August 18, 2016
Extended Family: The Importance
I just recently spent a couple of hours babysitting my nephew while my brother went to work for a couple of hours to make some extra money. We took a trip to the grocery store and while on our way back I asked my nephew if he was excited about starting school. He told me he was, but sometimes he was bored in school because he got his work done before everyone else. I will proudly say that my nephew is an extremely smart kid. Then he proceeded to tell me that the part of school he didn’t like was when he had to share. Now like me I bet most of you are thinking “sharing” as in sharing toys, school supplies, etc. However, like most of you I was wrong. He told me that in school last year they had to write in a journal and share the contents of what they wrote. He told me that most of the time he told his teacher he couldn’t share. I watched my usually outgoing nephew, quietly grow introverted and tell me he didn’t share because he was worried that he would be embarrassed. My heart broke at his quiet admission.
Anyone who knows my nephew, knows he loves just about anyone he meets. He’s got an exuberant amount of energy. He loves video games. Talks a mile a minute when he gets excited. And personally I think he gives the BEST hugs (but I’m a little biased). As we stood in the grocery line during check out he told me he could do multiplication. He’s going into 3rd grade this year. The cashier overheard his exclamation and while ringing up my groceries started running him through his multiplication tables. I watched on proudly as he gave correct answer after correct answer. And he smiled broadly every time I gave him a high-five for his answer. But in that moment in my car where I watched my nephews face fall just a fraction because he was worried about being embarrassed, I realized he had insecurities just like the rest of us. While sitting at a stop light I turned to him and told him that just like him there were probably other kids in the class that were just as nervous about sharing their journals as well. That sparked some hope in him as he looked at me and asked “really?” I simply responded “yes” and that seemed to put him at ease. It was in that moment that I knew bone deep that I would go to battle for him any day, week, or month of the year. That just like his parents I wanted the best for him in life and that if he EVER needed me I’d be there no questions asked.
It got me to thinking about those unsung heroes we sometimes forget about. The aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, and cousins that help develop these children. It got me to thinking about my own aunts and uncles and how they have shaped my life and to this day still continue to guide me. It got me to thinking about how important the extended family is. And then I read an article by Open Education in which they interviewed Professor Milardo ( A Professor of Family Relations) who earned his Ph.D. in Human Development & Family Studies from Pennsylvania State University and his M. A. in Social Psychology from Connecticut College. His most recent book relates to aunts, uncles, and his theory that families are multiple households. It is entitled The Forgotten Kin. Here is an excerpt of his interview below.
What ultimately was the impetus for you looking into the extended family and specifically to then examine the roles of aunts and uncles in families?
I started with an interest in interviewing men in caregiving roles other than parents. Were there men who were acting responsibly and having a positive influence on children? In my own life, uncling has been very important to me. I really enjoyed being around my nieces and nephew as children and now as adults.
And in my own childhood, uncles were important to me and fun to be around. On the other hand, the field of family studies is largely silent about uncles (and aunts) so a research project seemed like it would be interesting and maybe important.
Reviewers indicate you offer information as to how aunts and uncles contribute to the daily lives of parents as well as to their children. Could you give a brief overview as to some of the basic ways that aunts and uncles contribute to the lives of parents?
This was one of the initial questions I had when I began the project. Are aunts and uncles important to parents? Well the simple answer is yes of course they are, sometimes.
Aunt Denise cared for her nieces especially when they were infants. As she said: “somebody would have to get some sleep in that house. So I would go over for a few hours. It was kind of changing of the guard.”
But of course there is more to the story. Uncles and aunts were often parents themselves so they could draw on their own experience in counseling their siblings. At other times, aunts and uncles simply provided a listening ear and acted like good friends. On other occasions, parents would enlist an aunt or uncle to directly intervene with a child. And at times, nieces and nephews were more willing to listen to the counsel of an aunt or uncle.
Of course not all aunts and uncles are close to their siblings but when they are close their relationships can merge elements of family obligations and traditions with the strong bonds characteristic of best friendships. They can be some of the longest relationships we have. Brothers and sisters, when they are close, share their entire biographies.
My mother spoke with her sister Lena every day of her life and they both lived long lives, both married, had children and became grandparents. Intimacy is really about knowing things about another person that no one else would even care to know and doing so over a long period of time. For close siblings, intimacy is packaged over lifetimes of shared biography. That’s hard to match.
And to their children?
Not all aunts and uncles have significant relationships with their nieces and nephews, but many do. Aunts and uncles mentor children as well as older nieces and nephews. They provide advice concerning school, work and careers. They counsel their nieces and nephews about relationships with other family members and especially siblings and parents.
