Friday, July 5, 2013

Gun Rights v. Abortion Rights

As I fight for abortion rights and reproductive justice for all women, I  think about the slippery slope.  You know – that slippery slope that we slide down when restrictions made on access to contraception lead to restrictions on abortion?  I can see the very same restrictions being made on assault rifles seeming like a slippery slope to all guns.

Don't mistake that statement as support for gun rights. I do not like guns. I am not a member of the NRA. However,  I do believe that the Constitution is the basis of our democracy and needs to be interpreted to serve the needs of ALL its citizens. I have very mixed feelings about these laws, their opponents and proponents.   I haven’t yet formed a staunch opinion about potential legislation, mostly because I cannot reconcile the parallel to the rights that I hold dear.

I do feel strongly that guns that are “military grade” and/or “automatic” are not used for hunting, or really even sporting.  Who needs to use these deadly weapons for target practice? Who claims this as a hobby?  Ex-military?  Cops? Militia Members? Grandpas and Grandmas?  Would we be comprising their way of life by denying their rights to these weapons?  Probably not.  Are those people scared that we’ll come after their other shot guns, handguns, high powered rifles, etc.?  Probably. 

I understand the slippery slope better than most. I have watched my rights to abortion and contraception deteriorate over the past 10 years. Many states have passed laws requiring waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, limits to abortions past 20 weeks, pharmacists allowed to deny women their prescription birth control or over-the-counter morning after pill on religious grounds.  In recent weeks, social media helped propel Wendy Davis into the reproductive justice spotlight with her awesome filibustering in the Texas State Senate of SB5 (links you to the actual bill). She was fighting against a law that would require clinics that provide abortions to upgrade to ambulatory centers AND require those doctors to have privileges at hospitals within a 30 miles range. All in the name of women's health.

To many people, this seems like a perfectly good argument.  It's just to help women's health, right?  WRONG! It essentially will shut down what few clinic exist because 1) they don't have the funds to upgrade (an entirely separate issue related to lack of funding for women's health due to spending cuts), and 2) in many rural areas there are no hospitals within 30 miles.  Shutting down these facilities will stop abortions and it will also stop the prenatal, gynecological and breast exams that women receive at these facilities   They don't just go there for abortions, they go there for STD testing, to refill their birth control prescriptions, for pap smears to prevent cervical cancer, to receive prenatal vitamins, and a myriad of other health services. All at reduced cost because many are without insurance. Where will they go now? How will their health suffer?  If pro-life advocates generate laws that chip away at abortion rights, we will either end up in a situation where the Supreme Court has the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade, or they will diminish abortion rights until there is nothing left of Roe v. Wade. 
  
We'll keep fighting these battles for eternity, it seems.  The battle over gun rights seems to be in a similar situation.  I hope both sides of these issues can have honest and open discussions about true intentions, actual risks, and potential casualties.

someecards.com - Birth control pills should really be made for men. It makes more sense to unload a gun than to shoot a bulletproof vest. DBSN

Monday, June 24, 2013

Are fathers reading mommy blogs?

I rely on "Mommy Blogs" to uplift me when I'm feeling like a crappy mom, enlighten me to the struggles of other parents, and invite me into a community when I'm feeling alone. They're hilarious, touching, and most importantly, honest.

These blogs hold valuable insight into motherhood for mothers AND fathers. Unfortunately,  men are not typically the target market. I am not suggesting that mommy bloggers change their approach to entice male readers. On the contrary, women-only spaces are crucial for sharing and mentoring among women which leads to empowerment. The raw nature of the messages in these blogs needs to be preserved.  It also needs to be shared with men, especially fathers.

I read a blog post by Rage Against The Minivan that closely mirrored my stress over keeping up with holidays. I am creative by nature and love to share my talents, but I just can't be "homemade" all the time.  Trivial stuff, I know, but it was undermining my confidence to be a "good mom". It occurred to me that my husband probably never thought about this stuff. He wasn't feeling pressure from other dads to get creative birthday party ideas from Pinterest or make Hallmark quality Valentine's Day cards for my son's preschool class. That blog post empowered me to reject that pressure I was feeling.

I wanted to tell my husband about it all, but feared that it would sound silly to him...which, on the surface it does.  However, my emotions were NOT silly. As my partner in parenting, I needed his understanding and support.  I emailed him the link and he read it. He saw why his relatively practical wife was stressing about cooking and crafts.  Now when he catches me trying to do too much, he'll say, "you know, you don't HAVE to do that", and he is right. I need that external voice of reason.  It forces me to stop and question my motivation. Sometimes I keeping working because I'm having fun on a project, but sometimes I put down the glue gun, frosting, or needle & thread and go to bed instead.

