Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cville Women's Blog

Anybody interested in blogging about Women's Issues in a collaborative way? I am amazed how much good discussion has come out of the Newton's Laws post. I have been dreaming of having some Women's Conference take over Charlottesville, just like the Festival of the Book. Maybe what we need to start with is an "online conference." What I like about this is that it would have many many team members with some sort of common goal like "education and outreach about women's issues." Women's issues are also men's issues, of course, but my goal would be to get a representative from almost every non-profit and women's focus area to contribute here and there. Sort of a PNOC but about and for women in all life stages. Not another parenting blog, although parents SHOULD blog. Not another feministing, although feminists should blog. Something that brings us all together and has a goal of social change specific to Charlottesville and women's health outreach. Obviously it would be as unique as each blogger. It would function as a place to meet community-minded women of all ages and then having those women share what they know about our community.

After the community is formed online, then we could figure out some sort of regular meeting. I would stress that this would not be some sort of political group. This blog would focus on the information we think other women need to know to make informed decisions, not telling other women what is right and what is wrong.

The difference between this and simply streaming every Charlottesville woman's blog into one site is the collaborative spirit in information sharing. Does this make sense? The beauty would be that it is by and for Charlottesville area residents but will also be available to the rest of the world, just like PNOC. It would be a place for experts in women's issues to post the latest research. New women's health care providers could post their arrival to town. It would be a place to share employment opportunities for women who want part-time work. It would be WomensNews or WomenShare or simply CvilleWomen.

Perhaps you have already started this blog. That would be great, let me know!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Newton's Laws of Feminism

Inertia. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. This post will likely make a lot of sense to you or no sense at all. If you think I am mouthing off, maybe I am. All in an effort to get some discussion going. I have sat on this post for awhile and am now in the mood to get it out of my brain space before the New Year.

Newton Law #1: A feminist is a feminist until an outside force acts upon her.

When did you become a feminist, when did you find yourself no longer a feminist and when did you personally redefine the word "feminist." I figured all women in my generation were feminists until recently. I started asking women older and younger than I if they thought of themselves as feminists and I have been really surprised how few women say "of course I am a feminist!" What are the forces acting on women that keep them from identifying with that word?

Some observations:

The feminist in an academic environment stays a feminist. She is surrounded by people who are constantly talking about sex and gender, questioning what wave we are all on. She is used to articulating what feminism means both to herself and others around her. She has community who cares.

A feminist who leaves school for non-academic work considers herself a feminist for a little while but then really defines herself more as a "worker". She begins to see her issues as worker issues, not always feminist issues. She leaves behind some of her worries about how the non-academic world might be since now she is living it.

One observation from this group of workers: When I have asked "worker" women this question, many worker women do not like the word "feminist." Often they say "well, I don't think I am a feminist because I think women can decide to stay home and shouldn't feel judged for that." WHOA! OK, it is true they are talking to me but...hmm. Very interesting. I have also been shocked at the replies of worker women to my suggestions of changing the system. Not usually a whole lot of interest. Doesn't sound very "old school" feminist to me. Some say worker women are feminists simply by working. If these women are not constantly questioning or challenging societal norms, that doesn't seem very feminist to me.

Enter an even greater force than leaving academia. It makes the academic and worker feminists in motion rest, some only for a few weeks, but it causes introspection for a lifetime.

Let me call the result of this force, "Feminism in the Childbearing Years". Motherhood both creates and ruins feminists. This force causes women to question everything everything her mother, sisters, friends and mentors ever told her about what it means to be a fulfilled woman. For every mother, finding her balance to happiness becomes so unique that she struggles to find a mentor, let alone a heroine. This force is so hard to describe that it has actually made factions within feminist groups.

As I contemplate the forces that act upon feminism--education, working, motherhood, surely there are more forces that energize or deflate the feminist within all of us. And more important than finding all these forces is finding the place where they can all coexist. Why is this so hard?

I get to plead naivete. I have very little feminist history under my belt. I like it that way. I was born in 1977. My world is feminist. And it is not. I choose to use the word "feminist" because I am immersed in women's issues right now. I occupy a world where I often discuss the woman's choice of WHERE to birth her baby, not IF she wants to birth the baby. Another important choice is to breastfeed in a bottle-feeding society. Do Reproductive-Rights-Oriented feminists make me feel like they want to hear about these issues? Not always.

Why do so many of my activist sisters feel left behind when we describe a modern feminism? I think we are some of the most active feminists in the country. I would like more recognition and more air time. From all media, but especially feminist media. They may not understand the force that is motherhood and how it affects women, but perhaps they can provide the space on their blogs for the discussion. Here is the last "midwifery" link on Feministing and I somewhat happily found this on BitchPhD. But I want more, I want variety and I want often. I would like some of these feminists to question their systems a little bit more. If you don't like your situation, change it. I am tired of people not being part of the solution.

Enter another force I see acting on feminists: group emotion. My husband does not like conferences, at least not that much. But oh do I get excited for a get-together with other women who think like I do. But...what fires me up does not fire up the worker feminist or the academic feminist. In fact, what fires up the academic feminists on BitchPhD is somewhat offensive to me. I know that I am not alone. By a some kind of reflexive property of offensiveness, I would guess "my" feminism must be offensive to them too. They will likely not want to discuss it. For instance, we all vilify Larry Summers, don't we? NO! I don't anyway! So I am not in the club? And honestly, I do not think congratulating yourself for keeping your children out of daycare merits self-loathing. What message are you sending me again? Do Caregivers Count? I really am such a babe in the woods still. All I see are the numerous women's issues we agree on and I think we could do so much for our country if we could meet each other half-way on those we do not.

