revolutionary mothering from a black maroon baba

photo by Ziedah Diata of a new black arts movement

the revolutionary mothering from a black maroon baba manifesto

this journal/blog is to include an holistic perspective on the nurturing and care for our youth and mother earth.its dedicated to including more information on education, spirituality politics, art, physical and mental health. i'm learning our indigenous realms of four: mind, body (science) emotion and spirit (soul/indigenous way).

i work to maintain this frequency of including the four corners of our existence. all feedback and criticism welcomed. 

Dutch kids aren’t stressed out: What Americans can learn from how the Netherlands raises children

"In 2013, UNICEF rated Dutch children the happiest in the world. According to researchers, Dutch kids are ahead of their peers in well-being when compared with twenty-nine of the world’s richest industrialized countries. The U.S. ranked twenty-sixth, just above Lithuania, Latvia and Romania – the three poorest countries in the survey."

living in a country ranked 26th when it comes to the happiness of children could frighten yet we still planet rock.

Dutch kids aren’t stressed out: What Americans can learn from how the Netherlands raises children

UNICEF rated Dutch children the happiest in the world, and American kids aren't even in the top 25. Here's why




Dutch kids aren't stressed out: What Americans can learn from how the Netherlands raises children(Credit: Getty/Imgorthand)
An adapted excerpt from "The Happiest Kids in the World" by Rina Mae Acosta & Michele Hutchison. Reprinted with permission of The Experiment.

Two toddlers have just chased each other to the top of a jungle gym while their mothers are lost in conversation on a nearby park bench. A gang of older children in tracksuits comes racing along the bike path, laughing. They overtake a young mom, who is cycling slowly, balancing a baby in a seat on the front of her bike and a toddler on the back. A group of girls is playing monkey-in-the-middle on the grass. Not far away, some boys are perfecting their skateboarding moves. None of the school-age children are accompanied by adults. This is no movie, just a happy scene on a regular Wednesday afternoon in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark.


In 2013, UNICEF rated Dutch children the happiest in the world. According to researchers, Dutch kids are ahead of their peers in well-being when compared with twenty-nine of the world’s richest industrialized countries. The U.S. ranked twenty-sixth, just above Lithuania, Latvia and Romania – the three poorest countries in the survey.

As an American mom and a British mom, both of us married to Dutchmen and raising our kids in the Netherlands, it’s hard not to notice how happy Dutch children are. The scene we described above should give you an idea why: Childhood over here consists of freedom, plenty of play and little academic stress.

When we compare notes with friends back home, we hear horror stories, often to do with draconian selection processes to get into schools, starting at the tender age of three. These days there’s even such a thing as “good” or “bad” birthdays and “red-shirting” to ensure children have a head start over the other children in the class. In America, parenting has evolved into a highly competitive, exhausting business and schooling into a warzone with children drilled like miniature soldiers.

Stress-free schooling

Of all the parenting decisions we have to make, our child’s education is one of the most fundamental. Education is seen as the route to success and a guarantee of a happy future. No American parent can ever be sure they’ve made the right decision, whether they’ve chosen private or state schooling. If you don’t get your kid into a good nursery school, they won’t get into a good prep school. A good prep school is essential to get your child into a decent middle and then high school. And, of course, a decent high school is essential to get a place at the best university. Many parents will go to great lengths to get their child into the right school – taking out an extra mortgage, or moving to a different town.

But in the Netherlands, childhood is unencumbered with any of these particular concerns. Education has a different purpose: the route to a child’s well-being and their individual development. Schools in highly-populated areas use a lottery process to select students, rather than competitive entrance exams and heart-wrenching interviews. To get into most college programs, all a student needs is to pass high school exams at the right level. As a result, there is no real pressure to get straight A’s. In order to come to grips with the Dutch school system, we had to let go of a lot of things we’d been brought up to believe in and re-examine what education was all about.

In Dutch primary schools, kids start school at four but don’t start structured, formal learning — reading, writing, arithmetic — until six years old, Year 3. If they show interest in these subjects earlier, they are provided with the materials to explore them. Children may learn to read and write in their first year of school this way, but there is no pressure. Classmates who learn to read later, at six or seven, show no particular disadvantage and soon catch up.

Most schoolchildren don’t get any homework until they leave primary school. It’s unsurprising; a growing body of research suggests that homework for young children is a waste of time and has little or no benefit in enhancing learning or performance. Play, which is also a learning process, and having fun are considered more important here in the Low Countries than getting ahead academically.

According to the American National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, “Reading is the single most important skill necessary for a happy, productive and successful life. A child that is an excellent reader is a confident child and has a high level of self-esteem.” By not forcing children to read too early, reading becomes a pleasure, not a chore.

Joyful illiterate preschoolers

Rina’s three-year old Julius attends peuterspeelzaal (playschool) four times a week. At each session there are, at most, sixteen children, supervised by two teachers. Julius is shy and doesn’t talk much around strangers or in big groups, and is getting extra help to develop his language skills — but through play rather than formal instruction.

A typical session at playschool involves play, listening to stories, arts and crafts, and music. There’s no attempt to teach the letters of the alphabet or numbers. Dutch playschool revolves around children doing what they enjoy best — playing, and interacting with other children. Cool, calm Dutch moms seem to love the laid-back approach which the teachers assure them is the best for their kids.

A Dutch friend, Maria, who lives in San Francisco with her husband and six-year-old, muses, “Being an outsider, I’m constantly amazed at how American moms are different from Dutch moms. My mind is blown on a daily basis. There’s this preoccupation with reading at a young age — they believe that the ability for younger kids to learn to read and write and recognize numbers will somehow mean more success later in their academic life.”

Ottilie, another Dutch mom living in San Francisco, says, “Both my kids started reading ‘— when they were almost seven. The school flagged them for reading help at the age of six, but I turned it down. I wanted to wait, since it’s thought normal in Holland that not all kids are ready to read at five or six. Then, when they were turned seven, they both started reading. They advanced super-fast and have since been avid readers, reading at higher levels than is standard for their grade. If they had had specialist help, that program would have received the credit for this. But I’m convinced that kids, as long as they don’t have dyslexia or other learning issues, will simply learn how to read when they are ready.”



“A six is enough”

In the Dutch approach to primary school education, there is no top of the class to aspire to. The same is true of secondary schools in which pupils are streamed into different schooling types: vocational/professional/academic. Once you are in a particular stream, you need to score an average of six out of ten to stay at this level. Marks are deducted for mistakes and perfection (ten out of ten) is virtually unattainable. Most students score sixes and sevens. This is sufficient to secure their high school diplomas and a place at a university, college, or technical program after graduation. In a new study, only 18% of Dutch students said they were studying hard with an 8 [A] as their aim, one student quoted said, “I’d rather get a six and have no stress than a seven and have no life.” Only a small percentage make an eight average, and this is considered extremely high. Dutch scores are graded on a curve, so an individual score is relative to what everyone else scored.

In the academic stream, if students have made it through with a passing grade, they are considered bright enough to merit a place at university. There is certainly no grade inflation. As a consequence, there is no escalation in competitiveness as students aim for the highest grades to ensure a place at a university. It is a very fair system since it avoids elitism.

Aristotle’s concept of the “golden mean” — the healthy median, which avoids the vices of the two extremes — is central to Dutch thinking. There’s a common Dutch expression about this: Doe maar gewoon dan doe je al gek genoeg –– Just act normal, that’s crazy enough.

The advantage of the Dutch school system is that it keeps children in the race for as long as possible, as opposed to their being eliminated along the way in a competitive battle to the top. It also fosters curiosity in children, allowing them to develop at their own pace and enabling them to pursue studies that they’re passionate about.

Rina Mae Acosta, along with Michele Hutchison, is co-author of "How Dutch Parents Help Their Kids (and Themselves) by Doing Less".
Michele Hutchison, along with Rina Mae Acosta, is co-author of "How Dutch Parents Help Their Kids (and Themselves) by Doing Less".


Say It Loud: 9 Black Women in the Black Power Movement Everyone Should Know




by Melody Blossom

This semester, I was part of a course that focused on radical women in social movements. We studied the Black Power Movement, the Black Panther Party (BPP), and the involvement of women during this time.

The Black Panther Party, founded in the 1960s, was notorious for being a revolutionary organization that fought for the liberation of Blacks in the United States. With the brilliant activists, community organizers, writers, and thinkers who graced its membership, the BPP is primarily regarded as a male-dominated space and projected itself as such. However, like in most revolutionary movements, there were many women who served important and influential roles. These women made sure they occupied leadership positions, and implemented programs that were vital to the success of the Party and the overall uplifting of the Black community. They also called out sexism within the BPP, never afraid to make their presence known as women. 

However, their faces seldom grace historical narratives about the Black Panther Party. This list is meant to shine some light on a handful of these women. Although women initially occupied few formal governance positions within the BPP, they played strategic roles as male leadership of the party increasingly faced political repression, incarceration, or exile. With information from the article, "Engendering the Black Freedom Struggle Revolutionary Black Womanhood and the Black Panther Party in the Bay Area, California" and other sources, we look at their contributions below.

1. Kathleen Cleaver

Kathleen Cleaver, like many female revolutionaries, had been exposed to many international experiences during her involvement with the Black Panthers. She joined the foreign service and was able to travel to countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, India, and the Philippines. She later returned to the United States and attended Barnard College, where she became more involved in the Civil Rights Movement. She then left college to work full-time for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Within a year in the SNCC, she met Eldridge Cleaver, whom she married. They would both join the Black Panther Party, with Kathleen becoming the BPP's National Communications Secretary and helping to organize the campaign to get party leader Huey P. Newton released from prison. She was also the first woman to be appointed to the Black Panther’s Central Committee. Kathleen ended up fleeing to Mexico and later Algeria with her husband. Upon returning to the U.S., she later divorced her husband and currently teaches at Yale University.

2. Angela Davis

Angela Davis is one of the most well-known female members of the Black Panther Party, having joined for a short period after she noticed the party’s sexist practices. Objecting to the misogyny and chauvinism she experienced in the organization, Angela Davis then pursued her activism as a member of the Che-Lumumba Club, an all-black faction of the Communist Party in Los Angeles. In 1969 the California Board of Regents and Governor Reagan fired her from the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles because of her Communist affiliation—despite the fact that Davis was regarded as an unbiased and popular teacher among her students. After strong protests from her pupils and fellow faculty members, she was reinstated by court order. Nonetheless, the Board did not renew her contract in 1970, claiming her unfinished dissertation and her radical political activism with the Soledad Brothers as their reasons. Davis continues to be regarded as a preeminent activist, writer, professor, and leader for civil rights and prison reform.

3. Assata Shakur

Many have heard the story of legendary Assata Shakur through Common’s “A Song for Assata.” However, many don’t know that revolutionary Shakur was an influential part of the Black Panther Party. In Assata: An Autobiography, she gives a clear depiction of her life and the circumstances that led to her seeking political asylum in Cuba. Upon being convicted for the shooting death of a New Jersey state trooper, Shakur was imprisoned, despite being acquitted of all charges. In 1979, she escaped and fled to Cuba. During her time with the Black Panther Party, she contributed significantly to development of the Free Breakfast Program, spreading awareness through writing about the party to potential allies, and working to empower members of the Black community overall. She played an instrumental part in both the New York and Oakland chapters of BPP. Shakur was also well-known for being one of the few unmarried women Black Panthers. She continues to live in Cuba today.

4. Elaine Brown

Throughout the last four decades, Elaine Brown has been committed to and organized significant efforts toward effecting progressive change in the United States. During her time in the Black Panther Party, she helped organize the Free Breakfast Program in Los Angeles and edited the Party’s newspapers. She also ran for public office in Oakland in 1973 and 1975, representing the BPP. She would eventually gain a leadership role within the Party as chairwoman from 1974 – 1977. Brown continues her activism work today, with much of her recent efforts focusing on radical reform of the criminal justice system. Brown has written and edited numerous articles and books, as well as lectured widely on university and college campuses about prison reform and the injustices within the prison system. She is regarded by many as a reliable expert on the criminal justice system. In 2007, she announced her bid as a 2008 Presidential Election candidate for the Green Party. She continues to write, speak, and lead programs about prison reform today.

5. Barbara Easley

Barbara Easley-Cox was not initially a member of the Black Panther Party when she began working with them as a student at San Francisco State University. She became more closely affiliated with the Party due to her husband, Donald Cox, and contributed to the advancement of Party goals during the 1960s. She and her husband were leaders of the Oakland Chapter of the Black Panther Party and also worked in the New York and Philadelphia chapters. She also helped spread the reach of the Black Panther Party internationally—first moving to Algiers and then to Korea. Upon her return to the U.S., she moved to Philadelphia, focused on community development work, and later retired as a social worker. She continues to live in Philadelphia, where she consults and volunteers in various community-based capacities.

6. Charlotte Hill O’Neal

Charlotte Hill O’Neal joined the Black Panther Party at age 18 and was a member of the BPP’s chapter in Kansas City. Along with her husband, Pete O’Neal, she played a key role in the organization. Eventually, she and her husband fled the United States, after being accused of transporting guns across state lines. She moved to Tanzania, and helped her husband launch the United Africa Alliance Community Center, an arts-based community development organization. O’Neal continues her community empowerment work as a poet, musician, and visual artist.

7. Tarika Matilaba

Tarika Matilaba is known as as the first woman who demanded to have space for black women in the Black Panther Party. Growing up in Oakland, she experienced a number of injustices in the city: its post World War II decline, high rates of unemployment, lack of affordable housing, and other socioeconomic issues that impacted Black people. It is said that at age 16, Matilaba walked into the Black Panther office in Oakland and demanded that she not only be made a member of the party, but she demanded that she be given a gun as well. Prior to joining the Black Panthers, she held several leadership roles, including being a student leader at Oakland Technical High School. During her time at Oakland Tech, she was one of the first students to petition for a black history club and proudly wore her natural hair in an afro. As a Black Panther, she took on many roles, including writing editorials and drawing over 40 political cartoons. Many male Black Panther members respected her, due to her strong presence.

8. Judy Hart

Judy Hart was a student leader at Oakland City College and later San Francisco State University, where she met Black Panther Party leaders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. She was initially drawn to the Black Panthers because of their fight to end police brutality. With her leadership experience through San Francisco State’s Black Student Union, she felt she could contribute something worthwhile to her community by joining the Black Panther Party and working for them full-time. She became editor-in-chief of the BPP International Newsletter and also worked on the Black Panther Free Breakfast Program. In 1969, she became the youngest faculty member of the nation’s first black studies program at San Francisco State University. Since then, she has written a number of plays and novels. She has also taught writing on college campuses in New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area.

9. Chaka Khan

Popular musician and performer Chaka Khan was also a member of the Black Panther Party. Born in 1953 as Yvette Marie Stevens, she joined the Chicago chapter of the Party in 1969 and worked with the Free Breakfast Program. During this time, she took on a new name, Chaka Adunne Aduffe Yemoja Hodarhi Karifi, and dropped out of high school. In the 1970s, she began to focus on her music career, joining the R&B and funk band, Rufus. The band was later renamed Rufus and Chaka, before Chaka Khan began her career as a successful solo artist in the 1980s. 

Melody Blossom enjoys documenting stories of female revolutionaries. 



Can acupuncture relieve your baby’s colic?

Can acupuncture relieve your baby’s colic?

A new study suggests so – but don’t start sticking needles into your child. A detailed look at the results shows things aren’t so clear cut

Pass the needle … or stick with more traditional remedies.
Pass the needle … or stick with more traditional remedies. Photograph: sdominick/Getty Images

Your baby is crying inconsolably, suffering from colic. Do you: a) cuddle it, b) give Infacol drops or c) stick needles into it? According to a paper in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, the answer may be c. Since colic affects up to at least 20% of babies, that could mean a lot of work for acupuncturists.

