Monday, January 22, 2018

Motivation Monday: Raising Strong Women in Today's World

This BLOGuary, I've been working with David Elliott of the Single Dad's Guide To Life; we've been writing our way through the month day by day (except Sundays), using our common stance as single parents to guide our sometimes differing perspectives as we worked to coordinate our plans, balancing our writing styles and content choices against our lives as single parents of daughters.

And while neither of us are solely parenting-focused bloggers, it's only fair that since we are parents, there aren't any parts of our lives left that aren't touched in some way by the way our thoughts and actions could possibly impact our children. Even in debating the pros and cons of single life, where I focused more on the personal romantic aspects of dating as a single parent and David focused more on the way choosing to date (or not date) as a parent can also effect the children involved, we were able to show how parenting completely permeates all the places of your life - yes, even the idea of dating.

But the impact of life as a parent and the weight of that level of responsibility can be seen as good things too - because as parents, we quite literally steer the world into its future. Raising the next generation isn't easy, and we often look back on past generations for guidance, picking and choosing from what we think worked, making the effort to leave behind what didn't. And each new generation of parents creates a fluctuation in time, a period of change that moves the world further forward.

Sometimes these changes are for the better; sometimes they're changes that make us better people, kinder to each other, more willing to reach out and understand the person on the other side of a dividing line - regardless of what that line looks like, whether it be skin color, body size, mental health, or economic standing. Other times, the changes are less savory, and the bad taste they leave in our mouths causes us no shortage of trouble due to our unwillingness or inability to cross the divide and find brotherhood among other humans.

But recent years have been particularly encouraging years in which to raise daughters - women's rights in the United States are long since established as far as voting power, the ability to own property, the ability to find gainful employment (provided there are not other issues such as disability), etc. But in other ways, women are still a long way from finding equal standing in what is still very much a man's world.


We still live in a world that places blame on victims of domestic abuse - we still say things like, "Well, didn't she know what she was getting herself into?" and "But she stayed, right? I mean, it's not like she didn't know it was gonna get worse." We tell ourselves, "I guess that's her choice then," and "If she stayed, she pretty much had it coming." And we turn up our noses because it's easier to pretend that victims of domestic crime chose to be victims - otherwise we'd have to question why we didn't have the courage to step in.

We still live in a world where the #MeToo movement is necessary, because little girls are being molested by the men in power over them. Their bosses at work, their athletics doctors and advisors, their brothers, their brothers' friends.

Because of the situations I saw as a kid, the things I survived and experienced, and the experiences shared with me by young women and girls close to me growing up, I don't allow my children to spend time with babysitters. I don't leave them alone with males pretty much ever - and honestly, I'm pretty untrusting of females too. My oldest daughter had a male teacher one year, and the knowledge of my child's exposure to a man in power with whom she might at some point be alone ... I had nightmares all year long. They both have various male doctors, and both have had surgical procedures during which I had to trust that my children were in the best and most honorable hands possible.

And these aren't problems because I live with anxiety. These aren't problems because I'm looking for things to worry about. These are problems because they actually take shape in the lives of girls and women (as well as boy and men, too). Every. Single. Day.

Raising girls is terrifying, you guys. I don't want them to ever have to relate to #MeToo, and I want the #TimesUp movement to help create a safer world before I have to send my daughters out into it. I don't want them to be sexualized as children. I don't want their bodies used against them. I don't want them to be told that if they wear the wrong thing or have one drink too many or take a wrong turn down a dark alley, then maybe they deserve to have something bad happen to them or because of them.

So ... as parents of daughters, what we do about it? How do we avoid our daughters' names showing up on court documents where the crime committed against them may or may not be completely overshadowed by the athletic prowess or studio prominence of the person who took advantage of them?

How do we raise a generation of young women strong enough to say no, confident enough to set boundaries, and empowered enough to demand that those boundaries be respected?

More importantly, how do we raise them with balance, ensuring that they don't swing too far over on that spectrum? How do we raise strong women who aren't afraid to stand up and defend themselves - without losing the value of their instinct to nurture and willingness to compromise? How do we keep them soft and sweet - sugar and spice and everything nice - while still giving them the gifts of strength and validity that empower them as humans of equal standing?

