Othermother, by @Finn_Mackay

Cross-posted from: Finn Mackay
Originally published: 21.11.17

I am what is called an “other mother”, a same-sex parent to my son who I did not carry. I make up for this by now carrying him everywhere, to the point I have contracted a mysterious ailment known colloquially as ‘mother’s thumb’, or more formally De Quervain’s Tendonitis. After a search online an archived article from The Daily Hateinformed me that this condition is now rife because mothers aren’t as strong as they used to be back in the good old days when we had outdoor toilets and had to wash our family’s clothes in a communal scullery. Sedentary roles behind computers now make us unequipped for the physicality of child rearing, lifting and carrying. I started to notice all the mothers at groups wearing little wrist and thumb splints, pressure wraps and bandages. In the end I got one for myself; I’m wearing it now. …

I realised early on in this parenting journey that my suspicions and concerns about myself and my capabilities were well-founded. Indeed, as I had feared, I am much more of a cat person than a baby person. I just do not have the patience and passion required. I did not lack self-esteem or a sense of life’s purpose before-baby, and I do not find either of those enriched or awakened post-baby. Perhaps they have even declined, as the academic and political activities that used to fill my spare time have had to fall by the wayside in favour of sleeping and doing the laundry. I cannot get excited about latchkey boards and I spend too much time wondering why Pando in Bing appears to have no parents and no trousers. Walking into draughty halls full of waddling toddlers makes me want to poke my own eyes out with a plastic safety spoon, and this overwhelming feeling is not dissipated by the promise of a cup of a tea and a bourbon at half time.

To add to my woes, as an Othermother at these groups, fellow parents are often unsure as to who or what I am. It probably doesn’t help that I look much younger than I actually am and don’t fit gendered codes about what a woman should look like, never having identified or presented as feminine. Unlike some lesbian parents, I’ve never had to have those awkward conversations about bleeding nipples or night feeds and pretend I know what women are talking about as they assume biological motherhood onto everyone within sniffing distance of a nappy. Usually I end up on the margins of these groups, and I don’t think this is due to homophobia as such, at least not with any intent or consciousness. I think it is a widespread and common response to gender difference. That response is to freeze, and in that frozen stasis is how we remain as we stiffly navigate what are really quite intimate moments, sitting in circles, sharing a mat or beanbag for various baby activities, singing together. This means that I am not questioned about our son in the same way that Rosie is. …

 

First published at We are Family Magazine and the full text is available here. 

Finn Mackay: My area of research is contemporary British feminism and feminist activism. I am particularly interested in changes in this social movement from the Second Wave of the 1970s and 1980s to the present day. I have been involved in feminist activism for twenty years, founding the London Feminist Network and revived London Reclaim the Night in 2004. Prior to returning to academia, my professional background was in education and youth work, where I worked on domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying. I am still proudly involved with the women’s sector, conducting work and research for organisations such as Women’s Aid. I am passionate about all social justice issues and equalities. Other research interests include gender studies, animal rights, lesbian and gay studies and particularly gender identity, definitions, expressions and borders within the LGBT community.  @Finn_Mackay

Raising Boys: The Feminist Way ,by @Finn_Mackay

Cross-posted from: Finn Mackay

This is a brief practical guide to raising humane children, male and female, daughters and sons. The ideas contained here are not new, they are available in many other places, and I cannot take credit for them; they have been said before in parenting guides, feminist theory on girlhood, feminist theory on masculinities, as well as in attachment parenting and gentle parenting manuals for example. In many ways these suggestions are instinctive and common sense. The problem is, however, that our world is so rigidly divided along gender lines, and our brains so thoroughly washed in either pink or blue, that parents and carers have learnt not to trust their instincts and to assume instead that baby humans must be treated remarkably differently based on their sex. The following is not really a feminist guide at all, and it is not solely about sons. There are 24 suggestions in the list, I’m sure you could add more. I have included some examples or case-studies to show possible practical implementation of these suggestions.

