Friday, October 21, 2016

In Defense of Wives, Daughters, Sisters and Mothers and the Men Who Love Them

I wrote this before the November 2016 election. But the time, the election, the subject matter, was so fraught, I didn't publish it. Now, nine months-ish later, I think I can handle putting it out there. Cheers! -- The Working Mom


I think it's pretty clear to anyone who reads this blog that I'm sort of left-leaning, a left-leaning centrist.  "Rockefeller Republican" might even describe me well, if they were still a thing. So, as it turns out, I find, as the culture has shifted, I've become a flaming liberal...for Texas.

Part of that liberality comes, too, from my age and my feminism. As I've aged and experienced the world as a woman, my views of women's rights and dignity have become more defined. Behaviors the 20-something me didn't believe exist anymore, became clearer to me as I aged through my 30s and into my 40s. I mean, honestly, would you have believed that a male attorney, my opposing counsel, would have suggested in court, on the record, that the only reason I was objecting was PMS.  (FOR REAL.) And it happened to me within the last five years. (Thank God, that the gay, male, Navy vet judge I was appearing before had a sense of what it feels to be the other:  he rained down on that guy swiftly and with blistering fury.) re feminism and the role and treatment of women in our society, during the 2016 Presidential race:  It was revealed that one of the candidates had said (and allegedly done) vile, sexist, objectifying, and assaultive things about (and/or to) various women at various times in various places. 

Many men, mainly conservative men, rightly denounced this behavior and these words. And many of those men referenced their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers in their denouncements. These men would not want the women they love to be treated this way, they said, and therefore, they concluded, no woman should be treated this way. 

Many people on the left criticized this "defense" of women as patronizing. You should denounce this sort of talk and these sorts of actions because you are a decent human being, not because you have female relatives that you love.

And that's true. It's totally and completely true. 

It also totally misses an important principal about humans:  If you've got a loved one who is a member of a group who is discriminated against, you are more likely to support that group. There's ample evidence of this regarding gay rights. We may not like that the motivation for supporting gay rights for some people is largely selfish:  they want their loved one treated well. But we cannot deny that, in another time not so long ago, the homosexual relative would have likely been outright shunned or shoved into the closet by their own relatives, not celebrated and loved for who they are. 

The same is true of women. There was a time not so long ago that women who were on the receiving end of sexist talk and assaultive behavior would have been seen as sluts. And there was a "this wouldn't happen to my wife/daughter/sister/mother" attitude.  The women that these things happen to are the other. The framing of the condemnation of these words and these acts as a defense of certain conservative men's wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers represents a profound shift in thinking.  These men, who 40 or 50 years ago wouldn't recognize that their female loved ones could become victims of sexist language, sexual discrimination or sexual assault, now understand that all women, not just those other women over there, are potentially targets of this vile behavior. 

And that's a major cultural shift that we need to recognize. Yes, it would be better if the condemnation were born of pure humanity, untinged by the self-interest of not wanting to see one's female relatives victimized. But we feminists have to acknowledge that the almost en masse realization that all women may find themselves victims of sexual discrimination and assault, not just those dirty women over there, is an important cultural shift in the way women are considered in our society.

In other words, we feminists, we left-leaners, we Rockefeller Republicans, need to cut these conservative guys some slack. Forty years ago, they would -- likely -- be blaming the women for what was said and/or done to them, never dreaming that women in their own families could suffer the same abuse. That they see that it could happen to all women, even the women they love, is a step forward for women's rights.  Sure, it's baby steps, but it's baby steps in the right direction. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Evolution of Ladies Fashion

I am 46 years old.

And I love Talbots. (It's not the only place I shop, mind, but I love the store.)

I remember, tenish years ago, when female colleagues of mine, 40-somethings then, would talk about shopping at Talbots.

I would silently, secretly feel confused and a little judgy . . . For the clothes at Talbots were "old lady" clothes.  Those clothes were not for me.

I was young!  Thirty-six!  No, I shopped at Ann Taylor!  I shopped at Banana Republic!

But I realize something, now.

I understand.

Fashion, like our bodies, evolves. 

When people my age were 20-somethings, we shopped at The Gap, we shopped at Old Navy . . . The Limited was big when I was a young adult. (Remember The Limited?  Does The Limited still exist?  I don't go to malls.)

