Ex, family, holidays

Mother’s Day isn’t always easy, is it?

Special thanks to my friend, Marguerite, for sharing today’s featured photo.

I didn’t post any fresh content on this blog yesterday. It was mostly because I spent a good portion of the morning writing new posts for my travel blog. Our trip to Italy was pretty intense. I took a lot of photos that needed to be uploaded, and I had stories that I wanted to share before I forget them. Adding photos on my WordPress travel blog is harder than it was on Blogger. Once I add pictures to a post, for some reason, it gets a lot harder and slower to add written content. It’s like the photos slow down the server, which they probably do. I’m definitely not a tech guru, though; so I can’t explain it.

My travel blog is a true labor of love. It currently gets very little traffic, even though there was a time when it was somewhat popular. But then I moved the blog to a new address and stopped promoting it so much. Then the pandemic happened, and we quit going places. A day after I spent all morning adding three posts, I see that I only have one or two hits– seriously– on my new posts. It’s a little depressing. Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

I remind myself, though, that above all else, the travel blog is for Bill and me. There will likely come a day when travel will become much harder or even impossible. We’ll either lack the money to go places, or our health will make it difficult… or, more likely, both situations will occur simultaneously. Maybe the blog will someday even be a source of pain for that reason. But, for now, I like to share the stories from our trips and preserve the memories. If other people like to read it, that’s a bonus. That blog might be the only worthwhile thing I do with my life. 😉

Maybe Bill’s younger daughter will want to read the travel blog sometime. She often asks Bill questions about our travels. Unfortunately, her upbringing left her somewhat culturally stunted, so she doesn’t know as much as she could about places outside of the United States. The other day, she asked Bill about which side of the road people drive on in Europe. Bill got visibly upset, and expressed sadness that she was never taught about life beyond the US. If she had grown up with Bill, he would have taught her. She would have seen Europe for herself. Ex doesn’t have the excuse of not knowing about Europe herself. She lived in Germany with her first ex husband, and with Bill. Her eldest child was born in Germany.

But, in spite of Ex’s platitudes about loving Scotland and humanity in general, the reality is, her kids were very sheltered. They were denied a lot of normal experiences that most kids in America experience. At the same time, they were often expected to deal with things that children should not have to deal with at all. It’s a real pity… but, on the bright side, at least younger daughter can talk to Bill whenever she wants to now. And he can now teach her some things she should have learned about years ago.

I think younger daughter would probably enjoy reading my travel blog more than this blog, anyway. It seems that I’m always trashing her mom. I do realize that while younger daughter may totally agree with a lot of my points, it’s still her mom that I regularly trash. I know that reading some of my passages might be painful for her. Or, maybe she might feel vindicated. She’s about to have her third baby. Bill said that his new grandson will be born sometime this month. I wonder how she feels about Mother’s Day, now that she’s a mom herself.

When Bill finally went to see younger daughter in March of 2020, they talked for two days straight. It had been 15 years since they were last in each other’s presence, and there was so much to discuss. There still is. Younger daughter has proven to be very astute in her observations. She is very clearly Bill’s child on many levels.

During the course of that visit, younger daughter observed that Bill voluntarily helped her in the kitchen. While they were washing dishes, she said, “Let me guess. When you and my mom were married, you did most of the work, didn’t you?”

Bill answered in the affirmative.

“When my mom comes here to visit, she just sits on the couch with her phone and complains. She never helps in the kitchen.” younger daughter continued. For some reason, she never calls her mother “mom”. She refers to her as “my mother” or “my mom”. She has also said that she doesn’t call her “mom” in front of her children. Instead, she calls her by her first name, and tries not to mention her.

She later told Bill that when she was growing up, she and older daughter were expected to do all of the housework, while Ex sat on her can. Ex’s daughter with her third husband apparently rarely helped them, either. One time, Bill’s daughters did the laundry and brought it into Ex’s bedroom. Ex said, “This is all well and good, but you should be putting the laundry away for me, too.” When she turned 18, younger daughter decided she had to get away from her mother. So, with help from some good people in the LDS church, she made her escape.

To younger daughter’s immense credit, I have observed the way she interacts with her own children. She’s a wonderful mom. The other day, she sent Bill a video from a park where the kids were playing. Her son, who will be five this year, could be heard off camera saying, “I had an accident.”

