I’ve been extremely busy the last few months, splitting my time between work, traveling 2-3 days a week, momming, and being a super active volunteer for the Stacey Abrams for Governor campaign.
I canvassed (phone and in person), donated a ton of money, went to event after event, cheered her on at the debate, even rapped on MARTA. I met Stacey, heard John Lewis speak, high-fived Will Ferrell, and Obama even waved at me. So those things were pretty cool.
I also made an amazing friend, Brit, who runs Millennials for Abrams and is an absolute POWERHOUSE of a woman. I cannot wait to see where she takes things. As no indirect part of her efforts, young voters came out at 4x what they did in previous elections. 400%+ in Georgia. That’s freaking amazing.
But I can’t begin to even explain what we were fighting against. With the Secretary of State running his own campaign, you hear about suppression but it’s hard to contextualize without seeing it for yourself.
I saw it for myself.
I volunteered as a nonpartisan poll watcher at Booker T. Washington High School in Fulton County and I watched, slack-jawed, as 76 people–roughly 8% of the total voters–were forced to vote provisionally. 8 people were turned away to other precincts because the location had been begging for additional provisional materials that didn’t arrive until an hour and a half after they had run out. Every single person who voted provisionally was a person of color – almost all were Spelman students. This was happening all over the state, primarily for people of color and students.
The students and the poll workers did nothing wrong. The students were registered but simply had been purged, or never put, on the voter rolls. After the election, we have heard of thousands of provisional ballots going missing.
The machine numbers at Booker did not match the list of machines the county provided. One machine broke during someone’s voting process. A check-in machine was not functional during the first 2 hours of voting, when 40 people had lined up starting at 6:30am to get in the doors right away.
It was egregious. It was downright wrong. It was most certainly intentional and illegal. And it was all in the name of the guy running the election cheating to win.
I’ve heard a lot since he claimed victory (that is actually still out for debate as provisional ballots come in more and more every day). “Suck it up, buttercup” is a line touted by the Right, as is the idea that somehow we are cheating by wanting to count every vote (“He won fair and square!”). This is downright bullshit.
Seeing it all happen in front of my eyes–and also witnessing the total lack of surprise from everyone involved–was eye-opening, to say the least. My initial reaction was, “That’s just not fair!” Well, welcome to the world of everyone without privilege. Welcome to the world of every person of color. “It’s not fair!” Well, of course it’s not. It never is.
I wrote a little song to get my feelings about the situation out. It’s been years since I’ve written anything… it requires just the right mood and passion. But last week, I felt that passion. I felt that anger. I felt that fury and sense of injustice. And I can only continue to keep fighting so this never happens again.
Don’t give me reasons
For how you played the better game
It’s all just treason
When the candle lights the flame, baby
Fuck you and judge you
And give me reason to care
You fucking monster
Won’t let you haunt her
With your slow-cracking smile
You play the games of a child
There are seven distinct, expanding tendrils of my life right now that are getting progressively more difficult to regulate:
Motherhood, work, marriage, politics, other responsibilities, money, and myself.
The balance, as everyone knows, is a myth. You are always failing at at least one of these, if not all.
Lately, I’ve been failing myself the most. I’m eating badly, not exercising, sick, and exhausted. I’m away from Cameron so much with work travel that I feel total mom guilt taking any time away from him outside of that. I gave up bread for a month (check-mark on my list!) and thought I might die.
Other responsibilities are piling up as well. I’m hosting a wedding shower this coming weekend (and expecting a few quite judgy guests), a bachelorette party two weekends from then, going on a work trip in between, another work trip/combo family birthday weekend trip for a friend the following weekend, and then finally escaping with my family to North Carolina for a few days in November. The travel has been absolutely nuts lately and every time we all leave, we’ve got to worry about how our pets will be cared for, getting everyone paid, getting work under control, and making sure invoices go out on time.
I am also the sole accountant for Brandon and me, so every Friday is invoicing day. If we don’t send invoices, we don’t get paid. I have some continuing education classes I’m taking online, constant treading water, saving for home renovations, and so much more.
And then there are the tantrums. Oh my God, the tantrums. The fury, anger, spitting, crying, emotional outbursts from someone who cannot seem to regulate himself. The entitlement I’ve witnessed recently is out of control. We are clearly doing something wrong.
Also, my toddler is throwing tantrums.
