Monthly Archives: June 2013

The most important thing I can teach my children

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Over the next few years, Monkey’s education will be very organic. Eventually, we will likely be doing some sort of more formal education as I don’t believe in complete unschooling. There will be some structure in our home schooling.

We will teach phonics and then how to read, letters and then how to write and then the rules of English and then when and how to break those rules. We will teach numbers and then counting and then basic arithmetic and then more complex mathematics. And on and on. Some of it will be more organic and some of it will be more structured.

However, these lessons, as important as they are, are not the most important things I want to teach Monkey and her siblings that will come along.

I’ve been accused of being dramatic. I tend to have strong opinions and think everything I have an opinion on is important. EVERYTHING is important. And there is some truth in that. God gives us a thousand different things to do and says “They’re all important”. The trick is to work with Him to figure out which ones to do now and which ones to do later.

For example, do I pay off debt faster to meet the priority of getting out of debt or do I put that money towards storage to get my two years of food and emergency supplies together or do I put that money towards a savings account or do I do a little bit of all three all at once? Do I do none of those and instead use that money to avoid the “evils of the dole” and not take federal financial aid for my husband’s education? I could go on.

I believe God gives us multiple priorities to allow us to learn a more important lesson, and it is one of the two most important things I can teach my children.

By giving us multiple priorities, Heavenly Father appears to set us up to fail. However, what he is really doing is giving us an opportunity to develop a relationship with Him. He does not say “Do everything right now.”

Rather he says:

“And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).

This is an invitation to come unto Him, to trust Him and rely on Him. This is an invitation to learn who He is, to test Him and prove that He is who He says he is. It is also an invitation to learn about who we are and to especially understand who we are in relation to Him.

This is the very most important thing I can teach my children. Although I am not perfect, I have an opportunity to help them understand what it means to have a parent who is loving, accessible, kind, patient, powerful, protective, trusting, faithful and responsive.

Our understanding of our Heavenly Parents is made easier or harder depending on the kind of parents that we have growing up. That doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect parents, since this is both impossible and the Atonement will not only cover our sins when we repent, but the effects our errors have on our children.

A child who understands who they are in relationship to God and who has been taught of the unfailingness of Heavenly Father and their utter dependence on Jesus Christ will be grow into the kind adult who will heal the world. They will not stray far from the loving embrace of Heavenly Parents because they will be grounded in God’s love and will recognize the power that having the Holy Ghost in their lives gives them. If they know who they are in relationship to God they will not be free from trials but they will always walk with Him, despite the trials.

I know that none of my children will understand this perfectly, just as I do not. However, the better they understand this, the closer they will be to the people Heavenly Father knows they can be. The more closely their lives will align with their potential and the happier they will be.

If I can only accomplish this one goal, I will consider myself a successful parent. If only it was as easy as it sounds.

Why we still think we are free

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Wednesday morning I watched a Tea Party Patriots rally at Capitol Hill in D.C. While I could not be there in person, the internet allowed me to be part of it.

As I watched this purely American gathering, free from violence and censure, my heart swelled with love for my country. However, this sense was short lived.

While I watched, the distinct thought came into my mind that “Frankly, none of this really matters. We can speak and fight all we want, but things will not change. We’ll all go home feeling better, like we made a difference, but tomorrow things will still be the same. It does not matter how hard we fight, things will not change.” And then this thought: “We actually think we are free.”

How depressing.

However, it is sadly true. We are not free anymore, at least not like we think we are or were founded to be.

In ways big and small, our freedoms have been slowly stripped away. A little here, a little there. This regulation, that tax, a new law to keep us safe, an executive order to provide something we “need”.

It is not hard to see how government grows and how our freedoms get encroached upon.

However, a lot of the ideas of what make us free. For example, I can, technically, still buy a gun. I can still meet with a bunch of people and express my frustration with my government. I can still start a business. I can still write this blog.

The sad thing is that although the average, ordinary citizen is relatively free, it’s just that: relative.

