As a suburban woman, you are ____________.

Playing with stereotypes is one of my favorite pastimes.  Often they are woefully inadequate and often they are spot-on.  I wanted to start a conversation WITH you ABOUT you. Do you live in the suburbs?  Are any or all of the following true about you?  The media (entertainment industry, advertising, magazines etc.) tells us the the following about US:

Ahh, suburbia.

  • You like to have your house spotless, as you feel it reflects on who you are as a person.
  • You live in a cookie cutter house on a cookie cutter street.
  • You are homogenous, equal to all the other suburbanites.
  • You live in a McMansion with at least 5000 square feet of bliss.
  • You mooch off your husband, lie around on the couch all day and eat bon-bons.
  • You whine about being bored.
  • You are fat and stupid.
  • Your conservative exterior hides a sex-pot interior.
  • You watch Oprah, and now that it’s no longer on tv, you download old episodes from You-Tube.
  • You live your life vicariously through your children.
  • If you subscribe to the Mad Men archetype of housewives, you are frustrated, repressed, disturbed, martyred, unhappy and demanding.
  • You have a fenced in yard which contains your perfect pet and your stellar vegetable and flower garden.
  • You have dirty little secrets and dirty little lies.
  • You are less cultured and refined than city dwellers.
  • You are lazier than country dwellers.
  • Your extra pennies go to botox and plastic surgery.
  • Desperate Housewives.  Enough said.
  • You shop in strip malls, chain stores and big box stores.
  • You don’t walk anywhere, you’ll drive around the corner rather than walk.
  • You compare yourself to others always, and make every attempt to fit in.  Not belong, just fit in.
  • You are checked out, out of touch with your children, only concerned with yourself.
  • You are a clone, masochistic, classified and stereotyped according to the Descent’s “Suburban Home.”
  • You are a dreamer whose lies fell apart according to Kottonmouth’s “Suburban Life.”
  • You are divided into tribes where your friends don’t really know you per Arcade Fire’s “Suburban War.”
  • You are a big fat nothing where your dreams are out of reach and you work til you die in Hard Fli’s “Suburban Knights.

Wow.  The suburbs sure are a place we love to hate.  What is it about the place that elicits such vitriol?  Why all the haters?  The suburbs refuse to take that shit!  Some of the best people I know are suburbanites.  But I admit it, it is a little fun.  My friend Barbara and I have taken the liberty to identify some of our own stereotypes of suburban women.  Get ready… Here they are, along with what you might likely hear that particular stereotype say:

Five sample suburban stereotypes. Not an all-inclusive or even remotely scientific list.

Soccer Mom:  “We have a tournament all day on Saturday so I can’t make it.  Jennifer’s coach wants her there on Sunday too.  It’s only a two hour drive away, and she’s enjoying it so much.”  Soccer moms believe in nurturing their children’s athletic prowess and their car’s gas tank.  Once revered for their voting power, the soccer mom has taken second fiddle to this year’s media darling:  Wal Mart mom.

Working Mom:  “~~~”  They don’t have much time to chat.  On the career track, these moms work hard and spend the free time they do have with their kids.  Moms who work full time hold my utmost respect and all of us who work part time or less should help them out whenever possible.  As someone who has the absolute luxury of working part time, I believe we should all have each other’s backs.

Checked Out Mom:  on Facebook:  “Finally put those damn kids to bed and I’m sitting here with my bottle of wine.  Were parent-teacher conferences today?”  These are the clueless moms who worry more about their next night out than anything else.  I know very few, if any, of these types personally but have heard about them here and there.   They may even be an urban myth like the infamous Slut Mom of Desperate Housewives or daytime drama fame.  Maybe we have made them up to make ourselves seem better.

Stay at Home Mom (On a side note, I have always hated that term.  What the hell does that mean anyway?  I am sure a non-mother started that one):  “First I’m going to do some laundry then head to the school to volunteer.  After that I have to take the dog to the vet and then I have to pick up the kids from school and get them to practice.”  Yeah, that sounds like someone who stays home.

Mom for a Cause:  “I am on the board for the Children’s Society and we agreed that the best thing we can do over the holidays is give of our time.  I am planning on doing lots of networking and soliciting in the days ahead.”   I am grateful for the dedication of these gals who so generously devote so many hours to helping others.  They deserve our help, too.  And maybe some caffeine.  And your credit card number.

Also worthy of mention:

Fit Mom:  ” After I walk the dog and do some yard work, I have a personal trainer appointment.  Then I am hitting the sale at Lululemon!”  You know these gals.  They are out of sorts when they miss their daily workout.  They invest in sleeveless tops so we can all ogle at their ripped arms.  They kneel at the altar of fitness and leave the rest of us to wonder how they have sculpted themselves to such statue-like physique.  You are goddesses!

Walmart Mom:  “Thank God they brought back layaway!”  These are the moms who make the choices the nation watches:  her buying power and her voting power have the ability to change the face of our country.  Wal Mart moms know value when they see it.  They are uncompromising in their belief that they should get what they want in a reasonable and fair manner.

What stereotypes have I missed?

Which ones relate to you?

Which one pisses you off?

After all, this is one label we all share:

Thanks once again to Barbara Paulsen for inspiration.  Check her out.  Mt. Hood MaMa Photos.  Magic by I-phone.

A Letter to my Mom (from your 43 year old daughter)

I’m thinking about moms, yours and mine.

