Stereotypes, women, and marriage 

Ever since childhood I have noticed that there are several stereotypes towards married women. There are two that bother me the most. 

The first stereotype is that all men are essentially overgrown little boys who need women to rush in and save the day, to be the brains who work tirelessly to keep life running smoothly. 

Example: The first time I picked up on this stereotype was in elementary school during a Super Bowl commercial. I don’t remember exactly what happened but I do remember that the husband was on the couch surrounded by junkfood watching football. The wife walks in with bags under her eyes, a baby on her hip, two kids behind her and another arm full of groceries. She begins berating him for all the things he didn’t do properly and it’s pretty clear that there’s not much going on inside his head. The Disney channel is notorious for creating father characters like this. Or here’s another example, those “cute” baby onsies that give fathers instructions on how to change a diaper. Only women know how to care for others, right? 

The second is that men are macho and in control. Women are submissive and work tirelessly to keep their man happy, the home clean and the kids every little need is attended to while the woman’s identity slowly disappears until she is little more than an obedient maid, a shadow of her former self. 

Example: Keep reading, I’m getting there. 

I don’t know which stereotype is more detestable. 

Over the years these stereotypes have definitely softened, but they still exist none the less. To prove it, I’ve seen this meme being shared and reposted over and over.

A lot of men act like they are doing women a favor by asking for their hand in marriage, but let’s think about it.

She changes her name. 

She changes her home, 

She leaves her family,

She builds a home for you,

She gets pregnant for you, 

She bears children for you, Pregnancy destroys her body, 

She gets fat, 

She almost gives up in the labor room due to unexplainable pain, 

Even the kids she delivers bear your name, 

Until the days she dies, everything she is doing benefits you. 

So let’s think about it again, who is really doing who a favor? Men appreciate your women. 

I hate that! I don’t want my girls  reading things like that and seeing marriage as more of a servitude than a relationship. This is what the meme should say: 

A lot of people act like they are doing a favor by asking for someone’s hand in marriage, but let’s think about it. 

She chooses to take his name, or he chooses to take hers. 

You both leave your homes to build a new one together. 

You both leave your families, to start your own family. 

She gets pregnant and you care for her throughout the pregnancy. 

She is blessed with the miracle of giving birth and he is blessed by being apart of  it. 

Pregnancy changes her body forever, so that her breasts can give milk to her baby, and so that her uterus can give it a home, 

He falls in love with her new body and who she is as a mother 

In the labor room she is at peace and excited to meet her child, because he supports, comforts, and encourages her. 

The children she delivers bear the family name.

Until the day they die, everything they do is to benefit each other.

So who is really doing who a favor? 

Both of them are! Men and women, appreciate each other. 


Rejecting the terrible twos and embracing toddlerhood 

I hate that phrase, the terrible twos. I don’t know how to put into words why I hate it, but I just do. 

I also hate to admit, that honestly two has been a little terrible. There have been a lot of days where I’ve thought to myself, “what happened to me? I was such a good mom, everything used to be so easy! What happened to Laila, my easy going happy go lucky baby?” 

I was just reading a mom page where each woman was saying what age was a struggle for them. One comment particularly struck me, in which a mother said that every year since age two had been successively worse. I felt so sad reading that. I don’t want to struggle every year of my daughters life! 

The phrase “my child is not giving me a hard time, my child is having a hard time” comes to mind. There is so much growth and learning in childhood, some times it’s hard to be a kid. 

I’ve sat down and really thought about my struggles and changes in motherhood. I know that two doesn’t have to be terrible. I firmly believe that a parent child relationship is not 50-50. I think it starts out as 100 percent the parent in infancy and slowly turns to 90-10 etc. 

The way Laila reacts to things is developmentally appropriate. The way our culture expects toddlers to behave more like adults and less like babies is not appropriate. There is this fear that if you don’t “teach” them while they’re young, they’ll never learn. It’s a mantra a lot of us heard from the older generation, but we need to unlearn it. Simply put, it’s just not true. 

Time outs and other punitive methods are not the healthy way to teach toddlers. (See this Postfor alternatives) Actions speak louder than words, and toddlers are watching our actions. I grew up in a home with constant yelling, and that is my biggest weakness. Unfortunately it’s also Laila’s weakness. But she’s not a mean child, or a brat because she yells too. She learned that weakness from me, and so we need to unlearn it together so that one day her kids don’t learn it. 