Like I said before, I believe each new generation creates a wave that washes slowly over the entirety of the world, a wave of change that splashes here and trickles there, slowly eroding what once was and creating a new landscape for the next generation to work with. Right now, just like in every generation previously passed, I believe that the best way to raise strong women is to embody the strength we want our daughters to have, to expose them to strong women in our culture, to speak to them honestly about the way the world works - and the way we wish it did.

For me, this has meant learning to find and enforce my own boundaries as well as taking the time to explain them to my children.
  • They don't just get "yelled at" for messing up - they get "spoken to" about how their behaviors impact others, creating ripples that often reach unseen lengths at the edges of their influential circles.
  • They don't get a lot of "because I said so," and instead they get their fair share of "here's what I want/need and why."
  • They get to hear (not always but often) not only what I have done or chosen to do, but why and what I hope the results will be.

I am beginning to see already how these methods pay off with my daughters in various ways, from giving them an understanding of who I am as their mother and what I expect from them as their authority figure to giving them the opportunity to explore and begin to set their own boundaries.

We have a long-established agreement in our family that my children are expected to obey, although they are not required to agree. They know that this means respecting and deferring to me as their mother - under the trust that my expectations of them are both appropriate and plausible - but it also means they are empowered by the freedom to have their own opinions. They don't have to like bedtime (or curfews, or chores, or homework, etc), and they're even allowed to respectfully say so - but they know that in the end, the rules stand and they are expected to obey. Occasionally, if they handle themselves appropriately, an opportunity opens up - one in which we discuss why I set a rule and why they believe it should be changed. Just like in the adult world, we work on it until an agreement is made. And just like in the adult world, sometimes this is 50/50 successful, other times the balance swings more to one side or the other. Sometimes we revisit topics, other times we find a hard line on one side or the other than simply cannot be moved.

In the meantime, this means my daughters are learning what works for them and what doesn't, as well as how to find middle ground when possible, negotiate when necessary, and accept that they can't always change the rules just because they don't like them.

In the end, this is what amounts to a generation of young women who will be stronger than the generation before. A generation of young women not afraid to challenge the status quo - but perfectly strong enough to succeed under it if need be. I pray daily that my daughters will strive to find balance and fairness in their lives, that they will have compassion and defend those in need, and that they will be strong, empowered examples to the women they encounter in their lives.

Because regardless of the weight of responsibility, today's young girls are the next wave of the future - and no matter how fiercely I protect them, they too will learn to be Undaunted.


Are you raising daughters? If you are, what are the most important things you hope to teach them as they grow, and what do you most want the instill in them before they walk out of your hands and into the world at large? Tell me your thoughts in the comments - I'd love to chat with you!

Don't forget, this BLOGuary is a writing partnership! David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life has been partnering with me this month to balance my single mom perspective with the single dad side of everything from fitness to travel to music and movies. Make sure you check out David's blog for his thoughts on these topics and more.

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it really helps me get the word out about my blog and it brings new readers into our community! But while you're here, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! And if you like this blog and want to take an active role in keeping it all running, here are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. This is a great way to help cover the costs of running this blog, and it's also a great way of saying, "Thanks for the content, how 'bout you get yourself a Frappucino?" Or if you want more regular involvement ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.
Patreon is a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog, and it's also where my readers get to read my novels while I write them! My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsorship gives Patrons access to all sorts of content depending on their budget and desire for involvement: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

There are several other reward tiers to choose from too - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 50 patrons - when we get to 50 patrons I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you.

But however we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Storytime Saturday: New Life


"You know, it was just this time, so many years ago, that I was waddling through a Wal-Mart searching for Hot Pockets." I say the same thing every year, in the same happy tone, just after dinner time. Because that's what I was doing the night before she was born - disobeying bedrest orders to pick up something that sounded good for dinner. Chicken and broccoli Hot Pockets, with juicy chicken and healthy vegetables and warm, delicious cheese. My daughter has heard this story every year of her life, and she is exasperated by it every time I tell her.

But her head cocks a little to the side; her long brown curls spill over her shoulder. She's listening, just like always.

"I wandered for a while after I got them though, and ended up at the back of the store, where the milk is. And that's where I met her." My daughter smiles a little to herself, still listening as I go on, and I delight, as I always do, in her bemused expression.

"That Mayfield lady seemed larger than life," I say, "in her big brown jacket with her wild hair." Gesturing to my daughter's own wild hair, I smile and go on. "It wasn't all that much different from yours really, except shorter. It was huge hair. Like, 80s hair." My daughter was born in the early 2000s - she doesn't know 80s hair like I do. But she rolls her eyes just like always and shakes her head, pursing her lips to contain a still-lingering smile.

