Moms are People Too

I’m ironically streaming one of comedian Ally Wong’s Netflix specials while writing this. It’s a hidden and well-cultivated talent—multitasking and all. Moms—if you know you know. So, Ally, who is pregnant in this special, starts off talking about returning to the workforce in her chosen profession of stand-up comedy. Of course, even her fellow comics are thrown off course by this woman coming back to a field that appears isn’t always welcoming to working moms with babies at home. But Ally’s explanation to her colleagues is true for a lot of us. After being at home with her infant day and night—with the sleep deprivation, lack of regular showers and meals, you know, the total, laser focus on a small human who commands your every move, Ally said she loved her baby girl more than anything in the whole world. But if she didn’t return to work, she might throw her daughter in the garbage. Before CPS Karens go nuts, Ms. Wong was joking, ok?

Eight weeks of the stay-at-home mom life turned out to be not as ideal as Ally Wong was told it would be. “A job,” she says. “A wack-a** job.” I’m laughing. Because I get it.

I’m way on the other end of those heady new days of mom life, and gratefully so. And while I squeal when colleagues show us their babies on Zoom meetings, and feel my “quickly expiring eggs in their about to retire ovaries” make some weird quivers when I watch baby videos on Tik Tok, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to square one with the motherhood/babyhood days. I think this also means that I’m going to dig the grandma life eventually.

“Grandma: All of the hype, none of the responsibility.” Sounds good to me!

While I have found all the stages my kids have gone through to have had beautiful merits in each one, motherhood has demanded something extraordinarily great of me. Aside from the devotion, anxiety, and the willingness to die for my offspring, it demanded I put the Essence of Wilo in storage for a bit.

I think all you moms can relate. Who was this woman that got this man to pledge his life to her because she was singularly sharp, funny, well-read, compassionate, quirky, interesting, beautiful, spiritual, and fascinating, only to pop a baby in her and have all that wonderfulness compete for surface time for the next 18+ years? For all you chicks like me hovering closer to the empty nest drop zone, the idea that there is this person inside firing up her jets for a quickly approaching take-off is exciting. It’s deserved. It’s time.

Why? Because our kids seem to care not that we existed as human beings with dreams, passions, ideas, goals, daredevil spirits outside of our roles as mothers. Because, and some of these precious souls have had the cojones to remind us of this, they know more than us what motherhood means. They know what a mother is supposed to do. And like many a middle-aged mom (or younger or older), you might have been informed that you’ve missed the mark on several occasions.

If you are in the thick of it in those days of toddlerhood, preschoolhood, elementaryhood—all the hoods—I know you are up to your eyeballs. Especially if you are also juggling a paying gig in or outside of the home (and well, a lot of us have that juggle going in the house right now). I know you were also this great girl that did very cool things—who had a bucket list of places to travel to, or art to develop, maybe political interest, or activism in college or grad school. All of those things are still very much burning inside of you, but you—like all moms—have had to reprioritize. And its sucks at times. But it’s totally fine because your kids are the #1 priority—as they should be. But while you have all this great stuff about you and who you are and what you still have to offer this big world, those fluffy-headed munchkin goofball children are completely and blissfully oblivious.

Then come the teen/college years. Now I’ve seen this go both ways at this stage in life. At some point, your kids see you and your “things” as kind of cool. While they are teens and their need for you becomes less all-consuming, thus allowing you to delve into reclaiming some parts of yourself, they will indulge you, support you even. As long as you don’t embarrass them in any way shape or form (like blogging or podcasting, for example), you can continue with your cute new hobbies. Then there is the other side where your almost grown children want nothing to do with this story of who their mother was and what she is still becoming. They want you to stay in your lane, which must never veer into their lanes, while supposedly welcoming them when they try to swerve into your lane, a lane that is none of their dang business.

Moms, we are so much more than the uteruses that brought our offspring forth, or the bodies that fed them and fret over them still. We still have these sides of us that have lain dormant for years that deserve to awaken. We still have growing of our own to do. New things to discover, new accomplishments to add, new ways of thinking and being.

My daughter, at the age of 6, asked me if I’d be dead when she went to college. I was 30. When she did go to college, I was 43 and very much not dead. She’ll graduate next year, and my son will be off this fall as a college freshman. So, what does that mean? At the age of 46, I still have 20 years (as I project it) for my day job and all this other time for whatever the heck I want. And that will be an ever-evolving pursuit.