A bit about me: I am not a parenting expert. But, I do have a professional background in youth and advice work. I set up and managed award winning domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying programmes across all children and young people’s settings (including Early Years) for a London Local Education Authority – Islington – and I advised on national anti-bullying policy and safeguarding. I have delivered training to teachers and whole-school staff, social workers, nurses and police. I am now an academic researcher in the area of feminist theory and activism, with a PhD from the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at the University of Bristol. I have been involved in feminist activism for over twenty years; I founded the London Feminist Network in 2004 and revived the London Reclaim the Night march. I currently do a lot of research on masculinities and I work with several men’s organisations. I am a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of the West of England in Bristol, and author of ‘Radical Feminism: Activism in Movement’ published by Palgrave.

I only have one child, my son is toddler age. I am a terribly impatient person and therefore parenting is often an effort for me. As is the case for all women, childrearing does not come naturally to me, though it may feel instinctive to some; parenting skills are however, unfortunately, not genetic nor predestined by sex. My partner and I are trying to raise our child as best we can in the world as it is; acknowledging that the world as it is, is imperfect, and so are we. While I know the world is imperfect, I do not have to accept that, nor do I have to remain silent about it and I hope to teach my child the same. I hope to raise him actively against much of the culture that he will be increasingly immersed in, because much of the culture tells him lies about boys and men and the biggest lie of all is that his future is written in stone. Boys will not be boys, they will be adults, carers, fathers, lovers, friends, colleagues; they will be human, like anyone else, and humane, if only we let them be. …

You can read the full article here.

My area of research is contemporary British feminism and feminist activism. I am particularly interested in changes in this social movement from the Second Wave of the 1970s and 1980s to the present day. I have been involved in feminist activism for twenty years, founding the London Feminist Network and revived London Reclaim the Night in 2004. Prior to returning to academia, my professional background was in education and youth work, where I worked on domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying. I am still proudly involved with the women’s sector, conducting work and research for organisations such as Women’s Aid. I am passionate about all social justice issues and equalities. Other research interests include gender studies, animal rights, lesbian and gay studies and particularly gender identity, definitions, expressions and borders within the LGBT community.  @Finn_Mackay

“On Motherhood” by @GappyTales

Cross-posted from: Gappy Tales
Originally published: 28.05.18

I gave birth to my second son under a tree. It was under an Ash tree, and it was bloody. Days after, a chuckling visitor told me I could be heard the other side of the hill; that everyone within a mile radius knew he was coming. I’d delivered that son standing, my two feet rooted into the ground, my face up to the sky. Roaring.

A few years later saw my car, boot full with the weekly shop, pulling in to the driveway next to my house. A short, clear three metres over tarmac and lawn lay between car and front door, but it would be another hour until I was home. My daughters head butt deep in my pelvis, her feet tangled under my ribs, I could not force those last few steps and fell instead into a dead, dribbling sleep against the steering wheel. I woke to confusion and imminent labour, thick red indents striping my cheek.  ….

 

You can read the full article here.

Gappy Tales : Writer, feminist, mother. Likes cake, hates Jeremy Clarkson. These are my principles – if you don’t like them, I have others. @GappyTales

 

The Un-Mother, by @MogPlus

Cross-posted from: Mog Plus
Originally published: 11.03.18

Four years ago I entered a writing competition on the theme of motherhood, at the time my daughter was 5 months old, and had only come home from hospital a few weeks before. So this is what I wrote. 

I never used to want to be a mother, in fact the very thought of it scared me. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted less, and yet, when I gave birth to my first child I felt love like I’d never felt before. From the very first moment his big blue eyes opened and gazed around him I was head over heels in love, my whole world was turned upside down by this massive rush of affection. This beautiful little boy was the most amazing thing to ever happen to me and my heart ached with the strength of the emotion. I’d had the most horrific pregnancy, I’d been sick every day right up until his birth, had spent the last three weeks of the pregnancy in hospital because of it, and still it all felt worth it. He was worth the horror.