Anyway, I think the youngsters shop at places like Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale.  But what do I know about these kids?  I'm 46: more than half-90, four years short of my AARP card.

Anyway, it hardly matters where they shop or what they wear because, in your 20s, with your amazing bod (though you revile it, sadly), you can wear pretty much anything and get away with it.

That's why Units were so popular back in the day:  "Hey, girl!  Here's a sack and a belt. Ta-daaaaa!  You look fab. Now, put on some Keds and go get a spiral perm."

As we age and we gain and lose and shift weight around, what worked at one age, just doesn't anymore.

So I love Talbots . . . for their slightly higher waistlines, their slightly more generous cut through the hip and thigh, their whimsical sweaters with birds an monkeys and hedgehogs on them, their A-Line skirts. Sure, maybe the vanity sizing there is a little out of control (Only in the Talbots universe would I be a size 6 in jeans...even curvy cut jeans.), but the clothes fit me and they look good. That's the most important thing.  

And so that's why I'm glad that Talbots and its "old lady" clothes exists.

Although, of course, now I know that these are not old lady clothes.

These are middle aged lady clothes . . . until my AARP card arrives

P.S. Who other than Silicon Valley millionaires retires at age 50?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My Child is Not an Asshole. You are.

I like the parenting community, Scary Mommy. Amusing anecdotes and observations therein lie.

But this one story keeps popping up there that grates every time I see it:

The gist:  Self-important adult, and fellow parent, observes the interactions of parents and young child in public, and judges the behavior of the child by adult standards. As a fun bonus, said adult, based upon the scant evidence gleaned from this brief interaction, blames the parents' lax/neglectful/indulgent parenting for the kid's poor and/or demanding behavior. 

And, finally, said same adult excuses herself by noting in an off-hand way that her kid is, of course, far from perfect...with the subtext that "at least my kid isn't as bad as that kid . . . and at least I'm a way better parent than those jokers."  A paragon of imperfect parenting, this one.

Now, stipulated:  Spoiled brats with indulgent parents do exist in the world. They are a thing, and they have always been a thing.  Too, I fully, completely and totally understand that a parent is the strongest influence on a small child's moral, social, and spiritual development. And you can -- and most likely will in some small or large way -- screw that up.  And, finally, I admit that, yes, I have, in extremis, privately lamented my son's assholery.  I also admit that that was an immature and wrong thing to do.

All these acknowledgements and stipulations being laid out, there are still so many things wrong with a parenting culture that thinks it is funny -- or at any rate, helpful or illustrative -- to call a child an asshole.

Here are five of those things:

1.  It's ignorant, part A.

Obstinance and difficult behavior in small children is developmentally normal.  And it is also normal for parents to want to go out of the house for a family meal or other event before the child hits puberty.  It is not a solution, as the virtuously imperfect parent implies, just not to take the kids out and about.  Indeed, I would suggest that that is not normal behavior, as it fails to provide the child with opportunities to learn how to behave properly in public situations.   

2.  It's ignorant, part B.  

There are many childhood developmental difficulties and/or learning differences that make normal difficult behavior even more difficult:  attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, opposition defiant disorder, conduct disorder, certain sensory disorders, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum, Down Syndrom.  All of these conditions have the potential to turn normal childhood obstinance into difficult to manage defiance.

I'm sure the solution that this particular imperfectly perfect parent would suggest would be to just keep those kids at home so they can't spread their psychological or psychiatric disorders all over the rest of the normal folks in society.

But that's neither practical nor appropriate.  Just like typical kids, these kids are part of society, and being part of society means learning to function in it.  Who teaches that?  Parents.  And parents cannot teach these kids how to handle themselves in public from the privacy of their living rooms.  These kids and their parents are allowed to go out in public.  And in doing so, these kids and their parents, might have some difficulties. It's how a free and open society works. We don't actually hide these kids in asylums anymore, funnily enough, but allow them to be the part of us that they truly are.  And if we are kind and decent humans, we are sympathetic to these parents and, maybe, we offer help. Which brings me to . . . . 

3.  It's unsympathetic. 

"There but for the grace of God go I," should be your parenting motto. Not, "God has blessed me with superior parenting ability to these pathetic losers."

