Mombbatical Mindset: Rest

“Now, with the weight of the pandemic, social unrest, and economic upheaval, I am longing for the type of restorative slumber that feels elusive, even non-existent.”

For the past nine months, I have adopted a bizarre sleeping pattern. I seldom drift into slumber before about 1 o’clock am, only to be awakened by a very hungry and persistent cat at 6 o’clock am for her morning feeding. Half-awake, I stumble back into bed rebelliously fighting any attempt to actually get up and be productive at such an early hour, especially as the night sky still looms. Eventually, by 8ish, I fall back asleep and sheepishly rise between 10 and 11 am under the bright Parisian sun.

Shrouded in the shame of passing half the day away, I tell myself it will be different the next morning—that I will wake up at a respectable hour and get cracking on whatever beckons me. But, alas, the vicious cycle simply repeats itself, piling on more shame with each passing day as I can’t seem to get my life together before 9 am.

“I have been hoping that a balanced cocktail of eating properly, exercising, and taking in the fresh air would lull my body to a state of sustained rest, but the burdens of the mind seem to triumph instead.”

This routine is a sharp contrast to my life pre-mombbatical. Every morning, I was up at 6:00 am with Ruby, the cat, ready to get myself and a groggy adolescent on with our day. By 6:15, I was doing deadlifts and burpees at the Crossfit box down the street. Smoothie in hand, I made my brisk walk to the office by 7:45 and was writing and responding to emails by 8. Nowadays, I could not imagine trying to take on that degree of rigor. Emmanuel’s needs and the workings of a 400 student charter school were definitely significant motivators. I had to get my child to school and do my job. But as he got older and more independent, I could rely on him to handle his business while I handled mine.

Perhaps if I had more structured professional demands, I would find the thrust to get my day going earlier, but truth be told, I’m just tired. My body and mind just want to sleep. Now, with the weight of the pandemic, social unrest, and economic upheaval, I am longing for the type of restorative slumber that feels elusive, even non-existent. I have been hoping that a balanced cocktail of eating properly, exercising, and taking in the fresh air would lull my body to a state of sustained rest, but the burdens of the mind seem to triumph instead.

So, let’s talk about rest and sleep. . .and peace.

This Sunday’s mombbatical mindset conversation will focus on the idea of rest. Below are some questions that we will consider.

  1. How’s sleep going for you these days? Share your stories.
  2. Night owl? Early bird? Medications? Alcohol?
  3. For you, does getting enough sleep translate into feeling rested?
  4. In the fortunate event that you are well rested, what is your secret?
  5. How do we move from rest to peace, individually and collectively?

If you’d like to join the conversation on Sunday, July 12th, click here. Look forward to hearing your insights!

Mombbatical Mindset: Intention

“Intention is powerful and we must treat it as such.”

I find intention to be one of those fuzzy concepts that we all think we understand, but don’t quite really. It should be simple. We set about wanting to do something or wanting something to happen and yet, the result and reaction fall short of our expectations. But why, especially when we devote so much energy or hard work towards something?

Reflecting on my own past travails, I had to question the deeper egoic intentions behind my own actions. Was I doing certain things in order to be liked? To be the center of attention? To appear to be the smartest person in the room? These were difficult questions to confront, but they led me to the same place of living in a mindset where I was seeking external validation.

We are all conditioned to do it. I was so struck by the “I Take Responsibility” video that was released by a number of white actors in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Watching it made me terribly uncomfortable because it felt inauthentic. These are people who work in an industry that has woefully underrepresented the voices and stories of people of color. They have undoubtedly benefited from that omission and yet now, here they were with this overly produced performative public service announcement proclaiming they finally noticed something that has been in existence for centuries.

Their surface intention was obviously to show solidarity with a movement whose momentum was growing exponentially. In reality, it felt like nothing more than them trying to fulfill a need to center themselves in the space and gain approval–a pat on the back. In the end, it was deemed a cringe-worthy endeavor and appeared to quickly vanish into the ether where other bad ideas go to die.

