Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Breastfeeding is “da bomb”

 

I had my children in my mid to late 20’s. I now think it was excellent timing. They are now grown and I am still young and enjoying life. They also have more in common with me because the age difference is not so great and we enjoy many actitivities together.

Anyhow, I want to spread the word about breastfeeding. There is nothing more satisfactory. It is an amazing loving thing to do that ties you even more to your baby. It creates a wonderful bond. It is healthy and practical. Science has shown it creates immunity to diseases and even increases babies’  IQ. Coincidentally, my daughters are very intelligent and in good health, so maybe there is some truth to this.

Don’t let being tired discourage you. I think the fast paced life and work ethic in this country makes it very difficult for mothers to breastfeed. There is almost no paid leave to stay home with newborns so many mothers leave their babies in childcare (which is very expensive) and go back to work really too soon. Others just don’t have the patience and determination to continue breastfeeding. In the beginning it can be a bit painful, but with time and the right technique it becomes natural. If you are lucky to have a supportive husband, it is easier.

Unfortunately, because of American puritanism, breastfeeding in public is not encouraged in America. The comedy “The Hangover” portrayed a hot woman exposing her breast to breastfeed her baby and the horrified reaction of the men watching her.  This is a sad reaction to a natural, necessary and healthy habit that more mothers should engage in. I suggest that, if you need to nurse your baby in public, just cover yourself with a piece of cloth or go to a quiet corner or room. You do not want to offend anyone, it is a question of good manners.

I understand that there are medical reasons not to breastfeed (some medications for chronic diseases gets passed on through breast milk) as well as physical disabilities. But I have met many mothers who just gave up. Or who didn’t feel like being a “slave” to their baby, or were worried about their breasts drooping.

I breastfed both my children for 12 months. But if you do so for 6 months it is already awesome. Even one month is better than nothing. Don’t give up!

October 2, 2007 Posted by | Being a mother | Leave a comment

How I became an atheist

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Many of the stories in the bible have some insight into human nature but many are full of hatred, revenge, persecution and prejudice. The bible has to be seen as it is: a book written in ancient times. It has historic value, that’s all. But it’s filled with ignorance, with an almighty revengeful god that scares people.  In those days, with few rules, rampant illiteracy and no knowledge of science, the figure of god was used to put people in line. Nowadays we have information, law and education.

For instance, if the crop was bad or if there was a bad storm, people thought it was “god”  being mad at them because someone  in their tribe had “sinned”. Now we know they are natural phenomena.

The most enlightening thing that happened to humanity is Scientific development. How can these religious ignorants reject evolution when it is more than proven (DNA sequencing, for example, which has demonstrated the human migration pattern-did you know that the Irish have the same genes as the Basques in northern Spain-they were Celts whowent to the British Isles?).

I have always been fascinated with Science.  Science is based on facts and investigation.Since I was a little girl I have never been a believer of fantasies and myths. I stopped believing in Santa around the age of 6 (it was already my skeptical nature showing) while other kids were almost 10 and still believed in “him”. I started seeing that some nuns were not good and saintly people, but very troubled women.  And when I was around 11, at Catholic school, I started noticing that many priests acted “different”. Now I know they were closeted homossexuals (the Church has been the hiding place for gay men for centuries-it was the only way they could be accepted into society-homossexuality in those days-until the 60’s, was considered an awful disease). So skeptical I became.  Additionally, I would raise questions to myself about the impossibility of many things religion taught us:

1) How could all animals in pairs come to Noah’s ark?

2) What was the selection criteria for people going to hell, heaven and limbo? How could hell affect them if they were already dead? What would people do in heaven all day for ever and ever and not get flat bored? How could one man (“God”) have so much power-like a dictatorship?

3) And the role of the catholic church (it’s the biggest just because it is the oldest) during the Inquisition?? They were murderers! And the role of the Catholic church during the Second World War genocide? They closed their eyes and allowed the killings because the victims were jews!

So these questions swirled in my mind since an early age while others never stopped to think about them and accepted all these teachings blindly.

At 13 my parents enrolled me in confirmation classes. Me and my best friend at the time (very very intelligent,  she is now a famous journalist in Brazil) would play table tennis and totally not pay attention to the brainwashing, ooops, class.  We would make fun of everything. I was alway skeptical. The whole hell and heaven thing for me never made sense. I questioned everything.

At 18 I told my parents I no longer wanted to go to church. Sometimes I would go with a friend of mine only to have something to do as if the church was a social club to see and be seen. Just like most poor people do when they go to their Baptist or Evangelical church/mass/religious event. A social club for the poor. We would stand at the very end and check the scene. This was a small hip church which attracted younger people instead of the little old ladies.

