I Love Having a Daughter

Perhaps it is because my beloved firstborn is a son, but I had many reservations about having a daughter. When I first saw her, my reaction was “Holy shit, it’s a girl!” (She weighed 9 lbs). Then I thought, “I expect nothing short of payback.”

I thought of my own complex relationship with my mother, and how it was riddled with my own intense expectations — expectations I did not have of my father, by the way — as well as meanness on my part. Throughout Eli’s babyhood and toddlerhood she preferred to be with my husband and immediately I thought that our relationship was doomed from the start; that no matter what I did for her, I would never meet her expectations and she would eventually think that I failed her as a mother.

Now we are the best of friends. I actually like to take her places whether it be the supermarket or to get our nails done at the salon. Not only do I love her because she is my daughter, but I love her as a person: she is very creative, a mean sculpture artist who wants to grow up to be an artist and have two kids and a cat. She also has this hippy side to her. A typical outfit — she dresses herself — is a skirt over stripped leggings or pants, sequenced Punky Brewster sneakers and a shirt that doesn’t match any of it. Her curly mane is usually in every direction because she doesn’t like me to fix it. She is very gregarious and has a lot of friends, has an extensive vocabulary in both Spanish and English, a wonderful laugh and loves to curl up and read books or watch chick flicks with me. I am so glad that I have her!

This past weekend friends invited me to go sailing — a belated birthday present. I brought Eli and her friend, Charlotte — the only two kids with us. We had a blast (see above). As you can see, we had a glorious sunny day, I had a mimosa in one hand and my girl in the other. It doesn’t get better than that.

Go ahead and share delightful memories you have with your children. What has most surprised you about your relationship with them?


Thursday Open Thread

Oh dear.

A mommy blogger over at Babble.com has started a mini sh!tstorm with a painfully honest post:“I Think I Love My Son A Little Bit More.”

OUCH. And that’s just the title!

Most readers seemed to take particular offense to the following statement, and questioned the writer’s decision to publish it lest her daughter grow up and stumble upon it someday:

There are moments – in my least sane and darkest thoughts – when I think it wouldn’t be so bad if I lost my daughter, as long as I never had to lose my son (assuming crazy, dire, insane circumstances that would never actually occur in real life).  I know that sounds completely awful and truly crazy.

Said mommy blogger then stoked the flames a little more with a defensive follow-up post, accusing readers of dishonesty.

It probably struck a little too close to home for many of you…you’ve had those same thoughts about one or more children in your darkest, most private times…and found it obscene to see your own worst thoughts out in the light of day.

Um… if you say so, lady.

Do you think this writer was honest and brave to put this out there, complete with her daughter’s name and photo? Or was she misguided?

The comments that struck me were from readers who said they knew, without a doubt, that their mothers favored their siblings, and the pain that continues to cause them even as adults. So tell me: did your parents show obvious favoritism among their children? Do you worry about repeating the pattern?

I know it is impossible to parent different children the same way or even love them in exactly the same way, but I can honestly say I am equally crazy about my daughter and my son (and to this very day I feel guilty when I recall my initial ambivalence when I found out I was having a son).

And they can drive me equally crazy, in their own unique ways. That may not be the case in 5 years or in 10 years, and I can see how warm feelings toward your kids can ebb and flow depending on age and circumstances.

But could I make such a “Sophie’s Choice” about which child I could stand to lose? Dear god, no. The very thought makes me weepy. I guess I can praise the writer’s brutal honesty, but I can’t begin to comprehend it.

What else is on your mind? Chat away!


Senate Republicans Oppose Fair Pay for Women

In an effort to appease business interests, the Senate Republicans unanimously opposed passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have narrowed the pay gap between men and women. The bill fell short by two votes, 58-41.

Right now there is an oft-repeated 77-cent-to-a-dollar pay gap between men and women. The gap between mothers and non-mothers is even greater, which is why we are very disappointed at MomsRising.org. Here is an e-mail recently sent by our co-founder Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner:

The Paycheck Fairness Act was (and is) sorely needed to update the Equal Pay Act, which passed in 1963, and doesn’t reflect modern realities of a labor force that’s 50% women. Right now women make 77 cents to every dollar made by men and the pay gap has been narrowing by less than half a percent a year. [1] That means at this rate the pay gap won’t close until 2057. Forty-seven years from now! With more and more families depending on moms’ paychecks, American families simply cannot afford to wait that long.

