Friday, July 29, 2011


Disclaimer: this post is not intended as a thorough objective discussion of child discipline. It's the story of my journey, my experiences and my beliefs. n_n

I spanked my children.

I was an insecure mom who wanted to raise my children right. That meant, of course, Biblically, God's way (but not Gary Ezzo's way), the perfect balance of nurture and admonition.

I couldn't rely on experience. My mom's way of "raising" me was to ignore and neglect me, unless she was feeling very angry and/or frustrated and then it was to berate me until she felt better or exhausted herself. If that didn't work, if she needed physical release for her anger, a slap across the face or a whack across the back of the legs with the nearest object would commence. I knew there was no nurture in that, nor anything disciplined about her unpredictable, ever-changing protocols for punishable offenses.

So I bought Dobson's Dare to Discipline and implemented his rules for what he considered good Christian parenting. I spanked. I told myself it was the right thing to do, after all Dobson said so and look how squeaky clean, well-educated and kindly the man seems? Plus he is considered An Expert.

So I got my list of rules out: only spank for defiance, never spank in anger, never use your hand, one lick for each year of age, no spankings after age eight, don't leave marks so use a double-folded belt, explain the reasons for spanking, and afterwards cuddle your child and insist they say they are sorry so you can say you forgive them. Oh and if you threaten to spank you must follow it up, or you will be teaching your children that you're a liar. This was supposed to make them feel secure and loved.

What kind of monster doesn't want their children to feel secure and loved?

I discounted his suggestion of squeezing the trapezius(sp?)muscle because I remembered the pain and humiliation of my mom pinching me in public.

Later, the Pearls came out with their horrible book comparing child raising to mule training. I rejected immediately on the grounds that the Pearls method blatantly defies scripture: 'let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God, for God tempts no one with evil...'They advocated actually purposely tempting your children! I dismissed the Pearls out of hand for that reason.

Later came Ezzo, also crazy for different reasons. He actually advocated NOT meeting your children's needs and doing so in the name of godliness, when God has promised to supply ALL of our needs! If I want to be like God, i.e. godly, I MUST respond to my children's cries! If the Lord is near to the broken-hearted, I should be near to my children when they are broken-hearted, that is if I want to be truly godly. When my babies cried, I was there to help them. No Ezzo allowed in my house.

Still, I did spank. I remember one time spanking my daughter, though she tearfully pleaded with me that she was truly sorry and please don't spank her. Through my own tears I spanked her, quoting Dobson that since I had already said I would spank her, then I would be a liar if I didn't. That is so embarrassing to remember. What a fool I was that day. I could've embraced my daughter's repentance the way God embraces mine, and offered mercy to her instead of being concerned with my own self-righteousness and reputation. Yuck.

I spanked rarely, but I can't honestly say I was never angry. My daughter remembers me spanking her in anger over her defiance when she was thirteen (I seriously don't remember this- but neither do I doubt her memory). She says that was the last spanking she ever got. She remembers feeling quite triumphant that she was able to frustrate me to the measure that I would even try spanking to get her to comply.

That was NOT how spanking was supposed to work!

The truth is, I would forego spanking completely if I had to do it all over. It would require more inconvenience on my part (time-outs have to be timed and enforced to be effective while a swat on the behind or hand is over in seconds) and more creativity to teach what needed to be taught (if the consequences are tailored to the offense rather than the same response for every infraction). I would focus even more on building relationships based on respect between parents and children, children and children, our family and neighbors, etc. I remember putting relationship parenting into practice, but having spanking as my fall back.

Spanking is a horrible fall back position. :(

I have apologized to my teens for having spanked them, but they each tell me it was no big deal. I'm glad they feel that way, but it still doesn't make it right. I have told them that I hope they can do a better job of parenting than I did, because each generation should take the good from the previous generation and add to it. I have even said that I hope they don't spank, but that I trust their judgement to do what's best when the time comes.

My daughter recently told me that she won't ever spank, but that it has nothing to do with her experiences or my apologies. (Haha, I'm never as important as I imagine! Lolz.)

She read an animal training book in her teens, called Don't Shoot The Dog. She learned from this book that negative-reinforcement only works because it discourages. It does more than discourage that particular behavior, it discourages the person (animal). Negative-reinforcement discourages initiative, curiosity and the effort to please that animals (and people) naturally possess. Negative-reinforcement can be very confusing to the punished, and results mostly in fear of crossing the punisher, not a positive thing in any relationship.