Colic starts in the first weeks of life and is usually over by three to four months. Babies are otherwise perfectly fine but cry in the early evening, and can yell for hours. No wonder parents feel desperate. The cause is unknown, with possible culprits including the mother’s diet during breastfeeding, cigarette smoke, the baby gulping too much air during feeding, inadequate burping and parental stress. Overstimulating babies has also been blamed. Super-sensitive pain signals and abnormal muscle contraction in the wall of the baby’s gut are the possible mechanisms that trigger the pain and bawling.

The solution

Acupuncture has been investigated before, with one small study showing a benefit and another showing no sign of relief. The latest study of 157 babies aged between two and eight weeks split them randomly between having ordinary care, minimal acupuncture (a particular technique) and Chinese acupuncture. It found that babies cried 40 minutes a day less if they were given acupuncture. Many of them, however, did cry during acupuncture.

Experts have been arguing over the statistical analysis of the paper. The sample is small and the researchers looked at lots of outcomes. I got a C at maths at GCSE, so I asked for help from Tim Cole, professor of statistics at UCL Institute of Child Health. He says: “The study looks at the problem (of how acupuncture affects crying due to colic) in lots of different ways, but then highlights only the ones where the acupuncture appears to have an effect. This is misleading, as it may simply be a coincidence. In addition, the size of the effect is very small, even if it is genuine.”

So the paper’s finding that acupuncture helps is likely to be exaggerated by the way the analysis has been done. It also isn’t clear that the group that didn’t get acupuncture were offered more traditional soothing techniques. These include cuddling and rocking your baby (putting them in a sling and dancing around), white noise from a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer and drops such as Infacol before feeds (which help relieve wind). You can also hold them upright while feeding to reduce the air they swallow. The evidence for all of these isn’t great either – but they don’t involve paying someone to stick needles into your child.

A Young Radical’s View of Marriage

A Young Radical’s View of Marriage

A University of Michigan study[1] found that becoming a wife creates seven added hours of housework per week for women. For men, housework decreases by one hour per week after marriage. Another way to say this is that gender roles some like to claim are dead are in fact alive and well. The study took a "nationally representative" sample of couples (including, presumably, some who believed they were flouting the division of labor) and relied on time-diary data from 2005.

      Beyond household chores, radicals have objected to marriage on multiple fronts and for obvious reasons. For Emma Goldman, the institution of marriage crippled women in the same way that capitalism crippled men: "It is like that other paternal arrangement —capitalism," she wrote in the essay "Marriage and Love," published in the 1917 collection Anarchism and Other Essays. Capitalism "robs man of his birthright, stunts his growth, poisons his body, keeps him in ignorance, in poverty and dependence, and then institutes charities that thrive on the last vestige of man's self-respect," she wrote. And marriage does the same to women, all under the guise of protecting them.

      "The institution of marriage makes a parasite of woman, an absolute dependent," wrote Goldman. "It incapacitates her for life's struggle, annihilates her social consciousness, paralyzes her imagination, and then imposes its gracious protection, which is in reality a snare, a travesty on human character."

      Engels wrote in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State that the monogamous family and its marriage ties, "based on the supremacy of the man," were created for the secure transfer of property rights — the "express purpose" of such ties was to "produce children of undisputed paternity; such paternity is demanded because these children are later to come into their father’s property." Both land and wealth were primarily exchanged through marriage as far back as there are writer records.[2]

      For proof that the connection between marriage and property — and the notion of wives as property of men — is still alive, albeit in mutated form, we need look no further than pop artist Beyoncé’s recent hit "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and its refrain: "If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it." Accompanied by sporty dance moves and intended as a ballad of female empowerment, the message is nonetheless a regressive one: that a man can stake a claim on a woman through marriage, if he has the financial capital to do so.

      Feminists, certainly, have had their objections to marriage, not merely for the extra housework it creates. Marlene Dixon called the institution of marriage "the chief vehicle for the perpetuation of the oppression of women."[3] Betty Freidan wrote in the feminist classic The Feminine Mystique that marriage stunted the mental growth of middle-class housewives. Simone de Beauvoir had no use for marriage, writing in the hallmark The Second Sex that "Marriage is obscene in principle insofar as it transforms into rights and duties those mutual relations which should be founded on a spontaneous urge."[4]

      Then there is the fact that non-heterosexual couples cannot marry in the majority of places in the United States. While conservatives argue against same-sex marriage on the basis of "tradition," historians such as Nancy Cott have noted that change is the only true tradition in the history of marriage, which has fluctuated according to evolving views on race, sex, and religion. For Cott, the exclusion of same-sex couples conflicts with a historical trend toward gender equality in marriage.[5]

      Among people who can and do marry, data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show for every two couples who married, one got divorced in 2009.

      In fact, marriage appears to be failing as a model for many families. According to an analysis of 2000 Census data by the group Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, only 22.4 percent of households included a married heterosexual couple with biological offspring. That group has used such data to reframe "family values," expand the conservative definition of "family" and promote policies that support all families.[6]

      Marriage also appears to be more popular among whites, leading some writers, including Joy Jones in an infamous 2006 Washington Post piece, to suggest that "Marriage is for white people." A study of 2007 Census data showed 80 percent of white, non-Hispanic family groups and 82 percent of Asian family groups were married couples, while such couples composed only 45 percent of black family groups and 65 percent of Hispanic family groups. Black feminists have argued that economic inequalities rooted in racism and slavery are partly to blame for the gap. Add to that the fact that one in nine black men ages 20-34 are incarcerated (compared to 1 in 30 men overall in the same category) and the likelihood of black women finding partners of the same race decreases substantially.[7]

      But that has not stopped critics from alternately blaming black men and black women for not marrying. The Wedded Bliss Foundation, for example, creator of the event Black Marriage Day, encourages marriage as a stabilizing force for the black community and a way to reduce single parenthood, telling black women — in language eerily similar to the what 1950s magazines told white, middle-class housewives — that "Marriage is the best environment for a woman to be all she can be."[8]

      Marriage is a vehicle through which the state regulates which pairings are acceptable — as we saw with the historical criminalization of mixed-race marriages — and which people are fit to raise families — as we see with the modern attempts to ban gay marriage and prohibit gay families from adopting children. Throughout history, marriage has been used as a way for the state to regulate bodies and sexualities, determining which people are fit to marry, disenfranchising people of color, and punishing women from lower classes who did not or could not fit the mold of the acceptable wife. The criminalization of mixed-race marriage continues in a certain way, as the state regulates marriages between immigrants and residents, deciding which couples have the legitimate right to live together on U.S. soil. Marriage is one of the most personal and prevalent ways the state involves itself in the private lives of people.

      So what possible good can marriage offer a young person with political convictions? Tax incentives, for a start. A chance at a ceremony paid for by other people and attended by loved ones who support the union. An easy way to inform strangers of the status of one’s heart. A cascade of domestic implements related to cooking, cleaning, and keeping house. But is that worth entering an institution that is imbued with sexism, racism, state control, and social privilege, and potentially taking on an extra seven hours a week of housework?

Such questions weigh on my mind as I reach the age where people I know are actually entering the "obscene" and crippling institution.

      Years ago, when I first registered for the social media website Facebook, it was routine for people to virtually "marry" close friends by selecting a friend’s name on the profile section dedicated to relationship status. By elevating close female friendships over any potential marriage bonds, my friends and I mocked the institution of marriage and played with gender norms, albeit in a superficial way. Despite being in a real-life, heterosexual partnership, I remain "engaged" to a college friend on Facebook, a status that has recently caused confusion among family and friends, who have begun to notice that I am now out of college and at the age when I might marry. This, I think, marks a significant milestone.

      For me, the question of whether to marry is tied to the larger issue of how fully to embrace other institutional privileges. For example, I can afford to own a car, but does that necessarily mean I should buy one, and thus support environmental degradation and foreign wars fought for oil? For those of us who choose to live in civilization — and even, I would imagine, for those who live off-the-grid and use bicycles for transportation and rainwater for sustenance — these questions connect the personal to the political. How does one balance personal happiness with the struggle for collective liberation?

      Like the choice to own a car, marriage is a personal decision connected to the oppression of others. If I choose to get married, am I turning my back on friends and comrades in same-sex relationships who never can?[9] Am I supporting an unequal institution imbued with racism and misogyny? Am I committing to extra hours of dish-washing and floor-mopping? Marriage, it should be noted, is less practically useful than a car. One can certainly get around in society without it, albeit with fewer economic benefits.

      Just as some educators may choose public-school teaching in order to reform the system from inside, some radicals may seize the opportunity to reform marriage, to create their own, more-balanced reality within the institution. Yet what the University of Michigan study seems to suggest is that gender roles do in fact still govern relationships, even, perhaps, for progressive couples who may believe they are equally dividing housework. The difficulty of balancing family with work — a balance all "modern" women are expected to accomplish with grace — is a daunting prospect for me, and one that I believe has driven my early attempts to decide on a career quickly. So far, my like-minded partner and I do a pretty good job of balancing housework chores. But if we were to keep track of our hours doing housework, as the couples in the study did, I wonder if we would be surprised by what we discovered.

      Some couples — including one I know well — have chosen to hold commitment ceremonies, which are like weddings minus the wedding. There is no exchanging of rings, changing of names or signing of government paperwork, and the lack of tax benefits is balanced by the benefit of — well, not having to be married.

      Still, plenty of modern-day radicals and feminists do choose to marry, and some have inspired quite a backlash in the process. Jessica Valenti, founder of the blog Feministing, has written about her marriage ceremony, where she skipped the white dress, had both parents walk her down the aisle, kept her last name and confidently entered what she believed would be an equal partnership.[10] But when her wedding was featured in the New York Times Style section, feminists and misogynists clambered over each other in their haste to call Valenti a hypocrite. Perhaps more than anything else, that debate revealed that today’s feminists are conflicted about marriage (and that today’s sexists are enabled by the Internet). Many young feminists, myself included, are internally conflicted over the prospect of marrying.

      Personally, I like the idea of having a public ceremony — minus the religious trappings — where I declare my love for my partner in front of those I care about, and then we eat cake. I even like the idea of both of us being dressed up when we do this. But, particularly with the divorce rate as high as it is, I don’t feel eager to enter an institution that I associate with social inequality and housework. In my foggy vision of the future, my partner and I stand before a gathering of family and friends and recite love poems or self-made vows, then share a meal with people we love. At some point, maybe, there is dancing, which, unlike marriage, Emma Goldman might have appreciated. Then we move on with our equal and independent lives, with some commitment to togetherness and chore-sharing. It’s a simple idea, and one more ancient than the origin of property rights. Best of all, it means I don’t have to dump my friend on Facebook.

Category: Gender & Gender Politics -    Location: United States    Whole Number: 51   

revolutionary parenting


image by Ziedah Diata of a new black arts movement

peace and unconditional revolutionary motherly love

bell hooks, “Revolutionary parenting”

July 27, 2010

“Revolutionary Parenting”

bell hooks

excerpt from Feminist theory: from margin to center. [1984]


During the early stages of contemporary women’s liberation movement, feminist analyses of motherhood reflected the race and class biases of participants. Some white middle class, college-educated women argued that motherhood was a serious obstacle to women’s liberation, a trap confining women to the home, keeping them tied to cleaning, cooking, and child care. Others simply identified motherhood and childrearing as the locus of women’s oppression. Had black women voiced their views on motherhood, it would not have been named a serious obstacle to our freedom as women. Racism, availability of jobs, lack of skills or education and a number of other issues would have been at the top of the list – but not motherhood. Black women would not have said motherhood prevented us from entering the world of paid work because we have always worked. From slavery to the present day black women have worked outside the home, in the fields, in the factories, in the laundries, in the homes of others. That work gave meager financial compensation and often interfered with or prevented effective parenting. Historically, black women have identified work in the context of family as humanizing labor, work that affirms their identity as women, as human beings showing love and care, the very gestures of humanity white supremacist ideology claimed black people were incapable of expressing. In contrast to labor done in a caring environment inside the home, labor outside the home was most often seen as stressful, degrading, and dehumanizing.

These views on motherhood and work outside the home contrasted sharply with those expressed by white women’s liberationists. Many black women were saying “we want to have more time to share with family, we want to leave the world of alienated work.” Many white women’s liberationists were saying “we are tired of the isolation of the home, tired of relating only to children and husband, tired of being emotionally and economically dependent; we want to be liberated to enter the world of work.” (These voices were not those of working class white women who were, like black women workers, tired of alienated labor.) The women’s liberationists who wanted to enter the work force did not see this world as a world of alienated work. They do now. In the last twenty years of feminist movement many middle class white women have entered the wage earning work force and have found that working within a social context where sexism is still the norm, where there is unnecessary competition promoting envy, distrust, antagonism and malice between individuals, makes work stressful, frustrating and often totally unsatisfying. Concurrently, many women who like and enjoy the wage work they do feel that it takes too much of their time, leaving little space for other satisfying pursuits. While work may help women gain a degree of financial independence or even financial self-sufficiency, for most women it has not adequately fulfilled human needs. As a consequence women’s search for fulfilling labor done in an environment of care has led to re-emphasizing the importance of family and the positive aspects of motherhood. Additionally, the fact that many active feminists are in their mid to late 30s, facing the biological clock, has focused collective attention on motherhood. This renewed attention has led many women active in the feminist movement who were interested in childrearing to choose to bear children.

Although early feminists demanded respect and acknowledgment for housework and childcare, they did not attribute enough significance and value to female parenting, to motherhood. It is a gesture that should have been made at the onset of the feminist movement. Early feminist attacks on motherhood alienated masses of women from the movement, especially poor and/or non-white women, who find parenting one of the few interpersonal relationships where they are affirmed and appreciated.

Feminist theorists point to the problems that arise when parenting is done exclusively by an individual or solely by women: female parenting gives children few role models of male parenting; perpetuates the idea that parenting is a women’s vocation; and reinforces male domination and fear of women. Society, however, is not concerned. This information has little impact at a time when men, more than ever before, avoid responsibility for childrearing and when women are parenting less because they work more but are parenting more often alone. These facts raise two issues that must be of central concern for future feminist movement: the right of children to effective child care by parents and other childrearers; the restructuring of society so that women do not exclusively provide that care.

Eliminating sexism is the solution to the problem of men participating unequally or not at all in child care. Therefore more women and men must recognize the need to support and participate in feminist movement. Masses of women continue to believe that they should be primarily responsible for child care – this point cannot be overemphasized. Feminist efforts to help women unlearn this socialization could lead to greater demands on their part for men to participate equally in parenting. Making and distributing brochures in women’s health centers and in other public places that would emphasize the importance of males and females sharing equally in parenting is one way to make more people aware of this need.

Women need to know that it is important to discuss child care with men before children are conceived or born. There are women and men who have made either legal contracts or simply written agreements that spell out each individual’s responsibility. some women have found that men verbally support the idea of shared parenting before a child is conceived or born and then do not follow through.
Despite the importance of men sharing equally in parenting, large numbers of women have no relationship to the man with whom they have conceived a child. In some cases, this is a reflection of the man’s lack of concern about parenting or the woman’s choice. Some women do not feel it is important for their children to experience caring, nurturing parenting from males. In black communities, it is not unusual for a single female parent to rely on male relatives and friends to help with childrearing. As more heterosexual and lesbian women choose to bear children with no firm ties to male parents, there will exist a greater need for community-based child care that would bring children into contact with male childrearers so they will not grow into maturity thinking women are the only group who do or should do parenting. The childrearer does not have to be a parent. Childrearers in our culture are teachers, librarians, etc and even though these are occupations which have been dominated by women, this is changing. In these contexts, a child could experience male childrearing. Some female parents who raise their children without the mutual care of fathers feel their own positions are undermined when they meet occasionally with male parents who may provide a good time but be totally unengaged in day-to-day parenting. They sometimes have to cope with children valuing the male parent more because he is male (and sexist ideology teaches them that his attentions are more valuable than female care). These women need to know that teaching their children non-sexist values could help them appreciate female parenting and could eradicate favoritism based solely on sexist standards.

