Tag Archive for myths

Bad Moms and Being Mom Enough: A Reflection

By now, you have most likely read or heard about the recent arti­cle in Time mag­a­zine titled, “Are you Mom enough?”. The blo­gos­phere (and the media) has been abuzz over this article.

I'm not a bad girl; You're a bad mommy!

Image cour­tesy of http://themotherlode.wordpress.com

Some authors have addressed the title of the arti­cle and all that it implies (com­pe­ti­tion, self-hatred, guilt, mommy wars, sex­ism, iden­tity issues, etc.). Oth­ers have com­mented on the cover image in which a three-year-old boy is suck­ing on his mother’s bare breast while look­ing at the cam­era (how it is going to scar him for­ever, how pub­lic breast­feed­ing is fine, how this goes on in all areas of the world, how this mother is a heli­copter par­ent, etc., etc.). Most dis­cus­sions have addressed the topic of the arti­cle, attach­ment par­ent­ing.

I’ve read many com­men­taries on and responses to this arti­cle. (I par­tic­u­larly liked what my col­lege room­mate had to say about it, as well as another blogger’s provoca­tive post, “Where Is the Mommy War for the Moth­er­less Child?”.

I have my own opin­ions on all of these mat­ters. I obvi­ously do not choose to do attach­ment par­ent­ing. I stopped nurs­ing my chil­dren when they were between 8–10 months old. I do not carry my baby around on me like a papoose; he weighs too much and I would break my back. I do not, under any cir­cum­stance, allow my chil­dren to sleep with me and my hus­band in our bed. I also work out­side the home, which Dr. Sears, the founder of the move­ment, dis­cour­ages women who want to incor­po­rate attach­ment par­ent­ing philoso­phies from doing.

I don’t love my chil­dren any less. I love them a lot, actu­ally. I believe it’s impor­tant help my chil­dren feel loved, safe, con­fi­dent, self-assured, and inde­pen­dent. I let my chil­dren play for long peri­ods of time with­out get­ting involved or inter­ject­ing my own agenda. I let them work out prob­lems. I tell them, “No.” I ask them to be cre­ative. I chal­lenge them.

Most moth­ers do.

What I have learned from being a mother for almost seven years is that there are many dif­fer­ent ways to mother. There are dif­fer­ent ways to be a mother. And there are dif­fer­ent def­i­n­i­tions of moth­ers and moth­er­hood and mothering.

As moms, we have images in our head about the kind of mother we want to be. If you’re like me, you often feel guilty about ways you do not live up to your own expec­ta­tions. Our cul­ture and the media (and some­times reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions and peo­ple) send the mes­sage that we are not good enough, that we are not “Mom enough.” My recent post about Pin­ter­est images attests to the per­va­sive­ness of soci­etal expec­ta­tions and norms.

But who are we to judge other moth­ers? Aren’t we all just try­ing our best to do good our their children?

We are all “Mom enough” to the chil­dren in our lives.

They love us. They know we love them.

We must know that who we are is enough.

 


What I Really Do in the Summer

Col­lege stu­dents and pro­fes­sors all over the coun­try are begin­ning their sum­mer breaks. Courses are com­plete. Finals are taken. Seniors have grad­u­ated and moved away (hope­fully find­ing jobs). Cur­rent stu­dents are enjoy­ing the break from the daily grind of read­ing, writ­ing, and study­ing for courses, while pro­fes­sors are appre­ci­at­ing not hav­ing to go into the office every day, tak­ing a break from plan­ning for classes and grad­ing, and hav­ing more time allot­ted to non-teaching aspects of our jobs.

Grad­u­a­tion was a lit­tle over a week ago and since then, I have heard the fol­low­ing com­ments from friends, fam­ily, and acquaintances:

“You’re so lucky to have the entire sum­mer off!“
“Aren’t you glad to be out for three whole months?“
“I wish I had as much time off as you.“

“Are you enjoy­ing your break from work?“
“It must be nice to only work 32 weeks out of a year.”

