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Month of May Mothers: And Daughters.

To my female students: You are a complicated lot. Every year, I learn more about myself through your eyes than perhaps I ever have in any class or seminar. In you, I see the young teenager I once was, including the pettiness, grudge-holding, gossipy side, of which I was often on the receiving end. But in most of you, I see young ladies who are so intelligent, kind hearted, honest, and generous of soul and spirit. It is your confidence in your voice, and in your futures, that you perceive as weakening you — but don’t you see? That is really where your strength is! When you share a wish, a hope, a sadness–you are so strong in the risks you take, and all I can say is I will stand back in awe at the women you will become someday.

Many of you complain about your mothers. The complaints are as old as time itself: Your mother doesn’t trust you. Your mother is over-protective. Your mother is mean, yells too much, dresses too old, dresses too young, or doesn’t remember what it was like to be your age. I know. Being around you girls constantly has me in a flux, as well: you make me remember what it was like to be a middle-and high-school girl, and it was most certainly not without its share of drama. I am the oldest daughter of a family of three girls. My mom and I could have some blow-outs. And, as it happens to so many women, the older I get, the more I am like her, and the more I shrug off her quirks, because they are my own. We inherit more from our parents than eye color or a propensity for pistachio ice cream. Right now, I can’t really remember why those battles were so hard-fought. Is it because the bad choices girls make are so much more damaging? Forgoing education for a fickle boyfriend, or that the mythology of MRS degrees are false and dangerous?

We see in our mothers, as daughters, the women we may become. And sometimes we don’t really understand what we’re seeing, so we push, claw, bite, and kick emotionally to be something else, to be someone else. But since we’re still trying to figure out who that is, therein lies the rub.

Look in your own mirror, and sort out the goodness, the intelligence, and the capacity for your own choices and their consequences, but please, respect your mother. She has seen around a few corners, and has fought the battles before, and for, you.

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Month of May Mothers: Maternity.

Could we judge the progressive or advanced level of a civilization based on the amount of time a society gives new mothers time to bond with their babies? How do countries handle maternity leave?

Many studies have shown that those first few months with a new baby are some of the most important in terms of health for the mother, and for the baby. Feeding, sleep, and time to heal are so important. I remember when I had my first child; I saved up every day of vacation, every sick day, so I could afford to take off a month. A month.

I didn’t know my baby would be sixteen days late, weigh 12.1lbs. and I would have to dig into the precious time. My husband was freelancing at the time, so time off was and wasn’t an issue per se. But I worked for a small company, and there was no paid leave. In fact, I offended one of my bosses by even asking what the policy was before I even began to plan for a family.

The fantasy of having a Swedish-level of materinity leave (I’ve read anywhere from 90 weeks to two years) seems almost inconceivable here in the States. We pride ourselves on our heritage of hearty pioneer women, full of manifest destiny and filling up a houseful with children, aka farm hands.

My grandmothers both were shocked that I and my sisters were booted out of hospitals after 24-36 hours of having our babies; back in their day, they stayed in the hospital for a week or more before returning home. For some women, that was the only ‘vacation’ they ever received.

I will never forget a conversation I had with an HR person at that job. My boss had looked over the books and thought I took an extra day that I shouldn’t be paid for.

I am not exaggerating about this.

I was exhausted, tired, physically and emotionally on a post-partum rollercoaster, and yet, was still asked if I owed them. Bursting into angry tears and yelling about what they could do with the question was my response.

To make matters worse, my mother and mother-in-law lived states away; they couldn’t help.

We teachers/educators sometimes go tsk-tsk at how parents aren’t as involved in their children’s lives as we might otherwise hope. But perhaps until we as a country say we are stronger when we help new mothers and babies become stronger, we will be weaker for it. If we treat mothers and babies as weak-links, as another commodity or burden to the production line, no wonder we’re seeing the issues with school and families that we are. We reap what we sow.

I know some of my friends and family members just see this as more liberal tripe, that somehow my postion is weakening capitalism and its ‘rights’ (because corporations do have rights you know – the Supreme Court says so).

But if you can seriously say it’s better for a new mom to hand her baby over to a day-care provider one month after the baby’s born than to stay home, heal, sleep, and smile at her baby, then I would strongly urge you to look at your own priorities.

Some articles:

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Month of May Mothers: Money

VintagePocketbookWhat is it with moms and money? These are all generalizations, of course, but gee, can we stretch a buck like nobody’s business. When we’ve been flush with the green prosperity of payday, or flushed down the money pit, there always seems to be  just enough. Old quotes, such as “A father carries pictures where his money used to be.  ~Author Unknown” are sweet, but with most mothers pulling double-or triple-duty as parents, providers, and popsicle supplier, most moms don’t have time to notice there’s no money, or time to get another photograph taken.

If I dig deep, real deep, in my purse, I can always find some Mary Poppins-esque miracle. A piece of gum. A few quarters. Or a bandage. Digging deeper still, a checkbook that’ll cover a night’s pizza fest, or a credit card that’s been paid off. We can get to where we need to go. I’ve got it covered.