Oprah: Supporting Depressed Women whom Bloggers Leave Behind
Why on earth would I be writing another post about the Oprah show on mom confessions? After a commenter described enjoying reading the mommy blogger discussion about Oprah's show, I was intrigued about what others were saying. Plus, my Google Alerts notified me that I had been discussed on another blog. I now find myself in the unusual position of disagreeing with two fellow bloggers for whom I have the utmost respect, Jodifur and Pundit Mom. I would like to raise two major points.
I see a value in sharing the challenges of being a mommy through as many media as possible.
I do not understand why we need to pit the problems faced by moms against each other.
Let's put Oprah aside for a moment. Sometimes I have to remind myself that a large part of the support I receive as a mother is from the blogging community. I love feeling like I'm not alone in the parenting world. I like that I can laugh and cry along with other bloggers. It gives me the feeling that I'm not alone on this crazy parenting journey.
Why do I need this reminder? Because I don't feel like this a lot in my real life. Sure, I'm in a couple of different moms groups, I just finished a parenting class, and I participate in many activities with my kids. I was even surprised to realize that I actually knew many of my neighbors when I saw familiar faces at the town kindergarten information meeting a couple of weeks ago. As important as these activities are to me, I can't think of a time that I've had a truly honest discussion with another mom at swim lessons about feeling overwhelmed. None of my friends have turned to me at a moms group meeting to say they have trouble mustering up the energy to give their children a bath. Certainly if a mom has said it, it would have been with laughter in her voice and she would have claimed it had been a few days (laugh, laugh, laugh). A close friend who lives far away from me, confessed to me only after watching Oprah's show that she too had gone for a few weeks without bathing her child. There was no laughter in that conversation. Why? This is not just about whining because one of us has a tough day. It is about depression, loneliness, and shame around believing that we are failing to perform what we are taught by society to believe are simple responsibilities that are basic to who we are as women. That depression, loneliness, and shame is psychologically destructive, unless we can find support to help address it.
Those types of conversations rarely happen outside of relatives or really close friends. How many of us had kids though and didn't really know any other moms? Not all of us had those close friends immediately. For me the answer has been blogs. My blog has been the only place where I have been consistently comfortable sharing these sorts of parenting challenges, and the the URLs of my blogging friends are the only places where I have consistently heard about these sorts of parenting challenges.
Since blogs are out on the internet, shouldn't every mom feel the same sort of support that I enjoy? Ideally yes, but realistically no. Many of us did not know about blogs for a long time. There are many parents out there who still don't understand what a blog is. Even some who know about blogs choose not to read them, and they should not be expected to read them. How many new parents are "born" every day? Blogging is only one particular medium for receiving support. It's been a great support for me, and I often encourage others to read blogs. However, blogging isn't for everyone. Some people prefer parenting magazines, some people prefer parenting books, some people like reality TV shows about parents, and some folks even like Oprah. Many less fortunate people are unaware of or unable to take advantage of any of these supports. They assume they are bad parents and suffer alone.
I just finished a parenting class with someone whose six month-old first computer has never left its box. There is just no way she's reading blogs, and it took her several weeks to feel comfortable enough to share honestly about her own experiences. After all, it is a lot easier to admit on-line that one of your children may not be bathed as often as they should be than it is to admit that to people who will see (and smell) them and you at the grocery store. If you admit it on-line, it stays on-line (with the exception of people you know in the real world who read your blog). If you admit it in person, the next time you show up at that swim lesson, well you just don't know who has been discussing you and possibly passing judgment.
I wasn't shocked by anything that Oprah said. I've read about most of those challenges on mommy blogs, but I haven't heard most people say things like that in real life. We know that a lot of moms are depressed, lonely and isolated, and we also know that there are no easy solutions to those problems. In fact, the only solution that I can think of is to talk about it so that women do not feel alone. The fact that these issues are described on so many blogs does not invalidate the challenges faced by non-blogging moms or other new parents.
That leads me to my bigger disagreement with Jodifur's and Pundit Mom's posts (again I think that these women are wonderful bloggers and encourage you to read their blogs, and in their Oprah posts suggest some very important topics of discussion). They both suggested that Oprah misused her power and platform by focusing her "mommy issues" episode on parenting challenges rather than other issues, such as breastfeeding laws or maternity leave. I don't understand the either/or. Nothing prevents Oprah from having one of those shows next week and one the week after. On the one hand, one could argue that Oprah should identify the single biggest crisis on the planet and spend every single show discussing it. Is global warming more important than breastfeeding?
Of course, I have never heard anyone argue that Oprah should only cover a single issue. Rather, there appears to be a perception that she should only cover one "mommy issue." I have yet to hear protests that Oprah had James Taylor on her show last week, when she could have been using her power to bring attention to inadequate protection for breastfeeders and inadequate maternity leave. She should do both. She should bring attention and support to the lonely and depressed and raise opposition to laws that harm the health and welfare of our families. And sure, she can continue to provide entertainment through music and celebrities in other shows. We as mothers need to find ways to widen the amount of attention given to the challenges we face, rather than to pit them against each other.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Even if Oprah's words were not new, they deserve repeating as long as they help one more person receive support.
Today I was once again a guest speaker at a college where I discussed the Mommy Wars. I really enjoyed it. We talked about the origin of Mommy Wars and spent time discussing SAHM, WM and WAHM. We also noticed that no one talks about Daddy Wars.
The Big Giraffe had arranged to take the morning off and thus was in charge of taking our older son (OS) to preschool. I usually take our younger son (YS) to a community playgroup on Mondays. The Big Giraffe was pretty excited about taking YS. While he loves spending time with YS, the excitement went beyond father/son time. It was because he knew that he would be treated with much admiration (I always say he is treated like a hero). While I was talking about how I plan to go to vet school in a few years and discussing what it will be like to be a mom and a vet student, the Big Giraffe was being praised during the parent group for being an involved parent and asked to give his opinion on a variety of subjects.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that the Big Giraffe is so involved in the boys' lives. He's an excellent father, and I'm not trying to take away from that. However, one time we did a little experiment where the Big Giraffe told people that he was planning on going to vet school and people responded with admiration. Not one single person asked him what he was going to do about daycare or if he was worried that he would not spend enough time with his kids. Basically all the questions I get. This was in the back of my mind today when I was at the class.
When I got home, the Big Giraffe told me about how much fun he had had. About how he got to share his perspectives about toys and gender roles. How the psychologist who ran the meeting applauded his opinion. I said the exact same thing last week about toys and gender roles! I know that in reality there aren't many dads at the parent group, and even fewer who will speak against gender stereotypes, so when a dad does attend it's a big deal. This is particularly interesting to me, since my husband is socially liberal and probably not representative of a significant plurality, much less a majority. Not like any one mom's opinion would represent all moms either. Somehow we seem to make more allowances though for the former. However when the Big Giraffe proudly told me that a few people told him that they enjoyed his comments and that they hoped he would be back soon, I realized that I've never heard anyone say that to another mom.
Ahh the irony that I could be speaking about feminism at a college class while my husband is being heralded a hero at a playgroup I attend every week. Alright maybe not so surprising because we both have the same view of feminism and gender and again he's an excellent father. I do have to say that I was suspicious when he told me that the next time he goes to parent group they'll be throwing him a ticker tape parade.
A. Elliot's LessonLearned: The road to equality doesn't follow a parade route.
One of the sessions I attended at BlogHer discussed whether mommy blogging is a radical act. Forget mommy blogging, what about blogging in general? Have you ever tried to explain to someone that you blog and had them look at you as though you have six heads. If you mention that you are going to a conference on it, they look at you as though you have eight heads. They apparently imagine you spending a weekend in a dark room lit by a single light bulb with two shady people who identify themselves as "bloggers". They actually get even more shocked when they hear that over 1, 000 bloggers attended. After a lengthy silence, it's not unusual for a person to look truly mystified and say, "but why would there be a conference for it and more importantly why would you attend?" (I admit I was concerned before my first BlogHer that it might be like a Star Trek convention. The Big Giraffe didn't understand why that would be a concern.)
I love blogging. I have a community that supports me. I can work on my writing. My family and friends can read my blog and know what's going on with me. My family lives in Chicago, my MIL lives in Chicago, and my BIL and SIL live in KY so reaching out to people who live far away is a big deal to me. Let me go further. We don't get to choose the parents of the kids in our children's preschool class. While we can choose what activities we do, sometimes we don't see eye to eye with other parents. With blogging, you get to choose who you want to "hang out with." As someone at BlogHer said, "You can always hit the X button on your computer if you don't like what you're reading."
