I AM Supermom

I never thought that my Facebook page would become a battlefield for the Mommy Wars. Over the last two days it’s really made me question whether it’s ‘only’ Facebook or if there’s more to all of this lack of understanding and respect.

It seems to have begun when a friend and fellow mother, recently posted, on her page:

 “I can’t believe they made breastfeeding until a child is 2 a law. I breastfed both of my babies but I feel once they can walk up and feed themselves off of it is a sign it’s time to quite. Gross.”

When I read this I didn’t respond. It was on her page, I didn’t feel it was directed towards me, and further I really didn’t want to get into it. This statement reeks of intolerance and ignorance, and while it certainly is an opinion it’s also a judgement. I am well aware of the misconceptions and lack of information that many have about breastfeeding and particularly extended breastfeeding, but I wouldn’t have expected this from this parent.

A few days later, someone posted ‘8 Things NOT to Say to an Extended Breastfeeding Mom‘ in our local breastfeeding FB group, and I knew I had to share it. It answered with humor and information the hurt and frustration I felt over breastfeeding being called ‘gross’.

I knew several people, fellow La Leche League mamas, members of my tribe of like-minded friends and family, would absolutely adore it. I didn’t think people, particularly mothers who breastfed their own children, would be so utterly offended by it.

That thread on my FB timeline literally exploded with so much ridiculousness when this particular mother wanted to defend her ‘opinion’ that breastfeeding was ‘gross’. Ummmmm, huh?

She repeatedly attempted to make the point that breastfeeding being ‘gross’ is her ‘opinion’ and that she’s able to say so because of ‘freedom of speech’.

And further she went on to say, on her own page, how I (or others on my page defending me perhaps) were:

“insecure in their decisions and lashing out”

There is no insecurity in my decision. There was no lashing out. There was only an unwillingness to accept that ‘gross’ is an valid ‘opinion’. “It’s not for me” that’s an opinion. “Gross” judges my choice as being something that is by definition unpleasant or replusive. And while I welcome a conversation or debate of ideas, I do not welcome insults.

But here’s the thing. And it’s been bothering me (and many others) for some time now.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS NOT A BLANKET LICENSE TO SAY WHATEVER YOU WANT WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE.

HONESTY DOES NOT EXCUSE RUDENESS.

OPINION IS NOT THE SAME AS JUDGEMENT.

Whew. Feels good to get that out there. Many people, particularly online, have this idea that whatever they say is shrouded in this fog of ‘Internet Honesty’. Really people? As if the text on the phone or computer screen insulates one’s words from inflicting hurt or injured feelings. Ummmmm, no. It doesn’t.

It seems every time people get upset about things written online the knee jerk reaction is “you can’t read tone online” or “it’s hard to understand intention in text”. Ummmmm, no, it’s not that hard. The context is there. While many people talk out of their necks online and don’t think before they type it doesn’t mean tone isn’t implied. I think people get caught up throwing tone because they are shrouded by their computer and feel they don’t have to be responsible for what they say. Ummmmm, nope. You’re still responsible whether you call someone a name to their face or to their online face.

Another case in point? See if you can taste the sarcasm dripping from this comment, in reference to me, in response to the same post about Extended Breastfeeding.

“Tired of hearing about your kids and your boobs, super mom. Yes, they can be too old to freaking tit feed. Done!”

Yes, that was said.  Really. Apparently being a Supermom is just a really sarcastic way of saying I’m what exactly? I’m full of myself and my awesome milk-makers? Too proud of how stunning my children are? Too sure the way I do things is the only right way?

You know at first I was super offended. I was pissed. And a further comment in that thread spoke to some sort of underlying animosity or anger towards the way I parent, or perhaps the sharing of that parenting with my people on Facebook.

“So then mothers should be waiting for their kids in the school cafeteria at lunchtime, tit ready? I’m not against breastfeeding. I did it, like a bazillion women before me I just didn’t need the world to constantly know to prove I’m a good mother.”

This hurt more than anything else. It felt like a direct hit, like somehow in posting about my life being a mother I am in search of validation for my choices. That my choice to breastfeed, was less about what’s best for my children and more about proving what good parent I am. Bitch, please.

