Motherhood is Madness Strategy 2: Don’t make women choose

Here is the SECOND strategy in my upcoming book. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!

MOTHERHOOD IS MADNESS – 13 WAYS TO FIND BALANCE AND FREE YOURSELF FROM THE STICKY FLOOR 

“It was (and perhaps in some places still is) quite common for people to say to the women who hire a substitute to care for her children, If you didn’t want to raise them, you shouldn’t have had them.” This kind of comment has never been directed to men.” (Greenburg, 77)

I can’t tell you how many times I have been told, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Although this typically means that I can’t have everything I want, or at least not at one time, for mothers today this message states very clearly: You cannot have children and a career, or at least not at the same time. It also says you should set your sights too high; you should not expect to both career and domestic happiness; and you should give up trying. This is never a message directed at men.

Throughout my entire career as a lawyer and academic, I was told in no uncertain terms that I had to choose between career and family. Often it was done in the most kind-hearted manner by well intending colleagues who wanted to save me from a tortured life. Sometimes it was spoken in a fatherly and quite patronizing way like, “Go home and look after your children”. Or “your children will grow up so fast!”  All adding to my guilt about possibly making bad or selfish choices when I simply wanted to be a whole human being.

I was told that I could either climb the corporate ladder or I could go home and look after children. In addition to this I was told that I would have to sacrifice my entire income, my career and sense of meaning and contribution to the larger world just because I wanted to spend more time with the people I love including my husband, children, relatives and friends. Wow! So much for choices.

For example, as a young lawyer I was told:

  • You cannot reduce your work hours without facing a severe career setback like loss of seniority and credibility.
  • Don’t expect the same proportionate income or upward career mobility if you choose to work part time.
  • If you want to be taken seriously as a lawyer you have to hire a full time nanny and house maker and rarely see your children.
  • You will find it almost impossible to get back into the practice of law if you leave for any length of time and will need to start at the bottom if you do return.
  • If you stop practicing law full time you will suffer big financial setbacks like loss of income, loss of seniority and loss of retirement savings.

Indeed when we make mothers to choose all or none – between children or paid work – we cause women serious harm. This is described by Leslie Bennetts in her book The Feminine Mistake as a type of psychological castration because the “choices” women face are quite simply, “unnatural.” Excessive work severs a mother from her need to be physically present in caring for her child and excessive motherhood severs a mother, not only from her ability to financially provide for her family but also from her sense of agency as a fully developing human.

Author Judith Warner suggests that asking mothers to choose one or the other, “does violence to mothers, splitting them unnaturally, within themselves” (Warner p 151)Now I realize that our society simply expects mothers to bear the full burden and cost of childrearing. We expect them to give up paid work or else keep a job but also carry the weight of children and home.  It’s not really evil, it’s just what we have come to accept as the status quo. Yet in other cultures they do not expect this of mothers.

Indeed if we truly wanted mothers to be well adjusted and happy, we would turn to the research that clearly shows, not surprisingly, that a mothers’ happiness depends on a number of factors and specifically:

As I look back, I understand better why I could get rid of the knot in my stomach that kept screaming: “It’s not fair; why should my husband get to do it all, but not me? Is it really my choice?” At the same time, I felt like I was being split in two. Like Meryl Streep in the movie, “Sophie’s Choice” who, during the Holocaust, was forced to choose between her two children, I felt like I was in a straight jacket. It took me seven years of reading and research to figure out why I felt this way and what was really going on.

Years ago I thought these comments made complete sense. I mean, if you don’t work, you don’t paid or promoted. I told myself that this is just the way things are and never thought to question this reality. I was a product of my socialisation had become convinced that the only way to earn good money was to do it in this particular way. I believed in Ayn Rand and her individualist market-economy theories. I believed that it would have been arrogant and selfish for me to ask anyone to accommodate me. Even my best friends told me things like: “It’s a tough choice, Maureen but it’s still your choice!” or worse yet, “Maybe you should just go home if you can’t stand the heat.”