When my children have to get a permit to hold a lemonade stand, that is a sad commentary on America. When a gathering of moms gets told they are a business and the organizer has to pay the volunteers as employees, that is a sad commentary on America. When we pay nearly 30% of our income in taxes and some people still want to raise taxes, that is a sad commentary on America. When it is revealed the IRS targeted groups for political persecution, the NSA tracks all our phone calls, and the President of the United States tells college students they “should reject these voices” “that incessantly warn of government…or that tyranny always lurks just around the corner“, that is a sad commentary on America and on our freedoms.

We think we are free because we think we can still do the things that make us free. But it’s a sham of freedom, a weak imitation of ruling ourselves.

Worst of all, since we don’t actually understand freedom, we don’t recognize that it’s been reduced and taken away. We have slowly been educated to accept that what we have is actual, genuine freedom.

There is a scripture in the Book of Mormon that reads:

“And other will he [the Devil] pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well – and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and he leadeth them away carefully down to hell.” (2 Nephi 28:21)

We have been lulled into security and the devil has lead us carefully away from freedom.

God’s plan is that men rule themselves. It is His plan that we become “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;“. We can’t do that if we are not “free to act for [ourselves].

We think we are free because we still have the trappings of freedom. Pull back the curtains though, and we find that the core is gone.

It will only be when we start educating ourselves and our neighbors and rejecting the taxes and regulations that enslave us that we will begin again to find the self-evident truths our nation was founded upon. Only then will we being again to be free.

The Modesty Question

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The single biggest question I see when nursing in public is discussed is modesty. There is an attitude that when we talk about nursing without a cover we are going to “just flop out” a breast and let it all hang out while we nurse.

In my experience, most women are discreet (whatever that means) when they nurse their babies and those of us who don’t cover up or remove ourselves to a secluded place believe we can be so without those stipulations.

The modesty question is interesting, especially in the LDS faith. More than almost any other faith, especially any other sect of Christianity, we have a strict code of modesty. Adult members who have gone through our temples commit to wearing clothing that covers the shoulders and legs to the knee and nearly everywhere in between. When discussing the modesty question in the context of the LDS faith, we cannot compare to others who might find it acceptable to wear sleeveless shirts and short skirts – an easy argument to make in favor of breastfeeding for the rest of the world. In this, I do not mean to offend those who are not LDS, just to point out we have a much stricter standard of modesty than others may.

Unfortunately, this standard of dress sometimes is seen as the only aspect necessary to be modest and modesty is taught to many young women that “We need to dress modestly so that we don’t make young men think bad thoughts.” That actually makes less sense to me now then when I was in Young Women’s, though it’s a topic for another post.

Since having a baby and deciding to breastfeed her in public without covering up, I’ve had to decide whether or not I believe it is modest and, more importantly, if I believe that God believes I’m behaving modestly.

To that end, I started in my favorite place: the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

It states that Modesty is:

1 : freedom from conceit or vanity

2 : propriety in dress, speech, or conduct

While most of the words there are commonly understood, I would suggest you look up each defining word separately for a fuller understanding. The one that really caught my attention was “propriety”.

The first two definitions of propriety are obsolete, but I still feel they still have value in this discussion:

1 obsolete: true nature

2 obsolete: a special characteristic : peculiarity

3: the quality or state of being proper or suitable : appropriateness

4a: conformity to what is socially acceptable in conduct or speech

4b: fear of offending against conventional rules of behavior especially between the sexes

4cplural: the customs and manners of polite society

Clearly, my behavior lacks propriety when defined as conformity to what is socially acceptable. However, in many ways and may places my behavior does not conform to what is socially acceptable. Additionally, just because the culture dictates that a behavior is appropriate or inappropriate does not make it so in the eyes of God.

Additionally, when defined as “true nature” or appropriateness, then my behavior of nursing my baby whenever, wherever has propriety.

Please do not mistake me as dismissing the value of social norms or polite society. They are both necessary and extremely valuable when they are correct. However, when they are incorrect they become stumbling stones that can have long-reaching negative effects on individuals, families and societies.

Left with this failure of clarity, my next step was to refer to material published by the LDS church. In the Gospel Topics section of the church’s website, modesty has it’s own section. It states in part:

Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:20; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19).

I also referred to the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. There is no section on modesty, but under Dress and Appearance it says:

Your body is God’s sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God… Prophets of God have always counseled His children to dress modestly. The way you dress is a reflection of what you are on the inside. Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influence the way you and others act. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you.