That book made it plain to her that negative-reinforcement was a lazy way to get quick compliance in an animal (or person) but that was all you would ever get. The desire to please the pack leader, the desire to learn and the desire to accomplish would be discouraged right along with the negative behavior. She decided that negative-reinforcement was foolish. Even people who train animals with negative-reinforcement are taking the lazy, stupid way out, according to my brilliant daughter (take that, Michael Pearl!).

Of course there are plenty of other blogs that do a much better job of pointing out the foolishness of spanking. I recommend looking around with an open heart and mind. Here are just two:
Who Let The Dogs Out?

The Fuit of Spanking: Shame and Rage

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Repost: Shhh! It's a Secret

Reposting from January because it bears repeating:

It's a secret, shhhh!

Well, it has certainly taken some prayer and a lot of thought to decide whether or not to open up this can of worms. I am concerned that there are probably a lot of people out there who would prefer that this secret remain secret. Certainly I don't think every Christian home school family has this secret to keep, but I am also quite sure that there are many out there that do!

In the past, no one has been willing to talk openly about any downside to home school. The fear is that any flaws might be used by our enemies to take away our right to home education. That still might be a valid concern (I don't think so) but the flaws will out themselves anyway. I think it will be best to discuss them ourselves and do a little problem-solving to mitigate the effects of our problems, rather than to deny problems exist.

Problems don't go away simply because one pretends they don't exist. And these problems are real.

I know because I have met families dealing with this secret and befriended them both online and in real life. In thirteen years of experience in the Christian home schooling community, I have met a lot of home schooling families!

Certainly a lot of other families who do not home school also keep the same secret, but it is a particularly damaging secret for Christian home school families for two main reasons.

The first is the home school community's pretension to having the perfect family life set-up. My public-schooling non-Christian neighbor may have the same little secret that I kept for a long time, but then no one is proclaiming that way of life as ideal or idyllic. At every home school convention you will hear someone loudly proclaiming that home schooling is the best option for a happy Christian family, and even claiming that a particular set of family dynamics is essential for a Christian home school.

The dichotomy between the claims of the Christian home school community and the reality of daily life for many of the families trying to live that lifestyle is stark. If for no other reason than to warn new Christian home school families of the dangers they will face, the secret needs to be told.

The second reason that this secret needs to be told is that keeping this secret is damaging to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Fellow disciples of all ages are being blind-sided by this reality, and then are either shamed and ostracized by a Christian home school community that doesn't want to deal with it, or self-condemned into silence because they wrongly think they are the only ones facing it. Our fellow disciples dealing with this awful secret need our help, not our silence.

On then to the big reveal! What is this secret? What is it that Christian home school families are dealing with in large numbers, yet afraid to admit as a community that the problem exists? What is so awful, that even though it pops up in every home school support group, and even community leaders have been taken down by it, no one wants to own?

Crappy marriages.

That's right, crappy marriages. Mine is far from unique in that respect.

Oh, the stories I could tell! I know of unhappy marriages that end in divorce, and many more that just limp along wearing the mask of Christian perfection when one or more of the spouses is (are) depressed, lonely and angry. Problems range from short-term and temporary (because they are quickly recognized and addressed) to chronic and debilitating.

I personally know of marriages afflicted by adultery, sexual perversion and porn addictions. I know of marriages characterized by long-term psychological, emotional and spiritual abuse. I know of some marriages that are in recovery and others that have ended in divorce. I know of more that just ignore the problems they live with everyday. I even know some Christian home school families that have always been happily thriving, but no one is keeping that a secret-LOL!

Christian home school families dealing with crappy marriages do exist. I propose that they exist in every home school community, sometimes in leadership. It is time to expose the secret and find some real solutions to the problem, because what is being done presently is not helping.

Bad marriages happen. It happens in all communities, not only the Christian home school community. But all communities are not claiming to have all the answers like the Christian home school community claims.

Bad marriages happen. It happens in all communities. However in families choosing institutional educational options, the children get escape from the crazy-making secret-keeping for a few hours a day, a couple of days a week.

In the less isolated home school families this is also true, with sports, lessons, co-ops, play dates and taking classes outside the home providing relief from being in the problem all the time. But in the extremely isolated home schools, where no one goes anywhere without the whole family tagging along, there is no relief.

