Monthly Archives: January 2009

I feel like I’m losing my mother

I almost titled this “My mother is considering weight loss surgery”, but while the latter is factual, what I have up there gets to the meaning of the post.

I need to preface this by saying that I was raised, to the best of my mother’s ability and against my father’s wishes, with the basic idea, if not the exact words, of Health At Every Size. I have never deliberately dieted in my life. I have lost significant amounts of weight twice, once in high school because I was accidentally starving myself (if I didn’t eat breakfast, I found I only needed a Mt Dew and maybe a pastry at school, had to eat a meal at 5pm when I got home from play rehearsal, then wouldn’t be really hungry for dinner at 6:30. I do not recommend this), and again after I got off Depakote, which had royally fucked up my body and my appetite and caused me to gain in the vicinity of 100lbs over two or three years, most of which I lost after getting the hell off it; neither of these times were health-promoting for me. I do not want to hear about your diet. I will bitchslap you (or at least fantasize about it) if you moan about getting fat in my presence, and you weigh less than 150% of what you did two months ago. I do not want to hear about your diet. I have recently fallen hard for Harding et al at Shapely Prose. I do not want to hear about your diet.

And this is how my good mama raised me. She was fucked over by the patriarchy and fatphobia and an asshole dad who thought “not starving” = “fat” (and yet insisted that no food be wasted at the table and all plates must be cleaned), and my asshole dad who thought fat = bad and ugly, and a diet industry that told her swallowing sponges = good. She promised to do better with me, her showing-every-sign-of-being-fat daughter, and though I wish she’d gotten a clue in time to save my seven-years-older brother (who once got in a yelling match with my dad about how fat I was WHEN I WAS FUCKING FIVE), I am beyond grateful that she did it more or less right with me. She wasn’t perfect (who is?), and I do not have a perfect relationship with food (who does?), but once I was talking with her (at her, really, with her nose buried in a magazine, she occasionally emitting an appropriate-sounding “uh huh”) and casually said “Mom, would it be OK if I dye it?” talking about my hair, and her head snapped up with the exclamation “you certainly may not diet!” Bless her a thousand times for that one, and for the subscription to Radiance, and then to Hues (both now defunct, unfortunately but unsurprisingly), and for putting herself between my dad’s fatphobic vitriol and me, and for the thousand other things she did to try to avoid fucking me up as badly as she had been.

Bless her also, while I’m on the topic, for plonking $1000 at a trip at boutique clothing stores that sold clothes at which I was a size 1 as soon as I hit adolescence (the $1000 was only once, and bought abundant [pun intended] clothes for both of us; but the general gist of go shopping, spend lots, make shopkeepers grin and stay open late for us continued). Bless her for giving me a wardrobe that looked fucking fabulous on me, whatever size I was at the time, for making shopping a joy and a treat and a way to surround myself with older women who also Got It, and told me how amazing I looked (because I did!) and offered to pay me to model for them. Bless her.

Thus, difficulties that many fat acceptance converts struggle with, I largely avoided. I grew up knowing dieting was stupid and unhealthy and didn’t work (knowing indeed that dieting was responsible for turning my 160lb mom into my 400ishlb mom), even if I did also watch her try PhenFen and every other “it’s medicine and scientific so it must be healthy” prescription diet drug that came out. I did not usually know my weight or consider it an important indicator of health, even as she had discussions with her doctors about hers. Bless her for that as well.

And now… weight loss surgery. Stomach stapling. Bariatric bypass.

Maybe.

If I still had all the old Radiance issues I could pull out all the articles that talk about what a Dumb, Self-Hating Idea it is, but she’d dismiss them because “the surgeries are really different now, and I know a lot of women for whom it really was good”. And she may be right. The surgeries are safer now (it would have been hard for them to get less safe!), and there are women for whom it was a godsend. And with her other health issues (notably her mobility issues, which are aggravated though not caused by her weight), maybe it would be good for her, too. We’ve had several discussions on the topic, each trying to listen to the other, each trying to be heard. I am open to the possibility that it might be the right decision for her.

But I still feel like I’m losing her. Not because, if she went through with it, her beautiful body would melt away (seriously, my mother is the most beautiful person in the world to me, with the only sometimes exception of my child, and it’s not that she has “such a pretty face”, though she does, nor in spite of her size, nor even really because of it, but simply because she is so. damn. beautiful, just as she is). Nor because she’d be making a choice I disagreed with (she’s an allopathic drug dealing MD, I’m a crunchy woowoo acupuncture-loving fish-oil-swilling neo-hippie; we’re used to disagreeing and still loving and respecting each other). Not even because, no matter how safe it is, the surgery still might kill her.

