My Fearless Voice?

I recently joined up with a wonderful group of women who are charged with “fearlessly expanding the feminine voice in our churches, communities, and culture.” And oh, how they do! Strong, fearless voices reach out through the blogosphere,* books, social media, and prayers, to put the hopes, dreams, joys, and sorrows of women into words. It is an honor to be among them.

But I wonder.

How “fearless” is my voice? How often do I let fear of divergent views of friends and family sway or swallow my words? And this even though I know I will be loved by my friends and family even when disagreements arise? How often do I decide to push away the nagging, burning words of personal experiences because they may expose too much of my life, with its successes and failures, its ups and downs?

The answer is far too often. Will that be any different after I write this post? Will fearlessly admitting to my fearfulness allow me to say it all, do it all, expose it all? I doubt it.

But the more I am exposed to the strength of others around me, and the more I see them write of the hard things of life, the more I am strengthened and emboldened to do the same. We all need community, no matter our stage or station in life.

I am fortunate enough to have a community through this blog as well. Readers are in the 4-digits, and hopefully there will be more to come. So right now I’m reaching out to this community and asking for help. To keep me from flaking on my commitment to be a “fearless” voice, I have a favor to ask: if you read something here or elsewhere by me that you disagree with, would you please let me know? Bring it up in the comment section, on Facebook, on Twitter, or, if you’re family, anywhere other than the dinner table, instead of pretending the disagreement doesn’t exist? And then tell me that’s it’s okay for us to agree to disagree. That we’re still in this community together anyway. And if you see something you like, let me know that, too.

Fear comes from the unknown. So while it’s up to me to overcome hangups and obsessions, I do hope you might help me out a little bit along the way.

(*See the blogroll to the right for links.)

Why I Love Social Media and Think It’s a Really Good Thing (Usually)

I used to be a fairly hardcore computer geek. And while I’m no longer immersed in the computer-geek subculture, I’m still a good person to call if something goes wrong with your computer.

Now instead of immersion in geek stuff, I do the social media/blog stuff. I currently have six Facebook pages (speaking of which, won’t you please “like” my Facebook page? It would mean a lot to me!); four websites that I own and operate on a regular basis; one website that I work on with some other women; no fewer than 10 email accounts, most of which I actually use; two Twitter pages that I use sparingly; and one Pinterest account that I use to keep track of remodeling ideas. I don’t have an Instagram account because I don’t have an iPhone. There are other social media venues I don’t use, but you know, I am almost 35 and have three kids as well as paying work on occasion, and there’s only so much I can do.

I absolutely love this stuff, and, thankfully, the only time it distracts me from family, clients, or chores is first thing in the morning while I drink coffee (and that has more to do with the coffee), and maybe twice per week if there’s something new/exciting/difficult I’m working on. I’m really lucky that I type fast, do my thinking in the rocking chair, and don’t have an addictive personality. I realize, however, that many people *do* have addictive personalities, and that’s why the title of this post parenthetically includes the word “usually.”

Why do I love these things? I love writing blogs because I’m a writer and it’s fun. I love the social media part because rather than making me feel disconnected from “real” people the way so many others complain about, it actually brings me closer to “real” people. And since I — and most of my friends — are in a time of life when social interaction is limited by nap time and sick kids, this closeness is vitally important.

Old Friends Stay Friends

One of the greatest parts of Facebook is that old friends stay friends and, in some instances, become even closer friends than they were before.

Most of my friends live elsewhere and we can’t get together for a play date or coffee. Some of my friends have children (and/or spouses) I have never met. By seeing the status updates of these friends, the wedding photos, birth- and birthday photos, and just the everyday photos of their lives, I am able to stay close to them in a way I otherwise couldn’t. When I see these friends in person, I don’t feel like we need to spend the first two hours of our time together playing catch-up. I know about the recitals, the plays, the lost teeth and potty-training, the sleepless nights, and the new house.

Long-Distance Family Stays Close

The other greatest part of Facebook is that I can keep up with long-distance family. Just like with the long-distance friends referenced above, I can keep in the loop with my growing nieces, nephews, cousins, and others.

Acquaintances Become Friends

In a real-life, face-to-face relationship, people seldom bust out all their family photos, their politics, religion, and favorite TV shows and movies. It can take years to get to know a person on a deep level, because real-time interaction just doesn’t lend itself to “full” disclosure. And it probably shouldn’t. You can’t just meet someone for the first time and tell them all about your dad’s health problems, your child’s first day of preschool, or your husband’s new job. While some of these things certainly come up organically, to talk about these sorts of topics in large quantities would be one-sided and selfish, and who wants that?

But you know how you friend people on social media sites just because you sort of know them, but not really? When that happens, you see what pages they “like.” Which news stories they share. You can see what they have listed under “religion” and “politics.” You see how they interact with their spouses and children, what they look like without makeup, what they do on a daily basis, and what’s important to them. In seeing this, you start feeling like you know these acquaintances much better than you did before. Almost like…. a friend.

My time in law school is a good example of this. We were all busy, to say the least, and since I was a single parent and working part-time, I had very little social interaction with more than a handful of peers. So I became friends with people in that we knew and liked each other, but that was about it. Now that we’re “friends” on Facebook, we’ve gotten to know each other in a way that the hectic pace of law school would never have allowed. And this carries over to in-person interactions as well. When I see these acquaintances-turned-friends in real life, I (and they) feel like we truly are friends.