Bad marriages happen in all communities. However in the world outside the Christian home school cloister, there is support for people dealing with problem marriages. In society as a whole there is support for people who are depressed, angry and lonely. In society at large, women are encouraged to get out of abusive situations, and there is help offered to people who want to stop being abusive but don't know how.

In the Christian home school community, crappy marriages are redefined as "biblical" as if that makes it all okay. Unhappy, depressed home school moms are shamed rather than helped. Articles and books are written chastising women who suffer from the lack of being loved, appreciated,and honored as being selfish and sinful. Those burdened by large families, scarce resources and failing health are condemned as lacking in faith, rather than offered real help and given the freedom to take better care of themselves and the children they already have.

Men who fall way short of the loving service to their families Christ commands are not offered help to overcome any abusive tendencies. What abusive tendencies? In some Christian home school circles the idea of even questioning a husband/fathers decisions or actions is strongly condemned. There is no hope of change where no need for change is acknowledged.

So there, I have spilled the secret. There are a lot of crappy marriages out there in home school land.

For those who fear that admitting our flaws will result in losing our home school freedoms, relax. It's no reason to limit the freedom to home school. There are a lot of crappy marriages in the world at large too. We don't need to pretend home schools are little oases of human perfection in order to retain the right to home school.

Home education is one method of educating children, and a darn good one at that! The academic fruit is good.

What we need to do is be open about the crappy marriages, and look for answers other than the ones being repeated over and over right now. Because the marriage fruit is looking rather poor, and is certainly no better than the marriage fruit the rest of society is enjoying.

So the secret is out. Now you know. What will you do? Kill the messenger? I hope not! =)

Reinforce the wall of denial? I hope not.

Feel a sense of relief that we don't have to keep secrets anymore? That is my wish.

And further I hope that crappy Christian home school marriages will overcome their problems and find healing and happiness for all. But the first step in solving any problem is admitting that it exists.

Maybe I should have titled this entry "step one"? =)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How Things Are Going These Days...

Things are gong pretty well these days. Big thanks to Sandra for sharing with me a link to a book awhile back about doing EMDR at home. That has been really helpful.

So, my husband and I went to see his parents the weekend before last. I was expecting trouble afterwards, because clearly his parents are the source of much of his childhood trauma and seeing them is a huge trigger. The last time we had trouble serious enough to ask him to leave the house for awhile, we had been to see his folks three weeks earlier. The tension had been building over those three weeks, and when everything came to a head I was not surprised.

This time, things are slightly different. We are both in EMDR counseling, but now we are seeing different counselors. Also I am much farther down the road to full financial self-sufficiency. Finally, we have this sweet book that Sandra recommended.

The visit was much better than any previous visit, as my husband was able to talk freely with me about his feelings. This is a huge improvement. In the past, denial and a desire to defend his parents (imho indefensible) actions would pop out of nowhere on these trips. The day before, he would express his own disillusionment with his folks, but once he laid eyes on them, he would make excuses for them and get rather irritated at me for expressing any disapproval of them in any way.

My therapist talked to me about how children feel this responsibility to protect their parents, and this then became a topic of conversation between us before we left on the trip. In this case, forewarned was indeed forearmed. He did not revert to protecting his parents from criticism.

My carpal is acting up or this would be a long post about the actual visit. That will have to wait. Not only does typing hurt my hand, but I have to go back to school in a few minutes. This post will be limited to the after-effects of the visit.

The night after we left, things were going very well when out of nowhere, my husband's attitude toward me changed. This led to me confronting the change, and quickly discovering he was "in his reptile brain". Not good. I offered to do some home EMDR with him and he agreed. Five minutes later he was again his normal self, and very appreciative for the help.

I think it was three or four days later, he got ugly again. I decided to just leave the house and go study at Starbucks. When I got home, he was admitting he was very sad and depressed. We again did some home EMDR. Sunday it happened again, and again a short session of EMDR returned him to a normal mental state.

I don't do childhood issues with him when I do EMDR. He visualizes gathering up all the yuck and locking it away in a vault labelled "nothing comes out except for my healing" and then visualizes a relaxing, happy place. His regular therapist can actually deal with the ycuk itself.

