Mother’s Day

10 May

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This post is for my mother. This is in recognition of the countless hours of unpaid labour she did and continues to do for my sisters and I. This post is an acknowledgement of the fact that I have taken her for granted; she’s given her time and energy to me so freely and generously that it wasn’t until I had my own child that I understood how much this must have personally cost her. She is someone whose love and support I can rely on even when she disagrees with the choices I make.

This post is for all the people who work in childcare and are underpaid because what they do is undervalued by our society. This is for the folks – mostly women – who are often offered minimum wage or less to nurture, engage, educate and love a child.

This post is for all the people who are helping me raise my kid – my husband, my family, my friends. Thank you for being a part of his life. Thank you for being a safe person. Someday, when there’s something that he needs to work through that for whatever reason he feels he can’t talk to me about, he might come to you. Thank you in advance for being amazing when that day comes.

This post is for all the ways our culture simultaneously fetishizes and belittles mothers. This post is for all the women who have been told in the same breath that motherhood is the hardest job they’ll ever have but also staying home with their children is lazy, unfulfilling and un-feminist.

This post is for the mothers who couldn’t afford to go back to work.

This post is for the mothers who couldn’t afford not to go back to work.

This post is for the women who can’t take time off work to care for their sick children. This is for the women who have been threatened with termination if they take one more day off because of their kids.

This post is for my grandmother, who was appalled that I was breastfeeding because for her formula had been a miracle that allowed her a freedom her own mother had never enjoyed. This post is for the women like my Nanny who choose to go back to work a few weeks after giving birth because they love their jobs, but at the same time don’t love their children any less for that fact.

This post is for the mothers who have no choice but to go back to work only a few weeks postpartum because their government doesn’t guarantee them access to a maternity leave.

This post is for the mothers who have no choice but to go back to work only a few weeks postpartum because although they have paid maternity leave, their wage is reduced during that time to 55% of their income.

This post is for every mother who’s had to spend time on welfare or food stamps and has gritted her teeth through ignorant comments about government hand-outs.

This post is for every mother who is doing everything she can to make sure her family survives.

This post is for all the mothers of Black sons who are afraid for their children’s lives. This post is for every woman who has to teach her child to view police officers as people to be afraid of rather than people who will help them.

This post is for all the mothers who have felt ashamed of the ways their bodies have changed during pregnancy. This post is for the women who never appear in photographs with their children because they hate the way they look.

This post is for the mothers who receive endless societal messages about how they should always be sacrificing more, more, more for their kids. This post is for the women who have been told that if they really loved their kids they would breastfeed/stay home/give up caffeine/never check their phone/make all their food from scratch.

This post is for every mother who has been frightened by yet another sensational “study” that somehow proves they’ve ruined their kids. This is for all the women who have lost sleep wondering whether their children have been put at some kind of risk because they had too much screen time or not enough Omega-3.

This post is for the mothers who struggled silently with postpartum depression because they were afraid that if they told anyone, their children would be taken away from them.

This post is for the mothers who struggled silently with postpartum depression because they felt a crushing guilt over the fact that they didn’t love motherhood the way they thought they were supposed to.

This post is for every mother who has complained about some aspect of child-rearing only to be told to enjoy it while it lasts and it all goes so quickly and all the other trite platitudes that just make them feel worse.

This post is for my great-grandmother, who wouldn’t let her kids get after-school jobs because she wanted them to have real childhoods, not like the one she’d spent working under the eye of her brutal stepmother. This is for all the women who have had difficult childhoods and, instead of furthering the cycle of abuse, do their best to make sure their children have time for fun and play just plain being young.

This post is for those of you who are estranged from your mothers and have to endure endless questions and advice from prying strangers, as if it wasn’t a decision you’d properly thought through. I can’t imagine how tricky it must be to navigate holidays like Mother’s Day, when you’re inundated with reminders of your loss.

This post is for the women who wish so badly that they could be mothers, but for whatever reason can’t be.

This post is permission for you to mark this day however you want or need to, in grief or in joy or something in between.

I love you, Mom.

