Monday, April 30, 2012

The Frustrated Mom

A year ago this April, Lashanda Armstrong loaded her four children into her minivan and drove into the Hudson River. Her oldest son, aged 10, was the only survivor after he rolled down his window and swam to the boat ramp in 45 degree water. Her other children, ages, 5, 2, and 11 months all died.

By all accounts, Armstrong was a good mother doing the best she could on limited means and with limited emotional support. She was estranged from both of the fathers of her children and for all intents and purposes a single parent. She mentioned in passing to her children’s daycare provider that she was “tired and all alone.” After a fight with the father of her younger 3 children, it seems she felt even more so as that was when she piled all of her kids into the car and drove them down a boat ramp into the Hudson River. 

Armstrong’s story is tragic, and still, when the topic came up in parent discussions on playgrounds or over dinner, parents talked about it in that distancing fashion that we save only for the most uncomfortable of topics. By the distancing fashion, I mean, the “I can’t imagine doing such a thing” or “Who could do such a thing?” or “It’s unnatural. It’s irrational – the urge to kill yourself and your children.” (as if we were unclear or thought that suicide and infanticide were well reasoned, thought out and rational courses of action). It’s the judgmental distancing thing we do when we’d like to think that the kinds of people who do these kinds of things are a completely different species of human being than ourselves.

I saw this again this last week, when a Chicago mom, Michelle Feliciano, 23, was arrested on child endangerment charges after her 11 month old baby was found with multiple injuries including bleeding on the brain, a broken clavicle, marks on the neck, and puncture wounds on his feet from toothpicks. Feliciano explained the injuries; she said they happened in a “bout of frustration.”  Her oldest child, between the ages of three and four, is now staying with a relative, while her baby is in stable condition in the hospital.

The comments on Feliciano’s debut into the papers sound like the things I remember reading about in the history of the Salem Witch trials or a Dickens novel. Feliciano is an immoral monster who should be hung in the town square. She should be sterilized without her consent or anesthetic. Her crimes inspire even the most collected and enlightened of onlookers to think of the most barbaric and medieval of punishments.

Yet, Feliciano’s case, while profoundly disturbing, I think deserves some degree of compassion. She is another young mom trying to raise children on limited means. There is no mention of a father being present. While Feliciano had family close by and it was a family member who noticed that something was wrong when the 11-month old baby couldn’t hold his head up, Feliciano obviously didn’t feel like she could call them for help when she found herself frustrated.  In the moment, dealing with two children all by herself seemed so overwhelming, that somehow hurting one of them seemed to make sense.

Child abuse is inexcusable, period.  But to assume that Armstrong or Feliciano are unlike other people is a mistake. Rather, they reveal the shortcomings of all of us.

Parenting, as one of my friends says, is unrelenting. Consequently, it can bring out anger and frustration that most of us didn’t know we had. Despite being raised in an angry household where my parents often yelled (generally at each other), I didn’t consider myself an angry person. I didn’t usually yell or throw things or kick things or throw tantrums like people who were angry people did. Even when I had a child I didn’t do these things.  When I had my first child, if anything, my patience, compassion, and tolerance increased. But something happened after the birth of my second. Since the birth of my daughter, and the increasing independence of my son who is 3-going-on-15, I have found myself profoundly and ridiculously angry. By sheer coincidence, I have also found myself profoundly and ridiculously tired.

And, I beat myself up all the more because my children are happy, easy to be around, healthy little people. Unlike Feliciano and Armstrong, I am educated and not young (and not there’s anything wrong with young parents, though studies show child abuse drops as people have children later in life, but to be clear, to have more than one child by 25 – the age when our own brain just finishes its development – is young) and I am not trying to raise my children on limited means. My children’s father is an active partner and parent; we have a solid marriage with pretty great communication skills. We fight and yell, but we also love and laugh and keep talking. My sister lives around the corner with her awesome soon-to-be husband. When my husband works late, I can crash – with my two kids in tow - dinner at their house. Yesterday, I came home to find my almost brother-in-law in the backyard working on our chicken coop and watching my son play; my husband had to run out for a work call.  I also have help; we can afford a housecleaner and I have a nanny part-time, so while I get up insanely early to get work done, I also have a few hours in the afternoon when she comes. I have her help for whatever I need: she can hold the baby, while I hold my son during his allergy tests at the doctor’s office or his teeth cleaning at the dentist. 

For all intents and purposes, my parenting experience is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Feliciano and Armstrong. Nonetheless, I have had days since the birth of my daughter, where I felt emotionally and physically exhausted, drained, isolated, angry and even violently so. I have had moments where I have imagined doing terrible things to my children and myself and horrified myself. I have had moments where I didn’t know I was going to make it through the end of the day. I have moments where when someone said, “it only gets worse” I have thought, “well, then, I am not going to make it.” I have had moments where walking into traffic seemed like a reasonable course of action.  I have thought there was something terribly wrong with me.  I have felt hopeless; because my own parents were so angry, I have spent years working on my personal development, so I didn’t follow in their marriage and child-rearing footsteps. And as a result, I do live a very different life than my parents did when they were my age.

Then one day, my son asked for sliced cheese and when I gave it to him, he cried that he didn’t want it and without even thinking, I became my mother in 1976 and picked up the cheese and threw it across the room and into the trash and said, “well, then don’t eat it.” Horrified by the instantaneous transformation, I instantly picked him up, apologized and we cried together about how I scared both of us.

When I tentatively brought up the topic of my own parenting anger in a group of friends and my favorite fellow parents, I was worried I would get asked to leave. But nonetheless, I had to ask, “I know we all want to be gentle parents, or conscious parents or whatever the terms are  - I know we all want to be the parents our parents weren’t, but does anyone beside me ever just lose it?”

I wasn’t shunned. One friend said, it’s going to happen, and it’s what you do in the moments after that make the difference. I realized that this is true, that my own parents told me I had it coming, so I always felt wrong even if I wasn’t. Whereas my children and I ended our bad patches, with me apologizing, and us on the couch snuggled together and reading, that this had the effect of my outbursts passing like my kids’ outbursts. Once we expressed the emotions and accounted for them, we could move on without carrying grudges forward.

Another friend wisely said, “I think we have to be like Gandhi, where we just keep taking hits from the British.” Then she added, “But I don’t know that Gandhi was as tired as we are.”

So while I’d like to pretend I can’t fathom how people like Armstrong or Feliciano do what they did, I can; I have felt the emotions that lead to those kind of actions. And like them, and like my favorite friends, and like my wise-Gandhi-citing friend, I - and most of us - weren’t taught how to deal with frustration or anger. Many of us were actually taught that expressing anger or throwing temper tantrums was nothing more than being manipulative or trying to get away with something. But this only leads to bottling emotions up until we can no longer stand it and we explode, often taking it out on those around us.  Not many of us had parents that got down at our eye-level and said, “I get you’re angry and that’s a valid emotion. Do you want to talk about what makes you angry?...Oh? What else?” Most of us grew up in households where expressing emotions like anger was considered misbehavior.

