Archives for category: Discussions

Last week when I read about the comments to female Bernie Sanders supporters by Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton, I was surprised that their message was one of judgment and derision. I always thought that feminists tend to raise women up, not tear them down. Right? I initially shrugged both of them off as bitter and out of touch. I read an article today about Adele’s Vogue cover photo, prominently displaying a tattoo of her son’s name, and how she touts motherhood in ways that other famous women have not been able to get away with. I believe the author of that article suggested that perhaps she is not a feminist if her family has higher priority than her art. Really? So, naturally this got me thinking. Am I a feminist? Can someone like me be a housewife and a feminist? This is not a new question. I have struggled with this personally over the past 5 years, as have many others. I have always considered myself to be a feminist, I believe in equal opportunities for women, and yet I gave up my career to stay home and raise my children. When I first decided to stay home, I was deeply conflicted about living on someone else’s merits. I always considered myself to be an equal partner, but once I gave up my earning power, I felt inferior in my relationship. I put that pressure on myself, this was not coming from my husband. Feminism is about achieving equal status as men in work, in politics, and in life. Feminism is deeply rooted in the notion that procreation is not the end-all for women. I understand what the movement was rejecting, but now that I somewhat embody those rejections, I have to say that I don’t think I am a feminist.  And I’m ok with that. However, I still believe in the basis of feminist principles and I’ve modified them according to my situation.  I don’t know if there is a word for this yet, I’m sure it’s somewhere in the post-feminist movement, but there has to be a place for women like me, women who elect to put others first and are equally contributing to society. I really do wonder if the movement is dead. It’s fascinating to me, that at a time when biologically I am the most feminine that I have ever been in my entire life, having given birth, that I feel the least feminist. Is that really the intention behind this movement? I guess I always saw feminism as advocating for myself, and making elbow room for my career, and not being willing to compromise. I never extended those principles into motherhood. Is it even possible? These days,  I have taken on a more holistic and conciliatory approach to my life and family in that everyone plays a unique role, and yes, sometimes it is gender normative, yet we are all equal and appreciated. I still advocate for myself, but the difference now is that my career is not in the public sphere. I know, a big feminist no-no.

When did I make this switch? I’m really not sure. When I first became a mother, it was a jarring transition: physically, emotionally, and in my marriage. Up until that point, my husband and I shared the load, and I had every intention of continuing that equality into our growing family. Something changed though. Carrying a baby in the womb and giving birth is a completely female experience, there is no equivalent for men.  That experience was my first clue that the balance of power shifts sometimes and it’s not something to fear, but rather embrace. It is not and cannot always be equal. And that’s ok. If anything, having a baby was the first time, that as a woman, I felt superior to men. Yup, superior. That is a pretty awesome feeling.

So where does this leave me? I’m not sure. I feel women should have equal say and equal compensation and equal rights, but also that we should be open to different interpretations of what it is to be a strong woman. I don’t feel like I am a subordinate for making the choice to put my family first. In fact, I feel the opposite. I find empowerment in bringing happiness, love, and order to my household. While I am home, I have also helped other working women by caring for their children, and I feel that I am helping them achieve their highest potential. I’ve elected to take on these roles because I thoroughly enjoy them, not because I was told that I should enjoy them. What would Madeleine or Gloria say about that?!

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Read this.

The author touches on many topics like pandering and invisibility and white privilege and motherhood, but to me, her take on sexism so clearly articulated what I had experienced in my short time blogging, that even as someone who is keen on it’s presence, I needed to be reminded that it was there.

When I started blogging earlier this year, I decided that I would write about topics that are important to me, as my creative outlet, and to keep my writing skills fresh. I guess I never thought much more into it, about who my audience is and how it will be received. Early on, I would ask my husband to edit them, because I was self-conscious of my grammar. On at least one occassion, he would offer an opinion or praise and sometimes I would go back and edit based on his feedback. But, I quickly didn’t like going down that road, so the next few times I needed editing help, I would ask him just to check grammar and keep his opinions to himself. Ha! (He didnt take any offense to this and is incredibly supportive of me). What I was doing, without realizing it, is what I was trained to do my whole life, was getting permission/approval/praise/whatever you want to call it from someone other than myself, because as a woman, I don’t/shouldn’t have total control over my body, mind, or spirit. Needless to say, I won’t be doing that anymore because 1)I want to be true to myself and 2) I want to see what it feels like to write like a man. Well, sort of. That’s my goal. I still heavily censor myself because of my own insecurities about offending people, but I’m working on it.