Clearly neither of these people truly know me, nor I them, but these incidents really made me think. In fact these people did me a great service. They made me see that when it comes to how I want to conduct myself and who I want to know and be around, those that are judgmental, argumentative or hateful have no room in my world.

Let’s be honest. Ain’t nobody got time for rude people and haters.

See many of us, particularly Stay At Home Mom’s, rely on Facebook and social media, not for validation but for socialization. We look for commiseration and support. We share photos and videos with family and friends around the world. A lot of times we look for information and answers to questions, even our daily news through these social media outlets.

If that’s not how another goes about their daily life, that’s ok, that’s their life, their choice, their own relationship with the interwebs. But instead of insulting my online behavior just do everyone a favor. Unfriend me. Block me. Don’t follow my blog. Just go away.

And that’s where the Mommy Wars come back to rear it’s ugly head.

It seems that by posting pictures and anecdotes about my family and our life I irritate or offend some people (same goes for my single friends that bitch about seeing pictures of everyone’s kids…they can block me too). As if my posts reflect some unattainably high standards by which all mothers should be measured. As if because we have different ways of parenting or different ways of sharing our lives with others that one is inherently better than the other. The assumption being that one is superior for not sharing their life online. Or that I share about my parenting choices because I think they are the ‘right’ or ‘better’ choices.

HA! To know me is to know that I am an information junkie. I research the hell out of everything from TV shows to food to parenting. Yes, I think long and hard about how I parent and the choices we make for our family. In my opinion, the most important decisions I will make in my life are the choices about how I raise my children and so I do so very consciously and thoughtfully.

This doesn’t imply anything about others choices. I am friends with parents of all different kinds. Formula or breast, cry-it-out or co-sleep, strollers or woven wraps and everything in between. And you know what? I love them all. It’s not a contest. It is a journey. One that is unique to every individual family. I respect your choice because it is yours.

This doesn’t make me a saint. This doesn’t make me better. This is who I am because this is who I want my children to grow up to be. I don’t want to condemn your choices because I want my children to know that different isn’t wrong, it’s just different. I want my children to know that calling names when someone is different isn’t okay. It’s intolerance. And that being a part of this world means loving and being with those that we may not always agree with.

So while I may internally cringe if I see you putting Grape Pop inside your 3 month old’s bottle, I would never say anything to you. It’s not my place to do so. If you asked me about it, I would gladly have a conversation with you and share with you why that wouldn’t be my choice. But I will not call you gross. I will not insult you. I will save my judgment and respect you as a parent trying to do what’s best for yourself and your family.

So when I post something about breastfeeding or babywearing or gentle parenting it’s not to criticize your choices, it’s to offer information for someone else who may be struggling or looking for help. And often times it is as educational for me as it would be for anyone else.

I don’t need my choices justified. I can look at my amazing children and know that I’ve made the right choices. I share because maybe there’s an old friend from elementary school who can benefit from learning more about breastfeeding. Perhaps the wife of my husband’s friend didn’t know how many options there were in baby carriers until she saw something I posted. Maybe there’s a friend who just began staying at home with her kids and needs ideas of some activities or crafts to do with them.

From the numbers alone, those that ‘like’ my pictures, comment on my status updates and share my posts, I am doing something right. And for the countless comments and messages I’ve received from old friends, online friends, local mamas and those that live far away, thanking me for helping them through one parenting issue or another, I don’t regret a single post.

Because you know what? I AM Supermom. And you know what? So are YOU.

For doing what we do to make our families work and raise happy and healthy kids, however we choose to do that, we are ALL Supermoms.

So let’s stop passing judgment and start giving each other the compassion that we all, as mothers, deserve. We’re not on different teams. We just have different ways of playing the game. K?

Happy 70th Birthday Mom

Friday was my Mom’s 70th birthday. Can you believe it? 70!! Man, she’s old.