Current Local Friends Become Better Friends

The same logic from above applies here. I will admit, however, that there are some odd moments, such as when after a lengthy back-and-forth over the internet, or an especially personal blog post, you see each other in person and no one knows whether to reference the screen-based interaction or not (FWIW, I think it’s best to just mention it right away and get the “should I or shouldn’t I?” over with.) Or when you see a photo of someone in their jammies and slippers then see them in their Sunday best at church. Or, in the case of blogs, when you learn things about people that are deeply personal that may have taken years of friendship to uncover, if at all.

But because you do uncover these things so quickly, you become closer faster, and that’s usually a good thing.

As long as these outlets aren’t used irresponsibly and the bonds created carry over into real-life relationships, the screen time is well worth it. (IMHO : ))

50 Years After the Feminine Mystique, I Just Can’t Do it All.

Back in March, I wrote a very tongue in cheek, yet very true, post titled 50 Years After the Feminine Mystique, I (Heart) My Kids. In it I say that despite the difficulties of going from being a full-time professional to being a mostly stay-at-home mom, and despite how crappy some days are as a stay-at-home parent, it’s all worth it because I love my kids.

That’s definitely true. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that explanation was a bit disingenuous. It certainly didn’t get to the heart of why I have made the choice to be a 99% SAHM instead of continuing to practice law full time.

The heart of it is: I can’t do it all.

For me the question isn’t can I have it all. Of course I can have it all! A dual income family can afford more outside help, the house is neater because no one is home all day, I’d actually be excited to see my kids at 7pm, and I could run errands during my lunch break or while my boss is under the impression I’m at court. (shhh!) I say this from experience because that’s how it used to be when I worked full time.*

All that said, even with a housekeeper twice a month, I still felt like I spent all weekend washing clothes and cleaning toilets. On the weekends, we ran around so much going to baseball tournaments and practices that it felt like I was either in a car or on a bleacher all the time. And if I was at home, I was scrubbing something. We couldn’t ever go to church, and family time (other than baseball games) was either non-existent or strained by the problems that presented themselves once we became a latch key family.

I couldn’t pick my son up from school, and he started “hanging out,” which, let me tell you, is the root of all evil. Other things started happening that I couldn’t take care of because I was 30 minutes away from home and had clients depending on me to be at work taking care of them. I got important personal calls at my desk all the time, many of which were urgent requests to be somewhere other than at work, and if my flex time was all flexed out, I was out of luck or I had to sneak out while my boss wasn’t looking.

So I quit.

I didn’t “want” to quit, but there was also nothing that I wanted more. It took me at least a year to stop thinking about my old co-workers, commenting on their Facebook statuses about their latest trial, or reading the emails from my boss (she forgot to remove me from the list).

But I had to do it.

I had to do it: 1) for my family, and 2) for me.

I think the reasons my family needed me are obvious. It wasn’t to keep the toilets clean or the colors bright. It wasn’t even to make sure we ate healthy home cooked meals, or so I could go to all my son’s baseball games. It was because we needed someone to be “home base.” Someone to grab on to and yell “olly olly oxen free!” Whole books can be and are written about why it’s beneficial to have at least one parent (mom or dad) at home, so there’s no real need to go into that here.

The reasons I had to do it for me are less talked about.

I’m a perfectionist. I had to give either 100% to my work or 100% to my family. I couldn’t find a way to give 60/40 or 30/70 or whatever was needed at any given time. Despite a laundry service, a housekeeper, ordering takeout, a great husband, good kids, and all the other amenities that make working-mom life easier, I was a complete and utter failure at finding the balance between work and home.

Part of this was because the only part-time option offered at my work was a 3-day workweek, and I wanted a 2-day workweek. My husband and I could have worked out something 2 days a week for afterschool pickups, but as hard as we tried, we couldn’t work out something for 3 days a week. And that one off day was so important to us (remember: hanging out is the ROOT OF ALL EVIL) that we saw no other option. I was also pregnant, and very much wanted to be at home for our then-unborn child.

But really, the main reason is all because of me and my inability to do it all. I am not supermom. I cannot BE supermom. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, trying to both work and parent. On any given day, if someone were to ask me why I quit the job I had always wanted, I could give any number of answers, all of which would be true. But it is important for me to say, because it needs to be said, that the biggest reason of all is that I could not do it all.

But you know what? That’s okay. And that is what this post is really all about. It isn’t some therapeutic rant for me; it’s about one woman, one family, saying “I can’t do this,” hoping that some other woman will read it and not feel like she has failed because she can’t balance work and home. Some women can, some women can’t, and some women do it because they have no other choice. Women need to feel honored for their choices, no matter what those choices are, instead of being made to feel like failures if they can’t “lean in,” or always work at the office, or not have spit up on their suit. Sometimes, perhaps even oftentimes, where we really need to “lean in” is at home.

Which is what the next post will be about.

* (I want to acknowledge that much of what I’m saying isn’t true for many women: I am speaking from my experience as an attorney, which is completely different than the experience I had, say, when I was waiting tables or cleaning houses and single parenting my son.)