I am new to feminism in the sense that I have never thought about my beliefs or perspective as being a movement with a label. I have always just considered myself a person who believed in equality and stood up to social injustice. I wanted to make a difference, I still do. Most of my post-secondary schooling is in the field of social work. It was not until the birth of my son did I have what people might call my feminist awakening. I realized that there was in fact a label to what I stood for. There was a name for the injustice I encountered more often than I would like to admit.
As I have embarked more consciously on my feminist journey in the past year I have found myself in an interesting spot. I seem to have become more aware of my perspective and more inclined to act upon on it now that I have a child. Bringing a life into this world was a journey in itself but I now find that I am riding a slippery slope I did not realize was there. I am the mother of a boy which has coincidentally made me a more mindful feminist.
Like any good parent I try to watch what I say or do in front of my child. I want to set the right examples and hope that I am making the right decisions. It is not as easy as some parents make it look, believe me. While parenting my son I have learned more about myself in this past year than I have in all of my twenty-three years on this planet. It was suddenly too easy to see my faults, quirks, insecurities, and societal boundaries embedded in me. I am sure much of what I realized was in part due to the anxiety issues I struggled with more predominantly postpartum or maybe it all just made me more cynical.
I opened my eyes to many things in the short time my son has been here. One of the many issues I have been more aware of recently is the very real problem our society seems to have with gender roles. I am not sure if the reactions or thought processes I had were normal in the sense that the majority of parents with sons have them or I am one of the few. I found myself getting increasingly annoyed with blue clothing and people questioning my child’s gender like it made a difference. Apparently people need to know so they can fit you in a box, even before you are a year old. The problem with boxes is that not everything is perfectly square. In fact, I would wager that most things are not.
There is only so much you can do at home but I will do my best to encourage my child to be true to himself regardless of the messages he will get elsewhere. It is so wrong to place these constraints on children. I am tired of feeling a little guilty when I walk in to the “girl’s section” in the toy department to buy my son something he will enjoy. Why should I? It pains me to know that one day he may be made fun of or told he is wrong for liking the color pink, wanting to cook, or playing with a baby doll if that is what he chooses to do. It bothers me that one day it will not be okay for my son to show that he is hurting but the little girl next door will be consoled and reassured. The last I checked we are all humans and some of the most human qualities are to have feelings, opinions, and choices and to be able to act on them. In my ideal world people would just be people; there would be no glass ceiling, rape, gender roles, or prejudices. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a world and that is why I will do what I can in my own home. I do not want my child to grow up feeling like he needs to conform to the limited view of masculinity that we have. Being the parent of a son in a masculine society has made me be more aware of what I say and how I say it, not only to my son but to everyone.
And this is why I have compiled a list of things I will not say to my son:
- “Man up”- This goes right along with sayings like “grow a pair”. Everyone’s feelings are valid and should be acknowledged. Courage does not come from having testicles neither does being a leader. Setting an impossible standard of “masculinity” that every male needs to live up to is plain silly.
- “Don’t cry/ Crying is for ‘pussies’”- Since when does having a vagina mean you are the only one that is allowed to cry or show your emotions? When we are hurting it is a natural reaction to cry. It is a stress reliever and a coping mechanism. Why on earth should that be gender specific? Humans have the ability to do this, humans have feelings, and every feeling is valid.
- “No, that is a girl’s…. “- Whatever. I will not tell my son he cannot do or have anything because it is not for boys. That is just ridiculous, sexes do not own rights to colors, toys, activities, hobbies, or fashion.
- “Boys will be Boys”- I will not give my son an excuse to misbehave. There is no old boys club in my home and I expect my son to respect others no matter where he is. I will encourage my son to be inclusive. Men should not get away with acting inappropriately because of their genitals, neither should women.
This past weekend I actually had some fun, like real adult fun! Can you believe it? I can’t. My friend came over and we drank and played silly games, it was a blast. I have not had the opportunity to drink or just relax with friends since before I even got pregnant. This was a real treat, we have decided we are going to make it a somewhat regular thing.
