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Yesterday, a random woman on Twitter felt the need to educate me on my hypocrisy regarding breastfeeding in public.  According to her, moms should be allowed to do it wherever and however they see fit.  This stemmed from a comment I made earlier in the day on Twitter.  It was not directed at her or hashtagged, so I assume she was just bored and searching for people to annoy.

What I said was “This whole right to breastfeed in public thing drives me nuts thanks to moms who have no respect for others & think they’re entitled.  Yes, you should be able to breastfeed in public, but YES you should cover up your jugs & not be an obnoxious twat about it.”  This was in reaction to a news story about mothers who harassed a business owner after he had requested a mother cover herself in his restaurant while breastfeeding.  The mother in question, according to all accounts, made no effort to hide her bare breast in full view of the patrons.

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There is a big difference between a mother trying to feed her child and a woman using her child to make a point to whoever happens to be watching.  Just because you are still breastfeeding your child doesn’t mean you are entitled to be disrespectful to others.  Having your breast fully exposed in public, especially in places with a captive audience such as a restaurant, is not okay.  I’m not suggesting moms go hide in the restrooms or in their cars to breastfeed, but I do feel they should make an effort to cover up.

My sister-in-law used one of those massive tent-like covers that completely masked everything.  I’ve seen other moms carefully use a blanket to hide certain areas so you can tell what is going on but it’s not in your face.  My issue is with the women who feel that breastfeeding is something that needs to be announced to the world.  A child should not be used as part of some twisted statement.  Even if a business owner wrongly shoos you away while you rightfully feed your child, you should have enough decency to not react by turning your child into a tool for revenge.

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Feeding your child does not make you special.  Providing the most basic of needs doesn’t make you better than anyone else or entitled to receive all sorts of special treatment at the expense of others.  Why should I have to hide my son’s eyes because some woman decides to whip out her breast at Applebee’s?  Why can’t she have respect for those around her and do it discreetly?  Why am I wrong for wanting mothers to make an attempt to not flash their milk jugs to the world?

I’m not a prude, but I’m also not okay with seeing random tits everywhere.  The “it’s natural” argument is lost on me, as a lot of things are “natural” but shouldn’t be blatantly done/performed in public.  If your true goal is to feed your baby in the best possible way, then do it.  But when your breastfeeding becomes not only an inappropriate public display, but a tool to shame mothers who choose formula and a tool to harass businesses, you’ve crossed a line.  Your baby is not a prop.

29th April 2014 PHOTO CREDIT SHOULD READ: MATTHEW PAGE Sports Direct Clumber Street, Nottingham.  Mums held a protest at Sports Direct after a woman was asked to leave the shop for breastfeeding her child.

I suppose I was called a hypocrite by random Twitter lady because I support breastfeeding in public, but I don’t support certain ways it is done.  What needs to exist is a mutual respect for each other by mothers and business owners/patrons/etc.  Mothers need to make an effort to cover so we’re not seeing nipples galore and everyone else needs to be understanding about the fact that babies need to eat on their schedule, not anyone else’s.  Moms should not be forced to hide in a dirty public restroom to breastfeed and I should not have to see nipples and giant engorged bare breasts while shopping at Target.  It’s give and take on both sides.

According to my new Twitter BFF, covering hinders lactation.  So because a small percentage of babies don’t like any type of cover whatsoever, all mothers should be able to skip using it?  I have yet to hear a good argument as to why I shouldn’t demand a bit of modesty from nursing moms.  I have yet to hear a rational reason why this angry group of breastfeeding mothers insists that frontal exposure is not only necessary to properly breastfeed, but is something the rest of us should simply deal with.  I have yet to hear a good reason why breastfeeding has to be an odd political statement instead of an act of providing nourishment to a baby.

Breastfeeding alone does not make you more woman or more mother than anyone else.  You might be the loudest person in the room but volume has nothing to do with your value.  If you want to be a good mother, be a good mother.  If you want to be respected when you feed your child in public, do so in a way that doesn’t also make you a public nuisance.  If you just want to get your knockers out and yell at passerby, no one is going to respect you or listen to a damn thing you say.  There is a way to make this whole thing a nonissue, once people get off their soapboxes, quit using babies as protest signs, stop shaming mothers, and start acting like decent human beings.

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Selling Stencils and Playing Doctor

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that Hobby Lobby will no longer be forced to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees due to their religious objections.  Specifically, Hobby Lobby’s case targeted birth control that they considered to be abortifacients that would cause a miscarriage or abortion in an already pregnant woman.  Plan B and Ella, both emergency contraceptives that simply prevent implantation and do NOT cause abortions, are being blocked.  Two IUDs are also being blocked due to the misinformation that they too cause abortions.  The internet has exploded with Hobby Lobby’s supporters and opponents attacking each other with spit and venom.  The decision has been called both a victory for religious freedom and an attack on the freedoms of us all.

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Hobby Lobby’s website, in response to the question “Is Hobby Lobby imposing the religious views of its owners on its employees,” states:

Of course not.  The Greens and their family businesses support the individual liberties of all their employees.  The very notion turns the facts and the law on its head.  In fact, it is the federal mandate that violates the deeply held religious beliefs of the Greens by forcing them to violate the law or violate their belief that life begins at conception – a choice no company should have to make.  And by threatening extensive fines, the mandate would place a substantial burden on the Greens’ practice of their faith under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That’s why a federal appeals court ruled in their favor. Meanwhile, Hobby Lobby offers coverage for 16 of 20 drugs and devices included in the mandate in its health plan, and the four objectionable drugs and devices are widely available and affordable, and employees are free to obtain them.