I may be young but I can be loud too. Thirty may be the new twenty but maybe it is the right age for me to speak up. Maybe I can call myself a feminist and mean it. We all can. Be a feminist, you already are in my book, just tell your version of it. I am really tired getting the vibe that women who focus on feminist issues of mothers are not "real" feminists. NOW thinks they are but do not give them center stage. Well, maybe it is because I was a dancer but I am ready for the stage. Give us the stage! Where is my leader? I have some nominations ready to go: Deren Bader, Therese Hak-Kuhn, Peggy O'Mara, Brynne Potter, Sheryl Rivett ....can we please give these women the floor? They are amazing leaders--it isn't a generation issue, it is an opportunity issue.

Newton's Second Law of Feminism: the force of feminism should be equal to all women, including mothers (yes, even those including those that take mothering practices such as birth and breastfeeding very seriously), multiplied by the injustices each of them have seen along the way.

Can this force please start making itself known? Here are two conferences where I think it will show itself: BlogHer and Fem2.0. I would love to go to both of them. I have even registered for Fem2.0. However, I am also a mom of three children ages 5 and under and so I am realistic that I may not be able to attend. No matter what, I am excited about 2009 and many feminist years to come--no matter what forces may act upon me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Negative Talk at Birth Circle

Rh negative talk has become a hot topic at Birth Circle. Tonight marks the second meeting in a row where the routine treatment of RhoGAM for Rh negative mothers came up. Two months ago I hadn't met a woman who was questioning the protocol for being Rh negative and now I know four. FOUR women questioning a medical norm in two meetings, 4 weeks apart. I am excited for this group to start discussing their choices of treatment with me so I can pass on this wisdom to others out there. It seems like yet another support group in the making. Rh negative women should know they are not alone in questioning their treatment.

One thing that became clear is that Rh negative women do not feel they have enough information about the latest treatment, Rhophylac (and other preservative-free RhoGams: BayRho-D® Full-Dose; BayRho-D® Mini-Dose; MICRhoGAM®; RhoGAM®; Rhophylac®; WinRho SDF®). The traditional treatment of RhoGAM got lots of attention with its possible negative side effects to the baby so you can see why these women want answers.

I have to admit, I did not know much about this treatment because I am Rh positive and even if I were negative, I had my first baby at a teaching hospital in 2003. Perhaps they were already using a preservative free-RhoGAM and the controversy had calmed down?

Thimerosal, the preservative that is 49% Mercury, was removed from RhoGAM in 2001. Women in 2009 are hunting for studies and data to help them make hard decisions.

I have learned a few things that I think all Rh negative women should know:

1. If the father of the baby is Rh negative, you have virtually nothing to worry about. Care providers rarely ask what the father's blood type is.

2. If the baby is Rh negative, also nothing to fear. Women rarely hear about their chances of birthing an Rh negative baby.

3. Childbirth is designed to work. In a normal birth, baby's blood should not cross to the mother. The small risk of this happening is not discussed with women. Interventions increase the risk of baby's and mom's blood mixing so guess where most of these women are choosing to give birth....that's right, at home with midwives.

4. If the baby is Rh positive, you have a 72 hour window to give the mother the post-natal treatment. It isn't some sort of sudden panic at birth, you have three days to manage this situation.

What seems to be a common thread is more women questioning the traditional treatment at 28 weeks gestation. Women do not trust that the preservative-free RhoGAMs will not have some side effects to their babies or to their own bodies. These women want studies and they also want community. They want to see how other women proceed given different situations.

I would love to know what, if any, recent studies we have to cite for this topic. Please comment away if you have any perspective on this subject at all.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ways of the Day (to make a difference)

Interested in how toxins in our environment may be affecting you and your children? I am happy to introduce Lisa Frack from Portland, Oregon to all of you. Lisa is working for the Environmental Working Group (EWG) whose mission is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. As the Online Parent Organizer, Lisa connects with parents to share EWG's research and activism opportunities. I am very interested in what I can do for the cause as a mother and an activist on the East Coast. Right now she is gathering contacts before she makes appearances around the country in 2009. If you or your friends live in TN, IA, PA, KS, or AZ, please let her (lisa@ewg.org) know so you can get you and your legislators involved! To learn more about this cause, please visit the EWG website and read about the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act. You can sign The Declaration here.

Another great cause is the United States Breastfeeding Committee. Please sign their petition to President-Elect Obama. From the USBC petition site:
In the coming months, our leaders will be focused on our economic and financial future. This time of crisis also presents an opportunity to remind them that working mothers are an essential part of our nation's economic security, just as the health of our children is a critical part of our future. A full three-quarters of mothers are now in the labor force. As government and employers cut back in response to the recession, many more families are struggling to cover the rising costs of health care, groceries, and other necessities. We need your support to ensure that in these troubled economic times, all women and families can access the resources and support they need to do what's best for their babies.
And speaking of Obama, did you know it is House Party time? But seriously...Get to know your neighbors and help fuel the grassroots community that got Obama elected by attending a House Meeting and voicing your concerns for the administration. If there isn't one planned yet near you, host one!

There are many other great easy ways to get involved, let me know of your current favorites.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Blowing Bubbles in the Cold

"It is a great day to go outside and blow bubbles!" my son happily announced one very typical almost-winter day here in Charlottesville. Yes, it was cold, rainy and all my friends posted to their Facebook pages how they planned to stay inside and read under the covers. My knee jerk reaction to his suggestion was pretty predictable, "bubbles? It's raining, it's cold..." and so on. But after I allowed myself those first few replies I then asked, "why do you think it is a good day for bubbles?" It was in true interest of what makes my little guy tick that I asked but I hoped it wouldn't make any sense at all.
"When you blow bubbles on rainy days they stick to the ground and don't pop." Marcus, age 5
Hmmm. He was so right. Off we went. The bubbles looked great sparkling all over the lawn and the little guys had a blast stomping them. I got thinking about how grateful I am that he thinks unique thoughts like this. I am only regaining this ability. My five-year old sees many situations in ways most of us do not...and he doesn't even know it. I got thinking about how this mentality does relate to much of the activism I do lately. I try to look at a "cold environment" and try to blow bubbles in it anyway. I started vowing to myself I would not preach to my children from the default pulpit until after I hear their innovative approaches to situations. I shudder to think I almost didn't ask him his thoughts that day. I hope he always finds an audience for his unique perspective. Part of activism is finding the people that want to listen. Part of activism is also creating the audience.