"I was pretty big by then, I guess, and I drew her attention. We got to talking, and I told her how I had just left the hospital - they'd been checking on you because you were so still that day. I said they had told me to go home and go to bed, to rest up. You were breech, so you weren't scheduled for delivery for another week. But I was hungry." I shrug, just like I do every year. "Or you were."

She grins more fully this time, accepting my teasing. She eats like a linebacker, and her digestive capacity for packing in just about anything she wants to eat with no ill effect has become something of a family joke over the years. "Probably," she says. Her pretense of disinterested boredom is falling away now - she loves having a story just as much as I love telling it.

"And that big huge Mayfield woman looked me right in the eye, standing there next to the milk coolers, and she put her finger up to me and said, 'Oh no you don't. You don't need to go home right now into bed. You jus' need to walk 'round a while here and then go back to th' hospital. You're havin' that baby. Tonight.'" My daughter shakes her head at my raised voice, my higher pitch, the impersonated sass. She's used to it, but every year I do a worse job. Still, she listens.



I smile to myself, thankful for her patience and her secret enjoyment, and go on. "I thought she was a little crazy maybe, but it made me nervous, so I wrapped up the conversation and left, went home and made those Hot Pockets. It was one of those things where you want something so bad, you just know it's gonna taste like absolute heaven, you know?" Her eyes twinkle, because for her that's just about anything. My daughter will eat just about anything, so long as it won't eat her first - and as her hormones begin to come in fluctuating waves, she knows well the anticipation of a much-craved food.

"Ugh. But it was so nasty I couldn't eat it. Onions, ugh." I grimace remembering. Oddly enough, I almost like onions now, but back then, so many years ago, they'd make me gag. And that night, they did. "I choked down the first Hot Pocket because I was hungry and there wasn't anything else I wanted, but I threw the second one away - I just couldn't do it. But I paid for it though."

My daughter sits a little straighter as she listens now. We're getting to the good part - the part I never get to tell her at the right time, because the rest of the story spans the night hours - those long hours during which she lies sleeping and I stare at the ceiling in the dark, remembering.

"It was around 2 in the morning when I woke up, knowing those onion Hot Pockets were a mistake. I jumped out of bed and took off for the bathroom as fast I could, tripping over the dog, scared of not making it. That Hot Pocket was coming back up, and I didn't want a mess to clean up." Her smile widens, tightening a little at the corners as she tries to contain the laugh we both know is coming.

"You made me puke myself half to death the whole time I was pregnant," I remind her. "All day, all night. If I ate, if I didn't. Didn't matter." Now her eyes are twinkling, and I'm holding back an embarrassed laugh of my own as I say, "But it wouldn't have been so bad except that every time I threw up, I'd throw up so hard I'd piss myself." Luckily at that time, my bathroom was very small - the toilet and sink were beside each other.

"So I stumbled into the bathroom, dog tangled up in my feet, ripped my pants down, and barely made it to the toilet before I was leaning over the sink and that Hot Pocket was back with a vengeance. I threw up so hard I broke my own water." I can't imagine why this would be something anyone would be proud of, but I am, just a little. There are a lot of places in my life where I could be called weak, but vomiting isn't one of them. And all the same, it's awful. How fragile is a water, anyway?

My daughter snorts, imagining me swollen and miserable - and peeing myself - and her laugh is still contained but slightly more pronounced as I go on. "But that time ... the pee wouldn't stop coming. Like it would be a little gush and then nothing. And then a gush, and then nothing. It took me a minute to realize what had happened."

At this point I omit the parts of her story that would make her sad. I tell her that since I had nothing else to use, I stuffed a clean sock in my panties to absorb the still-leaking amniotic fluid, hauled my clothes back on, rinsed the sink in a panic. I don't tell her that when I rushed into the living room to wake her biological father, he could hardly be bothered to even turn over until I threatened to head for the hospital without him. I don't tell her that he was probably sleeping off that day's high and was simply unable to wake up enough to realize what I was saying. I simply condense that part of the story -

"- and we jumped in the car and headed for the hospital, calling your Aunt to meet us there. She answered the phone about the time we pulled in by the emergency room; I guess it was about one or so. But she couldn't drive to meet us there because she broke her toe that day, so I pulled right out again and ran over to get her." She hasn't realized yet by the verbage, I'm telling her I drove myself to the hospital while in the beginning stages of labor, with my still high, half-asleep young husband in the seat beside me. She won't think until she's older about what this was like - and I'm glad for that, because I love the telling of her story and how I can see the excitement of it bloom on her face.

