The Power of Connection – Guest Post by Nancy Massotto

This year’s Attachment Parenting Month theme is “Relax, Relate, Rejuvenate: Renewed with Parent Support.” We are delighted to kick off AP Month with a guest post about the importance of support by Nancy Massotto, Founder and Director of Holistic Moms Network.

 

We live in a virtual world.  We connect online, spend hours in front of screens, and “friend” people we hardly know.  But deep inside, intuitively, and especially as parents, we know in our hearts that in-person, face-to-face connection matters.  We know it for our children and carry them, wear them, share sleep with them.  But we seem to be forgetting that in real connection is just as important for adults.  In real life connection and community matter holistically – for physical health, emotional wellness, stress reduction, and spiritual growth.

Yes, in recent years, we have seen a remarkable decline in the social and civic engagement of Americans. Over the past 25 years there has been a 58% drop in attendance to club or group meetings, a 43% decline in family dinners, and a 35% reduction in simply having friends over. Oh, sure, we’re busy. We have other things to do. So what’s the big deal? The problem is that a decline in connection reduces “social capital” or the collective value of our social networks which help build trust and cooperation. A reduction in social capital has been linked to decreased worker productivity, rising rates of depression, higher rates of crime, juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and child abuse. Social capital is also what makes governments more accountable and responsive to their populace. And, on an individual level, a lack of social capital leads not only to loneliness, but also to a lack of trust among people and an unwillingness to help others. In 1960 55% of American adults believed that others could or should be trusted most of the time while by 1998, only 30% agreed. “By virtually every measure, today’s Americans are more disconnected from one another and from the institutions of civic life than at any time since statistics have been kept. Whether as family members, neighbors, friends, or citizens, we are tuning out,” argues the researchers of the Better Together Report.

Reconnecting through social groups by being part of community, serving on a town committee, organizing a neighborhood block party, supporting local businesses and farms, or singing in a choir can help rebuild our social capital, reaping benefits on individual, group, and national levels (click here for more ideas on building social capital). Being part of supportive parenting group is another way to help recreate community and play an active role in strengthening not only social capital, but your own personal health and well-being. It matters for all of us and for the sustainability of future generations!  In fact, joining a community group could actually cut your risk of dying next year in half.   According to political scientist and author Robert Putnam, being part of a social network has a significant impact on your health. “Joining a group boosts your life expectancy as much as quitting smoking” according to the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America published by Harvard University.

One of the biggest challenges – and frustrations – that we have at organizations such as Attachment Parenting International and at the Holistic Moms Network is that we believe in the power of building community. We understand how valuable community is, not only in crisis, but every single day. We recognize the power of connection, the energy behind being supported, and the difference that we can make collectively. We believe that communities are what make our culture successful – and that apathy and a lack of participation is what destroys it. And we see far too much of the latter. Online communities don’t cut it. Facebook friends can’t help you care for a sick child, run an errand for you, or give you a shoulder to cry on. Virtual forums can’t give you a hug, watch your kids while you clean up a mess, or cook you a hot meal in your time of need.

Real people can. Real communities can. And some of our proudest moments come during these times. Whether in illness or injury, or a life-changing event like having a new baby, real life communities rise up to support their members. Members encourage each other through the rough times – the sleepless nights, the breastfeeding challenges, the teen rebellions.

Overcoming apathy is an uphill battle. Constantly encouraging people to participate, to get involved, and to be active is not always easy. We are so insular in our daily lives that we forget how wonderful it is to have that group connection – not only when a crisis hits, but even in the good times. A simple conversation, a shared experience, or a helping hand can make the difference.  I encourage you to be part of it, in real life, in real time, every day.  Find the time, create the opportunity, and be part of a community.  Feed your soul, help another, and make a difference.  It’s up to you.  If we all stop participating, we have no one but ourselves to blame when the communities we depend upon no longer exist.

 

holistic moms networkNancy Massotto is the Founder and Executive Director of the Holistic Moms Network and mother to two boys. She founded the Holistic Moms Network to meet other parents who shared her passions for living healthy and living sustainably, and to help raise awareness about natural living options

Enough with the ‘mom enough’ stuff…Can we just talk?

