The first thing I hear when I wake up many mornings is the groggy voice of my three-year-old daughter (who yes, sleeps with us . . . I’m not apologizing, just clarifying) asking “Can I watch the iPad today?” If I say “yes” then I’m a bad mom, and if I say “no” then I’m a bad mom. Long before I’m ready to get out of bed, I hear the baby crying. As soon as I stand up I realize I have to pee so I figure I better take care of that first because once I get the baby she’ll need a diaper change, bottle, breakfast, the dog will need to be fed, the three year old (who will probably be watching the iPad by then) will want a snack (heaven help me if I refer to it as breakfast – no. It’s a SNACK) and by then it’ll be too late so I guiltily use the bathroom before fetching the crying baby. Did you know that some women get up before their children wake them up? I’m not kidding. I have a friend who gets up, showers, and gets ready for the day BEFORE her kids even wake up! Whhhaaaat?! Anyway, when I stumble out of bed, my three year old will cry and lose it if I do not give her a piggyback ride TO the bathroom, then she has to sit ON my lap while I pee. I cannot make this stuff up.
Mornings are my “dark time.” Absolutely nothing sounds exciting. I’m a night person, so more often than not I’ve planned a busy day for us the evening before. I’ll have the bags packed for a workout at the gym followed by a swim with the three-year-old while the baby stays in the “kid watch”. Then, we’ll grab lunch, hit the library, and maybe even stop by the park. But at 8:45 am, I’m like Naaahh. All I really want to do is sip my lukewarm coffee and watch Gilmore Girls. All day. Luckily, by 10:30 or so I’m like “Welllll I should shower.” We eventually get out the door and the rest of the day picks up.
I’ve been reading a book called Half the Sky. I was led to it by a podcast or article that I can’t remember and it’s killing me because I really wish I knew how I stumbled upon it. When I read the Chinese proverb at the beginning explaining the title: “Women hold up half the sky” I was like Oh hell yah we do. This book has been not-so-gently reminding me that my “dark” mornings are unfathomable to women across the world. I mean they wouldn’t even imagine the splendor of it. While I’m grumbling about how “tired” I am, women are being beaten, sold into the sex trade, having acid thrown in their faces, and I could go on but you get the point. This is not one of those “I realized how terrible other people’s lives are and how blessed I am” things though. Sure, that has happened while I’ve been reading, but what has struck me throughout this book is how powerful women are. Especially in the face of oppression, poverty, and abuse. The women I’ve read about have resilience that doesn’t seem possible.
The authors, Nicolas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (they’re married . . . talk about #relationshipgoals) somehow weave narrative, painful truths, and a hopeful message into one. For example, one chapter begins like this:
“The most effective change agents aren’t foreigners but local women (and sometimes men) who galvanize a movement – women like Muktar Mai.” And then continues to tell of a woman who was gang raped but used her rage to build schools, start her own aid group, and defy her Pakistani government. The stories leave me speechless and sleepless.
I have a few degrees I’m not currently using, I used to have an amazing teaching position working with teenagers from all over the world, and I have a strong desire to you know, end slavery. Thus, it is often difficult not to think about what I could be doing with all my time if I didn’t have kids. But here I am, deeply in love with them, not looking at returning to work in the near future, and questioning if anything I do even matters.
Then the afternoon comes, the coffee has kicked in, and I am reminded of the Jackie Robinson quote my mom has preached for decades: “A life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives.” Right now my audience is two: A sassy little girl who will be four before I know it and a sweet 7-month-old who is strong and loving and perfect. I may not be able to go travel, teach, and conquer right now, so I am going to blast these two with all the “save the world” energy that I have.
I want them to know how capable and strong they are, but that they can always work to become stronger. I want them to love people fiercely, because there are a lot of people who really need it. I want them to trust and be vulnerable, but also to know how to fight and speak up when needed. I want them to be kind and respectful, but also know they never have to speak or touch when uncomfortable. I want them to need little, but that means I cannot give them everything I’d like to. I want them to know that someday they will have their own little corner of the world and whether they end up building schools in Pakistan or raising their own children to be good, they, too, hold up half the sky.
Thank you Rayme Jones for contributing to the Voices of Motherhood series.