A lot of moms might have been annoyed by the interruption. I’m pretty sure my own mom would have been put out at having to clean up an “accident” at a park. But Bill said his daughter said, in a gentle tone of voice, “That’s okay. Let’s go find a bathroom and take care of that. No, don’t take your pants off here!” (giggle) And then she ended the video, so she could take care of her son.

Meanwhile, her little daughter was mugging for the camera, showing off her toy cell phones, and literally “shooing” away another kid who was bothering her. It’s just so obvious to me that Bill’s daughter is a wonderful, caring, involved mom. She’s made a point out of not being like her own mother, who would tell anyone who would listen how involved and devoted she is, telling her children to “follow their dreams”. The trouble is, Ex makes it impossible for her children to follow their dreams, and she tries to deny them access to people who can help them achieve their own desires for their lives. She expects them to stay close, and help her achieve HER wants and needs.

I know Mother’s Day isn’t easy for a lot of people. My own mom was never much into the role of motherhood. She would be the first to admit it, which is one thing I admire about her. You can say what you want about my mom, but she’s brutally honest and pragmatic, even with herself. I called her yesterday, and we had a brief chat, because she had promised her friend that she would have brunch with her. As we were about to ring off, my mom said, “Well, I wish we were closer, but we’re not… so…”

I think she meant “physically closer”, since I live on another continent, and we haven’t seen each other in person in almost seven years. But I think it could also mean “emotionally closer”. I saw a lot of people posting beautiful tributes to their mothers yesterday. I posted a few for my mom, too, because she is genuinely worthy of a mention. My mom is very, very creative, smart, and talented. She was a church organist for over fifty years, and she makes incredible and intricate creations with needles and threads. She ran a successful business for twenty-five years, without benefit of a bachelor’s degree. She spent 56 years married to my father, who was not an easy man to live with. And she raised four daughters who have basically turned out fine. Through it all, she managed to stay beautiful and youthful, and basically healthy and functional.

When I was growing up, she could be harsh and aloof, and I was expected to take care of myself. She was not a mom who would spoon feed me medicine when I was sick, double check my homework, or comfort me when I was sad. She was not maternal like that. However, she would be the first to admit that she wasn’t very gifted at motherhood. She used to tell me that my sisters and I grew up okay “in spite of” her. Wow. Talk about self-reflection.

This picture pretty much sums up our family…

When my father died in 2014, I watched my mom turn into a different person. I think she’s a lot happier. She’s definitely a lot easier to talk to now. I know she loved my dad, but like I said, he wasn’t easy to live with. She didn’t always have all of the choices she might have had if she had married someone else. Now that she’s a single person, she can do as she likes. She only has to worry about herself. That’s very freeing, and I’ve noticed that her disposition is much nicer these days. We have had a lot of nice conversations on Skype… which, weirdly, makes me feel closer to her now, than I felt when I saw her on a daily basis.

One of the things I love most about my mom is that she’s happy to let me live my life. She doesn’t expect me to live my life on her terms. She isn’t emotionally manipulative to me. I don’t get guilty emails or phone calls from her, shaming me for living so far away. For a long time, I thought she didn’t care much about me. But now I think she is just content to live independently, and is happy to let me do the same. As I’ve gotten older, my appreciation and respect for my mom has grown a lot. She’s a remarkable person, even if she’s not the most maternal woman in the world. I’ve learned a lot from her. I’m grateful that my feelings about my mom have improved as I’ve gotten older. She’s very honest about who she is, and that’s a good thing. I much prefer my very honest and painfully pragmatic mom, to Ex’s bullshit facade that she puts on for everyone who shouldn’t be important in her life. Above all, my mom is, deep down, a good person. She’s not a great mother, but she’s a very good person. Now that I’m a middle aged person myself, I appreciate that about my mom.

This is a weird post. I know it might not go over very well. I’ve never been very good at presenting the best image. Maybe I just inherited my mom’s pragmatism and bluntness.

Anyway, I hope those of you who celebrated Mother’s Day had a great day. And if Mother’s Day is painful for you, for ANY reason, I wish you peace and comfort. Mother’s Day isn’t always easy.

Time to end this post and move on to my travel blog. I still have several more days to write about…

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complaints, condescending twatbags, LDS, rants, slut shamers

Repost: Speaking of shameless shaming– Breastfeeding is not an act of public indecency!

