“We want everyone to be comfortable bringing their ‘whole self to work.’”
If you have participated in any presentations from your company’s inclusion office you know that there is an effort to get people to become more comfortable being their authentic selves at work. Let’s be clear, I am here for it. I think that discrimination against people for unlawful reasons is wrong and should be stopped. I am supportive of the laws being passed to make clear that people can’t be discriminated against for wearing their natural hair, being in a same sex relationship, etc.
In a word, I am against all of the “isms”.
Still, I do question whether all of this “comfort” is going too far.
I was recently at a work employee appreciation luncheon. Because it was summer, they were grilling food. I guess somebody thought It would be cool to make it feel like an old school cook out, like at your mama’s house because they hired a DJ. As a working mom, I admired the efficiency of combining work and fun. However, in this case, I think it went too far...
You see, this DJ was L-I-T! He was a singing, rapping, dancing kind of DJ. He kind of reminded me of a Black version of the inappropriate wedding singer in the Hangover, gyrations and all! I’m not sure what he played later in the day. However, when I was there he was playing “The Wobble”, the extended version. If you’re unfamiliar with the song, I’ll share. It is a line dancing song that starts like this, “Hey big girl won’t you back it up. Won’t you back it up!” This DJ was doing the running man enthusiastically encouraging the “big girls” to back it up.
The whole thing got me thinking. I should remind you that I used to practice employment law. So, my mind started wondering things like, “Is it OK that we are referring to women as girls and then calling them big and the asking them to back “it” up??? Perhaps being called big is offensive. Maybe they identify as small. What exactly are the parameters for backing it up at work???”
All that thinking nearly got me worked up in a tizzy.
And while, I did not find comforting answers to my questions, I did know one thing for certain. Even though I LOVE the song and LOVE doing “The Wobble”, there was no way I was dancing to it at my work employee appreciation luncheon. I was comfortable leaving that part of myself at home. After all, it was not my mama’s cookout!
"The Wobble" (V.I.C) Flash Mob - Texas A&M Wobble (An Official Video) - YouTube
“Remember it was only about 250 years ago this nation began as an idea where everybody had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Heinz History Center President Dr. Andy Masich said.
I'm sure that you can tell that I am a little behind with my blog posts. Vacation, combined with living, combined with working and raising three kids has gotten me a little off track. It's funny because I literally have lots of unwritten posts in my head and on pieces of paper, and yet...
I do like to connect with my readers on holidays though.
National Holidays Unite Us
Holidays, especially national ones, are the tie that bind aren't they? We all live different lives. We have different responsibilities. And we have different beliefs. Still, on national holidays, we rally. Because most of these occur in summer months, at least the ones I get off, we are like all grilling food, making our favorites sides and spending time with friends and family. And, if we are lucky, we get to enjoy some fireworks and some firewater! ;-)
Today, my interactions were friends were all virtual. However, I did have live interactions with family. My family and I swam at my parents pool. My brother stopped by and brought the grill and firewater (otherwise known as Effen Vodka).
It was a good day, a really good day. It didn't matter that we arrived two hours after we planned. (With three kids, late is our base line.) It didn't matter that we arrived after the hottest sun had passed over. It didn't matter that the baby was only in a swim diaper and not a swimsuit.
(In the interest of full disclosure, he also plays his water play at daycare the same way. You can judge me if you want. But I am positive that there are multiple pairs of perfectly good baby swim trunks in this house and I'll be damned if I buy another pair. Instead of judging, you should send me some positive juju to find the ones here or mail me some. Because I am resolute. I am not buying any!!!)
Working Moms Value Holidays More than Anybody
I actually think holidays mean more to working moms, especially in the summer. We are the moms who have our kids in camps because we aren't available to watch them. We are the moms who ignore the cries of our kids who would rather stay home than wake up and attend said camps because we have no other options. We are the moms who lament our "choice" to work because we know that our kids would rather be with us than be participating in the summer program we chose for them no matter how much we paid for said program...
