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The #MeToo campaign placed a necessary spotlight on sexual abuse and rape. The #MeAt14 campaign followed on its heels after politician Roy Moore was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old when he was 32 and district attorney. The point of the latter campaign was to show what 14 looked like, reminding everyone that a 14-year-old cannot legally consent in any state.


However, there were problems with the #MeAt14 campaign that I sensed but couldn’t identify for days. Women posting pictures of themselves at 14 and telling what they were interested in during that time in life was powerful. It drew attention to how serious the allegations against Moore were, an important accomplishment since he somehow still has defenders.

Why, then, did this campaign leave me with a sinking feeling?

I stumbled across an article in the Washington Post and immediately saw part of the problem. While most girls were posting pictures of themselves with phrases about being carefree and waiting to get their braces off, a slew of already-abused girls were underrepresented. The pictures of innocence and carefree living weren’t real for girls who had already been preyed upon by the age of 14. They couldn’t put up a picture of their young virginal selves because that reality had already been taken from them.

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Purity culture, an unfortunate sub-culture within religious establishments that I am all too familiar with, leaves these women on the sidelines, much like the #MeAt14 campaign unintentionally did. As a woman who survived multiple rapes during her teen years, Elizabeth Smart said her upbringing in the purity culture made being repeatedly raped even harder to endure. “After that first rape, I felt crushed. Who could want me now?” she said,  pointing out the dangers of equating a woman’s worth with her status as a virgin.

The other problem with the campaign hit me the day after reading the Washington Post article. It wasn’t only problematic for those who had already been sexually assaulted or raped by the age of 14. It was also problematic for girls who weren’t innocent, as many described themselves in the #MeAt14 campaign, by choice.

I knew girls who fit the image of the nerd who was listening to New Kids on the Block and trying to record songs from the radio onto cassette without getting any of the commercials. Some version of that saccharin-sweet image appeared constantly as the #MeAt14 campaign rolled out.

I also knew girls at 14 who were giving blow jobs after school. These girls didn’t seem to be represented at all in the campaign, even though they also shouldn’t have been preyed on by a 32-year-old district attorney. The sexual desires and perceived innocence of girls aren’t factors when we’re talking about rape.

This campaign, though well-intentioned, played into the idea that “good women don’t get raped,” a belief that Yolanda Moses, anthropologist and consultant for preventing sexual assault, says is prevalent in our society. It’s a major reason that women adopt the approach of looking innocent, don’t talk about masturbation, and don’t express their desires. Exploring those issues is normal and expected for boys, but they aren’t largely welcome topics coming from girls.

This is especially true of women who have been raped or sexually assaulted. There’s an instinctive need to appear like sex doesn’t cross our minds, that we didn’t do anything to “deserve” what happened to us. Moses says “society tends to blame victims,” and it’s easy to look across the landscape today and see how true that statement is.

The world has a problem with girls who want: they don’t fit into the desired view of female innocence that is still seemingly necessary in order to cultivate sympathy when a woman is harmed. When a woman accuses a man of sexual assault or rape, people try to cast her as a girl who just might have sexual desires and who just might have had consensual sex at some point before being forced to do it against her will, as if these are horrendous acts comparable to her attacker’s decision to rape her.   

What would be the reaction if women actually stepped forward and said they want and that they figured out how to want at a young age? Those women know instinctively that they will not be listened to when sex is forced on them because, in the eyes of many, to express sexual desire means giving up the right to say no.

What do we do for our girls?

Girls need support, and psychoanalyst and author Joyce McFadden says that moms not talking about sex with their daughters can be life-changing in all the wrong ways. She’s found that grown daughters “felt resentful that, without support, their sexuality couldn’t be assimilated into their sense of self like other facets of living could, like their intellect, creativity, kindness or athleticism.”

We give our girls permission to be anything they want in most cases, but we still don’t want to talk to them about sexual desires and where that fits into their lives. McFadden confirms that the consequences are many, because daughters will not likely turn to their mothers for support after sexual abuse or rape if the conversations about bodies and desires aren’t taking place under normal conditions. McFadden said that the daughters “reasoned, if my mother couldn’t even talk to me about normal sexual stuff she certainly won’t be able to handle being there for me around sexual complications or traumas.”