Sign on to our short letter to all the Senators who voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act asking them to explain to their daughters, and ours, why in 2010 women don’t deserve the right to equal pay for equal work.

I did a quick google search on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and was disappointed that hardly any news organizations covered it. But there was plenty of gloating by the business community. Here is what one HR newsletter had to say:

Employers can breathe a little easier. The Paycheck Fairness Act — which one labor attorney said had “the potential to cripple companies, particularly smaller businesses” — has been scuttled.

My reaction? Eff you. This is about protecting BIG BUSINESSES who donated handsomely to the coffers of the Republican Party to kill this bill. It is unconscionable that in the 21st century, paying women for the same jobs that men do still sparks raucous debate and is somehow responsible for the crippling of our economy. As the mother of a daughter, I am saddened that gender bias in the workplace still exists. Otherwise, why would the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its ilk spend so much time and money to fight it?

What will it take for us to achieve equal pay for equal work in this country?

In related news, private health insurance companies gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million to fight healthcare reform legislation, namely a government-run public option to compete with them, according to Bloomberg News.


Friday Open Thread: Bonding Edition

Happy Friday everyone!

Whew… what a week! Between being back at work and traipsing through Southern California with my visiting niece and nephew, I am feeling like I have spent very little time with Alex. I’m so glad to be working a few hours from home today, and spending some quality snuggly time with my sweet baby boy.

And then, there’s my daughter! During my 5.5 months of maternity leave I felt like I had the baby attached to me during just about every waking moment; Maya was busy with school or dance lessons or soccer practice, and DH took most of the chauffeur duties on while I stayed home with the baby.

Which, naturally, made me feel guilty. My daughter was the center of our universe for 5 years before her baby brother came along, and while she has handled his arrival with so much love and grace that it melts my heart, I kind of miss spending one-on-one time with her. Just us girls.

I have vowed to make more of an effort to do so, whenever possible. I have taken Maya with me while I get pedicures at the local nail salon; she sits in the chair next to me and gets her toenails polished while I get my hoofs sanded down, and we giggle and chat and pick out each other’s colors.

I’m trying to make more of an effort to switch bedtime duties with DH; he can give Alex a bottle while I read Maya her favorite book. Then we cuddle in her bed for a few minutes before I give her a kiss goodnight.

This week I rushed home from work to grab Maya and meet up with a friend and her son for a trip to the circus. I was breathless and exhausted by the time we took our seats, but it was nice to sit in the dark and watch the awe on her face while the clowns romped and the acrobats flipped. It was heaven not to be interrupted by a fussing baby and even better not to have to lift my shirt up once to offer my baby a meal! Maya crawled into my lap for much of the show and we shared popcorn and cotton candy. It was also nice to catch up with my girlfriend and commiserate with a fellow working mama about the crazy push-and-pull that some days can bring.

We came home with lots of stories to tell Papi and a shared experience to remember. Maya will be entering kindergarten next month, so I feel like I have to cherish each moment while she still thinks I’m the coolest person ever, and while she still finds events like the circus magical :-)

How do you ladies with more than one child ensure that you spend individual quality time with each kid? Any tips, advice, stories to share?

This is an open thread so chat away!


Life and Death: How DOES it Work?

The first time my 10-year-old daughter asks the whys and hows of death, I take her aside and tenderly explain.

The second time, I am sympathetic but impatient.

The third time I am downright cranky. I want to take her by the quick route, the Cliff’s Notes way, to what we adults already know.

“Yes, you die; yes, you don’t know when or how; and, yes, the people around you die. But we don’t walk around thinking about it all the time.”

There are so many more things to think about other than death. They are different for every person. But for most of us, they start the moment we turn on the lights and then just keep coming.

“We think about other things,” I want to tell her, “like what kind of lawn mower we are going to get, who will take care of the cats when we’re on vacation, did we fill out the warranty form for the dishwasher, how will we pay for college, and why don’t you wear the sweater I bought you before you outgrow it?”