It made me realize how little time I spend having fun ( I obviously enjoy spending time with my son, you know what I mean though). I know I am never shy to say how hard I work, how stressed out I am, or how lonely being home alone every day can be. Especially when I am often stuck at home even if the opportunity to go out arises with some health conditions of mine. After Saturday night though, I felt it full force. It hit me, I felt the full emptiness that comes with the realization that I am so very often completely alone. It’s kind of sad sometimes. I will call my grandma or my Mom for no real reason, just to hear an actual grown person speak to me. Even if only for a minute because we really had nothing to say. Not that I am writing this to tell you how pathetic I am, it is just relevant to the point I am about to make; I promise.
I felt the need to state again to all of you how important it is to take care of yourself in every way. Even in ways we sometimes forget are good for us. It is important to be social, have friends, do things you enjoy, and be silly when you can. I am so type-A I cannot even stand it half the time, it is hard for me to let go and just have fun. Honestly, I think I forget how to do it. I did a good job of it Saturday night though and it was such a relief. I actually felt like a proper 23-year-old. Is that a thing? I feel like I am much older than my peers most days; I don’t feel like I had the same experiences as them. I was never one to go out and be stupid, I never went to a party as a teenager, I didn’t make any real or close friends in college (both programs I attended), and I generally kept to myself. It was probably my own fault but it took away from my ability to do it now; my ability to let loose. Now being a Mom my work day never ends and that takes a toll all its own. I have realized that by taking small steps and carving that “Me Time” out for myself allows me to have my cake and eat it too. The secret is to just make cup cakes! I think of it like this; with a box of cake mix you can either make one cake or lots of little cup cakes. What better way to think about having it all, right?
Set time aside for yourself, I know it can be difficult most days. It can feel impossible every other day but it is vital. You cannot care for others if you first do not care for yourself. Being a parent is stressful, you deserve time to unwind. Please take it in any way you can. Even if it is just 15 minutes a night after the kids are in bed; read a book in the bath with a glass of wine or invite a friend over to watch a movie. Just do something for yourself, you are important and you deserve it.
Let me know how you like to spend your time! Also, if you are interested in the Cup cake picture above it is one of three different cup cake prints available on my Society 6 store. They can be prints or put on things like t-shirts, pillows, and mugs! Check it out here (They also have free world-wide shipping going on until January 25th, 2015 at Midnight (PST) )!
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Re-springing Your Step.”
This was not my first New year as a parent but I spent my first one in a bit of a haze. My son was only a few days old and we were all having a rough time. That happened to also be the night we ended up in the emergency room to find out that we were having some serious trouble with feeding. Clearly, resolutions were the farthest thing from my mind.
This year I was able to actually focus and feel as though I could work towards some goals. I have a long list of them this year. I wrote them out in my 2015 Smashbook so that I could keep track and document my progress, I thought it would be a great way to stay focused. Once I had finished writing out my list I noticed that I had naturally added in goals for parenting. I have never heard of people making these kinds of resolutions; maybe they do not share them or maybe I am just too new or not privy to this whole parenting thing to have realized. Either way it is an awesome choice to consciously make goals in regard to how you parent. If you have children that are old enough to actually have a conversation with them then I would go ahead and ask them what it is you can do better and what they would like to see you do.
My list included some educational and bonding activities such as reading together everyday, spending an evening a week doing a family activity, and working on numbers, letters, colours each day. We have been doing well with the reading and my son got a lot of new books for Christmas and his birthday to help with that. We just started introducing the alphabet by singing “ABC’s”.
Oh look! There is also a YouTube video. Check it out to find out my tips on how to achieve your goals as well as parenting resolutions!
Having a baby come in to your life can be overwhelming, especially if you are doing it for the first time. There are thousands of products that claim that you simply cannot have a baby without them. They are a “must need” for your new bundle of joy.
What exactly does a new born baby need? I guess for much of this question the answer would be, “Well, how do you intend to parent?”
