Category: culture

Mom’s health matters too

Eamon sleep“Breast is best!” is akin to “Back to sleep!” as the most overused phrase for a healthy baby.

My son eats about 82% breast milk (I’ve done the math)…and I hate that it’s not 100%. I pump at work, I breastfeed at home, I try to make ‘enough.’ It is stressful. Since he is a preemie, there’s even more pressure to give him the ‘perfect’ food to make up for his early arrival.

I actually LIKE breast feeding, but it’s time-consuming, energy-depleting and sleep-depriving. I don’t have a solution to the guilt, but articles like this one from The Washington Post help:

Doctor says: When it comes to breastfeeding, your health and happiness matter as much as your baby’s – By Vivien K. Burt, Sonya Rasminsky and Robin Berman

Whoever said, “Don’t cry over spilled milk” couldn’t possibly have been talking about breast milk. As reproductive psychiatrists who specialize in treating women who suffer from depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum, we see far too many tearful new mothers for whom breastfeeding is a source of self-recrimination.

Doggedly determined to provide breast milk exclusively for their babies, these moms endure breast and nipple pain, around the clock pumping, sleep deprivation, anxiety, and chronic feelings of inadequacy—all for the sake of doing what’s “best” for their babies. As physicians, we think we know better, but as mothers, we too bought into the dogma that breast is best at all costs. We would never have taken our own advice: when it comes to breastfeeding, your health and happiness matter as much as your baby’s.

Sheepishly we recently shared our secret stories of shame with one another:

“I proudly accumulated a freezerful of stored breast milk by routinely pumping immediately after nursing. I was happy that my baby never had to have formula, and I was devastated when I had to throw away gallons of expired milk. To this day, I have deep regret about my choices. I wish that I had never bought the pump; my time would have been better spent bonding with my baby.”

“When I went back to work when my baby was five months old, I was so ashamed that I had switched to formula, I lied to all my friends and coworkers.”

“For me, nursing was harder than medical school. My milk was slow to come in and my baby howled whenever I put him to the breast. It hurt so much that I cried. I was so determined to feed him breast milk that I didn’t realize that he was getting dehydrated. Even when he was hospitalized with an IV, I felt that my most important task was to try to pump milk for him. In retrospect, I wish that I had transitioned to formula—we both would have been happier.”

Sharing these stories, we wished that we had put less pressure on ourselves. Despite our knowledge about the importance of maternal mental well-being to healthy mother-baby bonding, we let shame and guilt eclipse our good sense.

Read the full article

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

I’m feeling miffed this morning at the lack of awareness for health equity. I first read this piece during ‘Sociology of the Family’ my freshman year at college, and it profoundly impacted my worldview. The full list of 50 ways white privilege is hidden is available online.


White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
by Peggy McIntosh

“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness,
not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group”

DAILY EFFECTS OF WHITE PRIVILEGE

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair. 
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs
of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.

Peggy McIntosh is associate director of the Wellesley Collage Center for Research on Women. This essay is excerpted from Working Paper 189. “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies” (1988), by Peggy McIntosh; available for $4.00 from the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, Wellesley MA 02181. The working paper contains a longer list of privileges.

5 Things I Learned About Food This Week

In no particular order…

1. Switching to a low-carb diet results in brain fog (stupidity), flu-like symptoms of blarg, fatigue like mono, irritability and spending lots of time thinking about food. Apparently this allll goes away, and with it, pounds! It’s magic, they say! But here in the land of low-carb day 8, I just want to sleep and get my throat to stop hurting.

2. The term ‘alcohol sugar‘ is just a fancy name for ‘artificial sweeteners.’ There’s not even alcohol involved. Examples of sugar alcohol to look for are:

  • Erythritol
  • Glycerol (also known as glycerin or glycerine)
  • hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
  • isomalt
  • lactitol
  • maltitol
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol

3. There’s a guy who wants to make food – and eating – obsolete. Given the vast energy I spend making, planning and feeling bad about food decisions, this appeals to the utilitarian in me. But not to the gastro-bliss fairy who sighs over hot bread and fresh butter. (I’m HUNGRY). For more thoughts on the irony of creating soy-based fake ‘food,’ check out this piece on the ethics of food in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake.

4. The infamous ‘Dirty Dozen’ may not be so bad. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the following have the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy organic versions:

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Hot peppers

However,  the Journal of Toxicology folks disagree over the significance of the pesticides, “We concur with EWG President Kenneth Cook who maintains that “We recommend that people eat healthy by eating more fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic,” but our findings do not indicate that substituting organic forms of the “Dirty Dozen” commodities for conventional forms will lead to any measurable consumer health benefit.”