An Open Letter To All Of My Friends Who Take Selfies

5 May

Dear Friends Who Take Selfies,

I want you to know that I love it when you post pictures of yourself. I know selfies get a lot of bad press, but I think they’re rad. They give me a little window into your life, and you’d be amazed at how much I can get out of one little photo.

I love your pictures because I love seeing what you’re wearing – the outfits you build give me ideas about how to mix it up with my own wardrobe, and seeing you work your shit gives me courage to try clothing that I otherwise might have thought was too outlandish or revealing.

I love seeing how you do your hair and makeup. You look like a hot babe and I wish you would make YouTube tutorials explaining how you get your eyeliner just so. I want you to post pictures every time you change your hair, because seeing you cycle through all those neon colours gives me great ideas about what to do next with my own hair.

I love when you take selfies in your house. It’s neat to see where you live. When your place is cluttered, it makes me feel better about my own messy apartment. When your house is neat, it encourages me to get my shit together and do the damn dishes already. I like seeing the things you own and the art you put on your walls, because those things tells me so much about who you are and what you care about.

I love when you take selfies while on vacation. I don’t get to travel often, so your pictures allow me to live vicariously through you. The excitement on your face when you take a selfie at the Trevi Fountain or by the Arc de Triomphe is perfect and beautiful. I’ve seen a thousand pictures of the Louvre Pyramid, but the most interesting ones are the ones with you in it. If I wanted to see a picture of the Great Wall of China all on its own, I could just google the damn thing. You’re what makes those pictures special.

Mostly I love your selfies because I love seeing you feel good about yourself. I love how your face glows when you look like a million bucks and you know it. I love when you celebrate yourself. You deserve to be celebrated.

It’s easy for people to roll their eyes at selfies and make jokes about girls who just want attention, but the truth is that for lots of women – especially women of colour, trans women, disabled women and all the other women who see their existences erased in mainstream media – posting pictures of themselves is a way of challenging our culture’s narrow beauty standards.

Selfies are a way of saying, “I love myself, and I will fight anyone who tries to change that fact.”

Selfies are not a question. They’re not asking “Do you think I’m pretty?”

Selfies are a statement: “I am here.”

I see you.

I love you.

You matter.

Your selfies are inspirational. That might sound corny, but it’s true. When I see you love yourself, it helps me love myself. I suspect the same is true for lots of other people who see your pictures.

So please keep taking selfies. Please fill my Facebook and Twitter feeds with your wonderful face. Every picture you post fills me with so much joy. I love seeing you.

Obligatory selfie because what else would I add to this post?

Obligatory selfie because what else would I add to this post?

All The Gratitude

28 Apr

The past year or so has been a struggle for my family. We had bedbugs for most of 2014, and even though our building’s property management company paid for the bi-weekly sprayings, getting rid of them completely drained our savings account. We had to wash and re-wash every piece of clothing and linen in the house, and every spraying meant hauling our two cats in a cab to a friend’s house because obviously it’s not a great idea to have animals on hand when you’re spreading deadly chemicals around. Sprayings also meant eating out a lot, since we weren’t allowed back in the apartment for several hours after they were completed. On top of that, there were lots of little problems we (perhaps unwisely) threw money at to make them go away. Turns out having bedbugs is a pretty expensive gig! Who knew?

So now we’re kind of broke. I work a bunch of jobs and my husband works full time, but the cost of Toronto rent plus Toronto daycare is making it challenging to get by. We’ve bounced a couple of rent cheques in the past few months, a fact that that 100% makes me feel like not-a-grownup. And speaking of broke, yesterday I broke my phone because I’m a total ding dong. It was one of those things where I was really tired and it slipped out of my hands and also let’s be real it was already cracked a bunch because apparently I am clumsy, and now the screen is full of colourful lines and I can’t unlock it. It’s hard for me to work when I don’t have a phone, because use it to tether when I can’t be at home and don’t have access to wifi, and also, you know, part of my work is tweeting, talking to people, updating The Belle Jar’s FB page, etc.

So I made a Patreon account last night. This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, because writing isn’t a super lucrative job. Especially when most of your writing is feminist analysis. I felt weird about asking for money, but, you know, it was just that – asking. I didn’t want anyone to feel obligated to do anything; I just wanted to give them the option to donate if that was something they were into. I do lots of work for free, and I figured that maybe people wanted to help me continue doing that work.