There is obviously no law that is forcing any business to offer health care coverage that would include abortions.  The four birth control methods in question do not cause abortions to occur and seriously toe the line on when life is actually created.  To the woman using them, the IUDs are no different from any other birth control method.  Plan B and Ella are fantastic options for couples who experience an emergency such as a broken condom, or even a woman who was sexually assaulted and wants to ensure that no child results from the involuntary union.  It’s unfair to say that any woman who has used any of the four methods in question has potentially received a number of abortions.  It’s incorrect to compare the two.  Preventing implantation and removing a fetus are two VERY different things.

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The biggest issue for me here is that the Supreme Court just allowed a company to make a health care decision for their employees.  Hobby Lobby is not directly handing money over to their employees per request for doctor visits and medications, but using United Healthcare (I believe) to provide coverage.  Their religious beliefs should not be allowed to have this long of a reach, and certainly should not be reaching into the health and well being of their employees.  The life begins at conception argument is a fine argument to make, but it’s not right for the religious standing of the people on top to affect the type of care that every single woman on the bottom will receive from their doctor at a reasonable or at no cost.

I’m worried about what this decision will mean for the future.  If a gay couple adopts and requests maternity leave, can that be denied due to religious objections to homosexuality?  Can an employer decide that no medications will be covered due to their religious belief that medicinal healing goes against their God’s will?  Those seem like ridiculous notions, but then again I thought that it was ridiculous for Hobby Lobby to object to those four “evil” forms of birth control.  And here we are.  God trumps law.  God trumps employee rights.  God trumps insurance companies, doctors, and individuals unable to start their own business and play nicely with the people they employ.  Maybe I’m off base here but in my opinion, if I’m not having an abortion on company time and/or on company property, it is none of my employers goddamn business what I choose to do and certainly not their right to control the quality of my health care.

Please weigh in!  Leave your thoughts, knowledge, opinions, and rants in the comments section.

 

Oh Baby

I can’t remember the exact moment it happened, but at some point it became a crazy trend to be pregnant and to later show off your new bundle of joy.  The fascination with the pregnancies of celebrities and other famous figures began to grow obscenely, swelling right along with the heads of the proud new parents.  The slow build has gotten us to the point we are presently at; where radio DJs invade the privacy of the expecting royal couple at the hospital via prank call, where Beyoncé is allowed to carry on as if she is the first pregnant woman to ever walk the Earth, and where a music television network spends most of its time glorifying the lives of pregnant teenagers.

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It’s normal, acceptable, and a lot of fun to get overly excited about an addition to the family.  Having a child is a life changing event, even for deadbeat parents who plan on being absent as much as possible.  Being pregnant, especially for the first time, can be a lot of fun considering all the attention and special treatment a woman can receive.  Kids are cute, especially kids of very attractive people.  But even with all of these elements combined, I still cannot find a valid reason why a baby bump or a baby itself should get treated like a fashion accessory.  I don’t understand why celebrities act as if they just discovered childbirth and why we eat it up.

There is a serious danger in treating the offspring of celebrities in this manner.  Let’s put aside the fact that it is silly to invest so much of our time in what a 3-year-old is wearing or whether or not someone has morning sickness, along with all the other superficial things about this fascination.  The attention and praise we throw at people for getting pregnant and having babies can both put an immense pressure on people to have children before they’re ready and can influence the behavior and actions of those of us who don’t exactly have the bankroll of these people and cannot capture the same lifestyle for ourselves or our children.

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16 And Pregnant has been targeted time and time again for glorifying teen pregnancy.  While it may not glorify the lives of these teenagers, it does portray an inaccurate story.  The first look at these teen parents will show a mostly genuine experience, but when you move on to Teen Mom, where these parents are now being paid a hefty sum per episode, you are no longer getting an accurate look at what it is like for a teen parent.  Instead, you get the idea that while drama exists, the overall lifestyle is cozy and comfortable.  Sure, this teen mother is upset, but she’s sporting a new breast augmentation and driving a BMW, so how hard can her life truly be?  These inaccuracies are often overlooked by viewers and can easily result in pushing people towards having a child of their own before their time.

For already established celebrities, the attention that one can get from a baby bump and from showing off their bundle of joy can definitely push a struggling celebrity to pop out a child in order to get themselves back into the spotlight and get the tabloids speaking their name once again.  A baby is a foolproof way for any celebrity to get extra attention, and if you are dealing with someone shallow and desperate enough, it’s the perfect way to promote a new project and make some quick cash from exclusive photo shoots.  Love doesn’t matter, preparedness doesn’t matter; as long as the attention is coming and the cash is flowing, a baby is the perfect add-on to a woman or couple in order to propel a career forward.

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Even when we get a couple who desires privacy and has no interest in exploiting their new child, the media refuses to leave them alone and will report on even the smallest detail about the happy couple and their new addition.  We see photos from photographers who hide out in the bushes and wait for the perfect moment, secret sources “close to the couple” who spill insignificant details about the woman’s cravings, the man’s sympathy pains, their doctor visits, and the suspected names of the baby.  When no details exist, teams are put together to speculate and tell us what they, in their “expert” opinion, think about the pregnancy and the baby who will be here soon.

