TIME advice

34 Life-Changing Tips for a More Organized Home

organized-wardrobe
Getty Images

Organize any part of your home from entryway to bathroom to kitchen to bedroom

We asked pro organizers for strategies that help them conquer chaos in their own lives. The result: secrets that will streamline your day and restore your peace of mind (promise!)

Entryway: Furnish the Space

Take inspiration from Jenkins, who uses a Victorian-era dresser to organize her entry. “The drawers hold gloves, hats, and other outdoor accessories, and the mirror on top gives us a place to do a spot check before we leave,” she says. Another popular option: cube storage systems with fabric bins for each family member’s gear.

Entryway: Map It Out

Make organization a no-brainer with thoughtful placement. Put sports equipment or school bags on the way to the car or very nearby. Then kids can grab them as they’re headed out the door and put them right back as they return. “The farther away you put those things, the harder kids have to work and the less likely it is that things will get back to where they belong,” says Tokos.

Entryway: A Place for Everything

Get the most out of entry storage by giving each group of items its own designated space. Labels can help. Says Morgenstern: “If a shelf or a cabinet or a drawer is marked miscellaneous, it’s easy to put things into but impossible to retrieve things from.”

Entryway: Peg Rail

Shaker-style wood pegs hung by the door make it easy to hang hats, scarves, and even leashes on your way in or grab on the way out.

About $25; landofnod.com

Entryway: Charging Station

Create a neat place to power up phones and tablets. Make one, as we did, by drilling holes in the bottom of a wood mail sorter, to thread cords through, then give it a coat of color.

Read the full list HERE.

This article originally appeared on This Old House.

More from This Old House:

Read next: 3 Habits Productive People Find Time for Every Day

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME

More Than $310,000 Raised for Father Raising Quadruplets Alone After Wife Dies During Childbirth

Quadruplets born to Erica Morales at a Phoenix hospital on Jan. 15, 2015
Nicole Todman—AP Quadruplets born to Erica Morales at a Phoenix hospital on Jan. 15, 2015

His wife, Erica, died of blood loss on Jan. 16 while giving birth to their quadruplets two months prematurely

Carlos Morales wakes up every morning to his two two-month-old babies, Carlos Jr. and Tracy – and then rushes to the hospital to see his other two newborns, Erica and Paisley.

Although he is busy learning how to feed his quadruplets, bathe them and tend to their every need, he still can’t help but think of his late wife. Erica Morales, 36, died on Jan. 16, shortly after giving birth to the quadruplets. She never got the chance to see her babies or hold them in her arms.

“She should be here,” Carlos tells PEOPLE. “It’s slowly getting a little bit easier.”

Erica became pregnant with four babies through IVF but died after she went into hypovolemic shock, an emergency condition involving severe blood loss.

One of the things that Carlos finds comfort in is knowing that he doesn’t just have support from his family and friends, but also from more than 8,700 strangers who have donated to a GoFundMe page his friend created. In total, over $310,00 has been raised to date.

“To think that so many people are giving me whatever they can afford makes me smile,” he says. “Every single penny will help so I can give my babies a great life.”

Carlos, who works in manufacturing in Phoenix, Arizona, hopes he makes the right decisions for his and Erica’s children.

“I don’t want to mess up. Erica always wanted children and so did I,” he says. “These four babies were a blessing so I will make it work. I have to.”

His mother-in-law watches over Carlos Jr. and Tracy at home while he goes to the hospital to see Erica and Paisley, who will be going home any day now.

All four were born around three pounds, but they’re slowly growing and have now made it past the five-pound mark.

The four cribs at Carlos’s house are all lined up next to each other in the bedroom right next to his. As the newborns grow stronger each day, so does their dad.

“I can’t wait for us all to be together,” he says. “Seeing their tiny smiling faces gives me courage.”

At the same time though, he sees his late wife Erica when he looks at them.

“She gives me strength he says,” he says. “Even when I feel lost.”

TIME Family

‘I really don’t think that my son’s circumcision is any of your business’

pregnant-woman-silhouette
Getty Images

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

Strangers shouldn't be commenting on such private matters

xojane

I am reaching for the bananas hanging above the table, when something hard and round falls down by my feet and starts to roll. My belly, now the size and shape of a watermelon, has knocked over the apple display. Again.