But on holidays, we are like everybody else. We have the day off to love on our kids. And even though we might prefer to sleep on the couch and accept the gift that is a paid day that we don't have to work, we rally. We get up early. We shower. We dress our kids. We go out when we would rather stay in. And we make memories, albeit imperfect ones. And we are happy! Because at the end of the day, anytime we spend with our kids is perfect, isn't it???
I am back from vacation y'all! It was amazing. As far as I am concerned, it's not a vacation without a trip to the beach. So, I arranged for me and the kids to go to Virginia Beach with my mom, sister, aunts and cousins because Andre had to work. And, it was LOVELY! I felt like one of the sisters of the Ya Ya Sisterhood--summering without the menfolk!
I ENJOYED MY VACATION Guess what, I didn't check my email a lot when I was gone and didn't take one conference call. My job doesn't give you hours back when you work while on vacation, and since I am on call during the year, I decided to take this vacation as the gift that it was and really connected with my kids. We had ice cream, hung out on the beach, stayed up too late and did the things we don't get to do when school is in session. Thank God the School Year is Over Don't get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of education. I mean I was literally born in college. My parents had me while they were students. So, my earliest memories involve me on a college campus with college students who were charged with directing my path. Because of that, I have always been a bit of a nerd. Being smart, and being perceived as smart, has been a core value for as long as I can remember. Also, I'm a lawyer for Gods sake. My education has literally catapulted me into a different social class and changed my economic trajectory.
Despite this fondness for education, I have begun to loathe the school year. The rigors of it. The time constraints. And the homework are a big pain in my neck and cause great stress for my family. I am also not entirely sold on their utility. I actually believe in my heart of hearts that the most important lesson that a kid can learn in grades 1-4 is how to read well, to love learning, and to be a strong math student. Last year, my daughter gained none of those. She is a competent reader, but finds it boring. She believes that learning is a hassle, and has reduced math to a subject as opposed to something that can solve actual problems.
I was very disappointed with her schooling this year. She attended a public school and her class had 23 students. My daughter has been tested and has a high IQ. Yet, she struggled to achieve, despite parental involvement. I have no doubt that she'll get there. Still, in the meantime, I want her to know what it feels like to WIN.
Children, Especially Those of Color, Need to Learn How to Win
Winning can be as addictive as any drug. And losing can become normalized. I want my daughter to see herself as a winner. Period.
So, when we returned from vacation, I was thrilled to learn that our daughter was one of the top two fundraisers at her school for the "Jump Rope for Heart Campaign", a fundraising and physical activity program designed to help promote heart health and to raise funds for heart disease research and education. I was also proud of our daughter because heart disease has touched our family. My grandmother died in her sixties after having a heart attack and my father-in-law had quintuple bypass surgery two years ago.
One of her honors, beyond the prizes, was getting brought onto the field for a Pittsburgh Pirates game to get recognized. I was proud that she was acknowledged fr her efforts. She was so committed during the campaign, calling relatives and asking them to give. Her tenacity was inspiring and resulted in her victory. We were so proud of our little girl (and her elf, her aunt, @spelmangemini, who helped win the victory. Beyond that though, after this challenging academic year, I was grateful that she got to experience winning. You can judge me if you like, but I believe without equivocation that my daughter will master every lesson. What I am most concerned about at this stage is her spirit. I do not want her to learn to accept mediocrity or under-performing because somehow somebody has convinced her that it is her birthright. Instead, I want her to learn that hard work pays off. On Friday, she learned that lesson by experience and it was far more effective than any lecture. Guess what, surprise, surprise, it turns out that she LOVES to win. So, stay tuned, this girl will continue to do great things, including mastering her lessons. After all, this girl is a winner!!!