Because women are doing most of the parenting, the need for tax-funded public child care centers with equal numbers of non-sexist male and female workers continues to be a pressing feminist issue. Such centers would relieve individual women of the sole responsibility for childrearing as well as help promote awareness of the necessity for male participation in child raising. Yet this is an issue that has yet to be pushed by masses of people. Future feminist organizing (especially in the interests of building mass-based feminist movement) could use this issue as a platform. Feminist activists have always seen public child care as one solution to the problem of women being the primary childrearers. Commenting on the need for child care centers in her article “Bringing Up Baby,” Mary Ellen Schoonmaker writes

As for child care outside the home, the seemingly simple concept envisioned by the women’s movement of accessible, reliable, quality day care has proven largely elusive. While private, often overpriced sources of day care have risen to meet middle class needs, the inadequacy of public day care remains an outrage. The Children’s Defense Fund, a child advocacy and lobbying group in Washington, D.C., reports that perhaps six to seven million children, including pre-schoolers, may be left at home alone while their parents work because they can’t afford day care.

Most child care centers, catering either to the needs of the working classes or the bourgeoisie, are not non-sexist. Yet until children begin to learn at a very early age that it is not important to make role distinctions based on sex, they will continue to grow to maturity thinking that women should be the primary childrearers.

Many people oppose the idea of tax-funded public child care because they see it as an attempt by women to avoid parenting. They need to know that the extent to which the isolated parenting that women do in this society is not the best way to raise children or treat women who mother. Elizabeth Janeway makes this point in her most recent book Cross Sections, emphasizing that the idea of an individual having sole responsibility for childrearing is the most unusual pattern of parenting in the world, one that has proved to be unsuccessful because it isolates children and parents from society.
[quotes Janeway]
Ideally, small, community-based, public child care centers would be the best way to overcome this isolation. When parents must drive long distances to take children to day care, dependency on parents is increased and not lessened. Community-based public child care centers would give small children great control over their lives.

Child care is a responsibility that can be shared with other childrearers, with people who do not live with children. This form of parenting is revolutionary in this society because it takes place in opposition to the idea that parents, especially mothers, should be the only childrearers. Many people raised in black communities experienced this type of community-based child care. Black women who had to leave the home and work to help provide for families could not afford to send children to day care centers and such centers did not always exist. They relied on people in their communities to help. Even in families where the mother stayed at home, she could also rely on people in the community to help. She did not need to go with her children every time they walked to the playground to watch them because they would be watched by a number of people living near the playground.

This kind of shared responsibility for child care can happen in small community settings where people know and trust one another. It cannot happen in those settings if parents regard their children as “property,” their “possession.” Many parents do not want their children to develop caring relationships with others, not even relatives. If there were community-based day care centers, there would be a much greater likelihood that children would develop ongoing friendships and caring relationships with adult people rather than their parents. These types of relationships are not formed ind ay care centers where one teacher takes care of a large number of students, where one never sees teachers in any context other than school. Any individual who has been raised in an environment of communal child care knows that this happens only if the parents can accept other adults assuming parental-type care for their children.

Before there can be shared responsibility for childrearing that relieves women of the sole responsibility for primary child care, women and men must revolutionize their consciousness. They must be willing to accept that parenting in isolation (irrespective of the sex of the parent) is not the most effective way to raise children or be happy as parents. Since women do most of the parenting in this society and it does not appear that this situation will alter in the coming years, there has to be renewed feminist organizing around the issue of child care. The point is not to stigmatize single parents, but to emphasize the need for collective parenting. Women all over the United States must rally together to demand that tax money spent on the arms race and other militaristic goals be spent on improving the quality of parenting and child care in this society. Feminist theorists who emphasize the hazards of single parenting, who outline the need for men to share equally in parenting, often live in families where the male parent is present. This leads them to ignore the fact that this type of parenting is not an option for many women (even though it may be the best social framework in which to raise children). That social framework could be made available in community-based public day care centers with men and women sharing equal responsibility for child care. More than ever before, there is a great need for women and men to organize around the issue of child care to ensure that all children will be raised in the best possible social frameworks; to ensure that women will not be the sole, or primary, childrearers.


Why science says pudgy dads are more attractive

Why science says pudgy dads are more attractive

A new book, How Men Age, offers a defence of the pudgy dad, suggesting that larger fathers are healthier and more attractive than their skinny counterparts

Men with slow metabolisms are around 50% less likely to die in any given year than skinnier men.
 Men with slow metabolisms are around 50% less likely to die in any given year than skinnier men. Photograph: Stephen Marks/Getty Images

Name: The pudgy dad

Age: Probably in his 30s.

Status: The peak of human evolution.

This already smacks of wishful thinking. You’re wrong. Chubby dads are a scientific miracle, and I have the proof.

Oh, really? What proof is that? The new book How Men Age, which suggests that a slow physical decline after becoming a parent makes men healthier, more attractive and likely to live longer.

This is just a shot in the dark, but was this book written by a man? It was! It was written by Richard Bribiescas, professor of anthropology at Yale. How did you know?

Lucky guess. Anyway, the book says that slight weight gain actually strengthens the immune system. Plus, a study has shown that men with slow metabolisms are around 50% less likely to die in any given year than their skinnier counterparts.

Any other miracle claims to justify your dadbod? So many. When a man’s testosterone levels drop off, they become less likely to chase women. And what do they do with all this newfound time and energy? They become more attentive parents. What’s sexier than a good dad?

Are you telling me this because you just had to move up to a 36in waist? OK, another study. Latvian women actually find it attractive when men carry a little more weight. They find it more attractive than when men go to the gym and look nice and whatever.

Surely this can’t be a completely positive. Well, no. Because we’re men, we’re apparently worse at looking after ourselves than women. We don’t visit doctors, we eat badly. This has a broadly negative effect on our health.


So it’s not all good news, then. It’s good enough! Finally, I can justify my physique. See me wolfing down two Greggs pasties at once? That’s me strengthening my immune system.

I’m not sure that’s how it works. Quiet you. I’m the new Ryan Gosling, albeit a really tired Ryan Gosling who lives in a house covered in abandoned Lego and just went through the crotch of his Asos chinos again.

What about mums? Does parenthood benefit them, too? No. Mums die sooner than non-mums. Sorry.

Do say: “Sievietes, es esmu jaunus Adonis”.

Don’t say: “Yeah, but you’re still embarrassed to take your shirt off in public”.

This is not a humblebrag: My kid won’t eat junk food and it’s all my fault

This is not a humblebrag: My kid won’t eat junk food and it’s all my fault

I was determined my son would eat only healthful, homemade foods. And it totally backfired on me




This is not a humblebrag: My kid won’t eat junk food and it’s all my fault(Credit: Getty/Juanmonino)

“Chicken nuggets or fish sticks?” I pulled the plastic bags out of the freezer and held them up. By Thursday night after a long day at work during my busy season, I had no shame.


My 5-year-old, Colin (not his real name), looked up from his Legos, strewn across the kitchen floor. “I don’t like those. Can I have salmon?”

I sighed and tossed the bags back in the freezer, knowing I had only myself to blame for his pickiness. When I was pregnant I had bought all the books, read all the blog posts and determined to do it “right.” Breast-feeding until he was 2? Check. Making his baby food from scratch? Check.

I knew the statistics on childhood obesity and how bad junk food was for my kid. Once he transitioned to solids, high-fructose corn syrup was the enemy. Friends warned me that I shouldn’t be so strict with slightly patronizing “first-time mom” comments and “you’ll change your mind once he’s born.” If anything, their comments made me only more stubbornly determined to see it through.

A recovering anorexic, I had spent most of my teen years in a battle with a scale or on a treadmill at the gym. At my lowest point I had weighed 95 pounds, which at 5 feet 3 inches tall, was well below a healthy weight. My ex-husband had been a self-described “fat kid,” teased and tormented in his teen years until he lost weight during his 20s. We both knew that we had issues around food and agreed that we didn’t want to pass on those issues to our kid. No “you have to clear your plate.” No “there are starving children in Africa!” No using food as a reward, like promising him ice cream for cleaning his room.

I think it’s a natural thing: No matter how good your childhood was, you want to improve on it. Anything that bugged you when you were a kid, you’re going to do differently with your own. Until the day you hear the words “I’m not your servant!” coming out of your mouth when your kid refuses to pick up his toys (again). Reality took care of many of our plans, but not those surrounding food. For the first 10 months of his life, I was a stay-at-home mom so it was easier to breast-feed, make meals from scratch and put together healthy snacks.

Even after I went back to work, I would cook healthy dinners while my husband played video games on the couch and claimed to be keeping an eye on Colin. But he never helped with food prep, though he certainly criticized my “bland” palate and “boring” meals. I did all the grocery shopping, meal preparation and the dishes afterward. My husband’s lack of participation extended to every aspect of our marriage. I finally had enough and left him shortly after Colin turned 3.

Divorced, back at work full time and with a toddler, I admitted that I couldn’t make meals from scratch every night. We had been eating out too much, to the point where my kid knew the term “happy hour” because I had figured out how to feed us both on $5 appetizers. Something had to give. On my next grocery run, into the basket went chicken nuggets: all-natural and 100 percent chicken breast, of course. I still had standards.

The next night I laid them out on the baking sheet, put them in the oven for 10 minutes and served them up, sure that Colin would gobble them down.

He wouldn’t eat them.

Not even when I squeezed a hefty dollop of ketchup (his favorite) onto the plate. He ate the microwave-in-a-bag green beans, two cups worth, and turned up his nose at the protein. I sliced up some cheese for him and ate the nuggets myself.

The next week I tried fish sticks, with the same results. Hamburger patties? Nope. Meals in a bag? He spit them out. In my quest to make sure he would eat all his fruits and vegetables, I had turned my kid into a different kind of picky eater: He’ll eat kale chips, but not super-easy, working-mom-needs-a-break food.

As I made yet another grilled cheese sandwich with carrot sticks one night — the only easy food he would eat — I admitted to myself that I should have fed him more junk food when he was younger. I hadn’t planned on being a single mom when he was born. I hadn’t planned on being the sole person responsible for feeding us. And I had unknowingly made my life harder in the future by being so dogmatic about food choices in the past.

Now five years into parenthood, the only advice I have for first-timers is this: Give yourself permission to change your mind. Circumstances change. Your family’s needs can change. Other than always using a car seat and looking both ways before crossing the street, there are very few parenting decisions that will irrevocably screw up your kid. The occasional bag of chips or trip through the drive-through isn’t on that list.

We’ve found compromises. He’ll eat hummus and pita chips, and I’ve decided to call that good on protein. I have upped my budget for eating out and accepted that I’m going to have to pay an extra $4 for a measly cup of broccoli with the kids’ meal. If I complain about his pickiness on Facebook, I’m accused of humblebragging, so I keep my mouth shut and we muddle along.

If I’d had a crystal ball when he was younger, I wouldn’t have been so strict with food choices. You don’t know where you’re going to be in five years, so do yourself a favor. Instead of viewing parenting choices as right or wrong, ask yourself: Does this work for us now? Will this make my life harder in the future? And don’t beat yourself up if dinner comes out of the microwave every once in a while.

Dena Landon is a single mom who eats raw cookie dough, passionately debates intersectional feminism and frequently tangles herself in yarn. Her work has appeared on The Washington Post,,, and in Dance Teacher and Dance Spirit magazines. Her first novel was published by Dutton Children's Publishing in 2005. She blogs at, and can be found on Instagram and Facebook.

10 things you need to know about vaginas

"4 You can build a vagina from a penis and scrotum

At first glance, vulvas and penises look pretty different, but they are actually quite similar. That’s because we all started out as foetuses with the same genitalia; our sex organs don’t start to differentiate until the end of the first trimester (around about nine to 12 weeks). That skin fold line between the testicles? It’s because the male scrotum is the homologue of the female labia majora. Learning that was a real “aha” moment.'

10 things you need to know about vaginas

From the science of the orgasm to cannabis tampons, there’s a lot to learn. Warning: explicit content

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 Vagina Dispatches episode one: the vulva

Mae and I thought we were well informed when it comes to vaginas (between us, we have 58 years’ experience of them), but the more we researched the subject for our new video series, Vagina Dispatches, the more we discovered that, like most people, we don’t know our asses from our elbows – let alone our vulvas from our vaginas.

Does it matter that we don’t know what a perineum is, never mind where to find one? It turns out it does. Even though there are lots of parts of our bodies we don’t know well (neither of us can explain the full process from sandwich to stool), there is something particularly damaging about vagina ignorance.

Despite the fact that we spend more time peeing or menstruating out of them than anything else, sex remains the primary association when people think of female genitalia. And that emphasis distracts from the stuff that really matters: health. Women (or, to be more specific, anyone with a vagina) can struggle to understand how much menstrual blood is too much, what healthy labia look like, or what to expect during childbirth. Those blind spots make it hard to understand when or whether we need treatment. So, in a spirit of generosity, we wanted to share some of the things we learned.

1 That thing you’re calling a vagina? It probably isn’t a vagina

You’re likely thinking of a woman’s external genitalia. But that’s actually the vulva; the vagina is on the inside.

A survey released earlier this month by the Eve Appeal, a gynaecological cancer charity, found that two-thirds of women were unable to identify the vulva. More shocking is that women know men’s bodies better than they do their own: 60% of women could correctly label a diagram of male anatomy, but only 35% could do the same for female anatomy.

A diagram of women's reporductive system
 According to a recent survey by Eve Appeal, half of women aged 26- 35 were able to label the vagina in a diagram like this one. Illustration: Laura Callaghan

These days, there are endless articles claiming every woman should have body confidence. Body knowledge, on the other hand, seems like a nice bonus. That emphasis is misplaced: if women don’t know what their vulva is, how can they check it for changes in colour – a potential symptom of gynaecological cancer?

2 No one really knows what a female orgasm is

The male orgasm isn’t exactly ambiguous. But there’s no standard way to measure a female orgasm, which means that research has begun to question whether some women are experiencing them at all.

Dr Nicole Prause is a neuroscientist who founded Liberos, a research firm that studies sexual desire and function. In men, as well as ejaculation, there are regular, measurable muscle contractions. In a 1980 study in the journal Archives Of Sexual Behaviour, 11 male participants all behaved in a similar way during orgasm: the muscles in their anus contracted in spasms that were 0.6 seconds apart and continued for 10-15 contractions. But in the women Prause has studied, while some had these same contractions, others reported an orgasm without any being measured. (How do they measure these? Using a butt plug that monitors sound waves.) We said we were interested in measuring our own orgasms, so Prause is sending us some. Stay tuned.

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 Vagina Dispatches episode one: the vulva

3 Orgasms can make you need a wee

From a biological perspective, there has long been curiosity about what function the female orgasm serves (from our own personal perspectives, the case is closed). According to Prause, one reason might be that women who orgasm are more likely to urinate after sex. And urinating after sex is a great idea because it helps prevent bacteria from getting into the urethra, reducing the chances of a urinary tract infection. Win, win.

The clitoris is often depicted as a little button. A more realistic image would be similar to the Starship Enterprise

4 You can build a vagina from a penis and scrotum

At first glance, vulvas and penises look pretty different, but they are actually quite similar. That’s because we all started out as foetuses with the same genitalia; our sex organs don’t start to differentiate until the end of the first trimester (around about nine to 12 weeks). That skin fold line between the testicles? It’s because the male scrotum is the homologue of the female labia majora. Learning that was a real “aha” moment.

