Happy To Be Me Today

It is days like today that I am pretty grateful not to be a working mom.
Right now it is 11:21 and all I hear is quiet. Thank God.

You see just a mere 30 minutes ago I was coming in from moving the sprinkler (some day I am going to sell my soul for a sprinkler system) and tromp, tromp, tromp....down the stairs come my two little angels, "Mom, we STILL can't sleep."

This was trip NINE since their original bedtime at 8:15. I sort of wanted to cry. Or maybe beat my fists against the wall in a furious temper tantrum. Instead I sighed and replied, "You guys are going to be a mess tomorrow if you don't hurry up and get yourselves to bed. You have swimming lessons in the morning and if you don't get sleep you are going to fall apart after lunch. Then I am going to be cranky and start yelling (see my previous admission to engaging in tornado siren imitations) and then Daddy is going to come home and he is going to start yelling that everyone is yelling...so PLEASE, just GO.....TO.....BED!"

11 o'clock came and the blissful silence finally fell.

Earlier today my little Starman started cutting his second bottom front tooth and he was busy yelling all day to express his displeasure with this turn of events. This kid skipped all of his naps today. He basically sustained himself on two, thirty-minute cat naps. Finally, after yelling his head off for over three hours, he passed out in his swing at 10:05.

Now, if I was a working mom I would just now be starting to prepare lunches for everyone, getting the diaper bag packed, making lists of everything I would have to do in the morning to make sure everyone had what they needed for the day. Then tomorrow I would stumble out of bed in search of coffee and cursing my children for robbing me not just of sleep, but of personal time before having to put my nose to the grindstone for another day.

Instead, I can stay up and write this blog because I can doze through swimming lessons tomorrow, put on a movie, and assuming Starman sleeps at some point, I can lay down and rest for a while. This would be something I would not get to do if I was working a normal 40 hour a week job.

The physical demands of child care combined with the severe sleep deprivation that accompanies small children can sometimes push into borderline torture. And yet working moms get up and push through it day after day. I honor and applaud you for your dedication whether by necessity or by desire. While most days I wouldn't mind joining those ranks, today? Today I am happy just to be me.

A good book on the Mommy Wars

I got sidetracked.

This is pretty routine for me actually. I was writing about the mommy wars and then...boom. Tangent. For anyone wondering what happened to my June topic, I didn't quite forget about it. Instead I got caught up doing research and found the most AMAZING thing!

It is a funny thing about writing. You can think you have the most incredible, relevant idea in the world, but since the idea is not born in a cultural vacuum, it is entirely possible that another human being...possibly one even smarter and better written than you, is out there working on the exact same idea.

This is what happened to me. I worked on my thesis from 2002-2007 when I finally graduated (Why so long you ask? Because during graduate school I met my husband, got engaged, lost my future father-in-law, got married and had our first child....busy, busy). Unbeknownst to me, at the same time, a wonderful author, Miriam Peskowitz was about to publish her book, The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars. While my thesis definitely approaches this topic in a slightly different and more anthropological vein, our material and many of our conclusions are dead on together. How cool is that! The funny thing is I just stumbled upon this book a couple weeks ago. I was totally unaware of its existence until I was surfing the topic of the Mommy wars one day. Upon its discovery I, of course, immediately requested it at the library.

Anyway, I got caught up reading this informative book and since it takes me three weeks in mom-time to finish a book, I am not quite finished yet. I would like to say, while we are still in our month dedicated to the topic, that I definitely recommend it if you are searching for good reading on the history and cultural influences on the mommy wars. Unless of course you would rather read my thesis.

Check it out here on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Truth-Behind-Mommy-Wars/dp/1580051294

It's a Micro Toy Invasion

Early last week my little Connor started crawling. He is so cute motoring around the room with this huge grin on his face. As for me, my exhaustion level has skyrocketed while my productivity level has plummeted. The garden project I was working on out back which has been sitting in a half-completed state for two weeks has ground to a halt. The house is getting grungier by the minute, dishes are stacking up in the sink and the Spanish book that I have been translating, Beverly Cleary's Ramona La Chince, is sitting on my bedside table with Ramona looking accusingly at me from the front cover wondering why I haven't picked her up in over a week. Um...Hello!? I have a crawling baby now, you are just going to have to wait Ramona.

