Tag Archives: Parenting

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.

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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All Of The Reasons You Shouldn’t Have Had Kids, According To Assholes On The Internet

22 Sep

This is for reals satire, I promise – it’s based on the shitty shit people say to each other in parenting forums/Facebook/what-have-you

It’s not that I think you’re a bad parent, per se. It’s just that, like, you chose to have kids, right? Like, you got pregnant and you decided to go through with the pregnancy and now you’re having to deal with all these really common kid things. So I guess I’m a little confused about why you’re complaining? Like, you kind of asked for all of this, didn’t you?

Oh, you’re tired? Gee sorry I didn’t realize that no one had bothered to tell you that babies disrupt your sleep. I mean I just kind of assumed that you knew what you were signing on for when you became a parent. Jesus Christ, of course you’re fucking tired – that’s what having kids is all about. If you didn’t want to live in a chronic state of exhaustion, maybe you just shouldn’t have had a baby.

Wow, that’s amazing that you had an epidural! I mean, it’s amazing that you were able to think only of yourself at the moment of your child’s birth. I guess I’m just not sure why you would bother gestating a baby for nine months if you’re only going to drug yourself when they’re born? And, like, I’m not saying that epidurals are bad for babies – although I could happily provide you some literature about that if you want – but I am saying that the women who gave birth to Einstein, Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton didn’t have epidurals. I’m not sure why you would have a kid if you weren’t willing to give them the best, most natural birth possible, but hey that’s just me.

You don’t use cloth diapers? Like, have you never heard of climate change? Maybe your high-powered office job doesn’t leave you a lot of time to look up basic information on the internet. Probably you’re too busy wearing suits with shoulder pads and heels and lipstick to do a little bit of research on how you’re fucking up the environment. I guess I’m just not entirely clear on why anyone would have kids and then wilfully contribute to the destruction of the planet their kids have to grow up on, but what do I know?

I’m sorry, let’s just cut the bullshit about how you “tried” to breastfeed but had “supply issues” and your baby was “losing weight” and all that other enabling crap Big Formula fed you and just call a spade a spade: you chose not to breastfeed. And while I’m all about women having choices, I think that if you choose to have a child then you should also be choosing to provide that kid with the best life possible. To be honest, I’m just a little confused that you decided to not to terminate your pregnancy, but then made all kinds of other choices without your child’s best interests in mind. I’m not saying you should have had an abortion! Just maybe you didn’t think this whole kid thing through?

If you didn’t want to be sprayed with literal shit, I don’t know why you bothered to have a kid. Did you think they’d be born potty-trained?

That’s really nice that you want to have your baby on a schedule – that’ll make it so much easier for them to adjust to life in the Employment Industrial Complex. What a good little worker bee you’ve got on your hands! Yes, mommy’s little darling will settle right into the routine of working for eight hours and sleeping for eight hours and taking eight hours of simple, plebeian pleasures in between. Seriously, though, if you wanted a cute little thing that you could feed and cuddle and put to sleep on a “schedule,” maybe you should’ve chosen a Tamagotchi instead of a kid.

I think it’s great that you have a job, especially in today’s economy, but apparently I mistakenly believed that your child would be more important than your professional aspirations. I mean, I always thought that parenting meant making sacrifices, but maybe I’m just old-fashioned. It’s so nice of your husband to go along with your ideas about having a “career”! I hope he doesn’t leave you for someone who’s willing to put their kids first.

I’m sorry to hear that your toddler is defiant and unreasonable. I guess I might understand why you would complain about that, except for how it’s a totally normal part of child development which you would know if you had ever read any kind of book about children. When my children were toddlers, their defiance made me incredibly joyful because I knew that boundary-testing was evidence of their budding autonomy. But maybe some parents would prefer that their kids remain entirely dependent on them forever, because that would just be so much easier. Personally, I’m proud that I have kids who question authority.

It’s too bad that your five year old had a tantrum in the candy aisle, but honestly this is the kind of thing that you should have thought of when you decided to have kids. Like, it’s kind of hard for me to feel sorry for you when this is apparently what you wanted for your life. Or did you think your kid would be some kind of unicorn who never threw a tantrum?