I have some fantastic friends in my real life, but it can be hard to have a conversation while kids are running around, and none of the in-person interaction takes away from the fact that I blog and read others' blogs and any corresponding emails in my own time. Bloggers tend to write things that I normally don't hear discussed. I think that relates to time and space. The fact that blogging occurs on a computer rather than face to face makes a difference. The asynchronous nature of the communication gives bloggers flexibility as to when to respond. If I conceive of a response to a post, but don't have immediately available time to write it, I can post it later. If someone shares news in person, I need to respond immediately. Not so with blogging. Plus, real life pre-blogging friendships have grown closer when we both blog.
During the keynote at BlogHer, Dooce talked about attempting to explain how she felt about something to her husband and finding that he only fully understood later when he read a post on the same subject. That's how I feel many times about my husband and my real life friends who blog, and I believe the feeling is mutual.
Last year was my first blogging conference. I walked into a hotel and met a lot of women who were just like me! There were a lot of laptops, iPhones and all sorts of technological gadgets. As a SAHM, one of my fears is losing touch with the modern world. Seriously when you're buried under diapers and parenting magazines, are you really aware of the top 40 tunes and the latest trends in movies and technology? What's going to happen a few years from now when my kids are a little older if I'm not connected? I wouldn't know enough to protect my kids from risks or encourage them to take advantage of opportunities that I don't truly understand. As counterintuitive as this may sound, blogging has really helped me keep in touch with reality. It was the same thing for me this year.
Ironically as I was hovered over my Blackberry next to Suzanne who was typing away on her laptop at BlogHer, I got an email from someone is my moms group who said that one of the group's meetings this fall will be on Living Simply. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I suspect it has to do with turning the TV and computer off and cutting back on activities. As I looked around the conference I thought to myself that I want to embrace all this not turn away from it. Suzanne was also surprised by that choice of topic. Does blogging take up time? Yes. Could I be doing something else? Sure. Let me put it another way though. Does reading up on parenting take up time? Sure. Is it worth it or should you be doing something else? That's an individual decision. What about talking on the phone? What about playdates?
I have learned so much from blogging. I have walked away from reading blogs with ideas for how to be a better parent, better wife, and all around better person. I have felt that maybe I'm not so alone. It's comforting to read that someone else's child has major temper tantrums or has no interest in dressing himself. I love reading suggestions about books to read, movies to see, or even recipes to try. Any time a post makes me laugh, parenting or not, it is worth my time right there.
At BlogHer several of us discussed managing computer time although none of us felt overwhelmed by it. There are so many different ways to do it. Personally I tend to rotate through my blogroll so my blog reading is divided into chunks. Just though like you are your own publisher when you blog, you're your own boss when deciding when to read blogs. You get to set your own rules. Forget living simply. I want to be organized.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: There are some really great technical gadgets out there, like Blackberries and Palm Pilots, that really help you be organized, and there are lots of blog posts out there to provide suggestions on how to take advantage of them.
I was never great at relating to friends with bad boyfriends in high school and college. The friend would inevitably ask me what I thought of her boyfriend after he did something like, let's just say for a random example, forget to call her on her birthday because he was looking at porn on the internet all evening. Sure that type of thing happens all the time. Well at least for that friend it happened once. I would answer her honestly. I tended to be pretty blunt, but my insights suggested that "He's not a winner." When they inevitably got back together and the friend shared my actual words with the boyfriend, he would insist that she end her friendship with me.
After losing a couple friendships the same way (well almost the same way, since internet porn was only a factor once), I decided that neither honesty nor spending a lot of time with friends with creepy significant others is the best policy. Maybe it would just be better to not say anything at all or to say something like "What I think doesn't matter. It's what you think." Then I would silently mutter "I can't believe you are still considering dating him." Fortunately I haven't been in this situation since college.
A couple of years ago I went out to the Cheesecake Factory with my moms group. I was a fairly new member. While we were there, several members recognized another member's husband who was there with another woman. Her husband was supposed to be living in another state. He had just been transferred there, and his wife was getting the house together to put it on the market. People were debating whether or not they should say something to this member. No one believed it was innocent, but accusations of infidelity aren't something to just throw around. Fortunately, I didn't know any of the people involved, which was quite a relief.
On Thursday I will be attending BlogHer in San Francisco. (I pause to let that sink in...I can't wait.) I've been talking about it for a while, so all of my local friends know that I'll be across the country. Coincidentally, a female friend of my husband's from high school will be in MA for the weekend and will pay a visit. I consider her a friend as well, and I am certainly OK with the visit, but I haven't mentioned it to anyone else (except those of you who read this blog.) because I just keep forgetting. I'm curious as to whether any of my friends will run into them. If they do, I wonder what they will think and whether they will tell me about it.
If you saw your friend's husband out with another woman, would you say anything?
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: It can be hard to reconcile honesty, discretion, and doing the right thing.
Unrelated, we received a complimentary 75 cent "Pay As You Throw" garbage bag from our town today. In a time where there are annual reductions in the number of teachers and classes in our town, and our town is about to start charging us to pickup garbage, it is somewhat surprising that our town spent 75 cents per household on this gift.
Yesterday was the final day of the 10th Annual Observance of 2007 Freedom to Marry Week. In honor of that week, my husband has asked to contribute a post with his thoughts on behalf of gay marriage. While we feel the same way, it is a subject on which he is particularly eloquent (not that I am implying that he either is not eloquent or not as eloquent as he believes himself to be on other subjects). Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting is about supporting the rights of people to make the parenting decisions that best meet the needs of their families. Although choices about raising children are only a part of the gay marriage debate, advocacy on behalf of gay marriage is consistent with the purpose of this weblog.
As a married, heterosexual man, I am not usually viewed as the stereotypical advocate for gay marriage. However, to my mind this is one of the most basic civil liberties issues of our time. All consenting adults should be able to exercise free and equal rights to marry the partner of their choice, regardless of sexual orientation. Any limitation on this right is an unjust infringement on the moral and religious liberty of a significant portion of the population, and it would continue to impose enormous emotional and financial harm on many citizens of this country. I consider opposition to legal and equal gay marriage to be antithetical to my values and to the values on which the United States was built.
At a fundamental level, the Bill of Rights is based on the proposition that Americans should be free from government restriction until and unless their freedom imposes on the freedom of another. While gay marriage may offend the sensibilities of some individuals, it does nothing to limit anyone else’s freedom. In a world with gay marriage, homophobes retain the right to criticize homosexuality and to speak out against gay marriages. No individual religious institution is under any obligation to perform gay marriages. However, just as those who believe that marriage must be sanctified by Jesus Christ lack the ability to prohibit civil, Jewish, Buddhist, or interfaith marriages from having full legal standing, those who believe that marriage must be between a man and a woman should lack the ability to prohibit gay marriages. No mainstream legislator would ever put the right of Hindus to practice their religion up to a referendum. Gay people’s rights ought to be equally sacrosanct. As a Unitarian Universalist (UU), my faith believes in equal marriage, and I do not believe adherents to any other religion possess the legal or moral right to restrict the freedom of religious practice of UUs. Allowing gay marriage restricts no one's freedom of religion. Prohibiting it is an infringement on freedom of religion.
I believe that restricting gay marriage is an example of discrimination based on someone's gender. It prohibits adults from marrying other adults solely based on the other's sex, which appears to me to be a clear violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution.
I have heard the argument that there is a public policy interest in ensuring that marriages can create offspring. Even if we were to ignore adoption and surrogacy, there is no prohibition against marriage by the infertile, and there is no government imposed divorce for those who have vasectomies or go through menopause. In fact, senior citizens justifiably have the same marriage rights as those who are younger. Many straight people go into a marriage with no intention of ever procreating. They are just as deserving of the right to be married as those who intentionally raise large families. Gays are no less deserving of marriage than anyone else who is unable or unwilling to have children. Oh, and I am not willing to ignore adoption or surrogacy; gays are as capable of having children inside or outside of matrimony as any other adult human being.
Gay marriage is legal in several other countries, including Canada, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Society has not collapsed as a result. If anything, the licentious behavior for which The Netherlands is famous is heterosexual, not homosexual. In the United States, where divorce rates, STDs, domestic violence, and adultery run rampant, it seems ridiculous to draw a line in the sand at stopping gay marriage in order to preserve the moral order. The institution of marriage appears not to be treated as sacred now; I don't understand why gays would (or could) be poorer custodians of the institution than we straights have been. While I know that many people believe that Massachusetts, which iswas* the one state in which (due to judicial not electoral action) gay marriage is legal, is politically and socially extreme, the facts don't suggest a widespread problem with unstable family situations. In 20042005*, which was the latest year for which I was able to find data, Massachusetts possessed the lowest divorce rate of any state (with the locality of the District of Columbia being the only place to do better). This chart is easy to load and read, but you can also get the source data from the last page of this Census report. Massachusetts's politics have not noticeably shifted since gay marriage became legal, and I have yet to see any social degradation as a result.
