Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Feminism and Me

"Why are you getting married?" a mentor asked me, with coldness that was unmistakable.

"Are you keeping your last name?" A fellow student asked.

"You're pregnant? That was fast." Mused a co-worker. 

"Have you ever gone back to work between babies?" 

"So, when are you going to use that degree you worked so hard to get?" A question from a relative.

"Well, I'm not sure you have much street cred as a feminist," said a Sociology classmate motioning to my pregnant belly.

These are the things that swirl through my mind as I think about feminism as it relates to me. It's not a very welcoming place, this feminist world, for a stay-at-home Mom who is a practicing Catholic - and yet, I feel like I should throw my hat in the ring. My classmate by surface accounts of feminism is right, I don't have feminist "street cred" by typical measures.
I put marriage and children before my career, I'm not a birth control user, and I do subscribe to a faith - Catholicism, that is certainly never described well in typical feminist circles. But given that I made these choices with full understanding and free will, I feel fortunate, blessed even, to be able to call myself a feminist.

I care deeply about women. It shakes me to the core that there is still oppression and injustice being enacted against women for the reason of their gender alone. So I dare to call myself a feminist. 

Women should have choices, yes. Women should have freedom to do and say and be anything they want to be, yes. Women should not have to fear the ramifications of being who they are and living to their full potential.

But I would argue from my side of the coffee shop, that there is a lot of fear and insecurity that emancipated, educated, free women like myself face each day.

A lot of these fears come from the set of ideas we call feminism. The idea that one must be educated, have a successful career, have strict control over how many children we have, we must have no reliance whatsoever on men, and we must be able to use our body when and how we please. These are the messages I grew up alongside, and at face-value, completely positive. But in another way these seem to be oppression again of another set of values - the ones that I hold dear. 

"Why are you getting married?" 
I was 22, in love with an amazing man, and I viewed marriage as the fulfillment of my deepest desire to walk with this man through life, leading each other to be better with each passing day.

The coldness and criticism I experienced told me a lot. It told me that marriage was looked at as a thing of little value to this person. But my inner feminist thought, "Shouldn't this be my choice? How dare you belittle my decision!"

I became pregnant within the first year of my marriage. In the hallways at my university, I stuck out and often got looks of pity, invasive questions about whether my baby was planned, and copious opinions about delivery (of all things). "Thanks young man, for letting me know that you deem it ok if I receive an epidural." Only a few times in those hallways did I hear congratulations, mostly from women who had children already. Having children was almost revolting to the majority of my 18-25 year-old peers. I thought of the feminists then: If women were supposed to do anything and be anything they wanted, why was my choice to be wife and mother less valid? 

Most women I meet in public with children my children's age are at least 10 years older. They've usually put in their time with a career of some sort, and often refer to it in conversation. I'm not going to lie, I myself vaguely refer to my degree in communications, but amidst these conversations I often wish I had the courage to just say I stay home and leave it there. There isn't any shame in staying home with children. I find it an extremely valuable use of my time. Where modern feminism has failed though is that it snubs the lives of our grandmothers, when what our grandmothers and indeed, early feminists sought, was simply for all women to have a choice and a voice. 

We still don't have that. Women all over the world are still being oppressed, and of equal worry, are the women who have lived the modern feminist life and found it wanting. 

More women than ever are on anti-depressants.  More women than ever are experiencing infertility.  Our choices are getting narrower and women are still suffering in a multitude of ways.

Maybe what women need most isn't more money, more birth control, more CEOs who are women, more politicians promising things that never materialize.

Maybe women need to support one another and celebrate the very things that make them women.  Maybe we need a feminism that puts who you are above what you achieve, and acknowledges that some of our previously accepted notions of what women need are hurting more than helping.












Saturday, March 4, 2017

Being Better: Lent Lessons

Sometimes I get hit with the sheer monotony and awfulness of motherhood, particularly being a stay-at-home parent.  Sometimes the books my kids choose for me to read to them are absolute drivel. The laundry literally never ends. The crying child who fights with a sibling day in, day out. The whining of a hungry baby just as you are preparing their food. On these occasions, I feel like I could've been out in the world, writing for a magazine, exposing truths and making a difference. Even though I know in my head and heart that this is where I'm supposed to be, I admit I fail to see how I'm contributing to a greater good. 