There’s little more demoralizing than being told what we’re doing is wrong, or that there’s a better way, or worse – that we’re in some way harming or damaging our children. We take it very personally, especially when the criticism centers around our parenting.

That’s why the TIME cover and tagline, “Are You Mom Enough” exploded over the media as it did. Their job was to get attention and ultimately sell copies. Unfortunately, to do so, they resorted to playing on mothers’ emotions and spotlighting the negative, competitive vibe around a conversation that should be supportive, encouraging and helpful.

pathways magazine fall 2012The Fall 2012 issue of Pathways magazine features the cover mom herself, Jamie Lynne Grumet, sharing her thoughts and clearing the air about the TIME cover photo and the media storm surrounding it all. Grumet tells Pathways, “I think the hate that comes from some mothers is from defensiveness and that they believe what we are saying is that what they do is less or they are hurting their child, which is totally untrue. There are so many ways to parent.”

It’s not just TIME. It happens all too often. Some parenting practice is framed as an us vs. them, a red team against the blue team, a this-way-wins-over-that-way or this-group-is-better-than-that-group issue. Then we, as parents, end up divided.

Sadly, when this is the arena we’re given, we’re left with little choice. We either risk getting into a debate, or we stay hush-hush about how we parent. Parenting becomes one of those off-limits topics, like religion and politics. We don’t want to offend anyone, fuel the mommy wars, or create guilt. As a result, we miss out on conversations that inform us, ease our fears and give us new ideas or perspectives.

It’s a shame, because we want to reach out, to get support. To give support. Instead, we miss out on the kinds of discussions that benefit our children.

We can’t control what the big media outlets will do. All we can do is try to create an environment for healthy conversation within our own circles. When you find yourself discussing parenting, here are some things to keep in mind to keep it friendly and supportive:

Remember, the AP principles are adaptable. For example, “feed with love and respect” applies to parents who breastfeed as well as parents who bottle-nurse. “Respond with sensitivity” is about as non-specific as it gets and applies to all kinds of interactions. Each of the principles is written very broadly and can be adapted to every family situation.

We never know the whole story. So we can’t possibly judge without all of the details.

We all make mistakes and are doing our best. We all want what is best for our kids and we’re working with what we’ve got. Nobody can be faulted for that.

Change the subject if you must. Some people just want to be right. And that’s okay. When the conversation takes a turn toward competitiveness and winning or losing, and that uncomfortable feeling sets in, it may be time to move to another topic.

Respond with sensitivity (sound familiar?). Always assume the other person’s feelings are easily hurt. This is advice my husband and I were given right before we got married, and it applies well here. If you assume the other person is sensitive, you won’t say anything wrong.

Want to open up a discussion with other parents who share your goals? API Support Groups provide a nice, level playing field that encourages helpful discussion and avoids judgment and competition. Find a support group in your area.

Also, coming soon: Jamie Lynne Grumet and her family will be featured in the next issue of The Attached Family!

Toddlers at War: Sibling Rivalry

“My eldest daughter stalks the younger one, trips her up, hits her, bites her, takes her toys, scratches and pushes her. Yesterday she put a pillow on her sister’s face and every time I jump to intervene, she tries to be nasty on a daily basis. Only my intervention or having them separately will prevent actual injuries,” my friend complained to me recently. Her daughters are two and one years old.

I, myself, have two boys under three, and scratching, biting, hitting and spitting are part of our daily routine at the moment. At times it gets so bad that I can’t even turn away my head; leaving the room was simply life-threatening for the baby.

Whose Fault Is It?

I wondered if we as parents could do something to stop the rivalry or even if it is our fault that our kids don’t feel loved enough. May be it is our behavior that sets the jealousy off and promotes rivalry among our children?

“No, absolutely not! Parents take too much on,” assured me Dr. Jane Nelsen, the founder of the Positive Discipline program, when I phoned her up. “You can’t control a child’s perceptions or what a child decides or what a child believes because two children can see the same event and make different decisions. So, that’s why we can’t take all the credit or blame.”

Parents can’t stop the rivalry from happening but they can do a lot to minimize its impact. “First of all when parents agree on how to parent, that creates an atmosphere of cooperation and energy. And when parents have opposite opinions, which they most of the time have, that increases the rivalry.”