I woke up this morning to find that over night I had gained over $100 a month in donations. That number has now grown to $188 per month. I am so fucking humbled. I don’t even know what to say, other than thank you thank you thank you. I had no idea whether this would work because hey, why buy the cow when you can get the feminist analysis for free, right? But you guys have come through and then some.

So thank you. I cannot say that enough. Thank you. Thank you to everyone who donated, but also thank you to everyone who shows up, everyone who reads my stuff, everyone who takes the time to comment and share and click-to-like. Thank you from the bottom of my filthy little heart. Whenever I find myself wondering what the point is of shouting my claptrap out into the void, I remember you guys, and that makes it all worth doing. Thank you.

If you want to donate to my Patreon account, you can find it here: patreon.com/anne_theriault

You can donate a little as a dollar a month, which is RAD. Unfortunately, the platform doesn’t allow for one-time donations, which some people prefer (for obvious reasons). If that’s something you really want to do, you can message me through the Belle Jar’s FB page and I’ll give you my email address. But if you can’t or don’t want to donate, no sweat. I just appreciate you for being here and reading my stuff.

Much love,

Anne

Photo on 2015-04-28 at 2.54 PM

Guest Post – Dear Robert F. Kennedy Jr: Autism Is Not A Catastrophe

16 Apr

Guest post by Allison Garber

Dear Robert F. Kennedy Jr:

I’ll start by thanking you for your apology for comparing Autism to the Holocaust. That was good of you, since likening my child’s existence to one of the most horrific acts of mankind was pretty brutal.

Your apology, sadly, was not directed towards my son, since you went on to say, “I struggled to find an expression to convey the catastrophic tragedy of autism which has now destroyed the lives of over 20 million children and shattered their families”.

I’d wager a guess that you struggle so hard with this because you don’t actually understand Autism. I’d also wager a guess that you don’t really care to understand Autism; instead, you prefer to believe that Autism is caused by vaccines and that Autistic people don’t have minds of their own. In fact, in your recent speech in Sacramento, you described Autistic children’s brains as being “gone.” It would have been nice had you spoken to any actually Autistic people before making these remarks, but I guess it’s more convenient to your agenda to paint Autism as the post-vaccine bogeyman who comes in the night to steal your children and ruin their lives.

While apologizing, you said that you you were struggling to find the appropriate expression to convey the “catastrophic tragedy” of Autism. I’ll be honest here; my struggle right now is to push aside my hurt in order to draft a response to you that is kind and impactful.

I won’t wade into the scientific facts that dispute basically every single thing you are saying about vaccines. Those who are much more educated in this field have tried to change your view to no avail, so my efforts in that regard would be futile.

Let me instead speak to you from the heart about how your words impact my family. My five year old son is Autistic. He’s a wonderful, energetic, smart, fun-loving boy. Being Autistic brings forth a number of challenges to his day-to-day life, but many of those challenges exist because of our society’s inability to take the time to understand him and the way his brain works, and therefore barriers and obstacles are continually put up in the way of his success.

You contribute to those challenges, Robert. Because of your beliefs and the beliefs of those like you, many people are unwilling to accept and embrace Autistic kids and adults. Your framing of Autism as a tragedy and a catastrophe directly impacts how people treat my son. You need to understand that. When you tell people that my son’s brain is “gone,” you make it impossible for them to accept him the way he is. You foster an environment where parents are afraid to let their neurotypical kids play with Autistic peers. Your fear-mongering means that employers will hesitate before hiring Autistic adults. You frighten people with the idea that they may one day be parents to an Autistic child.

My child is not a thing for you to hold up as some kind of warning or scare tactic. He is a person. And when you call him a tragedy, what you are telling him – and people like him – is that they are not worthy to be here.

I want you to imagine what it would be like for my son to someday read your words. I want you to picture him – a bright, thoughtful little kid already struggling to make his way through the world – reading and absorbing the fact that you and people like you think he is a catastrophe. Imagine telling my son to his face that his existence is the reason why families fall apart. Imagine telling my child that he is a mistake, a result of “something gone wrong”, and that he is not deserving of inclusion in his community. None of these are nice images, are they? And yet this is the message that you are putting out in the world.