Another example of bubble blowing happened to me about two years ago. I complained to a friend how much I hated matching socks. I can handle the laundry chore fine but oh the socks. My husband uses two pairs a day, minimum, and the white socks just mock me when I see them in the hamper. My friend quickly replied, "socks? That is my favorite! I just open up the drawer, dump them in, and move on!" I was dumbfounded. Not match socks? My mother not only matched socks but matched similarly-stained socks. I was wrestling with looking at relative styles at this point--already bringing shame to the family name. Well, my husband can affirm that one discussion has changed my life. I had never even considered just letting the socks float around in a drawer. And yes, I do still match the easy socks, the patterns and the boys' easy-to-match Hanes-stripe socks. But adult white male socks now get the stack-and-go approach.

An environment that was cold is now warm. Wow. There is something to thinking like this. Maybe it starts like this: You think of that thing that you don't love and wonder "what if this was my favorite thing, why would that be?" and maybe you find just the approach to change your focus. Sometimes it is really hard to wrestle your mind from all those cultural norms.

This got me thinking about all the things I now think are cultural norms only because I have a bubble of friends who have similar parenting styles as my husband and I do. I started laughing to myself how there are plenty of norms in my household that only 6 years ago I would have thought were completely fringe. They still are--just not to me. I started seeing my lifestyle as one big yard full of bubbles twinkling in a cold, wet environment. Here is a quick list of norms I have in my head that I easily forget many people do not have:
  • Cribs? Oh yeah, those. Toddler beds? Bed frames for children at all?
  • Quinoa? Most adults don't know about this awesome food? Gosh. That was me. (and p.s. Blogger's spellcheck doesn't even recognize "quinoa" as a word!)
  • Breastfeeding a toddler is "out there"? oh yeah, I remember thinking that.
  • Bribing you children with dessert, $1 toys at Target, video games? ate my words there.
  • Cloth diapers with PINS? I totally forget that image is out there.
  • Taking your baby to work is a radical idea? "Radical?" I am...I am...wow, I am proud to say that I don't see it as radical at all!
And so on. Realizing my norms that were not my norms ten years ago is my new game. Keeps me grinning.

I also recall how I cracked up a friend when I asked what exactly her smelly spray did for her kitchen table. She was pretty stunned at the question. I admit, I come from a spray-free culture but had never felt comfortable admitting it until then. I was feeling particularly brave and safe that day. I told her I usually go the water and washcloth route. We laughed about it, shared perspectives and...she is still one of my closest friends! Hallelujah! Why can't people ask each other questions like "why do you do this?" more often? I wish somebody asked me why I was matching socks many years ago. I would have realized there is more than one way to go about even the most simple rituals in our day. Is it possible to start evaluating everything we do and decide if the norm even makes sense anymore? I am trying to, especially the things I do not like to do.

Thinking all of this made me so proud to be a member of La Leche League. Here is one organization that knows how to blow bubbles in a cold environment. For instance, we often discuss the benefits of breastfeeding in our meetings. Simply by sharing a personal favorite, you give women extra support to put in their arsenal for doubters' questions. As the holidays creep closer, there will be plenty of people questioning new moms' practices in their families. Now here is a time when people feel very comfortable questioning and even challenging a personal/family norm. I want to stay optimistic and say just maybe these people truly want to understand "why breastfeed?" and do not know how to ask this question. Maybe they feel left out of the culture and judged. It is hard to let yourself be perceived as ignorant. But for some women learning that they are "allowed" more calories a day nursing than pregnant is exciting news, for others the ease of feeding your baby in the night is a huge perk. Health benefits for mother and baby are great pieces of knowledge to share and the list is practically endless. We can compare how the word "ease" is often equated in our society with warming bottles and sterilizing bottle nipples instead of simply holding your baby to your breast with no cleaning necessary.

I am quite excited to hear about ways others have found how to flip cold environments into warm ones and what other new norms you thought were for "crazy people" only a few years back. I think people often don't ask the question "why do you think the way you do?" and just keep their mind mainstream. It is a comfortable place to be. But the more we get used to standing out and illustrating why other points-of-view make sense to the mainstream culture, the closer we are to blending our personal norms into those of society. I'm sure the neighbors thought I was nuts blowing bubbles that chilly day but I think I brought a smile to their faces at the same time. They had to have seen those bubbles too, you couldn't miss them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Industry Journals

Guess what I did today...yes, I am very excited about it.

I introduced both Mothering and Brain, Child magazines to a classroom of 17 University of Virginia undergraduates. I used these magazines as visuals for a paper I presented on what I feel it means to be a feminist today. In this paper, I tried to synthesize various feminist voices such as Gloria Steinem, Linda Hirshman, F. Carolyn Graglia and Sandra Tsing Loh into one Third Wave SAHM voice. My professor liked my paper but...he wasn't so sure about my idea of taking your baby to work, at least at first. I gave a passionate mini-speech about how the critics, once upon a time, thought women would never become doctors in great numbers. The medical field was too hierarchical and male and it was just...just...just...no, it just won't happen. But now women outnumber men in medical schools and many patients prefer a female doctor. Lest my professor and classmates think I was a crazy loner with a loud voice about activist mothers, I held up these two magazines and called them "journals for my industry."

The Mothering issue was the 2005 "Bring Your Baby To Work" issue and the Brain, Child was a 2005 "Mothers' Revolution" issue. Most women in the class saw the Mothering and spent a few minutes looking at many pages within. The Brain, Child got stuck half-way around the room but I presented both magazines clearly enough that hopefully they will stick for future reference. The idea of introducing alternative periodicals (than those at your average grocery store check-out) to women before children or even marriage are on their radars really pumped me up. Then I got thinking....

