Monday, October 5, 2015

Book Review: Breaking the Good Mom Myth, by Alyson Schafer

This book was one that initially caught my eye and then turned into a lot more. As I flipped the pages, I was chanting "Hallelujah baby!" as if I was in a black Southern Baptist church for Sunday morning Mass. It perfectly summarized everything that I have been experiencing since I became a mother.

You see, we women have this unrealistic idea of motherhood from god-knows-where; that having a baby should instantly turn us into this perfect martyr who bakes cookies, looks fabulous, is never late to an appointment, and can do it all. And then when we realize what motherhood is actually like....we feel bad about ourselves and feel inadequate. I went through it, as well as every other mum I know. 100% of us either are currently running on empty or just recovered from it. Yes, welcome...

This book questions every single one of those beliefs, or "myths" - in chapters. The author challenges the belief that the mother should be self-sacrificing, that the mother should always put her children first above herself and her marriage, that the mother should constantly play with her child....just to name a few. All to be considered what is a so-called "good mother" (who makes these rules anyway?!). To that, I say a major "F-off" because it is simply not realistic in the day to day life. I mean seriously, when was the last time you were able to work, play with your child all day, and cook an edible dinner? It's more like "pick one of the above"....ha ha!

Needless to say, the book really spoke to me, and it also made me feel a lot better about myself by making me question these unrealistic expectations.

Here are some quotes that really spoke to me:

"Contemporary parenting is fraught with worry and anxiety, isolation and performance pressure. Yet, one of the most pervasive cultural myths of our time is that we're meant to be totally enjoying it."

"[Mothers] take on child rearing with the same driven attitude and perfectionism that our achievement-oriented, competitive culture espouses for seemingly every task these days, from education to careers to driving, cooking, and sure, why not go for your black belt in yoga while we're being ludicrous?"

"It wasn't always this hard to hit the good mother mark. In earlier times we had tremendous faith in children, believing they would develop just fine, with minimal interference required. We treated children as robust and capable, and were aware that they could manage life. We made demands on them, and we expected them to adapt and accommodate as needed. They weren't thought of as so precious and vulnerable back then. Nor did we carry the sole burden of "making or breaking" our children. Previous generations had the benefit of sharing the load."

"[Mothers] feel guilty if we attend to our own needs, believing we're selfish if we aren't fully concentrating on our children."

"It's hard to look after our own needs when our culture so reveres the acts of self-sacrificing mothers. Just watch the admiring expressions on people's faces when they hear the family folklore's of how Grandma 'never bought anything for herself', how she 'always made sure the children had enough,' and how she often 'went without' to provide for them."

"We need to re-examine the heroic and saintly status we bestow on that iconic selfless 'good mother' who lives her life for her kids, subverting her own needs, and risks losing her own sense of self."

"We're doing double duty and run ragged, yet we believe we're supposed to be able to do this mothering thing in a seemingly tireless and stress-free way. If we're taxed physically or emotionally, we see it as a mark of failure. What do you mean you don't want to be with them at every waking moment? Isn't playing with trucks all day fulfilling enough for you? Why isn't making play-dough sculptures stimulating your middle-aged mind? Are you bent? What else do you need, women? Why do you need to get away? Why do you need something more? Isn't this what you're supposed to be doing and loving? How come you don't seem to be coping? Other moms seem to be able to shower and dress, why are you still in your pajamas at 11 am? How come you're choking back tears? You're loving this time of your life, right? Who wouldn't wanna be with kids all day baking cookies. What's your problem?"

"Self-care needs to take on a wider meaning in our society. We need 'meta-self-care'. Meta-self-care means recognizing that mothers, like everyone else, need to feel personally satisfied in their own lives and feel good living in their own skin. Tending to children may be your life ambition and you may find it a joy, but you are a whole person and a human, not a mother machine. We need enrichment too, and we can get it through diverse means. We have other relationships and roles, desires and aspirations. Attending to the whole of our person doesn't make us less of a mother, or less loving to our children. It doesn't diminish our mothering if we also celebrate and enjoy being a wife, a sister, a friend, a community member, a professional, and more. Life is rich and complex."

"Moms and dads are the captains of the family ship. They drive and direct the whole family system. It makes perfect sense to keep your leaders clear-headed and content so they can lead properly."

"When we believe the myth that our children are a reflection of us, we end up treating them as chattel, as possessions that affect our worth in some way. This means that you're allowing your value as a person to be predicated on the actions of another human being."