When she circles back to the question, I suppress a sigh. I can’t figure out how to explain it, the absurdity of the life-and-death package. The whole thing seems such a raw deal. We are cast into this life among people we love—if we are lucky. And the more people we love, the more people we stand to lose.

“Why is it like that?” she asks, as if I were in charge.

I feel dreadful. I brought her into this life, and there is only one way out. It’s not like the piano lessons she could stop if she had to.

If my audience were different, or my daughter older, I would reveal the irony: Those things that in comparison with death seem trivial—things so banal they are not even worth listing—those things, oddly, creep in and take over, and that is how you can live.

I can’t tell my daughter this because she is too young, because it is too ridiculous, and because I feel like a traitor. I am chagrined that someone of my age and experience would collude in the cheery pretense that life goes on in so many ordinary ways, forgetting that life itself is a blinding miracle.

How has it happened? Have I become so thick-skinned that it fails to register that every day I live I have escaped the opposite? It registers with my daughter, who notes the moments when both parents are with her, so clearly alive. Each day she is like a teacher taking roll.

In time the obsession wanes and she catches on to what we all do, with a twist. She wonders not just at death but at the small, transient and fetching parts of life: the first pair of cardinals to alight on a branch at our window, the idiosyncratic shape of a continent she has recently learned to draw, the lyrics of a song she has heard and misremembered.

Her preoccupation has come and gone like weather, replaced by a more or less clear-blue sky.


My Mother’s Dresser, Looking in the Mirror.

I remember as a kid playing with my mother’s things, in her dresser.  One drawer had
an insert with face powder and a big puffy to put it on your face. I swear I probably spent
hours of my young life playing with that puffy.

We moved alot due to poverty and a bankruptcy. My father was a notorious gambler, and
many times we went hungry or without heat in the cold Michigan winters.

The story of the dresser is one my mother made a point of sharing. How it was the
best piece of furniture in the house, and how it represented her marriage to my father.
Solid and made for the duration.

My mother passed away November 8th 2007. She left a house full of every purse she
ever owned, every pair of shoes, every pair of underwear, socks, bills, everything.
I don’t think she ever threw anything away.  There was food that pre-dated dating.
Rusted cans of beans she moved from Michigan to Alabama.

And the dresser, actually the entire bedroom set, end tables, highboy. I am not sure where
the headboard for the bed went, but there was the dresser with the mirror. The same mirror
I looked into as a child. Man, they sure knew how to glaze a mirror back in the 40’s. Sadly
the puffy with insert was gone. I wonder when she lost that part.

We must of moved at least 7 times as a kid. From Miami to Michigan, and then from
town to town. Like a band of gypsies. And the dresser was always there. What is so
special about this particular piece of furniture. At first, I didn’t think there was any
thing special, but then my mother died, and I decided the dresser was a very
special gift for me, and my daughter.

My Mother had a story about the dresser: ” You know Shari, I wouldn’t of married
your father if he had not bought the bedroom suite for me. I told him, if he wanted
to marry me, then he had to buy me a very nice bedroom suite of my choice. No
matter the price, I would not start my marriage without a decent bedroom suite.
And it is the best piece of furniture I own in the entire house.”

After she died, I decided to let someone clean and not refinish, but you know,
fix the dresser up. The piece became transformed, the wood gleamed, it had
such a  warm glow. On top of the dresser it had a small inlay bow on each corner.
I remember these as a child, how I would run my finger over the pattern. I was
just blown away by how the dresser made me feel. How it was part of my life,
my entire life, and now it sits in my bedroom. Every morning I look into the
beautiful mirror and marval at how lovely a piece of furniture could be, and
how much I enjoy using the dresser. How deep the drawers are, and how
lovely the brass handles feel, how substantial a piece, the beautiful wood grain.
I think it may be made of cherry.

Now I hear myself telling friends and relatives who see the dresser the story.
My mother’s story, and now my story. The funny part is the furniture is the
best piece in my house. Everything else I have is modern practical stuff.
A cheap dining table and chairs, with kids you don’t want to worry about
furniture stains. Honestly I am just not into furniture.

