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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

Welcome to the Moonies. Parenthood.

Warning: Having a baby is just like joining a cult. No, I’m not talking about the “cult of parenthood,” wherein your childless “child free” friends suddenly feel insulted that you’ve crossed over to this strange world where all you want to talk about is your kid. Actually, that’s exactly what I’m referring to. It’s just that what your childfree friends don’t understand is that you haven’t made a choice to get subsumed into this weird parenting cult. You’ve been brainwashed.

Think about it – everything that happens to you when you have a baby pretty much follows the play-by-play of Brainwashing 101. Just read the following and swap out “cult” for “baby.” Welcome to parenthood, sucker. Please leave your brain at the door.

1. The Cult Weakens Your Senses Through Sleep Deprivation

First, your sleep schedule is interrupted. You are no longer master of your slumber. You can be awoken at any time, day or night. Sleep comes in short bursts at highly irregular times. It is also interrupted by loud noises, a classic mind control technique. Sleep disruption is probably the most basic and essential step in brainwashing. Someone who can keep you up very late and wake you up very early, much less interrupt whatever spans of REM time you do pull together… they control you. They own you.

2. The Cult Further Disorients You By Altering Your Basic Routines

Second, your most basic routines get altered. Ever notice how it’s impossible to find sunlight while wandering around a casino? That’s because in between the loud music, the glaring lights and almost maze-like hall systems, you become disoriented and lose sense of time and place in a casino. By numbing your orientation, you become more vulnerable to making mindless decisions. Babies change what you eat (I don’t recall getting to eat a warm, freshly prepared meal for at least the first six weeks after my daughter was born!), when you eat (odd hours here and there), and how you eat (huddled like a starving animal scarfing it down as fast as possible!). They also change when and how often you shower and what clothes you wear (there are days when you never make it out of your pajamas in those early weeks).

3. The Cult Separates You from Your Support System

This is a super biggie. I had a roommate who the Moonies once tried to indoctrinate. She and a friend were invited to a “dinner” at a Moonie gathering place. They were picked up in San Francisco, driven about 40 minutes away (so they had no means of returning on their own) and then, once there, immediately separated from one another. Diana, my roommate, realized later that while everyone was friendly, she and her friend were kept in two distinct groups for the whole night.

Babies separate you from your support network just as handily. Because your sleep schedule is so off, good luck making plans and actually being able to fulfill them! Childless friends quickly drop off, taking your sudden lack of availability as a sign that they’ve been replaced by the baby. Friends with children are so busy raising their own brood they can’t make it. One day, you look up and realize it’s been MONTHS since you had a decent conversation with another adult.

4. The Cult Makes You Feel Vulnerable and Badly About Yourself

Now that the cult has got you alone, look out for your self image! It doesn’t help that your body is already in its worst spot – looking at the mirror post-baby is sheer depression-inducing. Plus, due to #3, you haven’t had a stimulating conversation in ages and your brain is completely fried. It’s very easy to lose perspective of all the wonderful gifts you have to give to the world and solely see yourself as a 24 hour baby-feeding, poop-wiping slobbering idiot. Now that you need it most, you are least likely to summon the courage to get out of the house and connect with folks in the outside world because of how low you are feeling.

5. The Cult Makes You Look to It as Your Sole Source of Value and Self-Esteem

Remember the feeling you got the first time your baby truly smiled at you? Enough said.

6. You are Now Obligated to Give the Cult All Your Money

Now that the cult has completely oriented your world around it, it demands that you commit all of your finances to its health, well being and development. The cult’s survival and growth is your highest obligation in life and every decision you make from here forward for the rest of your life will be filtered through the “is this what’s best for the cult?” modifier.

But It’s Worth It – I Swear! (says the brainwashed one)

After all – doesn’t this just make your ovaries jump?

I'd give up my life for this little brainwasher, and it's not even mine. I mean, really, how can you say 'no' to cuteness like that???