Drop the pretense of imperfect perfection and actually stand in those people's shoes:
  • Could the parents need a hand?
  • Can you sense a subtext to the child's behavior?
  • Do the parents look harried?
  • What could you do to lighten their load?
Instead if sneering and snarking, surely, there is something helpful you could do. Maybe you could distract their child. Maybe you could distract other children who are around so the parent of the misbehaving child can correct the behavior you find noisome.  Maybe all you can give is a sympathetic, half-grin of solidarity and support, accompanied by a moment of meaningful eye contact. Surely, that's better than criticizing them for bringing their ill-bred kid out for a meal.

And, let's be honest:  There's never been a time when you've taken your kid outside of the house and, much to your chagrin, he's behaved abominably?  Never?  Really?  You are a special unicorn.

4.  It's unhelpful. 

No one but your little echo chamber is listening to you. No one is changing their behavior or their parenting techniques based upon your judgy pronouncements. You are preaching to your imperfectly perfect choir. You change no parent's behavior by unsympathetically calling their child an asshole.  See above for actual ways to lend a hand, which might actually give you the opportunity to talk with the offending parent-of-asshole to offer suggestions or understand their point of view.

5.  It's modeling antisocial behavior for your own child.

That's right: When you judge other parents by a single instance and dub their toddler an "asshole," you are demonstrating to your child how to be an antisocial asshole.

There's no need for sympathy.  No need to offer help.  No need to lend a hand or give a sympathetic smile.

Why do that when you can snap-judge these people from your lofty tower?

I mean, after all, if you offered your sympathy, you might understand what these people are all about. You might see that they are doing their best.  Maybe, just maybe, you might learn something about other humans.  You might even learn to understand yourself better.  And you'd probably show your child how to be a decent human . . . instead of, you know, an asshole.

But why do that when you can write a pithy blog post calling a three year old an asshole and laugh about it with your friends?

Wait.  That's what school bullies do, right?

They attack and exploit the vulnerable in an effort to raise themselves up.  What a great lesson to teach your kids:  why give someone a hand up when you can shove them lower. "Hey, kids, watch Mommy shame and deride these parents and their kid for having the temerity to got out for Sunday brunch!"

But maybe you're not the big giant asshole of a bully I've envisioned you to be.  Maybe you've just used extreme and crass language to describe kid behavior in order to get attention.  Maybe it's "clickbait."

Might there be a better way, though, to get attention for your view that the world is going to hell in a hand basket because some parents (for reasons unknown to you) chose not to eat at a particular restaurant because the restaurant didn't serve food that they knew their child would eat?

I think, maybe, there might be.  In short, even if you're not an asshole, stop acting like one.

Tiny Things Matter

A little over three weeks ago, I broke the pinkie toe on my right foot. I did it in the usual way (if there is a usual way to do such things):  I clumsily walked into a chair leg while barefoot.

Incidentally, I typically don't walk around barefoot because I've done this sort of thing before. So I, at a minimum, wear socks. But often I'm wearing house shoes or Crocs around the house so I do not, e.g., catch my toe on a chair leg.  I actually feel nervous with bare feet, worried that I will once again break a toe in a moment of carelessness.  And, well . . . so I'm not wrong to worry, it turns out.

Often, it's the littlest things that make the difference. You barely think of them, but little things matter.  The missed moment three and a half weeks ago when I did not slip my feet into the Crocs at my bedside mattered.  It was, probably, the moment that meant I would hobble around in Bass Oxfords for six to eighth weeks instead of, you know, not doing that. Tiny moment. A tiny slip of the mind, a tiny distraction, set the series of events in motion that led to a careless swing of my leg as I walked, which led to a popping sound as toe hit chair leg, and, finally, which led to a me flowing to my seat on the floor in pain saying, "Ow, ow, ow, ow" (or possibly some slightly stronger vocabulary), tears welling into my eyes.

By the next morning, my foot had turned blue across the top from beneath the little toe to just beneath the middle toe.  This seemed worse bruising than in prior years when I'd broken a toe. (Indeed, it looked worse than my husband's foot looked a few months ago when he broke his toe.)  And I was in considerable pain. It nearly made me sick to put weight on it, most shoes were intolerable, and walking was a farcical series of limps and hops. 

