GENTLE/PEACEFUL PARENTING Raising Our Strong-Willed Child - S.StogrynAha Parenting - Dr. Laura MarkhamAttachment Parenting - Ask Dr. SearsDr.MommaLittle Heart Books/L.R.KnostMindful ParentingRIE - Janet LansburySarah Ockwell-Smith NATURAL WELLNESS Herbal Healing For Children by Demetria Clark (book)Naturally Healthy Babies & Children by Aviva Romm (book) For more, please visit theWellness Resources at Hedgecraft Herbals INFANT & CHILD DEVELOPMENT Janet LansburyThe Case Against Tummy TimeBenefits of BabywearingYou Can't Spoil a BabyGrowth ChartsMilestone ChartsNipissing Developmental Scale CRYING When Your Baby Cries - S.StogrynSoothing Your Crying Baby The CALMS WayThe Happiest Baby On the Block - Dr.Harvey KarpBabies need comfort when they cry - Ask Dr.SearsPurple Crying CARE...
Revised & Updated October 2018
Please note that this handout is for informational purposes only,
and is not medical advice as I am not a medical professional.
Please use your own discretion before using any of this information
& do further research of your own; consider this a starting point only.
Please consult with a health care professional if you have any questions or concerns.
This handout can be used as a discussion-starter with your primary (medical) caregiver.
Gestational Diabetes Testing is a common, even routine, intervention in most pregnancies today. The infamous “orange pop test” is almost seen as a rite of passage, and is certainly understood by many to be a necessary part of ensuring a healthy pregnancy.
The first thing that is crucial to understand when discussing diabetes in pregnancy is the definition of disease. Disease is “a condition of the living animal or ... one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms” (emphasis mine).
The second thing that is crucial to understand, is that diabetes mellitus type 1 is different from type 2, is different from gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the pancreas, making it incapable of producing insulin. Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas eventually stops producing insulin because of prolonged overuse. In other words, type 2 diabetes develops when the body has demanded excess amounts of insulin for a long period of time (obesity & a poor diet are common triggers) and the pancreas eventually wears out. Both type 1 & type 2 diabetes are true diseases as they have distinguishing signs and symptoms which are associated with their diagnosis (increased thirst and urination; extreme hunger; weight loss; fatigue; blurred vision; slow healing wounds) and normal function of the body is impaired.
Gestational diabetes is defined as “glucose intolerance with onset or first recognition during pregnancy” According to the NIH Clearing House on Diabetes “Gestational diabetes happens when your body can't make enough insulin during pregnancy. …During pregnancy, your body makes more hormones and goes through other changes, such as weight gain. These changes cause your body's cells to use insulin less effectively, a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance increases your body's need for insulin. If your pancreas can't make enough insulin, you will have gestational diabetes. All pregnant women have some insulin resistance during late pregnancy. However, some women have insulin resistance even before they get pregnant, usually because they are overweight. These women start pregnancy with an increased need for insulin and are more likely to have gestational diabetes.”
According to Henci Goer “When you are pregnant, certain hormones make your insulin less effective at transporting glucose, the body’s fuel, out of your bloodstream into your cells. This increases the amount of circulating glucose, making it available to your baby for growth and development. This “insulin resistance” increases as pregnancy advances. As a result, your blood glucose levels after eating rise linearly throughout pregnancy. By the third trimester, you will tend to have higher blood glucose levels after eating than nonpregnant women (hyperglycemia), despite secreting normal and above normal amounts of insulin. During overnight sleep, the excess insulin has a chance to mop up, which causes morning glucose levels to be lower on average than in nonpregnant women (hypoglycemia).”
What all 3 varieties of diabetes have in common is high blood sugar levels. What is very different however, is that in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, your blood sugar levels are high during ordinary everyday life circumstances because of a malfunction in your body, and there are specific signs and symptoms which show that your body is struggling. Gestational diabetes is diagnosed when your blood sugar levels are high after engaging in a test which is for many women artificial in nature as it does not mimic their everyday life or typical eating habits. The testing guidelines and cut-offs still vary widely between countries, regions, and even within the same hospital between different practitioners. It is very important to understand these inconsistencies exist because they mean we have to read any relevant research with the understanding that when we compare studies we are almost never comparing apples to apples.