No, but seriously, my kid has turned into a monster the last couple of weeks. His tantrums have become frequent and epic. Tonight, there were no less than six meltdowns, one because he pointed to something on the table, I did not know what he was pointing at, and it destroyed his entire world.
Most of the time, I’m pretty cool about tantrums, but it’s getting really waring lately, particularly being sick and exhausted from everything else. Cam is awesome but he definitely knows how to be a little butt.
Just ready for things to slow down… why do I do this to myself?
So I’ve accomplished another goal on the list: as of this month, I’ve exceeded last year’s income by at least 10% so far. It has been a whirlwind and I’m as shocked as I am grateful, but I am bone tired.
It’s hard to walk away from opportunities when you work for yourself. You never know when your next paycheck is coming. I keep getting asked for more, more, more of myself and there are limited amounts to give. I fee like a lazy mom, an absent wife, and a mediocre worker because I am burning the candle from both ends, working 60 hours a week. The travel is uncontrollable. I need a break.
I am going on vacation with my mom and sis in a week, so I’m hoping that’s a good detox. Right now, I’m just trying to figure out what to do. I don’t have the answers. And you expect it to get so much easier as you get older – it just gets harder. We may grow all the time, but I don’t think we ever fully grow up.
In my Before 30 list, I began knocking out initiatives by starting with the low-hanging fruit: the “easy” things that seemed like bite-sized accomplishments. “Read some books that mean something.” “Send a letter each month to a friend.” Etc.
Looking through my Before 40 list, I realize… ain’t many “easy” items. Which is probably a good thing, but it’s a little intimidating. My reasoning was that this time around, I had 10 years to accomplish everything, but I neglected to factor in difficulty level in general and how much it would de-motivate me to even bother.
So I’m starting with what I’d consider the easiest item of the list, which, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly easy… running another 15k.
I’ve been training since November–which, let me tell you, confirms how out-of-shape I’ve gotten–and over the last few weeks, my workouts have been closer to 4 and 5 miles at a time. This is a huge improvement over the 1-mile runs I was taking in November. Now, this Saturday, I have my big 15k – about 9 miles. I’m not pressuring myself to do it in any kind of speed or timeframe, but they do shut the course down at 2 hours and 15 minutes, so I guess that’s the only consideration. I think I’ll squarely beat that.
I’m proud that I’ve made time for exercise as often as I have during my first year as a mom. Cam turned 1 a couple of weeks ago and it’s been a trip! But he also forces me to focus on the moment and enjoy the present, which is something I struggle to do.
Wish me luck on Saturday. I’ll need energy to wake up at the crack of dawn in the first place.
I’m approaching the 2 year mark of the day I took a giant leap and became a freelancer – a worker in the “gig economy” and a terrifying foray into an unpredictable, unreliable industry.
I guess I never really articulated on here why I pursued this path in the first place. At times, I struggled with the details myself.
I wanted to be my own boss.
I had been at multiple jobs during massive waves of layoffs, and although I was fortunately spared in both cases, it made me realize that advertising is inherently untrustworthy when it comes to predictable employment. I knew freelancing was a risk, but if I could drum up enough business, I would actually be diversifying that risk so if the bottom fell out with one client, I had others to fall back on.
Without becoming a VP or higher (which comes with its own stressors and challenges, including a higher risk of layoff potential), I had tapped out the top of my salary and I wanted the ability to control that faucet if things went well.
But the number ONE reason I began freelancing was that I wanted flexibility. Flexibility to choose my projects and clients, work as much or as little as I wanted, create my own schedule, and work from home (or wherever I was traveling). That was ultimately the dream. It was a risky dream – giving up consistency for flexibility. Things could have completely bombed. I feared I wouldn’t get enough business, or I wasn’t good enough to command my hourly rate. You know… whatever terror often goes with making a leap like this. And it’s wise to have that fear. I sucked at a lot of the business crap at first. It was like getting a business degree on the fly.
But Brandon and I talked deeply and decided that the timing would never be better to give it a shot. We worked out our worst, likely, and best-case scenarios and planned how we would attack things if “shit hit the fan.” I researched accountants and S-Corps and benefits. I laid a base with my leads and started blogging to generate some LinkedIn interest. And I’m thrilled that after nearly two years of hard work, I have had only a couple of months (the first month and last July) when I wasn’t 100% booked with work at least 40 hours per week. And it was my choice to take all of that on.