5. Which pulls me full circle back to Michael Pollan’s thoughts: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

10 Lessons for Your 30’s

I liked this piece from Mark Manson, “10 Life Lessons to Excel In Your 30’s” — even if the title doesn’t roll off the tongue. I’ve captured the 10 points below, and encourage you to read the full piece.

1. Start Saving for Retirement Now, Not Later

2. Start Taking Care of Your Health Now, Not Later

3. Don’t Spend Time with People Who Don’t Treat You Well

4. Be Good to the People You Care About

5. You Can’t Have Everything; Focus On Doing a Few Things Really Well

6. Don’t Be Afraid of Taking Risks, You Can Still Change

7. You Must Continue to Grow and Develop Yourself

8. Nobody (Still) Knows What They’re Doing, Get Used to It

9. Invest in Your Family; It’s Worth It

10. Be Kind to Yourself, Respect Yourself

 

Tattoo Parlors > Mall Kiosks for Piercings

I read this great piece in TIME on why tattoo parlors are better for piercings. My first piercing was the ears. Like many

Ear Piercing Gun

girls my age, I was absolutely dying to be deemed grown up enough to pierce my ears. My dreams came true on my 7th birthday: I remember sitting in the lavender chair in a Claire’s at the mall, the odor of rubbing alcohol heavy and my ear lobes cold, trying not to squirm while a woman put a dot on each ear and shot an earring through a piercing gun. I clenched my eyes tight and hoped that the dots would be parallel and centered, or ‘straight’ in 7-year old speak.

I admit a bias towards tattoo and piercing parlors: my undergraduate honors thesis was on the gender differences in piercing preferences, and involved a number of interviews at local businesses. I found shop owners and artists to be respectful, honest and scrupulous about sanitation — which I can’t say for any mall kiosk on the planet. When I got a nose piercing and entered the world of body jewelry purchasing, I found businesses ready to offer advice and suggestions, often with simple instructions and easy DIY recommendations.

In sum: save time and headache and likely money – go to a tattoo parlor for all your piercings. 

Why I Took My 7-Year-Old to a Tattoo Parlor

By Bonnie Rochman
“Last month, following a long period of girlish cajoling, my daughter finally got her ears pierced in celebration of her 7th birthday. The setting was not the traditional mall kiosk staffed by some bored and minimally trained 16-year-old. Instead I took my daughter to a tattoo parlor.

Surprised they even allow 7-year-olds in those kinds of places? Think again. A growing number of parents are apparently turning to tattoo parlors to bejewel their children’s little lobes. I didn’t come up with this crazy idea out of the blue; I’m a reporter, after all: I researched where to take Shira and weighed the pros and cons. I found that tattoo parlors — despite the blaring heavy metal music — were mom-approved by a local parenting email list. When even a nurse cast her vote in favor of the tattoo parlor, I deliberated no longer.

“There is a stigma attached to tattoo parlors that they’re dirty and will be bombarded by foul-mouthed people,” says Sarah LaRoe, a mom with multiple facial piercings and tattoos creeping up her neck, who pierced my little girl’s ears so tenderly that she left her not in tears but with a big, happy smile on her face.

Contrary to what you might think, tattoo parlors — at least the one I went to — are actually bastions of cleanliness. Some states regulate them, and reputable ones use disposable needles and sterilize all their equipment in an autoclave. In contrast, mall piercers and many jewelry stores use piercing guns that have been associated with complications and can’t be completely sterilized. Armed with that knowledge, which would you choose?

While some parents might be freaked out by the idea of taking their kid to a tattoo parlor, I looked upon the outing as an adventure, joking with my daughter about getting a Hello Kitty tattoo for mom. What I didn’t expect was that the experience would evolve into a lesson in tolerance. In that unnerving way little kids have of speaking their mind, Shira took an initial look at LaRoe and stage-whispered: “I think she looks ugly like that.”

I immediately flashed her my scary mom eyes to signal her to clam up. But later, after we’d left the store, her comment served as an opportunity to point out that just because someone looks different, it doesn’t mean she’s not a good person. LaRoe, regardless of her unconventional piercings, was super-professional and extremely kind.