The first level of screening for gestational diabetes tends to be the urine dipstick. (You know – that little stick you pee on at every visit to the doctor). These test strips have an 11:1 false positive rate when it comes to detecting the presence of sugar in urine. In other words, they’re wrong 11 times more often than they’re right! According to Janelle Komorowski, CNM “Dipsticks may be used for women with suspected gestational diabetes, but as the diagnostic test for gestational diabetes is the glucose test, dipstick usefulness is doubtful. Sugar is found in the urine at some point in pregnancy in about 50% of women, but is not a good predictor of gestational diabetes. Sugar in the urine may be a result of normal physiological changes of pregnancy. Four studies assessed the value of sugar in the urine as a screening for gestational diabetes, and all four concluded there was no evidence for routine urine dipstick testing.”
The diagnosis of gestational diabetes is made when you “fail” the Glucose Challenge Test/Fasting Glucose Tolerance Test. There is still MUCH debate amongst caregivers around the world as to how much glucose should be given, what acceptable cut off limits are for diagnosis, and whether a one stage or two stage diagnostic procedure is better. Essentially though, after consuming a large set quantity of refined sugar, a blood sample is drawn to see how high your blood sugar levels are. If they are deemed to be too high (ie you didn’t produce enough insulin to compensate for the influx of sugar) then you are given a diagnosis of gestational diabetes. To be more specific, in some places the initial glucose challenge test is a screening tool to determine who may be ‘at risk’ for gestational diabetes, and anyone who ‘fails’ the initial GCT is then sent for a 3-8 hour fasting glucose tolerance test (gtt). If you fail this second test then you are given a diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Some practitioners offer women the option of consuming a set number of jelly beans, a high carbohydrate meal, or other alternatives to the standard glucose drink which is known to cause nausea and vomiting in many pregnant persons.
Diabetic women, particularly those with uncontrolled high blood sugar levels, do indeed have an increased risk of growing a larger than average baby; having a baby with respiratory distress &/or low blood sugar levels at birth; having their baby develop jaundice; and even a higher risk of the baby dying before or soon after birth among other risks. It is important that the pregnancies of women with type 1 or 2 diabetes be monitored by a qualified caregiver, and that their blood sugar levels are carefully controlled for the wellbeing of both birthing person and baby.
Those with a diagnosis of gestational diabetes are more likely to develop high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia during their pregnancy and each of these complications have substantial risks of their own, however the research has not yet adequately explored whether GD causes the other two or if confounding factors are at play.
It should be noted that 20% of US women between the ages of 20 & 44 are pre-diabetic; 5-10% of women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes will be diagnosed with diabetes (usually type 2), within 6-12 weeks of giving birth; 35-60% of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes will be diagnosed with diabetes (usually type 2) within the following 10-20 years. These widely varying numbers may well be because the diagnostic cut off criteria for the diagnos of GDM vary so widely.
The other risk associated with diabetes in pregnancy is that of low breastmilk supply due to insulin dysregulation as breastmilk production is also a complex hormonal process.
All that being said……
According to Matthew Sermer in the Feb 2003 issue of CAMJ, “ Some physicians in Canada do not believe that this condition (gestational diabetes) exists, and others feel that its importance is so low that screening is not justified. Many researchers…are trying to shed light on this subject, but the controversy will only end once a robust, randomized, double-blind trial is conducted to demonstrate whether identification and management of gestational diabetes is associated with significant improvement in neonatal or maternal outcome. Unfortunately, no such study is yet under way. While waiting for the results of such a trial, it would be reasonable to follow the SOGC guidelines published in November 2002.”
