Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What's her story?



Today, I wore running clothes when I dropped Mr. T off at school. What's the big deal? It shouldn't be a big deal, but I can't silence the different voices in my head, and the voices of other moms. Recently, a friend-of-a-friend snarked on said friend's Facebook about moms in workout gear at daycare drop-off (the issue of only moms and not dads as well is another one). Yes, I know I shouldn't let others' judgements bother me, especially those made on Facebook, but it did. And while I restrained from picking a fight, my friend did remind the commenter that she doesn't know the other parent's story.

This kind of thing goes on all the time. Google it, and you'll find hundreds of blog posts listing things you shouldn't say to moms on both sides of the working/stay-at-home home fence (again, only moms. This should not be our cultural starting point), including these two Huff Post links, and mentioning workout gear is on the list.

Yesterday, after a pediatrician's visit to get J-Cakes his 6-month vaccines, I thought more about this. I mentioned to the doctor that he'd be starting daycare two days a week in January, and when she brightened and said it'd be good for him to have the social interaction, I agreed, but qualified, "Yes, and I work from home, and it's getting harder to work around his naps."

Why do I feel compelled to justify his daycare going with my work? Why do I always bring up the fact that I work when chatting with other parents at T's preschool? The current cultural feminist* discourse says I should just be proud of working from home so I can have my son with me, and not feel like I have to justify my actions to anyone. That I should be proud of staying at home with the baby, and not even mention working, or not feel the need to mention working.

But I'm not a cultural feminist. I'm an old-school feminist, a 1970s-style, Ms.-Magazine-reading feminist who grew up with a working mother and a chemist grandmother and was a latchkey kid who loved being a latchkey kid, and I'm someone who's miserable when I don't have a real, money-making, society-contributing job. And I think we need to continue to encourage women to fight for that, because someone has to run libraries and heal the sick and make laws (haha, apparently right now no one feels the need to be a lawmaker, but that's another story) and fight crime and fires and do my taxes for me because oh, my God, they are too complicated and I hate finances. And cultural feminism says we should leave all that to the men, because they don't have boobs so obviously they're not as important to young children as women are. No thanks. If you genuinely want to stay home and be nurturing and it's in your own, personal nature, that's awesome, but don't try to say it's biology, because you're saying people who don't feel that way -- or men who do -- are somehow broken, and that just sucks. It makes everyone feel guilty, and then it makes people act smug to hide their guilt, and then their smug just makes everyone else more guilty, and on and on, until we're all insufferable and unhappy and we live in The Handmaid's Tale.**

So all that is just really long background to what was supposed to be a fun, lighthearted-ish post about a topic I apparently cannot be fun or lighthearted about because it matters too much to me. What I set out to do this morning was play a little game, the "What's her story?" game that my aforementioned friend and I played after the minor Facebook kerfluffle, and try to remind each other that we don't know someone else's story, so we really shouldn't judge.

Here's how to play. It's really simple: Make a list of reasons someone would be wearing workout gear to drop their kid off from school. That's it. I'll start!


  • She's a fitness instructor
  • She owns a fitness store or clothing boutique
  • She's a fitness apparel model
  • All her other clothes are in the wash or at the dry cleaners
  • She works nights, so these are really her pajamas
  • She works during her baby's naptime, and in order to save time, she dresses in running gear in the morning so she can work every second he's sleeping and hit the road with the stroller as soon as he's awake
  • Her office has no dress code
  • Her office is moving to a new building
Anyway, you can see where I'm going. There are hundreds of reasons -- silly and realistic -- why someone would wear workout gear, not the least of which is it's really darned comfy, and none of it means the person wearing it has an idyllic, halcyon existence of endless child-free workouts followed by hours in a hot tub eating bonbons. The parent is probably just as tired as you are. 

We all have the same amount of time every week, and surprisingly we all do basically the same things every week -- we eat, we sleep, we work, we spend time with our families and friends, and we keep house to some degree. Time use studies, such as those done by Laura Vanderkam, show we all even spend pretty much the same amount of time on these activities as everyone else -- it's just a matter of when we do them. My time log shows I hit about 20 hours of work a week, not unusual for a parent of a 6-month-old if we had reasonable parental leave policies, but I log those hours between 10-1 and then again after 8:30 at night, and I have a 7-day work week. But that means I get to go for mid-afternoon runs, and take my kids to the library every Wednesday afternoon, so I'm not complaining about my schedule. I'm just trying to say we aren't all bound by the same schedule, but we do all do pretty much the same things.

So, what do you think that Nike-d parent is off to do after dropping baby at daycare? 