So then I must question, do my actions accurately reflect who I am? Moreover, do they invite the companionship of the Spirit and are they respectful of my body? If all are true, then I can infer that my actions are modest as well as my dress and grooming.

The section further counsels:

Ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?”

This is the ultimate question. Would I feel comfortable nursing my baby in front of my Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ without a nursing cover? The answer to that is absolutely, unequivocally yes. It is unfortunate that others are made uncomfortable by something that would not make Heavenly Father uncomfortable.

Finally, I found this statement in A Parent’s Guide:

The scriptures often refer respectfully but plainly to the body and its parts. There is no embarrassment and often there is sacred symbolism. It is the world that makes the divinely created body an object of carnal lust. For example, it makes the female breasts primarily into sexual enticements, while the truth is that they were intended to nourish and comfort children…

Teach your children that they will find joy in their bodies when they use them virtuously after the manner taught by Christ (emphasis added).

This confirms to me the answer to the previous question, would I feel comfortable with my [behavior] in the presence of the Lord? Note that it clearly draws a line between the world’s view of breasts (sex) and God’s view of breasts (childcare).

The foregoing is not a comprehensive answer to the modesty question. It does not include all the doctrine on modesty and on breastfeeding. It does not include a discussion on cultural differences over time and geography, LDS breastfeeding art or historical context.

However, it is my answer to breastfeeding and the modesty question. Not everyone will answer the questions the way I did. That’s ok. Some of modesty standardized. The rest is personal, between God and man.

I do not believe breastfeeding a baby in public uncovered is immodest. I know it challenges cultural norms, but I think that’s a good thing. Change is coming on our attitudes about women and sexuality and breastfeeding. Someday this debate won’t even happen.

In the mean time, there’s more to come from me on this subject, so stay tuned and send me your feedback. I’m dying to hear your thoughts.

A few points of clairifcation

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I’m overwhelmed by the traffic I’ve gotten after my last post and the feedback I’ve received. This blog is very new, but I’m not new to blogging and so this much traffic in the first few months is really amazing to me. Thank you!

Before my next official post, I wanted to make a couple of points of clarification after the feedback I’ve gotten on my last.

First, I’m not anti-mothers’ room. I am thankful that there is a mother’s room at my church. I do not condemn the mothers who want to use it. It can be an escape from the world, a safe place to deal with a worked up baby, a quiet place to help a baby sleep and a place to gather with other moms. I wish that more mother’s rooms were more like the one in my church building: not in a bathroom, in a more quiet place in the building and comfortably furnished. I am certainly not anti-moms using the mother’s room.

Second, I’m not anti-nursing cover. Moreover, I think that there are circumstances where using a cover might be called for. I know that some moms would never be comfortable nursing in public without a cover. Since milk from the breast is the very best (not merely pumped and fed from a bottle) and traveling anywhere with pumped milk is a hassle, I would sooner encourage women to use a cover than not nurse in public at all or to bottle feed breast milk or formula. Also, if nursing without a cover might risk or strain a relationship, it might be worth it to use a cover to preserve that relationship. It is up to each woman to decide that.

What I do oppose is the cultural attitude that forces women to be embarrassed by breast feeding. I am anti-hiding and anti-culture that shames and forces nursing moms into hiding. I’m anti-telling women breastfeeding is normal and natural but don’t do it where I can see. I am anti-making it mom’s responsibility to make sure you aren’t offended. I am anti-moms being told they are contributing to someone’s pornography addiction by breastfeeding openly. I am anti-women never being exposed to breastfeeding until they try to do it. I am anti-failure because we don’t give women the tools to succeed. I am anti-moms not getting the help they need because it’s about their (whisper) breasts.

Above all, I am anti-the objectification of breasts that put them in a box that is inconsistent with God’s will.

I see the cover-clad moms in the mothers’ room in general as a symptom of that. I feel the same about the babies being bottle fed in church meetings. I recognize that on an individual basis, each case is different. I’m speaking in generalities.

I am for normalizing breastfeeding. I am for supporting breastfeeding moms and babies. I am for making it easier to succeed. I am for de-shaming women’s bodies. I am for helping women trust their intuition. I am for teaching men that breasts are primarily for feeding babies. I am for teaching women that breasts are primarily for feeding babies. I am for teaching them how to do it before they need that skill. I believe this will help increase success.