This Wednesday I had a particularly bad moment. But it was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I started the day mindful of my Lent decision to give up procrastination - after all, it is often failure on my part to plan and do that makes things overwhelming around here. But inevitably a fight started between my two middle boys. Light sabers were taken, and my 3-year-old, a pathetic little being, sat on the floor wailing, "I need a hug! I nee-eed a hu-uh-uhg!"

Though I was making my oldest's lunch, I knew it would just less stressful to stoop down and hug him than to listen to him yell at me. So I hugged him. I hugged him tight and tried to feign genuine love for this kid that I just (if I'm honest) wanted to send back to bed. But as I hugged him it hit me:

I caught a glimpse of the crucifix and saw Jesus, His arms outstretched, His head pierced with thorns, and it hit me. What is it to hug a child? A crying, snot-covered, angry child. 
If I'm supposed to be walking this walk, giving that hug just might be my version of taking up the Cross. But it's a difficult task in the recesses of my home, with only me to keep myself in check and attuned to all the incessant needs. 

Yesterday, that same child walked into a room full of people, wailing. Immediately I crouched down to his level, opened wide my arms and gave him the hug I knew he would need. He accepted it, wiped his eyes and went back out to play with the other kids. 

"Do not practice your piety before others," from Ash Wednesday's readings came flashing into my mind. It was so easy to get down on the floor with my boy when a room full of people was watching, and I'll admit, I wanted to make sure I was seen being a kind, nurturing mother. I love my kids, and it's not all for show, but we all have to admit it is so much easier to do something when it makes you feel as good as public recognition or acknowledgement from others. 

This is the reason it's so difficult to fold the laundry for six people, or clean that dish that came out of the dishwasher still a bit dirty. To clean that day-old spot on the wall, or sort the junk drawer. It is why it is so hard to respond kindly to the kid who wakes you up at 3 a.m. 
Nobody sees it. Only sometimes do you get a "thanks" and there is always more.

However, I'm continually being shown that simply doing, not for gratification or acknowledgement is much nobler, and more challenging. It's a test of true strength and character to hug and snuggle a toddler who may or may not be on the verge of throwing up on you. But it's also in loving the utterly helpless and sometimes unlovable that is a mother's daily call. 

Simply doing to be disciplined in my tasks, and simply doing because I must take great care of the gifts I've been given, both human and material. I'm realizing that this vocation of mother and wife that I chose, fraught with lonely little tasks, is a actually an opportunity. 

It's an opportunity to love and serve and make a difference. And maybe it's just in five or more lives in the depths of domesticity, but even so, it's transforming me ever so slowly into someone better. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

SQT: How is it Friday?

Linking up with Kelly and the other takers. Go check them out!

ONE:
 
This weekend I've been promised by my loving husband that I can lay around and watch Netflix and sleep as much as the kids will let me!  So, not as much sleep as I'd like, but I'm still nursing a baby who doesn't really like many foods (He's a fatty though, so my milk must be awesome). I'm only lying around because I'm sick, not for the pure joy of it, but I'll enjoy it as best I can! Recommend me some (Canadian) Netflix! 

TWO:

 

We are going on week 4 of someone being some kind of sick in our house. I'm hoping by Christmas (because I'm not an optimist) that all the kids have formed some immunity and we can enjoy a day without some sort of bodily fluid needing attending to. Ew! I know. 
I'm amazed at how many days I've kept the kids home from school. Then when they're well, it's back to the cesspool of bad hygiene and sick kids who have to be there because their parents have to work. Again, another reason to question why I'm not homeschooling.

THREE:

This is really turning out to be quite negative! Apologies. I'm wracking my brain for something awesome.  A cute photo of Martin will do the trick. He's just about 1! I can't quite believe that. My baby isn't going to be a baby anymore!
The kids are gearing up for another sibling though, and have told people, "When our next baby is born..." which elicits some shocked stares and hasty assurance that no, I'm not currently gestating anybody.  Then comes the awkward, "Are you done?" and all I can do is smile and say, "You never know!" Not that it is anyone's business anyway.
 