As parents we need to learn what behavior is developmentally appropriate, because that is the behavior that we don’t need to stress about. It’s something our children will outgrow naturally. 

But what behavior of ours are they mimicking? That’s where we need to take responsibility. Sometimes we unintentionally make the twos terrible. 

Going back to the phrase “my child is not giving me a hard time, my child is having a hard time.” It disturbs me how many things are considered “permissive parenting” and how kids in general are viewed as these unruly little people who have to constantly learn lessons the hard way and there’s just zero grace for them, but oceans of grace for adults. You know never once in church have I heard about children getting grace- but I digress.

PHALT has been a lifesaver for me in the toddler years. It stands for Potty, Hungry, Angry, Lonely(because children’s emotional needs are real important, and should never be invalidated or ignored) and Tired. 

It is not permissive when I am standing in the checkout line at the store after shopping for the past hour and a half and Laila is tired and hungry and throws a fit, and I give her a bag of m&ms. I know that the grocery store is a boring place for kids full of interesting objects that they’re constantly told they can’t touch. I know that I forgot to bring Laila a snack and she’s hungry. I know that I like to get a smoothie or a piece of candy for myself in the store, so why shouldn’t Laila have the same. She is just as important a person as I am. At two years old it’s ok to throw a tantrum, it’s ok to need your mommy to hold you and give you the right words to use, and help you calm down. As the mother of a toddler it’s ok if my child acts her age in public! 

It’s taken me most of age two -and honestly I’m still really struggling with that whole yelling thing- to realize that two is an age I can cherish and enjoy, if I can just learn how to work with it. Power struggles are not worth it, I’d rather teach Laila that as her mother I am here to help her, to teach her respectfully, and to give her grace, not show her who is the boss. It’s my reactions that matter the most because I am the adult. The more that I leave behind society’s expectation of two year olds acting like adults, the less terrible twos are for me.

It’s not okay.

This post is going to be short and to the point.
There was an incident in Florida that made it to the news a few weeks ago. I was discussing it with some other mothers, and we all came to the same conclusions.
First, here is a link to the article. If you don’t feel like clicking, I’ll sum it up for you.
According to her father, a 12 year old girl had apparently gotten into a violent argument with her sister. His reaction was to call the police and have them supervise while he struck his daughter four times with a wooden paddle. He claimed that the police needed to be present so that his daughter couldn’t claim that he was abusing her.
This is disturbing on several levels.

Number one.
She was an adolescent. This is the age when girls start having “boyfriends”, when they get their periods and start discovering more of their sexuality. How mortifying to be hit in a sexual area in front of two grown men, one of which is a total stranger. I don’t believe this was the fathers intention, but to hit a girl in a sexualized area against her consent, that’s borderline sexual abuse. If you don’t think that spanking an older girl can be sexual, google the word spank. I just did it and 80% of the links were porn. I believe that’s proof enough.

Number two.
The father described his daughters confrontation with her sister as violent. I’m assuming he felt that the situation was out of control. Instead of regaining control through peaceful means, he instead used violent means. I wonder where his daughter learned her relationship skills. Teaching a child not to hit, by hitting doesn’t work. It doesn’t even make sense. Children act out what is modeled in front of them. If you want to teach your children not to hit, don’t hit.

Number three.
This point was brought up by another mother. Her exact wording was, “If you feel that you need a witness to do it, should you really be doing it? There is such a gray area within corporal punishment. The general consensus among pro-spankers is that it’s ok as long as it doesn’t leave marks.
So what is a mark? A bruise, redness, something that lasts for a few days? Everyone’s definition is different.
I think deep down we all know that hitting is hitting, and the argument not to leave marks is an attempt to justify hitting children.I think deep down that father knew how quickly what he was doing could escalate and get out of control. I think he knew that hitting a teenage girl with a piece of wood just didn’t seem right.

Number four.
Every nine seconds a woman in the US is assaulted or beaten. Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.
The father definitely taught his daughter a few lessons. But the lessons that will stick with her won’t be that she shouldn’t hit others.
The first lesson that she learned is that men can hit women. That women can do things that chalk up to them “deserving” to be hit. What’s more, those men that hit those women do it because they “love them”. The only difference between a man slapping his wife and a father spanking his daughter is a social construct.

