Friday, April 22, 2005

When it rains...

... it pours. This is one of the Anglo (what should I say, English, American? I don't know if it's either or both or whatever) expressions that I can't translate into Portuguese, and it always comes to mind even when I'm speaking Portuguese (another one is "not out of the woods yet" -- I said it yesterday to Klebert, my husband, meaning that my sore-throat problems weren't over, and he didn't even know this expression!)

Anyway... this week has been pretty hard. Well, for starters, I had a sore throat for a couple of days and now I'm hoarse and coughing a bit (I'll skip the more nasty details) -- meanwhile, Linton is teething, and nights have been not very restful, with him nursing all the time. Besides teething, he has a runny nose, which bothers him a bit (funny, but he ALWAYS has a runny nose coincinding with teething... and I know that's not supposed to be one of the symptoms). On top of that, last night I forgot to check on his diaper for a while (American diapers tend to be super absorbent, and if they're not soiled, they last several ours, as everyone knows, and I tend to simply forget, sometimes until they leak) and when I did - oh-oh! - there was a monster diaper rash waiting for me, and an almost dried out soiled diaper. Klebert says the rash has been developing for days, but I guiltily think it was all my fault. In conclusion, since he's been nursing a lot, and perhaps because of the drool of teething, or maybe something he ate, whatever... he soiled his diaper 3 more times after we found the diaper rash, and he cried piteously every time I changed him (more guilt)...

Kelvin, meanwhile, gets super clingy every time his brother's not well, and I go almost crazy, of course. I know all this shall pass, and, there are better things to think about such as Spring, beautiful Spring!! (I'll post about that later) And this weekend we're going to my brother and sister-in-law's house. They moved 3 weeks ago to Maryland - hurray! - they lived in Michigan before, and now that we're pretty close (under 3 hours away), we want to visit each other at least once a month. That should be fun! Their baby, Derek, is only 4 months younger than Linton, and it'll be great to see them grow together.

Last but not least, I do want to post some photos, let's see if I can do it soon...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Contextualizing "mommy wars"

Here I want to post some links to other "mama blogs" that I read some time ago and that taught me about "mommy wars".

I had never heard of the term until less than two months ago when I came across first these posts (on "mommy wars" and "Mommy drive-bys") in the midlife mama blog, which in turn led me to the Chez Miscarriage Blog, where I was amazed by the viciousness of mothers against other mothers in the guest bloggers' "testimonials" here.

These are all more or less related to Judith Warner's book Perfect Madness. Of course, I haven't read the book, just an Elle Magazine (sounds strange, right?) article about it I found a link to in the Expat Mama blog.

OK, enough links. Now that I've proven to myself that even not knowing any html I can still get some links going, I can continue...

I found it extremely interesting to learn about all this. My previous exposure to some aspects of this discussion had started with Naomi Wolf's book Misconceptions : Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood which I read and re-read in my second pregnancy (03-04). I had no idea about the changes that had taken place within the context of giving birth in this country in the past 20 years, and I felt privileged that my experiences were wonderful, very unlike those of Wolf's. I have also read/ heard some of the criticisms Wolf's book received, but I enjoyed it very much.

(on a side note, this whole thing with seemingly controversial books that elicit lots of responses, then the interest dies down, or moves on to other books, seems very "American" to me. In a country like Brasil, not many people read books, and there's not a lot of meaningful "bookish" discussion among people)

Anyway... I continue being an outsider, yes, definitely "the other" I studied about in literary theory. Nevertheless, I understand what goes on, but do not feel very affected. These "mommy wars" do not bother me much because I live a life "out of context" in a sense. Even if I go back to Brasil now, my life will still be "out of context" there as well. Yes, I'm a "SAHM" (stay at home mom), and supposedly a student. And maybe someday I will be working and mothering as well, but right now I'm happy. I mean, I'm an expatriate, yes, but have never ever felt any limitations in terms of language and culture. Of course right now I feel sad that my son does not know English yet, but that will come with time - I'm giving him the "gift" of Portuguese, his parents', grandparents', aunts', uncles', etc, language.

But I digress, of course I do... Having done so, I will finish with two more links. I recently found out there's a new book out, The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars, and the author is from here, Philadelphia, this is her blog. Well, I'll see if I can check out Warner's and Peskowitz' books from a library, unfortunately, I have no money to buy books right now :( (only Catherine Newman's, I'm that big of a fan :)

Friday, April 15, 2005

No “Mommy Wars” in Brazil

In Brazil there are no mommy wars, generally speaking.

