I have to be honest right upfront…you know that shirt that’s been making its social media rounds
No? Haven’t seen that one yet? Maybe it just pops up for me because Facebook knows me too well. I AM the world’s okayist mom. All. The. Time.
Sometimes I like to daydream that maybe, just maybe, someone someday will pick me up and plop me on a platform to award me the World’s BEST Mom gold medal, but then I feel my daughters’ little fingers (yes, daugherS’ plural, and yes, fingerS plural…no typos there) poking their way into my nose and I snap out of my daydream and whine at them to please stop, mommy needs a little break. And it’s true, mommies always need little breaks, right? We constantly push children off of us in order to cook dinner. We relish the times when we’re able to grocery shop by ourselves. We vie for the day when we’ll be able to take a shower in peace and quiet again instead of being crowded by tiny little butts, connected to tiny little heads all crying because they have soap in their eyes.
We put a pool in our backyard this summer. I know…you should feel jealous. It’s awesome. Better than awesome. It’s a double helping of incredible complete with extra gravy. We made the conscious decision to not sign our daughters up for any summer camps and took the leap to say no to unnecessary obligations, trips, logistics, and any other noises that buzzed in our ears. In the words of Dick Van Dyke as Edgar Hopper in What a Way to Go, we chose to “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!”
And it was lovely. I committed to only cooking easy pool-side meals instead of trying to impress everyone with my incredible gourmet cuisine (note the word trying). I didn’t feel like a bum for not putting makeup on or doing my hair because, hey, I was just going to jump in the pool. I left my phone inside all day because who wants to risk their precious device getting splashed by giggling children?? I bought about a gazillion new swimming suits and got into the pool with my children - letting them climb all over me. It’s somehow more tolerable in a pool…I don’t know.
We had some friends over one day and I joked that it was shaping up to be the least productive summer ever! My friend looked out at the pool where our kids where splashing and laughing with the biggest smiles on their faces - like there wasn’t a care in the world, and he asked me, “Don’t you mean the MOST productive summer?” And of course, he was right. I was there. I was fully present with my family. And it was SO FREAKIN’ FUN! For a couple of blissful months, I let go of adulting and got to be on the same level as my kids. I fully earned that WORLD’S BEST MOM gold medal.
that's not actually me in the pool with my daughters..it's their swim teacher. I was just too lazy to look for another picture. Call it summer mode
Until one day when my daughters wanted to run a lemonade stand. Let me paint the picture: my girls don’t half-ass their lemonade stands. They insist on making fresh-squeezed lemonade table side for their customers. This means a trip to the grocery store because who has two dozen lemons laying around. Plus, I’m in charge of boiling down a simple syrup for them. They must have their insanely awkward-to-carry picnic table complete with umbrella hauled down to the bottom of the driveway. They’d be crushed if I didn’t scrounge up their cash box. Yes, they have a cash box. All things said, it’s not a huge deal, but it’s enough of a deal that it’s sometimes hard to say yes to. As most things parent-related are, right? It’s like, if I come up with an idea of something do to, I’m totally game. But, the second they come up with an idea and ask me to help? I get all shifty and come up with a million excuses why I can’t participate. And it’s always the dumbest stuff!
“Hey mom, could you read this book to me?”
“Uhh….well…not right now. I really need to…uh….poop.”
- or -
“Mommy, will you play dress up with me?”
“Sorry, I need to start dinner.”
“Didn’t we just eat lunch?”
“Yeah…it’s going to take a long time to prep.”
Why is saying yes to our kids so hard? Seriously, I don’t get it. So, I choked down all my excuses and agreed to help out with the lemonade stand. And, of course, as anyone could predict, it was (and always is) awesome.
We made the choice to have children and took full responsibility for all the…well, responsibilities of parenting. And it’s a total catch 22, because all the responsibilities of parenting keep us from having fun with our kids! But, my friend was exactly right - any time I can give those responsibilities the finger and be fully present with my kids over being an adult? Those are my most productive moments.
