Work or Life. No Balance.

I have never read Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In" because in 2013 when her book came out, I was 2 years out of college, with a 2 year old, with a partner who was making about $2. 

Her book was about as relevant to me as the luxury apartments across the street, I'm sure they're nice but that means absolutely nothing to me. 

A few weeks ago I spoke to 300 girls at the high school I graduated from and one of the things these 14 - 18 year old girls asked me to talk about was work-life balance. So I was honest.  For me there is no such thing as work-life balance. I work or I life. 

I work or I life. 

At no time in my life have I been spectacular or perfect at any two things at the very same time. In fact I've never even been flawless at any one thing at any one time.

Happy Partner. Unhappy child forced to go to events with us. 

Happy Partner. Unhappy child forced to go to events with us. 

I'm fairly okay with this. I'm not defined by the 13 minutes late I am for pickup, the second night of Thai food from the place with the B rating, the 139 group messages I missed, the three messages my mom left two Tuesdays ago, the grant report I submitted late, the happy hour I skipped out for the third time in a row, the seven nights this week I've fallen asleep mid-convo with my partner. I am not defined by any of those things because I'm more than my aggregate failures, I am more than the numerous hats I wear.

No that doesn't mean that my bad days aren't defined by dirty dishes (always the fucking dishes) It means my person-hood isn't defined by all my roles at all one time. 

Mother, sister, aunt, mom, corporate relations officer, partner, friend..... 

My day is not a balance beam its more of a seesaw with just me on it. I can only reasonably manage one thing at a time. In life and in parenting I have begun to understand that principle.

I've begun to understand the unrealistic expectations work, friendship, partners, motherhood puts on you. That these things constantly weigh themselves against each other, they want to ignore the fact that you are really only one person and things have got to fail sometimes. What might mean success for one thing might be failure (in that moment) for another thing. 

I would love it if the stakeholders in my life understood that. If they did, it would mean my kid not screaming Moana at the top of her lungs when I'm on a conference call. It would mean my job letting me work remotely and not scheduling calls at 7:00am on a school day. It would mean my friends getting to happy hour on time and continuing to invite me even if I don't show up. It would mean not feeling guilty about taking a sick day. 

When I scroll through Instagram it seems like everyone is doing it all. The highlight reels are real. but I have to believe no one is doing it all and behind that perfectly photographed picture of her in her white power suit feeding her kid organic peas (that they enjoy) there is a missed therapy appointment or a nights sleep. She probably still doesn't know who Ted ends with in "How I Met Your Mother".  What you don't always see is the burnout of trying to do it all or the nanny or their cleaning service or task rabbit bill. 

Goals change, priorities change. Every goal you have for yourself doesn't have to be socially acceptable. This year my goal is to actually make more time for my damn self. That doesn't seem like the good mommy thing to do and it certainly doesn't appear to be the professional move. But given that when I started to write this I forgot about my priorities to myself it probably means its a good priority to have. Next year my goal might be to get Peyton to be a concert violinist or help my partner with his campaign. (See the seesaw)

All this to say you can wear the #blackgirlmagic cape even if you're not in the south of France with your partner, even if you didn't just post a picture of yourself receiving your PH.D while holding your adorable 2 year old who is already reading. You are magic even if your one thing for the day was getting out of the door because some days that is pretty magical. 

I work or I life.  

 

 

Biking to Support Doctors Without Borders

Biking is our activity of love. It is how we get to school and work. It is how we get to the grocery store and ice cream shop. It is what we do as a family. As we try to make sense of all that is hurtful, confusing, and wrong in the world. We try to take time to breathe and find joy in our daily routine, most times we find that through biking. 

This weekend we biked 15+ miles riding from Brooklyn to Harlem. On Sunday, May 7, 2017, we will be riding through the streets of New York City in the 2017 Five Boro Bike Tour— while supporting the lifesaving mission of Doctors Without Borders. We are raising funds and awareness of its mission to support its response to emergencies around the world. The donations raised will be put to work immediately to deliver urgent medical care including treatment for malnutrition, emergency surgery, and lifesaving vaccinations for people around the world.