If you know and follow this blog you understand that I have an affinity for Charlotte, North Carolina. I used to live there. I feel like I grew up there. I feel like the friends I made there became my family. Those friends are also my people. They get me in a way that many don't. They appreciate the complexities and textures that make me who I am.
In a word, they are my people.
David and Tyyawdi Hands
So when people ask me questions like, "how do I do it all?" I immediately think of my friends who are doing what I am doing and so much more. In particular, I think of my friend, Tyyawdi Hands. She is a wife, and mother, and a freakin' judge--an elected official who is determining the fates of people every day. And besides being a judge, she is now the star of a reality TV show.
To be clear, Tyyawdi isn't a working mom in theory--like she says she has a job but never goes there. She is a judge. She holds court, researches cases and issues decisions. She is the veritable bad ass who is kicking ass and taking names. This power house, along with her husband David, is in a new show entitled, "To Have and To Hold, Charlotte".
Don't miss the show premiere's on the OWN network on June 1st at 10:00 PM. Also, follow The Ty Hands on Instagram so that you can keep up with the lives of her and the other cast members. Also, y'all, I am going to Charlotte to attend the show's premiere party. So excited about that. It's going to be a good time! Now, what should I wear? Open to suggestions!!! (To follow Tyyawdi on Instagram, click here.)
"Being a working mom is hard, damn hard." -attribution, "Working Moms Everywhere"
The media has gotten a lot of criticism for asking working women how they "do it all". People have complained that it is sexist to ask the question of women when the question isn't often asked of men. It's been rather universally criticized. However, I think that criticism is misplaced. Here's why.
With few exceptions, mothers are the fuel that make households run. I know this to be nearly universally true based on my research, experience and coaching. As one writer put it, “we work all day, come home to homework that needs to be done, dinners that need prepared, lunches that need to be packed, tears that need to be dried, and hugs that need to be given. We know. We live it. It doesn’t matter if you’re making a million a week or a thousand a month."
The struggle is the same whether the woman is a caregiver or CEO. And that struggle is very real.
Fair or not, the reality is, if a woman is in a heterosexual relationship and has children, she is de facto presumed responsible for the household. It is almost like it is her birthright. This is not to denigrate the contributions of fathers, many of whom make considerable household contributions. However, the expectation is women are responsible. This expectation creates a lot of stress.
Every woman is who taking this journey feels it. And here we are "doing it all" while we are struggling to get to work on time, brush our teeth and look presentable all while making sure our kids have food to eat, a roof over their heads and feel loved.
Women Who Manage to Work and Raise a Family Are Inspiring!
So, when we hear about a mother who is managing to raise children, act in an Oscar-worthy movie, run an entire company or run for president, we are curious. We are deeply intrigued about how she manages to do what we do and make those boss moves. We know that she is also either personally doing it all or making sure it gets done and we are curious as hell about how her household is managed. In a word, we have questions and we want answers.
"Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels." Bob Thaves
It took so much effort for me to show up dressed and in makeup for the photo above that I almost lost it. And that was just a breakfast event at the school. Being a presidential candidate requires building a reputation, cultivating your brand, and showing up looking your best a lot. You also have to speak coherently, field unexpected questions, and make sure that you manage to go to bathroom at the appropriate intervals so that you never appear to be in a rush.
The whole notion of pulling it off seems overwhelming. Granted, I have three kids under eight and the candidates kids are older. Still, when they had young children they must have been pretty bad ass. I actually think that their stories, their entire stories, proves how capable they really are.
“Being a mom has made me so tired. And so happy.” – Tina Fey
The above quote from Tina Fey captures motherhood in a nutshell. It is all consuming, absolutely overwhelming and completely worth it. Being a mom has pushed me to my limits emotionally and physically quite literally. I have delivered three babies vaginally and drug free. I am not bragging or detracting from any other mom's experience. This is simply the journey I have traveled. Years ago, I read an article about Thandi Newton's first child birth. It was both descriptive and provocative. Her
Part of my family village
delivery was drug-free and seemed completely amazing. I vowed to deliver in the same way if I ever had the privilege of having a child. I am so glad that I did because I have been aware of the inextricable link between my children's lives and mine from the start.
