Things That Make Me Twitchy

There are things that make me twitchy, which sounds better than “listen to me complain”.

In general, I’m twitchy about a lot of stuff– pick one: the environment, the war, money-hungry corporations that get to steal whenever, Monsanto, both political parties, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, health insurance companies, racists, sexists… I mean, seriously– I twitch a lot.

And I can rile up some righteous indignation with the best of ’em, though I admit that I have decreased the amount of time devoted to Soap-Box-esque anger since that first kid expelled himself from my uterus.

But this Gosnell guy in PA? And the accompanying Grand Jury testimony (which is just 281 pages full of what the fuck) makes me want to hit things. My first thought is that his (preferably virgin) ass will likely go to prison, where he will certainly enjoy the hell that is the US penal system’s prisoner-delivered justice. That makes me a little happy.

As a pro-choice woman with children–yes, I absolutely am–I read this with disgust, horror, and fear. The disgust and horror need no explanations. The fear is because of the undertones of, “see what happens when the Democratic, baby-killers are in charge” peppering those 281 pages.

Instead, the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be putting a barrier up to women “seeking abortions”.

Seriously? Instead of the detestable situation standing alone, this is going to morph into a political pandering and/or the example by which all of the pro-choice will be judged? Of course it will.

Let’s be clear– this was a business, run for profit, with apparently no government agency intervention, despite repeated complaints. Since y’all had to get political about it, that sho’ nuff sounds like a conservative Republican-type scenario. Viva la Capitalism and small government, right?

Hence why I’m twitchy, all of my Republican friends. You can’t have both small government involvement and proper government oversight. You cannot shout your moral outrage about the miscarriage of justice from the responsible agencies, while your wee hands are busy cutting the funding from those same agency’s operating budget. Well, I mean, you CAN, but it’s really hypocritical and totally counter-productive.

Should one of those big ol’ state government agencies caught on and stopped this misogynistic serial killer a decade ago? Um, yeah. Is the lack of funding for these agencies–you know the ones that are “in charge” of the poor, uninsured folk (at least that’s what the phrase Health Department symbolizing in my head)–a regularly reoccurring theme in the Republican rhetoric? Um, yeah. So, while you’re getting all politically indignant and making subtle hints about the ineptitude of government agency oversight, make sure Mr Republican Governor, that you note how your own Party’s tendency to slash social service programs is also largely to blame. Which, of course, you won’t.

For the rest of us, tired of watching the never-ending, political circle jerk to which we’ve become so accustomed– let’s just remember that this clinic has been operating in a country where abortion is legal. Yet, there it was, a time capsule straight from the 1950s, and a reminder for every American woman born after 1973 that all of the horror we feel right now was, in our not-too-distant past, the norm. Legality will not change the availability of abortion services, because the law cannot regulate a woman’s desperation. But instead of facilities that are safe, sanitary and compassionate our country will be full of buildings like those run by Gosnell and his ilk. Again.

Ladies, we should all remember– regardless of our individual beliefs about abortion and/or birth control–that without the availability of reproductive choice, none of the vagina’d would enjoy the freedoms we don’t even remember not having. The feminist movement wasn’t just about being allowed to work: it was that women, as a unit, have the right to control when and how we carry children. Without things like abortion and birth control pills that simply would not exist. In countries where women are not given the same reproductive control, they do not enjoy economic and social freedom. It’s Just That Simple. Consider that while you sit in front of your computer with your college-education, maybe a working mom, maybe a stay at home mom–or perhaps not a mom at all.

I wish everyone would focus their time and energy on the children that are living and breathing, cognizant that they are unwanted and abused, hungry and cold. As heartless as it may seem to some, a fetus cannot–and does not–consciously feel the loss of its life, because it doesn’t yet have the ability for conscious thought. But that 5 year old girl that is being raped by her father every night, after falling through the cracks of an underfunded, understaffed Child Protective Services department? Yeah, she not only has the capacity of conscious thought, but the ability to quantify her worth by those that aren’t helping her. If all of the moral outrage (and thus money and effort) funneled into anti-choice movements was redirected into domestic and child abuse programs, imagine the children–alive and miserable right now–who could be warm and safe tonight.