Except that it’s not. Alfie Kohn famously writes that every act of misbehavior has at its core a valid complaint. The trick is to give kids – and ourselves – the skills to express that valid complaint in language. I know for myself that when I act out, I too have a valid complaint at the source, whether it’s that I feel unsupported or overwhelmed or that I need a break and am unable to put my children on “pause” while I take a nap. I suspect if we asked Feliciano and Armstrong if they had a valid complaint at the source of their “unthinkable” actions, we would find they did. I suspect we would find, that, in a country we consider advanced, they felt the struggles that come with not enough support.

We can imagine Feliciano and Armstrong as monsters or unnatural. Or we can consider that like many of us, they didn’t have the tools to handle the wide range of emotions that come with parenting. Like many of us, they found themselves overwhelmed with frustration.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cleaning Green

A couple of years ago, I picked up Renée Loux’s Easy Green Living and read it cover to cover. It’s an informative and inspiring book, filled with ways to live healthier while helping the earth. One of my favorite sections talks about making your own household cleaners. I decided to give it a try and have been hooked ever since. I haven’t bought a commercial cleaner in more than a year! Though I was already using non-toxic name-brand cleaners, I’ve found making my own rewarding, cheaper, and ultimately easier than I thought it would be.

Why switch to non-toxic cleaners in the first place?
Have you ever looked at the ingredients in a spray bottle of a conventional all-purpose cleaner? The list is scary—and dangerous for both human beings and the environment. Common ingredients can include (all sources for this information are cited in Renée’s book):

Ammonia, a toxic substance that can cause permanent damage to the eyes and can burn the skin.

Chlorine, which severely irritates the eyes, skin, and lungs, and is very harmful to inhale. It may cause permanent damage to the lungs, and children are especially at risk for its adverse effects.

Glycol ether, repeated exposure to which can cause liver and kidney damage.

Naptha, found in all purpose glass and surface cleaners, is a possible carcinogen and can cause skin damage, and is very dangerous to inhale.

Phenols, toxic compounds that irritate the eyes, skin, and lungs, and are toxic in the environment.

Terrifying, right? And that’s not even half of the most common ingredients. In the US, manufacturers are not required to list the ingredients in their cleaning products—so we may not even know all the toxic chemicals that we’re using. It’s bad enough to think of the harm this might be causing myself and my husband—but when I started thinking about the possible danger I’m exposing my kids to, for me, switching to non-toxic cleaners was a no-brainer.

Why make your own cleaners?
I look at making my own cleaners the way I look at making most of what we eat from scratch: I know every single thing that has gone into whatever it is we are ingesting, or cleaning with, in this case. No unpronounceable chemicals; no carcinogens or agents harmful to the earth. Before I switched to non-toxic cleaning products, I was always nervous about my kids being around when I cleaned—now I have no fear of them inhaling or swallowing something that can cause them permanent damage.

Making your own cleaners is exponentially less expensive than buying name brand non-toxic ones. There are some wonderful name brand natural cleaners out there, and they do the job well.  But they are pricey, and if you’re a neat freak like me and clean often, those costs can really add up. I order all my ingredients from Their prices are up to 40% less than other sites I have come across, and some things are as much as 75% less expensive! You can also visit your local natural health store for most of these. I get spray bottles from my local dollar store. You can even use old spray bottles from store-bought cleaners that have run out—just be sure to wash them out thoroughly before mixing your cleaner in them.

Making your own cleaners is also fun! I absolutely love learning about essential oils and their properties, and combining them to create my own scents gives me a chance to get creative. Be sure to keep your oils out of reach of children—ingesting them in large amounts can be harmful. Another note—if you are using a plastic measuring spoon for your essential oils, wash it out with soap immediately after you finish with it, otherwise the oil will corrode the plastic.

Now that you have some good information, why not give making your own household cleaners a try? Here are some of my favorite recipes, taken from Easy Green Living. I’d love to hear from you if you try these, and how you like them.

Lavender-Lemon Disinfecting Spray
Hands down, my favorite. Smells fantastic and I love that it naturally disinfects! You can use this to clean things like kitchen counters and cutting boards—just keep in mind that it won’t necessarily kill all bacteria from raw poultry and meat. Makes about one pint.

¼ cup inexpensive vodka
½ cup 3% hydrogen peroxide (69 cents a bottle at my local drugstore!)
1 cup water
10 drops essential oil of lavender
5 drops essential oil of lemon

Combine all the ingredients in a spray bottle and swirl to mix them. Be sure not to shake the bottle, or the active oxygen in the peroxide will go flat and lose its action. Spray the surface and wipe, or allow to air dry. Keeps indefinitely!

All-Purpose Citrus Spray
I love this recipe because it uses another inexpensive ingredient: white distilled vinegar. I buy the store brand and the cost ends up being pennies per bottle for this cleaner. One note—if the smell of vinegar bothers you, you may want to skip this one, as the scent does linger for a bit. You may be tempted to add more essential oils to mask the smell—but don’t. When it comes to essential oils, a little goes a long way! Makes about one pint.

½ cup white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon Citra-Solv Cleaner and Degreaser Concentrate (available at or your local natural health store)
½ teaspoon natural liquid dish soap or castile soap
1 ½ cups warm water
½ teaspoon total antiseptic essential oils (your choice as to which ones—get creative!)

Combine all the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well to mix. Keeps indefinitely!

All-Purpose Deodorizing Basic Soda Spray
This is a great recipe for scouring and scrubbing—and it uses two super-inexpensive ingredients—baking and club soda! Be sure to wipe off after spraying, because the baking soda can leave a residue. Makes about one pint.

½ teaspoon baking soda
½ castile soap
½ teaspoon total rosemary and sweet orange essential oils
1 cup very warm water
1 cup club soda

Combine the baking soda, soap, essential oils, and water in a spray bottle. Screw the top on, shake vigorously to combine the ingredients, and then add the club soda. Swirl to mix it in.

Heavy-Duty Floor Cleaner
I don’t know why, but it seems like commercial floor cleaners are the most expensive of the lot. This is easy, cheap, and smells wonderful! My kids and husband have all commented on how good the house smells after I’ve mopped with this.

2 gallons warm water
½ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup Citra-Solv Cleaner and Degreaser Concentrate
2 tablespoons natural liquid dish soap
½ teaspoon essential oil of lavender

Mix all ingredients in a bucket, and mop away!

Basic Soda Fizz Toilet Scrub
OK, the toilet situation can get yucky, and you may be temped to use a conventional toxic cleaner because it just makes the grime go away. Don’t do it! This recipe is easy, quick, and cleans just as well.