Raymond, age 26, described a unique relationship with his uncle. Raymond’s parents divorced when he was 2, and he speaks of his current relationship with his dad “as like two adults sitting in a bar talking about the weather.” Throughout Raymond’s life, his uncle has been an important source of support and companionship. Raymond consults his uncle about his career, his friendships, and nearly all of what he does. He describes frequent occasions of support and advice. They visited often during his adolescence when Uncle Les was the only important male figure in his life. In his words, his uncle “provided direction.” A highlight of their relationship is their mutual interest in music and playing guitars together. The contributions of his uncle are likely lifelong. At one point in the interview Raymond spoke of this influence:
One of the things we do is sort of a philosophy. We call it the Lost Chord…. In [learning a new] song you’re missing a chord and trying to find it, but then once you find that missing chord it puts the whole song in harmony and we realized we could apply that to life. So one of biggest things he taught me about life is always searching for that something to put in my life to make it a little bit smoother sounding. Eventually when you get 80 or 90 years old you can look back and find that you’ve had a lot of good music.
Throughout my interviews I was continually struck by the depth of relationships. I can’t emphasize enough that not all nieces and nephews are close with uncles and aunts, but for some, their relationships are truly extraordinary—they fuse elements of parent-like obligations with friendship.
Likewise, you suggest that aunts and uncles serve as mentors to their nieces and nephews, yet the adults themselves are also mentored by the children for whom they are responsible. Can you give a couple of concrete examples about this back and forth mentoring process?
This mentoring of aunts and uncles by nieces and nephews was a complete surprise. It occurred often among aunts and nieces as well as uncles and nephews.
In an ordinary but significant way, Aunt Rebecca recounted how her niece worked at a large department store and on occasion would purchase clothes for her because as Rebecca recounts “she thinks I need little skirts and stuff.” Although when her niece suggested a tattoo, Rebecca declined. It’s good to know one’s limits, I guess. These instances of reverse mentoring, however superficial at the outset, can serve as ways for nieces to express their affection and concern for their aunts. They are very much instances of care giving functioning to confirm, enrich and sometimes deepen their relationships.
When conducting the research, were there some real surprises for you, things that you did not expect to find?
Another unanticipated finding was the importance of aunts and uncles in mediating adjustments to divorce. Aunts and uncles often spoke of helping nieces and nephews in adjusting to the divorce of parents. This is a source of support that has not really been acknowledged but proves to be important.
While the book is no doubt extremely valuable to other experts in the field, are there some specific things that a family can take away from the book that could help them extend their current family relationships? Or specific suggestions as to how parents can utilize aunts and uncles to help them with the challenging process of raising a child in today’s complex world?
I hope everyone will read this book. I hope it changes the way we talk about families and how we come to understand what makes them successful.
Over the years if there is one clear lesson I’ve encountered it is that families successfully arrange themselves in many ways. It would be a serious error to assume a single prescription for resilient well-functioning families. There are many successful configurations, but at their best families are ensembles built across households. They include a variety of forms—some with children in the home, some single-parenting, and some with close ties to siblings. When adult siblings have reasonably close relationships, without question everyone can benefit.
I realized that the idea that is so often thrown around that “it takes a village” isn’t built out of a fictional idea, but from a very concrete and real one. That if your lucky and you have a system of individuals within your extended family who love your child, or even you, as much as they love their own, that your child or yourself are never lacking a confidant. There will always be someone with a shoulder to cry, whine, argue, or laugh on. There will always be someone to run your ideas and dreams by. There will always be someone, even when your parents aren’t available, to help walk you through this thing we call life. And those are necessary people to have.
So for my blog post this week I wrote a letter to my nephew. I wanted him to know how I felt about him, what I would do for him, and how incredible he is.
June 30, 2016
Gender Roles: Yay or Nay?
In 1955 John Money coined the term “gender role” during the course of his study on intersex individuals. He wanted to find a way to describe the manners in which these intersex individuals expressed their status as a male or female in a circumstance where no clear biological assignment existed. Which then led to the beginning of defining gender roles for men and women.
The World Health Organization defines gender roles as “socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.” Usually gender roles are centered on the opposing conceptions of femininity and masculinity. The specifics of these gendered expectations may vary among cultures, while other characteristics can be common throughout all cultures. There still seems to be an ongoing debate, however, on to what extent gender roles and their variations are biologically determined and socially constructed.
Before World War II women and men were expected to follow what were considered the “traditional” gender roles. Men were responsible for taking care of the family financially. They were the sole providers. They were responsible for guiding the family. Meaning they would listen to the advice of their wives, but they made the final decisions. They had to be strong, refrained from showing too much emotion or sharing their feelings. Women were expected to be in charge of running the household. They did the laundry, cooked meals, and cleaned the home. They also took care of the children.
During World War II women got their first tastes of the working world. The men went to war and the women ended up going to work in the factories and offices. Even though the women returned to the home after the war they didn’t stay there for very long. The social changes that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s caused a cultural revolution that found women pursuing careers outside of the home. In the most recent years more men have expressed a desire to take on the role as the primary caregiver to their children while more women have become the primary breadwinner.
Does this mean the gender roles have completely changed? No. Men who stay at home to take care of their children still struggle with what masculinity means now that they aren’t the sole breadwinner. Women who are the sole breadwinners still make less than their male counterparts and struggle to advance to the highest positions within a company. Women are also subjected to the battle between “working moms” and “stay-at-home” moms. You know the one. The battle where each side declares that the other side is “harming” their children.