I kid, I kid…well sort of. Check out what Cedella says when she finds out how old Grandma is…
Ella sings Happy Birthday to Grandma

My mother was born in Hartford City, Indiana and grew up in rural Lapeer, MI. She was born in the midst of WWII. Before color TV. Thankfully after electricity, indoor plumbing and cars were popular. Before civil rights and women’s rights and gay rights. I don’t think they had rights back then…

When she was a girl she had a pony and was a competitive roller skater. After graduating from her tiny high school she went to college in Detroit at Wayne State (also my alma mater) and got her master’s in Library Science at the Detroit Institute of Technology.

That’s where she met my Dad. At the DIT library in the 70’s. He was 10 years younger than her and African-American. Cause she’s a trailblazer like that 😉

They traveled all over Europe. And in 1975 they were married.  And in 1978 they had me. My sister followed in 1980. My brother in 1983. And my baby sister was born in 1995. And has been living permanently with Mom since 1997.

She has worked as a librarian for a lot of her adult life, but she also worked tirelessly for many many years for my grandparent’s company, Eppert Oil. But now she is back to doing what makes her the happiest.

My mom is affectionately known my hundreds of kids from the Metro Detroit area as “Miss Linda”. She has been the Children’s Librarian at the Hazel Park Memorial Library for over 10 years. It was my extreme honor to have worked with her for nearly 6 years, before leaving to have Cedella.

And those they may just be random and useless facts to most, but to me they are the dots that connect to form a picture of this tremendous woman. A mother who has always sacrificed anything and everything for her children.

A woman who never shied away from a challenge or from something that was different or out of the ordinary. A woman who took all sorts of risks.

She has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. Not thinking twice about taking in and raising our baby sister despite the fact that she is my father’s child with his second wife. It was never a question of whether she could manage, she just did it. And Kylara is all the better for it.

Sure my Mom is a librarian but she is truly a wealth of information. Most of it trivia-worthy and otherwise useless, but full of it nonetheless. If I ever have a question or need advice she is the first person I call.

Wanna know how to get Sharpie off your naked baby? How to properly paint a dining room table? When did Michigan become a state? She’s got an answer, I assure you.

But even being full of answers, Mom is not a know-it-all and certainly not an advice-pusher. What impresses me the most about her now that she’s a Grandma? She has never once questioned our parenting decisions, criticized the way I parent, or made me feel like I’m doing things wrong.

Even though she wasn’t a fan of cloth diapers at first (or ever) she never questioned our use of them. Despite thinking I was absolutely nutso for having an unmedicated birth, she was there, for both, holding my hand and cheering me on. Even thinking our water birth was “so cool”.

She has never made passive aggressive remarks about how something was “good enough for my kids, why isn’t it good enough for your kids”. In fact, Mom just lets us be and offers help when asked. Period. And I love her SO much for that. And maybe even value her opinion more for the simple fact that she offers it only when asked.

It’s sad to me now that I spent so much of my adolescence hating my Mom and fighting with her. I never wanted her advice and god forbid she tell me what she thought I should be doing. There were many years I couldn’t even stand being around her.

And I questioned her decisions constantly, her decision to stay with my Dad in particular. But when Michael and I were having marriage issues last year, she never once said a bad word about him, or questioned my decision to make things work. She just listened and gave me comfort.

After my Dad died and my stupid boyfriend at the time broke up with me because I “cried too much” she drove with me to Chicago, packed up all my things, and moved me back home to Detroit. It was on that trip that I knew that my Mom was who I wanted to be when I grew up.

She never once told me I was stupid or silly for loving that jerk, she let me be alone when I needed to be, and she commiserated with me when I was ready to trash-talk him. And she paid for movers. Considering we lived in a fourth floor walk-up I love her even more for that.

When I moved back from Chicago we started working together at the library. There was no nepotism involved, I got the job all on my own, and hopefully made her proud with the work I did there. In fact, I know I did. We worked closely on the Summer Reading club and other kids programs, and I even trained her once when we upgraded computer systems. She helped encourage me to finish my degree and I finally did. It was a good era.

