Individual reparations?

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with our recent purchase of a teepee for A to play in. My aunt graciously encouraged me to donate to an organization or group run by and for Native Americans. This donation would not erase the cultural appropriation associated with teepees as play things for White kids but rather would offset the harm our family committed when we purchased it. While financial donations won’t solve the problems of capitalism and White supremacy, it got me thinking: how else can we use our family’s financial giving to disrupt the forces of racialized exploitation?

I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of charity. Charity/donating money is not inherently bad, of course, but I believe it is too often conflated with the idea of justice. My ultimate goal is to cultivate a life that encourages the formation of more just and equitable systems of economy and politics. Charity doesn’t do that. Charity thinks that more money will solve the problems of a few individuals. It doesn’t see that the actual problem is the system itself.

My aunt’s thoughtful comments, however, got me thinking. What if I reconceived ‘charitable giving’ as ‘individual reparations’? My family has materially benefitted from White supremacy. That’s not to say my family hasn’t work hard, but it is to say that the history of economic policies and the lack of interpersonal discrimination has helped recent generations of my family become economically secure. They have been able to pass that down to me and my son. (The case is a little different for my husband, who is a first- or second-generation immigrant, depending on who is categorizing him). How can I use those material benefits and repurpose them to organizations run by and for Native Americans and African Americans? (These are not the only two groups that are materially hurt by White supremacy, but they are two I want to focus on right now)

I have decided to make regular donations to:

  1. The Organization for Black Struggle
  2. National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

My husband expressed concern that the idea of individual reparations was patronizing. I see his point. Framing donations as individual reparations can come off as condescending or paternalistic. It is my hope, though, that this is an action that is rooted in my acknowledgement of an unfair structural advantage. More money will never solve the problems that capitalism created. But, since the US is nowhere close to committing to societal reparations, there must be something that individuals can do. No, my financial donations are not going to fix anything. But they may put more financial resources into the hands of people who have been historically denied or robbed of their financial resources.

Is this entire thinking motivated by White guilt? I’ve been accused of White guilt quite a bit in my life and even more so recently. I’m not sure the difference between being a reflective White person (who hopefully is willing to put her body and money where her mouth is) to having White guilt. I wonder, though: Does it matter? If my motivation is White guilt, but it still gets me to prioritize justice in my actions—does it matter?

Working moms

“This brings me to the most important lesson I wished I’d known when I first had kids: There’s no such thing as balance, only priorities of the moment”

-(Erin Cochran, 2/22/18 Washington Post)

‘Work-life balance’ seems to be a mantra that everyone uses now, even those without kids. It’s this idea that you need an equilibrium in your life between your work-for-pay and your time away from work-for-pay. Mostly, I hear about how bad most people are at this work-life balance. To complain about how busy and overworked you are is like a currency in our society. Busy-ness (and complaining about busy-ness) proves your importance.

Erin Cochran wrote a piece for the Washington Post the other week about this topic. She essentially argues for the famous Madeline Albright line: women can have it all, just not all at once. As in, you can have a successful career and a happy family—but maybe not at the same time. Cochran quit her high-powered job to stay at home with her kids (though now she runs a small consulting firm, and clearly does at least a little freelance writing as evidenced by this article. Not sure if she still considers herself a stay at home mom or not, but she does identify as it in the article). Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about her main theme. Some days I agree with it—something’s gotta give if you’re going to do anything well. But another part of me is stubborn and wants to not give up on the ideal.

One quote in her article, though, hit close to home: “There’s no such thing as balance, only priorities of the moment.” When I was going back to working full-time in my PhD program (after an amazing 6-month maternity leave), I had many hard days. I intentionally and consciously wrote out my list of priorities to get me through those hard days.

My son (and family in general)
My physical and mental health
My job (and within that, professional activities that promote social justice).

