Being a Homemaker

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), the Hispanic rapper Becky G (aka Rebecca Marie Gomez) wrote a moving piece about her homemaker great-grandmother, grandmother and mother, extolling the unsung virtues of daily homemaking. The grinding endless tasks of meal preparation, clearing up and doing it all over again everyday until they can’t anymore. Becky G herself admitted that:

Even though I have chosen to pursue a different road in life, I still feel very connected to my culture and these family values. I am very thankful to have been positively influenced by my mom, grandmothers and great-grandmother. I always aim to reflect their qualities in everything that I do as a young Latina.

Her own mother became a homemaker only aged 18, she took on the job of homemaking with earnest. Making sure everyone was taken care of, from her father to all her siblings. Until Miss Gomez becomes a mother herself, she cannot appreciate the depth of the words she’s writing. Eighteen years old is a prohibitively young age to take on such a life changing task.

I’ve been a full time homemaker for just over two years. It was a choice I made. I wasn’t always a homemaker. I was a working professional from the age of 20 to 34. What influenced my choice as to become a homemaker during my children’s formative years was based on my own childhood experience as having a mother who always worked. My parents owned a business together so they basically worked twenty-four/seven if they needed to. It never occurred to them that they had a child that needed looking after by them, if only just occasionally . I was looked after by nannies, grandparents and other extended family all of whom I adored. It was not until I was older when I begun to feel the distance between me and my parents (especially my mother) because they weren’t really present in my formative years. I needed my parents during those difficult teenage years, especially my mother, but because we weren’t as close I would have liked, our relationship until about 10 years ago was at times testy, difficult and we didn’t understand each other.

I realized that as much as I adored my grandparents and how they were my absolute favorite people on earth, no one can replace your parents. Your parents are your parents and a child’s bond with their parents is essential for a healthy upbringing. For a bond to develop, the parents have to be present enough. It doesn’t mean they have to be there every minute of everyday, but they need to establish a routine presence in the home, which mine neglected to do, due to work pressures. My grandparents also made it really easy for them to just leave me with them when an emergency at work happened, so it never occurred to my parents to balance their professional obligations with parental obligations. I realized in my teens as much as I loved my grandparents, I’ve outgrown them emotionally. They could not relate to me as a teenager. The generation gap was felt keenly but I wasn’t close enough to my mother to turn to her in a significant way. So I spent much of my adolescence and young adulthood in a very lonely existence, wishing I could just ‘talk’ to somebody.

From this experience, I realized that if I were to ever become a parent, I will have to be present in their formative years to form that close bond. It doesn’t just magically happen. I would have to put my career ambitions aside for a few years to tend to their needs. It can’t all be left to nannies and relatives. And at the end of the day, no matter who they adore, they want their mommy and daddy. They need their mommy and daddy.

So that’s what I did, when my son was born and my daughter was almost 2 years old, I became a full time stay at home mom (SAHM). Full disclosure: nannies and help weren’t exactly an option even if I wanted it, even for part time. With a few exceptions from some generous friends and relatives helping out with occasional child care, it was just me and my husband handling it all.

When I became a SAHM, I had a newborn and a toddler just entering the Terrible Twos. I was already in my mid-thirties, I had seen and heard enough of the real world to shatter any SAHM illusions of everyday being in a bubble babies, cuddles and mom groups. I tried my best to prepare myself for the exhaustion, sleep deprivation and the seemingly endless boring chores, which I already hated (I always had a fantasy of having someone to do all the boring stuff like washing up, cleaning and laundry and I could just be mommy to my kids, read to them, give them baths, feed them, sleep with them, but alas).

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but it was something I had to do as a mother and it was a job only I could do, no one can take my place in the eyes of my children. Also, I consoled myself with the fact that it was just ‘temporary’, until the kids went to school full time, I could then return to my career.

In spite of all my mental preparation, my new SAHM status still hit me like a freight train. It’s not just the exhaustion, tiredness and endless labors of love but the loss of my personal income for the first time in my working life was a big blow. To have to fully depend on a man for the first time in my life in my mid-thirties was harder than I expected.

To be clear, it’s not as though I gave up a six-figure salary to stay home with my children, far from it. I earned an average salary that didn’t stretch nearly far enough, especially after having my daughter. But, it was still my salary, being direct deposited into a bank account with my name on it. Most of it went to bills and necessities, but I controlled how it was spent. Of all the things I mentally prepared for, the loss of my income was not one of them. I had not realized the extent of my pride until my severance pay ran out and refused to ask my husband for any money for only myself.

As Miss Gomez extoll the virtues of her great-grandmother, grandmother and mother of their fine housekeeping skills:

Being a homemaker is not something you could go to school for or get a degree in. It is something that you learn at home and witness everyday. It is a gift that comes naturally from the heart of these women. A passion. It is instilled in you purely from growing up around a great one.

I remember on rainy days walking home from school, drenched from head to toe, my mom would have that very same Posole waiting for us. Just like Great-Grandma did. I can almost taste it.

Miss Gomez’s mother got married at 18 and became a homemaker then. A cruelly young age in my opinion. Her mother, like my grandmother, prepared hot soup for me when I got home from school during a rainy day when I left my umbrella at home. It is the best feeling in the world, to have someone at home, anticipating your return and thinking of you with a hot soup ready, especially when you are soaked from head to toe.

Homemaking is not for the faint of heart. It’s one of the hardest jobs on earth and it’s a job that has very little immediate tangible reward. Some say you are rewarded with love, yes you are, but it’s also accompanied by untold frustration only a homemaker can understand. But just because the reward isn’t immediately tangible, it doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful or not worth doing. Many women are just not prepared for how run over you feel after a long day of ‘making beds’, cooking and making sure everyone is looked after in the manner they are accustomed, which if you let it go unchecked, the list of requirements can grow out of hand. And when you lay your head down at night, you realize you have to do it all over again the next day.

Even in my mind’s eye, my ever loving and patient grandmother, in her older years, her frustration at the business of ‘homemaking’ begun to show in a big way. Perhaps due to her old age and suffering from the effects from the cancerous tumor that would eventually claim her life, she found less and less joy in each of the meals she cooked. Also, it didn’t help that most of her adult children (my uncles) for one reason or another had to move back under her roof. She was essentially taking care of grown men that should be looking after themselves, it made her feel like she wasted her best years looking after them and this is the result. It was mixture of fatigue (from a lifetime’s caregiving), anger, frustration and disappointment. Any potential fantasies I had about being a housewife evaporated right there. If I were to ever become a housewife, it would only be temporary. I will not repeat my grandmother’s life of looking after everyone except herself. Sacrificing all her wishes and desires because her adult children couldn’t get their act together.

I look back at my childhood with my grandparents with rose tinted lenses, especially the role my grandmother played in my upbringing. She was loving and nurturing, but at what cost to herself? For all of us who have fond memories of our childhood, which involved a loving ‘homemaker’ taking care of us, be it a mother or grandmother, we need to stop and think about all the sacrifices they made so that our home is taken care of is in the way we are accustomed.

It’s a lot of work to maintain a home. The work is boring, monotonous and un-stimulating, especially for mothers who worked at high pressure, high intensity jobs before taking a break from her career. It really is the hardest job any woman can do, and the difficulty is not from the physicality of it, it’s the daily grind. Mopping up the same messes day after day because three year olds do not know how to walk from point A to point B without knocking or spilling something over. It’s also why good childcare is so prohibitively expensive: high risk, high liability and low reward.

Being a full time SAHM while my children are young will be the most important work I do, but it won’t be the only work I do. When the time is right and appropriate, I will resume my career. I will pick up my interests where I left it off, in the dusty corners of my mind and filing cabinets. I will find the time to devour my books again without out a little person interrupting me asking where the sun went when every night falls. I will listen to my old heavy metal records, hard rock records and all of my other child-inappropriate music again. Life is about priorities about the choices we make. Every choice has a consequence but that consequence doesn’t have to define the rest of our lives. When my children overwhelm me, my husband always says to enjoy it and savor it as the day will come where they don’t even want to talk to us.

