Am I the only one who’s ever thought this? Recently we had a bunch of our family over to celebrate my twins’ 10th birthday. It was great. I love spending time with my family. Really, I do. However: Sometimes things aren’t always so merry.
My husband’s grandmother is 84 years old and originally from Puerto Rico. She made her way to the United States as a young adult, leaving her children behind so she could build a better life for her family here in New York.
All she could afford was a one-room rental. No kitchen, a shared bathroom, and an abusive husband. Yes, she had a very tough life. I’ve heard many stories about it, both good and bad, during her lengthy doctor’s visits after she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The tumor was totally removed, and her body no longer shows any sign of cancer—proving to me that she is, as I thought, tough as nails, and could beat anything. My husband and I are so happy that she is still with us and in such great shape. That said, I know she thinks I’m a disgrace as a mother and wife.
She comes from an era where women didn’t work unless they had to. I’m very fortunate that I don’t have to work. Sure, we could get by on one salary, but it would be scraping. I appreciate the finer things in life, and I don’t want to scrape so much. I also love what I do. Building a community of multiple-birth parents around the globe has really been a driving force in developing who I am as a person.
My job gives me a lot of self-worth. I’m not saying my kids and my family don’t, but I find that my work, and the people I work with, are much more appreciative and understanding of my life. It’s sad that strangers from Twiniversity understand me better than the great majority of my family, including my husband’s grandmother.
For her, my house is never clean enough. In fact, she often buys me cleaning products—you would think my house looks like a pig sty, but I assure you, it’s clean. Not operating room clean like her home, but it’s clean. My children’s rooms are never organized enough; I should be ironing everything in my family’s wardrobe, including their underwear; I shouldn’t work because I don’t need to; I should be more appreciative because my husband isn’t abusive (let’s not even talk about that right now).
My family thinks I’m crazy for doing as much as I do—from running my local mother-of-twins club to spearheading events with my kids’ PTA; from picking up the kids every day at 3pm and helping with their homework to attempting to put a square meal on the table; from being an entrepreneur and writer to being an advisor to brands developing products for multi-birth families. My phone number is readily available online and I get calls from around the globe from women with postpartum depression and dads worried that they aren’t the best fathers or parents who just delivered micro-preemies. Sure, I could fight the residue on the shower door a little harder. Sure, I could do the laundry more than twice a week. Sure, I could always have my makeup and hair freshly done when my husband walks through the door as if it’s 1942. But that just wouldn’t be me.
My husband’s grandmother thinks I should do less (and maybe she has a point) and pay attention to more. My kids and my husband should be the air that I breathe, the sun that I let shine, and I should need nothing else. But to me, working as hard as I do shows my children that you can have your cake and eat it too, and that you’re going to get a lot of crumbs on the floor along the way.
I’ll never be the person she wants me to be. But you know what? I am who I am. Didn’t Popeye say that? He was good enough, wasn’t he? Olive Oil sure loved him. But he was a man, and I’m sure my husband’s grandmother would say that Olive Oil did too much too, and that she should have been ironing his underwear.
Natalie Diaz is a native New Yorker, mother of twins, and the founder of Twiniversity (which offers classes for new and expectant twin parents). She’s also the author of What To Do When You’re Having Two. To learn more about her, visit twiniversity.com.