Demand has grown for my skillset and I sometimes have to politely decline leads, which I don’t at all take for granted. It kills me when I have to say no – I feel supremely privileged and fortunate. The reason I bring this up is because it’s led me to consider expanding and starting my own thing – sub-contracting folks under me and building more of a brand. I think there’s a great market out there and a lot of people who are interested, as I was, in this freelancing dream (scary as it is). There are a ton of moms who, like me, enjoy the idea of working part-time and have a lot to offer, but our industry isn’t set up for that in a formal way. I could see it working and I think the person who does it will be really successful. And maybe rich.
But I realized something recently that’s about me and me only, and it was difficult to come to terms with: I’m okay with my current level of success. I don’t need to build an empire, even if I could (and it’s a debate if I could at all, of course!). The reasons I pursued freelancing in the first place weren’t about world domination and retiring early. It was about finding a balance and diversifying my challenges. Being happier. Spending more time with my family. Traveling when I want to. Learning and growing every day. Maybe making some extra money – or choosing not to and having more time on my hands instead. Not being a CEO.
As Americans, it is implied from birth that the American dream means bigger and better; business ownership and, ultimately, Trump-like name recognition on your buildings or thousands of employees on your payroll. I thought for a long time that might be something I wanted. And God knows if I could ever make that happen at all. But I recently realized… I don’t know if that’s me. I don’t know if I want that stress, that risk, that responsibility.
Maybe having a lifestyle business that supports my family and gives me what I want IS ENOUGH. At very least – it’s enough for now.
I’ve seen my baby grow all year and we spend lots of time hanging as a family. I can confidently say I saw his first steps, and that makes me so happy. I can take a lunch break with him and his dad. We can keep him in part-time childcare so his dad can work, but Brandon loves having Mondays and Tuesdays as daddy/son time.
I don’t often work past 6pm. I work with companies and clients I’m passionate about, and I don’t feel like a slave to the business because I’m only responsible for my family – not for the families of a bunch of employees. I don’t have to manage anyone, have their one-on-ones, deal with too much political drama in the office. And I can’t tell you how refreshing that is (although I have to admit, I love mentoring employees… you don’t need to be their official “boss” to do that, though!).
As an ambitious person always trying to grow and succeed, it’s been a weird realization to come to – and honestly has very little to do with me becoming a mom. It has to do with realizing there’s more to life than work. And as I put my bullet journal together this year, it was fun to fill it with as much stuff focused on my life as I did for stuff focused on work. May we all have that kind of opportunity.
So to all my fellow dreamers, do you. Build your empire – or don’t. Be a badass boss babe, work for yourself, find a 9-5 that respects your time, or build a plan for passive income. There are so many ways to live life – we don’t all have to pursue the same things, and that’s part of what makes our experiences rich. There is still WAY too much inequality of opportunity in this world and it’s my sincere hope that we are soon able to see our way out of that as a country. (It’s a bunch of crap that I have the ability to pursue my dreams when so many others simply can’t.) But for me… I’m good where I am. And I just cross my fingers I can keep the status quo going. I am so freaking lucky and so freaking grateful.
I’m part of a group of self-identifying women on Facebook, thousands of lovely, like-minded women who support each other, ask questions about where to buy hemp milk, whatever. It’s oozing with crunchiness, hippy-dippiness, and over-sensitivity. And I was stupid enough to ask for some friendly advice.
We’ve been toying with the idea of getting a second home outside the country, potentially living there one day, as we’re concerned with the education and healthcare systems in America, as well as our culture of consumerism-at-all-costs. The divide that has happened in this country leading up to, and since, the election also has us sad and concerned for the country’s future. And having lived abroad as a child myself, I can attest to the change it creates in you to experience another culture when you’re young. I want that for Cameron.
Most of the comments on the post were friendly and helpful; giving me advice about Visas and taxes, making suggestions about countries that might make sense. But some interpreted my highly early-stage question as some sort of assumption that we could move wherever we wanted and were owed things from the world. They further ripped me for having a “white child” and suggested that we could find exactly what we wanted in Atlanta since we were so privileged already.
I shouldn’t let trolls get to me, but the reaction really put me into a dark hole. I try so hard, every day, to understand and acknowledge my privilege. We live in a diverse neighborhood because we like being around people who are different from us. It is my #1 goal as a parent to ensure Cameron uses his privilege the right way. We volunteer, donate, give to the homeless and treat them as neighbors. We fight for those without a voice. We march. We rally. I call my representatives, and often. It saddens and infuriates me to feel like there’s literally nothing I can do to make some people happy. That because I have certain things and others don’t, that I deserve to be treated like garbage or told my family doesn’t have a right to try and pursue happiness as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
I don’t have any more to give. I have been screaming into an endless void for a year now, trying to use my voice for those who can’t speak. Unlearning racism. Acknowledging my privilege. Teaching my child to do the same.