With our open couples, there is no reason for the media to pry at all.  The attention craving parents will parade their child in front of photographers in the same way they would show off a new car or piece of jewelry.  They’ll proudly tell reporters about their child’s favorite foods and clothing items, gush about their first words and playdates, and shop intimate photos around to various magazines in search of the highest bidder.  Their baby is treated no better than a new dress; just one more piece of their ensemble, working to make their appearance desirable and complete.  It’s the next step down from the purse-dog craze, and it’s much much worse.

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A baby is not a fashion statement and I find it disgusting that we have turned babies into one.  We’ve gone from simple curiosity to morbid fascination, which has fed this baby craze and made it into the beast it is today.  And for the life of it, I cannot understand why no one has stopped and realized how disgusting it all is.  These are human lives in question here, and we talk about them in the same way we would discuss a new hairstyle.  We’ve allowed child-bearing to become a trend and allowed teenage mothers to become idols.  Meanwhile, we have groups protesting abortion and child abuse, but not a one protesting the fact that we’re treating pregnancy as a fashion statement.

Baby bumps are adorable, especially when attached to our favorite singer or actress.  It’s also a lot of fun to look at both parents and imagine what their baby will look like.  It’s just not as big a deal as we make it out to be.  It is undeserving of the type of attention we give it, especially when many aspects of a pregnancy should remain between the couple and their immediate family.  We need to backpedal a few miles and put distance back between the general public and the pregnancies of public figures (including reality stars).  We need to care enough about these little lives to stop giving their parents a reason to exploit them.  We need to start preserving the innocence of these children instead of defiling it before they even take their first breath.

Sexy And I Know It

Society is falling apart at our feet.  Just when I think I’ve heard it all, I hear something that truly baffles me.  My coworker told me about a married couple who were happy and in love.  They had a baby together, something that is generally a very blissful time, but it was anything but that for husband Jian Feng.  Feng was shocked to see that their infant daughter was, in his words, incredibly ugly.  He initially thought his gorgeous wife had an affair, as there could be no other reason for the unattractive infant.  When the DNA test showed that the infant was indeed his, Feng’s wife confessed to having approximately $100,000 worth of cosmetic surgery before the two had met.

Outraged, Feng took his wife to court and sued her for duping him into marrying a genetically ugly woman and producing an ugly daughter.  The outcome was stunning to me; the judge agreed with Feng and ordered his wife to pay him a settlement of $120,000 in addition to granting the divorce.  This in spite of the fact that Feng claims to have married his wife out of love and that there were no marital issues until the birth of their daughter, who was so ugly it “horrified” him.

I find it obvious that Feng was in love with the idea of having a beautiful wife and family, trophies that he could brag about and show off to the world, and not in love with the woman his wife is inside.  Marriage is for better and for worse, but Feng didn’t give a damn once he found out that his wife’s beauty was artificial.  He also cared little about being a father and acted quite cold and heartless after the birth of his child; what loving parent in this world would ever call their own child incredibly ugly, especially when they’re just a baby?  I know some kids are a little odd-looking, but the love for a child should go beyond the superficial.  Even if you do think your child isn’t supermodel material, you don’t say it out loud and you certainly don’t say it to news stations and in court rooms.

The worst part of this is that the court agreed with Feng and is making his estranged wife pay him $120,000.  She is no doubt reeling from his reaction and the subsequent lawsuit, and I truly can’t imagine what this is doing to her emotionally.  On top of that, Feng doesn’t seem like he will be a doting and attentive father to his “ugly” daughter, leaving his ex to be the primary or possibly sole caregiver and provider for the child.  This poor child, when old enough to understand, will no doubt find out that her father left her mother and shunned her because she was an ugly infant; seeing as this is all over the internet, there will be no hiding it from her if she wishes to find it or has loudmouthed friends and relatives.

At the most, the judge should have granted the divorce, but no money should have been awarded to this despicable man.  The order should have been for the couple to part ways and for Feng to pay child support or sign over his rights as a father in order to get on with his life.  This judge had the wrong person’s best interests in mind and made the wrong decision.  Seeing as this took place in a court in China and the culture there is different from what I’m used to, perhaps this is only strange to me because I’m looking at things from a different perspective.  I would hate to think that is true though; surely the majority of people would disagree with this judge and want to protect this new and innocent life instead of penalizing her one loving parent.

Was she wrong to not disclose the surgeries?  I don’t believe so.  What she did to alter her appearance was more honest than women who wear makeup, padded bras, get spray tans, pluck their eyebrows, wear shaping undergarments, dye their hair, or get hair extensions.  What she did is permanent, altered only by age as we all are.  Her surgery doesn’t wash off in the shower, it’s a part of her.  It’s clear Feng did not question his wife about surgeries prior to the birth of their child, so she was not being dishonest with him.  She was surgically altered in what was probably an attempt to make herself happy, to give herself confidence, and to feel beautiful.  There is no reason to disclose that to everyone and ruin the positive effects the surgeries had on her self-esteem and self-worth.