Nevertheless, that Monday, that morning, was my son's first day of kindergarten. I couldn't miss that. So I painfully slipped an Oxford onto my foot, took the maximum amount of Advil advisable, and hobbled the two-tenths of a mile from our house to the school while he rode his bike up ahead with his dad walking next to him.  Little thing, the first day of school, maybe, but a milestone, and I wasn't going to miss escorting my boy in for his first big day.

Later that morning, I went to the doctor to get the foot checked out. No physician could see me, but the PA could. She examined my foot and X-rayed it. Initially, she didn't see a fracture, told me it was probably a weird sprain or strain -- hence, the weird bruising. Two to three weeks to heal, she said.  Take Advil and stay off of it for a couple of weeks.

A few days later, however, she called and left me a voice message to call her back.  So I did:  my internist had read the X-Ray and saw a tiny hairline fracture in the second phalange in my pinkie toe.  The tiny break would take 6 to 8 weeks to heal. And meanwhile, I should treat it with care -- tape it to the next toe, if I wanted -- and take Advil for the pain, or they could prescribe something stronger.

So here I am three weeks from the minuscule break and, still, the only shoes I can really tolerate are the Oxfords, a pair of Keen hiking shoes, and a pair of running shoes.  For someone who likes crazy (if sensible) shoes, this is not an ideal set of circumstances.  You can imagine, then, how I have tired of working variations on the theme of this look . . . .

 Starting the fourth week of my broken toe-ness, I thought I'd try some block heeled Mary Janes.  They have a fairly ample toe box, and aren't THAT, high.  They're sensible shoes!  These should be fine, I thought.  I could ditch the Oxfords.

I felt fine in them until about half way between my parking garage and the office. That's when my not-yet-healed toe started to throb a bit.  By the end of the day I was discreetly hobbling, and cursing my shoe maven vanity.  So it was back to the Oxfords for the rest of my recovery.  Small thing, maybe, the choice of shoe, except when it's not. 

And that brings me to yoga.  The broken toe had kept me from attending yoga class for two weeks.  Too painful for a down dog!  But this past weekend, I thought I'd give it a go.  I missed going to yoga:  good for the body, good for the mind, good for the spirit.  I missed the stretch and the strength and the balance.

It was great to be back.  I felt refreshed.  I could painlessly do almost every pose and move I was asked to do, except I couldn't balance on my right side.  The first time I tried to balance on the right, pain shot up the right side of my leg from my pinkie toe to my knee.

See?  You use your pinkie toe to balance.  Even in your shoes, you grip down with that toe (and the other toes too) to give you a more secure balancing surface.  This is why in yoga you sometimes hear the instructor tell you to lift your toes up and spread them back down before you attempt a balancing pose.  It's meant to really activate those toes to help you balance.  And when I did that very thing this past Saturday, I learned that I could not grip the floor with my broken toe.  So, without the participation of that one small part of my body, I could not keep the rest of my body from tipping to one side or the other.  Balancing on the left, I was all grace and zen.  Balancing on the right, I was a little like Jerry Lewis doing a pratfall.

The tiniest things matter.  Tiny mistakes, tiny decisions, tiny moments, tiny bones.  It's hard to remember sometimes that, as the trite old saying goes, "The little things mean a lot."  But they do.  Sometimes the littlest things mean the difference between standing tall and gracefully, or falling flat on your face.

I'll be glad when I can balance on the right side again.

But, for now, as my toe continues to heal, I will appreciate the small consolation that I can at least balance on the left.  And I will draw what good I can from a painful and annoying bone break that has limited my sartorial choices:  This broken toe has taught me to be a little more mindful of all of the small things in my world and, I hope, made me a better person by hobbling me first.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Return of the Mommy Blogger

I had a lot to say in my first few years of motherhood -- about feminism, about the mommy wars, about sewing, about cooking, about working motherhood, about motherhood, full stop.  And, as it turns out, I had a lot of time (little did I perceive it) to write all of those thoughts, and feelings, and opinions, and occasional silliness or vitriol down.

I've slowed down.  But I'm still thinking.  I still have opinions, thoughts.

Perhaps, I've settled in.

I just spent some time -- just now before starting to compose this post -- scrolling through my rather impressive library of past blog posts.  I was trying to come up with an idea for today's post.

Maybe there's an unfinished post (and there are a few), I thought, that I could dust off, revise and complete, and then post.  Voila!  I'd be back at it.