Number five.
This is my final point. It was also brought up by another mother, and with her permission, these are her words.
“I recently read an article about institutional betrayal being more damaging than familial abuse. For example, a girl is molested by a youth pastor, a child is abused in a daycare center. The abuse is swept under the rug. Not only is the victim traumatized by the act, but they are re traumatized by the failure of the government body at large to protect them.
Now this girl knows that if someone wants to hit her, the police aren’t going to care anyway.

Let me end on this.
Is it ok to hit a spouse?
Is it ok to hit a friend?
Is ok for a boss to hit an employee?
Is it ok to hit a mentally disabled person?
Is it even ok to hit a dog?
Most people would (rightfully) answer no to all of the above questions. So is it then, ok to hit a child? The answer is also no. It is not ok. It is never ok to resolve a situation through violence. It is never ok to hit a child in any way. Children deserve the same rights as everyone else.

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I am your parent and your friend

How many times have we heard the phrase, “I’m your parent, not your friend.” Or, “Your children don’t need another friend, they need a parent.” I despise those phrases. In fact, for several reasons, I think those phrases are very problematic in parenting.

First of all, everyone needs a friend, a friend who is wise and can provide good advice from a place of understanding, a friend who can listen and be trusted. A parent can be that friend. How often do kids change friends? A parent is an unconditional friend, a friend who always has their child’s best interests at heart. A parents friendship lasts a lifetime. A parents friendship can be one of the most meaningful relationships in a child’s life.

So why are there people out there who treat this like it’s such a bad thing? Why are there those parents who proudly state, “I am not their best friend, I am their parent. If they tell me at least once that they hate me, then I’m doing my job.” That is a terrible thing to say! It’s is such a skewed vision of parenthood, and even friendship for that matter.

There is a verse in the Bible that my mother used to quote to me, it says, Parents, do not provoke your children to anger. So success as a parent is not making my child so angry that they feel as if they hate me – even if it is for saying no. Success as a parent when a child feels respected, valued, understood and is able to comfortably share things with their parent the same way they would with a friend.

I think the idea of a parent being a friend to a child is very misunderstood. Being friends with a child does not mean a parent has to be Regina’s George’s mother and bring in condoms on a tray and take pictures of her daughter dressed up as a playboy bunny. That’s not even a friend by my definition.

There are different aspects in a true friendship. There is the fun part, like when girlfriends get their nails done together, or take trips to the beach. There is the trust and confidence when friends share deep personal things that are going on in their lives. There is trust, when friends keep each others secrets and are loyal to each other. There is support, like when a friend is going through a break up and needs to hear an, I’m here for you, rather than an I told you so. It’s the same between parents and children.

I can build a relationship as well as a friendship with my daughters from day one. While my girls are little I can respond to their cries with empathy to build trust. When they mess up, I can help them problem solve instead of punishing or shaming them. I can delight in the things that interest my girls – right now that means watching every single tinker bell movie on repeat and letting Laila cook with me every night. When they are older I can take them shopping, to the movies, for pedicures. There are so many things that I do with my adult friends that I can also do with my girls as they grow.

More importantly, I really believe that treating our children as friends can prompt us to treat them better.

Last night my daughter was whining constantly, and whining is like my Achilles heel- I can’t stand it. That is nails on a chalkboard for me. I opened my mouth to beg her to just stop for one minute when I stopped and reminded myself that she wasn’t whining for the sole purpose of getting on my nerves, and she certainly wasn’t whining for no reason at all. Instead of whining myself I recognized that Laila just needed my attention for a minute and I got down on my knees and kissed her forehead. Her reaction? She wrapped her little arms around my neck and gave me a huge kiss. “I luh you mama” she said as she hugged me even tighter. All she had wanted was a hug.

I rocked her in my arms and thought to myself how thankful I was to have a such a sweet daughter. I thought about how fast she’s growing and I how I hope that once she’s older she’ll be my best friend.

That’s when I realized, she already is my best friend, all shrunk down. It’s important that I respond kindly when she whines or cries. I have to treat her like a friend now if I want her friendship later. Just because she is my daughter doesn’t mean I can be impatient with her now and expect her to be close with me later. Every time I respond to her I have to remind myself, if I treated one of my friends this way, would we stay friends for very long?

