Video: September 2015 To The Contrary Appearance

I appeared as a panelist on this week’s episode of To The Contrary, and discussed Pope Francis, parental leave, and women in STEM.

You can watch a video of the show here:


That Would Be Me With A Toddler At The Pro-Choice Happy Hour

My daughter is two. She is a lovely, wonderful, vivacious girl. Her new thing is that she comes with me to pro-choice happy hours.

Before she was born, I was going to action/networking/professional-type stuff nearly every night of the week. Happy hours. Panel discussions. Volunteer phone-banks. Impromptu vigil for social justice? My candles were by the door. This is an easy habit to fall into as a young do-gooder, especially when you love what you do.

After she was born, I stopped doing most of these things. It was just too hard, especially when I was still nursing and rocking her to sleep. That’s changed, but babysitters are still costly and hard to find. And yes, after working all day, I like to spend time with her.

Does this make me less driven? Nope.

But yes, I had been missing some of the things I used to do.

I started questioning that. Yes, my responsibilities have changed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find a new way to re-engage with my old interests. So I started bringing my daughter to the pro-choice happy hour. It’s happened twice in the past few weeks.

I think of it as occupying my own life. I can be a parent, and still do things I love with my kid in tow. Even if kids aren’t explicitly invited. I can use my judgement and pick and choose what might work based on the situation and her needs at the moment. Occupying my life even though I’m a mom with a kid to watch isn’t just good for me and the kid, it’s good for everyone. Kids are part of life and we must include them.

I want my daughter to know that she’s welcome to be a part of the interests I hold outside our family. I want her to know it’s okay for women and moms to be part of public life. I want the people at the pro-choice happy hour to see that we can make some of our activist spaces kid-friendly with hardly any work, and I’m happy to share the joy of my daughter with the many, many activists who support abortion rights as a matter of human dignity and also happen to love babies (believe it!).

Yes, we’re only there for 20-30 minutes on the way home from daycare, and we sit to the side with her yogurt or hummus and pretzels, but I get to see my friends and be a part of the social side of a movement I work in.

Occupying my life takes other forms, too. Turns out that having a kid means you get a lot less sleep, and don’t always get a chance to shower and/or get ready. Well, this happens to me regularly now. Just today I did a meeting on Skype video with bed-head from several hours before. I’ve stopped feeling shame about this, and invested in pomade instead. I’d rather do the things I care about than waste time or energy berating myself, or take myself out of the running because I have a kid who doesn’t serve me breakfast in bed and warm my bathrobe.

By watching me, I hope she will see that mothers can be whoever the hell they want to be. I have been enjoying showing myself that, as well.


Holding A Baby And An iPhone

I live-tweeted labor. The first night of my daughter’s life I realized I was going to be nursing for long stretches overnight; I began using my phone to stay awake. Every night I spent hours nursing her quietly, listening to her sweet little swallows, and surfing the Internet like it was the best Gidget movie in the world. I developed eye strain, and my carpal tunnel flared up again.

Eventually maternity leave was over. I held a different job then, one I loved, but I was also a rare part-time employee on a staff of full-timers. That meant checking in on email all the time anyway, so I wouldn’t fall behind.

Work-life balance is this elusive thing. It’s a psychic pair of skinny jeans, designed to punish. Work-life balance is not a gender-neutral phrase. Work-life balance may as well be Morse code for throwing women to the wolves. We are expected to take care of our families, make nice food that looks like it belongs on Instagram, and shatter glass ceilings through perseverance and sheer will. (Friendly reminder: There are no personal solutions to societal problems.)

Generally I suck at work/life balance, as do a good portion of the people I know, because we are expected to work all the time and we have the Internet with us almost everywhere we go.

And yet I’m not complaining: I’m fortunate that my line of work so happens to be my life passion. Still, if work/life balance means having two separate spheres of life that are both well-tended, nope, I don’t have that.

I’m the woman who is opening up Slack for conversations with a colleague while my daughter eats in a high chair next to me. You can catch me firing off work emails at the playground. And I’m ashamed by how often I look at Facebook when she is in my care.

My daughter has taught me a love of presence. We should listen to crickets and wonder what they are. An airplane overhead is worth pointing to and talking about. Silence is a lavish gift — seriously, take it when you can get it.

It is hard for me to reconcile my actual and/or perceived need to be always available online with being the attentive mother I want to be. And yet, I am terrifically proud to be a working mother, and I claim that title. I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to realize that the woman suffrage poster in her bedroom is not just wall art, and that her mom is a troublemaker.

Ultimately, I am doing both. Sometimes I hold my daughter and write emails. Sometimes I push the stroller and go on Twitter rants.  I am a parent and a working feminist at the same time.