It was always nice to know that right across the room from me sat the one lady that would have my back no matter what. If a patron got loud with me or insulted me, she was right there to tell them what’s what and vice versa. And if someone complimented my customer service or reference skills, she was the first one taking credit for giving birth to me.

And if someone, inevitably, hated my mom’s people skills, and called her racist, I was right there claiming “She’s not a racist! She has black kids! She just hates stupid people!” This happened on MANY occasions. 😉

Though it was MUCH harder to get away with playing hookie or being hungover at work with your Mom as a co-worker, it was worth it. We shared countless lunches, inside jokes, co-worker gossip, library board drama, crafts and more than a few hundred books during those years.

It was easy to take for granted always being able to give her a hug, or just know that she within shouting distance all those years. Every day I miss her being right across the room.

But moving away from her was worth it to have her grandkids. Cause to see her with her granddaughters is a sight.

She is instantly calm and at ease. She knows when Cedella’s not quite ready to talk or hug and she backs off. But when Cedella’s ready, well Grandma Linda melts right into silly Grandma voice and has all the things kids love: toys, crafts and books, SO many books.

 

She sings silly songs and makes silly faces and cracks Cedella up every time. And while she isn’t able to chase them down the beach she makes up for it by hours of puzzles and board games and tower building and yes…more crafts.

There are so many things my mother has raised me to be. Unlike all my siblings, I am the only one that has my Mom’s love of camping and being outdoors. Could have been the 10+ years she was my Girl Scout leader that did it.

But we all share our mother’s love of books. Reading is something my mother is constantly doing, and all of us are exactly the same (except maybe Ky who hasn’t quite found her love of books yet).

I believe that she has passed her tireless work ethic to me, because I would much rather work until the job is done right, even if it means not getting paid for all of my time, than leaving a job half-completed or half-assed, just like her.

And I know that in my heart she has given me a wide-open and explorer’s view of the world. My love of travel and adventure comes from her stories of traveling in Europe when she was younger. Hell, she bought us plane tickets to Italy for our wedding shower gift. And I definitely have a passion for research which probably from her curious librarian’s view of always questioning and trying to find answers.

Her willingness to love someone, regardless of race, at a time when it was not acceptable and barely legal in all 50 states, has always inspired me. Her ability to make the best out of nearly any situation and to keep her composure while all the rest of us fall apart is remarkable.

And just to prove her selflessness and want for each of her children to be the best they can be this is how she replied to my facebook status update about her birthday:

“Thanks for all the lovely thoughts, Ali – glad you are my daughter (not so glad about you becoming me though–be YOURSELF!) XOX”

I can’t say enough how absolutely proud and thankful I am that 70 years ago my mother was brought into this world. I hope she lives another 70 years cause I don’t know what I would do without her.

Thank you so much Mom for being so wonderful, for your inspiration, for your support, for your love and for all the laughter, hugs and kisses over the years!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

 

How to Get Things Done

My little girl will be six weeks old this Thursday.  Damn!  That was fast!  Somehow it’s taken this long for me to come to terms with one of the old bits of advice that every pregnancy book, midwife, nurse, doctor and friend has given.  I often lumped this piece of advice in with things like “learn to sleep when the baby sleeps”, finding these little pearls of wisdom annoying as hell, I mean, shouldn’t I sleep at night when I’m tired?  Yet over the past week I’ve succumbed to the line “if anyone offers to watch the baby so you can get stuff done just say YES”.

Moving to Lansing (my husband’s hometown) from Detroit (my hometown) in September was the hardest move I’ve ever had to make.  Was it just the pregnant hormones and the impending birth of my first child that made me yearn for the familiar potholed streets of Detroit?  I suppose it was the hormones but more importantly it was the fact that I was months away from having my first child and I was going to be nearly 80 miles away from my mother.  

The same mother that I forgot to call until three days into my study abroad trip to Paris.  The same mother I didn’t so much as wave goodbye to when she dropped me off at camp.  But this is also the same mother that I have been working with everyday for the past seven years at the Library.  To say we’ve gotten closer over the past seven years doesn’t even begin to describe our relationship.  She is one of my best friends and closest confidants.  I even spent two nights a week having sleep-overs with her while I was still commuting the hour and half to the Library from Lansing.  The older I get the more I cherish her company and appreciate her advice.  So how in the world could I have a child and be without my mother around the corner (or across the room) from me at all times?    

