Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Here is a fascinating article on how birth control has altered our families, culture and even religion and why it will remain a source of controversy for years to come.

In another fascinating article, our Katie wrote an excellent story — and challenged us — to interact with someone from “the other side” politically. Can you do it?

The New York Times published an article on how more than half of women under 30 are having children outside of marriage. Residents of a town in Ohio debated the reasons for the out-of-wedlock births.  

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


In Sickness and In Health…

Happy TGIF, all! Here is a story to mull and discuss.

The Washington Post Magazine ran a page-turning feature story about a former editor that had a heart attack and was permanently brain-damaged. The story was told in his wife’s perspective who was left caring for her husband, a baby and a toddler. After several years, she realized that his personality had changed, he was not going to get better and had to move to a nursing facility. Then she moved on — with another man.

It’s an arrangement that appears to have worked for all involved, however, she received vicious feedback from readers who felt that she had not honored her wedding vows. In fact, the newspaper followed up with a Q&A that I also read from top to bottom. This is a sample of some of the questions that she received:

I thank you from the bottom of my heart, Page and Susan, for making the public aware of the difficult road which spousal caregivers travel. As the spouse of a quadriplegic, I totally understand how excruciating it can be to balance a sick husband’s needs, your own needs, and your children’s needs. I was chagrined by the judgmental and hostile comments posted by people who truly have no idea what our struggles encompass. As medicine evolves and more and more people survive with severe cognitive and/or physical deficits, we all need to think “outside the box” for compassionate solutions. Thank you for sharing what is working for you. It brings hope to others who are feeling despairing and alone. I’d also like to recommend the Well Spouse Association as a wonderful peer support organization for spousal caregivers. Our motto is “when one is sick, two need help.”

Thanks for your comment! I have heard of the group and am glad you are calling attention to it. Thank you for sharing your struggles, and I wish you well. Please know that you are not alone. I hope, too, that you ask for help sometimes!

I’ve read the article twice. It presents an incredible dilemma and I am so very sympathetic to the circumstances. The gist as I see read it- a happy marriage is dealt a severe blow and, not liking the hand that was dealt, one spouse decides to move on. My question is this: to what vow is it that you are being lauded for holding true?

I appreciate this question, and I understand this is a sticking point for a lot of folks. I would disagree that we have “moved on.” Robert is central to our lives and now benefits from a stronger support network than he had before. Not a justification for anything – just the fact of our lives how. I will take care of him forever. In the context of my faith, I am standing by him and with him. I am fortunate to have found someone who will share this with me

What was telling to me was that Robert’s family was so supportive of Page’s remarriage, and felt she was in fact still honoring her vow to Robert. Robert’s father said he was confident that, no matter what, Page would always be there for him….  

When you say you made the decision within your faith, could you explain that some more. Many would argue that breaking your vow by ending your marriage isn’t compatible with any faith. How did you reconcile it with your faith?

Thanks for the question and I understand that my choices are not for everyone. I had long discussions about the meaning of those vows and I concluded that I am standing by Robert in every sense and at the same time, ensuring our girls are cared for and that Robert will always be cared for. Again, wasn’t what I was looking for, but I have to make peace with the fact that our new life helps everyone.

Everything about this story was intense. And as people live longer, it is likely to become more common. My heart goes out to spouses who find themselves in this impossible situation. Did you read the story? What did you think?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

First, let’s send lots of prayers and virtual hugs to our Sue in Queens, whose father passed away over the weekend. All my condolences to you and your family, Sue.

In political news: I heart New Hampshire. I’ve gotten in my share of laughs reading the news coverage of the way the Republican candidates for president are being treated over there. Rick Santorum got booed by Republican college students for his anti-gay marriage stance, according to the Boston Globe. The Washington Post coverage of Sen. John McCain endorsing Mitt Romney in Manchester, New Hampshire, was straight-up hilarious. Enjoy!

In other political news: a North Carolina MomsRising member made these New Year’s resolutions to help the state become more family-friendly. Me likey.

The Boston Globe opened up a can of worms with a column, in which an Episcopalian minister and family coach criticized parents who put their children before their marriages. Actually, the column and comments that preceded it were quite interesting and largely civil. What say you about this topic?

Don’t think our deportation policies have gone too far? Check out this story about an African American teenager who was deported to Colombia. By the way, she speaks no Spanish and is, well, NOT Colombian. Sheez…

In somewhat related news, columnist Ruben Navarrette wrote a poignant essay on why some Arizonians are threatened by Mexican American studies. In better news: the DREAM Act in California stands as the opposition failed to the gather the 500,000+ signatures needed to place an initiative on the ballot to overturn it, according to the Sacramento Bee.

