I’m celebrating Thanksgiving a little differently this year. On the actual day (which is tomorrow), it will just be my husband and me because my kids are all going to be with other relatives. However, I will be participating in a Thanksgiving luncheon at work today. (See my post on I, Muslimah for details.) But no matter how I celebrate it, I welcome this time of the year because it reminds me to be thankful.

One year when my kids were little I had them write out what they were thankful for on slips of paper and then we read them during Thanksgiving dinner. I kept those slips for the longest time in a keepsake box my children had given me. We should have repeated it every year. In fact, I would like to do that now.

So, in lieu of slips of paper, here is what I’m thankful for:

  • First and foremost, I’m thankful for God, because without Him there would be nothing else to be thankful for.
  • I’m thankful that I have had a rich and exciting life (I’m even thankful for the bad parts, because they make me appreciate the good!)
  • I’m thankful for my children, because they changed me for the better.
  • I’m thankful that I had all daughters who are now beautiful women inside and out.
  • But I’m also thankful that I got to experience a grandson.
  • I’m thankful for my sons-in-law and their families for expanding my family so wonderfully.
  • I’m thankful for my husband for showing me what true love really is.
  • I’m thankful for my mother- and father- in-law for raising such a wonderful man, and for my sister-in-law who always keeps him honest!
  • I’m thankful that I am a woman so that I could experience pregnancy and childbirth—yes, even that!
  • I’m thankful for all my friends and relatives who make me feel like I’m part of the human race.
  • I’m thankful for the faith path that God has led me on, from Christianity to Islam.
  • I’m thankful for my Muslim brothers and sisters and the love and guidance they give me.
  • I’m thankful that my parents were amazing people who always loved, accepted and supported me.
  • I’m thankful for my sister, my only sibling and my compatriot through life.
  • I’m thankful for my two cousins who make me feel connected to that side of the family.
  • I’m thankful for my home, which has nurtured me and been my safe haven for over a decade.
  • I’m thankful for technology for opening up my world immensely.
  • I’m thankful for my psychiatrist!

Why Women’s History Is Often Ignored

At the end of my March 1st post, “Why Do We Need a Women’s History Month?“, I wrote:

“Keep your eyes and your ears open during March and you just might learn something you didn’t even know you didn’t know about the most influential group of people on earth.”

What did I mean by that? I meant that most people think they know all there is to know about women’s history and so they tend to ignore anyone who tries to teach them anything new about it. But there is always something new to learn about what women have done in the world.  So why isn’t more attention paid to it?

There are two schools of thought which lead to the ignoring of women’s history:

1) People don’t believe that women are capable of great things, or at least of great things in the outside world (which is also considered to be the man’s world); and

2) People (especially men) feel threatened by accomplished women and so seek to downplay their contributions.

The first school is the more laughable, but it’s a mistake to not take it seriously. There really are people out there who don’t think women have what it takes to be a doctor, president, CEO, engineer, etc. They believe that their minds are too illogical, their emotions too unstable and their priorities skewed toward inconsequential things (children, marriage, the home). And, sadly, it is not only men who think this way. Plenty of women limit their choices in life because they, too, believe that they don’t have what it takes to compete in a “man’s” world.

This kind of self-sabotage can be subtle. A woman may go after a career, but only one she feels is appropriate for a woman (nurse instead of doctor, flight attendant instead of pilot, secretary instead of salesperson, and so on). But what is even worse, and not that uncommon, is when a girl grows up thinking that she can’t have a career at all. When she sees her options as limited to the home merely because she is female.

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Babies Before (Or Instead Of) Marriage: What’s Your Opinion?

Does it matter when Baby comes?

The just-released State of Our Unions report tells us that the percentage of kids born outside of marriage rose from 18% to 40% just since 1980. Not only that, but the number of kids whose parents are “just living together” rose from just under half a million to over 2.5 million during that same period. But that doesn’t mean that marriage is on its way out. The same report states that among high school seniors, 71% of boys and 82% of girls said that “having a good marriage and family life is extremely important” to them. But at the same time, over half also said “having a child without being married is experimenting with a worthwhile lifestyle or not affecting anyone else.” (Except for the child, of course.)

In data collected by The National Campaign, 47% of 18 to 24-year-olds say they expect to marry and have a baby with their current partner, but not necessarily in that order. Certainly, the example set by celebrities is that it’s almost the norm to have one or more children–or at least getting pregnant–before marrying (if they even marry at all).  Are young people today following the lead of those who are in the public eye, or are the celebrities merely mirroring the changing norms of society? Or is it a little of both?