These guidelines can be found at the following link and are the current guidelines in Canada as of October 2018: https://sogc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/121E-CPG-November2002.pdf
A fair bit of research has taken place since 2003, and in early 2013 there was an NIH Consensus Development Conference on Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes held in the USA. Dr. Rebecca Dekker provides a summary of the conference presentations at the following two links, and while it is a lot of science to wade through I encourage you to take time to read her articles as they will provide you with an overview of the most current science.
The current research does show that lifestyle change based treatment of GD results in some better outcomes than not treating at all, however there are many questions still to be answered and it’s not a black and white issue. Depending on which outcome you are looking at, between 29 & 60 women diagnosed with GD would have to be treated in order for just 1 of them to see treatment benefits. That is a large number of women who essentially DON’T see any benefit from treatment. “Treating” gestational diabetes includes such measures as making nutritional changes or seeing a diabetic counselor as well as measures like oral medication or insulin injections and clearly those are four very different forms of treatment each with their own risks and benefits. The research also shows that the clearest benefits are for women and babies whose GTT results are in the uppermost limits and that the benefits for all other women diagnosed with GD are much less clear.
So what about your average pregnant woman who is being told she needs to be tested for gestational diabetes? How should blood sugar health be approached in pregnancy for those who are not already diagnosed with type 1 or 2 diabetes? I believe that every pregnant woman should be paying attention to her diet, and to her levels of physical activity, and if she exhibits troubling signs or symptoms or has personal/family history and risk factors which indicate that her body could be struggling to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, she can consider exploring options such as: a low glycemic index diet; working with a qualified nutritionist; increasing her levels of physical activity; keeping a food diary; blood glucose monitoring with a glucometer; an A1C blood test to get a picture of her blood sugar control over the prior 2-3 months; and of course the standards of care (gct/gtt test, insulin etc) are an option too. Keep in mind that the SOGC says in their practice bulletin “that until evidence is available from large RCTs that show a clear benefit from screening for glucose intolerance in pregnancy, the option of not screening for GDM is considered acceptable. Conversely, there are no compelling data to stop screening when it is practiced.”
Knowing all of this, what’s the potential harm in testing for gestational diabetes?
Ina May Gaskin sums up the issue of Gestational Diabetes like this:
“Gestational Diabetes is not really a disease. Rather, it is a higher level of blood sugar than average during pregnancy, as determined by a glucose tolerance test (GTT). GD differs from diabetes mellitus in that GD goes away after the baby is born. Diabetes mellitus does not. Many doctors recommend this test for all pregnant women, to be performed between twenty-four & twenty-eight weeks of gestation. The test, unfortunately, is not very reliable. Between fifty and seventy percent of women, if retested, will have a different result than they got from the first test. The best evidence we have says there is no treatment for GD, either with diet or with insulin, that improves the outcomes for mothers or their babies. In short, the anxiety that is often produced by this test simply isn’t worth the information gained from it.”
Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes is associated with more frequent ultrasounds and non-stress tests; increased risk of maternal depression; increased risk of induction; increased risk of cesarean section – all of which can bring a level of anxiety with them which may not be acceptable for some women.
As with all things pregnancy & birth related, I believe that the right decision for a birthing person is the decision they’re most comfortable with after having considered the relevant information and their individual circumstances. After all – they are the one who has to live with the outcomes of whatever choices they make.
I urge all pregnant persons to listen to their bodies, and respond in ways that promote the health and well-being of themselves and their growing babe.
References & Recommended Further Reading:
Birth Sense: The Common Sense Guide to Creating Your Pregnancy & Birth Plan by Janelle Komorowski, CNM
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Birth by Henci Goer
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah J Buckley
Real Food For Gestational Diabetes by Lily Nichols
One of the questions many new parents have is “What about vaccines?” The media (social & otherwise) is filled with stories, truths, half-truths, and biased agendas from every point of view. The one thing I am certain of is this – all good parents want what is best for their child(ren) and all good medical practitioners want what is best for their patients.
The real question then is – What is best??