I swing my basket to the left and look down, but all I see is the watermelon belly. I lean to the side, as the front view is no longer reliable. I spot the apple. I bend down awkwardly to retrieve it. I continue through the produce section, holding the basket behind me because it no longer fits in front.

After 41 weeks of constant growth, I can’t pinpoint where my belly ends and where the protruding corners and tabletops begin.

Watermelon baby has also blurred the lines between my personal space and the world’s opinions. For the past several months, strangers have been informing me that, by the look of things, the baby should arrive any day now.

On the day that the baby should have arrived, I went down to the public pool. The Internet assures me that there is nothing like a feeling of weightlessness to take your mind off the wait. I may have felt light, but the other swimmers reminded me that I didn’t look it.

“Mommy, look at her belly!”

“Yes honey, there’s a baby in there. There might be TWO babies in there!”

After many conversations like this, I am not surprised when the friendly man behind me in the checkout line starts talking. Does he want to predict the baby’s weight? Perhaps he wants to put his mouth near my navel and start singing a lullaby. This has happened before. Maybe he’d like to predict my weight?

He looks vaguely familiar. Tall-ish. Skinny-ish. Freckled. I will never guess his weight or sing to his navel. That’s not normal behavior.

Stranger: “So, are you having a boy or a girl?”

This is a favorite pregnancy icebreaker. From another mother, it might come with a knowing smile, like saying, I’ve been there too, I know how it is to wait and wonder and dream of dark round eyes and soft skin.

Alternatively, it is an easy and awkward admission that the entry of a new little life has left you speechless. Me, too, strange man.

But no, perhaps you are speechless for another reason. Perhaps you just can’t stop staring at my belly button, which has popped out like a turkey timer at the front of the watermelon. Like an awkward third nipple on my belly. Guess I should answer.

Me: “It’s a boy. Maybe.”

Stranger: “Oh, that was my guess. I knew because your belly button is sticking out.”

Me (in my mind): Like a turkey timer or a third nipple?

I try to think of something to say about his belly button, because that kind of compliment deserves a witty reply. Nothing comes to mind. I don’t spend much time thinking about other people’s navels.

Me: “You’re very observant. Thank you.”

I turn away and step forward in line. He bounces behind me, moving into my line of sight while also forcing people in the neighboring lines to move aside to accommodate our respective personal bubbles. They don’t need to be so polite, because he doesn’t seem to have a personal bubble. Mine has apparently been popped by the watermelon.

Stranger: “So, have you thought about circumcision?”

Me: “Excuse me?”

I would take another step forward, but my belly is already about to ram the person in front of me. There’s no escape.

Stranger: “Oh, you know, are you going to mutilate your child without his consent?”

He actually said that.

Me: “I think I forgot something back in the meat department. Uh, have a nice day.”

Leaving my position at the front of the line, I head for the safety of the refrigerators. I remember the many discussions I have had with my husband on this very topic. It is a fraught one, at the intersection of religion, culture, freedom, privacy, identity, and physical self-determination. It is not something I am remotely interested in reviewing with a stranger in the grocery store checkout line. Or anywhere else.

I also wonder at what age it becomes inappropriate to talk about a child’s genitals. With strangers. In public.

I’m flustered. My pregnant belly draws more attention than I ever anticipated. It has been offered a seat on a crowded bus. It has been adored by my immigrant neighbors in a language I don’t understand, but in a tone that’s unmistakable.

For many months, I’ve been sharing my physical body with a tiny human, a feeling that is both extraordinary and surreal. This does not mean that other, full-size humans have leave to touch my stomach or make loud, public comments about my body. I am not sharing it with the world, just the tiny soul that I am bringing into the world, and only for the few brief months when that soul cannot survive on his own.

I loop around the refrigerated section into the bakery, so intent to escape the store that I almost overlook the same gentleman standing by the display of organic dark chocolates and pomegranate juice. He is waiting for me. I join the back of the line at another register. He follows me.