One of the those days that it dawned upon me (again) how we love to stigmatize the poor and worship the rich: on Thursday morning before I clicked on Super Why! for my kids, I stopped on a heart-breaking news story about how an office that offers clothes and food to day laborers was vandalized. The total cost of the damages? $10,000. I remember thinking if I had 10 grand I would immediately head over to Hayward to cut them a check. Then that morning as I sat up at my desk at work I was met by this opening news article on MSNBC. It’s about how a drunk woman urinated and rubbed her butt on a $20 million painting. Total damages? $10,000. Considering the platform — first news item on MSNBC! — I immediately thought of the likelihood that some rich patron would step forward to repair it. The nameless day laborers mentioned in our local news channel? Probably not so much. What’s up with that?

Speaking of day laborers, Latina Lista ran a heart-breaking story about an undocumented immigrant in Illinois who became paralyzed on the job and the hospital had him deported. He died in his native Mexico at the age of 21. The hospital’s decision, by the way, was met with anger by the local Latino community as some members offered to take care of the immigrant.

Also in Latina Lista: it is Thyroid Awareness Month and Latina Lista ran a helpful column on how to spot a thyroid problem. As the article pointed out, it is more common in women than men and a common source of feeling tired all the time.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


A Month Away From Your Spouse?

I just read this fascinating review in Slate about an author who spends a month away from her husband every year as a way to maintain their decades-long marriage.

She received a lot of backlash in the comments from people who thought there must be something wrong with her marriage if she considers this normal. But her book, The Secret Lives of Wives, presents some interesting facts. Read on:

As Krasnow writes, the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that is a cliché. But it is a cliché for a reason: A review of relevant research confirms that there can be positive aspects to time spent apart from a spouse—at least for wives. (Like Krasnow’s book, many of the sociological and psychological studies on the subject focus on separation’s impact on wives, rather than husbands.) This time apart can take many different forms: The studies don’t just talk about couples who take separate vacations or summer jaunts of the sort Krasnow and her husband have enjoyed. Research has shown that women who are married to fishermen and truckers—careers that can separate spouses for weeks or even months—also profit from time alone.

Time spent apart can benefit women by making them more emotionally self-reliant. As a 1980 study from the Journal of Marriage and Family about dual-career couples who live apart pointed out, “Wives are programmed to think of marriage as an intimacy oasis, an emotionally close relationship that will be ‘total.’ “Learning that your marriage doesn’t have to be your emotional ballast can be tremendously empowering.

There is one case where prolonged absences hurt a marriage: the military.

When one member of a military couple is deployed in a war zone. Not surprisingly, a 2010 study from the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the spouses of deployed Army members were more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders than the wives of nondeployed soldiers. As military wife Alison Buckholtz wrote for DoubleX in her “Deployment Diary” series, when every doorbell ringing could bring news of your husband’s death, it’s hard to see any benefit to his absence.

In the prologue to The Secret Lives of Wives, Krasnow says that the most important marital lesson she took from the hundreds of women she spoke to was the importance of maintaining a sense of evolving self, apart from one’s relationship. It’s not that geographic space is the only way of achieving a separate identity—for example, several of the wives said reconnecting with physical pastimes helped them develop their sense of self—but it is a surprisingly effective one. Healthy separation can even inspire the next generation. As Tecla, the military wife, tells Krasnow, she’s glad that she showed her children that it was possible to have adventures even when their father wasn’t around. “Now married with families of their own,” she says, “our daughters have a wonderful sense of independence and never hesitate to go off and have adventures with their own children.”

I do go on the occasional “girls’ weekend”, but usually nothing more than a long weekend. It’s more than enough time to recharge the batteries, and come back to my husband and kids fresh and motivated. A month sounds like a long time, not to mention, not practical for DH and I who both work and must help with child-rearing.

What say you? Do you think there is any truth to Krasnow’s book?


Are Kids Better Off With Married Parents?

Two books now suggest that the answer is “no.”

In a fascinating New York Times book review of Is Marriage for White People?, which examines the low rates of marriage among African Americans, this statistic popped out:

Moreover, the benefits of marriage don’t accrue as readily for African-Americans as for other groups precisely because of their economic instability. Marriage simply isn’t an essential component for their well-­being. For example, Banks cites data showing that black children with married parents fare no better academically or economically in the long run than their born-out-of-­wedlock counterparts. Nor can we assume, Banks says, that children born to unmarried parents do not have a paternal presence, or that children born to married parents are living in a stable household. Case in point: The rates of divorce and reported dissatisfaction among married black couples are higher than those among married white couples.