1 tablespoon castile or other natural liquid soap
1/3 cup baking soda
1/3 distilled white vinegar
8 drops essential oil of lavender, rosemary, or both

Squirt the soap into the toilet bowl, and then drop the baking soda on top. Pour in the vinegar and essential oils. Let it fizz for 2-3 minutes, then scrub the bowl with a toilet brush, and flush. Enjoy the sparkle!


Good luck and happy green cleaning!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Don't Ignore Infertility"

This week, April 22 - 28, is National Infertility Awareness Week.  The theme this year is one that is so important for all those not struggling with infertility.

"Don't Ignore Infertility"

Infertility is one of the hardest things a couple will have to go through.  Support is so crucial so the process doesn't swallow them.

For those that haven't had to struggle through infertility, whether primary or secondary, it's hard to know how to support a friend.  One in eight couples now suffer through infertility, whereas a couple years ago it was one in ten.  It may not seem like a lot, but chances are you know at least one couple that is having trouble getting pregnant and/or keeping a pregnancy.

One of the best things you can do is not ignore their infertility.  For a lot, it feels like they are failing.  It may not be logical, but one thing that is so important is raising a family and when you can't? It is so incredibly difficult to live with.  Friends and acquaintances you were close to pull away, and that can make this process even harder.

Don't ignore their struggle.  You can still be happy for yourself and your family while supporting them when they need it most.  Don't offer platitudes to make their situation not seem as huge.  Most personal stories and advice that I've been given in the four years we've been trying to have a second child leave me in tears because they're just a pat on the head.  They're stories of "oh this woman I knew" and "just relax and it will happen".

If you are wondering what you can do?  Become educated on this issue that so many people are struggling with.  Be there for them.  Learn what you can do as a family member and friend.  And if you're still wondering? Ask them what you can do.  Even if it is just a simple thing like remembering a date that's important to them while they go through this.

In the end, just don't ignore.  What an important message, which you can take to other parts of your life.

And for those struggling through infertility, their is hope and their is support.  Resolve is an amazing organization and a great place to start.  And I am always available if you need someone to talk to (  And in the end, let's break the stigma around infertility and realize love and support are so much more important than struggling alone.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Talking About Work

Before last week’s Rosen/Romney exchange about work, my son and I had been talking a lot about work. When we go out and about in the city, much like a Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers episode, we talk about the various people we see working, from the garbage man, to the masons building a stone wall, the construction workers fixing the sidewalk with the cement mixer, the mail person, or the sushi chef at our favorite bodega. We talk about what various relatives do for work, how Abuela teaches teachers how to teach children, while his aunt designs couture wedding dresses and his uncle takes pictures. Most mornings after his dad leaves for work, he loads up an old MacBook Pro box (that he calls his briefcase though neither my husband nor I have ever carried such a thing) with his toys and announcing that he’s going to work.

When our nanny comes a few afternoons a week, I tell him that I too am going to get some work done, but I think my work of writing confuses him a little, because the lines that define it are a little more blurry. For example, I still keep his baby sister with me, while I do it. I also tend to sneak in writing a line here or there when I am with him, or let him sit on my lap while I write, which works as long as he sits still.

Most days, however, when my husband walks out the door or when my husband is on his computer in the morning, my son is clear that my husband is working while I am with him. He’s even said, “Daddy’s working. We’re not.”

I have pointed out that play is children’s work. I started to say too, that to be clear, I was working while spending time with him, that the care taking, activity organizing, snack packing, art & dance class researching, preventing one child from harming the baby as well as any form of tantrum and schlepping both kids to and from the city via subway was indeed work.

But given that often one connotation of work is that it’s arduous, strenuous, and unsatisfying struggle, I didn’t want him to think that I found spending time with him an arduous, strenuous, and unsatisfying struggle. Until I watched him spend his morning packing his MacBook Pro box with toys and announce to me that he was going to work and he’d see me later, did I realize that he didn’t connotate work with being arduous, unsatisfying or strenuous at all. He thinks work is fun; after working with his dad and uncle in the back yard, hauling bucket after bucket of sand from the front of the house to the backyard sandpit, he thinks its something you do with people you enjoy spending time with. When he types on a book pretending its his computer, he also thinks he’s working. He finds it satisfying, and I realized that I too found it satisfying, and that many days my work as a writer is similar to my work as a mother; some days are fun and great, and some days suck.

After the Rosen/Romney exchange, I found myself thinking a lot about work as I watched age-old arguments resurface as if they were new ideas, whether women (parents really – this includes fathers) should take time off and stay home with their children or they should stay working and can we consider the work of parenting in the home the same as working outside the home (and isn't it odd that we call mothers who work outside the home "working mothers" but don't call fathers who work outside the home "working fathers"?).  No, the work of raising children isn’t paid. When a parent chooses to stay home to raise a child, they give up not just their career (for a bit – most SAHMs and SAHDs aren’t staying home forever), but their Social Security credits and retirement earnings. Many defend this, as Leslie Bennett writes for the Daily Beast, “All mothers know that motherhood involves a lot of hard work, but let’s stop pretending that that’s the same as working for a living. It isn’t. When you’re a stay-at-home mom, somebody else is bringing home the paycheck.” This is true, but that doesn’t make it right. One of the sticky points is that being a mom, and especially one who stays home is unpaid labor. And as Bennetts writes in The Feminine Mistake, many SAHM moms have a rude awakening about how much they did give up when they chose to stop working, that re-entering the work force is rough, or god forbid, if she finds herself getting divorced, or facing any other kind of economic hardship being an economic dependent will only work against her. The laws are not in favor of anyone who contributed the unpaid labor of the home.  This is also true, but again, that doesn’t make it right.

We often assume how things work is the only way things can work, so clearly, those who stay home with children shouldn’t be paid because it doesn’t currently work that way. But what if we imagined something different? In The Price of Motherhood, Ann Crittenden writes, “women may be approaching equality, but mothers are still far behind. Changing the status of mothers, by gaining real recognition for their work, is the great unfinished business of the women’s movement.”

Indeed, as we now have Mitt Romney’s proposal that women receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) should go back to work after their child is two, so that they may know the “dignity” of work. Somehow he doesn’t have to explain how the person providing daycare is also working and knowing the dignity of that work, while doing that same “work” yourself doesn’t provide the same dignity. He also doesn’t explain the rather class based assumption, that poorer mothers especially need such dignity (they must somehow lack it being on TANF? being poor? Maybe their lack of dignity and pride in themselves is what landed them on assistance in the first place?). While middle and upper class women either don’t need that dignity or they already have it, because of their class – I don’t know, and it’s odd he was having his wife answer for such things, but she was curiously silent on this one. Nonetheless, he’s rather frank about his view, that choosing to stay home with your children for the lower classes shouldn’t be a choice, and it’s work outside the home that gives us dignity.