Stranger: “So, have you thought about circumcision?”

Me: “I really don’t think that my son’s penis is any of your business.”

And yet, somehow it has become his business, just like my protruding belly button. The corner of a clipboard peeks out from his shoulder bag, and suddenly I recognize him.

I have passed him before, outside of this very same store, where he has tried to catch my eye. Do I know what happens in the slaughterhouses? Have I heard of Proposition 8? Don’t I agree that the city budget should be reformed? Would I like to sign the clipboard, to send a petition for redress?

Most recently, it is a referendum to criminalize circumcision in neighboring San Francisco.* Holding the clipboard and talking with him about the policy implications of such a ban had felt like a logical exercise. We could discuss the issues and weigh the importance of religious traditions against the rights of a minor to physical self-determination, debating the role that government should play in this kind of decision. Confronted in the cashier’s line, talking about a real live child — my child — felt like a personal affront, not an abstract policy concern.

There is a line between talking in abstract about the surgical status of the foreskins of all male children in the city, and talking about the foreskin of the child that is currently residing in my uterus.

It is the same line that stops the cashier from asking what I plan on doing with all those condoms, and keeps a stranger from commenting that I must be fat because of all the ice cream he just watched me eat. The line marks the place where my personal space begins and where your public interest ends.

Large as it is, my pregnant belly does not push me into the realm of public comment.

*And for those of you concerned generally about the foreskins of all the boys in San Francisco, the referendum was dropped from the ballot because it was decided that city governments cannot pass independent regulations on medical procedures.

Angelyn Otteson Fairchild wrote this article for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

How to Parent Like an FBI Agent

Jose Luis Pelaez; Getty Images/Blend Images

No, you won't need any bugging devices

Ever feel like parenting would be a lot easier if you just had a full-time security team at your beck and call? And maybe an interrogation room?

You might not be able to swing that on this month’s budget, but Jack Schafer, a psychologist who and former FBI Special Agent, says parents can benefit from the tips of his trade. Here’s what he learned during 15 years conducting counterintelligence investigations – and how it applies to parenting.

Create the Illusion of Control
FBI agents are trained to de-escalate conflicts by giving subjects a choice, which helps them to feel like they’re in control. And “the feeling they have some control over a situation can work wonders, even for children,” Schafer writes in his recent book, The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over. Parents can do this, he says, without giving up any true authority. The trick: offer kids a choice between two options that both work for you. They can’t have anything they want for dinner. But do you know in advance you’re going to pick up food on the way home? Give them the option to choose between two good options.

Follow the Scarcity Principle
FBI profiling shows what many parents already know; that people tend to like things they can’t get much of. If you tell your kids not to do something, they want to do it even more. So how can a parent set clear boundaries without making kids eager to cross them? Let your kids know you trust them, Schafer says. When his daughter brought home a boyfriend she knew Shafer wouldn’t like, instead of forbidding her to see him, Shafer told her he trusted her to make the right decision. The boyfriend never made a reappearance.

Ask Indirect Questions
Especially as they get older, kids get suspicious they’re being interrogated, even when their parents don’t really work for the FBI. So asking direct questions isn’t always the best way to get the answers you’re looking for. Instead, use a classic FBI interrogation technique. “The best way to find out how your children really feel… is to ask them from a third-party perspective,” Shafer says. So if you want to know what your kids think about a sensitive topic, try bringing it up indirectly. Instead of asking, “Have you been drinking?” try starting a conversation with a hypothetical: “My friend’s son got caught drinking. What do you think his parents should do?” You might not get the answer you were looking for. But you’ll get to know your child.

Show Empathy
Another way FBI agents get people to open up is by letting someone know they understand what he or she is experiencing. “Demanding, threatening, or cajoling a response typically ends in a shields-up reaction” from kids, Shafer says. But empathetic statements, he’s found, can be much more effective, like: “You look like you are thinking about something pretty serious. You look as though something is really bothering you.” Greeted with this kind of empathy, kids will often share their thoughts freely. “Most teens want to tell their parents what’s bothering them,” Shafer says. “They just need a little encouragement and the belief that talking to you is their choice.”