My point in all this is that ladies, I know the raising of our babies puts a lot of things in a different order than we might have wanted. But advocate for yourself to be true to yourself. Does that make sense? Along the journey of raising your families, you’ll find spaces to tap into the part of you that has nothing to do with who you are as a spouse, parent, friend, or daughter. Give an ear to those things and cultivate what they are saying. And if you get pushback, take the sage advice my mother-in-law gave me on what to do when your kids are being total, ungrateful pills (at any age): ignore them!

We were once these very cool people. Newsflash: we still are.

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Safe

Women, why can’t we be safe? Why can’t we walk outside at night without clutching a key through our fingers like a weapon, speed walking to get to the car fast, always trying to get an escort or a group of other people to walk with?

Why can’t we get into an elevator in a strange building and not immediately tense up when men get in with us? Why do we always have to look over our shoulders, carry pepper spray, share our locations with loved ones on our iPhones when we drive anywhere alone?

We do this because we could get hurt. Still. After all this time. Nothing has changed.

As children, most of us were taught to turn to the police for help. To call 911. To use all the programming on our smartphones and in our smart cars to make that call for help just one touch away. But what happens when your name is Sarah Everard?

If you aren’t familiar with her, Sarah Everard was a young British woman who lived in London. She did all the things you’re supposed to do as a woman walking alone at night in a big city, and yet she went missing. Days later her body was found and a London police officer was soon charged with her murder. The situation, which occurred a few weeks ago has ignited London in protests against violence against women and frustration that in modern cities, women still aren’t safe.

The parent in many of us and the concerned human being in all of us may have a knee-jerk reaction of “just stay at home and don’t go out anywhere if you are alone.” If you have young girls or women in your household, it’s tempting to extoll the virtues of an early curfew or stay-in nights. But it’s not practical, nor would that idea ever take root.

Because we aren’t living in the chivalrous days of long ago where women had protectors of both reputation and body. We are our protectors—of those same two things. But all the Take Back the Night Marches (that originated in the 1870s), haven’t changed this familiar story. A woman is out alone. A woman is found raped or beaten, and/or murdered. It happens in busy cities, on well-lit college campuses, in small towns, and pretty country roads. We all have stories—of people we know, or people we’ve heard of. Of we have the first-hand experience, running the gamut from harassment to outright crimes being committed against us. There isn’t a woman anywhere who doesn’t have a story to tell.

Is it simply bad luck?

What would it take to make it safe for women to be out, doing whatever it is they are out of their homes to do and to know they can make it home without fear?

A male friend of mine suggested that men need to have curfews. A nice idea, but in all fairness, perhaps all of us need them, and it doesn’t solve the problem of violence against women that still occurs in broad daylight.

Why do the sick men who commit these acts view the night hours as an open season and the women they see in the streets as objects to be hunted? Their psychology is one forensics experts and mental health professionals have studied for years. But there is no winning formula for keeping women safe that any of us can apply. We do our best—and that is all we can do. The rest, sadly, seems up in the air.

The solution isn’t entirely in more lightbulbs in parking lots, buddy walking services on college campuses, women evacuating the streets at dusk, or even in curfews for men. But I think strides can be made in ways we collectively have not done the best in thus far.

It starts with the birth of baby boys and takes off from there. Teaching little boys about respect, consent, protectiveness out of empathy and compassion, not dominance; helping them to understand from a young age that the safety of others—especially women—is part of their responsibility as good human beings. Females and those identifying as females should not have to fear men when they are out at night by themselves.

What would the world look like if more men were raised in such a way and continued to raise their sons in that fashion? What if society and the media advocated for treating each other with kindness and care, that in looking out for one another, especially the more vulnerable, we were contributing to something greater than ourselves? That sounds like something akin to utopia, doesn’t it?

We may not get there in our lifetime, but we can certainly do what we can now. Keep the conversation going. As males, think about things you might unknowingly do that positions you as a threat and change that. How can we see our allies better and how can they be of more help to us?

In the meantime, ladies—pay attention to your God-given instincts. Don’t second guess yourself. If something seems off, or if you have strange feelings about a situation, listen to them. Try to protect yourselves all the ways you possibly can. For now, it’s all we can do.

Photo by lucia on Unsplash

This post and additional exclusive content is available on my podcast The WiloPod on Spotify.

One Year Office-Free!

A year ago, my husband and I got word from our daughter in college in California that classes were going 100% virtual for the rest of the school year due to what was quickly becoming a public health crisis. I was starting to get very nervous about her being so far away from us as at that point, no one knew what we were in for, let alone what to do about it. She was going to come home for spring break anyway, but we didn’t want her out there alone any longer than she had to be.

