So glad I got here with the first kid, lol.Tweet
Happening Now: Black Breastfeeding Blog Carnival
Passionate about breastfeeding, or just want more info? The Blk BFing: Making HERstory Blog Carnival is happening right now. Go read real stories of moms who have chosen to breastfeed, and the challenges they had to overcome to make it happen.Tweet
Oh ‘Appy Day: Find Black Businesses On Your Phone
I was raised by a beret-wearing, fist-raising, gun-toting (before I was born) Black Nationalist. So the importance of spending my money in my own community—as all other groups in this country do, naturally—was instilled in me from an early age. It’s hard for a community to rise together when its wealth flows outside its walls and isn’t reinvested.
Which is why I unabashedly seek out Black service providers when all things are equal when it comes to quality. Our Realtor? Check. Our vegan dinner spot? Check. Babygirl’s pediatrician, who was recommended by every midwife of every race at our practice? Check.
But it can be hard to find folks, and know that they actually deserve your cash. Enter an awesome app my girl recently told me about. Around The Way (free for Apple and Android devices), uses your phone’s location based services to find Black-owned businesses nearby. This is especially helpful for us, as we transition to our new house; we need a new dry cleaner, a shoe repair guy, and a mechanic that doesn’t require a 40-minute drive. And this app can find them all, plus barber shops, banks, lounges, hotels and more.
More importantly, each merchant has customer reviews, so you don’t have to learn the hard way if they suck. I also love that you can add your favorite businesses for everyone to discover.
Try it out and let me know how it works for you!
Need a Kick in the Butt? There’s An App For That
Like most mamas I know, “overwhelmed” is an apt descriptor for my life pretty much every day. And with a fabulous beach wedding trip planned for next month (yay Sherika + Mae!), I’m acutely aware these days that my crazy life is getting in the way of working out.
I want to work out. Truly. I used to do it at least five days a week, and I had a body that I definitely didn’t appreciate enough at the time. I’ve had a few false starts since Babygirl was born. Just a few weeks after she was born I got on the floor for postpartum yoga while she slept. The result: popped vaginal stitches from the delivery. Ouch.
A few months later I tried again. Things were going well for a few days, then: too busy. Wash, rinse, repeat, never getting up enough momentum to make it happen. And because I’ve lost all the pregnancy weight and then some, I haven’t felt an extreme sense of urgency, despite knowing that moving your body is about so much more than keeping your weight in check.
So I was excited when I heard about this new app, Fig, which aims to encourage me to do better by myself (free for Apple and Android). I love that it’s actually not really about working out—though I need that push—but it’s about nurturing your whole life, and the lives of those around you.
Just set up an account, then pick from suggested goals in several categories, like eat (drink water eight times a day), move (exercise), refresh (take a moment to breathe deeply), connect (call your mama), feel (start and write in a gratitude journal).
My daily goals are modest, and reflect what’s most important to me right now: drink water, take a multivitamin, tell my hubby I love him, breathe deeply, read with my child and affirm her, too. Though I certainly don’t remember to check in with the app to confirm that I’m meeting them (but it sends me emails every night to encourage me to rally!), I find that the very act of setting the goals is helping me be more mindful. My water consumption is up, I reordered my prenatal vitamins, I read with Babygirl several times a day and look deep in Hubby’s eyes at least once. :-) I chose not to share with my network, but you can invite friends to join you and hold you accountable for your goals.
Try it out and let me know if it helps cut through some of the crazy of your day.
Printable Valentine’s Day Cards Save Time and Money
I’ve been a long-time fan of Freckle Box’s personalized gifts, and I’m excited that not only is Babygirl finally old enough to appreciate them, but their latest offering will save me time and money. No trekking through the Target aisles looking for a non-cartoon-branded box of cards for me!
Rather than buy Valentine’s Day cards from her to her Daddy and Aunties, I’m using their printable card tool. Just enter your little one’s name, and it gives you customized cards you can print and deliver. If you want to make them more personal—and provide an after-nap activity—print the black and white version, pass out the crayons and stickers, and let them go crazy. We’ll fold them together, and she can hand-deliver her creations later today.
I Love My Hair.
Babygirl went nuts when I played this for her. Hope your little ones enjoy, too!
Six Guaranteed Low-Effort Toddler Games
Speaking of putting silly things on your head…
Just read this on thehairpin.com about low-energy ways to keep toddlers busy, and I’m laughing so hard that I can’t breathe. It’s hilarious and useful; I definitely do numbers one and four regularly. And…I’m off to find my long-neglected exercise ball (number five).
Take Your Little Ones to the Movies?
I love movies. I mark major life milestones by what film I saw, and with whom. Our first real outing with Babygirl? Two weeks after she was born, we packed her in the car and drove to the drive-in to see Super 8 and The Green Lantern. (The first fake outing was to Old Navy to find shirts that would fit over my huge, milk-filled boobs.)