Work the Case
The biggest thing parents can to connect with their kids? Just hang in there. In Shafer’s work, he’s observed that “The more time you spend with a person, the more influence they have over your thoughts and actions.” If parents aren’t around, kids start to take their cues from other kids. But “the more time parents spend with their children, the more likely the parents will be to influence them.”

Read next: How to Parent Like a German

Want to have stories like this delivered to you? Sign up here for TIME’s free weekly newsletter TIME for Parents

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME year of the man

More Sex—and 7 Other Benefits for Men Who Share in the Housework

Getty Images

8 reasons why it's good for men to embrace their inner feminist.

As Sheryl Sandberg likes to say, if a woman can’t find a partner, she should consider another woman—for the sake of equality, of course. Study after study shows that same-sex couples are more egalitarian, meaning they split chores, decisions and finances more evenly than the rest of us.

Us hetero gals aren’t so lucky, at least not yet. While the men in our lives may want to be all 50/50 when it comes to work and chores (and indeed, some of them are) it just doesn’t usually happen that way in practice. Gender roles run deep, and women still do the vast majority of the domestic work.

But if 2014 was the year of the female protagonist, then this will be the year of male feminist as icon. I’m not talking about men marching down Fifth Avenue (though I’d welcome it) but subtly adapting to the way things ought to be: New research shows there are more stay-at-home dads now than ever; and men of all walks are demanding more in the way of work-life balance, even if it means ridicule from their peers (or ignorant talk radio hosts).

Men are suiting up for more than just the rec football league—they’re suiting up in the kitchen. And if they’re cooking, it means they’re probably cleaning too, which would explain why proud fathers and sensitive betas are suddenly dominating the ad world, too. (Swiffer? A guy’s gotta mop the floor. Nissan SUV? It’s for shuttling kids to soccer practice, obviously.)

Now they’re entering the feminist Public Service Announcement circuit, which typically gets very active around this time of year. (It’s Women’s History Month, after all.) There is a new film, The Mask You Live In, that tackles our narrow definitions of masculinity. (It’s available for screenings in schools). There is a three-day conference—the first ever to take on “masculinities studies”— in New York City the first weekend in March. There is a campaign from the United Nations, He for She, to engage men on the topic of gender equality. You may remember the rousing opening speech to the campaign, from non-man but one of that gender’s favorite people, Emma Watson.

And now there is Lean In Together, a partnership between Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s nonprofit, LeanIn.org (where, in full disclosure, I am a contributing editor) and the NBA, to encourage men to support women at home and work. As Sandberg and business professor Adam Grant put it in a New York Times op-ed, the final in a four-part series on women and work, “equality is not a zero-sum game.” In other words: It’s good for men, too.

It’s easy to understand how women benefit from men doing their share both at home and at the office. When men chip in at home, women thrive at work (and feel less resentful and guilty). When men advocate for female colleagues in the office, women rise up. Yet beyond the obvious—that, uh, it’s the right thing to do—how do men benefit from the extra effort?

From raising healthier daughters to more sex at home, here are eight reasons why men supporting women is actually good for men.

1. Sex. You’ll Have More of It.
Call it the economics of choreplay: women are turned on by the idea of a man with his elbows up to suds. Sure, maybe they have a Mr Clean fetish, or maybe they’re just freaking exhausted, and not having to do the dishes for one night might put her in the mood. These days, women are the primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American households, yet only 9% of dual-income marriages share childcare, housework and breadwinning evenly. Which means that when the first shift (work) is over, the second shift (home, dinner, laundry, dishes) begins. Which puts this next statistic into context: When couples share chores and breadwinning more equally, divorce rates go down. Men who share in dishwashing and diaper changing have happier wives, and more stable marriages.

When marriages are happy, couples, ahem, have more sex. So, the laundry: strip down and toss it in.

