Miranda Kerr breastfeeding

Supermodel mum told to “put ’em away” – unless she’s showing them to straight grownup males, natch.

Miranda Kerr breastfeeding

On Wednesday Miranda Kerr, Australian model, fashion worker, and partner to actor Orlando Bloom, announced a painkiller-free birth to their new son Flynn and included an at-home photo of her breastfeeding the delightfully-snuggly newborn.

I don’t know this family, but this brief piece was a ray of sunshine in my day. I believe such unselfconscious and straightforward announcements by celebrities in support of birth advocacy and breastfeeding – as well as lovely candid photographs like this – do a great deal to help the many “regular mums” (and dads) at home watching. Anyone who’s made a study of breastfeeding rates knows that family and cultural support – or the lack thereof – is a critical factor in how our babies end up being fed. In the US, a country with dismal breastfeeding rates (and a concomitant endemic lack of support for the practice), pioneering celebrity families can empower otherwise uncertain newbies. This theory is supported by impassioned activists representing populations with even lower rates than the sum population, such as teen mothers and African American mothers.

I also know breastfeeding, with its oft-innate demonstrable power and its female- and child-positive associations, is extremely threatening to many men and women. Images of breastfeeding and discussion of breastfeeding rights are roundly mocked by all quarters including, sadly, many prominent feminists (such as Erica Jong’s recent piece lumping breastfeeding as being part and parcel with modern motherhood’s “prison”, hinting that required breastfeeding may be imminent and other foolishness. Memo to Jong: don’t get it twisted. It’s kyriarchal standards and cultural institutions that “imprison” women, carers, and small children).

Thus, of course, there were many critics responding to Kerr’s photo (which of course, transcending irony to the nth degree, shows so very much less flesh than the Victoria’s Secret work she’s done). Australian health advocate Dr. Samantha Thomas’ post on the responses to Kerr’s photo reveal some of the less uncivil (but still profoundly wrongheaded) commentary. Included are body shaming (yeah, I know – directed at a supermodel), accusations of vulgarity and inappropriateness, and slut-shaming (you can see more examples of misogynistic commentary here). Bizarrely, some commenters criticized Kerr for wearing makeup in the photo while the Daily Mail piece claims she’s wearing none.

I was very fortunate to raise my newborns in a breastfeeding-friendly culture (in fact, sadly, many of the women I knew at the time did not seem to realize how counterproductive and cruel anti-formula-feeding language can be). But when I see negative responses to Kerr I have that oppressive tingle: a near miss. Had my circumstances been different, stories like Kerr’s and responses to them could have had a tremendous effect. As it stood, I had fewer barriers than many when it came to breastfeeding. My body cooperated with me, the babies did well, my practitioners supported us, my family could feed ourselves on my one income which in turn meant I had a partner who was able to do what it took to make things happen (I was a chemical engineer at a paper mill – my husband Ralph brought me our newborn twice a day), and the children and I enjoyed the process. Other families aren’t so fortunate, and many women need more help and more cultural sustenance – including the emphatic support of the public that yes, they have a right to feed their child the way they choose. At least in the US, we are failing miserably in that regard.

So today I’d like to extend, for what it’s worth, my deep appreciation to Kerr and her partner for being brave enough to go public with something they have every reason to celebrate. As one mother to another, I hope she finds friends and supporters to help her and her partner in their new journey.

It looks like things are getting off to a beautiful start.

 
***

Originally published for “SQUAT! Birth Journal” in 2011.

writings (rantings?)

I recently read another whimsical account of the (theoretical) housewife who has no life of her own and who’s all sad and despondent and a hollow shell of a person once her kids move out. Today a Yahoo group conversation touches on the same topic. Have I mentioned how much I am sooooooo sick of hearing this trotted out over and over?

Would you like to read about four-hundred-thousand words of mine on the subject?

h/t to Arwyn for assistance. It’s not easy to write an “in defense of anything I’m doing while a laydee and parent” post these days when so very, very many women are still being constantly pressured to A. breed, and B. do everything right with said breedlets no matter what! and C. there’s actually a guaranteed mathmatical formula where you CAN’T do everything right!

from one meat-eating liberal to another

To Steven Budiansky, in response to his piece “Math Lessons for Locavores” published in the NYT August 19, 2010:

I just read your article “Math Lessons for Locavores” in the NYT. I hope you can take the time to read and respond to my email.

