Category Archives: School

Mother-birthday (Or, these boots were made for carrying, chasing, working, running…)

IMG_7122.JPG

T was due six years ago today. Today, two weeks before his sixth birthday, I am wearing the same boots that I bought that winter when I was pregnant with him (…when my feet were just a bit wider than they had been previously…).

Since that time, I have carried him in these boots. Walked hand-in-hand with him in these boots. In these boots, I have watched him run & laugh. I’ve chased him in these boots. We’ve had adventures in at least two states in these boots.

I have rushed to school in these boots. I have rushed home from moot court practice to T in these boots. I passed the bar in these boots. In their better (less scuffy) days, I sat in the courtroom in these boots. I met with clients in these boots. I now rush to work & back (always trying to maximize my time with T) in these boots.

At least, I’ve done & do all these things in the late winter/early spring, a short window when it’s not too cold or warm for wearing my boots. It’s a time of uncertainty, really. When will the ice melt…the snow stop…the rain start…the temperature tick upward..the plants go in the ground…?

The two weeks after my due date was a time of uncertainty in a season of uncertainty. I know so much more now. Today T is a person with a fun sense of humor & a kind personality.

But I still like to commemorate that time of uncertainty. I like to marvel at my good luck & laugh at how green I was. But this year, especially, I need to remind myself that in times of uncertainty we can be strong (as I was during the waiting & then the long labor) & adapt (as I did with a newborn T in the house). The truth is, it’s been a really trying 12 months, with highs & deep lows. T has brought me much light, but it’s still been difficult.

So this due date anniversary is my little celebration. An empowering reminder of how I was before T came screaming into our world & how far I’ve come. It’s my mother-birthday. I will continue to be strong & adapt.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Attachment Parenting, Lawyering, Living, Mothering, Parenting, School, Snapshots, Working

Incompetent? Moi?

Why do I go searching for trouble, looking for ways to get myself worked up? I don’t have an answer for that question, but I can try to combat the craziness here on Mom, JD.

The latest source of irksomeness comes courtesy of KJ Antonia over on Slate’s XX Factor blog (now of Motherlode). Seems like a year ago she blogged about a couple of “studies” looking at perceptions of breastfeeding mothers that led her to question her earlier choice to breastfeed three of her children for around one year each.

The blog post looks at two very small studies that seemed to suggest that people view breastfeeding mothers (or just people with breasts, i.e. women) as less competent. Apparently some of either 30 or 55 people would be less likely to hire a nursing woman. (I think the studies were so small that they hardly deserve to be called “studies” in any scientific sense.)

(For a much more reasonable look at the studies, see Jezebel’s take, which concludes that it’s actually the sexualization of breasts that led to these results & that normalizing breastfeeding is the appropriate response.)

As a nursing mother I’ve graduated law school, passed the bar, gotten hired for a pretty nifty job. Hmm… Not feeling so incompetent over here, even when my shirt is open & my nursling is attached.

In fact, while literally nursing my son I have worked out the particulars of my law school thesis, practiced in my head for a moot court competition & sorted out all types of legal issues for work.

Oh, and there’s this other minor little thing: I have provided nourishment to a small human being, helping him to grow physically & emotionally, in a way that has worked fore & my family. That makes me feel so not incompetent. It makes me feel like Wonder Woman.

(Not to downplay the tough times… Sometimes it makes me feel like screaming. Sometimes it makes me wonder if it will ever end. And, yes, sometimes it made me feel like a zombie. We all have those days… Whether we’re nursing or bottle feeding. But not once have I thought about how the, uh, finer points of breastfeeding might seem to a stranger.)

In a world where it’s still news that my breasts have the potential to make people think differently about me, the useful response would seem to be not to play into the stereotype.

But this is exactly what Antonia does. Buying into these prejudices by viewing ourselves as less competent, even if just adding a little light fluff to a blog post (as I imagine Antonia was doing) doesn’t help. As the researchers concluded (if you want to give any credence to these two tiny studies that probably involved only college students as “subjects”) women should breastfeed more, & more openly, to combat the stereotypes.

Antonia glosses over this point & concludes that maybe she should have just weaned her three breastfed infants sooner. Maybe… But I’m skeptical of this outcome as a general response to these types of “studies.”

According to the XX Factor blog post, breastfeeding mothers should take the prejudices into account. Really?! Since when did my decision to breastfeed have anything to do with anyone other than myself & my child?

Not to mention that Antonia completely overlooks the elephant in the room: Who is judging me? The jerk gawking at me across the restaurant? Some psych 101 student filling out a survey for $20? Forgive me for not caring.

My boss, my teachers, my clients, most of my colleagues… They have no idea of whether or not I breastfeed my son. Nor do they seem to care one way or the other.

What I do care about is how employers view pumping mothers (you, know, for those of us nursing mothers lucky enough to have gotten hired in the first place…). How do employers & colleagues view that “do not disturb” sign on the office door? What do they think when a nursing mother asks for a clean, quiet space to pump? How do they respond when a mother asks to break up her union-mandated lunch break into shorter pumping breaks?