2. Your Daughters Will Have Higher Self-Esteem.
Engaged fatherhood is good for all kids: tots of more involved dads are better off cognitively, emotionally, socially and, ultimately, educationally and economically. But fathers have a particularly measurable impact on girls, whose self esteem develops —and then often falls—as early as middle school. Daughters with active fathers have more autonomy. They are more empowered. And if they watch their dad do chores, they’re actually more likely to aim higher. As Sandberg and Grant write, a study by a University of British Columbia psychologist found that when fathers shouldered an equal share of housework, their daughters were less likely to limit their aspirations to stereotypically female occupations (like nurse or teacher). “What mattered most was what fathers did, not what they said; no amount of saying ‘you can do anything’ is as compelling for a daughter as witnessing true partnership between her parents,” they write. For a girl to believe she has the same opportunities as boys, it makes a big difference to see Dad doing the dishes.”

3. You’ll Breed Feminist Sons.
And that will start the cycle over, as studies have found that boys who grow up in more equal homes are more likely to create equal homes as adults. As Sandberg and Grant point out, the flip is true too: sons reap rewards when their mothers have meaningful roles at work.

4. You’ll Be Happier.
This one’s for dads: Employed fathers who spend more time at home with their kids actually feel greater job satisfaction and less work-life conflict, according to a recent study. They’re also less likely to consider quitting their jobs.

5. You’ll Live Longer.
Caring for kids has been shown to make men more patient (ha!), empathetic and flexible, as well as lower their rates of substance abuse. Fatherhood has also been linked to lower blood pressure and lower rates of heart disease. But also: there’s longevity, even if you don’t have kids. Studies have found that there’s a longevity boost for men (and women) who provide care and emotional support to their partners.

6. You’ll Be More Successful At Work.
Know this, male bosses: diverse teams perform better. And when it comes to women specifically, here are a few attributes: they put in more effort, stay longer on the job, take fewer unnecessary risks, and collaborate more. (It’s no surprise, perhaps, that successful venture-backed start-ups have more than double the median proportion of female executives to failed ones.) But this isn’t just about women: companies that have family-friendly work environments are actually more productive, and higher employee retention.

7. Your Company Will be More Profitable.
Companies with more women in leadership perform better — full stop. Twenty-five percent of U.S. GDP growth since 1970 is attributed to women entering the paid workforce, and economists estimate that bringing more women into the workforce could raise GDP by 5%.

8. You’ll Get a Free Pass to the Revolution.
And free passes rock.
Jessica Bennett is a contributing columnist at Time.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. She writes regularly for the New York Times and is a contributing editor on special projects for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s nonprofit, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

TIME Parenting

8 Simple Ways to Avoid Raising Spoiled Kids

savings jar
Getty Images

First up, get rid of that piggy bank.

No one intends to raise spoiled brats, but it’s sometimes hard to see the consequences of your actions several years down the road.

Ron Lieber, personal finance columnist for The New York Times, offers his advice on the subject in his new book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart about Money.

Here are his eight most practical tips:

Hand out on a regular allowance.

Commit to doling out the funds once a month or once a week, and offer raises on birthdays.

But there’s a catch: Allowance money shouldn’t be given to children as a reward for chores completed.

“If they do (their chores) poorly, there are plenty of valuable privileges we can take away, aside from withholding money. So allowance ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool that gets sharper and more potent over a decade or so of annual raises and increasing responsibility,” says Lieber.

Instead, let allowance work as “practice money,” and let children learn about finances by controlling their own allowance.

Keep their money where they can see it

The cover of Lieber’s book shows three mason jars labeled spend, save and give. This is his preferred method for helping children track their finances.

“I hate piggy banks, and the problem begins with the metaphor itself. Pigs are dirty, and they eat a lot, so piggish behavior isn’t something to aspire to,” writes Lieber. “Meanwhile, ceramic or metal containers are problematic, since we want kids to be able to see what’s inside and watch it grow.”

Let them spend

Allow for a little bit of impulse, but also teach your children the difference between wants and needs. Show them where to draw the line between high quality and high dollar.

“My wife and I are still debating exactly where we’ll put the line,” Lieber writes. “I’m making the case for a broad-based ‘Land’s End Line.’ If we adopt it, that means we’d pay whatever Land’s End (my definition of a suitably mid-priced merchant that sells quality clothing) would charge for any clothing needs, even if an item comes from some other designer or shop. Anything with a price to the right of the Land’s End Line would be a want.”

