There’s Trash in My Car

Dee Richards
6 min readJan 17, 2024

During my undergraduate career, I had two very difficult times: 1) Summer 2022, when I had joined the Digital Humanities Summer cohort to build a storytelling chatbot with my partner. I have two kids, I was also taking two summer courses, and having relationship troubles. 2) My final quarter. During that time, still with the kids of course, I was completing my honors thesis, teaching with the campus UTeach program, and taking 3 classes that were quite difficult, and another online. And no, my relationship difficulties hadn’t entirely resolved (we’re still working on them). Those times were so hard. Directly after completing all that, we moved to a new city and I taught workshops in my old city. I drove an hour each way to teach memoir writing for 2 hours; one of these was entirely unpaid.

Now I am not driving an hour or presenting a thesis. I am not currently teaching or writing my novel. I AM, however, planning three Outschool classes, waiting on responses from eight grad school applications, cleaning the house, caring for the kids, cooking, shopping, and desperately trying to keep it all together in a place that I hate until I can leave. Sometimes, I feel too overwhelmed, but more often than not, I am just exhausted. You see, I don’t sleep a lot. My anxiety and ADHD, coupled with the stress of these pressures, really make sleep difficult. Between all of my roles, I have very little time to clean up after my kids — who absolutely trash our car every week. I’m pretty sure all parents know kids do this, right?

I drop my kids off at school, and sometimes something falls out. An old water bottle or maybe some papers that I should’ve taken out of the car. No, it’s not fun for me, but I give myself a lot of grace. I understand that I have a busy life with two kids, and I’m not expected to be perfect. But, boy howdy, is that an affront to the women at the school who see my trashed car! I know the real reason why it is so objectionable to them, but I’ll go into that another time. I am a reserved person by nature of my trauma and being neurodiverse — I like to play my cards close to the chest. So, yes, it is intensely stressful that someone might see a mess that is not often attended to. Still, that’s not even the worst of it. It is the social pressure that drowns me.

You might say: “oh great, another feminist rant!” But, like, what are you doing reading my blog if you’re not prepared for another episode of “FEMINIST RANTS” by me? It is my title brand. The social pressure placed upon socialized feminine people is so smothering! For simplicity’s sake, I release a poignant discussion on the mother/whore dichotomy. I will stick only with the “mother” side. Here I mean “mother” in the sense of someone socialized feminine, vaguely feminine appearance (by social identification standards), and a parent. I do not consider myself a woman at all times, but my body gives away certain aspects, and I have mid-length hair and a high voice. So, people often assume me to be cisgender female. I am a parent of two children, and happy to be so. So, by these pointless distinctions, I am a mother. Unfortunately, I am not the type of mother they think I am.

I had an awakening about my expected roles as a woman several years ago. I continuously have revelations about the bullshit in which I’m steeped as a “mother.” Let’s disregard my societally pressured roles as a “wife” to focus only on “mother,” despite them being so very entwined. At the root of it, having harbored two bodies within my own, my body stopped belonging to me. Here are the issues in this: I am expected to feel blessed in this experience; I am disallowed frustration or estrangement from my pregnant body; I am barred from feeling uncomfortable with breastfeeding or the mother-shaming world will chant breast is best, breast is best; I am constantly touched and made ill and inundated with noise, and being unhappy about it AT ALL means that I need to defend my love for my child(ren).

This all leads to second-level issues as well. Since you now have to defend your love for your children to counteract any unhappiness or discomfort you feel with your body no longer being your own, you have to act in ways to prove otherwise. You should look good at all times, or you don’t care how others perceive your children as your reflection. You have to maintain a clean home, as a reflection of the quality of life you give your children. You have to be sociable, to prove that you love your children enough to befriend their friends’ parents. You have to be agreeable (thanks, Victorianism) in temperament so that you demonstrate that you ALWAYS put your kids before yourself. Sorry, I know I wasn’t going to bring up the mother/whore dichotomy, but how can you be Mary if you don’t put the needs of your child, its father, and what the hell, the whole world before your own? You can’t be the divine mother if you put yourself even on equal footing as your child. If you aren’t the picture of motherhood, then you do not love your children.

Here’s something completely radical: I love my kids. I think they are cool people. My daughter is a pre-teen and makes me so frustrated. My son has very difficult issues and it’s not always easy with him; I get mad that I have to deal with his issues. But, I love those wackos because they are cool, loving, funny kids. And it is a genuine love of a person, not a love because they are my kids. That distinction means very little to me. Sure, I had a role in creating them and raising them, but they are themselves. I love these two, tiny people. They are not my whole world. I put myself on equal footing. I am not good socially; I loathe the idea of kid sleepovers or “playdates.” I hate mommy-n-me classes. I think someone with an open baby carrier on themselves without a baby in it is nauseating. My home is messy, and my car has trash in it. And yeah, I’m overweight and rarely wear makeup. I haven’t cut my hair in over a year, and my armpits and legs get a trim every few months. Still, I like how I look. And, strangely enough, I don’t love my kids any less.

I have a lot going on, but it isn’t even about that. I live. My kids and I go out for a fun night EVERY Friday. We spend our time at libraries, street fairs, or craft stores. We have fun together. I almost always forget to take pictures because I’m too busy living with them. I forget their tantrums when we’re sitting around on the couch laughing about farts we’re all having. The times we have to find pathways through the mess have not even once impacted my love for them, nor theirs for me. But I still feel the need to defend myself constantly, even in private. “I’m too busy to keep the house clean”, “I don’t have enough time to put on makeup and look good every day”, “I need to clean the car before I drop them off today.” I know who my kids are, and appreciate those aspects of them. We have the best times together. My son said the best thing he got for Christmas was “family time.” Am I supposed to worry about a water bottle falling out of my car in front of the ladies at the drop-off line? It seems one of us knows what matters, and what doesn’t.

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Dee Richards

Dee is a neurodiverse writer from San Diego, with 3 awards in CNF & 9 short-form pubs. Subjects: feminism, identity theory, surrealism, horror, media analysis.