We met Callie, an American trans woman who was waiting for bottom surgery, a procedure where a vulva and vagina are created from the penis and scrotum. Aside from price (the surgery costs around $20,000 and isn’t always covered by health insurance), we were interested in knowing what concerned Callie when she booked her procedure. We’d mostly been discussing aesthetics, so Callie’s response caught us off guard: functionality. She is considering whether she wants a vagina that would self-lubricate (this can be possible using tissue from the anus) and whether it would be painful to pee (the surgery is complex and recovery can take weeks). In other words, really important health issues that most women take for granted. Prettiness? Not so much.

5 You can buy weed tampons

Menstrual cramps affect up to 91% of women, and can have a huge impact on quality of life. Given that so many women experience this pain, and that painkillers don’t always work, some women have tried alternative treatments including cannabis.

There’s very little scientific research into the effectiveness of cannabis in treating menstrual cramps, partly because that research would be illegal in many countries. But some entrepreneurial companies that are part of a growing US cannabis market are investigating. Once you’ve confirmed that you’re over 21 and a resident of either Colorado or California, the website offers a four-pack of “weed tampons”, priced at $44 (£33). It’s not actually a tampon; it’s a pessary containing cannabis oil.

Actor Whoopi Goldberg has teamed up with businesswoman Maya Elisabeth (who used to sell award-winning edible cannabis) to market products they claim are designed to provide relief from period pain. Their company, Whoopi & Maya, produces a bath soak, an edible spread (which “may be enjoyed plain with a spoon, on fruit or toast”), a rub and a tincture.

6 The clitoris looks like a spaceship


If you’ve been looking at medical diagrams lately (just us?), the clitoris is often depicted as a little button. A more realistic image would be something similar to the Starship Enterprise. Underneath the labia, there are two long structures that fall on either side of the clitoris (the protruding bit). If you’re interested in female sexual arousal, you should know about those – they’re called the clitoral crura. They can become engorged with blood when a woman is aroused, which causes the vulva to expand outwards, creating a tighter vaginal opening (bonus fact: women have nearly as much erectile tissue as men).

On the subject of sex tips: stop searching for the G-spot. Not only because it’s weird to use terms for women’s bodies that are named after men (the Gräfenberg spot, after the German gynaecologist Ernst Gräfenberg, who also developed the IUD). It probably doesn’t exist, at least not in the push-button way it’s often imagined.

An article published in Nature Reviews Urology in 2014, titled Beyond The G-spot, found that women can experience sensitivity in lots of different places, including but not always the area where the G-spot was thought to be (the upper side of the vaginal wall). In other words, it’s complicated.

7 Your vagina might benefit from a personal trainer

Sex doesn’t always feel good – especially if you have vaginismus (a painful condition that results in involuntary vaginal muscle spasm) or vulvodynia(chronic pain around the opening of the vagina).

One possible treatment is pelvic physical therapy, which can involve external and internal massages of the pelvic floor area, and the use of dilators (they look like oversized plastic crayons) and lubricants. The treatment is frequently misunderstood, says Jessica Powley, a pelvic physical therapist. For one thing, it’s not just women, or postpartum women, who get this therapy; men can get it, too, to treat pelvic floor pain. You can also buy vaginal weights and create your own home gym to tighten your pelvic floor muscles.

If you’re under 60, the best sex of your life may well be to come

8 Things change with age, but it’s not all bad

Ageing, and menopause in particular, causes a woman’s oestrogen levels to decline. According to the North American Menopause Society, the vagina can become shorter and narrower in menopausal women who aren’t sexually stimulated. Then, when those women do have sex, it can be painful. Their advice? Menopausal women should have vaginal sex on a regular basis. So if you’re an older woman who enjoys sex, you should continue to have it regularly (hooray), and if you don’t enjoy sex, don’t bother (hooray, too).

What’s more, in 1998, the US National Council on the Aging found that 70% of sexually active women over the age of 60 said they were as satisfied, or even more satisfied, with their sex lives as they were in their 40s (74% of men in the same age group said the same). So, if you’re under 60, the best sex of your life may well be to come.

9 Breastfeeding can make you horny

We spoke to Christen, a performance artist and writer, who wrote about maternal sexuality in a one-woman show called BabyLove. She told us that she got aroused when breastfeeding; one time, she tried to use a vibrator while feeding, but got interrupted by a delivery man. She claimed lots of other women felt the same way. Of course we wanted to investigate.

Many forums for mothers confirm Christen is not alone. In a 1999 study in The Journal Of Perinatal Education, the author, Dr Viola Polomeno, explained that sexual arousal during breastfeeding “is a normal phenomenon”, although women often feel guilty when it happens to them. Arousal can happen because there are some parallels between breastfeeding and having an orgasm: both situations involve contractions of the uterus, nipple erection and skin-to-skin contact, and both can involve strong, uninhibited emotions. Neither of us has ever breastfed, but if and when the time comes, boy is this information handy.

10 You can make art with menstrual blood


From Judy Chicago’s 1972 installation Menstruation Bathroom to Ingrid Berthon-Moine’s 2009 work Red Is The Colour (photographs of 12 women wearing their menstrual blood as lipstick), lots of artists have explored the use of menstrual blood.

We met Jennifer Lewis, who was one day removing her menstrual cup and wondered why the blood on her fingertips disgusted her. With the help of her partner Rob, she began taking photographs of her menstrual blood in water. We watched Jennifer and Rob using refrigerated bottles of the stuff to make Beauty In Blood. The images look beautiful, but if we’re honest, the smell wasn’t so pretty. We went there to challenge our attitudes because, like so many, we think of periods as a gross inconvenience. We both use a hormonal IUD that stops us menstruating, which has always just seemed like a bonus.

Jennifer challenged these attitudes, not just because her art is beautiful, but also because she made us reconsider the health consequences of stopping our periods. Like us, Jennifer also used a contraceptive that stopped her period – until she found out it had caused her early-onset osteoporosis.

When Jennifer told us this, we looked at each other wide-eyed. Even though we had been researching this subject for months, there was still so much we didn’t know. The point is, we, like so many others, had put convenience ahead of being informed about our health. And that’s our final tip: get smart, get a mirror out and find out what’s up down there.

  • This article was amended on 25 September 2016 to clarify that urine does not come from the vagina.

Sharing is caring: Here’s how to raise a child to be sympathetic — and maybe even empathetic

spiritual common sixth sense brought to you by the complex reasoning society produced.

Sharing is caring: Here’s how to raise a child to be sympathetic — and maybe even empathetic

How do we teach kids to care more when the world feels full of disagreement, conflict and aggression?




This article was originally published on The Conversation.


Parents and teachers might often wonder how to teach children caring toward others — more so when the world feels full of disagreement, conflict and aggression.

As development psychologists, we know that children start to pay attention to the emotions of others from an early age. They actively take into account others’ emotions when making decisions about how to respond to them.

Does this mean that children feel sympathy for others from an early age? And is there a way in which parents can teach their children to be sympathetic?

What is sympathy?

A feeling of concern for another person, or sympathy, is based on a comprehension of the unfortunate situation and emotional state of another. It often accompanies feelings of pity for the distressed other.

Sympathy is different from empathy, which is more of an “emotional contagion.” If you feel like crying when you see someone else cry, you are experiencing empathy. You might even be overwhelmed by that person’s distress.

And unlike empathy, sympathy involves some distance. So, rather than being overwhelmed, feelings of sympathy might allow individuals to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as helping or sharing.

We start to show concern for others from very early on. For example, babies show basic signs of concern for others in their distressed responses to another infant’s cry, although in the case of babies, it might also be possible that they do not fully understand the self as a separate entity from others. So, their cry might simply be a case of emotional contagion.

Either way, these are early forms of how we show concern. Later in our lives, these advance into more sophisticated sympathy experiences. Rather than just crying for the other crying baby, children begin to think about ways to alleviate the baby’s distress.

This sympathetic response becomes possible because they start to incorporate cognitive understanding of the situation the other person is in. Sympathy goes beyond mere feelings of sadness for others’ distress. Rather, it guides our actions.

What makes kids share

How do children at different ages engage differently in prosocial behaviors based on their sympathy?

To understand, we conducted a study to see how children shared. In our study, 160 four- and eight-year-old children received six equally attractive stickers. They were then given an opportunity to share any number of those stickers with a hypothetical child in a picture.

Children were shown multiple pictures that depicted four different conditions, which included “needy” recipients and “not needy” recipients. The needy recipient was described as,

“She/he has no toys,” “She/he is sad.”

And the non-needy or neutral recipient as,

“This girl/boy is four/eight years old, just like you.”

What we found was that children tended to share more stickers with a needy recipient. What we also found was that eight-year-old children shared on average 70 percent of their stickers with the needy recipient (versus 47 percent with the neutral recipient). The four-year-olds shared only 45 percent of their stickers in the needy condition (versus 33 percent in the neutral condition).

What makes eight-year-olds share more than two-thirds of their own stickers with the needy recipient, while four-year-olds share only about half of them?

Sharing thoughtfully

The answer to this question can be found in children’s growing abilities to put themselves in others’ shoes. Besides feeling concern for others, being able to comprehend the circumstances of others can enhance helping or sharing behaviors that are sensitive toward the condition of others.

For example, as our study demonstrated, older children shared more stickers with a peer who looked sad and had fewer toys even by giving up their own. This is different from simply sharing equal numbers of stickers with peers regardless of each one’s personal circumstance.

The point is that children could show emotional empathy early on, but as they develop “perspective-taking ability,” they tend to show higher levels of sympathy. Perspective-taking ability means knowing that others can have desire, knowledge and emotion that are different from their own and that those come from their point of view.

For example, a child who wants to play baseball would understand that his friend has a different desire — perhaps to play football. Or that another friend who is smiling in front of his parents is, in fact, hiding his disappointment because he did not get the birthday gift he really wanted.

In this regard, a recent review study that summarized the findings of 76 studies conducted during the last four decades from 12 different countries came up with the following findings.

The study looked at a total of 6,432 children aged between two and 12 years to find out how children’s perspective-taking abilities and prosocial behavior were related to each other. Results revealed that children with higher ability to take another person’s point of view showed more prosocial behaviors, such as comforting, helping and sharing.

Furthermore, when they compared preschool-aged children between two and five years of age versus children aged six and above, they found that this relationship became stronger as children got older.

As children are increasingly able to use contextual information they become more selective about when and how to help others. That is what our study showed as well: Eight-year-old children take into account the recipient information and make more selective sharing decisions guided by their sympathy.

Enhancing sympathy in children

The question is, could we encourage children to become sympathetic toward others? And could children learn the best way to help keeping in mind the unique circumstances of others?

The ability to feel concern for others is one of the key characteristics that make us human. Sympathy binds individuals together and increases cooperation among the members of the society. This has been observed in developmental research. 

For example, in a long-term study conducted with 175 children, we found that when children showed high levels of sympathy at age seven, they were better accepted by peers and shared more with others up to age nine.

So, one of the things that we can do to facilitate sympathy in young children according to developmental research is to use what is called inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning implies that parents and teachers emphasize the consequences of a child’s behavior during a social interaction. For example, when a child grabs a toy from his friend, the caregiver could ask the child,

“How would you feel if your friend took away a toy from you?”

This can encourage children to reflect on how their own actions may affect others’ thoughts and feelings. This can facilitate sympathy.

Researcher Brad Farrant, who, along with his colleagues, studied the relationship between parenting and children’s helping and caring behaviors, came up with similar findings.

Farrant studied 72 children between ages four and six. The study found that children showed more actions of helping and caring when mothers encouraged their children to see things from another child’s perspective. For example, if a child was “picked on” by another child, mothers who encouraged perspective-taking would guide their child to try and work out why the other child was picking on the child.

Telling a child he should help and share with others could be one way of teaching him how to be a good member of a society. However, thoughtfully engaging in conversations with the child about others’ needs, feelings and desires could go one step further — it could help children develop sympathy.


re: I’ve been a parent for one year, and this is what I’ve learned

almost didn't read, cause I was like. again yet another article written by white people. then I got over it and read. this is pretty comical. not that white people have no humor in my eyes:) just you know. there's a lot out there that white people write. researched a few sites for black and brown momma's. wasn't satisfied. I did learn that regardless. we are all sharing an experience and that transcends ethnicity. even though, damn some of this be like...what really? you do that? ;).

I’ve been a parent for one year, and this is what I’ve learned

All fights with your partner will now be the same fight over and over, and that fight is ‘I do more for the kid(s) than you and you don’t give me any credit’

Twins playing with blocks
 ‘I have never been as selfish as I am now, and I was hardly Mother Teresa before.’ Posed by models. Photograph: Getty Images

Last week was my twins’ first birthday, which means, as I pointedly said to anyone who brought them presents, it was also my first anniversary of being a parent. (As a good Jewish mother, I plan to turn every event in their lives into one that’s all about me. I am so looking forward to their barmitzvahs, where I will push all their friends out of the way as I run on to the dance floor screaming, “Return Of The Mack! Play it, DJ! Chooooon!”)

With only 365 days under my belt, I would not exactly call myself an expert. But given that I have got through a whole year without forgetting either (or both) of the babies on a bus, I have exceeded my own expectations. That’s the thing about parenting: as an experience, it is a nonstop revelation. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

1 It has turned me into a terrible person. Before I had kids, the deification of parents used to vaguely annoy me. You know, when people say, “As a mother, I feel things very deeply, whereas all the rest of you are heartless shitbags”, or when politicians talk about “hard-working families”, rudely excluding all the not-very-hard-working single people, as I was then.

Now that I am a parent, I am completely baffled by talk like this, because I have never been as selfish as I am now, and I was not exactly Mother Teresa before. I would happily punch a kitten in the face if it in some way benefited my kids. I would feed them giant slices of the ozone layer if someone told me it was good for their cognitive function. Anyone who suggests that having kids makes you more empathetic – as Andrea Leadsom did, to no one’s benefit this summer – is lying. Sure, I hope the planet doesn’t become a giant dumpster fire, but only because I want my kids to have somewhere nice and shady for their playmat. This does not make me a superior person: it makes me a dick. Parents are the literal worst and I honestly think they should all be banned from public office and, quite possibly, life in general.

2 All fights with your partner will now be the same fight over and over, and that fight is, “I do more for the kid(s) than you and you don’t give me any credit.” Welcome to the next 18 years of your life!

3 One of my favourite jokes from Friends (stick with me here) comes when Joey, meeting someone without a TV, asks, “What does all your furniture point at?” There is an assumption that without a child, a person’s life has no focus, nothing for their furniture to point at. I am here to tell you categorically that this is nonsense, and the only people who claim otherwise are parents who want everyone’s life to be as tediously repetitive as their own.

4 The head/heart divide is stronger than ever. When I interviewed the screenwriter Diablo Cody a few years ago, she told me that having a baby was “like having your heart outside your body”, and this is definitely true. But while my heart feels like it’s been internally rearranged, my head feels exactly the same. Maybe some people discover sudden maturity when they have kids. I, on the other hand, still find childcare more boring than, say, getting stoned on a beach by myself. But if I actually went to a beach, I would spend 70% of my time there gazing at photos of my babies on the phone (and the other 30% spangled out of my brain). Does that count as maturity?


5 Which has led me to wonder if maybe my own parents weren’t always as happy to spend time with me as I assumed. Maybe my mother didn’t want to give up every Saturday in 1989 to watch my tap dance class? Perhaps she doesn’t want to provide me with free childcare while I write this column? Nah, that’s ridiculous.

6 I realise the current trend is to suggest that it is liberating, feminist even, to talk about how tiring/hard/hellish it is to be a mother. I would like to urge caution with this. Sure, talk to any friends in exactly the same position as you, but to a woman desperately trying to get pregnant your Facebook status update about frustrating sleep patterns will sound like sadness that your house is too big.