The answer to that is not a simple one when it comes to issues of health, immunity, well-being, and vaccines. I can’t tell you what the best choice is for your family. And I can’t tell you that there will be no consequences from your choices. What I can tell you, is that at the end of the day you and your family are the ones who will have to live day in and day out with the effects of your decisions. Not the federal or provincial/state government. Not the medical community. Not the vaccine manufacturers. Not the complimentary health community. Yes they are all impacted by the ripples of your decision – but you and your family are at the epicenter, and the people you interact with in real life are the first ripple outside that circle.
There are three things that I think are important to keep in mind when exploring the issue of vaccinations:
1 – Don’t succumb to puddle vision!
In first aid scenarios, “puddle vision” occurs when you arrive at the scene of an accident and see a “puddle” of blood. That puddle is so eye-catching that it pulls all your attention to it and causes you to miss out on the bigger picture. You might even miss out on evaluating a far more serious injury that needs your attention or a threat to your own well-being. When it comes to vaccines, there are some big scary stories out there. As soon as you begin researching vaccines you will come across stories of unvaccinated children irreparably harmed by the illness they weren’t vaccinated for and stories of vaccinated children irreparably harmed by the vaccines intended to protect them. While these stories ARE compelling, they are only one piece of the puzzle. Don’t allow them to make you miss out on the bigger picture. When the risk of ‘something’ (take your pick!) is for instance, 1 in 10 000, the person who IS the 1 in 10 000 may well have a harrowing tale to tell. But that harrowing tale is only true for them, not for the other 9 999 people in their pool. If you can, avoid the personal accounts and stories altogether. If you can’t, remember to keep them in their proper context.
2 – Don’t compare apples to oranges.
Just because something is a substantial risk in a geographic region, or to a particular sub-group of the population, doesn’t necessarily mean it is a substantial risk to you/your family/the people you interact with in real life. Eating peanuts is extremely dangerous to someone with a peanut allergy. That doesn’t mean that eating peanuts is dangerous to all people, everywhere, always.
3 – Consider how you feel about the impact your decisions could have on your community.
While it is harmless for non-allergic child Jane to eat peanuts, if she eats peanuts then goes to play with her highly-allergic friend next door Jill, Jane’s choice could cause serious or even fatal harm to Jill. This doesn’t necessarily mean Jane has to stop eating peanuts altogether, but her parents and Jill’s parents need to be conscientious about the interactions their children each have with the wider world and the potential consequences of those interactions. (Please note that this is NOT referring to the contentious concept of Herd Immunity but rather to the general idea that the decisions we make for ourselves can impact those around us).
Remembering all of that, regardless of which “camp” you choose to be in, (full vax; partial &/or delayed vax; no vax) I think it’s important to understand to the best of your ability the risks and benefits of your position. And its important to think through worst case scenarios.
If YOUR child is the ‘1 in 10 000’ who contracts a serious illness or experiences a serious side effect…. How will you feel? What will you do? What are your treatment options? Will you regret your choice? Will you blame someone else for it? Where will you find support as you move forward through the traumatic experience? If YOUR child is the ‘1 in a million’ who dies from an illness or vaccine injury… Will you regret your choice? Will you blame someone else for it? Where will you find support as you move forward? The consequences of vaccine decisions are very real and while I don’t think it is wise to make decisions based on fear, I do think it is wise to consider all the possible outcomes… even the unimaginable ones.
How then do we go about making a decision when the stakes are so high? Start with the facts. Get a copy of the vaccine schedule for your area by doing an online search for “vaccine schedule _____ _____ (your province or state and the year), or contact your doctor, or your public health authority.
The Ontario, Canada schedule is available here.
The schedule for your area will give you the trade names of the vaccines currently used. You can then do a search (online, through your doctor, or through your public health authority) for the manufacturer insert &/or prescribing information for each vaccine. Oftentimes there will be links and references to other sites which explain things like what the ingredients are in the vaccines, what the risks associated with the vaccines are, and what the infection rates are for the particular illnesses.
