The Parenting Club, Daddy Privilege and Mommy Martyrdom

Your parenting club membership comes with an invisible package of privileges that we all are guilty of using at times: “Oh, I wish we could, but little Sarah has a thing that weekend. This parenting gig is 24/7 you know.”

What about within the club? A man sharing parenting responsibilities with his partner is often portrayed as some kind of mythical, awe-inspiring unicorn; a woman who changes the oil for the family car is depicted as a badass domestic diva.

In reality, it all has to get done and someone has to do it. Pick something from the infinite to-do list that matches your individual skill set, slap a gold sticker on the poster, and bam — you’re a rock star. Now get back to work. These kids aren’t going to raise themselves.

Yes, of course we should celebrate and respect any parent who is giving and resourceful, but can we please stop giving out trophies for showing up?

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Silent Sisterhood—The Space Between Blackness and Whiteness

My raw, emotional response when I see the words Dear White Woman (or something similar) is to feel defensive, resentful, hurt or misunderstood. Before I even read it, I suspect the seemingly friendly salutation holds no real affection since the implication is we are all just alike.

Perhaps I would be more open to it if there were some specifics: a letter to the white woman who did or said __________. Instead, I feel like a preschool child who loses recess because one kid wouldn’t stop talking. Group discipline is not for grown folks.

Yes, I take it personally. In that moment, I’m 8 years old and my Dad just called me out by my first, middle and last names—a surefire sign that what comes next is not going to feel good. I want to put my fingers in my ears and pretend to shut out the sound. In reality, I can hear you loud and clear–so I come anyway with my heart in my hand.

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Make It Happen–Cross the Boundaries of Selective Sisterhood

makeithappen

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is make it happen. It’s a call to action. For me, it’s also a powerful reminder that sisterhood is not about membership; it’s a relationship—an active, radical, empathic bond based on shared experiences and concerns. And it isn’t singular. Women share all kinds of “sisterhoods” –connections based on day-to-day life interactions.

I remember being taught as a child that food, shelter and clothing were necessary for survival. Everything else was want—and it was optional. It informed my view as I learned to navigate the world, deciding who needed or wanted me in their lives.

My own journey beyond the boundaries of selective sisterhood required a new understanding of the difference between sympathy, empathy and compassion. My definition of “need” was forever altered in the process.

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The Sisterhood of Poverty

mosaicbwasAccording to the Poverty Data Fact Sheet, there were almost 18 million poor women living in the United States in 2013: White, 8.62 million; Black, 4.08 million; Hispanic, 4.17 million; Asian, 0.78 million; Native American, 0.34 million; and Foreign Born, 3.78 million.

If you isolate heads of household, there were 4 million: White, 1.34 million; Black, 1.36 million; Hispanic, 1.11 million; Asian 0.07 million; Native American, 0.08 million; and Foreign Born, 0.77 million.

Most articles citing poverty statistics focus on disproportionate rates by race and gender. Of course that is a critical concern, but in terms of sisterhood, there is one core truth to keep in mind—a person is not a data point.

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Scrape Off the Divorce Baggage Labels and Reclaim Who You Are

label1Most people like answers to questions that fit neatly into little check boxes and drop down menus. Conversational essays in response aren’t usually welcome.

When the cashier at the grocery store asks, “How are you today?” the expected answer is, “Fine, and you?” Somehow I seem to end up in line behind the person who interpreted that to mean the doctor is in—go ahead, share all of the personal details about your life. We’ll wait.

When I fill out forms, my sarcastic side wants to grab the pen and give the unexpected answer. Race? Human. Who should be called in case of an emergency? 911. Duh!

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Radical Empathy–Why Black History Month Should Matter to White Folks

Maya QuoteI have a passion for history and literature which I have passed along to my young son. He is drawn to the concept of re-imagined endings and loves to read the You Choose book series; the ending changes based on choices the reader makes throughout the story. He watches Alternate History Hub and spends hours imagining “what if” scenarios.

His 10-year-old mind (and very old soul) gets lost in a story, fiction or nonfiction; he often experiences what he thinks the characters feel so deeply, he can’t sleep. As we talk about Black History Month and what he is learning in school, we spend a lot of time discussing empathy and alternate experiences.

Just imagine for a moment–what if we reversed it? All of it.

It’s February 2015, White History Month. The first white president is serving his 2nd term in office. Throughout the country, protests continue as white people insist their lives matter.

Yes, I know your textbook says American History, but the primary focus is on Black Middle Class Men. Black History is a core requirement; learning white history is optional. Don’t be so sensitive. You white people are always race-baiting, talking about slavery and segregation—especially you angry white women. You have a white president now, what more do you want? Continue reading

Memories Matter–Resist the Post Divorce Urge to Purge

memoriesMy ex-husband and I got engaged on Valentine’s Day. It may be a relationship cliché, but for me it was the perfect opening scene to what I thought would be our fairy tale movie ending.

My family has never done very much in honor of the Hallmark holiday, but his always goes all out. The children in the family receive special gift bags full of items designed to say, “I love you” in a way that is meaningful to a young heart. It’s a tradition, along with many others, that I continue to honor with our children.

One of their favorite stories is about me giving their Dad, a true fishing fanatic, a chocolate bass for Valentine’s Day one year. Unfortunately, by the time he got around to eating it there wasn’t much left but a fin wrapped in foil (Hi. My name is Theresa and I have a chocolate addiction).

What they love most about the story I think is it reminds them that their parents did have many wonderful moments that continue to be inside family jokes. Moments from the past woven into our current story remind all of us that the divorce wasn’t an ending—it was the beginning of a new family script.

My children have family pictures in their rooms that assure them they were created out of love. I still hang the personalized ornaments on the Christmas tree that show the 4 of us as sleigh riding penguins or happy little elves. I feel it’s important to remind them we are always going to be a family till death do us part; we just define it differently now.

After divorce, many feel the urge to purge (or at least hide) objects in the house that serve as reminders of the marriage. Not me. Continue reading