So the question now becomes do we follow the “traditional” gender roles that were developed back in the 50’s or do we learn how to adapt and change with the era in which we live and make our own definition?
June 23rd, 2016
Dear Eighteen Year Old Me
If you were to get on Google and type in “What would you say to your 18 year old self” you’ll see 89 million hits from people listing the things they would have told their 18 year old self if they could. Things like:
1. Laugh Every Day
3. Make lots of mistakes (but make each mistake only once)
4. Stop trying to ‘fit in’
5. Clean up your diet
6. Learn to cook
8. What you think is a big deal usually turns out to be trivial at best
9. The things you put off the most are the things you should be doing the most.
And on and on and on it goes. Each person giving the knowledge they’ve gained today to a version of themselves from years ago. Things they have found out over the years. Things they wish they would have done when they had the chance back then. Even things they wish they had stopped themselves from doing. So my topic this week was simple.
If given the chance to speak to your 18 year old self what would you say? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
June 16, 2016
America the Great?
It’s no secret that America is the one of the most violent countries in the world. According to Crime in America. Net, the FBI reported that all of the offenses in the violent crime category—murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape (revised definition), rape (legacy definition), aggravated assault, and robbery—showed increases when data from the first six months of 2015 were compared with data from the first six months of 2014. The number of rapes (legacy definition) increased 9.6 percent, the number of murders increased 6.2 percent, aggravated assaults increased 2.3 percent, the number of rapes (revised definition) rose 1.1 percent, and robbery offenses were up 0.3 percent.
There are two primary sources for crime data in the United States:
The first is crime reported to law enforcement agencies, processed at the state level and reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The second is the National Crime Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which collects data from households and individuals, kind of like the Census Bureau, in an attempt to document all crime (except homicides) in the US regardless of reported and unreported crime.
Approximately 40 percent of most crimes are not reported to law enforcement agencies. Some victims see the event as a personal matter, a fight between friends or family members, a theft that a victim considers minor, or a victim believes that law enforcement will not resolve the issue.
Rape one of the major violent crimes in America by either definition, legacy (the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will) or revised (penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim) has increased drastically. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, every two minutes an American is sexually assaulted. On average there are 288,820 victims age 12 or older each year in the United States. One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted and/or completed rape (14.8% completed, 2.8 % attempted). One out of every 33 American men have experienced an attempted and/or completed rape. The majority of sexual assault victims are under 30 (15% age 12-17, 54% age 18-34, 28% age 35-64, 3% age 65+).
According to the FBI national data a murder happened every 36.9 minutes in 2014, approximately 14,249 murder victims, at a rate of 4.5 percent per 100,000 inhabitants. Most of the murder victims (77.3 percent) were male. As it pertains to race 51.6 percent were black, 45.7 percent were white, and 2.6 percent were of other races. Race was unknown for one hundred and sixty of the victims. Nearly 68 percent of the homicides involved a firearm and handguns made up 68.5 percent of the firearms that were used in the murder. Nearly 29 percent of murder victims were killed by someone they knew other than family members (acquaintance, neighbor, friend, boyfriend, etc.), 14.3 percent were killed by family members, and 11.5 percent were killed by strangers. Of female murder victims 35.5 percent were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
With the steady rise of violent crimes in America since the beginning of 2015 it makes me wonder what has changed? From the years 2010-2014 violent crimes had declined. What was different during those years than now? What have we as Americans lost morally and/or characteristically that has changed the tide?
June 9, 2016
Once a Cheater Always a Cheater?
Wikipedia defines infidelity or cheating as most people know it, as a violation of a couple’s assumed or stated contract regarding emotional and/or sexual exclusivity.
Wikipedia states that what constitutes an act of infidelity is dependent upon the exclusivity expectations within the relationship. In marital relationships, exclusivity expectations are commonly assumed although they are not always met. When they are not met, research has found that psychological damage can occur, including feelings of rage and betrayal, lowering of sexual and personal confidence, and damage to self-image. Depending on the context, men and women can experience social consequences if their act of infidelity becomes public. The form and extent of these consequences are often dependent on the gender of the unfaithful person.
Some studies say that being able to justify the behavior of a significant other and define it will lessen some of the confusion on why it happens. There are five categories of infidelity:
- opportunistic infidelity
- obligatory infidelity
- romantic infidelity
- conflicted romantic infidelity, and
- commemorative infidelity
Opportunistic infidelity occurs when a person is in love and attached to a partner, but surrenders to their sexual desire for someone else. The opportunistic infidelity is driven by irrepressible lust, situational circumstances and/or opportunity, and sometimes, pure risk-taking behavior.
Obligatory infidelity is based on fear that refraining from someone’s sexual advances will result in rejection, and being unwilling to handle such rejection, resulting in surrender to them. Some people end up cheating solely on the need for approval from somebody, even though they still hold a strong attraction to their committed partner.
Romantic infidelity occurs when the cheater is in the process of “falling out of love” with his/her partner. The person’s self-perceived obligatory commitment to the relationship’s tenets and overall life-meaning is likely the only thing still keeping them with their partner.