I am not sophisticated in the ethical food movement and I live in semi-rural Pacific Northwest where we have local, amazing farms (we are currently eating from Helsing Junction Farms, an organic CSA). So my thoughts on the locavore movement are thus informed.

Thank you for your article – especially your observances on the energy consumption of driving and household operations and the perspective such observances afford. I liked the points you make in your article and the fact you seem to be dispelling the “do-gooder” nature of the locavore movement. Do-gooder does no good in my opinion as it tends to ignore those who are not privileged to make such holy choices. The hothouse-tomato math was also a good point.

However there were some points you seemed to omit entirely and I was wondering why you’d make such omissions. For instance, most locavores I personally know advocate eating seasonally, which means they wouldn’t be (in theory) consuming tomatoes when tomatoes aren’t in season (or they’d be eating preserved ones). The famed authors of The 100 Mile Diet were not eating hothouse foods if I remember, but rather seasonally with visits to farms and employing preservation methods.

Do you not think this is a rather powerful tool for knowing what one’s area grows while supporting small, local, ethical and family-run practices over heavily subsidized agribusiness? To read your article you seem to find agribusiness a glowing institution of virtue. Have you watched many documentaries on the practices therein, taken a cursory study of the Farm Bill and its effects, or explored many of health effects of our processed food diet including the saturation of HFCS? I am not accusing you of ignorance on these issues. But if you have explored them I’m wondering how those considerations might be incorporated into your worldview.

A little personal anecdote. We’ve been instrumental in bringing the abovementioned CSA here to our town. My husband brought the movie Food, Inc. to our area with no small effort on his part (the next-closest place you could find it was in Seattle which is what passes for the Big City here in Washington). Through our efforts and our friends’ and family support the organic farm fifty miles away now has enough customers in Hoquiam we warrant our own drop-station. Local residents are participating in this locally- and organically-produced food, supporting a family business and ethical practices (including the farm’s workers), eating well, finding connection with their food, and supporting the charity efforts of the farm. You can actually take your children to the place their food is grown and you can help harvest (and we have done). If see immense value in all of this, and more I could list besides.

If we locals had just eaten peppers wherever “someone else” decides peppers should come from we would miss all of these opportunities.

I am not an ethical food fanatic as you might understand such. Those in this movement often shame, disparage, and offer little assistance to those in less privileged socioeconomic spheres (I also get tired of all the obesity concern-trolling too). However the ethical food movement’s tenets have already transformed the world around us and have the power to do even more good. “Math lessons” seemed to come off a bit condescending, even if I completely appreciate those (like yourself) who take to task adherents who are spending more time crowing their superiority than thinking critically about their choices and our institutions (the number of which I think you may exaggerate – most I know who have food ethics issues are genuinely trying to do the right thing for themselves and their world).

I truly hope you take the time to write back. It is not my intent to proselytize (and I’d like to believe it wasn’t yours either). I would like to reach a greater understanding, especially since you’ve written a high-publicity refutation of a movement I find a lot of value in.

Kelly

re-posting is cheating, but still

This article from Jeff Sabo is a beauty: “I’ve Walked Many Miles In Your Shoes”. Excerpts:

” …I did not just simply read about unschooling and connected parenting one day and suddenly become blindly evangelical about it. I read about it, considered it, discussed it, observed it, tried it, cried about it, had ups and downs, learned more, committed to it, and tried again. I approached the small educational pieces first, then the whole life pieces such as TV and bedtimes. I spent weeks, months, and years agonizing about whether or not I was doing the right thing. I gave my ear to the naysayers of my choice as well as the supporters. Living this way was a careful, deliberate decision made after a substantial amount of reflection, study, and trial.

“However, I do try to keep in mind that my approach to parenting is ‘radical’ when compared to what the vast majority of parents in our society believe. Like the people that I have fired in my career, I have had many years to be at peace with my decision, while they have simply read a few snippets over a few days. Is it any wonder that they disagree and think I’ve lost it? Is it any wonder that they feel the need to educate me on how very wrong I am?

“[…] Somewhat less palatable are the emails and comments I periodically receive that seem to want to ‘teach’ me about why my viewpoints are wrong. These notes would hold much greater weight if the sender had devoted as much time to considering the philosophies behind my views as I had, or even if they had indicated a willingness to learn about them.”