I admire the work of other countries here, countries like Norway where a mother can take a year off work and have her job held open by law, and the government sends her a check of 80% of what she earned at her job. This check is like a paycheck, as income and social security taxes were withheld and she earned social security credits for her time home with her children. (And isn’t this novel – to give women a year off, coincidentally the same amount of time that so many organizations recommend a mother breast feed her baby? Could we possibly see an increase in breast feeding rates if maternity leaves actually lined up with the medical recommendations for new mothers?) France too offers families subsidies for the raising of children, including free health care, housing subsidies and high quality free preschools.

I know the standard response is coming. Americans supposedly aren’t interested in paying for the kinds of socialized services that other countries provide. If Americans want to take time out of the workforce to take care of an aging family member, a new baby, young family, or a special needs child, they do so at a cost financially and personally, with others judging their work as undignified and not nearly as valid as the work they did in the workforce, simply because it’s personal. Yet the personal is social. What we value personally should be reflected in what we value socially and what we value with our tax dollars. American politicians  - like Norway politicians – love to talk about their strongly held family values; Norway just supports their values with money, because they feel that the raising of a child is real work and it’s work that provides value for all of society. As a friend told me over the weekend, what goes on her resume for her time spent with her children? Grooming the next leader.

Parenting isn’t paid, but not because it’s not dignified or not valid or doesn’t deserve space on our resumes. It’s not paid because we haven’t found a way to pay for it and we haven’t valued the work of it enough to deem it worthy of our financial attention. 

Granted, many argue that it shouldn’t be paid or receive compensation, even Social Security credits, because it’s our children. The emotional reward should be enough, plus it can be really fun. Parenting is fun and rewarding, but it’s also stressful, and sometimes more so than the work outside the home. And I say this after talking to people have taken time off from being public school teachers, politicians, neuroscientists, doctors, professors and academics, lawyers, advertising executives, and so on – people who found their work fun, rewarding and stressful. There are many days my husband comes home from his work and tells me about his hard and stressful day, but he always ends it with, “it was hard, but not as hard as what you did today.” I appreciate that he’s aware of this, and I take it as an acknowledgement (the same way I take my 3 year-old saying, “Thanks for cooking dinner, Mom.”). In the current culture of work and family values, where parents are penalized for taking time off from working outside the home, it’s all I’m going to get. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Not Perfect, and Not Trying To Be

In the past month or so, several posts have weaved in and out of my newsfeed with the same theme: the unrealistic expectations of motherhood. Variations have touched on why children need a mother who is truly present rather than a perfectionist, the oneupmanship of stay-at-home moms, and an attack on mommy bloggers for publishing idealistic portrayals of parenthood . . . as well as the typical tired mommy wars chatter.

If you believe what these writers (all women, all mothers) have to say, this generation of parents spends an awful lot of time comparing themselves to each other and coming up short.

But is it even true? Does it resonate with most women? Do moms see this kind of gibberish and honestly think I'm not good enough?

I have a hard time wrapping my brain around this. 

Let's start with the obvious: mothering is work (yes, true work), although sometimes what we do can be difficult to verbalize. However, I don't see it as a competition. Really.

To me, it doesn't matter what other mothers are cooking, knitting, tweeting, teaching, designing, or (gasp!) writing.

Tell me I'm not an anomaly for not caring to liken myself to others. I don't do wishful thinking. I don't do second-guessing. I don't do guilt.

Don't get me wrong . . . I love the dialogue. I love swapping stories. I even love commiserating at times. But I never feel inadequate reading about someone else's life. (And if I did, I would . . . wait for it . . . stop reading.)

Are there just not enough mommy bloggers who show the "real" side of parenting? And what exactly would that look like?

Anyone who pops by my blog for more than 30 seconds could not possibly have delusions that our life is perfect around here. Things I ponder in a typical post might include my woeful attempts at becoming organized, how I can prevent my toddler from falling off the couch and slamming his noggin into the tile floor, and potty training a four-year-old. Ooh . .  cleaning out closets, potential head injuries, and poop. 

Envious yet?

I stay home with my children because it's the best choice for our current family situation. (And in spite of the daily insanity it's actually kind of . . . fun.)

I homeschool Agent E because it works for her. (And it has all sorts of surprise benefits.)

I share our adventures on a blog because I like to write. (It's just kind of a bonus that others occasionally find what I have say relatable.)

But I certainly don't do any of those things to make someone I don't even know feel bad. I don't expect anyone to make the same choices we do, nor do I take issue with another parent's choices (assuming they are not verbally or physically abusive). 

How do you feel when you read "mommy blogs"? Amused or annoyed? Inspired or intimidated? Share in the comments.

Thanks for reading and have a blessed day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why I Support Out of Hospital Birth

I've never had a home birth and I'm not sure I ever will. I thought I should get that out at the beginning, just in the interest of complete honesty, because what I want to address is the topic of out of hospital births and I think it's important for others to know that I don't have personal experience with out of hospital births. What I do have personal experience with is the anxiety a mother feels while making her birth decisions and I think every woman should have the right to choose the birth environment that makes sense to her.

I have known at least four smart, well-researched women who have had births at home or free standing birth center births and I fully supported them in those births and would support anyone else who also chose to birth outside of a hospital and here's why: Home birth does not equal a nineteenth century birth that eschews all modern medicine. Home birth just means a birth that occurs at home. (If any interventions had seemed necessary or if complications such as infection, bleeding, or anything else had arisen, I know that each of them would have been at the hospital in a minute! In fact, one of my friends did have some hemorrhaging and she did not hesitate to go to the hospital because that is what hospitals are for--helping people who need modern medicine or interventions before, during, or after birth!) People who choose to home birth are not necessarily anti-interventions and anti-medicine, they are just anti-interventions unless they are necessary and appropriate.

A person who home births is no less anti-necessary medicine than a person who tries safe, effective home remedies for a cold or an injury before going to the hospital. The truth is that for most healthy women who are at low risk for complications and whose baby is at low risk for complications, the hospital with all of its bells and whistles is not necessary and being in the hospital (many argue) puts that low risk woman in danger of interventions that might be unnecessary in a lower stress, more familiar environment like the home. Home is also usually within a comfortable driving distance of a hospital. After all, we trust our home to be safe enough that if any kind of dangerous accident happens there (like a tree falling, or a poisoning, or a fall down the stairs, or a knife/chainsaw/lawn mower incident--all of which, by the way, are more common than a catastrophic birth experience), we will get to the hospital in time or we wouldn't buy that home to begin with.