So, I'm in L.A. at the BlogHer annual conference right now (#blogher16), and as you can imagine - there is a lot of estrogen flying around here. Which, I must say, is really awesome. A roomful of kickass women is a powerful thing and I'm on a major high from it.
BUT, there's one buzz word that has been circulating a bit around here and its bringing up some feelings for me: FEMINISM.
Honestly, that word has been gently gnawing at me ever since I received one of the first reviews for my book, I'd Rather Wear Pajamas, last fall. You see, my story is all about finding my own version of strong after discovering that stumbling around trying to fit into other people's ideals for me just doesn't work. This reviewer started off by giving my book glowing praise, but then ultimately bashed it because at one teensy tiny point, I mention in a single sentence that I don't consider myself to be a stand-on-the-rooftop-and-declare-female-rights feminist. The reviewer made the argument that feminism is all about giving women the right to do anything a man can do. Fair enough. Could a man go off to find his own version of strong after discovering that he doesn't fit into other people's ideals of him? Sure. So, by this definition, Yes I am a feminist. I cowered and apologized to her directly, saying it was an ignorant oversight on my part (probably a very UNfeminist thing to do) and went about my life. But, it really got me thinking about what it means to be a feminist. I mean, isn't hoping for equality for yourself as well as everyone around you more than feminism? Isn't it humanism?
That was months ago. I've since received dozens more reviews, mostly great, and some not so great. But none of them have stuck with me as much as that one feminist comment. I've lost sleep over contemplating what it would look like to re-release my book just to get rid of that one word. Would that make a difference? Would it make more people happy? Would it be authentic to me? Do I fully embrace ALL the aspects of feminism?
Let me stop here and just say that I am 100% in support of feminism and I FULLY agree with the notion that women should be allowed all the same rights as men. Completely onboard with that. Sign, seal, deliver. And by that definition alone, I am a proud feminist. But, there's a darker side of feminism that I see creeping here and there, which makes me cringe. The little section of feminism (and I'm well aware that it's a small percentage of the movement) that pushes men down in order to let women rise up. I mean, in having all the same rights as men, shouldn't that mean we don't put ourselves above men?
As the mother of three young girls, I want nothing more than for them to grow up knowing that they could be an architect or an engineer or the freaking president of the United States. I tell them that day in and day out and will be there as their biggest fan in anything they choose to do. BUT, I don't want to encourage them to belittle men to get there. I mean, isn't that just separating out the sexes again?
My daughter has a shirt that says Strong Like a Girl, which I thought was a fun, empowering little phrase. But, my daughter - six years old and forever wiser than me - asked me what it meant. I explained that girls can be strong, just like boys. To which she responded, "So, why doesn't it just say strong like a person?" And I was speechless.
Part of our "homework" for this conference was to watch a handful of feminist tv ads and to vote for the ones we thought best captured the movement, or whatever. Some of the ads were legitimately awesome. Some of them even made me cry (cough, cough - anything featuring a dad and his daughter). A++ to these kinds of messages that simply and strongly say: Girls and women are amazing. That statement can genuinely stand on its own.
But, some of the ads actually made me feel uncomfortable in the way they either belittled men in order to boost up women, or the way they hyper-focused on how great it is that women can do the same things men can. I mean, isn't that teaching my daughters that we have to really put a lot of effort into saying girls are just as good as boys? Or, even worse, teaching them that they need to beat out boys in order to be better?
So, I guess what I'm saying is, I'm choosing humanism instead of feminism. I'm choosing an -ism that respects every human, regardless of sex. I'm choosing to teach my daughters not to strive to be better, or get more, than boys, but to strive to be the best humans they can be. And to help the people around them - men and women - to do the same.
Like what you see? Check out my quirky memoir about finding your path in life.
I'D RATHER WEAR PAJAMAS