Live Doing

(as seen on

COVID-19….the Corona virus…or the ‘Rona as I tend to call it, brought so many things to light in just a matter of days. Our “strong” economy went from flourishing to struggle mode. Our healthcare system went from top notch to over-taxed. ‘Rona put people out of work as so many of our service providers – waiters, barbers, hairdressers, airline employees, bartenders, etc. could no longer perform their jobs due to social distancing. Some of us were deemed essential and asked to return to work even in the midst of the growing pandemic. Others of us found that our jobs that “could not be performed from home” just weeks ago were now given the equipment, tools, and approval to proceed with working from home. Airlines went from charging $25 for your checked bag to charging $35 for the whole damn flight. Night and day. As the NBA and MLB suspended their seasons, we learned that we could survive without sports, but as schools closed for weeks….and then indefinitely until the next school year, many of us found that we can’t survive without teachers. As many of us were thrust into the roll of being both parent and teacher, full time employee and full time homemaker, we quickly realized that teachers should get paid millions billions trillions of dollars a year for the work that they do. So while there aren’t enough tongues in the world to give enough thanks for the work that our doctors, nurses, hospital employees, grocery store employees, first responders, and military are doing to save lives — even at the risk of their own health — this writing is to acknowledge the overlooked heroes who are front line responders every day during this pandemic. The working-parents-turned-teachers.

This experience has put a lot of stress on the anxious parent(s). The perfectionist parent(s). The “you can’t bring home a C” parent(s). The “you have do twice as good to be thought half as good” parent(s). We are not okay. Working from home has become work-and-teach from home. Our full time job has become multiple full time jobs as we take on the task of bringing home the bacon, serving it up for breakfast, teaching our kids where the pig comes from, chopping it up for the lunchtime Cobb salad, and doing a lesson on pork barrel politics. It’s tew much. We read the Facebook posts and listen to the motivational speakers who tell us that this quarantine is a golden opportunity to work on that book we’ve always wanted to write, or finally read that novel…to put together that scrap book, or finally rearrange our closest. We read and we listen and then we kick ourselves because we feel like a failure for “squandering” this opportunity when the world is standing still. We feel like we will come out of this experience even more exhausted than before, with a “bucket list” that is as long as it ever was, and we will once again find ourselves behind the curve of everyone who used this time to start that business, buy those stocks, or take that class. Our DVR will still be full, we’ll still only be two episodes in on Tiger King, and the quarantine 15 will have made our birthday goal weight that much harder to attain. Even the newfound online activities that are meant to bring us joy or relax us in the midst of all of the panic causes undue anxiety as we suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). Anthony Hamilton at 5, Kem at 7, what time was the HBCU day party again….and dammit I missed Jennifer Hudson and the latest D-Nice party. Overload. All while we work…..and…..educate our children.

Honestly, when everything first happened and schools first closed, I was kind of excited about the prospect of teaching my kids. I was going to finally teach them that there were several black game changers whose initials didn’t start with MLK. We were going to take walks outside and look at the leaves and the trees for science class. P.E. would be online Yoga and I would finally teach them the words to the Black National Anthem. There would be cooking and learning new languages and coding, or so I thought…and then, worksheets hit. Assignments came. Teachers woke up to the news that their school year had abruptly ended and decided that we, the parents, would now take up the torch and finish out the lesson plans that they had so meticulously planned for our babies, their students. To be clear, this is not an indictment on the teachers. They, like all of us, had to quickly come up with a way to adapt and keep the educational wheels turning, but this.tew.much. An article quickly circulated touting the 20 best free educational apps for kids and, as a super parent, I immediately started the task of researching them all. Teachers did as well obviously, because by the end of the first week, my kids were signed up for nothing short of 10 online learning mediums, each with their own logins. Fix it Jesus. We started our “school day” every morning at 8 and by 5 we were still at it. As we completed the tasks and assignments of the day I would receive the horrifying sound of a notification alert on my phone and would be greeted with the list of assignments for the next day, times three, one for each child. I cried. Literally. Convinced that I would now be single-handedly responsible for my child being behind next year if I didn’t somehow get them through all of this work and assignments, each day I would forge ahead and drive them through the work from morning into the evening – whatever it took to get it done. They were stressed and exhausted. Secretly, I think they were praying that the schools would reopen so they could go back to “real school” where they could at least eat lunch and have recess without having a worksheet shoved in their face. I secretly wished the same. I felt like a failure – a failure at teaching my children. A failure at work (which no longer received my undivided attention). A failure at using this down time to do and be something great.

