Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dear Non-Pregnant Person,
I hope you find these guidelines helpful in your interactions with pregnant women, as failing to follow them may result in serious physical harm. If you are thinking, surely she doesn’t mean me – then you should probably read this twice.

1. The appropriate response to a couple telling you they are having a baby is ‘Congratulations!’ with enthusiasm. Any other response makes you a jerk.

2. Through the wonders of science, we now know that babies are made ONLY by the mother and father – not grandparents. Unless the baby is in your uterus or you are the man that helped put it there, you may not ever use the phrase ‘my baby’.

3. On the same note, unless you made the baby as defined in 2, the pregnancy, birth, and raising of the child are not about you. You do not have input. No one wants to hear your opinion unless they ask for it…

4. The body of a pregnant woman should be treated the same as any other body. You would not randomly touch someone’s stomach if they were not pregnant, nor would you inquire into the condition of their uterus, cervix, or how they plan to use their breasts. Pregnancy does not remove all traces of privacy from a woman.

5. Likewise, no woman wants to hear comments on her weight…ever. A pregnant woman does not find it flattering that you think she is about is pop, must be having twins, looks swollen or has gained weight in her face. Telling her she looks too small only makes her worry that she is somehow starving her baby. Making such comments invite her to critique your physical appearance and you may not act offended. The only acceptable comment on appearance is ‘You look fabulous!’.

6. By the time we are 20-30 years old, most of us have picked up on the fact that the summer is hot. We are hot every summer when we are not pregnant. We don’t need you to point out that we will be miserably hot before the baby comes. Nor do we need to know how badly you will feel for us because we will be pregnant during the summer and how glad you are that YOU will not be pregnant this coming summer.

7. There is a reason that tickets to Labor & Delivery are not yet sold on Ticketmaster. Childbirth is actually not a public event. It may sound crazy, but some women really do not relish the idea of their mother, MIL, or a host of other family members seeing their bare butt and genitals. Also, some people simply feel like the birth of their child is a private and emotional moment to be shared only by the parents. You weren’t invited to be there when the baby was created, you probably won’t be invited to be there when it comes out either.

8. Like everything else in life, unless you receive an invitation, you are NOT invited. This includes doctor appointments, ultrasounds, labor, delivery, the hospital, and the parent’s home. You do not decide if you will be there for the birth or if you will move in with the new parents to ‘help out’. If your assistance is desired, rest assured that you will be asked for it.

9. If you are asked to help after the birth, this means you should clean up the house, help with cooking meals, and generally stay out of the way. Holding the baby more than the parents, interfering with breastfeeding and sleeping schedules, and making a woman who is still leaking fluid from multiple locations lift a finger in housework is not helping.

10. The only people entitled to time with the baby are the parents. Whether they choose to have you at the hospital for the birth or ask for you to wait three weeks to visit, appreciate that you are being given the privilege of seeing their child. Complaining or showing disappointment only encourages the parents to include you less.

All the Pregnant Women in the World

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Mom-Judging Olympics: A competition nobody meant to enter

The Mom-Judging Olympics: A competition nobody meant to enter

What do moms judge each other for?

Courtesy of Sara Keeler

Sara Keeler, with her sons Gabriel and Joseph, calls motherhood 'a competition nobody meant to enter.'

The real question is, what don’t we judge each other for?

Nearly 90 percent of us judge other moms, for everything from breast-feeding habits to bratty kids, our TODAY Moms/ survey of 26,000 moms found.

As one mom told us, motherhood is “a competition nobody meant to enter.”

Didn’t try to breast-feed? One in 5 moms will judge you for that. But if you breast-feed for “too long” – say, nursing a 3-year-old -- you get judged too, by 43 percent of moms.

Other ways to get mommy-judged: Have a bratty kid (66 percent of moms will judge you harshly); have an overweight child (37 percent); let your child have too much TV/video game screen time (32 percent); feed your kid junky food (34 percent).

In the Mom Judging Olympics, nobody wins.

Most moms try to shrug off the judgment, but it can really get to you. Lawna Hurl, mom of two daughters in Alberta, Canada, says she went back to work after six months in part because she couldn’t take the constant, unspoken competition.

“I didn’t like being around other moms ‘cause I often felt inferior,” she explained. “It saddens me that among moms there is so much judgment – no matter what you do it seems someone is judging.”

(Of course, now she might get judged for “working too much” – one in five says this is a mommy no-no.)

Parenting expert Wendy Mogel, author of “The Blessings of a Skinned Knee,” says part of what’s fueling the mom judge-a-thon is what psychologists call “displacement.” The world is a scary place, and we can’t control things like the economy free-falling. But we can control our choices as a parent – so we attach way too much significance to them.

Rachel Fishman Feddersen of and NBC News chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman talk about the lengths some moms will go to get a break from their children, some of which are surprisingly extreme.

“Mothers are judging themselves and judging others to make themselves feel a little better,” Mogel said. “We’re all trying to look good, and we want our kids to look good and impress others.”

Lacey Davis, a mom in West Virginia, says she hates to admit how judgmental she is. “When I go to other moms’ homes I do the quick once-over and pick apart things and almost go down this checklist I carry in my head. Dishes in sink, floors not swept, no sweeper lines in carpet,” she told “I HATE this about myself because I know if I am doing it, then so is everyone else that comes to MY house!”