For professional piercers like LaRoe, who stick needles through noses, eyebrows, tongues and nether regions, ears are the most mundane of piercing locations. But that doesn’t mean they don’t take it seriously. LaRoe spent nearly an hour with us, versus the quick in-and-out that I remember from getting my ears pierced at the mall as a girl. Before leading us into the piercing room — which looked just like a doctor’s office — LaRoe handed the birthday girl a bag with a lollipop, which expertly distracted Shira from being overly nervous about what was going on.

The bag also contained non-iodized sea salt and instructions for mom on how to mix a saline solution to clean newly pierced ears. Unlike the alcohol that mall kiosks recommend for cleaning, salty water doesn’t burn.

Now for the gory details: at tattoo parlors, piercers use hypodermic needles to core out a sliver of skin, making room for an earring — a relatively painless procedure. In contrast, at the mall, the piercer uses a gun that painfully jams a blunt-tipped earring stud into the ear lobe; the process does not remove skin, but effectively pushes it aside.

LaRoe is so convinced of the superiority of needles over piercing guns that she’s signed petitions to ban the guns; one such petition makes the case that “only cowboys use guns.” In her quest to reform the ear-piercing industry, LaRoe leaves her business card at schools and pediatricians’ offices. When she takes her own son to the doctor, she’ll frequently get questions about her multiple piercings; sometimes she gets customers that way too.

Ultimately, though, change starts parent by parent, through word of mouth. “It kind of acts like a trendsetter,” says LaRoe. “All it takes is one little girl who goes to school and says it didn’t hurt.”

It didn’t hurt? Well, maybe a little. But so little that Shira didn’t even blink when LaRoe pierced her first ear. During the procedure, LaRoe had her do some deep, yoga-like breathing, which Shira is familiar with from her weekly yoga class. In and out, in — pierce! Of course, the lollipop helped too.”

Kindness Is Free

I’m not a mom but I am a woman, and I am embarrassed to admit how often I contribute to catty commentary and girl-on-girl meanness. Mostly it’s limited to internal dialogue or snarky comments; I’m not one of THOSE girls who actually writes cruel internet posts or insults someone to their face (see, it just comes out). Anyhooo… I dug this piece from the Huffington Post about what we can teach young girls – and ourselves – about treating others with respect.

Are You Teaching Your Daughter to Be A Mean Girl?
by Lyndsi Frandsen

One night, during my senior year of high school, I received a text message from a group of girls telling me I was fat and needed to lose weight.

At the time I felt bad and embarrassed for them. It honestly stunned me that people could be so downright mean and insecure. Now that I am married with a daughter of my own, my thoughts about it have slightly shifted. I find myself wondering about those girls’ moms. Where were they? And why didn’t they teach their daughters to be kind?

Years later, I ran into one of those girls at the store. We both had our young daughters with us. I didn’t have ill feelings toward her and honestly assumed that we had both moved past the petty immaturity that tends to accompany those high school relationships. We were both wives and mothers now. Surely things that happened then would seem silly now — even laughable. So, in passing, I said hello.

Nothing.

With a cold glance, and without a word, she walked away.

I was stunned.

It was at that moment, I realized two things:

1. Mean girls grow up to be mean moms.
2. Little girls learn from their moms how to be mean girls.

This “mean girl” gene doesn’t come on intentionally. I don’t think there are many people who pride themselves on being mean. However, we live in a technology-driven world that, in my opinion, breeds competitive feelings and makes that mean behavior all too common.

Social media has created an atmosphere where people feel entitled to peek in on every aspect of your life. People feel entitled to say whatever they want. I cannot tell you how many times I have observed mothers, via social media, being downright nasty to one another about anything and everything. It is shocking and sad. But if it starts with us, it has to end with us. It’s our responsibility, as mothers, to do everything in our power to make sure we aren’t (even unknowingly) raising mean girls.

Be aware of yourself. Being a teacher, I can assure you that your children hear you. (And often quote you.) They observe you. They mimic you. They hear you tell your husband how that woman on Facebook “is so full of herself.” They listen when you are on the phone with your girlfriend gossiping about the mom down the street. They even take in the critical things you say about your own appearance. They hear you. And then they become a product of everything they hear — a product of you.

Teach them how to give a compliment. Doesn’t this seem so simple? Complimenting is a lost art. We live in a self-centered society, and it shows. By teaching your children how to compliment others (and themselves), you are encouraging them to find things they like about other people.

Encourage positive conversation. I am a firm believer that when we start being pessimistic and negative, we train our brains to automatically think that way. By encouraging and participating in positive conversations with our daughters, we can help train them to think in an optimistic way. It’s hard to be mean when you see life and see others in a positive light.