“I genuinely had no idea what I was in for. Looking back at the unpredictable and often aimless journey that was my year, I realize only now that those words set my intention. They declared the openness and surrender that I had felt as I walked into this phase of my life.”

Intention setting does not always have to have a shadow side. In the context of my mombbatical, I suffered from a lack of a clear intention as opposed to attempting to set some noble cause. I remember when I was setting up my blog and the best that I could come up with for a tagline was, “What happens on the journey from Mom to me. . .” I genuinely had no idea what I was in for. Looking back at the unpredictable and often aimless journey that was my year, I realize only now that those words set my intention. They declared the openness and surrender that I had felt as I walked into this phase of my life.

Intention is powerful and we must treat it as such. So whether you are staking your claim to an afternoon off from the kids and partner or facing an empty nest or simply taking a moment to meditate on your day, be unafraid of examining and setting your intentions for your emotional and spiritual well-being.

In this week’s mombattical mindset conversation, we will reflect on the following questions:

  1. What is your understanding of the word intention?
  2. Where in your life do you feel as though you have set powerful intentions and seen impact?
  3. Can you think of a time when you realized that your true intention differed from your surface intention?
  4. Reflecting on what we have been through as a global community–a pandemic, social unrest–how have these things inspired new intentions in you regarding your own emotional and spiritual well-being?
  5. With these new intentions in mind, what do you want to feel more of in your daily life?
  6. What healing or impact can you have on the world to facilitate that feeling?

If you’d like to join the conversation, we’ll be meeting on Sunday, June 28th at 2pm EST/11am PST/8 pm CET. For details to sign up, just click here.

Now it is Time to Heal: A Mombbatical Mindset

“So, even though Black folks just want to take a nap, we also really need white people to get this right.”

It goes without saying that 2020 has put us through the wringer. I can remember how mundane and uneventful my New Year’s Eve was back in December. I had just flown back to Paris from visiting my family in the States. Jet-lagged and exhausted, I turned in before midnight, muting my phone to spare myself the repetitive dings from well-meaning family and friends. I made no resolutions. I cast no hopeful prophesies into the future. January 1st would emerge just like any other day on the calendar.

Then, less than a month later the world lost Kobe Bryant. The news came to me and my son, Emmanuel, while we were having a video chat about his summer plans. He decided to apply to a program for high school students at Harvard to get the college experience. We were both pretty excited by the prospect of him strolling around campus for seven weeks and then with a jolt, a somber silence consumed the energy between us as we processed the reality of Kobe’s death. After our loving goodbyes, we each retreated to our screens to wrap our brains around what was happening in the world. This symbol of celebrity and Black success had literally fallen out of the sky.

By contrast, the coronavirus was a slow moving threat– one that most of us had ignored during the late winter months. I recall reaching out to an Italian friend inquiring about his family and friends, hoping that they were healthy and safe as that nation’s elderly were the unsuspecting target of a disease we knew so little about. But as the spread in the United States began to accelerate, it lay bare the woefully inadequate safety net that existed in the country while also exposing the institutional intention of inequity on racial, cultural, and economic lines.

“While our egos might be aching for life to return us to our escapists pleasures, it is evident that each of us must face this reckoning in our own strength and with a yearning to heal.”

Murder hornets, floods, earthquakes, May snow showers, and epic civil unrest against the front line pawns in a centuries old system of oppression and violence, I was beginning to think that the book of Revelations was finally coming to pass. Nothing screams anti-Christ more than Trump standing in front of a church holding a Bible upside down and backwards with billows of smoke and teargas left in his wake.

On a serious note, we have been in a collective state of trauma since the ball dropped, facing the false idols and corrupt social contracts that have governed our society for too long. While our egos might be aching for life to return us to our escapists pleasures, it is evident that each of us must face this reckoning in our own strength and with a yearning to heal.

