Mommies, not Models

Girls, you are so much more than your looks.

Have you caught Melissa McCartney’s interview with Ellen?  If you haven’t, you should.  Apparently, Melissa was criticized by a reporter for “really look[ing] bad” in her latest movie, Tammy. According to him, she was only a good actress when she looked attractive (never mind she was playing a broken-down woman, whose outer appearance was supposed to reflect her terrible internal struggle).  When she encountered the reporter at a film festival, though, rather than attack him, she used the moment to educate him.

Ellen Melissa McCartney
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“If [your daughter] comes home and someone says you can’t have a job because you’re unattractive, are you gonna say, ‘That’s right?’ And he took that in his heart and he was like, ‘No, I would never want that to happen. I would never in a million years want that to happen.'”

“I said, ‘Just know that every time you write stuff, every young girl in this country reads that and they just get a little bit chipped away.’ I just think that we tear down women in this country for all these superficial reasons and women are so great and strong.”

Isn’t that the truth?

I’ve been privileged to have many strong women in my life, starting with my mom.  She worked as an accountant, having three kids and putting my father through graduate school before finally graduating herself. Though she eventually had five children, she continued to use her formidable analytic and organizational skills as an accountant, church leader, and volunteer social worker.  She’s a wonderful example to me.

I met other impressive women in college and, later, in law school–women who somehow managed to juggle all the demands on their time:  spouses, children, jobs, and intense studies.  These were smart, educated and driven women. Yet, if you passed these women on the street, you’d probably have no clue just how incredible they are. None fit the Hollywood mold of the perfect woman; that rare Angelina Jolie-type female who wakes up, meets her personal trainer, shoots a scene for her latest film, meets with the UN and, at the end of a long and satisfying day, calmly tucks her kids into bed–all while looking flawless.  No, these women were all average-looking; not overly fashionable, or beautiful, or exceptionally thin.  These women are some of the most intelligent people I’ve met; and yet, if you believe the overwhelming message from Hollywood–that a woman’s appearance is the most important thing about her– these women would be considered lessless attractive, less desirable, less worthy–simply because they did not put all of their efforts into their looks.

And that is such a damaging message.

How many girls do you know who have issues with their bodies?  I’ve watched friends shrink away, depriving themselves of food simply because they believe their worth is tied to how much they weigh. Other women push their bodies to the limit with exercise and “healthy eating”–myself included.  After having my first child, I was anxious to lose the baby weight, so I adopted a punishing exercise routine.  I would get up in the early morning, even after little sleep, to run and exorcise some imagined calorie overload I’d had the day before.  One ulcer and a torturous year later, I realized I couldn’t push my body so hard- and I learned to accept myself as a complete human being, not just a physical body.

Now my children take up so much of my day, I don’t have the time or the energy to pursue a physical ideal that, quite frankly, I will probably never reach.  This is a point most of us come to, as mothers.  We make a conscious choice to put our children’s needs above our own needs, even the need to feel beautiful.  While we may not have Hollywood-worthy bodies, what is important is that we like the people we are now.  And we are not lesser for channeling our energies into our families; we are better and greater people for it.

It’s a shame that our entertainment industry can’t seem to grasp that truth.

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Adventures in Parenting

So, you know when something is so ridiculous, it’s actually funny?  I feel like I have moments like that, oh, every day as a stay-at-home mom.  Take today, for example.

What, me?  Think I'm going to cause trouble?  Yes, yes I am.
What, me? Think I’m going to cause trouble? Yes, yes I am.

Although I no longer go into the office, I still manage to do a bit of work.  This afternoon, when the kids’ naps magically overlapped for about 45 minutes, I managed to leave messages with a few people. Then, feeling pretty productive, once naptime ended I stopped by the—ahem—ladies room, with both kids in tow.  (News flash:  when you have small children, you never, never get to use the bathroom alone).

Just at that moment, what do you know, one of the people I’d phone called me back.  This was a very important call, so even though I have a strict no-phone calls-in-the-bathroom policy, I thought, “Screw it. I’ll answer.”  I picked up and, quickly excused the background noise by telling the caller I was at home with small children.  I left out the part about being on the toilet.  B-a-a-a-d idea.

I tried to rush the call, but nothing is faster than an inquisitive toddler.  Within moments, Kisan accidentally pulled something into the sink and started hollering.  He wanted it back and he wanted it back now!  I frantically motioned to him to be quiet (it didn’t work).  Unable to get off the toilet or to quiet toddler-zilla, I looked around in desperation for something to snap Kisan out of tantrum mode.  I found a plush bumblebee sitting in the baby’s lap and, panicking, I did the first thing that came to mind—I chucked it at Kisan.  No, it wasn’t my finest mommy moment.  I think I was trying to snap him out of his agitated state, sort of like slapping a hysterical person across the face.

Well, no need to judge me, because I knew it was a bad idea as soon as it left my hand.  You know when something terrible is about to happen, everything seems to slow down? Well, time now took on a movie-like quality as the plush toy slowly arced up in the air and, yep, landed with a soft “thunk” on Kisan’s head.