She is no doubt better off without her shallow minded husband and hopefully she will be able to raise her daughter properly and without the issues that come with being told you’re ugly or hideous.  I also hope that this story gains enough traction to where it becomes a universally horrible thing to award someone for being a superficial and uncaring monster; this type of legal ruling should never happen again, not in cases like this.  Love, in any form, is a complex thing that is based on multiple aspects of personality, intelligence, warmth, and presence.  It goes deep and often cannot properly be expressed in words.  If the only reasons you love someone are because they have pretty eyes and perfect skin, you’re doing it wrong.

Baby Crazy

A friend of mine posted a comment on Twitter the other day about women who announce their pregnancy as soon as they find out and then proceed to fill the next nine months of YOUR life with updates and comments and ultrasound photos and all things baby.  It reminded me of my sister-in-law, who was fairly non communicative with me until she got pregnant, and once she had her daughter has been texting me more in a week than she did in the entire pre-baby time we’ve known each other.  In some people’s cases, they just want to brag and show off.  Others are simply oblivious to the fact that you don’t care as much about their bundle of joy as they do.  A few are delusional enough to think they are the first person to create life.  And in general, most people who give you way too much information about their personal lives just don’t give a damn whether you want to hear it or not.

Bringing a child into the world is an amazing thing, but it’s hardly a miracle.  Tune into to 16 And Pregnant on MTV or read stories about moms dumping babies in dumpsters, and let me know where the miracle lies.  Any idiot with functioning body parts can have a child with any other moron with working plumbing.  Conception is basic science and getting the sperm to the egg is a process that is instinctual to us all (and if you’re confused, you can just watch an episode of Jersey Shore).  As simple as it is to have a kid, women will still continue to act like Beyonce and talk of their new baby as if they invented childbirth.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be excited about your pregnancy or proud of your children.  I’m also not saying you should be ashamed or reluctant to share an ultrasound picture or the news that your little boy cut his first tooth.  I’m saying that when the little plastic test gives you a positive reading, you aren’t obligated to tell every single person you know about it within an hour, then post a photo of your test on Facebook right after tweeting half a dozen times about being a mommy now.  The whole process of creating and raising a kid is exciting, but that excitement isn’t going to be shared by everyone and it’s important to remember that if you have any interest in not alienating your friends.

Part of being a good friend (or whatever relation you are to someone) is knowing the boundaries of your relationship and what you are to each other.  The guy who has never been more than a drinking buddy and who you’ve never spoken to sober will probably not be all that interested in hearing details of your weekly check-ups.  The woman down in accounting, however, with kids of her own, is probably a good place to swap stories and get advice.  You need to know your audience and make sure you’re not overloading the wrong person or people with information they don’t really care to know.

My friend who tweeted about baby-crazy ladies doesn’t have any kids of her own, so to throw information at her is to basically use her as a set of ears only; it’s not like she can trade stories back since she hasn’t popped out a kid yet.  Humans are conceited creatures, yes, but I still find it unfair to throw your baby news at someone who isn’t a parent yet (or has no intentions of becoming one) because you know damn well they won’t have any stories to come back with and you can just talk and talk and talk…. you get the idea.

 

Be happy, be excited, and be proud.  But while you’re being those things, don’t forget to be a friend, a sister, a colleague, or whatever you were pre-baby.  Don’t forget why you talk to this person in the first place and don’t let baby replace your old conversations.  Don’t overshare and end up overstaying your welcome with the people you interact with on a daily basis.  Don’t be selfish and assume that time stops for you when you have good news to share.  Be a proud parent without losing your former self and your friends.  Do you know how annoying it is to hear someone go on and on about their AMAZING vacation that you can’t afford to a place you’ll probably never go, showing you photo after photo?  Just as annoying, if not moreso, when you do it about your damn kids.

Early Retirement

Kids are funny little creatures.  They come into this world as tiny bundles of love and joy, little beings that people will call adorable even if they bear a closer resemblance to a frog than they do a human child.  Behaviors we find offensive in adults become cute when performed by a baby; who hasn’t let out an AWWWW at a baby’s burp or fart, or at least heard someone else do so.  We marvel when their tiny fingers wrap around one of ours, we stare intently at their eyes as they wander around the room, and our vocabulary becomes reduced to wittle cutesy baby words.  Oh yes it does!

And then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, they begin talking to us as an actual human being.  The “mama” is replaced by “mommy,” little grunts and moans become “I want juice” or “give me that.”  The terrible twos are upon you and your little bundle of joy suddenly becomes a screaming banshee worthy of their own horror movie.  Parenting websites and magazines will give you all sorts of advice on how to handle your child, fellow parents will give you a ton of advice as well, and almost all of it will fail miserably.  Questioning your worth as a parent happens far too often than it should.

Somehow, by some miracle, you get a handle on things and it seems to be smooth sailing.  You review all the ways your own parents succeeded and failed and promise yourself to never repeat the silly mistakes they made.  You will do it better because you are determined to learn from their mistakes.  If only it were that simple.  I was once told that I would have a child twice as naughty as I was to my own parents and I always dismissed it as one of those silly things old people say to make themselves feel better.  Little did I know that my cutie pie would be biting, hitting, throwing chairs and toys, and driving his poor daycare providers up the wall.

It seems as though every time we overcome one obstacle, such as the biting, we are presented with a new one.  I never would have expected my little man, who everyone compliments on his wonderful manners, to be calling his kindergarten teachers annoying and insisting he doesn’t have to listen to them.  I never would have pictured him stomping on boxes or knocking his chair over because he doesn’t want to go to the library or clean up his mess.  Things he wouldn’t dream of doing at home have become common activities in school and I’m at a loss as to what to do to fix it.

