Housing Situation Update

This is starting to feel like a diary of my demise, these housing situation updates. If you’re late to this glamorous party, here are some links to get caught up… don’t worry, I’ll be right here when you get back. Stuck. In this hell.

Link to my post when we first came to our temporary rental home HERE.

Link to my article about the housing crisis in California, including our part in it HERE.

Link to my post about how we are managing in our temporary rental home (grimly) HERE.

Link to my commentary on landlords in general HERE.

You can see that I waffle between incredibly personal updates, and ones that are simply more general or not specific, rather speaking to the crisis at large. That’s because I want to share my story, while also discussing the very real and certain reality that millions of Californians – actually, no, Americans – are experiencing at this moment.

If you don’t know about, and/or have empathy for, the situation for renters of this country (in my state of California, roughly 45% of the entire population), then you honestly have absolutely no soul. When my husband and I committed to renting, we did so in a time that renting was a luxury: it was a matter of being able to lock up and go whenever you want, be free of property taxes and exorbitant costs of maintenance, and it ensured we didn’t get into a position of being in over our heads. Now, the script has flipped, and after our landlord terminated our lease that fateful day in January (the 4th, to be exact), we have been thrust into the position of being in insecure and unsafe housing.

(I’ll get to the insecure and unsafe part for us in a minute.)

Last week I watched a fantastic documentary on the homelessness problem in Los Angeles on my local Fox News station. I’m not a fan of Fox, but this is the local one (Fox 11) and they tend to be more balanced, moderate, and local… a lot of news reports from the zoo, and quirky local weather forecasts. That kind of thing. What struck me in the documentary, though, was the emphasis on mental health. People tend to think that mental health and addiction issues are the reason for homelessness, when the truth to the matter (just reported recently by the LA Times) is that less than 30% of people that fall into homelessness are mentally ill or addicted to substances at the time they go to live on the streets. But what was stated in this documentary, and to which I understand fully, is that for that 70% – the ones that just fell on hard times: once people are thrust into insecure housing, a series of events and lack of social support happen that affect them so profoundly there is just no way their mental (and in some cases physical) health will not decline. It just won’t.

I see myself cracking around the edges, as well as my children. We’ve now been here for just over three months, and my 14 year old now is having what appear to be panic attacks. We’re roughly 45 minutes away from where she is to go to high school in the fall, but we still don’t know if we’ll even be able to get back before then. She’s enrolled, registered; but as the cost of gas rises, I am now spending over $800 a month just to take the kids to the school groups, tennis lessons, doctors, and friend activities. When school starts, we don’t have some magic fund from which we can draw to pay $9 and $10 a gallon that is being projected to keep driving to and from our old home every day; we can’t even sustain the $6 we are paying now. And anyway, as I’ve addressed in previous posts, with two other kids and absolutely no consistent and regular support system, I just cannot even say now that I am going to be able to make that happen. Of course my older and younger kids are both stressed to the maximum too, the oldest affecting her menstrual health and endometriosis that is now warranting emergency room visits, the youngest affecting his sleep and overall learning and focus; and – well – the fact that I’ve had a sinus infection for 4 weeks, and now my entire body is covered in stress hives sort of speaks for itself.

… so at least for the kids and I? The ship seems to be going down. Fast.

Compounding this is that the longer we stay here in this temporary rental, the more boils to the surface.

  • Several parts of the wall, ceiling, and baseboard around the house of our temporary rental are bubbling out with moisture;
  • We ran a mold kit both up and downstairs and black mold was detected in the dust in the air;
  • We purchased a moisture meter and almost every room in the house sounds the alarm;
  • One window upstairs and one window in the downstairs bathroom actually opens, no other windows in the home open;
  • Both sliding glass doors to the backyard were installed improperly, making the emergency exits difficult to open, at times impossible;
  • There are roots in the sewer, it has so far backed up twice, one of the times in a dramatic moment of raw sewage spraying into my 5 year old’s face;
  • The circuit breaker is old and in need of updating, it has burn marks on the rubber around the edge and the landlord refuses to repair or replace it;
  • The neighbor next door is psychotic, which we’ve discussed in previous posts; but moreover, the neighbors on both sides smoke cigarettes within 25 feet of our backyard making it impossible for our children to use;
  • The sprinkler is broken, and while this isn’t exactly dangerous – per se; the HOA refuses to fix it, nor to turn it off (we have no access to the controls), and in a drought this is going to result in a hefty water bill of wasted water and fines;
  • And more…

At this time, the landlord has refused to address these issues. I could certainly call the area housing authority, or the fire department, about the clear code and safety violations. And also, we have sought legal counsel that has assured us our warrant of habitability has been broken and we can legally leave at any time with no penalty to us. But then what? At that point we’d likely be given notice to leave and have absolutely nowhere to go.

Our search for new housing has been going on since January 4th. So many people have criticized us for moving here, but what other options did we have? Exactly one: an apartment in the ghetto, where a methamphetamine lab was recently busted by the area sheriff’s department. Not exactly the best area.

Otherwise, it was this, or living in our cars. Or a hotel, if we could find one that would rent us three rooms we could all cram in, plus a storage unit for all of our things, for the price of rent we pay per month. Most local motels have largely filled up with locals that are in a similar situation, though, and remember we live in coastal California: ie, tourist area, so hotel room pricing peaks at this time as is. Again, we could have joined the renters that have strapped their mattresses to their car roofs, driving around and sleeping in parking lots. California has such an exponentially worsening situation in this space, they’ve set up entire lots with security, port a potties, and toaster ovens with picnic tables for people’s safety while they sleep and exist. I don’t know, it might get to that at some point.

For now, this was all we’ve had as an option. When our lease termination was closing in, we had to take what we have been offered. And to be fair, we tried to be positive about it, but it was hard after just a couple of weeks. Every week is effectively a lifetime in this place: a lifetime of worsening mental and physical health, exponentially rising financial costs, and more of a casual drift downward into the place these landlords and the housing crisis has subjugated our family to be.

This became even more clear to me this past weekend when a realtor friend of mine helped us find out more information on our landlords in this temporary rental. To call them slumlords is a woeful understatement of the situation. We cruised by a few of their other rentals, and considered ourselves fortunate that black mold and possibly dying in an electrical fire in an unescapable home in the middle of the night is all we have to deal with. One of the rentals they manage has a tarp for a roof; another a port a potty in the front yard. Given our experience with their refusal to do maintenance here, it makes sense; of 20 rentals they own and manage, maybe they just got in over their heads on investments, right?

Wrong. My friend also managed to get us details on the landlord’s property as well – you know, the one he lives in. I figured it must be a scummy, slimy home too… he just has his tenants live in the type of conditions he himself finds acceptable. Right? … right?