No, it’s because I find an article like this one that I so want to email to her because she’d Get It… and I don’t. It’s because I used to always talk to her about my own weight and health and body acceptance issues… and now I feel I can’t.

I’m losing her. My rock — no, my squishy safe bed with the softest pillows and the monster-repelling covers — my loving mother, my protectress, my goddess, the one person who would stand up for me and my right to love my body just the way it is thank you all very fucking much… isn’t anymore. I can’t send her those articles because she’d think I was trying to make a point with her and whether to do the surgery, when I just want to share my joy. I can’t talk to her about my stuff, because it’ll sound like it’s about hers. It sometimes makes me miss my mother so much I start to cry.

Which is so much self-indulgent angst and a slap in the face to everyone who actually has lost a mother in the real dead-and-gone sense (my own beloved lifemate included), but they’re my feelings, and I’m sticking to them… the way my mama taught me.


(Any comments in favor of her doing the surgery because weight loss always = good, saying I don’t want her to because then I’ll be the fattest, supporting the dangerous myth that fat = unhealthy, promoting your own diet, talking about the weight you “need” to lose, or in any other way displaying willful fatphobia or thin privilege will be deleted. Consider that fair warning.)

Why I’m not blogging

I actually have a draft sitting in the hopper that I typed out at midnight yesterday when I couldn’t sleep, which I was really hoping to get up today, but which (because I typed it out at midnight when I really should have been sleeping) really needs a thorough clean up and sprucing before it’s ready for your edification and education. I also have notes on three more posts that have been floating around in my head for the past week that desperately want to get out of mine and in to yours.

I am, however, not posting any of that, because of various factors including mold, pervasive bleach smell to clean said mold both resulting in massive headaches, visit to courthouse and handing over of large sums of money to prevent license from being suspended, Random Winter Cold ™ in all human members of our family, a sort-of-expected visit from Aging Hippie Aunt, and A&P test for which I was completely unprepared (owing mainly to the above factors). And I need sleep. Yes, more even than I need to exercise (or exorcise) my blogging muscles.

But there’s no need for pity. It’s not been bad, exactly, there’s just been… a lot.

So, I hope to get at least one post with actual content up in the next day, but if my luck holds, I will not.

Still, sometime, perhaps just when you need it, perhaps long after you’ve forgotten me in the fickle environment that is the blogosphere, New Content Will Arrive. I promise.

Closer to understanding the domestic goddess

Those who have been paying attention know that The Man and I are attempting a 1-month no-spend challenge, the largest change for us being not eating out at all (excepting Chipotle once a weekend because hey, it’s hungry work shopping for a whole week, and it’s Chipotle). In attempting this, I have gone from cooking less than, on average, 15% of our meals (The Man cooked most of the other 85%, at least of dinners), to cooking rather more than 50%, simply because I’m the one home during the day.

In doing so, I believe I have discovered at least part of why the domestic goddess phenomenon is so popular. (Just to reiterate, I’m all in favor of upping the status of the domestic, and I do stay at home during the day, but there’s a phenomenon I’m not a part of in which staying home and raising the kids and keeping the house is the entirety of what one [a woman, generally] does and takes pride in. I’ve long been confused by it, having been raised by a mostly second-wave feminist WOHM, for all that I travel in the same social spheres as many who embrace the title, and have much in common with them.)

The Man and I have long maintained that in an ideal world, we would both be parenting the Boychick 50/50, even if I did all the milk-giving. Given that we do not live in an ideal world, his job 40 hours a week is to go earn money so we as a family can stay fed and housed, and my job during those 40 hours a week is to keep the Boychick and myself alive and (preferably) sane. Anything on top of that is non-obligatory and not expected. Everything else — the cooking, the cleaning, the house maintenance, the shopping, the getting the fuck out of the house– is stuff we try to do together, or at least split fairly (and him doing most of the cooking and washing the dishes is SO fair, because… it just is!). This has long worked for us.