But the thing is, even this one post I'd written back in May 2016 about the whole transpersons in the bathroom controversy seems stale now.  It's nearly complete, that post -- I just needed to add a couple of links and a photo of Chaz Bono.  Maybe I could go ahead and post it as a nostalgia-for-the-beginning-of-the-summer-of-2016 post . . . .  Maybe . . . .  I need to find a good picture of Chaz Bono.

I've felt guilty about not writing.  What have I been doing?

Oh, a little bit of this:

A little bit of that:

Certainly, I write a lot at work.  It's 90% of my job.  But, you know, it's not "fun writing."  It's not for me.  It's important, sure, and I need to do it well (and I do, I flatter myself), but it's not self-expression.  (Though, occasionally, even legal writing can be creative.)

It's not exactly that I have writer's block.  But that I, oh, I don't know . . . .

And, I guess that's it, I don't know.

In the halcyon days of my early 40s, so young and brash, I knew things, and I wrote them down for you good people to read.  As I age, I feel more confident in myself and less confident in the world and how it works or should work.

And I certainly care far less about what others think of me and what I do.  And I care less about what others do too as long as they (a) don't bother me and (b) are not harming others.  With those caveats, if you want to make your own red food coloring out of beets rather than buy it at the store -- even though that sounds like a soul sucking vortex of wasted time and effort for little appreciation and only a vaguely red product -- I have no real beef with that.  More power to you.  Who am I to judge?  But please don't make me do it with you.  I'll just go to the Kroger and pick up some McCormick's gel food coloring and be done with it, thank you very much.

I think I've been focusing more on changing myself than changing opinions or the world.  I meditate in the morning.  I work out more.  I do yoga.  And yet I write less.  But that's no good.  Writing is part of that personal change process too . . . or so I am given to understand.

Anyway . . . .  My kid has gotten older.  And raising him becomes more and more fun and more and more difficult.  Because . . . . see?, when I started this blog, he didn't have opinions, not real ones, not considered ones. He was a cute blob of giggling potential.  Slowly, he grew, in brain and body.

And now:  now, he has opinions.  He can debate -- not argue, debate.  My five year old child can form a coherent argument and respond with retorts so pointed, factual, profound and biting that it can set his parents on their heels.  And we're lawyers.  Being rhetorically bested by a five year old when between yourself and your spouse there are 40 years of legal experience is humbling and perspective giving.

Still, having a kid with seriously great verbal skills means that talking to him is tremendous fun (when you're not at loggerheads).  He's funny and quick and tells interesting and creative stories.  (I've always said that I like little kids better than babies because you can have amazing conversations with little kids, and I stand by that opinion.)

And he has interests and real talents -- he's no longer a ball of potential.  He is a ball of accomplishments and potential.  I look at him and I see the baby, and I see the little boy, and I see the projection of the college freshman.  This kid is interesting.  His interests have rekindled long-forgotten interests of my own.  Rather than writing about being his mother, I find that I just want to be his mother.  Less reflection, less contemplation, more in the moment.  Less meta, more physical.

And yet, I do like to write.

But what should I write about?  I don't know.  See?  That's where my head is, now, "I don't know."

But I'm going to try to come back to this blog, fresh, and back to writing.  I'm not sure what I'll write, but I think I should write.  It's a thing that I like to do.  Some days it may be about momming, I'm sure. I suspect many times, it will just be whatever the heck I might be thinking when I sit down to write.  So, maybe, sometimes, there could be scary monsters here.  I can't tell . . . because I don't know.

This isn't a promise of regularity, but an aspiration, an intention.  I promise myself (and you, if you need that from me) that I will try.

At any rate, welcome back to my blog, if you've not visited in awhile.

Or welcome, new visitor, if you have stumbled in here for the first time.  I've got a few years of essays for you to peruse if you're bored.  Or not . . . just start here.  I don't mind.  I'll just write.

Now, I need to go find a photograph of Chaz Bono so I can very belatedly publish that post about bathrooms . . . maybe.

Blogger Time Warp: OMG, There's a Y Chromosome in the Potty!

[This post was originally composed on May 1, 2016 when all we could talk about was the potty.]

Holy crap, people, will you calm down about the bathroom?