And here I am. Square one. Diminished and embarrassed, like being unhappy with this country is a right reserved only for the disenfranchised.
I am endlessly fortunate, for so, so many things. And I am eternally grateful. But sometimes I don’t think it’s enough until I also feel un-endingly guilty as well. Like I have to bleed to somehow make things square.
Is this how right Right feels? Is this why they hate us? Because we can’t see beyond our own noses to recognize the people at the end of them?
In the four years leading up to 30 since I started this blog, I accomplished 25 of the 30 tasks on my To Do list – not half bad, especially considering the ones I never hit were “get spiritual” and “be happy just as I am.” I mean… how vague can you get?
What have I learned? Well, for one thing, get more specific with your goals. Also, be open to what comes at you. I, somewhat unexpectedly, became a mom during the process of this, and you know, you’ve got to go with the flow. I started a business – not on the list. We renovated a whole house – not on the list. So what if I didn’t hit Octoberfest or see Machu Picchu yet?
So let’s give this another shot, with a longer timeline, just to keep things interesting. Who’s with me?
TRAVEL A LOT
40. Machu Picchu. Duh.
I actually wrote this blog draft before we went to Peru. So I’m excited to say… um, I’ve done this already!
39. Go to Australia.
38. Go to Africa.
37. Complete Handstands Across America. (To date, I’ve hit GA, SC, NC, TN, PA, WV, VA, FL, AZ, NY, NJ, CT, AL, CO, IL, and WY.)
36. Take Cameron to a place that’s non-English-speaking.
35. Take my mom on a vacation.
MAKE SOME MONEY
34. Increase my income by 10% at least one year.
33. Attend at least 5 networking events each year.
32. Take a continuing education course in a related field.
BE A GOOD MOM
31. Help Cameron with his homework. Even when I don’t understand it.
30. Log at least one solid moment where I go, “My kid made the choice to do the RIGHT thing.”
29. Tell Cameron EVERY SINGLE DAY that I love him.
BE A GOOD WIFE
28. Show Brandon at least once a month how much I really appreciate him – even when he’s driving me COMPLETELY INSANE for whatever reason.
27. Have a date night alone with Brandon at least once a month.
26. Give up Facebook (or whatever the hot thing of the moment is) for a SOLID month.
25. Go on at least 10 family outings completely without my phone.
24. Turn off the TV for a month. Before 30, I struggled to do this for a week. Let’s up the game.
23. Run another 15k.
22. Take fitness classes at least once a week for 6 months – jazzercise, dance, Zumba, kickboxing, yoga… whatever.
21. Go a month without alcohol.
20. Go a month without bread.
19. Participate in a big cultural event (like I wanted to before 30 :).
18. Run for a public office.
17. Learn another new skill (welding, embroidery, calligraphy, etc).
16. Do absolutely nothing for a full weekend.
15. Write in a journal every day for a month.
14. Read a few more classic books.
13. Go on vacation somewhere that’s purely relaxing, not necessarily an “adventure” destination, just to enjoy it.
BE A GOOD FRIEND
13. Send care packages to 10 friends for no good reason.
12. Check in more often on friends who are going through crappy times.
PROTECT MY INVESTMENTS
11. Get my retirement savings to $500k by age 40.
10. Diversify my investments – BitCoin? International real estate? Etc?
9. Keep 6 months worth of savings in the bank “just in case.”
8. Keep, and stick to, a freakin’ budget for 6 months (to start).
7. Start a trust fund for Cam, and keep his college money saving.
6. Get smarter about investing – take a class in stock trading or similar.
5. Donate $10k to charity/a good cause.
4. Flip/renovate a house.
3. Own chickens.
2. Move internationally for a period of time.
The last 1 is still TBD… could be big, could be small. Time will tell…..
Working remotely has its perks, for sure: Brandon and I were able to take a trip to Erie to visit family with the little man, and work during the day. Cameron is having an absolute blast with his Gabby and is being spoiled rotten with attention. He’s loving every second.
