Oh, the Mommy Shaming is Real

By June 20, 2017 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

When I tell people I stopped breastfeeding a couple of months ago because my milk supply suddenly stopped, I get mixed responses.

Most of my friends get it and are supportive. Others offer me condolences and apologies, which are well-intended. And then a few — and these are usually people I don’t know well — shake their heads disapprovingly or look at my child as if he were just rescued from an animal shelter.

Apparently, this “mommy-shaming” is a real thing — and it’s more common than you think. According to a new study, nearly two-thirds of women claim they are mommy shamed by others, with their in-laws and parents being some of the worst offenders. What are they being shamed about? How they displcine their child, what they feed their child and whether they use a bottle or not. (I’m not sure what the “or not” is. A sippy cup? Out of our palms? A shot glass?)

And here’s the even harsher fact, one that wasn’t discussed in this study: We all do it, too.

Moms can sometimes be the most critical. We’re mean about it, rude, judgmental. We give other moms disapproving looks, shake our heads, roll our eyes, gossip, criticize, post on Facebook, write blogs. We think we know what we’re doing, that our way is the best way, that everyone else should follow our lead. We raised awesome kids, right? So, do what I did and you’ll have awesome kids, too!

I wish it were that easy.

Truth is, there are myriads of ways to raise kids, and they are plenty of reasons why parents do what they do. And there’s really no way of knowing what’s really going on.

I remember talking with a first-time mom months ago who was very defensive about her choice to use formula instead of breastfeed. She opted to take medication that would pass through her breastmilk, so she gave her son formula. I get it. Of course she was going to use formula. But she had been made to feel badly about her choice and thought she had to defend herself. And that’s too bad.

As long as we’re making the best decisions we can at the time we’re making them, and we’re considering our options, keeping our child the priority, I can’t see how we can go wrong.

We don’t know what every situation is for every mom. Maybe she works at a job where pumping isn’t an option. Maybe she can’t afford a super-fancy preschool or organic baby food. Maybe she has three other kids who need attention, too. The bottom line is, we just don’t know. And if we don’t know, we shouldn’t be quick to judge.

I know I’ve been judged for my choices to let my dogs lick my baby, to take him to the beach before he was six months old, to drag him around with me on interviews, to stop breastfeeding, to feed him store-bought baby food, to let him sleep in a rocker, to use Pampers over Huggies, to vaccinate my child, to not post his photos on social media, to let my mother-in-law watch him on Sundays so I can surf and feel normal, for traveling to Japan with an infant. And everyone is entitled to his or her opinion about it. But I’m doing the best I can, to make decisions every step of the way that I’m OK with, that keep our child safe and happy.

And I will make mistakes. Things will go wrong. But there’s not a single parent out there who did everything right. None. But we try, and that matters.

Look, we’re always going to judge. It’s what we do as humans. But let’s be a little more compassionate, too.

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Three years, three dogs and a baby

By June 14, 2017 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

The other day I was looking through photos from a hike my husband and I did two years ago.

We trekked across the spine of the Ko‘olau Mountains that connects Moanalua Valley to the top of Hāʻiku Stairs. It took us seven long, sweaty hours, and there were moments — oh, I remember them in detail — when I wanted to give up, call 911 and get rescued off the ridge.

But my husband, who spends most of his spare time either in the mountains or underwater, simply kept going, stopping to listen to my whining and reassuring me that we weren’t going to die. At least not today.

This is just one reason why I adore my husband. From the day I met him — three and a half years ago, at 5 a.m., at the beach in Waikīkī — he’s always been supportive, always encouraging me to do whatever I want, but making sure I’m OK, too. He has more faith in me — like, to finish the hike — than I do, and that’s exactly what anyone should have in a partner.

Six months ago, I remember sitting on the bathroom floor, frustrated and feeling like a complete failure at this whole mom thing. I wasn’t sleeping, my milk supply was pathetic, and I felt like I’d never be a normal human again.

My husband joined me on the floor and, without judgement, said, “It’s going to be OK. You’re doing a great job.”