Read more The Un-Mother, by @MogPlus

Winnicott’s ‘good-enough’ mother

Cross-posted from: Mothers Apart Project
Originally published: 02.08.17

The concept of the ‘good-enough’ mother, introduced by Winnicott (1965), is still in common use today in family law, and in health and social services. However, it is often misused to blame women for falling below expected standards of parenting rather using it in its intended context. It is often not understood that the concept of the good-enough mother was embedded in another concept: that of ‘the nursing triad’. Winnicott acknowledged that support for mothers is necessary to mothering. The author did not have an expectation that mothers could be ‘good-enough’ without the support of either the child’s father, or another supportive adult. On the contrary, Winnicott acknowledged that mothering would be very difficult without support: this was a concept that he applied to all mothers.  
Read more Winnicott’s ‘good-enough’ mother

The Problem with “As a Mother…”, at @JumpMag

Cross-posted from: Salt & Caramel
Originally published: 24.08.17

When a sentence begins with ‘As a mother…’, it’s generally a bad sign. This rarely heralds an insightful observation, as Andrea Leadsom demonstrated. The discussion will continue around the political wrangling, but I wanted to pause for a moment and consider the idea that motherhood grants a woman anything other than the ability to cook meals one-handed while holding a wailing baby.

As a Mother…

I’ve changed. It would be impossible not to. The focus of my life has shifted, and the opinions and feelings of others need to be taken into consideration. I’m sure this is true for most parents, not just mothers.

As a mother, I became aware of different aspects of life that I hadn’t considered. When my kids were babies, I noticed that dropped kerbs and accessible buses meant that I could get around the town easier. It made me pause and consider that the inconvenience of using a pram or buggy was a temporary one, unlike those in wheelchairs, who are often prevented from using a bus because the buggy space is full.

As my children grew, their needs changed. From searching for restaurants with bottle-warming and baby-change facilities to ones with a play area or colouring books, to ones with free wifi as the kids reached their teens.

I noticed the differences in pre-school child-care between UK and Germany where we lived when the kids were little, and became aware of the high costs that were a burden to many families in UK.

They started school and I became more interested in the education systems in the countries in which we lived. The way in which the world treated my daughter in comparison to my son affected me and encouraged me to become more feminist, more politically active.

In the coming years, I’ll take more of an interest in further education, colleges, apprenticeships. We are already starting to think about paying for the college years, how to enable our kids to buy property, giving them a good start in life.

Parenting is not a science. Sure, there are studies about breastfeeding, attachment parenting, education systems and more, but there is no ‘right’ way to parent children because every child has different needs.

My experiences have given me insights into many aspects of life. Maternity provisions, child-friendly products and services, child-care and education, housing requirements for families, feminism… but this is all from my perspective, as a educated white woman with a comfortable home life and loving family. Other parents will have taken a very different view on life, based on their experiences.

And others base their world-view on experiences in other walks of life. I can’t speak with authority on what it is like to work as an academic or a researcher. I don’t know what it feels like to be so poor that you don’t know how to get through the week. As much as I can empathise with the struggles and support the rights of people of colour, I can’t walk in their shoes. Why should my life experiences be any more valuable just because I am a mother?

The insights gained as a mother shaped my opinions; they don’t make my opinions any more valid than those of the next person. And they certainly don’t make me more suited for political office  than a childless person.

 

Featured Image by Priscilla Westra/Unsplash

 

Salt and Caramel is a blog about the sweet and the bitter side of life. Freelance writer Lynn Schreiber shares tips on Social Media, blogging and parenting, reviews products and events, and highlights issues surrounding the rights of women and girls. (@JumpMag)

On Night Lights and Living Vicariously through my 3 Year Old, at Never Trust a Jellyfish

Cross-posted from: Never Trust a Jellyfish
Originally published: 07.09.17

As a parent, you learn new things every day. Some you learn through research and experience, while others you just sort of stumble across by pure chance. It was during one of these epiphanies that I realized something ridiculously obvious: childhood is just an endless stream of ‘phases’ stuck together in a haphazard manner.