I get why people are nervous about home births. The thought of anything happening to a newborn baby is too awful to contemplate. If you are that afraid that something will happen in your birth or with your newborn that it will need immediate attention and cannot wait the ten or fifteen minute car ride to a hospital (or whatever distance the nearest birth center or your home is from the hospital), than you are absolutely correct to birth in a hospital. You have decided that you are fine with a twenty percent increased risk of getting a c-section and a much higher risk of having some other kind of intervention, and I don't think anyone will judge you for it. You weighed your risks and your options and you made a choice that the ability to have interventions if you need them is more important to you than the risk of having interventions you don't need. That's fine. Conversely, if you have researched it and you are willing to take the risk that the distance your house is from the nearest emergency room might be too much if something catastrophic happens in your birth, than I think you should have the right to take that risk without judgment as well. A mother who chooses home birth or an out of hospital birth has probably weighed her risk options and used the same kind of reasoning, love, and care to come to her own decision. No one should assume she hasn't. She isn't being selfish. She just chose to take a slight risk of something happening without immediate intervention, over a much higher risk of an intervention happening without it being necessary.

I also understand why many doctors and nurses are anti-home birth and don't understand why anyone would choose it. I have known a couple of nurses who work in NICUs or labor units in hospitals and they cringe to think about babies born outside of hospitals because in their line of work they have only ever seen home birth babies and mothers with complications. However, that's because the only time out of hospital birthing babies or mothers come to the hospital is when there is a complication. Nurses and doctors know very little about healthy home births because they have never been involved in them. Because only about .67 percent of women in the US had home births in 2011, I have to believe that most hospital interventions and NICU resources are used for hospital births. In fact, elective inductions (choosing to have your labor induced when it is past your due date or for another non-medical reason--a trend that has grown to nearly 30% of all births in some hospitals) result in more babies being placed in the NICU than home births.

However, what I don't understand is people who get angry with women and try to take their right to choose their place of birth away from them simply because they would not make that same choice themselves. It is not as if most of these women are denying medical help when they need it; they are simply denying medical help unless or until they need it. There is a world of difference between those two statements. I respect women's rights to make their own, educated medical decisions no matter if their choices agree with mine or not. Other people should do the same; it's not like they are trying to take away the right to choose birth in hospitals.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When Healthy Food Doesn't Matter

When I'm pregnant with a baby that "sticks" for longer than a week or two, I get extremely sick.  Normal morning sickness is a dream compared to how sick I get.  I have hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe sickness when pregnant that nothing can treat and doesn't get better with time.  When you're pregnant, you're not supposed to lose weight and then barely gain anything (if you even gain).  Morning sickness is supposed to go away and you're supposed to have a great rest of the pregnancy.

I don't have that.  I'm okay with how mine go because I'm prepared for it, not that they are fun by any means, but I've learned that when it is like this, eating healthy for me and my daughter flies out the window.

Most of the day (without medication to help and lots of natural remedies combined day to day), I can hardly stand up with feeling sick or rushing to the bathroom, so I can't stand up and make healthy food from scratch.  It's just not possible.

My natural food side cringes, but my sustain my family side realizes that it's okay to not eat healthy if something is stopping it.

If you came and looked at my pantry right now, most people in this community would shudder and walk away judging me.  And you know what, I'm okay with that.

It's filled with foods my daughter can make herself, foods I can make with very minimal effort, and a lot of foods I wouldn't dream of feeding my family except in times like these.

Sometimes, you have to go with what works.  Sometimes, it is completely okay to buy plastic containers and bags, to buy very cheap food with tons of preservatives, to do what you have to do to make it through.

Life throws you curve balls.  Nothing can go completely how you plan or how you envision your life to be.  This is a struggle for us, going from eating mostly home cooked meals to eating a lot of what I consider junk, but it's how life works.

If you can't always eat healthy and how you want your family to eat, that is completely okay!  Don't feel that you are any less of a great mother or father, because you are amazing.  You do as much as you can, and let the "slack" fall where it may.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Motherhood Changes Everything

Motherhood changes everything. Even when you think that things couldn’t possibly become any more different—they do, and you are once again plunged into the dark unknown, completely against your will; completely unprepared, yet again. I’ve been a mom for seven years, and each age and stage my children have gone through has been harder, and better, than the last.

Such was my life during my son’s first year. The first six months, when my days were spent trying to decipher Alex’s cries, settle him to sleep, feed him, bathe him, all while trying to squeeze in a shower and maybe a glass of water for myself, seemed like a cakewalk when I returned to work and post partum depression reared its ugly head. It was as if nothing in the outside world was different. Other than the occasional query about my baby, people’s lives went on, unchanged. How was this possible when my entire world had become impossibly twisted? The earth had not stopped spinning because I had become a mother, at least not to anyone else but me.

It felt odd to walk around without my big belly after almost a year of being pregnant. My body was different. I’d been through so much in labor and delivery, and in addition to pregnancy weight, I’d gained stretch marks, a lingering baby pouch, and so much guilt-- about, well, everything.

I had expected motherhood to make me feel confident, invincible, and happy. Instead I was unsure of myself, vulnerable, and miserable. I felt so guilty for working, and that emotion consumed me. I was constantly exhausted and emotionally drained. I missed my baby intensely and I felt like I never saw him. I had enormous amounts of confusion and uncertainty about what my life was about. All this was such a blow to me, as I had thought motherhood would bring about all the opposite. I was also confused because since I had experienced the normal baby blues immediately following Alex’s birth (and come through them easily) this new set of feelings was unexpected.

The whole world suddenly seemed different; bigger, more dangerous—and having produced a human being inside my body that was now out in that same world, I felt intensely protective and helpless. A car could hit me on my way to work. My baby could die of SIDS. In the mornings, I made sure to memorize what color shirt my husband was wearing, just in case I had to describe him to the police later on because he disappeared. I recognized these thoughts as irrational, but I couldn’t stop them. The very thought that we were not going to be in this world forever to protect our baby filled me with despair.

Could I ignore the changes to my marriage? It was as if we had never existed as a couple before our son. What did we used to talk about? What did we do on our dates? Would we ever have a date, or time alone, again?

I also eventually had to admit that the difficult labor and delivery I had with my son had a lot to do with how I felt that entire first year. My experience was emotionally devastating, to say the least (and that’s another blog post!), and left me feeling helpless, scared, and not trusting of myself and my abilities as a mother.

Looking back, I should have asked for help. I spent too many days feeling despondent and unhappy, crippled by emotions that I couldn’t describe to anyone. Why is it that so many new mothers experience some form of depression or anxiety yet so many are unwilling to talk about it? The first year is so hard. There are infinite changes, and it’s normal to feel ambivalent about motherhood, resentful of the new responsibilities; even trapped. Not discussing it, or hiding it, is in part what leads to depression. I’ve never heard any new parent say, “yeah, we go to sleep at the same time we always did, take long showers daily, and eat dinner together every night.” Why is it that we can so easily discuss the logistical changes in our life as we knew it, but not the emotional ones? We all try to lose the pregnancy weight, go back to work, get back to normal, so quickly—as if we’re in a rush to prove something, as if we don’t want to admit that we’re not so sure about this new life as a parent—that everything is different. And it always will be.