But here I am, cooking during the day so we eat at home come evening. Chicken makhani with curried veggies, beef stew with garlic croutons, spaghetti with garlic bread, apple chicken with quinoa, no-knead bread with everything, stuffed squash, beans and rice, roast chicken, and more scones and cookies and muffins and bars than one should have in an entire year, all made at home, from scratch (even the croutons), mostly by me. And you know what? My days are kinda easier. I have, for the love of God/dess, something to do.

And I think that’s it. That’s why, when women are handed the vast burden of the childrearing by a society that says children and work can’t mix and men don’t matter in the early years, so many of us turn to being a Good Housewife, or better yet a Domestic Goddess (the good housewife for the new millennium). It gives her something to do other than stare at her (unbelievably beautiful and talented and adorable) child(ren), a purpose — keeping the hearth, 21st century-style — and a standard by which she can measure her success in real-time, not just wait around until her kids are 20, 40, 80, and declare, if they turned out right (whatever the hell that means), that she was a Good Mother, and It Was All Worth It.

Because really, am I doing my kid any favors spending half the day trying not to lose my temper with him, not because he’s bad or is doing anything wrong, but just because I can’t take it any more? I don’t know. I believe so, I believe that fostering attachment and providing milk and giving him the freedom to just run and play and cuddle and be free of time pressures and peer pressures and grow-up pressures is good for him, but I don’t know. What I do know is that in the last month I’ve made food that has sustained and been enjoyed by my family, helped us meet our budget, helped us pay off debt so home and working-car ownership is a possibility somewhere just over the horizon. I know I’ve made something, done something substantial and important, even if it is now nothing more than a memory and a sewage smear somewhere; and it feels pretty darn good.

It’s an awfully seductive proposition, turning that sensation in to a vocation, and I think I have more understanding now for why so many do it.

Are you a good parent? quiz memes, or, the always-good-for-a-chuckle double standards in parenting

I ran across this meme today, which is both funny and incredibly sad and telling about our society (spelling as in original, author unknown):

With all the conflicting parenting advice out there, it’s difficult to know whether you’re a good parent or a bad parent. Take this handy quiz to find out once and for all.
Keep track of your answers on a post-it and total your score at the end. Won’t it be a relief to know whether or not you’re a bad mom?

1. How many hours per week does your child spend in daycare?
A. None. I’m a stay-at-home mom.
B. 40 or more. I work full-time.
C. About 20. I work half-time.

2. Where does your baby sleep
A. In a crib.
B. In my bed.
C. In a co-sleeper.

3. Do you allow your child to watch television?
A. Yes.
B. No.

4. Has your child been vaccinated?
A. Yes.
B. No.

5. How many scheduled activities (storytimes, lessons, classes or playgroups) does your child attend each week?
A. None
B. One or more.

ANSWERS:
1. Day Care.
A: Stay at home mom. You are a bad mom. Your child will be poorly socialized, will lack verbal skills, and will become horribly ill during kindergarten because he or she has never been exposed to germs.
B: Full-time working mom. You are a bad mom. Your child will have an attachment disorder. You are missing the best years of his or her life.
C: Part-time working mom. You are the worst mom. Your child will suffer attachment issues, be poorly socialized, lack verbal skills and will be sick as a dog forever.

2. Sleeping arrangements.
A: Baby sleeps in a crib. You are a bad mom. How could you put your child in a cage to sleep? What’s wrong with you?
B: Baby sleeps in your bed. You are a bad mom. How could you risk rolling onto your child and killing her? What’s wrong with you?
C: Baby sleeps in a co-sleeper. You are a bad mom. How could you waste so much money on that ridiculous co-sleeper? Is it because you read about it in Dr. Sears? You won’t be able to afford to send your child to college.

3. Television
Yes. You are a bad mom. Your child will be violent, mouthy, and unpleasant. He or she will whine for every candy and toy they see the next time you go to the store.
No. You are a bad mom. Your child will lack reading skills and will have nothing to talk with other children about. You are raising a freak.

4. Vaccinations.
A: Yes. You are a bad mom. How could you do that to a helpless baby who cannot consent to being experimented on by the public health system?
B: No. You are a bad mom. How could you do that to a helpless baby whose immune system can’t fight off all those germs?

5. Activities.
A: None. You are a bad mom. Your child will fall behind his or her peers and never catch up if you don’t head over to the children’s theatre production of “Apocalypse Now” this weekend.
B: One or more. You are a bad mom. Your child is overscheduled and will suffer a breakdown due to the stress you’re putting on him or her. You’re probably doing Suzuki, aren’t you?