  • The extent to which their husbands perform routine housework
  • The sense of control they have over their lives
  • The extent to which they feel their work is meaningful
  • The extent to which they have healthy relationships

It’s not surprising, therefore, that when a woman can chose to be either  be a lawyer, a caregiver or both a lawyer and caregiver, she will be happier. If she feels as though her ambitions are thwarted when she is caring for children, she will be unhappy.  Author Judith Warner, describes in her book “Perfect Madness” (Riverhead, 2006) not just women, but children and also husbands are better off when women have real choices.

In other words, when mothers are given the opportunity to work for pay and raise their children everyone wins. This is because there is no inherent conflict between providing for our children and nurturing them. As husbands’ experience shows, know, both are equally beneficial for children, husbands and the world.

The bottom line. We continue to tell women that they must choose between career and family. We tell them that they, not their husbands, must sacrifice their careers and income so that we can raise the next generation. How do we do this? By accepting absurd work hours, by weighing mothers down with all the domestic and social responsibilities and by failing to provide reasonably priced supports to allow mothers to work and raise e a family at the same time. In essence, we create a world, where mothers who stay home have no hope of a career and mothers who work for pay have no hope of having a family life. We are essentially asking women to sacrifice their careers and income in exchange for the production of children.

What to do. We need to stop telling women that they have to choose between career and family and stop saying things like, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” We must accept the reality that most women must work out of necessity and that women have both worked and raised families for centuries. We should not, however, continue to expect mothers to sacrifice their family-life for their work-life or vice versa. Asking women to make this choice, not only stunts women, but stunts families and our advancement as human beings. We must stop making mothers feel guilty no matter what they choose and should accept that it is quite normal for mothers to want both a high-paying job and a happy family, just like fathers do.

 “Women’s rights activists believe moms should have the flexibility both to do their jobs and to attend to needs at home; after all, working and raising Americas next generation are both valuable pursuits. The majority of girls (60 percent in one survey) believe they’ll need or want to take time off from a career to have children, and they should be able to easily do this without harming their career advancement.”(Dee p 118).

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Why I am not going to a conference about advancing women

I am not going to this conference. Although I am very interested in how woemn can be “used” to boost business. It looks ta bit like a blue chip boys club. I could be wrong but I suspect very few women will attend for several reasons. The fee is $1500, which means you must be working at a big corporation who can pay your fees. The bulk of the speakers are male executives (some of whom are sponsoring the event) or economists. I have been researching gender and work for eight years and I do not recognize any of the names of the speakers as experts on advancing women. I am just glad some journalists will be attending so I can get the news afterwards. On days like this I wish I had all the money in the world. I would offer a FREE conference on how to REALLY support and advance women at work so that women can be full partners, not just levers for big business. I can’t wait till my 3 books on Advancing Women are all done and out there! Maybe next time I will be invited as a speaker.

PRESS RELEASE: The Next Billion: Women & The Economy of the Future: May 6 & 7, 2015, Vancouver, BC

The Next Billion: Women & the Economy of the Future is an international, precedent setting conference, committed to discussing the critical role of women to medium and long term business success in the world’s economies.

This innovative conference will bring together senior-level corporate leaders from four continents to address practical ways in which women – as consumers, labor force, entrepreneurs and executives are critical to medium and long term business success in our competitive international economy – and share solutions that will propel a critical shift in the current landscape.

Please join us for a day-long series of moderated discussions with senior-level corporate leaders from throughout Canada, the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia. These discussions will focus on how corporate leaders are meeting the challenges of attracting and retaining labor, diversifying their supply chains, targeting new customers and grooming the next generation of C-suite and board level leadership. With only 250 participants, this meeting will offer an intimate opportunity to have substantive discussions, build relationships and share lessons learned.

After a Welcome Reception on the evening of May 6th, the moderated discussions on May 7th will be an inspiring and informative day – affording participants ample opportunity to network with their peers from across North America.