Conflicted romantic infidelity takes place when a person both falls in love with and has a strong sexual desire for multiple people at one time, even though s/he may already be committed to a partner. In this circumstance the person feels s/he cannot tell his/her committed partner about what has happened, but is nevertheless unable to resist the compulsion; this lack of open discussion is usually what separates conflicted romantic infidelity from things like a well-defined open relationship.
Commemorative infidelity occurs when a person has completely fallen out of love with their partner, but is still in a committed relationship with them.
Even with the better defined categories of infidelity I find that the question that always seems to come up when the discussion of infidelity is approached is if a person cheats will they always be a cheater? There are many that proclaim once a cheater always a cheater, but is that really true? Can a relationship survive infidelity?
June 2, 2016
Men and Women: How different are they?
Author John Gray wrote a book called “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” The book focuses on improving the relationship between man and woman by understanding the communication style and emotional needs of the opposite sex. The book asserts that me and women are as different as beings from other planets. The first chapter in the book ascertains that men and women are different by nature. That they need to accept those differences and stop expecting each other to act and feel the same.
A man named Adme illustrated 14 differences that he saw between the different sexes.
But the question still remains are we truly as fundamentally different as we believe? If so what are our differences? Is one sex more complicated than the other?
May 26, 2016
So…What Are You, Anyway?
The 2000 Census questionnaire became the first Census questionnaire to allow respondents to select more than one race. At that time nationwide there were approximately 2.4 percent of the population or 6.8 million Americans who identified themselves with two or more races. In 2013 that number increased to 9 million. Between 2000 and 2010 the number of white and black biracial Americans more than doubled and the population with a white and Asian background increased by 87%.
A Pew Research Center survey has found that majorities of multiracial adults are proud of their mixed-race background (60%) and feel their racial heritage has made them more open to other cultures (59%).
“While multiracial adults share some things in common, they cannot be easily categorized. Their experiences and attitudes differ significantly depending on the races that make up their background and how the world sees them. For example, multiracial adults with a black background—69% of whom say most people would view them as black or African American—have a set of experiences, attitudes and social interactions that are much more closely aligned with the black community. A different pattern emerges among multiracial Asian adults; biracial white and Asian adults feel more closely connected to whites than to Asians. Among biracial adults who are white and American Indian—the largest group of multiracial adults—ties to their Native American heritage are often faint: Only 22% say they have a lot in common with people in the U.S. who are American Indian, whereas 61% say they have a lot in common with whites.”
What has been found by the Pew Research, however, is that the multiracial community within the country is understated. The Pew Research estimates that 6.9% of the U.S. adult population could be considered multiracial. This survey takes into account how adults describe their own race as well as the racial backgrounds of their parents and grandparents. Something the Census does not do. The estimate the Pew Research has come up with comprises 1.4% who chose two or more races for themselves, 2.9% who chose one race for themselves but said that at least one of their parents was a different race or multiracial, and 2.6% who are counted as multiracial because at least one of their grandparents was a different race than them or their parents. These findings come from a nationally representative survey of 1,555 multiracial Americans ages 18 and older. The sample of multiracial adults was identified after contacting and collecting basic demographic information on more than 21,000 adults nationwide.
However, not all adults with a mixed racial background consider themselves “multiracial.” In fact the Pew Research found that 61% do not.
“An added layer of complexity is that racial identity can be fluid and may change over the course of one’s life, or even from one situation to another. About three-in-ten adults with a multiracial background say that they have changed the way they describe their race over the years—with some saying they once thought of themselves as only one race and now think of themselves as more than one race, and others saying just the opposite.”
Whatever one identifies with is solely up to them, but it’s safe to say that the world is clearly changing. That’s why this week I’d like to discuss this topic. It’s very near and dear to my heart as I am a biracial woman.
May 19, 2016
Black Women: You are Your Sisters Keeper
Last week if you are a frequent visitor to my site you would have noticed that I spent a week letting men of any age write letters. They were entitled “Dear Little Black Boy”. I took a page from The Beautiful Project which took letters from black women that they had written to “black girls” and published them on their blog. It was a movement to uplift and empower young black girls. I figured that young black boys also needed to hear the same uplifting and empowering words. To know that they weren’t alone and that there were black men out there who cared about who they grew up to be.
Well this week I decided to publish my own letter for the “little black girl”. I find it extremely important for us to communicate to the next generation. To let them know that as much as they are struggling we have as well. That we may know a little about their pain and could help them through it. That not every day is rainy. Some are sunny and beautiful. The worst feeling is to feel like you are alone and that no one understands. Staying silent for those that are younger perpetuates that feeling for them. They should KNOW that they aren’t alone. It’s a conversation that should happen everyday, but sadly doesn’t. They are the future of our country. We invest in our own future so why aren’t we investing in theirs?
May 9, 2016
Black Men: You are Your Brothers Keeper
(Courtesy of the Root.com)
Recently I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook when I came across a video that my cousin Eric had posted. It was by a man named Derrick Jaxn. In the video he was speaking to black women in regards to the black men that they sometimes label as “no good”. What caught my attention, however, was not the subject matter. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched black women on social media talk down to and degrade black men. What caught my attention was when Derrick stated that as black men they had to come together and speak out against the negative portrayal of the black male image. He said that for some reason in society there is never a “movement” for black men.