To support Doctors Without Borders and our ride click here

  1. We use an adult Electra Solid Color Matte Mint helmet for Peyton on our rides now. We were sad to see her grow out of children's sizes but after a fitting we knew that was the only option.
  2. We rode 15 miles from our apartment in Brooklyn over the Brooklyn bridge down the West Side Highway bike path to 125th street in Brooklyn. We use a Yepp  Maxi Seat post Child Seat for her and have two seat post adapters on each of our bikes so that we switch her seat from bike to bike. We love that it is light and has a high weight capacity 22 kilos (48 pounds). 
  3. This is a photo of us on the Brooklyn Bridge, while we love the view we're not sure if we enjoy the tourist who don't stay out of the bike line. As you can see I'm not wearing a bike helmet, I absolutely don't recommend this. My hair wasn't dry and my helmet couldn't fit over the curlers so my helmet couldn't fit but you should always always always  wear helmet. Next time I'll be better. 
  4. This was the first bike I had with Peyton and first Child Seat, we loved both so very much but unfortunately they were stolen in front of our apartment. Always lock your bike frame and both wheels! Her seat was a Co Pilot Taxi child seat and my bike was a fuji women's crosstown 1.0 hybrid bike. 
  5. These are two of the bikes  we use when we're carting Peyton around. My bike is a 2016 Trek 7.0 FX and Michael's is a Specialized Diverge A1 2017 we bought them at our local neighborhood bike shop that we spend a lot of time at Fulton Bikes
  6. This was Michael's first time riding with Peyton on the back of his bike. I was a little protective over her but in the end he really did a great job with her on his back for 15 miles!
  7. That pinkie pie pony almost got lost on the trip thankfully a few other bikers pointed us in the right direction and it was quickly recovered! 
  8. This is us at last years TD 40 mile Bike tour. It was cold and wet and miserable but I'm glad I did it. It was really amazing pushing ourselves to complete the 40 miles and being able to raise money for a good cause as well. We love Doctors Without Borders and I'm excited to have the opportunity to support again this year. For more information on how to support click here

Friendship Goals

Family Saturdays at the New York City Ballet

Peyton and Skylar enjoyed an exciting one-hour interactive presentation featuring excerpts from New York City Ballet's diverse repertory performed by Company dancers and members of the NYCB Orchestra. Family Saturdays are the perfect introduction to NYCB and the world of classical dance!

For more information click here

on saying Hello.

“You are so cute” - Stranger

“I don’t like to be called cute” - Peyton

“Oh but you’re so cute” - Stranger 

“I DON’T LIKE TO BE CALLED CUTE!” - Peyton 

Week after week I see that same conversation play out with Peyton. It’s as if the world is readying her for the street harassment she will undoubtable endure as she gets older. Actually, it already sounds a lot like catcalling. For the past two weeks, I’ve tried to note all the first time interactions Peyton has had with people she encounters in public. When I took stock of what I had, while writing this post, I was alarmed at the problematic ways we speak to girls. 

Man on the street – “You are so adorable.”

Women on the train – “She is so cute; I love your outfit” 

Man on the express bus - "You made it! Now smile, little mama" 

Man on street- “You're cute just like your mommy” 

Man on street- “Be careful little mommy” (Peyton was on her skateboard)

Man on street- “You want a sibling” 

Woman at the grocery store – “You’re such a cutie” Peyton respond “I don’t like to be called cute” and woman responds “but you’re so cute, I could just snatch you” 

Man biking beside us- “Tell your mom to ride on the sidewalk so nothing happens to that beautiful face of yours” 

Man at Pizza shop- “You’re so pretty, pretty like mommy. Come let me give you a lollipop” 

Woman on the train- “Your mama is going to have a handful when you get older” 

Woman outside of camp- "I bet you drive the boys crazy with those beautiful eyes" 

This doesn’t even begin to paint a picture of the things that people say directly to me about her, or about me in her presence. Most comments are focused on her physical appearance,  the idea that one day she'll be a mother, or protecting her from boys. How can I tell my daughter she is more than the sum of her appearance when every day people show and tell her differently? 