Some opponents of gay marriage like to claim that legalizing gay marriage will encourage more people to become gay. Even assuming there were a shred of evidence to prove it, and ignoring the fact that there are a substantial number of people who managed to figure out that they are gay without government support, the government has no right to attempt to dictate the sexual orientation of its citizens. I could believe that people might be more open about being gay in a community where gays were treated equally, although I don't have evidence to support that either, but I do not think the government has a legitimate public policy interest in causing people to suppress their sexual orientation or in arguing that an entire group of citizens are less deserving of legal rights or legal protection. In addition, creating a world in which more people pretend to be straight appears to me to be a poor recipe for maximizing the stability and healthiness of any straight relationship, much less a marriage.
Many people disapprove of gay marriage, but many people also disapprove of interracial marriage, interfaith marriage, and inter-socio-economic class marriage, and frankly many people make judgments that individual people they know show bad taste in whom they choose to marry. My next door neighbor's opinion on Alex (if he had one) was fundamentally irrelevant to our decision to marry. Had Alex and I been of the same gender, I see no reason why his opinion would have carried more weight. Had we been from the same faith tradition, I see no reason why his opinion would (much less could) have carried less weight.
I have heard some argue that the "moderate" position is to advocate for civil unions. They claim that advocates of gay marriage are unwilling to "compromise." While they are technically correct, I find it absurd that civil unions are perceived as an acceptable compromise. Civil unions are not the same as marriage by definition. There are complex federal and state-by-state distinctions around the legal and financial rights guaranteed to married couples. In a world in which neither the federal government nor any state government is required to recognize civil unions from other locations, there is no way to claim that granting someone a civil union in one state is the same as allowing them the nationally protected rights provided by marriage. Even if civil unions were recognized and respected across the nation, it would still be an arbitrary barrier imposed for no reason. “Separate but equal” has never worked in this country, and anything less than full equality is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The more the distinction is eroded between marriage and civil commitment, the more obvious it becomes that a prohibition against gay marriage is arbitrary.
Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts.
Big Giraffe's Lesson Learned: Equal marriage should be a right.
Wijvenweek / Household: An Ode to My Washing Machine
Wijvenweek post #3. Today's post is about the household, and the biggest household event this week related to my washing machine. Thus, this ode...
I bought you when I was still single. You were cheap and people (specifically those who wrote reviews and product ratings) spoke highly of you. I felt like you were a good deal. I later found out that your relationships typically had a life expectancy of only two years. You were willing to stay with me for longer.
I moved to MA with you, and you continued to serve me well. We had one blow-up in which you trashed a pillow and strewed what looked like feathers from five dozen plucked geese across my basement, but that was our only real fight. Even then, when I brought a professional in to mediate and told him that you had been manufactured by a company that rhymes with "Me E," he was blown away that we had stayed together for so long. That appliance repair man was the one who told me that you had already outlived your life expectancy. My cousin who used to work for the "E" confirmed that.
I have to admit I have been waiting for your time to come. You have demanded a lot of me in terms of energy and water. I have been eyeing a hot little front loading number that is willing to do everything for me that you have done, but is a little "lower maintenance." But you kept chugging right along. In the past couple months you started to moaning and groaning, like our family's dirty laundry was becoming too much for you to handle. We really thought your brother would be the first to go, though. Not only was the dryer also griping whenever it was asked to perform, but it was kind of acting like a wet blanket, or perhaps it was just leaving us with wet blankets, as it became less and less effective at actually drying.
But you wanted to be first, and you wanted to go out with a big bang so I would always remember you. You did. Monday my older son (OS) had pink eye and my younger son (YS) ended up in the ER for swallowing a paper clip. Tuesday morning I threw in a load of laundry, added the soap, and pressed start. You took your last drink of water from me, but then decided to end our relationship. You wouldn't even stay with me for one last spin. Just before the spin cycle you stopped, holding water and wet clothes. I was sad. I felt like I needed to breathe into a bag. Then I spent the afternoon on the phone looking for a replacement. That evening, I went out and invited your replacement into my life.
I thought things had ended on your terms. I thought you had what you want. But you were unwilling to get out of the way for your replacement. When the delivery men told me that they didn't think they would be able to get you out of the house, I wanted to breathe in a paper bag again. Fortunately you relented, and the delivery men were able to get you out of the house.
As excited as I am to have the new washing machine in my life, it was not easy to put your replacement on a pedestal. Why? Well, because the delivery men brought the wrong pedestals. In the end, it did require a second visit, but the new machines are resting comfortably. Well, not so much resting, as I have already put them to work for me.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: A lot of effort is involved in dumping one appliance and picking up another one, but it is well worth the effort.
Wijvenweek post #2. Since my post yesterday, I got the link to all of the other participants. While most of the participants in Wijvenweek appear to be Belgian, there are posts in a number of languages. Today's topic is about men.
Where to begin? Not with a stereotype. My husband's favorite color is purple. He loves decor with flowers on it. In fact our quilt is purple with darker purple flowers on it. He loves watching Army Wives and Lipstick Jungle even though he claims he would never admit it. He's the one who set the season passes though on Tivo. He'll mumble and grumble when I say I'm putting on a Lifetime Television for Women movie, yet he'll sit down and watch the whole thing with me and discuss it with me during commercial breaks. (Yes, fellow New Englanders, he was listening to the Red Sox game on the radio on the way to work this morning, and he swears he wasn't rooting against the Sox, but was neutral, despite being a Yankees fan.) My sons like playing with train sets and Matchbox cars, but also like to play with dolls and My Little Pony. Not to mention the toy whales and dolphins they bathe in the bathroom every day, usually in the sink or bathtub.
When I was a little girl and thought about being a mom, I always pictured a house of males to be crazy with testosterone-filled activities. For the most part, that hasn't been the case. However, as the only female in a house full of male people and a male dog, there is one aspect of being male that I just can't ignore: the pee splash. Nothing a little cleaning doesn't take care of though...particularly when they're the ones cleaning the bathroom.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Men can't be stereotyped, any more than woman can be stereotyped.
Wijvenweek post #1. Jen at A2eatwrite wrote an excellent blog post about breasts for her participation in Wijvenweek. I had received an email about this week and completely blanked on it, but fortunately it's not too late to participate. Before I can explain Wijvenweek, I first need to define wijven. The word wijven is apparently a negative word for females. To make a long story short, there basically were some blog awards in Belgium. Some female bloggers won them. Some folks who were apparently jealous complained that the winners were all wijvenblogs. This led several Flemish women to show detractors what a real wijvenblog might be. They created Wijvenweek to run from March 24th through March 30th, where women, whether or not they are considered wijven are encouraged to post on a different feminine topic each day. As a self-declared feminist, I am excited to participate. (For more information, it helps to be fluent in Flemish.)
Today's topic is shopping. Where to start? Of course with shopping for my triathlon. Sounds safe to read? Well, this one might make you squirm a little bit. As I have dove into the world of triathlons, I needed to figure out what to wear. I was originally planning on wearing a swim suit and then pulling on biking shorts and a shirt for the biking and running. Then I thought about it. Wet suit under spandex biking shorts subjected to running and sweating...Sounds like a recipe for a yeast infection. How do women triathletes avoid this? Let me tell you, none of my triathlon training books have a section on preventing yeast infections. Yet they all discourage triathletes from wearing underwear under biking shorts because it can be uncomfortable and it can interfere with the "moisture wicking" ability of the chamois (which is the material in the giant pad in the biking pants to protect important parts). Hmmm...interference with the "moisture wicking" sounds like a euphemism for yeast infection!
Just so you don't think my concerns were medically unfounded, my primary care physician told me to buy yeast infection cream for my medicine cabinet because it would be a "medical miracle" for me not to get a yeast infection between my triathlon training and some antibiotics that she prescribed. The real miracle is actually being able to choose a specific cream from the millions available in the pharamacy. My triathlon training books were no help; none of them include Monistat under equipment needed for triathlon training.
After doing further research, I realized that there was something called a triathlon suit that people wear so that they don't have to change. Honestly, it's not something that I would be entirely at all comfortable wearing under normal circumstances because they're not...how should I put this...very flattering. I could risk the wet swim suit under biking shorts and hope that I would be wearing the combo for a short enough time not to have a problem. But that didn't solve my clothing dilemna. There was also the whole issue of a sports bra. I really didn't want to wear one swimming; that would be like swimming with a dish towel shoved down the front of my suit.
I did some more searching, talking, and shopping. I finally chose a two piece triathlon suit. It's got the sports bra built right into the shirt, and the whole thing is made out of moisture wicking material. It's meant for all three sports. I got it in black. Yes, I will look like the grim reaper on a bike. With a red helmet of course. I have to look stylish after all.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: There are many clothing options for wijven doing triathlons.