Transwomen -- that is, people with Y chromosomes who identify as women -- are not dressing as women and going into ladies' rooms in order to molest grown women or little girls. They are going in there to pee.  They want out of there as quickly as you and I do.

Oh, sure, some perverts/aggressive men may dress in women's weeds and pretend to be trans in order to molest women, but my gut tells me that the percentage of rapist who do this is a small one.  My sense is that a true predictor on the prowl and looking for a lone and vulnerable victim is going to enter a ladies room to nab their prey with or without a dress on.

Nevertheless, there's been a disturbing trend based upon this bathroom transphobia:  Y chromosome persons identifying as men, real He-Men men, have been entering ladies rooms to stop actual women from going to the ladies room because these women didn't look feminine enough for these protectors of the social order, these bathroom gender conformity vigilantes.

So ladies who do not look lady enough in the estimation of random strangers have to prove that they are in-fact lady enough to use the ladies room?

How does that work?

Do they drop trou?

Do they flash a boob?

Do they carry around a copy of their birth certificate?

What about this guy?

This guy is Chaz Bono. He was born Chastity Bono. Two X chromosomes.

It's okay for him to use the ladies room, right?  I mean, it's mandatory, right?, because two X chromosomes, and all.

You see the problem here?

Well, maybe you see the obvious problem, but what about the feminist angle?

The feminist angle, Working Mom?  What do you mean?  This is a trans/transphobic issue, not a feminist issue.

No, there's where you are wrong:  Because implicit in all of this is an argument about what it means to be a woman and what a REAL woman looks like.

If you're kind of a butch chick, or a little bit of an old fashion 1970s tomboy, you are, apparently, de facto suspect.

No.  Guys like the ding-dongs who try to eject not-feminine-enough-by-their-subjective-standards women from the ladies room want women to look a certain way. They want us to be properly and traditionally feminine. And if we aren't, well, we should expect to be followed into the ladies room by (irony abounds) some man wanting you to prove your right to be in there.

Meanwhile, certain states want to pass laws (and have in some instances) to bar this person from the WC with the stick figure in a skirt:

(That's Laverne Cox, transwoman and star of Orange is the New Black, a television show of some sort that I am barely aware of.)

Look, I am traditionally feminine-looking most of the time (but, hey, weekends: baggy jeans, ball cap, baggy sweatshirt and I may become gender-not-so-clear), but I have friends who are not feminine looking ladies. And they deserve to use the potty in peace same as anyone, without having to prove their bona fides as an actual owner of Two Xs in order earn the right to pee in the room with a stick figure in a skirt on the door.

In short:  People need to CFTD about bathrooms.  Go to the bathroom.  Do your business.  And keep your nose out of the business of anyone else who may have entered that bathroom in proximate time with you to do their business.  Chances are things will be just fine. Because, chances are, they're not interested in your shit either.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

MEternity Leave

Seriously, are we really going to have to have this conversation?  I guess we really are. 

Meghann Foye has written a novel in which the main character fakes a pregnancy in order to get paid maternity leave. She calls it "MEternity" leave.

Foye says that she came up with the concept when she became envious of her co-workers who were parents who had this ready-made reason to leave work early: the kids. And, she said, the childfree folks were expected to pick up the slack. 

The fact is, before I had kids, I had similar thoughts and similar feelings. In a sense, I know where she's coming from. 

But the solution isn't coming up with this kind of offensive concept of "MEternity" leave, which implies, at least, that Foye thinks maternity leave is some sort of mommy vacation.

Maternity leave, lest there be any doubt, is a 24/7 job that you are thrown into after a major medical procedure, with only a vague notion of how to do it, and with the expectation that you perform at peak levels at all times with little or no sleep.  So maternity leave is the opposite of the relaxing, reflective break that Foye seems to imagine that it is.

And it's also not alway free, not alway a paid three months away from the office.  My maternity leave was only (partially) paid because I used every single hour of vacation and sick leave I had built up in order to draw a salary while I took it. And even then I took leave without pay in order to stay home for 11 weeks after the birth of my son.  So, sure, I got 12 weeks guaranteed, but that was unpaid unless I had the vacation/sick leave built up to turn it into paid leave.

AND THEN, I came back from maternity leave with no vacation and sick leave at all. You end up having to take a lot of time off with a new baby -- they get sick, they get YOU sick, you have to take them for regular well-child visits, etc. It literally took five years for me to build up enough vacation hours so that my family could take a one week vacation to Disneyland.