I took to FaceBook and Twitter and group texts to air my grievances about how stressed I was feeling during this time. I received support and confirmation that I wasn’t alone in how I was feeling. I received the “hang in there” and “it’ll get better” well wishes that were heartfelt, but did little to ease the anxiety and angst I was feeling. I received great feedback and support, but there was one message that stood apart from all the others. It was a message that was so simple, it was brilliant. Honestly, as the overachiever-I-can-do-all-things type, it was a message that honestly never even crossed my mind. As I posted my message to vent and say “I have no idea how I’m going to get all of this done” the response that was posted simply said “say no”. Say.No. *cue music and lightbulb over my head* In all of the things that I thought to say or do to manage this workload, to manage the lesson plans, to manage the domestic requirements…the carefully worded email that I drafted and edited a million times to send to my kids’ teachers, it never, EVER dawned on me to just say NO. To say “I can’t”. To say this is too much. Everything in me in us is wired to push to our limits, to give everything, to “die trying”. Die trying? Who in the hell wants to do that? But the reality is that many of us aren’t naturally wired to And when I tell you that the genius who wrote this knows us (the overachieving-never-say-no-types) so well, that anytime someone responded to my post after that, her response would be the same. Say no. Say no chile! For the love of God say no!

So that’s what I did. I added a few more words here and there to make it sound cute, but the jist of it was NO! I sent an email to their teachers and the principal to let them know that I was  fully on board with helping my children continue to learn, but that we were not going to be able to complete the 10 worksheets, 2 online classes, and the science experiment that they sent home. No. I stressed that they were going to have to adapt, as we all are, to this new normal for the next few months and temper our expectations of what we thought would be accomplished during that time. En Oh. I stated that we would prioritize the work received based on the areas where our children needed the most development. Niet. Nahi. Nein. To my surprise the teachers and principal were receptive. They, like all of us, were trying to figure out the right balance in how to proceed in these times. The weekend following that response, we took our children fishing. We talked about agriculture and currents. We talked about the types of fish that could be found in the bodies of water in our area. We talked about the ocean that borders us. We had science by the lake and it was wonderful and yes, even without a worksheet, it was learning.

About a year ago a picture was posted of a mother of four cooking, breastfeeding one baby, and helping another with his homework while two other played at her feet. While the picture was celebrated and applauded in the media, the picture actually upset me. We can no longer celebrate wearing ourselves out until we have nothing left to give. We really have to stop celebrating the fact that we are dying trying. In these times, if you are that parent who is homeschooling and working a 9 to 5, or if you’re a parent who is homeschooling and just working on keeping your sanity. Maybe you’re the parent who still has to go out and work and come home to kids who have been cooped up in the house all day and now demand your attention. You might be the parent who is home all day with no idea on how or when you will get to work again. Wherever you fall on the scale during these trying times AND even when things return back to “normal”, work to find the places in your life where you can say no. We must realize that every no we say to something that brings added stress and anxiety…every time we say “no” to something that we really don’t want to do….every time we say “no” to something that doesn’t feed our spirit or align with our goals in life, we are simultaneously saying yes to taking care of ourselves and improving our own wellness. Give yourself some grace and deposit a “yes” into yourself. Each personal “yes” deposit means another opportunity to live doing instead of die trying. 