As for Mr. Connor, I was so excited for him to get mobile since he had been so obviously frustrated. The excitement diminished quickly when it felt like every time I turned around he was wrapped in an electrical cord, or was sucking on a Barbie slipper or palming a lego.  I didn't remember the girls ever being this hard when they started crawling. Then it dawned on me. Last time I had a crawling baby the entire house was childproofed because my oldest, Talia, was not even three yet. We still had a houseful of "suitable for children under three years of age" toys. There were no tiny art supplies; no glitter, no pom poms or stickers or bits of hardened play dough. There were no Barbie slippers or tiny lego pieces. There certainly weren't any Polly Pockets or barrettes or hair ties (neither of my girls had hair until they were almost 2 1/2). No. The house was the perfect space for my little Piper to crawl and Talia to play.

But NOW whenever I put Connor down on the floor he manages to find something the girls have dropped and I spend every day, all day, in a state of near panic. I even took him outside one afternoon and let him sit in the grass thinking I could relax if we got out of the house. No such luck. The kid found a leaf, ate the leaf, choked on the leaf and vomited all over Mommy purging the leaf. So much for that idea.

The fuse on my patience has been getting shorter and shorter with every little McDonald's toy or Tinkerbell action figure I find strewn about the house in what I now assume to be an attempt to take out their younger brother. I would almost feel sorry for the girls if it weren't so stressful for me. Half their toys have disappeared at this point and the other half have been threatened if they are seen even once outside the room they share. I will be so glad when this phase is over and we are on to the next one.

So....Thanks so much for letting me take this time to vent, and just know, because my main job right now is to keep my baby Connor alive and protect him from the invasion of micro toys that apparently took over our house at some point, there may be a gap here and there in my posts. But, never fear, I am not going anywhere.

I am looking forward to July when I am planning on examining motherhood and income production in other cultures. We will see how the ways in which a larger culture can make it easier or harder to combine child raising and income production....assuming I am not too busy prying a small plastic toy out of my son's mouth.

The Daddy Wars? A Father's Day Post

To any Dads out there, Happy Father's Day!!!

As Father's Day approaches (just like Mother's Day, although perhaps not so profusely or obviously) the media begins to trot out all the stories both feel-good and controversial about dads and fatherhood. This one however particularly caught my eye:  Mr. Mom vs. Working Dads: Stay at home fathers spark culture war.

So, the mommy wars weren't garnering enough attention, now we have to create the daddy wars? And to say that it is sparking a culture war seems a bit extreme to me. The term "culture war" is typically used to describe two conflicting belief systems or viewpoints in a larger debate; atheism and Christianity, Democrat and Republican, Liberal or Conservative. It is also used in reference to debates regarding abortion, legalized drug use, homosexuality/same-sex marriage, and so on. To bestow that term on working and non-working parents is to knowingly put out a grease fire with water.....it ends in an inferno. Parents, regardless of gender, should not be allowed to be divided by something as arbitrary as their status in regards to income production (especially since I have read recent statistics that suggest that many women and men of young children are choosing work that strategically allows them to balance out the two more effectively, although usually not very lucratively)

But, back to the article, which insinuated that while there is some conflict between working dads and stay at home dads, it doesn't appear to be as heated as the Mommy Wars. (I read into it, of course it isn't as heated because it doesn't involve women ). The author questions:

There are bound to be rifts, given the growing league of dads staying home at least part-time. But do the paths of work dads and home dads intertwine enough to make them care quite so deeply as the ladies?

She concludes that men do experience some judgement by staying home, but that since there is so much variety in why they are home (because they want to be, because they were laid off or downsized, because their wife can make more) and they manage a work/family balance so differently, the judgement is not as severe as the judgement is for Moms. In fact, the article was so well rounded about the variety of Dads out there that it argued against a "culture war" between Dads (sorry media, don't be too disappointed). But the fact is moms have the same variety. To imply that it is specific to men is in a way demeaning to moms. Dads get complexity, but Moms are lumped into either/or?