Huh, yeah, I guess that for some people it’s fine to let their kid watch half an hour of Netflix while they make dinner or whatever. I just sort of thought that people who had kids maybe actually wanted to spend time with them, but apparently I was wrong.

I’m glad you found a really great nanny, but honestly I just literally don’t see the point of giving birth to children if you’re only going to turn around and let complete strangers raise them. Why not just give them up for adoption at birth if you weren’t prepared to actually be a parent?

I can’t believe you would go to all the trouble of having children only to turn them over to the fascist snake pit that is our public school system. Like, I seriously can’t believe you’re going to allow the state to poison their brains for the next fifteen years. I mean, I don’t want to sound judgmental, but you probably shouldn’t have had kids if you weren’t willing to home-school them. You know, for some people parenting is actually a commitment.

I guess I just think that having kids is sort of like making a pact with yourself that you’re only going to buy organic foods as long as they’re living under your roof.

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On Motherhood and Losing Myself

7 Sep

I remember the first time it happened – it was shortly after Theo’s birth and I was still in the hospital. My mother and husband were in the room with me when the nurse came in to do something – maybe weigh him or help bathe him or check his vital signs. After she finished, she said, “all right, now I’ll give him back to mom,” and I was momentarily confused. Why was she handing my son off to my mother? Shouldn’t she give him to me or my husband?

And then I realized that she had, in fact, meant to give Theo back to me. Mom meant me. I was mom. My mother, meanwhile, had graduated to “Grandma.” The nurse left before I had the chance to tell her that my name was Anne, although if she’d really wanted to know that she could have just looked at my chart.

I got used to the name Mom, though, and faster than I’d thought I would. I started using it to refer to myself in the third person when I spoke to my son: “Mama loves you so much,” I would say to him. “Mama’s just going to change your diaper, and then you’ll be much more comfortable.” “Mama’s making your dinner, but don’t worry, she’ll be really fast!” “Ma-ma. Can you say ma-ma? Ma-ma. I’m your mama. Ma-ma.” By the time Theo was eight months old, he would howl “Maaaaaaaaa-maaaaaaaaa” every time he wanted me, and I felt a funny sense of triumph whenever I heard him call me. He knew my name. I was Mama.

I wasn’t the only one who referred to myself as “Mom” or “Mama” either. My husband did it whenever he was in front of our son, even when he was talking directly to me – after all, we wanted to keep things consistent and easy to understand for Theo, didn’t we? My mother did it, too. So did my sisters. And as my son got older and we started making the rounds of playgroups and library programs and sing-alongs, the other parents (almost exclusively women) referred to me as “Theo’s mom.” Not that I was any better – I didn’t know any of their names, either. We were all just so-and-so’s mom, as if that were our name or our job title or maybe the most fascinating fact about us. 

Admittedly, there were a lot of things in my life that made me feel as if being a mother was the most fascinating thing about me, or at least the best, most noble thing about me. Strangers smiled at me, and offered me their seat on the bus. People working in customer service were more polite and attentive, whereas before I felt as if I’d often been brushed off. Everyone took me more seriously. It was as if by giving birth I’d somehow gained some strange kind of respectability. I wasn’t just that weird girl who talked too much and cried easily; I wasn’t just another person who had never reached their full potential. I was a mother, and according to a lot of people I’d fulfilled exactly as much of my potential as I needed to. And while on some level that fact was embarrassingly gratifying, mostly because I’d never felt so much societal approval before, underneath that gratification was a restless, howling anxiety. 

I wasn’t the only one in our household to be given a new title, of course. My husband became “Daddy,” a name that also carries some baggage with it. But he didn’t seem to feel as if he was losing himself, the way that I did – and it does seem to bear pointing out that our circumstances were vastly different. Every day, while I stayed at home with our son, my husband went to work. Every day, while I sat on the couch and cried over how fucking hard breastfeeding was, while I took a deep breath and tried not to scream with frustration because my kid was inconsolably exhausted but absolutely would not nap, while I stripped off yet another urine-soaked onesie and brightly-coloured cloth diaper only to watch in horror as my son chose that exact moment to unleash a jet of poop, my husband went back to the Land of the Adults, a country that we both called home but from which I had temporarily been exiled. Every day, while I opened my laptop and tried yet again – through frighteningly hive-minded online parenting communities, frantic status updates on Facebook, and emails to my family – to find the training manual for my overwhelming new job, my husband went back to his same old job, where he could take hour-long lunches and everyone called him by his real name.