I’m Not God

It’s amazing how becoming a mother can make you feel so very powerful and accomplished yet at the same damn time leave you feeling like the most inadequate human being who ever walked the earth.  I mean let’s sit and reflect that if you are a mother (biologically), you literally push a human being out of your vagitalia!! That’s some super human shyt!! And before you get all “well some women have c sections” on me, reflect on the fact that if a woman has a c section, she literally lays on a table, WIDE AWAKE while someone cuts her open and pulls a human being from her body!! I mean, fukk your favorite horror movie, that’s some scary shyt (hence the lovely white sheet that they hang in front of your face so you can’t see the massacre)!! So it’s no wonder that after having my children, I laid in the hospital bed feeling all ‘king-kong-aint-got-nuthin-on-me-call-me-morpheus-I-can-dodge-bullets-like-the-matrix’-ish!! While some women experience the whole ‘Oh my God, what do I do now’ feeling the day they leave the hospital, I must say I still continued to ride my ‘I am woman hear me roar’ high for quite some time after leaving the hospital. I felt like I can change these diapers, I can nurse this baby, I can get this dinner ready, I can do it all cause I’m every damn woman — yes me bitch– ME…WOO!! But for every woman there comes that day, that minute, that hour where something happens….that first moment (because many more of these moments soon follow) where you think to yourself Oh Shyt…what have I gotten myself into…I can’t do this…

My greatest feelings of inadequacy came the day my maternity leave ended and I once again entered the work force. My husband, who had been back at work for some time by the time I returned to work, seemed to transition from full time daddy back to full time business man with no problem (or if there was a problem, he never let on). I, on the other hand had MAJOR anxiety my first day back to work. I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to be at home with my baby (update: babies — I have two now) — at least for a while longer…. It’s not that I no longer wanted to have my career (I didn’t spend all those years in school for nothing), it’s that all of sudden, the work that I would be performing at my “9 to 5” somehow paled in comparison to a far greater job that I had been called to do — be a mom.  And even though I knew that I was leaving my babies in extremely capable hands — their grandmother’s hands — it still felt so wrong to leave them. God gave them to me, and it was my job to be there to provide them with everything they needed. Days went by with me back at work and there weren’t enough FB posts, Instagram pictures, or FaceTime calls to make up for the guilt I felt at not being there with my babies. The quality time that I would spend with my babies as I nursed them, now became rubber bottles placed in their mouth. I struggled to keep up with pumping and breast feeding and soon more and more formula became the name of the game. I was being replaced… Every day that I would come home they would be doing something new or saying something different and I was missing it all in the name of making a dollar.  Teary eyes were wiped by grandma more than mommy and I was jealous. Meanwhile, daddy would always come home to cheers and big hugs like a hero while the heroine in their lives was no longer played by me…. This is how I felt and it tore me up inside. I would often wonder if they would one day understand why mommy works so hard and couldn’t be there with them during the day. Or would they one day resent me and feel that I put my job before them. How would they see me….

This insecurity began to rear its ugly head in the way I interacted with my husband. While I have never been a woman to date a man based on what he could offer me financially, I began to resent my husband when I returned to work…. Why wasn’t he making enough money so that I could stay home with the kids? Why wasn’t taking a few years off until the kids went to school an option for me? Why was I constantly in executive meetings with middle aged white men whose wives were home with the kids while they went to work, toting the lunches that their wives had packed for them, not at all consumed with feelings of I should be home with my kids and completely unaware of my longing…. They couldn’t understand my need to go to every doctor appointment or why I didn’t want to stay after work to go to Happy Hour… They couldn’t understand my world and I was envious of theirs. Feeling that all eyes were on me when I returned from maternity leave (many male counterparts expressed shock that I returned to work at all after having kids), I excelled. I attended every meeting, I worked on every “extra” project. I helped with every proposal. I didn’t ever want it to be said that having a baby affected my work ethic or my drive. I was a woman obsessed — trying to balance the impossible task of being a full time mother and full time executive and not allowing either area to suffer and I was lost. Something had to give and I just hoped it wasn’t me…

The question is often posed “can a woman have it all”? I won’t attempt to answer this question in this blog because “all” means different things to different people. What I do know is that being a working mother can be lonely. Your husband doesn’t understand and probably never will understand how you feel because mommies and daddies are wired differently. Even if you could get one of your friends with kids on the phone long enough to shed a few tears on their “shoulder”, they usually don’t really have the time to help you through your challenges because, well, they have kids of their own. Every mother’s story and experience is so different — but this blog is my story, my account, my diary as I try to be ‘every woman‘ for my family.  This is my story of realization…  I am not omnipotent. I am not omniscient. I am not omnipresent. I can’t do everything, I don’t know everything, I can’t be everywhere…. I am not God. I am just a wife mother woman….and that’s enough….    …it has to be…