All around us we were hearing of students studying abroad being sent home and parents like us making quick travel plans to get their kids to them as quickly as possible. We didn’t miss a beat and got her on the next flight back. My son’s district called a two-week stop to school as well. So, with the kids safely in the nest, my husband I felt better even if our work situations were up in the air.

Leaving the office at the end of that week, I packed my laptop and chargers, some paper files, and my notebook, just in case we got the word that we’d be taking a work-from-home period for a few weeks, as we’d discussed might happen. Well, the work-from-home situation was called and this week marks one year of living that telecommuting life. Of course, what was supposed to be a few weeks turned into one year of online learning for the kids (my daughter has returned to campus but still taking classes virtually, while my son will begin the last two months of his senior year in a hybrid setting next week), and getting my job done in the same room I sleep, exercise, and veg in.

We’ve all learned a lot through the last year, so here are 10 things I’ve appreciated from this very unexpected and strange turn of events.

  1. I don’t need an office to accomplish and increase my work. My laptop and notebook are all I’ve needed.
  2. As a self-proclaimed girly-girl, daily makeup wearing is overrated. (But who am I kidding, I’ll still put some on when we eventually head back).
  3. When one has to wear a mask most of the time, lipstick is completely unnecessary and dare I say it, foolish.
  4. While seeing people in the flesh is nice, Zoom has been a bit nicer. Our team has communicated and collaborated more than when we worked in person.
  5. Living in a virtual context has allowed me to attend all kinds of events, readings, and seminars that I would never have been able to otherwise.
  6. The pandemic and the virtual life reconnected my high school senior year squad of BFFs. I hadn’t spoken to some of them in 20 years. Now we “meet” up monthly. That’s been an unexpected blessing.
  7. Telehealth Therapy—a lot of us have needed it, my family included, and healthcare companies and practitioners have it super accessible now.
  8. Zooming to different churches. I’ve enjoyed tuning in to some of my favorite California congregations instead of my usual local church. It’s been refreshing and affirming.
  9. More time—for lots of things. This past year my Indian food cooking game has grown exponentially, I’m averaging reading one book a week, I’ve written a children’s book, launched this blog, am working on another book project, and am dipping my toes into the world of podcasting.
  10. We’ve explored more of our area than ever before through “Drive and Eats.” We find a new and highly rated take-out spot (up to an hour away), order online en route, pick up and eat in the car (it’s still cold here).

We’re not completely out of the woods yet, and I’m all for remaining prudent with mask-wearing and social distancing with the unvaccinated, at least for a bit longer, but like spring blossoms, there are signs of hope poking through.

Despite a lot of sadness and suffering, surely there have been some good moments sprinkled here and there. What are they for you?  

Photo by Mikayla Mallek on Unsplash

Harry, Meghan, and Skin Color

Anyone who knows me really, really well, knows I’ve had a fascination with the British Royal family since childhood. I trace this back to being roused from a deep sleep at 5 in the morning on July 29, 1981. There was a pot of tea and my mother had prepared a cake. My birthday was July 10, so I was completely confused about this early morning celebration.

Turns out, six-year-old me was one of a billion around the world who tuned in to watch what was dubbed the “wedding of the century.” And from then till now, not a single tabloid or entertainment magazine has printed an issue without some news or scandal of the British royals. So yeah, I also woke up at 4 a.m. EST to watch William marry Kate, and again in 2018 to watch Harry marry Meghan. Over the years I have read a lot and watched too many documentaries. Suffice it to say I know a lot about the British Royal Family—probably more than you would imagine a person who isn’t connected with them, would.

Admittedly these days, I’m not as into the exploits of a family that has proven—especially since the Diana years—to be woefully behind the times, lacking in transparency, and whose sole purpose for existence in the 21st century seems to be using their celebrity to further a few worthy causes. Because in case you were not aware, Queen Elizabeth II does not participate in the day-to-day running of her nation. That is left to the Prime Minister, who is currently Boris Johnson.

I wasn’t planning on watching the Oprah interview last Sunday but decided to at the last minute. And some of the things that were revealed were surprising, while others were not. I’m not going to recap the entire discussion but will focus on the one revelation that made Oprah utter a well-articulated, incredulously gasped, “What?!”

I’m speaking of the moment when Meghan, Duchess of Sussex backed up by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, revealed that while pregnant, there were PROMINENT members of the royal family expressing concern over the depth of color little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor would come out of the womb with.