When 4pm rolls around some days and I’m irritated that I didn’t finish everything I wanted during daycare hours, I take a deep breath and ask myself: What’s more important—reading this journal article or high quality time with my son? The answer always is—and always will be—my son. I want to pick him up by 4:30 each day so that I had 2.5-3 solid hours of hang out time with him. He is what matters to me. Knowing my priorities is a mindfulness strategy that allowed me cope with the stress of working-for-pay and being a mom.

Now, I don’t think that you are a bad mom or a bad woman if these aren’t your priorities. One of the beauties of living in the era we do is that women should (in theory) be able to set their own priorities. You prefer your career over having a family? Baller. Do it. There might be days in the future when I really don’t want to pick him up from daycare because this project I’m working on is really important and engrossing. They haven’t come yet. In fact, I have found myself less and less content with work, leading to more and more of those random thoughts: ‘maybe I should be a stay at home mom?’. I highly doubt I would every do it for many, many complicated reasons. But on days when my work just straight SUCKS, I fantasize about it…

Storytime & Badass grandmas: Nana in the city by Lauren Castillo

A has two pretty badass grandmas: Nana & Nene (Hi, mom! Hi, mom-in-law!). It’s not super surprising then that he’s starting to get into a new book: Nana in the City, by Lauren Castillo.

nana in the city cover.jpg

The book is about a little boy spending a night at his grandma’s apartment in the city. At first, he is scared by everything going on in the city. But when his Nana makes him a red cape, he sees the city through a whole different lens: everything that was scary the day before makes the city thrilling today!

We haven’t done any ‘naming whiteness’ talk while reading the book, but we have looked at the illustrations and found racially, socioeconomically diverse urban settings. The main characters do appear White, but (and?) they are situated in representative urban spaces. The illustrations depict homelessness in respectful fashion. It depicts urban parks, taxi cabs, and street food vendors. It reflects urban life in a realistic and optimistic way. I also appreciate the fact that they are showing a male character who is afraid and intimidated by new things (gotta disrupt that toxic masculinity from the start, ya know). And an older woman living a happy, independent life.

Overall, a sweet and pleasant read! With lots to talk about (particularly in the illustrations) for parents interested in stimulating conversations about social justice with their young kids.

Happy wiping,



Teepees in our house

Edit– Look at the comments to see more thoughts!

*Preface: This is a messy, rambling post. I wanted to show an example of my internal thought process. Mostly, to demonstrate that I reaaalllyyyy don’t have all the answers when it comes to parenting with privilege. I’m imperfect and do things that I am not proud of. This is one example.

Teepees as decorations in kids’ rooms…


*Not the teepee in A’s room. A’s room is not this pretty, lol. 

My husband just bought one, and I’m uncomfortable with the cultural appropriation associated with it. I’m a white woman with no known connection to indigenous tribes from the Great Plains in the US (where I understand teepees originated). Do I have a right to have a toy teepee in my house for my son to play in? We didn’t buy it from an indigenous source, which can make having objects from other cultures OK. We bought it off Amazon, where random people are taking ideas from oppressed cultures and making money off of them. That’s what makes me uncomfortable.

I gotta admit though, it’s damn cute (or has the potential to be—right now it’s really wrinkly). A lot of people I love and respect have one/want to get one for their kids/future kids. I think I’ve been brainwashed by the Pinterest aesthetic…send haaaaaalp.

Is it ok if we just call it a ‘tent’? Or is that cultural appropriation and white washing?

And the most annoying part is A loves it. He just wants to lie in it and read books and every night. It’d be so much easier if he just didn’t care about it.

I know what to do (I think). There is no objective ‘right’ way to parent for social justice, but I know (read: think?) in my gut that I don’t feel comfortable with a toy teepee in my house. That’s not to say I’m judging other families who have one. You’re not a bad person, but this is a decision made for my family.

My New Year’s Resolutions: 6 weeks in…

At the end of December, I wrote a few parenting resolutions for 2018. Since we’re six weeks into the year, I thought it would be a good time to check in with myself about them.

Resolution 1: Get off my phone! 