My mom visited here a few weeks ago.  She lives far away (2 planes then a 2 hour drive) and I don’t get to see her very often.  She is, of course, getting older.  Usually when she leaves, I feel sad for a day or two but this time it’s lasting much longer.  When I think about her, my eyes get a little fuzzy with tears and my throat feels like something resembling a clamp has tightened onto it.  So many of my friends in suburbia are worried about their mom, whether it’s concern for their health or safety, and my mind is filled with thoughts of them and of my own mother.  So here goes, and I hope you indulge me in a little shameless adoration of my mom.

Dear Mom,

Ever since you left, I have been thinking a lot about you and the things I want to tell you but either haven’t had the courage or the time to express.  So, put down your coffee and your to-do list and please listen.  No, I am fine.  The kids are fine.  Stop worrying, just listen!

1.  Please take care of yourself.  You are my only parent.  It makes me nervous when you do things that might put your health in jeopardy like delaying a doctor’s appointment or climbing on a roof (yes, my mother would climb on a roof.  I’ve seen her do it).  You are important to me!   It terrifies me to think of something happening to you.   

2.  I’m sorry for all the times I hurt you and made you worry.  You know all my most embarassing moments and STILL you don’t write a book and tell everyone about them.  Even though it would be hilarious.  I’m still sorry I screamed at you after that perm that made me look like a poodle.  Being stupid came easy to me.  It still does, sometimes. 

3.  Please tell me I am doing a good job with my kids.  I am aware that they are great kids, fabulous even!  But hearing you say it is monumentally important to me.  Even though you are the same person who let Dad tell me to pee in a bucket in a moving vehicle because he didn’t want to stop on our way to our summer vacation.

4.  Enjoy your life.  My one persistent thought that makes me feel better about not living close to you is that you are happy.  I can see it in your face when you talk about Jim and your garden and where you live.  So many of my friends wish their moms had someone to share their lives with.  I am grateful you are not lonely, but could you be less mushy-gushy-lovey?  That freaks me out a little.  Thanks.

5.  Stay active and engaged.  I know I can always talk politics with you, or movies or books or whatever.  I know you still take a bite out of life, use your brain and care about learning new things.  It used to bug me that you are so annoyingly cheerful, like your answering machine message which for years had “Don’t worry, be happy” playing in the background while you virtually sang your message.  Seriously.  Or the way you always approached strangers and exclaimed what a glorious day it was!  I remember wanting to hide behind a rock.  Now, I am just proud of your quirkiness.

6.  I value your honesty.  It would be out of your comfort zone to criticize me, which I TOTALLY appreciate.  But you can give yourself permission to be honest with me about things that are hard for you.  Things you are scared about.  Things you want to talk about.  I can handle it now, I am not a kid anymore.  You can trust me.  You have helped make my arms strong enough to carry you when YOU need it.

7.  You are one of the most important people in my life.  Sometimes it takes me too long to get in touch with you and my busy life keeps me from connecting.  Always know you are a priority to me.

8.  My children treasure you.  Thanks for being the kind of grandparent that the kids actually want at their birthday parties.  Not everyone can say that.  Your newsy and thoughtful letters, the way you are completely absorbed in their stories:  these things are priceless to them.

9.  Thank you for the lesson of living with less.  We didn’t have much growing up.  There were many times we went without.  Even though my own children have much more than I had, the grace with which you lead us in the difficult times has strengthened my resolve to not spoil my kids.  You taught me that love is what sustains, not pricey gifts or impermanent comforts.  You taught us that a simple hubcap could be the best Christmas present ever.

10.  Thanks for doing the tough shit that you didn’t want to do.  You and Dad cleaned my Catholic elementary school on the weekends so Jen and I could go there tuition-free.  I will never forget how it must have felt for you to do something like that, the commitment you had to making a better life for us and the shame I feel because of how embarassed I was at the time.  Your sacrifice humbles me.  Also, thanks for reading all my work even though I say fuck a lot.

11.  Even when the three of us make fun of you, it’s because we love you.  Let’s face it, mom.  You are hopelessly easy to make fun of.  It’s almost impossible for us to resist the way you twirl up your hair into a bun, your Christmas sweaters, your endless written lists/schedules, the way you sit 3 inches from the steering wheel,  okay I’ll stop now.

12.  I wish I had gotten some of your best qualities.  I regret not acquiring the ever elusive traits that I sincerely wish were passed onto me genetically:  red hair, the ability to repair a toilet/build a room single-handedly/fix virtually any broken object, the ability to sew/mend/crochet, your organizational abilities, your patience and most importantly your faith.  Not just religious faith.  Your unabashed, maniacal, divinely inspired faith that everything will be all right.  As evidenced by your willingness to fly to see my first born child three days after 9/11 /01 on a nearly empty flight in a nearly empty airport.  I was never so happy to see anyone in my life.

I love you, Mom.

Readers, tell me why you love my mom too!  Or your own mom for that matter!

Allow me to introduce Barbara Paulsen, I will be using her phenomenal photos in my posts (including the two above):

“I’ve been a scrapbooker for ages, but when my husband gave me my first iPhone I became a photographer.  I took an online course in 2010 called `The Slice of Life Project’ by Darrah Parker and this course, along with meeting countless other people in the photography community, began my adventure into iPhoneography.  I want to document my big, beautiful, messy life, right here in the suburbs.  And, my hope is that you will recognize a piece of yourself (the magic in your own life) in my photos.  Enjoy!” ~mthoodmama photos by Barbara Paulsen