Praise for abil…

Praise for ability is commonly considered to have beneficial effects on motivation. Contrary to this popular belief, six studies demonstrated that praise for intelligence had more negative consequences for students’ achievement motivation than praise for effort. Fifth graders praised for intelligence were found to care more about performance goals relative to learning goals than children praised for effort. After failure, they also displayed less task persistence, less task enjoyment, more low-ability attributions, and worse task performance than children praised for effort. Finally, children praised for intelligence described it as a fixed trait more than children praised for hard work, who believed it to be subject to improvement. These findings have important implications for how achievement is best encouraged, as well as for more theoretical issues, such as the potential cost of performance goals and the socialization of contingent self-worth.

Mueller, et al. Via Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

When she says s…

When she says she was an “accident,” I tell her that she should feel that she is all the more a wanted child. We didn’t want a child, I say, we wanted you. She wasn’t convenient, she wasn’t planned, she profoundly changed all of our lives.

Amy Benfer. Read more here.

Innocent and unaware

Lately there have been some painful moments of watching my child play so innocently. He’s already encountering some funky playground politics. He just grins at kids who bully him – he thinks they are playing with him when they are actually being mean. Watching him follow them around even after they bully him is heartbreaking and sweet at the same time. Love that guy.

Then there are the adults we encounter on the street or in the store. 99% of these encounters are lovely – people saying hello and go to quite hilarious lengths to get him to smile. I love those moments. Then there are those occasional moments when my child says hello so brightly to an adult who just glares, sets their jaw or looks away, angry or bored. That’s totally, totally fine. Totally. But his sweet little face is so confused and he keeps trying to say ‘hi’ louder and smile more brightly. I makes me do one of those laugh/sigh/cringes and give him a kiss on his little cheek. Love that guy.

By far, the most painful thing is watching him bumble around so joyfully not knowing that his father actively denies his existence. The world is a rough place to be sometimes. I don’t even know how to put into words how that feels to me, and how I wonder it will feel to my child once he becomes aware of the world in that way. Worse though to be the man who is so confused as to not want to know and care for his own living and breathing child. I watch my son belly laugh with the fathers of other kids in playgroups and on the playgrounds and hope he grows up to be a truly kind man. Love that little guy.

 

When you become…

When you become pregnant and dream of the life you wish for your child, you might imagine all the things you can teach your child. I started out motherhood with a very idealistic and naive view of what I would do for my daughter. It never occurred to me that her life would be taken control of in some ways because of the color of her skin.

– Martha Wood – read the rest here.

Single mom power!

The funniest thing just happened… It’s about 8pm, my neighbors are having a party. Again. This time they had already woken my toddler up once, so…I had to go ask them to please keep it down. I hate doing that but their deck is right outside my baby’s window, what are you going to do? I got one woman’s attention (mid-fifties short gray hair white lady drinking white wine just to give you a mental picture) and she was nice enough at first asking if oh I had to get up early and oh how old my baby was. But then I got the “oh, he must be your first” along with rolling eyes blowoff. So the words “Look. I’m a single mom…” spilled out of my mouth. And before I could finish she immediately shut up, looked me in the eye, shook my hand, and said “enough said, I’ll tell everyone to keep it down.” Superpowers I tell you! Keeping that one in my back pocket.

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Just another super cool single mom.

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Photo of single mom, Sandra Bullock, and her son via FameFlynet

 

Dear Baby Daddy…

I couldn’t have said it better if I tried for two hundred years. You’ve got to check out this letter from a single mama to her child’s father (click the link below to read the whole thing. You won’t want to miss the ending). Well done Madi Koconut.

On badmouthing and backpacking and odds and ends.

I just stumbled on this post about how moms talk about their kids. Food for thought!

Then I started snooping around her blog some more and found this letter to herself. I really love it.

Anyone else into backpacking with a baby or toddler? We’ve been once and it has me lusting after this backpack.

Have you read this book? I just did and it was definitely thought provoking. It has me doing some things a little differently than before.

I also found this article about toddler “discipline” helpful. Her whole section on toddlers is a good read.

 

Nap over! Got to run!

Postpartum depression and the single mom.

When I was pregnant I once “confessed” to a (childless) friend about how stressed out I was (if you have been reading for a while you know I was forced out of my job and into homelessness during my pregnancy) and how terrified I was of the possibility of not being a good mother who could properly provide for her child. I say “confessed” because…wow, there was so much pressure to be the round, happy, 24/7 celebratory pregnant lady and I had a feeling my truth was not welcome. I was right. My friend cringed and said I needed therapy and medication. I was even more distraught after that. I took a huge risk and talked to another non-mother friend and, this time, the response was: “what do you mean therapy and medication? You just need a hug!” She got it. I just needed a hug. And a few other things (a job and a place to live), but the hug was so crucial. Pregnancy and impending motherhood can come with a lot of worries and anxiety for women even in the best of situations. On top of that – my economic security had been unfairly messed with. It’s not pretty to get by in the U.S. without family and/or economic security and I was batting zero on those. Fortunately I found a really great job a month and a half before the baby was born. And a place to live which I moved into the day before I went into labor. Just in time. Counting my lucky stars on that one. One beautiful homebirth later…

I had the baby – and the real hard part started. It was beautiful and blissful to meet my baby. But the isolation and borderline cruelty of being expected to function well under such isolation? It feels so wrong. And to me, this is part of what makes single mother hood so much harder – not only do you not have a partner there with you to help in some degree, but as a single mom you sometimes also get a taste of “you made your bed/you chose this/you should have thought about that before” from the world around you. Just because you chose this doesn’t mean it’s an easy job. Or that you deserve it to be a hard job – or to do the hard job alone in such isolation.