While I won’t dox his address or give any details, I will leave it just at this: his mansion is worth $4.9M and sits on 20 acres of farmland that he also owns and operates. Like a castle looking down upon his peasants, this man is bathing in $100 bills for leisure.

And his tenants just don’t have any choice.

What’s heinous about it is that since January, we’ve now applied to 30 different rentals, all of which we applied to only after we were overwhelmingly sure we were more than qualified. Why not just shoot for the moon? Well, we have four legal adults that have to apply, which comes to about $30-$40 non refundable fees per application, per person. Back of the napkin math? We’ve spent over $3800 just to apply to all these rentals, of which we have been so far offered this one and a meth lab apartment.

People have told us to make more income, as if this suggestion is not preposterous enough as is, that would be all fine and good if only they knew that in most cases we make 4, 5, and in one application even 6 times the rent. The requirement is 3. The problem isn’t the credit scores or the income or the number of people. There are simply not enough houses, not enough apartments, and absolutely no local representation for tenants. At all.

I keep trying to remind myself to be patient. We’ll find a new rental eventually. But will we? And at what cost? There are physical and financial, and at some points mental, costs to this situation at this point, that I cannot see us withstanding for much longer. At some point we have to pull the plug and stop the faucet on the application fees; at some point we have to make choices on our children and their futures and education. What I do know is that we have utterly failed them, and when I watched that documentary on my local Fox station – the one on homelessness, the crisis and its tolls – I could see what this shame and hopelessness of failing your children, no matter how hard you’ve tried, does to a parent.

And when we do pull the plug on this house search, and accept our lives amidst sadness and hopelessness? Then what? I honestly have no idea.

So We’re In a New Home. A Rental Home.

After the traumatic experience my family of 6 has lived through over these last few months, I hesitate to call anything a “home” anymore. More than 5 years into making our place in Camarillo our home, our landlord decided to “go in another direction,” after spending years calling us the best renters they’d ever had. We are renters by both choice and necessity, so I guess this sort-of comes with the territory; but prior to now I lived in a world (in my head) where people didn’t do things like this to good, hardworking families.

Lesson learned. More on all of that later.

So we’re in a new home. A rental home. The sad part is that we’ve had to move our kids to another city, out of their element and community. That was the only community any of them had ever known – we lived in apartments, townhomes, and the single family home we just left over the years. Our kids have done school, sports, and all of their social lives there; friends and family. When our landlord terminated our tenancy at the same time landlords all over California were doing the same thing to flip their investments (1 listing for every 1,358 middle income families looking in my county), in many ways they threatened to destroy our family.

But it’s close enough that we can still drive it daily, and remembering that these situations are actually not as permanent as we would have liked them to be, it is likely we’ll be heading back in a year or two anyway.

Some photos and important points:

So we have French doors now, which is cool. That’s always been a life goal of mine and made moving in a little easier. We also have a whole host of animals that hang out in our yard, including a number of Dark-eyed Juncos and a dove. Both have nests (the Dark-eyed Junco moved his to the wreath on our front door).

This is the thing about where we live now: it’s kind of out in the middle of nowhere. We’re in an unincorporated middle ground between two cities, with a lot of open space around us, golf courses, and just up the hill from our house you can see the Reagan Library glowing at night (the driveway to go up to it is directly across the street from our house).

We lost a lot of backyard space, which is unfortunate because my 5 year old has very little room to run out his energy. Couple that with the fact that the community is gated, and in an HOA (read: they want children to be seen and not heard around here)… well, I’m going to have to come up with some solutions to that pretty soon here.

But, the owner of the house told my oldest daughter that she could do whatever she’d like with the back, and we also gained a courtyard in the middle of the entire house, so I think it all evens out in the end.

Of course the kids now have the coolest room, something I worked incredibly hard at ensuring to make the unexpected move (and all the stress and trauma that came with it) more tolerable for them. The house also has all new appliances, new flooring, fresh paint… it really was move in ready.

It’s just new and unfamiliar still, and away from our community. This, in the end, makes it hard for all of us. Right house, wrong ‘hood I think.

Probably what will drive us out sooner than later are the values of the community. We are in an ultra-conservative area, so much so that this sign is on my neighbor’s lawn.

The same day that we discovered this abhorrent sign, the person living on the other side of the duplex rang our doorbell at 11:15 at night because she heard us doing dishes through the wall. Our house was almost all asleep at that point, making this a little crazy; but I suppose I should have expected it, because the first day we moved in weeks ago she came over, introduced herself, and asked if we’re “generally quiet people.”

So we’re just over here getting settled, tending to our mental health amidst all this chaos, getting used to the neighborhood, and trying to keep our heads level so that we can plot a way forward.

And like I said… more on what brought us here later.

The Newsletter: Issue #7

So…

Does anyone know just what the fuck is going on in the world? I sure don’t.

In any event, let’s try to dissect it.

Around the World

So admittedly, I was really busy in January and February looking to secure housing for myself and my family. I mentioned in Newsletter #6 that we had been served a termination of tenancy (let’s call it what it was: an eviction without cause). And so I had to really get that all sorted and was a little busy to pay much attention to the two things in the world that went completely sideways whilst I was largely occupied.

First, COVID has gone even more bananas than around Thanksgiving, when Lord Omicron took the reigns and unleashed unprecedented and largely unmitigated fury through out the United States (and the better part of the world). Now, Omi is still everywhere, but even more toxic and deadly are the pollsters advising the Democrats and Republicans alike that COVID can’t just be controlled… it has to be forgotten, or it’s goodbye Midterms.

So now, when community transmission levels are largely at the same level they were when my husband contracted COVID back in December 2020, as well as at the peak of the Delta surge over the summer, the CDC and Biden folks have decided that they now have the power to redefine what words and figures mean, and what was high before is now low. The economy is public health, actually… didn’t you know? Take off your masks folks! Get back to work! Get back into the restaurants and spend, spend, spend!

But it didn’t end there. On the same day that the CDC released their updated guidance and community transmission levels, it was reported that hundreds of children actually died of COVID during the last two months, and that the efficacy of the vaccine for ages 5-11 comes in after only a few months at an abysmal 12%. Moreover, kids under 5 still do not have a vaccine, and while the Biden Administration’s forward-going plans include a massive effort to vaccinate that age group when it’s approved, no such timeline has been offered for it. (Oh yeah, and there’s that pesky little detail that they’re out of money, all this depends on them getting more money from Congress, and they haven’t even ordered more than 10% of the planned Paxlovid treatments yet.) Still…

Also, the CDC Director in a very purposeful statement correlated masks not just to an object of sound and proven public health mitigation that acts as an astoundingly effective Non Pharmaceutical Intervention when done properly, but to one that was at the same time a mark of shame. This lady – who, along with all of her other colleagues at the CDC continue to work remotely at least until April (according to the internal memo released just last week) – branded masks a mark of shame, calling them publicly “a Scarlet Letter.”