These comments—while well-intentioned and most likely just meant to start a con­ver­sa­tion about my sum­mer plans—point to some faulty assump­tions about aca­d­e­mic life, espe­cially life on the tenure-track.

Such a per­spec­tive isn’t sur­pris­ing. Most of these well-meaning peo­ple have jobs with clear-cut work hours (8–5, Monday-Friday), vaca­tion time (2 weeks), and sick time (a cer­tain num­ber of hours).* Oth­ers are K-12 teach­ers who actu­ally do have a true break dur­ing the sum­mer, so, they assume, I must have a break, too. My mom, for instance, was a 3rd and 1st grade teacher most of my life (she retired last year), and except for a week or two of pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment in which she was required to par­tic­i­pate, she was “off”. She was not required or expected to do any work dur­ing her sum­mer vaca­tion. Of course, it wasn’t a true “vaca­tion” for her; she was home with four kids dur­ing the sum­mer. But she didn’t have to “work”.

*This doesn’t always apply to many peo­ple I know who own their own busi­ness and do not get any time off (per­haps they don’t have any employ­ees or only have one or two peo­ple or just can’t afford to take off). If they take time off, they don’t make any money or their busi­ness might suf­fer from being closed for so long.

When pro­fes­sors are “off” (i.e., not teach­ing), how­ever, they are *not* on vaca­tion. Instead, we are busy doing the stuff we are unable to do dur­ing the aca­d­e­mic school year. For today’s post, I’m going to debunk this assump­tion that pro­fes­sors are “off” all sum­mer by explain­ing what I will be doing over the sum­mer in terms of my work. My sum­mer plans are specif­i­cally sit­u­ated in my own con­text as a a tenure-track aca­d­e­mic prepar­ing to go up for tenure in the fall. Sum­mer plans and activ­i­ties may not be the same for other aca­d­e­mics, pro­fes­sors, or instruc­tors, espe­cially ones whose pri­mary respon­si­bil­ity is teach­ing (although they prob­a­bly feel pres­sure to write and pub­lish as well dur­ing the break).

1. Read. A lot. I have devel­oped a list of about 30 (aca­d­e­mic) books I would like to read over the sum­mer, which equals out to about 2–3 books a week. I’ve already read three books since school ended, but I have a large stack wait­ing for me. Some of the books are for my research; oth­ers are for my teach­ing. Either way, I have a lot to read. It’s impor­tant to note that this read­ing does not include all the fic­tion and non-fiction I want to read.

2. Write. A lot. If I were rank­ing this list, writ­ing would be at num­ber 1. It is expected that aca­d­e­mics write over the sum­mer, even when we are not paid for our sum­mer work through a sab­bat­i­cal or grant. I hope to send out at least one arti­cle over the sum­mer.

3. Revise an arti­cle that has been rejected. Last week, I received (bad) news that an arti­cle I wrote was rejected to the jour­nal to which I sub­mit­ted it. Rejec­tion is no fun. It can be extremely dis­cour­ag­ing and dis­heart­en­ing to receive such news. You can only send an arti­cle to one jour­nal at a time and they hold on to it between 4–6 months (at best) before noti­fy­ing you of the deci­sion. When you receive neg­a­tive news, it can depress me for days. But it’s the real­ity of aca­d­e­mic life. There’s even a jour­nal called The Jour­nal of Uni­ver­sal Rejec­tion that rejects every sin­gle arti­cle they receive. I don’t plan on sub­mit­ting there, but I find the premise delight­fully ironic.

4. Plan the courses I will be teach­ing in the Fall (and even the Spring). This activ­ity involves sev­eral components:

a. Com­pose a syl­labus. Decide on course objec­tives, assign­ments, grad­ing cri­te­ria, rules and guide­lines for the course. This needs to be done at least one week in advance of the semes­ter and takes a lot of planning.

b. Draft a course sched­ule. Cre­at­ing a course sched­ule for the entire semes­ter before you ever teach a course is prob­a­bly the hard­est part of plan­ning for a course. I begin work on this early and make changes all the way up to the start of class.