I’m one incident away for filing for early retirement from motherhood.  I feel torn in two; one part of me wants him to enjoy his childhood as much as possible and not endure the horrible groundings I endured, but the other part of me wants to be strict and raise him right so he can be the best he can be as an adult.  I can’t seem to find a middle ground that is satisfactory and covers both areas sufficiently.  At the end of the day, I feel as though I failed.

I suppose that is all part of being a parent and I suspect that I really am doing all that can be done.  I know my husband is right when he says I can’t give in and let him off easy just because I feel like a jerk because then he learns nothing, but I still feel like a jerk.  I keep hoping things will get easier and I’ll figure out the big mystery behind being a successful parent and raising a child the right way, but if I’m being honest with myself, chances are there is no big mystery.  Every little kid is different and brings about different challenges and different victories.  I often feel as though I have it worse off than anyone, always forgetting that there are millions of moms feeling the exact same way I do.  I’m hoping I can stop blaming myself, take a few deep breaths, and wake up tomorrow ready to face whatever nonsense my son comes up with.

The Unemployed Working Population

On a glorious afternoon last week when my mother-in-law picked our boy up from school, my husband and I took a detour on the way home to grab dinner and do a bit of Christmas shopping.  I had a delicious Spicy Southwest Chicken Griller from McAlister’swith some creamy potato salad and perfectly brewed tea; I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!  After ensuring our bellies were content, we headed back out into the mini-disaster that is holiday traffic.  As we were leaving the parking lot, I spotted this bumper sticker on a van:

Here’s the kicker:  none of her children were buckled up, one was upside down, and I’m not sure if there were three or five of them back there because it was hard to count with all the flailing, tiny limbs and the toys and balloons being batted back and forth throughout the back of the van.  To call it unsafe would be too kind.  To call this mother irresponsible would be greatly downplaying her lack of attention to her children who would be in great danger in the event of an accident or even a sudden stop or a sharp turn.  This mother’s full time job was less of the great mom she proclaimed to be and more of an oblivious woman too caught up in her conversation with her passenger to pay the slightest bit of attention to the fragile bodies in the back of her vehicle, children totally at her mercy who have zero control over the quality of their caregiver.  I suppose maybe she thought she was on her lunch hour and free from her motherly duties for a few more minutes.

I’m a mom with a full-time job but contrary to what that bumper sticker proclaims and many women believe, being a parent is not a valid claim as my full-time job.  Don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to say that parenting isn’t hard work and isn’t challenging and demanding because it definitely is.  It’s time consuming and often thankless, rewarding at times and frustrating at others.  But it’s no more a job than my marriage or this blog.  By definition a job is many things; a piece of work done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price, a post of full or part-time employment, or an obligation such as being on time or being present for a meeting.

Part of successfully holding a job includes handling people and things you have become responsible for, and I feel this is where the confusion comes in. Children are a responsibility, a rather large one with numerous demands and little time off.  Taking on this responsibility, however, is not equal to taking on the jobs of housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, facilities manager, van driver, psychologist, laundry machine operator, janitor and chief executive officer as this website claims.  Anyone holding one of these jobs, now or in the past, should feel greatly insulted by this site trivializing their professions this way.

Becoming a parent is a choice we make because we decided to start a family for personal reasons, be it wanting to know the joy of having a child or just for the tax break.  Being employed is a choice we make because it means the difference between living comfortably and living under a bridge in a box or in our mom’s basement.  The two are separate and unequal in nearly every way and comparisons need to stop being drawn between them by stay-at-home parents feeling inadequate about their station in life.  A homebound parent doesn’t deserve a salary for caring for the kids and tending to the housework because as challenging as that work may be, it’s what you sign up for when you decide to have kids and desire to be a responsible and productive person.

As far as importance, being an outstanding parent is just as, if not more important than being an outstanding employee or boss.  It’s tough as nails but is often looked at as a cakewalk or a choice for people too lazy for a job outside the home.  People like the van-lady give great moms a bad name with their less than satisfactory mothering accompanied by their entitled attitude and need to be acknowledged as just as important as the spouse/partner who gets the paycheck.  If you are a great parent and a great wife/husband/partner who cares for the home and your family, there should be no need to seek out the approval and recognition of the rest of the world.  You shouldn’t need to compare yourself to a doctor or an executive and you shouldn’t demand a stay-at-home salary from the paid spouse if you’re handling your business, caring for your family, and finding happiness in your life’s duties and tasks.  The minute you feel the need to slap on a bumper sticker justifying your choice to stay home with the kids or the minute you begin coming up with fancy names for being a stay-at-home parent is the minute you need to reevaluate your life, step outside your front door, and find something else you can contribute to that will fill the void you’re attempting to mask with mom-salaries and homemaker titles.

Stealing Citizenship

A few days ago, I read an article that instantly caught my interest.  It highlighted birth tourism centers which “cater to wealthy foreign women willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to give birth in the United States and get instant U.S. citizenship for their babies” in order to obtain “easy access to American public schools, universities and jobs as the children get older and green cards for the whole family once the child turns 21.”  Other than Canada, the United States is the only developed country that grants birthright citizenship.  After the babies are born, the mothers return to their home country with the hope that their baby, a U.S. citizen, will return to the states for high school and college.  When the child is 21 they can apply for their parents to become legal residents of the United States.

