Op-ed, Martha Joy Rose May 13, 2019
Despite headlines and discourse, the most unchanging thing about motherhood is how much it doesn’t change. While parenting narratives in the public arena are more visible than ever, while books on mothers and mothering are written and published at a dizzying pace (see Demeter Press among others), and while activists and bloggers do their best to articulate the realities and difficulties of mothering, the truth will make you mad. Policies ranging from healthcare to human rights in the United States have not changed much at all in the last 50 years, and if anything, they appear to be moving backward at times.
This year’s Mothers’ Day came and went with the usual fanfare of compliments, cards, and lovely acknowledgments. But, the truth of being a woman, or a woman of color in America, can be very scary. Aside from the well-known, repetitive conversation around everything from our as-of-yet still unratified ERA to maternal morbidity rates, we observed a rollback of certain state’s abortion rights, and the constant pressure mothers and caregivers experience as they try to balance unrealistic expectations with work pressures. All of this occurs in the midst of corporate greed and governmental callousness which is reflected in our lack of family-friendly policies.
NPR: Weekend Edition, May 12, 2019
On why domestic demands on mothers actually increased in the mid-’90s
The expectations for motherhood suddenly … went through the roof. … One of the reasons that academics will cite for why this happened at the same time that [mothers’] labor force participation peaked was because there was a lot of anxiety about what was going to happen to the kids. All these moms are now in the workforce in greater numbers than ever: What’s going to happen to the children? So the standards for mothering kind of ratcheted up. [Link to ARTICLE].
As a woman, I am angry. But as a mother, I’m seething. There’s a robust conversation right now about the historical and present power of female rage as a tool for social change. A number of books, articles, and social media hashtags are pointing out that women are fed up. Instead of being silenced by patriarchal ideas of women’s emotions as “hysteria,” women are embracing their anger as a social and political force to be reckoned with. That is great news for women. But what about mothers as a key subset of women? ~Kimberly Seals Allers for The Washington Post 2019: [LINK to article]
There is a lot to be angry about. Women of color in the USA, who are pregnant, have the most to be worried about. Their prenatal care, birth care, and post-birth care are all persistently worse than their white counterparts. This problematic scenario can be linked to many ongoing issues related to systemic racism, socio-economic status, and the apparent lack of willingness for medical professionals to listen to the voices of these women. [Read more here in the news at this link].
This year’s Museum of Motherhood annual conference focused on “Rewriting Trauma and Birth.” We welcomed keynote speaker Khiara M. Bridges, who is the author of Reproducing Race. Her book smartly explores the social construction of race in medical settings and helps to examine the forces that coerce women into dangerous birth scenarios.
So, whether over-burdened by maternal workloads, subject to a medical crisis of deadly proportions or managing the anger associated with outdated policies that do not support women and families, something has got to shift.
Before we can identify solutions we must notice the problems and call them out. By naming and labeling the issues we have engaged in the first line of offense. Some people will voice objections. They will list the ways in which gender mirrors biology. They will do their best to keep enduring structures of power and privilege intact. However, we just keep raising our voices and turning up the volume.
Kimberly Seals Allers proposes several steps for improving the state of families in America. Some of those include obvious changes to healthcare. Others must focus on policy shifts that recognize unpaid maternal labor, as well as the development of affordable childcare options for working mothers.
So what has been going on for the last 15 years? Below is an article that was written by Jill Brooke for the Chicago Tribune during a burst of notoriety for the Mom Rockers who had set their minds on creating change within the home as well as the world at large. While the emphasis on using art and music for social change has amped up the volume on women’s issues, many of the problems these founding artists sought to address have remained stubbornly ingrained in our institutions, including the “institution of the family.” You can read more on this subject in the book, the Music of Motherhood (Demeter Press 2018).
Course development and educational programming that break the barrier on women’s (and gender) studies in the university and beyond are an important step in disrupting repetitive patterns that keep individuals trapped in hegemonic discourses and force the idealization of parenting roles. Here at MOM, we are striking back by pushing back. Giving a nod to the work of Guerrilla Girl Donna Kaz, we encourage those of you who are seeking some strategies for change to utilize her work to create activist platforms. LINK
” I have heard many people express their own powerlessness as they face threats to their rights and the rights of those they support on a daily basis. Perhaps you agree there is a need to understand how to organize and see results, on a local level. Maybe you search for activist knowledge and are hungry for something to guide you through the steps of creatively supporting a cause. PUSH/PUSHBACK will fill that need.”