Cablegirl emailed me yesterday to tell me about a (Breast)feeding carnival that was happening over at Sarcastic Mom. When I checked out the link I realized that this carnival was the exact type of motherhood bonding that I'm always hoping to see: moms who breastfeed and moms who bottlefeed (or did/do both) get to tell their stories. How great is that? Sarcastic Mom gets a bottles up from Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting for that!
The posts were supposed to go up yesterday so excuse my tardiness. I've talked about my huge struggle with breastfeeding more than a few times here. I thought I would offer a different perspective now that my younger son is almost two and I've had some space from it.
I'm really glad that I tried breastfeeding both of my boys. With my older son (OS), it was a dark hole in my life. How then could I be glad that I did it? I'm glad because I know that I tried and that was important to me. Between his inability to latch and my barely existent milk supply from my breast reduction surgery (which I have never regretted) it just wasn't meant to be. That sounds much easier than it actually was. Really it was a long period of time where I just felt terrible about formula feeding.
When my younger son (YS) came along, his latch was beautiful. In fact it was so great, that the lactation consultant brought around a resident to see it. I know that sounds weird, but it was really affirming to me. YS and I had a wonderful breastfeeding experience together. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I cried myself to sleep when I was told that YS had lost significant weight and needed to be supplemented and I would lying if I didn't admit that I went to watch the nurse give him a bottle in the wee hours of the morning. I would also be lying though if I didn't admit how much relief I felt to see him look so content as his sucked on his bottle. When my milk supply cease to basically exist and I felt burdened by the pumping that was in reality giving me less than an ounce a pumping session, I packed it away, had one final nursing session and then that was it. I still struggled emotionally, but it was easier the second time around. When I had OS, bottle feeding was hard for me to talk about. When YS was 3 months old, I started this blog to be able to talk about what it was like.
Looking back, I wish that I could have really gotten it that my number one job was to make sure that my babies were fed. I also wish, particularly with OS, that I could have really gotten it that formula feeding has a beginning, a middle and an end. It goes on for a year more or less and that's it. End of story. Sure I would have preferred not to shell out cash for formula for a whole variety of reasons, but I haven't seen a bank statement yet where I've seen the "savings" from not formula feeding anymore. It's probably been pretty close to two years now since anyone has asked me whether or not my kids were breastfed. When they've been sick, which is rare, they've just been sick kids, not sick kids who were, gasp, formula fed. Again, there was a beginning, a middle and an end.
Looking back, I do feel like I lost those precious first few weeks with each my sons. Instead of feeling overjoyed, I felt sad and guilty. Instead of bonding during feedings, I was stressed out. So here's the controversial part of my post. Because of the way my breast reduction surgery affected my body, and based on my two births I know I'm never going to produce enough milk to sustain a baby past a week. I'm not planning on having any more kids. In fact my husband and I have given away our baby things. However, if I were to have a third, I probably would not attempt to breastfeed. If the mom to be "me" from 5 years ago heard that statement she would probably be horrified, but the mom who is me today looks back at those times and feels that to truly be the best mom she could be to a newborn, she can't engage in what she knows what would be a lost battle before it began. Hey, I even had a lactation consultant flat out tell me that "some women are not meant to breastfeed" and I was one of them. The mom that is me today now...now that I have some distance...finally understands this. More importantly the mom that is me today knows that each mom needs to decide for herself what is right.
Homeschooling Restrictions in CA and Breastfeeding
I know, what a bizarre title! What does one thing have to do with the other? Well, yesterday I read an article in the Chicago Sun Times about breastfeeding or rather the the big push for people to breastfeed regardless of whether it's the best decision or even feasible for a particular family. It's called Moms Feel Pushed to Breastfeed. It actually was a very interesting article because it talked about the history of La Leche. La Leche was founded to ensure people have the support they need to be able to choose breastfeeding. To some people, it continues to be an invaluable support. Some perceive certain chapters as "pushing for your right to choose, but only if you choose breast-feeding." I empathized with one of the women who felt guilty about not breastfeeding.
So what do the two articles have to do with each other? To me they're about choices. Personally, I'm not planning on homeschooling my children. I reserve the right to change my mind, but for a variety of reasons, I don't currently consider it a fit for me. However, I like that I have the choice to be able to do it. I like that I can decide what's best for my children and my family without government interference. I think there are many reasons to homeschool kids. While a teacher's certificate may ensure that parents are qualified to homeschool their children, certification does not guarantee that a parent will do a good job. More importantly, lack of certification does not mean that a parent cannot do a good job of homeschooling.
I am not convinced that homeschooling parents should be accountable to the government. On one hand, I can understand wanting to make sure that children are learning the basic skills they need. On the other hand, once the government is regulating what children learn, I struggle with where the line should be drawn. However, if we assume for the moment that California is right in believing that homeschooling parents are accountable to the government, a more fundamental question is whether requiring teaching certification is the best way to drive such accountability.
I don't think that having a teacher's certificate means that children will necessarily be homeschooled better than children whose parents do not possess the certification. Do I think there's a good chance that those kids will get a good education? Sure. But it's not a guarantee. Nor is it a guarantee that children of a parent without the certification won't have a good education. Personally, if the government should be regulating homeschooling this way, I prefer the approach that I have heard described in Massachusetts, where parents are required to go over their lesson plans with school superintendents. That way there is some sort of check. I've also been told that most MA libraries offer lesson plans that parents can use.
If MA were to try something similar to CA, I would be out picketing with all the homeschoolers. I know not all families homeschool for religious reasons, but it does seem ironic to me that liberal me would be on the same side of the picket line as some people who are very conservative.
Ultimately, parents are the ones who know themselves and their children the best. Whether it's breastfeeding or homeschooling, you're the one raising your child. Neither government experts nor community organizations are around for midnight feedings or when your child doesn't understand fractions. Our kids aren't all the same. We as parents aren't all the same. Our families are not all the same. We don't all learn the same way. We also don't handle social situations the same way. Finally we don't cook the same way. Why would we need to feed our children the same way or educate them the same way?
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Parents should have freedom of choice.
Once again a friend who teaches at Simmons College asked me to be a guest speaker at her class. I was stoked. It was such a big honor, and I was thrilled to be there. Like last semester, the students were assigned to read different articles on the myths of motherhood and the Mommy Wars.
Let me just take a minute to explain why I think this is important. Mommy Wars is not a term that my friend made up; it's a term that can be find in academic writing in several fields, including feminist, psychology, and sociology. There was a plethora of information available when I was earning my undergraduate degree in women's studies and psychology. I think that knowing about it before I had kids not only made me more tolerant towards other moms whose choices are different than my own, but made me more tolerant of my own choices that ended up being very different from what I planned at 18.
College is a place to address tough issues. Particularly in my friend's class where none of the women have kids, she and I both thought it was a great time to discuss it. Every woman makes a decision whether or not to become a mother, and either decision brings with it a different set of social judgments and baggage. For those who choose to have a child, each side of each parenting decision brings a different set of social judgments and baggage. Saying that it's all the media's fault isn't going to instantly make us respect other moms and their choices for parenting their own kids. How's that for sisterhood?
The class opened with a discussion that one of the students was assigned to bring to the class. She asked if reading the Mommy Myth put a damper on their ideas on having children. Hmmm...having children put a damper on my ideas of having children! In all seriousness, having kids definitely put my ideals of having children in a tail spin. Sometimes it's been much better and well other times...it's just been different. The students had lots of interesting and well thought out questions and opinions. One of the particularly interesting questions is one that I have been asked and have seen in a parenting magazine: if I could do it again, would I have kids when I did.
The answer to this question is yes. Sure, if my kids' conception dates were different by even a month (or maybe even by a few minutes), there would be two completely different people living in my house. If I had gone to veterinary school, I would have never had the opportunity to be a stay at home parent. I would have worked at the very least part time first of all because it would be my dream paid job and second because to be frank I would need to pay back my student loans.
Of course this tends to beg the question, then do I wish I had done something different between marriage and having kids, thereby postponing my post-BA program until later. The answer to that is no. I went through my whole life thinking I was not good at science. When I decided to pursue vet school I took the plunge into the unknown waters of the sciences. I think everyone has something that clicks with them, whether it's an area of study, a sport, a hobby, or music. I clicked with chemistry. (Yes I toyed with saying I found that I had chemistry with chemistry, but that exceeded my pun threshold.) I would have never ever thought that. Since the other natural sciences build on chemistry, I was amazed and entranced by biology, biochemistry, anatomy, physics and basically every other pre-med requirement. I used to joke with the Big Giraffe that I felt like I was living in a Harry Potter book; to me science is magic. Alright, not really magic because so much of has an explanation. I have to say that being at Simmons did pique my curiosity about what's going on in the science classes.