In their investigation, NBC News found multiple web sites advertising birth tourism to various countries, using the selling point of our free public schools, great colleges, and the chance for the parents to get a green card with ease.  America the beautiful, where you can fulfill the American dream and have a better life than anywhere else.  It’s easy to see why this country appeals to so many other people and it’s understandable that they would take advantage of the amendment in our Constitution that grants birthright citizenship.  I know my family did.

Four of the seven cousins I have from Venezuela took advantage of this thanks to their parents.  During each pregnancy, the parents flew to New York to stay with my family for a few months until their baby was born.  Once their newborn was old enough to travel, they returned to Venezuela.  Upon graduating from high school, each cousin returned to the states to attend college.  One aunt and uncle decided to become citizens of the states once my oldest cousin turned 21 and they now have 2 condos in 2 states as well as their home back in Venezuela.

I never saw anything wrong with what they did when I was younger.  It made sense to me that they would choose that route because it made things easier once they were ready to attend college.   My aunt and uncle coming here also seemed fine to me, especially since their construction business in Texas gives jobs to many other U.S. citizens.  Unfortunately, what they did from 1979 to 1985 with four children was a rarity at that time.  The Center for Health Care estimates 7,462 births in 2008 were the result of birth tourism.  Between 2000 and 2006, the number of births to non-citizens rose by 53%, according to the National Center for Health.  The word is out that citizenship can be easily scored and people are taking advantage.  Parents are willing to take the trip in order to both attempt to give their child a better life and to guarantee that in 21 years, they themselves can come to the states hassle free.

People are cheating our system because we went ahead and gave them the cheat codes.  The Fourteenth Amendment that allows this to happen was established in 1868.  A lot has changed in our country and in the world between then and 2011.  Immigration is a hot button issue right now and various states are establishing and discussing various laws that would crack down on illegal immigration.  The downside is that some of the laws are based on profiling and as a result have not been well received by the general public.  I’ve been mistaken for a Mexican before so I can imagine the frustration of people living in certain areas knowing that they could be detained and/or questioned simply because they’re the right shade of tan.  There are numerous problems with the way this country handles immigration and this amendment is definitely high on the list.

Amendments exist because the Constitution, written in 1787, couldn’t possibly cover everything it would need to in the future of our ever-changing country.  It’s been a wonderful foundation and the amendments great building blocks, but nothing lasts forever.  Eventually you have to do a remodel and replace or refurbish outdated pieces.  We are constantly evolving and introducing new technologies and new issues into this world.  It’s naive to think that despite all the changes to our society over the decades, this document can stay largely unchanged and untouched.

The part of the 14th Amendment dealing with citizenship rights by birth is in need of a makeover.  I suspect that the intent of the amendment at the time was to ensure the rights of citizens upon birth, but this was at a time where we didn’t have women from China flying over here in mass to give birth or Mexican’s sneaking across the border and having multiple children.  This amendment was written with good intentions over 140 years ago.  I’m far from an expert, but it would seem to me that the sensible thing to do would be to move to amend this amendment.  Not an easy process, but none of the solutions come easy.  This does seem to be the most direct solution and therefore the logical one to pursue.

The birthing tourism problem as well as the issue with children of illegal immigrants can both be corrected if the 14th amendment specifies that one or both parents of the child must be citizens of this country in order for the child to also be a citizen of this country.  This closes off the easy road to citizenship and prevents parents from entering our country legally or otherwise to have a child and basically steal citizenship.  It discourages illegals from crossing the border and having children in a hurry due to our reluctance to deport parents of a legal citizen who would be left behind and our inability to force a legal citizen to another country simply because his illegal parents must be deported.  It would also be a step towards dealing with the growing problem of illegal immigration.  Perhaps it would discourage illegals from assuming that planting foot in a state grants you all of the rights reserved for the tax paying citizens of that state.

I grew up with over half of my blood relatives either living in or coming from other countries.  My great-great grandparents were the first of my relatives to set foot on American soil, coming from Italy to New York.  My mother was born in Venezuela and only became a citizen of the United States in 1994.  I definitely see the value of immigration and I understand the benefits of living here as opposed to other countries and areas.  That being said, it’s fair to say things have gotten out of hand.  This is not about denying people access to our country, it’s about better regulating the flow of immigrants and ensuring that it’s done properly and legally.

We can’t simply attack facilities and homes that cater to birthing tourists.  We can’t just post more guys with guns at the border.  We need to change our policies in the most direct way possible.  We have to stop working so hard and begin working intelligently if we want to see any progress and improvement.  Let’s take a step back and be a little selfish for once.  It’s a nice idea to see the Statue Of Liberty and know it’s a symbol for the American Dream and that people from afar can come to us and we’ll save them and help them.  But what about the rest of us, those of us whose citizenship is unquestionable?  Why can’t we focus inward for a while?  Can’t we make the American Dream available to all Americans before we start handing things out to people who don’t even call this country their real home?

Life Begins At… Where Again?

I read yesterday that Mississippi will be voting shortly on a constitutional amendment that declares a fertilized human egg a legal person.  This “could effectively brand abortion and some forms of birth control as murder” according to The New York Times, who also report that “the amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest, and some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills” that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.” 

