Am I pretty? And other ways we use the internet...

A couple of weeks ago I came across something on the internet that made my heart and my head hurt. It made me hurt for the awkward, unpopular, misunderstood, lost teenage girl that I was oh so many years ago, and it made me hurt for all the awkward, unpopular, misunderstood, and lost teenage girls that are doing this THING today.. The thing I am talking about is a YouTube phenomenon called, " Am I Pretty or Ugly?".  Girls, many of them young teenagers, upload a video of themselves and ask the collective opinion of the brutally honest (read: cruel) YouTube commenters to tell them if they are, you guessed it, pretty or ugly.

I am simultaneously saddened that hundreds of girls are doing this (There are almost 600,000 results when you search for "am I pretty or ugly" on Youtube) and I am curious as to how this phenomenon differs from our culture of sharing/oversharing/liking/+1'ing/RTing and so on that we do everyday on all our various social media sites. If you really think about this, have we actually progressed that far from that insecure teenager looking for some kind of validation?

And if we are also being brutally honest here and the answer is not really, then why is that?

We post multiple different kinds of selfies all over the internet. We post pictures of cakes we have baked and delicious meals we have prepared. We post before and after pictures of our house cleaning. We post pictures of our fancy new nail polish application. We post our #NewDo pics. We post our sweaty faces after a good workout. And then we wait. We wait for the validation of our efforts. We wait for the likes, the <3, the fancy emoticon hearts. We wait for the comments. We wait to be told from friends and strangers alike that, "Yes, yes indeed, you are pretty, talented, organized, creative, sparkly, strong, brilliant, hilarious!" We would all be lying through our teeth if we didn't admit to feeling that validation, that sense of "they like me, they really, really LIKE me" every time there is a new like or comment or favourite or RT on any of the different ways we broadcast ourselves each and every day.

I think we are all guilty of doing a bit of the "am I pretty or ugly" game. We just frame it differently now that we are grown-ups and are, of course, fully confident in ourselves and our lives (ha!). For the most part, we also choose our audience better too (although I suppose this is debatable depending on your followers or friends lists).

Is it any wonder that our children are now using these tools and these sites to seek validation about themselves? Think of the examples we are setting for them all the time. We record all of their special moments and tell ourselves that we are going to go home and make a wonderful video montage of their lives for posterity and what do we do instead? We upload it to Vine or Instagram or Facebook and wait for the "OMG!! So much CUTENESS!!!" comments. We lose the pure thrill of the moment and wait for the thrill of "sharing" that moment with everyone else. We are essentially showing our children that they exist for others entertainment, for mommy and daddy to broadcast to the world and we are telling them that the internet gets a say in their lives. So, it begs the question then, why wouldn't they then take control of this into their own hands once they are able to and seek that validation on their own?

Look, I am not trying to be a hypocrite. I post A LOT of pictures and videos of my kids online. As they get older though, I am becoming more and more aware of how this can and WILL affect them in the future. They will see their photos on the internet and they will see the comments. They will see MY comments and they will read what others have said about them too, the good and the bad.

Something in all of this brings me back to what I learned from Gordon Neufeld last year at his "Raising Kids in a Digital Age" lecture. I went back and had a look at my notes and his slides and found the one I was thinking about.

Neufeld's Roots of Attachment

Dr. Neufeld calls this diagram the "roots of attachment". These roots are the things that all children, all human beings, need to feel like they belong, that they are loved, that they have a strong home base that they are attached to. It's our job as parents to provide all of these things, to ensure that these "roots" have a good strong hold in the ground before the "plant" can grow to its full potential. Yet if you take a closer look at all of these things, most of them can be associated with or superficially fulfilled by one form of Social Media or another. Contact and connection - Friend Request and Follow. Approval and significance - LIKE and RT. Belonging and loyalty - Groups and Lists and Circles. Warmth and Love - comments and <3 and :-) faces!

Listen, you don't have to be a renowned child psychologist to figure out that the internet in all its glorious connectivity, is actually removing us from true human connection and attachment. That in our attempts to give our children all they need to be independent and "successful" in this world, we are actually letting them loose into a world that, for the most part, does not CARE about their best interests, that can and will judge them anonymously for every flaw and every wrinkle in the pattern of their being. Unless we really start to think about how we are raising our children (and how we ourselves are behaving and using Social Media) in this digital age, we are running the risk that our children will see themselves through the distorted and superficial lens of something that, try as they might (through asking questions like "Am I pretty or ugly?) will never fill up their basic human need for connection and attachment and a true sense of self-worth.