Seeing family is nice; I just wish I could shake this permanent fog I’m in these days. I can’t sleep (and it’s not due to the baby), I’m full of anxiety, and things just don’t have the luster they used to. If it was feasible, I’d just take a week and spend it in bed watching Netflix (and probably gaining 10 pounds).
I think what has me down and lost is the added emotional labor that comes with being a mom. As women, there’s always this need to manage all the spinning plates: so many things we aren’t paid or acknowledged for that just keep lives running. Doc appointments, bills, cleaning things when they’re gross, stocking the fridge, ordering the pet food, feeding the pets, paying the pet-sitter, vet visits, budgeting, taking the clothes to the dry cleaner’s, and on and on and on. It’s not that Brandon wouldn’t do these things if asked… it’s that I have to remember every single one.
Having a child compounds that labor tenfold. The laundry multiplies. The dishes, too. The doctor’s appointments increase. The finding and balancing of childcare can be its own full-time job. Is the baby gaining weight? When did he last eat? He hasn’t pooped in 3 days. Should we feed him prunes? Is he too young for purees? He dropped his paci; can I just lick it and give it back? Does that make me a crappy mom? Am I giving him too much attention so he can’t adjust to being by himself? Am I giving him too little attention, so he won’t attach? Why am I not producing enough breastmilk? Why does he not want to take the breast? If I give him formula, am I a bad or lazy mom? Am I traveling for business too much? Does it mean I don’t care about my career if I don’t want to be away for 3 nights to do work? Brandon has the 2-seater car and I need to go to an appointment; how will we arrange nanny share pickup? Did the cat sit in the baby’s seat, and if so, is it dirty now? We’re out of formula. We ran out of formula too quickly. That means he’s not getting enough breastmilk. We’re in the car and he’s screaming; should I pull over or tough it out? And a million other things.
It’s exhausting. I have a new appreciation for stay-at-home moms these days, realizing I could never be one. I love my career and I need it. I think to some degree, it keeps me sane and mentally challenged in a different way.
I am fighting this inclination to succumb to being absorbed by my child, and then on the flip side, I also have this weird guilt about wanting to have my own life. It’s a strange dichotomy. I really like traveling, but I hate being away from my baby. I am forcing myself to take advantage of opportunities to do things that fulfill me, as I think it’s healthier for both Cameron and me. But this layer of guilt over every little thing was something I wasn’t expecting. I’m just so tired.
I need to get another bucket list going, so I have something to focus my energy on and to get me up and moving each day. My business is going great and after a short dip in hours, I’m slated to be back full-force next week. I’m really adjusting to–and loving–life as a freelancer, and I’m getting more confident in my abilities to drum up business. But the mental anguish is so tiring. I just want to feel normal again. Maybe this is the new normal.
There seems to be a rumor in this country that Millennials are frivolous with their money.
That may be true sometimes. I do get Dunkin’ Donuts. I do travel. I can confidently say I’ve never bought avocado toast.
But let me just give you a quick picture of monthly expenses and let you do the math for whether this is affordable on a couple entry-level salaries. And keep in mind, this is Atlanta – not NY or San Francisco.
Mortgage/Insurance/Taxes – $1200 (going to $1450 in a couple months due to tax assessments). Our house was very inexpensive, intentionally.
Childcare – $1400 (a nanny 2 days a week and a nanny share 3 days a week, covering a total of 23 hours/week. He couldn’t get into daycare despite being on 2 waiting lists since I was 6 months pregnant. FT daycare would have been $1300/month.)
Family Health Insurance – $1000
Car Insurance – $100
Life Insurance – $90
Vet care and heartworm/flea meds (pro-rated average) – $100
Car payment – $400 (we pay extra on this each month; we have a used Prius and the other car is paid off)
Food – $300 (if we’re frugal and eat only at home)
That’s $5,090 per month in basic, base expenses for a healthy family of 3. We could have bought a cheaper car. We could, I suppose, not have smartphones. We could not take care of our pets. But there isn’t a lot to shave off here.
Now consider that the average entry-level job in our industry is going to pay $40k. After taxes (at a low tax bracket), that’s maybe $2500/month. Multiply that by 2 people and you’re not even covering the most basic expenses each month, much less putting anything into savings.
Where does Millennials’ money go?
A broken, crappy system that means your childcare costs more than your mortgage and your health insurance is a close third.
Democrats advocate for a universal healthcare plan and more childcare program options for parents. Housing subsidies and stronger support for the middle class, instead of the top 1%.
Tell me why you voted Republican again? And tell me where I’m wasting my money?