Upon conception, a fertilized egg is nothing more than a ball of unspecialized cells.  During the 5th and 6th weeks of pregnancy you begin to see the first signs of liver and lung formation as well as changes to prepare for ears and a mouth to grow, the arm buds form, and you have a bit of a tail.  In the 8th week, fingers and toes become apparent but are still webbed, the brain is developing, and genitalia begins to form.  The end of this week also marks the beginning of the fetal period, where most organs are present but still developing and operating at minimum.  The brain and nervous system don’t begin operating rapidly until week 27; activity prior to then is mostly simple reflexes and jerk reaction to stimuli.  It is at this point of major brain activity that I consider the fetus to be a person, as do many courts who have made certain cases double homicides when the mother is far enough along in her pregnancy that the fetus could survive outside the womb had it been given the chance.  Prior to that though, regardless of the joy parents feel once they learn they are expecting, what you are carrying isn’t legally or developmentally a person.  Not just yet.

Abortions are risky but they are no more dangerous than childbirth itself when performed in the first trimester, and some consider an abortion to be even safer than childbirth because there is a lesser amount of stress put on the body among other reasons.  There are women in this world who use abortion as a form of birth control, terminating pregnancies left and right because they are too irresponsible to use proper protection.  I don’t agree with abortion in this type of situation, but I also don’t oppose it because it is their right to do what they wish with their body.  They are not murdering a child nor are they taking someone’s life.  They can walk into a clinic and terminate as many pregnancies as they choose.  While I might think they’re irresponsible in their behavior, it’s not my place to comment to them on it nor is it my place to try to stop them.

What Mississippi is proposing is irrational; their argument is emotionally based rather than factually based.  They propose we decide that a sperm and an egg that joined just yesterday is the same thing as you and I, the same thing as my son and my husband.  They propose that the morning after pill, Plan B and others, should be illegal even though these pills do NOT terminate an existing pregnancy, but prevent it from happening which rids the body of nothing more than a few cells that have yet to implant and begin forming anything close to resembling a human being.  They propose that if I am raped by a strange man or a relative, I am stuck with my rape and/or incest baby because it’s the right thing to do, completely disregarding my emotional state and the fact that seeing this baby may make me insane, as it would be a constant reminder that I was violated.

Whether or not I have a baby is up to me, my husband, and partially my doctor as he or she would be there to advise me of negative consequences of conception and birth.  The government doesn’t have any say over my uterus and what I choose to keep in there or take out of there.  In general, abortions can be performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, before the fetus is well-developed and well before it can survive outside of the womb.  This is the safest time for it to be performed and there is no reason whatsoever that any female should be denied an abortion so long as she’s of age and is physically fit to undergo the procedure.  She should not be called a murderer or chastised for her decision.  She should not have the government ruling her own body.

If I had a miscarriage at 22 weeks, my baby that would have been will not receive a death certificate because there was no birth certificate.  We don’t celebrate our day of conception, we celebrate birthdays.  I’m not 31, I’m 30 because my life began when I made my appearance at the hospital in New York and not when my parents decided it was baby making time.  You can’t claim your unborn baby on taxes because they don’t exist yet and have no social security number.  What Mississippi is proposing simply doesn’t fit with the way society works.  If life truly begins when that one lucky sperm burrows into an egg, then everything above and more must change as well.

Mississippi is proposing this amendment because they don’t like abortions.  Well, I don’t like traffic but that doesn’t mean we should pass a law to keep nonessential people off of the roads.  Abortion is a touchy issue and although I happen to support a woman’s right to choose, I have zero problem with people who are pro-life so long as they aren’t the extreme idiots who bomb clinics and murder doctors in between protests.  We all have our opinions about it, but an opinion and a feeling shouldn’t dictate the law.  It’s not wrong to terminate a pregnancy in the 8th week, it just makes certain people sad.  It’s not dangerous to terminate in the first trimester (and sometimes later) but it is very dangerous to allow government to have this control over us as well as to force women to seek abortion in dangerous places since they are unable to obtain one legally.

For every pro-life argument I hear I can think of two pro-choice counterpoints.  In an ideal world we would have no murder and no premature death and no disease or heartache.  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a Pixar movie.  There are so many more important things for Mississippi and other states to do with their time other than find ways to ban abortions.  Rather than try and protect kids before they even come kids, how about spending time assisting children in our country who live in poverty, are abused and neglected, are born addicted to drugs because their mother couldn’t quit, who don’t receive proper education, who go hungry, who have disabilities and don’t get the proper assistance, or the countless other issues facing today’s youth.

I feel as though this push for government to control whether or not women can get an abortion is just one step down a slippery slope of insane controls to be handed over to the government.  Should they also tell me what method I must use during childbirth; can I use an epidural or must I use the water birthing method?  Will they allow use of condoms or will that be some sort of manslaughter since thousands of potential baby making sperm are going to waste?  How far will it be allowed to go?  I can only hope that the majority of people out there feel as I do and this insane vote to amend the constitution becomes ancient history.

UPDATE 11/9/11:   Mississippi voters Tuesday rejected a controversial amendment that would have defined life as beginning at conception.

Baby Showered

Last night I went to my sister-in-law’s baby shower, making it the third shower I’ve been to in the 30 years I’ve been on this Earth, and that includes my own shower.  I don’t really understand these traditions that women seem to adore so much, but I went because she’s family and I wanted to be there to celebrate her first child.  I went through the tedious process of deciding what to wear, not because I’m vain or overly concerned with what people think, but because I have no idea what is appropriate attire for a baby shower.  I went with dark jeans paired with a lace top and black heels.  I piled in my momma-in-law’s car along with her sister and friend and we headed down to the house in the pouring rain.