"The commonly held belief of our generation is that all the family energies should go to the children. I would like to challenge that myth. Good mothers who put their children first, subordinate the importance of their marriage. We seem to believe that our marriages are made of titanium and are able to withstand the neglect and abuses that can sometimes come with starting a family."

"Children have been given such a high value in our modern society that the new baby becomes the exalted one around whom all other activities must be organized."

"I believe children join a family. In order for children to achieve a sense of belonging, they need to feel 'a part of' the family, not above the others, nor below them. It is in being equal, and through participation and contribution that we feel connected and a part of our families. Everyone participates in the give and take of family life - even the baby. We all work to meet everyone's needs."

"Your relationship serves as the children's big 'guide book' to how humans get along. Being emotionally healthy yourself and being in loving and respectful relationships is the best environment to create for your children - bar none. Everything and anything else can be endured if your children have this piece in place! If you want your children to be loving, caring, and cooperative, let them see you being loving, caring, and cooperative with your partner."

"Your marriage cannot sustain an 18 year hiatus while you raise kids, and a vibrant marriage will help you enjoy your children more."

"Children who have a mom that is a constant playmate come to expect that she will continue to always be a playmate."

"Unstructured free play is the way children learn. Playing is the 'work' of childhood. When children don't have clear set of instructions but are left to create and explore - they will."


Dear readers, which quotes spoke to you?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Chris & Priya

This beautiful Chindian couple combine the cultures of Guyanese, Canadian, American, and Taiwanese!

Hey! My name is Priya. I am Canadian, but I was born in Guyana. My husband is Chris, and he is Taiwanese-American. We have no kids, and we are currently going through the immigration process so I can move with him to Alabama.

Three words that describe you...
Loud, yet quiet. Outgoing yet shy. A Homebody, who likes to explore? I am not good at this one! I asked my husband and he said, "cute, smoosh, soft!" Take that as you must!

Favorite childhood memory...
I grew up in the West Indies, so I just remember the sun peering through the leaves of palm trees very vividly. I think that's why I love the Summer. Another favourite memory is laying next to my dad, when he would put me to sleep. He used to tell me a version of Beauty and the Beast and would knock on the wall next to the bed to make noises for the beast. I loved it - I used to squeal with delight every time that part came up. After the story, he would sing me a lullaby, which was "Everything's Alright" from Jesus Christ Superstar. My husband actually reminds me a lot of my dad. He always sticks a camera in my face, never lets me go hungry, and constantly tell's me I am beautiful. Chris tells me that I remind him of his mom sometimes, but the comparison is less flattering because its usually when I get naggy!

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
I get random bursts of inspiration. Then I go on a crazed spree to do whatever.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We met online. We had talked on an Asian cultural forum for a little while, then we started to talk on Google, which led to Facebook, and then Skype. We decided to meet up a few weeks after talking because he lived in Cleveland at that time and it was very close to where I lived in Toronto. We decided to meet up and he came down to Toronto. We did that every 2-3 weeks, for over three years. It was mostly him driving to Toronto because I can't drive, and its expensive to fly to Cleveland. The bus was out of the question for us because the one time I did bus to Cleveland, strange men kept talking to me and that freaked him out. 

How long have you been together?
4 Years on August 16th, 2015 :)

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
He is naturally very caring, loving and family-oriented. He is smart and a great cook. He is also very athletic and tries to keep fit. I think he has a very cheeky sense of humor. He thinks of the cutest things sometimes and I end up laughing like a fool. I feel like he reads my mind. It's weird to think, but I really do believe we are other halves of the same person.

Favorite memory together as a couple...
When he proposed. It was hilarious and very us. 

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I knew a little bit, but I learnt more about the Chinese culture when we started to date. I would say I was aware, but not educated about the Chinese culture. 

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
I had dated a Chinese guy before my husband so they weren't too shocked. My family liked Chris right away and were very welcoming to him. The West Indian community is very mixed anyways, so it's not unusual to have an intercultural marriage in my family. The first time my father met him, he greeted him by saying, "Ni hao". I was sooo embarrassed but Chris thought it was awesome. My friends are also from various cultures and there was another Chindian couple already, so they weren't too surprised by me dating Chris. 

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
I think I am more aware, as a person, because of him. He taught me how to be more aware about the food I eat and how I take care of my body. When we were getting married, I was determined to become debt free because of his influence so I think that is pretty positive. 

