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A Little Bit of Learning Goes a Long Way

While planning what to write next, I realized how entrenched, and often unquestioned, motherhood ideals are. My thoughts of what a mother is "supposed" to be. Are those my own thoughts? Is that who I am as a mother? This external judgement criteria - where is it coming from?
I was in the doctor's office when my son was a couple of weeks old. The doctor asked me how I was doing. I had to be honest. I was stressed - and not because of my son. He was just a baby being a baby with his needs and nothing more.
I was stressed because I was looking for answers from others, and for validation that I was a good mother. But everything I read or heard was a critique. I realized that no matter what I did, according to someone, it wasn't enough according to someone else.

I told her, "I just want to be his mother! I don't care about all the rules I'm supposed to follow. I just want him to know that I love him and be the best mother I can be. But there are so many rules and I can't follow them all because they contradict each other!"
She said, quite rightly, "you ask 15 different lactation consultants what to do, and you'll get 15 different answers. You ask 15 different doctors what's right, and you'll get 15 different answers. Just be his mother. You know what's best for him. Look at the child, not at the charts."

She knew what I needed. I needed the validation that not following all the rules is okay. She gave that to me. I wanted validation that I was a good mother, even if I was ignoring advice from others. What I needed was to trust myself. *


I've never been a person to just blindly accept what's handed to me. I've also never been great at just trusting myself. I always have this nagging sense of doubt. Sometimes it's as simple as, "the advice I just received could have flaws in it" and then I sometimes I look for the potential flaws, rather than the actual point. The reason I do this is when I was young, I was told, repeatedly, what life was like. But, through living, I realized that life was not as advertised. At least, not to me.
This lead me to the conclusion that life, according to one person is just that. Only according to one person and there are billions of lives in the world.
So... why do we think there is only one "right" way to do something?
Why are we uncomfortable with plurality? Differences? Variation?

Which brings me to my next thought.
It has become, weirdly-suddenly, clear to me just how saturated American women are in a male perspective.

The singular perspective presented in American society is problematic. Not only this perspective, but our perception of this perspective as well.
Meta.

Ideals are reinforced through society. If a kid repeats the answer to, say, a history question and gets it "correct", a reward of some kind ensues. The kid thinks, "Oh, I got it right. I like being right. It's good!" and this reinforces what "right" is. That's a perception of the perspective. What is "right".

Now, the version of American history generally taught in schools is fraught with error.
Not dates. I mean, dates and names are correct, mostly.
But interpretation is often almost entirely one-sided. Important, large parts are left out, like the colonization and white-washing of entire tribes. And worse, massacres of Natives are just a foot note of the American story. Men stealing women's achievements as their own. There's a lot left out, suffice it to say.
But, get the answers "right" and you're rewarded.
My point is this: the system was set up, and we unwittingly keep feeding the beast. Why? because we're ignorant, ultimately. And we're fine with that, because there's a thumbs up sticker for us.
This is not to say that everything taught in schools is wrong. But is school and our education system the best it can be? Is it the way we want to grow our children into the society we dream about?

Change the education. Change the narrative. Change the society.
Teachers, parents, and children are the MOST important people in our country.
Because what we teach young children when they are impressionable and eager to please, will be what they teach their children.

This brings me to what this post is about: Mothers have so much power. Though women are often side-lined, there's no reason it has to stay that way.
We are a child's first educator and their longest-lasting teacher. Father's, too, but I'm focusing on moms because they often get overlooked.
Education is the most powerful tool in a society. We should use it wisely. And that begins with mothers.

History is the story of a culture. What is the story we tell our children? What is the culture we're giving our children?