The home that the party was hosted in was absolutely gorgeous and thankfully had a covered porch so I didn’t end up looking like a drowned cat after carrying all the packages inside.  Fifty adults and about a dozen children crammed their way into the living room and kitchen of this country style home, enjoying pizza and pasta, playing games, and catching up.  We didn’t begin to tackle the pile of presents until about 90 minutes into the shower.  It was an exhausting night, but I’m glad I went to support my sister-in-law and to help my mom-in-law with the clean up and packing the truck.

I’m now going to reveal my ignorance, so bear with me as I puzzle over things that are probably common knowledge among most chicks, and probably most guys as well.  First off, I was under the impression that men and children don’t attend baby showers.  For obvious reasons, you don’t want little toddlers running around and babies crying.  The woman hosting the party has a 21 year old live in daughter who had a one year old, as well as a 14 year old daughter.  Since it was their home, I expected the 14 year old and the baby to be present.  I did not expect the door to open to a woman with two toddlers in tote.  I was equally as surprised with the woman with a newborn, the couple with two preschoolers, the grandmother with the little red-headed boy, the 12 year old whiny girl, another couple with a 4 year old, and the handful of children I couldn’t place with parents.  There were also about 5 guys there, including a very unhappy 17 year old.  Aren’t these things supposed to be a girls only type thing, no men and no kids?  I can definitely see why it should be; the children were very disruptive and the men were very uncomfortable.

Another thing that boggles my tiny mind are the games.  First we played Baby Word Jumble, which is exactly what it sounds like.  Afterwards we played a game without a name, just a baby in an ice cube.  The first person to “give birth” to their baby by having the ice melt completely away from the baby won a prize.  But you couldn’t touch the ice cube, you just had to sit and wait, so basically the game was watching ice melt.  The final game we played involved adult diapers and looked like this:

I don’t get it.  At all.  After a group protest of sorts against any more games, using the argument that there were just too many people, we finally moved on to presents.  One person gets elected to keep a list of who got the mom-to-be what and one person gets elected to take pictures.  I was the picture person and ended up using the entire memory card on my sister-in-law’s camera and nearly all of my mom-in-laws.  No, not because I was going photo happy, but because everyone was expecting a picture of every single gift that was received.  Open package, hold it up to the room, repeat.  If the package is 20 onesies, every one gets held up and demands a picture.  I’m not picking on my sister-in-law here because in my limited experience, that is how all showers are.  What I don’t understand is why we treat them like a child’s birthday party?  Do we really need 50 photos of the new mom opening packages and 100+ photos of her smiling over cute baby clothes?  It seems totally excessive.  Maybe the fact that I’m always bored has something to do with it, but I don’t think I need hundreds of photos to remember a baby shower, especially when I get to go home with all the goodies.  I also can’t imagine my husband wanting that much photographic evidence of my day.  He gets to put the stroller together, that is enough.  I am glad my sister-in-law had a great time though, and the pictures were very important to her, so I obliged.

I imagine that my husband and I are going to eventually create a mini-Baker who will rule the world with cuteness and strength, and I’m a bit worried about my mother-in-law going overboard with shower plans for me.  To be perfectly honest, I’d be happy with registering at Babies R Us or Target or something and having people buy us stuff if they choose and that be the end of it.  No obligation, no party, just go online and get a mobile shipped to our house.  My baby shower for Dominick was actually a grandparent shower for my mother that I was invited to, so maybe I didn’t enjoy it because it wasn’t really about me, or maybe I didn’t like it because I felt silly opening gifts and posing for shots and eating pacifier-shaped candies.  I’m also uncomfortable with being the center of attention and I don’t like girly things and crowds of women going AWWWWW!!!!

My ideal baby shower wouldn’t be centered around me.  It would be coed because I would like my husband to be there with me, but it would be 18 and up only because I don’t want to see children that will make me regret my pregnancy.  I’d have games since you’re expected to, but I would like to see something more along the lines of an Xbox Rock Band competition than I would a baby name word find.  Maybe a race to see who can chug a beer the fastest out of a baby bottle… or is that too redneck of me?  I’d want to make sure that people had alternative activities to pursue if they didn’t feel like sitting and watching me open gifts for an hour and I’d want the people who did stay to watch not to feel obligated to cater to me and pick up my trash and snap a picture every 3 seconds.  Something casual and fun that can successfully be fun for every person involved.

As cool as my momma-in-law is, I don’t think she’d go for an Xbox tournament at my eventual baby shower.  When my husband and I do eventually get knocked up, I’m going to have to take the back seat and allow her to plan the shower.  As much as I would love to skip it, it would mean a lot to her to plan and to have it and I wouldn’t deny her of that after all she’s done for me.  Who knows, maybe this time around things will be different since I now have a loving and supporting family and I’ll actually be excited about a traditional shower.  Thankfully it’s nothing I need to worry about any time soon; the husband and I aren’t at the baby making stage in our life together just yet and I’m not one of those chicks who thinks her clock is ticking.  Maybe by the time we get to baby making time, my how-to-be-a-girl genes will have kicked in.  We’ll see.

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