No. It wasn’t the same thing at all.

I tried not to feel like I’d somehow lost something, because how could I have lost something? I hadn’t lost anything; I was still the same person, wasn’t I? Even if I felt like I’d lost myself, I was clearly still there. I still existed. On top of that, it seemed unbelievably selfish to frame it in terms of “loss” when, in fact, I’d gained a perfect baby – especially when several of my friends were struggling in various ways to become parents. And I’d wanted this, hadn’t I? Becoming a mother had been my choice. So how could I complain?

Another layer to my unease lay in the fact that if I felt like I’d lost some part of identity, then had my mother experienced the same thing when she’d given birth to me? It seemed impossible that she had ever been anything other than what she was, namely my mother; and yet that selfish feeling of impossibility was almost certainly evidence of the part that I had played in who she had become. For a long time I’d thought that I would never grow up to be my mother, because my mother’s life had always seemed so constrained and limited. Now I saw that I was the one who had limited it. 

Maybe saying that becoming a mother was my choice wasn’t quite the right way to put it. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I chose to become a parent, and then society gave me the label “mother” with all of its loaded associations. After all, what is there specifically about being a woman that says that you have to lose yourself completely once you have a kid? Isn’t it possible that if we lived in a world that treated motherhood and fatherhood equally – a world where we called it parental leave instead of maternity leave, a world that was just as accepting of stay-at-home fathers as it was of stay-at-home mothers, a world where women couldn’t expect their wage to decrease by 4% for every child they have – then women wouldn’t feel as if having children was a deeply personal sacrifice?

I mean, of course you have to give some stuff up once you have a child. I’m not saying that your life should stay exactly the same. But you shouldn’t have to sacrifice yourself.

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Talking To Small Children About Race

5 Sep

Hey y’all! Here‘s an article I wrote for the Washington Post about being a white parent trying to explain racism and privilege to my white kid. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while, but in light of what’s happening in Ferguson it now seems incredibly urgent.

Excerpt:

“Find books, movies, television shows that feature a diverse cast of characters, and make sure that these forms of media aren’t falling into the trap of tokenism, i.e. having mainly white lead characters with a few background characters of different races or ethnicities. If you notice that some of your child’s favorite books or shows involve problematic depictions of race, talk to them about it and try to have a conversation about what you wish was done differently in this particular story.”

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How Do You Mourn The Living?

14 Jun

Tomorrow is Father’s Day.

If you’re a fairly regular reader here, you may have noticed that I don’t often mention my dad, and when I do it’s always in the past tense. He’ll sometimes come up when I write about my childhood, but other than that I almost never talk about him. He’s not dead or anything – in fact, he lives in the same city that I do. He’s just not a part of my life.

A few years ago my father became estranged from my sisters and I. There’s a lot of backstory there, but I’m not going to get into the whole thing here. For one thing, it’s not entirely my story to tell. For another, I don’t want to write anything here that might hurt anyone. So I’ll just say that there was a long, protracted leave-taking that involved a lot of tearful discussions, tentative reconciliations, and a slow, steady breaking of my heart, with the outcome of all that being that he is no longer a presence in my life.

I love my father immensely. We were close when I was a kid, and I have about a billion memories of us being hilarious and fun together. When I was a teenager, he was the cool parent and would buy me beer and drugs when I came to visit him. He taught me about existentialism, and encouraged me to read Camus’ The Outsider (his favourite book) for my big, final high school English paper. We shared a love of music, and from him I learned the deep physical pleasure – the sort of secular reverence – one experiences while placing a record on a turntable and dropping the needle into the groove. He was a great storyteller, and listening to him geek out about our family history was one of my favourite ways to spend an evening. He read to me every night when I was a kid, even once I was old enough to read on my own, and would get grumpy if my mother had to read a chapter to me while he was working late because he always became just as involved in all my favourite books as I did. He would play make-believe games with me for hours on end, something my mother, bless her, didn’t have the patience or imagination for. He was the first person to talk to me like I was a living, breathing person with thoughts and feelings of my own. We shared the same dark sense of humour; maybe we still do.