For those unfamiliar with the book, The Scarlet Letter is about a woman back centuries ago in New England who had an affair with a priest, got pregnant with his baby, but kept the secret so was branded as the town ho, forced to wear a red letter A on her clothing for the rest of her life to make clear that she was a woman of ill-repute, an Adulterer who should be scorned and shamed.

Masks. A scarlet letter.

Second, of course, is the Ukraine situation, which is just a fucking nightmare and so evident to me about a bigger plan by Putin to restore the Soviet Union and – I don’t know – destroy the world. More on that next time I suppose, maybe I’ll be calm enough to talk more about it when my Potassium Iodine is delivered.

Around My World

So I did end up securing housing for my family of six, and what a wild adventure it has been.

And by adventure, I naturally mean I’m surprised I lived to tell the story.

We did have to relocate to a neighboring city, which is unfortunate and pretty overwhelming still for my kids. But, as all moms do, I’m figuring out how to completely change my own life – yet again – to make it work out so they can spend a large bulk of their time every week still back in the community from whence we came with their social groups and friends and such.

Otherwise, the house is pretty nice. We have it all set up. I’ll share a post about it later, actually – the house itself; and the strange parts about the neighborhood… but what’s big is that I’ve decided to use our own experience as a catalyst for another blog series, in which I share my own story, as well as interviews with other renters, experts, and advocates in the housing apocalypse that is going on in California right now. You won’t want to miss this, it’s coming April 1st – and both I and many of my interviewees are naming names on this one.

So consider this your official announcement, and if you still haven’t signed up to get these babies in your email box, now’s the time!

You Can’t Unsee This

I just love this new feature of the newsletter because it’s deliciously horrid and hilarious – all wrapped up into one.

Admittedly, I did not watch the State of the Union earlier in the week. For one, those are historically boring speeches loaded with lies and propaganda; and I knew I would get the highlights from my dad and Twitter.

Of note, I was disturbed to see that weird clip of tipsy Pelosi standing and rubbing her knuckles together like some fucking weirdo; and I was confused to hear the president refer to the Ukrainians as “Iranians” (like is reading from a teleprompter that difficult?). And naturally, all the bragging and praising of the maskless crowd infuriated me. Why? Because all the praise by Op Ed pundits at the Washington Post failed to be clear with average Americans that the only thing that actually made that safe was that PCR testing was required, and had identified a number of cases in advance. Quick and convenient PCR tests are still – after all this time – not readily available to all Americans.

What really got me was hearing about, and later seeing this photo from Reuters make the rounds, of Boebert and the other one heckling the president. Now look, I’m not always a fan of him, and I think his COVID response in the end was a total fucking joke… but heckling the President of the United States at the State of the Union? Just trash. Take it to the junk yard, ladies.

This meme I saw perfectly encapsulates that moment though, and is now all I think about when I hear someone mention those two:

STFU Fridays

So as I said, we’re in a new home and it’s a duplex. I kind of figured that it would come with the territory that we would hear some of what goes on over there, and they’d hear some of what goes on over here.

The first day we were moving stuff over, the neighbor came over and introduced herself. Her name is Christine and the first words out of her mouth were “are you generally quiet people?”

Depends on what you mean by quiet.

In reality, we are generally quiet people, but I do have kids and – you know – some things that just have to be done. Like dishes; which I assume most people do. But lo and behold, last night Christine came over at 11:15 at night to complain about noise she heard. The only thing I can think is that we were doing dishes… but honestly also, who comes over at 11:15 in the evening and rings another person’s doorbell?

The bottom line, of course, is that when evaluating whether or not you should actually say something, to anyone about anything actually, is that you should first shut your fucking mouth, open your fucking brain, and consider whether or not you should shut the fuck up about the topic permanently. It would have been one thing if we were blaring music, having parties, screaming and slamming furniture into the walls in the middle of the night – all things, ironically, we have heard Christine do repeatedly (in particular on nights when her gentleman friend that drives a Tesla comes over).

But just asking “are you quiet people”? Or having the audacity to come over to a person’s house in the middle of the night to demand they stop doing chores?

I mean… shut your fucking mouth, open your fucking brain, and consider whether not you should just…

It’s Time for a HOCO Post

Welp. The pandemic is over, or at least it would seem as much down at the local high schools, where screaming, unmasked football crowds packed into stadiums are a regular occurrence again. And, HOCO season is here, another opportunity for every teenage girl that exists to prove – once again – that high heels are walkable in for everyone except me.

That’s right, ladies and gents, I’m talking about homecoming. The annual weekend when people are supposed to travel home from wherever they’ve moved on with their lives to, like in those quintessential 90s movies; travel home and go to the ol’ football game and sit in the “alumni section” with the other old fucks that have started to bald and wear fanny packs no longer out of irony, but rather utility. …have drinks at the bar you tried to sneak into with a fake ID decades ago, have an old person’s dance of your own where the quarterback of the football team slops all over you, hairy beer belly bulging out of his shirt that’s missing a button, drunk; all-the-while trying to sell you and your husband Barry insurance… you know, homecoming…

Of course where I live now, in hyper-whitebread suburban California, no one ever leaves, so I’m not certain the Hoco football game part of it all is as big of a deal. The entire town goes to the weekly football games anyway, whether they have children or not. (A little weird, if you ask me.) What the fuck are you “coming home” to if you’ve never left? Here, it is all about the spirit week and the dance. And while my kids homeschool, they still have friends in the community, and we have family… and there’s just a decidedly HOCO vibe about the community during homecoming week that leaves me acutely aware of just what is going on, and how things have changed.

HOCOPROSAL

What the fuck is it with kids these days where everything has to be a charade?

Like you can’t just text a kid and say “hey, you want to go to the dance with me,” or whatever. Now, kids are doing these stupid signs with little poems. One year, my daughter showed me a video on Instagram of a girl she knew getting a “Hocoprosal,” where this kid brought a pizza into class for her and he had used green frosting to sloppily write “will you go to HOCO with me” ON THE PIZZA. I can still taste the vomit boiling into the back of my throat at the thought. Another year, I heard about a kid being given a goldfish, because the theme was something very Back to the Future – like “fish under the sea dance.”

When it comes to the gimmicky use of a living creature that will require care, time, and cost for God knows how long (my understanding is that, years later, the fish is still alive), why not go bigger than a stupid carnival goldfish in a bag? Why not a rabbit? How about a dog? Fuck it, a horse! Hey gurl, I got you this horse will you go to HORSECO with me?

Thoughts and Prayers

There is no less of a meaningless, I-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-your-problems, thing to say than “thoughts and prayers,” but this year in particular I have a lot of people to “thoughts and prayers” at.