So, things are working out for me pretty well. Except that I just now wondered if I missed my own appointment today? Hmmmm. I'm sure someone will let me know. That would be an expensive brain glitch so I hope I didn't.

Anyway, gots to go. Peace and good will to all who read here, SS

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fundamentalists Dysfunction

This is a short post, and rushed, with no time to edit, like yesterdays post. Muddle through as best you can, online friends. :)

I start clinicals next week for the CNA class I am currently taking, AND two eight hour shifts shadowing a medical sonography technician. Wish me well.

I am of two minds concerning "the cycle of abuse" referenced in discussions about domestic violence/abuse. Yes, it's real, on that I agree. What exactly is happening is a matter of debate.

My opinion based on my experience, is that post-traumatic stress disorder is the true cause, and unresolved traumas are not going away on their own. There is no way someone can determine to not react to a stressor when they have unresolved traumas in their psyche that are affecting their thinking and therefore their behavior.

So, when there are no stressors, the (for lack of a better term) abusive partner is happy, loving, supportive, all in all a regular person with a regular capacity for gratitude, joy, affection, etc. But let a stressor occur, and that person is triggered back into the age/thought life he was at the time of the initial trauma. Some people live in this state almost all the time. Very sad.

Others muddle through as best they can, avoiding traumas when they can. Once these wounded people start therapy, there is at first resistance and denial. It's hard to accept that one's thinking is disordered, especially when shame is part of the traumas one has suffered. It is survival instinct to blame others and project negative emotions you don't think good people should feel onto others.

So, I was counting down the days and weeks from the last abusive incident at our house, hoping for a new record. I think we are going to make it, though things are hinky right now as my husband's fundamentalist family just dropped by yesterday for a visit.

Still, even though my husband slipped back into PAPD patterns and projected both his families dysfunction and his anger about it on to me twice in the past 24 hrs, each time he acted on his DAPP on his own, and came out acknowledging that HE was not in a good place mentally. No groveling apologies (which may or not be sincere)-yay! No denial- yay! But an honest apprisal of the situation, and appropriate apologies offered realistically where needed.

This is awesome! I am pleased.

Now for the rant about his fundamentalist dysfunctional family system: OMG!

One of the accusations he makes when he is "in a bad place" is that I don't care what he thinks or how he feels. While this is not true of me, it is SPOT ON about his family of origin. Yesterday it was on full display, when my husband questioned the doctrine of eternal damnation.
(For the few who know me IRL, check out his facebook discussion about Osama bin Laden for a sample! Feel free to show him some support. =)

Immediately he was shut down and shut out. Without giving any consideration to my husband's actual words, my former missionary brother-in-law went into full fundamentalist apologetic shutdown mode. He argued against whatever meaning he wanted to ascribe to the words my husband used. He called him irresponsible and dangerous, comparing my husband's question to encouraging children to run with scissors. And though my husband started out asking questions, not one question was directed to him.

He is right. No one care what he thinks. No one cares how he feels. Fundamentalism will tell you what to think and what you're allowed to feel. Any hint that you might be considering life outside those lines is immediately shamed. You are not a friend asking questions; by asking questions you have become DANGEROUS and you must be SHUT DOWN!

I had to leave the house it pissed me off so much. I walked across the street to my neighbors and she asked, "what are you up to?" to which I replied, "Avoiding WW III, doing my part for world peace."

I watched my husband's family drive away without saying goodbye.

I am so angry. They don't love my husband. They don't know my husband and they aren't interested in knowing my husband. They do not care for his heart. They only care that he assent to their beliefs and that's ALL.

Of course he's "not in a good place". He is coming out of denial and facing really ugly hard truths about who cares for him and who doesn't. He is facing head on the reality that his family has never had unconditional love for anyone. No wonder they get so angry at the notion that God is not hatefully ostracizing and torturing their enemies for all eternity. That really is the core of their beliefs.

Wow. I thought they knew Jesus, who says "him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out" and the One who will reconcile "ALL THINGS to himself". They are the big brother in the parable of the Prodigal, and boy will they be pissed if it turns out God really is going to reconcile all people to Himself.

They WANT people to burn in hell for all eternity, and for nothing more than being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. They WANT a god who is weak, who fails at redemption, only able to save a few, as long as they are in that elite. They WANT a god that is two-faced; they don't want Jesus. They want fundamentalism.

