Posts Tagged parenting
Since this year marks the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, the CBC was running a collection of old interviews that spanned the last five decades. I never read the book or knew much about the author, and as I listened to the radio program, I realized what an uphill battle this lady had. Of course, she was promoting an idea that went against mainstream thinking of the middle class mind after World War II. But she could hold her own. She was feisty, intelligent, aggressive, and, at times and to her detriment, petulant and defensive. Whatever it took to get the point across. Even later, when interviewers wondered if she thought feminism was a failed experiment, Friedan insisted that it wasn’t. She offered solutions that we are still working out today such as free universal daycare, division of labour within the home, flexible work hours for parents, and so on.
I’ve never given the feminism of the 60s its due. As I listened to her and her contemporaries debate the existence of the woman whose life revolved around her husband, her children and her home, I found myself relating and was reminded of a recent conversation with my best friend on the topic of maternity leave. We are two women born in the mid 70s, educated by nuns (You don’t know feminism until you’ve known a nun. They practice a quiet feminism honed over centuries in which they accumulated education, wealth, and power.), part of the labour force since our teens and with university degrees.
We discussed the sense of meaninglessness we felt during our one-year maternity leave. I suppose that part of the reason for the one-year is medical society’s current insistence on breastfeeding. (My next post might be titled “The Human Dairy Cow”. Time will tell.) We felt isolated from the world in spite of all the communications technology available. Our lives suddenly centered on the home: a daily grind of cook, clean, take care of the baby. That was it. We never left home without the baby and the diaper bag. When we took our children out for activities and socialized with other parents, we talked about our babies. When we met up with friends and family, we talked about our babies. No one asked “How are you?” or “What do you think about (insert major world event)?” It was “How’s the baby?” Before we became mothers, we were people. Yet suddenly, our children defined us. Ironic since parents are the ones doing the raising.
Don’t get me wrong, we did enjoy being with our children. We spent hours staring at our babies and pondered the wonder of nature, the miracle they are, that we all are. We tried to hold on to the memory of that first smile, that first step, that first sound that was more word than baby noise. We could have gone back to work early, but how could we intrust the care of this defenseless little person to another who considered changing diapers a job as opposed to the creation of comfort for someone who couldn’t do it for themselves? Looking back now, perhaps the ability to work from home or even a part-time return could have relieved the thoughts that we as people had become meaningless. I don’t have a solution. It probably exists on a case by case basis. What I do have is a new respect for the post WWII wife and mother. And I am grateful to the feminists of the 60s who forced society to recognize that self-actualization should be defined by each individual and not imposed on us by a group, a government or the media.
What do you think of feminism, Betty Friedan or The Feminine Mystique? What was your mat leave experience like? If you’ve chosen to be a stay at home mom, how do you remain you?
I’m sad today. Tomorrow is BabyGirl’s last day of kindergarten. I knew it was coming and I’ve enjoyed every morning since spring: holding her little hand, which seems to be getting bigger and bigger all the time, while I walk her to the entrance, kissing her goodbye, and handing her the Hello Kitty backpack she chose last September. Next September, it will be kiss and drop. On the ride home, she tells me about the wonders of the kitchen station, the sandbox, the colorful high heels. I’m certain there will be plenty of stories in grade 1, but none will involve dolls or firetrucks or the music station with the boombox.
She’s looking forward to grade 1. In the last few weeks, teachers have been preparing the class by taking them on a tour of the first grade class rooms and introducing them to the teachers.
Last week, she told me that her teacher packed up the play kitchen. With a heavy heart for the loss, I asked: “Are you sad?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“You won’t have all those toys in grade 1.”
“No, but there are other things. Grade 1 things.”
She’s ready, I thought. I guess after I have a good cry, I’ll be ready too.
Are you looking forward to your child’s last day of school? How do you cope with your children’s milestones?
Motherhood is wonder full. Having been raised by a controlling mother, I made the decision early on in my life to let my future children explore who they are. Once BabyGirl was born, I narrowed down my responsibilities toward her:
- Teach her self-love and self-respect so that she stays true to herself.
- Instill self-confidence so that she never doubts her abilities or her decisions.
- Support and love her so that she always has a safe haven.
I’m curious about her. I’m curious about her likes, her dislikes, her talents. I am curious about her future. Who will she be? What will she do? How will she live? She has so much to learn and so much to discover. At times, I standby and watch; at other times, I guide or encourage. So far, she has a passion for fashion, has chosen to be a doctor and a rock star, and is interested in the motives behind her classmates bad behavior (maybe she’ll be a writer too).
The one thing that I am certain of is that even at the age of five, I can see that BabyGirl will be straight. She smiles coyly at boys her age, is entranced by teenage boys and asks me if I think this man or that one is good-looking. The fact that I do none of these things (and I probably should if I’m ever going to attract a man again in this lifetime) tells me that instinct guides our gender orientation.