It was my daughter who brought up the fact that the dresser had moved around
and yet here it was, in our house. She runs her hand across the top of the dresser,
tracing her fingers around the bow pattern on top. “I love this dresser.” she whispers.

I smile at her, ” Well, you are my only daughter, and when I’m gone, it’s

My mother’s dresser, my dresser, my daughter’s dresser. Life can go on in
an old piece of furniture. How lovely.


Prudie to Long Lost Bio Mom: Suck It

Prudie of “Dear Prudence” fame recently went off on a mom who found her long-lost daughter and didn’t like her. This bio mom went on to say the daugther was rude not to thank her for a birthday gift, that she was a slob and would suck at her chosen profession, which happens to be bio-mom’s too.

Here is what Prudie said:

It’s sometimes easy when smacked in the face with issues such as abandonment, disappointment, loss, love, obligation, and guilt to focus on something more manageable. Something like, OK, so 23 years ago, I did decide I couldn’t raise you. But now I’ve gone to the trouble of getting you a really nice birthday gift, and you’re not thanking me properly, you little brat! I accept that this girl is obnoxious and immature—but maybe this isn’t just a matter of nurture, but also of nature, because you are exhibiting those same qualities yourself. You must know that in regard to you, she has some big issues of her own. Surely she can detect how much you dislike her, which might set her to thinking, Hey, “Mom,” the more time I spend with you, the happier I am that I was adopted. And how nice that five years after I was born, you decided to keep your next daughter—I guess you think she turned out better than me. Yes, she is your biological offspring, but her mother is the person who raised her—perhaps not very well—and who is there for her and for her child now. How disruptive of you to appear in this young woman’s life and be so judgmental about how she isn’t meeting your needs and expectations. For the future, a marginal relationship between the two of you is probably for the best. Or possibly you could learn to put aside your disdain and become a supportive, if peripheral, presence—someone who can give her guidance as she tries to make her way into your profession and help her so she doesn’t “suck” at it.

Seriously. Who are these people who write Prudie? Sounds like this mom has issues of her own.


BabyClogs checking in! [updated w/ pics]

Hi all,

After an extremely speedy, but otherwise smooth delivery our daughter Femke (say: femkuh) was born yesterday evening April 18th at 11:19 PM CEST (that’s 6 hrs ahead of Eastern, 9 ahead of Pacific summer time). Both Femke and I are doing very well.

I’ll check in again in a couple of days with some more details and perhaps a picture or two.

Good luck to minnmom, littlepear and Rocky – let’s see who goes next, or who has beaten us to the punch after all.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

As promised, a bit more about how things went, and of course a few pictures (scroll right down to the bottom if you want to skip the birth story).

But first of all, heartfelt congratulations to minnmom and littlepear and their respective families! Both of them ‘beat’ us after all. Wonderful to hear that all went well.
Also, good luck to Rocky: may your delivery be soon and smooth!


I had two fairly restless evenings Wed and Thu, when the extremely mild cramps I was having subsided as soon as I went to bed. Friday morning the same cramps started again. I had a regular checkup with my midwife at 2 PM and when I mentioned that we were considering to ask my parents to come pick up DD (a 1.5 hr drive) she said that it really could still be another two weeks. So back home I went.

After dinner the cramps got slightly stronger but I still found them far from convincing. Around 9:30 they started to get a bit stronger and I was more or less convinced that the delivery would start soon(ish); also because I had to go to the restroom all the time. The whole evening DD was very restless and wanted to see me when waking up (she has drawn to DH strongly during my pregnancy, so this was an odd change – I guess she felt something was up). By about 10 PM I was having proper contractions every 10 minutes or so. DH checked in with our neighbors and dropped DD off towards 10:30 and by that time contractions had sped up so much (strong and every 5 minutes) that it was time to call the midwife and ask her to come.

Meanwhile, contractions were getting stronger and more frequent very quickly. We went upstairs, where I sat on the edge of the bed in our guest room (soon to be baby room), because our own bed is elevated to 70 cm (16 inches) at the moment. This is due to workplace regulations for the postnatal care nurse we have here for almost 50 hours this week – standard, and almost completely covered by universal health insurance. Effectively, I could not sit down on the edge of it comfortably.