The fact is that America is in love with its dichotomies and culturally speaking we separate out our entire world view into an us vs. them, Men vs. Women, Right vs. Left, Work vs. Home, Straight vs. Gay, Rich vs. Poor, White vs. Black. It permeates every aspect of our American culture and tempts us to divide every subject we encounter into an oppositional framework.

Now, I will admit the article fairly addressed the fact that despite the fact the movie of the incompetent stay at home dad, Mr. Mom, was over three decades ago, the moniker has stuck to Dads who are caring for their children full-time. One father makes a fair point when he comments that it isn't like his wife is going to go to the workplace and call herself Mrs. Dad.

All in all, despite the typical media fare of the article, it unintentionally brings up the questions of how certain things in American culture have remained constant; men staying home are merely masquerading as Mom, the Mommy wars are more heated because it involves women, and the staying at home/work conflict is a great thing to trot out on feel good holidays.

Regardless of how parents are working out care, we need to work on supporting ALL parents of young children and give them fair options that allow them to mix work with family if that is what they need.

In the meantime, go enjoy your Father's Day!

Marketers Make Mayhem

So, I am off-topic yet again, but this is too much for me to take!
My husband brought this article to my attention after viewing a certain commercial.
The article discusses how a little boy, who admittedly has had other disciplinary notices already, was suspended for sexual harassment because he sang the lyrics to "I'm Sexy and I Know It" by LMFAO at a girl in his school on more than one occasion.

To the morons who are in charge of putting a note in his "permanent record" claiming he is sexually harassing this girl I submit the following evidence to the idiocy of your judgement:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIFB5JNTkwM (Madagascar 3 Trailer)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qDL1Xz1S1s (M & M's Superbowl Commercial)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vxAkQJuxkg (Elmo's LMFAO parody on Sesame Street, "I'm Elmo and I Know It")


Young children are being marketed to using this tune both with and without the original lyrics. Most kids that young have NO idea what "I'm Sexy and I Know It" really means, they are just parroting adults and the things they see in our larger culture. And yet, the adults in charge refuse to use common sense not to use these things in marketing and THEN the adults in the school system failed to handle the situation in a more appropriate manner.

Sorry. Rant Over. :)

Reviewing Bravo's Pregnant in Heels

It was Sunday morning and once again my husband was off at work. That is not a complaint. He has been trying to pick up as many extra hours as he can after our various hospital visits put us in a precarious financial position, but I miss him when he is gone so often. And so, to give myself a break this past Sunday morning, post-recital craziness, I put the girls in front of a movie. Then I put my little Starman down for a nap and turned on the TV for a little mindless zoning.

After flipping channels for a while I settled in on Bravo’s Pregnant in Heels featuring Rosie Pope, “the maternity concierge to the most affluent expectant moms in New York City” according to Bravo TV’s website. After all, I am a sucker for any show that is about pregnancy. As I watched episode after episode in what I can only assume was some sort of weekend marathon, I found myself more and more flabbergasted. That show has got to be the most incongruous example of impending motherhood that I have ever seen. And try as I might to rack my brain, I just couldn’t figure out what it was that bugged me so much about it.

I do know the tipping point (the point where I just HAD to blog about it) was watching the episode where they are helping a couple expecting twins and another couple who were looking at ways they could be greener for their impending baby.

The first thing that got under my skin was the workshop they sent the woman to who was expecting twins, Twiniversity. As an introduction to what she was facing Rosie dumped out, in a dramatic flourish, baskets and baskets of disposable diapers and laundry in an attempt to impress the mother-to-be with the immense amount of work she was in for. Really? It smacked right up against the comment that experienced mothers feel compelled to say to newly expectant mothers which annoys me to no end, “If you think this is bad, wait till the baby comes.” Guess what? Spending however many ungodly amount of dollars on a pregnancy concierge to find that out was unnecessary….if she just waited a few months she would have gotten a free crash course that would teach her all she needs to know. It’s called motherhood.

The next thing that pushed my buttons was when the already overwhelmed mom-to-be (I mean she was surrounded by piles of laundry representing what she would have to do every day and mountains of diapers…who WOULDN’T be overwhelmed) was given a breastfeeding pillow and two twin babies of no relation to her and was asked to simulate nursing both of them. The babies wanted no part of this lady (Let's see, she is putting them in the nursing position and she doesn’t smell anything like mom….duh!) and she is nearly in tears by the end of the exercise. Sorry lady, no taking it back now, those twins are coming and you CAN do this!