What can we say and do to help our girls express desire and give them permission to come to us when they are harmed? Here are some ideas.

Talk about sex like it’s a good thing

Every parent is going to come at sex talks from a different place based on their values and religious beliefs. It’s still universal that sex can, in fact, be awesome.

No matter what we are telling our girls about sex, we don’t need to forget to let them know that it’s okay to have desires, to be excited about sex when it’s the right time, and to feel free to ask every question on the planet.

We also need to eliminate the idea of what Shulamit Almog and Karin-Carmit Yefet call the “humiliation scale.” This scale rewards girls who engage in sex that is considered acceptable for their gender and seeks to humiliate those who step out of line. It’s a way to keep girls who want to talk about sexual desires in line and, unfortunately, silent.

Don’t make girls the gatekeepers

The words that seeped into my brain when I was younger stuck, and they’ve resurfaced lately. They aren’t pretty. As a child and teen, I heard:

  • Women might not get raped if they dressed modestly.
  • That guy has three kids by three different women. When will these girls stop spreading their legs?
  • Boys can’t stop. They get turned on, and if a girl lets them go too far, they can’t stop themselves.
  • Normal girls don’t want sex. Boys are the horny ones.

That’s a lot of responsibility for girls. Females aren’t supposed to want, plus they are supposed to keep men’s desires in check at all times. That leaves very little room for girls to talk about and understand their own desires. It also paints men as uncontrolled animals with a testosterone overdose, an unfair depiction and a cop-out.

Don’t make girls the gatekeepers for boys or men. Don’t ever make them feel like if something happens and they come for help, they are going to be questioned about their roles in their own rapes or abuse.

Don’t give permission for others’ bad behavior

There are always going to be people who believe women constantly lie about being raped, that they somehow ask for it, or that what they wear or how they act means they deserve their fates. Speak truth boldly in the face of these lies.

There are times to let people agree to disagree, but this isn’t one of them. Speak up and speak out to help others understand the absurdity of their words and the thought processes behind them. Whether or not minds are changed, it’s important to put the truth out in the open so people who choose to be willfully blind won’t have any excuses. We need our girls to see us stand up for what is right so they will know we take no part in a mindset that says they deserve to be harmed.

The #MeAt14 campaign wasn’t bad, but like many things we try to do to prove we shouldn’t be victims of sexual assault, it put the pressure back on women to provide innocent pictures with innocuous anecdotes to safeguard them from judgment. Moore should have been the one on the defense, not women, even those who were thinking about more than Caboodles and getting perms at the age of 14. When we’re living in a world where a woman is comfortable saying she loves sex and people still understand this in no way gives someone the right to force her into sex, we’ll be making real progress.

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No kid is born a picky eater, but there are plenty who will give you a run for your money come mealtime. Whether it's a selective eating phase or simply a natural resistance to trying something new, getting your little one to try just.one.bite can be easier said than done.

But sometimes your attitude about eating can make the most impact. A 2017 study found a direct correlation between "mealtime emotional climate" (AKA, how positive meals are for parents and children) and a child's consumption of healthy food―meaning the difference between your child trying their green beans or not could depend on how positive you make the experience.

Not sure where to start?

Here are 10 positive parenting techniques that can help overcome picky eating and lead to more peaceful mealtimes for all.

1. Make them feel special.

Sometimes just knowing you have a special place at the table can help kids eat better. Create a special place setting with dishes just for them.

Try this: We love OXO's Stick & Stay plates and bowls for creating less mess at mealtime. Not only will the kids love the fun colors and designs, but the plates also come with a suction cup base that prevents little hands from knocking plates to the floor (or in your lap). Trust us—we've tried it.

2. Take off the pressure.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Plate

Think about it: If someone kept telling you to take one more bite during lunch, how likely would you be to go along without bristling?

Try this: Instead, use the Satter Division of Responsibility of feeding, which lets parents be responsible for what, when, and where feeding happens, while the child is left responsible of how much and whether. Besides promoting a more positive environment at mealtime, this method also boosts your child's confidence and helps encourage better self-regulation of food as they get older.

3. Serve a variety.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Divided Plate

It could be that your child is bored with the usual rotation. Keep things interesting by regularly introducing new ingredients, or reworking a familiar ingredient in a new way. The familiar setting might make your child more likely to take a bite without a struggle.

