Profile for Avital Norman Nathman

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Mommie Dearest: Gwyneth Paltrow & GOOP Wade Into The “Mommy Wars”

Gwyneth Mommie Dearest

With the way the media shoves the “mommy wars” down our throats, I’m amazed that there isn’t already a reality show based on that concept out there. (Reality TV producers, this is NOT an invitation to prove me wrong). You could have a handful of women battling it out for their child’s love! Or society’s approval! They would earn or lose points based on whether they ate deli meat or soft cheese during pregnancy, whether they had a homebirth or a highly medicalized one, whether they breastfed their kids, used cloth diapers, only fed organic, stayed home or went back to work.

It would be exhausting to watch, and truth be told, there wouldn’t be any winners. This is exactly how I feel most days as I watch the “mommy wars” being trotted out as a way for women to pit themselves against other women in morning news segments, blog headlines and magazine covers. I still shudder when picturing TIME‘s infamous “Are You Mom Enough?” cover.

So it should surprise exactly no one that when I read Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest GOOP newsletter with her own thoughts on the “mommy wars,” I couldn’t help but cringe. Keep reading »

Mommie Dearest: Let’s Talk About The Placenta

MD-placenta

It always amuses me when something concerning pregnancy, birth, or parenting pops up as a “trend.” Odds are, that “trend” has been in practice for ages, but most likely in non-urban, non-privileged, non-U.S. areas. Take, for example, the notion of using midwives to deliver babies over OB-GYNs. Only when it hit Brooklyn and the New York Times Style section covered it, did using a midwife become a trend. Nevermind the fact that midwives remain the only option for maternal health care in much of the developing world! They’re also the preferred choice in places like the UK: midwives perform 80 to 90 percent of all low-risk births in England.

Recently the “trend” of doing stuff with your placenta post-delivery seems to be resurfacing. I say resurfacing because I feel like I’m always hearing stuff about other people’s placentas and what they’re doing with them. From burying them under a tree in the front yard to dehydrating them them into capsules, eating them , or using them as art pieces. Recently, Nick Baines wrote a piece for UK Guardian in which he described in great detail the various ways he ingested his wife’s placenta after the birth of their son. Keep reading »

Mommie Dearest: An Interview With Dana Ben-Ari, The Filmmaker Behind “Breastmilk”

"Breastmilk"

Breastfeeding: it’s one of those heated topics of motherhood where everyone has an opinion and they’re not afraid to share it. For me, nursing was just something that was a part of having a baby. I was breastfed, I grew up among women who breastfed, and it was assumed that I would as well when the time came. After a bit of a rocky start, I got the hang of it and had a successful three-year run nursing my son.

Personally, I’m a proponent of breastfeeding, as there are numerous benefits to it for both baby and mother. But I’m also fully aware that we live in a society that is not set up to help support women who want to breastfeed. When debates surrounding breast milk versus formula arise, I’d rather attack the system rather than individuals. That’s why I appreciate the new documentary “Breastmilk” by filmmaker Dana Ben-Ari, which follows a handful of new mothers to learn more about their breastfeeding journey and the challenges they face. There’s no stigma or judgment about choices here. Instead, it’s a refreshing look at breastfeeding in today’s society and the challenges and joys that come along with it.

I had the pleasure of talking to Ben-Ari about the film to learn more. Our conversation, after the jump: Keep reading »

Mommie Dearest: My Son’s Long Hair Gets Him Mistaken For A Girl

MD-long-hair

My seven-year-old son has hair that many people would kill …  or at least pay an arm and a leg at the salon for: honey blonde with natural ombre highlights, ringlets that cascade down, skimming right above his shoulders. [I have seen photos of Avital's son and his hair is indeed glorious. -- Amelia]

To top it all off, he loves his curls. When he was younger I would trim them just a bit so that he could see (AKA shaggy dog syndrome). But as he grew older, he let it be known that he was super into his curls and refused to cut them. And to be honest? I was kind of thrilled. I loved his hair just as much as he did, and was happy that he wanted to keep it long. We only have a few simple rules if he wants to keep his hair long: It has to be up in a ponytail during hot/humid weather to avoid heat rash, it has to stay out of his eyes (which he accomplishes with various cloth headbands/sweatbands), and it has to be — relatively — knot free.

So, my rough and tumble, soccer playing, LEGO-obsessed, drum-playing seven-year-old still rocks his long curls. And for some reason, it completely throws everyone else off balance. At least once a day, ever since his hair started growing in earnest, my son gets mistaken for a girl without fail. As you can imagine, this causes a lot of feels. Keep reading »

Frisky Q&A: Melanie Notkin, Author Of The Otherhood, On Women Who Want Children But Don’t Have Them Yet

melanie notkin otherhood

The Otherhood: a growing population of educated, professional women in their 30s and 40s who have yet to find love or start a family. In fact, statistics show that almost 50 percent of American women are childless — yet our society still isn’t quite sure how to treat these women, placing all sorts of assumptions and opinions on them without truly understanding their decisions.

Enter Melanie Notkin, the successful founder of Savvy Auntie and a vocal representation of this demographic. Melanie’s new book, Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind Of Happiness, is part memoir and part reflection, digging deep into world of these women and the challenges they face. Keep reading »

Mommie Dearest: What Happened To Child’s Play?

Show of hands: who else remembers roaming neighborhood streets unsupervised until dusk during your elementary school years?