Jane came up with a great example on how to handle rivalry in toddlers. At first I found it somewhat counterintuitive. “Let’s say a toddler takes a toy away from his younger sibling – what do most mothers do?”

“Well, they punish the older one, the aggressor,” I mumble, puzzled about what would be wrong with that approach.

“Exactly. So what you are doing when you swoop in and protect the younger and punish the older child? You are increasing sibling rivalry because you are doing bully-victim training. You are teaching the older one to be a bully by punishing him. So then he learns – oh I can punish someone who’s smaller than me and they are training the younger one to be a victim. That smart little guy or girl is going to learn so quickly: Oh the way to feel special around here, all I need to do is to annoy the older one so that mummy and daddy won’t see it and so they will always think it’s the others fault.”

Dr. Nelsen continued, “what helps a lot in improving behavior is when the older sees that they are both treated the same. It’s hard to do, I’m not saying it’s easy to do but it’s so important to do if we possibly can.”

The Importance of Siblings Rivalry

“I think that sibling rivalry is important,” Dr. Nelsen continues. “I don’t think we should try to eliminate all of it. But I think it is detrimental if parents are always jumping in and taking sides. Then it has long lasting negative effect on children’s’ relationship. If a parent intervenes to take the side of one and not the other, then that’s not a good socialization. But if they say, ‘I’ll take this toy until you guys can figure out a way to share or you can go to separate areas until you are ready to try it again,’ that’s great socialization.”

To finish our conversation, Jane gave me a great rule of thumb for the toddler years and beyond.

“Treat your kids the same. It is like you talk to both of them even if the youngest one can’t understand. They understand the energy. They understand the actions, even if they don’t understand the words”.

 

Own Two Hands

By Deanna Spangler, API Leader in Roseville, California

 

So life in my house is busy with three girls ages 7, 5, and 2.  Not only am I a stay-at-home mom but I started homeschooling my oldest this year.  Busy doing the same tasks grossly repetitively I clean, teach, change diapers, laundry, errands – we all have our own version of the grind.

At the library the other day Melany picked a CD off the shelf of the library, I brought it home to find the audio CD from the cartoon movie Curious George of all things.  I can’t stop playing it.  Most of the songs are really great but the one in particular I heard while driving and thinking.  Sappy it may be, but it is one of those songs that stopped me and the noise in my head and spoke to my soul in a way that it made me be totally present.

“With My Own Two Hands” is about changing the world and making it a better place to live (yes, touchy-feely, I know).  But, for me, it is about doing divine work here on earth.  Doing what I can with my hands, my body, my heart to help, give, and to love and teach.  It is my obligation to teach my kids to do the same.  Making the world a better place for all is a great goal but is an idealistic, removed way of saying we will fulfill our obligation to each other.  But, at that moment I realized practically, realistically what does it mean? How do I REALLY change the world with MY OWN two hands?

 

 

The answer is to do all you can to produce quality humans in the world.  In other words, do exactly what you are already doing, being the best parent possible.  It doesn’t mean being perfect or being everything to everybody.  It means being present when your little one looks at you.  You are changing the world in your house and in your communities, in your states, in this world.  You do this all while you make a house a home and make family dinners.  By dropping all your plans and caretaking your little one that needs to see a doctor, or by folding the 8th load of the laundry for the day. You change the world for better when you cancel meetings to make it to the soccer games after school.

As parents we are responsible for SO much.  We attend to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of our kids but let’s not forget ALL the other things like instilling magic, role modeling, striving for balance, grinding out daily rituals, keeping up holiday traditions, juggling vacations, teaching finances, and the importance of voting…the list is endless.  But all this work of molding these small humans does not get noticed with paychecks or praise but with moments that reflect what quality human beings they are turning out to be.  These small moments are you prize for changing the world.

Congratulations!

Normalizing Extended Breastfeeding

The Momosphere is all atwitter over Time Magazine’s cover story: “Are You Mom Enough?” From its “shocking” cover photo to its provocative title, it’s obvious Time was shooting for “mommy war” controversy (something I work hard to stay away from).

If I shy away from controversy, why would I ever agree to the possibility of being on the cover of Time? Because I want to normalize breastfeeding past infancy. Extended does not equal extreme.

