I hate clutter. It honestly is one of the biggest triggers of stress in my life (apart from the whole writing-a-dissertation thing). I get rid of my clothes so much and so often that I sometimes regret it—I am TOO overeager when it comes to throwing things out. This morning, I thought, ‘man, I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of all but two of my earrings.’ Sometimes, you just want to wear a nice gold hoop, ya know? But, apart from those fleeting moments of regret (which really are fleeting—I’m sure I won’t think about gold hoop earrings again for a year), I’m really happy that I’m not a packrat.

What does hating clutter have to do with parenting for social justice though? TOYS and consumerism. They creep in, and YOU CANNOT STOP IT. If you don’t hear from me in the next few weeks, its because I’m drowning in a terrifying tower of toys. My husband loves buying A toys, so it seems like every week, a new Amazon package shows up at our door, adding to the pile of toys in the corner of our family room (not to mention the section of the basement of toys he’s already grown out of). You know that scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when they are in the vault in Gringotts, trying to get one of the horcruxes (Helga Hufflepuff’s cup I think?), but the other objects are magicked so that they multiply every time they are touched, which means that Harry, Ron and Hermione almost drown/get crushed to death by shit?? That’s me, just with toys. Every time I turn around, it’s like they multiply.  (was that Harry Potter reference lost on everyone but me? Lol)

harry potter.jpg

Look at poor Ron and Hermione, about to get crushed by the ever expanding pile of toys gold.

NOW, if you’ve ever given A a toy or present, THANK YOU. I am not complaining! (though it sounds like I am, doesn’t it? Need to work on the tone of this post…) And if A were old enough to understand, he would say “ANK U’ in the nasal-y way that he says ‘thank you’ right now (its adorable, btw). I am not ungrateful for your gifts or ignorant that my privilege has brought us to this moment. Drowning in a toys is related to our family’s class privilege: we have the means (and our friends and family have the means) to buy presents for A when they want to. Obviously, I am so grateful for that. I am grateful for the enrichment and entertainment the toys provide. I am grateful for the love for A that these gifts represent.

But at the same time, toys are inherently linked to capitalism and consumerism: I don’t want A to think he needs THINGS to be happy and to have fun. Ever since I got pregnant, I have been brainwashed into thinking I need all of these THINGS in order to have a safe pregnancy/be a good mother. The purchasing of things does not define the quality of a childhood. Even apart from toys’ consumerist essence, I think a decluttered space leads to (1) a more appreciative attitude towards what we DO have and (2) a calmer and more mindful outlook. Gratitude and mindfulness are two of the most important mental strategies I want A to cultivate.

For now, though, I’m too tired at the end of the day to deal with all of the awesome, fun, and colorful toys we’ve amassed. Consumerism in a capitalist society is nearly impossible to avoid, so I’ve learned to live with some clutter in my life. I will write in the future on my experiments in cultivating A’s gratitude and mindfulness despite (because of?) consumerism.

Happy wiping (and hopefully decluttering),



Birthing a human, pt. 2: Race & Class

There’s a quiet crisis in American childbirth currently: Black women die in childbirth in disproportionately large numbers. In Texas, Black women make up around 11% of births but over 28% of maternal deaths. Numbers are similar around the nation, and activists and media have recently been drawing attention to these numbers. While the rate of maternal death is still overall extremely low in the United States, rates have been increasing since the 1970s. (read more here & here).

The tone of this blog post seems to be in stark contrast to the tone of my last blog post about birth. I argued in the last blog post that women need to cultivate positive, affirming narratives/images of pregnancy and birth in their lives—that anxiety and fear don’t need to be the primary emotions of childbirth and pregnancy. I stand by that message.

But that perspective is clearly one positioned in race and class privilege. In my last blog post, I wrote “I felt in control” and “my doctor…respected me.” I grew up surrounded by physicians. My mother is a doctor. Many of our closest family friends are doctors. I have aunts that are nurses and physicians. Now, as an adult, my husband is a doctor. I grew up with familiarity of the medical system and a deeply held belief that it was there to help me and to heal me. I know these to be truths. For me.