I have crystal clear memories of being allowed to bike the three short blocks to my friend’s house (sans helmet!) after school for playdates —and not of the hyper-scheduled variety. We’d usually hang out in her backyard, poking sticks in holes or making forts with paint cloths we’d scavenge from her garage. Occasionally we’d run into the house for snacks, but if the weather was good, we’d most likely be found outside. Sometimes we’d make our way through the neighborhood, sneaking through backyards or meandering down sidewalks. We never got into any real trouble, and neither of us ever got seriously hurt beyond a skinned knee or two.

I’ve written before about how the childhood of my youth seems rather far removed from the one my son and his friends have. A combination of helicopter parenting, a lawsuit-happy society, and our growing withdrawal from a true neighborhood mentality seems to be fueling the more boxed-in and rigid rule-oriented childhoods we’re seeing. Keep reading »

Mommie Dearest: Not Even Princesses Are Free From Mommy Judgment

mommie dearest

Some days, being a princess sounds like a pretty sweet set up. Then reality sets in and I realize it would really suck to have gossip magazines make it headline news that you missed your child’s milestone while you’re away at a five-star restort.

Currently, Princess Kate is being dragged through the tabloids for missing Prince George’s first attempt at crawling while she was vacationing in the Maldives. Kate and Prince William were away on their first baby-free getaway earlier this month and — of course — that’s when little Prince George decided to test the crawling waters, showing off for his maternal grandparents, Carole and Michael Middleton. US Weekly breathlessly reported on this “exclusive,” further solidifying their place in hell by furthering the institution that is known as parental guilt. Keep reading »

Mommie Dearest: Add Water Births To The List Of Confusing Choices For Expectant Moms

water birth

Birth: one of the most private, personal and intimate moments of a woman’s life. And for good reason — most usually end with a baby being pushed out of a vagina, and that’s pretty damn intimate. Yet at the same time, how one births has been long debated, challenged, and talked about in public, with everyone chipping in their two cents. Announce that you’re pregnant and you’ll quickly find out what everyone thinks you should do.

Over 4 million babies being born in the United States every year. As a country, we also have some of the most expensive maternity care in the world, despite not having the best quality of care. All of that combined can lead to many schools of thought when it comes to how to birth them babies. Me? I feel that every person should have access to the basic information surrounding pregnancy and birth to learn all the ins and outs and make an informed decision that works best for them and their situation. Ideally, everyone would have a provider that would work with them throughout their pregnancy and would act as a resource as well as a sounding board. And yet, for the most part, many moms-to-be simply don’t have access to that type of care. Most expecting patients will see their provider for an average of two hours over the course of their ENTIRE PREGNANCY. Let me repeat that: a cumulative of two hours of one-on-one time over the course of 10 months. It’s no wonder why pregnancy and birth can easily become overwhelming and full of uncertainties. Keep reading »

Mommie Dearest: I Never Expected To Be A Stay-At-Home Mom

baby bottle

Stay at home vs. working moms: it’s a debate that may well have sparked the heated flames of the “mommy wars.” There haven’t been a shortage of opinions on this topic, and despite being rehashed to death, more keep coming. The latest voice to enter into the fray is Allison Klein, a former reporter turned stay-at-home mom who recently offered up an op-ed for The Washington Post. Klein writes:

“You see, I love being home with my girls, now 4 and 5. I’m just not such a fan of telling people that’s what I do. This is new for me. [...] This is D.C., where nothing about you is more important than your job, or at least that’s what people always say. And being a full-time mom doesn’t exactly up my Q score. These conversations are fraught because I want people to know I’m not giving up my identity as a strong, smart woman. Cue the eye roll.”

Mother judgment — it’s there regardless of what you choose. And, when we fight each other, nobody wins, because infighting only clouds the more important issue: the narrow way we frame this stay-at-home vs. working mother discussion. I  wish there could be a huge disclaimer on these types of articles reminding readers that not every mother is in a position to actually make this choice. There are families that need two working parents in order to ensure that housing and food costs are met. There needs to be a greater understanding of the inherent privilege involved in even having this “debate” in the first place. Keep reading »

Mommie Dearest: Talking About Abortion At Book Club

book club

One of the awesome things about having a new book out [The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality] is that sometimes people actually want to talk to you about it! I’ve been having a blast the past couple of months traveling across the country doing bookstore readings and signings. Each place I visit, there’s always a handful of folks who come up and want to talk all things motherhood.

In New York City, many of the people in the audience wanted to touch on how the media portrays women — particularly those who are mothers — versus men. In Portland, Oregon, I heard from women who were increasingly frustrated by the work/home divide and the tired notion of “having it all.” Chicago found me chatting with young college students who had come to the book reading as part of a class field trip. We talked about their relationships with their own mothers and the concerns they had about becoming mothers themselves.

And then, there was book club. Last week, I was invited to join in for a local book club that had read my book for the month of February. I was pretty excited. I arrived at the host’s house, eager to hear what everyone thought of the book. After some snacking, drinking and a bunch of chit-chatting, they started to dig into the book. They had some questions for me, ranging from how I got the idea to create the book, to whether or not I used a pen name. (Let’s just say that if I had chosen a pen name, I probably would have gone with one that gets pronounced and written correctly at least 50 percent of the time …)

I also got to hear reactions to specific essays in the book, which is always nice. One that stuck out to the women in this group in particular was Liz Henry’s “The Macaroni and Cheese Dilemma.” Liz’s essay talks about choosing to have an abortion, and why that choice was the best for her family. Keep reading »

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