It might sound like I’m disapproving. And I am, a little. I can understand an unplanned pregnancy precipitating a wedding. I can even accept a woman having a baby when she doesn’t have an ongoing relationship with the father. But if you’re going to get married anyway, why have your baby before the wedding? Wouldn’t you rather be husband and wife before you’re father and mother?

Continue reading “Babies Before (Or Instead Of) Marriage: What’s Your Opinion?”

What I Know

I just finished reading Alice Eve Cohen’s What I Thought I Knew which is a memoir about her late-in-life, unexpected pregnancy. Sprinkled throughout the book are lists that Cohen titles “What I Know.” The items change over time to the point where Cohen apparently decides that she never really knew what she thought she knew.

Using her lists as inspiration, I thought I’d write one myself, keeping in mind that what I know today may not be what I know tomorrow. So here it is:

What I Know

  • I love being a woman.
  • It’s hard to be a woman.
  • I thought I would be a perfect mother.
  • I failed, but my children survived anyway.
  • I loved having all daughters.
  • My grandson made me love boys.
  • The first time I married I wasn’t really ready.
  • The two marriages I rushed into turned out horribly.
  • The two I waited for were much better.
  • Marriage is all about expectations, failed and fulfilled.
  • Divorce isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.
  • Death of a loved one is.
  • Getting older is disheartening and scary.
  • It is also liberating.
  • Being a woman isn’t about youth and beauty.
  • It’s about survival and wisdom.

I Could Have Used Feminism…(Part Two)

Feminist Buttons 1968 - 1972

I could have used feminism…

  • when my first marriage ended in divorce and I was faced with raising four daughters alone.
  • when I moved back in with my parents instead of getting my own place.
  • when my ex got the child support reduced and I didn’t fight it.
  • when I thought that remarrying would solve all my problems.
  • when I decided against going back to school after my remarriage because I thought I didn’t need it.
  • when I took another shit job instead of trying to make it as a writer, which is what I really wanted to do.
  • when my new husband became abusive and I still didn’t get out of the marriage for another three years.
  • when I became a single mother again (even though this time we had our own home).
  • when the father of my kids stopped paying child support.
  • when I was sexually and psychologically harassed at work.
  • when I got pathologically dependent on a new boyfriend.
  • when I thought again that getting married would solve all my problems.
  • when I stayed in my toxic job even though the abuse continued (for a total of 16 years).
  • as my children matured and I needed to give them a role model.
  • when my parents died and I became the matriarch of the family.

The Breakdown of the Family

There are a lot of people who blame feminism for the breakdown of the family. They see feminists as essentially selfish people, who don’t care who they hurt in their quests to get what they want. They divorce their husbands, leave their children in the care of strangers and let ambition take over their lives. What critics of feminism won’t admit is that it is not just feminists who are doing these things. Any woman can be guilty of putting themselves before their families, as can any man.

familyRather, feminism is a corrective measure for what’s wrong with our society.

When a relationship is unhealthy or abusive, feminism gives a woman the courage to leave. When an employer is cheating female employees out of pay or benefits, feminism inspires them to speak up for themselves. When a woman has to support herself and her children, feminism looks out for her interests in the courts and the workplace. When young girls and women are trying to find themselves, feminism gives them models and mentors.

Emotional, physical and financial security do not contribute to the breakdown of the family.

What does?

The economy. It’s the rare family that can exist on one income. Most women go to work outside of the home at some point in their marriages. (And that’s not even counting the ones who have to work because of divorce or the death of their spouses.) Children get more expensive, college needs to be paid for, retirement plans need to be funded, health care costs rise.

Materialism. More families might be able to get by with less if they didn’t want so damn much. The rate at which technology is changing means that there is always some new improved products that consumers feel they just have to have. Many people overspend on houses, cars and vacations. Cable, cell phones and Internet access are seen as necessities.

The workplace. When the world became industrialized, women left their homes to work in sweatshops and mills. When WWII came along they went to work in the factories. Now the service industry is growing exponentially and women obviously have to work outside of the home when they have those kinds of jobs. Not only that, but the workplace usually makes it more difficult for a woman to fulfill her wifely and motherly duties because of inflexibility.

Divorce. I include divorce in this list, but the truth is, divorce doesn’t break down the family, it just creates different family formations. A single parent with children is a family. An adult child living with parents is a family. The only form of family that gets hit hard by divorce is the nuclear family. And it’s never been as prominent as people would like to believe. Parents used to have to send their children to relatives or children’s homes when they couldn’t afford to keep them. Now they at least try to maintain some kind of family unit. It just doesn’t look like some people want it to look.

The reason that feminism is blamed for the breakdown of the family is because women are blamed for the breakdown of the family. What about the man who abandons or doesn’t support his family? Is that feminism’s fault, too? Let’s put the blame where it really belongs and start looking to feminism for solutions.