"We made it back to the hospital, but the whole time the water was still leaking in little gushes, so as we made our way into the hospital and up to the delivery floor, I kept randomly scaring everyone because I'd jerk when the leak would hit, and I screech, 'Ew ew ew ew ewwwww!' And then it would stop and I'd go quiet again." My daughter shakes her head again, amused. In this respect, nothing has changed; I still don't like anything that feels wet, sticky, or dirty, and am often teased because I will often even use silverware to eat finger foods. I don't like stuff getting under my fingernails.

I omit the scary parts of the story - my terror over her breech status, my very real notice of how few contractions I was having, how weak and virtually painless they were, my fear over the epidural needle and the way the anesthesiologist had to work around scar tissue in my back. I was afraid it wouldn't work - or that some vital nerve would be hit or damaged accidentally, that there would be some sort of lasting, permanent impact. I was afraid it would hurt. It did.

I also omit the way her biological father looked, tall and lanky and finally awake, looking strong and ready in surgical scrubs only slightly bluer than his eyes. This would pain her, to know he was there to see her come into the world with such pomp and circumstance ... and that despite this, he was able to walk away from her forever with barely a look back. It pains me too; he missed out on so much - such a beautiful smart girl, a gem with infinite facets yet uncut by the world. He cheated them both.

"I'll never forget laying there though, with my arms out like a cross, strapped to that table, listening to the doctor say, 'Okay, I'm gonna put your uterus back in now. You'll feel the movement, some pressure, but there shouldn't be pain.'" Her mouth always opens a little in surprise at this, no matter how many times she hears the story. Fair enough - those words were surprising to hear back then for me, too. 

"I saw just your little feet when they took you away to be cleaned and checked over, and then when they brought you back you were all wrapped up and perfect." She smiles at this - she has rarely ever thought herself anything even close to perfect, and yet she accepts that this is what a mother must see.

I tell her lot of other things too - the way the post-surgical morphine shots had me so doped up I was hilarious, the way I fell so in love with the little rosebud of her mouth that I would tickle her lips just to make her pucker them. The way I wouldn't let the nurses take her away so that I could rest, the way she spent those first three days of her life almost exclusively resting in the security of my arms. But mostly, by the time I get to this place in her story, we're well beyond the bedtime she still respectfully abides by, and there's only one last thing to say.

"Goodnight - and sleep well, because in the morning you'll be one year older."



Last year when I told my daughter this story, she was leaving childhood behind and embracing everything the teen years might offer. She was already in middle school, already so very grown up, but she was ready for the changes to come and open to the experience. In five days when I tell her this story again, she'll be leaving thirteen, leaving behind the first of her teen years and moving confidently into the next. And in six days, she'll wake up fourteen years old, looking excitedly toward the end of middle school, her first summer job search, the beginning of high school, and all that might come after.

And I? I will be watching - just as proudly tearful as always, as the girl who made me a mother fades away behind the young woman I have so carefully raised.


Did your parents ever share your birth story with you? If so, what's the most memorable or funny part of the story? And if you're a parent now, do you share your children's birth stories with them? If you do, what do they think of it? Share your stories with me in the comments!

Don't forget, this BLOGuary is a writing partnership! David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life has been partnering with me this month to balance my single mom perspective with the single dad side of everything from fitness to travel to music and movies. Make sure you check out David's blog - he did a beautiful job of sharing a fictionalized account of his daughter's birth as well.

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it really helps me get the word out about my blog and it brings new readers into our community! But while you're here, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! And if you like this blog and want to take an active role in keeping it all running, here are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. This is a great way to help cover the costs of running this blog, and it's also a great way of saying, "Thanks for the content, how 'bout you get yourself a Frappucino?" Or if you want more regular involvement ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.
Patreon is a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog, and it's also where my readers get to read my novels while I write them! My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsorship gives Patrons access to all sorts of content depending on their budget and desire for involvement: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

There are several other reward tiers to choose from too - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 50 patrons - when we get to 50 patrons I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you.

But however we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.