About 15 minutes after DH’s call the midwife arrived. They were quickly talking over how things were going before she came upstairs. By the time she got to the room I was ready to start pushing – I didn’t quite realize this at this point (in retrospect this is probably because the delivery of DD1 was extremely hectic because she was in severe distress and simply had to come out immediately) and dryly commented that she hoped the mattress on the bed was an old one… Quite funny really, because I’d been sleeping on a protective sheet on our bed for weeks, but there was no way I was going to be able to move to another room (only 10 feet away). After DH and my midwife jointly rotated me to be able to lie down on the bed I could start pushing immediately.  After the head was born (with a hand on the side!) we had to stop briefly so the midwife could cut the umbilical cord, which was wound around the neck, but very soon afterwards our second daughter was born. The great thing was that this time around, although things moved along extremely quickly, I was fully aware of what was happening, almost felt in control (as far as you can be while delivering). Especially in comparison to my first delivery, it was a pretty amazing experience. I am very happy that a home birth was the plan all along, especially because I don’t think we would have gotten to the hospital a 10 minute drive from here before I was ready to push, which would have been extremely uncomfortable and hectic on all.

Femke Maartje was born around 11:10 PM CEST (that’s what DH clocked; the midwife said 11:19, which is therefore the `official’ time of birth). She weighed 3300 g (7 pounds and 4.4 ounces) and is 52 cm (20.5 inches) tall, with big hands and feet. She was a bit short of breath initially (with the cord, and all), so her APGAR score was 8 initially, but 10 at 5 minutes and everything went swimmingly from there. After the placenta was born and DH cut what was left of the cord we had an initial attempt at nursing which worked like a dream. The midwife gave Femke a check-up and dressed her, after which she lay in DH’s arms for a while. Meanwhile it was time for some stitches: the scar from DD’s birth tore again this time, but luckily stayed half an inch from requiring surgical repair (which would have been a real bummer, as we would then have had to call an ambulance to go to the hospital after all). The midwife then helped me to the shower, after which I was happy to finally move to our own bed around 2 AM. DH put Femke in her crib and the midwife left our house around 2:30. Femke was slightly nauseous due amniotic fluid that had not come out of her lungs and stomach because the delivery was so fast, so she woke up regularly. We nursed again at 4 and after that all three of us actually managed to get some sleep. Around 8:30 AM DH picked up DD1 again from our neighbors’ and we could introduce Sanne to Femke.

Since Saturday, things have been going well. Femke is nursing very well and the only minor problem has been that I have too much milk. Things seem to be moving towards a better balance so in short, all is well.

Finally, the pictures:

Femke 3 hours old

All four of us

11 hours old. She has light brown hair

Femke very attentive to her big sister

Now, it’s time to nurse again, and then get some sleep!
Apologies for any typos – no time to check right now.


When the Elderly Outnumber the Young

A recent story in Newsweek highlighted an unfortunate — but predictable — side effect of China’s draconian one child policy: Many elderly people are alone and they have no one to care for them.

Family is the bedrock of Chinese society, at least in theory. But three decades of gut-wrenching change are testing those old bonds. More kids than ever are leaving their hometowns—even the country—in search of jobs. This generation is the first to grow up under the one-child policy, rolled out in 1979. They are “more likely to be spoiled and self-centered,” says demographics expert Cai Feng. “As adults, children of this generation lack the inclination to support their parents.” Forty-two percent of Chinese families in 2005 consisted of an old couple living alone, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

That’s causing even young parents to rethink the meaning of family in China. For centuries a healthy brood of boys was considered the best form of social security. That’s still generally true in the countryside; farmers prefer sons who can work in the fields over a daughter whose earning potential—if any—is transferred to her husband’s family. But in China’s cities, many young couples now say they prize daughters over sons for their loyalty. “Urban couples all think girls are much better than boys. Girls are more thoughtful, especially towards their parents,” says Feng Xiaotian, a sociology professor at Nanjing University who has conducted surveys of Chinese families. In a recent China Youth Daily poll, respondents who preferred a daughter (29 percent) edged out those who wanted a son (28.4 percent).