When she was younger (to my family’s detriment) every time someone would tell her she was beautiful or cute, I would say “and smart, brave, and kind.” However, as time went by I got embarrassed at having to correct everyone from family members to close friends, so I stopped. I shouldn’t have. 

I think when Peyton says "I don’t like to be called cute", she really means there is more to me than my appearance. Or she might just be tired of hearing her male peers and cousins get more than the "you're cute." I think what makes me most upset is that these empty comments are meant to draw "thanks" from her. I’ve even had people scold me for not telling her to say thank you. It’s eerily similar to when I walk down the street and people tell me to “smile”. 

No thank you. 

These strangers feel entitled to take up space in her daily commute and in her life. They feel entitled to a response--more so, they feel entitled to a favorable response. As if she should be thankful that they find her pretty.  As is she should feel thankful that they've acknowledged her beauty. If this doesn’t seem problematic to you that a 4 year old should be thankful to a stranger for noting her physical appearance, I don’t know what to say to you. 

Some of my friends ask me, "What else should I say to her?"

Maybe Hello. 

Well, what should strangers say to her? 

Maybe nothing. 

For the strangers she encounters who tell her she is beautiful, pretty, and cute and then pause for a response. Keep holding your breath. Teaching girls that the way they look is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. More important than the ideas she has, more important than her interest, more important than all the really weird and cool things that she thinks of. 

Maybe you’re not a stranger and maybe you need some talking points on how to speak to little girls. 

Here are a few suggestions

Hello, how are you today?

What is your favorite thing to do on Saturdays?

Do you think Elsa or Mr. Freeze would win a battle?

What do you think of the election?

What’s your favorite color?

Who would you feed to zombies in your class if you had to pick one person?

Do you prefer Koalas or Raccoons?

Bryn Mawr or Wellesley?

Will the Knicks win a championship by the time you’re 50? 

Is it okay that I like Rihanna more than Beyonce?  

For the ones that say there is nothing wrong with telling a little girl, especially a black little girl that she is beautiful, you're wrong. Feeling beautiful and feeling happy and confident in the way you look doesn't come from such empty comments. Confidence comes from working hard for things and accomplishing it. Feeling beautiful is more affected by your own perceptions and seeing yourself reflected in everyday positions of power. Confidence is an internal component. These comments, although well meaning, result in the idea that she is her "beauty." When we comment and focus on her physical attributes, we're saying these are the important things. Not her interest, not her humor, not her. 

We have to continue to examine our interactions and the words we use because these words shape their expectations for what is important in the world. It shouldn't be their looks or what they're wearing, it should be a holistic view of who she is and who she wants to be. 

A "Super" Birthday Party

Peyton celebrated her 5th Birthday at Ample Hills Creamery  in Brooklyn. Everyone had an incredible time. They learned to make Ice Cream which they churned by riding a stationary Ice Cream making bike. Peyton loved having all her cousins present along with her friends from Camp and school. The entire party was superhero themed with a superhero backdrop, superhero toys and capes, and superhero mask making. The Ice Cream came out delicious and was served with Waffles!! A special thanks to the staff for their incredible service, my mom for helping to organize and decorate, and to my friends and family who made the day incredibly special. 

Why we're not going on a Playdate

Since we've moved to Brooklyn there's been a few steep learning curves. 1. The G train is useless. 2. Everything is more expensive when you add reclaimed wood and call it deconstructed. 3. Williamsburg is a cluster fuck. 4. Gentrification is real.