If I had waited until after I had kids, I suspect that I would have told myself that since I wasn't good at science, it wouldn't make sense to devote the time and money required to take classes. Why waste all that on something I would probably fail at anyway? So while I'm sorry that ultimately the timing was not right for vet school and that I needed to postpone my acceptance, I'm not sorry about the order in which I did things.
By the same token, I completely understand why many women would do things differently if they knew then what they know now. I would urge everyone to read a very honest post by Erin at Expecting Executive regarding her own personal story. It really is worth checking out particularly if you don't have kids or if you feel alone in your emotional struggles about your kids.
Erin's Lessons Learned: "Some women transition easily into the motherhood role, some women transition over a longer period of time and some women never make the transition at all...I firmly believe that respecting a woman's choice to not have children is just as important as supporting a woman's desire to have children."
When I was at the gym on Thursday night, I realized that I had forgotten to set my Tivo to record Lipstick Jungle. Since there was nothing I could do...well not without interrupting my workout to call my husband...I decided to just hedge my bets that it would be re-played. I ended up getting home right before the show started. I mentioned to the Big Giraffe that there was a new show I wanted to check out. He replied that he really wanted to see Lipstick Jungle and gave the time and the channel. I was stunned. I don't know why. We tend to like the same types of shows. The Big Giraffe appeared to be glued to this new show. During a commercial break I wondered if we had been missing episodes of the show we had enjoyed on Lifetime over the summer. The Big Giraffe reminded me of the name of the show, Army Wives, and demonstrated his knowledge that it was not yet back on the air. Once again I was stunned. Stunned by how much alike we are and also that my husband is not afraid to fully embrace his feminine side. Of course I did here him mumbling later about needing to catch something on Spike TV for Men, but I haven't seen him watching that channel.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Real men like Lifetime Television for Women.
Last week I took my boys to the play center called Noodle Noggin and Bean that I mentioned in my last post. We met a friend and her two year old son there. All three boys had a blast. Before I knew it, lunch time had arrived. The boys were all cranky. My friend mentioned earlier that she was thinking of picking up McDonald's because she needed to get her oil changed after the playdate. When my kids started to lose it, I mentioned that I thought I would take the boys to McDonald's since we were already out and about and, hey we were already out together as a treat so why not go for a real bang? I don't remember who asked whom, but we decided to all go to McDonald's together. Shocking, right?
Actually it was. I have to say that there has been a consistent pattern to most of the playdates I've had over the past 4 years.
Mom and kid(s) arrive between 9 am and 9:30 am.
Playtime until 11 am.
11-12 lunch and more playtime.
The playdate ends, and the kids take a nap.
Sometimes the playdate will be part of an outing. The schedule is pretty much the same except we pack our own lunches and eat at the outing location. Sometimes I've met other moms and their kids at a restaurant for lunch, but there had previously been only one friend whose family joined mine at McDonald's for lunch.
Honestly I'm not really sure why this is. It turned out to be one of my older son's (OS) all-time favorite playdates. I actually could relax eating lunch knowing that it wasn't a big deal if anything spilled or if my kids couldn't sit still. We all enjoyed the food. It was quick and easy. That made me think some more about why this is only the second friend I've done this with.
I happened to catch Suzanne on the phone once we were home and the kids were down for their post-playdate nap quiet time. She referred me to an article by Ayelet Waldman in New York Magazine called Why the Bad Mommy Brigade. Don't recognize the author's name? She received a ton of criticism for saying she loved her husband more than her children. I remember even having a huge discussion about her in my moms group. The article was definitely interesting, and I recommend it.
I definitely felt a connection to some of her ideas, but I think there are several reasons why I have been on so few multi-family McDonalds outings.
I truly try to make it a special treat for my kids (hmm...that sounds a little defensive.)
It's one thing for others including me to admit that we've taken our kids to McDonald's for that special rare treat, but when you go with someone else, suddenly there's accountability. Suddenly someone knows how special that special treat truly is. The implication is that special means rare, but it is no longer as vague and unclear a term. After all, special could mean twice a year or twice a week.
Seriously, whenever I've been in McDonald's, it's been filled with moms and their kids. In fact sometimes I've even been a little envious of those there playdates where the kids are clearly having a good time playing and the moms are clearly having a nice time chatting while watching the kids. No one looks stressed out. Yet, despite the fact that I always run into moms I know at the Y, the park, and the grocery store, only once have I run into a mom I know at McDonald's. Yet, I don't know many moms who don't admit that they take their kids there. I have heard moms say that it's germy, but I think that Y is right up there too. I'm thinking the drive-thru line.
This post isn't as deep as Waldman's article to say the least. I didn't agree that we necessarily feel condemned all the time as bad moms or that we embrace the idea of bad motherhood in rebellion. Of course this is completely subjective and it depends on who you're around. After all, I have written a lot about how I felt isolated because I wasn't able to breastfeed. Some women only know moms who bottle feed. Personally, I find that many of the moms I know both in the real world and in the blogosphere are able to say that they aren't the perfect parents. I find them willing to share stories illustrating that their kids aren't perfect. I think that parenting for many of us is like anything else in life; we're just somewhere in the middle. Some days we're great, and some days we're not. Or we're really good at reading stories and doing pretend play but hate doing crafts. Personally I'm a member of the Can't Bake Club. Around here, we're a rare breed. I've had the funniest conversations with people when they've admitted that they order their kids' birthday cakes: Member of the Group (MOTG): I had to order a cake because I had the flu last week. AE: I've always ordered cakes. MG: Yeah, I have too!
Even my McDonald's visits comes in waves. We might frequent it a couple of times in a short periods and then we don't go again for a long time. So in case any of you are scoring my McDonald's treats, let me just help you along. Sadly, my great aunt past away a few days ago. She was 96, and her death was long and drawn out. It's a relief to everyone that she is at peace and we're at peace. So tomorrow I will be taking my first solo plane trip with both boys. We're headed out to Chicago for the week. The Big Giraffe will be joining us for the funeral and flying back with us despite what he thinks is a funny joke that he was unable to get on our flight. Our flight is at 11 am. You can bet your bottom dollar that my kids will be carrying Happy Meals on board...with those cheap toys too! Hopefully my kids will get at least 15 minutes out of them and hey, to me that's worth it right there.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Quality Parenting is subjective
This is actually my post from last year's Blog for Choice Day. No, I'm not copping out; I'm reusing it because in the year since I wrote it, I would not change anything. However, before I get to it, I do have a little bit to add...
There are many issues in life about which I have changed my mind over time. In fact, while some of my views have stayed the same, I'm hard pressed to find many where they held firm because I truly believe in them, rather than because I haven't taken the time to re-evaluate my position. I have been pro-choice since since the day my friend Kim's mom drove us to swim practice and Kim explained why she was writing a paper on being pro-choice. Despite that fact that I was in Catholic school at the time, her views clicked with me. As I have gotten older, done my own research, and especially since I have become a mother myself, my views have only gotten stronger.
A few people pointed out to me last year that abortion restrictions only affect lower income women. Abortion gets disguised as a D&C for the women who can afford it. In other words, abortion restrictions would never affect me. That argument infuriates me for several reasons. First, I do not believe women's rights to their own body should be based on the amount money that we have. Second, although I am trying my best to nurture honest and open relationships with my sons so that they will feel that they can tell my husband or me anything, there's no guarantee that they will. We've set up "safe adults" who are close friends of ours that our sons can go to for help and guidance knowing that whatever they say and whatever help they receive will be kept between them and the safe adults. We are also already starting to have open conversations about sex in the hope that they understand our feelings about sex, love, maturity and most of all being safe. However, I can't live my sons' lives for them. If an unwanted pregnancy occurred, I would want my children and their significant others to have the full range of options, and for each of those options to be safe and easily accessible. In this way, this choice does very much affect me. Finally, it is very easy to dismiss small restrictions as irrelevant. There is no way to say where a trend against choice will end, and those who overlook restrictions who only affect others may end up reacting too late when the logic behind those restrictions is applied to take their own rights away.
We are at a crossroads. President Bush's appointments have had a significant impact on the composition of the Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court. These newly appointed judges are hacking away at many of our basic liberties, including free choice. I don't agree with everything that any politician stands for. However, any act of legislation may be reversed the next year, but the impact of a life-time judicial appointment may last for decades. That is why my pro-choice beliefs impact my vote. Now here is my post from last year explaining why I am pro-choice.
As a participant in the Blog for Choice Day, I'm telling my readers why I'm pro-choice. Ultimately, I am pro-choice because I do not believe the government has the right to tell women (or men) what to do with their bodies. Our country is founded on the ideology that there is separation between church and state. As such I do not feel that someone's personal religious beliefs should dictate what another person does. In fact, it outrages me that I even need to defend this point of view, because it really should be no one else's business.