I invited my husband to share in that safe space typically reserved for us awesomely flawed mamas. He engaged and learned something new about what it feels like to be me. I hope the readers of mommy blogs who are touched by their messages will share them with other mothers and fathers. They need to be engaged in this hilarious and honest portrait of motherhood. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Courageous

“We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” Gloria Steinem


Patience.  Endless patience. Everyone tells you before you have children that you'll need to learn patience.  I worried I would not acquire patience quickly enough.  It took about 3 1/2 years of being a parent to find a level of patience that allowed everyone in my house to find calm.... most days.

Courage. This took me by surprise. I didn't realize how much courage it would take to be a parent. I find myself struggling with this idea even more so than patience.

Having lunch with a friend we discussed gender norms among children and, specifically, how to teach daughters to hold onto the self esteem when there are so many imposing messages trying to strip it away.  Obviously, I have no daughters to teach this to, but I don't take lightly my position as mother of two boys. Hence the Gloria Steinem quote above.   I first heard that quote in college and it has never left me.

The strengthening of women in the fight for equality has produced an unnecessary burden on women to be more like men, while still being just as feminine. You must be super-mom, super-wife  super-CEO, super-entrepreneur , oh, and super-skinny too. Every time I hear "Girl Power" I cringe.  Does it ever feel like we're trying to emulate the gender that created all this oppression in the first place?  I want all girls and women to be strong - emotionally, politically, professionally, physically - but I just as desperately want boys and men to be vulnerable, sensitive, empathetic, caring, compassionate, selfless, and nurturing. How else are we going to truly stop oppression, violence against women, and discrimination? I want gender freedom. Not blurred lines, and unisex bathrooms. I want boys to become nurses without be called a "Male Nurse" and women to be CEOs without being called a "Woman CEO".  I want little girls to be girl scouts who build robots and boys to take classes to be babysitters - and I want all of this without any stigma attached. I want it to just be normal. I want people praised for being exceptional human beings based on achievements and contributions, not in spite of or because of their gender. While this goes way beyond parenting, that seems like a good place to start.

My wish for all parents: 
Find time to stop and ask yourself,  am I teaching my children how to "be a man" or to "be a woman" - if the answer is "yes" - stop.  Then, find the courage to just teach them how to be human beings.

This song says it much better than I do...



Monday, April 22, 2013

Coloring Outside the Lines

Coloring with Jonah in his Star Wars book this week I told him, "you're doing a great job coloring inside the lines". His response? "But I don't have to color inside the lines, right?" I quickly responded, "No, you don't have to." As I watched him I thought more about his question...

Boba Fett was sporting chartreuse and purple, the latter is his favorite color. Before I blurted out what color Boba Fett should be, I stopped and thought, why would I do that? Chartreuse and purple are way more interesting, albeit NOT historically accurate. Maybe I want him to imagine a world where animals and robots and flowers can be any color he dreams up.

Does it really matter if he is coloring inside the lines with the appropriate colors? Does it prove that his fine motor skills are advancing at an age-appropriate pace? Does it mean that he knows the "right" colors? Does it show that he can follow instructions? Does it mean he is just like every other (almost) 4 year old? What if I don't want him to be like every other 4 year old? What if I want him to believe that you can color a picture however you want? It's art, after all. If I start policing his creativity on this basic level, then what am I teaching him?

This brief moment in time left me questioning .... a lot of things. How do creativity and individuality take shape in humans and how do they get squashed? Mostly, I worry if I'm parent enough to give my child the confidence he needs to stay true to himself. I don't think its a stretch to go from "coloring" to life-long independent thinking. Okay, maybe it is. But I can't think of anything more important. It defines values, political/religious beliefs, relationships, and career choices.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mommy Guilt - FB Style

Every day on Facebook I am witness to tons of moms who display their child's milestones and activates through status updates. I, too, am one of those people. However, I have given myself rules:

1) No posts about potty-training, diapers, vomit or any other bodily fluids (exception: when it is something hilarious to even those readers WITHOUT children) 2) No posts about daily errand-running and food preparation 3) Do post about funny things the kids say - but they actually have to BE funny, not just cute or silly 4) Do post photos of kids doing any and everything that will make someone else smile

These rules obviously come from my own annoyances towards other FB moms. Of course, I want to exclaim from the rooftops when my child slept through the night without peeing the bed - and by rooftops, I mean my computer screen. Alas, I refrain because frankly, no one really cares except my mother, and I can just text her that information.

I also noticed another theme among mothers on FB - the "Photo-Op" obsessed. The mom who photographs her children doing anything that is photo-worthy - picking pumpkins, going to a Christmas tree lighting, going to a petting zoo, hunting for Easter eggs, going to the aquarium, sitting on Santa's lap. (I digress, but can we just talk about this Santa thing? Why do we feel the need to terrify babies and then take a photo and then laugh about it? It really is asinine. Funny, but uncalled for.) Yes, part of me is jealous of the parents who manage to organize and execute these elaborate day trips with toddlers and infants and then glorify their success on FB. At Halloween this year, I found myself wanting the photo more than the experience. I was falling victim to having that 'captured in time' moment with the kids wandering through a pumpkin patch, sipping cider and enjoying fall. What I got were crabby kids, fighting over how many pumpkins we could have and just trying to get out of there before a nuclear meltdown. I couldn't even fake the photo - the REAL experience was captured on film. Why was I disappointed? Was it the feeling that I'd failed to make this a memorable experience for my kids? Or that I couldn't display a photo on FB to show, "Hey, look at my beautiful family and well behaved boys who are enjoying the fall like I always dreamed we would!" Have I become that middle-class, white, suburban mom, who is trying to look the part?