But social programs for the poor are too expensive. Right.
Twitch.

Mommy Wars

Wasn’t the point of the feminist movement that women have choices? Choices about the course of her own life unfettered by father, husband, and society? At the time the choice seemed simple and direct–out of the kitchen and into fulfilling careers. Right?

The Mommy Wars are a well-known phenomenon–identified and written about by any major women’s/parenting magazine. However, perhaps both corners–the working mom (WM) and the stay at home mom (SAHM)–are judging each other less than we assume. Perhaps the whole war isn’t really a war at all–or it wasn’t until everyone started telling us we were fighting. Or maybe we just have to be bitter with each other to feel better about ourselves.

Sigh. Ladies, really? Did we really surf the wave of feminism to this beach? Working mom, stay at home mom–we are all mothers. Part of me doesn’t understand the motivation for all of the self-righteousness.
In almost all conversations on the topic, even the respectfully polite can be prodded into defensive maneuvers. It’s that moment where a perfectly reasonable comment sets off the bristling the leg-hair of 50 women and a bunch of sucker punches are thrown from all sides.

Then we all know the sanctimonious snotty mom–and both corners have their fair share. The working mom who rolls her eyes while talking about how she has maintained her identity, “unlike poor little Besty from next door. That poor girl barely even gets to shower…and she always looks like rumpled crap.” Or, “her poor children are going to have a hard time in kindergarten, they are completely un-socialized because they don’t go to preschool.”

Then there is the self-righteously pious SAHM, who sneers over her freshly-baked, from-scratch cookies, about how she “couldn’t imagine only spending 2 hours a day with her children**–how awful that must be for those poor children.” Even while—in the next breath–saying, “it must be nice to have a housekeeper come to clean the toilets.”

**This quality time argument really gets to me. I am a SAHM and I still only spend–on average–about 2 hours a day of pure, focused time with my kids. Before you all gasp at my neglect, let me describe what doesn’t count as focused time, in my opinion: playdates, nap-time, errands, their own independent play and/or any time spent watching TV. That breaks down into about 2 hours for me, from when they wake up until when I go hide in another room after dinner. Yes, I’m still “on duty” because it’s very against the law to leave them home alone, or drop toddlers off at the park while you go to the mall–but I’m still not directly interacting with them.

Each corner is guilty of that self-righteous pietistic-type thinking to some degree, as humans we think it about everyone else, yes? “Wow, it sure would be nice to have Angelina Jolie’s money.” But the flip side of that will always be, “wow, it sure would be hard to see rumors about my failing marriage in the tabloids every week.” Even the happiest, luckiest of lives have a down side.

The bottom line is working and staying home moms are pretty evenly split–for the female gender, at least. Most working women have no choice–their financial contribution is a requirement for their family. Then there are those women who work, not because of finances, but because they want to. There are women who stay at home because the job they could get wouldn’t offset the cost of daycare. Or the women that stay home because that’s what they want to do.

When you remove finances from the equation you have women who work–or don’t work–because they want to. And here is where I get pissed off at the whole debate– the venom that both sides throw at each other in attempt to be more. More what, exactly? More of a woman? More of a mother? Making more of a self-sacrifice (both sides think they do this, by the way) because that makes you a better person overall?

Whatever.

Just because I feel right about my choice to stay home doesn’t make your choice to work wrong.

Let’s repeat that:
Feeling right about my choices doesn’t make your choices wrong.

If we could all apply that mantra across our lives, how much better would the world be?
Hmm, so basically I don’t need to make someone else feel they are wrong in order to firmly believe my decisions are right for me–not so much right for my family, selfish as that sounds–but right for ME. Crap, I just read that same parable in a Bernstein Bears book.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–I don’t deserve a Supermom medal because I stay at home. A working mom doesn’t deserve one for working, either. A single, working mom? Yeah, if anyone can claim themselves Supermom, it is them.