Here’s to all the selfless homemakers who sacrificed everything so that their families can live in comfort.

Serena Williams and the Hypocrisy of Femininity

As a semi-serious fan of tennis, watching Serena Williams play is like watching a miracle in athleticism, precision, combined with grace and power. It’s a feat of sheer superhuman power which is unmatched. What’s more, she makes it look easy peasy, barely breaking a sweat even in hot conditions. There was no one like her before and probably won’t after her for quite some decades to come. Had her sister Venus Williams not been struck by Sjogren’s Syndrome, I’ve no doubt we would see more Venus-Serena Grand Slam final matches.

Serena Williams, by her mere existence is the subject of numerous column inches about women in sports, women’s physique in sports and how that contributes to their performance and how all of that fits into the ‘femininity’ of a female athlete. In short, in the view of many, Serena Williams’s success is attributed solely to her powerful physique (as opposed to her intelligence and precision), which, according to some, is like a man’s body. Most notoriously, New York Times sports writer, in an attempt to bring light to this issue and was meaning to write a complimentary piece about Serena Williams and  how female athletes struggle with their body image (like all other women), Ben Rothenberg really stepped in it. Saying a woman resembles a man in any shape or form is tantamount to calling her ‘ugly’ or ‘unattractive’. Since it’s not polite anymore to openly say a woman is ugly or unattractive, new coded words were invented to take its place, such as ‘masculine’, ‘manly’, ‘overly muscular’ or the most blunt ‘she looks like a man’. Regardless of how a woman’s natural physical attributes rates, no woman wants to be thought of as ‘looking like a man’.

Serena, instead of being admired for her athleticism, she’s being gawked at like some unusual exotic being, except it’s unusual not in a good way. Rothenberg received extra flack because, firstly, he isn’t a woman and secondly, he isn’t black yet he’s talking about a very personal subject which relates to black women. Serena Williams is a black woman, and the article just happens to cite all the other white players on the WTA tour right now who make a concerted effort to not look like Serena Williams, because, God forbid, these pixie like European players should turn up looking like a man in center court. Serena Williams when talking about her workouts, makes a great effort to emphasize that she does not lift weights and her muscular shape is totally an accident of genetics. Then you have the coach of Agnieszka Radwanska going on record to say, she deliberately trains to maintain her thin small frame for speed and agility (her strong suits) and because she wants to look like a woman and more importantly, she ‘is’ a woman first. As if to imply Serena is not fully a woman?

You also have Maria Sharapova, Serena William’s closest rival on the tour right now, going on the record saying that she’s allergic to any weights that weigh more than 5 lbs. She wants to maintain her 6 foot 2 inch model like frame whilst being a top tennis player. Heaven forbid she should end up looking like Serena Williams. For the players that are more accepting, like Eugenie Bouchard, their tones are resigned: if bulking up and looking like a man is what it takes to ‘lift trophies’, then by all means, fine, I’ll bulk up for the duration of my tennis career, but I better see results soon or else I am revert back to my thin womanly figure.

Besides talking about Serena’s figure is the talk of Serena the personality, which is as every bit strong and forceful as her physical gifts. She’s loud, brash, speaks her mind and is unapologetic, if she were a man those traits would be admired, she’d be given an award, even if a few f-bombs were dropped, and Serena rarely uses the f-bomb. But in some quarters, it’s described as crass, uncouth and arrogant. All a big no-no for a girl, especially a black girl from the ghetto. To many, she is reinforcing what everyone already thinks of her and her upbringing. There are acceptable ways of expressing anger and frustration and the way Serena doesn’t do it the ‘right’ way.

Her good friend since childhood Andy Roddick is shocked and saddened at the bad press Serena Williams gets for her supposed ‘bad’ behavior on court. He admitted that he was a jerk for most of his playing years and he didn’t even get one-quarter the bad press that Serena got. Roddick was even fined several times for his bad behavior, he always just wrote the check, issued a half-assed apology and laughed it off. The press and the tennis authorities treated him a naughty frat boy. He was even able to make a joke of it at his press conferences, reading mock apology notes and the joke was reciprocated. Something Serena Williams could never get away with.

On the over excessive display of emotion – I don’t find John McEnroe’s outbursts appealing nor do I find Andy Roddick’s red-faced meltdowns on center court palatable either. Did they leave their manners in the locker room? The poker faced Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl style of playing tennis, where their frustrations are exchanged with chair umpire and if the result is not to their favor, dagger looks are given and they move the game along is probably more to my preference. There will be no red faced cursing or over-gesticulating for Becker and Lendl.

Prior to Serena Williams dominance on the tennis courts, her predecessors such as Steffi Graf or Monica Seles conducted themselves in the manner that was expected of them. Polite and quiet off the court but displaying finesse, prowess and aggression on the court. They were non-threatening, didn’t speak out of turn and rarely got angry at anyone or anything. Any challenges to bad calls that didn’t go their way were shrugged off. They were, in a word, boring (with a capital B) and they were an advertiser’s dream, lily-white uncontroversial spokespersons who will help them sell many many articles of clothing, shoes and whatever else.

Some advertisers and sponsors are criticized for overlooking Serena Williams in favor of her not-so-close second place rival Maria Sharapova, one of the highest earning sportswoman for many years straight. Many charge advertisers with racism and lookism for overlooking Serena Williams and for not broadening the definition of beauty beyond the tall skinny blond white girl with model looks to be more inclusive, but the reason is simpler than that. Whoever can sell more shoes, clothes, watches and jewelry, that person will be their spokesperson. If today, the Maria Sharapova and Eugenie Bouchard types will do the job, then that’s who they will hire. If we wake up tomorrow and the Serena Williams type suddenly became the model of ‘It’, ‘cool’ and sexy then Serena will get all the endorsements. It’s as easy as that. Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Canon, Nikon will hire the skateboarding bulldog (I am not comparing athletes to the dog, I am just making an analogy) if that’s who will sell their wares. This isn’t fair or right, it’s just business. The advertiser’s job is to find the spokesperson that will represent their products the best, and by represent, they mean help them sell whatever overpriced gadget they are trying to flog to consumers. With Maria Sharapova out of the game for at least 2 years due to a doping suspension, maybe advertisers will look to other tennis players.

There are those who cite the ‘likability’ factor of Serena Williams being less than that of Maria Sharapova or Eugenie Bouchard, because of her loud and brash personality (code for bitchy), but Maria Sharapova is no cupcake off the court either. She can be prickly and difficult in interviews. Her PR management usually has a list of questions the interviewers may NOT ask that is as long as her arm, and the first on the top of the list are questions anything to do with her irritating grunts on the court are strictly banned, at least she’s self-aware. Aside from that, Sharapova doesn’t go to great lengths to hide her prickliness either. Former champion Martina Hingis called her then match rival Amelie Mauresmo ‘half a man’, a direct homophobic dig, even though Hingis won the match. Lindsay Davenport said playing Mauresmo was like ‘playing a man’ after a tough loss, in reference to Mauresmo’s athletic physique. Lindsay Davenport apologized for her remark but Hingis didn’t, apparently not understanding why her off the cuff comment was so offensive. These women who were at the top of their game were not sanctioned, scolded or even verbally warned when they made these offensive and unacceptable remarks. Serena Williams for all of her supposed ‘outbursts’ have never offended another player like this, yet she still gets all the bad press for her ‘outbursts’.

I have a confession to make. I am a reformed fan of Serena Williams. Previously, I loved her on the court but not so much off. I didn’t watch her interviews on television nor did I read them in print. I found her unnecessarily abrasive and defensive when she spoke and it was off putting. And in my mind, she was guilty by association, to her father Richard Williams. And I suspect much of the viewing public have this perception.