That got me thinking and sadly he is right. There are many black women movements. Movements that promote the positive image of the black woman. Movements that bring together black women in solidarity. You have “black girls rock”, “black girl magic”, “dear black girl”, etc., but when has there really ever been a movement to support and promote the black man. We are taught what they aren’t, but never shown what they are. Our black youth only sees one version of all that a black man can be.
With that in mind I decided to take a page from the “Dear black girl” movement and do one for the black men out there. I have chosen this week to feature letters from black men from all generations addressed simply “Dear Little Black Boy. In it they speak to the heart of the black male youth. Giving advice, life lessons, and empowerment. Our youth are important. We need to invest in them and guide them. Don’t let the media or streets raise our young black men.
May 2, 2016
Stop Throwing Around “Deadbeat” So Loosely
“Deadbeat” we’ve all heard the term used loosely when it comes to men who have children. Wikipedia defines the dead beat father as “men who have fathered a child and intentionally fail to pay child support ordered by a family law court or statutory agency such as the Child Support Agency.” This is an interesting definition because when most individuals think of the “deadbeat father” its not so tightly defined towards men who intentionally fail to pay child support. Other factors seem to also be involved. An example would be a definition on Urban Dictionary. It defines the deadbeat father as “A male who fathers a child and makes no contributions to its rearing, providing neither emotional nor financial help to his family. Often unmarried to the child’s mother or divorced, usually resented by the offspring. “
I personally hate the term “deadbeat father” because not all men are. Most men, statistically, actively play a role in their child’s life. Of course there are those that actually can be considered “deadbeats”, but you can’t generalize an entire gender. Social Media and the media already do that for us. Instead of empowering those men who are AMAZING fathers, as a society, we tend to focus on those who aren’t. Light is very rarely shown on the men who take care of their children and sometimes the children of other men.
Now these next few statements might possibly anger a few women and make me less popular, but to truly understand a situation as women we need to also reflect within. We need to take some of the responsibility for these so called “deadbeat fathers.” We know that as women two things can happen when a woman makes a decision to have unprotected sex. She can either a) get pregnant or b) get an STD. However, if as a woman you are willingly making the choice to have unprotected sex with a man that you don’t see and/or have a future with, and you end up pregnant, than you need to own the consequences of your actions. Firstly, why are you sleeping with men unprotected? If they are willing to have unprotected sex with you than your health is obviously not their concern. It, however, should be yours. If you are with someone who isn’t stepping up to be committed and plan for a future with you, why in the world would you automatically assume they would step up to be the father of your child?
Secondly, sometimes we as women “make” deadbeat fathers. Let me explain what I mean by that. I get that sometimes relationships end ugly. I’ve been cheated on and felt betrayed. I’ve watched friends spend years with men for the relationship to end suddenly. The thing is when you put your feelings before your child you can create the “deadbeat.” Children should not be used as a bargaining tool to get your baby’s father to “heel” for lack of a better word. If a man is trying to be there for his child in any way possible. YOU LET HIM. You should be focused on the best interest of your child and for the most part it’s not to deny them their father if they have one that actively wants to be there. Men are less confrontational than women and if you are constantly on the attack with him, eventually he’ll stop trying to be there for his children. Don’t blame the man when YOU got in the way because you couldn’t get past what happened in the relationship. Now I’m not saying there aren’t outlying circumstances (like abuse, rape, drug addictions, etc), but for those fathers who are decent human beings who just made a mistake in the relationship with you. Let them raise their child. As long as they are doing right by their child that’s all that matters. I’m not saying getting over your feelings toward him will be easy. I absolutely know it can be hard to look past what has happened to you, but moving past it is the right decision. Your feeling towards him and what he did in the relationship with you has no place here.
With that being said I chose to focus this week on the amazing fathers that DO exist. Usually I would only have one post each week, but I have decided to do a daily post of letters from fathers to their children. Men who actively play a role in their children’s lives. Men who deserve to have their voices heard. I want to empower them and other men who read the letters to continue to be the fathers that they are. I know society can be harsh on the image of the father, but there are those of us out there who do recognize all that you do. Thank you for being the men your children need.
April 28, 2016
“But I think, maybe, there is validity in accepting that a part of you went with the person who died, and a part of them stayed with you” ~ Unknown
This week I made a decision instead of having a topic of the week I wanted to comment on how you handle the death of a loved one. Some people write their feelings down, some mourn in solitude, some discuss it with others. However you choose to grieve and heal is up to you. No one can tell you what is right for you. I am choosing to discuss two individuals. One of which I have never openly discussed my feelings on and the other that as of late I am having trouble coping with his loss.
I posted the above message on my friends Facebook wall after his passing 5 years ago and what strikes me the hardest is the sentence in which I stated “You were a rude awakening for me Rel. One I hope I never have to have again.” It was as if I was subconsciously forewarning my future self of the pain and sorrow I would be feeling in February of 2016. Once again I am mourning the loss of an individual who was very much family to me.