*****

Image courtesy of Leslie Dwight

This poem articulates with such simplicity the call for our collective healing. When I saw it for the first time, I put aside my own apocalyptic musings and thought about my year on mombbatical. There was a weird mutual voyeurism to my first year living kid-free in Paris. My friends near and far romanticized my experience, living vicariously through me as I made the most of each moment. In return, I could not keep my gaze off of the United States, pondering day by day if living so far away from my family and closest friends really made any sense at all.

It is true that I had many glorious days filled with wonder and beauty. Paris, in and of itself, is a sight to behold–the energy, the food, the architecture. But between Instagram posts, I endured several days of solitude, slowly trying to piece together a life and a future. The endless string of cloudy grey winter days often closed in on me while I was searching for my purpose and a greater understanding of the next phase in my life’s journey.

In a sense, I had a reckoning of my own as I came to realize that I was being called to have a much bigger vision for my life than I could conceive. My mombbatical was not meant to be a carefree frolic in the “city of lights.” It was a journey towards new horizons–a journey I had to make on my own without the distractions of a nine-to-five or Emmanuel’s comforting presence. And along the way, I picked up some wonderful insights and lessons about life itself. Lessons that may have been lost had my mind been cluttered with the trappings of modern life.

“And action in this moment is complicated because it must be bold and nuanced. It must take place in the context of authentic relationships while extending beyond apologies and platitudes.”

Watching the United States in the throes of two crises–a pandemic and social unrest over racial injustice–I have been moved by the collective and individual struggles that I see in images featured in every news story. Expressions of rage, hope, despair, and grief eerily cast behind colorful protective masks. White people, in particular, are reeling in this moment, grappling with a reality that they did not want to see because to see it would require having to do something about it. And action in this moment is complicated because it must be bold and nuanced. It must take place in the context of authentic relationships while extending beyond apologies and platitudes.

Most Black people will tell you that they are exhausted. We were already tired from the repetitive trauma of seeing Black people killed violently on video. The daily microaggressions and disheartening data about the state of our community relative to our other racial counterparts also take their toll. But, we know that white folks need us in this moment. We really want you all to figure it out on your own and we’ve been flagging all the books and movies to nudge you in the right direction. Yet despite all our efforts, The Help managed to be the highest trending movie on Netflix and we had to shake our heads. Then, a handful of white actors released a nonsensical black and white public service announcement about how they are taking responsibility and we’re like, “Nope. Y’all can’t handle this task on your own. You’re simply not equipped for it.”

So, even though Black folks just want to take a nap, we also really need white people to get this right.

George Floyd’s last words as he left this Earth were a call out to his deceased mother–a call that convicted the hearts of many mothers as we thought about our own children’s state of mind in their most vulnerable moments. To that end, I have decided to use my mombbatical platform as a way to facilitate healing in my own respective communities in the hope that the lessons and conversations will be paid forward to others in this collective effort.

Beginning Sunday, June 28th, I will be launching a 10-week series of Zoom conversations, Healing through a Mombbatical Mindset, at which I will engage seven women with myself in a dialogue focused on a specific theme based on lessons from my mombbatical and centered around how we can bring about healing in this moment. Some of the themes will be intention, rest, discomfort, urgency, and love.

Each week, I will put a call out to those who would like to participate in the discussion and the first seven people to sign up, with an eye towards diversity, will join me at 2pm EST/11am PST/8pm CET for a 90 minute discourse. Reflection questions will be sent in advance for our introverted friends who may need a bit more time to process. 🙂 Each call will also be recorded and posted on the My Year on Mombbatical blog site for those who were unable to participate.

More details can be found here.

The continued support that I have received as a blogger and writer has been the wind at my back. I am excited about this new opportunity to engage and make a difference as we’re all being called in this moment.

Still on the Plantation?

We put the burden on Black people to fix the damaged and poisonous roots of this nation. Upon force, we built it, we maintained it, we have kept its feeble, greedy heart beating, knowing all along that it was hobbled from the start and whiteness stakes its claim to it all with mealy-mouthed apologies and little gratitude.