Most people find Richard Williams and his courtside antics at times amusing and at times off putting (more off putting than not), holding up bizarre signs of support Venus or Serena and flouting the rules of tennis spectatorship. I suppose people attributed some ‘coded’ message in the signs and that’s how he allegedly fixed his daughters matches. After all, you don’t see Tiger Woods’s father flouting the rules of golf and he’s just as every bit a golf-dad as Richard Williams is a tennis-dad. Now I can appreciate his renegade attitude of breaking barriers and in his own way protest the ‘white’ rules tennis spectatorship. He said in an interview when asked about not observing the silence rules of tennis, he had this to say:

I don’t think crowds should be quiet—whether you’re screaming, you’re stomping, you’re playing drums. Change tennis and you’ll get more fans. Change tennis and you’ll get more sponsors. Change tennis and you’ll get more people to broadcast it. A lot of people in tennis that make decisions, they’ve never played tennis.

It’s ironic to note, Serena Williams often asks the chair umpire to ask the audience to pipe down when she’s playing important points as it distracts her.

In the same interview, when asked why he chose tennis for his girls, his had this to say:

…I didn’t know at that time of anything in sports that a woman could do and earn that type of income. I didn’t know nothing about tennis. I hadn’t even watched a tennis match. I just saw [tennis commentator] Bud Collins say to [Romanian tennis player] Virginia Ruzici, “$40,000 is not bad for four days’ work.” I thought, that has to be a joke. But the next day, when I read it in the sports pages, I said, “I’m going to have me two kids and put them in tennis.” To this day, I don’t know anything a child could do to make that kind of money in one week.

A rather less than inspiring answer for two girls who are so naturally gifted in a sport. It was about the prize money. It was as if he found out by accident that they happened to be gifted tennis players because of the prize money they can earn. What if he chose another sport or profession for them as a path to financial security? We would have never known Venus and Serena Williams to be the best tennis players of their generation or perhaps the best tennis players ever. What if Richard Williams discovered lacrosse instead for his girls?

Venus nor Serena Williams didn’t seemed interested in reining in their father and they let him do what he wanted to do, no matter how badly it rubbed the tennis establishment the wrong way. When the Williams’s parents marriage broke down, Richard Williams was at courtside less and less. It’s hard to say how much of Richard Williams’s actions damaged his daughters’ reputations, especially on the part of Serena, as she is more outspoken than the shy and retiring Venus.

The genteel lily-white tennis world have never seen someone like Richard Williams and his daughters before, therefore all sorts of nasty rumors and allegations have been attributed to him, most notably match fixing between the sisters, especially when in matches that were lacklustre in quality. The Williams sisters have vehemently denied these allegations, but even as Richard Williams have receded from the limelight and is absent for  many of the girls’ matches, even as recent their last Wimbledon Fourth Round meet, there are still certain sports writers who claim that Richard Williams will fix that match too, just like he did all the others. These are libellous statements in which there is no proof. It’s clear from the documentary ‘Venus and Serena’, their father does not have that Svengali hold over them like so many believe. The girls lead independent lives away from their parents.

The hypocrisy in which that surrounds Serena Williams is another manifestation of our double standard society. The standards of beauty, even amongst female athletes very much dictate how they are perceived. Anna Kournikova in her short tennis career, never even winning a single individual tournament had more positive press coverage than all the other top players during that time put together. Her endorsements were through the roof despite poor results in tennis. It didn’t matter to advertisers. Besides being skinny with flowing long blond hair, she had natural sex appeal, which is rare amongst athletes. Serena Williams, despite being one of the best athletes of her generation, at an age where most athlete’s bodies are starting to breakdown due to years of over exertion, Serena has lost no steam. In fact, she’s just getting started. Yet we don’t hear sports writers talk about that, we just hear about how ‘muscular’ (unfeminine) she is.

Finally, only the writer of our generation can shut down the haters against the best tennis player of our generation in one tweet:

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 8.45.17 PM

Yes, I defy any man to put on a dress and heels like that without the aid of a pair of Spanx and let’s see how he fares. Most would be too scared to leave their front doors.

A Tale of Two Churches: The 1% Shall Be First and the Religious Shall be Last

A Tale of Two Churches: The 1% Shall Be First and the Religious Shall be Last

The Catholic Church and its multitude of charities do not exist as a vanity project for the rich when they’ve retired and need a big tax write off from Uncle Sam. Though large donations are very necessary to the survival of the individual institutions within the church, large donors should treat their donation just as that, a gift without expecting anything in return, just like when they buy themselves a fancy car or penthouse. A gift to the church you feel that was instrumental in your success in business and (hopefully) as a human being. If wealthy donors of the church donate to get their name on a wall or special treatment from the Pope, then they are totally misguided in the meaning of ‘charity’ as prescribed by the church. To give is a greater gift than to receive. You do not and should not expect anything in return when you give. Otherwise it’s not a gift.

To threaten to rescind a pledge or donation just because the Pope criticized corporate greed, which, by the way, is totally legitimate and to twist the Pope’s message of allowing all willing and able persons a chance at prosperity into creating envy and jealousy into the rich and the not, is self-serving and very un-Christian.

If this is how Ken Langone feels about the Pope’s message, then he best keep his money and donated it to the Republican Party instead which they will put to great use for bashing poor for their own plight.

The principles of charity, kindness, mercy and social justice are about the only things that is holding the Catholic church together. The church has been rocked by scandal, charges of hypocrisy, bigotry and discrimination against divorced persons, intermarried Catholics, gay marriage and same-sex families, so, pretty much the only thing it has going for it is its fundamental teachings of charity, humility, caring about the least in society, the downtrodden – in a word social justice. The amazing work that is done by anonymous members of the church who care about people that are worse off is what is keeping the church going. Not the likes of Ken Langone and his ilk.

Daily Theology

pope StpatsUpon arriving in New York, Pope Francis immediately traveled to the center of the city’s ecclesial and civic life for a service of “Vespers with the Clergy, Men and Women Religious” at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown Manhattan. What a great idea!

And what a great joy that the pope would take the time to address women religious, many of whom have felt so marginalized by the church under two recent investigations. By far, the height of his homily during the vespers is when he spoke directly to women religious:

“In a special way I would like to express my esteem and gratitude to the religious women of the United States. What would the Church be without you? Women of strength, fighters, with that spirit of courage which puts you in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel. To you, religious women, sisters and mothers of this people…

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An Anti-Abortion Message on my Dining Room Table

This landed on my dining room table

ANTI ABORTION 2I found the above on my dining room table today. Visiting relatives went Mass at a local parish and the church was getting collections to support local Pregnancy Centers and Women’s shelters.

The collection and message was good enough until I read what the end of the paper said:

ABORTION: AN INTRINSIC EVIL THAT CANNOT BE SUPPORTED. PRAY FOR AN END TO ABORTION. KEEP THE UNBORN IN MIND WHENEVER YOU VOTE.

Just as I wrote in my previous post about the Catholic church and attempts at influencing the legislature to write laws in the Catholic way, this shows up on my dining room table. I’ve no problems with the church’s views on abortion even if they choose to call it an ‘intrinsic evil’, and they’ve every right to hold that view, but the secular should remain separate from the religious.

This fundraising idea is clever and cute, using a baby bottle to demonstrate the point. It also implies that if you give unwed mothers the financial support and resources they need, they will automatically choose life. As if women only chose abortion due to lack of financial resources to raise the baby. The view which, as long as she has her baby, holds it in her arms, she will know what a gift this little precious life is and will have no more regrets (the only one being that she considered the abortion at all). If only life were that simple. I’ve got no problem with the teachings of the message until it says ‘Keep the unborn in mind whenever you vote.’ I hate to break it to them, but most voters have more pressing issues than potential unborn babies when they go to the polls.