Now, I don’t consider myself a writer, because I didn’t study it in college, but I do enjoy it very much. While most of the feedback from my blog has been positive, I did have 2 digs: that I complain too much (not even sure this person read my blog) and that it’s just another mommy blog, which is offensive to me because we don’t call men’s blogs ‘daddy blogs.’ Care to guess their genders? Men. But I digress. Don’t get me wrong, I get feedback positive and negative on individual posts, almost exclusively by women. My point is that I think I was subjected to criticism of the overall integrity of my blog by men, because I wasn’t pandering to a male audience. My posts are either not interesting or irrelevant to them, so the only response they had was to ‘put me in my place.’ I hadn’t made the connection at the time, but reading this article solidified it for me.

So naturally, I am going to keep writing what I want, when I want. And from now on, I’ll be more aware when my gender intersects with my writing. Thanks, Claire Vaye Watkins, I enjoyed your piece.

What did you take away from the article?

This past weekend my father stayed at my house while he was in town visiting. For those who know me well, this is an odd scenario, because I sadly didn’t have a relationship with my dad for the better part of my twenties. I don’t know if it was a byproduct of being a kid of divorced parents who witnessed ugly exchanges between adults or plain old immaturity, but I dismissed him from my life and judged him very harshly, and now I see that it was unfair of me to do that.

At some point, probably around the time I was ready to start my own family, I decided that I wanted to let go of the baggage/drama and set a good example for my children so they could have a relationship with their grandfather. If I had to pinpoint what about our relationship I was hung up on, it was that I had unrealistic expectations of what our relationship should be like, particularly as an adult. As a child, you are essentially dependent on your parents for everything: food, safety, shelter, emotional stability, etc. Everything. As a teen, you are less and less dependent on them, but they still have a huge amount of influence in your life. Up until this point, you have little input into the relationship, you see them as belonging to you, and you have little accountability for your actions. You can kick and scream and act like the child you are and your parents excuse most of it because of your age. Once you are living on your own, you have to calibrate to a new normal of being independent, which includes being responsible for your actions and words, recognizing your place in the world and reflecting back on how you got there, and defining this new relationship with your parents as equals. It took me quite some time to get there.

Having an adult relationship with your parents is just as much your responsibility as it is theirs. Yes, it’s true, there will be a point in your life when you don’t *need* your parents anymore, and you can set out on a 10 year experiment to prove that to yourself, like I did, but it’s a waste of time. What I learned and I hope my children learn too, is that when it gets hard to navigate those waters, you can’t give up. On the other side of that transition is when you learn to see your parents as the world sees them, in all their glory and imperfections. And it is beautiful. Being your parent is just one aspect of their being. They are so much more than that. It’s a magical discovery of life that nobody ever told me about. I hope my children get to experience that as well. I want them to see me as I am to the world, who just happens to be their parent. I very much look forward to that.

As I was walking by the baby’s nursery on my way to putting my soon-to-be-middle child down for his nap, I realized how different this pregnancy has been compared to the others. I am 33 weeks along and the nursery is mid-renovation, nothing has been washed (clothes, bedding, etc), and I have yet to buy one new item for this child. Not a one. My former, 1st pregnancy self, would be horrified. Yet, I am not the least bit worried. It feels kind of nice actually to not stress about being “ready.” I thought it might be a fun exercise to write up my list of worries in each of the pregnancies.

During my first pregnancy, I worried about (in no particular order):
Having the best baby gear
Having the nursery ready one month in advance
Sending timely thank you notes for each baby shower gift
Reading all there is to know about pregnancy, parenting, and infants
Getting hurt or eating something that would jeopardize the pregnancy
Am I going to make it to the hospital on time
Are they going to make me have a cesarean section
Will I have a safe delivery
Will my baby have a secure latch during breastfeeding
Will my dogs accept the new baby

During my second pregnancy, I worried about (again, in no order):
My first child’s reaction to the baby
Will the children have compatible personalities
Who will watch my first born while I am in the hospital
If I will be able to get a hold of my husband at work (he had no cell reception) to take me to the hospital
When will I sleep
Will I have enough love, time and energy for both children
How will I handle both children in public when the baby starts walking
Getting through another year of bickering with my husband about who does what chore
Is my freezer plenty stocked

During my third and final pregnancy, my only worry is:
Will I ever leave the house

haha. My have I changed. Or maybe I just don’t have the time to worry that I used to have. Either way, it makes life a lot less stressful.

I’d love to hear from others. Have you had a similar experience?

My husband’s company just announced a generous maternity/paternity leave policy and I couldn’t be happier with the news. While I think everyone understands the need for a mother to be home with the baby: bonding, recovering from childbirth, nursing, childcare; to some people it is less obvious why a father should have a leave policy, too. (I’m just speaking in terms of a heterosexual couple here, same sex couples have their own leave policy/childcare challenges.)

During the first few weeks after giving birth, my husband did everything I usually do plus his own responsibilities: taking care of older children, taking care of me, preparing meals, cleaning, dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, running errands, managing the household (visitors, bills, doctor appointments, pets, lawn care), filling in for me while I napped, etc, etc, etc. Did I forget to mention he had to hold down a job on top of all of this? I’m not even mentioning the lack of sleep. Let’s just say there is no time for sleep.