Current grade: C+/B-

I’m doing…not great with this one. My resolution was to put my phone on the other side of the room during playtime. When it’s just me and A, I’m pretty good with it. What really gets me though is if someone else is home. If my husband or in-laws are playing with A, I notice that I’ll just sit on my phone in front of them, even though I could be more engaged in a group play. But I also don’t want to be too hard on myself: If I’ve been alone with A all day, then my husband comes home and wants to play with A, sometimes I just want the mental break that only a good scroll through Instagram can provide….


Resolution 2: Talk to my husband about my blog posts.

Current grade: F

I think I talked to him about it twice maybe. Mostly because of his schedule, honestly. But the point of this resolution was to encourage conversations between us about parenting. We have had recent in-depth discussions (to put it politely…) about screen time and overbuying of toys (see my still-relevant thoughts on that here). So, I am failing at this resolution *technically,* but I’m not mad at myself.


Resolution 3: Don’t criticize my husband’s parenting. 

Current grade: B+?

I think I’m doing well? I don’t notice myself doing it as much anymore, but I don’t know if that’s because I do it less or because I do it more unconsciously. I’ll try to pay particular attention to that over the next few days.


Resolution 4: Encourage A to clean up after himself.

Current grade: A-

We don’t do it *every* night, but 4 out of every five nights, we have him help clean up all of his toys in the living room. Doing well with this one!

Bonus Resolution: Read more books about parenting and social justice

A few weeks after I wrote out my New Year’s resolutions, I also made a commitment to read at least two books about parenting for social justice by March. So, I’ve edited that goal a bit. Instead of books, I’m reading a magazine! I found a new, online magazine called ‘Hold the Line’ that I’ve subscribed to. I’m a few articles into the first one, and I’m really enjoying it! Highly recommend it.

Happy wiping! –Olivia

Joy, pt. 2: The story of A and his neigh


“Neigh! Neiiiighhhh!”, A cried, pointing repeated to his crib.

“What do you say?”


“Alright, here you go,” I say, reaching into his crib and pulling out his stuffed horse.


A slides down my body as we walk into the house. I’m carrying my work bag, A’s daycare bag, and A’s coat, so his dismount from my hip was more of a slide then a gentle put-down. A immediately runs to the TV remote, holds it out to me, and says “Neigh? Neigh?”


“Should we race?”

A smiles and nods his head once. He gets down on his knees, holding Moon, his white plastic horse, on the ground. Then he grins at me.

I smile back and line up Spirit, his brown plastic horse. “Ready, set, go!”


A is currently obsessed with “neighs.” This has nothing to do with parenting for social justice (I don’t think—maybe there’s something here about horses being stereotypically associated with young girls? Haven’t thought it through.). I just want to write it down to celebrate the joy in parenting’s mundane moments! It all started a few months ago, when we found a Netflix show called “Spirit: Riding Free.” It’s definitely a show I would’ve loved as a kid. His obsession started growing when we found a stuffed horse at Ikea (that he sleeps with every night). It got even worse when he got *5* different stuffed or plastic horses for Christmas.


A’s favorite show ever, ever ever of his entire 18 month life. 

But I can feel the beginning of the end for A’s era of neighs. Don’t get me wrong—he still sleeps with his Ikea neigh every day and plays with his plastic horses daily. But he didn’t ask to watch his Netflix show once last weekend. Since, at the height of his obsession he was asking for “neigh” show hourly, this has gotta mean something. He did ask for “aslan” (lion in Turkish). So, we watched Lion King for the first time this weekend. Neighs will always be his first love, but we may be at the dawn of the age of aslan.

I’ll report back in a few months, and let you know!

P.S. See my first post of joy in parenting’s small moments here.