Thoughts and prayers to our old neighbors who rented their kids a hotel suite to have a party in after the dance. They also supplied the alcohol. Stand up, Grade A parenting right there. Good luck on the bill you get for the room damages, and hope no one got drunk and died driving because of that kind of dumbass enabling behavior.

Thoughts and prayers to the family member whose daughter came home from homecoming having made it official with the kid sporting a decidedly ironic mullet, which he happened to curl for HOCO because – you know – Joe Dirt cleans up real good.

Thoughts and prayers to the parents of the kid who joked in the line behind me at CVS the other day that this may be the year he finally gets his girlfriend pregnant at HOCO.

In the last couple of years, I’ve heard horror stories about janitorial crews finding empty 40s in the bathrooms, and used condoms on the dance floor, to which I have to ask: what the fuck is going on? I mean I get it: kids will be kids, but actually no. No. This is not kids being kids. This is too many thoughts and prayers, and not enough… I don’t even know what…

When I Was a Kid…

I don’t know if it’s that I’m hedging on 40, or that things just really are remarkably different than when I grew up, but when I was a kid absolutely none of this bullshit would have flown.

I’m not even just talking about the truly audacious stuff, either. In my day, we went to the Ken-Tac-Hut and ordered soft tacos and personal pizzas in our fancy clothes, not out for a $50 per person prix fixe meal at a wine bar. We had a party after the dance, sure; but it was at someone’s house, and we had to pay an older brother to buy us a six pack of beer that he drank half of before handing it over. Homecoming was, yes, a thing – with the king and the queen and the football game, and the spirit week with the pajama day and the crazy hair day; but never – not once – did anyone (at least that I am aware of) intend to impregnate another person on the dance floor.

Times change, sure, but this much? I don’t know. Maybe this is more reflective of the Midwestern girl in me, who still brings a sweater everywhere with her lest people see her bare shoulders. Or perhaps it’s unique to the community in which I live now, where no one seems to ever leave, and so how would they ever understand that some of this stuff isn’t normal?

Whatever the case may be, I’m just glad I’m not a kid anymore. Sure, I’m not exactly jumping for joy about turning the page on my 30s, but there is no way I could keep up with the heavy drinking, fast talking, wine bar dining, dry (or not) humping dance- lifestyle that teenagers have today.

And how could I? I can’t even walk in high heels.

No One Understands What It Means To Have Toddlers (Or Just Kids In General) Anymore

I’m not sure what the reason is for it, but it’s as if no one remembers or understands what it means to have toddlers (or just kids in general) anymore.

Or maybe it isn’t that they don’t understand. They just don’t care.

I have three kids, at various ages. One is a teenager, turning 16 next week. The second is a tween, having turned 12 last December.

And then, I have my toddler. My 3 year old. The baby of the family who keeps all of us on our toes.

Well… he keeps me on my toes…

There’s something I’ve noticed with this, my youngest child, that I never noticed before: people, generally speaking, don’t seem to get it anymore.

They don’t understand that several hour-long phone calls to insurance companies or to fix the cable, or to just gossip about what aunt so-and-so is up to over coffee, is rarely – if ever – an option.

They don’t understand that if I do actually do something other than entertaining the toddler (and/or making sure the toddler doesn’t roam out into the street of busy traffic), I can’t just – like – drop everything to show them how to change the ink in their print cartridge, or send them a detailed email about how to start a blog. Or even sometimes engage in a twenty minute conversation about [insert just about anything here]. That if I work or go to school, the time I have carved out in my schedule is literally the only time I have.

Or – shocking as it may seem – usually when I have free time away from my toddler, I am taking care of my other kids.

They don’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around the fact that there are three of them and one of me, and I can’t actually split myself into three pieces to be at three places at once. Sometimes, appointments have to be scheduled around the other kids’ things. Sometimes, I can’t get them to an extra curricular activity that day. Occasionally, other things in the house have to wait so that the children can be cared for first.

Sometimes, if I’m sitting at one of my older kids’ tennis matches, I’m not a “bad mom” for having my laptop open and my school books out (as many parents so eloquently “joke” to me). It’s that it’s literally the only time I have that I am not talking about Toca Boca or Paw Patrol with a 3 year old to get that other stuff done.

When you have a toddler, that’s how life is. It’s a delicate balance between having enough time to fit everything in, and making sure your toddler is cared for.

This is honestly the way it is when you have multiple kids.

It is a lot of time cleaning. Cooking. Picking up food they threw at the wall.

Having a toddler is not showering sometimes. It’s going days without realizing that all you have eaten in 48 hours is Goldfish crackers and Jell-o.

Add two other kids at completely different stages of life to this, and forget it.

My time is spent driving my teenager to her college- and life-preparatory things, helping my middle schooler with her school work and making sure she gets to all of her extra-curricular activities on time, and taking care of my toddler. That includes developmental things, play things, reading times, and interacting with other kids and the world. When I’m not doing one of those things, I’m cooking dinner for all of them, making lunches, serving breakfasts, and cleaning up the messes.

It’s balancing screen time and play time. It’s taking a kid to an appointment and letting the other kid have more screen time so you can hear the doctor speak, then it’s managing the tantrum because that kid had too much screen time, all while answering the phone when people call you back about the one kid’s appointment and helping the third kid with her SAT prep book.

What I’m saying is, I have my hands full. A lot of people are in this position now. A lot of people have been in it at some point in their lives.

A lot of people have forgotten.

I’m referring to the people that ask me over and over again at tennis matches for my older kids where my little guy is, but then complain when he even breaths too loudly when I do bring him.

I’m referring to the people that don’t do their jobs, too. Like a doctor’s office, that owes me a refund and says they’ll refund me automatically, only for me to find out a month later they never did, resulting in an hour of sitting on hold to get it straightened out. Or a local water company that charges us six times for the same, one, bill, requiring me to both call and sit on hold, as well as go in to dispute the extra charges.

Maybe I’m just complaining, because I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now. I’m not complaining about the fact that I am taking care of my three kids and have these jobs to do with caring for them.

I’m complaining about all the interference the world outside of me and my kids is interjecting into the mix of it all.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been asked to do all of these things, and then some, and then a little more, but – and this is a big but – I have to do it with my hands tied behind my back.

Or when I read articles about Stay At Home Moms or Working Moms, I sometimes feel like I’m going to explode. Not because of anything the article says (usually), but rather the comments from the working moms “oh, imagine having to do all of that and work a full time job.”

Except you don’t. When you are at work, someone else is doing all of this (vaguely gestures at school/cleaning/working/feeding/watching/caring for/etc) and the difference between a Stay At Home Mom and those people that provide those services so that you can do your job at work is one thing, and one thing only:

Those people get paid.

I’m not suggesting that I should be paid to care for my children (although it would be nice if somewhere in the budget were things for me like toiletries, healthcare, makeup, hair appointments, clothing, or – oh I don’t know – anything)?

