of me. But I also learned that I’d be letting everyone else down if I didn’t take care of myself.

As they’ve gotten older, it’s gotten easier. If I know I need a quiet moment or a change of scenery or a drink of water or a nap, I know how to take care of the physical things in order to keep myself the most sane, healthy, taken care of. But it can still be a challenge. When I’m sick and I watch the house fall to ruins around my inability to follow behind setting the world right. Or when they play together nicely while I’m writing but that play includes fire engine noises and loud truck crashes and an inevitable war of words that distract me from the work in progress. Or when I feel like I need to choose between family time and something i want to do. By myself.

This past weekend, it was with great trepidation that I asked to leave our weekend at home in NC for two hours to go to an author’s book launch party 20 minutes away in Hillsborough with an old college friend. We don’t see our families as often as we’d like and fitting in all the necessary family combinations of visits is already a challenge. But we’d added an extra day to the trip and the timing was perfect in the late afternoon, I’d still be home for dinner.

So, after much agonizing, I went. And it was wonderful. The author was witty and funny and honest and real. My friend knew her and introduced us and she offered wonderful advice and a lead on a writer community for me. I caught up with my friend as much as you can in line to get tea and tarts and a book signed. I still made it home for dinner with my parents and sister and niece.

It can be hard to justify taking care of the creative part of myself when the humdrum daily life is pulsing and demanding attention around me. I know that it’s imperative that when these events come up I honor them and give myself the time to indulge, to learn, to absorb. I left the reading with some new thoughts on my own work in progress, things that weren’t strong enough yet, characters that aren’t clearly articulated. But choosing me, choosing the creative part of me specifically, is a constant struggle. Through the years of career and family, I’ve gotten really good at squashing it and putting it on a shelf for later. Since I’ve opened the gates and really committed, however, it’s become harder to ignore. It needles me in the ribs, it whispers in my ear, it swirls my dreams at night and taunts me in the rare moments of silence.

Taking time for yourself, for your true self, the self you aspire to be, not the errands self or the job self or the parent self or the friend self or the daughter self. We all have something we want to be, whether it’s a rock climber or a reader or an entrepreneur or a good cook or a woodworker or a DIY designer or a painter. It can be a big thing that defines your trajectory or simply a hobby that gives you joy a few minutes each day. Whatever that true thing is, it is the thing we can’t afford to ignore.

Writing is my true thing. My oxygen mask. I took two hours out of our family visit to indulge it. Two hours that resulted in a lead, inspiration and a new contact. Today I took 30 minutes to write this blog post. Tomorrow? We’ll see. But I’ll try my best not to ignore it.

What is your oxygen mask? How do you make sure it’s attached? 

Faces of a Child

When the first born, T, was an infant, I stared at his little mug for hours. Nursing. Napping. Strolling. Playing. Really. Whatever he was doing, I was watching. That smile? Total gas. That perplexed look? Definitely spit up coming. That adorable pensive face? Oh, well, that’s his little boy face.

Every so often, T would give us this look that I would gasp at and clutch my metaphorical pearls. I just knew that was what my baby, my darling, chunky-cheeked, goofy-smiled baby would look like as a little boy when he’d shucked the chubby skin of infancy and toddlerhood. I would point at pictures and label them to the hubby: “There. Little boy face.”

And damn if I wasn’t right. Because here he is. In front of me now. All boy. All that look.

Part of me was pleased as punch to be right about something. To have that motherly instinct so early prove correct. And not about the bad feeling in the pit of my stomach as they cruised along the coffee table only to bash their face into the corner of the sofa and bawl for the next 15 minutes. But about something good. Something sweet. Something I just felt in my bones was right.

Then today. Oh, today. Today, I took my 8 year old big boy shopping for a suit for his upcoming First Communion. Buttering him up with frozen yogurt, off we went to take advantage of the season’s Easter dress-up sales. And he was surprisingly helpful at picking out what he wanted and then I forced him into the fitting room to ensure a good fit on my skinny minny little man. And there it was. In a tie and glasses and the pull of a cuff as he shrugged on that jacket. A face. Not the little boy face anymore, but the grown-up man face. In the mirror of a department store, in pants that need a belt to stay on his nonexistent hips, in a tie he picked by himself, I saw a new future.

I wasn’t ready. I’m still not ready as I type this, acknowledging the momentousness that occurred in between scuffed walls, on well worn brown carpet strewn with the detritus of dress shirt packaging. I know it’s a long way off. I know I have no reason to worry and every fart joke to still look forward to. But glimpses of the future. This big, independent future where I am probably not solving problems with frozen yogurt or needed to help prepare for anything? Not ready for it.

And so I become the keeper of the faces. The serious baby face. The joy filled toddler face. The no teeth first grade face. The awkward big toothed second grader face. The sad faces. The excited faces. The relieved faces. The I’m-so-glad-you’re-here faces. And every face that is in between. Someday my son will gaze at his own little one’s face with wonder and name what he sees in this new little being. I will join him and smile, knowing that I, too, see faces. Faces of the past. Faces of babies and toddlers and little boys and men-to-be that have become.