Birthing a human, pt. 3: Learning to love

Around 7:00am on July 29th, 2016, the nurses started setting up my room for delivery. I don’t remember the details, but I remember the rush of emotion when they told me it was time. When I had gone to sleep around 1:30am, I was 2-3 centimeters dilated after being in the hospital for almost twelve hours. I didn’t expect the nurse to tell me I was fully dilated and ready to go. I remember lying on my left side (my epidural only worked on my right side, so the nurse was having me lie on my left to let gravity help), holding my husband’s hand. I started to tear up just because of the sheer overwhelming-ness of it all. The most fundamental shift in anyone’s life—the moment you become a parent—was about to happen.

My OB was in to check on me around the time the nurses started getting the room ready for delivery. Sometimes pushing can take hours for first time moms, but for some reason, she decided to wait to see how pushing went for me. I think I start pushing around 7:15am, but honestly my memory of the timeline is a bit blurry. I have very vivid memories of a few select moments though. My OB asking if I wanted a mirror. What I saw in the mirror. My OB asking for soap (was it soap? I think so…) when A started crowning (apparently, they wash the baby’s head a bit. Not sure if it’s to make them smell nice or lubricant, lol). My OB strettchinnggg me. The sensation that my urethra was about to explode as he came out. Yelling “FUCK” when I thought my urethra was ripping (btw, I’m assuming that’s the ‘ring of fire’ people talk about). My OB saying “7:33am”.

When my OB placed him on my chest, I started crying right away. But honestly—and this is the main point I want to make today—not because I felt that wave of love that everyone talks about. I don’t even know why I started crying, probably just an overwhelming combination of hormones, relief, and excitement. In so many movies or from older women, you hear about this rush of intense love you get the first time you hold your baby. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever felt,” they say. In that moment, though, sure I loved A, but just because I knew I was now responsible for him. If you asked me later that day if I loved A or our dogs more, I probably would have said I love them about the same.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok that I didn’t have the “right” emotions at the time. It’s ok that the intense, maternal love that makes you want to scream, punch anyone who would hurt him, dance, laugh, and cry all in one moment took a while to develop. There is no “right” way to bond with your newborn. If you feel that rush of scream-sobbing love as soon as your baby is placed on your chest, that’s awesome. If it takes you a few hours, days, or weeks, that’s awesome, too. It will come though! And, man, it is the best.


P.S. In previous posts (here and here), I’ve touched on how I cultivate a positive outlook on childbirth and how race & class privilege have shaped that positive outlook.

2018 Women’s March

We went to the anniversary Women’s March in St. Louis last Saturday!


Now, if I’m being honest, we weren’t sure we were going to go. It wasn’t something that we planned our day around. But when we realized everyone was awake and in a good mood (and actually needed an outing to stay sane that day), we decided to stop by the Women’s March in St. Louis. We missed the actually marching (my favorite part from 2017! The energy and enthusiasm was such a salve after the sadness of the inauguration day before). But we arrived for some of the speakers and heard some passionate, badass people talk about badass things.

Last year, A was small enough that he just sat in his carrier and looked around. This year, A is wiggly and energetic enough that we let him get out and walk around. There were no questions of safety for A, which some parents may worry about when deciding to attend a big event like this. At one point, we were close to a very loud speaker and  concerned about hurting his ears, but we just moved away and that was that. It’s my mentality that the child’s immediate physical needs come before the rally/protest (which is a privileged perspective but one I hold): when A needed to wiggle or eat, that’s what we prioritized. Last year, when he needed to nap and wasn’t falling asleep in the carrier, I left the rally so that he could nap. I think that mentality—of prioritizing your kid’s physical needs—can make events seem less intimidating to parents who are hesitant to go.

It was a great experience for A overall. He clapped when others clapped. Watched dogs and looked at colorful signs. Will he remember that he went to the 2018 Women’s March? No. Did he understand any of the political messages? No. But being at an event like that normalizes activism and protest from an early age. Honestly, the introvert in me never really wants to rallies, but, as a parent, I want A to know that rallies and protests are a healthy, essential part of democracy.

Happy wiping!