Who proposed and how?
Chris had driven down from Cleveland and called my house to tell me to open the backdoor so he could come up to my flat. I had just woken up from a nap, so I hadn't even combed my hair and I was wearing my oldest pajama's, which had a giant bleach stain down the side! I walked down to the side door and found him standing there. He held out his hand and opened it up to show me a ring in his palm, and said "Ta Da!". I looked at him confused, not really processing the moment. I said, "what?". He showed me the ring in his hand again, and asks "will you marry me?". I stood there, my mouth on the floor for a few moments and then I replied, "Yes. Sure!" and we sealed with a high five. 

My initial confusion over the ring was because he had proposed with a wedding band. Apparently, he wasn't sure which ring he was supposed to propose with and had thought the fancy engagement ring was supposed to be for the wedding!

Describe your wedding...
The wedding was quite small, with only 91 people. It was held at golf course in July and it was a beautiful sunny day. The wedding was Western style because it was mostly my family there. He had a few family members there, but most of the other guests were my family and friends. The day was a blur to me, and I honestly can not remember that much of it! From the guests, I heard it was a lot of fun! We had a short ceremony and wrote our own vows. After, we did some photos and then the reception started. We entered to the theme song from Star Wars and our first dance was "A Whole New World", the Peabo Bryson version. Then we danced, had cake and had overall good time.

What does being married mean to you?
I get to be next to my best friend forever. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
The, kids, travel. I'd say world domination, but I'm brown, so that doesn't flow well in America!

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
From my older brother: "Let him win sometimes". 

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Acceptance. People are different, nothing anyone can do about it. You have to learn to accept it, and move on. A rainbow is only beautiful because its made out of many different colors! 

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We like to go on small adventures. We aren't very exciting, so small adventures are good for us. We like walking and going out to eat. Eating is a big part of our relationship (and expanding waistlines. We were both 20 lbs lighter when we first met!).

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I am better with money now. Ha ha ha!

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I wouldn't say so, but they certainly do love Chinese food!

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
Asian cultures tend to be very patriarchal. I am loud and abrasive at times so sometimes we disagree on certain things. We talk and get over it though. 

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
I have no idea. I don't think I have...I probably should help his mum around the house more when we visit though? 

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
Talking about how to spend our money, or if we need to visit my family. I love being around them, but my husband tends to want more space than I do. I win this argument more than he does though, because my family is closer than his. I think the closer we are to family, the better. I'd love to live where he grew up in Honolulu. I have a great relationship with his parents and love my mother-in-law. I think she is amazing. 

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
Best Part: Love and Food. 
Worst Part: I haven't really experienced any bad yet!

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
There isn't always a clash of cultures. There wasn't any cultural clash with my relationship. We have more personality clashes than cultural. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about Indian women? 
We can cook? I can't cook toast!!! I would starve if my husband didn't enjoy cooking!

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
Not really. We do get stared at a lot though. Most people are more curious than disapproving. When people stare at us, I tend to stare back. I love a good awkward moment! Ha ha ha!

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Men are men. Women are women. Its a relationship like any other. After a short while, you begin to look past what your eyes see, and then you move on quickly. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

30 Things I've Learned in 30 years

I turn 30 today. I feel kinda weird about it. I feel like I should be doing something huge, but I'm just having a quiet day with my family. Either way, it feels strange to enter an entirely new decade.

When I turned twenty, one of my friends gave me this card that said "Welcome to your twenties" and it felt exhilarating entering this new decade of independence and self-discovery, especially since I was living so far away from my parents. I met husband-ji only months later...

Now that I'm turning thirty, I'm relieved that my twenties are over. Although I met my life partner, there were so many ups and downs that he was the only thing that seemed stable to me.

In my twenties, I moved into my first apartment by myself; I had my first big relationship breakup (pre-husband-ji); I traveled alone; I studied something completely different than what I set out to do; I got engaged; we road-tripped Kerala; I graduated from college; I moved cities three times; I worked for one of the most famous fashion photographers in the world; I moved apartments six times; we experienced having no jobs and money; we traveled across the USA by car; we got our first dog together as a couple (Ziggy); I lost both of my beloved grandparents; we started our own business; I got married (in 3 different and equally dramatic ways); our first family dog died at sixteen years old; I inherited more South Indian family members than I ever imagined; we got pregnant and had Maya; I became a SAHM and back and forth to working again; I watched my daughter crawl, walk, talk, and sent her off to preschool; I was published in a magazine thrice; I innocently started a blog one day when I was bored which now pays me a small salary...