In my many years of church attendance and when there’s an election coming up, the presiding priests always tells the congregation how to vote (citing its ‘our’ conscience we should vote on) one way or another on certain initiatives and candidates, most have to do with gay marriage or the abortion/contraceptives issue. I always ignore them as I do not need anyone telling me how to vote on issues. I can decide on my own, vote my own conscience and be able to sleep at night. I still remember the uproar caused when Obama won his first election. You had panicking priests (grown men in robes) and their lay minions fearmongering about the liberal Obama and he was going to allow unrestricted abortions and hand out contraceptives like candy. I actually called them out for using the abortion and contraceptives issues as a smokescreen for the real issue, which is his race. A liberal black man in the White House is doom for the Catholic church. I got quite in a bit of trouble for that. I think I called someone a white supremacist (I said ‘This is the view of certain white supremacists’ or something to that effect), it was a rather old lady and she looked like she was about to faint.

I naively thought that people were smart enough to make up their own minds on who to vote for and how to vote on initiatives, until I overheard certain parishioners talking amongst themselves about how they will take the ‘recommendation’ of the priest. I then realized what kind of trouble we are in as nation.

‘Intrinsic evil’ is not abortion. Abortion is  many things but intrinsic evil isn’t one of them. To shame women who have either thought about getting an abortion or have had an abortion and then to call them ‘evil’ is nothing short of Middle Ages tactics where the church was selling condolences.

It never fails to blow my mind when they have pedophile priests running around, some are hiding in some cloistered monastery to avoid law enforcement and that’s not an ‘intrinsic evil’.

Unless the Catholic church has a convincing and concrete plan on how they plan to address the pedophile and sex abuse issue, nothing they say about any other issue, especially the one about abortion and contraceptives will mean a thing to me. It’s all a massive scheme to deflect attention from the real rotting apple in the Vatican (and it’s not abortion).

Feminism and Catholicism

Feminism and Catholicism, a very incongruous concept. Chalk and cheese. Oil and water. Fundamentally incompatible.

I consider myself to be both.

The role of women as prescribed by the Catholic church is the secondary role of caregiving, mother, nurse or if you are called to any holy orders a nun. How we are to express ourselves is limited. Sexual expression is limited to the confines of marriage only. Women are to hold themselves to a higher standard when compared to men. Women are made to be responsible for sustaining our marriages, our children, the happiness of our family, whereas men are also responsible, but there is more leniency towards the men.

Feminism is the opposite of all of that. And the church I belong to and love very much have often spoken about a ‘feminist conspiracy’ to bring down the church. Very Adam and Eve like narrative, really old and so untrue. The attacks on American nuns doing God’s work by helping the poor were charged with anti-church practices because they didn’t advocate the pro-life message strong enough, instead they chose to focus on anti-poverty. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that having excessive children in which you cannot provide for is one of the the direct causes of poverty. The nuns didn’t hand out birth control pills, give them addresses to abortion clinics or even advocate any sort of non-church approved natural family planning, they simply chose to focus on the reasons why they are in poverty and try to alleviate it, and if it happens to be, as is usually the case, having excessive amount of children then they would find ways to discourage that. A full investigation was ordered by the Vatican to look into the activities of these nuns. To their credit, they didn’t bow down to the pressure, they continued doing God’s work and the investigation was later dismissed with no sanctions against the nuns. If I were the Vatican I would focus on trying to get pedophile priests out of the priesthood but before that, teach them to keep thy hands to thyselves and pants firmly zipped up. It would be a good place to start.

The main reason why I remain a Catholic today is because of all the amazing women and selfless men of the church who do God’s work and not just stand at the pulpit and preach in their ornate robes (though that’s nice too, I love Mass rites). They get in the trenches go to godforsaken places and do the work often at great personal danger to themselves. When I meet these people and hear of their stories, their selfless sacrifice for creature comforts of the world to tend to the downtrodden and fight for social justice, I know there is, too, a place for me in this big corrupt organization known as the Catholic Church. My views may be more progressive than the average nun but because I hold the same beliefs of mercy, justice, salvation and redemption, this is the church for me.

In every big, powerful and wealthy organization, there is bound to be corruption and in the case of the Catholic church, it’s no different. The Catholic church is unique in the sense that it’s powerbase is run exclusively by men, much older men who’s never worked a day in the real world, who have never been married, do not know what it’s like to run a family, manage a career and support the household finances and yet they make themselves the moral authority on these things. As much as I have loved all of the local parish priests I’ve known throughout my life, they would be the last people I would go to for marital advice or any sort of advice that involves my day-to-day life. That’s not to say they can’t offer insight or wisdom on my everyday struggles and provide spiritual counseling, but to expect sound concrete advice from a priest who has lived under the protection of the Catholic church, that’s like extracting blood from a turnip.

Catholic nuns also are not married and most haven’t worked in the real world, but because they deliver babies, take care of the sick, look after people who can’t look after themselves, they have intimate access to see what it’s like for a struggling family in ways others can’t. They see what it’s like first hand when a family has too many children in which they can’t support, so it would follow that their views on the church’s strict doctrine against contraception and avoidance of pregnancy is not as rigid than their fellow priests.

All that being said, the church will not amend its views now or anytime soon regarding the progressive issues of our society today.

Same Sex Marriage – never going to happen. The current pope or any future pope will never, under any circumstance, stand at the papal balcony in the Vatican, host a mass marriage ceremony after Christmas mass, offer apologies to all of the persecuted homosexuals and sing kumbaya. It will never happen and it shouldn’t happen. If it’s the church’s view that same-sex marriage or homosexual relations isn’t allowed, they should be allowed to express that view. I know many gay practicing catholics, who live a gay lifestyle have no problem waltzing up the altar to receive his or her communion and at the same time, they also respect their church’s position on the subject.

Abortion – except in the case where a mother’s life is threatened, will never be tolerated. Life begins at conception and ends at natural death. I find this to be true and reasonable. The church will not change its views on that even if it makes women who’ve had abortions (for whatever reason) feel shameful. The church’s stance on abortion isn’t about shaming women, it’s about protecting life, all lives, including the old and infirm, people on death row – not just cute little unborn babies, the church values all lives, including that serial killer sitting on death row (Republican Party – take note). Once we (the human race) start to decide whose life is more valuable and why then we are on a slippery slope. This is however the church’s stance, a religious stance. This should not ever spillover to the secular government. I am a firm believer of separation of church and state. The church has a right to believe and teach what it wants to teach, as long as their followers do not object, but it has no right to influence public policy and laws to suit its own teachings. They can get their message out in many platforms without having to influence our lawmakers and change our laws.

On the issue of abortion, there’s no black and white. Each individual woman choose abortion for many different reasons, each reason is personal and painful and it’s a private matter. The bottom line is abortion needs to be legal, safe and accessible for those that need it. Period. End of Story.

There’s no need for the Catholic church or any church to get their panties in a wad about the abortion issue because, last I checked, they aren’t offering abortion services. No one is forcing them to offer abortion services. They don’t even offer information about artificial contraception. So, they are in no way violating their religious beliefs. If they are afraid that people who work in Planned Parenthood will go to hell for the 3% of abortions they carry out each year and feel the need to save their souls, they should look inward and save their own souls, or do what they do best, pray for all the ugly sinners.

Divorce and subsequent remarriage – the church is finally budging on this issue. Divorce in the Western world is at 50% and they are budging because they are losing members to divorce. If I were the pope and I took a business perspective, this is bad for business and I would try to amend the prohibitive cost and rules around getting an annulment.

The sex thing – according to church doctrine, sex is only between and husband and wife (yeah right), any other form of sex is fornication or adultery. Though not directly addressed, even the antediluvian cardinals in the Vatican know that many people are having sex everywhere and anywhere without regard to their relationship status. Frankly, anything the Catholic church has to say about sex and how it’s done will be greeted with a collective universal yawn. Next. They’ve lost all credibility on this issue. Look in your own backyard, clean up your house first. Next.

Women priests – my views are more complicated about this issue. The suggestion of having women priests is to provide a counterbalance to all the testosterone on top of the Catholic hierarchy. If men and women came together to make decisions about the church, then the church would be more equal, less corrupt and would serve its followers better.