This blog post started buffering in my brain after Joe Biden gave us yet another peek into his unexamined mind and identity. I hesitated to write too abruptly in observation of the fervent debate, particularly among Black folks, about how big of a deal we should make of it given the horror that is Donald Trump. The fact that we believe holding Joe Biden accountable for his undisciplined consideration of his whiteness is mutually exclusive to opposing the vile monster that is Donald Trump is poignant evidence of how close we still are to the plantation.

Black people do not owe Joe Biden a damn thing.  We are not responsible for his electability, period and his being a “wise guy” was a reminder of how little work he has done on unpacking his whiteness as the pathology that it is. Joe did not just bring the nasty potato salad to the cookout. “Massa” was not just making a joke that we should lightheartedly dismiss.  In his American white man skin suit, he assessed who was Black and who was not with the audacity that only comes with a false, yet well internalized sense of superiority. The same audacity that allows Joe Biden to criticize Black parenting on a national platform but continue to claim and take credit for the Crime Bill of 1994 as an effective piece of legislation.  A piece of legislation he likely championed as a feather in his cap to moderate white people as he paved the way for his eventual presidential runs, two of which he never broke the top three.

Yet now, we are supposed to cling to and defend him like he is our aging uncle who has not done any real harm. Served up to us from a pool of the most talented and diverse lawmakers and politicians that we have seen in generations, by another elder statesman playing the old rules written by the white men in charge. Jim Clyburn was our Stephen in Django, narrating the establishment’s plans under the guise of kingmaker and telling us to just deal with it, no matter what wounds might come. Alas, Biden gets to repeatedly reference baseless stereotypes about Black people without ever making the same assessments of our white counterparts as a collective because God forbid he offends working-class white voters.

But, we are told that Massa Trump is so much worse, so we ought to keep our mouths shut. Meanwhile, no one is telling the 53% of white women who voted for Donald Trump that they should reconsider their vote given his misogyny and admitted history of sexual assault. No, we leave those women alone, allowing them to firmly grip their religion and pro-life positions as their justification. We do not send memes around highlighting the percentage of white people who did not vote. We put the burden on Black people to fix the damaged and poisonous roots of this nation. Upon force, we built it, we maintained it, we have kept its feeble, greedy heart beating, knowing all along that it was hobbled from the start and whiteness stakes its claim to it all with mealy-mouthed apologies and little gratitude.

*****

Dealing with whiteness in America as a Black person is like getting one million little cuts every day. You never know from which way they will come, but you know that they will land, stinging and unrelenting in the way they take your breath away.  It is a daily trauma from which you find yourself gasping for air, like a drowning man reaching for a sustained moment of relief that never comes.

“Have our racial privileges, our entitlements, our social/racial narcissism, our racial psychosis, and delusions really benefited us?”

Dixon D. White

I watched the video of the histrionics of the woman in Central Park with my mouth hanging open, catapulted to a place in time of hoop skirts, powdered bosoms, and manufactured cries for help. I could feel the ache of Emmitt Till’s mother as the echoes of white women weaponizing law enforcement reverberated through the decades. Watching Amy Cooper’s behavior triggered my own memories of how a white woman used lies and manipulation to activate her own power against me instead of taking responsibility for her misconduct. She wanted to be seen as a leader—those were her words– so instead of humbly acting within the boundaries of her role, she let her hunger for attention and control consume her to the detriment of an entire organization.

She and Amy took their maneuvers from the same playbook. We’ve seen it before. 1. Believing the rules do not apply, engage in entitled and inappropriate behavior. 2. When confronted on said behavior, become defensive, insisting that one is doing nothing wrong. 3. Project negativity on the person of color confronting behavior, suggest they are either angry or threatening. (Yes, the woman in my case did call me angry.) 4. Commence the waterworks and pity stories, building the narrative of victim. 5. Go nuclear by lying and manipulating, all with the aim of staying in power and control. All other things are expendable—money, livelihoods, laws, lives. To operationalize this way of being is to make that person completely soulless.