The band Housewives On Prozac was championing pushback through music in the late nineties through 2008. Their song “Eat Your Damn Spaghetti” was a rallying cry for overwhelmed and frustrated mothers. You can watch the video below. Meanwhile, the MaMaPaLooZa Festival, which is ongoing in New York City and Sydney, Australia aims to create dynamic change through empowerment, education, and large-scale community events. Other super-important and amazing organizations (to name a very few), include MomsRising, SisterSong, and The Center for Reproductive Rights.
December 21, 2004,|By Jill Brooke, Special to the Tribune
“I tried to be the perfect mom but then buckled. It’s time for a little liberation, and I want to give moms permission to nourish a piece of themselves and then go back to wiping the kids’ noses, cooking dinner and carpooling.”
And what better way to launch a rebellion than rock ‘n’ roll? Link to ARTICLE.
Finally, let us ask the question: Why does America have the least-friendly family policies? The U.S. is the only country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) not to offer paid leave on a national basis.
“People think motherhood is inherently overwhelming because we’ve made that idea seem natural,” said Virginia Rutter, a professor of sociology at Framingham State University in Massachusetts and author of “Families as They Really Are.” “We normalize the hardships of motherhood. … This is now what’s familiar.”
We must continue to work together for the kinds of change that will benefit all American families and not just a few. The best way to do this is to advocate for intersectional, interdisciplinary education and activism that affects attitudes, policy, and the private/public sector in ways that support women and men and make the world an easier place for caregivers to navigate.
*Mamava is a company that hopes to normalize breastfeeding and support nursing mothers. One of their lactation spaces in JFK airport is the featured photo on this post. #Mamava #Mothers #MOM #JoinMama
You kiss your baby on the forehead, tuck the baby in, and wish the baby goodnight. Sounds simple right? But, getting a baby to sleep can prove to be a frustrating challenge for many parents. Some experts believe this process can be simplified through sleep training. In some cases, sleep training can help your baby sleep independently as well as acquire healthy sleep habits.
Though for most of us, sleeping comes naturally, this is not the case for babies, especially newborns, who have to adjust to the new phenomenon of life outside the womb. On top of not knowing when to sleep, babies do not have an idea of how to sleep. This is where sleep training might be beneficial. Sleep training can help a baby get the proper amount of sleep. Over time, if the training is effective, the baby will start to get used to the routine and will eventually be able to sleep independently.
Sleep training should begin when your baby is four-six months old but can change depending on individual development and needs. There are many effective sleep-training methods. One is the check-and-console method, which involves continuously checking on your baby at your own set intervals but not feeding them or rocking them if you find them awake. Instead, if the baby is awake at your interval check, reassure the baby with a phrase of choice or a reassuring gentle pat or rub on the head.
A second method involves letting the baby cry it out. After leaving your baby in the crib at night, leave the room, and do not return until the morning. This may often result in the baby crying for long intervals of time, so it is a bit controversial. It is okay to comfort your baby for a minute or two when using this method if the crying won’t stop. A third method is the chair method, which can prove to be quite difficult. After putting your baby to sleep, sit in a chair next to your baby. When your baby falls asleep, leave the room, but every time your baby wakes up, sit back down in the chair until they fall back asleep. Every couple nights, transfer the chair to a location slightly further from the original position and keep doing this until you’re out of the room. This method is only useful if the parent has the time to do this through the night.
A fourth method, called bedtime-routine fading, involves using a bedtime routine of choice, such as rocking a baby to sleep, nursing, or gentle patting, and slowly decrease the time spent doing this until you don’t do it at all. A fifth method is bedtime-hour fading, which involves slowly moving up the time you place your baby in a crib to sleep until you reach the desired time you want them to sleep.
Sleep training comes naturally to some parents. Some use pacifiers, white noise machines, specific bedtime routines, and an assortment of things. But all babies are different. Some babies can be more difficult to establish a bedtime routine with. This is where professional sleep training might be beneficial. Sleep trainers have experience with parents in need of assistance making their baby sleep at the proper time and independently. Different sleep trainers use different methods to help parents.