Once you have this basic background, you can expand your knowledge base by searching in medical journals – such as the American, Canadian, and British Medical Journals - and in databases like PubMed & Cochrane - for related studies, and also by searching sites like Statistics Canada for raw data on things like the number of cases of illness or injury, most commonly impacted demographics, etc.
You will want to gather the information necessary to ascertain what the odds are overall of getting sick or vaccine injured, seriously sick or seriously vaccine injured, or even dying; what the risk factors are; whether the risk factors apply to you. Once you know this, you will be well on your way to determining which set of risks you are most comfortable choosing. Whether you choose to fully vaccinate on schedule, partially &/or delayed vaccinate, or not vaccinate at all, there ARE risks associated with all three paths.
You may wish to explore the ingredients in vaccines and their effects on the body compared to effects on the body of the illness and its treatment methods if contracted.
You may wish to explore how the immune system develops and how both vaccines and naturally-contracted illness could impact the immune and other bodily systems.
You may wish to explore when the highest periods of risk are for each illness or injury, compared to when immunization by vaccination would be considered complete.
You may wish to explore the historical trends of the illness and the impact that vaccines did or didn’t have on those trends. Be sure to look at sites from a variety of perspectives on this issue as it is easy to pull out just one piece of history in order to illustrate a particular point, when looking at a larger slice of history may paint a different picture.
I know it’s a lot to consider. It would be far easier to defer to someone you trust and simply do what they recommend to you. Whichever path you choose, know that there are also complimentary health options you can explore to support your child’s immune system. Herbs and homeopathy are just two of the many modalities which are available, so be sure to reach out to a naturopath &/or homeopath with experience in this area if you want to explore these choices further.
Remember that you are doing the best you can for your child, and no one can ask for any more than that.
References, Resources, and Recommended Further Reading
Health Canada on Vaccines
Canadian Adverse Events Following Immunization Surveillance System
Ontario, Canada Vaccination Schedule
CDC on Vaccines
USA Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System
WebMD Children's Vaccine Overview
Ask Dr. Sears - The partial &/or delayed vaccination approach
AAP rebuttal to Dr. Sears
Vaccine Risk Awareness Network - the Basics
National Vaccine Information Centre
Pathways to Family Wellness: Immune Mechanisms & Consequences
Vaccine Free: Homeopathic Alternatives
Herd Immunity by Levi Quackenboss
'Make An Informed Decision' book by Dr.Mayer Eisenstein
The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Childcare (skip the sections on circumcision & breastfeeding in this book though!)
The Parents Guide To Natural Healthcare For Children by Karen Sullivan (this is probably my all-time fav childcare book with a wide range of info and options... but its out of print so get your hands on a used copy while you still can!)
This post discusses issues related to marriage/partnerships, and sexuality, and occasionally uses strong language. Please be aware also that this represents only my own views, and is not personal relationship advice.
I spend a fair bit of time in variously themed mom's groups on Facebook and one of the things that gets talked about often is the men in their partnerships. I hear things like:
- "my boyfriend wants me to quit breastfeeding because he misses playing with my breasts during sex"
- "he gets upset every time I ask him to do something to help around the house. He says its my job and he doesn't know what I do all day"
- "Oh we can't cosleep even though I want to and neeeed the sleep, because my husband doesn't want to share our bed and won't sleep on the guest bed."
Then there is the well intentioned advice from other women like like:
- "make sure he feels loved and appreciated even for the ordinary stuff or he won't be willing to do the big stuff. Like be sure to say thank you and give him a kiss when you notice he put the toilet seat down"
- Guys are really physical so if you do stuff like rub his feet and cook his favorite food he'll be more willing to help you out on his day off"
- "I find if I give him a blow job before I need help with something he's more likely to say yes to the chores I need him to do
Each of those are examples of how toxic masculinity affects ordinary marriages. Toxic masculinity is this idea that men must reject anything inherently feminine and adhere to a stereotypical male gender role which is aggressive, entitled, and unemotional except for possibly anger. It does not mean that all men are toxic, but it does mean that all men in our culture are undoubtedly influenced by these toxic stereotypes of what it means to be a man and it influences how women learn to interact with the men in their lives.
