On cheerleading and being the emotional "handlers" of the world.

Every summer, the pop charts decide what the anthem du jour is for that year. Last year the top honour, according to Billboard's Top 100 Chart, was OMI's hit song "Cheerleader". I would argue that it was The Weeknd's "I can't feel my face", but what do I know? I admit Cheerleader is a catchy tune. I have found myself bopping to it's Jamaican reggae beat and digging those sweet trumpet riffs, but something about the song lyrics has always made me feel somewhat ick and I would often end up changing the radio station anytime it came on. 

It wasn't until this week when I was on my couch trying to fit in a 15-minute power nap while my kids did their homework, that I realized why I disliked that song. And it was thanks to another musical artist also singing about cheerleaders. In my half-asleep, dazed state of mind, I heard St. Vincent's Cheerleader chorus playing, and maybe because of my semi-conscious state of mind at the time, the words of her song penetrated deeper than they had the hundreds of other times I had listened to it.

This week the words that I needed to describe what I was feeling about all this cheerleader stuff were revealed to me via a couple of different sources, including this gem from Jess Zimmerman at The Toast

Apparently all of this "cheerleading" is something called EMOTIONAL LABOUR. 

Yes, yes, I know. I am late to this party, but can you blame me? I'VE BEEN FREAKING EXHAUSTED because of all the damn cheerleading/emotional labouring I've been doing for most of my life! 

And my good god Ladies, do we ever do a lot of it.

Anne Theriault sent out a series of tweets last week outlining just a few of the ways that emotional labour works in relationships and it was such a revelation to me and, should be required reading for all men and women! (Click the image to read all of them.)

Then it really hit me how much emotional labour is wrapped up in motherhood and the things that we are expected to do or that we take on because the thought is again that "women are just better at these things". Except the truth is - we are not. We've just been conditioned for hundreds of years to accept that the unpaid work that women do, (housework, child rearing, sex work-yes, even in marriages), and the emotional labour that comes with it, are simply our "natural, female" attributes. And don't you know? All of this unpaid work, it's not real "work" and all of these things are actually fulfilling activities. HA! Good one patriarchy.  

The problem is, WE'VE BELIEVED IT ALL THIS TIME and we continue to believe it. 

It's why I feel guilty for having a housekeeper come in every couple of weeks. Because, really, shouldn't I be the one keeping a nice, clean home for my family and feeling pride in my "work"? That's what a good wife and mother does right? It's why I had an undiagnosed post-partum depression after my first child, but didn't say anything to anyone, because I had to be strong and take care of a preemie baby, build a new house, do it all on literally zero hours of sleep, and we already had so much on our plates, that "don't worry about me, I can handle it." became my mantra. And so it goes and we do this thing. We take on the role of the Strong Ones, the Multitaskers, the Keepers of all the Key Information, and we accept these roles, because if we don't, we are convinced that no one else is going to do them and never-you-mind, we'll just do it because, after all, us women-folk are just "better at all this STUFF!" 

I am not saying that men don't do any emotional labour as parents, but I would bet that if you took ten couples, separated them and asked the men and women some basic questions about who does what and who knows what about their family and life, you would get two very different sets of answers. I am talking about things like, what size of shoes the kids wear, who has a birthday party to attend this weekend, what summer camps are available and when you have to register for them, where the babysitter phone numbers are, when the kids are due for their next doctor check ups/vaccine boosters/dentist appointments, what the meal plan is for next week, when the library books are due, who is being mean to them at school, or how to log on to the school website to check their report cards, just to name a few things that fall primarily in the "things that only Mom seems to know", and subsequently takes care of, bucket. Mothers are just expected to KNOW these things, to carry these seemingly endless tidbits of information in our heads at all times, and be the ones to take care of everyone's general emotional well-being along the way - often at the expense of our own.

Women are EXPECTED to carry around the emotional baggage of everyone around them, knowing full well that this will inevitably start to weigh them down. And when that happens, when we stumble, there is a tendency to feel an inordinate amount of shame that we are letting everyone down and not being the good mother or the good woman (or friend, coworker, wife, partner, etc...), when in reality, we just need someone to take some of that emotional load from us and share the work - yes, even (especially) all that unpaid work. 