And… it just goes on and on with awesomeness. The whole piece is great.

there are no apt words. yet i must write some. so:

My niggling Achilles heel in our whole lifestyle, this stay-at-home-bit that turned into homeschooling and life with kids – for years now, has been comparing our life to other people’s lives. Specifically, the two-income earning nuclear families, surrounding us (literally) on all sides – when children get school-age, most everyone in my peer group follows this path. Non-junker cars and home ownership and shoes bought new (not from Thrift City and sorry about the athletes’ foot Ralph – that is not a joke by the way) and sometimes big screen televisions and smart phones and camp and karate lessons and soccer camps and vacations.

Don’t get me wrong. My kids are incredibly fortunate and my family operates from a privileged place in many ways. My children have the things they need: love, shelter, clothes, food, companionship, support, friends, family, and medical care. Our decision to prioritize time with them over additional work-for-pay has been, although against the herd and therefore occasionally very difficult for me, reified with clarity and a lot of unity between Ralph and I (this is a wonderful thing about our partnership).  We struggle like most people do, sometimes questioning ourselves or second-guessing our strategies, often laughing at the ridiculousness of our self-imposed scenarios and taking much joy in the sublime things that have come our way whether we tried to plan for them or not. Our choices have been made with our heart, mind, gut – all of our integrity, as best we can.

It still stings though, just the idea of school supplies, and please hear me out before you roll your eyes. I know having the kids out of school is the right thing for us. I still feel that twinge though, the smell of erasers and notebooks and stacks of construction paper and the field trips and – basically – the state subsidization of kid-care when I often, like most parents, worry I’m not supporting my kids enough. Yes, my children have access to books and art supplies (library and grift, resp.) and they have the ultimate freedom and I am always ready to pick up and take them where they need to go to do what they want to do within my abilities (today, a bike ride to the pet store with $20 in our pocket; we did not come home with a pet but my daughter got to do some math on the subject and I’m sure she’ll get back to me with a Plan).  They have things very good but I have, when glancing about at others’ seemingly more vast opportunities (one shouldn’t do this, by the way), felt a sting that I am not a Provider (like I felt back when I had my Big Important Engineering Job) – merely and primarily a Nurturer. It hasn’t always felt like enough – even when I’m assured and reassured it is (or should be).

So in our time together as a family I’ve accepted our choices and focused on the good things in life and it’s gone pretty well – and if you’ve read here long you know I can laugh through the drama, too. I’ve tried to scale my ideas of our “wants” and “needs” according to what is reasonable for our family – the latter often being primarily a question of fiscal concerns (like in many, many families).

So, in that vein:

Three days ago the idea of getting my kids their own laptops was a far-off thing, something that might happen some day. But the exact thing I’d do next for them if I could find a way.

Two days ago I realized I could do this myself. I didn’t know how exactly, and I knew it would take a while, but I knew it would happen. I was quite motivated because I could envision just what I wanted.

When I decided to share this goal I knew some wonderful people would step in and assist me. I expected and felt comfortable with the prospect of a little support-stream; I began to hope for a sewing gig or two so I could “earn” my goal. I knew given time I could make this happen.

Still, there are many things I’ve discovered I did not know.

I did not realize how quickly things would come to frution. I did not realize how much it would agitate and overwhelm me to have assistance above and beyond what I could have Wildest-Dreams guessed.

I was unprepared for the stunning display of generosity and how quickly the “goal”, which I thought I would have to work and scrape for a bit, was met. Totally, completely, with one fell brush-stroke by a reader named T. who not only air mailed the Netbooks and accoutrement but donated to Paypal as well – after five other readers had contributed monies and three more winged supportive, lovely emails / comments my way.

I am right now overwhelmed, grateful, and extremely – have I mentioned overwhelmed?

I am closing my “pledge drive” tout de suite and I’ve removed my Paypal donation button. Thanks to T. and the other very generous gifts from readers my children not only have their computers as I type this, but I have a tidy sum sitting in my Paypal account. I’m not sure yet what I will be doing with it (because I didn’t anticipate these events) but I’m sure to write about it here when I figure it out.

