I got the inspiration for writing my latest book In Praise of Stay-At-Home Moms, after I asked the audience at a television talk show a seemingly simple question. Find out what I asked, and how, 25 years later (!), that answer turned into my newest book:
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Out-of-wedlock sex is just no big deal anymore. It’s even the basic plot of many television sitcoms, making it seem like a royal good time. After all, isn’t sex just a natural instinct and desirable physical release? If you have an itch, it should be scratched, right? At least that’s what I see my dog Bebe do when she clearly has an itchy paw.
Religious teaching be damned. There should be no guilt about a good romp in the hay that is meaningless, whether extra-marital or non-marital. Why the big fuss?
Well, let’s see. We can throw in the “fuss” basket some of the following:
1. Sexually-transmitted diseases, some of which can kill.
2. Unwanted pregnancies, some of which we can kill or raise without a complete and loving home with two parents, who have a sacred covenant called marriage.
Of course, there’s also the unexpected consequence of realizing that very little out-of-wedlock sex has any meaning whatsoever after so many such experiences. Women feel used and desperate; men feel crass and disappointed. And never mind the hurt feelings that come from ultimate rejection when one gets bored and the other underestimates what being sexually intimate results in with regard to feeling about themselves and their life.
This all leads up to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been ordered by a federal judge to allow 17 year old girls (not women) to have Plan B, the morning-after pill, without a prescription, as it is available to those over 18. This has been an ideological issue, as some folks wish for girls (married or not) to have no impediment to “expressing their sexuality” with the back-up of the morning-after pill, as well as abortion.
This is astonishing to me, considering all the medical and emotional issues that surround sexuality.
The morning-after pill is a contraceptive that reduces the chance of pregnancy if taken within three days after sexual intercourse. It contains a high dose of birth control drugs. The pill works by preventing ovulation or by interfering with implantation of a fertilized egg.
I’m just sad that girls, often having sex with adult males, figure it’ll all be okay without a condom, because the adult male reminds them that “there is always Plan B or an abortion.” Not to worry…no big deal.
Well, over 32 years of a radio call-in program has provided me proof that there is no easy fix for the feelings of guilt, loss, being used, and multiple meaningless sexual experiences. I, for one, am sad that we keep opening the door wider and wider for women and men to feel less and less responsibility and awe about each other. No wonder anti-depressants are among the best-selling drugs in America.TrackBack URI
Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother.
– Lin Yu-Tang
When I brought our one child into the universe, I pushed hard for 12 hours, but he must have been holding on for dear life, because I ended up having a C-section. I was a bit bummed that I couldn’t just pop him out in 20 minutes like the 22 year old down the hall – humphff!
They had to give me morphine so, of course, I was out like a light until morning. The first minute my eyes were open, there was the nurse with my little miracle. She reminded me that I had signed up for breastfeeding, and…well, here she was and he was hungry.
In my sad little stupor, I mumbled “I haven’t been able to do anything right yet…I don’t know if I can do this.” She said it was easy, and then showed me how to hold him. The side of his cheek touched my breast, his eyes perked up (typical guy!), and he went right on, and all the pain of the night before just evaporated and I fell in love. Imagine – my own body feeding my own child. Seriously cool!
All of this is not idle reminiscing on my part. It is a lead-in to the story that there is a new Rhode Island law that allows a woman to breastfeed or bottle-feed her child in any place open to the public. This new law permits a woman to allege a violation of her civil rights if she is prevented from breastfeeding in public.
Now, breastfeeding is very important, not only for the mommy/child bond, but to pass on the mother’s immune factors to the child for the first 6 months, saving everybody time, money, and discomfort with infants getting sick. One might also suggest that it is the responsibility of the mommy to breastfeed for the health of her child, but there is more to the story.
Dr. Laura Viehmann, a Breastfeeding Coordinator for the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said “Too often, mothers are asked to stop breastfeeding, to move to a private location, or to cover themselves up when they breastfeed at a playground, at the airport, in a restaurant, or in other public places.”