And people wonder why mothers are so fucking exhausted all the time. IT'S BECAUSE ALL THIS DAMN CHEERLEADING IS HARD WORK and ain't nobody paying cheerleaders anywhere in this world nearly enough for all that they do or are expected to do to support the emotional well-being of the folks around them, especially the men-folk. Women are the emotional "handlers" of the world and we have been well-trained in the art of not letting our own emotions cloud or overpower those of our "operatives". We've been conditioned to think that we aren't supposed to ADD TO or SHARE our own emotions in our relationships, we are there to offer our partners a safe place to offload their own and then make them feel validated and better about themselves. 

This is exactly what the OMI Cheerleader song is saying and why it has always bugged me.

"When I need motivation
My one solution is my queen
'Cause she stays strong
Yeah, yeah
She is always in my corner
Right there when I want her"

Sorry dude, JUST NOPE!

Like St. Vincent says, I don't want to be a Cheerleader NO MORE! 

When you need motivation, get it from within yourself. Do some of your own emotional heavy lifting, 'cause I am done with being the beast of burden for men's feelings, I am done keeping my own needs and feelings small and "manageable", and I am done being the keeper of all the damn lists and details of life!

Who is with me?

N~

 

Lord, give me the confidence... GIVEAWAY!

My Dearest Readers,

I am in a giving mood. 

Maybe it's because it was my birthday two weeks ago and 44 feels like it's going to be a good one. Maybe it's because I started on a new project today, and I'll probably tell you more about it in time, but not right now, because baby steps and I like to keep some things just for me sometimes. Maybe it's because what I want to give you is SO FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC, that I couldn't NOT give it to one of you! 

One year ago, Sarah Hagi penned this epic tweet and with it, a battle cry for women (especially women of colour) was born! 

 

In December of 2015, Audra Williams started a Teespring campaign in collaboration with Sarah, to make sure Sarah got the rightful credit (and some compensation) for her brilliance. To date over 800 of these t-shirts have been sold and I am sure many ended up under plenty 'o feminists Christmas trees. 

Now in case Santa didn't get the memo about this, you have a couple of options. You can still order one! Teespring seems to LOVE this campaign and keeps renewing it, so you can get your t-shirt, tank top or sweatshirt with the mantra to combat Imposter Syndrome emblazened across it right now while the campaign is still live.

OR

You can leave a comment below (please make sure to comment with your name and email). Tell me how you are combatting Imposter Syndrome and channeling some of that MWM confidence in your life! I will make a random draw for ONE winner next Thursday, January 21st, on the anniversary of Sarah's tweet. 

The t-shirt is a Size Medium BELLA+CANVAS Slouchy Tee and is super soft and plenty roomy and yes, I had to try it on and bask in it's glory, if only for a minute. (Don't worry, I've ordered one for myself as well!)

Good Luck!

N~

 

eat your damn broccoli or it's the end of parenting as we know it.

In case you didn't know this (but I know you do), parenting is a tough gig.

Most of us are completely convinced that we are totally fucking up our kids on a daily basis and setting them up for years of therapy later in life. That's part of the package (it was in the VERY small print, trust me). And just to rub that in a little bit more, here comes this month's Maclean's magazine to tell us this in a 2500+ word article, quoting some of North America's leading experts in the field titled, "The Collapse of Parenting: why it's time for parents to grow up."

I read this article, mostly because a friend of mine is one of the experts quoted and I like to support people I know when I can. But as I read it, I was getting increasingly angry, and I wondered why? I realized a few more paragraphs in that the sweeping generalizations made by the author about parents kowtowing to our children's every whim and demand was really getting to me. It was that and the assumptions being made about all us poor stupid parents sitting around wondering why are kids are such little shits these days and throwing up our collective hands in despair. 

Yes, tiny human beings need guidance, and boundaries, and even some of those pesky RULES. Wait, edit that - ALL human beings need boundaries and guidance and rules to live by. As parents, our job is to help the tiny humans in our charge realize these things and learn to navigate and adapt to an every changing world around them and their own developing minds and bodies. We all know this already. You want a kid with good manners, model good manners. You want a kid who tries new things? Try new things yourself. You want a kid who understands how to behave in public, take them out in public and show them. This is not new NEWS in the parenting world.