I have thanked individuals who’ve supported in a variety of ways the last few days and I thank my readers now again – obviously. I knew I wanted this thing but I didn’t realize what it would mean to me. The range of emotions I’ve gone through in the past 48 hours informs me I have to think more on my apparently deeply-held beliefs on supposed scarcity, my personal fear of retribution if I ask for too much. I did not know how deeply these fears and anxieties twisted me up inside until I took a chance to make myself vulnerable to them. Besides blinding, stunned gratitude – these feelings are ones I grapple with now.

And the gratitude. There really are no words large enough, words that express my awe in other human beings’ kindnesses. The provision of these computers for my kiddos means more to me than I can convey accurately. Fortunately, I’m not the only one who has an opinion. I’ve talked too long; I’ll let other family members speak for themselves.

P.S. When you see Phoenix smile at 4:07? She’s reading an email I sent her that says:
Jamie from “Mythbusters”:        /:€

Incidentally that emoticon vies to replace my years-held favorite: “Beaver wearing a hardhat and sunglasses”:         dB=

P.P.S. Is that piano music Ralph selected over the top and cornball-inspirational? Well FARK YOU. I am seriously not going to try to hide the fact I’ve been crying off and on today. Thought I was tough? Guess you were WRONG.

support

Apologies, dear reader: I am still figuring things out here. You know, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking in my claptrap way about this whole, “Should I let people support me?” bit (despite what some people believe, my brain is actually only fair-to-middling and rattles around but doesn’t get a lot done). We’ve had a few changes in our household I haven’t talked about (not financial ones, but child-related); the results of these factors so far is I’ve offered up a few items for custom craftsmanship and enabled a donation button.

I thought about writing out all these thoughts and Hoga-events and maybe I will, In fact I know I will –

But not now.

One thing that occurred to me – a half-day after I made these changes – and caused me some degree of anguish is the possibility some readers might feel any pressure to donate, whatsoever. Now that pressure isn’t a bad thing necessarily and I leave it for people to stew in their own business there. I’m certainly not going to hijack content or even change much, at all, so it’s really up to them entirely.

But I wanted to talk a bit about support and what it means to me so you know where I’m coming from.

Over the years I have had cards, letters, and packages mailed to me. Several of these kindnesses, stunning and called back to memory most vividly, after I lost my father: bright fierce days of brilliance and pain and I’d hold letters in my hands and marvel, absolutely marvel at the kindness in the world.

In a relatively constant trickle over the years I’ve received phone calls, IMs, tweets, DMs, emails, comments, and formspring communique. People off the street talk to me about my writing.  Yes, some people ask for help or advice – in fact many do. And some people criticize, and this is occasionally helpful to me (though usually not).

But the vast majority of feedback I receive would be what I’d call Supportive. The letters and cards and emails et al make it very real to me that sharing here is not just a journal, just a diary I’d keep anyway, it’s a living, breathing thing for myself and many of my readers.

I do not need any particular consumer to “prove” themselves nor engage in any particular way. Full stop.

The kind words are Supportive. The emails are Supportive. The donations are Supportive. The Page Views and the “Avg. Time Spent On Site” statistics from Google Analytics are Supportive. Knowing I’m being read is Supportive. Comments are Supportive (in fact, I am impressed with those who leave comments and the caliber of discussion that often occurs… adding comments was quite a change for me).

I am being supported by so many in different ways. I feel very grateful for this. The idea that this space changed in some drastic way 36 hours ago is hardly accurate, even if, 36 hours ago, it felt that way to me at first.

My “support” banner up top will be changing soon just like lots of little design features on the blog come and go. In the meantime you can read my Support policy if you like. Otherwise let’s continue on our way.

KELLY HOGABOOM IS TOTALLY TRYING TO BUY SOMETHING FANCY

i am totally serious





I have been working hard lately. I’ve been writing like a frenzy, and cooking, and raising my kids, and half-raising a few other people’s kids, and sewing, and cleaning up after pets and washing veggies and chopping them and cooking up food and delivering it to people and wiping down the fridge and mending clothes and scrubbing toilets and I haven’t had a cigarette in a few days.

And today I was thinking about the car repairs we need. It’s been five months now since one of our cars threw the crankshaft pulley. We’re a one-car family now (and we spent a couple months as a NO car family because we couldn’t get the other car fixed for a bit). My point is, the next bit of real scratch we get to spare (after groceries rent utilities food food food), it’s going into that car. And that’s fine. Really. That’s how it is.