People have said that my son (and moreso Jaime’s son, who is on the cover) will be upset or embarrassed someday by this article. But that is the attitude we are trying to change – we do not want the sight of an older nursling to cause a stir ten years from now. By agreeing to be a part of this photo shoot, we wanted to create opportunities for conversation and education about how normal and natural it is to nurture our little ones by nursing past infancy. We want our children to never bat an eye at the sight of a mother breastfeeding past infancy.

So how can one photo stir up such controversy and negativity? And why would any mother choose to nurse for longer than a year?

The Decision to Breastfeed – For Three Months or Three Years – Is Culturally Influenced

Western culture tends to focus on the sexual aspect of the female breast much more than on its biological role of breastfeeding, despite the fact that we are mammals. The word “mammal” is derived from mammary glands. Mammary glands are those amazing parts of our breasts, the primary purpose of which is to feed our young. So while we often hear about nursing moms being asked to leave or cover up, you rarely hear about petitions to have Victoria Secret ads removed from evening television or city billboards. Go figure, eh?

In addition to our culture’s fascination with breasts as sexual objects, breastfeeding is also “modified by a wide variety of [cultural] beliefs, not only about infant health and nutrition, but also about the nature of human infancy and the proper relationships between mother and child, and between mother and father1.”

That must explain many of the objections I’ve read whenever there is an article about nursing past infancy. There are vague complaints about it being “too sexual.” That it encourages children to be overly dependent on mothers. That it is somehow at odds with a child’s development (ever heard the one about children old enough to “ask” should not be nursing?).

Nursing older children, however, is not a new thing. Not only is there evidence that mothers have nursed past toddlerhood throughout human history (and have been recommended to by physicians!), but cultures around the world continue to nurse to three years or beyond today2. If nursing past infancy were a harmful practice, the human race would not have flourished so.

And so while the “median age of weaning throughout the world is between ages three and five[,]” here in North America we are weaning our children when they are far younger.

Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy Benefits Children and Mothers

The biologically normal benefits of breastfeeding do not magically disappear once a baby turns a year old. Breastmilk still provides nutrition that is far superior to cow milk. It contains an abundance of antibodies. “In fact, some of the immune factors in breastmilk increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process3.”
Think about it like this:

Suppose you have an oil well in your back yard. Like all oil wells, its yield is highest in the first year. You get a check for $100,000 dollars. Great! So now do you cap the well? The next year you get a check for only $10,000. Do you cap the well? The next year you get a check for $1,000. Do you cap the well? The next year you get a check for $100. Do you cap the well? [The] point [is], the well will *always* yield a benefit. . .

Breastfeeding works something like that. Its nutritional and immunological importance wanes over time. But there’s never, never a time when it’s not a good food or a good source of antinfectives. And, of course, this analogy doesn’t address the emotional value, the place breastfeeding has in the mother-child relationship4.

For the record, the American Academy of Family Physicians has said: “As recommended by the WHO, breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement. It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years.

So this idea of a mother breastfeeding her three or four year old as unnatural? It’s incorrect.

Breastfeeding can continue to be a normal, healthy part of your relationship with your child into toddlerhood and beyond. It has been one reason that my son counts my embrace as the most secure, loving place he knows. (He told me!)

Did you breastfeed past infancy? Why or why not?

References, and for more information

1. Jen Davis, <a href=”http://www.lalecheleague.org/nb/nbsepoct07p196.html”>Breastfeeding Beyond a Year: exploring benefits, cultural influences, and more</a> quoting Dettwyler, K.A. “A Time to Wean” in Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1995.

2. For more on these studies, check out Breastfeeding Beyond a Year and the studies cited therein (along with the reference to physicians recommending extended breastfeeding), A Natural Age of Weaning by Kathryn Dettwyler, Natural Weaning by Norma Jane Bumgarner, and ChildInfo.org.

3. Extended Breastfeeding Fact Sheet (citing Goldman AS. et al., Immunologic Components in Human Milk During Weaning, Acta Paediatr Scand. 1983 Jan;72(1):133-4; Goldman, A., Goldblum R.M., Garza C., Immunologic Components in Human Milk During the Second Year of Lactation, Acta Paediatr Scand 1983 May;72(3):461-2; Hamosh M, Dewey, Garza C, et al: Nutrition During Lactation. Institute of Medicine, Washington, DC, National Academy Press, 1991, pp. 133-140)] The longer you breastfeed, the less risk you have of developing breast cancer, endometrial cancer, or ovarian cancer.[6. See Extended Breastfeeding Fact Sheet and citations therein, and 101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child and citations therein.