Here’s a repost from July 27. 2018, inspired by the swath of people who seem to think that breastfeeding a baby is an act of public indecency and my recent post about the Duggars and “defrauding”. As you can see, the fundies aren’t the only ones who have screwy beliefs about modesty. I am posting it mostly as/is, as I consider what today’s fresh post will be. The featured image is in the public domain.

I would be remiss if I didn’t post about this news story I read last night about a Mormon woman who was shamed by her bishop and stake president for breastfeeding (link was removed because it no longer works).  According to KUTV, an unidentified LDS mom of four from northern Utah lost her temple recommend because she decided to breastfeed uncovered while she was in the foyer of her church.  Temple recommends are basically cards that identify worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  One must have a valid temple recommend in order to visit the church’s temples, where “sacred” and secret religious ordinances, including many weddings, take place.  Temple recommends are very important to faithful Mormons.

A few weeks ago, the mother had gone to see her bishop about getting her temple recommend updated and signed.  The bishop told her that church members had complained about her openly breastfeeding her 18 month old baby.  LDS churches have “mothers’ rooms” where breastfeeding moms can go to privately feed their babies.  The bishop said she should either use the mothers’ room or cover up, since her decision to openly breastfeed might cause the men in the church to have “sexual thoughts”.  The bishop refused to sign the temple recommend and she had to get it signed by the first counselor instead.

Later, the mom visited her stake president so he could also sign her temple recommend.  The stake president also brought up the breastfeeding issue and quoted from a church pamphlet about the importance of modesty.  The pamphlet, “For the Strength of Youth”, is well-known to LDS church members and provides guidelines about how church members are to present themselves. 

The mother said that she got very upset during the meeting and had to leave the room several times to calm down.  The woman’s husband, who was also in attendance during the meeting, was told that he needed to “control his wife”.  The husband was also told that if he supported his wife’s decision to publicly breastfeed without a cover, he would also lose his temple recommend.

Some people may wonder why the woman didn’t simply use the mothers’ room.  Apparently, the room is off of the bathroom and this mother claims it’s too isolating for her.  Also, she says she can’t hear the service in the mothers’ room.  The mom warns that even after her child is weaned, she doesn’t plan to back down on this issue.  She correctly states that breastfeeding is not a sexual act and publicly feeding her child is not wrong.  She wants the church to be more accepting and sensitive toward mothers who choose to breastfeed in public.

As I read this story, I was, at first, very irritated on the mom’s behalf.  Fellas, if you’re turned on by a woman’s breasts, that is your problem.  It’s not up to women to protect you from your sexual thoughts.  You need to exercise more self control and realize that breasts are, first and foremost, intended to feed babies.  I realize that public breastfeeding is a somewhat new phenomenon in that, until recently, many women would feel uncomfortable exposing their breasts in public to feed their babies.  But dammit, breasts are not primarily for titillation.  They have a purpose.  A man’s sexual reactions to seeing a woman’s breasts are secondary to that very important purpose.  When it comes to embarrassment about breastfeeding, it’s the men who need to get over themselves, not the women.

Then, after reading about how this mom was treated by church leaders, I was irritated by her reaction.  I understand that the LDS church is the type of organization where membership is very important, particularly within family circles.  It’s not like it is in my family, where people attend different churches.  Most of my family members are protestants, but they aren’t all Presbyterians.  I have an aunt who is Episcopalian and a sister who is an atheist.  My mom played organ in Baptist and Methodist churches for most of my life.  Yes, many of my family members go to church, but there is no pressure to attend a specific church or practice a particular religion.  This is not necessarily true for Mormons.  To them, family participation is essential and in devout families, there is intense pressure to be Mormon and participate fully in the church.  Leaving the church can lead to a host of unpleasant consequences.

And yet… here is this nice couple doing absolutely nothing wrong, sitting there listening to church officials berate them for doing something totally natural and necessary for their baby’s health, and threatening them with eternal damnation for not conforming to their stupid rules about modesty.  I realize I’m not Mormon and never have been, but it’s inconceivable to me that these people tolerated those shameful remarks from church leaders.  They should have told both the bishop and the stake president to go fuck themselves (sorry, I’m in a mood this morning), gotten up, and walked out, vowing that their children would not grow up to be tithe payers.  I may be very cynical or even naive, but I think that’s ultimately a response that would get church leaders to listen.  Seriously, fuck those guys.  They are just regular men put into positions of leadership in a manmade religious organization.  They only have as much power as their members are willing to give them.  As long as church members allow them to talk to them in that way, the abuse will continue.

