Is Beyonce a "full-time mom"?

I like to attempt to read while on the elliptical at the gym; it makes the grinding boredom go a little faster. Yesterday I happened upon this tidbit written by Sheryl Sandberg about Beyonce:

The line that struck me was this one: "In the past year, Beyonce has sold out the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour while being a full-time mother."

And it took me back to a similar article in People magazine (only the finest reading for me!) about Angelina Jolie while she was directing a movie in Europe that also specifically lauded her for being a "full-time mother."

Let there be no doubt that Beyonce is impressive. She's leading a world tour! She is promoting her album! She has her hand in the many different projects that continually promote and develop the juggernaut that is her brand!

And she has a two-year-old daughter. She is, without any doubt, a mother and I'm sure a very loving, devoted mother at that. But a 'full-time mother'?

If we consider the meaning of that phrase to be "a mother, all the time" or "having full custody of a child" then yes, of course, she is always a mother whether she is physically with her daughter at any moment or not.  She gets to own the moniker of "mother" in all ways. But that's not what "full-time mother" implies, is it?

What does "full-time mother" mean exactly?

Since I feel a little frothy at the mouth, let's consult Merriam Webster shall we?

Full-time: adj.

: working the full number of hours considered normal or standard

: done during the full number of hours considered normal or standard

: requiring all of or a large amount of your time

When we consider motherhood, what is considered "working the full number of hours"? Being the direct care-taker of a child for 40+ hours a week? Does night time count? (How about if you have a night nanny?) I certainly don't think any mother should calculate the number of hours she is in direct care of her child(ren) and then use that number to define whether she is a "full time mother" or "half time mother" or some other partitition. It feels silly to dither about the number of hours, when we all are doing what we can, how we can, given the circumstances and choices we are given. 

Ms. Sandberg is trying to lay out just how impressive Beyonce is. Just how talented and hard-working and successful and I don't deny her any of that. The idea that Beyonce is also the mother of a two-year-old just makes her all that much more impressive. I have no doubt that she is deeply invested in the daily life of her child. However, the idea that she is "full-time" in this endenvour does a disservce to the mothers who are the primary care-giver to young children, the ones giving "all or a large amount of their time" to the direct care of their children without assistance from nannies, chefs, maids, drivers or personal assistants. 

It is insulting to imply that Beyonce works "full time" at motherhood AND makes movies/albums/tours the world. When I was a "full time" mother of a two year old there were some days I didn't get to SHOWER, let alone cut an album. What is wrong with me? Why couldn't I do more?! BEYONCE DOES.

Let me be clear: I am in no way saying Beyonce or any other mother with a demanding career is less of a mother than one who is the primary care-taker for their child every day. (Though I am currently not working, I worked for over a year when my oldest was a year and a half! I plan to again someday! Yay for employed mothers!) But we belittle the true breadth and depth of the work of that is care-taking young children by implying that we should be able to have a demanding career while also being a "full-time mother."

How about we say that in addition to being a worldwide superstar, Beyonce is a "devoted" mother. Or a "loving" mother. Or a "dedicated" mother.
But please. PLEASE. Leave "full-time" out of this.



My big girl turned 8 on Tuesday.

(That number? Means I've been blogging for 7 years. Can that be right? Whoa.)

She is big and she is little. She makes statements that are wise beyond her years and she throws tantrums, complete with stomping feet and irrational demands. She rides rollerblades with abandon and got a real skateboard for her birthday and yet requires a hug and a kiss at the bus stop every morning.

She's been on this earth for 8 years and yet I still falter when I sign my name on cards to her: Mom.


In some ways, she will always be this little baby in my arms.
I still worry about her eating enough protein or choking on baby carrots and also whether her friends are bad influences who lure her into misbehavior or will give her false information or make her doubt her own worth.

We are entering a frightening new world, one where peers rule, secrets are better hidden, parents are eye-roll inducing annoyances rather than all-knowing favorites. 

I used to know everything that ever happened to her. Now I'm left with her skewed and limited reporting as her weekdays are mostly spent away from me. For years she would follow me from room to room, refusing to be "left alone" in any room of our not-very-large house. Now when she gets home, she walks upstairs, goes into her room and shuts the door. She writes in her diary and locks it with a key.

I know where the key is, of course.

How much longer will I know where the key is?

(No, I haven't read it without her permission. She will often bring it to us and have us read it when she's too upset - or embarrassed - to speak her truth.)

She still asks me to tell her made-up bedtime stories about Princess Rose and her brother Thistle who get into misadventures with their dragon buddy Snapdragon. We share this love of stories and reading but she reads so fast these days, I can't pre-screen her books for her any more.  I'm always looking for longer and more complex chapter books that are still appropriate for a 7 year old. emotionally immature 8 year old.

"Mom? Why are all these books you're getting for me written so long ago?"

"Because the only books you can emotionally handle were written in the 1950s or before!"