By the time we all make it out to the other side of early parenting, when we start to get some simple routines and normalcy back – like sleeping for at least four hours in a row – we have no idea we’ve been brainwashed. This is the new reality for us, our complete and total dedication to our young spawn. Little by little, we reclaim small pieces of our former lives: an occasional dinner date with a friend, some witty repartee with a stranger in line at the grocery store, wearing shirts not branded with baby spit up. We creep back into the sunlight of a world that seems just like that which we left the moment before our child was first born, totally and completely oblivious to the fact that we are now 100% owned by our charges. Sure, our child-free friends can see it, but they’re not going to tell us. They think we choose  to pleasantly bear through our toddler’s  temper tantrums, preschooler’s constant interruptions and nagging,  teenaged curfew blow offs and sullen, ungrateful consumption of thoughtfully prepared meals. They don’t know that we are so totally absorbed into the cult that we can’t even see we’re in it. They think we are aware of our shift from autonomous adult to parental automaton.

But, thank goodness nature works this way. Otherwise, how would we continue to propagate and thrive? Without it, babies would simply be left on their own and, well, it wouldn’t be pretty. Speaking from personal experience, without the decent brainwashing I know for a fact that I’d be incapable of fulfilling everything parenting demands – the late nights, the odd hours, the sacrifice and in the end, the terrifying letting go. So, here’s to a good brainwashing! May it never wear off!

—-

Thanks to my fantastic new friend, MBAMommy, who let me subject her to my quirky idea about baby brainwashers the other day 🙂 You can read MBA Mommy’s post about it here.

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Or, How to Stay Sane with a Super-talker

My daughter is a super-talker. By that I mean that she is a non-stop, incessant babble machine who enjoys little more than an in-depth interview of nearly limitless questions, only 4 of which she’ll listen to the answers of. My daughter is approaching 4 and, yes, I know this is the age of inquiry, but you know you’ve got a super-talker on your hands when your child’s preschool teacher pulls you aside and says, “I have never taught a child who asks so many questions. How do you handle it?”

So, here’s how I handle it (so far).

A) Full attention

I mentioned my daughter has a nigh-limitless set of questions. I have found that it’s tremendously effective to actually get down on her level, give her 100% attention and answer each question thoroughly. I have to remind her to not interrupt while I’m answering her question, but in giving full answers I am able to slow the rapid rate of inquiry. This, in turn, slows her mind and gets her to focus on qualitative questions and insights rather than blather. When I really hunker down and give full attention, the dynamic shifts from a non-stop pinball machine of verbal spewing to an actual conversation… a conversation that, after between 5 & 10 full questions… ends!!!!!!!!

B) The Quiet Game

This is an oldie and goodie and is very effective in the car. We usually play it during the last mile or two driving home and it gives my daughter a focal point – to see if she can make it all the way home without talking. Of course, even during the “Quiet Game” she is compelled to be the commentator. So, every 30-40 seconds she’ll peep out a “Mommy, I’m being so quiet, I’m going to win!” At least there’s a little gap between updates!

C) The Butterfly Song

I invented this one night while we were visiting my parents. Everyone was sitting around the table after dinner and, despite the rather loud hum of our general conversation, my daughter was still capable of dominating the room with her incessant chatter. She was overtired and the “second wind” switch had been flipped. Her prattling was not about conversation or real interaction with others, but just a way of burning off energy. The children had just gone to a butterfly museum with their grandparents the day before so, in a moment of desperation and divine inspiration, I proposed we all sing a rondo of “The Butterfly Song.”

This is how it’s done: Everyone gets quiet and one person starts the “song” by bobbing their head like they’re belting out a huge melody, but keeping their lips pursed tight. After a few bobs, they point to another person and that person picks up where the unheard tune left off. Round and round the rondo goes until it makes its way back to the starter…. Voila!!! At least a minute of blissful silence achieved AND the tenor of the moment has shifted to a more sedate energy.

My daughter now loves the Butterfly Song and will often propose we “sing” it in the car 🙂

Hope you enjoy!