Our first trip to the actual movie theater was to see Rise of The Planet of the Apes. She had a ball. In fact, she was always great in movies. She would nurse a little right after we sat down, then pass out for the remainder of the show.
Then came the day that she decided to stay awake and talk back to the screen, in true Black fashion, during a true Black movie (Think Like a Man, smh). That was the end of family movie visits. Lucky for us, we have a drive-in nearby, so we can catch double features on the cheap. When it’s warm out.
But now it’s cold. And I miss the camaraderie of going to a theater. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Fortunately, AMC Theatres feels our mama pain. It offers Bring Your Baby Matinees on first Tuesdays at noon. The sound is a little lower, there’s enough light so you can see who’s trying to climb under the seat, diaper changing and breastfeeding are encouraged, and a little crying is expected. And, a portion of the ticket price goes to Will Rogers Institute, a nonprofit that provides NICU equipment for underfunded hospital centers. Sounds like fun times to me. We’re gonna try it out next month; I’ll let you know how it goes.
Click to find a participating theater near you.
Babygirl, wearing the scarf she snatched off my pin-curled hair yesterday morning.
I wear my hair in an Afro. Not one of the teeny weeny variety, although of course it started out that way. I’m talking about a great, big, get-stuff-lost-in-it Afro. I always had a vague idea that I’d “go natural” one day, but I went through a lot of other phases before reaching this one in July 2009, when I finally got the courage to stop relaxing my hair. My mother first processed it when I was about eight, which left me without a clue as to my natural texture. In fact, I was secretly afraid of it, not just in the way we tend to fear the unknown, but in the ways no Black woman wants to admit: I was worried it would be too nappy to manage, too subversive to make me attractive, too Black for me (and others) to handle.
I hated having those fears. After digging them out of my darkest corners and turning them over and over in my hands, I discovered the cracks, the imperfections, spidering out from an initial blow that was dealt when I was young, one that told me what grew out of my head was inferior and needed to be changed.
So I set about destroying them, exposing them to reason and love. The reality was, no matter what my hair looked like after I cut off the relaxed stuff, it couldn’t make me feel any worse than I did each time I hopped into the chair to have a chemical applied that helped me conform to a standard of beauty that had absolutely nothing to do with me. I eventually came to understand a lesson that took tentative root when I was wearing my hair short and straight: it’s just hair. Cut it, dye it, grow it, cut it again—it keeps your head warm, it grows back. Though, of course, it’s never that simple when it comes to Black women. Everything we do with our hair is a Statement. If any other American woman dyes her hair blonde, she’s trying something new. If I do it, I’ve lost touch with my roots. If that same woman later decides to cuts her hair super-short, she’s edgy, but if I do it, I’m militant. If she leaves her hair be, no one notices. If I simply let my coils grow out of my head the way they please, I have an agenda. Whatever.
But I know that it’s just about accepting myself as I am, and finding joy in that acceptance. So with Babygirl, it has been important to me that she knows that I love both my hair and hers, and that I will never do anything that rejects our texture. I don’t believe it is up to me to make the choice to alter the structure of her hair, and I never want to do anything to her that I wouldn’t do to myself at this stage in my life. So she wears her own Afro, a little sandy brown version of mine, with looser curls that reflect her dad’s texture. And I don’t do much to it, because I don’t want her to think she has to “do” her hair. I wash it, condition it, detangle it, oil it, and send her out into the world. Occasionally I put it into a few ponytails, but that’s mostly to prove to my hubby that I can, ‘cause he has jokes. I want her to be able to see herself in me, and vice versa.
So you can imagine my trepidation when I got my hair straightened last weekend. After 3.5 years of wearing my hair curly, and months of prodding from a couple close friends, I was starting to worry that my ends were splitting from all the rough detangling. I finally visited a salon that specializes in healthy natural hair and had it blown out with low heat, so I could have them clipped. Now, my hair is hanging down my back in the most discomforting way, and I only made it a day before I pulled it into a lose ponytail.
I was struck by something my stylist said while I was in the chair. I asked how often I needed to come in for trims (quarterly), and told her that would be the extent of my hair straightening. She said that wearing it straight is a good option for “special occasions.” Which made me wonder what makes straight hair, special occasion hair? There is a value judgment inherent in that statement, and I’m not a fan. I guess I could take it as, it’s special because its different—and I have enjoyed changing things up a bit for the first time in years—but my experience as a Black woman says that’s naive. Besides, I feel anything but special with straight hair; I’m having total hair envy when I see girls with Afros and twists. I want to rush up like a lunatic and tell them this isn’t the real me, that we are curly sisters, so they don’t judge me for straightening my hair, or horror of horrors (!) think I’m wearing a weave, because its so long. My prejudices are showing.