Being a good parent doesn’t mean not having a friendship with your child, being a good parent means understanding that every relationship is different, but that every child deserves the same respect that would be given to a friend. As the saying goes, “A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be her mothers very best friend.

More than just a mommy

Ever since Kim Kardashian decided to “break the internet” I’ve read a slew of articles defending her nude photo shoot. Most of the articles are based on the premise that just because she’s a mom doesn’t mean she cant continue to be the same person she was before North.

Unfortunately that person has built a career more off of her constantly naked or semi naked body, than who she actually is – but I digress. While I clearly don’t agree with her photo shoot, I do agree that on some level every a woman should continue on as she did before.

I don’t mean that her children take a backseat. On the contrary, being a mom does change a woman and who she is forever. Once a mother, a woman’s children become her top priority. However, I do believe that there is always more to a mother than just being “mom”.

When I think of a mom, I think of mini vans, PTA, out of style clothes, soccer practice, washing dishes, and slowly giving up on the idea of wearing make up. I think of a tired woman who isn’t anything more than doing those things. I don’t think I’m alone in that (erroneous and archaic) view of motherhood. It’s just a knee jerk kind of reaction.

Before motherhood I loved to dress up. I’m talking obnoxiously wearing full make up to the gym kind of dress up. I loved to read, to day dream about traveling, I loved to constantly try new things, I loved to DIY and repurpose things. There’s a million more things about myself I could list here.

Motherhood has changed my life forever. It has changed who I am, but it hasn’t taken away who I am. Being a mother is not the entirety of my existence, it’s a facet of my existence.

It’s makes me sad to even think about it, but one day I won’t be changing diapers anymore. My house will empty itself of toys and and tiny little shoes. Babies will turn to children, children to teenagers, and teenagers to adults who move out.

While I’ll always be a mother, the dynamics of being a mother will change. My whole identity isnt wrapped up in the care taking aspect of motherhood. Motherhood is a relationship, a journey, a chapter of life that changes with time.

I think it’s important for my daughters to see that outside of being their mother, I’m still my own person, just as much as they are their own persons. I want my daughters to love me as their mother, but I also want them to love me for who I am outside of the diaper changing, the clothes washing, the dinner cooking, and all of the other tasks that I now have as a mommy.

I want my daughters to believe that they can still dress up, be beautiful and sexy (and by sexy I don’t mean showing their hooha to the world) have hobbies and be interesting women when they become mothers. I don’t want them to think that motherhood relegates a woman to a life of sweatpants and weekly walmart trips (though I have developed an affinity for Walmart and sweatpants, I still try to find the time to over dress) I want my children to see that motherhood doesn’t take away from a woman, it infinitely adds to a woman.

Happy Birthday Laila

Two years ago today I was staring into your eyes and holding you for the first time. I’ll never forget it. Your father and I held each others hands and cried tears of joy from the deepest part of our hearts. We were so amazed by you.

There was so much I didn’t know then. I was so nervous. When you were born I realized how little I knew, but I was determined to give you the best, and to learn how to be the best mommy. I’m still learning. There are so many things I wouldn’t have discovered if it weren’t for you. You came to me at the perfect time. You’ve changed not only my life, but who I am forever.

Through nurturing and guiding you, I have learned so much about life and myself. Parenting makes a mother question everything, it challenges all of her beliefs, and in my case I came to believe many new things, about my self, about God, and about relationships- especially our relationship as mother and daughter.

Parenting you is not about “raising” you to be a certain way, parenting for me is about my relationship with you, it’s about helping you grow into the incredible woman I know you already are.

As the time goes by I get to see more and more of your personality. You melt my heart with how affectionate you are. I tend to be overly serious, but like your father you make me laugh everyday. Everywhere we go you make a stranger your friend. You are so stubborn, so determined, which at times can be difficult to deal with, but really it makes me proud, because I see a strong woman and a leader in you. I see a girl who knows what she wants and can stand up for herself. I take so much pride in who you are.

Years ago I had a dream of a little girl with dark hair named Laila, and she was surrounded by the color purple.
It was a different kind of dream. It was so vivd and I never forgot it. I believe God tells us things through dreams, and I believe for some reason, he chose to tell me about you.