I realize that Youtube and social media and the internet are not going anywhere. I just hope that I am setting a good example for my children about how to use it responsibly and also making sure that overall, the roots of their budding trees are getting all the watering and nutrients that they need to thrive in this world, both online and off.


*For more information about the 'Am I pretty or ugly?' phenomenon, check out the website and project that performance artist Louise Orwin has started about it.


Feminism.. you are doing it all wrong!

I am one confused woman... and mother... and, dare I say it... feminist. And I apologize ahead of time if this post goes a bit all over the place {see statement above} and if I am about three months late on this band wagon! .

I have been trying for the past week or so to read Elizabeth Badinter's book, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. And I just can't do it anymore.

It is hurting my head and my heart and my very soul reading her words.

And it is doing so on so many levels.

It hurts me because of her blatantly condescending attitude about pretty much everything that I value, hold dear and practice as an attachment parent mother.

It hurts me because of her "look how wonderful WE the French women are at everything we do". From having the highest birth rate in Europe to, you know, getting perineum therapy after having a baby to make sure everything gets all nice and tightened up again 'down there'! {I am serious!! This is a THING people and French social insurance COVERS it!!}

It hurts me because of my own French heritage {my mother was born in Nice} and the beautiful extended French family that I have and love and how it is skewing my view of all things French.

And it hurts me in my feminist heart. Because she is basically saying that I am doing IT {feminism} all wrong.

And she is not the only one.

According to Elizabeth Wurtzel, who wrote how 1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible for The Atlantic this past June,  I am not a REAL feminist either. Her reasoning for this?

Let's please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don't depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own.

So that's it I guess. I must hang up my feminist hat because my husband and I made a decision for our family that I would stop working. A decision that made sense to us both financially and emotionally. And I'd like to point out that although it was ultimately my choice to leave my very well-compensated and highly fulfilling career  to fully embrace motherhood, it was Natural Urban Dad who had a harder time wrapping his head around the idea of someone else beingthe primary caregivers for our children during the day.

So, I love the earth, am a breastfeeding, cloth-diapering, organic baby food making, babywearing, stay-at-home-mother, and I don't earn a living. Therefore...

I am NOT a good feminist.

Wurtzel argues that feminism is not something that you FEEL. That it is an absolute and that if you are not living up to the definition by doing all things equally to men than you are ruining it for all women. Badinter pushes this even further and implies that if you are not only not working and earning a living , but also are not getting yourself all back to your pre-baby sexy self and self-indulgent lifestyle in a matter of weeks (Psst, she is the heiress and Board Chair to the PR firm that has contracts with Nestle, Pampers and such, so consider her position in this with a boatload grain of salt!), then you are a slave to that anti-feminist movement she likes to call modern "naturalist" motherhood.

This is what I find highly amusing about both of these women going on and on about what is or is not killing feminism. Wurtzel is saying that it is the 1% super-rich mamas who have nannies and are stay-at-home parents who get pedicures and go to Jivamukti classes (I had to google that one. As one of my daughter's favourite book characters would say, it's a fancy word for YOGA!) who are to blame. And Badinter, herself one of those 1% (if not the 0.1%) of the super-rich, who truly believes that sending children off with nannies or to daycare (with the help of the state who picks up the cost of this) so as to pursue other ambitions (career or social) is the perfectly logical and very French way to go about being a mother.

Neither of these arguments really make any sense to me, and I am not sure that either of these ladies has a clue as to how the majority of mamas out there in the real world manage our day to day lives. Some of us working full-time, some part-time, some from home, some out of the home, and some of us fortunate enough, YES, fortunate, to have the option to stay at home with and for our children.

Cécile Alduy, Associate Professor of French Studies at Stanford and a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Review of Books, wrote an amazing review of The Conflict. It is a long and detailed analysis of the book and in the end she says that,

Not surprisingly for the heir of existentialist Simone de Beauvoir, Badinter seems to posit that a woman’s existence precedes her essence. You are what you do, not what your XX chromosomes tell you to be. It is unfortunate that second wave feminists like her tend to limit the range of worthy self-defining actions to the mandated “work as self-fulfillment” imperative that serves a capitalist economy so well.

Wurtzel seems to be of the same opinion and for me, I tend to believe that it is THIS kind of thinking that continues to fuel the "Mommy Wars", the war on women and is what is destroying feminism for my generation and likely the next as well.

Trust me, it is not me breastfeeding my child, hiring a babysitter a few times a week to hit up a yoga class and not having a 'real' job.

AND for the record, my sense of self-worth is not defined by what I do...

I am defined by who I am.

And I am a woman... in every sense of the word!