The thought of my son internalizing that message is my greatest fear.

My hope, however, is that he’ll remember that he is loved, that he is valued, and that he is one of the greatest gifts my family has received in this lifetime (his little sister being the other one). My hope is that I will be part of a community that surrounds my son with so much love that there is no room for the words “tragedy” or “catastrophe.” My hope is that by the time he reads your words we will have made big strides in destructing the perception you’ve created about Autism.

What I want you to know is that we will make those strides.Do you know why will be able to make those strides? The answer is simple: because the fear and hate that you spread are no match for hope, love and inclusion.

I have never doubted my son. I’ve never doubted who he is, and I’ve never doubted what he has to offer this world. And I can say with certainty that no mater what he does in life, his legacy will be more positive and more rewarding and long-lasting than the one you will leave behind.

Kindest Regards,

Allison Garber

Proud parent to an incredibly perfect five year old boy

Allison and her son

Allison and her son

Allison Garber is a communications professional based in Halifax, NS. She sits on the Board of Directors for Autism Nova Scotia and is the mother of two awesome kids. You can follow her on Twitter at @allygarbs

The Seaport Farmers’ Market and Halifax’s Race Problem

14 Apr

Last week, the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market announced that several “prepared food vendors” would be moved from the market’s busy main level up to its mezzanine level. According to the Halifax Port Authority (the government agency in charge of the market, not to be confused with the Halifax Party Authority, which used to be some drunk dude’s house on Hunter street) this will be done to make room for more farmers. Which, fine, makes sense since it is, after all, a farmers’ market. Farmers gonna farm, I guess. Here’s where things get tricky: all of the vendors asked to move were “ethnic” foods, including Mary’s African Cuisine, Viji’s Veggies, Stella’s, Pierogis 4 U, Turkish Cuisine and Amin’s Indian food. Meanwhile, two other prepared food vendors – Julien’s Pastry Shop and The Cake Lady – are allowed to stay where they are on the first floor.

It would be easy to argue that there aren’t any racial undertones to this situation. After all, pierogies fall pretty firmly into the camp of Foods Traditionally Consumed By White People. The argument put forth by the Port Authority that they’d prefer to have all of the farmers on one level and all of the ready-to-eat food on another seems reasonable enough at first glance. And if there are enough businesses operating on the mezzanine, well, won’t that just draw more traffic up there? Plus, the Port Authority is really, really insistent that “Ethnicity has nothing to do with this decision.”

First of all, I think there are probably racial undertones to anything that even just maybe sort of seems to have racial undertones. Secondly, I feel pretty cautious about anyone who feels the need to insist that no, for sure, this decision which impacts only “ethnic food” vendors definitely has nothing to do with ethnicity. Finally, I’m skeptical of claims of not-racism because this is Halifax, a city that struggles with its deep-seated racism. Not only that, but this is the same farmers’ market that a few years ago considered flat out getting rid of the “ethnic” vendors based on the idea that cruise ship passengers shopping at the market are looking for “authentic maritime culture.”

Of course, what they mean by “authentic maritime culture” is: white people culture. Specifically, they mean the pseudo Scottish-Irish-Celtic culture the east coast is famous for. They for sure do not mean M’ikmaq culture (although there’s nothing more authentically maritime than that), or Black Nova Scotian culture (in spite of the fact that there’s been a thriving Black population in Nova Scotia since the 1700s), or any of the other races or ethnicities that been in and around Halifax for hundreds of years. In Halifax municipal government speak, maritimer is synonymous with white and everyone else is a come-from-away. Even if their family has been occupying this land since long before the white people arrived.

I love Halifax. Both of my father’s parents grew up in the north end, and I was lucky enough to visit at least once a year when I was growing up. Later, I moved there for school and wound up staying for nearly a decade. It’s one of the nicest places I’ve ever lived, and has a lot going for it – friendly people, a great local arts scene, a sweet work-to-live-not-live-to-work vibe and a really big hill with a clock tower on it. It’s also the most white supremacist places I’ve ever lived, and I say that as someone who grew up in a city that used to be called Berlin and at one point had a bust of Kaiser Wilhelm in a downtown park.