What other "journals" should we be reading and sharing with women 10 years younger than we are? What magazine do you feel represents your industry? What magazines really address women's issues after the childbearing years? If you have ideas, please let me know (comment, please!).

For breastfeeding specific reading I recommend New Beginnings, the bimonthly La Leche League member publication. For girls ages 8-12, I recommend New Moon. My niece has liked it so much that I have renewed it for a third year.

I also encourage other bold women to find ways to show our industry journals to women who should know they exist. How can we do this? One idea is to find women's groups like UVA's FIFE or NeW and get these young women thinking a few years ahead. Another idea is to donate/gift subscriptions to professors you think could use them in their course material. The topics certainly fit under sociology, women/gender studies and policy umbrellas. Of course, you can also take an undergraduate class and be an older, wiser Third Wave voice that your classmates do not even recognize as their own until the semester is practically over. Other ideas? Please comment with other fun and stealthy ways to leave Mothering magazines near impressionable minds!

I told my professor to hang on to those two magazines for as long as he would like. In the meantime I will dream of young women stumbling upon our industry journals when they least expect it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

In Gratitude of Storytellers

I just finished reading The Vagina Monologues (The V-Day Edition), by Eve Ensler. I am both embarrassed and proud.

I am embarrassed to say that I am 31 years old, college-educated, a wife and mother but had not read (or seen) this play until this holiday weekend. I lived in New York City when the play gained momentum but did not see it live. I am ashamed that I let some part of my brain wonder if I could handle the contents of this play and questioned if it even applied to me. I am disappointed that I didn't know how to respond to adults in academic circles who told me they thought the play was offensive. I had chances to influence people but I missed them. I am embarrassed, but only a little because...

I am proud to say that I am 31 years old and I have just read The Vagina Monologues. I can speak with confidence about the material for many years to many people of all ages. I want to reach out and talk to the people who fear this play and "resist" the activity surrounding this play every Valentine's Day. I am so relieved that the other part of my brain--that bigger, stronger, curious part that made me bold enough to check it out of the library--is satisfied. I am proud I made it a priority to sit and read this book, especially with family bustling around to witness my reading it, before and after our Thanksgiving feast. I am proud that I joined the V-Day list to know about events in 2009. I am excited to become a part of the community.

And then there is my confusion. How did this happen to me? I am worldly-enough. I am a progressive, grassroots kind of girl. I am a birth activist and did not know there is a monologue about birth. How did I not get swept into this movement before today? It is true, the material is slightly off-topic to the issues I spend most of my time supporting: informed childbirth, breastfeeding, alternative education. I wonder if it was assumed I knew the contents of this play, as if it were a basic prerequisite to my interest in women's health and motherhood. It is like I skipped "Modern Feminism 101" and dove right into the 300-level subject matter. And it is from this perspective that I return to embarrassment.

Why embarrassment again? Women and men in the middle of 300-level "life" subject matter can talk to each other. Women who breastfeed their babies have friends who formula feed their babies. Hospital-birthers can hang out with homebirthers and they can get over their differences. Teachers and parents of children in various school settings can get along, possibly even share a bottle of wine and learn from each others' choices. They may not be soulmates, but they can enjoy each others' company. They seem to understand the word "preferences." They understand that they agree on most things while disagreeing on only a few things. So I am embarrassed that we have not talked about bridge building more when it comes to things like The Vagina Monologues. Why is it that when we see a source of public confusion, do the bridge builders not come out of hiding for a few days to do some healing? Are there really too few of us? I refuse to believe that.

One thing I feel is commonly agreed upon is this:
"How crucial it is for women to tell their stories, to share them with other people, how our survival as women depends on this dialogue." Eve Ensler, TVM, pg. 98.
I see many women today taking sides. The attention The Vagina Monologues gets from conservative and religious groups proves this. I challenge women out there to not fall for it. First simply immerse yourself in the material you fear. No matter if it is Intro 101-material or Advanced 300-level material...read and then speak. Please do not speak out before talking to at least one person from the "other side." At least attempt to understand how the other side sees its case. Try empathy. Rethink that old "Beat 'em, join 'em" adage into "Join 'em and educate 'em." Stop worrying about "beating" them and winning some war that perhaps the other side doesn't even understand. Let yourself consider what it might mean to your support system to "switch sides"--perhaps reveal there were no sides in the first place, besides that of humanity. Now you can be a messenger. A bridge-builder. A healer.

Yes, you will find empowerment language and very sexual themes. It is true, taking the "V-Word" back is not on your priority list. But take the time to get closer. Risk discomfort. Be embarrassed and proud at the same time. Maybe even join me at a V-Day celebration, February 14th, 2009. It is an inclusive holiday--bring your date and be ready to see the world differently.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Attachment Theory Resources: Connecting Biology to Relationship

I promised a few of you I would post some Attachment Theory resources. Here it is just in time for some long-weekend reading. Enjoy!

Many thanks to Chris Walker for sending me the resource list she uses in her practice. She is the psychotherapist who really helped me understand what Attachment looks like in all relationships, not just those with infants. If you want to narrow down the list with respect to academic credibility, look to the following: A Secure Base by John Bowlby, Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt, The Biological Roots of Love by Lauren Lindsey Porter, and Parenting from the Inside Out by Siegal and Hartzell.

