Name

I got to talking about names the other day. I’m very particular about my name, spellings and all. I have my father’s last name. People are surprised to hear that. I had a chance to change it, but I didn’t. I know my husband thinks it’s some feminist agenda to prove something to the world. It really isn’t. The issue is much simpler and much more complicated than that.

Photo Credit: Jayson Hinrichsen

For the first 14 years of my life, I didn’t have a last name. Literally, none. Whenever I was asked to put down my last name, I would simply say I don’t have one. Questions like, “what’s your dad’s name?” or “what’s your mom’s name?” Would follow and I don’t know what they ended up writing most times because I really didn’t want to concern myself with it.

Why I didn’t have a last name? My mom didn’t want me to have my dad’s name. She didn’t give me hers either. I was just kind of left nameless in their struggle to gain control and power over each other.

Finally, at the age of 18, I added my paternal last name. Nobody understood why I would do that either. At that point, I had not seen my father in years, and it seemed like that’s how it was going to be for a long time to come. I couldn’t explain to people that having a name you probably are not completely comfortable with is better than not having one at all. It’s better than no one recognizing you or knowing where you come from. There are a lot of people on my father’s side I deeply care for and love. However, this was the most important reason. Everyone wants to belong, right? Where did I belong if not with my parents? My mom had a chance to share her name with me and she didn’t so obviously I only had one option. Maybe it’s not that deep, or just maybe for a child growing up without being able to proudly say I belong to one family or the other, it is that deep.

Back to today; my kids ask why they are all Mustafas but I’m not. You are our family too why isn’t your last name the same? I give them the simple answer, which is also true.

I tell them, even though they don’t share my last name there is no stronger bond.

The complicated answer? My Parents may not have been the one to give me the name, or maybe they were. I don’t know what my birth certificate says honestly. I understand though that this is where my identity and my legacy is found, and my kids will know that they have a family in my family.

So yeah, we are a family. We are the Mustafas, we’re also the Akhtars.

Photo Credit: Jake Thacker

My boys need to know that. They need to create relationships and loyalties to that family and that name too. It will not happen if one of their parents doesn’t say it all the time. So maybe, that’s why I kept the name? Or maybe I’m just lazy?

B Is For Bossy

I’m the person that makes everything work. Yes. That’s me.

I’m also the person who, it seems is always, telling my family when they’ve done something wrong. I go soft and things fall apart. It’s a terrible job. Makes one the “no fun” member of the family for the most part BUT someone’s got to do it.

Everyone everywhere is telling moms to take it easy and enjoy themselves and, their families. In all honesty that is some solid advice. I would give that advice to friends and family myself if I didn’t live the life I live and, handle the things I handle everyday.

It’s not just about not doing the dishes or letting the house sit dirty, which is not something I can ever do if I’m telling you the truth. It’s not even about not enjoying our kids in that moment when they are doing something fun or not joining in, in playtime. People assume that all the tiredness and weariness comes just from working, cleaning and running after the kids. No, the tiredness comes from knowing that if we didn’t do all those things that we do, If we didn’t get tough on the family to keep up with everything they need to keep up with in order for us to keep running things smoothly, everything will break down into little shambles. No one will see the shambles but us, which means we are the ones who will end up cleaning up that mess.

At the end of the day people will tell us, “see? The world is still turning. You were freaking out for no reason”. However you alone will know that world has gotten this much harder to turn and you are the one who is turning it. No one else will see it but you.

So, when you’re screaming at your family to turn off the iPad or TV and get ready for bed and they keep saying, “five more minutes mom, just 10 more minutes.” You look to your husband for support and he gives you a look that says, “What’s the big deal he only asked for 10 minutes.”

You can either just give up or you can say, “no get up now”. Most days that is what I do. I give them an ultimatum, including my husband. They all have to scramble and start getting ready. I know what they are thinking. The evil lady who doesn’t know how to have fun can’t give us 5 minutes or 10 extra minutes. She needs to learn to chillax. Here’s what I am thinking that no one else can think of because it’s for my mind, my eyes and my physical body to handle only:

Ten minute means they will start moving in at least 15 minutes because I know my family. The kids will not get up to go brush their teeth without their father. He has to finish up his work and get ready for bed too so that another 15 minutes. So, we are already about 30 minutes past bedtime. We haven’t even gotten to the changing into PJs, read a story phase yet. “I need water.” “Now I need to go to the toilet again” dance that we all do every night. I’ll have to commend my husband for this one; he handles all of that way better than I do because I am in only one mode; which is, GO.THE.HELL.TO.SLEEP. I am not much fun at bedtime.

Late bedtime means sleepy, tired mornings. No one wants to get out of bed for school. I gaze at my husband while he wakes up, sometimes even earlier than us, but gets ready in peace and heads off to work. I barely ever get to say good-bye because, that’s right, I’m wrangling tired, sleepy children who are refusing to get out of bed. On the days they are tired the shirt is always wrong. The shoes don’t fit right or someone just wants to crash on the floor right before we are ready to head out refusing to get up.

All the while I am thinking about the lessons I haven’t prepared for my students. The test I have not gone through for the students that will be waiting for me in less than an hour. Or some other crap I need to do which I didn’t get done.

You would think this would be the end of it, right? Nope. They get home even more tired and cranky. They want to hurt everyone and destroy everything. They are sleepy but don’t want to nap. They are tired but they don’t want to sit in one place. To handle this chaotic day I have to make even more rules because everyone is hell-bent on shattering every single one of the ones I already have. Finally the day ends and someone asks for 10 extra minutes before bedtime.

Being tough brings much guilt with it. Even after ruining the entire house their little faces can be convincing enough to put you in a cycle of self guilt and terrible self judgment. Everyone around who is not running the house and just gossiping is not much help. However, me being a softy is short-lived. I have to put on my bossy pants (as Tina Fay would put it) and start firing around. Only then do things start to work properly.

It is always way more fun when the routine is in place. We can all duties then we can all relax and enjoy ourselves. With that said, I am not saying I don’t know how to have fun and relax every now and again but the bottom line is that when men make rules and enforce them they are called assertive when we do the same thing with our families we are called bitchy, mean or too wound up.

Problem is women can’t stop being the evil being that we are without the world crumbling around us because guess what? The world needs us to be exactly this way. We can’t change. We have to remain who we are. And the world doesn’t seem to want to change anytime soon.

I’m going to make the change within myself. I’m eliminating the guilt. I’m a bitch. I’m the person who makes sure people do their jobs right because if they don’t shit falls apart. Those people who give me guilt over it, are the ones who give me guilt over shit falling apart as well. So I do what I have to do to keep the world spinning. I do what I have to do to keep my kids alive. Let’s be honest, most days it means being bossy and assertive. The world is just going to have to have to get over it.