A big part of Halifax’s race problem is that it doesn’t want to admit that it has a race problem. Ask most people about the destruction of Africville (a predominantly Black community that was literally razed to the ground in the 1960s) and they’ll glibly tell you that it needed to be torn down to build the new bridge and anyway wasn’t it, like, actually a dump? They don’t want to hear about the tight-knit community that existed there; they’d rather not know about how the provincial and municipal governments purposefully placed a prison, an infectious disease hospital, a slaughterhouse, a fecal waste depository and, yes, finally the town dump next to Africville. If you mention the fact that the Africville church was secretly demolished by the city at night to limit protests, they’ll roll their eyes and say that was a long time ago and why isn’t everyone over that by now.

It was not a long time ago. The church was torn down in 1969. The final house in Africville was demolished in 1970. And the pervasive racism that led to the demise of Africville is still going strong in Halifax today. According to Sherwood Hines, three businesses in Halifax have been fined in the last year for not serving Black customers. IT IS 2015 AND BUSINESSES IN HALIFAX ARE FULLY NOT SERVING PEOPLE BECAUSE OF THE COLOUR OF THEIR SKIN. That is literally a thing that is happening and I don’t even know what to say about except: Halifax, you should be fucking better than that.

During the last few years that I lived in Halifax there was a lot of talk about “revitalizing” the north end. On the surface, this seemed like a great idea, especially since there was a several-mile radius that contained no banks or grocery stores or pharmacies. I was like, “Perfect, I can’t wait to not have to haul food all the way from Quinpool road. Bring on the revitalization.” Except, of course, what folks meant by “revitalization” was gentrification. Almost all of the new businesses that have moved into the north end are owned by white people, employ a primarily white staff, and serve white customers. The Black population in the north end no longer feel like they belong in their own neighbourhood.

The movement of the “ethnic” food vendors and the gentrification of the north end are all part of the same problem: cultural erasure and whitewashing. White Nova Scotians are eager to preserve the idea that maritime culture is a bunch of white people singing sea shanties and downing cod, and the folks selling samosas and dolmas don’t fit into that narrative arc. But you know what, Halifax? Not only is that narrative racist, reductionist and completely inaccurate, it’s also played out. YOU ARE BETTER THAN A BUNCH OF DRUNK FRAT DUDES PUKING ON THE FLOOR OF THE SPLIT CROW BETWEEN VERSES OF BARRETT’S PRIVATEERS. Nova Scotia is diverse. Nova Scotia has always been diverse. How about we recognize that and celebrate it instead of tucking away those inconvenient shish taouk vendors and pretending that Black culture isn’t a thing that’s been happening in Nova Scotia for three hundred years?

Halifax, you need to get your shit together. You have an amazing population, and it’s time to start serving all of them.

todays-vendor-listing

Writing Sucks

1 Apr

I am trying to write a novel and it sucks.

It sucks for all the reasons I’d expected: the weeks and weeks of writer’s block, the stilted clichés that sneak out the moment you’re not vigilant enough, the grinding frustration of trying unsnarl a set of words that for whatever reason just won’t do what you want them to do. I knew about all that stuff and, on some level, was prepared for it; after all, these are all things that I’ve experienced to some degree as a semi-professional freelance writer. What I wasn’t ready for was my inability to justify writing a book. Every time I open that goddamn Word document all I feel is this rush of ugly panic, and the cloud of oh my god what am I doing why am I doing this displaces every confident thought I’ve managed to muster up.

Here’s what I’ve realized: I am afraid of creative writing in large part because I’m worried that it will be a waste of my time and resources. I’m worried that it will take away from the other work that I do – including unpaid gigs like this blog – and that in the end the measurable satisfaction that I get out of writing a novel will be less than the effort I put into it.