This is where the typical separation of rights vs. responsibilities occurs. I breastfed my son whenever he was hungry, wherever I was…but I never imposed this lovely experience on strangers at another restaurant table, or passers-by in the mall, or a pew in a house of worship. I would either go to a private place for the peaceful setting, or I would take a thin diaper and cover us both up…kind of like “tenting” us.
While at that time, my breast was a source of life fluids for my son, as modestly endowed as I am, the breast is still a source of sexual stimulation to half the population. Perhaps women who breastfeed uncovered in public with men around should be charged with sexual harassment? While I’m kidding, of course, I don’t think my point is a minor one.
People are always “crumbing” about their privacy, and yet they’re willing to show their underwear with pants that barely stay up, or skirts that barely stay down. My point is that while breastfeeding is a sacred, wonderful, natural part of mothering, it deserves respect, and we hardly show respect for something by parading it in front of strangers.
I was a breastfeeding woman, and I always showed respect for the situational expectations of others. I also never brought our son to a fancy, adult restaurant when he was an unpredictably screaming baby. To me, breastfeeding is a sacred bonding moment between mother and child – like the passionate act that brought that child into being is between husband and wife. These sacred moments are private, and should be kept that way with a simple draped cloth.
Exposing yourself in full view of potentially unwilling onlookers is less about bonding and feeding, and more about exhibitionism or disrespect for others, or an attitude that nobody else in the world matters – like that Sixties mantra of “if you don’t like it, it’s YOUR problem.” No matter how you look at it, special things are put on pedestals and treated as special.TrackBack URI
During his recent African trip, Pope Benedict XVI said that the distribution of condoms would not resolve the AIDS problem. The Pope has made it clear that abstinence is going to be the best way to fight AIDS.
Google “Pope” and “condoms,” and you’ll never run out of reading material excoriating the man for his observation and opinion. Many health advocates have gone ballistic in their criticism of his comments. They feel it is one thing to promote abstinence as part of the Catholic religion, but that it is an entirely different thing to preach it to the world.
On a person-by-person basis, wearing a condom does, of course, offer some protection against contracting various venereal diseases and (of course) unwanted pregnancy. It is also true that condoms sometimes break, slip, or are put on incorrectly (taut to the very end). Everything has its limitations…except abstinence.
I remember listening to a rabbi describing a situation that occurred to his kosher family. His 7 year old child was invited to a birthday party for a classmate at one of those fast-food hamburger establishments. When he came to pick up his child at the end of the party, one of the mothers – clearly annoyed – chastised him for the pain he caused his son. “All the children had hamburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries and dessert, and your little boy had to sit there and eat none of it. Imagine how terrible your son must have felt? How could you do this to him? Food is food. There is nothing sinful about food. What you are doing to him is just cruel.” Just about at the end of her tirade, his son bounded up to him, gave him a huge hug around the waist, and said “I had a great time. This was a fun party.”
The woman blanched and walked away. The rabbi followed her and gently told her the following: animals will eat whatever is around, even if it will make them unhealthy. Humans are to rise above animals and become masters of their urges. Imagine my son in a dorm room where harmful illicit drugs are being passed about. We already know that peer pressure and urges will not force him to relent and give in to the impulse. Learning at his early age to control impulse and desire is not a harmful trait – many times, it might be a life-saving one. Look at him. He enjoyed the company of your son and the rest of the children without giving up his values. He looks happy and satisfied. We really need to bring up our children to be masters of their instincts, not slaves to them, don’t you think?
The woman scowled, but listened to him.
Yes, in any one instance, a condom could protect, but in the overall scheme of humanity, why do so many people wish to push away the enormous protective power of moral values?
When the Pope suggests that human beings are best off saving their sexual passion for the stability of a covenant of marriage, he is making a statement that the act of sexuality is elevated by the context, and ultimately protects both man and woman from a myriad of hurtful consequences from venereal diseases to unwanted pregnancies (complete with abortions, abandonment, single-parenthood, and homelessness to name a few).
