Struggle Love Is Not A Badge of Honor

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A disturbing video came across my news feed the other day. And it wasn’t a street fight or some bloody crime scene, it was in fact a wedding. The video showed a woman crying tears of joy as she prepared to wed her longtime boyfriend of 23 years. The ceremony took place in a North Texas hospital room where the groom had taken up his fight against Stage 4 Colon Cancer. And as family, hospital staff and local news cameras bare witness to the rare occasion, the couple lovingly exchanged their vows.

“Do you Blair, take Pamela to be your lawfully wedded wife,” the officiant queried, “promising to love and cherish, to love in sorrow, sickness and health?” “ I do” replied the groom. And after the bride echoed similar sentiments, the officiant proclaimed the two, one. The couple kissed as friends and family looked on tearfully. “We did it!”, Pamela exclaimed, causing a second round of applause to ensue. And as I watched the video I couldn’t help but to feel sorrow for the both of them. There’s no denying that cancer is crushing. It strips us of loved ones, devastates entire families, and has a well-earned reputation for being nothing short of relentless. Cancer is an unjustifiable offense on human life and to be clear, the groom’s cancer diagnosis is the most tragic part of this story. But what also disturbed me was the less obvious tragedy we’d all just witnessed. The one having less to do with wellness and more to do with weddings.

The comments affirmed what I’ve always known to be true about society’s understanding of marriage as it pertains to women. We’re conditioned to believe that marriage is something you do FOR a woman, a reward if you will, not something you do WITH a woman. And as commentators applauded the groom for “finally making an honest woman” out of his longtime lover, I thought of the women in my family who had made similar sacrifices. The sacrifice of their time, dignity, and self-respect. No woman should have her relationship expectations and desires dangled in front of her like a carrot in exchange for her undervalued contributions and psychological buoyancy. If a man finds that he cannot offer a woman what it is she requires to be content in relation with him, even if that be marriage, he should in fact move on. Not because he doesn’t love her, but because people have a right to have their needs met in relationships without being made to feel guilty for it, and black women need to hear this the most.

We are consistently told that we should ask for little and accept less. We’re labeled gold diggers and social climbers if we dare desire partners who are providers, something women of other nationalities have done and continue to do for the betterment of future generations. And we’re regularly told that the things we desire are out of reach, out of touch or simply out of our league, marriage being one of those things. Black Women are constantly bombarded by statistics and studies proclaiming that we’re marrying less frequently, marrying less stably, and divorcing more commonly than their peers, and the underlying suggestion is that we should lower our expectations if we hope to find (and keep) a man. And this is reflected in Black media, Black film, Black television and Black music.

The Ride or Die chick isn’t a myth. She’s a grown woman now. She’s our aunties, our cousins, our mothers, truthfully she’s some of us. She’s the caveat to every 20 year dead end relationship, the exception to every rule. She’s the pinnacle of holding a man down, devoting her life to proving her worthiness to a person who has chosen not to see it, finally having all her resilience pay off in the final hour. And when the man finally comes around, it will be a result of his deflated perception of himself, not because of an inflated perception of her. A man who waits until his health has run out only to commit to you in his sickness is asking you to fulfill vows that he himself is incapable of. Marriage doesn’t just mean help me get through my worst, it means benefit from me at my best.

There’s a reason marriage is a social concession for men but a social achievement for women. And maybe the reason is that these relationships were never intended to be mutually beneficial. As women struggle to walk a fine like between housewife and harlot, men are encouraged to sow their royal oats by engaging in things they actually enjoy like partying and casual sex. The idea that marriage is the end of things for men is not uncommon, particularly in the Black American community. And far too often, Black men assert that marriage is for timeworn men who’ve exhausted their better years and tighter options, not for men who still have things to lose… or gain. The notion that after you’ve had your reckless fun in life, you latch onto some man’s daughter and burden her with the aftermath of those reckless decisions is not amiss in black social circles. And because patriarchy assesses women’s worth based on their attachment to men, Black women knowingly take the shitty deal and are applauded for doing what many others would scoff at.