But the medical field has a history of both malicious maltreatment and neglect towards more marginalized communities, so it is unsurprising that there is such a large racial disparity in childbirth mortality for Black women. There are millions of Black women who have had positive and affirming childbirth experiences both inside and outside of the medical institutions of the US. Of course, many Black women make their own positive and affirming pregnancy and childbirth experiences, and there are medical providers that support them.

But I want to take time to reflect on moments in my hospital stay when my class or race changed how I was treated (of course, it’s hard to just pick discrete moments–many times race and class privilege changes the underlying tone of interactions. Plus, the fact that my privilege got me into one of the fanciest hospitals in the region…):

  1. When I mentioned to my labor nurse that my husband was an MD/PhD student, she got so nervous that she had to bring the more experienced nurse on shift to do my I.V.
  2. When I was about to get my epidural at 1 a.m., the night nurse told us that my husband would have to stand in front of me so he couldn’t see the procedure, but the anesthesiologist let my husband watch.
  3. My OB offered me a mirror to watch the pushing stage and advocated for me so a nurse went to go get one.
  4. I’m sure there are dozens more…

My privileged experiences is directly related to someone’s discriminatory/damaging experience. Maternal mortality is obviously the extreme and incredibly rare end of the spectrum. But subtle discrimination can have smaller but nonetheless insidious impacts of women of color.

I want there to be a call to action in this blog post—a tangible thing I could do to promote racial justice in childbirth & pregnancy in some small way. I’m not sure what that is honestly though…Any suggestions, as always, are welcome!


Opportunity Hoarding

My sister introduced me to a podcast about parenting called ‘The Longest Shortest Time.’ On a recent episode (8.30.2017), they interview the author Eula Bliss. About two-thirds of the way through the interview, Hillary (the host) and Eula have a brief exchange about opportunity hoarding as White parents. Here’s my own transcription:

Eula: … I think quite a few of the parents in my community and in my circle actually see some version of opportunity hoarding as their duty—as what they are supposed to do for their child…

Hillary: Because, like, why wouldn’t you get them the best opportunities?”

It’s a brief 30 seconds, but the idea really struck me: opportunity hoarding [as a parent] is the phenomenon when you advocate for the best resources and opportunities for your child. There’s an almost evolutionary compulsion to want your child to have the best of everything. It’s engrained in us that we should loudly promote what is best for our child.

The problem is that my voice, as a parent with racial and class privilege, is already prioritized in society. When I compound it with a parent’s natural tendency to opportunity hoard for my child, parenting becomes a clear mechanism for the exacerbation of power along the lines of race and class.

During the interview, Eula argues that opportunity hoarding can be as simple as being the loudest parent to your child’s teacher. By drawing the teachers’ attention to your child, you are draining the teachers of the energy to focus on other parents and children. Eula has made it a personal policy to advocate to her son’s teacher only if the change would benefit more than just her son. Now, there are obvious exceptions to this—if your child has a physical or learning disability, for example—but I like her point overall. Opportunity hoarding as a White parent is a compulsion that we have to overcome if we, as parents, want our actions to promote justice.

So, my questions to myself: When have I participated in opportunity hoarding for A, particularly in the school setting? What can I do to ensure that my opportunity hoarding instinct (a natural, evolutionary compulsion, I would argue) is redirected to benefit more than just A?

Here’s one mundane example: recently, I’ve been thinking about asking A’s daycare teachers to give him seconds at breakfast and lunch. Since A moved into the toddler classroom a few weeks ago, he’s constantly asking for food when he gets home [an adorable combination of the ‘eat’ and ‘please’ signs, along with a persistent whine, repeated about a million times over]. I wanted to ask his teachers if he could be offered more food if he finishes his plate. This seems like an innocuous request, but opportunity hoarding can happen in small, mundane ways. Since listening to the podcast, I’ve altered my strategy: I’ll ask if any of the kids could be offered seconds of the food. It’s a really simple switch, but instead of advocating for just A, I’m advocating for everyone.



*P.S. Obviously this strategy as a way to promote social justice wouldn’t work if A went to an all-White, all-wealthy daycare, but choosing a daycare is a separate mess that I can get into later.