The other story that caught my eye was “Do Your Kids Care If You Are Married?” at the Mombian blog, which examined Census figures showing that unmarried adults almost outnumber married couples for the first time in recorded U.S. history. As our Dana pointed out, many gay and lesbian couples have been raising children even if their relationships are not always legally recognized.

However, I agree with her in that it is one thing to choose not to marry and another for the government to tell you that you can’t marry.

Also, as the first book review about African Americans touched upon, there is a reason this is an issue at all in this country: the lack of social safety net for everyone and the increasing need to live on two incomes. I have heard that marital rates are way down in Europe, too, but then again, an individual there doesn’t need to marry for health insurance. It is conceivable that a single mother has more resources at her disposable — like subsidized childcare — so she doesn’t have to rely on a spouse.

That said, I have never considered the overall impact on children. In these cases, it doesn’t appear to make a difference, as long as both parents are very involved with childrearing. What say you?  


Saturday Open Thread


What a fan-frickin-tastic way to start off the weekend, amirite??

So let’s make this a feel-good thread, shall we? What else are you feeling great about today?

I am feeling great that summer is here. Our mornings are more relaxed, Maya is signed up for some really fun day camps, and yesterday we went to Barnes & Noble and bought her very first chapter books. We also bought her several Level 4 “Step Into Reading” titles and she DEMOLISHED the first one last night. So yeah, it’s all about the public library once she finishes tearing through these.

We also bought her a Scholastic Summer Express workbook, which provides quick and fun reading and math activities. She is already showing way too much interest in watching DVDs and playing with her Nintendo DS, which I am not opposed to, but I want to be able to break up the electronic stupor every once in a while. So I am feeling good that we took some proactive steps on that front.

What are you up to this weekend? Chat away!


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The Tiki Tiki Blog, published by fellow Cuban-American writer Carrie Ferguson Weir, ran a series of essays and resources on infidelity in light of the revelation that Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a love child with his Latina maid. Unfortunately, marital infidelity is not uncommon in Latino households — nor American households for that matter! — and a running joke between DH and I is that when a man dies in our family we hold our breaths wondering what woman or child is going to come out of the woodwork. Have you or anyone in your family dealt with infidelity? How did you cope?

A 35-year-old single woman at BlogHer wondered whether she should have a child without being married.

Also in BlogHer: a homeschooling mom is honest about what she would change if she had a “do-over.” I suppose the same could be said about all aspects of parenting.

In trashy gossip break: TMZ is now reporting that the story of a mom injecting her 8-year-old’s face with botox is a hoax. My gut tells me that you know there are moms out there doing it — I am thinking the Disney Club and beauty pageant set — and it should be illegal. What do you all make of this story?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Review: Project Happily Ever After

As co-publisher of MotherTalkers, I receive lots of books for review. Some I never get to, while others are duds that I choose not to review. Then there is the occasional gem I am glad I took the time to read.

That’s how I would classify Alisa Bowman’s Project: Happily Ever After.

A former senior editor at Runner’s World magazine, Bowman recorded the ups and downs of her marriage for two years with the intention of saving it. She was brutally honest, writing about her lack of a sex life, how she wanted her husband dead and her postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter Kaarina.

When I started reading, I felt bad for her husband and her daughter in that she shared so much personal information about them. But this is what Bowman had to say about the sharing of TMI:

My general rule about the transparency is that it has to have a point. I don’t write about my sex life just to be graphic. I always make sure I have a point or that I’m trying to be helpful. It’s my hope that someone can benefit from every word I write. I write to help others — to help them feel normal, to give them courage, to inspire them, to offer solutions to their problems, and yes, to make them laugh.

I did find myself relating a lot to what Bowman wrote especially her frustration and depression after the birth of her child. In my own personal relationships and conversations, I have often told people flat out that nothing changes a relationship more than a child. The couple is cranky because of sleep deprivation and this is further compounded by the added responsibilities of feeding, diapering, bathing and entertaining a baby or a small child — on top of any other jobs as well as the human instinct to want “me” time. It’s no surprise that the relationship of the parents suffer.

The sleep deprivation, the high-pitched cries, the absolute fatigue, the pressure, the lack of support, the lack of quiet time, and the lack of appreciation had been overwhelming. The part of my brain that had stored common sense and the part of my heart that had stored compassion had been replaced with rage. The anger had lingered for years.