When I could I’ve squirrelled away little waitress bits of money on fabric for the kids’ clothes and last time I sold a half-decent car I bought my husband a bike (which he uses for his work commute) but the fact is I have no money of my “own”. Kind of ever.

Without any fanfare whatsoever I’m opening up an Etsy shop with some of the custom sewing I’d love to do for a few lucky customers.

I have a specific goal I want to earn toward.

I need about $400 to $500 to buy my kids each a little Netbook, which is the very next thing I’ve decided they need. Then I’ll close the shop and feel grateful and amazed and happy I provided something with my own hands (and my lovely patrons). & after however that goes, I’ll think about my next step.

I’m also accepting donations which is why you’re seeing this annoying sidebar or page or whatever. I’ve been writing for about eight years and I’ve had tons of readers and I’ve helped a lot of people and delivered recipes and gifted tons of content – well over a half million words, and that’s not including answering emails and giving advice and support and comment moderation et al. If there’s anyone reading who feels moved to give, bring it on. But if you’re not particularly interested in supporting a laptop for my kiddos, I totally get it too.

Any amount from large or small to my Paypal account at kelly.hogaboom.org, or checks or money orders or half-assed hidden cash to 814 1st Street Hoquiam, WA 98550 will receive my eternal thanks and my kids’ thanks too I’d imagine, because I know they are going to love these gifts I’ve formulated in my mind, since one of the amazing benefits of being around my kids so much is I know exactly what they will love more than anything.

And I’m going to tell myself if I don’t make it and can’t earn what I need to do this thing, that it’s no reflection on the quality of my writing or my sewing. I’m going to tell myself this. And you know, this is the hardest part. Truly.

(Photo credit: [Svartisen, Nordland, Norway; between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900] via Flickr’s Commons)

sexism hurts men too (oh, and women)

Today on the internetz (readers who want my fluffy-family posts just skip this one; I’ll be in full bucolic-family-life effect in a few hours):

On Free Range Kids a discussion emerges about “stranger danger” being unfairly leveled at all men (which it is). I posted to the effect that yeah, it sucks, but in a blog that is primarily about actively rejecting the harmful effects of mainstream fear culture, perhaps we should support more men committing to proactive action, not just complaining about paranoid women – otherwise they continue in the larger cultural abdication of responsibility for children and child-rearing (deemed: women-only).

Predictably a commentor named Stuart decides to engage primarily with my use of the phrase “nut up or shut up” (which was in poor taste altho’ I note it is used with impunity by men). Stuart asks what would happen if he used sexist langauge toward women (Gee, I wonder what would happen – perhaps we can look in this thread itself and see sexist language levelled at laydeez going entirely unchecked) and then tells me I don’t understand gender-based harassment (ha! hahahahaha!) and implies I ignore sexism in women (nope). But of course Stuart does not put one toe in the water of my charge that it is seriously problematic when men soley blame women for their lack of involvement in the child-village, and perform no other action besides the blameinz (note I am not charging a single individual man of doing so – it’s up to him to self-evaluate here).

Anyone reading here knows, of course, how rubber-meets-the-road my husband is in being one of those men that, you know, actually does speak to other people’s children, waves and smiles at them, picks them up, feeds them, takes them to the park or the bathroom  – and doesn’t molest them! (I know! It’s kind of crazy!). So please understand handwringing about how men just can’t do this stuff because of teh wimminz is met with wry cynicism by both of us. For which, here dear reader, I apologize (because truthfully it does suck men get told they’re ALL MOLESTER ASSHOLES). I’ve just heard the lady-blaminz too much and it’s often a smokescreen for a lot of unhelpful action or inaction on the part of a lot of men.  Speaking to exactly WHAT a man can do and HOW MUCH he can help/assist/wave at child? Yeah, Ralph Hogaboom wrote the fucking book, why don’t you ask him how it’s going (I did. He said he gets a lot of “Thank yous” and smiles from mothers, and he’d be happy to give advice to men wanting to step up more).