If Black women are going to get married anyway, knowing the demands society puts on us both as Black women and as wives, we should do so under the best circumstances for us. Marriage already requires more labor, more sacrifice, more change, and more give from the woman, at the very least, it should be done when the partnership is in its’ most productive state, not when only one person is capable of contributing. That doesn’t make you a partner at all actually, it makes you a caretaker, and that is a role Black women have played for far too long. Marriage isn’t the prize you get for being the last woman standing after a man has exhausted all other resources. If we keep allowing ourselves to be convinced that love is all we need, that a piece of a man is better than no man at all, and that later is better than never (none of which is true), we’ll continue to accept relationships that lack purpose and reciprocity.

Marriage is about sickness and health, yes, good times and bad, absolutely. But marriage, at its core, is a legally binding agreement intended to offer equal social benefits to a team of two people who agree to work together for the betterment of themselves and society. It’s not a charitable act and it’s certainly not a favor. No amount of struggle or endurance makes you a worthy candidate to a man who sees marriage as a social reward for your suffrage. Struggle love will never pay you back everything it requires of you to hold onto it, it’s much cheaper to let it go. We are deserving of love that feels good, that affirms us and that meets our expectations, and we shouldn’t be asked to wait decades to get it.

Nothin’ like some good advice

♥️ so much about this. At the same time sisters please remember to lean on your close female friends too. Our men cannot be (nor should they be expected to be) our everything.

 

You can find them in every grocery store, office, playground and drop-off lane at the local elementary school.

The women who wipe their children’s tears away, who selflessly serve day after day with little or no appreciation, who juggle working and parenting and sleepless nights and endless guilt, who love their husbands fiercely, who continually look after everyone’s needs except their own. They are the women who quietly run the world.

And, if you’re a woman reading this article, “they” probably means you.

I know the look in your eye. I know what it feels like to give everything and never feel like it’s enough. I know what it feels like to wake up and wonder how you’ll ever make it through the day. Please know that you are not alone.

To the husbands, we need you. We know that we can not walk the path of life alone. When we fall, we need you to catch us, and help us stand tall. We need you to wipe our tears away and hold us so tightly that it’s almost difficult to breathe. We need you to comfort us when life becomes too hard to bear.

To the incredible men who love us, I know that it is hard to know what to do. I know that sometimes the right words are difficult to find. We want to help you help us. I asked women from all over the world to share their thoughts about how husbands can help their wives reset when they are stressed or overwhelmed. I hope these ideas are helpful to you:

1. Be aware of her responsibilities

Regardless of whether she stays at home or goes to work, do you know what she does all day? If you don’t, ask her. Her to-do list is probably overflowing with tasks that far outweigh her time and energy. Be mindful of her needs and appreciative of her sacrifices.

2. Get involved BEFORE she burns out

The best time to begin helping your wife is now. Don’t wait until she breaks down to offer a helping hand.

3. Be an active participant

It takes two to parent. It takes two to make a marriage work. It takes two to run a household. Be fully involved in every aspect of your family life. Work is hard, but your employment status doesn’t give you permission to opt out of chores, disciplining and planning date nights.

4. Stop trying to fix her problems

Just listen. That’s all you need to do. And if she wants you to offer solutions, she’ll ask for them.

5. Hold her

Find something to keep your kids preoccupied, and then take your wife into your arms and tell her how much you love her. Hold her closely and let her cry into your shoulder. Comfort her the best way you know how.

6. Let her talk for as long as she needs

Sometimes the best way for a woman to reset is by getting all of her thoughts out. Let your wife talk through her feelings and problems. Show empathy. Listen carefully. Ask questions. Be fully engaged in the conversation.

7. Be a partner

Marriage is committing to share a life together. To carry one another’s burdens. To cry with one another. To support one another through difficult times. Marriage means being one another’s confidant, lover and friend. You aren’t just two people living together. You are a beautiful union of two people who covenant to love each other forever.

