What is The Sweetman Life?
Well, for one it is our family name. This is ironic (I know I am abusing the word, I’ve never been good at irony, and I don’t care.) because it isn’t my name; in fact I’ve never really used it until now. But what do you do with Leonard? It’s so boring, not pithy and fun like Sweetman (I’m not arguing about pithy: the dictionary says “short and sweet”, need I say more?) So I hijacked my partner John and my daughter Z’s name for my own purposes. They say they don’t mind.
So The Sweetman Life is our life. For better or for worse or mostly in between, here we are. We have ups, we have downs and we have a lot of round and rounds. (Rhyming unintentional, I am not that clever.) But we love each other and we get through it. Our family consists of 1) A child, and lots of others who visit. 2) A mom (me) and a dad, making this a way more traditional than I ever imagined). 3) A grandpa, we recently lost my mom, so we’re down to four, but she still holds a big place in this family.
What makes us special? Nothing. We are just like every other family. Two working parents, young child, grandparents; sounds like a sitcom. In fact, very in tune with some of the best advice I’ve ever had. Playboy and Village Voice author and humorist Cynthia Heimel once advised (I am paraphrasing) “picture yourself in a sitcom, including laugh track”.
And so, that is what we do. We try to approach stress and difficulty with humor (and love) to survive it with a little dignity. We have had a lot of ups and downs in the last 10 years since we became an extended family, and have learned a lot about juggling responsibilities, collaborating and teamwork. I hope some of what we have learned about running a family and a home without killing each other can help you. Because nobody gets through the chaos alone.
We live in a big city and both have demanding jobs. I have worked since I was 10 years old; earning my own money and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Until recently, I had always seen myself as a career woman first and everything else second. Now I am a career woman, but it lands somewhere nearer the middle. Like many women today, my salary is a necessity, so being a stay-at-home mom is not an option for me. Sometimes I wish it were, but then I don’t; trying it drove me a little nuts and not in a good way. So, I work, and it has always been a race to get home before Z goes to bed.
I’ve had many surgeries in my life, beginning at 18 months old. I was born with no hip sockets, and as is very common in cases of disability, this led to a number of secondary health issues including osteoarthritis. I spent the last month of my pregnancy in a wheelchair, and after my daughter was born I could barely walk. When she turned one, I had hip replacement surgeries, and suffered nerve damage during the second one. For the following six months, we held our breath, wondering whether I would ever walk normally again. As the nerve recovered, I spent another year in rehab. Now I am back on my feet and rejoicing in what it means to live pain-free for the first time in 15 years. While I do want to get on with my life, I want to find a way to make it all mean something.
I spent the last few years so concerned with looking after my family and recuperating my body and spirit that I am now figuring out who I am; the last few years have been more revolution than evolution, given the amount of change in my life. Self discovery is a journey; one I hope to share with others.
I am a detail oriented list maker, so I documented much of my experience, made packing lists, to do lists, and generally ran my house and my life from my bed, my office or my cell phone. I made cheat sheets and check lists, and am hoping that by my sharing these others may benefit.
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Amy Leonard Sweetman