On a more personal note, I have never had an abortion. However, I have been pregnant twice. Both times were planned pregnancies, and I was ecstatic to be pregnant. Despite the fact that I wanted to be pregnant, it really took a toll on my body. And I didn't have that difficult a pregnancy! As hard as it was on me, I know women who've had worse pregnancies, where they've had to be on bed rest for months. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be forced to go through this. I also cannot imagine what it would be like if I were having a baby that I did not want for whatever reason.
Yes, someone can choose to give the baby up for adoption (after undergoing the physical challenges of pregnancy). How likely is that though for a married woman who finds out that there's something wrong with the baby that she's carrying? I hear a lot of pregnant women saying that no matter what the different pregnancy tests show, they would never have an abortion. I have a lot of respect for that viewpoint, but I often wonder about the many pregnant women whom I don't hear saying that. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in that situation, to be told that there was a serious problem with a wanted pregnancy. I can only imagine what pain those parents must be in. I do know one thing: they do not need me to judge them.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: "People may need to defend their rights, but they do not need to justify the exercise of those rights."
Today a team of eight from my moms group participated in Habitat for Humanity Women Build. The idea behind it is having houses built by teams of women (although men may also participate.) I thought I knew what I was in for. After all, I spent a week doing Habitat in college, and I have fond clear memories of spackling walls, hanging installation, and helping to build a porch. In fact I had even helped with the wiring.
My day started out at 5 am. I was psyched because I got to sleep in an additional ten minutes. I was able to take my time this morning, eat a little breakfast, and even check my email before I left. About 5 minutes into my trip to meet my carpool in a local Walmart parking lot, I realized that I had left my cat bed sweatshirt in the computer room at home. Since I figured that the heating situation in a partially built house would be poor at best, I turned around to retrieve it from its apparent resting spot on the floor of the computer room. Since, I almost never wear this particular sweatshirt, I wouldn't be too upset if it got ruined. (The cats might feel differently.)
The carpool quickly assembled and, after a stop at Dunkin Donuts, where the world's slowest teenaged workers appeared to find the idea of giving change to be a novel concept, we headed out out to Providence, RI. We had a brief introduction, and then we split into two groups of four.
Our group was assigned to hang drywall. I was a little nervous about it, but things initially went well. We just had to cut basically standard rectangular pieces. The only problem was my sweatshirt. I knew it was used extensively by the cats. I had not realized that a large golden retriever in desperate need of a bath had also been using it. As a result, I felt enveloped by the scent of dirty dog. While others may have been shielding their eyes from debris and their mouths from dust, I spent a lot of time shielding my nose from the smell of my own sweatshirt and hoping that everyone around me either was doing the same or had a cold. I'm such a nice person.
The drywall continued to go well, although things became less rectangular. I was particularly pleased with a tiny triangle that we cut out that perfectly filled a gap in the wall. Then we went to work hanging drywall over the studs on either side of two staircases. My grand plan had been to completely avoid any staircases, much less two of them. Unfortunately, two women in our group (other than me) were asked to work on another part of the house. That left me and a friend whom I will call Jane, as in Jane Austin since she's an avid reader, to handle all the drywall that required tricky angles. The list of items that we were required to bring today did not include a Masters in Engineering. Further, while math and science are normally my strengths, there is one big glaring exception to that: geometry. Guess what branch of math is a prerequisite to putting up drywall on a staircase...geometry. At least in my opinion. And no, we weren't asked to bring a degree in Math today either.
The first side of the staircase did appeared to go well. I would like to claim that was because of my brilliant insight, but the truth is that Jane totally took control of the situation, much to my relief. In fact, I would have had more luck assembling a jet airplane in the backyard. The area was measured, and the drywall was cut. Then we put it up to make sure it fit. It did not.
We started to panic. I could still smell the dog funk on me even though my sweatshirt was in another part of the house. The woman in charge suggested that we try the piece on the upstairs side of the banister. It didn't fit there either. The big piece of cut drywall appeared to be wasted. Well, maybe not totally wasted, as we could cut it up and use smaller pieces, but the beauty of one large perfectly cut piece was lost. Or so we thought. Then we realized we had cut it right in the first place; it was just backwards. Given that I was involved, I was surprised that it was even the right shape.
Vowing not to make that mistake again, we then did the other side of the first staircase. It was fine. I felt as proud as when I finished organic chemistry. Well, maybe almost as proud. My only regret was that I didn't have a camera to take a picture for my blog. Yeah right. Like I was thinking about photography. I just thought of the picture now. The point is I really felt a sense of accomplishment. We finished drywalling both sides of the first staircase. It did involve cutting many smaller pieces of drywall and using the Rasper tool on excess drywall. We got a lot of positive feedback.
I felt like we were on a roll, and I was looking forward to finishing the second staircase and being done with angles. We measured the final area that we needed to cover, took the last big piece of drywall, and double checked our measurements. I assured Jane that we wouldn't mess up. Everything would be fine. I had my mental Pythagoras hat, glasses and beard. Maybe not the beard. Except that what we really needed was Pythagoras himself. This time the piece really was backwards. Our piece would have to be cut into smaller pieces to be used.
I really enjoyed the experience of Habitat and yes even the drywalling! It was great to be able to help someone out and to be able to see the difference that our groups and others made. We got to meet the woman who would be living in the house. I really liked the concept of Women Build. It was really fun, and I would like to do it again.
Despite the mistakes, I was really pleased with what we accomplished. We covered both sides of the first staircase and the wall behind it. We also finished the walls at right angles to the back walls (I had to be able to take at least a little geometry away with me) and a good part of the area on one side of the second staircase. Everything that we did screw in looked good and fit well. Even better, now I think I really know how to cut sheet rock for the area next to a staircase. In fact, I almost feel like running out to Home Depot right now and grabbing some dry wall so I can seal up our banisters. Next time I'll know to immediately run to the outhouse if assigned drywall and to sneak in and join another group instead what I'm doing.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Smell any work clothes that you may plan to wear before leaving the house.
The Golden Compass and the Best Feminist Blogging of '07
One of my Christmas gifts to my husband, the Big Giraffe (BG), was the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. The BG finished The Golden Compass on Wednesday, The Subtle Knife on Thursday, and The Amber Spyglass on Friday, passing each over to me as he finished. It thus may not surprise you that I am thinking a lot about interconnections between various worlds.
It is far easier to click a hyperlink to another blog than to find a way from one universe to another, but sometimes the gulf in the blogosphere seems almost as vast. I know that with the large number of blogs, the small amount of time to read them, and the lack of an alethiometer to guide me, I have a tendency to keep clicking on the URLs of my favorite bloggers over and over rather than to cut my way to new writers. Since joining BlogHer Ads, however, not a day goes by without four links that open windows to other blogs that are often not on my blogroll. Some days do go by without me going through those windows, but when I take the time, I am often impressed by what I find.
Today's BlogHer ads brought me to a post called I Need Validation on a blog called So Sioux Me. I was initially struck by her tagline, "My intention is to inspire women and help them to empower their daughters. I welcome comments to generate a constructive conversation," which feels very consistent with what so many of my favorite bloggers seek to do on their blogs. I read a couple of posts and saw her writing openly and honestly about her brand of feminism, how she makes choices, and how she parents. I will be back!
However, the post where I initially landed was about a contest on another blog that I didn't know, Hoyden about Town, to find the top 40 feminist posts of 2007. I started scanning the comments and following a couple of links. I was struck by two things: the quality of the writing and my complete lack of familiarity with any of the blogs. It reinforced how there are entirely separate universes of women blogging on innumerable topics, including those related to feminism. Unlike the worlds in Pullman's trilogy, the blogosphere can only benefit from connections these blogging universes.
So I urge my regular readers to go through the window to Hoyden about Town and read and enjoy the posts that you find there. In particular, you can find the contest explanation and rules so that you can nominate up to six posts from other blogs and up to two of your own posts. This isn't an election, as the selections will be made by "the Hoydens" themselves from amongst the nominees, but it is a chance to enjoy bloggers whom you may have never read before and to attract bloggers who may have never seen your work or other work that you appreciate. Go quickly! The contest ends at the end of this year, and then it will be as ephemeral as dust in the wind.
So what links am I leaving open across the blogosphere? Here are my nominations for a few of my favorite feminist posts of the year:
Suzanne's post Suzanne Reisman, Swimsuit Model, Takes a Stand on CUSS taking a personal stand agains unrealistic beauty standards. (In accordance with the Hoyden linking policy, I will note that CUSS is not safe for workplace viewing (NSFW).)