If these people think a nursing, pumping mother is incompetent as a result of her exercising a statutory right, then I care. Then I think we need do do something. And I think the more our bosses & colleagues see nursing women, at a friend’s home, at a restaurant, on a park bench, the more normal nursing & pumping will seem (… though I’m not sure hooking one’s self up to a breast pump can ever seem or be “normal” to those of us who have had to suffer that fate…). And if they can see a nursing mom simultaneously nursing & holding an intelligent conversation, then, watch out!

I take Antonia’s point about the costs of breastfeeding (& also raised it in my response to Elisabeth Badinter’s Harper’s article). Weighing those costs led me to rely on pumped breast milk when it was time for me to continue my studies. Weighing those costs also led me to stop pumping short of T’s first birthday when pumping began to interfere with my school work beyond an acceptable level for me. (I long ago accepted that breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing… I only wish I had realized it sooner…) But Antonia doesn’t analyze “real” costs… She analyzes perceived stereotypes & insecurities.

When writers like Antonia declare that they think breastfeeding was a huge waste of their time, they just feed into the stereotypes. And they actually devalue the role a mother plays in the infant-child relationship (& by extension the work of raising children).

Like Badinter, Antonia seems to assume that she has better things to do with her time than nurse her babies (I use the term “nurse” to include breastfeeding & bottle nursing, since both require the time & partial attention of a caregiver). Sometimes I have had more pressing things to do. But slowing down enough to nourish my son when I can has been pretty darned important work. Not the end-all, be-all of our existence, but important nonetheless.

Leave a comment

Filed under Breastfeeding, Feminism, Lawyering, Mothering, School, Working

Preschool

MFA Dad & I went to our first preschool open house. It was a Montessori school & I was simultaneously wowed by the school, terrified at some of the questions parents asked & a little bit hopeless about our prospects for getting in. In other words, I was reminded of why I have always feared the preschool rat race in a big city.

Preschool is a strange beast. Most of the public schools where we live offer some sort of preschool program. But my son is not guaranteed a spot & because of our socio-economic situation he’s likely low on the list (& rightly so — students with less opportunity are prioritized). So here we are, pursuing both public & private options.

As a product of public (albeit suburban) schools, I cringe at the thought of interviewing for a spot at a preschool. Not to mention the stress of having to figure out how to get an interview in the first place.

It’s preschool!!!

Which brings me to why I was terrified at some of the questions posed by some of my fellow parents at the open house. Who cares about ‘academics’ at this point?! What about just ensuring a healthy play environment?

I’m drawn to the idea of sending T to an alternative school (namely Montessori or Waldorf) because they eschew traditional grades, embrace simple toys & activities, encourage parents to not over-schedule their children, & focus on character-building rather than standardized tests or a spot at an ivy league school. Yet some of the questions asked during the open house made it clear that for at least some parents these alternative approaches are nothing more than another, better way to try to make their children smarter. In other words, the rat race in a different form.

Which is not to say that I don’t want T to reach his full potential. But I’m not worried about art lessons or bilingual instruction or elaborate field trips just yet. I want a school that will provide a healthy & safe environment for T. I want a school that will support T’s emotional & developmental needs. That’s pretty much it.

As MFA Dad reminded me, there are many paths to ‘success’… Whatever that ends up meaning for the individual. He’s right & so I’m trying very hard not to put all my emotional eggs in one basket. It’s just preschool after all. If it’s working for T that’s all that really matters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Parenting, School, Simplicity

There just aren’t enough lawyers and mom bloggers in the world…

I should be studying… or finding a job for next summer… or doing the laundry… or helping my husband feed our son… or practicing yoga… or sleeping… or having some other form of “me” time (blogging is certainly “me” time, but in the narcissistic sense, not restorative sense)… But here I am. I’ve wanted to start a blog for a while and so I’m writing my first post. I don’t think I have a good reason for wanting to blog about parenting & lawyering (I could make something up about community and sharing, but while fostering a community–of exactly what I don’t know–would be nice I don’t think a blog would be the right forum). I suppose I want to blog because I have thoughts running through my head that just don’t find an outlet during the normal course of the day.

I see this blog as a space where I can explore the challenges I encounter in the different spheres of my life. Because all of this is quite unexpected… I’m not sure how exactly I ended up in law school. And I certainly don’t know how I ended up with a beautiful little boy. I’m sure like most law students, I expected to be challenged when I started law school just over two years ago. And like most moms, I expected to be challenged when my husband and I decided to have a child. I expected to be challenged when finishing law school while raising a little boy. … Man, did I ever underestimate the challenge! But here I am… trying to finish my last three semesters at a competitive law school (and then start a career) while keeping my focus on my family. As I publish this first post, I am grateful that 1L is behind me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogging, Lawyering, Mothering, Parenting, School, Studying