8. Provide her hope

Encourage her. Let her know what you love about her. Help her see the good in any situation. Avoid being critical or negative. When she’s hit rock bottom, be the man who lifts her up, and brings light and hope back into her life.

9. Be useful

Learn the art of looking around the house and finding things that need to get done. Are there dishes in the sink? Does the dog need to be walked? What is broken that needs to be fixed? Don’t wait to be asked. Just do it!

10. Give her a day all to herself

Nothing feels better than getting a manicure, pedicure, hair cut, massage, and a new outfit. Let her sleep in, take a hot bath, and spend some quiet time alone. Support her and take over her day-to-day tasks, so she can have time to take care of herself.

11. Pray for her

Right before you go to bed, kneel down next to your bed together, hand in hand, and pray. Tell God how much you love your wife. Let him know what you appreciate about her. Ask for his help. Ask him to tell you how you can be a better spouse to her. Ask him to comfort her and help her see herself as He see her.

12. Ask her what you can do to help

Your wife knows what you can do to help her reset, so just ask her. She’ll appreciate it more than you will ever know. Because, you know what? She loves you too, and she is grateful every day for what you do for her.

 

Should fathers attend the births of their children?

It’s complex. P.S.- As controversial as it may sound for many birthing women it is best for the father of the child(ren) to be on the periphery of things, protecting the space. Across cultures that has been the father’s traditional role and it has been said to work quite well.

https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/families/article/2120317/should-dads-be-delivery-room-we-look-pros-and-cons?fbclid=IwAR0fA9kicOD-TdJAFq4z3vX80ZsZOuv3PrfCZI5tD97raQrDLhUcTzda_G4

These Myths May Be Holding You Back from Unschooling Your Children — Here’s Why They Shouldn’t

I stood up to walk away from the makeshift office space in my bedroom; it was time for a well-earned break from work. I’d been editing a client’s website copy all morning, and my eyes were beginning to blur words in protest.

As I walked toward the kitchen, I felt my mouth widen to a smile as I heard my daughters giggling in the sunroom — their makeshift office space. They were both lying on their bellies, with their long brown legs stretched along the carpeted floor, and their energies deep in research and conversation.

Marley (age 11) and Sage (age 9) were happily engaged in their studies, flanked by their usual tools: a laptop, an iPad, two notebooks, several sheets of paper, empty mugs formerly filled with mint tea, and a copy of The Last Olympian, the final book in Rick Riordan’s wildly popular Percy Jackson series.

This, like many of their projects, came from a simple single desire.

In this instance, Sage decided she wanted to rewrite some of the scenes from that particular book as well as introduce some new characters to the storyline. Her big sister, Marley, was serving as Sage’s hired editor, focusing on grammar and flow in efforts to turn Sage’s drafts into fully formed stories about the original characters (OCs) they planned to bring into Percy Jackson’s life.

In my daughters’ worlds, research and character development for OCs in various literary genres is a serious undertaking.

They use the Internet and local libraries to research historical, cultural, economic, linguistic, and artistic aspects of their characters so that they can create detailed backstories for their readers.

Their processes require research, advanced comprehension, some degree of planning, and a writing/rewriting process that looks similar to mine as a professional writer.

Many people find it surprising that none of what our girls do daily is part of a mandatory assignment from school or from their dad and me. Instead, their projects are self-initiated and sustained.

They get ideas; they set goals and timelines; they schedule meetings with other people of various ages, all over the planet, via web-chats and phone calls, and sometimes in person meet-ups.

They do these things as a way of immersing themselves in their interests. And as a way of creating community to facilitate learning, socialization, friendly competition at times, and of course, fun.

They are unschoolers — part of a longtime movement away from schedules and schools, over to self-guided exploration of life and learning.

As an unschooling family, we believe that school is one example of how a healthy childhood can be spent — but that there are other options, and contrary to popular belief, children can (and will) still learn, engage, socialize, and be challenged while preparing for adulthood through various non-school experiences.