Do Assumptions Change When you Know the Accused also by Suzanne but on BlogHer rather than CUSS, struggling with the balance between supporting women and preserving the presumption of innocence for those accused of crimes against women, particularly when you know the accused.
Soccer Mom in Denial's post Be an Ally and a Friend linking a personal story, a well-known tragedy, and our own responsibility to Transgendered Day of Remembrance.
Kristen's post Irrelevant on Motherhood Uncensored about getting lost in blogging, public relations, and the value of motherhood.
The Latest Formula Ban is the post I wrote criticizing the New York City public hospital ban on free formula samples for new moms that got me invited to speak on the Mike and Juliet Show on Fox TV last August.
I was so excited a couple weeks ago when my long time friend Suzanne asked me to co-edit an anthology on periods. Let me give you a moment to let the idea sink in. As Suzanne pointed out, getting your first period is a rite of passage but yet there really isn't a lot out there that isn't written from a medical standpoint. As a women's studies major, I had to agree that this is very surprising.
The idea of our anthology is that many people have mortifying period experiences which when they look back on later, particularly discussing them with their girlfriends over a glass of wine and a good piece of chocolate cake, are actually quite humorous. In fact Suzanne is up here right now. We spent the day talking about different period stories that we've heard, not to mention our own stories. I have to say that they were pretty funny! From the cheesy things people said, to gifts, uncomfortable conversations and debacles with period products, we realized there really was quite a lot to say. We're going to have a website up and running very soon where we will have info on how to submit an essay and more info on the anthology. I'm very excited for it!
On another note, what's even more pathetic than feeling like it's 3 am when it's only 10am? How about playing Scrabulous on Facebook with a friend...who's sitting across the table from you...alright and sharing the same computer so you are not only taking turns playing the game, but taking turns logging in and out of Facebook as well!
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: There's can still be a lot to learn from your first period experience even if it was a long time ago.
This morning I read a great post by Suzanne over at BlogHer. Basically, a study at Rutgers University found that feminists had great sex. Suzanne was surprised that this was a surprise. I was too. In fact, after commenting on Suzanne's post, I headed out for preschool drop-off and the grocery store and started to think about her post some more. Nothing like going through the aisles of the grocery store thinking about sex! O.K. parental units, in-laws, and Big Giraffe, recheck the title and decide whether or not you truly want to read the rest of this post.
It's no surprise to me that feminists have good sex because the core part of the definition of feminism is being able to stand up for yourself. Thus, it's by no means a stretch to think that feminists probably tend to be able to say what they do and don't like in bed as well as to be able to directly ask their partners how they can pleasure them. (Seriously, Fam if you're reading this and haven't already fallen off a chair, I advise you to stop now.) It's probably not that shocking then that sex would be a more fulfilling experience for both partners, and, if it's not, then both partners would work towards achieving that goal.
Of course this led me to think more about the feminists that I'm friends with in my real life. I realized, while walking around the produce section, that these are the friends with whom I talk about sex. Relax, Big Giraffe, if you are still reading. I'm not revealing any deep, dark, bedroom secrets. But I have had a number of conversations with my close friends, who not surprisingly identify as feminists, about the impact of birth control pills on sex drive (which ones are good and which ones are not), lubricants, how to have a great orgasm, masturbation, whether or not you can really feel a difference with condoms, and how to get back in the mood after having a baby and yes that was more than just a conversation about lighting candles and not wearing my maternity underwear to bed.
I am not claiming that feminist sex is always great or that those who are not feminists can't have good sex. My point is that I'm just not surprised by the study.
The Big Giraffe sometimes claims he can tell which group of friends I'm talking to on the phone based on the sound bytes as he passes by. Sex excerpts come from conversations with my feminist friends, child issue excerpts come from my mom friends (I do have mom friends who are feminists so I have both the former and later conversations with them), and the word vulva is only a part of conversations about exercise, or more specifically for readers who just did a double-take, conversations about spinning with feminist friends. How does a vulva issue ride on an exercise conversation? Well, let's just say that the two week adjustment rule was really true! Why only with feminist friends? Well, let's just say that greater openness about vaginal issues is not solely linked to discussions about sex, periods, and yeast infections; it applies to vaginally-oriented exercise discussions as well.
By this time, my wandering had appropriately brought me to the meat department, while my reflections went beyond the bedroom. I feel that attitudes towards sex can have an impact on how people talk about issues. For example when my book club read a book last year that dealt with the main character's sexuality, the discussion appeared awkward to me. I believe that discomfort with discussing sex created discomfort in the entire discussion. Yet when a good, feminist friend of mine later read my copy of the book, we had a fabulous conversation. (I'm going to be interviewing an author later on this week about the definition of sexuality, so stay tuned.)
Suzanne's overall point was that a lot of people don't like to hear anything positive about feminists. The study got no media attention in the United States. In fact, despite the fact that the writer of the article lives in NYC, he was only able to publish it in a British paper! The American media is happy to stereotype feminists as man-haters or those who are out to subjugate men, but when the facts demonstrate that most feminists live a lifestyle consistent with the value of gender equality, not reverse discrimination, there is suddenly media silence. To me, not only is that sad, but it encourages a rift between women (and men) who are equally supportive of gender equality but do not want to identify themselves as feminists because of the unfair media stereotype. To me, that's sad and unfair.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Feminists and their partners tend to have great sex.
Breastfeeding after Someone Else's Breast Reduction Surgery
A few days ago, I was flipping through a Weight Watchers magazine trying to see if the at least one of the "50+ Holiday Recipes" looked any good. The headline of a letter to the editor caught my eye. It read "All About Breasts". How could I resist reading it? Apparently last month Weight Watchers featured an article on breast reduction surgery called "Bosom Budies." Alas, I could not find it on-line. Fortunately, I did not need to read the article to understand the letter replying to it. The letter was from a pediatric nurse practitioner who stated that women who "may want to breast-feed should not consider breast reduction surgery." She claimed that she saw many mothers who are unable to breastfeed because they've had the surgery and indicated that she personally is devastated by it. Excuse me?
I'm appalled that this woman thinks it is all about her. I'm sorry she feels devastated by this. I notice that she doesn't say that the women who are unable to breastfeed are devastated by this. Not to pick on semantics, but I believe instead of saying that women shouldn't consider the surgery, because considering is not the same thing as doing, she means that women should carefully evaluate whether or not they want to have the surgery, if they plan on breastfeeding.
I believe many people are thinking about breastfeeding after breast reduction, because I have gotten a lot of hits from people using those search words recently. (Perhaps they read "Bosom Buddies" or "All About Breasts.") Despite what this particular woman might believe, the decision to have a breast reduction surgery is not like waking up one day and deciding to get highlights in your hair. I personally had the surgery because I was in extreme discomfort due to the size of my chest. I know many other women who had surgery for similar reasons. In my case, I was a competitive swimmer from childhood through college. I had to stop the running portion of my training halfway through high school because my back hurt so much. My neck hurt when I would bend over a desk or table to do my homework. I was in wonderful shape (I had to get my fat measured frequently while on the swim team) and overall had a small figure, but I had to buy large shirts for them to fit across my chest. I am slightly under 5" 4', but I was spilling out of a DD. Let me just stress again how much my back constantly hurt. Sometimes my shoulders would bleed from my bra straps cutting into them. Just thinking about it now makes my neck hurt.
After the surgery, I was able to run for a half hour every day with the swim team before our two hour swim practice. No matter how much weight I have put on with pregnancies or Thanksgiving festivities, I have never again had problems with bleeding shoulders or neck pain. (I did have back pain, but that's common with pregnant women regardless of whether or not they've previously had a large chest. The pain stopped with each boy's birth and did not come back with any holiday feast.)
When I decided to have the surgery, I was 19. I take that back. I made the decision when I was 13 and became physically and mentally uncomfortable with my size. It was a long 6 years until I actually had the opportunity to go through with the surgery. My parents wanted me to complete a year in college first to make sure that I was confident in my decision to have the surgery. I became confident that I wanted the surgery when I walked through the door of school in 7th grade. That confidence continued until I had the surgery. As upset as I ever got over my inability to breastfeed, I have never regretted my surgery. I'm sorry I couldn't breastfeed, but I'm not sorry I had the surgery. It was better than I had even thought it would be.
There are no guarantees in life. At 19 I couldn't guarantee that I would one day get married or have children. There is no guarantee that I would have been able to breastfeed even had I not had the surgery. Do I think that if it's important to a woman to breastfeed, than she shouldn't have the surgery? Absolutely. It's also solely her decision to make. It doesn't matter what I think. I resent being told what I should do. Breast reduction surgery is serious. In addition to including the common risks of going under anesthesia, the recovery is hard. While I do not know the current risks to having breast reduction surgery, I was warned of the following when I had the surgery:
I might have to have my nipples put on ice (this did not happen)
I might not be able to breastfeed
I might have significant scarring (I was fortunate in this one too. My scars are barely visible).