Incidentally the derisive sexism aimed toward men who perform “traditional” women’s roles (everything from dishes to pushing a kid on a swing at a park) was experienced by us in a very real way the first year of our daughter’s life while Ralph stayed home with her and I worked-for-pay and has continued full-force since Ralph is so family-and-child active. This sexism was/is levied by both men and women and, like many constrictive gender roles containes an underbelly which is not only reductive to men but also perpetrates oppressive attitudes toward women and short-changes children. But perhaps most surprisingly to those who would lie back, shake their head and bemoan men “can’t” do this-or-that because of the Evil Sexism of Paranoid Women, Ralph experienced Sexism more often in his “favor”; that is, he received and continues to receive fawning attention, compliments, and accolades for being “Superdad” (while performing what he calls the “bare minimum standard” of child-care).

Sexism indeed.

Anyone reading here probably also knows how important it is to my husband and I that more men engage in educating themselves on so-called “Women’s Issues” (which are really Human Rights issues), and yes that includes non-rapists and self-proclaimed “I’m not part of the problem!” men. And hint, fellers: the first step is to read, read, read, read more, and listen, avoid mansplaining, and when you’ve read and read and read you might start talking, and – this part is important, expect to get schooled (and yeah, it hurts sometimes, I’ve been there re: straight-privilege, anti-racism, anti-imperialism, etc). If you’re here and give a damn that my husband and I give a damn about this lady-business, go ahead and read and read and read some more

Or just Get Off My Lawn! and by that I mean my blog.

In other happy news, the twelfth Carnival of Feminist Parenting has been put up at Mother’s for Women’s Lib. Knowing Anji, it’s going to be chalk-full of awesomeness. I’ve read about a third of the pieces.  Here are some that spoke to me:

“Is stay at home motherhood a class issue?” (UK blog)
Short answer: Yes.

“Kids: screw ‘Em” at Pandagon
Money quote: “Needless to say, Robert Rector considers himself ‘pro-life’.  You’re precious to him on a cellular level, but once you start breathing and feeling and eating through anything but an umbilical cord, you’re on your own.”

“Yes, I Am a Feminist Housewife” by Natasha at Offbeat Mama
Dont worry, honey, you’ll grow out of wanting to self-apply that label the more you read feminist blogs who tell you how much you suck. Snark aside? She writes a lovely article.

What does feminism have to do with breastfeeding? at Breastfeeding Medicine.
Breastfeeding: a “choice” (which we can then skewer ALL women with, no matter what they choose) or a reproductive right?

Question: A callous parent?

On May 30th a reader writes:
So, I was thinking about your post yesterday after a little accident on the beach yesterday. [My friend] G. and I make a great team with her kids. I know her kids and I know how she parents, and since we’re together all the time she gives me the right to draw boundaries and set consequences if need be for her girls. It works for us. Her kids are tough and if one hits the other and the other punches back, she just sits back and waits for them to work it out. I’ve learned to be comfortable with that.

So, another woman comes down to the beach with her two boys. They live there, so I’m sure they are much more familiar with the terrain. She seemed largely unconcerned that her one year old was tottering around near the quarry sans life jacket. Okay. Then her oldest sits down on the swing and the littlest toddles over and gets a little too close and bam! The bar on the bottom of the swing beans him on the head and he goes tumbling several feet. I jump up because the mom is nowhere to be seen and then the whole swing collapses and falls backward, most notably knocking the wind out of the oldest. I run over and no one’s crying, everyone seems fine and the mom saunters over and asks if everyone’s okay. I tell her that the youngest got hit on the head and went tumbling and she asks if everyone is okay and then walks away, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. I do likewise. Because – it’s not my deal. I feel like it was okay for me to run to the rescue, should someone have been bleeding or unconscious, but since she seems unconcerned, I have to do the same. But I felt weird about it.

Anyway, just wondered what you thought about it in light of what you wrote.

A story like this is rather hard to get a read on because I wasn’t there. First off, of course it was okay for you to run to the little one’s rescue. Had they been hysterical and hurt, you could have helped (although most young children usually want their mommies/daddies/carers when they are hurt and frightened). When I was a child I liked knowing grownups noticed when one of us had trouble, and I was comforted when they stepped in to assist whether I took them up on it or not.

As for the mother and your thoughts on her, I will say many parents I observe run the gamut of heavily managing injuries/crying to barely reacting. If I were being judged from outside by someone who did not know me I would likely often look like more of the “barely reacting” type. Not so much my kids don’t seek me out, though: they come to me for a hug and wipe their tears on my clothes and move on, and I always give them exactly how much love they need (How do I know? While I am still there, present, holding them, they release me and move on.)

