Friday, May 30, 2008

Feminism and Motherhood

My husband just finished reading me this article by Rebecca Walker, daughter of author Alice Walker, that was linked to on a blog we often visit. Though I am not sure how I feel about this bashing of one's mother in the public sphere, I understand the author's intent and wholeheartedly agree with most of what she writes. Here are a few snippets to summarize:

...It reminds me of just how blessed I am. The truth is that I very nearly missed out on becoming a mother - thanks to being brought up by a rabid feminist who thought motherhood was about the worst thing that could happen to a woman. You see, my mum taught me that children enslave women. I grew up believing that children are millstones around your neck, and the idea that motherhood can make you blissfully happy is a complete fairytale.

...Although I believe that an abortion was the right decision for me then, the aftermath haunted me for decades. It ate away at my self-confidence and, until I had Tenzin, I was terrified that I'd never be able to have a baby because of what I had done to the child I had destroyed. For feminists to say that abortion carries no consequences is simply wrong.

...I know many women are shocked by my views. They expect the daughter of Alice Walker to deliver a very different message. Yes, feminism has undoubtedly given women opportunities. It's helped open the doors for us at schools, universities and in the workplace. But what about the problems it's caused for my contemporaries?

...Then I meet women in their 40s who are devastated because they spent two decades working on a PhD or becoming a partner in a law firm, and they missed out on having a family. Thanks to the feminist movement, they discounted their biological clocks. They've missed the opportunity and they're bereft.

...Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating.

...But far from taking responsibility for any of this, the leaders of the women's movement close ranks against anyone who dares to question them - as I have learned to my cost. I don't want to hurt my mother, but I cannot stay silent. I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations.

I would not call myself a feminist, by any means, though I am also not anti-feminist. I do believe that some good things came out of the feminist movement, especially in terms of educational and work opportunities for women. I do not plan to be a stay-at-home-mom all of my life, though I do believe that my role as homemaker for my family and mother to my children is the most important job I have.

I love teaching and writing and being involved in ministry, but those are all things that I can do again once my children are grown. I sometimes think I gave them up too early and that every child I have puts me farther from my career goals. Then I realize that these unique, beautiful, compassionate, smart little men have been given to me as a gift, to nurture and raise and turn into men, with the constant help of their father.

I may be stepping on some toes here, and Rebecca Walker certainly did, but I am so thankful that she had the courage to write that article. She points to what, to me, are some of the biggest failures of the feminist movement. While all of the progress that has been made for women does not need to be thrown out, I think an honest look at the ways in which the women's movement has failed women is needed. I hope that people will read her article and that some debate can flow from it. I hope that those who really care about the rights of women will realize that taking away or degrading the most unique of a woman's roles does her no good, only harm.

Please read the article and tell me what you think. I am interested to hear opinions from all sides.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Let Freedom Ring

I am getting nothing done on time these days, nor am I finding time to write at all. I suppose it is only fitting that my reflections on Memorial Day are a bit late.

I am no sentimental patriot. If you know me, you will know that I love other cultures and that my experiences abroad have given me a critical eye when looking at my own country. But regardless of what you or I think about war or peace or the current engagements of our military, I hope we can all agree that Memorial Day is a good thing. It is good to remember those who have died to secure our freedom, though we so often abuse it. It is good to teach our children that they have been given a gift that was hard won. It is good to be with family and friends and enjoy the freedoms that we have.

So this past Monday, that is what we did. At the end of a beautiful weekend in my East Tennessee mountains, I joined my grandma, great aunts and uncle, my father's brothers, and my own brother and sister-in-law and adorable niece for a picnic like only my dad's clan can put on. I had called Grandma on my way to Tennessee to suggest that we get together for Memorial Day. The plans started as a light picnic lunch at her house with the kids running around in the yard, but they morphed into the best picnic ever.

First the picnic spot was changed. Why picnic in the yard when we could go to a recreation area in the woods with a creek? Then the menu evolved. Why have a light lunch or pick up subs when Grandma and Aunt Mary could cook up a storm the day before? And finally the guest list. Why only have a few people when we could invite whoever in the family was free that day?

And there we were, enjoying the freedom to disagree about politics, meander around a national forest picnic area, and say a prayer of thanksgiving over our meal. Remembering my grandpa and other relatives who served this country through our laughter and conversation. Eating hot dogs with Grandma's world-famous chili, potato salad and baked beans to die for, and, of course, Grandma's chocolate cake. Washing it all down with a glass of sweet tea that we don't have to pay the British taxes to drink. In general, being good old Americans.

That's when my boys decided to fully embrace the atmosphere of freedom and celebration. They had been playing by the ice-cold creek, throwing in rocks and sticks and running into the water long enough to get scared by the cold. Suddenly, Calvin came running down the path toward me, shirt off and pants and underwear halfway down his knees:

"Mommy, Mommy! Uncle M said I could go nudey in the creek!" (For the record, Uncle M only said he could take off his shorts.)

Fine. I'm a barefoot mountain girl, so I have no problem with my son playing naked in the mountain creek. A few minutes later I looked over to see Hobbes stripping off his shirt and diaper to join his brother. Two boys, completely free, splashing in an ice cold mountain creek. Let freedom ring.