About the time that the next woman hired Rosie’s “Green Team” (Really, who does that?) to come in and rid her house of potential toxins, I was completely over the edge. The team comes in and starts throwing out everything in the woman’s makeup cabinet (very much to her distress) and holding up what can best be described as a Geiger counter-type instrument to her microwave. When the would-be-green-mom starts looking like she is going to cry, which through the editing process made her look totally selfish for not wanting to abandon her microwave and make-up for a more earth friendly toaster oven and product-free face for the sake of her baby, I completely unleashed on the television in what can only be considered to be a full-on verbal assault.

How can we work together as mothers when the media representations for motherhood are so absolutely absurd? Again, I am not exactly sure what about this admittedly addicting show rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it was the frivolity of the wealthy. Perhaps it was the absurdity of “preparing” someone for motherhood. But either way, I think that the show paints expecting women in a rather unflattering light.

Sadly, I am pretty sure that isn’t going to keep me from watching it again, Rosie is incredibly likable and she does do some really good counseling type things; helping families communicate better and giving them a game plan for redistributing domestic labor after their new arrival. But, I am pretty sure I will do so vocally and without the kids around to hear my more colorful language.


The Rhetoric of "Choice"

In examining the “Mommy Wars” this month it is important to take a step back and recognize that this pitting of mother’s against each other, whether they are working or stay at home, breast feeding or formula feeding, circumcising or leaving their child intact, vaccinating or non-vaccinating etc. all comes from the idea of “choice.” Ultimately these conflicts boil down to women passing judgments on other women’s “choices.”

The problem with this is, while some things in motherhood are a true choice, others may be billed as a “choice” when in fact they are anything but. When you stop and recognize this element, it makes it much harder to judge someone else’s situation. It is easy to say someone made a poor “choice” but much harder to judge them for the same thing if you recognize it was thrust upon them.

Short of becoming a fly on a family's wall, it is impossible to analyze all of the factors that go into a family’s every decision. Motherhood is as individual as the family make-up, personalities of each individual member, and specific position within the larger socioeconomic spectrum.

Today we discuss the “choice” to work or stay home.

Can women who want to work really afford to put multiple children in child care? Can women who want to stay home afford to quit their more lucrative jobs in order to do so? Sure it might be possible on both counts to “choose” to do so, but there are always sacrifices. In some cases the sacrifices may not be worth making depending on the individuals in the situation. For example, a family might be able to go without a second car in order to cut expenses, but another family may have constraints that demand the easy transportation a second car might provide. Another example I heard while talking with a group of moms, was about a woman who sold her house and moved in with relatives just so she could stay home with her children. And I have to say, as much as I love my mother and yes, even my mother-in-law, I would definitely go back to work before giving up my autonomy by moving in with them.

On a separate but related note, it was recently revealed in a recent expose on ABC’s 20/20 that human resources managers sometimes go out of their way to deny women, specifically one’s suspected to be mothers of young children from the workforce. The belief is that women with young children would not be “focused” on their jobs. How are women supposed to work and provide for their family if they can’t secure employment? And how can they then be judged on that fact? A woman making less than $50,000 a year who has three children under the age of 5 often has no choice but to leave the workforce due to the excessive cost of child care, so how can we punish her by making it harder for her to come back? A mother who wanted nothing more than to stay home with her child has no choice but to work if her husband leaves her, so how can we heap more guilt on her for “choosing” to work?

Authors and advocates for women’s rights such as Linda Hirshman, a law professor, and Ann Crittenden, a writer, both coming from very different places in the mommy war debate, agree that the rhetoric of choice is letting society off the hook when it comes to integrating family life into the public job market and government. Crittenden states in her book The Price of Motherhood:

There it was in a nutshell: the cover story. The sidelined ambitions, the compromises mothers live with that their husbands never had to make, all justified on the grounds of women’s choice. What women choose is so important precisely because women bear a disproportionate share of the costs of child-rearing. If they do this willingly, there’s no problem. It’s their choice. No one “made them do it,” so no one has to do anything about it. (Crittenden 2001: 233).