Attachment and Conscious Parenting Resources
by Christine A. Walker, LCSW

“The Science of Attachment: The Biological Roots of Love by Lauren Lindsey Porter found at www.naturalchildproject.org
Bruce Lipton on Conscious Parenting in his book Biology of Belief
Google “Conscious Parenting” and “Mindful Parenting” for many resources

“Attachment in the Classroom” by Heather Geddes
“A Secure Base” by John Bowlby
“Inside I’m Hurting: Practical Strategies for Supporting Children with Attachment Difficulties in Schools” by Louise Michelle Bomber
“Parenting from the Inside Out” by Daniel Siegal and Mary Hartzell
“Magical Parent Magical Child” by Michael Mendizza with Joseph Chilton Pearce
“The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” by Bruce Perry
“The Connected Child” by Karyn Purvis and others
“The Science of Parenting” by Margot Sunderland (other books at this site at Amazon)
“Trauma Proofing Your Kids” by Peter Levine and Maggie Kline
“Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments” by Alfie Kohn
“Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain” by Sue Gerhardt found at www.whylovematters.com

“Trauma, Brain, & Relationship at www.traumaresources.org 7/08


If you have questions for Christine you can reach her at:

Christine A. Walker, LCSW
408 East Market Street, Suite 204
Charlottesville, VA 22902

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Investment Banking and American Obstetrics Have a Lot in Common

If you have not read Michael Lewis's The End yet or if you don't have any connection to the Investment Banking industry at all, please read the first and last pages so you understand your dear Attached Feminist a little better. To Michael, thank you for your voice from another who was confused at 24. You inspire me to shout things people don't want to hear and need to from my mountaintop of a blog.

What do the Investment Banking and
American Obstetrics Industries
Have in Common?

1. Both appear to be providing a service to you when in fact they do not work for you but for a flawed system.

2. The service does not demonstrate proper evidence that it provides what it says it should

3. Both employ young people with big educations to talk authoritatively to you about things that you may know much more about, simply by using common sense

4. These things (your money, your body, your child) are things of vital importance to your day-to-day life. The service provider, though affected by a negative outcome, will not feel it daily the way you will.

5. If you disagree with an expert, you will often be made to feel ignorant and small

6. If you part from that expert, your friends and family will think you are crazy....

7. ....until you prove your point. They then will a) wonder how you got so bold as to question society's norms and b) continue to have mixed emotions about it all.

8. If data increases and the media get a hold of it, the industry will not take the warning and overhaul from within. Instead, experts will dismiss the data and begin a witch-hunt. They will fight for what they know and forget who will be hurt by the fight.

9. Consumers of these services are often ignorant until too late to save themselves from harm

10. Consumers will say it didn't feel right but they trusted the service provider

Lessons to Learn

1. If it doesn't sound right: research
2. If it doesn't feel right: research
3. If you have any doubt in your mind it isn't right....RESEARCH.
4. Even if you love your service provider, follow up with a little bit of research!

Trust yourself. Take control over your life. Find your voice. Or a doula who will help you. Like Michael Lewis.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Lecture with Social Conservatives

Sunday night I had the honor of being invited into a professor's home and hearing a guest lecturer present a talk on The Sexual Revolution. I do not come from the same Catholic background as most of the people in attendance so I am very grateful that this professor saw in me the ability to respect his and his students' perspective. I was very excited to attend and simply listen and observe.

The lecture was thought provoking. If you are Catholic, it is hard to defend your beliefs these days when people dismiss you the instant they know of your religious leanings. You don't even get a chance to speak. This group of students feel unheard and misunderstood. I learned that they see vegetarians/vegans not being forced to defend themselves, ignored by their peers or perceived by society as "meat-eater haters." I learned that they feel like they are in the minority lately, or at least on the East Coast.

Our speaker discussed our society's "will to disbelieve." She compared scholars promoting the Sexual Revolution to Communist scholars during the Cold War. I am still wrapping my brain around this analogy.
As in the case of communism, she argued, intellectuals faced with the overwhelming evidence that libertine sexual ethics has been disastrous have engaged in Panglossian rationalization. (From this article)
I will be musing on how good liberal folk can articulate counterpoints to her arguments. My husband, who was vegan for over five years and raised Catholic, had a few right off the top of his head. I would love to hear from some of you how you see bridges being built between good people of all religious backgrounds.

I did not feel particularly frustrated by the actual lecture but by the Q&A afterwards. Topics like The Laramie Project and the election came up. This is when I began to wiggle and worry about being "found out." These topics that were not as specific to the lecture as I would have liked and I felt a bit bad for the speaker who I think must've known the audience may have varying opinions about these topics.

I felt that the students were really looking for guidance. "What do 'we' believe about these things?" seemed to be the tone. Students wrestling with an individual reaction but trying to fit in with this nice group of conservatives.

I wanted to remind them of the thousands of devout Christians who did NOT vote for McCain. I wanted to share with them the handful of sexually liberated women that I knew voted Republican. Did they know how fearful many Americans were that JFK would turn America over to the Pope? Like the Jon Stewart clip, what are they so afraid of?

I wanted to ask what they really thought of having a play set in a church, whether or not it was about a gay man. Do they have any gay friends? Would they like to meet some gay people in a way that was safe for them?

It was not my night to do outreach but I left hoping to build some bridges. It is the in liberal-minded scholar's best interest to be respectful and give all voices the opportunity to be heard, not just those with whom the scholar agrees. Why? From Commentary Magazine:
In her lucid introductory essay, Mary Eberstadt persuasively identifies the common element. Nearly all of her contributors have been shaped in a decisive way by their negative experiences as students in elite American universities, and by their encounters with the fashionable academic ideas that have come to infect political and professional practice. From Dinesh D’Souza’s wild and entertaining tales of his days at the Dartmouth Review, to Heather Mac Donald’s exasperated account of the nihilism of literary studies at Yale in the 1980’s, to Peter Berkowitz’s repeated encounters with the “knee-jerk contempt” accorded those who try to defend the liberal tradition against its illiberal practitioners, these writers have been formed by the high-handed intellectual monoculture that is American higher education, especially of the elite variety. As Eberstadt puts it, “The Left/liberal monopoly on campus has . . . inadvertently created some of the very political refugees whose work now fuels the world of conservative think tanks, journals, and ideas.”
No matter how you feel about the Sexual Revolution, Catholicism or Social Conservatives, I think there does need to be a lot more listening going on and a lot less "us-them"--by both sides.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Third Wave Feminist Mother on Modern Work-Life Possibilities

While looking for essays on Third Wave Feminism, I found this article by Martha Rampton, a professor of history and director of the Center for Gender Equity at Pacific University. She states:
...the third-wave's ... refusal to think in terms of "us-them" or in some cases their refusal to identify themselves as "feminists" at all.
This supports what I feel is going on with mothers choosing to call themselves feminists (or not) these days. According to Rampton, the third wave of feminism began in the mid-90s. The 90s were my teen (class of '95) and college years ('99). I agree that I do not think in an "us-them" way and Rampton's description above is the feminism I feel to be contemporary feminism. We women deserve respect. We make different choices based on different life experiences. And yes, I do respect women who make dramatically different choices than I do.