5. Plan for next year’s research project. I received a Bay­lor Uni­ver­sity Research Com­mit­tee (URC) grant for a project I’m work­ing on that exam­ines how stu­dents write about the writ­ing they will com­plete in their jobs. I will have a Research Assis­tant and I need to make plans for the aca­d­e­mic year.

6. Com­pose a Research Leave appli­ca­tion. I plan on apply­ing for a Research Leave for Fall 2013 or Spring 2014. This appli­ca­tion is detailed and time-consuming, and I plan to do much of it over the summer.

7. Com­pose an appli­ca­tion for a Sum­mer Sab­bat­i­cal. I would like to have sum­mer fund­ing next sum­mer, so I will also apply for a Sum­mer Sab­bat­i­cal through my university.

8. Update my tech­no­log­i­cal skills. I teach writ­ing and design courses, and my stu­dents and I use tech­nol­ogy every day. I am quite adept at Word, Excel, Pub­lisher, and Word­Press, but I need to enhance my skills in the Adobe suite, par­tic­u­larly InDe­sign and Pho­to­shop. I plan on learn­ing these bet­ter over the sum­mer.

9. Get orga­nized. Shred paper­work. Clean out my office. Orga­nize and delete com­puter files. Go through my email Inbox and delete, delete, delete.

10. Attend pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment sem­i­nars or work­shops. In June, I will be attend­ing a one-week sem­i­nar in Rhetoric and Com­po­si­tion at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity.

11. Begin think­ing about and plan­ning for the grad­u­ate course I will teach next Spring. Book orders will be due in Octo­ber, and I need to know early what I will be doing in the course, ten­ta­tively titled “Teach­ing Dig­i­tal Rhetoric.” I will do a lot of research for the course in terms of texts, assign­ments, and require­ments. And, since there isn’t much time in Decem­ber to plan for Spring course, I need to do most plan­ning over the sum­mer and dur­ing the Fall semester.

12. Put together my tenure note­book. More on this in the future.

As you can see, my sum­mer is filled with things I must get done before school resumes in August. Yes, I appre­ci­ate that I have a break from teach­ing and com­mut­ing to the office every day, but it’s not a true break that the word “vaca­tion” entails. I will take a vacation–two actu­ally. One with my hus­band for my 10th anniver­sary and another with my fam­ily to the beach. But, the pres­sure to read, write, pub­lish, and get caught up is ever present in my sum­mer life, even when I’m play­ing with my chil­dren, watch­ing a movie, or hik­ing in the park. That’s just the way it is.


Motherhood as Materialism: The Myth They’re Selling

I am a mom to three viva­cious, spunky, inde­pen­dent kids. I like being a mom. It’s dif­fi­cult to define and artic­u­late what moth­er­hood means to me and how much of my iden­tity is wrapped up in my role as a mom. So much of it is a feel­ing, an emo­tion, and words are often not enough to explain my feel­ings about motherhood.

That being said, as I men­tioned in my last post, I don’t like Mother’s Day. I’m extremely uncom­fort­able with this hol­i­day. So many women (and men) expe­ri­ence pain on Mother’s Day.

  • Some­one is think­ing about their own mom (per­haps she has died, she gave him/her up for adop­tion, she was not the mother they had hoped for, or some­thing else that brings them pain).
  • Some­one is think­ing about the loss of a child–through a mis­car­riage, an abor­tion, an adop­tion, a death, a kid­nap­ping, the loss of a young child who has grown up.
  • Some­one is think­ing about not being able to con­ceive or still being sin­gle and not hav­ing a child.
  • Some­one is think­ing about how they do not mea­sure up to the “ideal mother” (see my recent post about guilt for some com­ments on this issue).
  • Some­one who is griev­ing the choices their chil­dren have made.

Mother’s Day is not a happy day for every­one, con­trary to the pre­dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive greet­ing card com­pa­nies, retail stores, busi­nesses, and cor­po­ra­tions are sell­ing us. Many peo­ple have great big holes in their hearts.