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Equal Pay Day is April 14

Equal Pay Day is April 14, 2015.  In other words, women must work that far into 2015 to earn what men earned in 2014.

  • Women are paid approximately 78% of what men are paid for comparable work and that number hasn’t moved much in the last ten years.
  • A recent study predicted that the wage gap will continue to be an issue until 2058 at the rate things are going.  A few states are not predicted to solve the problem in this century.
  • Other factors contribute to this wage gap.  For example, the disparity is worse in some states than others, and the effect can be larger depending on race, age, and industry.
  • Women can lose over half a million dollars to the wage gap over their careers, and college-educated women can lose over $800,000.  The pay gap is actually worse for those with graduate degrees.

Source: www.WomenLawyersNews.com

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Self Defence Course is free on June 4

A women’s self defence course is being offered by the Vancouver Police on Thursday June 4 from 6-8 pm at Point Grey Secondary school in Vancouver. Please call the Kerrisdale Community Police office to sign up: 604-717-3433.

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There was a rape near my home and what to do

Read this to protect yourself. Yes its true. One week ago a 30 year old woman was raped nearby. I attended the police forum and this is what I was told:

  1. The police take this very seriously. They understand the ripple effect of this on women everywhere and particularly in this neighborhood (near UBC, Vancouver). They are investigating rigorously.
  2. These “stranger” attacks are rare. Particularly on the west side of Vancouver. [Although the police could not explain why there were several attacks only blocks away on UBC campus over the last year]
  3. The woman was attacked at sunrise, about 6:15am on a Thursday at 16th and Discovery (by the glass bus stop). One block from my home in a quite neighborhood. She was running and wearing ear buds. She was struck from behind. Neighbors heard her screams. She fought off the offender. The police have DNA evidence and have interviewed many neighbors. They want anyone seeing anything suspicious at all to call them.
  4. The best way to protect yourself is to be VERY aware of your surroundings and to act confidently. Many attacks are on those who are seen as weak (or distracted). Walk with purpose and with others. Put your cell phone away.
  5. Change your routines. Bring a cell phone and call 911 no matter what!
  6. Trust your gut (even though women are often told not to!). Look people in the eye when you pass them on the street on your walks.
  7. If attacked, go on the attack. Yes. Attack him. Dig deep to find your anger and strike out at the man’s eyes, throat and genitals. Kick hard.  Stomp on his feet. He will likely be surprised, since he assumed you were an easy target and will not want to get hurt. Your entire goal is to run to safety.
  8. Go to the Vancouver Police self defence course on June 4, 2015. Its free. See you there!

In the meantime, let’s all try to create a world where women and girls do not have to fear being raped in their own neighborhood while running  in the morning.

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Join me Sunday with BC parents to fight government cuts to education

Important parent event this Sunday:

COME TO THIS IMPORTANT RALLY OPPOSING CUTS TO EDUCATION

When:  Sunday, April 12 at Noon

Where:  Vancouver Art Gallery (north plaza), downtown Vancouver

Who: All BC parents who are concerned about the BC government cuts to public education.

Why: Parents have had enough of funding cuts to education over many years. They feel their voices are not heard (such as during the strike and during the BC budget process). Parents believe that public education is slowly eroding and are tired of fundraising, closing schools and unsafe schools. Enough is enough. Come join the voices of all BC parents!

More Information: go to FACE  at  www.firstcallbc.wordpress.com

Sponsors:

  • First Call BC Child and Youth Advocacy (www.firstcallbc.org)
  • Families Against Cuts To Education (FACE ) www.firstcallbc.wordpress.com
  • Vancouver DPAC (District Parents Association)
  • Protect Public Education Now (www.PPEN.ca)
  • Fix BC Education (www.fixbced.tumblr.com)
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Motherhood is Madness Strategy 1: Admit it

Here is the FIRST strategy in my upcoming book. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!

