four laps around the lake


I used to go for walks around the lake with my mom friends.
Here are four laps, over the course of 5 years.




Lap One:

With the Team


ps these outfits?
totally on trend again

Our babies were still small enough that they'd stay in the stroller or front-pack for the full 3-mile loop, and we moms would break a sweat in the thin Seattle sunshine and chat without feeling small or embarrassed that we knew so much about the spectrum of hues that designated healthy baby shit.


We were 100% female and unapologetically maternal, and I felt comforted by the undeniable awesomeness of the women around me.


I never felt insecure among these women, even though they were better-educated than I was, and had impressive pre-baby careers waiting for them on the other side of maternity leave.


Okay, yeah, maybe I never went to grad school, but see my friends?

SHE has a PhD.
And SHE manages a team at Microsoft.

And that one over there, the one in the same yoga pants as me, pushing the same kind of stroller with two little boys, just like me?

She has a fucking Ivy League MBA, asshole.

Don't try to judge us, buddy. We're still people.

We weren’t just moms.

We were kickass women who were so mind-blowingly good at sex that we created human life out of our O faces.



Lap Two:
Just a Mom


Then my friends began to return to work.


I watched them buy new dry-clean-only clothes.

I stopped texting them when I discovered Chicken's naptime artwork on the wall on Thursday afternoon. (Seriously you have to click that link, it's epic. Open it in a new tab and come back to it.)


I was happy for them.


But I also felt left behind. As a flock of new moms, we were equally lost, equally unqualified, equally inexperienced in the world of parenting. But then they moved back into a sphere where they were qualified AF, and I was fundamentally meh.


We no longer spoke the same language,
my working-mom friends and me.

It was more like two divergent dialects of a mother tongue. They had working mom problems that were as foreign to me as Australian slang: the kids like the nanny better; I'm too tired on the weekends to really connect with my family; I don't see enough of my kids. These are problems that I have still never experienced.


I loved full-time-caregiving, the job they'd just bid farewell.


When I changed Buster's diaper, I looked at his round thighs and noticed that they were longer than they were yesterday. Maybe even longer since the morning. I could not imagine a parallel life in which I might not have been present to add my constant, light touch to the easy transformation of my children from babies into big kids, from binky-suckers to little boys who stroked my hair and reminded me to take deep breaths when I got angry.


I think all my friends feel this way about their kids, no matter where they work: The work of loving them is our fucking privilege.


And yet.


I could not ignore the voice in my head telling me that my work was too stupid and boring for the extraordinary women who used to walk the lake with me. That we were only peers when they were at their lowest, and they'd climbed out of the pit where I was making myself a permanent nest.

And it was hard not to feel lonely as one by one the women that I'd been proud to call my co-workers became weekend-and-birthday-dinner-only friends.


One day, after feeling so small and sorry for myself that I couldn't help but roll my crying eyes at my reflection in the rear-view mirror, I realized that I'd relied on these smart, creative, driven women to feel like more than "just a mom." Because "just a mom" would have been awful.


Their companionship had been an insurance policy against being recognized on the walking path around the lake. When they went back to work, I felt stripped. I knew I'd be spotted immediately.



#JustAMom
Love that windbreaker tho


And despite my belief that parents are fucking champions deserving of medals for our everyday invisible acts of heroism, I realized that my zeal, when it came to my own value, was conditional.

If I was talking to someone who didn’t believe me, then I didn't believe me either.


Have you ever gotten high with a bunch of people and everything feels fine, and then you venture out to 7-11 to buy popcorn and peanut m&ms, and suddenly you realize how high you are, how you do not fit in the sober world? Being a full-time caregiver of young kids is kind of like that. When you're surrounded by other full-time caregivers, everything feels fine. It's when you venture out to a networking event that you realize how you just don't fit in here.


Every failure of my small life was proof of my misery and incompetence; my victories felt adorable and so embarrassing I couldn't even brag about them.


exactly, viggo
we are the same
except
and this is a small thing
but instead of being at an awards show
where cameras know where i am
and go to me when people start cheering my name...

my victory looks like
i'm in my car
and i'm eating a muffin
without really tasting it
and i look in the rear view mirror
and they are both asleep
and i turn on my audiobook
"what happened"
by hillary rodham clinton
and it's not the chapter where she talks about
newtown




Lap Three:
With the Voice In My Head
(it was weird)


Then one of my posts went viral.

Then another one. And another one.

These weren't posts about my kids or my identity as a parent. They were untempered female rage posts. My kids were nowhere to be found.


Nobody ever suggested that I stop blogging about my kids after my feminist rage-strokes started popping up on strangers’ news feeds. But see, I had built a solid foundation of understanding that my mothering was boring. I've had a lot of conversations that told me just that.

I remember what you did when I said, "I'm a stay-at-home parent." You grabbed the closest cliche, "Oh. Hardest job ever, right?" and then glanced around the room for someone more interesting. I said, "I'm a blogger," and you asked, "Oh, what about?" And I said, "Parenting," and you thought, "Ugh."


Nobody ever had to tell me that being "just a mom" was embarrassing, because everyone was always telling me, with platitudes and the absence of interest.


My pride in my parenting doesn't protect me from the pressure to be more, be everything, but gracefully, be what you think I should be at the same time that I’m being just what everyone else thinks I should be.


