Friday, March 30, 2012

On Love and Labels

I am a Democrat, a die-hard liberal. If you cut me, do I not need bleed blue? So no one was more surprised than me when I married Phil, a Republican. Now, he claims he is not affiliated and is an Independent but I’ve caught him furtively watching Fox News just enough times now to guess which way he swings. While most married couples often fight about the dishes or late night feedings, our worst disagreements have been about social security, national security, or global warming.  Were I not so heatedly discussing why Ronald Reagan is in fact not the greatest president ever, I might even be able to laugh at how ridiculous we must seem.

I met Phil about a month before George W. Bush was re-elected to his second term. At the time, I told him that if he won he probably wouldn’t hear from me again because I was intending to take a row boat to Canada. Our first date was just days after he won re-election. When he attempted to broach the subject over drinks I told him: “Not yet, the pain is still too fresh.”

But a funny thing happened that night. Given how defeatist I felt about the results of the national election, my mind actually felt free and truly clear for the first time in a long time to really get to know him. We talked about our lives, our dreams, our break-ups, our families and childhoods. He made me laugh and feel okay about being silly. Cut to three cape codders later and I’m singing Sweet Caroline at the top of my lungs with him in a Karaoke bar in the West Village.

It was a great first night together and I started to fall for him. Not Phil who thinks the total size of the government should be a walnut or Phil who is hawkish in his approach to national security, but rather Phil the person. And thank G-d I had the good sense to do so. You see, once I stopped looking at him as a label, I could see all that we shared in common, not what divided us. We both wanted a family and wanted to raise children with a strong sense of self and values. We wanted to teach them that all people regardless of race, class, gender, or sexuality were created equal. We wanted to teach them the importance of kindness and love and understanding.

Now – we often have very different ways of wanting to make some of these things happen. I think some of the government programs out there offer great social value in ensuring equal access to opportunities for my and all children. My husband believes a private approach is more effective. We both believe passionately in our divergent approaches and will fight for them. But ultimately we try to stay focused (after about 10 rounds or so of healthy battling), that while our approaches may differ, the goal is the same.

Marrying someone and loving someone who thinks differently than me has made me both feel more strongly in my own convictions and has led me to strongly encourage others to look beyond the label. We all want to succeed. If we stay focused on what we have in common and the goals and beliefs we share, our homes and communities and country will be stronger for it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

To My Sister Wives

Sometimes I feel that Special Agent Oso provides enough care for my children that he could qualify as a sister wife.  I feel ridiculous even writing it, but as I watched Oso gently soothe my exhausted children on a Friday afternoon while I made dinner, I couldn’t shake the feeling. This must be what it’s like to have a sister wife, a partner to pitch in during those relatively innocuous but super tricky times of day when everyone, most of all you, is super tired and is just without the patience or wherewithal to work out how to make it all better.

I'm Jewish. And, as far as I know, there is little evidence of plural marriage and Judaism having any connection in history. That said, I can’t help but wonder sometimes – could there be something real here that I’m missing out on? Just imagine: another woman or women as the case may be who serves as a partner in all ways to help you grow, protect, and nurture your children. I mean – I guess in theory that’s what a spouse or partner might do in a monogamous relationship. But my lump of a husband has been asleep for an hour while I finished the dishes, picked up the toys, took out the garbage and tucked my four year old into bed for the fifteenth time tonight. What in G-d’s name is yours doing right now?  If you answer vacuuming, I swear I’ll cut you.

 I’ve been holding on to my secret yearning for sister wives for awhile now, admitting it only to my DVR which keeps my precious secret is at obsessively tapes all first run episodes of TLC’s so named reality show. But tonight, I finally came clean to the FB world in my admission of a phantom Disney created panda bear as my stand in sister wife. The response was strong as many of you chimed in support. And it was then that I realized that I had you with me all along.

 It’s you amazing folks out in the Facebook/Blogosphere land who listen to my scrambled complaints and ramblings day in and day out and lend your ear, your support, your compassion, and your tips to lift my spirits and encourage me as a mother. You are my sister wives! So to all of you out there – thank you! You are helping me do this insanely amazing difficult job of parenting! Now, which one of you is coming by to do my dishes?

Undefine Me

On any almost any given day, I read or hear something that makes me question my choice to be a stay-at-home mom. I never for a second regret the decision. I love getting a chance to have this fleeting time with my kids when they are little. It’s never the choice I regret. It’s the way I feel—my reflection of other people’s judgment about this choice, which I struggle with on an almost daily basis.

 It’s usually a relatively innocuous statement or an article either hinting or overtly stating that by staying home with my kids, I’ve turned my back on the feminist movement, that I’ve lost my own identity, and that I’m some sort of throwback to a time and place that doesn’t exist anymore. And it usually makes me feel uncomfortable and not more than a little angry.