Big. Difference.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Abortion and Me

I have never had an abortion. That does not make me a better person than a woman who has had an abortion. It means, if anything, I have never needed an abortion.

On the other hand, I unashamedly took birth control pills as a married woman for three years before we decided to go for it and try to have a baby. I also relied on birth control between babies, and had a surgical procedure called a tubal ligation at the birth of my second child. So ended my reproductive years.

I have suffered what was probably a miscarriage as a teenager, alone in the world with no hope of caring for a child on my own. I spent a full day agonizing in prayer for the welfare of my possible child (I just realized I my period was late), talking with God and trying to come up with the best plan possible in case I was in fact pregnant. A very heavy, painful period started that night, with severe cramping and clotting. In medical terms, it was likely a "spontaneous abortion".

What do you think of when you hear the word abortion? A gruesome surgical procedure that involved viciously dismembering a sentient terrified child? That's what the pro-life movement has been promoting for years. Medically, though, that only applies to late term surgical abortions- procedures outlawed now in most states. It's illegal in my state.

I have called myself pro-life for so long, longer than some of my readers have been alive. And yet I always have meant pro-life in the purest sense of the term; wanting life and good for mother and child. In wanting life and good for both mother and child, that means invariably that in some cases abortion is the right choice to make.

Let's look at the word abortion first. My staunchest pro-life friend claims that birth control pills are abortificants. Well if taking birth control pills equates to having a chemical abortions, I am definitely pro-abortion! Like most technologies, including advances in transportation, information technology, the medical technological breakthrough of the birth control pill is a huge advance for society. Not only is it the single best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies in unmarried women, it is a huge blessing in many marriages. People can put off pregnancy until they are ready, emotionally, physically, financially and socially. It's a great blessing that God has given humanity the wisdom to create, if you want to get religious about it. And save the stories about the very few people who feel birth control pills caused them some real harm. In the same way that stories of people trapped in their wrecked cars by wearing a seat belt won't (and shouldn't!) stop other people from wearing seat belts, one person's problem with birth control pills shouldn't factor into anyone else's decision to give them a try.

I, like most sane people in the world, do not consider a zygote a fully human sentient separate person. It's one cell. For several days, the cell divides but the resulting cells do not yet differentiate. It is when this blastocyst is a mere eight-celled ball that in vitro sampling occurs. This is important to remember for later. This is also the stage (between eight and sixteen cells- none of them differentiated at all) at which research on human stem cells is proposed. Remember this. There is no tiny little person whose organs are being harvested, a la the pro-life movement's fictions. Eight to sixteen cells- you need a microscope to see a blastocyst. Pictures in textbooks are taking with microscopes and magnified many times.

As the blastocyst develops, it forms into two layers, one of which will become the placenta, the other of which will begin to take the shape of a person. It does not become a person overnight. It begins to take the shape of a person. At eight weeks it starts to look more or less human, and the basic prototissues from which the organ systems will develop are formed. The name is changed from embryo to fetus, and the eight week fetus is ONE AND A HALF CENTIMETERS long. That's it. If you miscarriage at this point, you will not see anything in your menstrual flow but blood clots, one of which could be what would have developed into a person given enough time and good health of mother and fetus.

I wish I still had my textbook, so I could give page numbers, but the title was Hole’s Essentials of Human Anatomy and Physiology (2009) and all this information is in the last chapter, which was about human growth and development. This is all very important to me because it matters what people mean when they use the word "abortion". If you are calling birth control pills "abortion" then you are an extremist and we have no common ground. If you are against in vitro genetic testing and/or stem cell research on the basis that it constitutes "abortion" then you are either uninformed and envisioning the destruction of tiny people (a la Horton Hears a Who) with thoughts and feelings of their own- which is NOT the case- or you are an extremist and we have no common ground.

Another term I would like to define is "pro-life". To me, this means pro-people, wanting the best possible outcome for all persons involved. This naturally means that the mother matters every bit as much to me as any child she may be carrying. There is no other honest way to define "pro-life" though few pro-life people are truly pro-life anymore. They are anti-abortion, and in many cases anti-woman. Much of the time, the same people demanding abortion be made totally illegal are also the people wanting to prevent government assistance for child care, health care and food/shelter/clothing needs for single moms. These people are not at all pro-LIFE, they are religious zealots who want to force the rest of the United States to live by their religious code of moral conduct and blame all the chaos and pain that will result as "the will of God", i.e. "not their problem."