We need to take the word “choice” out of our arguments between mothers. Only by doing that can we begin to seek real-world solutions to these long debated problems.

Off topic For a Quick Proud Mama Moment

So, I took this week off from blogging in order to get through our dance studio's 15th Annual Spring Showcase. We finished up tonight and I am so relieved.

My classes worked super hard to get to today, but if you had asked me last week I might have told you that we were in for an epic disaster. A mere two weeks ago my girls were making me nervous. Some of them didn't know their dances, we had girls out of town or sick. One class didn't have all their people together for the last few classes until tonight. All in all, this dance teacher did not sleep a single wink last night.

Then came the stress that was dress rehearsal. But, as it goes in show business, a crappy dress rehearsal usually leads to a good show. And tonight really was a good show!!! In fact the littlest dancers who barely made it through rehearsal, some bursting into tears at the sight of the big high school stage, pulled it together for the show and got out and danced. Every last one. I was so proud.

But, if I may brag for just a moment, my little Snowflake really got out there and danced her little heart out. And it wasn't that she was perfect. And it wasn't that she was the best (she wasn't). No, it was that she came home every day after school for months and practiced, practiced, practiced. She worked so hard and wanted to do so well. And for sure she has some talent (she is the dance teacher's daughter after all), but like so many other things in life, talent is great, but it is hard work that will really take you places. So, it was watching her work hard and seeing her pride and satisfaction when it paid off that really warmed my heart as a mother. Go, baby girl, go!

Thanks for letting me brag for a moment. Every mom should get to do that every once in a while.

Go ahead. Share your favorite kiddo moment. And in the meantime I will see everyone back here next week so that we can discuss the rhetoric of what we call "choice" in this country.

Mothering in the Media: A History Lesson

As a mother I would love to tell you that you make all of your decisions based on your own moral compass and sparkling intelligence. As an anthropologist I can tell you that you don’t. We all make decisions so that they fit within our personal cultural restraints: ethnic background, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, and level of commitment to community involvement (ie: level of conformity). We also, whether we like it or not, make decisions based on media images that guide us (which is why things like Bratz dolls are such a hot button topic in their influence of young girls and self-image).

Now motherhood in the 1950s was painted as idyllic. We are talking big neighborhood bar-b-ques, coiffed women, the dawn of the convenience appliances, and the existence of the “family wage” where the economy was designed around the one-income household.

We are talking:

Yep. Donna Reed, the original domestic goddess. Sometimes I close my eyes when I am vacuuming and pretend that the baby isn’t howling, the girls aren’t fighting and there aren’t a pile of dishes in my sink that are threatening to take over (just like that old Shel Silverstein poem about "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Who Would Not Take The Garbage Out"), and pretend that I am channeling her perfect charm, grace and domestic perfection. Then I open my eyes and remember, I am a real flesh and blood mom, not a media creation.

Bring in the media images of mothers in the 1960s and 70s…this was post-Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique. We are talking about the introduction of the stay at home mom as mired in an ideological stranglehold, “the problem that has no name.” The irony is that by cutting mothers out of the new feminist equation that was taking hold, or even worse, seeing them as part of the “oppression,” the women’s movement not only failed to integrate the very people they were trying to “liberate” but they sowed the seeds to a long history of American devaluation of motherhood. Specifically, the 60s introduced the idea that women who stayed home were oppressed, uneducated, wasting their time and therefore we should pity these poor creatures who are trapped at home with children like second class citizens.

Next on our voyage we get the workforce explosion of the late 70s and 80s. The media now becomes dominated by the “super mom,” a woman of super-human potential. She is the idealized worker, idealized mother and idealized wife all wrapped up in one well-dressed and fit little package. Suddenly the media becomes filled with the idea that women really could “do it all.” This mom was born out of the equal-rights movement and represented the hope for all women’s future as leaders and innovators.

By the end of the decade, pushing into the 90s, books like Arlie Hochschild’s, Second Shift began to shed light on the fact that while women may be working more in the traditional income producing sphere of the workforce, men were not working more at home, therefore, all that women had gained in leaving their homes was a second shift of work.