The color purple is a combination of the calm associated with blue, and the strength associated with red. That is your personality exactly, calm, yet so strong . There is a verse on the bible that says, “Before I knit you together in your mothers womb, I knew you.” I believe God knew you, and showing you to me in that dream, surrounded by a color that so perfectly describes your personality, he let me knew you just a little bit, long before it was your time to be mine.

You are such a gift to me and your daddy. These past two years with you have been the best of my life. Just last night me and daddy were saying how all of our experiences pale in comparison to the experience of becoming your parents.

Before you were born, I had huge dreams of traveling, of going on adventures, of learning as many new things as I could. Those dreams are on hold now, but not because motherhood has taken away those dreams. My dreams are hold for just a short time, because I’m waiting to share them with you. Instead of telling you about trips I once took, you’ll be on those trips with me. I can’t wait to accomplish all of my dreams with you and watch as you create dreams of your own. I hope that you’ll share some of yours with me as well.

We were meant for each other. As my daughter, you are also my very best friend. This year we’ve shared so much, my pregnancy with your sister. Every day we would take our walks together, every afternoon we would watch Sofia the first and take a nap, and every night you slept with your hand on my belly (and it’s looking like every day post partum, you’ll be grabbing my stomach and yelling chubby). I think you knew before I did the day I went into labor, because you woke up all through the night to check on “baby” and kiss my belly. I had so much fun listening to your favorite songs and watching you dance while I packed my hospital bag.

It was an adjustment when Sabrina was born, a whole new world, but we got the hang of it together. You’re my best helper and I treasure you so much. It’s incredible how fast these two years have gone by.

Always know that you truly are my pride and joy, that I will always love you with the deepest kind of love. The memories I have of these past two years are some of my greatest possessions and I know that the memories we make in this next year will be just as precious.

Happy birthday Laila! You are my best reason to celebrate.

Real Love Doesn’t Hurt

Over the past few weeks two NFL players have been suspended for domestic violence. Ray Rice, for abusing his then fiancé, and Adrain Peterson for abusing -not disciplining- his four year old son.

When it came out that Rice had beaten his fiancé and been caught on camera a year ago, there was an immediate backlash. Rice apologized, calling his actions inexcusable. Hashtags popped up all over twitter condemning violence against women.

Personally the first thing that came to my mind when I read the Rice story was that he had probably had a violent childhood himself, that he never learned how to solve conflict or deal with strong emotions using words, he learned to deal with these things using his hands. I thought that he and his now wife should see a therapist and seek healing. That’s not to excuse in any way what he did, but abusive situations aren’t black and white. I don’t believe that anyone is born abusive, I believe that abuse is a learned behavior. Every abuser was once a victim. Abuse is a vicious cycle.

I think Adrian Peterson’s story is a perfect example of where this viscous cycle begins. I can’t think of anything that makes me angrier than child abuse. It’s disgusting beyond words the way Adrian Peterson’s case has been handled.

First of all, there has been no apology just a statement thinly veiled as an apology to defend his abuse as “discipline”.

Unfortunately Peterson wasnt the only one defending his actions. Running back Reggie Bush issued this statement “I most definitely discipline my daughter. I have an almost one year old daughter. I definitely will try to not leave bruises but I definitely will discipline her harshly depending on the situation”. Peterson’s mother said, “whipping is not abuse but about love.”

Seeing statements like those should have been shocking. They weren’t. They’re statements I’ve heard over and over again out of the mouths of countless people. That’s how deeply embedded violence against children is in our society, especially in the south.

Reggie Bush’s statement was particularly chilling. Disciplining an almost one year old? That is a baby!! A BABY! I can’t even put into words how ridiculous that is. All I have to say about that first sentence is that Reggie seriously needs to read up on child development. The fact that he said he would try to not leave bruises but would most definitely discipline her harshly?

Try to not leave bruises? Like sometimes bruises are just accidental and they happen, no big deal. He proudly announced that he will discipline his daughter harshly. The dictionary definition of harsh is this, “ungentle or unpleasant in action or effect” with these words next to it “grim, severe, stern, cruel, austere” Those are not the words that should describe a father.