Mother’s Day became a fed­eral hol­i­day in 1914 when Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son insti­tuted it. I do not know the his­tory of this hol­i­day, but what I do know is that, at some point, Mother’s Day became syn­ony­mous with mate­ri­al­ism, with giv­ing and receiv­ing gifts (just like Christ­mas). This hol­i­day equates love to gift-giving.

It pro­motes moth­er­hood as materialism.

Stores tell us we should buy gifts for our moth­ers. Our moth­ers deserve as much. If we love them, we would buy them something.

I saw this image today while I stopped in to drop off some clothes at my favorite con­sign­ment store.

Selling Mother's Day

Make Mom’s Day! Buy Her an iPad (the new one!)!

This image screams consumerism.

Mate­ri­al­ism.

But it belit­tles moth­ers.

This image, and most other mar­ket­ing that sur­rounds Mother’s Day, equates lov­ing your mom to giv­ing her expen­sive gifts, or, at worse, not giv­ing her expen­sive gifts and thus not lov­ing her.

The con­sumerism of Mother’s Day defines how we are sup­posed to expe­ri­ence Mother’s Day–as one who gives or receives gifts. It’s not about love; it’s about buy­ing and giv­ing and get­ting more stuff. Even if show­ing love through gifts isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, the mar­ket­ing of this hol­i­day takes the focus off hon­or­ing your own mother or (being hon­ored your­self as a mother) to focus­ing on the buy­ing and sell­ing of prod­ucts. It equates love with giv­ing expen­sive gifts.

Cor­po­ra­tions have decided that they can manip­u­late dads and chil­dren and spouses and moth­ers into mak­ing this event–motherhood–all about mate­ri­al­ism. They send the mes­sage that the only thing moth­ers really want is “stuff.”

They dimin­ish moth­er­hood when they equate it to materialism.

If they knew moth­ers at all–sitting from where they are mak­ing a profit off of us, off of OUR role, as moth­ers (or sons or daugh­ters or fathers or husbands)–then they would under­stand that we do not want this. No, moth­er­hood is more than mate­ri­al­ism. Much more. And if these cor­po­rate pow­ers tried to under­stand moth­ers at all, they would real­ize this truth. Instead, they belit­tle and degrade us and treat us like chil­dren in a candy store.

No, moms do not want more “stuff.” We are more com­plex than that. We are deeper than that. We have other val­ues besides gifts. Our hearts are with our chil­dren, not with what they do or not give us.

If cor­po­ra­tions really wanted to show us honor, they wouldn’t mar­ket to our chil­dren on this day. There would be no signs and images and ads and com­mer­cials about “the per­fect gift for mother’s day”.

There would be no profit, no cap­i­tal­iz­ing on mothers.

Honor us by refus­ing to coerce and manip­u­late our hus­bands and sons and daugh­ters and moth­ers and grand­chil­dren. Honor us by leav­ing our fam­i­lies alone, by leav­ing us alone.

Moth­er­hood is much more than their min­i­mal­iza­tion of it.

Dear read­ers: I hope these posts about moth­er­hood and Mother’s Day have not offended you, but I do hope you see my per­spec­tive as hon­est and real, and a lit­tle mad, too.


Running around Like a Crazy Woman: Why Less Is More

Simplicity Parenting book coverI am cur­rently read­ing Sim­plic­ity Par­ent­ing: Using the Extra­or­di­nary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Hap­pier and More Secure Kids. This book, by Kim John Payne, a school coun­selor and an edu­ca­tional con­sul­tant, has chal­lenged me to re-think the way I par­ent my chil­dren. He has encour­aged me to con­sider the ways my good inten­tions as a par­ent may have neg­a­tive con­se­quences on my child. This book is chal­leng­ing, provoca­tive, and inspiring.

Right now, Eliz­a­beth is 6 years old. She is play­ing t-ball. Begin­ning next week, we will have prac­tice or games 3 nights a week.

Pey­ton is 4 years old. He is play­ing t-ball. Eliz­a­beth and Pey­ton are not on the same team. Shane (my hus­band) is the assis­tant coach of Elizabeth’s team and the head coach of Peyton’s team.