A friend of a friend left this compelling plea to his white brethren on his Facebook page. “Have our racial privileges, our entitlements, our social/racial narcissism, our racial psychosis, and delusions really benefited us?” Such a powerful question. I know one thing for sure. There is no more joyless human being right now than Amy Cooper.

*****

Almost two years ago, I penned my own plea, But what will become of (y)our souls?. . . , reflecting on how debilitating the blind evil manifested from white supremacy is. The pressure with which that Minneapolis police officer’s knee leaned on George Floyd’s neck, deaf to his gasps for breath and life, came from a man either possessed by a devil or broken by a mental and emotional psychosis—a racial psychosis. To wade in the waters of such heartless cruelty, to stake a claim on such an identity, is to be dead inside.

The twisted irony is that American whiteness, this racial psychosis, is in part, defined by its own need to make sense of the identity of the Black man who he himself captured for his own means. In reality, white “superiority” is no badge of honor, no tangible claim to intellectual, cultural, or moral dominance. It decays to nothing more than an embodiment of the worst in humanity as it imposes its torment on the Black body and psyche.

In Baldwin’s essay, Stranger in the Village from Notes of a Native Son, he distills this point with his reliable elegance and fearlessness. These words are 65 years old.

At the root of the American Negro problem is the necessity of the American white man to find a way of living with the Negro in order to live with himself. And the history of this problem can be reduced to the means used by Americans—lynch law and law, segregation and legal acceptance, terrorization and concession—either to come to terms with this necessity, or to find a way around it, or (most usually) to find a way of doing both these things at once. The resulting spectacle, at once foolish and dreadful, led someone to make the quite accurate observation that “the Negro-in-America is a form of insanity which overtakes white men.”

James Baldwin, Stranger in the Village, 1955

Nothing seems more psychotic and insane than trying to claim superiority through a consistently sanctioned reign of terror. IT.MAKES.NO.SENSE. The police officer maintaining his knee on George’s neck while he was handcuffed and begging for life MADE NO SENSE.

In But what will become of (y)our souls?. . .I also state that “It is only through the persistent dismantling of white supremacist thinking and being and doing that we can recover our souls. . .individually and collectively. It has to be a moment to moment discipline of examining one’s thinking and being and doing. . .led by the white people in this country.”  It might be time to get a bit more specific, to rewrite the playbook, so to speak.

1.Admit when you are wrong. 2. Accept that your worldview or value system may not be appropriate in a situation. 3. Understand that you do not always need to have power, especially in the face of your brethren of color. 4. Internalize that your humanity and every aspect of it is not more valuable than anyone else’s. 5. Embrace the notion that diversity is not the opposite of quality (That one is for Stephen King). 6.  Please do not insist on white mediocrity over excellence of color to satisfy your own comfort. 7. Read Baldwin. 8. Read Baldwin to your kids. 9. Prosecute the ugly head of white supremacy every chance you get. 10. Remember that appropriation, affiliation, and admiration are not identity.

*****

We are watching the empire that is the United States unraveling and at every turn, there is a reckoning over whiteness—What it believes, how it behaves, what it means.

Baldwin makes another gripping statement that offered me some comfort as I ponder how far we have really come from the plantation.  He writes, “And despite the terrorization which the Negro in America endured and endures sporadically until today, despite the cruel and totally inescapable ambivalence of his status in his country, the battle for his identity has long ago been won.”

We are watching the empire that is the United States unraveling and at every turn, there is a reckoning over whiteness—What it believes, how it behaves, what it means. For all the ways in which the Black community has had to evolve, survive, mourn, and fight for our very existence, there is such beauty in Baldwin’s words when he says that the battle for our identity has long ago been won. We are by no means a monolith, but there is a healing balm to Blackness, to the fullness that we are, that endures and carries on. . .