4. Nursing Past a Year at The Compleat Mother

Mother: I was desperate for that title

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”

-Debra Ginsberg

Mother.

I was desperate for that title.  I went through years of infertility. I was diagnosed with a uterus septum several years ago; I had several operations and procedures to diagnose it, as well as, fix it.  My husband and I ditched fertility treatments (fertility drugs and two failed IUIs) and opted to have acupuncture.  That did the trick; I was pregnant two years later, with my son. He was born, May 13.  Now, his birthday falls this year on Mother’s Day.

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Photo by Sara Turner

Now, I am a mother.  And with this title, comes the work, the love, the magic, and the chaos.

Right now, he is watching Sesame Street so I can write this.  Well, now his bare chested toddler torso is up against my right shoulder and I am begging him to press play again. So much of motherhood is a series of meltdowns that fury inside me, silently, and sometimes not-so-silent, while outside my own body, my toddler’s hands are everywhere, and my body doesn’t seem to belong to me, with cries for “Ba Ba” (his name for my breasts) and toddler somersaults across my chest and legs, crying “Mama Mama.”

Nothing quiets, UNTIL I STOP everything I am doing and throw up the white flag.  I give in to his needs. I am not going to lie – this cheeses me off sometimes.  I JUST WANT TO FINISH THIS ONE ARTICLE – THIS ONE THING. But that’s the thing – motherhood surrenders, not in defeat, but in victory – for it is in these surrenders, my toddler rises higher, smarter, more loved, more nurtured.

But darn, I just got a knee to the shoulder and his little persistent hands keep trying to turn off my computer.  So, I compromise.  I stop.  And we read his favorite book for the zillionth time, Llama Llama Red Pajama.

The veil of motherhood only gets lifted for a few: my husband, my closest friends, and sometimes, it just does not. I cloak myself in the finest silk and finest expectations of motherhood, and sit idly, feeling ugly underneath that beautiful white silk – feeling dark, angry, forgotten and I stir.  Oh, do I stir.

The comfort of kisses and hearing “Mama,” from my toddler, are like waves of rainbows.  But the surrender flag must go up to see these rainbows, for I am blind to them if I do not.  Magic is a funny thing – it comes and goes and sometimes there are droughts for days – no rainbows – no flag.

I managed to get through the first year breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and no TV.

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Photo by R. Oteri

The second year, well, that was a different story.  We still co-sleep, but it seems to be something our queen mattress has outgrown.  And we are still breastfeeding. But motherhood is not a cut and dry thing.

I really have no idea what I am doing.  Really, I don’t.  I just have a swollen compass I call my heart which leads me in the direction of my instincts and those instincts some refer to as Attachment Parenting.

Attachment Parenting has taken a beating with the recent Time magazine cover.  I have so many feelings about that cover, but mostly the feelings have dissipated and now I am left with the one feeling that is constant in my life: motherhood.  My choice is to be the best mother I can and to accept that some of my own expectations of what motherhood should be, simply are not realistic.  This flag of surrender, some might refer to as common sense.

Like Spiderman’s uncle said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  I am responsible to raise this little human being to the best of my ability.  But babies and children don’t come with manuals.  They do though, come into the world wanting to be loved and nurtured.  That is manual enough for me.

I have no manual though and do I ever wish there was one. I do not reference parenting blogs, nor do I reference parenting books.  Most of the time, I am frantic, unshowered, and bored out of my mind, waiting for something to happen. And it often does: a luminescent crayon streak on the clear plastic blender, a load of folded clothes haphazardly sprayed all over the not-so-clean living room, the dog’s water bowl tipped over onto something that JUST SHOULD NOT GET WET, and a plethora of other things.

I’m not sure if I am doing it wrong, or just being honest.  Motherhood is hard. So many slices of myself get deli-sliced-thin and result in a big ole’ hoagie of letting go, sacrifice, doubt, and insecurity.  The condiments hold me in place: friendship, love, and support, and the way my boy loves me.

