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.

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Another Year in the Books

Last year, I resolved to focus on one word. That word was forward. Rereading that post a few days ago, I smiled. I sounded so ambitious and excited.

I remembered where I was emotionally and what I was hoping to accomplish.

I remembered the roadblocks, the physical and mental ones, that had been holding me back. The obstacles that always (always, dammit) popped up when I was feeling the most momentum.

I remembered the book I was writing then. Or at least the book I thought I was writing then.

I remembered the thrill of the run, the progress, the determination.

And yet somehow I forgot.

I forgot the promise of progress.

I forgot that I controlled the steps.

I forgot the plan.

At the beginning of this December, it sure did feel like it. I was halfway through the very rough draft of this next book and realizing that I needed to rewrite that first half. I was feeling stiff and stuck and thought that the entire year had been dominated around our move.

After some thoughtful reflection (because what else is happening when you’re stuffed on ham and cookies and cake and your husband is watching a football game you don’t care about but you’re too exhausted to leave the couch), I realized I haven’t been standing still. Not at all.

2016 still ended up being the year of forward. Boy, did it ever.

2016 was the year I decided the book I was writing wasn’t the book I was writing. The real book I was writing was now a historical fiction. I researched. I read. I researched some more. Despite the cursor’s lack of movement across the page for many months, I was building a foundation for the book. And although it felt like stagnation, I can see now how far I’ve come in that year. How different this book will be. How much I’ve had to learn, and still need to learn, in order to finish it, to make it work.

2016 was the year we moved. A move away from all we’d built for our children, our family. We endured their tears when we proposed the idea to them. We suffered their blame when they didn’t want to leave their school, their friends, the only home they’ve known. And we endured our own sleepless nights trying to pull all the logistics together. We wept for all the familiarity we were leaving behind. We uprooted one painful root at a time and took our tree to North Carolina. And although we replanted that tree, we are still nursing it, watering it and adjusting to the new soil. Six months later. I wonder some days how long will it take. How long before I feel as entrenched, before I know the right balance between extended family events and incubating our nuclear one, before I get back to the most effective writing routine? But even I can see each step is a step forward in our new life.

Despite the destination being completely off from where I thought it would be a year ago, I suppose it was still the year of forward. I just didn’t anticipate the universe taking it so literally.

So 2017.

My kids are at a wonderful elementary school with a principal I love. She is not only elegant and graceful, tall and direct, she is warm and passionate and smart in a way that’s apparent in her hello. And you can tell she absolutely, unequivocally loves what she does.

Not only is she the principal, she has brought a new principle to the school. She has instituted a growth mindset at the school.

Not sure what growth mindset is? Watch this. Read this.

But in a nutshell, the idea is that our brains are constantly growing. That the growth mindset allows us to enjoy the challenge as opposed to focusing only on the outcomes.

For example, ever told (by yourself or someone else) that you were just not a math person  (raises hand) and allowed that to justify your subpar performance in math without putting in too much extra effort? That’s an example of the fixed mindset.

Ever train for a marathon? Did you tackle the training step by step and trust every run’s expanse of your running prowess until one day you actually could run the marathon when at the beginning you couldn’t run more than four miles? Growth mindset.

(Really, watch and read the above links. It’s a much better explanation than these sad examples.)

In the classroom, however, it means that the students are taught strategies on how to tackle problems when they run into challenges. “I can not” is not a valid response. That when something is new and hard, students can’t…YET. The students focus on their effort. Their growth. Mistakes and wrong answers are simply parts of learning. FAIL is now the First Attempt In Learning. It’s a fascinating field of psychological study and it is slowly seeping into my parenting and how I approach my own work as I am aware of when I am employing a fixed mindset. It’s been interesting to see where I am fixed and where I use a growth mindset naturally. Relationships? Totally growth. Academics? A little fixed, I have to admit. My public relations career?  I looked back and found I approached that with a total growth mindset (and realized I was also lucky enough to have growth mindset bosses at nearly every turn – thank you MJ, MB, SD, LZ, PG, and MO). My writing? Completely, utterly fixed mindset.

Why? I have a feeling people telling me I was talented at writing or good-naturedly saying they wished they could write like I did, all internalized into my thinking that I shouldn’t have to work so hard at writing. It’s a talent, so it should come easy, right? That because some writing comes easy to me, all writing should. Ah. There is the flaw, right? All writing is not created equal and only the best writers are the best writers because they continue to work on their craft.

Are you all still with me? Thanks. I know it seems like I’ve gone off the New Year’s Resolutions rails.

But not really.

2017. It’s my year of growth.

The year where I focus on learning, stretching, trying, challenging. The year of mistakes. The year of wrong paths. The year where I try on my own growth mindset. The year where failure is celebrated because it means I’ve learned something. The year of YET. I haven’t finished my book…YET. I haven’t found the right agent…YET. The list can go on and on and on.