It is in the corkscrew tendrils of my hair, the memory of my father calling his Harlem buddies “jive turkey” on the phone, my grandmother’s raspy New York accent and fried plantains. It’s in Jordan’s ability to fly and Harriet’s whisper in the night. I find it in Emmanuel’s nerdy love for Lord of the Rings and my brother’s obsessive loyalty to the Dallas Cowboys. It is in the tears of those protesting yet another Black life lost and the wonder in the eyes of the little girl looking at Michele Obama’s portrait. It’s in jazz notes, gold medals and gripping journalism. I see it in my mother’s ability to fashion anything out of a scrap of fabric and the smooth texture of a church hymnal. Alice Walker’s eloquence, Quincy’s genius, the hole in Obama’s shoe.

Shall I go on?

June Cleaver Doesn’t Live Here

. . as the teacher was fending off her child’s tantrum while in downward dog, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where the hell is this woman’s husband. . .”

About a year ago, I wrote a piece called A Requiem for June Cleaver, a reflection on the generational clash between me and my mother. What I had long thought were personality differences appeared to be the sensibilities of Baby Boomer and Generation X women coming to a head. It’s ironic, actually. Baby Boomer women gave us the Women’s Liberation movement and it has proven to benefit their daughters, us Gen Xers. But, Boomers were also raised on the trappings of June Cleaver and Donna Reed, the dutiful housewives who defer to the providing husband. A role that defies their actual strength, intellect, and capabilities.

Even when our Boomer mommies were liberated to enter the workforce and “bring home the bacon“, they were charged with “frying it up in a pan, ” while their spouses sat by in anticipation. We Gen X girls observed admiringly at our mothers as they tried to do and be it all with the wind of expectation at our backs as we pursued the highest levels of education, not to find a husband, but to chart our course for great personal and professional success in all fields.

In my days at Carnegie Mellon, I used to marvel at all the women engineers that I knew, taking on complex problems, bantering about their Chem-E and Mech-E course loads. They weren’t nerdy anti-social girls feeling like they needed to act like boys. These were adorable, fun-loving young women who were killing it in the classroom and supporting each other as they navigated the largely male terrain of the College of Engineering.

They weren’t alone. Math majors, architects and industrial designers alike bucked the notion that women only belonged in certain spaces. As a policy major, I, too, often found myself flanked by an abundance of men as we learned the inter-workings of how those in power make the decisions that affect our most important institutions. We were trailblazers as we were both daunted and enchanted by the 70-30 percent ratio of men to women on campus at that time.

We led the way for our Millennial baby sisters who came up more than a decade behind us. The balance started to settle in and now Carnegie Mellon boasts one of the better gender diversity averages in the nation at 54% males, 46% female. At the risk of dating myself, “We’ve come a long way, baby.”

*****

“There is little space for other values systems to lead, for other approaches to be welcomed at the table. And well, here we are—over 90,000 dead and no end in sight to the impact of this pandemic.”

The force and power of women is undeniable. In the face of this global pandemic, it is the women leaders in countries like New Zealand, Taiwan, Iceland, and Germany who have managed to minimize the death toll and take pragmatic, humble steps in service to their people. No one is suggesting that women are simply better leaders than men. We do not have enough historical data to make such an analysis. But, the current thinking offered by Champoux-Paille and Croteau in a recent Guardian article, Why women leaders are excelling during the coronavirus pandemic? states that perhaps the presence of these women as leaders is a reflection of a greater demand for equality in their respective societies; therefore, more women at the decision making tables broadens the perspective on how to handle issues facing their countries.

I’ll take it. The United States has been singularly led from the perspective of wealthy white men. Our institutions, including our families, are infused with the model of their values, and their motivations. There is little space for other values systems to lead, for other approaches to be welcomed at the table. And well, here we are—over 90,000 dead and no end in sight to the impact of this pandemic. Equality and diversity matter. It does not just look good on a brochure. Nor is it just some cheap gimmick to sell more shit. It can save lives.