I will say though that, like Bowman, I do find it easier as the children get older. I think it’s no coincidence that her marriage improved once her daughter started school. At least it did for me and my husband.

We bickered a lot during the sleep-deprived baby moments, at a time when my husband was buried in work and I was weepy and suspected I had some kind of depression. (I take Celexa for it.) But now that our kids are in school, my husband and I are finding ourselves having more sex, going on dates and leaving the kids with friends. It’s great.

Besides her own experiences, Bowman also includes advice by friends who have been married for decades. Probably the most sage one was the importance of sharing the responsibility of children and nurturing the marriage. And it doesn’t take a lot of time. I was struck by the little selfless acts throughout the day, thanking a spouse for folding laundry, letting a spouse sleep in or bringing a cup of coffee to bed for him or her. Also, never forget the good attributes of your spouse, including him or her being a good parent and spouse.  

Without further ado, here were some of my favorite pieces of marital advice and factoids about marriage in Bowman’s book:

“It’s always better to talk about your wants, needs and feelings — even if they make you seem like a despicable human being — than to keep them to yourself. Marriage is about growing closer. It’s about understanding each other — even the ugly parts. Have the courage to be ugly.” p. 62

“From the Kinsey Institute I learned that roughly 3 percent of married couples were just like us — smack dab in the middle of a great big long dry spell. Another 13 percent of couples had sex only a few times a year and nearly half of married couples said they did it less than once a week.” p. 135

“According to Louann Brizendine’s The Female Brain, men had between 10 and 100 times more testosterone than women and consequently, their genitals actually became quite uncomfortable if they didn’t get a regular release. Women, on the other hand, tended to have high levels only during the second week of our menstrual cycles, just before ovulation. Had the writers of Genesis missed an important detail when they listed God’s punishments for eating the apple? In addition to painful childbirth, he also inflicted us with mismatched sex drives.” p. 136

“Stop feeling guilty. It’s impossible to be a good spouse and a good parent if you are not a good you. You come first. Marriage comes second. Kids come third. If you mix up that balance, no one is happy.” p. 237

I will stop right there. At my wedding, I had couples give me that last piece of advice, saying that the kids would grow up and move out and all that I would have left is my husband. Bowman and her friends said the same thing.

This may be true when the kids are older, but when they are, let’s say zero to three, I find it really challenging to put my spouse ahead of my children. It’s tough to drop everything to “do it” when there’s a crying baby in the next room, ya know? It’s hard to snuggle with your spouse when baby needs a diaper change, or the toddler needs to be consoled.

Have you read Bowman’s book or her blog? What do you think of her advice? What other pieces of marital wisdom do you have to share?



Reposting this from my blog at the request of Elisa– who I am incapable of resisting…MK  

Here is my story. My fight to save my marriage from the forces of ignorance, bigotry, and hate.

I’m not brave. Let’s make this clear. I’ve never been brave. From my childhood friend Laurie who trudged home in silent disgust with me one winter’s day when I refused to slide head first down a huge snowbank into a concrete parking lot, to the eighth grade science teacher who shouted “wussy wussy wussy“ at me when I admitted to my fear of hornets during an entomology class, to a former boss who used to watch me looking out my office window at snow-covered roads and say “oooh scary scary snow for your ride home!”,  I’ve always been pretty easy game for people who loved to point out my fears and weaknesses. Time and age have helped me get over some of them. I don’t run away from bees anymore, and I can almost sleep through a thunderstorm, and a good solid four-wheel drive jeep has helped with the snow-driving issue. But I’m far from considering myself brave.

This week I’ll have to dig deeper and harder than ever to find an ounce of bravery to do something that terrifies me — testifying before a legislative committee about my marriage. Yes, a mere four months after Kelly and I said our I-dos, ate cake, danced to “My Girl,“ and opened gifts at our wedding, a series of bills is threatening our marriage. Our marriage. Our hum drum normal, tacos-on-Tuesday, Glee on the DVR, homework over the kitchen table, did you feed the cats yet, family life is apparently so deeply offensive to certain members of our state legislature that they not only want to repeal the law that allows for marriage equality but also to pass another law defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman. In short, not only would no other same-sex couples be able to marry, but my marriage would be….null. And that makes me angry. And when I get angry…I…cry.