FOUR:

All the election coverage has me avoiding papers, news and to some extent, my own newsfeed on Facebook. Though it has made me realize that my mix of friends is quite politically eclectic, as I'm seeing lots posts from both sides of the spectrum. I'm just so disillusioned at the entire spectacle, but also enraged and sad. My poor little heart can't take much more! "Lord have mercy!" is the thing I'm praying over and over.

FIVE: 

 

These two are getting so big and hilarious. Patrick can read! Carter is making up far-fetched tales (cognitive development here). Patrick can cut up vegetables for me! Carter can feed Martin for me. They're just making me simultaneously proud and a little but crazy with all their growth!

SIX:

Right right now the "big boys" are gone with their dad to a football game. Because it's unseasonably cold for October, and because I'm not that dedicated to football (call me a fair weather fan - I totally am) I'm staying home with the "little boys". So far it's been a lot of consoling Zachary who didn't get to go due to illness. It's really very sad because he is the one who loves football with Daddy the most.  It's not quite the same with the game on TV, but he's ok with it. 
 

SEVEN: 

I'm going to use the time between now and bedtime to iron some quilt fabric (which I bought while pregnant with Martin) and prep it for cutting. I'm bound and determined that one of the "little boys" Christmas presents will be quilts for the bedroom they share! I might be over-ambitious considering the current needy state of Martin, my general lack of quilting knowledge, and the fact that I'm really busy!
But I find sewing so soothing - I need to do it more!

Have a great weekend all! If you just stopped by, I can't promise I'll get more interesting, but I hope you enjoyed just a little bit. 



Friday, October 14, 2016

SQT: It's been too long!

It has been way too long since I joined Kelly and the other quick takers.

ONE:

It's a cloudy day, so all I feel like doing is whining. I was trying to think of something positive for the first take to set the tone for great things to come, but really... clouds make me sad. I need a sun lamp or something.
A happy baby who has cut his 7th tooth and is almost ready to walk does cheer me up a little.

 

TWO:

With two kids in school, albiet only Kindergarten and grade one, I feel like we are entering a new plane of existence. Suddenly there is all these things that need to be thought about and lots of the things are small, like 10 minutes of reading each night with the grade 1 child, and little projects that get sent home for the "family" to do with the Kindergartener or getting a six-year-old to find 3 things in our house that begin with the letter "H" that he can feasibly take to school without losing or breaking them.
Then there are the forms to fill out requiring my consent to be given. In some sense I feel like I'm signing their lives away with every form I read over and send back. I am that parent who has all the extra questions and concerns about everything, which I think might be a bit shocking to the principal and teachers, because even though I am not at all on the warpath, they seem always to feel the need to defend themselves when I simply want to know more. Am I not supposed to care? Am I just supposed to blindly allow my child to be swept into a system I know nothing about? But I'd rather be that parent than the one who has no clue. I guess I best get used to it. Or homeschool. As a case of successful homeschooling, I always have it in the back of my mind.

THREE:

The two older guys in school has brought a different dynamic to our family. I'm getting alone time with my 2.5 year old, Zachary, while the baby naps, which has never really happened in his entire life. He and I have built block castles to knock them down, read lots and lots of our favourite books and watched a couple episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine, which my older boys say is a "baby show". We've made a couple trips to Starbucks too. It's a can of worms I might regret, but cute when he says "Mom, should we go to Starbucks and get an apple spice for myself and a coffee for yourself?"  Sometimes we go to a small local cafe too, but they don't have a drive-thru, and someone told one of the baristas that "My baby brudder is sleepin' in the van." (which was parked right outside the door where I could see it on a semi-cold day where he wouldn't overheat or freeze). But she looked at me like I was physically torturing a cat, so we promptly took our order and left.

 

FOUR

It's afternoon now and the baby has woken up from his nap, so the two littlest get to play in our playroom and be cute together. Zachary is currently trying to coax the baby into a nylon tunnel. It's not going so well. Martin is probably right not to trust him. Ah brotherhood.