And I’m not suggesting that Working Moms do not have other challenges or concerns or sacrifices that are distinctly unique from mine.

I’m just saying that at the very least, I could be paid in support.

I could be paid in understanding.

I could be paid in an occasional “hey, did you do something different with your hair today? It looks nice.” Even if my hair looks like a crow’s nest on top of my head.

I could be paid in the conscious decision to let things go and not harass me about stupid and mundane things, or demands that I drop everything to deal with X, Y, Z thing that – in the grand scheme of things – can wait. Or… dare I suggest… could just not happen. I could be paid in competence by insurance companies, so I don’t have to spend my time on the phone with them. Or a cable service that is good and doesn’t require regular and routine cable man work done by Mom (keep dreaming on that one, I know). I feel like everyone is constantly breathing down my neck for things they want – be it my husband, my dad (who lives with us), outside family members, or the lady at the allergist’s office, who has called me five times in the last 24 hours to fill out patient paperwork. Like I’ll get to it when I can, Linda. I’ll get to it when I fucking can.

Perhaps I am just complaining right now because I find my situation to be particularly Cinderella-esque at the moment. I don’t even get “Happy Birthday”s or “Happy Anniversaries” or thanks for meals anymore. The other adults in the house don’t talk to me about anything but what they want and things they need, and my text messages are largely ignored.

But maybe my situation isn’t that unique, and it’s what a lot of Stay At Home Moms experience. We – as a society – tend to think that if a person doesn’t contribute financially to a household, they aren’t contributing anything. Of course the stupidity of this is self-evident, and yet large groups of people believe this way.

Or maybe it’s something more.

Maybe it’s that people just don’t remember what it’s like having a toddler or having kids. Or maybe they always had other people taking care of things for them, and they were never aware of how acutely precious a mother’s time really can be.

Maybe no one ever said anything about it, because they knew their words were just falling on deaf ears.

Well I’m here to say it today. I’m a mother. A Stay At Home Mother, at that. My kids are my job. And just as I wouldn’t march into someone else’s place of work and criticize them, tell them what to do, interrupt them multiple times for mundane things, or actually have the balls to expect them to stop working so I could get or say what I need to… I’m going to have to start expecting the same courtesy.

“Please be quiet during the meeting” is a sign now permanently hung on my door. At least for the next decade or so.

It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like F&ck This

Sorry for that whole censorship ‘o’ the title thing, but a lot of times blog posts won’t make it into email boxes if they have swear-y words in the title.

Fortunately that doesn’t apply to the content. So here we go.

It’s beginning to look at a lot like FUCK THIS. That has been going through my head over and over, AND OVER, again for about three or four weeks now.

I don’t know about you guys, but Christmastime is a combination of magical wonder and complete and utter bullshit for me. I have been screwed over, stressed out, raked over the coals, and that was just in the prep leading up to the *big day.*

Some of it didn’t even have to do with the holidays, either.

  1. Thankless Thanksgiving

I wanted to do that thing on Thanksgiving that yuppies do, where they go around the table and everyone says something for which they are appreciative. We don’t pray, and the other adults in our house have a hard time being grateful and complimentary; so I just thought it would be a good time to set a better example for the kids, you know?

I was too buried in mashed potatoes and mixed emotions to even remember to have everyone do it.

The thankful part of Thanksgiving – unfortunately – went largely unrecognized. This isn’t to disregard the sincere and kind comments made by our guests; I’m really just referring to the 25 times I had to ask the people that live here “is it good? Is the turkey moist? Do you guys like the sweet potatoes?” …only to receive grumbled “it’s fine”s, or to notice that many of the dishes I lovingly prepared went largely untouched.

Which was fine. We had enough leftovers for me to spend the day after Thanksgiving turning all of it into freezer meals that fed us for roughly 9 days.

2. Who has time for hurt feelings, though, when medical stress descends upon you?

We’ve had some medical situations that sort of pumped the brakes on the rest of life, anyway.

My oldest daughter – almost 16 years old – had been having weird pain symptoms for some time, and because she’s a woman, naturally, every doctor we had seen prior to the last two months has dismissed her as “just another chick complaining.” She’s had three, main things going on – simultaneously: migraine headaches, severe abdominal pain, frequent and unexplainable “sports injuries” (in bilateral joints). We’ve been blown off by doctor after doctor after doctor. “Just a chick with migraines.” “Oh obviously you are playing too much tennis and not resting enough!” “Cramps are normal.”

One doctor at UCLA Women’s Health – a woman, younger than me no less – had the audacity to look me blank in the face, say “believe it or not, pain is actually common in many women that experience periods.” Then she asked me to leave the room and asked my daughter what kind of birth control she was really there for.

So in the last couple of months, it’s all sort of gotten worse. My daughter has hardly played any tennis or worked out at all, and yet she’ll still feeling pain in her knees or her shoulders as if she’s been training 6 hours a day. Her migraine headaches have gone from once a week or two, to Imitrex every day. And a few weeks ago, she started having the abdominal pain she got intermittently, which she describes as barbed wire being wrapped and pulled around her waste and back (those of you familiar will immediately think endometriosis, I know…); well that’s been happening almost daily now, and so badly we’ve wound up in the urgent care, the emergency room, and a solid two weeks of one doctor’s visit after another.

What has made the situation all the worse is this: everyone is a fucking asshole.

Healthcare in this country is total garbage. And I’m not just talking about the expense of it.

I made an appointment with one specialist over 100 miles from our home. We got halfway there and were going to be a few minutes late for the paperwork check in time (but still on time for the appointment), so I called, only to find out that the person who made the appointment never actually scheduled it. We turned around, defeated.

In a startling turn of events, when it was time to figure out the migraine situation – in late November – I learned that there is exactly one neurologist in the entire county that sees children. And he isn’t taking any new patients right now. One. Apparently kids don’t have neurological problems where we live, this is just too perfect of a place, right?

Luckily I found a phenomenal physician in LA County, we just have to drive 57 miles each way to see. Every four weeks.

(But wait…the migraine maintenance medicine he prescribed makes her so groggy and sleepy she can’t even do her schoolwork.)

What else…

  • A kid in the ER one night threw up on me.
  • Over 6 different people have suggested that birth control will resolve everything (it won’t, in fact birth control makes migraines worse and if she really does have something like endometriosis, birth control or any hormones for that matter are not the answer).
  • We hit our out of pocket maximum, and yet everyone is still collecting the money up front, leading me to be owed over $4,000 now at this point in refunds, reimbursements, and “hey this is YOUR share of the medical expenses.”
  • For pain, someone gave her Naproxen, and even though she has no problem with Ibuprofen, with the Naproxen, she broke out in over 20 canker sores inside her throat and mouth.
  • I asked the nurse practitioner at our primary care physician’s office to send her for abdominal ultrasound, just to be sure…sure, sure, no one thinks her pain is anything legitimate, but can we just check? The ultrasound came back with her left ovary literally swarmed by ovarian cysts. (The nurse called to tell me the news and suggested I put her on birth control, even though one day prior we had discussed just how that was not a solution and would only worsen her migraine headaches.)
  • In response to the news that my teenage daughter, who has been experiencing pain in some way or another for at least six months now, to the point that she is unable to function in her normal life on many days, was going to have to start having tests and seeing specialists to get a handle on what is going on, my husband asked me when the budget would be freeing up for him to get some things preventatively done on his commuter car.