Anyway, the biggest trial was when I went to pick up Babygirl after my appointment. I was afraid she wouldn’t recognize me, but the reality was even worse. I leaned over to take her out of the car seat, which was strapped in my sister-in-law’s car, and she let me hold her. But as we walked into Bed Bath & Beyond to help her auntie find a new shower curtain, I realized something was wrong: I was talking to my child and covering her face with kisses, but she was studiously not looking me in the face. She gazed just past me, and when I leaned into her field of vision, she moved her head to avoid making eye contact. She wasn’t quite sure it was me!
After a minute of prodding, she finally locked eyes with me. As I watched, she slowly reached up to her own afro and pulled on it, her eyes still on mine. She all but said, “Et tu, mama?” I felt terrible. My child had immediately noticed that my hair wasn’t the same as hers, and I worried that she thought I had deserted her. I explained to her that my hair was styled differently, that it wasn’t any better, or any worse, just different, and I’d be back to my Afro in a few days. For the sake of not being neurotic, I’m going to say she understood. Anyway, moments later, she gave me a hug and kiss and all has been normal. She has only pointed out my hair one other time, and plays in it while nursing the same way she does when it’s in Afro form. Me, meet relief.
Lots of women cite having kids as the reason they went natural. Sometimes because they are trying to limit their chemical exposure during pregnancy, sometimes because they want to be living examples of self love. Do your kids influence the way you wear your hair? Tell me why and how!
Parlour on B+GM: So if I Don’t Want Kids, Now I’m Selfish?
A recent op-ed in the Canadian paper, the National Post, literally made me LOL and say ‘Ooh, somebody’s salty’ aloud to no one in particular in my office. You can read it for yourself, but to summarize, writer Joe O’Connor asserts that couples who choose not to have children are “just plain selfish” because they’d rather spend their lives taking vacations, buying white furniture and plugging things in without first having to remove a safety cap from the socket or whatever. O’Connor pines for the good ol’ days when, he writes:
Having children used to be the point of being a pair. It was the great aspiration — along with finding love everlasting — a biological impulse to go forth and multiply and, later, once your babies reached a certain age, to cajole them about the merits and benefits of doing their bit to join the ranks of parenthood while giving Mom and Dad some grandkids.
Judging from all the pregnancy bump photos on Facebook and adorable pics of baby feet on Instagram, many people in my network still feel that way. For the majority of Americans, growing up means getting married and starting a family. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone that path — I’m excited for the couples I know with buns in, or freshly out, of the oven — but O’Connor doesn’t seem as judicious when looking upon those who forego parenthood by choice. After listing some of the things these childless couples do with all of their time not spent organizing play dates or attending parent-teacher conferences, O’Connor considers what might make someone opt-out of child-rearing:
Career demands. Timing. Not having a partner, or not having the right partner. Flaky fears about overburdening our already overburdened planet, personal choice and a bunch of other hooey that serve to hide the fact that happy couples that choose not to have kids are, at root, well, let’s see: selfish.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a hater. While I’m sure O’Connor loves his family and has zero regrets about choosing to parent, it’s painfully obvious that he envies the lives of couples who are free from the tedium and burdens that inevitably go along with the joys of raising kids. In the very beginning of his piece he frames the childless life as one available only in a parent’s dream. The lives he tries to slander, in my opinion, sound absolutely wonderful. One of the worst barbs he can throw at non-parents is that they look rested and youthful. I had to ask myself, ‘Is this Canada’s version of The Onion?’
Having children or not is a personal choice every couple has the right to make. The reasons not to have children so easily dismissed by O’Connor are indeed real, for example the cost to raise just one child is estimated at $300,000 (US), not including costs for their college education. Concerns about the environment may seem “flaky” to some but the earth’s population is one R. Kelly song away from 7.1 Billion human beings. It’s no longer necessary that we procreate to ensure the survival of our species so who cares if some people would rather spend their old age cruising the Mediterranean than bouncing cherubic grandchildren on their knees?
I’ll see O’Connor’s accusation of selfishness and raise him one; I say that choosing to have children is the selfish act! When your kids are born, you will likely spend the rest of your life giving all of yourself over to their health and happiness but before sperm and egg meet to form a zygote, you’re mostly in it for yourself. If probed, most people’s desire to have children will center on what they want for themselves and their own lives. Who says they’re having a kid for the sake of this yet-to-exist person being happy and healthy? What’s that matter? People have kids because they want to experience a family or the “joy of parenting,” continue their legacy, name and blood-line, see their own image in another, have someone to take care of them later in life, have someone who loves them unconditionally, help make the world a better place (granted, pretty selfless) by adding a person made good and wonderful through their nurturing and lessons (the selfish part). You see where I’m going.
Have kids. Go forth and procreate! I love seeing their little diapered butts waddle across the room. But don’t kid yourself; a lot of why some couples choose to have children is for their selfish reasons. Ultimately, it’s a good kind of selfish which is reflected in a proud parent’s eyes or the laughter of a child. The same goes for those who choose not to become parents. Call them selfish but recognize that it’s a different but just as good kind of way to put one’s own desires and happiness first.Tweet