Still, while this journey is extraordinary, it is fraught with uncertainty. (The new days of motherhood are described in detail here.) I have needed the help of other women along the way to help me mother without fainting. And I am not alone. Other women help to uplift and support mothers allowing them to be the best moms they can be. So today, I am acknowledging that I have not done this alone--not one bit of it.
My mom and my kids
This post is about my village--those women who help me, advise me, and show up to help when I've almost had enough.
“Whether your pregnancy was meticulously planned, medically coaxed, or happened by surprise, one thing is certain—your life will never be the same.” – Catherine Jones
My oldest daughter
The Uncertainty of Motherhood Can Be Overwhelming Without Support
The uncertainty of motherhood begins as soon as you learn that you're pregnant. With the pregnancy diagnosis, the enormity of the responsibility you're undertaking hits you. All of a sudden, you go from being you, a person who is independent to being the host of new life. Being the host of new life means that your decisions are not entirely your own. What you eat, what you drink, and even the air you breathe has far reaching consequences. You do the best that you can, but even when you make the so called best decisions, you don't know if things are going to turn out the way that you want them to.
What I am saying is that from the moment I learned that I was going to become a mom I became plagued by uncertainty. And I needed some help. Fortunately, I was able to rely on my village.
My three kids
So, you wait. You hope. And you pray--for the entire pregnancy. And because you can't drink alcohol, you eat a lot. That's why pregnant women gain so much weight. It's the nervous eating that accompanies being less active and having the biggest responsibility of your entire life that makes you eat. And nobody judges it because you are pregnant.
Our middle son
Fortunately, I Have a Village Who Allows Me to Be a Better Mom You also seek out advice from those who have traveled the path before you. And they become your village. My village includes members or my family, members of my community and my virtual support system, many of whom I have never even met in real life. My village makes it possible for me to raise this little humans that have been entrusted to me. When I had my kids, my mom moved in with us for a week or so to ensure that I had the ability to shower, sleep, and eat. As my family grew, she ensured that the other kids felt special too. Every time she left, I cried.
My extended village has been there too. It has given me supported me through this journey by being there for me to take my kid into camp when I was running late. It has given me advice about diaper rash, tips about summer camp, and validated my very existence. My village has listened to me when I thought I couldn't handle the pressure and they have laughed at my endless stories about the kids. And my sister and friends who don't have children remind me that I matter too like when my sister and I hung out for the Super Bowl.
One surprising extension of my village has been a Facebook group that contain over ten thousand other lawyer moms called Law Mamas. That group embodies the universal experience of motherhood. Women in that group have sought advice from a variety of topics from intensely personal ones to lighthearted ones like fashion. The virtual support has manifested itself in real life ways too, members have sent one another ball gowns, allowed them to stay at their homes and even sent letters to their children who were having a rough time to show them that they are not alone.
The most surprising and reassuring part of being a mother has been the support of my village, this collection of women who are there for me in every imaginable way. Because of them, I am.
Last Friday night I posted a photo of me and my husband on Instagram. We were on our way to an event. I was in full makeup and a formal dress coat was covering my gown. channeled my inner Beyonce, struck a pose and did my best attempt at a sultry pout. I thought I did a reasonable job with the photo. Based on the comments, most folks thought I nailed it. I followed it up with a photo fo me any my friends and that was well liked too.
Then, I started to feel like a bit of a fraud... I mean sure the Friday night photos were glamorous and they were real. I had just captured photos of myself going out on the town. But they didn't represent the entire picture. In my real life, I scrub toilets, make lunches and sometimes oversleep.