The naysayers all have one thing in common: they refuse to want, believe or accept that human beings can commit to a higher spiritual state of thought and behavior. The Pope believes in us more than that.
I am not Catholic, so this is no knee-jerk defense of my spiritual leader. The truth is that he is simply correct and too many people don’t want to hear it, because they want to live lives unfettered by rules. It is sad that they don’t realize that this makes them a slave to animal impulse versus a master of human potential.TrackBack URI
My newest book, In Praise of Stay-At-Home Moms, is being released in two weeks. One of the questions I’m asked most often is why it’s so important for kids to have a mom at home, especially when the conventional wisdom suggests that “quality time” is as good as “quantity time.” Not so.
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As children do in general, when I was a small child, I lied to my parents when I got caught doing something I shouldn’t have, or not doing something I should have. The reason why lying is so popular among children is that it is their attempt to keep out of trouble and avoid punishment.
After a while, as children mature, they learn that lying is worse than the dumb thing they did (like eat all the potato chips before their parents’ party started), because it hurts the relationship by destroying trust. In addition, lying brought consequences – dire consequences in the old days (spankings) and stupid consequences in the present (loss of cell phone privileges for a few days), or none at all (when parents are just too busy).Nonetheless, the value of honesty (as demanded in the commandment not to bear false witness) has been a cornerstone in this country’s value system about measuring character in individuals.
We already have way too many “role models” who actually make superficial lifestyles, drugs, casual sex, and domestic violence attractive to our children, making it harder and harder to tell them “That’s wrong to do, and if you do it, you will be publicly embarrassed, and your life will get off track.” There isn’t much in society to back that statement up anymore.
I am soooooo glad I don’t have a young child at home anymore. Sitting at breakfast last week, watching the so-called news, I looked up to see Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd say (and I paraphrase) that the line in the federal stimulus bill which would have given over $100 million in bonuses to AIG executives – the ones responsible for the company’s demise – if they were promised before February 11th, was nothing he knew about. “When I left work after writing that part of the bill…that sentence wasn’t there.”
I sat there “chewing” on his statement, wondering what gremlin snuck into his office and typed that sentence while he was home in the bosom of his family. My question was answered within seconds as a second news clip was shown with him admitting the HE was the gremlin, but then he threw the White House under the bus with, “They made me do it.”
Now I am mortified. “I didn’t have sex with that woman,” and “I didn’t’ write the sentence that stole money from Americans to give bonuses to high-ranking losers” have entered the ranks of the story about George Washington admitting to his dad that he cut down the cherry tree.
I could see my kid right now…”Ah, mommy, what’s the story here?” You said lying was bad, and bad things would come of it, like at least looking bad, but he’s still going to be a Senator tomorrow.”
Millions of you out there have children who saw what I saw. What are you going to say to them about corruption at the highest levels that ultimately gets just a “wink and a nod?” What about all those courses in school where “character matters?” Where does it matter in public anymore? Some of you can fall back on “God knows, and for all eternity, it WILL make a difference.” I like that a lot, except children don’t think long-term, nor do they dwell on the importance of what they can’t see.
Asian countries have it right – they threaten people with the anger and shame of their ancestors. America has it wrong. It would seem to children that the only really important quality needed to become a public figure is to not give a damn about right and wrong or what people think, or that a lie is anything but an expedient tool with no meaningful consequences.
Oh, yeah, the White House is acting all outraged about the AIG bonuses at the same time it is apparently the source of the benevolent donation to the failed executive fund of AIG. Is this what they mean by the “trickle down” theory?
Were I to have a child by my side this morning, I would say: “Beloved child, when you read history books (and not the purged ones you get at school, but real history books), you will see that success and honesty are not necessarily bed partners. Nonetheless, never do anything you would be ashamed to have your kids know you did or have them do. I would rather you lost everything you worked for, rather than lose your soul.” I figure the more you tell kids this from the day they’re born to the day you die, we’ll have some people in this life we can trust.TrackBack URI
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
– Anne Bradstreet
English/American writer and first notable American poet