In the 17 years my husband and I have been together, I can honestly say that the most stressed out and ragged I have ever seen him was in the first year of both of our children being born. He would say the same about me. Those years were coincidentally low points of our relationship, there just wasn’t enough in the tank to take care of each other’s needs. Normally our priorities are: our relationship, then kids, and then work. During the first year of their births, it was: kids, then work, and then us. Not good for any relationship. At this point with baby 3 on the way, we have a mutual understanding that we just need to get through the first year and then reprioritize. The new paternity leave policy doesn’t change the order of priorities, but it will give both of us more time to focus on our relationship and make that first year a little more bearable. It will make him a better employee because he will be less stressed at home. He’ll also be more alert at work and mentally stable. And he will not be as distracted or feel guilty about not being present in the baby’s life as much as he would like to be. Win, win. Hopefully that is the company’s reasoning for extending the policy. It is a tremendous gift to have more time to be together as a family. I sincerely hope this is the start of a new workplace trend for everyone.

I read this article yesterday about staying relevant in retirement, which has some great tips for anyone really. The main point is to do what you can to stay healthy and connected. It got me thinking of how it also applies to stay-at-home parents, who are also transitioning out of a work environment and are desperately avoiding being overlooked. There is one major difference between the two groups: retirees have the benefit of more time in their day. Since I haven’t found many articles pertaining to relevance for full-time parents, I decided to come up with my own list.

  • Stay Sharp. Read, write, create, make time for your hobby, exercise, eat healthy, learn a language, take a class. The key to this point is that you want to maintain your identity outside that of your role as a parent. Find something that inspires you. It keeps you interesting. Your friends, family, and partner will appreciate that you have more to talk about than the everyday minutiae of raising a family.
  • Stay Sexy. You probably never thought you’d see the day, but it happens to the best of us. When you are suffering from exhaustion, you rationalize that sleep is more important than sex. But, you clearly aren’t thinking straight. You’ll never feel caught up on sleep. Make time for intimacy. Plan a date night. Don’t let the dry spells turn into the norm. For the health of your relationship, sex needs to be a priority.
  • Stay Positive. Keep the complaints to a minimum. Your job is thankless, non-paying, never-ending. I, and many others, can sympathize. But, nobody wants to hear it all the time. Find the silver lining and focus on THAT instead. If for no other reason, there are young, impressionable minds watching how you deal with life. Model positive behavior.

If you want to maintain healthy relationships and feel connected to others, especially your partner, implement all of these things into your routine. I know that the reality for most full-time parents is that your personal well-being is lowest on the totem pole, but I assure you that everyone in your family will benefit when you are in a healthy place. Find the time. This is how you stay relevant.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you currently do these things? Is there anything you would add to the list?

There are so many emotions I went through once I decided to be a full-time caregiver: joy and elation about witnessing my child’s every milestone, joy and elation about not having to drag myself back to the office, and on and on and on. It seemed only happy emotions early on. I am totally embarrassed to admit that I thought it was going to be easier to stay home than to be at the office, and that I’d be able to have time for myself throughout the day. Boy, that was a steep and painful learning curve.

So, after the sleep deprivation and reality kicked in, I started to feel fear that I was making the right decision, fear about cutting back our spending enough to keep us afloat, and fear that I would have a career to go back to once the little ones were off to school. After working in an office environment, I hadn’t realized how accustomed I had become to being given direction and praise from my managers. As a stay-at-home parent there are no managers, deadlines, annual reviews. Nothing. There is no road map. You are suddenly the expert on your child and family, and if you are like I was, you had no idea what you were doing and if you were doing it right. Once I started to think of being home as my job and giving myself goals and deadlines, I felt much better about things. To this day, I like to think I am sharpening my management skills. I even ask my husband/parenting partner for feedback on my ‘performance’ because, for me, it is a way to stay accountable and also stay open to receiving criticism.

If you’re wondering why I say ‘I’m Sorry’ in the title, it’s because once you make that transition to full-time parent, you lose a huge amount of respect from the professional world and in a way you become invisible. I struggled with it immensely at first. My identity was tied to my work. That was all I knew. Once I didn’t have work, I tied my identity to my daughter, but that was not sustainable. It has been a few years now, but I’ve learned the difference between the roles in my life and my identity, and I keep them separate. But nonetheless, I am sorry that our society does not value the role of the stay-at-home parent and that you are suddenly uninteresting because you don’t work outside the home. I don’t let it bother me anymore. I know I am working my ass off. I know I am still interesting. And most importantly, I know my family and friends value me.

What is/was your biggest learning as a new stay-at-home parent?