But the harshest critic usually lies within. Sara Keeler, a mother of two boys in Gillette, Wyo., describes motherhood as “a competition nobody meant to enter.”

Courtesy of Lawna Hurl

Lawna Hurl's two daughters.

She plays along, sometimes – when company is coming, she’ll race through the house and shove all the clutter into closets, so people think she’s an OK housekeeper. The pressure to be the perfect mom feels heavy, she says.

“We all want to be the best at what we do,” Keeler says. “We conLinksciously and unconsciously compare ourselves, and our children, to every other mother and child we come in contact with.”

Brigette Dineen, a mom of two from the Cleveland, Ohio, area, bemoans the “Eye of Judgment” that seems to follow moms everywhere. She chalks up the pressure on moms today in part to information overload: We have so many resources, from prenatal yoga classes to umpteen child-rearing books to educational videos and BPA warnings, that we expect perfection from ourselves and our families.

“So why are our kids still sometimes brats?” she wonders. “Newsflash – they’re kids and that’s what they do.”

I will readily admit I am a judger. I try not to, but I am human. Therefore I judge.

I don't judge a mom for not breastfeeding or breastfeeding for "too long". I didn't try that hard with Dianna, and made it more than a year with Genevieve.

I do judge a little for bratty kids. I understand that kids will have behavior issues at various times in their lives and that you can only do so much before it borderlines abuse.

I do not judge co-sleepers, because I KNOW how much easier it makes getting sleep when you have a young child.

I do judge people with overweight kids, because I think that most of the time it goes hand in hand with feeding your kids junk food and not making sure they get enough exercise. Take into account my stepdaughter Hailyn. She is overweight. She is definitely a hefty girl. She prefers to eat junky food, and turns her nose up at alot of food that Mike and I fix her to eat. I truly worry that when she starts school very soon, that she will be made fun of for her size and her quirks. She is rather spoiled, and it kind of hurts me that we can only do so much about it at our house and then she goes home to something totally different. Sad thing is, she is pretty much the same size (shirt and shorts) as her almost 8 year old half-sister and she won't be 5 until Sunday.

I am constantly working on becoming a better person and parent, but as most people know, it is a very slow journey.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Motherhood Is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank)

Motherhood Is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank)

A few years ago, when I just had four children and when the oldest was still three, I loaded them all up to go on a walk. After the final sippy cup had found a place and we were ready to go, my two-year-old turned to me and said, “Wow! You have your hands full!”

She could have just as well said, “Don’t you know what causes that?” or “Are they all yours?!”

Everywhere you go, people want to talk about your children. Why you shouldn’t have had them, how you could have prevented them, and why they would never do what you have done. They want to make sure you know that you won’t be smiling anymore when they are teenagers. All this at the grocery store, in line, while your children listen.

A Rock-Bottom Job?

The truth is that years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law.

Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing.

If you grew up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood, to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children. How much have we listened to partial truths and half lies? Do we believe that we want children because there is some biological urge, or the phantom “baby itch”? Are we really in this because of cute little clothes and photo opportunities? Is motherhood a rock-bottom job for those who can’t do more, or those who are satisfied with drudgery? If so, what were we thinking?

It's Not a Hobby

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.

Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.

Our culture is simply afraid of death. Laying down your own life, in any way, is terrifying. Strangely, it is that fear that drives the abortion industry: fear that your dreams will die, that your future will die, that your freedom will die—and trying to escape that death by running into the arms of death.

Run to the Cross

But a Christian should have a different paradigm. We should run to to the cross. To death. So lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have had by yourself. Let it go.

Death to yourself is not the end of the story. We, of all people, ought to know what follows death. The Christian life is resurrection life, life that cannot be contained by death, the kind of life that is only possible when you have been to the cross and back.

The Bible is clear about the value of children. Jesus loved them, and we are commanded to love them, to bring them up in the nurture of the Lord. We are to imitate God and take pleasure in our children.

The Question Is How

The question here is not whether you are representing the gospel, it is how you are representing it. Have you given your life to your children resentfully? Do you tally every thing you do for them like a loan shark tallies debts? Or do you give them life the way God gave it to us—freely?

It isn’t enough to pretend. You might fool a few people. That person in line at the store might believe you when you plaster on a fake smile, but your children won’t. They know exactly where they stand with you. They know the things that you rate above them. They know everything you resent and hold against them. They know that you faked a cheerful answer to that lady, only to whisper threats or bark at them in the car.

Children know the difference between a mother who is saving face to a stranger and a mother who defends their life and their worth with her smile, her love, and her absolute loyalty.

Hands Full of Good Things

When my little girl told me, “Your hands are full!” I was so thankful that she already knew what my answer would be. It was the same one that I always gave: “Yes they are—full of good things!”

Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.

Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone.

Rachel Jankovic is a wife, homemaker, and mother. She is the author of "Loving the Little Years" and blogs at Femina. Her husband is Luke, and they have five children: Evangeline (5), Daphne (4), Chloe (2), Titus (2), and Blaire (5 months).