Toxic masculinity teaches us that men are not actually responsible for their own well-being let alone that of others because caretaking and wellness are considered feminine. We are all conditioned to believe that men by their very design have the need and therefore the right to be taken care of by women. We're conditioned to believe that it is our role to make sure all their needs are met so they can do their ‘manly’ job of earning money for us then come home and get all the strokes and praise for being a ‘good provider’. Conversely, toxic masculinity teaches women that their primary purpose is to serve men, no matter the cost. If you are not submissive then you are not desirable.
It goes even further with us buying into the myth that a man is SUCH a good guy if he's willing to “help us” by demeaning himself to do “women's work” like.... I don't know... Wiping up their own pee off the toilet rim when they inevitably miss or putting their own dirty laundry in the hamper or “babysitting” their own children. (And they don't even KNOW about the hidden and emotional labour that we invest daily!)
We're talking about grown ass men here, who have chosen to be in a relationship and it is not our job to have their slippers, cold beer, and gaming station controller waiting for them when they get home so they can ‘put their feet up after a long day’. It is not 1950.
It is not our job to wipe up their toddler-esque messes.
It is not our job to stroke their ego or their penis in order to get them to participate meaningfully in family life.
Let me be clear. If you feel like you need to shower your boyfriend with praise, or give your husband a back rub or a blow job all so he’ll take out the kitchen trash or participate some other way in family life, that's not a healthy marriage that's prostitution. It is a business exchange, not a relationship of equals. It is a transaction, in which you're buying your partner's good will using the only currency he accepts. It is toxic masculinity hard at work.
By all means give him a back rub or a blow job if you LOVE TO and as an expression of love. Do it because you WANT to show you care or because you like it too. Do it to connect and to give each other those awesome oxytocin. vibes. But those things should be gifts of mutual affection not transactions designed to purchase good will.
If your partner will not listen to you or participate meaningfully until you've paid the fee of stroking his ego or his body that's NOT OKAY.
And these transactions, are not usually even a conscious thing that we're choosing but if you find yourself saying “I'll give him a back rub and buy his favorite beer before asking him….” Then this dynamic of trying to buy good will is happening in your relationship.
Despite all the above and how confronting it probably feels to read it….
Please know that you are not alone. Many many relationships today have an overall dynamic of the woman doing the majority of the household duties including hidden emotional labour, even when she has responsibilities outside the home too. And for the most part we don't complain, even when we're dying inside, because we've been trained to believe that this is the way of things. We've been born and bred on this idea that we are the nurturers and they are the providers. We're told both implicitly an explicitly, that we exist in body, mind, and soul, for the pleasure of men. We hear phrases from our mothers like "You're too big for your britches and if you don't learn your place no man will ever take you". And our brothers hear those same phrases and messages, and they learn that a woman's place is for them to be taken by a man to serve him. Yet somehow our souls yearn for more, as we ARE more. So we try out our voices. We test the limits. We start to push back. But the programming runs deep, and often, if we express a desire to be treated as more than a maid or a nanny by the man we have chosen to be partnered with, we are shut down with phrases like:
- "You must be on your period because you're being bitchy"
- "You should be grateful I bring in a good income"
- "How hard can it even be. You must be lazy"
So we stop talking about what we need. We give the strokes to our man because either we don't know we have a choice or because in choosing to be partnered we often sacrifice our own financial security making it necessary to keep our financial provider satisfied with us in order to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.
When a child come along the temperature on the pressure cooker gets turned up even higher. Because as women we're expected to just gracefully and effortlessly take on this additional role of mothering without allowing any compromise elsewhere. Because its natural. Because women are nurturers. We're expected to literally sacrifice body, mind, and soul, AND still give our partners strokes because its hard for them now they have to share us. What?!