MOTHERHOOD IS MADNESS – 13 WAYS TO FIND BALANCE AND FREE YOURSELF FROM THE STICKY FLOOR 

Strategy 1: Admit that motherhood is madness     

 

 “While many women today feel more liberated, society now demands that they become superwomen—that they find the inner resources as well as the time and energy to do everything perfectly. And this pressure is not just on women who have paying jobs or professions, but on homemakers as well.” Rianne Eisler p 21

Not too long ago I complained to my close friend Jennifer that I hated doing all the “no-brain-work” around the house while my husband got to travel the world and meet interesting people. Without hesitation she shot back: “So what were you thinking when you decided to be a mother?”

I can assure you that although I had given significant thought to having a family (I was 37 when I had my first child) ,  I never envisioned myself as I am now – a seasoned lawyer with a number of  university degrees changing all the diapers, cleaning all the toilets and wondering how I got here.

Like many couples, my husband and I both have full-time careers. When we married I was practicing law Monday to Saturday from 8-6. My husband had similar hours. We cooked cleaned and scheduled activities. We shared all expenses. We have always been very clear about contributing 50/50.Then we had children and everything fell apart. We quickly realized that if we were going to avoid divorce or insanity something had to give. But what?

Research shows that many mothers feel just like me – exhausted and unhappy. Many are trying to be supermom while managing careers and families 24/7. Those with or without careers feel over-worked, unfulfilled and out of control. This is because, quite frankly they are. Women with children work like slaves in their homes for no pay and little recognition and do it to level of perfectionism that is shocking. And they do it with a smile, at least in public.

Yet the prevailing mythology that is promoted in the media and in our culture is that that domestic immersion is blissful and deeply rewarding. From magazine covers and advertisements to sitcoms, women are portrayed completely ecstatic about getting pregnant and thrilled to be playing on the floor with baby for hours on end. Even diaper changing looks easy and fun. The messages are clear: If mothers just do all these amazing things they will be both happy and fulfilled. And if they are not happy, it’s their own fault.

Indeed most people will tell you that if you that those women who chose to have children, simply brought it upon themselves. They should not be so surprised.  Others blame the feminists who convinced women that they could have their cake and eat it too, when we all know that this is simply not possible. Others think it’s time for women to go back to the way things were;  go back home and accept that motherhood is fundamentally inconsistent with holding down a paying job.

But when you look at the research, the madness of motherhood is not due to women’s choices but rather our whole society’s beliefs about what mothers should do, can do and ought to do. As a society we have adopted quite strict and narrow assumptions that tell women what they should do and be. In academic circles this bundle of assumptions and the systems we have built upon these assumptions is called “the institution of motherhood” or “momism.” Unbeknownst to women, when they marry and bear children they automatically enter our legally and culturally constructed “sticky floor” or mommy trap.

This mommy trap was the same for our mothers, and was best described in Betty Freidan’s 1966 bestseller, “The Feminine Mystique.” Like our mothers, women today across North America are still financially dependent on husbands, are told to choose between work and family and are carrying the bulk of both the childrearing and the domestic chores. Mothers are still expected to be responsible for the well-being of our children (our future generation), the upkeep of the home, the maintenance of the marriage, and the care of aging parents.

In her book “Perfect Madness” Judith Warner suggests that all moms make decisions to work or stay home out of a very “immediate and pressing sense of personal necessity” that includes money, status, ambition, the needs of children and the needs of the family as a whole. Her long list includes the following:

  • Husbands work schedules
  • Availability of quality and inexpensive child care
  • Job flexibility
  • School hours and school holidays
  • Sick children
  • Jobs that are joyless and low paying

Warner describes this beautifully: “And all of those aspects of personal necessity are part and parcel of the condition of motherhood—not external to it, not accessory to it, not a “selfish” deviation from it.”  In other words the paths of mothers are not so much “chosen” as “devolved” from the material conditions of their families and our society requires.