Susan Maushart discusses this very thing in The Mask of Motherhood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Our Lives and Why We Never Talk About It. Says Maushart, “Experiencing ambivalence about motherhood is one thing. Expressing it—and by extension, legitimizing it—is quite another. The mask of motherhood ensures that the face of ambivalence, however widely or keenly felt, remains a guilty secret.” She found that the women who were able to be honest about their emotions were the ones least likely to be depressed.

Slowly, my life returned back to normal. Or, I should say, we all found a new normal. I am not who I was before I had children—I’m better. My husband and I now date regularly—even if it’s just a bowl of popcorn and a rented movie. We eat dinner together every night, and we talk, a lot. His compassion, patience, and support make him a wonderful father and an amazing partner. Years have passed since those early foggy days, but certain things will bring me back; a smell, a lullaby. I remember where I was and am proud of myself for how far I’ve come.

I know my feeling better was gradual, and the depression I experienced was relatively short-lived. But I honestly only noticed how different I am now compared to a few years ago just this past summer. After an afternoon out and about, as I was walking home with my children, I happened to notice how blue the sky was that day. Then I noticed the leaves blowing in the trees, and heard the birds singing.  And as I lifted my head up, I closed my eyes, felt the warm sun on my face, and I took a deep breath--I thought, my god, finally, I am happy. And it was the most amazing feeling. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is Technology All Good?

As a child born in the mid 70’s, my generation has witnessed a pretty radical lifestyle shift due to technological advances.  It is a transformation that will no doubt continue to insert itself further and further into our lives with the development of each new “must have” gadget.  It begs the question – are these things really “must have” items?  I grew up with a hand-me-down walkman, and my first one speaker boom box with a shoulder strap (which I thought was the greatest thing ever!) wasn’t bestowed upon me until the 5th grade.  After saving babysitting money years later, I purchased my first CD player in 9th grade.  My parents didn’t get cable TV until we’d all moved out, so my childhood television viewing was limited to VHF/UHF, and we had a giant antenna in the attic that my father would go up and adjust while the chain of kids would yell up from our remoteless, knobbed TV in the living room to give the OK that the reception was clear.  Do I feel deprived in the least?  On the contrary, I think we were quite fortunate.  I do not necessarily believe that we as a society are better off with all of these techno toys.  I’m sure many would disagree, but I feel like for children it encourages the slow death of imagination, and for some, it can drastically alter their abilities to seek information and formulate intelligent thoughts without pushing a button first.  Most importantly, all of these technological accessories that have infiltrated nearly every aspect of our lives can take away dramatically from family time.  The compulsion to equip each family member with every electronic “necessity” is contributing to a society where parents spend far more time working, and causes an increasing economic struggle as more and more “required" items enter our lifestyles.

I believe some of the driving forces behind the incessant pursuit of all the latest and greatest devices are celebrity worship, and/or the almost obligatory American desire to acquire status symbols.  In the 80’s, only the wealthy could talk on seemingly unattainable car phones.  With global corporate expansion and sweatshops abound, we now have an affordable means for the middle class to connect to the upper class.  The school teacher with a modest income may not have a million dollar home, but now they can have the same iPad as someone who does.  It’s a morsel of luxury and status thrown out for the rest of us to enjoy.  (Insert celebrity here) has XYZ smartphone, and I can have one too!  But now my husband and son need one, and the kids need iPods, and no respectable member of the middle class could be caught with an old tube television, and of course little Janie is on the computer all the time, so I guess we need a second computer, maybe even an iPad, and let’s not forget cell phone plans for all of those smartphones, and the multi-room DVR cable package for all of our TV sets.  When will it be enough?  What cost are parents and children really paying for all of this “connectivity” and convenience?  Who are we really connecting to? 
My husband and I have no desire to own a smartphone, and at least once a month I question whether the two of us even need cell phones.  I realize there are probably quite a few professions out there where there is an expectation that you must stay connected by all means possible, and in that instance, I’m sure a smartphone could almost be deemed a necessity.  But does the 20 something barista at my local coffee shop or a 10 year old child need to maintain that sort of connectivity?  It pains me to see people dining out with friends, and everyone at the table has a cell phone in their hands, rather than engaging in conversation.  I wince even more when I see parents do it around their children.  Every time I see a toddler in a doctor’s waiting room playing games on mom’s phone, my heart sinks deeper and I begin to wonder what the world will be like when my daughter grows up.
Well meaning friends and family have given our daughter their phones to play with on a few occasions, and we usually oblige because we’re not that concerned about a handful of exposures.  However, it is simply not built into my instincts to reach for my phone to entertain her no matter where we are, and the same can be said of my husband.  Our goal is to try to inspire her to create, imagine and play freely as much as possible.  We live by a pretty strict no plastic unless absolutely necessary policy in all aspects of our lives, but particularly when it comes to our daughter’s toys.  There are a few silicone teethers and a rubber duck made of natural rubber, but beyond that, no plastic.  This means she doesn’t own anything that plays tunes at the press of a button with flashing lights and eye catching moving parts.  However, she does have tons of musical instruments, and she loves to grace us with performances.  She has cars that move if she makes them go, and she delights as they race across the floor.  She adores dancing, and will even take her “babies” for a romp on the dance floor, but the only movements they perform are those that she does for them, not the other way around.  At 21 months, I have watched as she continues to “invent” little games, and these are the things that most often induce uproarious laughter.  A few months back, I was upstairs when my mother was babysitting and heard my daughter’s shrieks and giggles echoing through the house.  I came down to find the source of the commotion was that she had taken a water bottle and turned it upside down on a spoon handle, and was shaking it back and forth to rattle it.  Another time I came back from the bathroom to find her standing at her table, blissfully entertained while spinning her baby that was draped over a bowl.  A few days later she and I spent quite some time taking turns rolling a ball around inside a bowl as fast as we could until it flew out.  That unexpected moment the ball would fly out cracked her up every time.  I realize that many toddlers are completely satisfied with simple items like boxes, and perhaps many would do the same as she had.  And yet, I can’t help but wonder if she would’ve been so utterly happy and captivated during any of these instances if she had spent the last year and a half inundated with toys that do everything for her. 
My intent is not to shame parents about their plastic toys or for using smartphones.  I think every parent makes the choices they think are best for their children, and everyone has different things that are important to them.  As long as parents love their children I respect those decisions, even if it includes giving them all plastic, animatronic toys - just as I’d hope they’d respect my decision not to.  I don’t know their situation or their reasoning and I don’t pretend to.  I’m also not trying to say that all technology is evil, or the internet is bad, or computers are bad, or even smartphones.  I realize that many of the things I’ve spoken of have their merits, especially when it comes to accessing and sharing information.  I don’t think that all kids should be limited to the 1963 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia when in the confines of their home to do school reports.  Information is fantastic!  But learning in the process - having to read through pages to find what you’re looking for, and having the ability to access that information beyond pressing a few keys is extremely critical.  Beyond that, imagination is even more valuable, as is human interaction - especially in families.  It is the excess with which our society has begun to cling to all things technological that concerns me.  The implications of it all on our children…on ourselves…. How many people are struggling that much more to maintain a lifestyle of data plans, service contracts and continual upgrades on their futile quest of keeping their devices from becoming obsolete?  Is the economy the only thing to blame for the diminishing middle class?  Or is it the inevitable result of a society perpetually striving for just too many material objects - objects that didn’t exist 5, 10 and 20 years ago. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Due Month