At this point the media became flooded with articles that indicated that working women had failed their children by exposing them too soon to the outside world. Stories abounded of things happening to latch-key kids, or daycare fatalities, child molestation, care giver neglect. It was really during this time that the media latched on to the “Mommy Wars” as a catchphrase and salivated at its wonderful ratings-generating potential. Motherhood is all American, but mothers pitted against mothers has the appeal of a roman gladiator battle; it’s going to be bloody and someone is going down.

All of these media reports fueled the next round of media images.

The 90s and the early 2000s were split between the career “super mom” and a new breed of mother, a woman who bought into what some called “the cult of motherhood.” With the economic downturn and recession in the mid-1990s the large scale job loss led to a re-evaluation of women’s roles and responsibilities as well as a community focus on the overall well-being of children and their development. Enter onto the scene the attachment parent who brought with her the renewed focus on the moral superiority of the stay at home mom. After all, the working mom was risking her children’s very lives by leaving them at child care. This new self-sacrificial style of motherhood demanded nothing short of subsuming a mother’s needs to the needs of her child in all things. This new round of media images implied that discipline or criticism of a child was a damper on their inner creativity and self-esteem. This “new momism” created a push of women to return home from the boardroom, so to speak, because it promoted the idea that a mother was the ONLY acceptable care giver for a child.

All these media images did was create stereotypes and belief systems which allowed women to set up and fly flags from their various camps. This can be seen recently with the conflagration over Hillary Rosen's comment about Ann Romney having never worked a day in her life. Somehow, in the process of each decade trying to define its own idea of motherhood, the previous ideal seemed to end up being devalued. Now, as we realize how many different ways there are to mother, we should also stop to realize that each Mom is making those decisions within constraints that are beyond her control. Short of a drastic move to another country, or a sudden loss or gain in fortune, her cultural constraints are constant.

By recognizing how motherhood has changed over the last 6 decades we can clearly trace the birth of the “mommy wars” and how they have continued. And knowing that, we should be able to step back and stop them. We can create a community of support which I personally think is more helpful than a community of moral superiority.

Celebrating Diversity!

Happy June Everyone!

As I enter in to my second month of blogging I find myself pondering the subject of "audience". I really want to reach all moms since I am looking to promote change in the fabric of American culture. But how to do that? Moms come in so many diverse shapes, sizes, religions, beliefs, sexual orientations, child rearing strategies, economic backgrounds etc. Then it occured to me, the majority of moms have one things in common; they are all trying to do the best they can for their family and their children.

The subject of what has been called the "mommy wars" is something that I feel very strongly about. It drives me crazy when I hear a mother bashing another mother's decisions just because those same decisions do not necessarily work for the family of the dissenting mother.

Let me tell you a little about me;
I can tell you that when it comes to my own family I am a very fly-by-night parent. We have no schedule. We eat when the kids are hungry. Starman, the baby, sleeps when he sleeps and eats when he shows hunger cues. I don't pay much attention to the clock (unless it has been a rough day and I am counting the minutes until help arrives, ie: Daddy gets home). He sleeps in a co-sleeper next to our bed, or at least he is supposed to. Mostly I end up falling asleep nursing him and he spends the night plastered against me. Truthfully the girls did too. You might call me the accidental bed-sharer.

I am an exclusive and extended breast feeder. In my husband's opinon TOO extended. When Raindrop, my middle child, reached 32 months (in case you don't feel like doing math that would be 2 years and 8 months) my husband started making fairly pointed comments to the tune of, "Is she going to need to take a break from prom to come home and nurse?" My oldest goes to public school. My son is circumcised (yes we did the research). I let my kids watch what would probably be considered WAY too much television--I mean come on, it can be the best babysitter around! And I probably shouldn't mention the fact that I often get questioning looks when my daughters start re-enacting scenes from the British classic (and might I add, largely considered by the British to be family oriented) Dr. Who. The girls can name 85% of comic book characters and have seen every Star Wars except Episode 3 despite the fact that they are only 6 and 4.

And here is one more confession....
Despite repeated attempts to read up on all kinds of articles touting alternative discipline strategies to avoid yelling like a tornado siren on a clear day, I still go off with ear-splitting regularity whenever my girls start picking on each other. Somehow that "Hey! (or really) HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! is the only thing that can stop their arguing long enough to get their attention.