And here is Day 7 of the Summer Blog Challenge. It's starting to get a bit easier... I think.

Check out what the other participants have been up to today...

Zita at The Dulock Diaries.

Meaghan at MagzD Life

April at This Mom’s Got Something to Say

Aramelle at One Wheeler’s World

 Jessica at 2plus2X2

and Liam at In the Now





Attachment Parenting... Not as 'fringe' as you may think.

Kooky. Fringe. Unhealthy. Enslaving. Controversial. These are just a few of the terms I have heard this week to describe Attachment Parenting.

All of this in the wake of Mayim Bialik's new book, "Beyond the Sling: A real life guide to raising confident, loving children the Attachment Parenting way." being released.

Mayim tackles and explores the many aspects of attachment parenting in her book, including babywearing, baby-led weaning, elimination communication and co-sleeping.

I went to Chapter's earlier this week to see if I could get my hands on the book, but they had not received their shipment yet. :(

I am really looking forward to reading this book. I think that Mayim has a lot to offer the parenting world and not just the 'kooky' attachment parenting world. I mean, the woman does have a PhD in neuroscience and did her thesis on the properties of human attachment, outside of her own experiences as a parent, I think this gives her some definite cred in this regard.

What is getting me all hot and bothered about this though is that all the conversations, articles and interviews on this topic are treating these attachment parenting options as some kind of weird and crazy way to parent. Words like DIVISIVE and UNHEALTHY are being bandied around and people seem to be of the opinion that in attachment parenting, we are literally ATTACHED to our kids at all times.

I think what I have decided this week is that I really dislike the terminology being used here. If the attachment parenting style is a fringe style of parenting is the opposite of it, the so-called mainstream style, then DE-tached parenting? If you do not see yourself at an AP parent, would you want this detached moniker be the one that describes you and the way that you parent? I know I sure wouldn't, the implications just seem way too severe. As I believe they are at the other extreme too.

Because seriously mamas, how many of you have NEVER, EVER, slept with your child? If you have, guess what? You were co-sleeping! Anyone ever carry your baby in ANY kind of baby carrier? Baby Bjorn, Snugli, frame backpack, sling? That's right, you were babywearing! How many of you tell me or tell others that your baby decided he just didn't want to nurse anymore at 8 months or 10 months or 14 months? That kind of sounds like baby-led weaning to me, but I am no expert.

Now I completely understand that some things in the attachment parenting continuum may seem extreme to some, but in the grand scheme of things, maybe not so much. The resurgence of cloth diapering and subsequently elimination communication (babies peeing and pooping on a potty with the help of mommy/daddy)  is not just for the 'hippies' anymore. Plenty of "mainstream" mamas are looking at cloth as a better alternative not only for their babies bottoms, but also for the environment. And to be perfectly frank, the leap from cloth diapering to EC is not that big a jump. And trust me, it can be a lot easier to get a 9 month old to sit still on the potty than to convince a kid after three years of pooping in one place to all of a sudden start doing so in another!

Breastfeeding is a whole other beast of a topic on its own, but the more we learn about breast milk and yes, formula too, the more information we have to make the decision that is right for our family and ourselves.

I am in no way telling you that AP is the way to go and that "my" way is the right way here. I mean really, this IS parenting after all and we all have to find a way to do it, enjoy it and yes, even survive it some days! But, what I do want to say is this. Parenting (or heck, LIFE for that matter) cannot be accomplished by trying to fit in a box of someone else's choosing. And parents, mamas especially, you really shouldn't live your lives being defined by how you do or do not do things or feel ashamed of any of your choices.

I mean if Beyonce can babywear and breastfeed Baby Blue (in public no less) and one of the queens of the blogosphere, the wonderful Pioneer Woman herself, is a homeschooler, the principles of attachment parenting can't really be all that 'fringe'. Can they?

Don't be the mama whose "secret" weapon to getting her kid to sleep is actually co-sleeping. Just do what you have to do. So what if you have a baby who needs to be held constantly? Find a good comfortable baby carrier and carry and hold your baby and do what you need to do to keep both of you happy (and NO, you will not spoil your baby). So you want to try out cloth diapering but still use disposable diapers some of the time, go right ahead! There is no need to feel ashamed of your choices and there is no need to EXPLAIN any of them to anyone.

A smile and a 'thank you for your opinion', a la Mayim will suffice and then you can go on your merry parenting way.

The best way that you see fit for you and your family!

Much Mama Love to all of you,


P.S. I promise a full review of Mayim's book, "Beyond the Sling", as soon as I get my kookie AP hands on it!