Try this: Sub in spaghetti squash with their favorite pasta sauce, or add in a new veggie to a beloved stir-fry. We love OXO's Stick & Stay Divided Plate for creating a "tasting menu" of new flavors for little ones to pick and choose or using the center spot for an appetizing dip.

4. Don't bargain or negotiate.

Many kids resist trying new foods or eating at all because it gives them a sense of control over their lives. By resisting an ingredient―even one they have tried and liked in the past―they are essentially saying, "You're not the boss of me."

Try this: Instead of resorting to bargaining tactics like, "Just take one bite!" or "You can have dessert if you try it!" lower the pressure with a neutral statement like, "This is what we're having for dinner tonight." There's no argument, so you avoid tripping their "Don't tell me what to do!" sensor.

5. Serve meals in courses.

Even adults are more likely to eat something when they're really hungry. When their tummies are rumbling, kids will usually put up less of a fight even when they're uncertain about a new ingredient.

Try this: Serve up vegetables or other new foods as an "appetizer" course. That way, you won't have to stress if they don't fill up because you can follow up with food you know they'll eat.

6. Make it a game.

The fastest way to get a toddler on board with a new idea is to make it more fun. Turn your kitchen into an episode of Top Chef and let your little one play judge.

Try this: Use each compartment of the Stick & Stay Divided Plate for a new ingredient. With each item, ask your child to tell you how the food tastes, smells, and feels, ranking each bite in order of preference. Over time, you just might be surprised to see veggies climb the leaderboard!

7. Get them involved in cooking.

You've probably noticed that toddlers love anything that is theirs―having them help with preparing their own meals gives them a sense of ownership and makes them more likely to try new ingredients.

Try this: Look for ways to get those little hands involved in the kitchen, even if it means meal prep takes a bit longer or gets a bit messier. (We also love letting them help set the table―and OXO's unbreakable plates are a great place to start!) You could even let your toddler pick the veggie course for the meal. And if your child asks to taste a raw fruit or vegetable you planned to cook, go with it! Every bite counts as training that will ultimately broaden their palate.

8. Cut out unstructured snacking.

Not surprisingly, a hungry kid is more likely to try new foods. But if your toddler had a banana and a glass of milk (or a granola bar, or a handful of popcorn, or a glass of juice) an hour before dinner, odds are they aren't feeling truly hungry and will be more likely to resist what you serve at mealtime.

Try this: Stick to a consistent eating schedule. If your child leaves the table without eating as much as you think they should, remind them once that they won't be able to eat again until X time―and make good on that promise even if they start begging for a snack before the scheduled meal.

9. Model good eating habits.

Kids may not always do what you say, but they are much more likely to follow a good example. So if you want a child who eats vegetables regularly, you should do your best to fill your own plate with produce.

Try this: Pick a new food the whole family will try in multiple ways each week. For example, if you're introducing butternut squash, serve it roasted, blended in soup, cut up in pasta, as a mash, etc.―and be sure a healthy serving ends up on your plate too.

10. Don't worry about "fixing" picky eating.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Bowl

In most cases, children go through relatively consistent eating phases. At age two (when parents tend to notice selectiveness ramping up), growth rates have slowed and most children don't need as much food as parents might think.

Try this: Focus on keeping mealtime positive by providing children with a variety of foods in a no-pressure environment. And remember: This too shall pass. The less stress you put on eating now, the more likely they are to naturally broaden their palates as they get older.


This article was sponsored by OXO Tot. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Learn + Play

Over six million women in America struggle with infertility, and yet its a journey that can feel so isolating.

That's why we find Google's short video, "Becoming Mom," to be so powerful. Through anxiety-driven web searches, vlog clips, and calendars packed with appointments, this video gives a brief peek into the all-consuming reality of struggling with infertility.

Watch "Becoming Mom" here:


Candace Wohl, a fertility advocate featured in this video, writes of her experience:

"For seven years, Mother's Day was the worst day of the year for me. It was an observance that felt completely out of reach, yet commercially and socially it was a reminder that I couldn't escape. I wanted to be a mom, but I was having trouble becoming one."