"Because there's great literature from that era!'

Who taught her to pose like this?! WHO SAID SHE COULD TURN EIGHT? (I blame her peers.)

Today she tucked her Winnie the Pooh book into her back pack and asked worriedly about the Holocaust and walked to the bus stop with her hand in my mine.

I gave her a hug and a kiss goodbye, never knowing when it will be the last one she wants, the last one she'll allow.

"I LOVE YOU MOM," she yelled as she got onto the bus, not looking back, never looking back.


Dear B00bs

1999, Berkeley CA

I emerged from the pool, carefully avoiding putting weight on my right foot. For almost an hour, I walked, sprinted, kicked and swam without any pain. But once back on land, my foot reminded me why I was at the pool instead of the dance studio: I was injured and couldn't dance. So instead of leaping and spinning with all my 20-something friends in leotards, I was at a dank pool, surrounded by gray haired retirees bobbing around in skirted bathing suits.

Waddling to the locker room, I clumsily avoided the many lose, crumbling tiles and sighed with relief when I saw that the large shower room was empty. Alone, I stripped off my suit and put my face directly in the water to drown out my self-pitying thoughts.

After minutes of wasteful, blissful water use, I came back to reality with the sound of many voices entering the locker room. A class was evidently about to begin. These ladies began stepping into the shower room, as I tried to hurry through the washing portion of my shower - I was a little shy about showering naked in front of strangers. When I finally turned off my shower and turned around, I was stunned by what I saw.

The women who stood before me were all scarred. Some had no brea$ts, some had one. My eyes darted quickly around in shock and then dropped to the floor as I began to leave. A woman near the doorway grabbed my arm as I passed.

"It's okay, sweetheart," she said kindly. "We know we're a scary sight. Appreciate your brea$ts while you have them. While they're so beautiful."

2014, Northern VA

For most of my life, I've been disappointed by my b00bs.

(I started to type the word "hate" but since I vehemently protest whenever my girls use that dull, blunt word to describe something as benign as mashed potatoes, I think I should be a little more precise in my word choice.)

(and, yes, I know, who in their right mind HATES mashed potatoes?!)

I spent my teenage years seething at my b00bs' incredibly late arrival. When they did decide to make an appearance, it was an easy entrance to miss. I was frustrated by their size (A cup, on a good day, with the wind at my back) and shape (ski slope flat on top, droopy underneath.)

I was convinced that b00bs were a vital currency for a teenage girl and, as such, I was nearly broke.

But my b00bs have really come into their own. First they miraculously fed both my daughters, a gift that ranks among my life's highlights.

And now, they have once again pulled through.

My biopsy results were normal.

Dear b00bs, I'm sorry I haven't appreciated you enough. I'm sorry I ever doubted you. Thanks for sticking by me, and sticking around.


Hope, but also fear

I think often of the quote I posted on the right side of my blog: "Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay." - Maya Angelou

Hope and fear are battling for a place in my head at the moment. It is unclear which will win.

There is so much out of our control, so much that is random, that is determined by a complex mixture of luck, natural forces, other human beings, and our genetic makeup interacting with the world around us. I wish I believed that someone's benevolent hands are holding this all.

It is tough to be an agnostic when life gets scary.

On Friday I will finally have the breast biopsy that was ordered after two mammograms and one ultrasound found suspicious tissue in one of my breasts. I believe it will be normal and life will go on as usual. I hope.

E has been sick for several weeks. It started with a sore throat and vomiting. Her tonsils were swollen and she was refusing to eat or drink. Then she got a rash. Then her nose started running and she started coughing. She was feverish, weak, and complaining of soreness in her arms and legs. She has been sick day after day after day, always testing negative for the usual suspects (strep, flu, ear infection, etc.)

We took her in for blood work on Monday.

(Blood work. On a four year old. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. I didn't tell her what kind of tests they would run. I only promised that it wasn't the dreaded throat-swab, the previous winner for worst doctor experience. I held her in my lap and chatted in a strangled voice until they were ready with the needle and she realized what was happening and I had to hold her horribly tight as she struggled and screamed and cried for me to help her as they took vial after vial of her blood. After it was over, she cried in my arms, confused and angry: "But I need my blood! Why didn't you tell me?!" Once we got home, I gave her a lollipop and promptly ate an entire chocolate bar.)

The doctors think it may be Lyme. Or maybe mono? Or possibly something else entirely.

Or, I guess, it could be nothing but a long string of viral illnesses that she just can't shake.

They are supposed to call today and let me know.

And I'm supposed to invite hope to stay.

I hope she will be well soon. I hope she will forgive me for not telling her it was a blood test ahead of time. I hope I never have to hold her down for a blood test again.

I hope.


Kindergarten Readiness

Last week I pulled up to E's preschool for her daily pick up.

