When I first read a review of Lauren Sandler’s new book, One and Only: The Freedom Of Having An Only Child And The Joy Of Being One , I was hopeful. As the mother of an only child (and with no plans at all to have any more children), I’ve had my fair share of judgement from others. I’ve been told I’m selfish, that I’ll live to regret this decision, that my child will grow up lonely, that he’ll end up resenting me and his father for not giving him any siblings, that he’ll feel burdened when it comes time to care for us in old age. The list goes on and on. I’ve heard variations on these remarks from family, people I know well, and complete strangers.
Trust me, this wasn’t a decision we came to lightly and it’s one that is constantly on my mind. In fact – shameless self promotional plug – my essay in my upcoming anthology about the myth of the “good mother” deals specifically with this topic and is titled “Yes. I Am That Selfish.” So to read about a book that thoughtfully takes on the notion of having one child — and debunks many of the myths commonly associated with it — felt a bit liberating. Keep reading »
I’m not going to sugar coat it: Sometimes, this whole parenting gig can be pretty damn hard. Yes, parenting is rewarding and wonderful and absolutely special. But it can also be completely terrifying and difficult and frustrating. And, despite all the parenting books that line the shelves of bookstores, there’s truly no one manual to tell you exactly how to successfully raise your children without going completely batty.
It also doesn’t help that parents — new ones especially — are surrounded by images, advertisements, articles, books, television shows, “experts,” movies, news media, and more that basically dictate to them what it (supposedly) takes to be a good parent. It can be doubly overwhelming in a society that pushes Tiger Moms at you while also promoting the benefits of French Parenting in the same breath that both encourages and disparages Attachment Parenting. It’s enough to drive anyone to drink. (Or smoke).
So it doesn’t surprise me one bit when parents turn to the Internet to find some answers or relief. Even if that relief is in the form of mild complaining or slightly neurotic questioning of everything that’s being thrown at you. But of course, as with everything on the Internet, everyone has an opinion. Enter Jezebel’s Tracy Moore, who earlier this week tore apart a private online Facebook group for L.A. parents. Moore listed a handful of topics that various mothers posted about and then proceeded to mock and snark on each one. Keep reading »
When I was pregnant, my clothing had one main requirement: comfort. I was mostly concerned with what would help support my growing belly on my slight frame, especially toward the end of my pregnancy when I developed symphysis pubic dysfunction (a fancy way of saying that my pelvic joint was unstable and caused me near constant pain whenever I moved). I was fortunate that during the latter half of my pregnancy I was focused on finishing my graduate thesis, thus fashion didn’t factor much into my days spent behind a computer screen or between library book shelves. In fact, my daily uniform of yoga pants, long t-shirts, a puffy vest, and comfy sneakers didn’t seem to phase me or the number of folks I came in contact with.
In retrospect, I consider myself very lucky. Keep reading »
Save the breakfast in bed, chocolate, flowers, and handmade macaroni necklaces. This Mother’s Day, I’m after something just a little bit more. On a day created to honor and respect all mothers, I feel that we sometimes fall a little short. And so, I humbly present to you my list of alternative Mother’s Day gifts: Keep reading »
Pop star Shakira gave birth to her son, Milan, back in January. Since then, she’s been hard at work promoting her new gig as a judge on the NBC show, “The Voice.” As part of that promotion, Shakira spoke with US Weekly and weighed in with some thoughts on motherhood:
On getting her pre-baby body back: ”I mean, I guess our mothers and grandmothers weren’t under the pressure that women of today are after delivering a baby. My dad says that there’s nothing better than a little meat on the bone! He likes my mom a little chubby. So she was never under the pressure to get back to her old weight, and she never did, actually! But it’s different, I have a career, and that’s the only part that’s been a bit stressful because I knew that I’d have to come back here to do ‘The Voice’ two months after I delivered a baby. I didn’t have my four months maternity like every woman on Earth has. So I’m not trying to complain, but it’s been a process full of challenges in my life. I’m still a few pounds over! Zumba has been pretty great for me even during pregnancy. I did it almost until the end.”