Because I am truly pro-life, this means there are some abortions that I will support. Here are a few scenarios where I think abortion is the right thing to do:

In the interests of the child:
a) In vitro genetic testing and destruction of embryos carrying any genetic code that will result in a short, tortuous life for that child: Tay-Sachs, Duchennes muscular dystrophy, and the like.

b) Also, surgical abortion as early as possible when amniocentesis and genetic testing show the same genetic code in a naturally conceived pregnancy. At this point in technology, the earliest an amniocentesis can be done is ten weeks. It can be used as a diagnostic tool up to twenty weeks. Twenty weeks then is the absolute latest date the need for this type of compassionate abortion could be diagnosed. I say the earlier the better, and I hope that new technology will lead to earlier tests becoming available.

In the interests of the mother:

a) Spontaneous abortion, commonly called a miscarriage, has never been considered anything other than an unfortunate fact of life. Yep, so-called "pro-life" legislator has gone that far: Pro-life legislator wants to criminalize miscarriages

b) In cases of rape and incest, and again the earlier the better. A raped woman who seeks medical attention immediately will likely be offered emergency contraception. No one but the most radical would consider that an abortion, but if someone considers birth control pills abortions then they will qualify this as a crime against humanity as well.

c) Ectopic pregnancy ectopic pregnancies mayo clinic . Believe it or not, so called pro-lifers wanting to outlaw all abortions include the procedures that would save a woman's life in this no-win situation. Home school advocate Doug Phillips calls for the death of women in this situation, though he does at least want to honor them as martyrs when they die of this entirely preventable tragic death.

And where do we classify the abortions sought by terrified women of all ages who have neither the means nor the will to support themselves in pregnancy, much less the life of dependent child? People like to point to adoption as always the answer in these situations, a la the movie Juno, but the teen in that movie had supportive parents and access to healthcare. Not all teens have those luxuries. I have met several grown women, mothers at the time, who had abortions as teens and did NOT regret the decision. I can only assume they made the right decision then.

I don't know where to classify the women I know who have had abortions when they were in their thirties, forties and fifties. Personally, they did society a favor by not reproducing, as the women I am thinking of were not very good mothers to the children they already had. Life for such children would be far from good, living with that DNA and family heritage. Others may very well be great mothers to the children they already have, but know for a fact that they could not cope with the pregnancy or the addition of an infant to an already stretched thin household.

Personally, I have no problem with early abortions and concede that their are some really good reasons at times that make abortion the most true "pro-life" response. I would love to see the need for surgical abortions eradicated. as earlier and earlier diagnostic tests help women with unwanted or tragic pregnancies make possible the decision to terminate a pregnancy in the first few weeks of pregnancy. That would be ideal.

I would love to see birth control accessible to all women of reproductive age who are or plan to soon become sexually active. Young women need to appreciate the amazing capabilities of their bodies and know how to manage them for good health for themselves and any future children they want to conceive. We owe our daughters full disclosure about their bodies and their options.

I don't think any victim of rape (whether by incest, stranger or acquaintance rape) should be denied emergency contraception or if necessary surgical abortion. I hope these women get help right away, making the need for surgical abortion unnecessary. However under no circumstances do I believe a woman should be forced to carry and give birth to her rapists child. Some brave women may choose to do so; no woman should be forced to do so.

Parents who are facing the heart-breaking reality that their conceived children will be born only to suffer horrible and eventually die should have the right to choose abortion, in the best interests of the child. Testing should be done as early as possible, the earlier the better, to avoid surgical abortion.

Elective abortions should remain legal, but I would love to see them limited to the first sixteen weeks, long before there is any possibility of a sentient thought or separate survival on the part of the fetus. As I wrote earlier, I would love to see women make these decisions as early as possible, though recent efforts to limit abortion to five weeks are ridiculous. Those legislators know that they are effectively outlawing abortion, which is their true intent.

I truly thought that once partial birth abortion was outlawed, and late term abortions no longer legal, that we could all settle down to a life of peace. People truly wanting to end abortion could do so by helping pregnant women with the needs of pregnancy and child-raising. Creating a culture where mothering is promoted by law and supported by tax dollars seems like the logical way to help end abortion. Another positive way to end the need for abortion is to make birth control available to all women who want it (including minors) and teaching women how to use it effectively. You can't end the need for abortion without taking these steps.