It never gets easier when you lose someone and the grief is never the same as it was before. You find yourself wading through every emotion you could possibly feel. Hoping that somewhere within all of your feelings you can make sense of the loss. But there is no way to make sense of the death of a loved one, especially, when there time here on earth is cut short. I don’t believe that God created death for us to understand. I believe he created it for us to understand the importance of life. To cherish humanity. To live.
So today I am honoring two individuals who impacted my life in their own breathtaking ways. I am choosing to write about my grief. My pain. I am sharing some very intimate thoughts and feelings that I haven’t shared with many people. I am doing it publicly and openly because for anyone to understand the loss I feel. They must first understand the impact they made.
April 21, 2016
Parenting: Two Parent Household vs. One
What beliefs do you hold when it comes to children being raised in a two parent household versus a one parent? Do you believe there’s a negative connotation to children raised in a single parent household? What do you believe one can learn from the other?
Single Parent: A parent not living with a spouse or partner who has most of the day-to-day responsibilities in raising the child or children. They are usually considered the primary caregiver. The parent in which the children have residency with the majority of the time.
According to Wikipedia this is the definition of a single parent. It does not state that they are raising the child solely on their own. It simply states that they are the primary caregiver. That can mean that their former partner is still involved in the child’s life, but just doesn’t have the child for the majority of the time. But when the phrase single parent is used most Americans think of a single mother and a dead beat father. Children that were born out of wedlock. Statistically, however, that is not the case. According to the U.S. Census Bureau most single-parent families are headed by divorced or separated mothers or fathers (66.4%). Never married mothers or fathers only make up 25.5% of single parent families.
The Pew Research Center while obtaining data from the American Community Survey and the Census Bureau the found that in 1960 73% of children lived in a household headed by two heterosexual parents while that number decreased in 1980 to 61% and today it is at 46%. According to the Pew survey single parents have more than tripled since 1960. They attribute this rise to the “rapid changes in the American family structure.” “The old ‘ideal’ involved couples marrying young, then starting a family, and staying married until ‘death do they part’” researchers have said. “Nowadays the family has become more complex and less ‘traditional.’” The statistics are also overwhelmingly higher in minority communities. There are 22% of American single parent households that are white, 57% that are African American, and 33% that are Hispanic.
But the idea of the single parent comes with many assumptions as to who they are. Single parents are seen as only single mothers, who are young, unemployed, live in poverty, receive government assistance, and are raising multiple children. According to the U.S. Census Bureau approximately 82.2% of custodial parents are mothers while 17.8% are fathers. Of the custodial single mothers 37.2% are 40 years old or older. 76% of custodial single mothers are gainfully employed (53.2% work full time, year round and 22.8% work part-time or part-year). 85.1% of custodial single fathers are gainfully employed. Poverty isn’t the norm for most single parent families, however custodial single mothers with their children are twice as likely to live in poverty as the general population. Only 41.3 % of custodial mothers receive some form of government assistance and only 20.9% of custodial fathers. Custodial mothers raising one child are 57.2% while 44.1% has two or more children living with them. For every story that you hear about a single mother or father abusing government assistance or living up to some other negative stereotype, those behaviors do not reflect the reality of most single parent families.
Whether a child is raised in a two parent household or a one parent there remains one common goal for either household; raising a well-adjusted individual. How either household goes about it may be different due to their circumstances, but every parent is hoping for the same outcome.
April 14, 2016
Parenting: Today vs. Twenty Years Ago
We’ve all heard the statement. You know the one. “Kids these days get away with everything!” But the question still remains, do they really? Are the children of this new generation as really out of control as some believe them to be? Has parental involvement declined?
John A. Becker, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Plymouth Michigan seems to think that the philosophy of parenting has changed in the past 25 years. While the main goal of parenting, to instill character and moral development in children, remains the same. He has stated that the focus on how to do so is different. “Children were expected to be at dinner at a certain time and to eat what was in front of them. Not doing so was a sign of disobedience. Nowadays, I think parents are more sensitive to kids’ individual needs: ‘Well, what if I don’t have a taste for something like that,’ or maybe if I’m hungry earlier?” he says. “It’s just going about it in a different manner.”
Dr. Leonard Sax, a family physician, psychologist and author, however, sees a different view. In an interview about his books on parenting Dr. Sax stated that there is a new occurrence of a reverse in parent/child roles. He says parents are allowing their children to speak to them in a disrespectful manner, in essence dictating the day-to-day activities. “So many parents think it is their job to be their child’s best friend,” he said. “That’s not your job. Your job is to keep your child safe, make sure they get a good night’s sleep, give them a grounding, and confidence to help them to know who they are as human beings.”
In this week’s topic I and my featured blogger will discuss the difference in parenting today versus twenty years ago. What we see as the biggest problem today versus twenty years ago. And how has technology affected parenting.