Sigh. That’s a whole lot to unpack. First, I have to admit to busting out a cackling laugh at Shakira’s seemingly naive lament over not having her “four months maternity like every woman on earth has.” But then I remembered Shakira is Colombian and — oh yeah — it’s pretty much just the United States that is completely screwed up when it comes to mandated paid maternity leave. I’ve ranted about this before, but honestly, it never gets old. The U.S. is one of only four (FOUR!) other countries in the world that does not provide any sort of mandated paid maternity (or family) leave. Keep reading »
This past weekend, I spoke on two panels at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy’s reproductive rights conference. One of my panels, “Bringing Social Justice to the Family Table,” tackled how to combine an activist lifestyle with family life. Along with three other panelists/mothers, I spoke about how to foster awareness of the world around us and how to engage our children in social justice issues from an early age. We spoke about our pre-kid lives as activists and how we wove it all in when we became parents. For many on the panel, including myself, that involved work in the reproductive rights movement.
I’ve written before about how becoming a mother has only strengthened my pro-choice beliefs, and I made sure to reiterate that stance while on the panel. I think there is a fear surrounding motherhood, that the moment you pop out a baby, all other aspects of your identity cease to exist and you become solely “mommy.” While there was certainly a period of transition while I figured out how to connect this new aspect of my identity with what was already there, I eventually found ways to make it all work harmoniously together.
When my son was only a few months old, I placed him snug against my chest in a baby carrier and manned a table for Planned Parenthood during a sidewalk sale event in my town. I handed out condoms and pamphlets on birth control and STI prevention while discreetly nursing my son in his sling. I spoke with people about the best ways to schedule appointments while my gurgling baby babbled happily away. Nobody seemed to bat an eye at the fact that my son was with me as I volunteered. Keep reading »
One of the worst terms surrounding motherhood is “the Mommy Wars.” To be fair, “Mommy Porn” is a really close second (thanks, 50 Shades of Grey!), but when it comes down to it, my disdain for the Mommy Wars knows no bounds. Not only are these “wars” sexist-as-all-get-out — I mean, have you ever heard of the “Daddy Wars”? — but they’re also steeped in a hell of a lot of privilege, something that is rarely acknowledged in all the news stories, magazine covers, and internet blurbs that love to trot out the term. Keep reading »
New York City’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) has recently launched a new ad campaign aimed at teen pregnancy that has caused quite a stir — and rightfully so. The campaign employs some of the most shameful tactics I have ever seen in the name of preventing teen pregnancy. These offensive ads (pictured after the jump) feature crying babies and blaming language that the HRA hopes will turn teenagers off from becoming parents.
Much of the wording places the onus of teen parenthood directly on the mother. Only one ad talks directly to young men (focusing on how much money he’ll have to pay in support), while the rest weigh heavily on the shoulders of young women, with one specifically focusing on how it’s highly likely a teen mom will end up raising her baby alone.
Is becoming a teen parent ideal or easy? No. Nobody is saying it is. But the way to go about preventing teen pregnancy isn’t by shaming and blaming those who already are young parents. The money that was spent on this horrible (and most likely ineffective) ad campaign could have been put to better use in more widespread comprehensive sex-education programs within the city. Keep reading »
It’s no big secret that one of the many battles the feminist movement fights against is its own poor PR. Many see feminism as the other “F-word” due to stereotypes that paint feminists as mean harpies with no sense of humor who hate men, makeup, bras, and shaving their legs. Despite the majority of feminists falling way outside these parameters, there are still many people — women in particular — who write off feminism as “not for them,” without bothering to dig a little deeper and explore if that’s truly the case.
Enter: Sexy Feminism: A Girl’s Guide to Love, Success and Style by Jennifer Armstrong and Heather Wood Rudúlph. Their book, out this month, acts as a guide to help young women understand how feminism is not only great for the world, but for all aspects of their own lives as well. Keep reading »
For all intents and purposes, I had a pretty textbook pregnancy. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred, but that also didn’t mean it was all rainbows and unicorns.I’ve always wondered why they call it morning sickness, when for many people it lasts all day. At least, that’s what it was like for my when I was pregnant with my son. I’d wake up feeling nauseous and no amount of Saltines or ginger chews left by my bedside table to nibble on first thing ever helped. I felt the equivalent of sea sick all day: unbalanced, dizzy, and foggy. For the first few months, my weekends were spent in gentle yoga classes when I could afford them or lounging on my couch catching up on grading.
My weekdays were much less bearable. I taught high school social studies and I always had to be “on” and engaging, despite my roiling stomach that hardly gave me a minute’s relief. More than once I would call out a hasty plea to “please read page 44 and I’ll be right back” before booking it to the nearest bathroom and hugging the questionably clean toilet. But “morning” sickness was only the tip of the iceberg. I also had to deal with sweaty teenage boys who thought cologne was an acceptable coverup for post-gym stink (it’s not), as well as whatever horribly pungent odors wafted up from the cafeteria. Keep reading »