Funnily enough when the kids have a huge throwdown (like what people call “a tantrum”) I am also usually pretty calm through that too. Last night we had a dinner guest (childfree) and I could tell she was watching me like a hawk to see how I’d handle my daughter’s “drama”. But the thing is, it is the very part of me that “allows” drama that also enables my children to move through it quickly and for the most part remain quite even-keeled through many stressors (as far as I can tell). My daughter had a few upsets at the beginning of the dinner and then she was calm and happy throughout the evening beyond 11 o’clock when our guest left. Not that I think anyone has the right to judge my parenting and my child based on her “convenience” for guests; my point is that I did not need to lecture my daughter about her “bad behavior” (or whatever) for her to move on to “better behavior” – but I often feel a social pressure to do so.

Back to the beach: those kids sounded pretty young and when I had young babies I tended to react more than I do now. It isn’t just because I love(d) them, it’s because I felt expected to (or else be judged a “bad mother”). I now believe I did not need to react and rescue and moderate as much as I did. But then, I was new to the whole bit too. Now instead of social mores I have my intense knowledge of my own children. A parent in tune with their kids recognizes relatively quickly when they really do need cuddling, a bandaid, some attention, etc. and when they don’t.

Was that mother in tune with her kids? I can’t tell because I wasn’t there, but you might be able to make a reasonable guess if you think back on what happened. I do see people here where I live who seem almost callous to their children. But often these people have a look like things are rough, their lives are rough, or at least they’re having some sort of terrible clusterfuck of a day. A sort of drawn look not to mention their clothing and their cars (or lack thereof) or their tone of voice or what they’re talking about or the look in their eyes – it reminds me I have things more fortunate than many others. I am not saying everyone who’s an ass-hat to their kids has some tragic story as to why. But I’m far less likely to jump to any conclusions than I used to be.

Another possibility is the mother felt shamed for not being there or shamed/angry for having another person “infringe” on her territory (I hasten to add again, you did nothing wrong) and she might have responded from a hardened place. I just don’t know but you might have a sense.

And finally, the life jacket thing. Well this is not only cultural but varies within families and if we needed to keep our kids safe 24/7 we, well, we wouldn’t HAVE kids. Anecdotally I am very, VERY paranoid with my children around water – and they both can swim. Since they were babies I’ve worried about drowning; even when I had them strapped to my body and was crossing a safe bridge I’d have terrible fantasies about them plunging in. At a quarry I’d probably have crazy-eye with worry over my baby.

And finally, off-topic a bit, anytime I hear adults judging one another about parenting I think of this video:

http://www.break.com/index/two-year-old-toddler-smokes-cigarettes.html

The truth is parenting is a hard job and most people are doing the best we can. It is wonderful you help your friend out and you are one of those valued friends who shares family life with us. I have several of those childfree (or childless, depending on your preference) friends and they are very treasured by myself, my husband, and my children. G. is lucky to have you.

From the vault: Thank you

A reader writes me an email on May 3, 2010.

As a first time reader who found your blog via a link from two Facebook friends, I just wanted to say an enormous thank you for your post written on March 5th 2010 about the devaluation of domestic work.[1. found at Underbellie]

I’ve been an at-home mom for nearly 13 years, raising three amazing boys. I love what I do, believe passionately in what I do, and feel strongly that it provides my family and myself (as a woman and writer) a better life than we would have as a dual-income family. Yet, lately, I’ve been feeling a little edgy about being at home, like maybe I don’t really need to be here anymore, that I “should” be doing something else. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but I think what it really comes down to is that I’m struggling against an undercurrent of devaluation. I’ve had 33 years of people telling me that a good education and a good career define me, and yet I have neither of those things. After over a decade of doing “lesser work,” that undercurrent is starting to hurt.

But when I cook – oh goodness, when I cook! – or declutter a closet, or sort everyone’s laundry, or go on my son’s field trip without a second thought… Nothing compares to that. And I’ve come to know myself without all the smokescreens I could easily hide behind in the world of paid work. At home I’m just A., and A. loves her life and her family, and doesn’t need anything else to make her happy.

Anyway, that’s the a-ha moment your blog post reminded me of. I really, really thank you for that. I’m feeling rejuvenated and proud of what I do tonight. You rock.

Thanks 🙂
A.