FIVE:

Something I realized today is that I've inadvertently been pulled into the world of roughhousing. I'm not the touchy-feely wrestling type. I never had the urge to tickle someone till they peed their pants or tackle someone to the ground. Maybe my siblings remember things differently, but I can definitely say I stuck to the sidelines of this in my years beyond childhood.  But I have 4 boys beneath age 7 now. Things have changed. This morning I spent a good 10 minutes after dressing Martin, just tickling and wrestling the 5-, 2.5 year and 10-month-old on the floor. I often finish such an encounter with my sons and think to myself, "What was that?" Same weird feeling I get when I pass a huge track-hoe or dump-truck and get mildly excited. These boys have changed their mother. It'll be interesting to look back in a decade and see what other things I do purely as a result of having sons.

SIX:

It's almost time to head back to school and pick up the older two boys. It's sunny now, so I'll likely give them a half-hour on the playground while I chat to the playground moms about our weekend plans, kid's activities etc. It's an interesting social situation, as everyone makes small-talk and tries not to go too deep or get awkward. Most conversations are happy, and it's like a school situation all over again as we separate ourselves into categories of parent. There's the cool hipster parents (which I don't think I'm a part of), the tight group of girls (women) who actually socialize outside of this setting, and there's a Filipino crowd, which is hilarious, as they stand around speaking in Tagalog to each other, love it. There's a smattering more people who've been there longer than I have. It's going to be interesting to see how this all develops if we continue with this school for the forseeable future. As an introvert, it's taken me a long time to come to grips with well, socializing every single day for the sake of giving the kids some run-around time. Don't get me wrong, the people I've befriended are great people, but I've ceased reaching out to friends for play-dates because this is all the social I can handle right now. 

SEVEN:

September brought us a slew of illness. There is so much going around right now. It makes me crazy. Case and point: my natural-remedy loving side is coming out as I brew pot after pot of lemon-honey-ginger concoction and foist it upon the ill, with elderberry tincture whether they like it or not. Here's the crazy part: I attempted making some honey-lemon throat lozenges (because buying the ones that contain only honey and lemon with no added sugar was apparently too easy). I wish I had a photo of the disgusting, sticky, slightly burned goop I made, but I threw it out in shame!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Growing up: Moments of truth in crappy old cars.

Greetings readers, (if indeed any of you are still out there)
It was really quite by accident that I took almost an entire year off of blogging. I really meant to get back to it, but because of my last post, I experienced a crisis of authenticity:

I decided I needed to do a little more practicing what I was preaching, and get myself together a little more. Organizing takes time. Also, we were pregnant with our fourth, and I was experiencing a difficult bout of post-natal depression.  I needed to, well, NOT whine on the internet about how horrible I felt life was, despite being blessed with another baby. Then, come November, we welcomed Martin into the world and all became clearer and brighter again. I love the newborn stage, and wanted to blog my birth story, my insights into the world of baby toes and drool and coos and giggles and diapers, but I let myself just be caught up in it, and enjoyed all of the newborn and small baby moments. Life moved along, but I always had imaginary blog posts going throughout.

I turned 30 in May. I love saying I'm 30 - it feels so comfortable. I'm finally comfortable in my own skin, which is a funny concept because I'm 60 or so pounds overweight, I have four little people with me almost every time I enter the public eye, and I drive a mini-van. I have finally shed that sense of longing that stems from vanity. I can laugh at and with myself now, and just enjoy being, instead of looking over my shoulder, or through dark lenses to see who is looking. I don't know if this has to do with being 30, but I like to think age helps you realize you're okay in the world.

Case and point: I  took a visit the other day to my hometown with Joseph, and ended up driving around in his parents' old Plymouth Voyager, which has peeling paint, a grey hood  and front right panel, to contrast the burgundy that covers the rest of it.  My kids told me that this is what the grandparents refer to as "the garbage van," because that is what they use to haul their trash into town. I wish I had a picture. I was just grateful I had a way to go to town and visit while my husband worked further away with the only vehicle we brought.