This sounds good in theory and on paper, but difficult to implement. To create a woman priesthood ministry, new cannon and laws would have to be written to accommodate women priests, this alone could take decades. New seminaries would have to be built and new processes and procedures would have to be enacted quickly to accommodate women wishing to join the priesthood. And then there’s issue of whether Catholics around the world, especially in developing and Thirld World countries where most new converts are won, will accept women priests as most Third World countries are patriarchal societies.

If the goal is to introduce gender balance and equality in the top echelon and decisionmaking levels of the Vatican, so that not all major decisions are made by geriatric priests, another solution to that could be to create a leadership organization amongst the holy orders so that nuns can be elected or appointed to leadership positions, whose authority is the same as the local parish, bishop and cardinal. The church could elevate the position of women from caretaking roles to leadership and decision making roles.

The Vatican is racking its brain to solve the pedophile priest problem without reducing the number of existing priests and seminarian recruits, as there is already a worldwide priest shortage. There is only one solution. All priests that have been accused of improper sexual conduct involving a minor needs to be investigated as soon as possible and during the investigation, that priest needs to be suspended until he is cleared of the allegations. If the allegations turn out to be true, he needs to lose his robes. The end. People who are prone to pedophilia cannot, under any circumstance be around children, and most definitely cannot be in a position of moral authority. He needs to go get treatment, seek help get away from the parish. He needs to be disrobed. End of. It’s not that hard. It doesn’t require decades deliberation, Vatican meetings and empty apologies. He just needs to go.

Having married priests may not necessarily solve the problem as pedophiles come in all manners. And the Vatican’s assertion that the pedophiles are homosexuals are just wrong and offensive. A homosexual does not equal pedophile. They are two separate things. The reason why the priesthood attracts so many pedophile is the culture of secrecy. A priest instead of being reported to the police, he’s reported to his archdiocese and he can always wiggle his way out of the accusations. He can disappear for awhile and reappear at another parish and it goes on and on until the allegations become too much and the church cannot hide it anymore. If the church had a more transparent policy of dealing with improper conduct from its clergy, it would not draw so much ire and criticism from the secular world.

Finally, the role of women, laywomen in particular needs to evolve beyond the wife and mother model, as so eloquently put by Gina Messina-Dysert in her piece, The Francis Blindspot. She says though pope Francis has talked about expanding the role of women in the church, there’s been little action and like all good Catholic boys, romanticizes the role of motherhood:

There are clear issues with such a romanticizing.  To begin with, there are many women who are unable to bear children, or who are not called to the role of motherhood.  What does this mean for these women?  Are their lives less important?

There are women regardless of the ability to have a child choose not to. They choose to put their passions into other equally fulfilling things besides motherhood. Women today besides being mothers fulfill a multitude of other roles, entrepreneurs, CEOs, the loving aunt, high achieving career woman, a go getter, all of which don’t involve the use of her uterus. This should be celebrated by the church as well.

The church likes to promote this earth mother image of a woman. If she’s not yet a mother, it should be her ultimate goal. As Messina-Dysert points out,

Addressing reproductive health and wellness is critical to the pope’s goal of prioritizing the needs of those living in poverty. Data demonstrate that two-thirds of low wage jobs are held by women.  In addition, women are more likely to head single parent households.  Family structure and poverty are deeply intertwined with nearly 40% of single mothers impoverished.  Women disproportionately cover the costs of contraception spending approximately 70% more than men each year. Lack of healthcare and high costs of contraception contribute to a lack of reproductive health services for women. As a result, women living below the poverty line are five times more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy which leads to significant consequences for childbearing outcomes.

The church’s position against using contraception was always confusing to me, since nowhere in the Bible discusses anything against limiting family size. The Bible does encourage people go forth and ‘multiply’ but this was written in antiquity, where the life expectancy of women is 40 if she’s lucky with high infant mortality rate and the concept of birth control or limiting one’s family size wasn’t even discussed. Yet they take that supposition and insert it into the 21st century where contraception is abundantly available and cost effective. Children are a gift from God, if under the right circumstances, no parent wants to bring a child into poverty and instability. When a family is struggling under the weight of too many offspring and the ability to adequately feed, house, clothe and educate said children, it’s a strain on everyone. It causes social problems, of which the church isn’t interested in solving. In Third World countries, where contraceptives should be handed out like candy to alleviate poverty and spread of sexually transmitted diseases, but instead to preach traditional Catholic values to already impoverished populations is cynical and irresponsible, especially when contraceptives are now cost effective and easily available.

As the world population becomes more enlightened by the ‘facts of life’ and the realization that excessive childbearing leads to a life of  unnecessary poverty, lack and suffering, of which women take most of the brunt. These outmoded and outdated teachings of the church will be wholly rejected, even in developing and Third World countries. Throughout history, women have bore the brunt of childrearing and the poverty that result if the family doesn’t have enough resources to raise those children properly. It’s the woman that sacrifices her education, her career, her earning years to care for those children. It’s not rocket science, too many children but not enough income or earning potential will lead to poverty and a life of unnecessary suffering, which no God wants.

To most rational thinking people, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. No life is harmed, no life is destroyed, only prevented. Prevention is far far better than the alternatives, abortion or a child born to extreme poverty, all because of some outdated church doctrine.

For those that preach against providing contraceptive access to all women regardless of income level should then be prepared to raise a child that are born to women due to lack of contraceptives. So far, no one has been willing to take on that burden.

Negativity is the Enemy of Creativity – David Lynch

This quote came up in my Reader feed today, Negativity is the Enemy of Creativity, followed by short post about how if we let negative thoughts infect our consciousness it can spread like a virus to all areas of our lives.

This is especially poignant to me right now because I am about to take a very important career and life path changing exam next Thursday. It’s a state exam that requires extensive preparation and an expensive exam fee. It’s also an exam that’s only offered twice a year, so if I don’t pass it, I have to wait quite a while to take it again, which means my career goals will be delayed, again.

However, it is at this important juncture in my life I feel that the Universe is conspiring against me, impeding my efforts to prepare and study. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been afflicted with such aggravation like I’ve never felt before. I suppose I never cared about myself or anything that would benefit myself as much as I do now, so the more people and events that try to get in the way of that, the more angrier I become, whereas before, I just say a ‘cet la vie’, shrug my shoulders and brush it off.

However, through this anger, a revelation came to me. I am going to pass this test even if I get no sleep between now and next Thursday. I am going to pass this exam even if it’s the last thing that I do. I am not going let this shit happen to me again. Where I sacrifice myself, my needs, my progress so that other people won’t be upset at me for spending any amount of time on myself, for myself. I get to be selfish for me this time. Yes, I am aware of other responsibilities, but guess what, they can wait. They and I aren’t going anywhere any time soon, so, get in line.

As I transformed my anger and aggravation to drive and positivity, my preparation results got better, I feel better even though my preparation time has been routinely interrupted by one mini-crisis or another. I feel better than ever.

And I will pass this test even if it’s the last thing I do.

The Final Illness and Death of Jackie Collins

Jackie Collins died on September 19, 2015 from breast cancer. She was 77 years old. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer six years ago. She kept this news to herself and her immediate family only. She didn’t even tell her elder sister Joan Collins until a week ago when the end was probably near, a sister with whom she was very close. She also didn’t inform any other close members of her family besides her three daughters. She didn’t want to burden them as she knew they would be distressed and upset. She battled her disease quietly, bravely and carried on with her work and career as usual. Towards the last few months she looked more frail than usual, but most could chalk that up to age and not a terminal illness. She was, after all, in her late seventies, some signs of frailty is to be expected. The public found out about her terminal illness only 5 days prior to her death when she gave an interview to People Magazine.

I am not a Jackie Collins fan. I’ve never read her books. I know them by reputation and they were not, shall we say, Pulitzer or Nobel Prize worthy material. She sold over 500 million copies a la Barbara Cartland and Danielle Steele style, appealing to the common denominator of readers who craved romance and sex that were not found in real life. She was known as sparkling and witty personality to those who didn’t read her books, she was a lady about Tinseltown and showed up at the smartest parties. She was well liked and well loved by all that met and knew her.