Help them save, but only to a point

Money in the savings jar should be collected with a goal and timeline in mind, Lieber writes.

For younger children, the concept of time and goals are already fuzzy enough, so keep it short and specific.

For teenagers, their savings goals might be a bit loftier – it might be earmarked for a first car or senior class trip – and they might outgrow the jar system. Help them establish a savings account and transfer their allowance there automatically.

Use an app

Use Allowance Manager to make automatic weekly payments to your children’s accounts. They can spend their money with prepaid Allowance Cards and track their purchases with mobile and desktop apps.

Lieber also recommends FamZoo, another family banking app that also offers prepaid cards and money tracking functions. It also has an IOU feature that lets parents owe money to children and vice versa.

Show them how you use your money

Accordine to Lieber, a remarkable “64% of kids said they had no idea what their parents were giving, if anything,” so he suggests parents make an example of their charity while also giving kids a chance to get involved.

Let children help decide where mom and dad should donate money and time and teach them how to vet the worthiness of charities asking for money by evaluating if they provide essential services or goods to those in need.

Throw around less cash but more imagination

Lieber pokes at the problem with elaborate birthday parties and bar mitzvahs (for example, this stage show in honor of one Texan youngster) and Tooth Fairy inflation. It can all lead to materialism. But he offers some advice: Do things more modestly, but make them more special.

The Tooth Fairy can (and should!) visit to stay in line with lore, but Lieber encourages parents to put their own twist on the tale. Maybe your Tooth Fairy leaves glitter on the windowsill or gets caught on camera.

Birthdays are still cause for celebration, but in lieu of expensive gifts, Lieber suggests requesting party guests’ parents spend about half what they normally would and donate the other half to charity. This also eliminates the envy-inducing gift opening ceremony.

Finally, let grandparents break all the above rules

Accept that grandparents are the X factor. They’re bound to come through with the North Face jacket your teen is dreaming of while you’re striving to tow the Land’s End Line.

“We’ve found that grandparents will gleefully disrupt this attempt at standard setting with spontaneous bursts of generosity,” write Lieber. “Still, as long as it doesn’t happen too often, the continuum will hold if we parents apply it consistently.”

Want more tips like these? Sign up here for our weekly email TIME for Parents. It’s free!

Read next: How to Parent Like an FBI Agent

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Family

Mother of Toddler With Rare Disorder Fights Daughter’s Cyberbullies

The mother says her daughter is "not a monster"

A 2-year-old girl with a rare condition that affects her appearance, learning abilities and motor skills has become the target of Instagram cyber bullies.

Mariah Anderson recently celebrated her second birthday in Summerville, South Carolina, and was all smiles throughout the occasion, reports WCBD. So when the girl’s mother, Kyra Pringle, shared a shot online from her beaming daughter’s big day, she never imagined there would be a negative reaction.

Anderson was born with Chromosome 2p duplication syndrome, a condition that has affected her development and physical appearance. Unfortunately, when some Instagram users saw Pringle’s picture of her daughter, they did not celebrate the toddler, but instead teased her.

Several users posted memes using Pringle’s photo that poked fun at the toddler’s looks, insinuating that Anderson was ugly or resembled a leprechaun. Sick of seeing her baby girl being bullied by online trolls, Pringle decided to speak out against everyone making the memes and those enjoying them.

“The smile that you guys think is funny or the smile that you guys are comparing to a leprechaun,” Pringle told WCBD. “The things you guys are saying about my child, she’s not a monster, she’s real.”

Pringle hopes her words will help put an end to the harassment so she and her family can return to enjoying their time with Anderson which, because of her condition, could be limited.

“She’s just a joy, it’s a joy to have her right now,” said Kyra Pringle.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

MONEY Wealth

The Super-Rich Have a Racial Wealth Gap, Too

Even at the top end of the economic scale, the financial differences between black and white Americans are big — and they've changed little in 30 years.