Storytime and White Feminism: Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz

Last summer, I bought A the book, Feminist Baby, from my local book store. Apart from its obvious appeal (feminism, lol), it is a cute and funny book that A has grown to love. He calls it the ‘baby’ book: he holds it out and says ‘baby! baby! baby!’ insistently when he wants to read it. He particularly loves the page when the baby protagonist refuses to wear pants, because he gets to say ‘popo’ (‘butt’ in Turkish), which always makes us giggle. The baby protagonist does playful feminist things like picking out her own clothes and being a rock star. It’s cute.

During the 758th reading of the book (*approximately, I can’t be sure), I realized something though. Feminist Baby really is the epitome of White feminism. Just as an FYI, white feminism is NOT something we want. It is representative of a feminist ‘center’ that excludes women of color and gender-queer or gender non-conforming folks. The opposite of White feminist is an intersectional feminist, which is what we are always striving to be. I KNOW I’ve failed in many ways to be intersectional in my feminism (for example, it taking 758 readings of this book to understand it…), but it’s something I work on and will continue to work on.

BACK TO THE BOOK: The baby protagonist either plays with dolls or cars, either likes pink or blue. These juxtapositions of stereotypically feminine or masculine things are…fine, I guess. Obviously, I want A to know that anyone can be interested in any type of toy. But it reinforces the binary thinking about gender (i.e., that gender is either boy OR girl). In reality, gender can be somewhere in between or somewhere completely off the spectrum. This boy/girl juxtaposition is just a little basic, IMO. Plus, the illustrations feature a White girl baby (the author makes it clear with the ‘she’ pronouns that the baby is a girl). People other than white women can be feminists, too! I would love to see follow up books to this (also called ‘Feminist Baby’) showing all of the shapes, genders, colors, and sizes of feminist babies.

Oh, and she always wears a bow! That’s a pet peeve of mine. If you want to make the protagonist a cisgender girl, that’s totally cool…but a girl isn’t defined by whether or not she’s wearing a bow in her hair. It normalizes and centralizes masculinity—like people assume a completely naked baby (sans bow) is a boy.

All of this commentary aside, I don’t think the book is a complete dud, but it needs to be used a jumping board into these topics. It can’t stand on its own without age-appropriate complications.

I should’ve known when I saw the publisher was Disney. This is Disney-approved, capitalist feminism—not the radical, intersectional feminism that should be and must be the future [and therefore inherent in how we approach child-rearing].

Sick days and privilege

Being sick is a privilege. Obviously, it suuckkkkssss, but it’s also a privilege. Being able to say—‘My baby needs to stay home today. He’s not feeling well, so I guess I need to take a day off of work’—or to say—‘I just really need a day at home to get 100% better’—is a luxury that a lot of people don’t have. This week, A didn’t go to school on Monday or Tuesday because of a fever. My husband’s parents took care of him most of the time. We are privileged that they have jobs that are flexible—that taking a day off isn’t catastrophic to their monthly budgets. This is one of the first times that I haven’t been the one to stay home with A when he was sick.

I also have a job that, when necessary, I can take a day off without penalty. Since starting medical residency, my husband has never stayed home with A because he was sick–but he also has never taken a sick day himself. If you aren’t a parent yet, I’m sure you are thinking ‘my partner and I would never do that! We’ll split it fifty-fifty.’ I was one of those parents-to-be once. The way our careers and jobs look right now, though, I do 75% of the childcare and 100% of the staying-home-with-sick-kids (well, except this week when I called in grandparent reinforcements). This is a gender dynamic that I wish A didn’t witness on a daily basis, but it’s the reality. My husband is as engaged as possible in childcare during the hours that he is at home, which is what is important.

I’m not sure this is a helpful exercise for anyone, but I caught what A has so my mind is a bit foggy, to say the least. It’s definitely not particularly revelatory. But it makes all of those unconscious thoughts (the ones that you kinda know but have never really thought about explicitly) conscious. That’s an important exercise when thinking about privilege. I’m not sure what my call to action is for this blog post. But being a parent with privilege, I need to engage in regular reflections about mundane-ass shit like sick days and how my privilege shapes my capacity to parent.