In her interview with People Magazine, she gave no apologies of how she chose to handle her illness (with utmost secrecy) and cited Frank Sinatra ‘I did it my way’.

Bravo to her.

In this age of emotional incontinence, where every illness, personal failing or peccadillo is broadcasted for mass consumption by ‘celebrities’, in a cynical bid to appear ‘relatable’, just to sell their latest ware, self-help book, movie, album or just to fill up a lull in a 24 hour ‘news’ cycle, Jackie Collins’s approach was dignified and refreshing.

She wanted to battle her illness her way, in the manner that she chose. By making her illness public at the time of her diagnosis, especially with something like breast cancer, she will be subjected to all kinds of unsolicited advice of all persuasions in the medical or wellness field. Besides being bombarded with unsolicited medical or lifestyle ‘advice’, she would be obliged to take every advice thrown at her with grace and patience, or else she would look ungrateful to all the people that wish her well. As if battling cancer isn’t arduous enough already, she’s got to plaster on a smile for every person who feel compelled to give her advice. So she saved herself the agony and told no one outside of her immediate family. Good for her.

As her tributes and condolences make its way to the airwaves, one can be sure that there will be some mumblings as to why she chose to hide her illness from everyone. After all, she’s not known as a woman that shunned publicity, in fact quite the opposite, she basked in the limelight when she sold her latest books and didn’t seem bothered by it.

In this day and age where a few empty headed people with a poor grasp of English grammar from the Jersey Shore can sit around a house and do nothing all day and get wasted at night and become ‘legitimate’ celebrities flogging clothing lines, makeup and self-tanning lotions, simply because they are able to make a complete fool of themselves on camera, society has lost all sense of what’s for the public domain and what should remain private. With the trend of reality TV shows, where the only talent required is the willingness to make an absolute ass of yourself on television and in that process reveal everything about yourself without any consideration for its appropriateness, Jackie Collins’s quiet dignity in battling her life threatening illness is worthy of praise.

While she was battling her illness, it’s not as though she’s shut herself inside her mansion and waited for the end to come. Absolutely not, during her illness, she has:

Written five books since the diagnosis, I’ve lived my life, I’ve travelled all over the world, I have not turned down book tours and no one has ever known until now when I feel as though I should come out with it,” said Collins, whose treatments over the years included a lumpectomy, radiation and various drug courses and combinations.
“Now I want to save other people’s lives.”

Her courage and example is a lesson to young people today of how one should handle life’s adversities and that spilling your guts to anyone who will listen may not always be the best. The old fashion value of personal restraint can still be of value in the social media and internet age. It didn’t die with our grandmother’s generation.

Some would argue that Jackie Collins being a celebrity, by making her illness public, she could help others. Perhaps. But breast cancer, unfortunately, isn’t a rare disease and a lot of awareness has already been made about it. Whether Jackie Collins made her illness and her treatments public or not won’t really change the discussion about breast cancer much.

Perhaps it was her stiff upper lip or her English upbringing of not making a big fuss about oneself that kept her from disclosing her illness. Whatever the reasons, it was dignified, beautiful and rare in this age of gross boundaryless oversharing. It was a dignified end to an extraordinary life.

Judging from her last interview, despite her fame and the riches that came with it, she knew what was truly important, and that’s her family. In her final days, she only thought of her children and grandchildren and worried that they might miss her and she reassures them that she will always be there for them regardless if her physical body is on this earth or not.

She did it her way. Bravo. RIP Jackie Collins.

The Dismal State of the Elections

As someone who is normally politically engaged, this most recent presidential election campaign has left me bitterly disappointed, not for lack of entertainment. There’s plenty of it. You’ve got racists, misogynists and Bible beaters all rolled up in one. I normally love to comment and opine about various candidates and the stances they take on the ‘issues’ but taking a cue from another fellow blogger: The Politics of Writing, silence is golden in this case. I do not want to contribute to the crazy train that is already in motion. I especially do not want to give the person whose name rhymes with Ronald Dump any more publicity than he already has.

On the Democrat side, all the viable candidates if not fighting off their own email scandals are in a holding pattern, as is the wise thing to do. There’s no point attacking every ridiculous thing any Republican candidate says when he or she won’t be there the next day. It would only serve as a game of whack-a-mole and risk foot-in-mouth. I thought I would enjoy the circus act unfolding on my nightly news but I really don’t. I feel disappointed that America, the country I grew up in has become like this. A place where Ronald Dump is a viable candidate for a president. Which then leads me to the next point, the reason why he’s polling so well is because he is behaving like the uncle who isn’t afraid to say out loud what everyone else is thinking. The things he says about Mexicans and immigrants, aging women or anyone who displeases him is what everyone who had the guts and didn’t need to care about the repercussions would love to do. And this is who we have running for president, the pervy uncle at Thanksgiving.

Judging by the Dump’s poll numbers, it can very well mean that the guy that is in line with me getting Starbucks may think that way too and that’s a sobering and sad thought. As a country, instead of progressing on issues of race and tolerance, we are regressing. At a time when race relations are so important, tolerance and acceptance is so important, we have presidential candidates taking away the rights of women to choose abortion or not, fat shaming women, age shaming women, using Christianity and the Bible (a religion I belong to as well) to demean, oppress and take away people’s rights. I do not recognize this version of America.

Slaughter’s Husband Speaks

Three years ago Anne-Marie Slaughter, the former director of policy planning for the State Department under Secretary Hillary Clinton, wrote a piece for The Atlantic called ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have It All’. It was published soon after she left the State Department and returned to her position as a tenured law professor at Princeton University. The reason she gave then was per Princeton University’s policy, if she left her post for more than two years then her tenure would be revoked, therefore she had to leave her ‘dream job’ at the State Department.

While this was technically the truth, the real truth however, the one that was not disclosed publicly at the time which is her older son was going off the rails at school and her husband, who had been the main caregiver since she began her job at the State Department could not resolve the situation on his own, a ‘maternal’ influence was needed. In plain speak, her children needed their mommy (she has 2 sons), and like millions of women in America (and elsewhere), she had to give up her dream job, the job that she worked her whole life for, to tend to the needs of her family. As for the Princeton situation, I am sure if she wanted, Mrs. Clinton could have easily placed a call to the president of Princeton to ask them to keep Slaughter’s position as a tenured law professor open until her services were no longer needed at the State Department. I don’t think Princeton University would object to this request.

I read her piece when it came out three years ago. It was well thought out, well nuanced and well written. It was clear she had been thinking about her situation and the choices she was forced to make for some time and when the tidal wave of strong emotions passed, she was able to commit her thoughts to paper. She was honest but in a polite, politically correct way, taking great care to not incite gender stereotypes and societal expectations of gender roles. She also acknowledged her own privilege of being a high earning and well educated woman and admitted that she could only speak to her own demographic, which is white, upper-class, well educated professional with far more resources at her disposal than a regular working class or middle class woman.

The op-ed was a long read, in an attempt to be inclusive and account for all scenarios and situations. But she could have shortened the length by half if she simply said, ‘had I been a man, I wouldn’t have had to make this choice, it would have been my wife’s responsibility to sort out the situation with my son. She would have done it without me asking. I would have had the privilege to continue in a career that I worked my whole life for. Such is the reality in the American workforce today.’ I would even go so far to say that had Anne-Marie Slaughter been a man, she wouldn’t have even been made aware of the seriousness of the situation with her son, she would have found out about it after the fact, when it was more or less resolved. Because most wives know better than to bother their husbands with these problems however serious, especially if their husbands hold very important job titles. They would have only gone to their husbands with children problems only as the last resort and she’s at the end of the rope and all of her own options are exhausted.

The truth is no amount of social engineering and the re-programming of how people think about gender roles will change the basic biological functions and reflexes of men and women. Women are not ‘better’ at being caregivers in the technical sense (i.e. cleaning, wiping, rearing and soothing children) than men but that women are better at managing the frustration and tedium at doing these thankless chores day in and day out. Women have been doing these thankless tasks since the existence of human history, women can manage the feelings of frustration and ennui better. Men on the other hand are not the same, they love their children as much as their wives do, but to task a man with taking on the bulk of child care is counterproductive.