TIME Family

My Father Transitioned When I Was a Kid and It Was Nothing Like Transparent

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

When I was four years old, my father transitioned. I wish I could’ve watched a TV show show about a family like mine

xojane

Suddenly, my childhood is trendy. My childhood won a Golden Globe Award. ABC Family is making a reality show about it. But I really knew that my time had come when the Kardashians got in on the action.

Back when it was still indie, back when prejudice was cooler than tolerance, back when the term “cis gender” didn’t even exist, I had a transgender parent. That gives me street cred in the alternative family scene. I can roll my eyes at the fictional, entitled, awful hipsters on Transparent and tell them that freaking out because your father is transitioning in 2015, when you’re adults, is pathetic.

My father transitioned when I was just four years old. I have a few vague, half-formed images of a man with a beard, but no real recollections of the person my mother thought she married, a person who, according to current gender theory, never really existed. That man was just a façade.

I remember that one day my mother told me that my father liked to play dress up, just like I did and that she had started wearing women’s clothes. It made sense to me. Dressing up was fun and boys were yucky, so of course my dad would rather be a girl. The fairytales we read to little girls are stories of transformation: a prince who is trapped in a frog’s body, a pumpkin that turns into a coach. A man becoming a woman struck me as far more plausible.

Eventually, she moved out and my parents got divorced. That was it. There were no family therapy sessions or dramatic confrontations. My mother has always prided herself on being progressive and open-minded. I think she felt that if she allowed herself to express any anger or sadness at the end of her marriage, she would be a bigot. So she took the attitude that it was no big deal. I took my cues from her.

In retrospect, she was too busy trying to pay the bills to dwell on her emotional state. For non-celebrities, transitioning has economic consequences. My father was starting out in academia, which today is one of the most transgender friendly workplaces, but back then, it was career suicide. All of her research appeared to be written by somebody else.

My mother had been out of the workforce since I was born, and had difficulty finding work. We fell out of the middle class temporarily. She hustled multiple part-time jobs until she finally found a full-time position in her field right before I started high school.

There was no vocabulary in existence to describe my relationship with my father. I called her by her first name, which sidestepped the issue of exactly who she was to me. In my mind, she was my father and she was a woman, and those two facts were in no way contradictory.

Other than her gender, she was like a lot of my friends’ fathers in that she was someone who I occasionally saw on the weekends and gave my mother a small check every month. I didn’t particularly enjoy her company, which had little to do with her being trans and a lot to do with her having a lousy personality. She was cold, intellectual, and humorless. She was one of life’s little annoyances, like having to wear complicated orthodontic appliances.

But as I grew older, I transformed from a happy, overachieving kid to a mopey, insecure, overachieving teen. I began to feel self-conscious about my family. I thought I was the only person on earth with a transgender parent. It was about five minutes before the Internet went mainstream, and with a couple of keystrokes, you could discover a subreddit full of people who shared the very thing you thought made you unique.

On the rare occasions that gay people were on TV, they were either dying tragically of AIDS in a very special episode or on daytime talk shows where they were pitted against evangelical Christians who thought they were going to burn in hell. Transgender people were considered outright freaks, if their existence was even acknowledged. I realized that, in the eyes of most of society, I was a freak too.

I felt terrible about the fact that it bothered me, because I didn’t want to be prejudiced. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I was certain my loving but pragmatic and unemotional mother would consider it yet another case of me being a melodramatic drama queen.

In fact, when, as an adult, I told her that I thought maybe my relationship with my father had some sort of lasting psychological impact on me, she was genuinely perplexed. She said, “Why? It was a little weird, but it wasn’t like anyone hit you.”

If I could have watched a reality show about the sort of pretty, vapid, mean girls that I outwardly despised but secretly envied who had a transgender father, it would have made me feel so much better.

I wish I could say that eventually I forged a close relationship with my father. The opposite is true. After I graduated high school and was accepted into the fancy schmancy east coast college of my dreams, we had lunch. She told me that she had deliberately kept her distance from me as a child because she didn’t feel comfortable around children, but now that I was older and smart enough to get into a prestigious school, she wanted to get to know me better.

I was less than excited about the prospect.

In my freshman year, she wrote me a letter berating me for not sending her a thank you note for the $20 she sent me for my birthday. She informed me that since she was paying a portion of my tuition, I owed her regular reports on my life.