Kids are perpetually going through ‘phases’ and if it’s not one thing, it’s the other. Telling yourself that it’s ‘just a phase’ is all well and good till you realize that even if this particular phase ends soon, another will inevitably take it’s place and the cycle will start all over again.
Read more On Night Lights and Living Vicariously through my 3 Year Old, at Never Trust a Jellyfish

BACK TO SCHOOL (FOR A HOMESCHOOLING FAILURE), by Bauhaus Wife

Cross-posted from: Bauhaus Wife
Originally published: 07.09.17
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I loved homeschooling.  I loved our wild days, and our shoeless kids, and the romps in the field and afternoons in the woods.  I do look back on that time wistfully.  And while I’m not envious exactly, I also feel a certain yearning when I see my friends who homeschool share their posts and the photos of their classrooms in the treetops and meadows and cozy living rooms.
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Homeschooling, for most kids, is, I think, optimal. Just as it’s my conviction that home birth is optimal.  Do I need to specify that I mean “optimal” within the context of “normal” circumstances?  Oh I do. Alright then.  That’s what I mean.


Read more BACK TO SCHOOL (FOR A HOMESCHOOLING FAILURE), by Bauhaus Wife

Raising Useless Children – A disaster of Helicopter Parenting, by @LK_Pennington

Cross-posted from: Louise Pennington
Originally published: 14.09.17

My eldest daughter’s first year of secondary school included a residential outdoor education trip. She had already been on one in primary school at a similar centre so I wasn’t going to bother attending the parent’s information meeting. Until she came home with not only a list of things required to take but skills needed to be allowed on the trip, including:

  • Being able to butter her own toast
  • Cut up dinner
  • Pour herself a drink without spilling
  • Getting dressed by herself
  • Brushing her own teeth.

As with all comprehensive schools in Scotland, integration for students with additional support needs was policy (although these children never get the actual level of support required due to systemic underfunding). The school also had a unit attached for students with autism who may find a full day too difficult. I assumed that my daughter had collected the wrong form and that the list was to double check children’s support needs in order to ensure the appropriate level of staffing to ensure that all children could attend. I went along to the information meeting assuming it would be a waste of my time (since I’d sat through a similar one the year before).

I was wrong.
Read more Raising Useless Children – A disaster of Helicopter Parenting, by @LK_Pennington

The invisible children, @headinbook

Cross-posted from: Head in Book
Originally published: 30.05.17

Luckily, I’m past the stage of needing to use the Parent & Child parking spaces at the supermarket. I still play the game of “spot the invisible child”, though: eyes peeled for that strange phenomenon afflicting people who nab a convenient place presumably on the basis of owning a parent, or having once been a child.

There are ripe pickings for “spot the invisible child” in politics, too. On a more serious level which I’m not qualified to discuss, there are severely disadvantaged youngsters, whether through poverty, neglect or unmet special needs, whose plight too often goes unmentioned. On a level that affects me personally, though, along with millions and millions of others, are the children in the current hot topic of “childcare”.

To listen to politicians and most media coverage, you’d be justified in thinking that it’s an issue which applies only to tots. There are endless reams of thinkpieces on the harm or otherwise of paid care for babies and toddlers; endless (and fiendishly complex) policy wrangles around entitlement to free childcare (or is it early years education?) for the 3s-and-unders.


Read more The invisible children, @headinbook

Nothing Like A Toddler to Dash Your Feelings of Self-Importance

Cross-posted from: Never Trust a Jellyfish
Originally published: 08.12.16

3 Year old: Mommy let’s go to the big bouncy place!

Me: Ok Lilly, we’ll go tomorrow. Do you want to go alone or with friends?

3: No friends!

Me: Ok, go alone then?

3:  Not alone mommy, I want to go with you!