 The one that set me off today was a throwaway piece written by a woman and posted by a female friend on how marketers today no longer market to the traditional stay-at-home mom because she no longer exists. Instead, they market to three new archetypes of female consumers: the modern career-driven independent romantic woman in her twenties, the hyper career-driven woman in her thirties and forties who magically balances her amazing career perfectly with her perfect family and is more likely to buy herself a Birkin bag before that new vacuum, or some other sort of urban chic retired woman in her fifties and sixties who is divorced or widowed and thriving in her growing independence. Here is what I think bothered me about the piece—it was claiming that a) I literally didn’t exist anymore as a type of person—that I was the last woman in my thirties and forties to be a stay-at-home mom and have purposefully exited my career (albeit temporarily until my kids enter school), and that b) even if I did exist, I lacked all mental and financial capacity and independence because the work I do doesn’t pay, and therefore I’m not even worth marketing too.

Here is the real deal. I’m not a whack-a-doodle throwback to another time. I’m a modern, thoughtful, independent woman who made a choice. I have both a college degree and a Master’s degree. When I exited the workforce I made well over 90K. And it’s because of feminism (and the fact that my husband and I have made financial choices together to make it possible) that I am able to be at home right now. And I hate feeling that because of that choice, the implication is that I have no voice as a buyer or a player in society or in my marriage. Regardless of whose name is on the paycheck, my husband and I make financial choices together. Abandoning me as a type worth marketing too is more than a financial error.

 I have friends that work. I have friends that stay at home. In some cases the choice is personal, in others it’s financial. Regardless—I’m proud of them all because they are making it all work. None of us fit cleanly into any of the buckets above—I have the mom jeans but wear them with my urban chic Toms (reflecting my inner independent romantic twenty something). I might buy that designer bag before the vacuum, or I might by both. I am blossoming in a new world of opportunities and choices. I’m not none of these women—I’m all of them.

 Happy mamas make happy babies—whatever works for you works for me. Just don’t judge me for my choice. Or at least don’t couch your judgment in backhanded belittling marketing pieces that you “like” on Facebook. Women and mothers always have a stronger voice in the workplace, marketplace, and the home when we stand together.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dear Huggy and Snuggy

Two good friends welcomed two beautiful babies into the world today. They are still affectionately known as Huggy and Snuggy - they haven't yet revealed their names. But in thinking about the wonderful family they were born into and all they have to look forward to, I penned this open letter to them.

Dear Huggy and Snuggy-
Welcome to the world! We’ve all been waiting for so many months now to meet you, no one more than your two beautiful mamas. Lots of people will be showering your moms with all special gifts, toys and platitudes by the barrelful, but amidst all that I thought I’d take a second to offer you some of those special words of wisdom.
Go Easy on Them
Your moms won’t always get it right, but they’ll always do their best to make it right because the love they have experienced in getting to know you over these past few hours is unlike anything they’ve ever known. It is all-consuming and terrifying and amazing love, and with each minute more that they know you, they are breathing it in. They will always do their best by you but they won’t always get it right. Sometimes, it won’t even feel like their best – maybe just the best they could do in that moment. But don’t judge them too harshly – one day you will also be parents and you will understand what I mean when I say that doing your best and getting it right is not always the same thing. But when it all comes from the well of gratitude and love that a parent draws from, it can feel close enough.
Be Brave – Live with Courage
Your path toward greatness starts today! You’ve already been launched down whatever road you are supposed to take in a life of love and success. But whichever way you go, be sure to live your own truth, your dreams and your destiny. In this way no matter where you end up, you will have achieved greatness – a soul at peace with the choices it made. Live without regret and listen to your mothers, they might have learned a thing or two in all their years that will help you on your journey. You don’t even have to let them know you are listening, but secretly file their wisdom away, ready in your arsenal for whenever you might need it.
As I mentioned above, listen up! Already I’m sure your little brains are filled with lots of noise going on around you. People talking about who you are, when you pooped, who you look like, blah blah blah. But In the midst of all this chaos and noise, take a cue from your brilliant mamas and learn to be great listeners. Drink in what others are saying, learn to parse out what is real and what is crap, and learn to formulate your own views and express them in the ways and mediums that are the most meaningful, not necessarily the loudest.
Make Mistakes
And you will. And every time you do you’ll learn from them, somehow, someway. And doing so will just slightly alter the course of whatever path you are on to take you were you are supposed to be. Everyone who loves you has made and hopefully learned from most of their mistakes. I have – your mommas have.  And even if you don’t get the lesson at the time, just know that it is all part of some big cosmic plan and that you might live a whole life before the reason aligns with the journey.
Go the F)$&%)*$)%(*$ to Sleep
Seriously, please. For the sake of those sad little shriveled up people next to you who you call your bitches, and we used to call our friends. For now, all you have to do is eat, poop and sleep. Don’t try to get all fancy on us. They’ll be plenty of time for that.
Welcome to the world! We love you!