April 7, 2016
Raising boys vs. Girls: The Double Standard
One of the most common threads of parenting that is discussed within each generation of parents and children is the unequal treatment of daughters versus sons. In 2005 a study from the University of Washington in regard to, equality when parenting sons and daughters, that had been collecting data for over 30 years showed that despite the movement of time, not much had changed when it came to parenting sons and daughters equally. In fact psychologists and sociologists alike indicate that as a whole parents parent their daughters much differently than they do their sons.
Of course this has daughters from all economic, social and religious backgrounds up in arms. More often than not daughters feel that their brothers are able to do more, have more freedom, have fewer rules, and are held to lower standards in the household. Why does a teenage son have a later curfew than a teenage daughter? Why is it seen as alright for a teenage son to date at 15, but not a daughter? Why is it seen as more acceptable for a son to make a lesser grade on an test than a daughter? Why can a high school boy party with his friends when the same partying would not be tolerated for a daughter? These are only a few of the endless questions that daughters find themselves asking.
As a society we tend to see men as stronger. We think of men as being more capable of handling problems or trouble when it arises. Women are seen as the weaker sex, the underdogs, and in need of protection. According to Washington Post, one of the most common fears or concerns of a teenaged daughters parents is that their daughter will get pregnant at a young age. Yet, on the same list, this fear only ranked 9th when it came to teenage sons. This double standard is pretty obvious. And for most parents the choices that they end up making for their daughters will not be the same choices that they will end up making for their sons.
We protect our daughters. We permit our sons.
What is interesting, however, is that statistics show that male teenagers are more prone to car accidents than their female counterpoints. A Study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that in 2014 more men than women die each year in car accidents. Men typically are known to drive more miles and engage in risky driving practices such as not wearing seat belts, driving while impaired by alcohol, and speeding. The National Associations of Insurance Commissioners says that most insurance companies charge almost twice as much to insure a teenage boy then they do a teenage girl. Additionally when it comes to your teenage boy or daughter the CDC has stated that boys have a tendency to lose their virginity earlier than teenage girls and are less apt to be advocates of safe sex. The average age for boys is 16.9 years old and the average age for girls is 17.2 years old.
There are certainly issues that arise solely with each gender. However, there are those who say that each child should be parented according to their individual needs and personalities. That to create the best home environment for both your teenage son and teenage daughter you must trust in the fact that as a parent you have raised each of your children to the best of your ability. You must trust that you have instilled the right beliefs and morals in each of your children that will impact them in making the correct choices. Some say that what is missing is parents trusting in their own parenting. That there is too much focus on the societal pressures about how you as a parent are to raise your children. That once you trust in your parenting you will trust in your child.
March 31, 2016
Street Harassment towards Women: What have you experienced or seen in regards to street harassment? Why do you believe some men feel so inclined to openly harass women? How do we go about teaching men the correct ways in which to approach a woman?
There is no standardized definition for street harassment, however, there is a work in progress. From Stop Street Harassment (SSH) a nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting, addressing, and ending gender-based street harassment worldwide, street harassment is defined as: “unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.” It comes in all forms of approach from whistling, leering, requests for someone’s name, number or destination even after that person has said no, sexual names, comments, demands, following, groping, and the list goes on. It’s all too familiar for any woman who has ever gone anywhere in public.
In 2014 the SSH commissioned a 1,000 women, ages 18 and up, national survey in the USA from February through March. In addition the SSH conducted 10 focus groups across the nation from August 2012 to March 2014. The survey found that sixty-five percent of all women had experienced street harassment in their lifetimes. Among those sixty-five percent more than half (57%) had experienced verbal harassment and 41% had experienced physically aggressive forms including sexual touch (23%), following (20%), flashing (14%), and being forced to do something sexual (9%). Street harassment doesn’t just stop with a one-time encounter. The survey also showed that eighty-six percent of women who had reported being harassed were likely to say it happened sometimes, often, and daily. What makes the knowledge of street harassment more frightening is that around fifty percent of harassed women experienced street harassment by the age of 17. This is no longer an incident that occurs with adult women. Teenage girls are being approached by younger and older men alike.
Those who have been harassed tend to change their lifestyle to avoid the prospect of having a similar encounter. The most common change that the SSH found was that those who have been harassed, constantly assess their surroundings (47%). Women no longer go places alone and have resulted in group activities or going somewhere with another individual (31%). Public places like stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, and public transportation have become other areas where street harassment takes place besides streets and sidewalks. It’s with no surprise that SSH has found that men are overwhelmingly the harassers. Women who have been harassed by one man was cited at seventy percent, while being harassed by two or more was cited at thirty-eight percent.
Street harassment is an under-researched topic, but each study that exists today shows that it is a significant and prevalent problem. A problem that is sometimes brushed under the table as inconsequential. For the many women who are daily harassed it doesn’t feel so inconsequential. It feels more like a never-ending barrage of catcalls, unsolicited groping, and blatant leering. The sense of security some women once felt being in public spaces has long been diminished. In its place is anxiety, uncertainty, and an almost daily need to fend off unwanted advances. As a society we need to take a more active role in acknowledging street harassment and interfering when it occurs.