For the next 8 weeks, we are going to be eat­ing, breath­ing, sleep­ing, and think­ing t-ball. T-ball every night of the week, except Wednes­day when we have church. T-ball on many Sat­ur­days. Sev­eral nights, both kids have a game, so we’ll be at the t-ball fields for close to 4 hours.

But we love t-ball. We like that our chil­dren are engag­ing in activ­i­ties (we think) they (will) like. I enjoy chat­ting with other par­ents and get­ting to know adults and chil­dren in our small com­mu­nity. We like that our chil­dren feel good about them­selves by play­ing and accom­plish­ing some­thing. We like to be Jesus to the com­mu­nity by serv­ing them. We like being involved. We like our kids start­ing and fin­ish­ing something.

But that’s not all. In the Win­ter, Eliz­a­beth played bas­ket­ball. In the Fall, Eliz­a­beth and Pey­ton both played soc­cer. And through it all, we had a new­born baby who is now 8 months old to cart around.

I pause now to ask myself, “What are we doing to our chil­dren by enrolling them in all these extracur­ric­u­lar activities?”

In the United States, par­ents are told the fol­low­ing dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive: “You must enroll your chil­dren in as many activ­i­ties as pos­si­ble at very a young age. The more the bet­ter. Bal­let. Dance. Swim­ming. Soc­cer. Sum­mer camps. Team sports. Indi­vid­ual sports. And on and on.”

Just look at some of the exam­ples of prodigy kids. Tiger Woods began golf at 2 years old. Andre Agassi started play­ing ten­nis around age 4. Cild actors like Drew Bar­ry­more and the Olsen twins began act­ing when they were young. I’m sure there are numer­ous other sto­ries (if you know of some, leave them in the comments).

In short, if you want your child to be good at some­thing, start them early on the activity/task. Mal­colm Glad­well even points out in Out­liers that to become good at some­thing, per­fect at it, you must put in over 10,000 hours of practice.

So what have we done to make our chil­dren suc­cess­ful? We begin early. We want them to reach that 10,000 hour mark well before their teenagers and it is deemed too late. Just con­sider the book The Bat­tle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (which I will write about soon). If you haven’t read it, you’ve prob­a­bly heard about the book (it was quite con­tro­ver­sial) and her “Chi­nese way of par­ent­ing.” The author–a law pro­fes­sor at Yale–spent count­less hours every sin­gle day mak­ing sure her chil­dren had mas­tered the piano and vio­lin. They prac­ticed all the time–literally. Even on vaca­tion. Every­where. Every. Sin­gle. Day.

But Sim­plic­ity Par­ent­ing asks a sim­ple ques­tion really, “Why?” 

Why do we do this to our chil­dren? What do they really gain through these activ­i­ties? And what is the cost of this atti­tude of more, more, and more? What are the results of our over-scheduled, over-stimulated, busy lives? Espe­cially on our children?

Through­out the book, he answers these ques­tions, and in quite provoca­tive terms. Put sim­ply, he says that “less is more.” Seems sim­ple, but when you unpack this idea in terms of sched­ules, tele­vi­sion, screen time, clut­ter, toys, your day hav­ing a rhythm, order, and flow, stress, antic­i­pa­tion, sleep, food and eat­ing, an ordi­nary day, and fil­ter­ing out the adult world from your chil­dren, you can see how this idea becomes even more convicting.

Less is more.

We have for­got­ten the gift of boredom.

Less is more.

Our chil­dren need unstruc­tured play time.

Less is more.

We need to clear away the clutter.

Less is more.

The true power of less is that it cre­ates smarter and more imag­i­na­tive, ener­getic, inde­pen­dent, cre­ative, self-confident kids. Kids that know how to solve prob­lems, get along well with oth­ers, fig­ure things out, and build a deep rela­tion­ship with their par­ents and others.

Sim­plic­ity par­ent­ing is worth the try.

For those of you inter­ested in learn­ing more about the book, you might like to watch this infor­ma­tive four-minute video by the author.