How Has Story Impacted You?

 

Story empowers. Changes. Matters. Affects.

Whether we read a story book or hear a friend’s tale or see a movie, we experience it as if we live it. Our brain lights up in the same areas as if we had been the character ourselves. Fascinating! The result: we grow and change and spark others on to the same as we share our own (or ones that have become our own) stories.

Birth stories teach us about the miracle of life and birth. Who can help but shed a tear at the moment the mother sees her newborn’s face in Call the Midwife on Netflix? These stories give us the strength to push through our own birth adventure or admire those women who have done so.

Coming-of-age stories show us how difficult it is to grow up and discover who we are created to be but also allow us to experience the joy of it. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee teaches me that surface differences only hide our similarities and that judgment hurts others.

Love stories give us hope that there is someone for us, someone who understands us and accepts us for who we are. My favorite love story shows that no matter what I’ve done, there is someone who knows me better than I know myself and who still loves me. That love story is found in the New Testament.

Adventures allow a safer way to feel the thrill of events for those of us who might not put skydiving or war or swimming with dolphins on our bucket list but secretly would like to try (or know about) certain thrills. I loved experiencing what life is like in North Korea by reading The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Happy to not have to experience what the protagonist did while discovering the pain and reward of an ultimate sacrifice.

Mysteries, crime, science fiction, historical and more have their own flavors, and since we all are different, provide us with stories that appeal to our own tastes. One example I just read is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a story set in WWII about the tragedy of war but also a story of how kindness can prevail even in awful circumstances.

Even contemporary fiction has a wide range to give us a glimpse into different cultures than we are in. Socioeconomic, gender, race, and religion differences–to name a few–blur in the pages of story. Right now, I’m reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. The protagonist is a self-educated French concierge who is befriended (and maybe more than that) by a wealthy Japanese man. Here I’m learning to embrace who I am and not adhere to who society thinks I should be.

Family stories told around the dinner table or at family gatherings tell us how those who have gone before us are still with us to teach us. My great grandmother immigrated with a friend from Finland at age sixteen in 1897, not knowing another soul and never seeing her family again, because she wanted to go to America where she would lie under a “raisin tree to eat raisins whenever she wanted.” Her name was Sunna and her story taught me to follow my dreams.

How have the stories you’ve read, heard, and seen impacted who you are today? I’d love to hear how.

 

 

 

How We’ve Progressed in Motherhood- Part 2

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Several decades ago, women blushed about their pregnant bellies yet were proud to answer, “I’m a mother,” when asked what they do. While today, mothers show off their beautiful bumps but, if asked the same question about what they do, will focus on their outside jobs even if it’s just part-time.

The battle between working moms and stay-at-home moms is called Mommy Wars. When our mothers or grandmothers had babies, most moms stayed home. The thought evolved that this was best for families. Then, mothers who worked outside-the-home felt judged, the inference was they were somehow less of a mother.

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Today, most moms work outside the home. And the mothers who stay home feel judgment. Flipped. Are these mothers really lazy and/or less intelligent than those who earn money in the marketplace?

Not any more than the working mums of earlier times who were scorned by some as less of a mother.  

Why do we engage in this mommy war again? We’re fighting our own sisters, destroying ourselves in the process. Are we jealous of each others’ situation? Are we feeling guilty for our own choice?

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Why do this to each other?

Every mother knows mothering is hard work. Let’s focus on that. That attitude unifies us, elevating our common bond no matter the route of motherhood we chose.

What another mom decides to do or not do about outside employment doesn’t lessen our own preference anymore than our neighbor’s selection of her spouse shouldn’t diminish our own pick. 

Let’s accept the mom who embraces full-time mothering and sacrifices an outside income source. Let’s honor her choice. And let’s affirm the mother who works part or full-time and who also makes sacrifices to do what she does. Let’s respect her without judging her decision. 

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Instead of fighting each other, why can’t we stand together and give each other the grace that we are all doing our best for our families?

Let’s not judge each other or struggle with each other. Let’s not, in order to reinforce our own right judgment regarding our own lives, find fault with other mothers.

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Instead, let’s love one another. Mother-to-mother. That would be the best progress of all.

How We’ve Progressed in Motherhood- Part 1

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Baby bumps. Baby mama. Baby daddy.

I read an article Sunday by Patricia McLaughlin, a fashion columnist, called “Thank goodness maternity wear has come so far since the 1950s.” Long title, I know. Her main point is that our increased acceptance of pregnancy “proves that there is progress in human history.”

Before

I agree with her that we’ve come a long way from the 1950’s. Back then, words like baby bump or baby mama or baby daddy couldn’t have been imagined. Even if they had, no one would have been spoken them aloud. The terminology surrounding pregnancy caused embarrassment. Pregnant women were “expecting,” or “with child” even though maternity clothing concealed the woman’s “condition” about as well as a tent could hide a mountain.   

Back then, pregnancy meant sex which was a topic only whispered about. Parents told their children the stork story, an elaborate fiction to explain how babies arrived in families in order to postpone the dreaded birds-and-bees’ talk.

It seems silly now.

Society complicated motherhood further by creating an ironic conclusion to the embarrassment of pregnancy. Despite their awkwardness with women’s baby bumps, society cherished the mother, even reverenced her.

Americans valued the full-time job of mothering.  

About-face

We’ve evolved. Pregnancy doesn’t bring embarrassment anymore. We say we’re pregnant instead of “expecting.” Women wear the baby bump with pride, its beauty evident to most.

Moms wears stylish clothes, identical to other fashions but with more fabric. Options include form-fitting tops and bottoms, designed to show off their bump. No doubting the fact she’s pregnant.

Celebrities use pregnancy as a marketing tool for attention. Nude mothers-to-be pose on magazine covers. Some very pregnant moms start the baby book with photo shoots of their naked baby bumps. 

It seems we’ve gone so far in appreciation of the pregnant mother that now it doesn’t matter if we are married or not. The stigma is erased from all women who have babies.

We needed new terms, baby-mama and baby-daddy, to explain the relationships we created as Americans became less concerned about the mother-baby relationship and more concerned with the woman herself. 

Topsy-turvy

As we changed our attitude toward pregnancy, we also shifted our regard for motherhood. Back in the 1950s, we tolerated pregnancy yet cherished motherhood. Today, we cherish pregnancy yet tolerate motherhood. Whose plan was this? 

It’s hard to tell why this happened, but now many consider motherhood an inconvenience. Mothering our children became less important than other occupations. We value a mother who teaches a classroom of children more than one who discovers the world with her own.  

What now?

We will continue to develop. As individuals, we can be aware of the evolution of motherhood and what it means to our society. We can bring honor to motherhood in our own spheres, leading by example the importance of family.

Perhaps the next generation of mothers, our daughters and granddaughters, will benefit from an unembarrassed pride in their growing bodies while at the same time will promote the value in motherhood.

That would prove true progress.