I drove past the cemetery where my Dad is buried, and then it hit me:
The entire reason I was unwilling to obtain my learner's permit at 14 years old, is because my parents drove a 1976 Colony Park station wagon affectionately named by one friend, "the shaggin' wagon" (oh the indignity). I was petrified to be seen driving it. I just couldn't bring myself to do it, even if it meant my mode of transport was my own two legs and my bike. I never voiced this to my parents, but I'm sure they figured it out. I just stood by and watched as my friends all learned to drive and I did not. My father took care of this car, you see, and he loved it. He sang a song about it at my parent's 25th Anniversary party.

As I drove past the cemetery, I took stock of "the garbage van" which runs fine, but the doors stick, it has no rearview mirror, the shifter is a little wonky, and only one side mirror adjusts. Also, it has curtains (ahem. shaggin' wagon. ahem)  "Well, would you look at that..." I imagined my Dad chuckle as I drove down those very streets where that old car would've driven, and I began to laugh. That Colony Park, lovingly cared for by my Dad, didn't look so bad now...

I could practically hear my dear Dad laughing with me as I drove into town, down main street - a pivotal landmark of my youth - in this old, two-coloured van with peeling paint and curtains. People were looking. I laughed a hearty, long, belly laugh and tears were rolling down my face. My kids were concerned!

"Mom!" Patrick said, "You might not want to drive if you're laughing so hard!"
"Mom, stop!" Carter cried, "Before we crash!"
Zachary just giggled. Martin, my 9-month-old let out a "hahaha!" along with me.

I continued to laugh until my sides hurt, laughing at myself 16 years ago, laughing at the look I imagined might be on my Dad's face as I drove through town with people looking, and laughing for the pure joy of being free from that care, now that I simply needed to get to a friend's in the vehicle available to me. I was still laughing as I pulled into her driveway.

I laughed with my friend over coffee, unashamed to share my little epiphany, and thankful that I was able to get there.

Much like the feeling you get when you're done laughing - that exhaustion combined with giddiness and mirth, I feel like I've made a little step in my life toward being a little bit better than before.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Why I DO Shoot for Perfection as a Mom



have a sign on my wall that says "Good Moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens and happy kids."

But I don't believe it.

I can't stand a sticky floor. It's gross!

So I vacuum at least once a day, and have even got my 5- and 3-year-olds vacuuming.  My kids don't get to eat in the living room, or anywhere but the kitchen, with the exception of popcorn on movie nights, and they must pick up any dropped food at the table - yes, even the 1-year-old.

Actually, 1-year-old Zachary is so well-trained, that when water, milk or juice spills or drips a little, he says "Mess!" and often goes to get a dish rag.

This is the degree of my severe dislike for sticky floors.  The oven? Also pretty clean.

I can't help but notice the number of blog posts, signage and media centered around the principle that if you're a mom, you don't have to be perfect, just spend time with your kids and make them happy. And this is sometimes really good to hear. No, you don't have to be perfect. But a lot of these things basically tell us that it is ok to just throw our hands up and say, "Oh well. I'm a mom."

"Don't expect to have a clean house. Don't expect to make good from-scratch meals. Don't expect to ever be done doing laundry. Don't expect to also be a good wife to your husband. Don't expect to take showers. Don't expect to do your hair. You have KIDS! You're doing so much already! Kids are the epitome of work and time and effort, and you won't regret spending each little second cherishing their growth. You don't have to be a good friend, you're a mom. You don't have to be on time for commitments, you're a mom. You don't really have to be a responsible human being (except when it comes to raising perfect children) because... you're a mom."

Uh. No.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a perfect mother or housekeeper or friend... but it was around my third birth about a year-and-a-half ago that I thought to myself, "Hey, if I'm not done having babies... then I better get myself together here."

I'm constantly witnessing moms who are, as I call it, "overwhelmed with life." Be it kids, or a demanding job, or medical problems, or any of the things that come with marriage and family, they're out there, and they can often be heard saying things like, "I don't do that, I'm a mom."  I am still one sometimes.  I don't have it all together.

What I do have though is a different perspective to offer, and it came to me once when I was pondering just exactly how I as a Catholic am called to live my life - particularly this passage from the gospel of Matthew:
"Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." ( Matthew 5: 43-48)
Jesus is asking really difficult things here. He's asking people to love people who hate them, to go against the ebb and flow of what the world around them is doing. He's saying we don't need to be like everyone else. Applying this in my life, it means not buying into the idea that motherhood makes me unable to shoot for perfection. It's like Jesus is saying, "Hey little mother over there, be better than you were yesterday. Be perfect."