Men are socialized to be ambitious, to be providers and breadwinners, even in this feminized age. Though stay-at-home dad numbers are on the rise, there is very little support for stay-at-home dads or the ‘lead parent’ as Anne-Marie Slaughter’s husband Andrew Moravcsik calls it. As long as men still out earn women for doing the same work, when decision time comes on who’s staying home with baby or who will change jobs or career paths to accommodate the new baby, the most logical and economical solution would be the person that earns the least, and unfortunately, that’s usually the woman.

Next, there are still very strong stigmas and taboos surrounding the whole parenting versus work issue. Men who work backbreaking hours are seen as heroic, trying to provide for his family, regardless if the reason for the long hours are due to necessity or his personal ambition. If a woman does the same, she’s seen as an uncaring and selfish mother, leaving others to raise her children for her and to assuage her ‘guilt’ and satisfy the masses, she would have go about her working days with a pained expression so that others know just how much she’d rather be with her children but can’t, she would have to explain her choices for the remainder of her working life. There is still an expectation of martyrdom that surrounds parenting, for men, it’s sacrificing their disposable income and time with hanging out with his buddies in favor of screaming children. For women, she’s to sacrifice her career and personal ambitions and desires until her children are of an acceptable age where they don’t require her daily attention and care. People who do not conform to these norms are stigmatized. But I would argue that the woman suffers more. Trading an intellectually stimulating job and earning your own money to caring for small children and depending on a man to meet your daily needs is a huge blow (especially the latter).

One of the most difficult things for me transitioning from working mother to stay at home mother is the loss of economic independence. I wanted to be a full time mother until my children are in school, but giving up my monthly paycheck was the harder than I realized, much harder than giving up my independence, sleep or free time. Since I was 20 years old, I have always worked and earned my own paycheck, to suddenly lose that was a huge blow to my confidence. It took me a long time to come to terms with that.

Anne-Marie Slaughter in her original op-ed sang heroic praises about her husband being the main caregiver while she was working in Washington working for the State Department. It’s not that he doesn’t deserve it, he does, but she was giving him praise for the same sacrifices that women do everyday without much acknowledgement. And in doing so, she’s also shortchanging herself for her contribution to her family. She was honest about her feelings of guilt when her sons needed her and she just couldn’t be there. The pressure was immense, knowing that her older son was doing poorly but could not be there to guide him.

Another uncomfortable truth is not many men like to be overshadowed by their wives. They want their wives to be successful, to be fulfilled, happy and reach their maximum career potential, but not so much where they are known as the husband of so-and-so. In Anne-Marie Slaughter’s husband’s response to the piece she wrote three years ago, he says:

From the beginning, Anne-Marie’s jobs at Harvard and Princeton imposed greater demands than mine, because she entered the university-administration track early on; she also accepted more outside leadership roles. And, as we learned, intense jobs tend to beget even more intense jobs—a phenomenon that, in Anne-Marie’s case, led to a deanship at Princeton, followed by one of the highest positions at the State Department, followed by the leadership of a major nonprofit.

Andrew Moravcsik is not as ambitious as his wife and he was happy being a tenure professor and at the same time he encouraged his wife’s ambition and goals. It worth pointing out that his view is not the norm amongst men, millennials or not. Society still has certain expectations of men, one being able to make something of himself. Men are still judged by the size of their paychecks and their occupation. Their worthiness is still determined by their willingness and ability to provide for a family. Moreover, most women still choose their spouse based on their earning potential, despite what Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter advocate – finding a husband who is supportive of your goals, including picking up the child care slack at home. Women will still choose their husbands based on his future earning potential, especially if a woman is planning on having children.

This sort of egalitarian marriage that Slaughter and Sandberg advocate can really only exist in their demographic. It would require that both spouses have advanced degrees and thus have a lot of employment and career options open to them. Their advice, however well meaning, do not apply to the average couple out there, trying to survive on two incomes and possibly downsizing to one income when children come along.

Slaughter is correct in pointing out the work-life balance dilemma could only be achieved by good public policy that benefit working families. Flexible working time for moms and dads are essential and must be supported by companies of all sizes. Prior to her job at the State Department, Slaughter and her husband had the perfect flex time jobs, they each could take turns taking time off. She never thought about a work-life balance until she began working in the State Department. She said her boss (Hillary Clinton) was great, but she was still a boss. You had to report to work by a certain time and leave at a certain time. It was then she realized she took her tenure position at Princeton University for granted.

Being a parent is the greatest privilege there is and it’s one that is denied to many. But being a parent doesn’t mean we are obligated to leave behind every single part of ourselves just to tend to our children. We were our own people before we became someone’s mother or father. We had dreams, goals and ambitions that didn’t involve wiping their little noses. Loving and caring our children does not preclude us from feeling frustrated, unfulfilled or boredom. Feeling bored, angry, unfulfilled or restless does not mean we don’t love our children or we love them any less. Doing the same thing over and over again regardless how tired you feel can take a toll on anyone, especially something as thankless as childrearing. The whole debate needs to shift way from judgement of the choices of others to being supportive of whatever parenting road someone chooses. This is more effective than any social engineering or re-assigning of gender roles. Biological impulse is not something we (the human race) can easily control but we can choose to be supportive and open minded of the choices of others.

Personal post: a quick rant on “immigrants stealing jobs,” by an immigrant

A worthwhile read on whether immigrants take the jobs of locals.
“Lots of people like to say that immigrants take British jobs. Let me tell you something. I defy any of you to spend a week in the jobs that British recruiters set aside for immigrants.”

WebDevLaw blog

I’m just going to put this out there.

When I first moved to the UK one of the conditions of my marriage visa was that I obviously had to be in regular and steady employment. While engaging in job searches from dusk til dawn, I registered with eleven different recruitment agencies in Glasgow city centre. Although at the time I had just come out of a role as an executive assistant to a CEO in Washington, I knew I was never going to have anything like that job again and I wasn’t picky. I was happy to accept any role – junior admin work, typing, anything – to get my foot in the door and some experience under my belt. It took three months for any one of those eleven recruiters – Hudson – to offer me any crap job at all. Officially that job was working as a PA…

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On Being a Failed Writer

As bizarre as this sounds, I feel hopeful after reading this blog. I am not yet 50 but I am also a ‘failed’ writer. I’ve never published anything, I was never paid to write anything and I run a blog that almost no one reads. But I will press on and write about anything and everything that comes to my mind. There is something ‘noble’ about this kind of ‘failure’. I will persevere and press on because it’s what I do and I am in a privileged position to do so. There are many who are denied the privilege and the right to express their thoughts freely.

Vincent Van Gogh, after all, was seen as a failure during his lifetime.

Writers Without Money

grant

At the age of 50, I am a failed writer. Except for a few articles on CounterPunch, everything I’ve published has been self-published. I’ve worked tens of thousands of hours, written hundreds of thousands of words, and have never made a dime. Had I spent the same amount of time at a minimum wage retail job, I’d be rich, or at least a shift-supervisor at Starbucks. I haven’t been able to find an audience. You probably won’t even read this.

So why don’t I quit?

I tried. From the age of 25 to the age of 50, I had one goal In life, to cure myself of the urge to write. But I failed. Let me explain.

The urge to write should never be confused with the ability to make a living by writing, or even the ability to express yourself by putting words down on paper. T. S…

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The March of Shame

This is a beautiful blog post by a Greek national, about the lack of humanity in some of the responses of the European countries. This is written by a Greek, who as a population are suffering desperately with their own economy and high unemployment rate. The Greeks are paying extortionate and punitive VAT for basic goods, the pensions for the elderly and retired people have halved, their country will probably be in debt for the rest of their existence unless part of their current debt is written off, they are having to sell their national treasures, invaluable works of art which withstood centuries (even survived the Nazis) to satisfy their debt to Germany, which is cruel beyond words. Their unemployment rate is above 20%, youth unemployment is hovering at 50%, there is a massive brain drain as all the educated Greeks with skills are going abroad to find work, and yet this Greek Blogger, ‘The Irate Greek’ can find compassion in her heart for people more unfortunate than her.