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I recently started using StumbleUpon and it’s just added a whole new level of time-suck to my Internets experience. I came across this lovely piece, “Preparation for Parenthood,” which is painfully accurate in some respects, especially #8 on leaving the house. There really are some smahties down there at Stanford. It makes me think of my bit about “Leaving the House with Small Children.” Here’s a snippet from the Stanford one:

# 8 Get Ready to Go Out. Wait outside the bathroom for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every cigarette butt, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you’ve had as much as you can stand until the neighbors come out and stare at you. Give up and go back into the house. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

This is so true it hurts. I have no idea when I’m going to master the “let’s go outside for a stroll” mom move, much less the “get in the car so we can go to the grocery store and get milk and diapers already!” maneuver, but for the time being I’m trapped in my house and I can’t figure a way out that doesn’t involve some sort of meltdown. I can’t even bribe my children with the idea of a tricycle ride to make the home exiting go smoothly. “But wait!,” you  exclaim, “Your children love their tricycles! Why can’t you get them outside to ride them?” Because I inevitably make a very bad decision just before leaving – like getting the divine inspiration to bring snacks (which means that the second we are three feet away from the front gate onto the sidewalk, the two of them will pounce like starving piranhas onto the snack bag, as though they’ve never seen Cheez It’s or bananas before. The following 15 minutes will be met with me becoming increasing frustrated as they swap off fighting over who gets which tricycle and battling over who gets to stop and eat a Cheez It after getting themselves on and off their tricycles 15 times and not moving farther than 4 inches from the starting line — this always ends in someone screaming. It might even be me, but I’m not telling), or divinely forgetting snacks (after remembering the previous disaster with snacks this seems a smart move, but A-ha!!! There’s the little kid turn-around – if you genuinely forget the food, your children will be unduly starving for their 7 minute outing and will be excessively cranky), or forgetting something else equally basic, such as reminding the 3 year old to pee before leaving (luckily, urine washes off of tricycle seats lickety-split). No matter how you cut it, the only method I’ve found to get out of the house without popping an important temple vein in my head is to just pick up each child and insert them into their car seats or strap them onto their tricycles and push like crazy – that’s why God made ’em with push handles.

What are your top tips for getting out of the house? Or are you like me and just stuck melting into the couch because the battle doesn’t seem worth it?

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Check out the resource guide on princesses and fairy tales.

It gives some options for directing “princess passion” away from Disney misogyny and includes great information about media awareness for girls.

Image used under Creative Commons Licensing, attributed to iboy_daniel

There’s an interesting post that made the WordPress.com home page today about some young girls in Beirut. The post is about the “whitening effect” related to race and how some cultures are pretty upfront about preferring lighter skin – so much so that they openly advertise skin lightening products. At one point, the blogger conveys how much “white” is preferred and how it’s exemplified by her young pupils who have taken to playing a Disney Princess game where they can create their own version of a princess. Though they hem and haw over details like clothes and hair, they reflexively choose the “white” skin color on the princesses.

Since I already have an axe to grind about Disney Princesses, this post practically leapt off the screen for me. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that media influences self-image and that there’s considerable cause for alarm, especially as it relates to children. Boys and girls are limited by media influence, but I’m more concerned about my daughter than my son because the majority of roles portrayed for girls and women in media are that of supporters and objects, not leaders and protagonists. Some day, when I have more time I’ll get into the boy part, but the girl part has me for now. Part of it is that, when it comes to girl physiques, all types come with their risks — stereotypically attractive girls will be objectified and sexualized as they mature, more physically challenged girls will hold themselves in comparison.