I have an infant and a toddler who won't remember 90% of the places I take them or the things they see right now. So what is my real motivation? To look like a "good mom". WTF have I become?

On the weekends when we don't have "plans" and are merely running a few errands, cleaning house and lounging around, I have a tendency to think, "Maybe we should have planned something - a trip to the arboretum? A bike ride through the forest preserve? A play date with friends? Feeling guilty that I'm not nourishing my children through planned extracurricular activities.

Then it hit me. On Saturday morning, I woke up early with the kids and before I had to take Jonah to gymnastics we had about 2 hours of pajama time - just hanging around the house in our jammies, eating breakfast and playing. I sat on the floor with my boys in the living room and we played ninjas, raced matchbox cars, tickled Elijah til he nearly puked, talked about silly stuff (leprechauns, kitties and Santa) and I realized that THESE are the moments that make up my memories as a child. These are the moments when you know how deeply your parents care for you, love you and want you to be happy. These are the moments where we connect, share, and learn about each other's sense of humor, creativity, and imagination. There was no photo-op.

For the first time, maybe since becoming a mom, I felt at ease. I will make time for field trips and holiday happenings when it enriches my children and when we all can enjoy it, and not because I need to display it on FB to prove my momminess.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

wow - 2 months since I last blogged? yikes. no excuses. here goes. Updates on the kids will come soon, but I have something on my mind and I need to get it out. I have recently seen two movies that really make you think about the course your life has taken and where you would be if you'd made different decisions. The first is The Adjustment Bureau and the second is The Family Man. If you haven't seen them, you need to. Fate, free-will, the two intersecting.... you get the idea. I often look around the family room in the evening before bed and see Jason on the couch, watch Elijah on the monitor, and see Jonah's toys strewn around the floor only to wonder... how did I get here? When did I get off of the feminist-activist-taking-the-world-by-storm wagon and onto the mommy-track? I never had a specific plan for what my life would look like, but it roughly involved independence, an apartment, an Executive Director position at some non-profit, maybe in D.C. I repeat the story (probably too often) about how I didn't want to get married or have children. Which is true, BUT falling in love changes everything.... and I fell hard. I got here because on August 23, 2003 I chose to go to a party where I met Jason Meslin. From that moment on, I realized that I wasn't in control - this was a difficult concept for me to grasp. I learned that a higher power, a greater being was putting things in my path and allowing me to make the ultimate decisions. I distinctly remember the day I met Jason, the day fell in love with him, the day I knew I wanted to marry him, the day we decided to move to New Jersey, the day we decided to have a baby, the day we decided to have another baby, and the day we decided to move to Naperville. I don't regret a single decision, in fact I cherish each one. The "how did I get here" question isn't about regrets or wondering "what if" but rather, it is about being awestruck by the course my life has taken and how happy I am, right where I am. I get to wake up next to the man I love, in a beautiful home, with two healthy, happy, handsome sons.

5 months & almost 3!

Elijah turned 5 months on March 13th! He is such a happy little man in spite of his current condition - We have been struggling for about 2 months with his horrible eczema. His little elbow, the crooks of his legs, his face, scaplp - pretty much everything but his torso and cute little butt was affected. Worst of all, he wakes up every hour or so during the night due to the itchiness, then he scratches until his skin was raw. It seemed like there was no relief. After trying every over-the-counter remedy (Aquaphor worked the best - but we needed to apply it nearly 5 times a day just to keep it under control), reading every mommy-blog/website I could find, we resorted to calling the dermatologist and getting a perscription for heavy-duty hydrocortizone cream. Within one application he starting looking better. After 4 days, it is almost all gone. He is waking less at night and not scratching nearly as much. He is even HAPPIER now - barely fussing and napping better too.

He plays a game with me nearly every night at dinner. We eat at the table while he bounces away in his bouncer on the floor next to me. He pretends to get fussy then I look over at him and make a silly face and he giggles hysterically. Then I go back to eating and he pretends to fuss again and we repeat this routine throughout dinner. He just loves his mama!!

Jonah-mo is quickly approaching his 3rd birthday (May 13th) and has become such a little boy. I don't see him as a toddler anymore, which makes me more proud than sad. He has his own ideas and thoughts, he can dress himself, he is doing great with his potty-training (thanks to Nana), and is now registered for pre-school this fall and 2 summer camps - soccer & golf.

I look at him sometimes and can't believe he is my child. When I look in the mirror, I still don't see a mom and a child. I see myself, with a child. Weird, I know. I'm not sure when, or if, that will ever change.