Each mother has their own journey. And I just wish we would stop clothes-lining each other and let each other parent.  The Mommy Wars have got to stop.  We love our children.  We really do and to each his or her own.

Most moms are doing the best they can.  The judgment is excruciating. Painful.  Ugly.  But my theory of where the mommy wars and the judgement stems from is the Grand Canyon of doubt and insecurity you get when you have children.  This great responsibility leaves one feeling powerless.  And that is the truth (as I see it).

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
― Debra Ginsberg

There are so many things out of my control, so I hold tight to what I can control – how I choose to parent my child.  And nobody is going to get their claws on that, for it is wrapped in the impenetrable magic spider web of the love I have for my child. This intricate web is wrapped in the intensity of motherhood.

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Photo by Megan Oteri

My mother did the best she could and I am doing the best I can (and some days I totally stink at motherhood, but I keep going, keep trying, and keep evolving).  I have some more tools in my tote these days, with supportive mothers, and a computer to reach out on days I feel isolated and alone.  Just to know I am not alone on this journey, gives me some sense of peace.  I also have a friend who lives in the same town as me, who I can go to, and lift the perfect mommy veil, showing her my warts and scars motherhood brings.

She tells me, “Yeah, I get it.” That’s all I need to hear.

In the distance, I see the magic rainbow – and the beauty of it doesn’t make me feel better – it’s the realization that I can’t see the rainbow all the time that makes me feel better, because it’s raining – the hard hail storm pellets of motherhood.

The beauty, the heart wrenching worry, the deli-thin slices lost to the big ole’ hoagie of motherhood, another bite, another part of myself, as I knew it, gone.

But the rainbow comes out, as my toddler makes ambulance siren pitch sounds right in my ear, and talking toddler gibberish.  I see it.  I can smell it (or is that me who smells who has not showered or brushed my teeth this morning). I taste it.  I touch it.  I feel it (his toddler arms are wrapped around my neck as I write this).  This is the texture of motherhood – smooth, rough, splintered, cool, hot, layered in the mosaic of mother’s love.

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Photo by Sara Turner

Happy Mother’s Day.

Mother’s day will be the day to celebrate love

“Mother’s Day is your day to celebrate the way you choose. This day for us single women is all about recognizing the amazing life we have created. Celebrate yourself. You are a strong amazing woman. Take pride in that.”

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flickr/KazAndrew

 

I never wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day – I never saw much point in it. Not as a child and not once I’ve became a mother myself. What is there to celebrate? And yet – this year I decided to start celebrating it.

At first it seemed that a lot of women would agree with my negative attitude towards this holiday. For example, would you be looking forward to it if you were a single mom of a very young child? Would you celebrate this day at all?

“Mother’s Day as a single mom has been like a box of chocolates. And by that I mean the cheap kind.” One mom says. “It’s a hard day for me, quite frankly.”

Another woman shares, “because I have to do all of the work. I cook, I entertain, and I try to celebrate my own mother. I usually end up feeling exhausted on the day that I should be given a break”.

“I love my children more than anything, but to be honest, what I could really use on Mother’s Day, is a break!  A day alone.”

The number of moms dreading Mother’s Day is astounding. The grass is not greener on the married mothers side either. A survey by a gift retailer revealed that nearly half of mothers don’t like their presents, and according to ABC News, more married women join cheating websites the day after Mother’s Day than any other day of the year.

Are there mothers who actually enjoy this holiday? And if yes, what do they do or think differently? What is it that they are looking forward to? Breakfast in bed? Flowers? A recent poll by Babyzone.com asked their visitors this question. The overwhelming majority of nearly 2000 participants wanted to spend a great day together with the whole family (40%) or to treat themselves to a day in a SPA (26%), closely followed by an entire day of napping (14%).  Check out Spa Source they offer facial beds/massage tables that can be used in your day spa, salon or private skin care practice.

“With crazy schedules, school, sports, work, we use it as a time to be together, not for alone time. I can go to the spa any time I want. On Mother’s Day, I want to spend it with the person who gave me the opportunity to be a mother on Mother’s Day, my daughter!”

My best friend is a single mom of a 4-year-old girl. Her husband died two years ago and my friend is still not really over her loss. When I asked her about the upcoming Mother’s Day, I was quite surprised to find out that she was looking forward to celebrating it.

