Tag Archives: Crystal Carswell

So. Gender Norms…

When I first discovered I was having a boy, I was so grateful. Not being a ‘girly’ girl myself, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to raise one. A boy sounds easier, right? They’re rough and tumble. They fall down and get right back up. You don’t have to worry about their feelings quite as much. You don’t have to worry about having a conversation about periods or boobs, or getting pregnant. There’s no fear about their safety as they start to develop, you just have to teach them about consent and respect. This was going to be a breeze. Continue reading

Surviving Assumptions

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Labels. It’s amazing what they can do to people. The size on your clothing tag. The words others use to describe you… the ones in your internal monologue. FAT. A combination of letters. That’s all it is really, a descriptive word to characterize someone’s body shape. It is the feeling we imbue the words with that determine their power. Not the word itself. Continue reading

Letters to Santa-They Want What?

METhey’re heeeeeeere! The lists that so many parents face with equal parts interest and dread. The letters to Santa. As my seven-year-old son sat down to compose his this year, I watched him struggle with what to write. First, he couldn’t think of anything to ask for and then, after a little consideration, he just started listing things from a toy catalogue that had come in the mail.

That’s when I stepped in.

We had a chat about not abusing the privilege, and to perhaps just ask Santa to surprise him. But I realized the problem really lay with me. I have become so accustomed to doing what is considered traditional, that I never even considered telling him to not bother writing one. Why is that exactly? Why, when so many in this world can’t afford to buy their children the basics, never mind random material junk, do we, as a society, feel the need to perpetuate this ceremony? Continue reading

Walking the Edge of Homelessness

-Six Cheques Before I’m Homeless-

As a single mom I am, sadly, one of a growing trend. There was no dramatic exit, no abuse, just a lack of love and an agreement to separate. But, likeCrystal Carswell many, this decision put me in a position of financial instability. As a woman in a partnership, I had made  choices to put my son before my career. I had turned down promotions or job opportunities that would have meant less time with my child, secure in the understanding that my husband and I were making the right choices together for our family. Unfortunately, when the ‘together’ ends, the only things left are the choices.

When I consider my life, I am so grateful for my support system and the opportunities it has allowed me to pursue. My mother moved in with us, and shares not only the bills, but the child care. My son’s father is very generous with his time and money. But, what always sits in the back of my mind, eroding my happiness, is the image of my life as a see-saw;  my ex on one end, my mother on the other, and the knowledge that all it would take to lose my stability is losing one of them. Realizing that you do not have the ability to support your son alone is a humbling and eye-opening revelation.

That fear was always an abstract idea before I came to work for the YWCA; the shadows that surrounded an impulse buy, or the twinge I felt at Christmas when I drove up my credit card balance. Meeting these women, and listening to their stories, has made me realize that the only thing that separates us, in many cases, is my good fortune and that see-saw.

When I sat down to consider how many pay cheques I could actually do without before I would be homeless, I came up with the number six. That’s two and a half months for me. Two and a half months before the debt would out-weigh my ability to pay. Two and a half months before people could stop seeing me as a person and start seeing me as a cautionary tale.

We are all these women. Separated by a little time or distance perhaps, but if you look closely enough you’ll see yourself reflected.

What’s your number?