When I hear the words “postpartum depression,” I think: it’s not postpartum depression – it’s just postpartum. The postpartum period seems to be a very misunderstood and forgotten time. Like it’s impolite or ungrateful to even mention it or something. Postpartum is very challenging and I am convinced it is not meant to be done alone. No, I’m not saying every child should be born into a two parent household. I’m saying every child should be born into a village. I’m talking two dozen people. Not one, or even two. But where is this village? Honestly, for me, many of my longtime friends disappeared from the village. Fortunately I have been meeting a few people here and there since then. A work in progress!

Fast forward to today when this NY Times article “Thinking of Ways to Harm Her” popped up. The whole time I was reading it I was thinking where is the village for these women, and why isn’t this reporter talking about the missing village? I know there is postpartum depression and psychosis that would occur even with a fully intact village. But more often than not I think this is a symptom of our culture of isolation along with unsupportive governmental regulations  and workplace demands about what type of “productivity”  is expected of a new parent in the first year of a child’s life. Turns out some other people were thinking the same thoughts in the comments section:

SJ in Washington, D.C.
As someone who has at one time been a stay-at-home dad, I can someone relate. I would echo what some others have commented here–this situation is perhaps a symptom of a society within which there are few solid social networks of support. In a more tribal or group setting, I could imagine groups of children being cared for in some kind of team manner from day-1. Nowadays, it is not unusual for a primary caregiver to be a team of “1”, alone, and unsupported except for in the case of infrequent visits by relatives (which could be more stressful than helpful). We are social animals, and I suspect that raising a child (or children) is evolutionarily a group task–not one designed to be taken on by 1 or 2 people at a time. I fully would agree that there may be many individual and even bio-chemical processes at work as well, but I am convinced that the social aspect is one that cannot be ignored.
BL in NYC

All this research data comes from the U.S. The U.S. is the only developed nation that has no federally guaranteed paid-maternity leave. By contrast, Canadian women are guaranteed up to 52 weeks of job-secured, paid-leave. In France, families can place infants into registered nurseries starting at two months and costs are very reasonable. Children can enroll in free pre-school starting at the age of two. Most families are given significant tax breaks and other incentives when they have children. I wonder if the results of depression and mental illness are similar in countries that offer far more support to working mothers and families. Caring for an infant is challenging especially when you don’t have any support. When you couple this with the pressure of returning back to work and ensuring a steady income for your family, it is little wonder that the rates of mental illness are so high. I find it frustrating that this article made no mention of how leave policies might exacerbate the stress of having a new child.

JUDITHELLEN in NY

This is a very important topic and the stories referred to a much more common than generally realized. As a mother and a therapist I feel there is another extremely important factor which needs to be taken into consideration. The stress of having a child in our culture is greatly increased by the social isolation many new mothers experience. There are very few support systems in place to enable new mothers to acquire the help that is so needed. Most new mother’s do not have family members immediately available and the only way they can get help is by hiring others. This involves money which may not be available, as well as the time and wherewithal that goes into interviewing and choosing someone for childcare.

In my experience, those new mothers who are fortunate enough to have extended family for support suffer much less from the symptoms described in this article. Perhaps, as a culture, we need to consider taking the route of providing better and more extensive support systems for mothers.

ML in Princeton, N.J.

Yet another side effect of our isolated “nuclear family” society. New mothers are not meant to spend their days alone and purposeless. They are meant to be in the company of many other women, mothers sisters and friends. The care they give to their children is meant to be honored and supported, not devalued and hurried. I would assume that mothers in a more natural social environment still experience the hormonal shifts and related mental effects, but given the loving support of their family and community don’t need medical intervention and paid “group therapy.”

Pregnancy, Childbirth and Breastfeeding are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. One’s sense of self is irrevocably altered, there is a suffocating sense of responsibility with no end in sight. Sleepless nights, the unending demands of babies and toddlers, the lack of social and mental stimulation are overwhelming. Screening and treatment are the modern equivalents, and poor substitutes for familial love and support.

EW123 in St. Louis

Other posters are correct that there is very little pre-emptive support for mothers in this country. You are treated in the hospital for two to four days, usually without any significant mention of how to take care of yourself emotionally. If your partner gets any time off, it’s a few days. If you are lucky enough to get time off from your job, it’s “disability” for six weeks at a fraction of your pay. I know women who have been forced to pump in bathrooms at work, or who are scared to get any help because they can’t afford it. The other thing that is not mentioned here is that the way a woman is treated by her healthcare provider during the prenatal and perinatal periods (the time of labor, birth and immediate postpartum in the hospital) can make a difference to her mental health during pregnancy. I was treated terribly by a stand-in doctor who performed intrusive procedures without even seeking my permission. I felt powerless and violated. It absolutely contributed to my postpartum mental state, and I ended up being diagnosed with postnatal PTSD. My story is not an anomaly. According the “Childbirth Connection” survey in 2013, a considerable percentage of American women felt they lacked control or respectful care during the perinatal period. We must start supporting women from the get-go in prenatal and perinatal care if we want to make a dent in improving our nation’s postpartum mental health.

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It’s a start, but where to go from here? I’ve been consciously trying to rebuild my village for the past year. I don’t have a quick fix answer but I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way which I will be sharing here soon.

Happy Father’s Day to single mamas.

“Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to consider the unexpected. Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to entertain the improbable opportunity that comes looking for you. And never be so faithful to your plan that when you hit a bump in the road — or when the bumps hit you – you don’t have the fortitude, grace and resiliency to rethink and regroup… Plans or no plans, keep a little space in your heart for the improbable. You won’t regret it.”

Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator

Have a happy upcoming Father’s Day you graceful and resilient single moms out there. Thinking of you.