(I used to hate the pickup line outside her preschool. When we moved here, Z was 3 and I was used to picking her up inside her daycare in CA. Not only did she run across the room and jump into my arms - one of the best parts of parenting bar none - but also just being in the room gave me a sense of the the classroom that day. I got to talk to her teachers, the other parents, the other kids. I saw Z's wet finger-painting hanging from a clip and her favorite baby doll tucked into the kitchen sink and I felt connected to her experience that day.

So when we moved here and I was made to wait outside her new preschool, alone in my car, separate from but surrounded by the other parents' cars which I KNEW contained at least one person who could be my friend, I felt removed from Z's experience as well as just plain old lonely.

What a difference three years makes.

Now it's E who's at the preschool. Now I deeply appreciate the ability to pull up and have her escorted to my car. It's so quick! Easy! Convenient! If she didn't always do a little dance around the interior of my car, requiring my creative and sometimes forceful entreaties to get her into her seat, I wouldn't even have to unbuckle myself at any point.)

(Where was I?)

(Oh yes. Last week.)

The director the school brought her out to me that day. She's a smart, kind woman who always gives just the right amount of eye contact and has an easy warm smile. That right there makes her an A + in my book. But she doesn't usually work the pickup line.

"We got your form for next year," she said, smiling. "But correct me if I'm wrong, isn't E going to be a kindergartener in the fall?"

Um. DUH?

"Yes. Yes, she is," was all I could say.

Of course she is. I'm aware of this.

Or am I?

I'm not ready, you guys. I'm just not.

She's so sweet and cuddly, my E. Each weekday, I pick her up from preschool and bring her home and we have lunch together, sitting at our kitchen table in the slanting sunlight and we laugh and some of us take forever to actually eat our food and we talk about nonsense and big stuff and more nonsense. Then we have Quiet Time, where I rest in bed for an hour with my book while she prattles on in her room talking to her barbies and her stuffed dogs and when her clock turns green, she climbs into bed with me and we cuddle and most of the time IT'S PRETTY MUCH HEAVEN RIGHT HERE ON EARTH.

After that, we often have time to play a board game or read a stack of books or put away laundry together before meeting Z at the bus stop. It's a relaxed but engaged part of my day.

And all that'll stop next year when she enters kindergarten and OH you guys, I'm just not ready.


Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Theodore Roosevelt supposedly said "Comparison is the thief of joy." I bought a lovely print of this quote from etsy when my girls started what has become a long running theme in our house that I subtly call "SHE GOT MORE THAN ME."

"She got 5 crackers and I only got 4!"
"It's not fair! She got ice cream at her party and I didn't get any!"
"You gave her more Cheerios! Why would you do that?!"

I am constantly saying "Keep your eyes on your own plate." and "Focus on what YOU have, what YOU want, not what anyone else has."

It has yet to sink in.

In this house of plenty, where my girls are safe and warm and have all their needs met, there apparently is a constant battle to feel like they have enough. I realize that this obsession with fairness is probably a normal part of their development (PLEASE TELL ME IT IS) but BOY HOWDY does it get old.

I bought the print for them. I wanted to post it somewhere obvious, somewhere they would have to look several times a day so it would eventually seep into their fairness-obsessed brains.

It now resides on my desk. Not because I couldn't find a place to hang it close to the girls but because I apparently need it.

Are you comparing the state of my desk to the state of yours? (I'm sure yours is neater.)

You see, I'd like to say I don't understand this compulsion to compare, but I do.

I am not obsessed with fairness the way my girls are. I don't think I deserve something just because someone else got it. But I do compare myself with others. Endlessly, it seems. As is becoming increasingly obvious to everyone, social media is unhelpful in this regard. We all get to pick and chose exactly what we aspects of our lives we expose online, creating a digital persona that bears only passing resemblance to our messy flesh and blood selves.

I am just as guilty of this, I suppose. On rough days, I tend to shut down online. I don't air our dirty laundry on Facebook, ranting and raving about my kids' poor behavior, and I prefer to post happy pictures where everyone is smiling. I don't take depressing photos and post them on Instagram. (Oh wait. Maybe I do.)

I love the connection that social media brings: your Instagram feeds, your Facebook updates, your witty tweets, they all help me feel less alone and more connected. That's why I started this blog years ago.

But sometimes the glorious photos, the funny little stories, the proud kid moments shared by others feed into the already constant thrum in my head of YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH.

Is it possible to look at the perfectly polished windows into the lives of others, their social media selves, and not compare or feel less than?

Or the equally soul-sucking tendency to read the misspelled rants of a chronic oversharer and not feel just a little bit superior?

I'm not suggesting that we cease sharing the magical moments of our day. Or capturing with our iPhones the cutest scene from our otherwise unphotogenic day. But as a consumer of these things, how can we recieve them in a way that is inspiring instead of depleting? How can we keep the connection but lose the comparison?

I don't know the answer to these questions, obviously.

For now, I'll just sit a little closer to this print and hope it eventually sinks in, to ME.

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