Let’s be real here, both situations have difficult challenges. And, yes, those challenges can be equally difficult even while being completely different.

Employment History of the SAHM

Employment history of the SAHM? Compared to my last resume?
Resume` 2008

Around the same time I also read a post about how staying home with your kids is a career choice not a moral imperative.

Right on! I don’t think I am morally superior (really, people?) for staying home to raise the Small People. I agree completely that this decision was conscious choice made the day I quit my job when Zach was 14 months old.

Then there was finding the resume’ which made me start to consider how I was going to document my current employment. Because what I’m doing is actual work–there is no bon-bon eating while my delightful children play neatly and quietly together on the floor. The stereotypical response to that statement is “yeah, but it’s not work/work. How much cerebral activity is there in Duck, Duck Goose?” To which I am now going to start responding with: “Hold up a second. Sure, being a part of drug development research (and the myriad of tasks therein) was full of mental challenges. But let’s stop over-selling the degree to which most people, on most days, use their full mental capacity at work.” There are many pretty phrases–Coordinates preparation of study materials –to describe making binders. Most of the work involved with binder-making is copy, collate, and ship. Yes, you can screw that part up (raises hand) but that’s carelessness, not brain-activity. “Writes internal and external correspondence” means I emailed people. A lot of times those emails didn’t even require thought on my part–virtual paper shuffling. This is mental challenge? Sitting through hours of planning meetings? Bo–ring.

Now that we’ve cleared all of that up. In 2012, my kids will be 6 and 4 years old and Zach will start kindergarten. As I see it, this will be my first true opportunity to go back to work. For us, the thought of paying for two kids to go to “school” (aka daycare) doesn’t make financial sense. I’m never working for free again. But since Zach will be in public school (free! social program! yay!), our cost would just be for Elliot. That’s doable.

I had the following three thoughts in short succession.

Um, 2012 is less than 2 years from now–I need to hurry up and decide what I want to be when I grow up.

OMG, by 2012 there will be a 4 year gap in my employment history. No one’s going to hire me!

What is the best way to sell my current activities as beneficial to a potential employer?

First, I am making an assumption that my 4 year employment gap is better explained by including my SAHM status. After all, the gap isn’t because I couldn’t get a job and that has to be an important point.

But, if the average time a recruiter spends reviewing each resume is 10-20 seconds maybe I’ll skip doing a chronological resume.

Without thinking about it a whole lot, I came up with my first draft of the SAHM Sales Pitch:

Stay at Home Mom
February 2008- Present

Supports the management of a diverse team comprised of varying degrees of difficulty—Small People, Animals, and Adults (domestic and foreign), by acting as a liaison between all involved team members. Specific responsibilities include:

      * Coordinates vendor payments, maintains budgets–proactively identifying areas for departmental savings and future financial risk.
      * Follows the industry standards listed in Good Hygienic Home Practices (GHHP) and Good Nutrition and Television Practices (GNTP)
      * Manages all components (planning, scheduling, preparation and travel) of informal and formal interactions between team members.
      * Responsible for the routine inspection of the facilities and arranges/supervises repairs, as needed.
      * Directly responsible for the education and behavior of in-training team members.
      * Prepares daily progress reports—written and verbal—to co-manager.
    * Maintains team website and ensures information is accurate and updated on a regular basis.

The End of Men?

Hanna Rosin’s recent op-ed, The End of Men, is (in my opinion) a slightly over-optimistic piece on the professional advancement of women. If you follow her argument, she is suggesting that culture is following economic gain—and women are finally gaining economically, and thus the culture is shifting from the male advantage to a female advantage.

She noted that more women in 2003 (>15%) said that they “must have a son”, down from about half in 1985. Of course, this should be seen as a boon to women! But before I can form an opinion about its relevance I’d like to know what the difference between 1985 and 2003 for the question “wants any children”. The decreasing trend of “must have a son” could be mostly attributed to the falling rate of women wanting children, period. And still, what did the fathers say–then and now?