The rationale here is bruises on Ray Rice’s girlfriend are a deplorable example of domestic violence, but bruises on a little girl, inflicted by her own father, the most important man in her life who’s top priority is to protect and care for her, that’s not domestic violence at all!! No, no, no that’s different, that’s discipline. Accidents happen. How else would she learn?

In fact, Adrian Peterson’s mother already explained it perfectly when she said that whipping isn’t abuse, it’s about love.

When a man loves a woman, sometimes he hits her, to teach her a lesson, to teach her how to behave. She deserves it anyway. After all, he really loves her. Now replace man with parent and woman with child and we have the pro spanking rationale.

Except I left out the excuse that every generation of parents has done it and all their kids “turned out alright”. I read an article in time magazine on why spanking is never ok, and the authors response to the cliche “I turned out ok” was that as a child she was molested, yet she turned out ok. You see, children turn out ok despite spanking, not because of it. The mere fact that someone is defending the person who hit them shows that they’re not ok. How did everyone react when Ray Rices wife defended him and said that she had a role in the beating? Exactly. There is no difference between women and children, except that children are the current second class citizens with no rights and no way to defend themselves. No one deserves to be hit.

Before I continue, let me share this article on the effects spanking has on girls. The findings on the release of oxytocin(a love hormone) to combat cortisol (a stress hormone) are especially telling.

Aside from the research citied in this article, (and I have provided only one study compared to the mountains of research done over several decades that all conclude corporal punishment is an unhealthy practice) I have a problem with a grown man laying a hand on a small child and calling that love. How hypocritical is it to teach a little girl that her father hitting her is “love” and that she “deserves” it, yet if her partner “loves” her and she “deserves” it, it isn’t love at all, it’s abuse.

Like I said, abuse is a vicious cycle. I would bet that Ray Rice was “disciplined” in the same manner as Peterson’s son and he repeated what he learned on his fiancé. We know that Peterson was physically punished as a child because he praised it in his statement. The cycle repeated itself on his four year old son. The victim became the abuser.

All physical punishment is abuse, because it is all intended to cause fear and pain. As a Christian mother, I don’t want to teach my children anything through fear and pain because that’s not how Jesus taught. Jesus taught with gentleness, compassion, and grace. Can you imagine Jesus hitting a child? I can’t. The bible says that love is patient, kind, not easily angered, it doesn’t say anything about sometimes love is hitting a child.

My husband will never physically punish our daughters because girls look to their fathers for an example of what their husbands should be like. I will never let my girls believe that any man, in any situation has the right to touch them in any way that they don’t approve of. I will never let them believe that men hit women or children no matter what the situation is, no matter how socially acceptable others allow it to be. We will never call it spanking in our home, because that word is a cover up for hitting. We cannot expect women to embrace bodily autonomy as adults if they are taught as children that someone else has so much power over their bodies that they have the right to hit them when they see fit. We cannot model to our children that it is ever ok to hit for any reason.

There is a ministry whose page I follow. A few days ago they posted an exert of a journal entry from a girl who had been abused. One line stood out to me, she said love is good and doesn’t hurt.

I don’t care what the reasoning is, I don’t care if it was just one hit that didn’t leave a mark, or several slaps that did leave marks. Hitting a child hurts them, and love is good and doesn’t hurt. Even dogs can be taught without hitting, so why couldn’t a child be taught without hitting.

The stories of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are at the heart of the domestic violence problem we have in America where every nine seconds a woman is assaulted. Violence in adulthood comes from violence in childhood.

This isn’t to say that every parent who has used physical punishment is a child abuser. Like I said, it’s something that is deeply embedded in our culture. When my oldest daughter was born, I knew I never wanted to hit her for any reason. I knew I wanted to teach her without punishment, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know if anyone parented that way. I definitely didn’t know much at all about child development or what reasonable expectations looked like. I think there are a lot of parents out there like that.

Parenting can be done peacefully, without violence. If you want to parent differently, but don’t know how, there are links on this blog, there are Facebook pages and support groups (peaceful parenting, respected children for respected futures, gentle discipline support group) to help you get started and learn alternative ways to parent.

Let’s break the cycle and teach our children to solve conflict with their words and not their hands. Let’s teach them through our own behavior by using our words and not our hands when conflicts arise in our own homes.