To the rest of the world, especially in 2021, the news that someone would actually care about this and possibly use this as reason enough for the child, who is the offspring of a prince, to 1. Not receive a hereditary title; 2. Not receive security in a wackadoo world where racists have sadly been allowed to spout off their nonsense and act violently in the name of their idiotic viewpoints; is cause for astonishment.

But here’s where my brown girl experience comes in handy. You see friends, Indian people (and I’m sure those of many other cultural groups) have a real and foolish issue with skin color. Was the fact that a senior member of a white family taking issue with the color of the skin of a child who would be born 75% white and 25% black, racist? Absolutely. It also shows that some members of the Brit royals missed the Biology lesson on basic genetics (Punnet squares, anyone?).

But that same racism also exists within singular ethnic groups, albeit it then becomes referred to as colorism. Many Indian families place among their prerequisites for a suitable spouse, skin color. And the whiter the better. Ideally, if people outside the Indian diaspora have to wonder if a person is truly Indian and has green or blue eyes, you have hit the matrimonial jackpot. If said person is a doctor or engineer, or even a dope but a wealthy dope, you have landed yourself a winner!

I am a brown Indian woman. There is no doubt I’m Indian when you look at me (though I do get the occasional “are you Ethiopian?” question). So, when I was engaged to my Iranian husband, and people who care about this crap viewed his white skin and amber eyes, they suddenly looked at me like I had a solid gold Oscar award attached to my arm. But I digress.

My point is this—whoever asked that asinine question among the Brit royals shouldn’t be allowed to rule upon the death of the Queen, because they have proven to be woefully foolish and unkind. Just in case you were wondering, there are three main suspects now because Harry did clarify that the Queen and her husband, Prince Phillip were not the offenders. That leaves “spineless plant talker” Charles, Prince of Wales; Camilla “rottweiler home wrecker” Duchess of Cornwall, and William “cheated on Kate and was protected and is proving to be a top-rated dork,” Duke of Cambridge. I’m still rooting for you Kate as the one trapped voice of reason in this motley crew of clueless folks. But if I find out it was you… Anyways.

The question of the color of skin is racist, idiotic, and reeks of white supremacy. In case the British royals weren’t aware, that crap will no longer be tolerated as it once was—by people of color and white people alike.

So, where does this Indian obsession with skin color come from? As you might know, India was considered a colonial jewel of the British Empire for a time. In the several hundred years that Brits occupied the subcontinent, and both violated and stole from its people and resources; colorism is a form of supremacy and control that was propagated. And though I can’t in truth report on Indian attitudes toward color before that time, it is no lie that Euro-centric attitudes toward beauty and acceptability have been imbibed by too many Indian people the world over. And you know what? It’s BS. And I’m not saying that because I sport the tone of a Cadbury Milk bar.

So, let’s talk honestly about color. Regardless of your culture, were you ever praised or castigated for your skin color or depth of brownness? What are you doing now to resist that lunacy?

Because that’s where we are in 2021—resist that lunacy.

Women of Infinite Worth: All of Us

I’m a day late to International Women’s Day. Because like many women around the world, the day just got away from me. But since this month celebrates women and our accomplishments, I can still post today without shame.

Do you have a running list of people you admire? What about women you admire? I fall into the latter grouping. While there are people from all walks of life whom I admire, I am especially drawn to women to have accomplished things despite great odds, who are voices of wisdom in tough times, women whose resilience is a constant inspiration, women whose hearts flow with the love of God, young women who have not let age or circumstance stop them from going after the things they are passionate about. The list goes on.

As a woman, finding other women to look up to, to draw motivation and inspiration from is important to me personally. We all are drawn to people whose lives resonate with our own. And female role models are important to our sense of self. When we get down about ourselves (something many women struggle with), having someone to look to for an example is crucial.

Wives, mothers, creators, innovators, healers, educators, rabble-rousers—women of infinite worth, all of them.

This is my running list, not listed in rank or importance.

Malala

Michelle Obama

Dr. Jill Biden

Laura Bush

Gloria Steinem

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Judy Blume

Kamala Harris

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Smart

Greta Thunberg

Florence Pragasam

Diane Evans Carlson and all Combat Nurses—especially Vietnam War era.

Amanda Gorman

Maya Angelou

Mia Karimabadi

Aretha Franklin

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Female Whistleblowers and Silence Breakers Everywhere

Naomi Osaka

Angela Merkel

Mary, the Mother of Christ

These are just a few. Who are yours?