Peyton at Vigil in Brooklyn 

Peyton at Vigil in Brooklyn 

and lastly playdates are as common as Hello but as hard to coordinate as a trip to Trista da Cunha . Peyton being an only child means asking for a playdate is almost constant

However, for the past week I've refused every playdate and here is why. 

I'm am too fraught with grief over the lost lives of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling to entertain playdates with moms who frown about BPA, non-organic free range cheese, and whether or not our school should provide curbside parking for micro scooters but are silent when it comes to lives like my daughter's mattering. Where is your outrage at your children growing up in a world where their black playdate buddy is nine times more likely to be killed by the police. Excuse me if I don't give a shit about Sally's nap schedule and lacrosse lessons. Our children are dying. 

I can't sit in another play date with my black daughter and talk about your latest Etsy project. And yes before you say "we need to use these moments to educate our friends." 

No.

I am grieving. We are grieving. If you can't be an ally. We can't go on playdates. 

 

On Consent

On Consent.

Peyton is four she can name and identify her cervix, uterus, vagina, and even the fundus. Not because I have some incredible budding genius that will land me a spot on The Ellen Show but because this is her body, I want her to name it, love it, and most of all own it.

In our house the rule is really simple. Peyton owns her body, just like I own my body. We ask before we touch. We know we have the right to refuse a hug, or a kiss, or a pat on our head. We know that our body doesn’t just include the parts covered by our clothes but extends to our hair and even our toes (so please don’t tickle without our permission and when we say stop we mean it)

I’m teaching my four-year-old about consent, about her right to have ownership over her own body. If that isn’t persuasive enough for you, let’s consider some very real and very recent events.

Hugs are great, but please ask first. 

Hugs are great, but please ask first. 

Peyton and I had just finished grocery shopping and were at the checkout counter when a customer in the other line asked for a hug. Peyton said “no”, the woman said “how about a kiss on the cheek”. Peyton said “no I don’t want you to kiss or touch me” when she said that everyone’s ears in the supermarket perked up. Here was a little girl rightfully telling someone that she didn’t want her to touch or kiss her and there were a number of people who heard her. If for some reason I didn’t see this taking place they were there to step in and intervene. If I spent my time forcing Peyton to kiss and hug people on command maybe she would have fell silent and felt obligated to let this “well-meaning stranger” kiss and hug her.

We have to allow our children to understand completely that they have ownership over their body and that people whether they’re adults, teachers, or family members don’t maintain a special exemption as people who get to touch you wherever and whenever.

You don’t have consent until someone tell you yes. And when they tell you no, that consent is withdrawn. Even at four, even with aunts, even when it's “just their hair”, even when it's tickling.

Last week, I read first a brave and powerful statement from a rape victim and then I read a letter from the father of the rapist. Both left me angry, scared, sad, and disgusted. Here was a dad who failed at teaching his son what consent was. Here is a dad who would excuse the actions of his son who is a rapist. Here is a dad who doesn’t understand what consent is himself. Here is a woman whose life will never be the same because a rapist decided to ignore consent and to rape her.

When I teach my daughter about consent it’s so she knows that she and everyone she meets has ownership over their body. She should ask before she assumes someone wants a hug, she should stop if they no longer want a hug. She shouldn’t touch people without their permission and they shouldn’t touch her without hers.

Our rules for consent

  • No Means No – For her, for me, for those we interact with.

  • We stop a hug or a kiss when we are asked – We may want one and then not want another and that’s okay.

  • Even grandparents don’t get to force hug or kiss – Parents, teachers, friends included.

  • We can change our minds- I liked tickling but now I don’t so stop please. I wanted you in the bathroom now I don’t. I wanted cuddle but now I don’t.

  • Ownership over every body part- If you wouldn’t touch my vagina without asking, don’t touch my hair without asking.

Consent – Noun: permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. Verb: give permission for something to happen.