As Candace and her husband felt their private life had been invaded by fertility specialists, they also felt that the outside world didn't understand what they were going through. So she found solidarity online.

"I found support groups, blogs and resources. I wasn't as alone as I thought—like many, I had been silent about my struggles with infertility. It's a less-than-tasty casserole of heartache, injections and surgeries, failed adoption placements and financial devastation."

Through her years of personal experience, Candace has since become an advocate for infertility awareness, and hopes that speaking up will help break down the barriers surrounding infertility. She was excited to see Google using their platform to further this message.

"I hope that this year, even one more person out there will realize they're not alone."

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We love how this video is helping to spread awareness of a struggle so many women experience, and importantly—how it highlights the virtual communities that help many women to find a path forward. It's a powerful reminder that there are others out there, typing the same fears or curiosities into a search bar.

We applaud Candace and the other brave women who shared their stories in this video. Their openness is helping to educate people and elevate the conversation surrounding infertility. 👏

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We grew up together, were in each other's weddings, and dreamed about the day we would raise our children in unison. Then, BOOM. Kids arrive, and it doesn't take long to realize that, whoa, my best friend and I have very different approaches to this parenting gig.

The odds of her letting her babies “cry it out" are about as high as me co-sleeping with mine, and by that I mean not a chance. That's not the only thing that makes us very different in terms of parenting.

I enforce strict bedtimes, while her kids are catching a 7 p.m. movie at the theater. My little ones eat most meals from a box or the freezer, and hers have palates more developed than most adults.

We're both teachers. She cries when August rolls around at the thought of leaving her kids to go back to work. Me? I'm itching for “me time" and aching for conversation with someone above the age of five.

Sure, we're both trying our best to raise happy, respectful, and kind children, but when I'm faced with a grumpy 4-year-old whose mood rivals a teenager, I choose to send her to her room for quiet time. My best friend tickles the grouchies away.

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She has endless patience while I'm nearing the end of my fraying rope by noon.

I'll never forget one day when my daughter was having an epic tantrum, and I said to my friend, exasperated, “Ugh, sometimes I just want to scream 'Shut up!'"

Her response was one of shock, her eyes wide with horror. “Jennifer!" she said, appalled.

“Of course I would never actually say that," I quickly clarified. “But c'mon, you mean to tell me you've never thought that before?"

“Never!" she replied.

Then we chuckled about how different our mindsets are.

That's the thing – it's not a secret that we're raising our kids using opposing methodologies. We know that about each other and we respect that about each other. Here's the key: there's no judging.

My friend's children are being raised with religion in the household—praying at meals and before bed, talking about God, and falling on faith to help explain many of the mysteries of the human experience. My husband and I rest pretty low on the spirituality ladder and while we have no problem explaining religious beliefs to our kids, we have no plan to incorporate religion into our family.

“Johnny included you in his bedtime prayer last night," she recently told me.

“Aww, tell him thanks," I said, “and I love him."

We don't hide things from each other or pretend to be similar in ways that we're clearly not. With such different approaches to most aspects of parenting, you'd think that it would be difficult to be friends, but the opposite is true. Honesty, empathy, and support go far in maintaining a lasting friendship.

In a culture that likes to pit moms against each other simply because of differing choices, our story proves that it doesn't have to be that way.

Many of our conversations start with: “I know you think I'm crazy, but…" Sometimes when one of us (usually me) needs to vent about an issue with our child, the other one just listens and does her best to offer advice even if it's not something that we would do personally.

In the end, it comes down to this: There's no right way to be a mom. No one hands out gold star stickers to the moms who are doing things “this" way, rather than “that" way.

So, is it possible to be best friends with a mom who has polar opposite parenting styles as me? The answer is yes. She may be the June Cleaver to my Rosanne Barr, but what can I say? It just works.

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Love + Village

Sure being a mom of three totally rocks, but it comes with its fair share of demands, too. Singer-turned-lifestyle-entrepreneur, Jessica Simpson is learning this first hand, as she recently admitted to People that mothering three children can be difficult.

"Three is challenging," says Simpson. "We are trying to get into the groove and make sure all three kids are getting equal attention … it's more than a full-time job right now."