So yeah, parents are absent from work a lot more than nonparents, and we leave early, but it's not all light and roses and relaxation. Sometimes, most of the time, it's because, e.g., your kid is sick and has been sick for weeks and every drug they use to try to cure him works kinda, but not really, or he has an allergic reaction to them, and you find it is four months later and you are still dealing with this shit. (To give a fairly specific example....)

Parenthood is stressful.

And missing all the work is stressful because we don't like falling behind. And we don't like leaving stuff to our coworkers to cover. We care about you.  You are our friends. My two best co-worker buddies are both childfree. I don't like things falling on them because of my status as a parent. They have important things going on in their lives too.  We parents, if we are at all decent humans, feel guilty that sometimes our crappy assignments fall on our childfree peers because we are out with the kid. And we try very hard to make sure that doesn't happen. 

But, I get it, Meghann Foye. I really do. Because before I had a child...I had those thoughts too. I did.  But I was wrong. And so are you. 

The solution you seek is not MEternity leave. It is a universal paid sabbatical, one that even parents could take to explore other interests or just binge read every book we've wanted to read but haven't gotten around to for the last six years.

And the companion to that solution is a shift in attitude in both the worker and in management regarding expectations at the office. Management should not expect childfree employees to "pick up the slack" every time.  Childfree coworkers should not expect that of themselves.  People should be expected to have personal lives. 

What you want is a fundamental shift in attitude toward work. You want your personal life, not your job, to be the most important thing. And that requires a psychic shift on the part of the individual. That happened for me when I realized how miserable and resentful I was at my law firm job. I resolved to fix that.

And as regards management, if they won't shift their expectations, maybe a job change is in order. I did that too, left the law firm and went to a more flexible, less demanding job.

And finally, Foye wants all women to support each other, to understand each other, be they parents or child free.  But the means of her expression of her hopes for all women -- this MEternity leave concept -- has done exactly the opposite.

It has driven a resentful, and indeed, ignorant, wedge between the workers with children and without, one that need not be there. We can all try to understand each other better. This is as ridiculous and petty as The Mommy Wars. It's hard for all of us, Meghann, and, P.S., virtually every one of us with kids has been a childfree coworker of a parent in the past. We do understand your plight. Please try to understand us too.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Why do Legos drive me crazy?

My house is covered in Legos.  I mean, literally, they are everywhere. 

On The Boy's art table.... 

On the breakfast table....

On the kitchen bar....

And my nightstand....

The bathroom....

On top of the Working Dad's piano....

Welcome to Lego City!

And Ninjago!

Uh-oh, looks like the Empire and/or the First Order and/or the Rebels and/or the Resistance and/or Nexo Knights have taken over Sodor!

Of course, part of it could be my slatternly housekeeping style.  And it does kind of get to me that there's SO MUCH!  I mean we don't have enough flat surfaces in our house for them all.  Sometimes I get to the point where I want to just put up a Lego embargo. No more room, no more sets!

Disassemble them you say?  Noooo, not an option. Once built, the Boy wants them to stay built so he can play with them.

He loves them. And he's good at building them. And then he plays with them. Imaginatively. He gives them voices, makes up stories. It's a joy to watch. 

So far, this has been my solution:

It's imperfect, and, inevitably, things fall apart, but at least it's an attempt to keep them from piling ever higher on our tables and window seats. 

So, now, I guess, it's confession time: it's not just him. No, I have to admit that it's me too. I also like to build. 

This is my Scooby Doo plane and Mystery Machine. 

Nothwithstanding the fact that I have no idea where to put the Legos once built, I bought that Mystery Machine set for myself because I wanted to build it. (My brother gave me the plane for my last birthday.)

These Lego minifigures are also mine. 

That worried Unikitty: mine. 

I bought this set and asked the Boy to build it for me because I wanted it:  It's Hera Syndulla in a tiny version of her ship, The Ghost. (Star Wars Rebels....)

Chinese knock-off Ahsoka Tano minifigure, mine too.

And lest you think that it's just me and the Boy, may I introduce you to the Working Dad's piggie man minifig, four-armed Lord Garmadon, and Lego Creator airplane. 

We are a Lego family.

