Category Archives: parenting

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…

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Enforcing Death Rituals after Miscarriage is Just Plain Cruel

The Indiana legislature claims it wants to protect unborn children and their parents. Last week Governor Mike Pence gave his blessing to a new bill aimed primarily at restricting abortion but also addressing miscarriage, explaining, “I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families.” But knowing what I do about pregnancy and miscarriage, all I can see is increased pain and confusion in store for women who lose pregnancies in Indiana…

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Clio Talks: An Interview with Historian Jessica Martucci

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing historian Jessica Martucci at length about her new book, Back to the Breast: Natural Motherhood and Breastfeeding in America. We discussed the Mommy Wars, the politics of pumping, and the importance of playing devil’s advocate with lactivists and skeptics alike. What follows is a snippet of our conversation about La Leche League, a grassroots breastfeeding support and advocacy group that began in 1956 and quickly grew into a nationwide network for breastfeeding peer counseling and activism. In recent decades, La Leche has found itself in conflict with many second-wave feminists over its stance against mothers working, and has often been cast as a major player on the conservative “side” of the Mommy Wars.

Lara: Throughout the book I was intrigued with your treatment of La Leche League. They’re such a powerful piece of this history. They are so important. They have supported so many women, and have also been a difficult ideological thorn in the side of many women over the years. They have succeeded as an organization in a way that I think the founders never pictured. I’m interested in your experience researching them. Where was their archive? What was that like, to go find them and learn more about their history?…

Read the Rest at Nursing Clio

Yes, I’m a Wife, But You Can Call Me the “Current Supporting Spouse”

The year my second son was born, I went to work, and my husband stayed home. It was the most luxurious year of my life. In the mornings, I nursed my baby while my husband brought our older child to preschool. When he got back, I handed off the baby, said, “bye, Sweetie, see you later!” and enjoyed a quiet walk down to my office on the beautiful Wellesley campus. At noon, my whole crew trooped down to my office for me to nurse the baby again. I patted my beautiful little ones on their heads, kissed them goodbye, and my husband gathered them into the stroller and headed home…

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Average-looking Married Couples Having Caring, Respectful Sex

A friend of mine recently lamented that when he sat his teenage son down to have “The Talk,” he had to focus on the internet instead of relationships. “It’s not like the old days, when you’d tell your kid about the mechanics of it, and protection, that kind of thing. My son knew the basics from sex ed class at school, and didn’t want to talk with me about it. Instead, I had to lecture him about internet porn.”

Wow. I hadn’t thought about it yet, because my kids are a bit younger, but he’s right. Internet porn is ubiquitous, and so easy to find, most of us have found it at least a couple of times even when we weren’t looking for it. What does this mean for how my children will learn about sex? Is that the mental model I want them to bring into their relationships?…

Read the rest at Nursing Clio