Me: Awwww, that’s so sweet, I’d love to go with you. 
Read more Nothing Like A Toddler to Dash Your Feelings of Self-Importance

Tiffany Dufu’s ‘Drop the Ball’: Women Blaming Themselves, Again, by @LucyAllenFWR

Cross-posted from: Reading Medieval Books
Originally published: 14.04.17

A quick post, in irritation. Today, I read in the Guardian that women should expect more of their partners, and less of themselves. Not terrible advice (though not really a revelation either). The article is a puff piece for a book I never plan to buy, written by new mother and bringer of epiphanies to the oblivious, Tiffany Dufu. In her book, so we are told, Dufu describes her revelatory experience navigating the return to work after her first child’s birth, and her growing realisation that her partner would have to do some of the work around the home, since they both had full time jobs. The experience that brought on this revelation sounds depressingly familiar. Back from a full day of work, while struggling with breastfeeding difficulties, Dufu heard her husband return home to the meal she had prepared, past the dry-cleaning she had picked up, only to dump his dirty plates in the sink for her to clean.


Read more Tiffany Dufu’s ‘Drop the Ball’: Women Blaming Themselves, Again, by @LucyAllenFWR

Is It OK If Other People Discipline Your Child? by @cwknews

Cross-posted from: Communicating with Kids
Originally published: 05.06.16

other people discipline your childI was on BBC Radio Tees last week discussing whether it’s ever OK if other people discipline your child (you can listen here, from about 01.29.00) , which made me think we’ve come full circle: in my parents’ generation it went without saying that it was everyone’s duty to do so. ‘Bobbies on the beat’ would give kids a clip round the ear if they were caught stealing apples or being ‘cheeky.’

It’s surprising to me that some people have such strong views that you should never discipline another child, until they state the reason: “because THAT’S THE PARENTS’ JOB” and then I get it. Parents these days! No authority!

To inject some nuance into the discussion, there’s a huge difference between different parents, some of whom I have great sympathy for and some of whom I don’t.
Read more Is It OK If Other People Discipline Your Child? by @cwknews

10 Things My Toddlers Found Boring Today by Never trust a jellyfish

Cross-posted from: Never Trust a Jellyfish
Originally published: 16.11.16

You know how kids pick up a new word and suddenly they’re using it all the time and it’s completely adorable? And you know how it’s adorable for maybe the first few hours and then it’s maybe not all that adorable?

Yes, that.

Lilly recently discovered the allure of the word ‘boring’ and for the last week or so, everything and anything has been enthusiastically described as ‘boring’.

What exactly has she been calling boring? Well here’s 10 things she insisted were ‘boring’ just today:

1) The moon

How exactly can the moon be boring? No idea. I suppose it does just sit there without hype or glamour or neon disco lights so it could appear boring to a toddler..

Super-moon
Though I’m sure Mother Nature would beg to differ (image courtesy ABCnews.com)


Read more 10 Things My Toddlers Found Boring Today by Never trust a jellyfish

Plus size and Pregnant by @NurseBlurg

Cross-posted from: I'm Sorry I'm Like This
Originally published: 20.08.16

bump1On Monday I’ll be 15 weeks pregnant. You have to count it in weeks because the constant terror that something might go wrong means you need weekly milestones.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about my constant terror. Saving that for another blog post. I’m here to talk about clothes. I love clothes. I’ve not bought any in nearly 4 months now which if you know me at all you’ll know that I am clearly  very ill.

Plus size pregnancy options are, well, limited. I guess they think that pregnant people just want to wear nighties all the time, which we DO, OBVIOUSLY but also we have to go outside to our jobs. So where can we shop? WHERE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN WE SHOP?
Read more Plus size and Pregnant by @NurseBlurg

“That’s a boy thing” by @MurderofGoths

Cross-posted from: Murder of Goths
Originally published: 05.01.17

My kids have reached that age. Now the infuriating conversations have started.

“Boys do this, girls don’t”

“That’s a girls toy”

“Girls don’t like that”

No matter that, up until this point, I’ve always encouraged both children to play with and like whatever they want. I’ve been very clear that there are no “boys toys” and “girls toys”. Myself, and the rest of the family, have done whatever we can to make clear to both children that girls and boys are more alike than different.