Parenting, Self-Esteem, And Toddlers Holding One Leg Up

My self-esteem kind of fell to the shits some time after my daughter was born. It wasn’t postpartum depression; I’d made it okay through the weeks of shifting hormones and months of endless infant crying. I cried twice after she was born; once in frustration that I wasn’t getting to hold her as much as I wanted during what felt like a never-ending cycle of visitors, and once that first day after my husband went to work and everyone was gone. Other than that, I was fine.

Until I wasn’t. I started losing confidence. New parenthood can be isolating, physically: You just can’t leave the house as easily as you used to.

To compound matters, I had less to say about work, because I was working half-time. I had been used to connecting with people on the basis of work.

Sometimes it’s said that people who talk about their kids are boring. Emotionally, I bought right into that, while intellectually I still know this is a feminist issue that angers me. Frowning on kid-talk serves as a way to silence and trivialize women since we often find ourselves serving as primary caregivers to any children we may have.

All of this meant I became more isolated still.

I realized in the grocery store that I was getting out of tune with myself; it was becoming too hard to buy basic things like pasta or peanut butter. I would look at multiple varieties and not know which to pick. I didn’t trust myself. Decisions that should have taken three seconds were taking 10.

So I wrote an email to two of my closest, dearest friends, telling them that I felt my self-esteem was hitting a lower patch and asking for advice on what they thought I should do. I also asked my husband for ideas.

I think, honestly, it surprised some of them, although they all rose to the occasion, were supportive, and offered awesome ideas. There is some taboo in admitting when you don’t feel great. There shouldn’t be.

Our security in ourselves and the way we feel about the world are hardly static. You could even be the strongest person in the world and still hit rough patches. Admitting the crap times when you have them is a really helpful step to tossing them down the Litter Genie.

Through conversations with my lovelies, I came to realize that what I was really missing was a sense of accomplishment, and that was what was decking my self-esteem. When I had been working around the clock, I had stacks of achievements in the detritus of my to-do lists. People recognized my work. I had the ability to write for pleasure 20 times more often than before the baby, and get feedback in the process.

Motherhood didn’t feel like that. Every time I changed her outfit, my dear sweet daughter seemed to spit up profusely again. Even putting her down for a nap wasn’t much accomplishment, since she’d usually wake up and start crying almost immediately. What I needed, bluntly, was something new that we could do. I knew it had to be us and not just me, or I wouldn’t get the accomplishment near often enough.

So we tried a baby yoga class. And we started coming back, week after week. We’ve been going for almost a year and a half now. Thing is, it worked, and actually fairly quickly. I just needed something new, something I could point to as something I was getting done. As time went on, and my daughter grew, the class became irresistible fun. I love to watch her sing, dance, and do a tree pose (A DEAD-SERIOUS TODDLER DOING A TREE POSE!).

Recently I shared this story in a workshop I facilitated on pregnancy after an eating disorder, as an example of how it’s totally cool to speak up during the divots of life and work toward your own mental health. A doctor who was also leading the workshop responded to my claim that probably none of the other parents in the room knew how important that 45-minute class is to me. She said: It probably is for them, too.

We need to be honest that parenting is not always easy, that life is not always easy, that it’s okay to experience ups and downs and talk about them. It’s actually a sign of strength. At least, that’s the message I hope I’m teaching my daughter.

Video: November 2014 To The Contrary Appearance

I appeared as a panelist on this week’s episode of To The Contrary, and discussed the 2014 election results, paid parental leave and advancing women in the workplace, and women as peacemakers. You can watch a video of the show here:


Video: June 2014 To The Contrary Appearance

I appeared as a panelist on a recent episode of To The Contrary, and discussed home births, Pope Francis offering advice to have more children, and the World Bank and advancing progress for women worldwide. You can watch a video of the show here or here:

Also, I recently appeared on the awesome podcast Fortnight on the Internets, run by my hilarious and incisive friends Alison the Business Casual and Alpine McGregor. We discussed online misogyny and #YesAllWomen. You can listen to that here.


The Unsung Heroes Of Mother’s Day: Friends

Please pardon me for publishing this about a week late. I am, after all, a new mom.

Friends don’t get enough recognition on Mother’s Day, and they really should. Before I became a mom, I associated Mother’s Day with family. Don’t forget to call mom! Get her some flowers. Say something nice to grandma. But the commercial aspects of Mother’s Day as a biological event only carry us so far.

After all, even before I became a mom, I was aware how painful this day can be for many. For those facing infertility, or loss of pregnancies, children, or parents. For those whose mothers and families have shunned them for their sexual orientation. For those left feeling unrecognized or unappreciated as step-parents, or caregivers, or birth parents. For those who have families that don’t look like the kind that get slapped on the back of a minivan with those little white stencil stickers.