I was in my late 30s when my babies were born, so I have seen too many friends struggle or fail to get pregnant, suffer miscarriages or stillbirths, or care for children with special needs, to ever complain about what a nightmare it is to have two healthy babies. Because that’s probably the real thing I found after a year of parenting: how absurdly lucky I feel.

Breast-Feeding: It’s Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

power to the teta. hang in there momma's. with love and solidarity. 


Breast-Feeding: It’s Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

No one really explains how hard breast-feeding can be for new mothers, but maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Generic imageISTOCK

I do not like breast-feeding.

There, I said it. I’d been feeling like I couldn’t say it until I finally blurted it out the other night in a bout of frustration. My baby was going through her first growth spurt, which meant that she was feeding around the clock. Newborns tend to feed every one-and-a-half to three hours, but when they have growth spurts, it could be about every 30 minutes or maybe even more frequently. This is called cluster feeding and it means extremely sore, chapped nipples, not getting anything else done and insanity.

My aforementioned outburst occurred at 3 a.m. a few nights ago. Just as I placed my daughter down, seemingly asleep, she woke up again and started rooting, which left me exasperated because I know for a fact that she’s getting enough milk. My husband was taken aback, but I felt relieved that I had finally said it out loud.

People who haven’t breast-fed think it’s simple, but it’s not. You actually need to go to classes and may have to meet with lactation consultants and nurses to learn how to breast-feed. Initially I thought that was a joke until I actually went to a class and realized how much information I didn’t know. Even with the information, actually trying my hand at breast-feeding came as a shock.

When you first start breast-feeding, you are advised not to introduce your baby to a bottle for at least four to six weeks to avoid nipple confusion. Translation: You are tethered to your baby 24-7 at first, and that can be lonely, even when you’re surrounded by people.

There are some ways around this, like syringe feeding, which I had to allow the hubby to do when I had a dental emergency and baby girl was just a few days old, but that’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card because the more your baby nurses from the breast, the better your milk supply.

As much as I love my daughter, I need to breathe every now and then, and in these first three weeks of breast-feeding, I have felt suffocated, which I wasn’t prepared for. Not even the classes will inform you about this feeling (but other moms felt my pain), and once you leave the hospital, you’re on your own, which can be overwhelming. 

Baby and I are both still getting the hang of it, and I am in the process of trying to find a lactation consultant I actually like (that is another topic altogether), so hopefully better days are ahead. However, I need to be honest because when it comes to new motherhood, I’m learning fast that some truths are concealed.

As #blackbreastfeedingweek comes to an end, I’m inspired to keep pushing because the pictures on Instagram are definitely #breastfeedinggoals. Here’s to pushing through one day and one breast-feeding at a time.

Starrene Rhett Rocque is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelance writer who often fantasizes about becoming a shotgun-toting, B movie heroine. Follow her on Twitter.


Why parents are getting angrier: ‘Children are bored out of their skulls with real life’

Why parents are getting angrier: ‘Children are bored out of their skulls with real life’

Mike Fisher shows parents how to deal with their rage. He’s busier than ever – partly because children would rather be on social media or gaming
Mike Fisher, an anger-management specialist who runs courses for parents.
 Mike Fisher, an anger-management specialist who runs courses for parents. Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris for the Guardian

“It’s hard to know the difference between parenting and bullying,” admits Matt, father of two and one of a growing number of parents seeking help to control what they see as unacceptable levels of anger towards their children. Matt is an articulate and successful self-employed businessman in his 40s. After he split up from their mother five years ago, his two sons, then 11 and 14, started to act up by answering back, skipping homework, drinking and taking drugs. It marked the start of a phase of intense anger for Matt, who eventually sought help.

“I have on a few occasions grabbed my eldest son by the scruff of his neck and shouted in his face. I couldn’t understand why they don’t do what I want them to do. Even now they make me question my skills as a parent.”

He’s not alone.

Over two decades, Mike Fisher has seen first-hand the effect of anger on children and their parents. Since setting up the British Association of Anger Managementin 1999, he has worked with tens of thousands of people, helping them to manage and understand their anger. For the past 13 years he has also delivered one-day workshops specifically aimed at parental anger, for Ealing council in west London. The course is always heavily oversubscribed.

“We always have to turn people away and put them on a waiting list for the next one,” says Kate Subanney, Ealing’s parent commissioner, whose idea it was to get Mike involved.

The parents she sends his way have all been referred to her by social services, the NHS, police, or solicitors, but Mike is quick to dispel any assumption that they come from one demographic. “I’d say at least 20% are middle-class parents and are particularly well-educated and affluent. Yet social services are involved. It really is across the board.”

Children are bored out of their skulls by real life. Meaning they are becoming less and less cooperative

What is the atmosphere like at the beginning of his courses? “The parents are often apprehensive, scared, and suspicious. They feel like failures. We all assume that other parents are better than us, they are more equipped. But when people come to these courses, and they start hearing each other’s stories, they realise we’re all challenged with the same things.”

The parents are there because the stakes are high: unless they work on their anger, their children could be taken away. Or they have to learn how to control their anger before they are allowed to see their children at all. I imagine, in this context, that Mike has heard some shocking things. “We don’t go into what goes on behind closed doors. We only get a tenth of the story, if we’re lucky,” he says.

There is a taboo attached to parental anger – when Ealing council advertised Mike’s courses as Anger Management for Parents, hardly anyone showed up. “There is too much shame. We had to rename it Understanding Anger in Parents,” says Mike.

But we know anger is there. With depressing regularity, angry parents pushed to their limits make the news. But, as Mike says, non-fatal episodes of anger cause long-term damage too. According to him, anger is the number one threat to not just our health but also the wellbeing of the 18.7 million families in Britain. Does he think the problem is getting worse? Are we getting angrier?


But why?

It’s hard for British parents to own up to their own feelings ... we resort instead to shaming and blaming the child

“The most common theme in my parenting classes is that the biggest trigger for anger is children’s lack of co-operation,” Mike says. “But we’re living in a world of information overload. Children have access to incredible information, such as social media and apps. It’s instant gratification and just another distraction from being present. That can have a catastrophic effect on children. They are consumed by social media and games, staying up later and becoming preoccupied. They are bored out of their skulls by real life. Meaning they are becoming less and less cooperative. And parents are getting angrier about it every year.”


Part of the reason that parents get so angry is lack of emotional articulacy. “It is hard for British parents to own up to their own feelings. There’s a lack of education around it. So I don’t have parents actually telling a child that they feel angry or scared or vulnerable. When we’re running late, tired or stressed, instead of telling our children how we feel, we resort instead to shaming and blaming the child.”

So parents are guilty of projecting their own stresses on to their children? “Exactly. And we’re living in a world getting more stressful all the time. There’s no opportunity for peace and quiet because of the nature of our lifestyles and environments. If we don’t know how to manage it, it all gets projected. People dump on their children all the time.”

Despite the explosion of online emotional sharing, Mike thinks that fundamentally, the British stiff upper lip remains embedded in our psyche. “We hold on to our resentment, we hold on to our anger – we see the inside and just act it out.”

Is parenting idealised to the point that people are doomed to fail and then get furious about it? “As a culture, there is something about doing things well that we really value. It feeds our confidence or self-esteem, so we strive for perfection. When we don’t achieve that we blame our children.”

He makes it clear that once people become parents, they are unwittingly drawn into an invisible, tangled web of competition with not just their partner but also their peer group and their own past. “One of the reasons parents put themselves under too much pressure is because of the way they were brought up. Either they don’t want to parent their children the way they were, so they overextend themselves and over-compensate. Or their parents were brilliant and people try to match that, which can be competitive too.”

Plus, there’s another strain on parents’ stretched resources. Mike asks me to imagine that we are married with a child. “Let’s say that you seek perfection in your parenting. And I’m a relaxed parent. Think about the pressure you’re putting me under.


“As kids get older, parents might find that they are better or worse equipped to deal with their children. For example, I might be better equipped to handle them when they are babies, but you might be better when they are teenagers. The combative nature of that imbalance affects the health of the family system. Not to mention competing against our peers.”

Mike is careful not to demonise people who get angry with their children. “I feel honoured to be working with them. And you have to remember, when people are angry they just care too much. They’re deeply sensitive, and they get frustrated. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met have been my clients.”

The problem is, being nice doesn’t seem to be enough of a safeguard when it comes to our children.

For more information, go to

Angry? Try some of Mike’s techniques

1. Try to cue your child in when you’re feeling angry. Communicate your vulnerabilities to them, let them know what’s going on with you. That’s what I call clean anger, and it’s much easier to understand.

2. If you do get angry, apologise. So many parents don’t, yet they expect their own children to. Try to let them know what happened and why.

3. Listen to your children – you don’t always know better. Perhaps they do have a point. Perhaps they don’t need to do what you want, immediately.

4. Use an anger journal – it’s a way of letting the anger have a space so you don’t have to carry it all the time.

5. Get support. Reach out to your friends, other parents, people who can help. Don’t try to do it on your own. Isolation can make things worse.

re: I can’t wait for my kid to go back to school: Rising child care costs make summer a killer

oh oh I know. how about we destroy capitalism instead of passifying the public with poorly adhesive bandaids. I don't need your cookie crumbs deduction. I need a functioning society that doesn't penalize the poor, oh sorry "low-income"
keep your American dreams. Ive been done with you. 
"No matter who wins the election, affordable child care makes sense for so many reasons, as the EPI points out. “American productivity would improve with a better-educated and healthier future workforce,” and “inequality would be immediately reduced.” Blair adds that more money in consumers’ pockets could also help our economy. “In the current economic climate, you would certainly get a boost to the economy from extra disposable income available to these families.”

I can’t wait for my kid to go back to school: Rising child care costs make summer a killer

The U.S. is the third-most expensive in terms of child care out of 34 countries after adjusting for gov. support




I can’t wait for my kid to go back to school: Rising child care costs make summer a killer(Credit: Daniel Hurst)

This piece originally appeared on


I used to love the long days of summer — hanging on the stoop, taking trips to the pool, enjoying a drink on an outdoor terrace. Then we had a child.

I still like summer, but now it’s a time to tighten the belt — no more terraces — and watch my disposable income plummet. While we’ve broken free from the year-round costs of child care since school started, the sting of summer still hurts. While we work, someone needs to look after our daughter, so off she goes to day camp.

With 10 weeks out of school, summer is a killer, especially in New York City, where we live. With few low-cost camp options available, we are forced to suck it up and fork it out. On average, day camp costs about $314 a week, according to the American Camp Association, but we pay almost twice that. I’m not talking about anything fancy either; it’s sprinklers at the park, drawing and dancing for the most part.

For so many working parents, it’s tough to watch such a high percentage of earnings hemorrhage away, although we can take advantage of the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

It’s no wonder parents who can, opt to stay at home with their children. But dropping out of the workforce has long-term impacts on earnings, which the Center for American Progress (CAP) estimates will result in $467,000 on average in lost income, retirement and other benefits over a lifetime. (They assume a 26-year-old woman who drops out for five years of her career). For men the figure is $596,000, due to their higher incomes. CAP has a handy calculator where parents can plug in their own details to help figure out how much income they will lose by staying home.

The United States is the third-most expensive in terms of child care out of 34 countries after adjusting for government support, according to a Bloomberg analysis of data by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In parts of the country, families spend more on child care than they do on rent — included in that number: babysitting, nannies and out-of-home day care centers — according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

The situation is especially dire for minimum-wage workers, whose average child care costs eat up at least 30 percent of their earnings in every state. To be considered “affordable,” child care should account for no more than 10 percent of a family’s budget, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But for the most part only upper-income families fit into that category.

Citing Bureau of Labor statistics, Bloomberg reports that nationally, the costs of child care and nursery school have risen 168 percent since 1990. By comparison, total consumer prices have increased 76 percent over the same time period.

Clinton and Trump plans

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have announced plans to help families pay for the rising cost of child care.

Under Hillary Clinton’s plan, families would not pay more than 10 percent of their income in child care costs, which would be financed through government subsidies and various forms of tax relief, but specific details have not yet been released.

“This is something that seems to take into account the actual scale of the affordability problem and targets the families that need help with child care,” Hunter Blair, EPI’s budget analyst, said of Clinton’s plan. That 10-percent cap would lead to savings ranging from $350 in Mississippi on the low end to around $8,300 in savings in Massachusetts on the high end, Blair says.

For his part, Donald Trump announced earlier this month he would allow families to “fully deduct” the “average care costs in state of residence for age of child.” The deduction would be “above the line,” meaning it would be deducted from a person’s income before calculating adjusted gross income.

“The problem with deductions is that it won’t help any of the low-income households that don’t have taxable income,” Blair says. About 45 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax.

To address this, the Trump campaign told CNN that “the plan also allows parents to exclude child care expenses from half of their payroll taxes.” The benefit would therefore equal 7.65 percent of the amount deducted (6.2 percent for Social Security, 1.45 percent for Medicare).

Blair says the plan “doesn’t deal with the problem that the value of tax deduction increases as you get into higher and higher tax brackets.”

For a low-income family who does not pay federal income taxes, the value of Trump’s plan is $76.50 for every $1,000 of child care costs deducted. For a taxpayer in a higher-income tax bracket, say the 35-percent tax bracket, the value of that $1,000 deduction on their income taxes is $350, although it could be higher depending on whether the Trump plan allows them to take advantage of the payroll reduction as well.

Since it pays out more money to people with higher incomes, Trump’s plan is “not targeted at the people who actually need help affording child care,” Blair says.

No matter who wins the election, affordable child care makes sense for so many reasons, as the EPI points out. “American productivity would improve with a better-educated and healthier future workforce,” and “inequality would be immediately reduced.” Blair adds that more money in consumers’ pockets could also help our economy. “In the current economic climate, you would certainly get a boost to the economy from extra disposable income available to these families.”

The EPI says that the only thing that is missing is the “political will to provide these resources to all American families.” Let’s hope that changes, because I’m ready to love summer again.




Let’s co-sleep on it: How I became the mom I swore I’d never be

whaaa wha whaaaaat? :)
never say never I guess.

Let’s co-sleep on it: How I became the mom I swore I’d never be

That will never be me, my former self claimed — and then we had kids who wanted to sleep in our bed




Let's co-sleep on it: How I became the mom I swore I'd never be(Credit: Milan Marjanovic via iStock)

My son’s tufted hair lies against the back of my neck. We are squeezed onto the same pillow. My pillow. In my bed. Sometime during the night he awoke or sleepwalked from his single frame bed to my bed down the hall. My husband, I notice, is squished to the edge of the mattress again. He will wake in the morning feeling unrested, but will kiss our son on top of the head before he leaves regardless. My son’s legs have divided our bed into quadrants: my husband and I each allotted a quarter of the sleep real estate with my son receiving an ample finder’s fee of 50 percent. He comes to our bed every night between 2 and 5 a.m., hungry for land like a developer stalking pristine woods; every night our bed is a new, or at least a familiar and persistent, conquest. Look at all of that unspoiled space between Mommy and Daddy! I’m rich, I tells ya!

I feel it imperative to note that my son is not a toddler. He is not new to sleeping alone in his bed. His toes reach to my knees while he sleeps between us. He is 8 years old.

Before I had children of my own, I knew of the co-sleeping model, but dismissed it as hippie nonsense when, while working at a literacy clinic, I discovered that one of my clients still slept with his mother at age 11. This particular case was extreme. In the parent questionnaire, the mom wrote that her son had anxiety and sleeping problems so she had slept with him since he was a baby. She was still married to the boy’s father and they had other children. She chose to sleep with her 11-year-old in his single bed. That’s nuts, I thought. How is she helping this child? How is she fostering a sense of independence? How, I wondered, is she still married? That will never be me, thought my 27-year-old sanctimonious self. I liked my bed all by myself. Until I got married, but even then, some me time alone in the bed with the temperature cold enough to pull blankets up to my chin, and the fan or air conditioner stifling the ambient noise with a steady brrrrrrrrr, was a delicious indulgence.