I suppose the answer lies in the fact that I have not one but two mother-in-laws in Lansing.  Michael’s mother Becky (MIL #1) decided to move back to Lansing after we discovered we were pregnant.  And Michael’s step-mother Hilda (MIL #2) lives in East Lansing, close to the family business.  Throughout my relationship with Michael they have been so welcoming and generous to me.  MIL #2 threw a wedding shower for me that true to her personality was ultra-extravagant and chic.  MIL #1 has always welcomed me into her home like her own daughter, we even made an entire Thanksgiving meal together a couple years ago when she lived in S. Carolina.  However generous and wonderful these two ladies have been to me though, neither is my mother.

So after having Cedella six weeks ago, my mother came out to visit but she didn’t stay a week like I dreamed she might.  She stayed for one day.  One.  Day.  It was as if she was giving me all the space I needed to figure things out on my own, just like she always had when I was growing up.  But in those first few sleepless nights when my MIL’s kept asking to come over or if I needed help, all I wanted was my mother’s help.

Whether she knew it or not (though I don’t think my mother ever does anything accidentally) she did what was best for me.  She left me alone to figure it out, trusting that I could, and knowing that if I couldn’t she really wasn’t that far away after all.  And more so, knowing that there were two perfectly capable ladies practically on my doorstep waiting to help.

After the first two weeks I figured there is a way to do laundry, cook dinner, mop the floors and do the dishes with a newborn.  Several ways actually.  What I have been doing is probably what most of the moms that may read this do – clean while she sleeps.  Which is great if you’re organized or don’t have a lot to get done, or are disciplined enough to stay focused on one task at a time.  But I’m a multi-tasker.  I constantly have about three things going on at once.  So to get one thing fully finished while Cedella sleeps is a challenge.  The newest strategy is to slip Cedella into the baby sling while I do everything.  Now this is fabulous because I get things done, it goes along with our attachment parenting approach and I get a workout from the extra weight I’m carrying with me.  But this has its challenges too.  I’m not confident enough with the sling yet to go hands-free.  Hell, I don’t even think I’ve got her in there right most of the time!  So everything I do has to be one-handed, which is quite tricky, especially in the kitchen or on the keyboard.  So unless I miraculously get something done while the baby is sleeping, everything is pretty half-assed around here.

This is where my MIL’s come in.  Last week MIL #1 came over to visit and since she was just holding a sleeping Cedella and insisting I just go about my normal business, I decided to work on addressing my thank you cards (from my baby shower which was nearly three months ago, tacky, I know, but at least I’m getting to them).  It was great!  I got every single envelope addressed, and MIL #1 got to hold her grandchild, everyone was happy!

Today my MIL #2 came over on her way home from work.  She just sort of popped in and I was right in the middle of cleaning the neon orange poop off of the baby’s entire back (talk about a blow out!).  Luckily I got the baby changed and handed her off to Teta (grandma in Lebanese arabic), so I could clean the disastrous changing table area.  While I was at it I cleaned the rest of the nursery, straightened the bathroom, threw in a load of laundry and put all the dishes in the dish washer.  This was in the space of 45 minutes!  What?  That was 45 minutes well spent!  If I had those 45 minutes every single day my house might be spotless.  Ok, no it wouldn’t, but it would be cleaner.  That would leave the rest of the day to play with Cedella, eat bon bons, watch my stories, buy baby clothes online and read blogs.

Hey, it took me six long weeks to realize that They were right.  If someone offers to take the baby so you can get some shit done – just say yes (when you’re ready of course)!  Needless to say when MIL #2 asked if I would like her to come over tomorrow, I said yes.

P.S. Despite what They say I never did get into sleeping when the baby slept.  I mean, who can sleep all day and then not at night?  Sorry but my internal clock just does not work that way!

Who wants to sleep when you can stare at this cuteness?