Maybe then I will be ready to accept the future faces. But I doubt it.

At Peace with Priorities. This Week.

There hasn’t been any writing this week. There will probably not be any writing next week, either. Normally, I’d be twitchy. And part of me is. But part of me is okay with it. Because it’s spring. Or because there isn’t really an alternative. Or because I’m terrified of where I am in the work in progress and fear I’m working up to an “eh” moment in the manuscript. Or all of the above.

The fact is, this week has been filled with tasks. Teacher appreciation errands to run. Easter Egg baskets to fill. Baseball games. A field trip I swore I would not volunteer for but did anyway (really, Monica, the zoo? Pray for me, people. Pray hard.). Class Easter parties at preschool. An author lecture. A home renovation project we’re undertaking. The hubby’s car broke down. And it’s only Tuesday. Next week is spring break. Another week filled with two kids and endless time and boundless energy.

After a minor anxiety moment writing out my to do list yesterday morning, I’ve let it go. Maybe it was yoga. Or maybe it was planning a small family road trip to somewhere new for part of the break. Or, gasp, maybe I’m finally learning. I’m learning that my writing and my kids are not competing forces, although it feels that way on a daily basis. I’m learning that as much as I need to respect my writing time, I also need to respect my life. And my life is messy and full and sometimes lands decidedly heavy on the side of kid and school commitments. It doesn’t mean that my writing isn’t important, it just means that in that moment, it’s not the top priority. There will be more moments.

They will only be this age once. They will only have one more Easter Egg hunt at this preschool. I may not always have the opportunity to attend field trips. I won’t always be the room mom for this class. The weather won’t always be this beautiful. They might not always want to play catch with their mom.

Be where your feet are. Best piece of advice I ever got. Hardest to follow. But this week, I’m staying grounded.

“Let’s go for a run,” the five year old announced this afternoon out of the blue. He’s never made this request before. The hubby and I don’t “run.” Not that we can’t, it’s just not our thing.

“Okay.”

And so we did. We hit the street, running up one cul-de-sac and back down. It wasn’t terribly far. It didn’t take too long. It put a smile on both our faces.

“I want you to swing with me,” the five year old stated after our run.

“Okay.” Up and down we went, my stomach not handling the pendulum motion as well as it once did. And then I let go and sailed out of the swing, jumping from the moving swing, landing on the bark mulch several feet away. The 5 year old laughed and complimented my jump. Then we played tag and waited for the school bus to deliver his big brother home.

I wasn’t writing. And yet I was. Because here. Now. This moment. Because of that moment.

Letting go, I’m learning, might be the most effective way of holding tight. Holding tight to their childhoods by making memories with them during the in between. Holding tight to the work in progress by loosening my mind to find it. Holding tight to my marriage by trust falling into its safety when the going gets overbooked.

So I may not be writing in the work in progress as much as I’d like this week, but I’m writing in my book of life. And, probably more importantly, writing in my kids’ books. And those are the ultimate works in progress.

Leaning In: What’s in it for Men?

Dear Men:

You are not all selfish, sex-obsessed pricks who cower under desks afraid that some broad is going to waltz in on stiletto heels and take your job. I’m sure there may be a few of you out there (and I assume that’s because on some level you realize you probably aren’t fit for that job anyway), but I’m going to put my neck on the line and assume that most of you are oblivious to the blatant misogyny in the workplace and simply go about doing your jobs every day, earning your paychecks and contributing to the economy. Yes, you may interrupt your female counterparts too often or let thoughts about any potential pregnancies cloud your hiring judgement when a young woman walks into your office or even be ignorant to the lack of a pumping room for women returning to work after maternity leave. I think you simply require some education in that department. A little knowledge that you interrupt, that she’s a great candidate or that you need to provide a room with a door (and a lock, please) will go a long way to thinning that glass ceiling. With a little education, empathy and experience, I think any misguided assumptions or even deep seeded unconscious habits you had that were drilled in by generations of colleagues before you could be modified, advanced and, in some cases, eradicated, to make a pleasant and productive work place for all employees whether they be male, female, single, married, gay, straight or simply a loud gum chewer in an open concept work space.

It is with this acknowledgement that you, too, are a smart gender, that I apologize for Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s latest column in The New York Times about Women at Work. You deserve better than that.

Men may fear that as women do better, they will do worse. But the surprising truth is that equality is good for men, too.

I nearly threw up in my mouth. First of all, if you are afraid of doing worse because a woman is doing better, than you probably should be worried about your job status in general. I’m just saying. Second, “surprising?” Really? Boys played on see-saws on playgrounds, too, and know that it’s no fun if three people pile on one side and only one is on the other and no one moves. The ride is only fun when you can balance and help each other up and down. And this isn’t the 1930s. I think we can all agree that equality is good for everyone, we just might need to be a little more factual about what that implies. So, I’m willing to give you a corporate economic impact argument, Sandberg and Grant. Your information on diverse workplaces equal more successful companies is great. I get it. Men get it. Statistics and facts proving points of an argument. Thank you. I’m with you again.