As a family, we created a few other growth mindset resolutions. Each member answered the following:

In 2017, I want to learn…

In 2017, I want to help others in my community by…

In 2017, with my family, I want to…

And then a general, in 2017, I want to…

That general category, that’s where my paper says in big, capital, permanent marker letters: GROW.

And boy, did my boys smile when they saw that. Won’t that be wonderful for them to realize that growing doesn’t end? That even their old mom can still stretch her skills and learn something new and accomplish something fantastic and new? That you don’t ever finish growing up, you still continue to grow? I think so.

What’s your mindset for 2017?

 

 

 

 

When I Grow Up, I Want to be Like my Kids

We’ve been on a hamster wheel of non-stop activity and change since spring. Every day I keep thinking that’s the day my real life will start. The day when I own my life again. The day when I feel comfortable and ready and the hours stretch ahead of me in an organized and productive way.

Instead, I wake up to boxes that still need unpacking, blank walls begging for pictures to be hung, a worn out GPS app from needing directions to everything, and an ever-growing list of errands. To top it off, our school registration plan backfired a bit and the boys started their new year-round school this week. Our school district offers a variety of traditional and year-round schools. Unfortunately, the traditional options were closed to us and although we had been hoping to keep them on a traditional calendar because, you know, creatures of habit, it wasn’t meant to be. So a week to the day of our furniture being delivered to the new house, the boys packed up their school supplies into their back packs and started a new school.

The boys? They’ve been fine. Excited even. They were unfazed about starting school several days into the new school year. They have rolled with the change to their summer schedule. My boys are happy, optimistic, content. They play between the boxes. They sleep in their make-shift beds. They explore the new spaces. They still hug us tight, maybe a little tighter. But they come home excited about things they did at school, people they’ve met, ways that the new school is different.

And I wish I could be more like them. Instead, I’m still hungering for a normal. The school routine starting earlier than I expected threw my non-routine into further non-ness. I’m wandering the house tackling projects that never seem to get finished and wondering when I will ever get back to writing.

But the boys? They’re good.

We might have been the ones to initiate this great and risky plan to move to a new state, start a new school, uproot our entire lives for something bigger in the grand scheme. But in the little ways, my kids are showing me daily how to actually do it by being brave and open and receptive to this new life.

So I will follow their example. I will do what I can when I can. I will start to learn what the quiet feels like in this new space without their feet on the stairs. I will take a deep breath and realize that the non-routine is where I am and where I am is still pretty damn good. Because every day is different. Every day is an adventure. Every day is an opportunity.

My boys taught me that.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Finding Forty

I just turned forty.

I have a distinct memory of a surprise fortieth birthday party for my father when I was in the fifth grade. We decorated with a myriad of black balloons and over the hill decor. I thought forty was so old.

Now here I am. Forty.

And I don’t feel old. If anything, I feel a little weird to wear the forty badge when most days I still feel as insecure as my seventeen year old self. I wonder if there should be a test to see whether you have truly earned forty. Not just in physical time, but experience and growth. In a novel, a character is supposed to change or learn something about himself. I feel that maybe by forty, I should have learned more, changed more, done more.

Forty.

The first forty were momentous, to say the least. I learned to walk, talk, eat, read, write, add, ride a bike, drive a car, kiss a boy, make friends. I left home and went to college. I fought and won and lost. I got married, moved to DC, bought our first house, met some of the most incredible people I have had the joy of working with not to mention call mentors and friends. I attended showers and weddings and lots of early morning media tours with cold control rooms and bad coffee. I have celebrated weddings and births and said final goodbyes to two grandparents, an uncle, a mentor and a dear friend who was too young to leave us behind. I moved to Atlanta. I had two beautiful baby boys who are the sparkle to my every day. I stepped away from my career. I stood by family and friends as they fought disease, divorce and the occasional abyss of depression and anxiety. My body has made it through three surgeries, two child births, and one horrifying night with a crash cart. I have said yes even when it was scary. I took a leap of faith to honor the career I’ve always wanted. I have written a book.

Forty.

Halfway to 80, which is a life.

I stand on the precipice of this hill. It’s a wonderful view. Behind me I see strength in others and myself that I didn’t realize was there. I see faith and love and courage. I see how far I’ve come and how far I have yet to go. Ahead of me, I see bigger challenges. I see my boys becoming young men. I see the work ahead for securing this new career in writing. I see my forties as being the opportunity to live the life I’ve been building. I see a freedom in taking these lessons and living unapologetically, deliberately, purposefully.

Forty.

I continue moving. Not just because time continues on like a treadmill and I have no choice but to take another step or fall on my face, but because I choose to. I choose to keep walking my path and seeing what is next. The first forty gave me the skills I need for the next forty. What a wonderful place to be: armed and ready and open to receiving the next thing, the thing I can’t predict.

Forty.

So maybe I am over the hill like those old decorations taunted my own father. But I can’t wait to see what’s on the hill behind this one. And the one after that. If the first forty is any indication, it promises to be quite the journey.

