Parenting is hard. Let me express that.

woman-1043030_1920 (1)I posted one morning on FB, as I’ve done many times before, about my struggles with parenting– a whole list of things that make parenting particularly challenging for me. It was pretty cathartic to say those things “aloud,” but as I got to the end, I felt the need to make it more palatable, to drop some sugary prose on the end like, “But parenting is also wonderful and grand and blah, blah, blah.” And I actually did it. I typed up a quick, cute little something so no one would accuse me of not being grateful for my children or not enjoying the journey. ‘Cus, ya now, God forbid a mother doesn’t enjoy parenthood every second of every day.

But you know what, I took that ish off! Because though it was true (parenting is great and so are children), the road is not smooth and it does not always feel good. And that prickly discomfort is what I wanted to communicate, NOT the warm fuzzies that come at other times. But for some reason, mothers are made to feel bad for not always enjoying the ride. We’re supposed to grin and bear and act like our mystical ties to our children blot out the magnitude of this task. They don’t. I love my children in an unimaginable way and thank God for them daily, but that love and thankfulness don’t temper the strain and friction of being responsible for a tiny person’s life. It’s tough, and I should be able to say that without feeling like I’m doing something wrong.

And so I did. I said what I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it and drowned out the voices that whispered, “Shame on you for being other than happy. Shame on you for not presenting yourself in the expected way.” As I submerged those voices and muffled their condemning cries, I was left with a silence that allowed me to feel ok about not feeling ok.

We all need that. We all need to be able to say, “These kids are getting on ALL my nerves and I’m ready to blow,” without someone else saying, “Oh, but children are so precious. Be thankful.” Sigh. Yes, I know children are precious, but sometimes they fight and lie and break things and whine and don’t listen and disturb my peace and make my left eye twitch just a little. And when that happens, I’m not thinking about how precious they are. I’m thinking about how lucky they are that I choose not to use corporal punishment. I’m also thinking about what room I can lock myself in just to get some space. And then it passes and I’m able to function again. But I need my moment. Don’t deny me that.

It is downright oppressive to condition mothers to bury our feelings under a forced smile. Even though most people are trying to help by reminding us of the good, it feels like judgment and it feels like we’ve done something wrong for sharing how we feel.

For those who are wondering, a better response would be to say, “I know how that feels/I’ve been there.” Or maybe you don’t know how it feels and haven’t been there. In that case, just say, “That sounds tough. Hope it gets better.” Silence works too. Sometimes just saying it aloud does wonders. We don’t always need a response. Aside from HELP and support, all we need is the space to truly feel and process the full range of emotions parenting produces.

~Nadirah Angail

photo credit: Yery Yheoun

Brock Turner is why feminism must include men

 

brock turner mugshot
No smiling, glossy photos here. Just a mugshot of a convicted rapist. Photo: nbcnews.com

I have a daughter and a son, so I can’t help but be concerned with the messages and images hurled at young women AND men. For me, there is no separation. They are two sides of the same coin. I can’t empower my daughter and teach her her worth, only to leave my son defenseless and open to the metal attacks of a society that would have him believe he has carte blanche in his future dealings with women. That would leave someone else’s daughter, empowered though she may be, vulnerable to his unchecked power. I can’t have that.

I tell my daughter regularly that she is strong, powerful, intelligent and fully in control of her body. I tell her no one has the right to touch it or do with it anything she hasn’t first approved, but you know what (and I hate to even type this and acknowledge it as true), but some entitled, unmolded man could come and ruin that–real quick. Just like the Stanford rapist, Brock Turner.

So when I’m giving my son the  “You’re strong, powerful and intelligent” speech, I add on a special caveat that he must always respect and protect women. I tell him that in a few short years, he will be (most likely) bigger and stronger than his sister and me, and he must use that strength to our benefit, to the benefit of every woman regardless of what she looks like, acts like or wears. And yes, I know, telling my young son that women need protection (thereby implying our vulnerability ) may not gel well with the “women can do it all” feminism of today, but I make no room in my house for other people’s interpretations. Because sooner or later, my son will learn of his physical strength. He will feel it in his growing body and see how other men use it to intimidate and control women, so I won’t be doing him any favors to gloss over it and act like it doesn’t exist. It does exist. He must learn how to use it.

But no amount of talking on my behalf will take the place of his father’s doing. I can give feminist speeches all I want, but if his father were to be physically, verbally or financially abusive, my words would have little chance against the norms being created in his mind. And it doesn’t always take full-on abuse. A mere cavalier attitude toward the objectification of women is a seed that could grow into something quite dangerous. If we are ever to gain equality in this world, boys must be groomed to value women, and they must be made aware of how to harness their power. It’s not enough to wrap our daughters in “Girls rock” tees and serenade them with Beyonce and Taylor Swift songs. It’s not enough to teach them about math and science and how to change a flat. It’s not enough to take a stance against princess culture. Our sons, too, must be taught to stand. They must have pounded into their minds the idea that is NOT ok to exert control over a woman. They must see adult males loving, respecting and protecting (yes, protecting) women against those who, apparently, didn’t get the memo.

Perhaps Brock Turner wouldn’t have felt comfortable thrusting himself atop an unconscious woman had he been taught to be a feminist, taught how to handle his power differently. But it is quite clear what Brock was taught. Based on his father’s disgusting plea to the courts, it is clear he was taught that his getting “20 minutes of action” is far more important than a woman’s right to give consent regarding what is and isn’t entered into her body. To Brock’s father, all that matters is his son’s ease and comfort, his ability to carry on with life as though he hadn’t raped someone and made her own body a prison. There are far too many “Brock fathers” out there who give their sons pass after pass and never instill in them the value of a woman and the responsibility of a man. And when those miseducated males find themselves unsupervised and in the presence of a woman, her empowerment can be stolen in an instant.

So please, pour into your sons as much as you do your daughters. The need is grave for both.

~Nadirah Angail