As a mom, I’m driven to creating a sense of inner character and beauty in both of my children, male and female. In order to do this, I think it’s important to keep them from the dominant media culture as much as possible, as long as possible (they’re both <4 yrs old right now).This especially applies to the cabalesque influence of the Disney Princess regime and the Barbie empire. Both of the aforementioned perpetuate unrealistic physiques for girls and shuttle them into cattle shoots the feed the girls into cookie cutter versions of who they should become. This may sound extreme, but if you doubt my mentality, take a few days to breeze through Packaging Girlhood. It makes a pretty good case for the fact that there genuine intent in the crafting of marketing schemes to produce ultimate consumers. Or read this wonderful letter petitioning Pixar to create an un-Disney movie with a female protagonist to get a sense of the need for more.

When I try to discuss this subject with other adults, I’m surprised at how often my concerns are met with an attitude of “what’s the big deal? You’re taking things way to seriously.” or “You’re overthinking things.” Really? Am I? Take a moment to look at these short videos produced by Dove. Sure, it’s just another take on a media campaign, a fresh spin, but at least they’re pointing out something that’s deadly serious.

Watch the videos and then ask yourself if you still think the influence of media on girls’ body images is benign. Tell me there’s not something to be worked up about.

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I’m sure this has been all over the interwebs for days now, but I’ve just come across this lovely blog by a new mother in Helsinki. The photographs are unbelievably sweet. I really hope she does turn this into a coffee table book, or at least a calendar. They would also make beautiful cards.

When my daughter was a wee one, I took tons (thousands, literally) of photographs of her, but never once came as close to something as creative as this. The closest I got was putting her in a basket on Halloween night when she was about a week old. The end result isn’t nearly as appealing as Adele’s. She looks more like a freshly hatched chicken still covered in yolk than a delicate, flowering little person like Mila!

When my son was born, I was lucky to get a few shots here and there in between chasing a 22 month old and tending to a colicky newborn. Perhaps if we have another child I can nail down some shots half as sweet as Adele’s. For now, I’ll just look at hers and sigh at their wonderful sweetness.

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next survivor series dad

**I did not write this – it was forwarded to me via email BY MY HUSBAND NO LESS!!! – but I thought it was so accurate, I had to share… I’m short on time (for appropriate excuse, see below), so forgive the obvious bad line-breaks from multiple forwardings***

THE NEXT SURVIVOR SERIES
Six married men
will be dropped on an island

with one car

and 3 kids each

for six weeks.

Each kid will play two sports
and take either music or dance classes.

There is no fast food.

Each man must

take care of his 3 kids;
keep his assigned house clean,
correct all homework,
complete science projects,
cook,
do laundry,
and pay a list of ‘pretend’ bills
with not enough money.

In addition,

each man 
will have to budget enough money
for groceries each week.

Each man 
must remember the birthdays

of all their friends and relatives,
and send cards out on time–no emailing.

Each man must also take each child
to a doctor’s appointment,
a dentist appointment
and a haircut appointment.

He must make one unscheduled and 
inconvenient
visit per child to the Emergency Room..

He must also make cookies or cupcakes
for a school function.

Each man will be responsible for
decorating his own assigned house,
planting flowers outside, and keeping it
presentable at all times.

The men will only have access to television

when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.

The men must shave their legs,

wear makeup daily,

adorn themselves with jewelry,

wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes,

keep fingernails polished,

and eyebrows groomed

During one of the six weeks,

the men will have to endure severe
abdominal cramps, backaches, headaches,
have extreme, unexplained mood swings

but never once complain or slow down
from other duties.

They must attend weekly school meetings

and church,
and find time at least once to spend
the afternoon at the park or a similar
setting.

They will need to read a book to the kids each night

and in the morning,

feed them,

dress them
brush their teeth
and 
comb their hair

by 7:30 am.

A test will be given

at the end of the six weeks,

and each father will be required to know

all of the following information:
each child’s
birthday,
height, weight,
shoe size, clothes size,
doctor’s name,
the child’s weight at birth,
length, time of birth,
and length of labor,
each child’s favorite color,
middle name,
favorite snack,
favorite song,
favorite drink,
favorite toy,
biggest fear,
and what they want to be when they grow up.

The kids vote them off the island based on performance.