I might lose some feeling
I would have to wear a two cup sports bra (not the mono-boob kind) for 24 hours a day for 5 weeks
I wouldn't be able to lift anything heavy for a month
As I was telling a friend recently, I wanted this surgery so badly, that these things weren't a huge deal to me. When the surgeon had a cancellation and could perform the surgery a few weeks earlier, I jumped at the slot canceling a previously scheduled visit from my out-of-state boyfriend. (No, Big Giraffe, that doesn't count as a benefit to the surgery.) Obviously anyone considering breast reduction surgery should consult with a doctor regarding the current risks.
Of course I'm sure that there are women out there who regret their surgery. However, I don't regret it, and I know quite a few women who believe that the surgery changed their lives for the better. Empathy for women who are devastated by their inability to breastfeed is one thing. A personal sense of devastation on behalf of even women who are comfortable with the implications of their choice is misplaced. A stance that women should not even consider alternatives to years of physical pain and emotional discomfort is insulting.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: There are pros and cons that should all be considered carefully by anyone who may want to have breast reduction surgery.
This Thanksgiving, I'm truly grateful for my family, friends, health, and the fact we have a warm house to live in and plenty to eat. I thought I would share some other spoken and unspoken thoughts of gratitude that were expressed today. A couple of them were shared when we did warm fuzzies at the dinner table where everyone had to say one nice thing about everyone else and one nice thing about themselves. I realize that you might be rolling your eyes, particularly if you are the Big Giraffe, but hey if we spent all this time preparing this meal, I wanted our boys to at least be aware that this holiday is about gratitude. Picture a stern look going along with that last sentence. Our younger son (YS) and our pets were exempt. The Big Giraffe was not even though he tried.
I am thankful that I was able to do a decent job managing my stress level and did not cry at any point today. This is a huge improvement over past holidays. This was my warm fuzzy.
The Big Giraffe stated that he was thankful that he did not react to my "micromanagement" and did not storm out to spend Thanksgiving at Walgreens*. That was his warm fuzzy. I took issue with this: there are no cold fuzzies, indirect or direct, allowed during warm fuzzy time.
The Big Giraffe should be grateful that I didn't encounter any divorce lawyers looking for new clients today.
Our dog appeared grateful that I somehow missed removing the neck from the turkey. I could not believe the amount of extra stuffing, and yes I did make my own, that wouldn't fit in the turkey. The dog got the leftovers
I am grateful that we didn't have the fire department visiting us. Despite the fact the the turkey cooked with the neck in it, it came out great. It was nice and moist. (Even the Big Giraffe agreed, in between big bites.)
I am grateful that somehow the Pretty n Pink soundtrack which just happened to be on sale at Borders made its way into my shopping cart last night. I have no idea how that happened. It made for some great music while we were preparing food.
Our Older son (OS) stated that he was grateful that we turned the music off when we had dinner. No I'm not making that up. It wasn't technically part of his warm fuzzy, but as we sat down he said "Thank you Mommy for turning off the music."
OS should be grateful that we, by which I mean "I", did not comment on the fact that all he ate at our Thanksgiving feast was a corn muffin. I made turkey, stuffing and cheddar mashed potatoes. The Big Giraffe made corn muffins and a broccoli casserole.
YS appeared grateful that no one commented on OS's eating, since it averted an OS holiday meltdown, which likely would have been followed by poking his brother.
YS appeared grateful for the food that was served. He ate everything, including the canned cranberries.
I am grateful that the Big Giraffe brought home good wine last night for today as well as a very nice center piece which he surprised me with. Technically, he told me the centerpiece was for the table, but the bouquet of flowers was for me.
We are grateful that our kids actually took a nap this afternoon so we could have some alone time...
I am grateful that no one spent Thanksgiving at Walgreens even though I might not have felt that way at certain points during the day.
Our cats appear grateful that everyone else was occupied with the Thanskgiving Day fights festivities and left them completely alone
We were all grateful that we were invited to a friend's house for dessert. We had a really great time.
We are both grateful that we have an honest marriage: we both admitted that we hate watching the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. We both thought that it was important to the other one. The Big Giraffe only likes it in person, and I could do without it altogether.
I am grateful that OS's teachers send home little projects containing the feelings expressed by the children in the class. It's a great way to see what's going on in OS's mind. On Monday, the teachers sent home a list of class gratitudes. "Suzy" was grateful for her parents, "Johnny" was grateful for his parents and his brother, "Sam" was grateful for meat, and OS was grateful for turkey bologna and grapes
OS stated that he was grateful that Christmas was today. That was his warm fuzzy.
*I may just possibly have forgotten to pick up enough frozen broccoli for a casserole leading into a small debate about what Thanksgiving was really about: honoring the very first Thanksgiving where the men brought home the meat and the women cooked or a complete reversal of Mothers' Day where women are in charge of everything including both the shopping and the cooking. The words "misogynistic holiday" may have been uttered once or twice. The Big Giraffe went to Walgreens since it was one of the only places open to see if they had any frozen broccoli. He reported back that it was a hopping place, but unfortunately it did not sell frozen vegetables. CVS was also open, also did not have frozen vegetables, but apparently lacked the same energy level among its customers.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: There is a lot to be thankful for.
Today I got to be a guest speaker for a freshmen class at Simmons College. I was pretty excited about it. My friend teaches the class and was looking for someone to speak on the Mommy Wars. Of course I was thrilled when she invited me. She asked me to bring in a copy of the Mike and Juliette show and had her students read a couple of my blog posts on feminism and motherhood. We then discussed different issues and policies that mothers face. In preparation for the class, I asked her if I could have a copy of today's readings. One of the readings was the introduction from the book The Mommy Myth Idealization of Motherhood and How it Has Undermined Women by Susan J. Douglas and Meredith Michaels. I haven't enjoyed reading something that much in a long time. I really recommend it. It was thought provoking and at the same time, the authors definitely displayed a sense of humor.
Based on the clips and posts and the article, my friend asked her students what issues they thought moms face today. None of the students were married or had children. It was interesting to hear their responses both to the reading and to the clip. They made a lot of good points. However, as I listened to them and reflected on the reading, I had to wonder what has happened to feminism. Why do we have the Mommy Wars? The article talked about the increased pressure mothers have faced through the years from the media. One quote that seemed to sum it up for many of the students and me was, "You know, when our kids say 'all the other kids get to do it' we laugh in their face. But when the magazines suggest, 'All the other moms are doing this, are you?' we see ourselves being judged by the toughest critics out there: other mothers," (p. 19).
To me, feminism has always been about choice. It's been about believing that women are capable of making the decisions that are best for them and their families. It doesn't mean that we always like the choices of others or think that their choices are the right ones, but that we respect that their decisions are theirs to make. (Of course that openness assumes that these decisions aren't abusive.)
As a women's studies major and a woman who has always been fascinated by the roles of parenting in our society, I am always surprised by how many times smaller issues are part of a much larger problems. Yet they are not as easily seen as being part of a larger problem. Take for example formula feeding. There are many working women who want to breastfeed at work and/or pump at work, but are still often unable to do so because they lack adequate facilities or enough break time in the United States. Never mind women who are unable to fully establish a breastfeeding routine due to inadequate maternity leave.
One of the students offered another example. There is a lot of criticism of working parents whose schedules create latch-key kids. Given the prevalence of homes with two working parents in our society, shouldn't school schedules facilitate flexible parenting? No, the student did not encourage boarding school for preschoolers (although...); rather she suggested that pushing the start (and the end) of each school day back by an hour might make things far easier for both children and working parents.
One student described her negative impressions of mothers whose children have meltdowns in the grocery store. Of course, my children would never do this (I'm kidding.) While she seemed a little surprised when I said that temper tantrums at the grocery store are an undesirable but normal part of parenting. She seemed even more surprised that I said that I would like to see more fathers at the grocery store with their kids. That includes you Big Giraffe! Somehow I suspect that they would be given sympathetic looks. "Oh that poor overwhelmed dad. Isn't it nice that he's pitching in and taking the kids." On the other hand a mom would probably confront one of the following reactions:
An understanding smile from other parents who have been there too
A look of disdain or nasty remark for failing to control her kids
No reaction from oblivious customers do either to preoccupation with their own thoughts or lack of care. (Nothing wrong with this option!)
It definitely was an interesting discussion, and I am honored that I was able to be part of it.
A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Whether you believe in post-feminism or not, respecting other parents as people is important.
For those of us who didn't get an instruction manual with our babies and for whom parenting hasn't always gone as planned. On a more serious note this blog is about supporting a woman's ability to make her own choices about parenting including the choice, for whatever reason, to bottle feed her babies formula.