I do think it’s abusive to subject breastfeeding mothers to shame, scorn, or ridicule for daring to feed their babies in public.  If you think the church is right about this, the next time you have a meal, put a blanket over your head or go sit in the bathroom to eat.  Tell me, is that a pleasant way to dine?  Why should mothers and babies have to tolerate that?

It seems to me that this mom is very faithful to her beliefs.  She is exactly the kind of member the LDS church would not want to lose.  She cares enough about the church to want to hear what is said during meetings, even when she’s nursing her child.  While I personally think Mormonism is bullshit, she clearly doesn’t.  I don’t think she’s the kind of church member they’d want to alienate, since she has clearly had several children who will one day pay tithes… that is, if the church doesn’t one day drive them out with their outdated and anti-woman policies.

Churches are definitely losing members lately.  Nowadays, many people are abandoning religion or attending churches that offer more in the way of personal enrichment or entertainment.  I have never attended a Mormon church service, but Bill has.  He tells me they are extremely boring, except perhaps on fast and testimony days, when members get up to testify that the church is true.  I have heard that a number of colorful testimonies have been offered on those Sundays, although in order to enjoy them, you have to be fasting…  I’m not sure that’s a good tradeoff.

I’m sure the church is very important to this mother and her husband.  It’s a pity she didn’t just tell her leaders that she’d find a church where breastfeeding mothers are more respected and men are taught that they need to control their lust.  The onus should not be on women to protect men from “falling”.  The men should be taught to self-regulate.

And… for the last time, breastfeeding babies isn’t sexual.  If you think it is, you’re the one with a problem.

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music, musings

“A Mother for My Children”…

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I got a Homepod for Christmas. Yesterday, we spent the day listening to it. For the most part, it’s a pretty cool device, although I’m definitely going to have to figure out why the AirPlay drops out all of a sudden, even when I’ve changed screensaver settings and anything else that would encourage my computer to “time out”.

Anyway, as I was putting together the latest jigsaw puzzle– over a month in progress– a song by The Whispers came on. I’m not that familiar with The Whispers’ music. I must have downloaded a greatest hits compilation by them recently, because I heard a couple of their songs yesterday. One of them was a surprisingly upbeat number called “A Mother for My Children”. Edited to add: I see why I downloaded it now… it was for the 80s era song, “Rock Steady”. I like that one!

I think I know why the mother of his children left…

Here are the lyrics to this song:

I can’t stand to live alone
With two children and a home
When Mother’s Day comes along
They ask me where their mama’s gone

Left me here scrubbin’ floors

Never washed two dishes before
How can I tell two little boys

Your mama ain’t comin’ home no more

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
Don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children

We couldn’t see eye to eye
Packed her bag, said goodbye
Didn’t care if we lived or died
The kids they always ask me why

Left us on a rainy day
Begged her but she would not stay
Said she had to go away
Gotta find someone to take her place

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother
I’ve gotta find a mother for my children

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother
I’ve gotta find, yeah, yeah, yeah, mother for my children

I got to and I got to, I got to find a mother for my children
Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no brother
Gotta find a mother for my children

Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children, yeah
Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children

At first, I wasn’t really paying attention to the song. It was unfamiliar to me. But then I caught some of the words. They’re about a man whose significant other– wife or girlfriend, I don’t know– has just taken off for parts unknown. And now, this man who apparently knows nothing about child raising, cooking, cleaning, or any of the other “wifely” or “motherly” duties expected of women in the early 1970s, feels compelled to find a “replacement” for the mother of his children.

I shared the song on Facebook as a joke, mainly because it just sounded crazy to me. I don’t hear the man lamenting that his woman left him sad or lonely. I don’t hear him missing her. I don’t hear him wondering what he can do to get her back, at least into their children’s lives. Instead, I hear a danceable song about how this man has to find a “replacement” for his children’s mother. I thought it was funny, so I posted “Why doesn’t he hire a nanny?”

A friend of mine is a man who is raising his daughter alone. His wife died a few years ago of lung cancer. Their child was days away from her first birthday when she lost her mother forever. My friend has understandably been sad about losing his wife and his child’s mother. I know it’s been hard for him. He posted, “Not the same thing.”

