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This past year, I found myself Googling words like “resiliency,” “undaunted,” “gallant,” and “resolute.” I wasn’t planning on using them in a short story or poetry. Instead, I read about these themes to prop myself up when my generalized anxiety disorder peaked in the middle of a global pandemic and social unrest. I didn’t always handle 2020 well. However, in the middle of last year I looked around and saw some of my dear friends thriving, and I wondered, “How?” What pushes some of us forward in the middle of chaos?
As a writer, I decided to do the thing that writers do. I decided to interview the women in my life who gallantly took on 2020, defining resiliency all while undaunted in the spirit of the resolute who’ve come before them.
I met Carrie Maultsby-Lute in the spring of 2012, before our husbands were our husbands, and way before we had kids. Since then, we’ve been pregnant at the same time twice, both times with boys. Our husbands, college roommates, our four toddler boys, best buds since birth. Which is to say, that Carrie’s family is very much my doppelganger family. While I spent much of 2020 Googling tips and tricks on anxiety management, my dear friend Carrie was growing in leaps and bounds in her career. We sat down to talk about how she’s been able to thrive in the new normal.
Carrie (she/her/BAWS/Queen) is a retired professional figure skater, boy mom, wife, globe trotter, multi-passionate Oaklander, and much more.
Carrie is also the Director of the Center for Transformative Action and teaches marketing courses at the Lorry I. Lokey School of Business & Public Policy at Mills College and at Presidio Graduate School of Business. Carrie co-designed a digital marketing program between Facebook and the Peralta Community College District. She thrives at the intersection of business, technology, community development and education—people and planet over profit!
My jumbles are time, health & wellness, and, well, guilt.
Very Smart Brothas published an article early on in the pandemic titled, “I’m Glad You’re Going to Write the Great American Novel While We’re All Shut-In but I Have Little Kids.” It’s the funniest and most spot-on article I’ve read about the pandemic parenting experience. The gist is that single folks or sans children humans are having vastly different experiences during the lockdown—time and productivity being key differentiators. If you’re raising kids (especially multiple kids under the age of five), then you’ve likely never worked harder or been so pressed for time. I consider time my most valuable asset.
Health and wellness are tricky because I have no time. As a Black person, 2020 was an extraordinarily hard year and finding additional motivation to take care of myself has been challenging. However, I’ve turned a corner for 2021 and have been feeling much better as I’ve committed myself to eating clean, consistently working out, and sleeping more. Self-care is one of the more revolutionary acts a BIPOC woman can do.
Guilt is my last jumble. It is omnipresent as I multitask my way through all facets of my life: not fully being present for my kids as I juggle work and parenting around the clock; worrying that I need to lean back and not into my career.
I do think that women carry more guilt than men. Most households rely on dual incomes and as women we are now pressured to have successful careers that bring us purpose and also be great wives and mothers that raise healthy, happy, and successful children. And we’re supposed to do this all while remaining fit, meditated up, and joyous. That’s a lot to take on. Balls are going to drop. For me, it’s been about ensuring that the things I most care about don’t fall apart.
It feels like modern society has shifted faster than we’ve evolved as humans. As women we’ve only added more responsibilities to our existing home life. Numerous studies show women in the United States spend more time than men each day cleaning, cooking, taking care of children, and doing other unpaid work (Oxfam and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2019). Perhaps it’s our female conditioning and society’s harsher judgement of our parenting and tidiness, but guilt seems like a natural response for women that are trying to juggle so many balls.
Wine and girlfriends, in that order.
I have an amazing community of folks and they fill my cup. No pun intended. My mom and sister are the MVPs. They’ve always been there for me during big jumbles. I really believe that movement is magic! Exercise has been an important part of keeping me balanced, joyful, and energetic. Lately, I’ve liked the Peloton app and have been enjoying the big range of classes they offer.
My 40s have been an amalgamation of the various things I’ve done coming together to create a beautiful, chaotic, unique, and synergistic existence.