Here is my (I think practical) list of needs for a new born:
* Diapers and wipes- This is a give-in. You need to cover your baby’s behind whether in disposable (think Huggies, Pampers, etc.) or reusable (washable). The choice is yours! They both have their pros and cons. We chose disposable this time around because cloth was too expensive of an initial investment (although cheaper in the long run) and we live in a building with common washers and dryers. If we live in a house next time around, I would love to give cloth a shot, I know a few parents that do and they love to cloth diaper, it is much better for the environment as a bonus! Diaper cream is also something to keep handy, there are natural alternatives to this as well if you are interested. I have used breast milk and that has worked but the medicated stuff is useful.
* A way to feed your (always) hungry little one- For those of you planning on breastfeeding you may be wondering what could you possibly need? I would suggest a breast pump, it can be a life saver, as well as some milk storage bags. Also, some bottles in case someone else needs to feed baby. Nursing pads were really handy for me as well, I preferred the washable ones over the disposable because they were thinner and more comfortable.Some nipple cream may come in handy if they get sore and cracked and some people like to have a nursing pillow, I was going to make my own and then had one given to me. Honestly, I tried to use it and it just got in the way, I ended up using a normal pillow because that worked for us. If you plan on formula feeding consult with your baby’s doctor about what kind is appropriate and have that on hand along with some bottles and I got great use out of a bottle scrubber.
* Laundry detergent- You do not need to go out and buy the specially made for babies detergent. It is very pricey and you have a cheaper alternative! You can purchase dye and scent free detergent ( something that is Free and Clear) and it does the same thing. Babies have sensitive skin. The world is much different than the womb, they are not use to the feel of fabric or rough things, they do not understand things like clothing tags. They just know that it does not feel good.
*Gentle baby soap and soft face cloths– for the same reason you want to get free and clear detergent, baby’s skin is sensitive!
* Be a baby wearer!- Do it! Just kidding, you do not have to but it is a wonderful way to have both hands free and still have baby close to you. They crave the closeness and comfort, your heartbeat was all they knew for the longest time. Skin to skin and closeness encourage a baby’s growth and comforts them. It is really lovely and quite practical. I suggest starting off with a baby wearing group that has a library for you to try out. Not every baby loves every carrier and you will not either. I bought one while pregnant and my son absolutely hated it, screamed anytime I put it near him. During an outing my friend let me try hers and my son and I were in love. I ended up having to search for one online because that particular style had been discontinued. We found one and we use it often. When I take it out now my son runs over to me and asks to get up (by shoving his hands in the air while laughing). I have found a lot of use for it while taking public transportation since not all our subway stations are accessible.
* Somewhere for baby to sleep- They may not want to leave your arms but they will have to. At first we used a Pack ‘n Play with the newborn insert and when he was a few months old we bought him a convertible crib. So, you do not need to start off with a crib. In our tiny one bedroom apartment this was a much easier start for us.
* Weather appropriate clothing and Sleepers- This one is self explanatory. I do suggest you invest in full sleepers with zippers instead of snaps. The buttons are difficult to do, especially when baby gets older and more wiggly. The sleepers are easy and comfortable for them. They also do not need extras like socks when they are wearing them. My son always hated socks. I still cannot keep them on him. Also, hats.
* Stroller and Car seat- Again pretty self explanatory. I would also suggest that you have a car seat canopy as well as a cover for the stroller to keep the wind, rain, and snow away from the little one. We started off with a big stroller that has big tires with a tread (because we live in Canada and the snow is an issue) I think it is actually a jogging stroller. It is wonderful but it is huge. It would not fit in a trunk properly and we had a lot of appointments right after my son was born. My grandma ended up getting us a Snap-N-Go by Baby Trend. It is basically a small base with a tiny basket and wheels that you strap the infant seat in to. It was a life saver. It was only practical until he could not use that car seat anymore but we still have it and it is awesome.
* Diaper bag- You are a Mom now; look the part. Babies need a lot of stuff, you need something to carry it all in. You do not have to use something big or even a conventional diaper bag. I used a small one that Nestle sent me ( I still do) but I have also used my big TNA gym bag purse thing, as well as a back pack. I find the back pack useful when I am going to be out for a while and I am wearing my son.