My MIL describes a time when she was treated like an outcast when she told women she stayed home with her children. How could have these women done this to her? Or was it mostly in her head given the media focus of Second Wave feminism? Women today are joining groups like MomsRising, The Mothers' Movement, Activistas, and the Holistic Moms Network to name a few. NOW has a Mothers Matter, Caregivers Count campaign that I believe needs much more media attention. Recently on Facebook I was invited into a "Circle of Moms" and Yahoo has a Parenting section within its recently launched Shine hub-for-women site. Needless to say, becoming a mother does not mean you drop out of society. Actually, there is even more "society" available once baby comes.

Third Wave feminists are not arguing the merits of working vs. homemaking. The question I struggle with is how we work when children are also a huge part of our lives. This goes for men too, no doubt about it. But since women face pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, how can we get them the information they need before they face important decisions for themselves and their families? I began volunteering in the childbirth and breastfeeding communities because I see women from all demographics making less-than-informed choices in a world seemingly overflowing with information. I think the same lack-of-information problem applies to women trying to make smart work-life decisions.

Recently I started reading books like Creating a Life and Off-Ramps and On-Ramps because I think about re-entering the labor force.* I am thrilled to see huge corporations adjusting their policies to retain top talent. I see women (and men) challenging workplace norms here in Charlottesville too.

Is this message being received by the women a decade younger than I am? I am not so sure. I think many women think they will enter a work environment that is not subject to negotiation. Many may wonder if the issues of the Second Wave are what they should roll up their sleeves and get ready to fight. They may not witness negotiations during their first years on the job and this may color their perspective of what is feasible.

Know negotiating a balance that works for you is possible--men and women are adjusting their schedules all the time. When the time comes for you to switch things up, just ask! And if you don't know what to ask for, write up your perfect schedule and ask to discuss it with your personnel officer. Now remember, the HR executives may not be products of third wave feminism as much as you are; they may not see all the shades of grey between the in-office 40+ hour work week and staying home with your child. If you are good at your work, I am hopeful HR will be receptive to negotiations. Once you figure things out, talk about what worked and what didn't. This will help women looking up to you pave their own way in a few years.

I want women to brainstorm what could be part of a desired dream schedule or work environment that could include babies and toddlers. You never know until you get there what will work but it doesn't hurt to think of the options. Could your 3 month old baby come to work with you until he crawls? Could you telecommute some until preschool begins? Maybe hire some care on the side for the weekly staff meeting? Or better yet, can you swap care with a friend who is in a similar position? There are many people just like you out there. Find each other and work it out.

A study published by the Pew Research Center shows part-time work to be the ideal for many women. I think feminists get this, at least in the Third Wave. I think it is time for women to feel confident in their negotiating power. They shouldn't wait for it to happen to them through public or corporate policy. Only you know how you will be at your most efficient. It is in your employer's best interest to listen to you. They are at risk of losing your talent and their resources in finding and training your replacement. It is win-win. You have the tools and the support to create the perfect balance in your life during each chapter.

Yes, I chose to stay home with my children but that doesn't mean I think all mothers should or can do as I did. I simply want future mothers to know of a newer work-life choice: it is possible to stay physically close to your children and earn an income at the same time. The role models are few, but they are out there. Make it happen and become a role model yourself.

*Note that I may not re-enter the labor force. We shall see what the future brings. The two sides of my brain are still in negotiations regarding "5-and 10-year plan" thinking.

Hungry for more Third Wave feminism? Here is a fantastic description of what feminism IS today from another Third Wave mother, Kim Wells.

Do you drink a Coke a day?

For those of you who have not met my mother-in-law (MIL), I have to introduce her briefly. This woman is a fantastic role model of women's health self-education. She runs, loves yoga and pilates, swimming, takes vitamins and herbs daily, looks into homeopathic remedies before reaching for a prescription drug, researches natural vs. synthetic hormones, and always reads the labels on the foods she eats and the drugs she takes. She loves her compounding pharmacist and drives all the way from Pennsylvania to Virginia to see doctors that best fit her style. She is a very spunky 51-year-old and I love hearing what drives her crazy.

Tuesday, my dear mother-in-law found out she has osteoporosis. I was stunned. She does everything right. Her doctor asked if she had any idea what might be going on. I asked the same question. What could it be, stress?

She nodded...she did have an idea. She loves her Coke and has at least one a day and has for years. She had read that the phosphoric acid in colas may be linked to bone density loss. As Coke was still one of her very few vices, she had not thought as hard about the few articles that had come across her path. But now she is thinking hard about the Coke.

Your first thought might be "well, sure, if people drink soda instead of milk then they do not get enough calcium every day." The Osteoporosis Advisor says:
While previous studies have suggested that cola contributes to bone mineral density loss because it replaces milk in the diet, Tucker determined that women in the study who consumed higher amounts of cola did not have a lower intake of milk than women who consumed fewer colas. However, the authors did conclude that calcium intake from all sources, including non-dairy sources such as dark leafy greens or beans, was lower for women who drank the most cola. On average, women consumed 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, and men consumed 800 milligrams per day, both lower than the daily recommended 1,200 daily milligrams for adults over age 50.
That certainly fits my MIL--she takes multivitamins as well as drinks calcium-fortified orange juice. Maybe that wasn't enough. As of Tuesday, she is now supposed to take 4,000 mg of calcium per day.