In the Tampa Bay Area, The Tiny Human Sleep Coach, founded by Marilyn Banse aims to educate and supports parents of babies and children under the age of 6 years on sleep, the benefits of sleep, how much sleep each child needs for their age, and how to help them get the sleep they need. Marilyn is a certified pediatric sleep specialist and currently the only certified sleep consultant in Pinellas County as of now, so quality is assured.
Another organization that offers sleep-training services is Nannies Who Care, a full-service nanny agency that provides peace of mind to families with safe, stress-free sleep-training methods. Their caregivers have noticed first-hand the effects of a missed nap or delayed bedtime. They are proud of teaching parents how to have improved sleep experience with their child.
Also, some free national resources to help you and your baby sleep successfully and healthfully are available online:
Sleep resource from the NCDHHS Division of Public Health [LINK] and a Sleep Safety Brochure [LINK]
Johnson & Johnson has a free infant sleep phone app [LINK]
Multiple blogs and magazine articles online [LINK]
If you want to reach organizations in the Tampa/St. Pete area for hands-on help try these local resources:
Marilyn from The Tiny Human Sleep Coach:
Nannies Who Care:
This article was researched and made possible by Bhavana Madhu as part of a service-learning internship with USF. Read more below or click the image to find out more about our student authors:
Researching children’s early education options is an important process new parents face. Decisions about schooling include paying attention to a particular family’s needs, individual learning styles and preferences, and access to available resources. Many parents feel pressure to find the “perfect” preschool or daycare program to nurture their young child’s mind. Children are capable of learning at a rapid rate during the early years of life. Educational experiences are maximized when parents, communities, and educators work together for the optimum development of young people.
Choices about schooling revolve around personal preferences as well as access to available resources. As a parent, it is important to follow your intuition about what might be best for your child. Also, consider factors such as the location of the school, zoning, special operating hours, and after-school care services that comply with family work schedules, as well as any additional community programs or locally subsidized childhood education programs in your area that you may be eligible for. Some examples of programs include Head start and The Child Welfare League of America.
If you have special requirements for your child, don’t’ be afraid to research by asking around your community for reviews. You can even contact local parent forums. The best way to advocate for education is to educate your self about what is available! Examples of federal organizations that provide resources to parents for children with disabilities or special health care requirements include Family Voices, The National Council on Disability (NCD) or the U.S. Department of Education (ED) website.
After you have identified programs available in your area, create an outline of what you are looking for. If you have a sense of what kind of education style would best benefit your child, reach out to your most valuable asset: your community. Some resources might include your pediatrician, community center, or other parents in the area. You can also use the internet to find out about potential problems within specific facilities. Many parents have social networking platforms where they are willing to share ideas and recommendations. Additionally, The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) website provides insight into preschools based on zip codes and information about accreditation. Once you have narrowed your options, you should visit the institution and schedule meetings to glean the first impression as well as to meet the staff in person. Come with a list of questions! Priorities should always include cleanliness, safety, and children’s health and wellbeing.
In the Tampa Bay Area, there are multiple local programs and schools to choose from. The R’Club Child Care organization is a non-profit dedicated to providing early childhood learning programs. Their focus is on quality early learning and development for youth in and around Pinellas County. They believe in strengthening children and families, as well as a growing community. Their four foundational values include: Respect, Responsibility, Resourcefulness, and Responsiveness. They also host many local community events to boost family involvement and promote fun family activities!
The Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County is another nonprofit organization dedicated to providing high-quality early childhood development programming along with educational opportunities. Their vision is to have every child enter kindergarten equipped with the skills and the learning tools for success. Their mission is to transform early learning opportunities and to inspire children, prompting family involvement. They also aim to support educators in order to accomplish their goals. They provide an abundance of local resources, including childcare scholarships, access to VPK-Florida’s free voluntary Prekindergarten program for 4-year old’s, training and background screening for child care providers and developmental screenings for children (including visions and hearing). Additionally, through partnerships with local organizations and community partnerships, they serve as an excellent resource for families looking for referrals on childcare.