Teach them to root for the underdog. I have my mom to thank for this life lesson. When we were growing up, my mom would always remind us to “root/cheer/vote for the underdog.” Whether it was during student council elections, team tryouts or just a regular day, she would always say that to us as we got out of the car. Promoting this message teaches children to be aware of others. It will teach them kindness and empathy. And think of it this way: At some point in time, we will all be the underdog. How would you want to be treated?

Praise niceness. Nice is a simple world. So simple, its powerful meaning often goes unnoticed. Growing up, “Because Nice Matters” was our family motto. My mom plastered the phrase all around the house, and now I have done the same. Being nice does matter. We need to make kindness a conscious lesson. We need to compliment our daughters when they demonstrate kindness. In a world that values looks, achievements, accomplishments and awards, let your home value kindness.

I hope one day, if I run into that high school acquaintance again, she will accept the smile I throw her way. But even if she doesn’t, I’m just going to keep on smiling. After all, nobody is perfect. But everyone can be nice.

Facebook in a Time of Divorce

I found out I was getting divorced through Facebook. Well, kinda. This is what I learned about online etiquette for really big life events.

Monday started like any other: snag coffee, check work email, putz around online. I signed into Facebook and stopped breathing. There, in the center of my news feed, broadcast to absolutely everyone: “He has changed his status. He is no longer married.” My heart thudded, my stomach dropped, my eyebrows shot up. I mean, yes, we’d had the conversation but this felt like a kick in the gut; it was so public, so final, so soon.

I swallowed a small hysterical snort of realization that I was now married to someone not married to me. Is that even possible? I clearly needed to fix it, pronto. Frantically I sought out our barely 21 year-old colleague and explained in a rush of words, “Hi I need your help I’m getting divorced and he just unmarried me now I need to change my status but not broadcast it and I don’t really want any status posted at all but do you know how and can you show me?” A nervous laugh, the briefest of apologies and in 15 seconds we were done. I feebly thanked him and promised to buy the next round of coffees.

Like the wave of an unwelcome fairy wand, I went from married to unmarried with a deft stroke. I mean, we knew each other for over 10 years, were married for 5-plus years, our families lived 45 minutes apart for crying out loud! Isn’t there some decorum, some etiquette, a precedent on how to publicly dissolve your joint lives? Apparently not. Somehow surprise un-marrying your spouse with a global announcement hardly seems the ticket.

Advice in five online spaces:

1. Emails to Socialize – as a Couple. Our former friends and housemates sent us an email announcing their engagement and asking us to come out for a drink to celebrate. I stared at the email and in a very toddler tantrum way, internally declared that I would NOT be the one to reply because I didn’t create this situation, why should I have to craft some benign excuse? He put his degree in English literature to use and wrote a brief, poised email explaining that we were no longer together, but wished them the very best. I laughed at the kindness in his words which for so long had been absent from our conversations. But really, it was fine. I just wish we’d made a game plan, but then again, I didn’t know that I needed one….

Read the other tips on The Huffington Post Divorce Blog

Bangladeshi Pumpkin and Shrimp

As I’ve mentioned before, my book club pairs food themes with our reading materials. For October, we read Max Brooks’  World War Z in honor of Halloween, and since it’s an international tale, our gracious hostess made a plethora of Bangladeshi food. This pumpkin and shrimp dish was everyone’s favorite and we begged for the recipe.
TIP from the hostess and chef: “I am not good at measuring or using recipes. I always just call my mom when I am in doubt.”

Ingredients

1/2 Pumpkin, cut into slices or large cubes (find it in H-mart or any Asian store), seeded
1-2 lbs uncooked Shrimp
3 TBS Vegetable oil

1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Red chili powder
1 tsp Cumin seed paste
1 tsp Ginger paste
1 tsp Garlic paste
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp Sugar
Salt
Water

Directions
1. Saute the shrimps in oil in the same pan, then add onion, garlic, ginger and cumin. Stir thoroughly. Then add turmeric powder, chili powder and salt and sugar stir continuously.
2. Pour in 1 cup of water and bring it to a boil. Add sliced pumpkin and cook on high heat for 20 minutes.
3. Stir everything and put a lid on the pot. Keep cooking for another 5-10 minutes on low heat. Test with a fork to see if pumpkin is soft if it is then it is done. There shouldn’t be much water left.
4. Garnish with fresh cilantro and green chillies. Serve over steaming saffron rice.