Category Archives: parenting

Let’s Question All Versions of the Myth of Perfect Motherhood

I would call it a “pet peeve,” but the stakes are higher: I can’t stand policy arguments based on inaccurate or misrepresented historical facts. My latest peeve-trigger? Claire Howorth’s cover essay in Time magazine, critiquing “The Goddess Myth: How a Vision of Perfect Motherhood Hurts Moms.”

Now, I agree with much of Howorth’s criticism of the unrealistic standards of contemporary motherhood. It’s a main theme of my forthcoming book, Miscarriage and the Quest for the Perfect Pregnancy. But she and I part ways over the role of medicine and public health in our current conundrum…

Read the rest at Nursing Clio

Pornography on the Playground

When I was 19, I had a summer job supervising a playground. It was a pretty lame job. It paid $5 an hour, and it was outside in the sticky summer heat. The hours alternated between utter boredom and the kind of excitement I’d rather avoid – breaking up shouting matches, figuring out whether the kid who had sandbox sand thrown in his face needed first aid, running to make sure the child who I hadn’t seen in while was simply taking a long time in the bathroom and had not gone missing.

One day, the excitement that punctuated my day was not so ordinary. It involved pornography. And some feminist theory. I handled it. Yes, I handled it well, I thought at the time. But looking back during last week’s numbingly endless #MeToo stories, I wish I had had the presence of mind to do better…

Read the rest at Nursing Clio

The Baby as Scientist and the Parent as Gardener: Alison Gopnik’s Inspiring Views on Childhood

One of my favorite books to recommend to new parents is The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind. In it, cognitive psychologist Alison Gopnik argues that babies approach their world like scientists, hypothesizing about how the world works and testing their ideas to hone their understanding. She describes her and her colleagues’ clever experiments and the adorable ways babies and small children respond. Gopnik takes obvious delight in small children. Unlike so many other books for parents that are about how to make your child smarter-better-stronger, Gopnik’s basic message is, “babies are amazing! Look at all the cool stuff they can figure out!” It’s fun to read, and geeky parents are likely to find it makes parenting more enjoyable. It might be annoying that my toddler keeps throwing his food off the high chair tray, but at least I can appreciate that he’s exploring the properties of gravity.

So when Gopnik published her latest book last year, I was excited to check it out…

Read the rest at Nursing Clio

Are We Free to Be President Yet? The Legacy of Pat Schroeder and 1970s Feminism

I was born into 1970s feminism. I came into the world in 1972, the year Free to Be You and Me came out. It must have made a big impression on my elementary school teachers, because I saw the filmstrip version of it in school at least three times. I loved it at least as much as my teachers did. I loved the skit in which two babies, played by Marlo Thomas and Mel Brooks, try to figure out which of them is the boy and which is the girl. After much deliberation, they decide that the brave, impatient one who wants to be a firefighter must be the boy. (Of course they’re wrong.) I can still sing along with Rosey Grier’s rendition of “It’s Alright to Cry” in my head…

1972 was also the year that Pat Schroeder, a young lawyer from Denver, first ran for Congress…

read the rest at Nursing Clio

Diversity Works, but Only if We Can Forgive One Another

“We are a divided nation,” Donald Trump repeats again and again.  And then he makes plans to divide us still further: registration of Muslims.  Stop and frisk policing.  Massive racialized screening and deportation.  Trump leans on the support of white nationalists who would like to make us “undivided” by eliminating anyone who isn’t white and Christian.  Even many of his less extreme supporters seem to feel like the only reliable way for us all to get along is for us to be more alike, not just in our basic political commitment to constitutional democracy, but in the specifics of our cultural habits, religious practice, and lifeways.

I am convinced that we do not have to be alike to get along, and to be friends and community for one another.  I share the liberal optimism that our cultural diversity is a major strength of our nation.

And yet, when I look at my Facebook feed full of smart and generally justified cultural criticism, demonstrating the myriad ways in which well-meaning liberals don’t fully “get” sexism, racism, disability issues, etc., I worry a bit.  I don’t disagree with it; heck, I’ve written some of it.  I am just concerned that those of us who are optimistic about a multicultural society are not doing the best job modeling how we can all get along.

Today is the Day of Atonement in the Jewish calendar.  As a Catholic, I admire the Jewish tradition of atonement and repentance.  I confess my sins privately to God at the beginning of mass.  That can feel like the easy way out compared to apologizing directly to the people I’ve hurt.

If we’re going to have a successful multicultural and integrated society, though, we are going to need to be good at both atonement and forgiveness.

I would like to observe this Day of Atonement by recalling and apologizing for the times that I cluelessly and thoughtlessly offended my friends’ religious practices, racial and cultural identities, and parenting choices.  I have many friends who are quite differently than me, so I have a lot of opportunities to mess up and make stupid assumptions.  I am often not sure how to take it back, or make it better.  I hope those I have hurt will forgive me, and give me a chance to learn from my mistakes.

I also would like to apologize for the times that I have been impatient, snarky, or sarcastic toward people who had good intentions, and said something I found annoying or hurtful simply because they did not understand my experience or my perspective.  I care about creating community, and I can do better with patience and good will.

I really believe in a liberal society, and my life is richer and wiser for the stories and perspectives and friendship of my diverse community.  In these politically and cultural divisive times, I hope we can find in ourselves shared values of atonement, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  This is how we will show a way forward that genuinely makes room in our nation for everyone.

Playwright Alice Eve Cohen Asks Us to Reconsider What We Think We Know about Pregnancy and Motherhood

“What makes a mother real?” asks writer and performer Alice Eve Cohen in her newly-published play, What I Thought I Knew. In 1999, Cohen experienced the most improbably and bizarrely complicated pregnancy imaginable. Her play is a crystallization of her stranger-than-fiction pregnancy memoir that was acclaimed at its 2009 publication with book-of-the-year awards from Salon to Oprah. Cohen’s saga touches on an amazing range of twentieth-century reproductive history and politics, from the birth defects caused by the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) prescribed to pregnant women in the 1950s, to surgical approaches to intersex, to “wrongful life” litigation. Through it all, she never lets her audience rest on their assumptions about motherhood…

Read the rest at Nursing Clio

The Problem with Fat-Talk at the Pediatrician’s Office

“His BMI is on the high side of normal. See?” The pediatrician showed me a chart. “This is something we need to keep an eye on.” I had brought my younger child for his seven-year-old checkup, a pro forma ritual as far as I was concerned. Our pediatrics practice always asks my kids if they eat vegetables and run around every day, but this was new. I felt suddenly worried and defensive. It seemed like we should talk about it, but I was reluctant to do it in front my son.

“He looks healthy to me,” I said to the doctor. “Are you concerned?”

“Well, it’s high side of normal. You need to be aware. We should monitor this.”

I listened as he probed my son’s answers to questions about vegetables, athletics, and screen time. I could tell that in our soccer-and-lacrosse-obsessed suburb, my child’s lack of interest in organized sports was raising red flags. “Look,” I said, “my kids walk to and from school every day. Our dinners usually include brown rice and kale. I don’t regularly serve snacks or dessert. We have good habits.” The doctor let it drop, after one more warning glance at me…

Read the rest at Nursing Clio