Of course, I know that. My point is that it’s very difficult to “replace” one’s biological parent, although some people do a great job of trying. And while I know there are situations in which it makes sense to find a surrogate parent for a child who has been abandoned by death or divorce, it’s still a very serious and difficult task. So I was confused as to why the song was so upbeat and energetic. You could dance to it… sing along, even. And I figured the flippant way in which this song was conceived gave a big clue as to why his woman “had to leave”, especially since his focus isn’t on finding a partner, but a “mother” for his children. The mood of the song comes off as insensitive, like the mother of the children was really more like a nanny/cook/maid who happened to share a biological bond with the kids. If he simply needs a replacement, why not simply hire a nanny? At least she’d be getting paid for that thankless job, and when the child raising was done, she could move on to the next people.

It’s not easy parenting another person’s children. It’s not even very natural. A lot of people expect stepparents to love their stepchildren as if they had created them. I never really had the ability to bond with my stepdaughters, but I would have tried to build a good relationship with them if I’d had the chance. I might have even grown to love them as if they were my own. However, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect a new partner to love their stepchildren as much as they might love their own kids. In many ways, love is a decision and a choice, but in the most fundamental ways, true love comes from the heart. And something that comes from the heart isn’t necessarily built on choices, reasoning, or necessity. Choices and reasoning are products of the mind. Expecting love to automatically blossom between stepparents and stepchildren is very unrealistic, even if it is the desired outcome. I think that a lot of things can get in the way of that relationship, even if everyone wants it to happen. In my view, it’s more realistic to hope for peaceful co-existence among steps than a parent/child relationship.

I think anyone who goes looking for a partner simply to be a mother or father to his or her existing children is dooming their relationship to failure. Yes, it’s important that a potential stepparent have the capacity to bond to existing children. At the very least, the relationship should be civilized and respectful. In time, when the relationship blooms, maybe real love will follow. I’ve seen it many times among my friends who are stepparents. But I’ve also seen stepchildren cast aside when the stepparent has their own biological child. I’ve seen natural parents do their best to sabotage relationships between children and their ex’s new partners. I’ve seen children resist their stepparents’ attempts to bond with them, especially when they are caught in loyalty binds.

Even though “A Mother for My Children” has a good beat and somewhat decent lyrics, I think the premise behind this song is ridiculous. You have lonely children who are upset because their mother left them. Did she really leave them for good? Is there a chance Mom might be back to claim her children? Is it wise to search for a “replacement” mom if the real mother isn’t yet dead? And if you’re focused simply on finding a “mother” instead of a “partner”, do you really expect the relationship to succeed? What will you do when the boys are no longer in such dire need of a mom? Will you then kick her to the curb because though she’s a good mom, she’s not a suitable partner?

Now, in my friend’s case, I can see why he’d want to find a “mother” for his daughter. His daughter’s mom is tragically never coming back again. She’s just turned seven years old, and it won’t be long before she’s in puberty. My friend will have to find some way to teach her about the things women have to know as they get older. I know he’s uncomfortable and totally clueless about it. I also think he’s lonely and would love to have a companion. I hope he’s considering his daughter’s feelings as he looks for a new significant other, but ultimately, he needs to find someone who is suitable to be his partner first. And given his attitude lately, I think that might be a tall order.

I have another friend whose wife– mother of their four children– died of cancer. He’s recently gotten remarried, and his wife now refers to herself as the “mother” to his children. They’re all apparently okay with it, although the children are old enough to remember the woman who gave birth to them. Personally, if I were in that situation, I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself the children’s mom, particularly if I hadn’t been married to their dad for very long. But it seems to work for them, and that’s great. Every case is different.

I just think it’s interesting that the songwriters of “A Mother for My Children” seem to think that this would be an attractive position for a woman to fill. When it comes down to it, being a mother to someone else’s children is a proposition that will likely fail as time passes. Real mom will probably come back at some point. Replacement mom will be pushed aside. And if she’s with the guy simply to be a “mother” to his children, the relationship will probably end very badly. Seems hardly the type of situation that would call for a catchy chorus and danceable beat. I do think this is a real situation that comes up and it’s good song material. I just think the mood for this particular song is very strange and if I were approached by this man on the hunt for a mother for his children, I would run the other way!

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