The bottom line. Although women, with the help of the suffragists and feminists made some legal and political strides, the fact is that mothers have barely advanced in terms of status, power or freedom.  Mothers today are pretty much in the same situation as our mothers were.  They are slaves to the home and their children and if they choose to work at a paying job, their lives become even more impossible.

Although we like to blame women for their unhappiness and their choices, research shows that when woman marry they get caught in the “sticky floor” of motherhood.  This sticky floor consists of hundreds of factors that systematically curtail women’s choices.   In essence, we constrict mother’s choices so severely that if they do choose to have a family, they suffer in ways that men simply do not.

What to do.  First of all we must be honest about the reality of motherhood.  It is a full- time- 24/7 job without many perks, supports or acknowledgement – and no pay.  We must alert women to the fact of the “sticky floor” and peel back the hundreds of factors that work together to hold women back.

We must stop blaming women for their so-called “poor choices” and understand how this  “rhetoric of  choice” hides the fact that our whole society curtails mothers’ options. As psychologist Pamela Stone says, choice rhetoric assumes that feminists have been successful and that women have wide discretion in what they do with work and family, when in reality women’s choices rarely reflect their true preferences.

“The fact that women have the intellectual capacity of rocket scientists, the biological capabilities of mothers, the learned and inherent talents of nurturers, and the socially imposed responsibilities of domestic managers, does not mean these pieces will fit neatly together at once.” (Engberg, 1999 p 53)

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Mindfulness Made Easy – Practice #10 Practice Yoga

Here is the tenth of my 50 Mindful Practices  from my upcoming book. Please sign up for my weekly emails if you want to get the rest automatically in your email box. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!

MINDFULNESS MADE EASY – 50 PRACTICES TO REDUCE STRESS AND CREATE CALM – FOR  HOME, SCHOOL AND WORK 

Practice 10: Practice yoga

“Meditation relaxes the body, brings clarity and steadiness of mind, and opens the heart.” Jane Hope

What it is. You have probably tried yoga or perhaps other body movements like NIA , Tai Chi or QiGong. What you may not know is the importance of these practices to your state of mind and sense of well-being. Growing up, we all learned about the importance of getting exercise (recall Participaction?), not truly knowing how these various exercises work and how they impacted everything we do.

Although most people know yoga and other movements as stretching regimes or sets of exercises, many are based on thousand-year-old practices and are designed to move your body in such a way that energy (also called chi) is able to move more freely. You not only loosen up muscles and strengthen joints, but activate the chakras or energy points so that you actually feel an energetic boost. By moving your bodies in these fluid ways, you not only activate your body, but your mind as well.

Your body consists of millions of muscles continually expanding and contracting – from the tip of your head to the bottom of your feet. The more we move, the more these muscles and joints say alive and fluid. Each muscle movement activates some sort of energy in our body so if we do not move, our energy levels stagnate and even deplete – both mental and physical.

Unlike Western thinkers, Eastern societies do focus solely on the brain when diagnosing and dealing with things like anxiety and depression. Eastern medicines prefer a whole body perspective. They see the human body and all its parts as deeply interconnected and then physical aspects as just as important as the mental aspects. In Eastern medicine the idea of chi, or life energy, is critical to understanding illness. This life energy moves through us at all times. It ebbs and flows both naturally as well as in reaction to external circumstances.

How to do it. You can start yoga right now by doing some basic movements. Here are a few to try: Stand up and reach up into the air and gently roll your body down to touch your toes. Lie down and stretch your whole body from fingers to toes. Do gentle body twists and rollups (like sit ups) and dangle your arms and legs to improve movement and circulation. There are lots of other simple demonstrations in books and on the Internet.