To avoid loneliness, or even worse, a nursing home — still considered shameful in Chinese society — many elderly Chinese are “adopting” adult women as their daughters. Young, wealthy urbanites are breaking the one-child policy by having more children and paying a fine. They are also having more children through loopholes in the policy such as bearing children in another country or saying that their older children are handicapped. In the most extreme cases, men are having children by different women.

The Chinese government has no safety net for so many elderly people so it is encouraging youth to take care of their parents. “The Education Ministry has supported a resurgence of Confucian studies, which promote respect for elders,” the Newsweek article stated.

This topic resonates with me as I have always been conflicted by culture clash; the American ideal of rugged individualism and the more communal attitude I was raised with by a Latino family. Like the Chinese, there are deep cultural biases against nursing homes among Latinos. My grandmother, whose mental capacities worsen by the day due to Alzheimer’s, lives with my parents.

But what do you do if you live far from your family? How should the Chinese deal with this aging crisis?


Sad Not to Have a Daughter

Sorry but I have spent way too much time on the Berkeley Parents Network newsletter. Here is yet another intriguing issue, which we have spoken about before:

A woman wrote to BPN that she was pregnant with her third boy. Initially she went into the ultrasound  not caring whether she had three boys, but has now found herself depressed and even wondering if she should terminate the pregnancy.

While I am always offended at moms who slam boys — as the mom of a boy I can tell you that boys are great! — but this woman sounded like she was simply having the maternal blues and I did not begrudge her for that. In fact, I thought it was perfectly normal and natural for her to mourn the daughter she will never have — if she chooses not to have any more children.

There were actually a couple writers, including this control freak, who saw nothing wrong with aborting a perfectly healthy baby boy she had planned for:

I know you will get lots of the usual advice — that you will learn to love your 3rd son. However, I think it is important to really look into yourself and decide what is best for you and the child.

My personal story is that I have always wanted to be the mother to girls. Only girls. I could never imagine having a son, and have no idea what I would do with a boy. I strongly dislike all things ”boy”…I can’t even go into the boy section of the toy store because it is so dark and violent. I knew deep down inside me that I would not be a good parent to a boy, so when I was pregnant with my first and found it was a boy, we did choose to have a termination. Since then I have gone on to have three healthy daughters, and I couldn’t be happier with my life choices. I know that much of the decision to terminate depends on ones religious beliefs, and I am one who has never bought into mainstream religions. I see reproduction as a
biological process rather than spiritual one.

This is a rarely discussed choice that we have as parents, but I know several woman who have also done post-conception gender selection, and all of them are happy. If you feel that you might have troubles with this type of decision in the long run, by all means find an open-minded councelor to aid you in your choice.

Worked for us

I was seething. But she was right: Most of the letters were from happy moms of multiple sons. And while I am sure she will be jumped for her response, I admit, I felt better when I read several letters of this nature:

Why don’t you seriously consider giving it up for adoption and then in-turn, if you really want a girl, adopt one from China. I have so many people close to me dealing with heartbreaking, long-term infertility who would be thrilled to have a child of any gender to adopt. A healthy child would be optional for them, seriously.

I don’t know how to respond to your feelings. They seem to be part of a larger, cultural malaise in which some — not all — affluent, educated women think: boys are bad, girls are good. Perhaps it’s fills some narcissistic need to have a ”mini-me.”

You intentionally got pregant knowing you could have a boy. I’m sorry, but the abortion rights I fight for are not yours.

You asked.

Seriously, these are the people who give abortion rights a bad name. In that sense, this woman wins no sympathy from me. But reading the original letter, which I deleted, my gut was that she was depressed and not seriously thinking of terminating the pregnancy. I can’t imagine parents who wanted a third child making this decision after viewing the ultrasound. Also, what message does this send to their older sons?

This is probably a valid reason for preconception gender selection rather than terminating at 20 weeks, or when you find out the gender of the baby. Then again, I never found out the gender for either of my babies, relishing the glorious surprise at the end. I just did not have a strong preference either way.