Simpson is a mom to daughter 6-year-old Maxwell Drew, 5-year-old son Ace Knut and little Birdie Mae who is just 5 weeks old. Birdie was born via C-section on March 19, and Simpson admitted on Instagram that "recovering from a C-section is no joke!"

While in the recovery period, the new mom of three is determined to live in the moment and enjoy hugging her new baby. "We are trying our best to be as present as possible and enjoy every part of having a newborn," she says. "We know how fast the time goes and how precious it is."

But being a mom to multiples can often be overwhelming. A recent survey found that motherhood isn't just equivalent to a full-time job, but actually equivalent to working 2.5 jobs. And we know three kids is one of the hardest ratios for moms: A survey found moms of four or more are less stressed than moms with fewer kids, but moms of three are way more stressed than moms of two.

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Simspon is totally feeling this.

She tells People: "The other night, all three kids were crying at the same time, so I just joined in!" She's joking about it, but feelings of sadness after a new baby are not a laughing matter. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), postpartum depression impacts 15 to 20% of pregnant and postpartum mothers. (If you're feeling overwhelmed, seek help, mama)

No matter how many kids you have, the fact is that statistically, parents are more stressed than people who don't have kids. It makes sense. We have less free time and more responsibilities, but it is so worth it. And it won't feel like a full-time job forever.

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News

I've always felt a weird kinship with Prince Harry. We are two different races (he's white, and I'm an African American), so we're definitely not related, and technically, I've never met him, but because my mother was pregnant with me at the same time Princess Diana was pregnant with him, I feel strangely connected to Harry.

It's almost like we're distant cousins in some bizarre way. So, imagine my delight when I discovered he was dating, and later married, an American actress of African-American heritage?

"Finally, there's some color in the royal family!" I texted to a few close friends on Prince Harry's wedding day, who later joined in my delight with smiling emojis. She's a beautiful 37-year-old American divorcee with a relaxed California girl sense of style. Naturally, I want her to win.

But as much as I'm team Meghan Markel and pro black women in general, I understand that having a black woman in the monarchy doesn't change much. Let's reflect back for a moment: Shortly after the world learned Meghan was dating Prince Harry, the tabloids were loaded with racist comments. "Duchess Difficult" is a mainstay in the news that particularly stands out to me. "Oh, great another black woman deemed aggressive, ill-tempered and hostile," I remember mumbling to myself.

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The trope of the "angry black woman" has once again re-emerged and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, isn't excluded from it. According to NBC News, some British journalists say Meghan has been treated differently from other members of the House of Windsor, citing a difference in attitude towards Kate, the wife of Harry's elder brother Prince William.

Realizing this reminded me how former First Lady Michelle Obama was treated shortly after taking on the title. Michelle has spoken about the racism she faced as the first lady, noting that when a West Virginia county employee called her an "ape in heels" it cut deep.

And speaking of cutting deep, it pains me when society labels Meghan as "our black hero" because it's damaging to other black women who don't have straight, long hair, light skin, and a narrow nose. Does this mean that if you don't look like Meghan, an "acceptable" version of a black woman, then you don't quite matter? Is her version of black the only type that counts?

But even with the racism and wanted (or unwanted) labels surrounding Meghan being in the royal family, I'm thrilled to learn that her baby (whether a boy or girl) will be seventh-in-line to the throne and the first baby of African ancestry to have such a title in the history of British royalty.

I love birthing stories, and this one is extra special. This, to me, is more magical than Meghan being in the office because it means a new breed of royalty is here. It's a symbol of change, new beginnings and it disrupts white British bloodlines. I couldn't be more excited.

If I'm being honest with myself, I know the baby won't be excluded from racist remarks, but their mere presence will acknowledge that mixed families are breaking age-old boundaries of white people dominating the royal family, and creates new histories. And, that gives me a beacon of hope for not only the Brits but Americans, too.

Just like Meghan, I too am expecting a child any day. Just like Meghan, this baby won't be granted the title of Princess (unless it's a girl, who by default will be seen as such through her daddy's eyes). And, just like Meghan, I'm hopeful yet unsure of the world my little one will live in. But, I'm positive they will break their own boundaries while standing on the shoulders of black women who have come before them.

And that, strangely enough, makes me feel even more connected to the Harry and the rest of the British Royal Family.

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