* Receiving blankets- They are super useful. I used them to swaddle my son as well as for burp cloths and whatever else I could think of. Really, they were great. They are nice and thin and soft, perfect for baby. My son often played with one in his car seat while we were out because I would always have one with us.
* A CAMERA- No matter what you have for your new baby, you are going to want to document those tiny little toes! They grow entirely too fast, try to enjoy every second of it that you can!
This seems like an exhaustive list but babies need a lot of stuff and they are not cheap. I paired this down as best I could to give new parents a starting list of things I found essential. Two things I did not mention in there because I thought they would be more optional for some people are: A swing ( babies love these things and sometimes you need a minute without a baby in your hands) and books ( I found that reading to my son was a great way to bond from the start, they just like hearing your voice).
I hope this was helpful! I want to hear what your list of necessities for a new baby are down below!
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My son discovered his feet a couple of weeks ago. Naturally, he has not stopped playing with them since. Have you ever looked in to a baby’s eyes the moment they discover something new? There is a spark, a light, in their eyes that was not there before. You can almost see them learning. If you have not experienced this, I hope that one day you are able to. I have been lucky enough to see those exact moments twice now. The first time he realized he had hands and the second, his feet. You know that feeling you get when you come to a realization? It just washes over you. I imagine that is how babies feel when they figure out that those funny little wiggly toes belong to them.
It is so simple, so natural, and so perfect. I am not sure what will come next. I imagine getting up on his hands and knees since he already rolls all over the place and scoot around on his stomach. The days go by so fast, although they can seem so long.
I admire him often, it has been rewarding and enlightening to watch him grow every day. I try to take it all in and adapt some of that lost child like magic in my life- like, when ten little fingers meet ten little toes and there is nothing more needed in the world.
Why are we so judgemental as Mothers? It is like pushing a kid out of your body makes you Queen-of-all-things-parenting. It is one thing to speak up out of genuine concern but to shove your opinion in someone else’s face- just because you did not do it that way- is ridiculous. If I have my kid not strapped in his car seat in a moving vehicle, please say something to me – I have clearly lost my mind. If you just do not like that I give my baby bottles, you can go walk into oncoming traffic, seriously.
I have been fairly lucky to not have people give me unwanted “advice” but many of my fellow Mothers are not so fortunate. I have also noticed it is quite the topic of concern for a lot of parents. With the rise of social media in our daily lives people tend to post quite a few pictures of their little ones. This becomes troublesome when someone viewing your pictures finds something they do not agree with. Say you innocently snap a picture of Junior eating some French fries and post it on Facebook, “LOL guys, we are noming on some cheezburgarz for lunch”. Well, I can guarantee you someone on your friend’s list is sitting behind a screen going on about how they would never let little Suzie eat such junk. How dare you feed your child such nonsense! Don’t you know they are going to drop dead at fifteen if they eat even one hamburger?
We all have an opinion on pretty much everything – just because you have an opinion does not mean you are all-knowing. Mothers online seem to not have a filter and cannot seem to figure out that not every child on the planet is theirs to parent. Whatever happened to women sticking together? Being a Mother is hard enough without having people jump on your back for every little thing. When did we get to a point that every suggestion is taken as an insult to our parenting? I should not have to question whether or not to tell the (hypothetical) mother that just posted a picture of her three-month old not properly strapped in to her car seat that, that is not a good idea. Giving someone advice out of genuine concern should not be met with animosity. When someone gives me advice I take it into consideration. What if that advice saves my child’s life one day? I am not telling anyone to just blindly follow what someone tells them to do with their child, who knows where this person is getting their information. Also, just because this one thing worked for their child does not mean it will work for yours. Take what everyone tells you and store it away in your mind for future reference, use it as a starting point for research. Think for yourself and parent your way but do not dismiss the people who are giving you advice because they care – do not attack those people either, they mean well and who needs the bad karma? Not me, I get enough of it on my own.