Here's what I know. Parenting is at times as complicated as rocket science and at the same time, NOT FUCKING ROCKET SCIENCE AT ALL (see above). It can be a fly by the seat of your pants, hold on for dear life, enjoy the damn ride and hope you don't puke, kind of journey. It can also be "read all the books, try some new things, figure out what works, do whatever that is, and screw all the people saying you are doing it wrong", meandering walk in the desert, without a whole lot of water to sustain you or a damn compass to guide you. In other words, some days are easy, some days are hard, it can be exhilarating, it can be fun and it can also feel like an ultra-mega-super-marathon with no discernible finish line in sight. 

There is no one-size fits ALL for parenting. And no, there is no imminent collapse of parenting. Are more kids having tantrums these days than in the past? NO. But more kids are being videotaped having tantrums or being shamed via social media for having (God-forbid) BIG emotions (in a time when we are trying to educate more people to allow for these big emotions) and we are being subjected to these very public frustrations (both kid and parental) online. Are parents trying to ensure that their children are raised with the ability to make conscious choices about their own lives/bodies/identities, while also figuring out how to instil healthy and necessary boundaries? Yes, they are. Can we please not scuttle the whole damn ship because a few kids are having the fries with their burgers at Red Robin and not the steamed broccoli/green peas?

Mmmmm, broccoflower! 

Mmmmm, broccoflower! 

While we are at it and although I am SO not a millennial parent (read, I am old enough to be a millennial's mother), I feel like this article, though not specifically defining them as such, made enough inferences for us to guess which parents they are talking about, and I think that is unfair. Look, I don't know how to break this to you, but every generation wants to do better than the last and since that is universally the case since the beginning of time (I am pretty sure Cain and Abel's kids were all "Hey, let's not kill each other OK?"), we are all navigating new seas. No parenting book in the whole entire world is going to every fully prepare you for the tsumani-force that is having a child. That's not to say you shouldn't do some reading, but do so with the understanding that all kids are their own unique versions of square pegs and they will never fit into the textbook version of the round hole. And really, is that what we want for our kids? NO, we all want our kids to be the unique beautiful flowers that they are and damn it if we aren't going to give them whatever nurturing we feel is necessary to help them grow! 

What this Maclean's article feels like to me is someone seeing a change in the way that parents are doing things, THE STRUGGLES that come with any large scale change in social and cultural behaviour and then saying, "Nope, see, that's not working. Let's go back to the way it used to be." I mean, Andrea Nair (my super smart friend) said RIGHT IN THE ARTICLE that parents must “have a higher tolerance for things not going well." and open themselves to the opportunity to learn and become more confident. I would go one step further and say that all the observers, unsolicited-advice-givers and well-meaning strangers/commenters also need to increase their tolerance for parents and children not always doing things the way they think they should and to open up to some new ways/waves of parenting. 

And on a personal note, here are just a couple of the reasons why I am all for this new fan-dangled way of parenting where my kids are seen as PEOPLE with agency of their own. I don't want to raise my kids to never question their elders or voice their opinion or concern when something feels off. You want to know why? Because that was how I was raised, and then one of these adults that I was taught never to question because they were the "grown-up" and therefore "knew better", sexually abused me and I never said anything. I don't want to raise my kids in a "That's the way it's always been done and look at me I turned out OK" kind of world. I actually want my kids to turn out better than OK and yes, better than me. I want them to know that their voices matter, their autonomy will be respected and that I will have their backs always and forever. And that last part, about having their backs, means that along with respecting them as the tiny humans they are, I will also provide for them the boundaries that they need to feel nurtured and loved and able to grow into their own amazing abilities and personalities. 

So, NO! Parenting is not collapsing, it is evolving and we need to allow for this growth and support it, not tear it down and tell everyone how badly they are failing at it. Parents do not need to be criticized and questioned and told to grow up, because trust me, nothing anyone can say in this article or any of the "expert" books or websites out there can hold a candle to the self-criticism and constant questioning we do to ourselves. WE'VE GOT PARENTAL SELF-DOUBT COVERED Y'ALL!

Now, how about someone look over at that Dad at the restaurant negotiating a couple of bites of green peas with his headstrong daughter who is likely to grow up and know EXACTLY who she is and what she wants and is not going to let anyone tell her she can't do it, and give him the universal look that all parents know as "Been there done that dude. You are doing it right and I support you!"

'Cause that is what parents really need. Some fucking solidarity please!

This shit is HARD!

N~