The Misunderstandings That Feed into the Myths

When my family first began this journey nearly five years ago, most people lunged at the opportunity to caution us against “yanking the girls out of school to watch TV and play video games all day.”

Still today, unschoolers are still vastly misunderstood.

Our girls are neither schooled nor homeschooled, which means there’s no curriculum that gauges our daughters’ progress or aptitude in specific topics. That’s tough for a lot of people to understand, and I see why.

Since most of us were brought up to believe that compulsory education is the path to achieving the goals of financial success and responsible adulthood, we’ve learned to rely on to the school system to arm us with the skills to attain those goals.

When teachers and students are removed from a child’s learning environment, many adults become concerned in part because they’re not familiar with any other models for readying children for life.

But not all schooled children grow up to become successful, responsible adults.

And in many cases, children are unhappy or uncomfortable in their school settings because they don’t learn the way other children learn, or because they have unaddressed personal circumstances that stop them from focusing on learning.

Even with highly resonating accounts of schools failing young boysmislabeling Black girls, and being underfunded solely because they are in low socioeconomic areas, many adults are still leery about alternative learning options that do not include school.

That’s because alternative education movements are often plagued with a lot of misconceptions about how non-schooling parents facilitate learning and prepare children to thrive in adulthood.

Some of the common concerns around unschoolers’ barriers to thriving include limited exposure to advanced learning techniques, lack of social skills, insufficient college preparedness, and poor time management skills.

Myths about lazy parents and wild children perpetuate false ideas about children who learn outside of school environments, as well as their parents.

By exploring some of the most pervasive among the myths — one about unschooling parents, and the other about unschooled children — we can gain broader perspective and see specific examples of unschooling.

My hope is that this leads to more of us giving power to the voices of the people who actually unschool, and not to the media or other voices who simply publicly judge it.

Myth #1: Parents Who Unschool Their Children Are Lazy

Most unschoolers I know chose this path because school doesn’t meet the basic needs they see as imperative to their child’s development.

School generally focuses on academics and leaves out the exposure and cultivation of critical personal development prioritization that help us develop healthy emotional, physical, spiritual, and social skills.

We see unschooling as a way of creating space for our daughters to understand themselves outside of the messages that promote unhealthy self-silencing, and separate children from personal power, cultural relevance, and self-exploration.

Our challenges with school include the heavy focus on test scores, the use of often-outdated materials that don’t tell children the truth about world history, and an environment that doesn’t teach them how to preserve aspects of their own culture and intuition as part of their journey toward adulthood.

It would take far less effort for us to put our children back in school and talk with their teachers about how well our daughters are following the county’s pre-defined curricula.

We’re taking what feels like a more active approach to expanding our daughters’ learning environments by taking geographic limitations, public school politics, private school agendas, and segmented blocks of learning time out of the equation.

Through our lens as Black unschoolers in particular, we see unschooling as an act of resistance — a way of reclaiming ourselves and our community by helping our daughters create environments unboxed by real threats to thriving such as the school-to-prison pipeline and racism from teachers.

Guided by our daughters’ interests, the four of us have become more engaged participants in their learning experiences by actively designing their community based on global access to people, information, and technology.

That doesn’t feel like laziness; it feels like empowerment.

Myth #2: Children Who Unschool Will Not Have Good or Healthy Social Skills

The issue of socialization is a common query for homeschoolers and unschoolers alike.

Because school is the standard model for getting children out of the home and into “real life” issues like conflict management and group participation, many adults aren’t clear on how children might practice these skills if they’re not schooled.

A common misconception is that unschooled children sit around in their messy rooms, playing video games and eating fake-cheese snacks all day.

That myth lines up with the same lazy parent idea, and is based not in reality, but rather a generalization that is exploited and popularized by heavily biased perspectives about unschooling.