So I've tasked myself with shooting for perfection; with having a standard and surpassing it whenever possible. And you know what? I've never had a perfect day. I've never been perfect. I likely never will be. I don't expect my friends to be perfect - but I love to hear when they're trying, and even when I see the improvements they make in their own lives.

And, you know what else? It feels better to have perfection as the goal than to have given up and resigned myself to imperfection, and being constantly overwhelmed with my children and the world around me. It feels better to be teaching my kids to aim high too, because why shouldn't they learn, even by osmosis at less than 1 year, that life is about doing your best to be your best?

It feels good to set standards - not impossible ones mind you - and then meet them. Sticky floors? Nope. Not here. But happy kids? Here too.

I think of each little goal as a step in the direction of true peace and balance in my life. Looking back, it seems we've climbed up the ladder from "overwhelmed with life," to... well, something better.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Answer Me This! (Insert witticism here)


Linking up with Kendra today to answer some fun questions and really, who doesn't want to know if I prefer ice cream or frozen yoghurt?

1. What's your favorite grocery store splurge?
This is so tough.  Right now? It's San Pellegrino, which means I'm pregnant and can't have a real drink, so I take fancy watery-juice stuff and put it in a fancy glass with some orange slices and a straw and pretend.

Normally though, I splurge on alcohol... Usually things like Baileys Irish Cream, Killkenny and Guinness Beers and English ciders, but often other liquers and good tequila. I mean, I know that's not technically grocery store, but that's my biggest splurge. Call me a lush!

Fancy chocolate is another. Particularly this stuff.

2. How's your penmanship:


This is it. Kind of a combo of calligraphy and printing.  My answer could be pretty much identical to Christy's, who also did courses of calligraphy because... homeschooled.

Christy and I used to be pen-pals too, so my secret envy of her gorgeous writing spurred my desire to take this calligraphy stuff seriously.

Years later in journalism school, we had to conduct interviews and write everything quickly by hand at the insistence of one teacher, which kind of derailed the beauty of my writing, but I can now write quickly AND legibly, so win?

3. Do you have a "summer bucket list"?

Easy one. NO.

At the beginning of the summer, I was getting over the first trimester of the most intense pregnancy I've had so far. There was no ambition to list anything back then, not even groceries. My main goal was to survive each day, and try not to fall asleep while the youngest was awake, in order to avoid certain catastrophe.

Now that summer is half over and I feel like a human being again, I still have some stuff I want to get done, like spray park visits, mommy-get-togethers and getting Patrick's afternoon nap phased out so that he's not a basket case in September when afternoon kindergarten begins!

But I'm putting that off as long as possible, because if he doesn't nap, his extroverted little self can't seem to stay away from me for more than 15 minutes, which is endearing, but a challenge for my need for some quiet time.

4. What's the best thing on the radio right now?

I listen mainly to my province's listener funded radio station, so I end up with a lot of indie and folk and some classical and jazz...

I'll put in a shameless plug for Carter's godfather, whom we've requested to hear on said station from time to time. He's got kind of a folky-rocky Lumineersish type of sound, in my unprofessional and really biased opinion.

5. Ice Cream or frozen yogurt?
I've never met an actual ice cream I didn't like, but now that I have an ice cream maker, I'm extremely picky about it.  I figure, why waste caloric intake on something that is really only sub-par?

My favourites right now are the chai vanilla ice cream I make by infusing tea leaves and spices into the milk (sounds so fancy, but it's darn simple), and rhubarb flavour - which requires cooking and straining rhubarb, but once you've tasted the tart with the sweet of the ice cream, so worth it.

6. Have you had that baby NOW?

Eeee! Kendra has this amazing accidental home-birth story. So click back to her.
I'm so happy for her that everything worked out with sweet Mary Jane.

As for me... still a few months to go:



Sad that Answer Me This has to go... not that I participated till now, but I love a good light blog read. If you do too, click over for more fun answers to these same questions.