(Disclaimer: I know this is a very blunt statement, and the analysis below perhaps a bit superficial. This is a beginning, though, and I’m hoping to talk to other Brazilian mothers and get back to this topic here. And, last but not least – why should I worry? This is just a blog, anyway, not an academic paper!)

In Brazil, everybody has a “maid” (yes, I will use the PI term, I’m talking about Brazil, not the US), even stay at home moms. It is common for families to have a live-in-maid/nanny/cook (the rich ones do have all these different positions, of course). Of course I’m talking about middle class people, but even the “domestic helpers” themselves (OK, sometimes I can’t resist the PC terms because I think they sound so weird and funny to my foreign ears) – if they have children – have to rely on childcare of some sort, and some of them do have “maids”! Brazil has very deep social inequality, and informal labor, which is quite cheap, is widely available – besides having been relied upon for years and years by the “less poor” and the elite until it became a pressing need.

Some other key-differences that have to do with mothering/parenting: not many mothers breastfeed in Brazil, the percentage is tiny. It’s getting better with many public awareness campaigns and policy making (e.g. formula cans, bottles, pacifiers come with a printed warning saying that breastfeeding is best and is recommended at least until the child is 2, and I’m not totally sure about this one, but I think these items cannot be advertised in magazines geared towards parents – wow!), but I’d say for now that it’s mostly the poorer moms who breastfeed, and in the more affluent families, breastfeeding is usually given up before the baby’s one, or much earlier (regardless of whether the mother stays at home or not – even though I should note that there are no good breast pumps available for the working moms). Well, backtracking a bit, Brazil is the country with record rates of Cesarean sections (90% in some private clinics/ hospitals)! In Brazil, home schooling is extremely rare, almost outlawed, and anybody who can sends their kids to private schools, starting in kindergarten or earlier, because public schools have very poor quality (conversely, with a few exceptions, the public universities, which are FREE – yes! – are excellent and private higher education institutions tend to be much worse).

I’m sure there are several things I’ve forgotten to mention and may even post about in the future, but the bottom line is that many of the issues that worry so many of the mothers here in the US are not even discussed or questioned there. That’s one of the reasons I usually have a hard time relating to how some of my friends there live and parent in Brazil. Even before I had kids, when I went there I found funny that one of the main topics of conversation among my married female friends would involve concerns with their hired domestic helpers, and I would feel completely left out of the conversation. Of course I grew up with people helping in my parents’ household, but in our case, they were mostly student girls, who lived in our house, helped out, and my parents helped to pay their studies, and since I got married, I’ve never had any help (excluding my mom and dad when the boys were born). Well, I did live only a year and a half in Brazil after we were married, and have lived here ever since (we’ve been married for 10 years), so it’s only natural I have a hard time identifying with my friends’ “domestic lives” in Brazil. Oh, yes, and I’ve never “mothered” there either, except for the past 2 months.

Like I said in the “disclaimer”, I do want to go into this further, but I feel that even though I haven’t mothered yet while living Brazil I am still very much a Brazilian, and can think and write about these things. Another thing, I wouldn’t say that being a Brazilian makes me completely immune to the mommy wars being waged around me (at least the way I experience it second-hand in blogosphere, the internet and the media, since I’d say we live fairly isolated lives, having almost no friends, except Brazilian expatriates, etc…), but I do feel very “free” to mother, being a foreign, and having many other life perspectives. Maybe I do have something to contribute, let’s see!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

In love with my babies... or baby & big boy?

These past few days I've been sooooo infatuated by my cute, cute, cute 10 month-old! Not that I haven't been crazy about him all along, but there's something about these babies who can crawl to you when you call them, and climb on your legs/knees/lap, and smile their most delighted grin (with spaced teeth on top) that makes them super endearing.

If you've ever had a wedding, you'll remember how tired your lips and mouth felt after smiling non-stop for hours at all those people, cameras, etc (not that you weren't happy, mind you). That's how my own smiling mouth felt yesterday at the playground, when Linton went on the swing for the first time. What an irresistible grin on his face, what giggles! I couldn't help but smile until I was tired, but couldn't stop myself from smiling, cooing and giggling right with him!