Once my husband and I had our first child, our daughter — a fiercely independent girl of 11 now — I booted all of my concerns and judgments about co-sleeping right out of my queen-sized bed. When I brought home my seven-pound bundle of soft skin and fuzzy hair, I tried putting her in the co-sleeper — a rickety bassinet that attached with Velcro to the box springs and mattress of our adjoining bed — but she cried, and I cried, and no one got any rest. Within two days of bringing home my new baby, I had ensconced her between me and my husband, wound tight enough for security in a receiving blanket. This, I rationalized, would allow me to feed her during the night without having to stretch the long way over the co-sleeper. This, I rationalized, would make the feeding more efficient. She would feel satisfied and settle quicker. This would give us that skin-to-skin contact that my lactation consultant kept going on about, so needed for bonding, milk letdown and more intuitive nursing.

Eventually, we gave the co-sleeper back to the couple who had lent it to us. My daughter was sleeping with us every night. Sadly, however, the intuitive nursing wasn’t happening. By the sixth week, we were both in tears trying to nurse, to eke out enough nourishment before turning to formula. But even after making the decision to stop nursing, my husband and I held fast to the decision to co-sleep. By then, we felt we could best protect our fragile girl with both of our bodies surrounding hers. So much for hippie nonsense.

Two weeks before my daughter’s third birthday, I delivered our second child, our son. In order to prepare for his arrival, we began weaning our daughter out of our bed. I’m not sure any of us were ready for this abrupt change, but for the safety of our newborn, we knew it was the right thing to do. At first, we walked our daughter back to her bed when she came during the night. We also laid down a Tinker Bell sleeping bag for her if she awoke and wanted to be near us. But mostly, we relented and allowed her into our bed to sleep between us. She was very concerned about her brother’s safety and gently arched away from him or kept several inches of distance from him in her sleep. I took great efforts to hold the baby in the crook of my arm until that arm fell asleep, and then I woke my husband for a turn. These nights hummed along without fuss, without drama, but with many a stiff neck until both children began elementary school.

Somewhere around my daughter’s third grade year and my son’s kindergarten year, we began reading family books at bedtime instead of reading individually to the children. By far our favorite read-aloud series was “Harry Potter.” Every night we gathered in my son’s room and my husband and I took turns reading Harry’s adventures while our son nestled beside whomever was reading in his long, blue bed. Our daughter listened as she reclined against her shaggy bedrest pillow on the rug. Family reading time is just another example of how my husband and I clung to our children at bedtime, despite our protests of wanting them out of our beds. We have been terribly inconsistent. Every night after reading a chapter, delving further into J. K. Rowling’s imagination, my husband rested with one child and I with the other. We finally finished the books this past fall and celebrated with a trip to Orlando to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where the kids slept in their own beds, in their own room … until our son traipsed across the condo and into our sheets. I’d love to tell you that once we finished “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” both children slept in their own beds, but in reality we picked up “The Hobbit” and our son still encroaches the space between me and my husband.

My own childhood bedtime experiences were nothing like what we have created with our children. Granted, I was born in the late 1960s when mothers were dissuaded from breastfeeding by their doctors. My mother was a lovely woman and a caring parent, but I cannot imagine her wanting the effort, mess and physicality of breastfeeding. Same goes for co-sleeping. Despite being born during the Summer of Love, I was not raised with newfangled, hippie notions of bonding. If Dr. Spock didn’t say sleep in the same bed as your child, it didn’t happen for me. According to my three siblings, I awoke regularly in the middle of the night crying for my mother from my barred crib. I remember her coming to me tired and angry a few times, but most nights I cried it out, just like Richard Ferber would recommend in 1985.

When my daughter was an infant, I admit we tried to Ferberize her. We rocked her to recorded lullabies, then gently lowered her into her crib while leaving the music playing. We left a night light on and, from the advice we read on various parenting websites, we slowly backed out of the room, sometimes so incrementally that only a time lapse camera could capture the movement. Once we exited the room and held our breath on the other side of her door, she started wailing and we crumpled, our willpower destroyed, our baby in our arms yet again.

By the time our daughter entered third grade, my husband was frustrated with the sleeping arrangements. He never felt rested and always woke up hanging off the side of the bed. We tried goal charts and bribes with my daughter to break her from coming to our bed. We asked her to sleep at the foot of the bed if she was determined to stay, hoping her discomfort would drive her back to her bedroom. Some nights I had an eerie feeling that someone was watching me while I slept. I would inch my eyes open and find my daughter standing next to my side of the bed, silent, watching. She never just climbed in bed, like her brother. She needed me to approve. Usually I was so dang tired that I said, “Okay, just this once,” for the fortieth time, and she’d take her place at the foot of the bed.

Honestly, I’m not sure what changed for her. I doubt it was anything either my husband or I consciously stated or enacted. Maybe she just matured and decided she didn’t need us anymore. I suspect sleepovers with friends helped prove to her that sleeping didn’t require parental guidance. I’m pleased to say that I do not have an 11-year-old sleeping in my bed, nor do I sleep in hers. Take that, mom from my past who eschewed her marital bed to enable her son’s insecurity. I’m not you!

Except that I am.

My son shows no signs of leaving our bed anytime soon. With my daughter now in middle school, I feel torn about this. My son is our baby. He’s the last child and he’s snuggly and warm and sweet. I love turning over in the morning and finding him resting beside me, his face flushed with healthy sleep, his spindly long lashes brushing his still-round cheeks. And sometimes, he’ll catch me staring at his lovely face, eyes slowly, just barely opening, and he’ll say, “Good morning, Mommy,” and whisper a kiss. I know I can’t hold onto these mornings in my quadrant of mattress forever. I know I’m near the end of this tender time with my children. I want them both to be independent, both in life and in sleep, but I selfishly still want to be needed and loved and whisper-kissed with morning breath across my pillow.

Eleven is still three years away for my son. We will practice walking him back to his room and into his own bed. We will try a goal sheet with bribes and stickers. And in the ensuing days, I must admit I will savor my tiny mattress quadrant, pressed neck-to-breath against my growing child.

re: French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban

bullshit. continue to justify a police state and you get a world like this. this act of police terror and control is unacceptable and it must stop period
fear continues to be the excuse to oppress womyn since the beginning of humankind. it is the oldest oppression. 
it is the first excuse to devalue degrade destruct a civilization. and when protect, we are seen as a problem challenging societal norms. 
morals? use your brain. 4 armed police surrounding a womyn in a burkini or any purpose reason for that matter has no position in a dialogue for just morals. 
they keep manipulating and controlling the narrative so we are faced with debating the wrong argument. your premise is flawed. 
continue to think critically and act accordingly my people. time has beyond come when systems believe they are god jurors and executioner's.

"Her ticket, seen by French news agency AFP, read that she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism”.

The woman was on the beach when the police arrived.
The woman was on the beach when the police arrived. Photograph:
“I was sitting on a beach with my family,” said the 34-year-old who gave only her first name, Siam. “I was wearing a classic headscarf. I had no intention of swimming.”

A witness to the scene, Mathilde Cousin, confirmed the incident. “The saddest thing was that people were shouting ‘go home’, some were applauding the police,” she said. “Her daughter was crying.”

re: How to stop wasting women’s talents: overcome our fixation with youth

well said. minus the promotion of capitalism and governmental reform. we should be careful not to further this dichotomy and furthering this narrative of our youth vs our elders. It's even more the reason to continue to prefigure a new society. this world is done. time for a new long long time ago.

"Our approach to this thorny issue is full of contradictions. We want people to work for longer, yet we write them off at an increasingly young age. We want women to be equal yet we continue to implement policies that stop that. We want to encourage new ideas but we dismiss many of those who have them.

I know I have been very lucky. I shall be publishing my first book on my time as chair of the public accounts committee next month, just after my 72nd birthday. I am planning a second book, on immigration. But I want my luck to become the norm, so that what I managed to achieve becomes available to others. If life is a marathon, then none of us should have to damage our lives today because we are made to think there is no tomorrow."

How to stop wasting women’s talents: overcome our fixation with youth

For women trying to balance family with work, a career is a marathon not a sprint. In a world that sees no value in maturity or experience, it’s an uphill battle

Illustration by Sébastien Thibault
 Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

Iwas 65 when I became chair of a powerful House of Commons committee, arguably a peak in my political career. I continue to do my job as the MP for Barking in my 70s, and I have just taken on honorary academic positions at two leading universities.

Other women are doing even better. Look at Theresa May and Angela Merkel, both women enjoying top jobs in politics at around 60. Or Hillary Clinton, who, if she succeeds Barack Obama as president of the United States, will take the oath of office aged 69. Nancy Pelosi is the leader of the US Democrats in the House of Representatives at the age of 76.

Similar stories can be told about women pursuing other careers. Daphne Selfe, at the age of 88, is the world’s oldest supermodel. She gave up modelling in 1954 when she married and had her children, but she returned to the job after her husband died, in 1997, and now regularly appears in Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar. Think of successful actors such as Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith or Mary Berry, whose Great British Bake Off starts this week.

And, of course, there are the men. We still enjoy the performances of Leonard Cohen and the Rolling Stones. We tolerate the Today presenter John Humphrys. And we marvel at David Attenborough, now aged 90.

My own experience, and those of others, demonstrates to me that life – particularly working life – is a marathon, not a sprint. That is really important, especially for women. It is we who tend to bear the brunt of the responsibilities of caring for children or elderly relatives. Even though fathers are more hands-on today, who buys the shoes and makes the dental appointments? And as the Institute for Fiscal Studies report this week shows, the gender pay gap balloons after women have children.

Many of us choose to be mothers or carers, but we also want to succeed in our jobs. Yet in a society that promotes the cult of youth, that is hard. In so many fields of work, people are always on the lookout for the next generation of talent, the emerging youthful stars, the new and ever younger people whom they want to place on the top of a pedestal.


So people who want to succeed in their paid jobs feel that they can’t take time out for other things. The obsession with youth means too many believe that if they haven’t made it in their career by the time they are 35, they have failed.

Nothing could be further from the truth. At a time when we are living longer than ever, we are being written off earlier. Of course we should promote young flair and new ideas but we should also value experience – and delight in talent and innovation at all ages.

The cult of youth must be matched by a celebration of the continuing energy and contribution of others. Mhairi Black, the SNP MP who gave a barnstorming maiden speech last year when she was only 20, has as much to offer as Marie Rimmer, the Labour MP for St Helens South and Whiston, who joined parliament in the same year at the age of 69 after a successful career in local government.

And we should stop putting pressure on people to race to the top before a hint of a grey hair appears on their heads. This pressure makes young people feel they must decide on their career choices too quickly, and then stick to them. At a time when people are likely to work for longer, they are being compelled to decide their future jobs at an ever younger age, and in doing so they are narrowing their options and limiting their opportunities.

For women, the societal pressures are particularly tough. The time when we tend to have our children coincides with the point when society tells us we should be climbing towards the top of the career ladder. What should be the very best years of our lives rapidly become the hardest as we struggle to marry two important ambitions and feel guilt about not fulfilling either role properly. Yet if life is a marathon, why can’t you coast in your paid job for a few years, while your children are young, and return to the competitive fray when they become more independent? Those few years out of the race do not diminish your ability to contribute or succeed later, when you are a little older.

I chose not to try for a seat in parliament until I was 50, when the youngest of my four children was 13. I certainly got to parliament later than my contemporaries, such as Jack Straw and David Blunkett. And when my husband fell ill with cancer I took a year’s compassionate leave from my job as arts minister. Coming back after that year was hard because I had lost Henry, but resettling into work helped me through that period of grief. Indeed, I feel that both the time spent parenting and the time spent caring influenced – and improved – my approach to my job. I was more focused, more balanced and more appreciative of others.

I don’t want to be critical of women who drive forward their careers at the same time as caring for children or relatives. We need to do all we can in terms of childcare and flexible working to make that possible. And there are many who don’t have children, for whom developing their careers is the primary focus. But choice matters. Those who choose to spend some years more focused on their children or elderly relatives should not be shut out of advancement in their careers a little later, simply because of society’s fixation with youth.


Enabling women – and men – to progress outside these parameters must not become an excuse for sidelining the battle against continuing gender discrimination in the labour market.

And if we respond to looking older by subjecting our bodies to facelifts and Botox in the hope that we can then present our youthfulness to the world, we are avoiding the problem. The fact is that healthier lifestyles and medical advances mean that we can maintain physical energy and mental alertness for longer. We have just got to stop linking an ageing appearance to a loss of physical and mental capability.

The journey I have been on will be different for others, as I am not involved in manual work. But recognising the differences should not justify ignoring the need to challenge entrenched attitudes, and to enable people to take a long view of their years in work.

As the world of work is transformed by new technology – for example, the people who currently wear themselves out stacking shelves will in the future most probably be monitoring robots doing that heavy lifting – it will become possible for people to do those manual jobs for longer.

Our approach to this thorny issue is full of contradictions. We want people to work for longer, yet we write them off at an increasingly young age. We want women to be equal yet we continue to implement policies that stop that. We want to encourage new ideas but we dismiss many of those who have them.

I know I have been very lucky. I shall be publishing my first book on my time as chair of the public accounts committee next month, just after my 72nd birthday. I am planning a second book, on immigration. But I want my luck to become the norm, so that what I managed to achieve becomes available to others. If life is a marathon, then none of us should have to damage our lives today because we are made to think there is no tomorrow.

I don’t want “mom friends”: As a new parent, I need my old friends now more than ever

word to the letter. 
"no new friends no new friends no no new"

I don’t want “mom friends”: As a new parent, I need my old friends now more than ever

They tell women to befriend other women with kids the same age — but strangers are no substitute for lasting bonds




I don't want (Credit: Dmitry Zimin via Shutterstock)

On a recent Saturday morning, I took my 14-month-old son to the park. Two other mothers, sans partners, were already in the middle of a conversation when I walked up to the swings. “August is such a pretty name,” one said, facing the other with a smile. “Thank you. We didn’t want to be too different, you know? But we didn’t want him to be like everyone else, either.” They gave each other a nod, their sons sailing through the air with the same rhythmic squeak. Part of me was envious that they seemed to actually want to participate in such small talk — and part of me was relieved that they had each other, so that I didn’t have to.


By the time I gave my son his fourth push on the swing, however, August’s mom looked over at me. “How old is he? Walking yet? Such an interesting age, right?” Over the course of the next 20 minutes, I answered her questions and returned similar ones, all while smiling politely in between. By the time my son and I returned home, I was drained. More than that, I felt lonelier than I had before I had left my apartment.

It’s safe to say that I’m not the target audience for mommy groups, mommy meetups, mommy blogs, mommy conversation. Don’t get me wrong. I understand their function. Especially in the first six months of first-time parenthood, there’s a need to consult, commiserate, do anything to ease the near-mental breakdown after having no sleep and attending to the 24/7 care and feeding of a helpless human. A person cannot prepare for the exhaustion and stress and no one else really understands other than a fellow parent.

But for me, a lot of this mom-confabbing became more about feeding new-parent anxiety than quelling it. If I ever wanted to have some sense of normalcy or free time again, I had to stop searching blogs about whether my son was taking in enough breast milk or checking in with a mom friend whose kid was developmentally leaps and bounds ahead of mine. For all practical purposes, my life needed to move away from neurosis and fear and toward finding a space to incorporate my other identities that I had long adored and missed — as partner, writer, editor and friend.

I have learned to juggle these roles somewhat so that every once in awhile I get a waft of fulfillment and no one gets totally pissed at me. But there are other days when I have an urge to say, “Fuck all this” and run.