Of course, I didn’t believe him at first. I felt like I was actually doing a horrible job. But his kind, supportive words were enough to get me up from the cold floor and trudge back to the living room where I had another 20 minutes of painful pumping to do.

Oh, I complained about it. I whined and cried. But, in reflection, he was right, at least about the first part. It turned out to be OK. We’re OK. The baby is alive and thriving. I’m alive, our dogs are alive. We did it — just like he said we would.

People often ask me what it was about my husband that led me to marry him after knowing him for just six months. And I’ve often answered that it was a combination of things: He’s really smart, responsible, funny, generous. (He’s also cute, and that helps.) But it really came down to one thing — his kindness. Even when he’s angry or irritated or frustrated or tired. In the end, he doesn’t want to hurt anyone or anything (with the exception of rats). He apologizes, he explains, he tries hard. His kind heart is what did it for me.

Our marriage is very much like that trail. It’s tough and challenging but beautiful and rewarding, too. And I’m lucky to have a partner who will stick by my side, put up with my whining, and help me along the way.

Happy Anniversary, Kai!

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Then don’t live next to a public beach

By May 22, 2017 Musings

About a month ago, I was standing on a small beach in Portlock — a beach that I’ve stood on for 15 years — when one of the neighbors walked over to me and accused me of vandalizing her property the night before.

She sounded pretty sure I was the one who pulled down her chainlink fence, saying something along the lines of “there was a female in the group.”

I looked at her and said, very directly, that no, I wasn’t here the night before and no, I didn’t pull down her fence.

She continued to complain to me about these vandals — “Are you sure you weren’t here last night?” — and proceeded to tell me, as she has done to countless other people who have stood on this same beach, that the access path that runs alongside her property is privately owned and no one should be using it.

I was standing on the beach. A public beach. I had every right to be there. She doesn’t own the beach, and I told her that.

She wouldn’t stop. The complaining, the accusations. I stopped her and said, “I’m standing on a public beach and you are harassing me. If you don’t stop, I’m going to call the cops.”

She stopped — because I was right — and sheepishly walked away (still complaining).

A week later, I get an email from a Portlock resident who lives across the street from this beach access. The woman put up a gate. With a lock. And people were pissed.

It’s led to the Hawai‘i Kai Neighborhood Board taking up the issue at its next meeting, 7 p.m. May 30 at Haha‘ione Elementary School.

Here’s the backstory: The homes along this stretch of access do own the path leading to the beach. (I confirmed this with the city.) But a dispute nearly 20 years ago led the city to condemn this pathway to create a public right-of-way to the beach. At the time, the homeowner had erected a gate, too, to keep people out. (Another neighbor, who was a part-owner of this private path, made copies of the key and distributed it. Clearly, he wasn’t in agreement with his neighbor.) But nothing came of this decision to condemn it, and for years, it seemed like the neighbors stopped fighting with the families, fishermen and surfers who were using the beach access.

Until recently.

This woman — I don’t know her name and she won’t talk to media — has started harassing beachgoers. She’s put up No Trespassing signs, yelled at people, even embedded sharp objects into her wall to deter people from sitting on it.

To no avail.

Then she put up a gate.

So, according to the city, this is, in fact, a private lane, owned equally by four landowners. (The beach, though, they don’t own.) But each landowner has to agree IN WRITING that they want to stop the public from using the beach access, and that hasn’t happened.

I totally get her complaints. Yeah, it sucks to have people smoking weed or drinking on the beach fronting her property. It sucks that people throw trash in her yard or make a lot of noise in the middle of the night. I get it. As a property owner, she has rights, too. But, bottom line, she doesn’t own the BEACH. And that’s a major distinction. (Read more about beach access in Hawai‘i here. It’s a complicated issue.)

And if she doesn’t like the idea that strangers are lounging or fishing in front of her multimillion-dollar ocean-front property, then don’t buy a home on the ocean in Hawai‘i. I don’t feel that badly for her. It was her decision to live there.