Even more paralyzing is the fact that I know I’m not supposed to feel this way. Art is supposed to be this thing that you do because you’re a Very Special Person who has to create or else you’ll die. That’s why artists starve, right? Because their passion is noble and authentic and above the heights of reason, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to be real and free and I don’t know, whatever other garbage people believe about art. Creativity is supposed to be a calling, and if you worry about failing then you’re Doing It Wrong because you can’t fail if you’re being true to yourself. And forget about considering finances, because real art has nothing to do with money. Talk of money sullies the purity of art.

The thing is, all of that is very high-minded and beautiful, but it’s also not really how shit works.

We live in a culture that simultaneously holds the idea of art up to these ridiculous standards, and at the same time provides very little concrete support for the people actually creating said art. Our society loves the idea that artists are these ascetic geniuses with a single-minded dedication to their craft, a belief that tends to let us off the hook when it comes to funding art. I mean, if artists are going to create art anyway, then why bother offering assistance, financial or otherwise? And really, doesn’t poverty somehow heighten the legitimacy of art? Like, if the art you’re consuming isn’t created by some tortured soul living in a rat-infested tenement, then you might as well be buying framed prints from Ikea and reading Danielle Steel.

If wanting money is crass, then wanting fame  – or, at the very least, some kind of recognition – is worse. Because you’re not supposed to create with an audience in mind; that kind of thinking is for people who use words like “brand” and “content.” A true artist only ever makes things that are a perfect reflection of their most precious ideas, without ever wondering how other people will react. Who cares how people react? People are peasants, and if they don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate then the failure is theirs and theirs alone.

But, like, fuck that. Fuck all of that. Why are people allowed to want money for literally any other job besides creative work? I know writing is supposed to be a vocation or whatever, but that doesn’t mean you only ever do it without expecting payment. I’m not out here expecting free childcare because my son’s daycare teachers are performing a labour of love or whatever. And sure people should be making things that they’re passionate about, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ever possibly consider their potential audience. What is so filthy-dirty wrong about wanting success?

I know that anything that brings you joy is never a waste (uh, I guess unless the pain of others brings you joy, in which case maybe it’s time to reevaluate your life), but I’m tired of pretending that the act of creating itself is the be all and end all in terms of fulfillment. Making money for what you’ve created is also fulfilling; so is receiving praise. If I said that I never thought about either of those things while writing, I’d be lying. So either I’m just not cut out to Write Fiction (which, let’s face it, is entirely possible), or else maybe we need to revisit how we view creativity.

Art is work. Most of the time it’s lonely, boring work. Sometimes you feel your internal needle slide into the groove and you feel unstoppable, but most of the time it’s kind of miserable. And not miserable in a romantic, 19th century painter with a weirdly attractive case of tuberculosis kind of way. Miserable in the sense of I wish I was doing literally anything else but this. But the fact is that you’re still doing it, and that must count for something.

So how do i justify writing a book? I don’t have an answer for that yet. What am I doing and why am I doing it? I don’t know. Will it be worth it? I have no idea. What metrics do you use to determine your own personal satisfaction? The heart wants what it wants. In short: I’ve got nothing. I just want to take this space to acknowledge how sucky creative work can be, and how the high ideals we have about art don’t do much to alleviate that suckiness.

I am trying to write a novel and it sucks.

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Dear Everyone: Here’s Why I Don’t Want To Read Your Crappy Opinions On What Mothers Should Do

25 Mar

Earlier today, Lydia Lovric, a Montreal-based “columnist, talk-radio host, stay-at-home mom,” wrote a scornful response to piece from 2013 about why Sasha Emmons chooses to work outside of the home. Don’t ask me why Lovric is responding to a two year old article, because I’m as baffled as you are. I’m sure she has her reasons, such as maybe she some type of wizard who exists outside of the linear bounds of time and space; this would explain why she is writing about the evils of mothers who work outside the home in 2015.

You guys, it’s 2015. It has been two thousand and fifteen years since the alleged birth of Christ and we are still having this goddamn argument about whether or not a mother is morally obligated to stay home with her kids, should finances permit. And as much as it’s tempting to write off Lovric as a Throw-Back Thursday with outdated opinions, the truth is that the question of mothers working outside the home is still burning up parenting blogs, websites and message boards. As far as parenting wank goes, the debate about whether or not mothers should stay home is right up there with breastfeeding, circumcision and cloth diapering. Lovric is certainly not alone in her belief that women who choose to work are selfish.