As we lament the cluster f**k that is the handling of this crisis, we are becoming woefully aware of another issue of gender parity that is bubbling to the surface. I opened this piece reflecting on the awe of the women I have come up with as they killed it at our universities and have gone on to have a tremendous impact on their industries. They win awards, manage massive departments in critical health centers in our biggest cities. One friend ensures the removal of conflict minerals in the supply chain for Intel. These women are writing books and delivering TED Talks, teaching students from around the globe and on the frontlines of planning the distribution of a potential vaccine. They are badasses without question.

And I cannot say enough about my most cherished friend. My bestie, Alexis, has been my road dog since we were eight years old. I try not to brag on her too often as we go back to cheerleading tryouts, watermelon jolly ranchers and putting on talent shows in her basement to an audience of one, her little sister Kai. I have watched her star rise over the years with a sense of protective admiration, not wanting anyone to mess with her. She is soaring now as the acting president of the Planned Parenthood Foundation of America, fighting for women’s reproductive rights. Yet, even as she continues to broaden her influence in the hallways of Washington, DC and around the country, she always treats me to my own decaf coffee pods when I come to visit.

In spite of these women’s accomplishments and professional power, this pandemic and subsequent lock down seems to have thrust so many women I know back in time. While Alexis is fielding calls from the most important political actors in this moment, she is cooking three square meals a day and managing the distance learning for her beautiful daughters. Another friend of mine said that she suddenly feels like she is a Fifties housewife doing laundry, cooking, and her dealing with her own professional workload. I just took a virtual yoga class and as the teacher was fending off her child’s tantrum while in downward dog, I couldn’t help but wonder, Where the hell is this woman’s husband and he couldn’t spare an hour of supervision on a Sunday for her to teach this class?

Now, I know that not all the men are MIA when it comes to managing the household demands during this lock down. My friend, Vincent, posts a chef’s log every day of the incredible meals that he is procuring for his wife and children which made me wonder why none of us Carnegie Mellon girls snatched him up when we had the chance. My friend, Richard, seems to have completely taken ownership of his children’s well-being by running daily physical activities for them to help stimulate their minds while home learning.

Image courtesy of Happy as a Mother

This graphic popped up in my feed the other day and it poignantly reminded me that it is not just about sharing the day-to-day responsibilities that matter. Mothers are carrying the emotional weight of this moment as well. Even as I am nestled over 5,000 miles away from my Emmanuel, during our check in calls, I feel like I must be his emotional touchstone as his father succumbs to the financial and professional stress of the lock down. I am the voice of compassion as Emmanuel tires of online learning and the distance from friends. I’m happy to do it, but haven’t we ladies come way too far to bear all this weight alone?

“Now is not the time to resume our places in our typical gender corners as we ride out the storm.”

As gender identity has become more fluid, I was under the impression that gender roles had followed suit. Perhaps in times of crisis, we feel compelled to do what we know. Men go off to their caves, grumpy about the work they have to do under these crazy circumstances and masking the potential fears that may reside deep within them. Meanwhile the women do it all simultaneously, pushing through until the late hours when everyone is finally asleep, and they can breathe. A friend of mine had to lobby her husband for one day off a week from tending to their two-year old twin sons. It was probably a debate she should not have had to have, but in the end, he saw that she was right and that he needed to step up.

I do not want to serve up some cliched platitudes about what we need to do for moms or any empty suggestions for self-care. I want to call our attention to the gravity of this moment. We are in an energetic soup of grief, fear, uncertainty, fatigue, despair, and hope. Now is not the time to resume our places in our typical gender corners as we ride out the storm. I believe that we are all being called to an awakened vulnerability that could potentially bring us closer as partners, friends, and human beings. Will both men and women answer the call? Is there room for conversations together about what this time is doing to us, our relationships and our homes?

Living a life under lock down untethered to a partner or my son, I observe those of you in the throes of too much togetherness with a touch of envy. It is easy to see this moment as burdensome or inconvenient. It is easy to drink one’s way out of the company of those around you when their persistent presence brings forth the deeper questions you may have been avoiding. But, trust me when I say this is a moment of gratitude and an opportunity for enrichment. The old rules need not apply if there is the courage to have the conversation.