Heidi Stevens published a column on the Tribune the other day about why using her cell phone while she walks is OK. I am not going to condone her behavior. People who use their phones while walking on the street drive me crazy, especially if I am the one doing it.
She run another column this week with some heated responses she got from her readers. Unsurprisingly, most of them turned out to be male. And multitasking is a female luxury. I have a rare specimen at home of a man who grew a Blackberry on his hand (I know, on top of that he also likes his classics), but other than that, I don’t see dads juggling devices, kids and car keys. That is reserved to us, the moms. In particular, the working moms. I am not going to start another debate about working vs staying at home, I have tried both, and have utter respect for stay at home moms, as I think theirs is one of the hardest jobs out there.
But when you are a mom and you work, you are expected to do it all, as the fact that I am writing this on two hours of sleep shows. In this particular day and case, I was so exhausted that I fell asleep while getting my baby to sleep. I had to grade exams, so when I woke up all startled at 1:30 am I had no choice but to make myself a cup of coffee in order to be able to grade. I went back to bed at 4:30, stirred in there for 70 minutes, and got up again to breastfeed said baby, get ready, have some more coffee and go back to work. I am sure I am not the only one, and hardly alone.
Focusing on something would be awesome. Actually I wrote about it a while ago. But it turns out that as a mother of three kids, one of them special needs, with a job (or two, depending on how you look at it, even three if you consider blogging a job), I don’t have actual time to focus. Seriously. None. If I am lucky, I will be able to steal three hours a week to meet with my friends and focus on dining, and chatting, and complaining, and maybe even some wine. But even then, I will be checking my phone every now and then, to make sure no crisis has aroused in my house while I’m away. That’s what society expects me to do, that’s what nature or nurture programmed me to do, so I comply. So do millions of other moms.
Which is how we end up using our phones while we walk. Taking calls while we drive. Cooking while we play. Entertaining kids while we shit (not kidding, I recently had to with two curious and very eager to help kids in the bathroom). And grading when we should be sleeping.
We are stretched beyond capacity to meet some standards that society, ourselves, and in some cases our families have set us up to. We are supposed to work, have a fruitful career, bear children, cook, look pretty (or at least decently groomed and clean), organize schedules for the whole household, attend school meetings, help with homework, keep the house in living conditions, drive kids to activities, soccer, therapies, doctor’s appointments, make said appointments, to nurture and be funny, stay on top of things, while actually things stay on top of ourselves pushing us down. Pulling us apart. Tearing us in pieces. And whatever is left of who we were is drowned every day in coffee, wine, or tears.
Of course life is not like that all day long, every day. There are good moments, many good moments, or we wouldn’t stand it. But the truth is that, even with the most supportive partners, women are overtaxed. Co-parenting is a myth that no established system recognizes. Case in point, I had my husband take care of a scheduling conflict for one of ours son’s therapies. He called, talked to the head of the department, and gave her his number so she could get back at him with a solution. Can you guess on whose telephone she left a message? Mine. The mom’s. Because mom is the default, and that is absolutely unfair to both of us. My husband did nothing wrong here, but he was discriminated against by this woman who decided that I was in charge. And you know what? 98% of the time she would have been right. And while we keep being in charge 98% of the time, co-parenting will remain in Wonderland.
Taking care of bedtime, baths, and drop off certainly helps, but most dads don’t know their kids’ teachers’ e-mail addresses, the pediatrician’s number by heart, or when the Halloween party is at school and what type sugar free organic treat you are supposed to bring. Juggling five schedules, and making sure that everyone is where they are supposed to be is exhausting, to the point that somedays I wish I wouldn’t even know where I am.
So, Heidi Stevens, thank you for writing your honest column, and for showing how oblivious most people are to the challenges moms face nowadays. May we (quite literally) run into each other while toting our phones, multitasking, remaining in charge. In the meantime, I have some exams to grade.
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