March 24, 2016
Loving Women: What do you think is the foundation for a healthy loving friendship between another woman? Once that foundation is built how do you go about maintaining it? How do we as women who have found that foundation use our knowledge to build up other women instead of tearing them down?
In this day and age women are assaulted by other women with words of abuse, discrimination, and incivility. Who hasn’t suffered from the bite of another woman’s snide comment? Who hasn’t experienced the malicious “mean girl”, for no better definition, shunning or lie spreading? In an age where social media gives women immediate access to each other and a larger audience to perform to, the mean girls no longer just exist in school or work, but right on your social media page. They have admittance into your life. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t have one or two social media apps downloaded on their phone. You carry them everywhere with you. It used to be as simple as going home from school or leaving work to leave behind the spiteful remarks that were thrown at you. Now as social media has advanced, specifically Facebook, it’s not as simple.
The worst part is that these so called mean girls are no longer just a group of women you are acquainted with, but barely know. They’ve become at times the very women you would have called your “best friends.” Women who know your insecurities and secrets and who at times have used them against you. Female friendships have become so fragile these days that any slight can be misconstrued as an offense. Instead of leaning into the conflict, examining the intentions behind the actions, and communicating the issue, we as women lash out. The first most compulsive instinct is to end the friendship. The second is more damaging. Some women opt to take to social media to declare all of the infractions that their former friend has committed. A fight in private between two women seems to be easier to repair than one that explodes in public for the world to see.
In a conversation with a female friend I was supplied with the quote below:
“Men kick friendship around like a football, but it doesn’t seem to crack. Women treat it like glass and it goes to pieces.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Dr. L. Grief the author of “Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships” states that men are more apt to give their friends advice and offer their perspectives while women are more apt to be supportive and encouraging. Men are “fixers” as he says and they tend to see getting something concrete accomplished as a way of helping, whereas women are more comfortable with emotional support. He also stated that men are often less concerned about slights than women, and so they may be somewhat less apt to lose a friend because of someone’s behavior. They are more upfront and less emotional when it comes to addressing issues within a friendship and are able to resolve differences more quickly and move on.
As women are our friendships too centered on emotions? Could we learn from men on how to acknowledge a problem before we blow it out of proportion? It seems as if we should be able to have the same uncomplicated friendships that men have. That our friendships with other women may not be as fragile as we make them out to be. The idea is that we should be able to take the kid gloves off when we are dealing with our friends. Those should be the people you can be the most honest with without fear of retaliation.
March 17, 2016
I thought it appropriate since March is Women’s History month that my first topic of the week be about women.
The Independent Woman: Who is she to you? Is she good or bad and can she co-exist in a relationship with a man?
Everywhere you look these days there are testimonies to the “independent woman”. If it isn’t status updates on Facebook, it’s articles, videos, and memes. The women of Generation-Y are at the forefront of this movement with a very strong theme. The idea that you do not need a man to be successful. As a woman you can shape your own future, build your own success, be just as good if not better than a man, and you can live your life on your own terms.
The women’s feminist movement in the 1960’s- 1970’s was the beginning of women asserting their wants and needs. An era where women were demanding similar rights afforded to men. Every generation since has taken up it’s own battle cry with it’s own set of terms. It’s what has been leading to the culmination of what we now call the “Independent Woman.” With songs such as “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore (1963), “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy (1971), “Sisters are Doing It For Themselves” by Eurythmics feat. Aretha Franklin (1985), “Independent Woman” by Destiny’s Child (1999), “Miss Independent” by Kelly Clarkson (2003), and “Run the World” by Beyoncé (2011), it’s clear that the term independent woman isn’t new. It’s just been renamed and transformed over the years in the same way women have.
However, there has been some push back as of late to the idea of the “independent woman”. Some men are starting to question whether that expression has gone a bit too far. Some say that the all too familiar “You don’t need a man!” phrase that is being popularized is problematic. The thought is that in the quest for women to find their “independence” they have given up substantial portions of their womanhood. Which, in effect, has been damaging for fostering meaningful relationships. (Darryl James author of “Bridging The Black Gender Gap”)
Then there are those like Tina Portis, an entrepreneur and former single mother of three, who depicts independence as a natural part of adulthood. In a video she posted on YouTube she asserts that independent women shouldn’t be getting a pat on the back for doing what adults should be doing. Which is, paying their bills, buying houses, cars, etc. That independence simply comes with adulthood.
Whether or not you agree with those whole feel as if the independent woman movement has gone too far or those who believe there is no such thing as an independent woman, one thing is very clear. There has become only one definition of the independent woman these days. According to Urban Dictionary she is “a woman who can take care of herself financially, physically, emotionally, and mentally. She pays her own bills, buys her own things, and does not allow a man to affect her stability or self-confidence. She supports herself entirely on her own and is proud to be able to do so.” Her looks, demeanor, and personality can differ from woman to woman. You may see a woman who is overtly aggressive in her sexuality. You might see a woman who is overly ambitious towards her career. The focus can change depending on what is the woman’s highest priority at that time. There is no clear archetype for the independent woman when it comes to what is most important because no two women are the same. The only clear concept that there seems to be these days, is that independent women do it all and they do it on their own.