She was right. I was a thoughtless, self-absorbed college student. But I had decided that college was the time to reinvent myself. I was going to give up both red meat and my father. I wrote an angry letter back telling her to get out of my life. Half the people I know had similar fights with their families in college and made up a couple months later, but this one stuck.

We never contacted each other again, other than a bizarre incident years later when she wrote a letter to my boss requesting she send her, a complete stranger, an essay about my life. That solidified my belief that severing ties with her was the right decision. But I felt a lot of guilt and shame that maybe I wouldn’t have cut off a cis-gendered relative for inappropriate behavior that impacted my career.

Whenever the subject of my father came up, I just said that my parents were divorced and my mother raised me on my own.

The world has changed so much so fast. The president acknowledged transgender people in his State of the Union address. When he was running for president, he didn’t even support gay marriage. Laverne Cox is a fashion icon. Beneath the sensationalist headlines, most of the coverage of Bruce Jenner’s possible transition has been respectful.

And then there’s Transparent. I could write a separate essay about what a mindfuck it was to watch that show. Suffice it to say that it’s brilliant and that there are eerie superficial similarities between my family and the Pfeffermans. However, the show’s conceit that the children of a transgender woman all have their own gender and sexual issues is so far from my experience that it inspired me to share my story to provide a counterpoint.

Having a transgender parent made me aware at a very early age that there is a wide variety of sexual and gender identities. I knew that I wouldn’t be disowned no matter what mine turned out to be. As it turned out, I could not be more boring.

I am straight and cis gender. I am downright girly. I love getting manicures. I’d dress like Taylor Swift leaving the gym all the time if I had the money. I don’t even have any fetishes. I have never had a moment of doubt about my sexual orientation, nor do I think that my fondness for lipstick and high heels is in any way a reaction to having a transgender parent.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason why I haven’t had many longterm relationships is because of some deep-seated childhood issues. It’s possible. It’s equally likely that I’m single because the dating scene is horrible in L.A.

I do credit my father for a lot of my positive traits. She gave me the gifts of resilience and self-reliance. She taught me not to make assumptions about people based on their outward appearance. Most importantly, she taught me that I could transform myself into whoever I wanted to be. That gave me the courage to conquer my shyness and pursue my most grandiose dreams.

Writing this has been scary. I’m worried that my friends will think I’m a liar and a coward for hiding this aspect of my life for so long. I’m worried that I’ll be branded transphobic by the Internet for saying that my individual experience with my specific parent was not as wonderful as a basket of puppies sitting under a rainbow, or that I’ll be accused of mis-pronouning for using the phrase “my father.”

I’m concerned that potential dates will google me and be scared off. Based on past experience, the quickest way to get rid of a guy is to tell him. My theory is that it touches on every man’s fear of something happening to his penis.

But I hate the idea that a deliberately awful fictional family is going to be the image that most Americans have of the children of trans parents. I also realize that my fears are largely irrational and that keeping this one part of my life secret has, in a very Oprah way, kept me from being my authentic self.

Sara Bibel wrote this article for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

Dad Will Raise Quadruplets Alone After Wife Dies in Childbirth

Quadruplets born to Erica Morales at a Phoenix hospital on Jan. 15, 2015
Nicole Todman—AP Quadruplets born to Erica Morales at a Phoenix hospital on Jan. 15, 2015

"I went from having the best day of my life to the next morning experiencing the worst day of my life"

For one father, the happiest day of his life quickly turned tragic.

Carlos Morales, 29, was left devastated when his wife, Erica, died of blood loss on Jan. 16 while giving birth to their quadruplets two months prematurely.

“I went from having the best day of my life to the next morning experiencing the worst day of my life,” said Morales. “My four babies came into the world and then my wife died.”

But all four babies, though tiny at between two and three pounds apiece, were healthy — and Morales has since been taking baby-care classes at a local hospital. “I need to be prepared,” he said.

For parenting news, tips and advice, click here to subscribe to TIME for Parents, our free weekly newsletter.

Read the entire story at People.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com