“Mother’s Day is your day to celebrate the way you choose. This day for us single women is all about recognizing the amazing life we have created. Celebrate yourself. You are a strong amazing woman. Take pride in that.”

When I looked around I quickly discovered that the group of dissatisfied mothers mostly was complaining about not getting the right present, or no gift at all. Those who felt that their families should thank mothers for all the hard work were disappointed quite often.

Women who were very positive about Mother’s Day focused on pro-actively celebrating their relationship with children, grandparents and friends. As one mom has put it,

“I think we should be celebrating our mothers, and even our sisters, daughters, grandmothers and aunts on Mother’s Day.“

The more positive accounts about happy Mother’s Days I read the more I want to celebrate it myself.

As one of the moms suggested to me, “go with your child and do something fun together. Go to a park and have a picnic. Talk with your child and let them know how much you appreciate them. Write a letter to your baby or child and tell them how you feel about being their mommy!”

And this is exactly what I am going to do this year – I will start a tradition in our house. Mother’s Day will be a day to celebrate love. The most selfless and enduring love on Earth – mother’s love to her children.

Motherhood: Is It Holding Mothers Back?

“The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women,” is the latest release of self-effacing mom lit, by prominent French intellectual Elisabeth Badinter. From her recent piece in the Huffington Post:

Today’s ideal of motherhood requires that we give birth in pain, without benefit of an epidural, since this robs us of our first act as a mother. We are enjoined to nurse for six months, a year, or longer, day and night, whenever our child wishes, regardless of the mother’s situation. We are advised to practice co-sleeping, at the risk of sending numerous fathers to the sofa. The good mother who wants the best for her child is urged to forswear processed baby food, which is eyed as a health hazard, and to avoid daycare as injurious to her child’s healthy development. With all of its demands, the naturalist ideal of the 21st century means that it takes a woman as much time and energy to raise two children as our grandmothers spent raising four.

We’ve heard these types of arguments before from Erica Jong and countless mothers before her. Frankly, I’m tired of it. Prescriptive parenting, whether pro- or anti-naturalism, is at the heart of the issue. As Badinter herself agrees, when we look to gurus, whose opinions change with the mood of the times, we lose our way. Believing that there is a right way to parent, especially when that way contradicts with your own instincts, is the real prison modern mamas are facing.

Badinter continues: “Daughters have reacted against the feminism of their mothers. Most of all, we have seen the return of a naturalist ideology not much different from that of Rousseau, which kept women at home for almost two centuries. Its message was simple: ‘Ladies, your duty and your great achievement is to make the adults of tomorrow. You need only look to the teachings of nature and devote your days and nights to the task.'”

I’m concerned by this idea that modern or attached motherhood is setting back the feminist movement. For me, and for many of my generation, the lasting gift of feminism is the right to choose what we do with our lives: the right to self-determination. Not the right to sit in a cubicle all day, then pick up our child from day care and call ourselves liberated. Not the right to hate your life as you wash cloth diapers and puree baby food because someone told you that’s what “good” mothers do. For me, feminism means choosing how we navigate motherhood, whether we dress Junior in cloth diapers, disposables or none at all. In other words, if it’s not for you, just skip it!

Now to the valid issue Badinter raises about mothers whose lives revolve entirely around mothering. “We …fail to remember that raising a child doesn’t last forever, that when children grow up we have thirty or forty years left to live. To make a child the alpha and omega of a woman’s life deals a terrible blow to women’s autonomy and to the equality of the sexes.”

I’ll start by pointing out that this issue – identifying so completely with a particular role, always has the potential to leave our worlds completely rocked. A close relative recently told me about the best job she had. She loved it – the work, the people, everything about it. And she was there for a long time. But then one day she was let go. And she swore to never again identify with a job so completely. Work is work, she said, and that’s all it is.

So maybe identifying so completely with one role, to the exclusion of others, isn’t just a pitfall of motherhood. It’s a danger of completely identifying ourselves with what we do, rather than who we are. The danger is identifying as anything but our true selves, whatever that means to each of us. As long as we stand in our own truth, we’ll make the best decisions possible – for ourselves, for our families and for our careers. And if the highlights of our lives change suddenly or over time, we’ll be equipped to ride it out.

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