The issue of beach/coastal access is a huge deal in Hawai‘i, where beaches are public. (Unlike in other states, including California and Florida, where you can actually own the beach.) Neighborhoods have gotten very clever about trying to skirt this access issue — like the residents of Lanikai did by restricting parking near the beach on weekends and holidays.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the reason these homeowners were drawn to these ocean-front properties is the same reason why everyone else treks there, too.

But putting up a gate and harassing beachgoers aren’t solutions. They’re just scare tactics that will probably only make the problem worse.

At least we’ll see on May 30.

***

If you’re curious about where the public right-of-ways are, click here.

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What I know about motherhood (and it rhymes with smothing)

By May 16, 2017 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish


Photo by Anthony Quintano

It was my first Mother’s Day and we had already been to the ER.

Landon had been developing a cough for a few days, then it suddenly got worse. Nothing serious. He didn’t have a fever, he was eating fine, he wasn’t fussy at all. But the wheezing sounded bad, so, on the recommendation of a phone-a-nurse, we took him to the hospital.

It made me think about what I know — or, more like, don’t know — about being a mom.

Nothing prepares you for raising a human life form. I thought my years helping take care of my little sister — she’s 12 years younger than me — would have given me some sort of headstart on motherhood. Not really. I mean, sure, I knew how to change diapers and sterilize bottles, but that’s about it. I wasn’t prepared for inconsolable crying, pee everywhere and, when an infant gets sick, there isn’t much you can do about it.

I spent the last few days listening to my son’s raspy breathing, worrying about him while he slept, and reading about homeopathic remedies online. And I still don’t have the answers.

Motherhood is a crapshoot, isn’t it? The only thing I’ve really learned from this experience (so far) is that there are infinite ways to do it, and who cares as long as the child is safe and healthy.

If you had asked me what I had learned two months ago, I likely would have said that pacifiers are a lifesaver, swaddling is a must, and that I couldn’t live without the Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘N Play Sleeper.

But now, Landon prefers his thumbs to pacifiers, he can’t sleep in his swaddle anymore, and the sleeper bores him. It all changed so fast! (And I have so many pacifiers and swaddles!)

I have pregnant girlfriends or new moms who ask me for advice. While I’m more than happy to share everything I’ve learned, I’ve quickly realized what works for me doesn’t always work for others. And my way of doing things — from swearing by Pampers Swaddlers to our decision to use glass bottles instead of plastic ones — isn’t for everyone. I completely stopped breastfeeding at three months (I totally dried up). We’ve put Landon in his crib for bedtime since he was three weeks old. I started feeding him bananas and poi at five months. I take him hiking and to the beach. I’ve slathered on sunscreen before he’s old enough (six months) to actually use it. I let my dogs lick him. It’s just what I do.

It’s very easy to judge other moms. I totally get it. I’ve been judged, I’ve judged, we’ve all done it. But I’ve learned that, unless they’re overtly abusing their kids, it’s really none of my business.

I’ve asked for help and advice, and I’ve taken bits and pieces from everyone. My calabash cousin Cathy taught me about sleep training and I’ve stuck with it. My girlfriend Leilani reminded me about the benefits of having a dishwasher. My other girlfriend Lezlie helped me figure out how to travel to Japan with a newborn. My mom showed me how to give Landon a bath and feed him solid food without getting it everywhere.

And I’ve definitely doled out advice, too. Lots of it.

Here’s the thing: Kids are different. Mothers are different. Dads are different. Situations are different. Homes, lifestyles, philosophies — all different. But we all want the same thing: happy, healthy kids. There are just numerous ways to get there.

I’ve always thought I’d be a mom like my own mom. But it turns out, we’re two completely different people. She would never take us and three dogs hiking. (She wouldn’t have three dogs to begin with.) And, not a big fan of the beach, she had no plans to take us surfing. She loved staying home with us; I can’t wait to get out and explore. She loves this infant stage; I need him to walk and make his own breakfast. We’re just different. And while I completely value her advice — and use most of it — we both know I’m going to forge my own mothering path.

Motherhood isn’t some magical existence. It’s not what you see on Instagram, all these happy (skinny) moms with happy (adorable) babies, all who seem to relish every single waking and sleeping moment of life. I asked a friend about it once — she’s one of those moms whose life seems idyllic and perfect on social media — and she told me just before she snapped this one pic of her smiling daughter, she (the mom) was covered in poop. A lot of poop. Not so idyllic anymore.