Above all, I am for honoring the sacredness of women, of mothers and of the relationship between nursing mother and nursing baby.

Despite all the hype, breastfeeding is still foreign to us. That makes me sad. I can’t ignore the symptoms because they are everywhere and in the end both mother and baby suffer.

We need to change. My voice is just one calling for it. We will have change. And maybe someday every mom and every baby will have the breastfeeding support they deserve.

Why the Mothers’ Room makes me sad

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Our church building, like many church buildings, has a “mothers’ room” in it. It has a small carpet-covered counter top, a garbage can for baby diapers and two easy chairs. Unlike many of the mothers’ rooms in the LDS church houses, it is not in a bathroom.

In the five months since we started attending church in this building, I’ve been to the mothers’ room only a handful of times. Mostly dear, sweet Husband does diaper changes at church and I never use the mothers’ room to nurse (dang hippie).

When I occasionally do change a diaper at church, there are often other moms sitting there, nursing their babies. Often, these women have their backs turned to the door and a nursing cover draped over themselves and their babies. It makes me sad.

Now, I understand sometimes a nursing cover is helpful. I do own one and use it on occasion, mostly when Monkey is too squirmy and distracted to pay attention to eating. I also realize that I am kind of a hippie. I am swimming against the current, rejecting and challenging cultural norms. Not every woman is going to ever be comfortable nursing a baby in Sunday School (truthfully, while I am more comfortable than I was six months ago, I’m not totally comfortable doing it).

However, if there is any place women should feel comfortable nursing openly it should be the mothers’ room at church!

Good heavens, if a woman cannot feel comfortable nursing her baby – doing one of the things her body was designed by God to do – surrounded only by other women who also believe in the sanctity of motherhood, is there any place that nursing will be acceptable?

This may not seem to matter (who cares if you can’t nurse openly, in public or without a cover?). However, this attitude has long-reaching effects.

Breastfeeding has been stigmatized over the years. When I was born, formula was “the way to go” if you could afford it. Thankfully, my mom could not. However, this past preference towards formula – funded by a nearly $8 billion industry – has resulted in a generation of women who do not know how to breastfeed.

It is not always innate or instinctual for mom or baby in the beginning. Anecdotally, almost all of the women I’ve talked to who have had their first babies in the last two years have had issues with breastfeeding. We have not been exposed to it and it is not easy in the beginning. Many give up. By creating a culture supportive of breastfeeding, we support women, teach that it is normal to breastfeed, raise healthier babies and, possibly most importantly of all, help change the cultural attitudes about women’s bodies and help them trust those bodies.

American culture glorifies a woman’s body (as long as it is “perfect”) as sexual, using it to sell everything from cheeseburgers to tires. Simultaneously, it reinforces messages like “birth is dangerous” and “breastfeeding is natural, but so is pooping.” We are taught be exposure that if we have an airbrushed, supermodel body we are valuable as a sex object and otherwise we should not trust our bodies. They are imperfect, broken and dangerous. It is no wonder women hate their bodies!

God’s message is much different. In Genesis, we are told that we are made in His image. In the LDS church, we believe that this is literal, that God does in fact have a body and our bodies are made in the likeness of His. There are very few areas where we are fulfilling a divine role nearly as much as when we are succoring and sustaining our little babies. And yet women hide away in a little room and tuck themselves under a cover as though what they are doing is shameful.

It is tragic and has long-reaching consequences, including breastfeeding “failure” and a twisted view of women’s bodies.

I don’t blame the women who I see in the mothers’ room. I wish they knew to think differently and then had the courage to act differently. I wish we didn’t live in a culture that objectified and shamed women. I wish we didn’t live in a culture that didn’t teach us to disconnect from and hate our own bodies while we envy other women’s. I wish we didn’t live in a society that had a messed up view of modesty and sexuality.

I am not condemning the mothers’ room or women who cover while nursing. To me, they are just symptoms. And it makes me incredibly sad.

That is why I will continue to nurse my baby wherever and whenever she wants to eat, generally without a nursing cover. Hopefully I will be a part – however small – of changing attitudes about what it means to be a woman and how sacred our bodies are, especially nursing mothers!