Are you exhausted yet? It has been a lot. I'm not sure what this decade has in store for me, but here's what I've learned so far, from a combination of all these random life experiences in my twenties:

1. Trust the timing of life.

2. If you really want to do something, nothing and nobody can hold you back.

3. You can't please everyone. Focus on pleasing yourself first.

4. Friends will come and go. Sometimes they weave in and out of your life, and pop up in unexpected places. 

5. Shit happens. As you make plans, God laughs. You can't plan everything. The entire world is not in your control.

6. Trying is not doing. Doing is doing. If somebody says they are trying to do something, in most cases they are thinking about it and not actually doing it. That goes for yourself, too.

7. The things that irritate you most is a direct reflection of yourself. Pay attention to that.

8. Don't worry so much. It's a waste of time and energy.

9. Sometimes the only solution is to LET IT GO. Anger poisons relationships, and it poisons yourself.

10. Invest in your self.

11. Self care is a wide spectrum that includes emotional, physical, and spiritual. Take care of all of them equally.

12. Travel. Keep planning your next trip.

13. Cuddle more.

14. While it's great to be connected to your spouse, have your own life and your own interests too. They don't have to understand it.

15. You can't change people.

16. Have a support system and don't be afraid to ask for help or let people know you're struggling.

17. Get as much sleep as possible. You can accomplish more if you're not tired or running on empty.

18. All your emotions show on your face.

19. You do not have to engage with toxic people, even if they are trying to engage with you.

20. Have fun. Have a sense of humor. You can joke about absolutely anything in good time.

21. Never stop learning new things, even if it seems totally random. Don't box yourself in. Be a multi-dimensional person with lots of different interests.

22. Read as much as possible, as often as you can.

23. Grief is something you just learn to live with. You won't and can't get over it, and that's okay.

24. You don't have to be highly functional every day. Take a friggin' break sometimes and chill.

25. There's nothing that a good long walk won't fix.

26. Respect your differences. Diversity is beautiful and there's no fun if we are all the same.

27. Quality time comes in many shapes and forms.

28. The best days of your life are spent with your family.

29. When people ask for advice, they already know the answer.

30. Don't ever forget your creativity. It's what sets you apart from the entire world. Nourish it, make time for it. It is important.


Dear readers, what did you learn in your twenties? 
Or what was the biggest thing you've learned in the past decade?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Highlights from our Summer

Now that the crisp, cool Fall air has settled in, I am feeling a bit sad to say goodbye to Summer. With Maya being in school this year, and off for the month of August, it felt like an actual, real Summer vacation. I also cut back on my work hours so I could spend more time with Maya and my dad.

We were total beach bums and spent so many days and evenings at the beach, where Maya would collect shells, swim, and build sand castles, and we would relax. We swam nearly every day, either in the pool or in the ocean.

Maya had her first official sleepover at Grandma's house, and did so well that by the end of the season we got to sneak away for a Romantic weekend up the coast.

We also enjoyed having a TON of ice cream this Summer. Just couldn't resist! In Vancouver, all these gourmet ice cream shops have opened up, so of course we had to go....again, and again. (Okay fine - it was like every week! Maybe a few times a week. Maybe it was like every other day...ha ha!)

We met up with a lot of our friends and family this Summer and had lots of kids' play dates too. We are starting to have a great network of friends with kids.

We got to do so many fun outings like celebrating Greek Day, the Indian Summer Festival, Science World, Celebration of Light fireworks competition, Stanley Park miniature train, the Fair at the PNE, Museum of Anthropology, forest walks, and of course hanging out at the playgrounds.

We also had a lot of fabulous outdoor dinner parties at my parents' house.

Maya also learned how to ride both a scooter and her tricycle, which was so much fun to see. She has been zipping around our neighborhood like an absolute terror!

We did a lot of traveling this Summer, going to Seattle, Half Moon Bay, and then Yellowstone National Park.

I read so many books this Summer, and Maya has equally become a big book addict too. Whenever we go to the library, she refuses to leave because she wants to read more books - which totally makes me like I'm doing a good job at this parenting thing!

Maya also became even more obsessed with animals, and has to stop and pet every dog she meets!

This Summer was really fantastic, but I am really excited about all the fun things that we're going to do this Fall & Winter! I am also relieved that Maya is back in school, because I'm utterly exhausted. Now I'm getting back to work, and also - no more ice cream!!!

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