The good news is that we are – hopefully – finally getting to a point that we are going to be taken seriously. Why? Because finally the neurologist suggested I just take her to my OBGYN practice. They are old men and they don’t really deal with menstrual disorders, but they won’t blow her off and they will advocate on her behalf to get good care.

3. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this

And then there was Christmas. Because of everything going on, Christmas was a scurry in the last couple weeks to make magic. I think I slept about two hours a night, while the rest of the time baking like crazy, ordering gifts on Amazon, and – finally, in a moment of desperation – paying my 16 year old (who is too nonfunctional to do much else) to wrap the majority of the gifts.

I did manage to take the kids to a light show, like we do every year; although – lesson learned – my dad can’t go in the future because he just rushes everyone through it, complaining about how cold he is and ruining the evening with his griping.

When the real FUCK THIS came up, though, was about a week before Christmas, when I attempted to take my kids to the Polar Express train ride out of Fillmore and Western.

If you are in Southern California, you know that one of the priciest and – supposedly – magical Christmas experiences is actually to take a ride of the Fillmore and Western Polar Express. Everyone shows up in their Christmas pajamas, there’s lights and music and they act out the movie/book in front of you as you take a train ride and sip hot chocolate. Everyone gets a bell; it’s fun.

We had never been, and I decided with everything shitty going on, it would be a fun break one evening for my kids. So we attempted to go, and the bad news is that my 3 year old – who gets startled pretty easily – was getting on the train with me, and a man behind us started yelling to his kids who were ahead of us. It scared my little guy, and he started to cry.

Not like a screaming tantrum crying though. A basic cry. It was honestly so loud in there, my other two kids didn’t even know he was doing it.

Nonetheless, we were sitting in the front of that car, and had barely even sat down; he was still crying and I was starting to calm him down, when the train employee came over me and told me I should take him off the train to calm him down.

I understood, but I also didn’t. Like I know my kid, and I know that I can calm him down before the train leaves. We still had 30 minutes, and literally no one could have noticed what was going on. I also knew that if I did take him off the train, there was no way I would get him back on. When a toddler cries for a calmer situation and immediately gets what he wants, instead of learning to self soothe and adapt… well, come on…

Still, I understood that the lady was just doing her job. Right? And I don’t like the thought of being one of those people that ruins the experience for everyone else with drama; especially at an event for kids. So we got off the train, and I – obviously – couldn’t get my little guy to go back on. The train left, without us.

So I emailed customer service, and this is where it gets really annoying. I told them what happened and just asked if they could maybe send us the bells. At the end of the whole thing Santa gets on the train and gives everyone a bell. My kids just really wanted their fucking bells, and I paid for them, you know?

I got an email back from them not apologetic. Not saying I could have my bells.

I got an email back saying it didn’t happen. That what I said DID. NOT. FUCKING. HAPPEN.

At that point, I just gave up and gave in. Christmas became fuck this. I did the gifts, the day. All of it with as big of a smile as I could manage. I made Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch, and we did all the things and I’m sure that it is a fact that my kids had fun.

But I was also just done.

The terrifying part is that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is just the start of it for us. Now we have birthday after birthday after birthday, Easter…Moms have it hard you guys. We don’t just do it all, we bear the mental and emotional load of it. We are the figure it out-ers, we don’t just have to take our kids to the stuff, we have to figure out how to make it all work and advocate for them and make sure everything is where it needs to be so that things don’t get worse.

But also, we do it all because we want to. And that is where being a Mom is the weirdest and most emotionally conflicting job of them all.

So if you had happy holidays that resembled the most picture perfect scenario you could ever imagine in a Hallmark movie or quaint Christmas card hanging on someone’s mantle, I am genuinely happy for you. If you’ve had it rough this season, I feel you also. Or, if you are like me, and it’s a mixed bag of negatives and negatives, but also positives and unbelievably happy children – in spite of it all… well, I am right there with you in the trenches, my friend. This is a weird place in life to be. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this, but also fucking bring it.

I’m A Stay At Home Mom Because It’s Too Costly To Not Be

I woke up this morning with a start, realizing it is November 2nd and the gas bill was due two days ago.

I’ve been so swamped lately, it just slipped my mind. This was the last of the bills to go on autopay, I just hadn’t gotten around to setting it up yet. Fortunately, I called and the gas company said I was within the 5 day grace period. So the bill wasn’t even really late. And they set up autopay right then on the phone, too, so now I literally never have to make the effort to pay bills anymore. It just happens.

It got me thinking about the costs (financial and otherwise) of working, though, because the reality of the situation is that for about four weeks now, I have been working even though I’m really a Stay At Home Mom.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Well without going into all of the emotionally exhausting and – quite frankly – mind numbing details of my husband’s attitudes with regards to me and the children, and money, I decided to try and start doing some work on the side of my full time mom gig, just so we had a little extra money so that the kids didn’t have to miss out on anything (fun or otherwise) when he gets into one of his moods.

There was a problem, though, with the whole arrangement. Well, several problems:

  1. My husband works overnight, and long hours, in film. It’s not like he can be counted on for anything with the kids. He can’t. He leaves for work at 4:30 in the afternoon, gets home when the work is done, then sleeps until it’s time to get up and go back to work. It isn’t like he comes home and takes over with the kids. I do everything. Everything. Cooking. Cleaning. Yardwork. Errands. Driving. Everything.
  2. My two oldest kids homeschool. I am their educator.
  3. I went back to school in August, after a ten year hiatus, to start working towards finishing the graduate degree I (foolishly) stopped working towards all those years ago. SO now I’m the teacher. I’m a student. I’m the only parent most of the time. And I’m working?
  4. I have no real childcare whatsoever, and no budget for said childcare. My two oldest kids had to free babysit my toddler, while I worked. Or my dad, who lives with us and is 76 did, but he’s old and has limits. (I’m sure you can all imagine how healthy that is for everyone involved after a couple hours of Grandpa time; my dad has to nap for an average of 3 hours after just an hour with my little guy…)
  5. I was already stretched thin scheduling-wise and getting only about 4 hours of sleep a night.

So for one month, I started writing part time in a freelance writing position. I used to do this before I had my third child, and was relatively successful. But things are different now, and three kids is no joke, so success isn’t exactly how it went this time.