I knew, before experiencing this first Mother’s Day as a mom, that it is friends who carry us through the hard parts of family. What I didn’t know is how much friends could and often would rise to support my journey as a new mom.

During these past 11 months, I have learned how incredibly isolating new motherhood can, at times, feel. There is this crying baby that won’t respond to anything and you haven’t slept or showered in several days and OMG! And then there are those first forays into parenting in front of others. Breastfeeding in public or taking a baby to a restaurant — these are often represented not as personal decisions but something that must be guided by what others think. Being honest can be intimated as a matter of (poor) etiquette: talking about your children is boring, posting pictures of your baby on social media is aggrandizing, discussing the details of birth is TMI. Some people stop giving a shit about you. Some people assume you’ve stopped giving a shit about your career. Sometimes people say judgmental things about your parenting decisions, and it feels like a rusty knife scraping the folds of your psyche.

But the overwhelming truth I have learned is this: Entering into motherhood, like other major life changes, reveals who your true friends are, and sometimes those answers are surprising. People who might have seemed more like casual acquaintances come out of the woodwork, offering support and handwritten cards in the mail. Colleagues and professional contacts who, without prompt, make proactive space to let you know your child is welcome at an after-hours gathering. It has been especially moving to me to see how some of my intentionally child-free feminist friends who really, really, and rightfully don’t like the assumption of a “mother” role for women have noiselessly made space to accommodate a new me, and my little one; and but also how loud-and-proud feminist mothers have welcomed me with open arms and helped me negotiate the complicated feelings that come with being newly beholden to a little one who needs you all the time. Blessed are those who acknowledge that it can take much more time for me to respond to and initiate calls, texts and emails, or make carefree plans to do “adult” things, and value me with patience for what I can give now.

Motherhood is something that we can’t do without support, and usually it’s family that gets the acknowledgement. It is friends, those who are mothers and non-mothers, who are the unsung heroes of Mother’s Day. I was delighted and surprised to learn on my first Mother’s Day as a mom that I would be flooded with love, support and well-wishes not just from family, but from friends. Thank you.

Mitt, Assault Weapons and Single Parents

Last night, Mitt Romney appeared to blame mass shootings on single-parent families.

His non-sequitur response to debate moderator “Don’t You Silence Me” Candy Crowley’s delightfully rogue question as to whether the Republican presidential nominee would support the reinstatement of expired bans on assault weaponry that used to enjoy Republican support is important for several reasons.

1. We have a fundamental violence problem.

Violence cuts across poverty, it cuts across wealth, it cuts across privilege. The problem is not who does it but that we as a culture refuse to confront guns, we refuse to confront dominance, we refuse to confront the reality that the only accomplishment of the sham war on drugs is the mass incarceration of African American men. Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan and his House Republicans buddies refuse to reauthorize 18 years of bipartisan support for the Violence Against Women Act. It is as dangerous to lay the blame for violence on the feet of single parents as it is to lay it on Marilyn Manson, because naming a black sheep is exactly how to pull attention away from the fact the whole farm is burning.

2. It’s time to get real about guns.

Whether you are a PhD student in Aurora, a mentally ill undergrad in Virginia, two Littleton high school students from wealthy two-parent families, an abuser whose girlfriend is trying to leave, or frankly anyone in the United States, guns are easier to get your hands on than the more popular Happy Meal toys. The Supreme Court is an outpost of the National Rifle Association devoted to trampling the rights of local governments to regulate guns. There is not a single defensible reason to have assault weapons on the consumer market. In this climate, the gun lobby sits there smugly like a Grover Norquist of mass death above the silence of elected officials. No action was taken after a sitting member of Congress was shot.

3. Basically, Mitt told those slutty women to put assault weapons between the knees.

Single parent families are part of life, and a class divide is at work. More than 40 percent of births take place outside a marriage, with just 10 percent of those attributed to college-educated women. Last night Mitt outright lied about his well-documented intention to allow employers to dictate which women can get birth control and which can’t, and it’s also unclear how his plan to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, his desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, and his running mates’ assertion that rape is a “method of conception” will increase two-parent families so there won’t be any more violence.

Let’s face it, people are driven to have consensual sex (how fun!) and half the population is encouraged to grow up with toy guns and violent entertainment until they too are big enough to carry a concealed AK-47 wherever they want.

For some time Mitt Romney has appeared to agree with those who believe a woman with an IUD is committing mass murder for years at a time. What is most frightening is that now he is saying a woman who raises children without the watchful eye of a man is responsible for mass murder in our streets, schools and movie theaters.


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