That said, women are starting to gain an economic foothold, which means we are increasing our societal worth. Women are smart and we proved it to ourselves, and to men, by going to work. That we had something real to contribute appears to still shock some people.

Many of the new jobs, says Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress, replace the things that women used to do in the home for free.

Well that makes perfect sense. Food service, cleaning service, child care, and many other homemaker chores are being outsourced. As a group, the women entering the workforce created more jobs. Not only did they create more jobs, the ones that are rising in demand are the more nurturing/service careers: care-giving, nursing, food-service, teaching, etc. However, nurturing careers don’t usually provide equitable wages. Again, our gain still manages to be our loss.

For example, if you look at Bureau of Labor’s “Women in the Labor Force and compare the percentage of earnings—women to men—you won’t see many categories that are equal. Just looking at the broad category of “Management Occupations” one can see that women are still only making 70% of a man’s salary. And a female physician or surgeon is only making 64.4%.
What. The. Hell.

And how sad is that under “Office and Administrative Support Occupations”, our earnings are only about 90%. It’s a female-dominated field and we still suffer from pay inequality?

I’m feeling less advantageous.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs up from 26.1 percent in 1980. They make up 54 percent of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of American physicians are now women, as are 45 percent of associates in law firms, and both those percentages are rising fast. A white-collar economy values raw intellectual horsepower, which men and women have in equal amounts.

The assumption here seems to be that we can determine an increased corporate value for feminine traits by noting this increasing trend. I don’t think so. I think the managerial position increases are a natural result of the progression of time. Women entered the workforce later. Career advancement normally follows experience. Thus couldn’t the gain be explained as the natural progression of career advancement over time rather than an increased desirability of female workers? When looking at gender gaps, I find it the gap in the number of male versus female Chief Executives, 251 and 793, respectively (though the pay gap is better at 80%). Then there is the pay gap for women in the Financial Manager occupation, 64.9% even when there are more women than men employed.

As I dug deeper into the just the numbers of women employed in a specific occupation and the ensuing pay gap, I looked at jobs that have been more traditionally male. The obvious choices for me were the broad categories of “Installation, maintenance and repair”, and “Construction and extraction”. Despite being very heavily male-dominated, there pay gap was in favor of women, 100.6 and 108.6, respectively.

That was shocking. That pay equality is demonstrated more in jobs where gender inequality is also the highest? That makes the rest of it seem a little less progressive.

On a macro level, I think a lot of our gains can be explained by simple economics. One cannot ignore the fact that employing a woman is still cheaper than employing a man to do the same job. Once we proved to be of equal intelligence, why wouldn’t a business chose the economic advantage of cheaper labor?

So perhaps our employment gains are really masking a loss–of equal pay.

One would think that if men were acting in a rational way, they would be getting the education they need to get along out there, says Tom Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. But they are just failing to adapt.

When we say men, man, manly, manhood, and all the other masculine derivatives, we have in the background of our minds a huge vague crowded picture of the world and all its activities. To grow up and “be a man,” to “act like a man” — the meaning and connotation is wide indeed. That vast background is full of marching columns of men, of changing lines of men, of long processions of men; of men steering their ships into new seas, exploring unknown mountains, breaking horses, herding cattle… of men everywhere, doing everything — “the world.” –Vandyke Jennings, Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

The continuing theme is that the fall of man is imminent simply because men are not showing an interest in the future, high-demand jobs, like nursing. That it is the cultural stereotypes that will prevent men from being successful in the future. I would imagine that the lure of higher pay will convert enough men to prevent the annihilation of the Y-chromosome.

The History of Mother’s Day

One of my favorite things is to look up the origin story for celebrated holidays. Today, The History of Mother’s Day.

The first of the Mother’s Day celebrations can be traced back to Ancient Greece and festivals honoring Rhea, the mother of the Gods (most notably, Zeus). As part of the assimilation of Christianity, the holiday was then rebranded as a day to honor Mary. It eventually morphed into a day to honor all of the mothers in England.