As one of my goals for this blog is to connect and educate women about their health I thought I should let readers out there know what I just learned this week. Also from The Osteoporosis Advisor:
The message from experts is clear that overall nutritional choices can affect bone health, but "there is no concrete evidence that an occasional cola will harm the bones," says Tucker. "However, women concerned about osteoporosis may want to steer away from frequent consumption of cola until further studies are conducted."
As I learn more about this cola-osteoporosis correlation, I will let you know. You can bet my MIL is tackling the research this weekend and will be familiar with every published study on the topic by Thanksgiving.

My guess is that we will be offered milk or orange juice with the Tofurky.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Check out a NOW near you!

Do you know what your local NOW chapter is up to? I do! I am proud to report back from my first CvilleNOW meeting. Yes, it was great, and I am thrilled to associate myself with yet another group of intelligent, community-focused women.

In attendance were 8 women including myself and an equally motivated-for-change friend. Five of the remaining six women were at least 45 years old. I was the only one who brought a child (my 18 month old). The president said she came to her first meeting with her toddler too....about 20 years ago. They were all happy about the election and most seemed to have volunteered at the polls. They all appeared to be pro-choice but I loved how woman said "nobody is pro-abortion...nobody." They were living very full lives but seemed genuinely happy to carve out the one hour and 45 min meeting once a month to get together.

I did a lot of talking to introduce myself to this core group and I was so so relieved to see my audience nodding in understanding. I learned I was not the only one frustrated by what I see to be a misperception of feminism. The feminists I met tonight do not frown down upon women who leave the labor force, nor do they hate men. The word "humanist" came up. The environment was so supportive of informed decision making and we touched upon how the debate about one very important choice seems to prevent women from coming together on so many other very important choices we must make in our lives.

We also discussed:
  • the HPV vaccine lecture CvilleNOW recently sponsored
  • helping local women facing decisions about unplanned pregnancies
  • pro-choice day in Richmond
  • a possible local descrimination lawsuit
  • library displays about women in local history: one targeted to adults, one to children
  • interesting things that came to the PO Box
  • my professor for my Sex Differences class
  • the various women's groups on my radar and my desire to connect them
What could happen if 20- and 30-something women from all over our country start attending NOW meetings? With such a huge platform of issues, it seems you can make your chapter whatever you want it to be. Talk it up to your friends, I was so surprised how many of mine have been in touch with me since I said I was going to the meeting tonight.

If you are a woman looking to get involved in this country, NOW is a great place to start. Here is their official purpose:
NOW is the largest, most comprehensive feminist advocacy group in the United States. Our purpose is to take action to bring women into full participation in society — sharing equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities with men, while living free from discrimination.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why "Attached"

I had never heard of Attachment Theory until I was pregnant with my first child. In fact, I had heard of only Attachment Parenting until that first child was 4 years old. Posts in the future will reflect my support of Attachment Parenting in particular, but I want to briefly discuss the Theory behind the Parenting. I am no expert, but I am learning, and certainly encourage comments to help us all understand Attachment Theory better.

Last December I invited a local psychotherapist who studies Attachment Theory to Birth Circle. She gave an overview of Attachment Theory and answered parenting questions. One of the questions that I still simmer on from that night was "What does Attachment look like with older children?" With infants there are concrete to-dos like breastfeeding and going to your baby when he cries. But once your baby (or rather, toddler?) has weaned and has learned to sleep peacefully through the night...how do you know you are still promoting the "strong emotional bond" your child needs to grow into an emotionally secure adult? When a child is small, his wants and his needs are the same. At some point, some of his wants become wants and not needs but how do you know the difference?

What I learned that night is that Attachment Theory (AT) applies to all relationships, not just those with your children. It is about meeting the needs of those we love with a mentality of understanding, cooperation and a focus on the bigger picture. We may argue with a spouse about something trivial, but there may be an underlying need for understanding or respect that has been left out of the discussion. Your 5 year old may start coming into your bed during the night after months of sleeping soundly in his own bed, but for no obvious reason: no nightmare, he isn't cold, he isn't sick..... The AT approach for this child may mean providing reassurance with kindness and flexibility, not contempt or disciplinary action.

In all relationships, you may not always know what the underlying need is, but AT teaches us to give the person the benefit of the doubt that there is a need. A need that requires the same gentle touch figuratively that you gave quite literally to the newborn.
We all have wants and we all have needs. I feel the lesson I get from Attachment Theory is to back up from challenging situations, take a deep breath and try to figure out which is which.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Birth Circle to Blog Circle

Here in Charlottesville I facilitate a support group for pregnant women. This group meets to share personal experiences in the childbearing years. The average American woman knows very little about pregnancy, childbirth and the immediate postpartum until she experiences it first hand. This Birth Circle helps to provide that woman-to-woman support and education our culture has lost. There is no one way to become a mother and all experiences are fascinating and valuable to the women who attend. I learn something every time.

It is in this vein that I hope my blog can become a sort of circle for women to share their life experiences. Because I am still in my childbearing years and because I have recently become interested in revitalizing the feminist movement (to give mothers the confidence they need to work or not to work) my blog will kick off with those themes.

As I gather reader input, I hope to hear from women in ALL life stages. I want to learn what their concerns are right now and what they wish they had known 5+ years prior to this concern. Dating After College? Quitting Your First Job? How Do I Know He Is The One? When Should I Have My First Baby Given XYZ? Going Back to Work? Menopause? Widowhood? I hope to create dialogue that brings women together for a change. Lately I have been a witness to factions I feel only damage what we can do if we can share some common interests.

Women's Health, Americans Respecting Women, Mothers Respecting Mothers (vs. The Mommy Wars? please), Childless Women Respecting Mothers Respecting Childless Women....these are not partisan issues in my book.

I can name so many groups that focus on a specific issue facing women today. I would love people from all walks to share what they think other women need to know or might like to hear. Let's compile it all and then figure out what to do with it later!

Call For Concrete "Life With Children" Examples

My musings today have been inspired by the power talk* at soccer practice this morning as well as from a lunch date earlier this week. Thank you to both women for your help with this post.