Yes, I have a due date.  No, I'm not going to tell you.

The idea of a due date is such a wonderful thing, especially if you know when you ovulated.  You can know the exact date your baby should be "ready" for birth!  That's huge!  Or is it?

The biggest issue with due dates is that date is implanted so far into your brain that even if you know you aren't overdue until 42 weeks, your mind automatically goes from "I have time left" to "OMG WHY WON'T THIS BABY LEAVE MY UTERUS, YOUR TIME IS UP!"

Which is actually a very understandable thing when you're big and sore and exhausted, but it's rough seeing women all the time going from happy to completely miserable all because they have passed their due date.

Back in the day, when birth was normal and something to not be feared, you didn't have a due date.  You had a due season.  It was perfectly acceptable to tell others that you were due in the spring and they wouldn't keep prying.  Their eyes would gloss over and they would imagine a baby in the spring and how wonderful that would be.

Now, if you don't tell people your exact due date, obviously something is wrong.  They push and push until you tell them or you walk away from a very pointless conversation.

A due date should not be that big of a deal to other people.  It just shouldn't.  Is it their body growing and birthing another human?  No, it isn't, and your "eviction" date shouldn't be the highlight of their information.

Due dates have become so entrenched in our society that everyone's pregnancy is defined by this one specific date.  Some doctors won't even accept a date that isn't from your last menstrual period even if you know your ovulation date.  It's all so controlled and laughable!

Pregnancy is a time where you should be focused on the journey to motherhood, not focused on one particular date.  I may be different because of my history, but I believe pregnancy should be enjoyed for every second (even when you are miserable, you're still growing another human which is amazing!) and not counted down until the end date you receive.

I wish we could go back to due seasons, or even due months.  That would be so much less stressful for everyone, but especially for the pregnant woman not needing to count the days until her baby is ready for birth.

So yes, I give out a due month or season.  And no one, no matter how much they beg and prod, will change that.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Mundane Child Questions I Don't Know the Answer To

Often, when parents talk about the questions from their children they are not prepared for, they are referring to the questions regarding sex, drugs or religion. Yet, I haven’t been too worried about these. I have no problem being straightforward about sex or explaining that at some point hormones will take over my children’s bodies, give them urges they feel they have no control over, but that they nonetheless are responsible for. I have no problem saying they should without question stay far away from doing any drug that involves a needle, but at some point they may be curious about marijuana, in which case, they again need to be responsible and safe, be with people they trust and not do anything stupid like mix drugs and alcohol and proceed to take themselves for a drive. Religion may be a bit sticky as I will have to explain why some people have one and why we don’t, or that religion is one of those things that in theory was meant to teach all of us how to get along with each other, but instead has led to thousands of years of war. I suspect the religion question will get a little complicated actually.

I am finding, however, that the questions I don’t know how to answer are the ones that are already coming at me from my three year old. Random mundane questions. Questions like, “Why does Mommy’s hair get dirty and mine doesn’t?” I don’t know. I don’t play in a sand pit. I don’t play with friends who dump dirt and leaves in my hair. I don’t play with play dough and then put it on my head. Yet I have to wash my hair – which for some reason is a chore I hate and if I ever am ridiculously rich, it is a chore I will happily pay someone else to do for me – while my son doesn’t. His hair doesn’t get dirty. Except for the time a kid smacked him in the head with a popsicle and last week when he scratched his head with his paint brush and consequently painted the back of his head green, his hair doesn't require washing.

I find I say I don’t know a lot.

“Why was that kid mean to me?”

“I don’t know. I suspect someone was mean to him, now he feels bad and sometimes people deal with feeling bad by being mean to someone else, often someone smaller.”

“Why do they do that?”

I don’t know.

"Why did they put that building there?"

I don't know.

"Why is that kid sad?"

I don't know.

"Why do I need shoes? Why can't I just wear socks outside?"

"I don't know actually. It's not raining or snowing. It's rather warm. Still, we wear shoes even when we'd rather go barefoot."

On the more complicated side of things, we recently pulled out of a playgroup, because one of the parents had a tendency to be overly affectionate and ignore the personal boundaries of the children. After a number of red flags, I realized I had a legitimate safety concern. After my husband and I told the other parents why we would no longer participate, I told Fyo that we wouldn’t play with his friends X and Y any more, because we had a disagreement with the parents.

“Are they mad at you Mom?”

“Yes, they are.”

“Why are they mad at you?”

“Well, I had a concern and I felt uncomfortable. Basically, we had a disagreement about the personal boundaries of children.”


“Well...I don't know. Do you think we could come back to this one later?”

Oh. And politics. I don't really know how to explain politics. When my dad was visiting, I was ranting about the current Republican Party’s war against women and sexist legislation they are trying to push through in various states. My son put his spoon down in his cereal bowl, and said, “Mom! Why are you yelling at your father?”

“Because I’m ranting about the sexist backlash running across the country at the moment. It makes me angry.”


“Because it’s degrading and it’s limits women’s access to healthcare and choices, and when you limit women’s healthcare and choices, it impacts the lives, health, and potential of children, and when you impact the health and potential of children you impact the health and potential of the country.”


“Because that’s how I think it works.”

“Why do you think so?”

Then I looked at my son, and calmly said words I never thought I would say, which were, “Now you sound like my high school History teacher.”

Then later in the day, “Why can’t I have a hot dog in the park?”

“Because the hot dogs they sell in the parks aren’t good quality meat.” My dad, however, proceeded with a description of pink slime.

“What’s pink slime?”

“Exactly the point,” we said.

Some parents do fear the embarrassment or social awkwardness when their kids ask loud questions in public places about disabilities or minorities. So far this has been smooth sailing for us. Thankfully, New York City is a diverse city, so kids have a lot of exposure to a lot of different people, and so far, my son hasn’t had any issues with my answers to the questions on these points:

“Why is that little boy brown?”