He loved me. I know he did. I’m sure that if you asked him he would tell you that he loves me still. So how do I reconcile that with the fact that he’s hurt me, badly, and has hurt many other people that he cares about? It seems impossible.

You always read about little kids who blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. I was thirteen when my dad left, and was sure that I was old enough to know that sometimes grownups just fall out of love and that’s how life is. I knew that it had nothing to do with me, or my sisters. People change, and my parents had changed in ways that made them incompatible with each other. Case closed. Time to move on.

But lately I’ve been wondering if that’s really what I believe; I wonder if I’ve ever felt entirely blameless. Because, honestly, couldn’t we have done something more? Couldn’t we have charmed him into staying somehow? If only we had figured out the perfect way to be, the way that always made him happy, then he wouldn’t have left, would he? But we could never quite suss out the secret of making my father happy. Or maybe we just didn’t try hard enough, because we didn’t know exactly what was at stake. We never imagined that he’d leave.

And then, years later, he somehow managed to leave again. And I’m left sitting here trying to pick up the pieces, trying to figure out how to live my life without him. And it’s hard.

I told my therapist that it would, in some ways, be easier if he was dead. Not that I wish that he would die or anything, just that I would know the right procedure to go through. I would wear black. I would mourn. I would recall only the happy times. I would keep a picture of him on the wall, and my eyes would well up with tears whenever I saw it. I would love him, perfectly and unconditionally, the way you’re supposed to love a parent. I would know that he’d loved me.

But how do you mourn someone who’s still alive? How do you grieve the fact that they’ve left you, when at any moment they could walk back into your life? How is it possible to feel so angry and so hurt and yet also so hopeful that things might get better? It seems totally self-contradictory. And yet, here we are.

On a more basic level, I struggle to know how to talk about him to people who don’t know what’s happened. When they ask questions about him, am I supposed to answer as if we’re still close? Or do I straight-up tell them that we’re estranged? I don’t want to lie, but I also don’t want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable. Because it is uncomfortable for other people, isn’t it? Whenever I tell someone that my father and I don’t actually talk, I always feel like I immediately have to reassure them. I’ll smile big and say brightly, “It’s fine, though! We’ll figure it out!”

But the truth is that I don’t know how we could ever figure it all out. Not at this point. We might reconcile someday, but our relationship will never be what it was. How do you grieve a relationship that can’t ever be properly resuscitated?

My father has met my son twice. The first time was on a rainy day when Theo was about four months old, we ran into my father on the street corner. He peered through the stroller’s rain shield at my fat, sleeping baby and said that he was cute. He shook his head and said that he couldn’t believe he was a grandfather. He promised to call me. He didn’t.

The second time was when Theo was two. My sister and I had agreed to have coffee with our father, and then out of the blue I asked if he wanted to meet Theo. We all went to the museum together. Theo and my father had a great old time together, drumming out rhythms in the second floor gallery, choosing favourite fish in the aquarium. Afterwards, we promised to keep in touch, to try to set up another meeting. It never happened.

These days Theo is very interested in familial relationships. He’ll sometimes refer to me as “your wife” when speaking to Matt, and he’ll call his grandmother “Anne’s mother” instead of Gran. So the following conversation was bound to happen sooner rather than later.

Theo: Who’s your dad?

Me: His name is F____.

Theo: Where is he?

Me: Well, he lives here in Toronto, but we don’t get to see him very often for a variety of reasons. But I know that he loves you very much!

Theo: … Is he not a nice guy?

Me: He’s a nice guy. We – well, we just don’t get to see him very much. But he does love you.

Because I’m sure that, in some way, he does.

At the end of the day, I’m left wondering which father is my real father – the one who sat on the floor and played dolls with me for hours and hours, or the one who didn’t just flat out didn’t respond to the email announcing my pregnancy? The answer is both, I guess, but that truth is a lot to wrap my head around.

I miss my dad.

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You’re Supposed To Gain Weight While You’re Pregnant

5 Jun

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When I saw that A Pea In The Pod Maternity is selling a shirt that says “Wake Me Up When I’m Skinny,” I pretty much lost my shit.

Wake me up when I’m skinny.

Like, are you kidding me?