Working Moms are the Ultimate Chameleons
Indeed, one day, the week prior, I took my daughter to the bus stop wearing my bathrobe and a head wrap because my dear husband who usually takes her to the bus stop had overslept and was nowhere to be found. The options were, take her to school and arrive to work later than usual and earn her a tardy slip or take her to the bus stop "as is". I chose option #2.
With My Girls
My daughter admonished me and said, "Maybe you should start getting dressed earlier." Note her admonishment did not include instructions for her father. #IJS
Anyway, after I posted the glamour shots, I imagined that the mothers who were at the bus stop on the "regular day" saw the glamour shot and commented, "That ain't how she looked on Monday." Needless to say, the thoughts that run through my head are powerful because they motivated me to post a shot of me looking far less glamorous.
Working Moms Can Do it All!
Working mom going to the bus stop
I posted a a shot of me having tea sans makeup. I thought it was important for me to portray the truth. The truth is, mothers are multifaceted or "chameleons" as my girl Tasha Grinnell of Dallas, Texas recently commented on my Instagram page. In order to "do it all"--work, childcare, and household management--without losing our ever loving mind--we wear many hats and have lots of uniforms.
The days of women waiting for our husbands to go to sleep to wash off our makeup and rising to put it on before he rises like the wife does in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel". These days, women are real. We are doing it all and we shouldn't be afraid to show it. I
“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.” – Amy Collette
I had grand plans for Spring Break. There was a plane and a beach involved. I was also planning to visit my dear friend, Jules, who abandoned Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for sunny Tampa, Florida. It was going to be a lot of fun. However, I never pulled it together. The tickets were expensive and the notion of having to pack by myself and travel with the kids was daunting. It's not that I'm a single mom now, it's that I always have to pack for me and the kids. I am lucky if Andre manages to get himself ready in time to make the flight. I'm not complaining, I'm just explaining how it is.
Leading up to Spring Break as I was looking at the airline websites, trying to find the right hotel, and discussing the plans with Andre who seemed less than enthused. So I just decided to bag the entire thing. When I did, I felt a sense of relief. And I exhaled. One thing that was heightening my anxiety was that Tax Day was the Monday when Spring Break started. Since I am a last minute tax preparing kind of girl, I was nervous that doing the taxes early would have stressed me all the way out. I'd have to front load the preparation process, which would have been a lot considering everything else I have going on--especially since I am a graduate of The University of Virginia!
I went to Charlottesville, Va., home of the Virginia Cavaliers (my alma mater) for a college reunion two weeks before Tax Day and as luck would have it, Virginia made it to the Final Four tournament. Then, Virginia won its Final Four game and made it to the finals. So, I had to watch the National Championship game. I was thrilled that my team won the National Championship, but I lost days celebrating!
Our Daughter, America's Next Top Model
So, it turned out failing to make those Spring Break travel plans was the best thing that I could have done. I wasn't stressed and I could actually enjoy my kids. This isn't a post about how staycations beat vacations. If you know me, or have read this blog before, you know that I love to get away and there isn't a high end hotel that I haven't liked. If you throw in a first class ticket, I may never come home! Still, traveling with three small children is quite the undertaking.
So this week, as I looked at my friends who were in paradise over Spring Break, I celebrated them. I wished them well. Still, I was grateful that I had listened to my heart. In the past, I would have forced it believing that there's just one way to make good memories, believing that it is all worth it provided that you get Instagram worthy photos from it.
I have matured in my parenting a social media journey. And that evolution gave me so much satisfaction!
As you can tell from the photos above, we have enjoyed our time at home. Since we didn't go away, I didn't take off the entire week. Instead, I worked a couple of days and only took off the days when the baby couldn't go to daycare. This was the first time in a long time when I could actually enjoy my time off without anything hanging over my head. We have rested, taken walks, gotten ice balls from Gus, played outside, and even done some reading. In a word, we have relaxed and it felt so good!
(Special thanks to the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh that runs a great out of school program where our daughter was for most of the week. It's basically like a camp. She loves it!)