And then this:

Some men might wonder whether these benefits for the organization, and for women, might come at their individual expense, and ask, will I end up lower on the corporate ladder?

Oh boy. So, if women do well based on their merits, men, based on their gender, may worry that they won’t advance? Hahahahahahahaha. Welcome to the glass ceiling boys! I point you again to the idea that if you’re worried, you may not be the best fit for that job. My advice? Do your best job and you will be rewarded. That’s all women want.

Let me repeat that:

That’s all women want. To be rewarded, as equally as men are, for their contributions. If you’re worried that you might not be equally rewarded simply because you are a man, than pick up a torch and burn that bra, gentleman, because that’s what we’ve been fighting for for years.

Couching the argument in terms of a blow to the male ego only perpetuates that the male ego should be damaged by feminism. And it shouldn’t. It implies that men should feel superior to women, after all, if we have to defend the very definitions of equal as being good to the male individual and not just the way a productive and compassionate advanced society should live. Google the definition of “equal” and you will find it is defined as “being the same in quantity, size, degree or value.” Equal is unbiased. Equal is fair. Equal is unimpeachable. If you’re worried by equal than you are, I’m sorry to say, not equal to the task. Instead, Sandberg and Grant perpetuate the dominant male standing in the workplace and the home by appealing to its base nature of territory marking and sex.

Yup. Sex.

It started with the attention grabbing headline: “How Men Can Succeed in the Boardroom and the Bedroom.” Sex sells, I get it. But men should take on housework because it leads to more sex? Because doing laundry is “choreplay?” I can’t speak for all women here, but let me just say, if my husband does the laundry, it does not make me want to have sex with him, no more than when I clean the toilet it turns him on. It’s called division of labor. Perhaps if he helps with the housework I’m not going to be so bone crushingly exhausted at the end of the day that I pass out on the couch during House of Cards taking sex pretty much off the table. Perhaps if we are a team in all things – parenting, chores, marriage – than we will be partners in the bedroom, too. And no, if my husband wants to do something nice for ME, he doesn’t do the laundry. He does the laundry because the damn laundry needs to be done. Saying it’s for me only perpetuates the idea that it’s my job to do it in the first place. And I don’t recall that being in my marriage vows (I can’t speak for everyone). If he wants to do something nice for me, he does something that reflects my interests, passions, needs, desires. Yes, it is nice if he does the laundry. It is appreciated if he does the laundry. I will say thank you if he does the laundry (just as he says to me if I do it). But doing something that needs to be done in our home is not a gift. It’s a responsibility.

The entire tenet of this article rubbed me wrong. Men shouldn’t need to be told that they may get something out of equality. Equality is not selfish. That’s the whole point. Isn’t it?

Ugh. Okay. Let’s try another way. If we’re going to go with male stereotypes here, let’s go with sports. I’m a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill grad and was a senior the fall that Dean Smith retired. The man was a legend on campus, and not just because he provided us the opportunity to watch Jerry Stackhouse dunk and strut against our rivals or Vince Carter being the fireworks OOP to a quintessential alley. He was a legend because he was a leader. A leader for equality. He was instrumental to desegregating the town of Chapel Hill in the 60s and when asked about it, his response was not that he should receive accolades for it. It wasn’t that the African American community in Chapel Hill should buy him coffee every Thursday. It wasn’t give me the Presidential Medal of Freedom for it (though they did in 2013). His response was this:

You should never be proud of doing what’s right. You should just do what’s right.

So men, it’s not about the sex or the money or the promotion you may receive because you supported women in the workplace. It’s about doing what’s right. It’s about hiring the right people. It’s about providing the right benefits. It’s about sharing your own load at home. It’s about allowing all of us to follow our passions, work hard and be rewarded professionally, personally, spiritually. It’s about modeling behavior that allows our children to see what partnerships and teamwork and a productive society look like. It’s about doing what’s right.

And, that, my male friends, is a serious turn on.

Yours,

High Heeled Mama

A Glimpse Into the Future

The five year old (B) had his best girl friend (K) over for a play date yesterday afternoon. They are both silly personalities and I was already giggling from their ongoing conversations and negotiations when during lunch I witnessed this conversation:

K: What’s your favorite, favorite, favorite thing in the world?

B: I don’t know.

(Thinking)

B: I know who my favorite, favorite, favorite person in the world is.

Me/K: Who?

B: (Points at K, giant smile).

And now I understand every mother-in-law who looks at their daughter-in-law sideways. I was the boys’ first love. Now they are making room for others. I have years before I’m reassigned in their hearts, but it was humbling to see a glimpse into my future when someone else takes priority in their hearts.

For now, I’ll take my snuggles and my kisses and know that when they get hurt, I’m still the first person they want. One day that will change. And I’ll do my best to let go. Until then, I’m hanging on tight.