Here’s a Pride anthem worth listening to.
Do we really need to walk a mile in anyone’s shoes to respect them? Can’t we just love and let love? Do we have to impose our beliefs on others?
What do you think?
Since September, many conversations with BabyGirl revolve around poop. At first, I was concerned and attempted to manoeuvre our talks to more polite topics, such as the pasta and meat sauce on our dinner plates. Of course, the meat sauce looked like bloody poop. And then, she asked for seconds.
Eventually, I recalled my own fascination as a five-year old. So I thought, “Okay, it’s normal.” Unlike my mother, I chose to engage in poop conversations as they came and went which could be several times at day.
The interest in poop was reinforced at school by the acquisition of a Baby Alive doll. Baby Alive is fed water, which she promptly processes into a diaper. Add Baby Alive colouring to the water, and there’s what my daughter calls poop. Since Christmas, BabyGirl owns her own Baby Alive which she likes to feed diaper-less over the kitchen sink and giggle as she watches the doll produce a stream of water. Ah, the joys of childhood! Of course, I am expected to assist in the spectacle. Ah, the joys of parenting!
One day as I picked her up from the afterschool program, I discovered her and her friends in deep conversation about…poop. “All I ever hear about is poop,” I announced. The instructors laughed and the kids giggled. Inside, I thought, “I’m so relieved that her peers are into poop too. Cool.” Ah, the victories of parenting!
Tonight, I caught her picking at her nose. “Do you need a tissue,” I asked.
“No,” she replied.
I remembered the booger eaters of my childhood so I decided to check. Sigh. “Did you eat it?”
She giggled. “No, I don’t eat my boogers.”
“Do your friends eat their boogers?”
She giggled. “Some do.”
“Does Sarah* eat her boogers?”
She laughed. “Yes.”
“She looks like the kind of kid who would,” I said. We both laughed hard for a bit. Then I said, “Don’t eat your boogers, okay?”
She giggled again. “Okay.”
“I love you. Good night.”
“Good night, Mama.”
So what do you talk about with your five-year old?
*Names have been changed to protect the booger eaters.
Prior to the birthday, I thought about going up north for a night, treating myself to some snow fun and maybe an afternoon or evening at a thermal spa . While it sounded wonderful, I didn’t feel like it. There was too much for me to do around here.
I woke up on birthday feeling sad because I had no plans. My four-year-old could not be expected to remember such a date so the day started as every other day. Later that morning, a friend texted me his wishes and that turned around my mood a little.
As I worked away, I started thinking what I could do to make this a happy day: throw a party for two, just me and my daughter. I made a list of what we would need:
- Flowers because I love them and because the ones I had bought the week before were losing their petals. 🙂
- Balloons to set the mood.
- Party hats. Would a four-year-old think it was right to have a birthday party without them?
- And of course, a cake. Some people must have friends around on their birthday. Some must go out. Others must receive presents. I NEED a cake.
Armed with my list, I left work on my lunch break and picked up everything we needed for the party. By the end of the work day, I was excited which seemed a little silly. When I picked up my daughter from school, she dawdled as children tend to do. I said, “Hurry, it’s Mama’s birthday. We’re going to have a party.”
Her face lit up. “Your birthday?” she asked.
And she hugged me. (I love those hugs!)
When we got home, she took charge. “I need to put on my party dress,” she announced. Once she was dressed in her blue velvet full-skirt with petty coat Holiday dress and black ballerina slippers, she said, “Go put on yours.” I told her that I didn’t want to. She insisted. I let her chose for me. Her choice was a pink (her favorite color) cotton peasant dress. “What party shoes are you going to wear?” she inquired. (This was too good!) She suggested some strappy high heels, I went for some mid-heel thongs which satisfied her.
As I set the kitchen table for supper, she cried “No, not here! Over there.” She wanted to eat on the dinning room table. I almost refused but why not? It was my birthday after all. She ran to the china cabinet for the good china. I couldn’t believe it. We went all out-I even served her ice tea in a gold trimmed champagne flute. And we ate a lovely meal while wearing our party hats.
I brought out the cake with a single candle on top. At the sight, my daughter started singing “Happy Birthday” followed by “Are you 1?” She stopped after 3, looked at me, and asked, “How old are you?” I couldn’t help but laugh and told her to skip to 38. We blew out the candle together and took some silly pictures.
After we finished our cake, she asked “So what party games are we playing?” This was brilliant! As it was a weeknight, I suggested we play some bathtub games which she promptly agreed to.
It was my best birthday ever!
Do you have a best birthday ever story to share? What do your kids do that amaze you? What is your must-have on your birthday?