Child-led learning (another unschooling synonym) as been heavily discussed and grossly misunderstood since its introduction to mainstream America through a 2010 Good Morning America segment centered on radical unschoolers, Christine Yablonski, Phil Biegler, and their two children.

The segment explored the “Utopian ideal” of child-led learning and not-so-subtly warned its audience about the gaps between this idea and “reality.”

I saw it as an unapologetically judgmental lens that painted the picture of nonchalant parents and their disillusioned children, leaving many with that impression of unschooling.

They took one family’s format and then introduced the opinions of parenting “experts” who proceeded to caution viewers about the risks of “cooperating with your kid.”

The reality is that child-led, school-free learning environments are far more diverse than that.

Some are less structured than others, some are travel-focused, others are localized and focus on deep community immersion, and others may include aspects of schooling such as group study and personal tutoring.

In a recent interview about unschooling and entrepreneurship, I offered some specific examples of how my daughters’ friendships and social circles take form.

Essentially, unschooling families tend to develop relationships with people all over the world because their engagement is not limited to people who happen to be geographically close to us by means of our careers, school, or social circles.

Our daughters, like us, organically connect with people based on shared interests and goals.

For example, Marley has friends of various ages who live in Japan, and she met them online through her interactions with aspects of Japanese culture and society. As a result, I now have Japanese friends with whom I communicate via e-mail, social media, and phone.

Our children are in the same online groups, go to the same conventions (or follow the hashtags), and through those interests, they and we now have a community.

In these settings, important social skills like conflict management, group participation, patience, and assertion are consistently put into practice.

Sage, as another example, has created community (and therefore practices social skills) in her offline classes (like gymnastics and violin) and online at sites like DIY.org, where she and her friends earn badges for everyday life skills, and participate in challenges to improve their skills of interest.

Focusing on the Whole Child, Schooled or Unschooled

To be clear, this is not an anti-school sentiment.

It’s also not about a right or wrong way to help children become more engaged in learning and developing critical life skills. Adults are standing up for children in a variety of effective ways, and I see that as a great thing.

Progressive educators, like sociologist Anna Brix Thomsen, are working inside the school system to tackle the question of why children become less excited about learning as they get older, and shifting the perception of how learning actually happens.

Committed child advocates and education activists, like Jeffrey Canada, are doing work that addresses the education of the whole child by creating solutions to common barriers to learning, such as poverty and personal safety.

And the wealthier ones among us, like Elon Musk, inventor and entrepreneur known for his contributions to SpaceX, PayPal, and Tesla Motors, who could hire anyone in the world to educate their children, publicly share why they choose to nurture self-directed, child-led learning environments.

The point is that unschoolers are simply people who do not see school as their primary learning environment. We are as varied and vast as schooled children and their parents, and our living environments reflect those variations.

Some unschooling environments look like hybrids of school and homeschooling where there is a curriculum, but its purpose is only to serve as a loose guideline for general information to consider.

Others are more radical and include very little pre-set structure or studies.

And others, like in our home, focus on education through living, goal-setting, exploration of personal interests, and tapping into human and technological resources.

Just as with schooled children, there are many ways to facilitate learning, but with unschoolers, there is a primary difference: They are not told what to learn.

Instead, they are nurtured toward developing an understanding of how they learn, and they are using that knowledge to gather, explore, process, and utilize information that expands their knowledge of the world, and themselves within it.

All children deserve the opportunity to grow and to flourish. Perhaps we can look at ways to integrate more of the whole-child approach to learning, whether the children we love are schooled, homeschooled, or unschooled.

Akilah S. Richards

WRITTEN BY

Akilah S. Richards

Author, entrepreneur, writet. Speaks on radical self-expression, Black womanhood, intersectional feminism, digital nomads & unschooling.

This Ad Campaign Celebrating Postpartum Bodies Should Be Happening All Around The World

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I remember the first time I really looked at myself after giving birth to my fourth son. It was an accident; I had been avoiding cameras and mirrors for the first week when I happened upon a surprise mirror in my mom’s washroom. After taking a bath. In the nude. In that moment I didn’t see myself as this powerful being who brought new life into the world, I just saw that I was wrong, all wrong. This happens all too often to women after they give birth, and there’s a new campaign celebrating postpartum bodies that will hopefully help women, like myself, embrace everything they have accomplished by giving birth.