The Irate Greek

Source

They are people, like us.

They are young, they are old, they are men, women and children, they are lawyers or masons or doctors or barbers or plumbers or computer engineers. They are people, and they are coming.

Their countries fell apart, their houses were destroyed, their neighbours died. They lost friends and relatives, they lost their loved ones, they lost a limb. They fled. They took trucks or buses or cars or bicycles. They walked. They were smuggled, assaulted, abused, kidnapped on the way. They crossed a border, or two, or three. They were detained, arrested, beaten. They were parked in camps. They were told to live a life without a future, they were told to wait until their country is fixed, they were told to wait with no end in sight.

And then they came.

Of course they came.

They got on those rickety boats to cross the sea. Some of them were…

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The Emotional Pitfalls of A Marriage

Since the Ashley Madison data dump of cheaters or potential cheaters, the debate of the sanctity (or the necessity) of marriage is again raging. It never really went away as marriage and relationships and how to manage them in a self fulfilling manner is a topic that is ever changing, fluid and up for debate.

The surprise is not that so many people cheat, but even people who are seemingly in happy marriages are cheating. Z list reality ‘stars’ aside, many others who seem to be in happy marriages were a member of Ashley Madison. To be clear, just because one is a paying member of Ashley Madison it doesn’t mean that person has cheated on his or her spouse, as with online dating or solicitation services, catfishing is rife and people don’t present themselves as they are.

There are many who sit in gleeful judgment of ‘adulterers’, taking great schadenfreude at the humiliation of others. For those with a moral superiority complex, this is the perfect chance to see what your neighbors are up to in their spare time. The United States is still very puritanical when it comes to religion, marriage, sex and how those three things relate to each other and the data dump serves more as a humiliation than exposing adultery. This is meant to be private business, conducted in the private corners of one’s home (and mind), not meant for public consumption regardless of if their respective spouses is already aware or not.

I personally do not give two hoots on the private lives of others. We should all mind our own backyards in the relationship and marriage department. If we begin to ‘judge’ the relationship and marriage of another, we open ourselves up to further and even harsher judgement and scrutiny. For me specifically, am in no position to render any judgement either way even though I’ve been with my husband for 11 years and married for almost 7. I am just as clueless as the next person when it comes to marriage and relationships.

My marriage has never been easy going. It always required great compromise, in my opinion more from me than he, it is my perspective that I’ve had to cave into his wishes more than the other way around. Though every marriage ‘expert’ says relationships are always about compromise and not keeping score on the compromise, it gets harder as the years go on. As I’ve come into my own as a woman (I met my husband at 25), I am less willing to compromise on many things, things that I wouldn’t have minded as a doe eyed and naive 25 year old but now serve as an affront to my womanhood. The things I that now refuse to compromise on can range from small things that I didn’t like doing but didn’t mind doing before, but now can’t get myself to do it and refuse to do it just based on principle. One person shouldn’t be asked to do that many things in which she doesn’t want to do, even if the thing she is being asked to do is ‘no big deal’. I just can’t anymore. This has caused tension. I ‘changed’, would be the accusation.

And when we had children, to dynamics of our marriage and relationship totally shifted. I had two little people to consider, what kind of example would I be setting for them, especially my daughter. To be a constant pushover just to keep the peace? No way. Marriage is hard work, harder than I like it to be. Especially when one of the parties involved no longer accept the existing dynamic of the marriage and wishes to change it. And then there’s the boredom of it all.

Of all the difficulties that arise in relationships, it’s the slow grinding daily routines, which some days scream ‘boredom’ that is the most difficult to manage. That mixed in with tantruming children, trying to enforce discipline and order with the children, it can easily put one over the edge. There are days I wake up and see dishes in my kitchen sink and a fully loaded dishwasher that I must empty in order to wash said dishes in sink before I can even make my morning cup of tea and breakfast, this alone can drive me over edge, and it’s before 8 AM. My days as a work-at-home mom feels like one long unending slog, filled with chores, work, child care and more chores. The days feel long, endless and pointless. Did I go to college just to do this(?) is a thought that often creeps into my mind. For the menfolk, I suspect the feeling is same, the flip side is they feel they just work to feed the mouths that wait for him at home, the proverbial ball and chain. The wife and children, any time someone opens their mouth is because they need to buy something or they need him to fork cash over. It’s like he’s the ATM machine to his family. Granted, some men enjoy this, usually high earning ones with lots of cash to spare and do not have to work extra shifts to afford that extra item don’t mind being generous with their families. But for most men, their families is a cash pit. Of course when drowning in the unending sea of boredom, there are also moments of great fun and joy, and if the parties have a healthy sense of humor, these endless gnawing bordems shall pass too. After all, such is life.

It takes great strength of character to deal with boredom, to try to sustain yourself when you feel your life is pointless beyond fulfilling the basic functions for others. And these marriages aren’t necessarily unhappy marriages, it’s just how life is. I believe that many who signed up on Ashley Madison is just bored. Bored to death of the daily grind, to try to find something discreet to do to liven up a dull day, month or year without ruining your family. As I mentioned in my previous post about marriage, cheating isn’t what we do. It doesn’t make us better people but cheating is degrading and disrespectful to our family and the life we built together, regardless of how we feel about each other at any given time.

These so called religious marriage counselors that give advice to couples who are religiously observant, instead of endlessly quoting the Bible and the Epistles of St. Paul about the relations between husband and wife, they’d be better off counseling their flock on how to resolve marital boredom, as it is bound to hit the couples when the routine of life settles in.

One advice you hear over and over again for people who have been married a long time is to ‘be each other’s best friend’. This seems deceptively simple but it’s not. If we are as excited to see our spouse everyday in the same manner that we see our best girlfriend about to get together for a girls day out (or a boys golf trip), the marital satisfaction percentages would improve greatly. The ability to enjoy our spouse’s company without any expectations attached like one would a friend would solve many marital woes.

Instead of the tongue wagging, finger pointing and moral superiority response to the data dump from Ashley Madison, the conversation should be why are so many people so bored and dissatisfied with their marriages? The moralistic response would be, ‘get a divorce first then go do what you want’, if getting divorced were as easy as getting married, the divorce rate would be higher than it is now.

I object to the hypocrisy that is heaped on one single bad behavior in a marriage and that is cheating. This is not to minimize infidelity or the disruption or destruction infidelity can bring to a marriage, but there are other equally abusive and destructive behaviors that do not get the same criticism because they do not involve having sex with someone that isn’t your spouse.

There are people who belittle their spouses at everything they do, strip them of all their self-worth and make them a shell of their former selves, how is this not a crime of marriage? There are people who neglect their spouse and families and carry on as though they were still single (minus the infidelity) doing whatever they want whenever they want with total disregard for the needs of the family, how is this acceptable? Marriage, in the best of circumstances, is complicated, emotional and messy. Emotions and feelings become intertwined with actions that serve those feelings. A husband who feels neglected will start hiding out in his garage-man cave more and ignore his young family, begin to ‘work’ longer hours or go out with friends more or perhaps drink more, anything to escape that ball and chain. A wife who feels taken for granted for all the boring goddamn chores she’s got to do everyday without any ounce of appreciation from the husband or children may become snappy and irritable with everyone. Does this mean they don’t love each other anymore? Probably not, but they probably strongly dislike each other. There is no silver bullet to a happy marriage, if there were and if it could be bottled and sold, there will be many millionaires, but running away from a bad situation has never solved the problem.

So for all those people who are inclined to righteous fury at all the cheaters on Ashley Madison, they should first look their own backyard and clean the weeds there and second, instead of heaping self-righteous judgement on others, perhaps start a helpful (unjudgemental) dialogue with friends and family to not fall into the ‘Life is Short. Have an Affair’ trap.