The sacrifice and hard work that I’ve put in up until this age is blossoming in a range of places. The work is harder than ever but the growth I’ve seen is something that fills me with pride— specifically, when looking at my sons and reflecting in gratitude on the home we’ve created.
I would tell women to enjoy their life while digging deep to understand their values, vision, and mission. The goal being to create a life that reflects those things. There are things you can’t control, and finding and keeping love is equal parts smarts and luck for most people. For the things that you can control, like your career or education, try and work around your skill set and community, do it early and reevaluate it often.
Younger women should not be scared about aging. Your values will change and you will go with the flow of life and all the jumbles that come along with it.
Work-life balance has always meant that I have time to take care of myself (physically and spiritually), to be present for my family, and to be productive in my career while finding the time for additional projects/creative endeavors. As a parent I’ve never had this work-life balance. I may have had it before but probably still thought I didn’t—having kids puts everything into perspective. Work-life balance seems to be a work-in-progress.
This was a challenging experience on many levels. When I was offered the role, I was teaching a full load of courses at multiple colleges and homeschooling a toddler in his first year of French immersion school. This was one of the biggest tests in my life.
When I received my evaluations from my Fall class at Presidio Graduate School I almost cried because of the tremendous work and sacrifices I had been through just to finish the semester. I cried because I received the best evaluations of my academic career and felt validated in choosing to lean in, and not pull away.
We discussed guilt above and I’m just now realizing that so much of that stemmed from making the decision to send our kids to in-person Montessori in August. That remains one of the hardest choices I’ve ever made.
I questioned everyday if I should have been trimming responsibilities to be able to keep them at home. It wasn’t until a month in that I felt mostly comfortable with that decision but now two semesters in I feel much better. The fear of COVID still hangs over us (all of us!) and I pray that our decision isn’t something that we’ll regret.
The pressure comes from me. I have an amazingly supportive husband who ultimately wants me to be happy and healthy. I know he’s glad the semester is over and hopes I/we can retain a life with a little more balance.
Wow. Great question. The grit and perseverance is from my mom.
One of my most defining memories of her power was right after my father passed away. She was widowed at 40 years old—I was nine and my sister was six. We lived in the Seattle, WA area and had little family there. My mom was grieving the loss of the only love she had ever known, but still she kept things together.
I was deep into competitive figure skating and had practices starting at 5 am. One morning on the way to practice our car ran out of gas. It was uncharacteristically snowing in WA at 4 a.m., it was dark outside, and my mom began to cry as she pounded her way through the snow with a nine-year-old wearing figure skating gear tagging along behind her. At one point I fell down trying to keep pace with her. I called out to her and it was as though she finally saw me—her grief melted away as she hugged me tightly and wiped away both of our tears. Because of her resilience and grit, my sister and I were able to have a joyous childhood. She sacrificed to keep me in an expensive sport and her life revolved around her family.
I’m fortunate, my mom was in a better position than many people who find themselves widowed. She had a master’s degree from University of Washington and this highlighted for me the importance of having an education. My mom went from working flexibly and supporting our family business to being a single mom. This example has made me strive for self-sufficiency. More than that, my mom is a dreamer so I’ve inherited that trait from her. I became a goal-oriented person because of my career as a professional figure skater.
I’ve pulled from both of these experiences while leaning in 2020, and now it appears they’ll also serve me well in 2021.
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Olga Rosales Salinas is a content writer and freelancer who produces poetry, short stories, and essays. Her debut collection of poetry and prose, La Llorona, benefits The Rosales Sisters’ Scholarship, a scholarship that she co-founded for first-generation or immigrant students on the central coast of California, where Olga and her five sisters grew up. Olga is passionate about all of her creative endeavors, including motherhood, mental health, fitness, writing, and wife life. Learn more about Olga at www.OlgaRS.com.
Olga Rosales Salinas
ON THE BLOG
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Adventures in Perimenopause, essays by women in perimenopause and menopause
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