Simply making it illegal won't help at all. But it is easier than actually helping, which is why it is so popular I guess.

So there it is all laid out: abortion and me. Let the flaming begin.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Feminism and Me

I grew up in the seventies. The feminist movement was very much a part of the social context I was living in, even way out in the sticks of the Great Plains. All in The Family was forever making patriarchal men look like the joke they actually are. One Day at a Time and Alice gave us a realistic view of what being a single working woman was like at the time, while Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda presented to us the ideal of all life could be for a single working woman. Betty Friedan and Erica Jong were on our book shelf. I was reading "Diary of a Mad Housewife" and Redbook magazine in middle school. Helen Reddy was belting out "I am woman, hear me roar..." from the radio and record player.

Many of the messages were mixed. It's great to be a woman, but it really sucks to be a mother. It's great to have sex, but it really sucks to be pregnant. You can do anything you want, but if you choose to stay home and love on your kids you will go insane. You can do anything you want, but if you WANT to stay home and love on your kids you are a cowardly, dependent, woman-child. Look at Edith Bunker- your husband won't respect you, society won't respect you, and you'll get all vaque and clouded in your thinking. Smart women do not stay home and raise children. If the man is keeping women down, then children are the tools he uses.

Feminists will often deny what I'm about to write, but then the movement can't learn from it and move on toward it's higher objectives of equal power for women in society. So here's the big scoop, the reason for the backlash that brought on home schooling and patriarchy among other things. You ready?

We who were daughters, children during the seventies, got the message. The message we got was this: we were hated. Children are an obstacle to get around. Children suck. Caring for children is low, low, low on the feminist's list of things she might want to do with her time. There is nothing lower than child care, except maybe house keeping. We were a hindrance to our mothers' "higher" aspirations.

(This could even account for why so many view abortion solely in terms of cruel, selfish women "getting rid of unwanted children". My generation feels this acutely in our inmost being. In my experience, this is rarely the reason a woman chooses abortion. Women who choose abortion rarely do so flippantly, and it is often a heart-breaking decision based on compassion, for those who bother to research it IRL. Still, to a generation who grew up knowing we were considered an unwanted inconvenience to our mother's aspirations, it is easy to believe that this is the only reason women seek abortion. "Pro-life" propaganda exploits this to the hilt.)

Now my own problematic situation was further complicated by my mom's personality disorder. She would have been a mess to live with no matter what philosophy had been popular during my childhood. I have written on the blog that the only way my own childhood could have been worse was if my mom had been a home-schooling SAHM. That's because she would still have been completely self-focused and uninterested in meeting the needs of anyone's heart but her own. NPDs are just that way.

But the feminist movement is culpable in that they agreed with her that children were a pain in the butt and caring for them, both physically and emotionally, was beneath her and a waste of her time and life.

That is the fatal flaw in feminism, the way I see it. The idea that childcare is lowly and demeaning and not for smart woman is the real reason for the backlash against feminism that has filled churches across America and actually resonated with the hearts of both men and women.

We were those children.

We were those children, the ones considered unworthy of our mothers' time and talents. We were those children, the ones despised and looked down on as mere hindrances to our mothers' "true ambitions". We read it, heard it when our mothers' talked to other adults over our heads, and certainly felt it in the way our mothers' treated us. For some of us it was mere disdain at having to meet our needs. For others it extended to real rejection, persecution, neglect and abandonment- all in the name of a woman's "liberation".

Liberation from what? To a child growing up in the seventies it was clear to me that the liberation women wanted was liberation from the obligations of mothering. Feminists hated children, and hated mothering. Right along with the male workforce, women stated that child care was meaningless drudge for the lesser capable among us. There's a reason child care is still one of the lowest paid and lowest respected occupations among us.

And so I became a very different (and in my mind) more authentic kind of feminist- one who embraced her body and it's amazing capacity to create and nourish new life. I determined that not only would I use my incredible ability to bring forth life and nourish it from my body, MY children would be worth all of my time and talents. I determined to make an art and skill out of raising my children, in defiance of the way my mother and her generation had continually said we children were worthless crap.

Much of the rest of the feminist message I did and still do embrace. Equal rights? Yes. Equal pay for equal work? Yes. The right to control her own body? Yes. But every time I start to think I can actually call myself a feminist, I run across disdain for my chosen career of SAHM and I think to myself,"Damn, they still think I am a worthless piece of crap. Eff you, feminism!"

