Monthly Archives: May 2017

I’m wearing these yoga pants ironically

It’s no secret that when you become a mom, you go through a bit of an identity crisis. It can be hard to remember who you were when it feels like who you are now is someone who spends all of her time cleaning up mystery stains. Is that poop or chocolate? Apple juice or pee? I used to be on a first name basis with the mayor and win journalism awards. Cottage cheese or vomit?

Which is why these days I always dread the moment when someone asks me “so, what do you do?”

And they always ask it. Always. Because we are Americans and as Americans we need to immediately know what you do with your life so we can then determine how harshly to judge you.

God bless the U.S.A.

I didn’t always hate this quirk of American society. I proudly declared “journalist” for a long time. I worked hard to become a journalist. I loved being a journalist. It was a badge I wore with honor.

But the waters muddied a bit when my husband and I moved to Boston. Unable to get a full-time job in my field, I started working from home, writing a regular column for a handful of different newspapers and websites. I’d also occasionally take on a freelance writing project. So, I told people I was a “freelance writer.” But since that wasn’t as clear-cut as “journalist,” I’d have to describe what that entailed and watch as people’s eyes slowly glassed over because they were just being polite and oh, is that Susan over there? I should go say hello. Nice talking to you, Amy, was it?

And then we had kids and the waters got downright murky. Because now my main job was keeping those two suicidal lunatics alive while trying to squeeze in some writing time on the weekends.

“But I’m still a writer!” I’d practically scream at people, less they be confused as to my real identity. Sure, “technically” I stayed home and “raised” my children, but that didn’t make me, you know, a “mom.” It’s more like a hobby, really. I’m wearing these yoga pants ironically!

It took me awhile, but I finally realized why this stressed me out so much. The current language we have for women without a clear-cut “job” is awful. Take the word “housewife.” I hate that word. I didn’t marry my house. I mean, that thing is filthy. Even if it proposed, I’d politely decline and then hand it a broom and whisper “I think you know why.” (And “homemaker” is even worse. Especially if you have kids. Because when you have kids, you aren’t “making” a “home” so much as you are trying to prevent said kids from burning it down to the ground).

I also loathe the term “stay-at-home mom.” I don’t stay at home. No mom does. We’re constantly lugging those adorable damn kids everywhere. And yet, no one refers to us as Playground-Library-Gas Station-Coffeeshop-Liquor Store moms.

Alas, these are the terms we are stuck with if we are the ones primarily taking care of the domestic side of life (and fellas, I haven’t forgotten about you; “househusband” and “stay-at-home dad,” even when used tongue-in-cheek, is equally inaccurate and ridiculous).

Can you imagine if we referred to everyone by their most common location and their role in the family? Oh hey, let me introduce you to my other half, Ryan. He’s an office husband.

Or, hey, nice to see you, Sheryl, I’d like you to meet my bar grandpa.

This is Lila, my stay-at-the-yoga-studio sister-in-law.

My crackhouse cousin had a rough upbringing, what with being raised by my prison uncle and my motel aunt.

Why yes, I have two teenagers, a couch son and a Burger King parking lot daughter.

You get the picture.

Why do we still use these terms? Even “working mom” is a bit of a misnomer. No one calls my husband a “working dad.” He’s a graphic designer. Who happens to have kids.

And I wouldn’t even care about how inaccurate the current words are that we use to describe women who deal in the domestic arts, except for the fact that they have a faint whiff of negativity surrounding them. Housewives are considered vapid or desperate or gold diggers. Stay-at-home moms are boring or unambitious or lazy. Homemakers are busy wearing gingham dresses and churning butter in the corner of the kitchen.

So, it’s time we start changing these outdated and, quite frankly, unfair titles. I haven’t come up with the new terms just yet (what with spending all my time sniffing mystery stains and all) but maybe something like “I parent full-time” or “I’m a professional mom” or “I’m my toddler’s juice bitch.”

Or maybe all of us ladies can take a page from the Tyrion Lannister playbook and when people ask us what we do, we coolly respond “I drink, and I know things.”

Because that one is 100 percent accurate.

 

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Oh, the places you’ve been

My little brother is graduating high school.

And yes, if you’re doing the math in your head, let me just stop you right there. There is a 17 year gap in our ages. I joke that my mom needed that long to recover from my birth and let’s just leave it at that instead of getting into the whole “she was a single mom for a long time and then finally found love” story.

Besides, this is his story I want to tell. Because his story is extraordinary and one I never thought I’d tell with this happy of an ending.

And his story starts on a warm July day when suddenly my mom’s water broke in the middle of the living room. It was three months ahead of schedule. It was a ghastly shade of pale red. It was a real life nightmare.

My stepfather raced her to the hospital. I stayed behind. Just me and this awful giant red stain in an empty house. I have a distinct memory of sobbing while trying to clean it up. I then have an even more distinct memory of my grandma telling me to kindly suck it up, buttercup, and go to the hospital because my mom needed me.

So I did.

One pound, three ounces. That’s what he weighed. One pound, three ounces. He could fit into the palm of my hand if he wasn’t in an incubator, barely visible underneath all the medical equipment being used to keep him alive. He stayed in that incubator for months. You had to scrub your hands, and wear a hospital gown and medical mask, just to even stare down at him inside this tiny glass case that, in my opinion, looked much too similar to a tiny coffin.

And he did almost die. A lot. At one point, the doctors were so sure he was going to die that they let his parents hold his frail, tiny body because they may not have gotten another chance.

And yet, he defied the odds. He was our tiny Han Solo, declaring “never tell me the odds” with each breath he kept defiantly taking.

He wasn’t out of the woods, of course. And for a long time, it felt like we should all just build a log cabin and set up permanent residence in those woods because he was never getting out.

But he defied those odds too. No matter what long, impossible-to-pronounce, medical terminology they threw at him, he beat them all.

And before I could fully comprehend the miracle I had just witnessed, he was healthy enough to run around and annoy me just like any old little brother.

But even then those pesky damn odds wouldn’t leave him alone. He struggled to catch up with his peers. He struggled in school. Speech problems, lung problems, hormone issues. It was exhausting to watch. I can’t imagine the Herculean strength it took him and our parents to actually live it. Doctors, specialists, tutors. It was a never-ending revolving door.

It would be easy to turn bitter under circumstances like these. Or to give up. Or to feel the perpetual victim.

But not him.

He struggled with all his tiny willpower right from the beginning just to stay alive and he’s never stopped living since. He has traveled the world. He writes. He cooks. He takes beautiful photos.

And he loves.

That’s what always gets me the most. His capacity to love. Everything that he has been through and what does he do? He makes me feel like the most beloved person on the planet. He has shined a beacon of unconditional love directly onto my face for as long as I can remember. No matter what I did or how well I played the role of annoyed (much) older sister, he gave me affection and admiration that I’m still not sure I’ve earned.

And because of that, I have always, and will always, try to be the person my brother thinks I am.

I don’t know if I ever told him that. But what better time than upon this unbelievably beautiful day, when I get to see him in a cap and gown after watching him knock down every single last obstacle that stood in his way? Because while it’s tradition upon a graduation to tell the graduate about, oh, the places he’ll go, today, I felt it was important to remind him of all the places he’s been.

I love you, Brandon. You are an amazing human and your fight to get to this point illustrates the best parts of humanity.

Congratulations, little brother.