Forty.

Forward.

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.

Three Hours

Three hours.

Every weekday I drop the little dude off at preschool, come home and have three hours before pick-up. Three hours to spend focused on those adult-only tasks that are done so much more productively without interruption or carousing  children running about the house. Three hours for writing. Three hours to take care of busy work. Three hours for a kid-free grocery stop. Three hours for neighborhood committee work. Three hours for school volunteer tasks. Three hours for errands. Three hours to start a load of laundry. Three hours to wash dishes (damn the broken dishwasher). Three hours to straighten up. Three hours to email a friend. Three hours to schedule appointments. Three hours to get to those appointments. Three hours for quiet.

Three hours.

If only one of those tasks were on the docket for any given day, three hours could be ample. But let’s face it. Who in this non-stop world of life, not to mention parenting, has only one task on their to-do list? Inevitably, I am forced to choose. Forced to squeeze, manipulate, compromise.

Typically, I block out writing time. I may run a quick errand on my way back after carpool drop off, but I try to treat my writing time as sacrosanct. The errands book end the writing time. The tough days are when I can’t do that. When an errand takes longer than a quick stop. When planning for a neighborhood event takes more than just sending an email. When volunteering and morning dinner prep because of a late afternoon baseball game collide.

Three hours.

I used to think that I needed to be in the right mood to write. The “write mood,” you might say. If the “write mood” wasn’t available, the words weren’t either. I’m not sure what the “write mood” is anymore, other than a procrastination and avoidance technique. I will always be too tired or too hungry or too distracted. There is no perfect storm that allows the muse to appear, holding your mind and fingertips in creative ecstasy so that the words just flow and the story just builds and the brilliance descends onto the page. There is no music or candle or writing position that will make me a better writer. Only the writing. And so I have learned that the only true muse is my ass. And a chair. And putting the two together. Once they are connected, creativity is available. You can’t force creativity, they say. Well, sometimes you just don’t have a choice. You practice it by just doing it until finally your creative muscle is like any other and responds more willingly, more eagerly and with more strength each time.

Three hours.

I don’t have time for perfection. I don’t have time for inspiration. I only have time for writing. For sitting down. For dedicating. For forced work. Today, I had 50 minutes. That’s it. And I knew it was the only dedicated time I’d have. So I sat down. And I hated it. I didn’t want to. I tried Facebook and Twitter for a few minutes before I turned them off. Before I forced my ass into the chair and my fingers to the keys. It wasn’t pretty at first. There was a graph that was instantly deleted. A mental reboot. Although I was short of a typical productive word count day, what I wrote wasn’t half bad. It was progress. It was another step forward on the path to completed manuscript. It was a step forward in a character’s evolution. It was a step that wouldn’t have been made if I’d waited. For the muse. For inspiration. For time.

Three hours.

Summer vacation is looming in my peripheral vision. With no paying job to help supplement our income, we’ve decided to go summer camp free. The boys aren’t thrilled, but I know it will still be a fun and lazy and adventurous summer filled with pool time and hikes and parks and movies and Legos and neighborhood football games. What scares me is three hours. Where today I look at three available hours to squeeze in carpool volunteer duties, an errand, yoga and 50 minutes of writing as not much time, I see three hours on a summer as a luxury I can’t afford. Literally and figuratively.

So I’m practicing. Practicing to force the work. Practicing working in strange conditions. Right now I’m writing this like my keyboard is on fire while the 5 year old watches a post-picnic-in-the-park-endless-game-of-tag-playdate and just before the 8 year old’s bus completes afternoon dropoff. I could be reading a magazine or getting those nasty baseball pants out of my sink and into the washing machine or working on background for a possible upcoming project, but instead, I’m practicing. Practicing writing under pressure. A different kind of pressure. A noisy kids, spontaneous availability pressure. Can I write in the park while they are playing? Can I write while they play Legos? Can I write during screen time? Can I write at night (trust me, I’ve tried this one over and over and it never works but perhaps I need to try again)?

Three hours.

Fitting in time for our passions shouldn’t be a luxury, but as a parent, I understand that sometimes it is. Particularly when I have chosen a path that doesn’t pay immediately and therefore requires certain responsibilities and sacrifices. The fact is that I am the at home parent. I am the designated chauffeur, cook, nurse, teacher and playmate. I am also a wife and a friend and a thinker and a reader.

I’m not sure if I’m a believer in “making time.” I think that concept insinuates too much, requires us to take on too much, to stay up too late, to multitask to the point we are merely competent instead of excellent. I think we have time already. I think we need to find time. Time we’re simply using in other ways or afraid to use for our passion purpose. Time we think isn’t appropriate for the muse. Right now I have three hours to spend on whatever I decide. Three hours to work, whether on my manuscript or on our family life. This summer, I may have three minutes. The big question will be how I decide to spend it.

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.