How I wish it wasn't that way. I wish feminism could have room for those who embrace their reproductive capabilities. I wish feminism loved children, and were demanding honor and commensurate financial recompense for those who nurture, teach and mentor them- i.e. parenting and child care. I keep waiting for feminism to grow up to the point that they see that children and caring for children are intrinsically honorable and worthy, but I keep getting disappointed.

I always run into the feminist who loudly proclaims her disdain for SAHMs and children. It never fails. The woman on stilettos at my husband's office who looked down her nose at my children like they stank when we came up to see where Daddy spent his days? I would loved to have beat the holy sh** out of her skinny ass that day and I could have easily. His coworker who lived in our neighborhood and asked what I did, who responded to my proud declaration that I home schooled with a malicious "Oh, that's right. You don't DO anything."? I hope your husband leaves you, your kids grow up hating you, and you die alone and unloved like you deserve. (Yes, that falls short of loving your enemies, I know. So sue me.)

Last year, I picked up an awesome feminist magazine, Skirt, and I was really getting into the articles. They even featured a woman who was starting her career at fifty after staying home to raise her children, and they portrayed this in a positive light! I was so excited. Had feminism finally stopped hating children and denigrating those who loved them? My heart started to race with hope.

But alas, it was not to be. Shortly thereafter,in the same magazine, came the article from a woman complaining about how children are always demanding something (how dare they?), always have some sort of noxious substance oozing from their bodies somewhere, and how that particular author could never understand why someone would willingly carry a parasitic creature in her womb for nine months and then get stuck caring for it for the rest of her life?!? YUCK!

When I hear these ugly sentiments about children and mothering expressed, there is no way I cannot take it personal. I was that child!

Feminism that truly embraces the female body and ALL of its capabilities? Count me in! Equal opportunities, equal pay for equal work, the right to control what happens to your own body? Hellz to the yeah! I would love to see a feminism that elevates the status of pregnancy and child care to the valued status it should be, as women who choose this are shaping the attitudes and ethics of the next generation. What could possibly be more important than that?

The feminism I see, though, still resents the functions of the female form. Rather than elevating the status of children and those who care for them, the feminism I see disdains these traditionally female roles and only honors social roles traditionally open to men. Any function in society that is clearly woman only- pregnancy or nursing- is considered icky and disgusting by feminist women in solidarity with the men they really wish they had been born.

Every time a feminist puts down pregnancy, child birth, child care and child mentoring (i.e. parenting) she is not only saying that she doesn't believe her children or potential children are worth her time, she is saying that all of us born to feminists are/were undeserving of our mothers' time and talents. If child care is so lame and icky, then those women who choose to care for children are losers. That message is undeniable.

And THAT is the weakness in feminism the patriarchy exploits! The prey on the hurt and resentment of the generation brought up hearing that they were a waste of a woman's time. The also honor the parts of our lives that we women embrace that traditional feminism mocks- pregnancy, nursing and raising children. It should not be this way.

When will feminism open her arms and embrace children? When will she stop despising women who understand that raising the next generation IS a noble and worthy pursuit? If feminism was our champion, the patriarchal religious establishment would be worthless to women.

Wouldn't it be awesome if feminists valued SAHMs and home schooling moms? It would totally rock if feminism was demanding that society value these traditionally womanly roles with the same value society ascribes to traditionally manly roles, like hard physical labor. Surely raising the next generation is more important in the long run than constructing new houses?

Alas, on another forum I frequent, I have recently heard the same old, same old feminist drivel from younger voices. Caring for children isn't rewarding, and people who say it is are lying! (No, we're not. Some of us actually do like it. Sorry to disappoint- again. But then since I started out one of those children myself, I guess I have always been a disappointment to feminism. Sigh.) Truly smart woman avoid pregnancy and parenting. Sucks to read that this is still the feminist party line.

The other part of feminism- you can be and do whatever you want- still nurtures my own heart as I set out to start a career midlife. I do believe, as Helen sang, "if I have to, I can do anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman." If only feminism would open their hearts to include children and caring for children, and give traditional women's roles the honor they deserve, patriarchy would dry up and blow away in a generation. I hope to help build that kind of world myself.

Peace and good will, SS