And just like any family member might, sometimes you love the Legos and sometimes they make you a little nuts.

So we will keep building.  It's fun. It's often challenging (especially when tired or after a glass of wine).

It's something we can do a family.

So yes, we'll build every Lego set that comes our way. And we will free-build with the loose Legos too (which must be kept separate from the built sets, of course). 

After all, I've already started stocking up for Christmas. (No, really, I have.)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Clean Your Plate

Last night, a friend and I took our boys to an indoor trampoline park and out for dinner afterwards to a burger joint.  In the course of conversation, we were discussing our attitudes to food, and our lifetime odysseys with food, and diet, and other attempts to lose weight.

If you know me, or see me regularly, you might have noticed I've recently (over the past 6ish months) lost a little weight (a little over 20 pounds). I did it with the help of my doctor under his monitoring.  (I'm not quite finished losing all the weight my doctor and I agreed I should lose, but I'm close.)  Because, I decided or came to understand with his advice and counsel, that, after all, weight is not an aesthetic thing. It is a physical condition of the body.... Too much of it is not a moral failing, but can do damage to other systems within the body.  And I want to avoid that damage, if I can, especially as I move ever closer to the big 5-0.

But this post is not about my weight loss or how you do it or the reasons one might or might not lose weight.  It's not even about how difficult it can be. It's about an epiphany I had when I was talking to my friend. 

We were discussing how we'd recently had the same change in attitude towards food:  nothing is off limits. If we want chocolate, or French fries, or wine, or bread, then we have it. It's about satiation without binges, we've concluded, and not restrictions.  (And though I have lost this weight, I know that I still have the capacity to binge.)

And I told her something:  I'd ordered fries for my son and me to share at dinner. He had a hot dog. I had a black bean veggie burger. We left maybe half the fries on the table when we left the restaurant and I told my friend that, before, before working with my doctor and having monthly discussions with him about food and attitudes toward food, I would have eaten the entire thing of fries, even though I was kind of full. I would have polished them off because I wouldn't have wanted to see them trashed. Then I would have been stuffed. Not satisfied, but stuffed.

Since last night, I've thought a lot about that admission about the fries. I really have never appreciated, until now, how difficult NOT cleaning my plate has been for me over the years. And so I'd eat and eat, even if I was full. Sometimes, I'd eat because it was expected of me.  "It's dinner time. I know you didn't get lunch until 3, but it's time to eat. So dig in."  Sometimes, I'd eat because I just couldn't see it go to waste (trite, but it's "there are starving kids in Ethiopia, so eat your dinner" kind of thinking).

Just understanding that I don't have to clean my plate anymore has been huge, and I didn't even realize it until I had that chat with my sweet friend last night.

Why am I sharing?  I guess, I'm writing this to say that we all have hang ups that trip us up and cause us to fail. And, many times, they are hidden even from our conscious selves. Sometimes it takes the help of a good professional (like my internist in this case) and a chat with a good friend to shine a light on them.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Nonexhaustive List of Letters I Need to Write to More-or-Less Famous People

To The Barenaked Ladies for writing the The Ninjas, which was guaranteed to calm my infant son when he was fussy. 

To the makers of Planes Fire and Rescue for making a movie that is at the same time enticing enough to watch, yet soporific enough to put a small child to sleep, when every other nap method fails.

To the makers of stickers and poster board for reasons that should be obvious. 

To They Might Be Giants for recording Why Does The Sun Shine? so my son now knows the word, "incandescent"...actually, I should thank them for the entire album, Here Comes Science.

To the estate of Mr. Rogers, whose 1970s self can still engage my 21st century son.

To the makers of Schoolhouse Rock for the same thing, especially the cartoons about numbers. 

To the makers of the new Electric Company because that show actually has taught my kid a thing or two about reading and language.  ("Silent E is a ninja....")

To James Taylor for writing the most reliable lullaby for a four year old, Sweet Baby James.

To LEGO for making my kid an engineer (also, an obsessive collector, but we'll overlook that for now).

Again to LEGO, and, specifically, the creators of Ninjago for being the most direct influence on my child wanting to take taekwondo. 

To Neil deGrasse Tyson to let him know that my son is glad that he's not dead (unlike Carl Sagan)...also that the entire family enjoys his new version of Cosmos (and are also all glad that he's not dead).