The last man wins only if….
he still
has enough energy
to be intimate with his spouse
at a moment’s notice.

If the last man does win,
he can play the game over and over and over
again for the next 18-25 years,
eventually earning the right
to be called Mother!

After you get done laughing,
send this to as many females as
you think will get a kick out of it and
as many men as you think can handle it.
Just don’t send it back to me….

I’m going to bed.

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I was reading about Sanctimommies, and it got me thinking about types of moms and marketing. We live in a post-feminist era (this is not news, of course). The wonder of women entering and excelling in the workplace has long-since ceased to be a phenomenon and is now a general expectation. In the present state of the state of motherhood, there seem to be two camps – the “working” mother and the “SAHM” (stay at home mother). In general, both sides seem to feel a bit of jealousy for the other, as well as judgement, and this push-pull / dichotomy is a a classic reason why women have a hard time unifying for common causes, though we all have so much in common (like the desire for our children’s welfare). As with so many things female, this division isn’t readily visible – it rests like little faultlines under the surface of the women’s movement. After all, no one wants to offend, and no one wants to come across as overly sensitive. Ask the average mom in the park or boardroom if she feels this jealousy or judgement, and she’ll likely breezily brush it off as nonsense, that she’s happy with her position, and then finish her dismissal with examples of why her life is balanced. Ask an intimate mom-friend, however, and you’re likely to get a more honest appraisal.

Here’s how it breaks down: on the one hand, the “working” mothers feel judged that they are not home more with their children, that this somehow makes them less of a mother. Even if they don’t feel this way about themselves, they feel that this is how SAHM’s see them. On the other side, stay at home mothers feel like they’re missing out on career and being valued (financially) by broader society. Our culture gives lip service to the work of the mother, the all-importance of raising children, our future, blah, blah, blah, but at the end of the day, one glance at the way our social security program is structured or how swiftly we lop off education programs from public funding shows how highly valued this work is. So, SAH moms sit on the “undervalued” side of the fence, wondering if they’ll ever apply that education, be able to achieve the professional heights they may have gotten to had they not had children, etc. And, yes, they do feel judged by the working moms – judged and begrudged.

In between these two camps, you’ve got the “perfect mother.” We all know this one – the ultra-achiever hell-bound to do it all. To me, this kind of mom is a holdover from the eighties, the woman that tells herself she can and will have it all — not just a “job,” but a full, high-achieving career and spend every other minute of her live involved with her children. This is all very well and good… except… where’s the woman, the actual individual? How does the woman foster herself? To me, the concept of the “perfect mother” is far more damaging than the June Cleaver model. The elusive “perfect mother” exists somewhere out there, along with the Easter Bunny and Lochness monster… and we all hold her ideal up as an example of where the rest of us are falling short.

None of these ideas are novel. I’ve known that, but I still haven’t gotten a space to express this for myself until now. What I didn’t know, until today, was that these ideas are SO un-novel that they’ve even made their way into an advertising whitepaper for Ad Age entitled “The Rise of the Real Mom.”

I’ve only been able to briefly scan the whitepaper, but a lot of what I’ve just stated is there — the notion of the “perfect mother” the super-mom, the june cleaver…

So, here’s my question… as with the creation of the “tween” demographic” (did they exist before they were marketed to?), the marketing machine behind the “me” generation (remember all those “I am…” ads of the late 90’s?), or the Virginia Slims “Long Way Baby” campaigns capitalizing on women’s independence… Do marketing campaigns follow and further define facets of society, or create them? As a mom, do I think of myself as a “real mom” struggling with comparisons to the “perfect mother” ideal because I’ve been marketed to, or do marketers pursue me in that way because I’m part of the demographic?

Either way, this white paper is cause for pause and insight to an insidious industry. Why insidious? It’s not just about what products I may or may not buy as a result of an effective campaign… but how I may even think of myself and my role in society!

Here’s a link to the full white paper (opens a PDF): The New Female Consumer: The Rise of the Real Mom

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