Within a week, I stopped having time for almost anything. No more gym. I was driving my kids around town on virtually no sleep. I even started skipping meals and showers, just to keep up with the schedule.

I worked about 6 hours a day, but got only minimal work done because I was trying to juggle everything while doing the writing. The worst moments were when my toddler was running around, crying because I was on the computer. He would run up and slam the laptop screen shut. Stay up until 2 in the morning to have playtime with Mommy. Within a week, he was getting even more clingy, too. He still nurses and was suddenly nursing double what he had cut back to.

The best moments were when I turned my freelance writing profiles on “out of office.” I did this twice in the four weeks, for two days each. That means I took exactly four days off in the entire month. But it wasn’t really time off, because it’s when I had to catch up on all of my other stuff. I cleaned the house, did heavy yard work, caught up on grocery shopping.

The first two days “out of office,” I realized towards the end of the two days that I had gotten behind on planning the kid’s homeschooling. So I stayed up for 36 straight hours to make sure everything was set for the rest of the month. I literally had no other option, the clock was ticking and there was just too much for me to do.

That is the first time I considered forcing my kids into public school. When I finally went to sleep after 36 hours of working and catching up on everything, I did so crying.

In the four weeks, I made a lot of connections and got almost 100 positive 5-star reviews.

After taxes, site fees, PayPal transfer fees, and getting screwed by not one, not two, but seven people who decided not to pay their bill, but publish my work as theirs anyway, I brought home exactly $46.

Forty. Six. Fucking. Dollars.

I felt so guilty for all the time away from them and everything that had sort of fallen apart, I used it all to take my kids to the movies.

Here were the costs:

  1. I spent less time with my kids, and by “less time,” I mean virtually no time. I went from Stay At Home Mom to Mombie, sleeping less than 2 hours per night, and just going through the motions to get through each day.
  2. I had no time after the kids went to bed to work on my blog, and for the first month in – I don’t know, the entire time I have blogged – my blog was not self-sustaining (because my clicks and social media ticks went down).
  3. That thing about my toddler being sad.
  4. That thing about my two older kids losing their educator, and having to become almost full time babysitters.
  5. I forgot about two assignments for school, and didn’t have time for a third. So now I’m unsure that I can even do this school thing with the kids and everything else.

And then there were the risks. I was driving around town on virtually no sleep, with three children in my car. Several times I caught myself thinking I could close my eyes for just a second. On more than one occasion, I was driving faster than was safe for the conditions, because I needed to get home to get the work done so I could get school done so I could make dinner so I could finish the laundry so I could …

My blood pressure went from its normal and healthy 110/68 to an alarming 148/92

People said my older kids could pitch in more. I disagreed. They had already all but quit sports and school to help with my toddler, pick up the slack with cleaning and laundry and dinner… And while I know that kids do that all the time in a variety of situations around the world, I started to ask myself: why would I ask that of my kids when there is absolutely no necessity whatsoever? No necessity, and it’s actually costing more?

But I digress…

There are two issues, as I see it. One is that I don’t really want to work, I want to be with my kids. I know, I know…what mom doesn’t? and all that jazz. But here’s the other thing: it cost us significantly more money and other stuff for me to work last month in a semi-regular position (unlike my blog and books, which can be done here and there as I please), and I didn’t even get into childcare.

To work in any capacity for the long term, we would have to completely change the children’s lives, most importantly there would be paid childcare needed and paid help with transporting my older kids to and from school and other activities, or if they continued to homeschool we would have to pay someone else to educate them.

At a minimum, for me to work and have that help, I would have to bring home – net pay, after everything – around $30,000 a year. And that would leave nothing, not a penny. Again begging the question: why do it?

(Not to mention the fact that $46 a month is not $30,000 a year.)

And there’s also all the other stuff. I’m one person, managing a lot, and I do it all alone. Adding this was just too much. To allow myself the indulgence of a cliche: it really was the straw that broke this camel’s back.

So I notified my regular “clients” today that I just can’t keep up with this anymore, and I’m backing out. My blog and my books are sufficient; school is sufficient. Being a mom is enough.

I’m a Stay At Home Mom because it’s too costly for me to not be. Costly in terms of money. And costly in terms of who I am and what’s most important.

Yo, Privileged Guy At The Tennis Courts

This is for you.

The other day I was sitting at the tennis courts where my kids were attending a group clinic.

I was sitting in the chairs that border the courts. You know, seating for human beings.

There were two other mothers there. We were – like – just sitting. Chatting, really quietly. (And I mean really quietly, because I know how dickwads like you give the coaches everywhere around town such a hard time.)

We were pretty much minding our business.

Then you told us to shut the fuck up. Like animals.

To be clear, you interrupted the mother I was speaking to, mid-sentence, and yelled: “hey ladies, could you take your conversation over to the parent’s area?”

Um.

The other mother said “Oh, sorry, are we being too loud?” And you yelled “just go on down to the parent’s viewing area over there.”

Parent’s area? I didn’t know such a thing existed. I didn’t realize that parents were being segregated from the rest of the more civilized folk. Maybe we are and I just don’t know, but what you were referring to, which you then clarified: the parents area was a group of chairs five courts down, in the dirt.

Hey ladies, could you shut the fuck up and go sit in the dirt?

You very obviously had a hard on for misogynistic undertones, because I also heard you refer to my 15 year old daughter as “blondie.” If I were less classy of a person, I would have told you to shut the fuck up too. But being polite and not wanting to embarrass my kids or the coaches (who deal with enough shit from assbags like you on a daily basis), I returned to my book, and listened to you.

You bitched about children in tennis.

You bitched about not having courts when you want them because of children.

You bitched about children’s sports on the whole. You said children shouldn’t be allowed to play sports until they are in college.

You said the coaches shouldn’t be allowed to support children’s sports.

You griped about how a “council” should be formed to eliminate youth sports altogether from the community, because it bothers you every time you are there playing tennis, or even at the park walking your dog.

Every time a child at the group clinic even uttered the slightest noise – and I mean slightest – you stopped what you were doing (serving, playing out a point, whatever), looked over, and said “REALLY?!”

But I digress. You know what you did.

After you finished your friendly match with a guy who seemed much more decent of a human being than you (though not – clearly – decent enough to call out that “blondie” comment), you guys went in to the clubhouse and ordered beers. Sitting outside, still on the chairs for humans versus the spots in the dirt for the parents, I heard you loudly yelling at the guy serving you that you couldn’t believe he did not know your account number. That of all the people that frequent the place, he couldn’t remember yours.

Yeah, so.

What is so disturbing about this is your sense of privilege. It isn’t that you are more privileged than others – with more wealth or better health, greater opportunities, or whatever. It’s that you believe – like actually believe – that the world is all for you.

That it is actually OK to refer to a child as “blondie.” Ever, in any situation.