“Because that’s the color of his skin. What color is your skin? Different people have different colors of skin.”

“Why does that woman only have one eye?”

“Because something happened to one of her eyes.”

These are a little like a koan. But when my son saw a four year old strapped into a stroller sucking on a pacifier, and asked, “What is that in her mouth? Why?” I was stumped. I don’t know.

“Why do Nana and Grand Dad live in Texas?”

I get agoraphobic in Texas, so I really don’t know why people live there. But I said, “That’s where their families lived, so that’s where they chose to live too.”

“Why do the Abuelos live in Los Angeles?”

“Because that’s where their house is. Abuela lived there when Abuelo fell in love with her, so he moved.”


"I don’t know. He hates the traffic, the suburbs, and the sprawl, but he likes warm weather. It made sense to him."

And most recently, when he sees his baby sister nurse, “Why don’t I nurse any more?”

I don’t really know what to say to this one, but finally say, “it was just something we grew out of.” This isn’t true. He would have nursed until he left for college if he had his way, but I don’t have the heart to tell him that I just got tired.

“When baby goes back into your belly, can I nurse again?”

“Yes. Absolutely. If she finds her way back inside, the nursing is all yours.”

“I like baby on the outside, but I liked her more on the inside. When do you think she’ll go back inside?”

This one I’d actually love to say I don’t know to. But I don’t. I say, once babies are out, they stay out.

“Do you love baby? Do you love me?”

Finally! Questions I know the answer to!

"Yes, I love you both immensely."


Why do parents love their children?

“I don’t know. I just do. I love you because I love you.”

Completely lame. But it was all I could come up with. Still, from my lack of knowledge, I'm hoping he picks up on two things: 1) that it's okay not to know everything all the time and 2) that I'm open to the question and the conversation.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Reasons to Give Public School a Chance

This post will seem like it's coming out of nowhere, but in fact, it stems from my family's search for a new home and the discussions my husband and I have had about the schools in the districts around the area we are planning to settle in. Part of this is a bit of a manifesto and part of this is just me exploring my feelings. Bear with me.

I know that many parents choose home schooling and I completely support a family's right to do so. Until the last 200 years or so, home schooling was the norm. Consequently, many, many intelligent and revolutionary thinkers throughout history are products of homeschooling and tutoring. It is a well established and successful way of imparting education for those who choose to devote themselves to it and believe in it. Meanwhile, universal public education is a fairly new enterprise. It wasn't until 1918 that all then existing states here in the US had laws making school mandatory until the eight grade or age 16. So, public schooling is really still a fledgling project. Institutionalizing education has had a profound effect on it and, many critics argue, a detrimental one. You only have to rent Waiting for Superman or watch any investigative report and you know that our public school system is struggling. Currently, even though my son is only two and is likely four years away from any kind of kindergarten decision, my husband and I have been house hunting and struggling to find the school district we feel we could entrust our son's education to and, frankly, the search is enough to drive us both crazy. Meanwhile, I listen with envy to my friends who are home schooling or are planning to home school and absolutely believe that they have made the right choice for their family. I just don't feel that kind of conviction to home school myself. (I haven't completely ruled it out, either. I feel more than capable enough and willing enough to do it in the right circumstances and whether or not my son goes to school outside the home, I am completely devoted to his education.)

The truth is, there is a part of me that still has a soft spot for the great project of public education. Call it patriotism, call it idealism, but part of me (maybe the same part of me that caused me to work in a public school for four years in a low paying paraprofessional position and to ultimately get my teaching license) is still impressed with a social goal of providing education to all children regardless of race, class, "ability," or gender., (I am a licensed (although that license is about to lapse because of my current devotion to being a stay at home mom) special educator, so accessible learning for students of all capabilities is a special passion of mine.) Compulsory, free, public education was a way of making it possible for even children of parents who could not afford for someone to stay home and teach to still learn from dedicated adults. We may not be meeting all of our reading level goals here and we are struggling, but we enjoy a much more literate society than we did one hundred years ago. It was a revolutionary idea to say that no matter what education level your parents or grandparents obtained, we will try to provide an education that will level the playing field and whatever else motivations that caused compulsory education to become reality (including eliminating child labor competition in business), that was still a prevailing goal of compulsory education.

Furthermore, I can't help but think that I would not be the person I am today if I had not gone to school outside the home and frankly, I'm saying that even though the school I went to the longest during my thirteen years was not even that good. Of course, I had parents who read to me, supported me, and encouraged me to learn outside the home, too. (Just as my son will have.) What strikes me most when I think back on my education is the access I had to people and ideas I never would have encountered ordinarily. Many of my classmates are ones that helped me find my way to attachment parenting and whose friendship has helped me immeasurably in my ongoing journey into motherhood. Where would I be without them? School is doorway that opened up new worlds for me. Did I run into people who challenged the world view my parents subscribe to? Yes. However, I think that was a good thing. Because my beliefs were challenged, I had the opportunity to critically decide whether or not they were beliefs I wanted to own and integrate into my life. I feel like they made me stronger, and I would love for my son to have the same experience. I know that if he goes to school, he will be impressionable, at first, and that is why it will be just as critically important for me to be part of his public education as it would be for me to be a part of his home schooling education. He will still need me to help him discern real argument from propaganda and he will need me to model critical thinking. He will also need me to model strength in convictions and a level of participation that is exhausting to even think about, but that will be true no matter where he learns.

I also must admit that general book learning was easy for me and maybe that is part of why I feel a connection to public education. My primary methods of learning (reading/listening) are the traditional and most prevalent methods available in classrooms. However, after sitting in education classes, I know the traditional school environment I went to is not necessarily the one that my child will go to. There has been a shift in most education communities toward more progressive, constructive learning that encompasses more hands on, real world application, and self-directed, creative projects. Am I saying that is absolutely true for every school? No. But a part of me feels like if that is not the case, especially in a community funded public school, than everyone in the community should get involved until it is. Now, I am a realist in that I know there are many parents out there who do not want to have anything to do with their children's education, but for those of us who do, we can make a difference in the education of both those children and our own children if we make our doubts and criticisms heard. I feel like the last thing a school needs is docility in its parents or in its students and a part of me can't help but feel that if I do choose to home school, I'll be absenting myself from the fight. One of my main reasons why I feel I want to give public schooling a chance is because I do not want to accept the idea that the public school project should be abandoned. Call me vain, but I don't want my family's educational beliefs, our social beliefs, our environmental beliefs, our religious beliefs and even our parenting philosophy to be absent from the lives of the children in our community. I want my son to share his life, his philosophies, and his ideas with people I would never even know to introduce him to and I want it to be while I am still in a position to defend him and to help him stand his ground.

Thanks for reading,