Brought to you by the folks at Parenting, Mothering, Time, Newsweek, The Today Show, Babycenter.com, Wonder Time, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Your Pregnancy Week by Week, your pediatrician, your obstetrition, your mother, your mother-in-law, and that awful psycho in the elevator who knows better than you how you should be raising your kids.

(Note that Mothering, the magazine I volunteer for, got a shout out. Note also that when they said “find out if you’re a good parent”, they meant good mom.)

I was then inspired to write a complementary quiz for fathers:

The good dad/bad dad quiz:

1. How much time per week do you spend in the same room with your child(ren)?
A) 0 — I work 100 hours per week and travel more than 50%
B) 3-5
C) 24/7 — I am a stay at home dad

2. Where does your baby sleep?
A) In his own room in a crib
B) In bed with the wife
C) In bed with both of us

3. How many diapers have you changed in your child’s life?
A) 0-1, but I made sure the little woman always did it within 4 hours of the kid dropping a load
B) 50-100
C) About once a day when I was home

4. If divorced, do you pay child support?
A) Yes, the minimum amount
B) Yes, when I can afford it after the widescreen tv payments
C) No, I got out of it and use the money to pay for my new, blond, wife and our two new children

5. What do you know about your children?
A) Their names, their friends, their friends’ parents, the number for their school or daycare, their dietary likes and dislikes, their vaccine schedule (or all the reasons why they are not vaccinated), the date of their next dentist, pediatrician, and music lesson appointments, and what they really want for their birthday
B) Their names, a couple of their friends’ names, the type of instrument they play, and what they want for their birthday
C) Their names… usually

Tally up your answers:

Time with kids:
A) None–you are a good dad, because you work so hard to provide for them.
B) 3-5 hrs/week–you are a good dad, because that’s more than your father spent with you
C) SAH–you are a Super Dad!

Sleep arrangements
A) In a crib in their own room–you are a good dad for putting your foot down and insisting the little woman separate from the leech
B) In bed with the wife–you are a good dad for sacrificing your own needs to meet your baby’s
C) In bed with both of you–you are a Super Dad!

Diaper changing
A) 0-1–you are a good dad for making sure the little woman does it
B) 50-100–you are a good dad for occasionally giving the little woman a hand
C) Once a day–you are a Super Dad!

Child Support
A) Yes–you are a Super Dad!
B) Yes, sometimes–you are a good dad for pitching in when you can
C) No, due to new family–you are a good dad to the new kids for saving your money for them, and a good dad to the old kids for providing them with siblings!

Kid trivia
A) Know it all–you’re lying
B) Know some–you’re a good dad, because you know the important stuff
C) Know their names–you’re a good dad, because at least you stuck around long enough to hear their names

Brought to you by the patriarchy and every exclamatory comment over how fabulous it is when a dad actually does some small thing to parent his kids.

The Man said too much of it was true, and it was all too frustrating, to be funny.

For the record, I answered bad mom, bad mom, bad mom, bad mom, and bad mom. He answered good dad, Super Dad, Super Dad, n/a, and he’s lying.

And there you have it. The double standards for parenting neatly summed up in a pair of moderately funny and entirely depressing memes.

The ways I make my child cry

I drive away to class while he’s begging for me to take him in my arms and stay with him.

I hold him down while he screams so someone can torture him with medical adhesive or blood drawing syringes.

I place out of his reach really interesting toys like sharp knives and broken glass.

I make him put away the cart after he’s run with it around in the store for 10 minutes after I’m done shopping.

I fail to make the water fountain not be turned off for winter.

I tell him he cannot have a third green banana.

I don’t make the world soft and bouncy and have rounded corners, and I allow him to get hurt, and sometimes it leaves scars.

I yell at him for no reason other than I am having a hard day.

There is no real point to this post, just a catalogue of some of the ways I fail in my child’s eyes. No matter how consensually we try to live, I cannot and will not let him have his way every time. Sometimes he gets hurt, and I can’t instantly make it better. Sometimes I am just cruel because I cannot cope any longer. It breaks my heart — a phrase I did not truly understand until having him — every time and yet I would not deny him all hurts even if I could. It would deny him the ability to empathize, deny him the ability to sympathize, deny him any chance to grow, deny him the experience of life. I will never willingly inflict pain on him for no purpose other than to suffer, but I cannot entirely regret that he will, sometimes outside of my control and sometimes with my collusion, know suffering.