Ok that’s sort of embarrassing and undermines any ounce of credibility I can hope to have. But anger can also make me brave and I’m counting on the bravery part to over ride the crying part on Thursday morning when I will join with others to testify that marriage equality should remain legal in New Hampshire. And I’m terrified. I’m terrified of what the opposition will say. I’m terrified of crying and making a fool out of myself when I try to explain what it means to me to be married to the woman I love more than life itself. What it means to sit with my wife and daughter over Sunday night chicken dinners and know that this family is whole and healthy and legally recognized the same way as everyone else’s family. I’m afraid that somehow by testifying I’m opening my family up to hate and bigotry that we’ve never had to face before.  

I’m so angry that it has come to this at a time when our state and our country have so many real problems, and yet have the time and energy to create a problem out of people loving each other. There is a not-small part of me that wants to ignore these hearings, stay home or at my desk and pretend it’s not happening, leave the rallying and gathering and testifying to others better suited to it than I, people used to the political arena, people who are brave.

But I know that this is something I have to do. I have to do it for my family, for my friends who celebrated their own marriages and the births of babies this year, for my daughter’s young teenage friends who excitedly told me about “straight ally” week at their high school and complimented me on the HRC sticker on my jeep. For the friends and family who danced at our wedding wearing “I like girls who like girls” t-shirts.  For the maitre’d at the restaurant Monday night who congratulated us on our first married Valentine’s Day. For the pride I hear in Kelly’s voice when she refers to Liza as her stepdaughter. I won’t lie. I’m still scared. But I’m hoping if I carry these memories and these voices with me that maybe I’ll find a way to be brave. And I’ll do what I have to do.



polygamy in Canada

There is right now a reference case going on in British Columbia, Canada, to determine whether or not the laws against polygamy are constitutional or whether they infringe on people’s freedoms too much. The biggest polygamous group in British Columbia is at Bountiful, where a group of FLDS live and several members from that community are testifying at the case.

I know a lot of people who argue that laws against polygamy are out of date. They rely on a definition of marriage that does not exist anymore (that of committed monogamy). It is not illegal to have sex with more than one person, to have children with more than one person, or to live with more than one person. Many people are raising kids with their ex-spouse, their ex-spouses’ new spouse, and their own new spouse. The nuclear family is not the norm and government recognition of a marriage means very little and common-law marriage is accepted as normal. Most of the people who are practicing polygamy are not looking to have a government marriage license, so what exactly are they doing that makes it illegal?

The problem is that what is happening at Bountiful, B.C. does not look at all like something happening between consenting adults. Although about three years ago they promised not to be performing underage marriages the teen pregnancy rate is incredibly high with the father’s being significantly older men. Attempts to find evidence of abuse have failed because the women and children refuse to testify against their community members. At the reference case now women are testifying that yes, they were married at fifteen or sixteen years to older men with more than one spouse, but, they claim, they asked to be married and had the option of rejecting the man that they were told was God’s choice for them. (A choice, basically, of following what God wants or defying him.)

Whenever the topic of laws pertaining to sexual conduct come up (gay marriage, age-of-consent laws, etc,) there’s always lots of reference to “consenting adults.” People say if consenting adults choose to live polygamously, why shouldn’t they be allowed to? But then the question comes up as to how can one even become a consenting adult if raised from childhood to believe that one’s salvation depends upon being part of a polygamous marriage. Does consent require a certain amount of information? Does it require a person consider the possibility of options? Or simply that a person is not kicking and screaming “no”?

Is polygamy the problem? Or is the problem the religion itself, and if so, aren’t people entitled to practice their religion no matter how obnoxious it seems to others? Is the problem the lack of education that leaves members of the community accepting religious ideas and practices that most North Americans probably assume educated people would reject?

Many of the women in the community are from the United States. Some are in Canada on student visas, and I know a few years ago a number of Bountiful wives were deported back the USA as having lived in Canada illegally. I wonder if the polygamy laws are struck down what it will mean for Canadian immigration laws. Would people be able to bring multiple spouses into the country, and would that open the door wide open for fraud cases (“pay me $X and I’ll claim you’re married to me to bring you into the country…”). I’m sure fraud still occurs now but at least there is a limit to the number of people a person can bring in at a time that way. Or perhaps that would not be a concern because perhaps immigration law still requires the people to be married with a marriage license and not just common-law, and perhaps eliminating the laws against polygamy would not necessarily extend the right of government marriage licenses to polygamous relationships.

http://stoppolygamyincanada.wordpres… is a blog that is collecting many of the articles about the reference case, if anyone is interested.

What do you think?

To what extent does society have the right or responsibility to try to intervene in minority groups with questionable practices?

Is acceptance of polygamy an inevitable thing given that so few marriages these days are life-long exclusive commitments?

What are the prerequisits to being able to be a consenting adult?