Sometimes, erasing culture is intentional. And how do they do it? Through school. Or killing people. Or both.
This happened in America for many generations and put the power into the white-male narrative. It persists today.
This isn't new. Erasing culture and people happens over and over again, with varying points of view, but right now, in America, we're living in the eon of the white-male perspective. I believe it to be the waning years of male machismo in this country: but only if people seize the moment and change it for the better.
Anyway: back to erasing culture. It's chilling how misunderstanding and hatred can persist for hundreds of years, simply because people accept what is "correct".
But why is this?
When was the lat time you were like, "Praise? Applause? No, thank you, I want to be unrecognized or punished for my work." No matter how off-the-beaten-path we are, sooner or later want to be accepted by someone.
When parents show disgust of other human beings, what would you think as a child?
It would be along the lines of, "I don't want Mom and Dad to think I'm disgusting! I want them to love me."
The next thought my follow, "I don't want Mom and Dad to think I'm like those other people."
To, "I'm not like those other people."
And there are the seeds of misunderstanding.
Not all children will think this way, but many do. The saying, "There is a fine line between love and hate" is very true.
In many cases, it's love and a desire for acceptance that sparks hatred.
I've experienced this.
If I'm out in the sun a few hours a week, I have darker skin.
We were playing soccer in a city league one Spring/Summer. We had a friend we hung out with from the league. One day, he stopped talking to us and we didn't know why. We found out when his mother felt compelled to  to tell my mother, unprovoked, that her children were not going to play with us any more because we had "dirty blood".
Before that, there was no difference between us and them. Then our skin darkened in the summer sun, and suddenly we were "dirty".
Our friend wrote us a letter, apologizing why he couldn't play with us any more. He apologized for his mother but he still did what she said, because he loved her. I hope he questioned her ideals, or at least tried to understand why she had them. Did she feel that way because she was fighting for acceptance? Was her father a racist and taught her that? How far back it goes is immaterial: what happens going forward is what matters.

This is using racism as an example, but it happens constantly in sexism, too.
Women are shown to be "less than". Mothers are painted into the background, and many accept this position. Some even paint themselves into it, with things like, "Whatever your father says."
Basically, what that's saying is,"What I think isn't important."

You. Are. Important. No matter who you are. But, especially, if you're a mother. Your child needs your guidance, your thoughts, and needs to know who you are and what you think.

Even the racist mother I encountered as a child, she was mean, but she was not afraid to say what she thought. I wish she had something more constructive to say, but I'm not her and I have no idea what her life was like. If she lived with hatred like that every day, I pity her.
But, she was outspoken, which I usually admire in people.

This is a long way to note...
When I started this blog, I thought it would be all about the good-feels of being a mother.
What I'm discovering is how much trouble we're in, as a society. I mean, American mothers are in some deep sh**. They are often more vulnerable to serial abuse, for one thing. Did you know pregnant woman is less likely to report abuse from her partner than a non-pregnant woman? And that,  "IPV [intimate partner violence] is the leading cause of injuries and death among US women of childbearing age." (source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2971723/)

This is coupled with the constant barrage of marketing and media about the "magicalness" of motherhood. And the peaceful, quiet nurseries, and "you need this maternity shirt!" and all the other useless garbage that companies try to peddle to make money off your insecurities as a parent.

Many pregnant women and mothers, are just trying to frickin' survive. And sugarcoating motherhood isn't going to make a difference. I have such a newfound respect for women, in general, since I've become a mother. I especially appreciate other mothers more than I did before. I also have a newfound frustration with anything hindering or preying upon mothers.

Motherhood. It's raw. It's painful. The children are beautiful. Life goes on. And damn, it's hard.

To all women, speak up, stand out, don't let yourself be invisible. Be visible and just be you.

Screw society's expectations. Don't live up to other people's expectations. Live up to your own. Be proud of yourself and carry your head high. No one else has lived your life.


My philosophy of motherhood continues in the next post.


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*My parents and sisters were very supportive, and never critical. They gave me encouragement, but because I didn't believe in myself, I couldn't mentally accept their support. I wasn't ready to believe them just yet. I felt like I had to "achieve" motherhood with study, research, and applying myself. Also, I doubted them because we're very close. In my mind, wouldn't that make them blind to my flaws? It's actually the opposite. They would know better than anyone else what my flaws are. We often think we're blind to the flaws of people we love, but that simply isn't true. We see them, but we love them in spite of the flaws. That's perfect and total love.

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