He's upset because he has to “share you”?
You are not property to be divided.
He's frustrated you don't want to have sex because you're touched out or have pelvic floor damage or birth trauma or a postpartum mood disorder or you just aren't in the mood today?
Why do his desires as an adult take priority over the actual needs of his child(ren) and wife?
He's tired after a long day at work and wants to just watch TV? I'm sorry. But your wife is tired too. She wants to eat a hot meal, and have 5 minutes to shower alone. You guys are in this thing together and the focus should be on mutual care not getting what you feel you're owed.
Now OF COURSE we all have times of struggle when we're not bringing 100% to our marriage and OF COURSE it's not always gonna be a 50/50 or even 80/20 division of labour. It is absolutely crucial to remember though that in the 80/20 times one partner is carrying more ONLY FOR A WHILE and because of extraordinary circumstances. The person giving 20 needs to understand they're not owed that 80 everyday. And BOTH partners need to be on the same page about how they're gonna work together to shift back from 80/20 to 50/50 to 100/100 where both partners are bringing their best selves to the table.
If you're not on the same page about that then one partner gets resentful while the other one gets bitter and that's a recipe for disaster sooner or later.
Toxic masculinity not only harms women though. It keeps men from realizing the wonder of the divine feminine. It separates them from the full potential within themselves. It keeps them from being in true, deep, genuine, honest, compassionate and respectful relationships.
The harm we do to others we do to ourselves in the process, and in teaching our partners how to heal their relationships with us, we also give them the tools to heal their own wounds.
Do we owe them this? Not really. They are grown ups after all. But we have chosen to be partnered with this person and so we work to sharpen each other and grow together and sometimes one partner has to take the lead on that for a while so we can both get to a better place. These changes and shifts can be incredibly difficult for even the enlightened men among us because as Clay Shirky says “When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” Most of the men in our lives have not been taught how to live in a mutually beneficial and truly respectful relationship. And in asking them to step up - to give up some of their male privilege - they FEEL as though they are being asked to do too much or even like are being oppressed.
This is where a GOOD marriage counsellor becomes helpful. A skilled counsellor or coach can help your marriage navigate through all the above - if you can get your partner to go. Because counselling is often perceived as feminine and weak and is itself confronting for some men. If they won't go with you - go anyway without them and/or pursue your own healing journey with things like reputable books, webinars, and podcasts, yoga nidra, meditation, Tapping/EFT etc.
Heal your own wounds. Be the light. Deal with all the old shit that's polluting your life today and turn it into rich soil for growth. Figure out who you want to be and how you want to feel and how you're gonna make those things reality. Your partner will either be inspired to come along or they'll drift further away as you keep growing forward and in both cases that is ultimately their own choice.
At the end of the day the only person we can control is ourselves and we have to decide for ourselves what steps we can take. We're not all in a position to give ultimatums. We can't always just walk away. And we can't drag someone along with us, who doesn't want to walk our path. We can't always eradicate the toxic masculinity from our marriage. Sometimes the best thing we can do is plot a course to navigate our way through it. Or to mitigate the damage that's being incurred along the way. We can't make the person we've chosen to be in relationship with change. But we can choose who we want to be in our relationships. We can be intentional in our decisions about how we can eradicate, navigate or mitigate the effects of toxic masculinity in our relationships. We can say "Yes Ma. I AM too big for those britches, and I'm gonna buy myself a new pair that fit me perfectly now."
Back in September we had the opportunity to enroll our 6yo Levi in a very small private school that believes in teaching to each child's needs so they can reach their full potential. The cost is significant but we were fortunate that family & friends rallied to cover his tuition this year. It was an experiment for all of us as we had been homeschooling after a brief but disastrous stint in public school and our intention was to continue homeschooling if this wasn't the right fit. Levi wanted to give it a try, and so we did.