Then there is the most wonderful thing--I have a whole host of wonderful, creative, caring mommy friends that I can consult with on a regular basis and who help to make me a better mother and challenge me to step out of my own ideas of what's "right" and consider other options. I have gotten wonderful help and advice from all of them, and yet they are all so unique; different in their approach to mothering, different in their life circumstances and different in what they are passionate about. The ladies mentioned below are just a small selection of the women I am lucky enough to have in my life. They all have wonderful gifts that they have given me and I can't imagine my life without any of them in it.

---I have one friend who is an impressively dedicated homeschooler. She always agonizes over curriculum, goes to conferences, and reads up on how to create the next great learning experience. I am fairly certain that her children are getting a better and more consistent education than mine are. Honestly though, the idea of having my kids all day, every day, without a break kind of makes me want to commit myself, but, I take her ideas and utilize them during our summer break which makes those long stretches of empty time much more manageable. She is also who I call for gardening information because as I like to tell her, she is practically Mother Earth. She doesn't just garden either; she turns it into an Earth Science/Life Science lesson because she is always looking for that schooling angle.

---I have another friend who is a Vegan. She practices homeopathic remedies, unschools her kids, is an active "Intactavist" (anti-circumcision). She is also a doula who had her last two babies at home. And even though my children eat preservative laden meat, my son is circumcised and I chose an epidural delivery with my first two children, we still get along like two organic peas in a pod. And when I was stuck in labor with Mr. Starman at 22+ hours attempting to do it drug free, I couldn't think of a more knowledgeable and caring person to call on. She arrived, took charge of the situation and two hours later he arrived. She helped me have that natural delivery I had always hoped to have. I know I couldn't have done it without her. For that alone I will be forever grateful.

---Another dear friend of mine, who I have called for advice on many an occasion, is a career journalist. She works a full-time job, she formula feeds, she follows a fairly strict schedule (of which I am secretly jealous of) and puts the baby to sleep in his own room. She is an amazing mom! And when I decided that I was thinking about going back to work, she was the first one I called to get advice and to discuss the challenges and rewards of being a working mom. We also share many milestones and headaches together since our sons are a mere two months apart. She is my "be true to yourself too" cheerleader and I love her for it.

---Lastly, there is my best friend and college roommate. She is an organic, super extended breast feeder who practically ruined her back running an in-home childcare business just so she would be able to afford to stay home with her kids. That is amazing. That is dedication. She was honest when I told her I was thinking about going back to work and she told me, "I just knew I could never do that." But, despite her feelings on the matter she has been wonderfully supportive of my job hunt. She understands doing something for yourself. She is using her time at home to pursue her dream of becoming an author for YA fiction. Definitely something that would be more difficult to pursue if she were working. Over the years I have gotten so many tips about stretching a budget and keeping cool when your kids are driving you crazy, I really don't know what I would have done without her. I know I can call her on my worst day and she will always be there to listen.

The media fueled "Mommy Wars" would like to pit this wonderful community of women against themselves. They try and generate ratings by pitting parents against one another. There are whole online communities designed to imply that if you don't breastfeed and you circumcise your child you are participating in acts that are tantamount to child abuse. Guess What!? The primary thing all these wonderful women have in common is that they are all just trying to do what they deem is the very best for their child. And what works for one person, does not always work for another. As an anthropologist I love that America has so many different diverse ideas. Now we just need to learn how to be ok with our own choices without firebombing someone else's.

The good news is there is already a movement, specifically for online interactions, to promote the support and healthy exchange of ideas between mothers. The Mom Pledge is an online community of Moms that are coming together to end cyber bullying and promote support among ALL moms. After all, we all just want to raise healthy, educated children who hopefully become happy and find some degree of success. I took the Mom Pledge. I think it is wonderful.

To end with, I leave you with this link;

It is from the Christian Science monitor and it is a discussion involving the uproar that surrounded the recent Time Magazine cover with the breastfeeding mother and the negative impacts from the perpetuation of the "mommy wars." Look forward to next week when we begin exploring how the media images of motherhood have driven our ideas of mothering in America.