I recommend signing up for a free introductory yoga class at a local studio or community center. Speak to the instructor to learn more about how yoga works and the different kinds of yoga practices.  You can then decide if you prefer to do body movement alone at home (perhaps with the help of a video) or to join a regular group. One example of the power of a body movement is a simple smile.Thich Nhat Hanh recommends practicing “smile yoga,” a slight but authentic smile, many times during each day. As he says, “A tiny bud of a smile on your lips nourishes awareness and calms you miraculously.” A smile can send a physiological message to our mind that we are safe and free from harm.

What to notice. If you gently reach your arms up or roll your shoulders  back you will feel your lungs expand and energy move down into your entire body. You may notice that you release energy that is trapped in your head and neck. If you slowly roll down and touch your toes you will notice tingling all the way down your neck and spine. As you let your body hang down you can stimulate your legs and feet. Every small movement has the possibility to open up closed joints or tight muscles. After any body movement you will feel more flexible, fluid and calm since you are freeing your body to move in the way in which it was designed.

 

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Motherhood Is Madness – An Introduction

I have finished writing my book on mothers and am looking for Beta readers. please let me know if you want to read it. Here is the INTRODUCTION. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!

MOTHERHOOD IS MADNESS – 13 WAYS TO FIND BALANCE AND FREE YOURSELF FROM THE STICKY FLOOR 

Introduction

Mothers today feel like they are going absolutely crazy. They are exhausted, underpaid and under-appreciated. They feel like slaves to their kids, to their home, to their husbands and often to their careers – just like their mothers did. The best-selling book, “No Kids” describes in a nutshell how devastating childrearing can be. From ruining sex lives and relationships to sucking up every spare moment attending kid’s soccer games.  It’s no surprise that couples are having fewer children these days.

So what went wrong? Did the suffragists and feminists fail mothers? Most people blame mothers for this sad state of affairs. We blame them for not achieving a proper “work-life balance.”  We tell them that wanting to have a career is overly ambitious and say things like, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” or “Go home, your children need you.”  We convince them they brought it upon themselves and it’s their own fault for choosing to have children. We expect them to lie in the bed they made.

The research, however, says that mothers and their choices are not the problem, the way we treat mothers is. As a society we have slowly shifted the responsibility of raising children onto mothers and convinced them that they must sacrifice their lives and careers for their husbands and children.  As a result, if children and families do flourish, it is at the expense of mothers. And if women are unwilling to do this, and choose to have a both a career and raise a family at the same time, we make their lives miserable. We refuse to create positive work conditions or provide supports.  And to make matter worse, we as a society tell working mothers that they must do paid work and unpaid work to a level of perfection that is frankly absurd. Mothers are expected to be perfect wives, daughters, mothers and perfect full-time income earner.

Authors Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels remind us in their book, “The Mommy Myth” that this is the same problem that our mother’s faced, “It is important that we remind ourselves of the tyranny of the role of the MRS, because it was what feminists attacked as utterly oppressive, and because under the guise of the new momism, it has risen, phoenix-like, and burrowed its way once again into the media and into the hearts and minds of millions of mothers.” (p 34)

This book shines a light on the real reasons why mothers suffer.  It shifts the blame from mothers, to a whole system consisting of hundreds of factors that make it extraordinarily difficult to raise children these days. These factors – often called “the sticky floor” – are not only hidden but are rooted in our out-dated beliefs. Working together, they systematically curtail mothers’ choices in hundreds of different ways, limiting their choices to such a degree they literally leave women with almost no choice at all.

Here you will learn that motherhood is truly madness, but need not be. By looking at the invisible expectations our society places on mothers, we can begin to see why mothers feel so trapped and unhappy. By looking at the propaganda and rhetoric, we can begin to see why women blame themselves, keep quiet and believe they have no options. Motherhood as we know it is complete insanity and it must stop!

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How did a man’s organisation raise 574 million?

The Movember community has raised $574 million to date.  Wow. I wonder why is it so much harder to raise money for women? What can women do to make their causes (such as inequality and violence) as cool and exciting. Do women need to grow mustaches!?? V-Day is about as close as it gets. I welcome your creative ideas!

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