For those of you who have not heard, I am taking a class at UVA this fall entitled "Sex Differences: Biology, Culture, Politics and Policy." I have many thoughts from this class that will find a home here over the next weeks. Hopefully I'll be able to sleep at night if I put these thoughts somewhere!

Based on my experience in this class, I do not think our institutions of higher education are preparing young women for a realistic view of life with children. Well, yes, that statement is based on my own experience primarily but has come to my attention again as I witness these young women grapple with the choices they face.

Now that I am in my 30s, I have been a witness to so many kinds of careers and so many types of women that I think we could do a better job showing our younger women the buffet of options. I know I perceived success-after-college with a sort of "executive" mentality so perhaps this revelation does not apply to all women. I knew I would have children along the way, but "ideally" I would have this satisfying career at the same time. I had no idea what motherhood would mean to me. I doubt any woman ever does until it happens to her. I have shared my few life experiences with my classmates and they seem to want to hear more.

Tonight I want to list many ways you can combine work with motherhood that are not "either-or" or the vague "flex hours" terminology I think gets thrown around. I hope readers will post what they have witnessed which will help teach women how to negotiate their unique work-family balance. I know when I was in college I assumed I would 1) stay home or 2) work 8-5 and have a Nanny or even a Stay-At-Home-Dad (SAHD). I had no idea of the shades of grey that are the realities many mothers deal with today.

So here we go, starting with myself:
1. I describe myself as a Stay-At-Home-Mom. Business day can include volunteer work with children in tow. I am taking a class which has been a great gift to my psyche, and I know I am very lucky to have the support to fit this into my life. My mother, my mother-in-law (MIL) and my husband have all watched the children while I go to this 4 hour activity in the middle of a business day, once per week. The non-business hours when children, husband or house do not need me I am on the computer or meeting with fellow volunteers without children. I did earn some money in the past 3 weeks managing a visiting lecturer to UVA and did most of the work from my computer or my BlackBerry (the best Mother's Day present yet!). 20 hours of work, never needed to hire a babysitter until the actual event and that was only so my husband could attend with me.
2. Stay-At-Home-Mom-That-Works-Too. I have a friend who is primarily a SAHM but then works away from home in the late afternoon hours. She swaps daycare for the one hour/workday her hours overlap with her husband's. She also volunteers heavily and, like me, is a SAHM that is not really staying at home all day!
3. Back-To-School-Mom juggles her own course work with volunteer work and changing the world one neighbor at a time. She has worked many jobs in the hours when her husband was home from his work and could be with the children. When she needs time during after-school business hours she gets help from her community and occasionally family.
4. Academic Mom that Currently Takes 3 Month Old Baby to Work. This option is what I want to educate women about so they can work toward this goal if staying at home during the early months is not possible or preferred. This Mom has older school-age daughter, has MBA and PhD, works part-time and her exclusively breastfed baby is with her at work. She described to me how most of her positions in University environments were always very supportive of her creating a schedule that would work for her family. She confidently shared how it "always worked out" (Corporate America, Interview Her!). As baby gets older, she will roll with it and figure it out. How many of our young women know how to figure it out as they go? I think they are all "figuring out" their 5- and 10-year plans instead! (I want to post about expectations with a new baby someday too.)
5. Starting-Her-Own-Business-Mom. She homeschools which gives her great flexibility (yes! another post someday, by a guest-blogger) in finding hours to work on her business. She also relies on her husband, her father and her community for the rare hours she has to herself.
6. Owns-Her-Own-Business-Mom. I have three of these on my radar. All brought baby to work (two boutiques and one hair salon). I know specific details of only one: one boutique owner has breastfed her 2nd baby into toddlerhood and she has a large space for him to play/nap in the back of her store. There are extra hands on deck in the store for help with customers. Her older child is in preschool now.
7. Full-Time-Teacher-Mom was able to stay at home while her children were infants and her schools always rolled the red carpet back out for her return. During a few weeks with one baby she did rely on her mother, sister, and grandmother-in-law for childcare so she could finish out a school year. In that time I think she discovered how truly difficult it can be to be a breastfeeding working mother in our country. She did it though and hopefully she will share the details of those weeks so readers getting ready for motherhood can learn from her experience.
8. Physician-Mom. Had her first baby her first year of residency at the age of 26ish. Early years were tough I am sure but she and the family have made it through, that baby is now 17 and applying to colleges. She relied on her husband in the early weeks, then a day care provider who watched each of her 3 children until they were old enough for Montessori preschool. She breastfed her third child for 18 months. Yes, she pumped for most of them! Amazing.
9. Corporate-Mom. I have two of these friends, I'm sure their situations are very different but this they have in common: each friend telecommutes much of the time, travels some of the time and has a nanny a bit of the time. One has a husband I know can work from home some of the time. I hope to get their stories here too!
10. Opt-Back-In-Mom. I have a friend who recently returned to work as a therapist. She is easing back in as she builds her case load. She was out of this field for about 8 years as she mothered two children until they both attended the same school for a full school day. The transition is tough but she is plugging away. It is inspiring to see her back to her career and I would love her to share her perspective as well.

Enough for tonight. Time for you to elaborate on the way your life with children is different than what you thought it might be or what kind of childcare arrangements worked best for you when you went back to work. I and my classmates want to know!


*power talk = the intense high speed conversation maintained by two multitasking moms. It lasts approximately 10 minutes and in that amount of time both women barely take a breath, insert positive reinforcement for their children's good behavior as insurance to not get disturbed in their spoken word when it would be inconvenient, and manage to keep the train of thought clear enough to feel like they had a real adult conversation when it is complete.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Goals for this blog

1. To provide a forum for older women to share information and advice with younger women
2. To discuss the intersection of feminism and motherhood in America today
3. To promote awareness of Attachment Theory
4. To compile the wisdom of women of all life stages into policy recommendations
5. To get women-friendly policy ideas into the hands of policy makers