*Thanks to Emily Matchar, author of Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity, for this term, which she uses to describe the modish argument that it's sexist to try to change women's "natural" nurturing characteristics and fit them into the "naturally male" world of the competitive workplace, and which is opposed to liberal feminism, which says that's just a bunch of sexist, separate-but-equal baloney (spoiler alert: I'm a liberal feminist). I'll be writing more about Matchar's book and all the things it's made me think about and the way I'm shifting my perspective and how I've started working through the extremely complicated feelings I've had about domesticity for the last decade. I know I'm late to the party, but when am I not?

**Hyperbole. Sort of.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Where does the time go?

Every few months, I like to take a week to do a time log to see what I'm doing with my days. Like most people, I feel like I'm always working on something, and always have even more I want to do. For instance, I want to do a longer post sharing the results of the log I did a couple of weeks ago, but will save that for another day. What I will share is a cool color-coded look at my 168 hours ...


... followed by major irritation towards all the productivity posts, books and general bloviation telling me to get up early and take an hour or two in the morning to center myself and tackle the tough before the pain of living starts to wear me down.* For real? All of those blue squares are time spent with my children, either playing with, caring for them, or both (silly songs during diaper changes, chats with Mr. T about his day on the way home from preschool). It's a rare day that doesn't have a blue spot between 4 and 5 am, so it's most definitely a rare day I'll be getting up an hour before my kids to have "me time" (purple is work, green is housework/errands, blue is children, orange is personal/sleep/family time).

But! This really isn't an excuse** to moan about how hard it is to be a working parent of small children, or a non-working parent of small children, or even just someone who happens to be in the same room as a small child every now and then. Really, it's about finding time somewhere in the day to take for myself. And isn't deciding to sleep a little more a way of taking care of myself?

One day, I'll get up before the chickens again. I'm not a morning person by any means, but there is something great about drinking a solitary cup of coffee and getting the dishwasher emptied before the shouting*** day begins. Until then, I'll bundle J-Cakes into the stroller for a run, or read a book while I eat lunch, or catnap while nursing him before his morning nap and my work day begins. And one day,  I'll finish that sweater for my dad I've been knitting for two years. I'll finish that novel I've been writing for a year. Heck, I'll finish the novel I've been reading for a year. Until then, I'll continue to fight my battle with inflexibility, and ignore the world when it chides me, all bright smiles and extra caffeine that I can't have because I'm still breastfeeding, to "Just get up a little earlier! You'll get so much done and feel refreshed."

*Can you tell I was up every 2 hours with a teething baby last night? I'm sure the hyperbolic emotion is a dead giveaway.

**Okay, it kind of is, but only a little. I have volumes to say about the happy-family-washing of blogs and our culture in general, and being a parent is really, really freaking hard. Yes, I got myself into this mess, and yes, overall the net result is mostly worth it (I say at 3 in the afternoon. Don't ask me the same question at 3 in the morning), but we don't do anyone any favors by pretending the mess doesn't exist.

***Figurative shouting. Mostly.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Hi again

Hi! So, how've you been these last 2 years? I've missed writing here, and I think I'll be back for a little bit. It'll probably be different, since I've added another baby, a job, and an almost-finished first draft of a YA novel to my life, so there's considerably less crafting and exciting cooking going on, but I miss having a space to think and communicate about creating. Although my creative life has shifted from my hands to my head, it's still a huge part of me, and you never know -- one day, I just might finish the sweater I started knitting for my dad two years ago, and go on to make those historical-botanical-print-inspired embroidery patterns I've been dreaming about. I also might start cooking things other than frozen ravioli with pesto (remember when I used to make my own ravioli from scratch?? Insane), so stay tuned!

I've started a freelance indexing business, creating the indexes that come in so handy in the backs of books, like your favorite craft and cookbooks (no, a computer doesn't and can't do that job -- just think about a computer boiling a complex concept down to a word or short phrase, and doing it elegantly!), and also do research and am toying with adding writing to the mix. That "real life" me is over here, just in case you're curious. I won't talk much about it here, though, except in broad terms of work-life balance as a freelancer and parent of two active boys.

The YA novel is, well, a YA novel. Angst, hormones, emotions, loneliness; all the things you find in adult novels, too (and there's one of those on the back burner). I co-tumbl (is that even a thing?) with one of my Forever Young Adult ex-coworkers over here, but I will use this space for longer-than-tumblr-lenght rambles about writing and the writing process and creativity.

Speaking of creativity and writing, this is my current favorite thing ever, and great inspiration for the (daily) stucks -- Sara Zarr's podcast, This Creative Life. She's 1. an amazing YA writer (one of my top faves -- do check out her episodes with some of my other faves, A.S. King and Bennett Madison) and 2. has incredible things to say about writing that also apply generally to creating. Go listen, and maybe when you come back, I'll have something new to say. Or not; I'd really love to hear what you have to say, too. It's like in the Mister Rogers' song I sing to my boys at bedtime:
I'll be back, when the day is new. And I'll have more ideas for you. And you'll have things you want to talk about. I. Will. Too.
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