Unfortunately I’m not able to control the environment my children grow up in as they get that bit older.

Here’s the thing that gets me though, I hadn’t quite considered how strange small child logic can be, as evidenced by conversations with my 4 year old son.
Read more “That’s a boy thing” by @MurderofGoths

Chocolate slice prohibited! Is food shaming harming our kids? by @meltankardreist

Cross-posted from: Melinda Tankard Reist
Originally published: 10.02.17

About 15 years ago, a message was sent home from my daughter’s primary school teacher. It wasn’t about chocolate slice. It was about her hair.

My then six-year-old’s head was covered in tight, thick ringlets. While many clucked and cooed about her “gorgeous” hair, they didn’t have to wash it, or try to get a brush through it.

It was an ordeal, one I approached with dread — she’d cry and flail about. And so it wasn’t washed or brushed as often as more patient parents might have done.

(I also had two other children and a baby who needed attention.) 
Read more Chocolate slice prohibited! Is food shaming harming our kids? by @meltankardreist

Getting pregnant won’t ruin your life: teenage girls, pregnancy and myths

Cross-posted from: Slutocracy
Originally published: 12.04.13

As Doortje Braeken noted in her telegraph column, “we’re not teaching young women about teenage motherhood because we don’t believe it’s a good idea because we do see that it reduces a woman’s future choices.” She went on to say that personal choice is absolutely sovereign. I fully agree with Doortje Braeken but I want to highlight the issue of believing that pregnancy limits choices.

Because the idea that starting a family at a younger age somehow magically limits a woman’s choices is absurd. If you’re under 16 it is the law that you have to go to school so even if a young parent wants to stay home with their child, they can’t. No university will ban you from attending because you are a mother or father and it’s the norm for older or mature students to be parents. If older students are often parents why are younger students assumed to be unable to cope? And that’s without considering the fact that while kids take up lots of time and attention, many students work while studying so it’s not like being childfree means you have unlimited reserves of time.
Read more Getting pregnant won’t ruin your life: teenage girls, pregnancy and myths

Picking apart the mother-blaming that takes place with abused mothers by @monk_laura

Cross-posted from: Mother's Apart Project
Originally published: 11.05.16

I’ve been working on a theme that is to do with unhelpful/punitive/harmful responses to mothers who have become, or are at risk of becoming, separated from their children in a context of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) (mothers apart for short). I am arguing that these responses stem from mother-blaming and involve attitudes, beliefs, values and perceptions that are influenced by culture, society, theories and the media. I also argue that blaming mothers apart can lead to secondary abuse/coercion, re-victimisation and re-traumatisation, and relates to the dearth of support for this at-risk population of mothers apart who are largely a marginalised and stigmatised vulnerable group of women with complex needs that are currently not being met by services/interventions.
Read more Picking apart the mother-blaming that takes place with abused mothers by @monk_laura

What My Mum Went Through by @HelenSaxby11

Cross-posted from: Not the News in Brief
Originally published: 06.03.16

My mum was twenty eight when she had her first baby. That was quite late for a first baby in those days, especially as she had been married for a whole five years at that point, but she and my dad wanted to wait till they could afford a baby and had their own home to live in first. Finally they got a mortgage on a narrow two-up two-down terraced house with damp on the walls, silverfish in the fireplace and a toilet in the back yard, and then they started their family.

My sister took a whole day to be born, she was a big baby, and my mum had to have stitches after the birth. However, that didn’t prevent her from getting pregnant again within a few months. It has to be remembered that rape within marriage was not a crime in those days, and although I am not casting aspersions on my dad, I do think that those ideas, that a wife owed her husband regular sex whenever he wanted it, were strong enough at that time to ensure that most women would see sex as their duty (and most men would see it as their right). Even after a difficult and painful birth.
Read more What My Mum Went Through by @HelenSaxby11