That people should be segregated based on their “status” or usefulness? I don’t know, what exactly is it segregating by to separate parents from non-parents?

I read a meme the other day that said “privilege is thinking something is not a problem because it has never personally affected you.”

That’s true. But I think in your case, I would take that a little further.

Privilege is thinking that the whole world is set up specifically for you, and that in your case the rules do not apply. That you can actually say and behave in the way you did that day and get away with it.

Why? I guess because for now you do.

For myself, I’m going to start putting my kids in situations where people like that don’t rule the world. It may be hard to find. Or maybe I will just start speaking up, and speaking out. How else will I teach my kids to stand up to that shit and make a change, instead of quietly turning back to their books and do what the privileged motherfuckers like you demand, just to avoid conflict?

We Are Putting Too Much Responsibility On Our Kids

I have three kids.

Most of you know this, if you are new to my blog …well now you know. Two are girls, aged 15 and 11. And my one boy is 2.

My 15 year old has been gearing up to get her drivers permit this fall, and thinking she would go for the driver’s license right away upon turning 16.

But as the months have inched closer to her written permit exam, she’s made a lot of other decisions with regards to her education that ultimately made her choose to put driving on the back burner.

That’s a long winded way of saying that she’s decided to graduate early and wait on driving until closer to 17. Maybe later.

Beyond having homeschooled since she was in 1st grade (so being pretty ahead of the game all along anyway), she really needs some time between graduation and life to figure out exactly what she wants to do and how she wants to go about doing it. We don’t live in a time where kids can just go off to college and everything works out perfectly …kids have high debts and shit jobs when they graduate if they don’t have a clear path in mind. And a lot of times, they do all of that to go into a field that didn’t even need the degree (and high debt).

Doing this will give her a couple years to figure out her real plan for college and/or beyond, and she can start that next step in life (whatever it looks like) at the same time as the rest of her peers. Because she’s a minor she can take some for-credit courses at the community college for free, she can explore volunteer and internship opportunities…and after years of homeschooling with minimal breaks and no summer vacations, she can also relax (for once). It’s a win, whatever way you look at it.

So the exam to accomplish early graduation as a homeschooler in California is administered the March after she turns 16. You guys see the timing is such that it really does make sense for her to focus 100% on that.

And after all, what’s the rush on the driver’s license anyway, right?

When I started mentioning it to people as they brought up her driving in less than a year, I got a backlash from a handful of people (3, to be exact) in one of two veins.

Either 1) they assumed it was really me saying she should wait, in other words sheltering her from the big bad scary roads and growing up; or 2) her not taking responsibility for herself.

People just can’t make decisions for anything anymore without someone waiting in the wings to criticize them.

I shouldn’t even reply to the first point. I wasn’t allowed to drive until I was 17, and in fact California has many laws that restrict what and who can be in the car with teenagers at the outset because of the high incidences of teenage deaths behind the wheel. I am not the catalyst behind her decision whatsoever; but if I were, it wouldn’t be abnormal.

And anyway, my kid my rules.

But to be clear: it was her decision. Hers. Not mine. HERS. 100%.

And it was a decision I found to be rooted in maturity beyond her years. Not all kids would decide on school and studying over the thrill of getting behind the wheel.

As to the responsibility.

Even if it were for fear or not being ready for that level of responsibility, what is this idea that kids under 18 are not still… kids? That their feelings or fears or concerns are completely invalid and they should just man up and grow up?

Repeat after me: they are still children.

And beyond that, has anyone taken stock – truly – of how much responsibility falls upon our older kids, today, as a culture? The shooter drills. The intense college admissions competition. AP exams. Competitiveness in sports. Plus looks, bullying, dating, peer suicide, all-time high incidences of mental illness…

Granted some of that is eliminated because my kids homeschool. But in many ways (because my kids are still very social, have relatively large friend groups, are out in the community daily, and have many of the same goals as their peers), they experience it all to varying degrees.

And in the case of my children, you also have to consider how much responsibility my two older daughters already have and take of their own accord around the house (which, I am sure, is common in other households as well as the business world molds and changes, and local, 9-5 jobs for parents have largely ceased to exist).

My husband works overnight shifts for a marketing firm that contracts with Disney. He’s an editor, so it means long hours, unpredictable hours, and a lot of overtime. When he gets home in the morning, he goes to bed and sleeps all day until it’s time to go back and start it over again. He works weekends and holidays often, and he almost never uses his vacation time. He basically is uninvolved in our lives unless he can actually be off for Christmas or Easter (but of course then he still sleeps half the day, either catching up or just on that different schedule).

That leaves me as the sole caretaker, housekeeper, financial planner, grocery shopper, child care provider, car maintenancer, schedule manager, meal, snack and every in between preparer, launderer, problem solver, medical care provider, educator, ride-giver…and so on…

My kids, being more responsible than some adults I know, have taken it upon themselves to pitch in for the sake of my husband’s dreams and my sanity.

It’s killing me to allow, and yet sometimes I feel I have no other choice; and even other times I realize that letting your kids have responsibility around the home has been proven in study after study to raise kids more capable of managing their lives as fully formed adults.

So my daughter doesn’t want to take on the “responsibility” of studying for taking the exam for her drivers permit, and the behind the wheel test and driving so soon, on top of everything else on her plate.

She cleans up my toddler’s toys every night when I put him to bed.

She helps cook dinner when I’m giving him a bath or nursing him (because, yes, I am still nursing my 2 year old).

She and her sister clean up the poop in the bathtub when he inevitably turns it into his large, personal toilet.

My 11 year old isn’t without added responsibility at home as well. She takes out the trash, regularly, when my husband has been too busy to change all the cans. She also helps keep the laundry moving, does dishes without being asked, and plays with her brother or feeds him breakfast when I’m driving my 15 year old to an appointment or tennis lesson.

Once a week, my kids and I spend hours going through all the laundry that has been done and sort, organize, fold, and put it all away. When my husband sees us doing it, he says “just leave mine on the bed.”

And this is the thing that I want to impress on all of you: my kids are not unique from other kids, and the amount that is expected of them today is phenomenal.

I get it. There was a time when kids did all of this and more. But there are two parents in this home, two adults responsible for it all, and my kids are at the very least helping to carry the load for one that is largely absent. Because they are already more responsible than a lot of adults I know.

So to suggest that my daughter needs to “start taking responsibility for herself,” and that the driving thing is just a sign that she isn’t doing that is – in a word – laughable. And this is what I am largely seeing happen with a lot of her and my 11 year old’s peers: that in the face of already doing it all and more, adults are still pushing the vice down even harder and demanding more of them.

And we wonder why so many kids have mental health problems now.

I feel like we have forgotten that under 18, they are still kids. And yet, at the end of the day, so many of them seem to have it more together than a lot of us did at that age. More together than a lot of us do today.