Social media shows a version of the truth. The good version. The pretty version. It doesn’t show you walking around the house like a zombie because your baby kept you up all night, crying and feeding and crying some more. It doesn’t show that pooch you can’t get rid of, no matter how much you breastfeed. It doesn’t show the disaster your house is in now because you don’t have time to clean it and you’re too broke to hire a housekeeper. It doesn’t show your pain, your despair, your frustration. But it’s all true.

But maybe it shows the best part, the reason why we love being moms. It shows our love, our sheer happiness, that feeling you get when your baby first smiles at you. Or laughs. Or squeals in delight. Or looks confused when you dance in front of him. These are the moments that make all the other ones — sleepless nights, your hair falling out, working in the middle of the night because that’s the only free time you have — worthwhile.

So what have I learned? That’s you just keep on learning.

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A word about dogs and leashes

By May 10, 2017 #BabyFox, Musings, The Dog Dish

The other day we were walking our three dogs and pushing our 5-month-old in a stroller around our neighborhood when a jogger stopped us.

“Have I talked to you before?” she asked.

“No,” I said. She looked upset — and not from the run.

She stopped, caught her breath, and told me something that’s kept me up at night ever since.

She was walking her Italian greyhound on a leash in an adjacent neighborhood when a Rhodesian ridgeback approached her — unleashed, unsupervised — and literally tore her dog in half. The dog was violently killed right in front of her.

I don’t know the rest of the story except that yes, the Hawaiian Humane Society was called, and yes, she filed a police report. But the other questions — Was the owner there? What did they do? Is she going to press charges? — I don’t know. All of my journalistic training disappeared as I imagined what this poor woman had to endure.

As you know, one of my greatest fears is losing my dogs. So watching them die like that would undoubtedly top my list of things I never, ever, ever want to witness.

Here’s the thing: It could have been prevented.

This wasn’t the first time this ridgeback was wandering the neighborhood. Allegedly, he’s attacked two dogs prior to killing the greyhound.

I know sometimes dogs get loose, escape from yards, jump fences. I get that. But all too often I’ve seen owners let their dogs walk, run and play without leashes, and it has to stop.

Just about everyone I encounter with an unleashed dog walking a neighborhood or hiking on trails say the same things: My dog is great off-leash. She never attacks. He’s so sweet. She’s a scaredy dog. She would never hurt anything. Oh, I’ve heard it all. And honestly, I don’t care. Leashing your dog is the law (except at off-leash parks). (Read about it here.) And it’s a law for a reason.

I, too, used to let my dogs roam Mariner’s Ridge without leashes. (My dogs are also small and, if one of them decided to bite your ankle, they wouldn’t do much damage.) But after my dogs had been attacked — and me, too — I decided I needed to lead by example. My dogs are on leashes; so should yours.

I really don’t understand why people don’t leash their dogs while walking in public areas, like in parks or along sidewalks. There are cars, cats, other dogs, mongooses — lots of distractions and reasons to send any dog, even the best behaved ones, running. I’ve seen too many times dogs that “would never attack” do just that.

A friend of mine brought his 19-month-old daughter to Kailua Beach and she was bitten by an unleashed Labrador Retriever — not known to attack like that — sending her to the hospital for a week.

And even your own dog can attack. This week a family dog — pit bull-terrier mix — in Las Vegas suddenly began biting a 6-month-old baby, killing the child.

This is no joke.

I’ve always been nervous about a dog attack, especially when I’m hiking on trails where hunting dogs roam. I think about what I’m going to do in that situation, I carry pepper spray and sometimes a stick, I always keep my phone close. But now, I have a baby, too. My fear suddenly multiplied exponentially.

So please, if you own a dog and you’re walking around your neighborhood or hiking a public trail, leash her. You’re keeping our dogs — and my baby — safe.

***

If you want to read about more city, state and federal laws related to dogs, check out this resource compiled by the Hawaiian Humane Society.

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