There is nothing more disheartening to me than watching women tear each other down, especially within the context of parenting. It’s sad and it’s gross and it’s the purest example of internalized misogyny that there is. There’s no benefit to these discussions; they’re just endless cycles of women shitting on other women’s happiness and security under the guise of concern for The Children. What’s even more enraging is how gendered these arguments are – even when they say that it’s best for “a parent” to stay home with their kids, what they really mean is mother.

I’m not going to get into the layers and layers of privilege that have allowed Lovric to write this article. I’m not going to address her claim that “you need not be rich in order to live off one income.” I’m only going to mention in passing how fucking shitty it is to refer to a mother as “absent” because she works outside the home – I’ll just say that I know my fair share of absent parents, and I promise you they are not out there working to pay the bills and feed their kids. I’m not even going to discuss the fact that plenty of single mothers raise their kid on one income and, by necessity rather than choice, work outside of the home. Instead, I’m going to talk about how gross and oppressive our persistent cultural biases about motherhood are.`

No one ever says that fathers are selfish for working outside the home.

No one is writing think pieces about how “absent fathers” letting strangers raise their kids just so that they can pursue an enjoyable and fulfilling career.

No dads are out there penning thoughtful letters to their children about why they chose to work. If they were, they’d probably read something like this:

Dear Daughter,

I chose to work after you were born because it literally never occurred to me to do otherwise. I certainly did not consider disrupting everything I have known and loved about my life outside of the home because I decided to have kids. I do not feel guilt or shame for my decision, because why would I?

Much love,

Dad

As a culture, we have a weird obsession with women being “selfish.” Mothers especially are prone to accusations of selfishness any time they make a choice that doesn’t directly and obviously benefit their children. Even when mothers are encouraged to practice self-care, it’s often approached with the idea that feeling happy and rested will make them better partners and parents. And while that may be true, why can’t a woman ever just be happy for her own damn self? Dudes don’t need to come up with excuses for why they should be able to do things they enjoy, and women shouldn’t either.

And by the way, here’s a list of the reasons Emmons gave for going back to work that Lovric found “selfish”:

“I work because I love it.”

“I work because scratching the itch to create makes me happy, and that happiness bleeds over into every other area, including how patient and engaged and creative a mother I am.”

“I work because this nice house and those gymnastics lessons and those sneakers you need to have are all made possible by two incomes.”

“I work because I want you and your brother to be proud of me.”

So: just to clarify, Emmons is selfish because she enjoys her job, a dual income helps pay for the lifestyle her family enjoys, and she hopes that the work she does will make her children proud of her.

In what world is it selfish to love your job? What is it about women specifically that makes them terrible people if they aren’t prioritizing their children 24/7? I mean, yes of course parenting involves some amount of sacrifice, but the idea that you should only live for your children is a pretty dangerous road to go down and, again, not one that any dudes are being told they have to travel.

Lovric’s counter to all of Emmons’ selfish reasons for working includes the following:

“I stay home because although writing and radio did make me extremely happy, I knew that you seemed happier when I was around. And your happiness was more important to me than my own. And making you happy also made me happy.”

“I stay home because I want you to learn that family and love are more important than material possessions. A large home or fancy sneakers will not make up for an absent mother.”

“I stay home because I want you and your brothers to be proud of me because I gave up something I truly loved in order to put you first.”

In short: a healthy relationship dynamic between a parent and child does not involve the parent supporting their child financially by working outside the home, but does include expecting your children to appreciate the fact that you made the ultimate life sacrifice for them.

I am just so exasperated by the continuing circle of shaming mothers for whatever choices they make. It seems like no matter what, the conclusion is always “MOMS: STILL PRETTY MUCH THE WORST?” It’s the 21st century and at the very least we can all agree that we want to raise kids who are proud of us, so let’s work on building each other up us parents and caregivers and mentors instead of fighting to push each other off the Pedestal of Motherhood. We’ll all be better for it.

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