Now if only Hobbes would learn that there are some rules to follow, like how far away from the water we need to be before squatting down to be totally free...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Only Child

An empty school playground with rusting equipment, swings with broken chains and a toppled slide. An abandoned school building, broken windows and furniture and a floor littered with trash and dead leaves. If you have seen the movie, Children of Men, this scene is a familiar one to you. For those of you who haven't seen it, the movie portrays a world without children. In the story, people stopped being able to reproduce at some point and the last children have become young adults. I won't go into the plot here, but I highly recommend the movie and especially the book, which is much different and significantly more profound than the film.

One of the main points of both the film and the book is the effect that the presence of children has on a culture. Children bring with them joy, energy, and hope for the future. Children make us want to improve our world, and they draw us out of ourselves into the greater community. Anyone who has traveled with children can tell you that children bridge cultural and language gaps and brings adults together who may not otherwise interact. In Children of Men, the world without children is a dark one. People have resorted to living for themselves and for present pleasures because they have no reason to plan for the future and little need to depend on the good of others. This self-focus leads to depression, isolation, fear, mistrust, and a society of violence and crime. Without children there is no hope, a rusty and broken world.

I have been thinking about this a lot this week as I follow the story of all of those people buried under rubble in a land that I have come to love as much as my own. So many children gone, and most of them are their parents' only child. A world without children. For some of those parents, having another child is out of the question. Some are past their childbearing years. Others took measures to make sure they would have no more, unable to pay the fines that would accompany an accidental second child. It is not my desire to pass judgment on a government that has made some difficult decisions to deal with their overwhelming population. I only wish to grieve for those who have lost their hope and their future, the one child who was to bring them joy in their old age.

Yet I know that there are also those among them who have a great Hope, who know One who willingly gave up His only Son to bring hope and healing and light to a dark and broken world. The One who will restore all things, will give children to the barren, will ultimately give those children back to their parents because they chose to give their children to Him long before a tragedy took them. The one who reminds us that we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

And I am still sad. My heart longs to be there and to bring comfort and help.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


...for this. And this. Please join me if you will. I am too overwhelmed to write.

Monday, May 12, 2008

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Posts have been few and far between around here as I prepared for Calvin's heart procedure and spent the weekend at the hospital. We are home, and though I am still recovering from an exhausting two days, Calvin has been up and running since not too long after the surgery. Hopefully I will have some interesting posts about things other than my crisis of faith, as even I am getting tired of that topic.

Of course, Calvin's stay in the hospital was the source of many stories. He was the star of his section of the children's hospital this weekend. Several residents came in to look at him in the recovery room. He was fully awake by then and devouring the information in a new space book I brought to the hospital to entertain him. Each resident who came in was treated to a lecture on space. Several of them asked for his autograph, sure he was going to be famous one day. One thought he would test Calvin's knowledge. He turned to a page in the book and asked Calvin which planet was pictured there. Calvin's answer?

"That's Jupiter. It's a gas giant. We can't land on gas giants because they don't have a solid surface."

One of the residents even got treated to a medical lecture. Calvin described how his heart was fixed:

"They put a little cut right here and put in a tube and went up, up, up, up, up to my heart and closed the hole. Then I was asleep. Then I woke up and got to have whatever I wanted to eat."

Then there was the speaking Chinese to his Chinese nurse, the explaining to the guy doing his echocardiogram exactly what was wrong with his heart and why it had to be fixed, and of course, asking the nurse who was checking his vitals why she kept doing that to him. Really, he was an amazing patient for a 3 1/2-year-old. In fact, he told his Sunday School class yesterday that the hospital was really fun.

If only his parents felt the same way. I am so glad to be home! Not even a bed with buttons is worth missing a good night's sleep.

Friday, May 9, 2008

All's Well

We are in the recovery room with a sleeping Calvin. The hole was bigger than anticipated and there were some other tiny holes surrounding. The procedure took longer than usual, but thankfully, we had a doctor who kept trying until he got the device in position. Thanks for your prayers. Keep praying the the device stays put and no clots form. (Both of these things are minor worries now that the procedure is over.) We'll be in the hospital overnight, so now it's time to figure out how to entertain a 3 1/2 year old for 24 hours in the hospital. We're armed with DVD's and some books about space.

Oh, Calvin's first words when he first roused from sleep? "Space Shuttle." His mind doesn't take a break from his obsessions, even on drugs.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Thank You

Thank you, my dear friends in life and in the blogosphere, who have offered your prayers, thoughts, words of encouragement, and well-wishes over the past few days. I definitely feel much better going into Calvin's procedure on Friday than I did a week ago. I think I just needed to come to a point of realizing that our lives are in God's hands, whether we are in the hospital or in the car. And as a doctor friend of mine pointed out, the chances of this procedure having a complication are much less than the chances of our being in a car accident. Really, there are so many times our lives are at risk and God protects us, I just rarely acknowledge that.

That knowledge does not make me any more eager to give Calvin into the cardiologist's hands on Friday morning, but it does make me less fearful. I no longer assume that God is out to make bad things happen in my life. He answers prayers and gives us good things much more often than he doesn't. I also know that I have no guarantee that things will go well. But I am not expecting that or even trying to prepare for that.

I am thankful for my community that is praying us through this and whose prayers on my behalf are the catalyst for the change going on in my heart. Please keep praying through Friday. I will try to post as soon as I can after the procedure, but I have no idea what my internet connection will be like at the hospital. We should be home on Saturday.