Not to the bar like I did in my 20s (my hangovers are too atrocious these days). Not to my parents’ house like I did even through my 30s (though their fridge is still better stocked than mine) but to my best girlfriend’s apartment, the way I would when I was 22 or 31, before I owed anything to anyone outside myself and my friends. When I could text, “I’m outside your door,” stumble in, land in her lap and dissect the actions of some flakey dude I was dating in one breath and Lindsay Lohan’s sex list in another, and then watch “Six Feet Under” in silence over a pint of chocolate chocolate chip.

See, I’m not looking for any new friends now that I’m a mom. I just need my old ones more than ever.


If I could describe motherhood in one word, it would be overwhelming. In two, I’d say lonely. Or rather a consuming, intense love and ferocity to protect not just my child, but abstractly, all children, which is kinda cool.

But back to the lonely part. When someone goes through a major life-altering event, their friends will often adhere to accepted social mores, however unintuitive they may be. Like sending condolence texts when someone loses a loved one, or bringing food after the arrival of a first baby. But as time passes, the gestures taper off. People forget. I may have been relieved that my kid was crying less and sleeping more at 5 months, but every month that followed turned into a pile of evidence that I was never going to live in the same breathable, choice-directed space that I had spent most of my 38 years. Even though I was not the first person ever to raise a baby, and even though I’m very fortunate to have a supportive partner, and even though I do have friends who happen to be moms whom I can talk to about mom stuff, adding defending a defenseless being to an already crowded plate of duties left me with a sensation of drowning. Not gasping-for-air drowning but feeling like I’m a tiny dot in an ocean of nothingness and if I think too hard about how solitary I am out here, I will panic and sink.

“Motherhood is a deeply personal and isolating thing, and people don’t talk about the most difficult parts about it,” said Stephanie Sprenger, co-author of the book “The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendshipand the blog Mommy, for Real. “Even if you have someone you’re going to stroller exercise class with, you may not be talking about the really difficult emotional components. So even if you’re not socially isolated, motherhood can be a very emotionally isolating experience.”

Which is why it’s kind of strange that contemporary American parenting culture places so much emphasis on moms’ finding mom friends — incorporating equally tired strangers into an already hectic life to then make polite chitchat with during a time when a woman can barely remember how to communicate her basic needs. But hey, maybe that pal from the Golly Gee Gator singalong will want to talk about the sinking abyss in her anxiety-riddled gut too? Maybe?

In the mommy blog canon, there are endless posts about “speed dating for mom friends,” “the Tinder for mom friends,” “Facebook groups for mom friends in your area,” and numerous, numerous how-tos about ways to hunting down mom friends. (Hint: Go the nearest park.) But few to none discuss the upside of longtime friends or childless friends or plain ol’ friends. Again, I get it: For stay-at-home parents especially, there is a legitimate need for companionship and adult conversation, even if it has to be about a baby — plus it’s nice to have someone who understands what a mother’s daily life is like.

But these new acquaintances who talk about latching and teething aren’t meeting the same needs that an old friend who deeply cares would. This is a surface relationship (which is great because there is a purpose for those, too).  But when blogs talk about making connections by chatting up another pregnant women in the OB waiting room, this is surface stuff. Society needs to acknowledge that new parents still desire emotional support from people who already love them, from people who have the energy to give it.

Sprenger said mom friends fulfill “a need for validation, a need to feel less alone in your circumstances,” but new parents still have a “craving for that deeper connection for the people that make you feel like yourself.” Of the mom friends she made after her children were born, maybe only one of them stuck, she said.

“Motherhood devoured so much of my identity that I needed my close friends to remind me who I was, because I was exhausted and making food to feed another person with my body,” Sprenger said. “When you’re reduced to a string of minutia, you need to remember that you’re a human being who existed before your children’s birth, that you used to do things. I feel like that my closest friendships are crucial ties that keep me grounded as who I am as a person.”


Science backs up this physical and psychological need that women have for intimate friendships: In a UCLA study, researchers found that reaching out to others is a biological response and a natural stress reliever for women, as they release the calm-inducing hormone oxytocin when they seek out and engage with fellow ladyfolk. And a 2006 study of nurses with breast cancer found that women with close friends were four times as likely to outlive those without a social circle. Friendships can even alleviate the chances of someone catching the common cold — because, again, less stress.


Many would guess that during intense life transitions like new parenthood, a person’s biggest emotional support should be a romantic partner. But what no one will admit is that this is inherently impossible in those fraught new-parent years. My husband is a wonderful man, full of patience and compassion, but he and I are deep in this same war together, trying to get through the endless responsibilities of the day without driving each other crazy. We can be each other’s best practical support, but not each other’s best refuge. Not now, not yet.

Friends provide a healthy escape that child-rearing partners cannot. When I meet a friend for dinner, we talk about the latest Netflix show, dumb celebrity bullshit, the summer stench of New York City and our futile attempts to stamp out the patriarchy. I remember that I’m funny sometimes, that I have opinions about things other than what my son should eat for lunch. It is with my closest friends that I feel like the self I most enjoy.

But while I’m gabbing and swigging, sometimes I’m forgetting about the flip side to this need to be filled back up: I also need to unload the sadness and grief that is burrowing in my same-but-different person. It is essential for my health, for my survival, that I fall apart.


The unfortunate paradox of wanting to turn to friends during times of stress is that stress is one of the biggest tests of friendships. I may yearn for them, but it doesn’t always mean my old friends are super into me, Jessica, preoccupied mother and sometimes a downer. Most understand I’m going to be MIA, that there’s an undercurrent of zombie about me; others probably wish I was more present even when I am physically in front of them. But if I’m being really honest, in the few friendships that have taken a hit, the holes were already there.

One of my closest friends started to noticeably pull away when I was pregnant — to the point where our interactions resembled the forced kind you have with an acquaintance whose feelings you don’t want to hurt by turning down an invitation for coffee. When I approached her about the awkwardness, she told me that she had been through some stuff, too, and I felt guilty and awful that I hadn’t been there for her. And when I said I wanted to make it up to her, she told me that it was cool. “We’re just on different paths now.”

My path to motherhood and hers to not-yet motherhood wasn’t the direct cause of our rift, though. Instead it was instead likely the nail in our friendship coffin that was already covered in smaller nails that I’d failed to notice. The little nail when she ghosted a long-planned date, the little nail when I was five days late returning a voicemail message. Add to that, one party suddenly being devoured by a screaming baby, and the work needing to be put into a friendship, from both ends, might not seem worth it.

But this is #notallchildlessfriends. Being a mom or not being a mom is not the best signifier when it comes to which friends are all-weather, which friends can hear each other and which friends will put in the effort to stick things out. If anything, becoming a mom is like all major life transitions that require some major inventory-taking: When people are in the depths of undergoing great change and feeling self-conscious about falling into such depths, they’re forced to figure out which friends they can still really connect with.

I asked the friend I see the most, my BFF whom I often turn to for those nights of goofy, stimulating conversation (who also happens to be kid-free) if I’ve become a shittier pal and how I could be better. I expected her to say that I wasn’t around as much, but I didn’t expect her to say this: She was hurt that I hadn’t taken her up on her multiple offers to watch my kid. She knew how stressed out I was and thought, because of my rejection, I didn’t trust her.

Oh boy, was that ironic. There was nothing I wanted more than to have someone unload my burden, but I’d assumed her offers came from politeness. During our nights out, I barely touched upon my feelings of drowning, how desperate I was to break down. I didn’t want to be the boring mom friend who complained too much. I wanted to be the adult who got herself into this mess and would handle it alone. But the one thing I needed, the one thing I was afraid to show — that I needed a space to fall apart because I could not do it all — had put a silent wedge in our friendship, and it was the thing she was willing to give.

“To survive friendships, you’re gonna have to have these difficult conversations,” Sprenger said. “‘I’m self-conscious about what motherhood has done to me, or you’re not calling me because you’re assuming I’m too busy.’ Women, in our romantic relationships, many of us will belabor all the insignificant tiny points with our significant others, but we don’t do that with our friends because it’s uncomfortable.”

It seems that what I wanted and what my BFF wanted were basically the same thing: the unwavering, gushy, messy part of friendship that exposes all of our greens and grays — not just the catching-up over drinks or random texts.

Women can forget that our friends can be a safe haven for our vulnerability. We just have to be willing to go there. In those younger years of perusing sex lists over Häagen Daaz, we were a little less concerned with boundaries and looking like we had everything under control. We could say, “Girl, you hurt the shit out my feelings,” or rub each other’s backs in comfort without uttering a word. As unwillingly responsible adults, though, we’ve become so busy with life. We try to coast where we think we can. But all relationships take work, even friendships.

I told my friend that I had no idea that she felt that way. I had taken for granted that her feelings mattered, too. She responded immediately: “Let the village help you raise your child. Fall apart. Nap. Drink. Dance. Love your life, because it’s great, even it’s stressful.”

And with that, my face was flooded. A big messy skin pool of relief, joy, perspective — and disappointment that I still can’t be all the things to all my people. Friendship was another garden, among my many gardens, that I would have to keep tending to. But only a friend who really “gets” you could evoke a release of that strength and necessity. It’s a gushing that vastly surmounts going to the mom park and talking baby names.

Jessica Machado is the lifestyle editor at the Daily Dot. Her work has been published in Elle, Vice, BuzzFeed, Bitch, Guernica, The Cut, and elsewhere. You can follow her on Twitter.

re: Happy vs. high achieving: What ought to be our parenting objective?

we are successful because we are happy. I would make that statement for myself with a beautiful loving family. 
it's interesting to read assessments made by the "privileged" they lack soul. when I was in Chiapas, Mexico way up in the autonomous lands building with the people on revolutionary happenings exchanging art spiritual ceremonies and playing basketball, we would have random conversations. one always remains. a few young people came to share with us and we ask their age, they said they were 519 years of age signifying the herstory of their ancestors before Columbus. they were extremely happy. struggling yet happy. 
"When UNICEF addressed the question of children’s happiness it looked into child well-being including health, education, housing, bullying, drugs and alcohol, obesity, and teenage fertility rates. It also asked children to assess their own satisfaction. In 2013 the Netherlands took first place, followed by its Nordic neighbors: Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden. The United States ranked 26th, sandwiched between Greece and Lithuania."

SATURDAY, AUG 13, 2016 06:30 PM EDT

Happy vs. high achieving: What ought to be our parenting objective?

Perhaps children don’t need to be told how special they are or given near constant affirmation to succeed




Happy vs. high achieving: What ought to be our parenting objective?(Credit: Champion studio via Shutterstock)

Happiness was the last thing on my mind when the Netherlands welcomed me with a cocktail of jet lag and neck pain. The jet lag subsided, but my neck still hasn’t forgiven me for seven years of straining to make eye contact with the impossibly tall Dutch. As it turned out, it was hard to avoid reflecting on happiness in the Netherlands, especially when raising a family there. Dutch kids play without parents hovering, enjoy the fresh air while being transported around by bike and every Wednesday afternoon, when schools close early, parks are filled with Dutch dads hanging out with their kids on papadag — an unpaid, weekly “daddy day.” Combined with five weeks of paid annual leave and an expectation that families are home to eat dinner together, this seemed like bliss.


Questions about the cost of this lifestyle only started a few years later when an expat father struck up a conversation at the local trampoline center. As we watched our children bounce, he readily shared his reasons for sending his children to an international school. At the top of his list was a belief that Dutch schools fail to instill ambition and don’t push students to achieve.

The question of my young children’s ambition levels had, at that point, never crossed my mind. Yet his frustration with the Dutch system made me question if producing happy kids was at the expense of ambition and achievement. What do we actually mean when we say that we just want our children to be happy?

When UNICEF addressed the question of children’s happiness it looked into child well-being including health, education, housing, bullying, drugs and alcohol, obesity, and teenage fertility rates. It also asked children to assess their own satisfaction. In 2013 the Netherlands took first place, followed by its Nordic neighbors: Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden. The United States ranked 26th, sandwiched between Greece and Lithuania.

To keep the happiness question in perspective, it’s no coincidence that UNICEF surveyed only “rich countries.” If you’re not experiencing a degree of financial stability, you’re also not spending much time thinking about happiness. That type of contemplation is a luxury firmly placed in the first world and its middle and upper classes. This is why when parents talk about happiness it’s often tied up with notions of success and achievement and the realization of individual potential. We want our children to be happy, but we want this happiness to come through a good education and a well-paying career, not through menial employment. Do we want our children to be happy or do we really want them to fulfill their potential and achieve, and through this accomplish our vision of happiness?

If we had to choose between happiness and achievement for our children, would happiness win out?

The idea that the large social security nets cast by the Netherlands and Nordic nations beneath their citizens are responsible for not only their contentment but also a degree of apathy is not new. Anu Partanen, who moved from Finland to became an American citizen, writes in “The Nordic Theory of Everything” that more than a few Americans see the Nordic countries as, “a pathetic bunch of ‘socialist nanny states,’ coddling their citizens with welfare programs,” a criticism that could also be applied to the Dutch model. There are plenty of successful Dutch companies and individuals whose accomplishments can challenge this conclusion. Yet children don’t grow up burdened by a need to pursue money or prestige. Their value, status and quality of life do not depend on it. This financial safety net doesn’t just take the pressure off children as they grow up; it also means that their parents aren’t plagued by insecurity. It’s difficult to produce happy children without happy parents.

The lack of pressure in the Netherlands to get ahead extends beyond the welfare system to the national ethos, encapsulated in the expression, “Just act normal, that’s crazy enough.” At its best, this emphasis on conformity discourages people from ostentatious displays of wealth or bragging about their, or their offspring’s, achievements.

That disdain isn’t reserved for the Dutch. It turns out that the other happiest children have their own version of this idea. The Swedes, Danes and Norwegians call it “the Law of Jante,”  a reference to the 10 commandments created in a 1933 novel. Number one on the list? “You are not to think you are anything special.”

Can it be a coincidence that the countries with the happiest children are those where both social welfare and a desire for conformity are prevalent? If a more egalitarian society is what it takes to produce happy children, is it a trade-off we’re willing to make? Even Partanen admits that, “Many a Nordic citizen gazes at America with envy, wishing his or her uniqueness could be celebrated the way it would be in the United States.” Add to this the question of whether happy children grow up to become happy adults, and perhaps we should start to ask ourselves if the focus on happiness is the right measure for a life well lived.

When the children surveyed by UNICEF were asked to rank their own happiness, focusing on relationships with their parents and friends, the Netherlands also came out on top. This was the part of the survey where Southern European countries improved their ranking while the United States remained in the bottom third. Perhaps children don’t need to be told how special they are or given near constant affirmation. What seems most important is their sense of family and community. And probably the bike riding.

Mihal Greener has written for the Huffington Post and other publications.

I’m an OB-GYN treating women with Zika: This is what it’s like

I’m an OB-GYN treating women with Zika: This is what it’s like

There is no percentage for how many pregnant women who are infected with Zika will have babies with brain problem




I’m an OB-GYN treating women with Zika: This is what it’s likeFILE - In this Jan. 18, 2016, file photo, a female Aedes aegypti mosquito acquires a blood meal on the arm of a researcher at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in the Sao Paulo's University in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The CDC is working with Florida health officials to investigate what could be the first Zika infection from a mosquito bite in the continental United States. They said Tuesday, July 19, 2016, lab tests confirm a person in the Miami area is infected with the Zika virus, and there may not be any connection to someone traveling outside the country. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)(Credit: AP)



This article was originally published on The Conversation.

As a medical student, I remember reading books about the early days of the HIV epidemic and wondering what it was like for doctors to take care of patients who had a new, unknown disease. It seemed to me like it would be frightening for both patients and doctors alike. I didn’t expect that early in my career as an OB-GYN, I would be caught in the middle of another new disease outbreak — Zika.