First of all, thank you for contributing to fat-phobia and promoting the idea that women shouldn’t be seen or even awake unless they’re acceptably thin. But, you know, not too thin. Like the chair, the porridge and the bed in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, women must conform whatever size the male gaze has decided is juuuuust right. Spoiler alert: you will never achieve this size, because only fantasy women are ever the “right” size. If you’re a living, breathing, actual human woman, you will always somehow be the wrong size.

Second of all, you are a maternity store. Your job should be to create clothing that makes pregnant women feel better about their bodies, not worse. I mean, this shirt basically says, “I Feel Fat And I Hate It.” It’s not funny. It’s not cute. It’s gross and oppressive and sends so many damaging messages about women’s bodies.

Third of all, the Sleeping Beauty Diet is an actual thing and it’s gross. Apparently a favourite of Elvis Presley’s, the Sleeping Beauty Diet involved being sedated for several days at a time. It works on the rationale that if you aren’t awake, you can’t eat. GENIUS. Except, of course, it’s super unhealthy and it can cause brain damage and gah why do I live in a world where people think it’s a good idea to starve yourself while under sedation. In fact, that’s what the diet should be named – the old Sedate ‘n Starve. Like, let’s call a spade a spade here.

Fourth of all, can we stop pathologizing weight gain? Weight gain in general is not a disease, and in this specific case it is actually encouraged. You are supposed to gain weight when you’re pregnant. That’s how your body makes a healthy baby. It’s also how your body stays healthy during your pregnancy – because like it or not, your fetus actually acts as a parasite, and your body will prioritize its health over your own. If you are not taking in adequate baby-growing nutrition, your body will start depleting its own stores of calcium, iron, etc. in order to help the fetus grow.

In the 1950s, women were told to gain no more than 15 pounds while pregnant. In fact, my grandmother’s doctor told her that if she gained more than that, her husband might leave her because she was too fat. These days, it’s recommended that women gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. I myself gained 45 pounds (and I gave birth a month early, too). At every doctor’s appointment my nurse would high five me after weighing me and tell me that I was doing a great job. I was a fucking rock star at gaining weight. I would hear other pregnant women echoing my grandmother, saying they only wanted to gain 15 or 20 pounds, and I was like, whatever, bring it on. Bring me all the butter and all the cheesecake and all the crème brûlée, because I’m about to gain all the weight.

And yet, after I gave birth, I felt super weird about my body. It was totally foreign – not the body I’d had before, and not my pregnant body, which had felt wonderfully voluptuous and life-giving. My body felt like an ugly deflated bag. Later that week, when I left my son at home with my mother while I went out to buy nursing bras, I started crying when the sales clerk told me that I should wait until I had the baby before figuring out what size I needed. Because I still looked pregnant, even though I wasn’t. And even though I knew that it was normal and healthy to look like that at a week postpartum, I was still ashamed of my body. As much as I wanted to own how real and perfect and fine my post-baby body was, I still struggled. I suspect that most women do.

There is so much pressure on women to lose their “baby weight” as soon as they give birth. I mean, the tabloids are always publishing pictures of so-and-so in a bikini only six weeks after giving birth, or what’s-her-name’s postpartum diet and exercise routine. As a society, we seem to care more about how quickly a woman’s body can snap back to what it was before pregnancy than we care about the actual product of that pregnancy – you know, the baby. And that is super fucked up.

Pregnancy is body-changing event; there’s just no getting around that. Your body will forever be altered after you grow a baby in it. Can we please start trying to embrace that fact, instead of holding women up to impossible standards? Can we start talking about how you might never lose the “baby weight” and that is totally fine and your body is wonderful no matter what size it is? Instead of fear-mongering about women’s postpartum bodies, can we start talking about how wonderful they are even after (especially after) they’ve been stretched out, widened and sometimes thickened by pregnancy? Because they are wonderful – you used that body to make a whole other human being. And like I don’t think that that’s the pinnacle of a woman’s existence or the best thing her body will ever do, but it’s still pretty fucking rad.

So hey, Pea In The Pod Maternity? How about you stop making women feel crappy about how they look? How about you start making clothing that celebrates how rad women’s bodies are? Because right now we really, really need that.

45 POUNDS LIKE A CHAMP

45 POUNDS LIKE A CHAMP

UPDATE: Pea In The Pod has apparently pulled the Wake Me Up When I’m Skinny t-shirt.