It was like I’d prodded a rabid dog with a stick.  Kisan’s voice rose at least five octaves.   If he could’ve foamed at the mouth, I’m sure he would have. Instead of being merely frustrated, Kisan was now incensed because, well, I’d thrown something at him.  And really, it was a dumb move on my part.  Oh, and the man on the phone?  At this point, he’d stopped talking (probably shocked into silence). So, as the last resort of the desperate, I picked Kisan up and locked him outside the door.  As I quickly stammered out an apology to the man,  Kisan (now in full Hulk mode) started to use his tow truck as a battering ram.  At this point, I just told the man I would be sending him the paperwork in an e-mail, and hung up the phone.

Hulk
I’m no longer your son. Hulk SMASH!!

I probably stayed in behind the door for another minute or two, gathering the willpower to deal with the weeping and wailing small human that was now trying, heart-breakingly, to reach me from under the door, pressing his face and hands as far as they would go under the one-inch crack.  I eventually opened the door and calmed him down, and we went about our day.  I wish I could say this is a unique episode—but it isn’t.  Each day is broken up with moments like this, so many moments where I am dealing with a child who is, by turns, irritating, then amusing; angry, then gentle and kind. It’s a constant emotional rollercoaster, and at night I’m so drained I don’t even have the energy to watch a favorite show, or write a blog post, or do anything but stumble into bed.

But today was better than yesterday; and, reluctant optimist that I am, I know tomorrow will probably be a little better than today.  If I’m going to have these crazy moments, I’m glad I can at least laugh at them now—not five or ten or twenty years down the road, when I’ve forgotten how bad the bad can feel.  I want to enjoy these moments now, the moments that are so over-the-top chaotic and (quite frankly, ridiculous) that you can’t help but laugh, because, hey, they make life endurable.

A Perfect Baby Blessing

Months ago, my husband and I decided we’d each give Ava a baby blessing. It was a very controversial decision for an LDS family to make.  That is because, in our church, only fathers with the higher priesthood may participate in the public blessing and naming ritual for new infants.  Mothers must sit among the congregants while the baby is being blessed.

But my husband and I are products of a country where, outside of religion, women and men are very nearly equal.  As a parent, I want to send a clear message to our daughter, beginning with her first blessing, that this equality would not end at the doors of the church.   I don’t have the priesthood—but I don’t need the priesthood to give my child a blessing.  I have the right, as a daughter of God, to pray over my children, and expect He will provide guidance, blessings and inspiration in return.

Ava

And so, with only our parents and bishop to witness, Jang held Ava first and gave her a beautiful blessing, which I recorded.  I won’t share it all, but the most touching moment came when he asked God to give her “the strength to know that it’s okay to be different and to be yourself.”  He continued, “I bless you with the desire to accomplish great things in your life…with ambition and leadership that you can be a shining light to other people.  That other people can look to you as someone who is faithful and trustworthy.”  Since a baby blessing more often conveys the parent’s hopes for the child, rather than any prophecy, hearing my husband say these things about our daughter warmed my heart.  I hope Ava will be a trailblazer and example for many people, both inside the LDS faith and outside of it.  We smiled at each other when he finished.

Then it was my turn.  I’d stayed outside the priesthood circle, at my hubby’s request, but now I stepped forward to hold my child.  The bishop, my father and father-in-law stood somewhat awkwardly around me.  I’m sure none of them had any idea what this moment would look like.  Truth be told, neither did I. It was a blessing my own mother had never voiced.  I felt a little uncomfortable coming forward then— but the instant Ava was in my arms, her face brightened, and I felt a calmness come over me.  She recognized me, her mother—and as her mother, this was exactly what I should be doing for her.  Thankfully, I’d thought and prayed beforehand about what I wanted to say; and when all the men had moved to the side or taken their seats, I began to speak:

“Ava this is a special day for you.  This is a day where all your family is gathered together to celebrate your birth.  We’re so very happy you’re a part of our family.  You’ve been blessed with an even temperament and a sweet nature, and we truly hope that these character traits continue in your life.  As your mother, I pray that Heavenly Father will bless you with the ability to clearly know right from wrong, and to be a guide for your siblings and an inspiration for those around you.  It’s important now to stand for things that are right and true.  We hope that you’ll always stick close to the Church and close to your Heavenly Father, and say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

As I spoke, I somehow felt a rightness to my words.  I wondered if that is how fathers feel when they bless their children.  In that moment, I was happy, surrounded by family as I held my baby daughter.  I had stuck to my commitment to bless her out of sheer principle—there had been times when Jang and I wondered if it would be worth it to go ahead with the mother’s blessing, fearing how our friends or church leaders would react.  But I can tell you, when we each blessed our daughter in turn, it felt so right; so complete.  As parents, we are a team, and we stood together that day.  And I believe God stood with us as well.