Most people who catch this virus feel fine. Some will end up with a fever, rash, aches and red eyes (conjuntivitis), or rarely, a serious nerve disorder called Guillain-Barre. But in pregnancy there can be very serious consequences to the baby. As of July 28, the World Health Organization reports that nearly 2,000 babies are affected with microcephaly or central nervous system malformations associated with Zika worldwide.

I teach and practice obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami Hospital and Jackson Memorial Hospital, and I treat pregnant women who have been infected with Zika — so far over a dozen women. We began preparing to care for infected women in January. Now, it is part of the daily care we provide. And with first known cases of local mosquito-borne transmission in the continental United States reported in Wynwood, a neighborhood in Miami, the risk has become even more real.

How am I, and other doctors who care for pregnant women, dealing with this new disease?

Confirming the diagnosis

When I talk to patients these days, I ask them where they or family members have traveled recently. These are questions OB-GYNs across the country may ask pregnant patients. And since I practice in Miami, I might also ask patients if they have been in Wynwood, the neighborhood where local mosquito transmission has occurred. Since Zika is primarily spread by mosquitoes, I also talk with patients about avoiding mosquito bites and using bug repellent. Sexual transmission is also possible, and we talk about that, too.

The patients I worry about the most now are those who live or work in Wynwood and those who’ve traveled to countries where Zika is more widespread, or those who show the symptoms of Zika infection. We are being vigilant for evidence of spread to other parts of the Miami area.

If I am worried that a pregnant patient has been infected with Zika, I order tests to confirm the diagnosis. The state of Florida has announced that starting next week there will be free Zika testing for all pregnant women through the Department of Health.

If a Zika infection is confirmed, we then have to talk about the risks that she is willing to accept in her pregnancy. If a patient infected with Zika is in her first or second trimester, then we can talk about staying pregnant or having an abortion.

While we think that the first trimester is the time of greatest risk, we still don’t know if there is ever a safe point in pregnancy. So how much risk is she willing to accept? What would it mean to have a sick baby in her family? How would she get support no matter what options she chooses? Those answers will be different for everyone.

And these conversations are difficult, because there is still so much we don’t know about Zika.

For instance, we don’t know how many pregnant women who are infected with Zika will have babies with brain problems — there is no perfect percentage I can give her so she can weigh her options.

One study from Brazil found that of the women who were pregnant, had symptoms of Zika and had blood tests confirming infection, a startling 29 percent of the pregnancies had some sort of issue, such as microcephaly or abnormal brain structure, for instance. But other computer modeling studies have put the risk for the general population of pregnant women who are infected in the first trimester at about 1 percent. It’s these wide ranges in outcomes that make counseling patients so difficult.

And that’s not the only unknown about Zika.

How does the virus get into the fetus? Researchers are still figuring that out. In which trimester does infection pose the highest risk? As with other infections in pregnancy, it seems that the first trimester is the most at risk, but there are still plenty of unknowns. And do complications for the fetus vary by time of infection? It is going to take time to understand all of the risks.

To answer these questions, countries are creating registries of pregnant women with Zika to gather data about what happens to their pregnancies and the babies after birth. Departments of health in each state keep anonymized data on all pregnant women with Zika. This data gets fed into the CDC’s surveillance system, the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry.

As of July 28, the CDC was monitoring over 900 pregnant women in the United States and U.S. territories with laboratory evidence of Zika infection based on blood testing. Researchers want to know if these babies have the same mental development and meet the same milestones as other infants, or if they have eye or ear problems that cannot be seen on ultrasound or immediately after birth. The CDC also reports 15 babies with birth defects from pregnancies with laboratory evidence of Zika infection and six pregnancy losses in the United States and District of Columbia, as of July 28.

Planning for birth

If a woman is in her third trimester and has been infected with Zika, at each visit we focus on planning for birth, monitoring the baby by ultrasound and reviewing the latest research together.

Since this is such a fast-moving and public epidemic, we are sharing the research with our patients to keep them involved and help them understand why it is so important to collect as much information as possible. 

We might also plan for monthly ultrasounds. It is possible that a baby that looks normal on one ultrasound may show problems on a later ultrasound. Some problems can develop over time and become obvious later. However, ultrasounds can’t detect every problem, and microcephaly isn’t the only problem Zika can cause. So, we plan her delivery at a hospital with pediatricians who know about Zika and can be prepared to care for the newborn, as well as look at the baby’s eyes and ears and in some cases do brain imaging tests after birth.

Even with planning, there are still many questions we can’t answer for our patients. For instance, if a baby is born with microcephaly, we don’t know the exact issues that the baby might have. This means the mother won’t know right away if her child will lead a normal life or will always need medical care.

A dose of humility

Physicians like me are learning about Zika along with our patients. This takes a dose of humility on our part and an understanding from our patients that we learn something new every single day.

With daily news and internet updates, patients are able to stay just as up-to-date as the doctors. I will have patients print out a news article or a research finding and bring it to their appointment, highlighted and marked up.

But this barrage of media can also lead to confusion and concern when the information is constantly changing. For this reason, it is so important to have open lines of communication with our patients and be honest about the uncertainties.The Conversation

Christine Curry is an assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Miami.



Kissing your child on the lips is perfectly acceptable

Kissing your child on the lips is perfectly acceptable

The photograph of Victoria Beckham kissing her daughter on the lips has provoked a backlash. But such intimacy is simply ordinary loving behaviour

Perfectly innocent … the image Victoria Beckham posted on Instagram with her daughter Harper.
 Perfectly innocent … the image Victoria Beckham posted on Instagram with her daughter Harper. Photograph: victoriabeckham/Instagram

Fifteen years ago, I watched my cousin play with his young daughter. I wasn’t a mother back then. They kissed each other on the lips and I remember the distinct unease that I felt. Why? It reminded me of wet, unwanted kisses from relatives, but also there was something else, something I’ll come back to later.

Just a couple of years later, I too became a parent and, just as soon as she could, my daughter kissed me – on the lips. It was natural and lovely and both my children still do this. I am ever ready for them to not want to continue this practice, but whenever I give them a kiss on the cheek, they grab me and kiss me on the lips. This is something we miss in the photo and in any debate about what’s right for children. It is often the child who calls the shots – yes, I am talking about in a healthy, loving relationship and not when that relationship is dysfunctional.

Even in comments about this yesterday, people were quoted as saying things that hinted that it was Beckham who instigated it, or needed it, or somehow thought it was best. We often miss out what the child wants, or thinks, as if a child has no opinion at all.

The underlying unease – let’s say it - is about child abuse. “It’s not a good habit to get into,” the BBC quoted someone as saying, as if simply by responding to a kiss from your child on the lips is basically instruction for them to go kiss anyone and everyone on the lips. It isn’t.

What’s not a good habit to get into is forcing your child to do something they don’t want to do (and yes, that involves kissing); or not listening to them or overriding what they want to do in simple every day ways.

It’s often the very people who will squirm at this picture who will go away and tell their children to “Say thank you” or “Say sorry” or “Kiss grandma/pa/uncle/whomever” when that children does not want to. That is a far more damaging practice.

Remember the “something else” I felt at my cousin kissing his daughter? Some people – me included back then – can find the intimacy between a parent and a child threatening. It makes them feel left out. That is what I felt in that moment. I recognise it now when I hear criticism about any sort of perfectly ordinary, loving behaviour between an adult and a child. It’s really not about them at all. It’s about you.

Since you’re here…

…we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever but far fewer are paying for it. And advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian's independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.

If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to pay for it our future would be much more secure.

Watch and learn: the hidden messages in children's movies

Ever suspected Frozen was more than a simple singalong? Have the false promises of Emerald City ever rung alarm bells? Here are nine family flicks that have been mined for underlying meaning

2013, FROZENHANS & ANNA Film 'FROZEN' (2013) Directed By CHRIS BUCK & JENNIFER LEE 20 November 2013 SAE18990 Allstar Collection/DISNEY **WARNING** This photograph is the copyright of DISNEY & can only be reproduced by newspaper & magazine TV guides in conjunction with the promotion of the above film. A Mandatory Credit To DISNEY must also be printed. For Printed Editorial Use Only, NO online or internet use.
 Allegorical? … Frozen. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

The Secret Life of Pets: black lives matter

Thought the current box office smash was just Toy Story with poodles and hamsters? Think again. A prominent political science professor suggests Chris Renaud’s movie is in fact a hamfisted metaphor for racial oppression. With his cri de coeur of “revolution forever, domestication never”, angry rabbit Snowball (Kevin Hart) isn’t just moaning about being kicked out of a warm, cosy cage to roam the streets. Look closely and – maybe – you’ll find a raging furnace of fury centred on the mistreatment of African-Americans by mainstream white society.

Frozen: love is an open (closet) door


As proponents of the Twitter hashtag #GiveElsaagirlfriend have noted, the princess of Arendelle spends most of the Disney fantasy desperately trying to keep a secret she fears will make her a pariah, before finally accepting her true identity in an icy whirl of fearless abandon and kick-ass showtunes. By the end of the film it has been firmly established, with the discovery that sisterly love trumps traditional romance every time, that orange is not the only fruit.

The Wizard of Oz: parable for 1890s America

MGM’s children’s classic may have hit cinemas in 1939, but some analyses put its roots in an even earlier era. The Yellow Brick Road represents the gold standard monetary system, which poor midwestern farmers (represented by the Scarecrow) blamed for turn-of-the-20th century deflation that kept the cost of their loans high. The fraudulent Wizard is a proxy for their profiteering eastern banker nemeses, while Dorothy is the American public, blindly following a false path to wealth and riches (Emerald City) and the Tin Man embodying impoverished industrial workers. No one has quite worked out what the munchkins are supposed to be.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit: portrait of racial segregation


Set at the height of the Jim Crow era, Robert Zemeckis’s pioneering fantasy noir presents a version of LA where “toons” face daily discrimination and are forced to live in their own, segregated district. Christopher Lloyd’s nefarious Judge Doom can be seen as an Uncle Tom figure, a toon in disguise who is driven to terrorise Roger and pals by his own self-loathing.

Coraline: why you shouldn’t talk to strangers

Laika’s sinister stop-motion fable centres on a young girl who discovers a parallel universe through a psychedelic tunnel in her suspiciously gothic new home. On the other side of the wall she meets the Other Mother, who allows Coraline to eat whatever she likes, showers her with attention and generally employs every tactic available to lure the young girl away from her real mum and dad. In the final act, the creature is revealed as a child-killing monster.

The Lego Movie: building the case against capitalism


An easy one, this. Will Ferrell’s evil tyrant is known as Lord Business and spends all his time cracking down on anyone who even whispers of insurrection. Meanwhile, workers are encouraged to blindly embrace an “awesome” consumer-driven lifestyle of overpriced coffee, nights out at chicken restaurants and episodes of the moronic sitcom Where Are My Pants?

The Brave Little Toaster: half-baked tale of Christian suffering


The 1987 animated classic can simply be read as the story of abandoned household appliances trying to find their way back to their master. Another theory goes that the toaster and his friends are really lost souls aiming to win back God’s grace with their intense suffering (involving a horrifying trip to the junkyard that Pixar purloined for Toy Story 3). They are eventually rewarded by being reunited with Him at his new swanky new apartment. Otherwise known as heaven.

My Neighbour Totoro: ticket to the afterlife

Studio Ghibli has officially denied that cute monster Totoro is really some kind of evil death god, transporting 11-year-old Satsuki and four-year-old Mei to the afterlife. But observers have pointed out that the pair don’t have shadows in the film’s final scene, that a catlike bus caught by the siblings boasts a destination panel translating as “path to the grave”, and that essential elements of the plot resemble the 1960s case of a young Japanese girl found dead after losing contact with her older sister. Spooky.

Happy Feet: shameless eco-propaganda


To everyone else, George Miller’s Oscar-winning 2006 animation was about a bunch of lovable emperor penguins whose lives are enriched when they learn how to dance: a kind of Footloose for the cuddly critter-loving under-sixes. To the Fox News brigade, it was simply an animated version of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth: environmentalist propaganda. Anchor Glenn Beck even called for the film to carry a warning alerting unsuspecting families to its “evil” hidden message.

mama and baby work out video

souel and i will be like, uhhh uhhh haaa haaa , okay not the hand stands for me but you know i got the other moves.


Johnson & Johnson hit with $55m damages in talc cancer case

ease up on the powder ups.


Johnson & Johnson hit with $55m damages in talc cancer case

J&J baby powderImage copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionJohnson & Johnson said the safety of talc was supported by decades of scientific evidence

Pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been ordered to pay more than $55m (£40m) in compensation to an American woman who says its talcum powder caused her ovarian cancer.

Gloria Ristesund, 62, said she used J&J talc-based powder products on her genitals for decades.

The company - which faces about 1,200 similar claims - insists its products are safe and says it will appeal.

Researchers say links with ovarian cancer are unproven.

In February, Johnson & Johnson paid $72m (£51m) in a similar case.


Ms Ristesund was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 and had to undergo a hysterectomy and related surgeries. Her cancer is now in remission.

Following a three-week trial in a Missouri state court, she was awarded $5m in compensatory damages and $50m in punitive damages.

Jere Beasley, whose firm represents Ms Ristesund, said his client was gratified with the verdict. The jury's decision should "end the litigation", he said, and force J&J to settle the remaining cases.

Grey line

Analysis: James Gallagher, health editor, BBC news website

Is talc safe?

There have been concerns for years that using talcum powder, particularly on the genitals, may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

But the evidence is not conclusive. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc used on the genitals as "possibly carcinogenic" because of the mixed evidence.

Why is there any debate?

The mineral talc in its natural form does contain asbestos and does cause cancer. However, asbestos-free talc has been used in baby powder and other cosmetics since the 1970s. But the studies on asbestos-free talc give contradictory results.

It has been linked to a cancer risk in some studies, but there are concerns that the research may be biased as the studies often rely on people remembering how much talc they used years ago. Other studies have argued there is no link at alland there is no link between talc in contraceptives such as diaphragms and condoms (which would be close to the ovaries) and cancer.

Also, there does not seem to be a "dose-response" for talc, unlike with known carcinogens like tobacco where the more you smoke, the greater the risk of lung cancer.

What should women do?

The charity Ovacome says there is no definitive evidence and that the worst-case scenario is that using talc increases the risk of cancer by a third.

But it adds: "Ovarian cancer is a rare disease, and increasing a small risk by a third still gives a small risk. So even if talc does increase the risk slightly, very few women who use talc will ever get ovarian cancer."

Grey line

A J&J spokeswoman said the verdict contradicted 30 years of research supporting the safety of cosmetic talc.

Carol Goodrich said the company intends to appeal and will keep defending its products' safety.

Other cases pending

The case follows another one in February, in which Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72m to the family of a woman who claimed her death was linked to use of the company's Baby Powder talc.

Jackie Fox from Birmingham, Alabama died of ovarian cancer last year, aged 62, having used the talc for decades.

Her family argued that the firm knew of talc risks and failed to warn users.

J&J is appealing against that verdict, which sparked renewed interest in talc-powder lawsuits. Lawyers accuse J&J of failing to warn that talc was linked to an increased risk for ovarian cancer - a claim J&J denies. There are 1,200 other cases pending.

J&J shares were down 18 cents in after-hours trading to $112.57.


vaccination is not immunization

peace family, just wanted to get this group going. since having souel fénix we've been meaning to share some important information that could be useful for our village of children's development. i want to start with Vaccination Is Not Immunization forth edition powerful tool to overstanding vaccines and making healthy choices for our youth. if you have information you'd like to share please do. some of our youth are infants, some toddlers some walking and strutting either way its never too late as vaccines in the states account for about 80 by the time we reach adulthood. love you all. 


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