The Fall went pretty well but by the time January rolled around he was really struggling to attend. Just as we had decided to go back to homeschooling he had a visit with his Aunt who teaches there and they worked out that if I came one day a week to his classroom he would go back. We did that for about a month. Then I was sick in the week leading up to March Break and the week after I wasn't going to be able to go with him to either. March Break ended.... And he couldn't make himself go back. So we went back to the drawing board. We talked about it a lot. We explored pros and cons and challenges and loves and strategies and alternatives. We talked some more about attending school vs learning at home and he eventually said “I don't know Mom. You & Dad just decide for me.” (Which he has said a few times now and I've explained that it has to be a decision we all make together because he is the one who has to actually GO to school or learn at home and I can't force him to do either. Even if I believed forcing him was the right thing to do (which I don't) there IS no forcing a child who has his autism profile. Lol.)
I took a chance and said “Ok. Mommy decides that you're going to school.” He stood up and walked to the entryway to put his coat and boots on…. But he was utterly broken. His face crumpled. Every fiber of his being fell. I sat down with him and said “... it looks like you *do* know what you need.” He burst into tears and crawled into my lap. We stayed home that day.
If he was attending ordinary public school I wouldn't care. But this is an excellent school where he is adored by teachers and students alike. Family & friends are generously paying for the opportunity for him to be there. On Valentine's Day he wrote in his card that he loved us for finding him a school he loves. There is clearly part of him that does enjoy it. But there is also a part that is struggling.
My job is not to attempt to force on him what I think is right, but to work with him to figure out what he needs to flourish. Of course as parents there are times we have to set firm boundaries so our kids know where the dangerous edges are. We have to brush teeth and buckle carseats and hold hands in a parking lot. But a situation like this where both options are acceptable is an amazing opportunity for him to learn that his feelings and opinions and needs matter. It is a chance for him to experience the satisfaction of making a decision about something significant. It is a chance for him to safely experiment with how to sort things out when they aren't black and white. It is a lesson on tuning in to his intuition. It is a chance for me to build the trust between us. It is NOT about me being permissive, giving him too much control, failing to set a boundary, or in some other way letting him down. Working actively WITH your child to make decisions about their life, from a place of compassion and respect, to help them become their best self, is not at all the same as lazy or permissive parenting.
Some parenting philosophies advocate for forcing kids out of their comfort zone to try and ensure they're capable of doing uncomfortable things when they're older. Others believe we need to ‘put our foot down’ regularly so that kids learn who is boss and to do what they're told. That's not how I fly. I believe in respecting who a child is; in teaching them how to listen to and trust their gut; in creating space for their voice to be heard; in helping them find their place in the world; in building on their strengths instead of always correcting perceived deficiencies; in working with them to problem-solve progressively bigger and more complex issues; in positively not punitively building skills and confidence and a willingness to take smart risks. I believe children are capable.
A little while later that morning, Levi came to sit with me and said “Mom, if you homeschool me, Lutka (little brother) can get homeschooled too. Then we both get to learn. I choose homeschool!” He had a huge smile on his face and asked if he could do a maze or a worksheet and could I find something for little bro too. We worked on those together and he gave me a hug and kiss (both rare!) and he asked happily “Are we having a good day?” (Which is his way of saying I'm having a good day and I THINK we all are but I'm not 100% sure I haven't missed something so am going to ask it as a question.)
There ARE parts of school he likes and so this decision wasn't simple like when he needed to leave public JK. He needed the freedom and support from me for him to be able to express the emotions that were part of the decision making process. Pros and cons and logic are where we tend to focus in decision making BUT the heart and intuition matter too.
Too often we assume our children don't know what is best for them so we have to impose our adult will. Yes, our kids need guidance in learning how to listen to, interpret, and apply what their head and heart and intuition are telling them. And yes, as parents we bring experience and knowledge to the table which our children can benefit from when we share them wisely. But I believe children are capable beings, and are hardwired for growth and goodness and to move in the direction of love… if only we can get our own ego and woundedness out of their way. And so we homeschool.