I want to be a mom with other moms.
I want to be a professional with other professionals.
It’s a good thing I don’t hang out with
alcoholic furry sex addicts
because I am a herd mammal
and I love costume parties.


Ever since I wrote posts that went viral, I have been having conversations with myself on my walks around the lake.

I pretend one of us is a tough, savvy feminist blogger with a Twitter account that she understands how to use, and the other one of us is Katie. Just a mom.


- what up bitch
- well hello there sweetheart!




Tough Feminist Blogger...
... Just a Mom


FUCK THAT GUY!
Yasss!
People appreciate the strength
of your voice.
I know, people love to feel heard.

I definitely understand that feeling.
I mean, I'm a mom, and I know that moms--
SHHHHHH.
What?


Don't-- Jesus, people might hear you.
People might hear me what?


Say that you're a... thing you just said.
A mom?


SHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Oh my God that word
it makes me want to steal money out of your
pocketbook and slam the door in your face.
I'm sorry?


Are you another mommy blogger?
Because I’m trying to do something important.
Well, I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.
I think parenting is really import--
No babe. No. That's not how this works.
You either tell poop stories on your
cute blog slash family newsletter
or you pick up a hammer
and smash the patriarchy.
So which is it.
I don't know.


Are you even serious right now?
Yes. If I have to choose
then I don't know which one I am.
UGH you are such a loser.
Go write your mommy blog.
It's not a mommy blog, asshole.
Don't disrespect my fucking work.
Hey guess what, I'm in your head
so you just called yourself an asshole,
asshole. Also you're blowing your shot.
I AM NOT THROWING AWAY MY
SHOT
Hey yo I'm just like my country--
OH MY GOD
stop it you're so embarrassing
Mom.




Lap Four:
The Conversation I Should Have Been Having
Still In My Head
Still Weird

Did you spot it? The way that I'm spending all this energy trying to convince myself to be one thing or another, when the truth is that a person should be lots of things?

Does that conversation sound familiar to you? If so, hey girl.

Does that conversation sound insane to you? If so, welcome, Charles. Thanks for reading this far.

I truly believe that most women have these conversations with themselves on the regs.

We're at least three people at all times:
The person we are,
the person we want to be,
and the person we think the people around us want.

It's a lose-lose game, and we have to choose whether it's a bigger loss to disappoint the people around us or to disappoint ourselves. I often choose to disappoint myself, still. It's a hard habit to break. Other people's approval is a good fucking feeling.

But I can't tell you how many times I've looked back on a conversation with a sense of shame, knowing that I'd laughed at something that sickened me, that my laugh was an instinct, that I'd been faking it for some crappy person's approval, which is about as valuable as the tokens you get at Chuck E. Cheese: treasure in that one shitty venue, trash in the light of day.

What if we diverted our energy away from fracturing ourselves and toward understanding ourselves better?

one more?
let's do this




Working Mom Katie
Full-Time Caregiving Katie


Hey girl.


Hey.


How are you doing?
I'm okay.
What's going on?


I just get tired of people assuming
that I'm stupid, just because
I don't have a job that pays me.
I remember that feeling like it was yesterday.
There's no way to win that one.
Because the harder you try to prove how smart
you are, the more desperate you look,
and then people are like,
"what are you trying to prove?"
Exactly. It's like people think I'm Beetlejuice.
Like I can only exist within the four walls of my home...


And the grocery store...
Yeah, and the pediatrician...
Or when they need someone to hate
on an airplane.
Whatever, it is what it is.
How are you?
I'm okay.
What's going on?
I just get tired of feeling like
I'm not enough of myself to satisfy anyone.
When I'm working all I do is worry
that I'm too far gone from my family.
When I'm with my family, all I do is worry
that I'm not ambitious enough to make the most of my career.
I'm not really a working mom, and not really
a full-time caregiver either.


And there's no way to win that one.
Because the harder you try to prove
that you can satisfy everyone's
idea of who you're supposed to be-
driven, ambitious, nurturing, empathetic-
and the harder you try to prove
how much you have in common with
stay-at-home moms and working moms
the more desperate you look,
and then people are like,
"what are you trying to prove?


Exactly. It's like people think I'm Beetlejuice,
and I can just shift into any shape I need to be,
while remaining fundamentally myself.


I have to tell you something.
I felt smaller when you went back to work.
I know.
I felt left behind.

It wasn't my job to carry you around.
You're right.

I felt smaller when I went back to work, too.
I felt like I was admitting
I couldn't do what you do
anymore.
I never thought that about you.
I thought you were a better person than me.


I thought you were a better mom than me.
I thought you were good.
But I thought you were great.



What if we both decided that we were enough?



___


I've been busy for 5 years in a way that is special to me.


But now I've been busy for a few months in a way that is special to other people.


The difference between home work and office work
isn't in its complexity, or gravity, or respectability.


The difference between home work and office work
is in its visibility.


And in paid motherfucking vacations.


Katie out.



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2 comments:

  1. I only found you when you went viral, but i really needed this post today.

    So, thank you.

    I really want paid vacations, too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm facing the same struggle, except as a "working mom."

    Also, I've been reading your posts for a good long while, and your posts matter. Even (or maybe especially) the ones about your family. They matter to me, and I'm sure plenty of other people, who just need a little reminder sometimes that its ok to laugh at the ridiculousness of raising young children. And marriage. And being a woman.

    ReplyDelete