Read More

The Mother’s Day movement was largely forgotten in the United States until 1870 when Julia Ward Howe wrote a declaration for women to rise up, to oppose war and violence, and to stand in peace.

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!
Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, Disarm!”

Read the rest of her Declaration

Sadly, Julia never got the day of peace she sought, but her work influenced another woman–Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, whose message influenced her own daughter, Anna Jarvis, who campaigned—and won—a day to recognize all of the efforts of mothers to their children.

Margaret Mead—your words, though now a cliche’ are ever so true: “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

My first Mother’s Day present was a cheap-o snow cone maker. Why? Because my first paying-taxes-job was working weekends (illegally—I was only 15) at the flea market making snow cones. That gift meant more to me than any diamond would have, because it was just so…appropriate.

This year we planted blueberries—a family favorite—to honor Mother’s Day. We all went to the Farmer’s Market and picked locally grown, pesticide-free plants. We planted them in organically-prepared soil, in a bed built by our own hands. We watered them with water collected in our rainbarrel and fed them with a tea made from our own compost.

I taught my oldest son what a root-bound plant was—and he actually kept me from buying one when I wasn’t paying attention to my own lesson a mere 10 minutes later.

I use this as a day to remind myself that I have important life lessons to teach my children. Lessons delivered to them more through actions than words. I use this as a day to remind myself that my children are teaching me lessons that I have forgotten during my tour as a cynical adult; lessons of innocence, of unconditional love, of wonder, of discovery.

From now on I will also use this day to honor Julia and her intent for this day; to celebrate our similarities instead of our differences. To say to mothers across the world that their children are just as important as my children.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone; may your day be full of peace and joy. And maybe a delicious Denver omelet with a side of strawberries with fresh whipped cream made by someone else.

My Love Affair with Dyson

I love to vacuum, though it’s not because I’m one of those OCD clean people. With the exception of the hours of 7pm-7am, my small house looks like Toys”R”Us became a person, got H1N1, and puked everywhere. No cleanliness is not my motivator.

I will admit to a serious sense of repulsion when Joel and I started preparing the “big house” for sale. Our attention to housekeeping was lacking, to say the least. We both guard our laziness with the same ferocity as Zach does his Geotrax trains. Our new house is much smaller than the old– one floor and all hard surfaces–which makes it easier to clean. It was when Zach, a new crawler in his footy pajamas, became a human version of a swiffer mop that I increased my dog hair removing vigilance. The battle against the fur had begun.

But WHY do I love to vacuum? I’ll give you a hint- it’s not because I think I can actually win the battle against the aforementioned fur. My reason exists solely on the fact that both of my children are terrified of the noise. For a few blissfully loud (yet ironically silent) moments, my legs are free from being humped by small people. They unite in their fear and play happily in the playroom secure in the knowledge that it is a safe place. One, the dogs aren’t allowed back there which limits the dog-hair tumbleweeds, and two, because the thought of putting away all of the toys in order to effectively vacuum kills my zen.

Last week I was in the middle of yet another vampire/faery/mystery series (they run together) and I only had twenty pages left in the last book. TWENTY PAGES. I’m the first to admit that my current fiction tastes are anything but literary, and since they are really easy reads, I needed a max of 15 minutes to finish. Do you think that my two children– trapped inside thanks to bitter cold, rain, and snow- would give me 15 straight minutes of their silence so I could find out who dunnit? Yeah, no.

As my overpriced hair-removal tool (a dyson) glided over the overpriced hair collection area (my husband’s beloved living room rug) a flash of brilliance borne of desperation! I set the vacuum’s setting to bare floor and grabbed my book using the noise as my childproofing sound barrier. 14 minutes later I was done with the book and that 3×3 section of hardwood was the cleanest it had been in 40 years. I won’t admit out loud how many times I’ve used my children’s fear to buy myself a quick break from them. I also don’t feel bad about doing making them “scared” since it results in them learning to work as a team. Isn’t that something siblings need to know?