Problem is -- this unbearable cuteness makes me want to have another baby, and another one after that... Nothing against large families, the more the merrier, but we most probably cannot aford one, and we've always planned having only two kids. Oh, and on top of that crazy desire is the whole thing with girls. Let me explain, my husband has 3 brothers. My in-laws kept trying to have a girl and ended up with 4 boys. So far they have 3 grandSONS, so everyone wants a girl. Besides, I've always wanted one myself, even though I'm happy with my two boys, and I keep thinking, what if we did have a girl? No, I'll take no chances and end up with 3, or 4 boys like my mother-in-law.

Meanwhile, my 3-year-old is becoming a big boy, even though, small as he is, he still looks very much a baby (we think that his brother probably will be as tall as him in a year or two, and they're 2 years 3 months apart). I like of the way Catherine Newman describes this growing up of the oldest child,
here , and in her book (p. 31): "Babyhood is falling away from Ben in huge chunks. He's like a molting snake, shedding first his diapers and now, it seems, his trusty afternoon nap."

Kelvin is partly potty trained now (pees OK in toiled, but asks for a diaper for pooping), and last Tuesday I moved his toddler bed into his own room. He had already been sleeping there for over a week, in the futon we have for guests, and I thought it'd be a good idea to move his bed from our bedside, and he even helped me do it. I'm surprised at how easy it was, I wish weaning was easier too (he still nurses once, sometimes twice a day). Oh, yes, and most days he's not napping either, and has not even been too cranky at the end of the day (I'll admit, sometimes he is - the funny thing is that today he was crankier than most days because he had a nap - it always happens with me when I sleep in the afternoon, I understand).

Anyway, both of them will grow in no time, and, like my friend's husband says - it's no use having another baby to replace the one that's growing, in the end they all grow up... and it'll be a long time before we can become grandparents (oops! isn't it too early to be thinking about that at 33? But there are thirty-somethings who are grandparents. In Brazil there's this soccer player [Casagrande] who had a daughter when he was 15, and she had a baby when she was 15!).

Well, those have been some of my thoughts lately...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Writing and rewriting

I just edited the post below... it's good to get things going here in my blog by posting directly online, but I can't help but want to correct the mistakes and make the language better (e.g. I had mispelled at least one word and the last paragraph had the word "back" four times - ugly!).

This is one of my problems with writing - I really hate rewriting, reviewing, correcting (not grammar, but structure). I'm lazy. So I keep wondering how in the world I am going to finish writing my dissertation. Someday. Well, this "journal" is good practice because I have to at least make some sort of sense, and that leads me to the very thing I loathe - reviewing and rewriting - and here I do it happily, since it's not the same as rewriting an academic paper.

On a side note I should say I was quite upset 2 weeks ago (I was still in Brazil) when I learned that a paper I had submitted for publication in the scholarly journal Children's Literature (a special issue on Louisa May Alcott) was rejected. The reviewers' comments were very good, but I just don't feel motivated to rewrite everything based on their detailed criticisms and suggestions - it took so much effort just to try to get the paper ready for publication...

Lately I have felt keenly that I don't belong in academia at all, I just don't fit in. The fact that I got my undergraduate degree in Brazil doesn't help much, because I was not trained to write the way academics write here in the US. 6 years of graduate school helped, of course, but you know what helped most of all? Grading papers and teaching (or trying to teach) my students to write good papers.

Well, if practice makes perfect then I still need tons of it. So I should post everyday, right?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Back "home"

We've been back home for over a week now (we flew back on March 30). Back to our house/home, but still away from home (country)... I've leramed to live with it by now.

I've started several posts, but haven't finished any of them yet. If I don't post directly here in Blogger, I take forever to write. Months ago I started a post about the funny things my 3 year-old says , and never finished, but I should get that here that pretty soon. Another post is about "mommy wars" and Brasil - hopefully that one will be interesting.

I'm glad that 3 people (thanks Raehan, Janet and Heidi!) visited the blog and commented, thanks to a comment of mine at Catherine Newman's "Bringing up Ben and Birdy" column. I went to her reading here in Philly last Thursday, and it was great to see her in person. I hope her book takes off.

I LOOOOVE spring, and I'm so glad that I've been welcomed back with wonderfully warm and sunny days. It's good not having to face the wintry weather after being in warm Brasil - but that's one of the reasons I stayed there for almost two months and came back only now.

Well, I'll get this going, and I'll come back later. Promise.