Parenting retailer Mothercare, based in the United Kingdom, recently commissioned research to get a better grasp on how women really view their bodies postpartum. Although we live in a world of increased body positivity and acceptance, does this actually help the individual or is it more of a sense of an overall shift in the group narrative? Sadly, it looks as though it’s the latter.

Mothercare’s research suggests, according to CNN, that a full 80 percent of new mothers in the United Kingdom are still comparing their bodies to those they see in the media, which is giving them unrealistic goals. Because of this, according to a press release, 51 percent of moms admit they use apps and filters on social media to change the way they look because they’re unhappy with their appearance.

And Mothercare hopes to change all of that with a brilliant ad campaign featuring real postpartum bodies.

Courtesy of Mothercare

Courtesy of Mothercare

Courtesy of Mothercare

This campaign features 10 new moms and is called Body Proud Mumsor #BodyProudMums if you want to follow it on social media.

The aim is to highlight actual postpartum bodies and represent the reality of giving birth in a way that is almost never seen in the media.

Courtesy of Mothercare

Courtesy of Mothercare

Courtesy of Mothercare

Psychologist and author, Linda Papadopulous, noted that proper representation could go a long way in encouraging new moms to embrace the bodies they have.

“In the new media world that we live in our perceptions of how we think we should look may not be healthy, achievable or right for a particular individual,” Papadopulous was quoted in Mothercare’s press release. “This campaign hopes to reduce some of the pressures that new mums [may be] feeling by celebrating the body changes that come with motherhood rather than trying to edit them out.”

Papadopulous added, “Very often, we end up showing compassion to others that we simply can’t show to ourselves when it comes to how we feel about our bodies.”

Courtesy of Mothercare

Courtesy of Mothercare

Courtesy of Mothercare

Courtesy of Mothercare

Posters have been put up all over London, England on buses and in train stations, according to HuffPostUK, and it appears as though the campaign is already being met with loads of approval.

“I love #BodyProudMums@mothercareuk,” one person tweeted on Wednesday. “Everytime [sic] I see the marks and scar in my body, It reminds me of the surgery and how I fight with the recovery. However, It also reminds me of the loves and the miracles.”

I love @mothercareuk ❣️ Everytime I see the marks and scar in my body, It reminds me of the surgery and how I fight with the recovery. However, It also reminds me of the loves and the miracles

Another said, “Can we take a moment to applaud @mothercareuk@mothercareirl for their #BodyProudMums campaign.”

campaign 🙌 Becoming a Mum is hard enough without feeling like you need to bounce back to your pre baby shape within weeks or months.

Healing from a toxic relationship

Happy Moon Day all! So I’m well on my way with this healing journey of mine. Let me tell you. Partnering with someone who has (what we in the West would call) mental health challenges is no joke especially when it feels as if the symptoms have shown up suddenly.  In my case I quickly started to ask myself about how I could’ve missed the signs. Hmmm. As time went on I wondered. Is this bipolar, narcissism, manic depression, personality disorder, schizophrenia or some combination of these?  If you’ve been through something like this you may find some things helpful. They’re all part of my journey.  Counselling, yoga, quiet time, confiding in a few close friends, reiki, celibacy, power walking, reading books like the following:

https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Pampering-Principles-African-American-Self-care/dp/0688163475

These resources are awesome too:

Home

http://www.susunweed.com/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/lovingmeafterwe/

Oct.29-Nov.2: Don’t be afraid to reclaim it

Do what speaks to you and your family.
As long as our movements are positive it’s all good!
 
NOTE: Interested in learning about other ways folks honour ancestors? https://theculturetrip.com/africa/articles/10-ways-to-honor-the-dead-around-the-world/