Lastly, PARC is a local institution which provides over 40 services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, via a “person-centered” approach that promotes an individual’s independence and encourages them to live and experience life to the fullest. They are dedicated to promoting new experiences, seeing to the accomplishment of individually strategized goals, and encouraging everyone to live a healthy quality of life. At PARC, children and their families receive early intervention services from an interdisciplinary team including teachers, social workers, nurses, behavior analysts, and therapists. Service availability range includes provisions on the PARC campus, at a child’s home or even in the desired environment chosen by the family. PARC also runs Discovery Learning Center, which serves as is a local hub for learning opportunities, therapy, music, art, school readiness and a multitude of other programs. Children’s services are led by instructors with verified credentials, and host instruction in classrooms designed to offer infants through pre-kindergarten age a unique, state of the art experiences promoting the necessary skills to successfully enter school. Each child works within their individual plan and goals established by family and staff. Early Intervention, VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten), Head Start, Family Respite, Family Focus, and Behavioral Support services are provided for over 140 children annually.
Additional Resources of Early Learning Tips for Parents:
Article Info Sources:
Local Resources Weblinks:
This article was researched and made possible by Alexandra Valdes as part of a service-learning internship with USF. Read more below or click the image to find out more about our student authors:
Breastfeeding education and support for new mothers is an important ongoing issue. There are many decisions and questions regarding breastfeeding versus formula feeding. A few of those include: should you alternate between both bottle and breast, how long should you breastfeed over time, what type of latching-on techniques should you use, when is the time to start pumping, how should you store pumped milk, etc.?
As a new parent, one’s lactation questions can be endless. Why is breastfeeding important? Why should parents care?
There are many reasons why breast milk is regarded as the highest form of nutrition infants can obtain. Mothers pass important nutritional antibodies through breast milk that have been observed to benefit overall infant health. Breastfeeding potentially lessens the occurrence of long-term health conditions, such as the prevalence of obesity, type II diabetes, SIDS, gastrointestinal infections and asthma. Mothers also benefit, as breastfeeding promotes a natural way to rebalance hormones and maintain weight loss after pregnancy. Long-term health benefits also include reduced risk of female endocrine-related cancers, such as breast or ovarian cancer, high blood pressure and type II diabetes. In the US, it is recommended to breastfeed exclusively at least up to 6 months after birth. However, average statistics have shown only 1 in 4 women does so.
Despite the bonding benefits of breastfeeding and the positive health outcomes nursing may have for both mom and baby, the decision to nurse is not always an easy one. Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is personal and unique. Often, individuals require support and guidance through the post-birth journey. Sometimes problems arise. Women can experience lactating difficulties, latch issues, sometimes health concerns or pre-existing conditions prevent the possibility of breastfeeding, and women who experience mastitis are often confused about how to proceed.
In the Tampa Bay area, support can be found at many local organizations including the Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force. The Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force is a nonprofit organization that hosts events for breastfeeding activism, they also provide support and answers to questions via their social media and website platforms. Events such as Breastfeeding Friendly Daycare Training, promote their #TBBreastfeeds and the Breastfeeding Normalization Campaign. TBB is also known partners in advocacy efforts with the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition, which provides support for breastfeeding as well as promoting state recommended resources for those needing more information. Their mission “is to improve the health of Floridians by working collaboratively to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.”
If you are in need of professional assistance or are looking for more information, the La Leche League of Florida and the Caribbean Isles connects volunteers with lactation consultants and local nursing mothers’ groups. The Tampa Breastfeeding and Lactation Center LLC or Breastfeeding Care and Consulting, run by Jocelyn Pridemore also offers consultations for new mothers. Different services are available at a variety of prices from high to low. Additionally, if you are seeking access to breast milk, check out charitable organizations such as Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida, which is dedicated disseminating pasteurized donor milk to those in need. They also welcome donations of breast milk. Please spread the word!
If you are interested here is an additional link to some helpful breastfeeding techniques:
Article info sources:
Web Links to Local Orgs and Lactation Specialists
Tampa Breastfeeding and Lactation Center LLC: https://www.breastfeedtampa.com/
Breastfeeding Care and Consulting with Jocelyn Pridemore: http://breastfeedingcareandconsulting.com/
The Florida Breastfeeding Coalition: http://www.flbreastfeeding.org/
The Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force: http://www.tbbreastfeeding.org/
La Leche League of Florida and the Caribbean Isles: http://www.lllflorida.com/lalecheleague/
Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida: https://milkbankofflorida.org/
This article was researched and made possible by Alexandra Valdes as part of a service-learning internship with USF. Read more below or click the image to find out more about our student authors:
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