In my early 20’s I liked to read Scientific American and was fascinated with articles about evolution. Things started to make more sense to me.  In my late 20’s I helped a 3rd grade kid get better grades in Science at school. That year he was studying zoology. That’s when the whole thing hit me: we are all related!! All of us animals! There is a clear sequence. Some animals share stomachs and hearts, some have lungs, but they all have links to us. You can see the clear development of fish into reptiles into mammals. That is when I became firmly an agnostic. I was a bit afraid of using the word atheist because of its negative connotation. Many Americans still equate communists with atheism. That is one thing that Marx and Lennin got right, the atheist side.

Forward to 1998. I already had good internet access. I started browsing sites like www.freethought.com

I was really flabbergasted. What I was always thinking had a confirmation. There were people out there, many people, who thought just like me! Then I found the American Atheists site and I joined some local meetup groups. How wonderful it was to meet intelligent  folks who called themselves atheists and have some really intelligent conversation!! They helped me become an OUT OF THE CLOSET atheist. I was not afraid of calling myself an atheist to people anymore. I even became very proud of doing so. I am fortunate though to live in an area where there are many intellectuals. The Washington D.C. suburbs have high income and educational levels. I also work with Scientists, most of them atheists as well. So I have never encountered prejudice. Some of my more religious friends continue my friends but know they cannot talk about religion to me.

Now I am an activist. I am being helped by the New Atheism movement which is making it more mainstream and understood. Let’s stop equating religion with morals. I have plently of morals and so do my children and we are atheists. No hypocrisy here.

Richard Dawkins actually suggested using another name for atheists, like Brights. That is a good name in the sense that most atheists I have met are exactly that: bright. But I still think we have to take the stigma out of the word atheist and see it as what it is: a person who does not believe in god nor likes religion but other than that is very very normal. And good. And moral. And well behaved. And respectful of others. Ellen Johnson of the American Atheists is an example. A family woman. Margaret Downey of the Atheist Alliance as well. Married for 35 years. Kids. I am like them.

Religious talk baffles me. People seem so childish when they say things like: “god wants me to….”. Wake up folks, there is NO god. There is you and the people who like you and love you and will be there for you.

October 2, 2007 Posted by | atheist | 14 Comments

Uniforms for children

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Although my youngest daughter is a senior and about to go to College, I have always defended uniforms for school children. Unfortunately here in America people think it is not democratic to do so..that it stiffles kids’ individuality…

Having lived in Brazil and having had kids in school in Brazil, I think the advantages outweigh the negatives. I know there are books and studies on this issue that show that uniforms do not alter or improve attendance and behavior at school, so I am just speaking as a mother who tries to be practical and as someone who had kids going to schools which adopted uniforms and schools which did not:

Here are my considerations:

1) No showing off with the latest fashions-something that schoolgirls seem to want to do every Monday at school-that is why girls’ spend their weekends at malls!

2) Obvious economy for parents;

3) Less separation of kids by cliques based on how you dress;

4) Easier to get dressed in the morning.

Uniforms in Brazil are very very practical. Pants for both sexes. Stretchy fabric, track style.

T-shirts with the school logo. Track style hoodie matching the pants. Shorts in the same colors for summer. No short plaid mini skirt like private schools here-those uniforms make all girls look like the typical male fantasy!

So there you go Moms and Dads who think like me: uniforms for public schools in America movement!! (UPSA) 🙂

October 1, 2007 Posted by | Being a mother | Leave a comment

Commitment Phobia

Of course not every relationship has to end in marriage. Marriage is not for everyone and many people do not believe in it and don’t like the state involved in their personal affairs.  I am not here discussing these couples, where both agree to just live together and never get married (think Goldie Hawn).

I am here to discuss the conflict that surges when one wants to get married and the other doesn’t.

You could think: simple. The one who wants marriage should just leave and find someone who shares his or her values.

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. When one is in an intimate and romantic relationship, especially if you have invested several years of your life in it, it is very very hard to walk away. There are feelings involved, there are habits that a couple forms with time which are hard to break, there is a whole history and family involvement, there is emotional and sometimes financial dependency, there is sexual attraction and there is the fear of being alone and starting over with a stranger.

All these elements keep people tied up to the non committing partner for a lot longer than they would wish.

But everyone reaches a breaking point. Frustration grows. The feeling of rejection grows (having someone now want to marry you is a big blow to your ego). Anger grows. Bitterness grows. And, like a pot with boiling water, it eventually spills. The person in a relationship with a commitment phobic eventually leaves and does not look back (maybe after several failed attempts to really leave).

I became aware of this phenomena about 8 years ago. I never had heard of anyone complaining that their BF did not want to marry them while they did. Coming from Brazil, I remember dating meant getting married eventually. I grew up seeing that people don’t just date fort the sake of dating, they date to get married.  If the relationship didn’t work, people would break up.  Either you get married after a few years or you break up, that’s it. But you just don’t hear stories of frustrated women dating men who see commitment as the worse fate a man can have.  I think Brazil is still a more family oriented society and as opposed to individualistic/selfish.

Maybe I wasn’t around the post divorce scene enough? Maybe this happens to all men who have been through a bad divorce? But what about younger women dating men who had not been married before complaining about the same thing?

 I started hearing the sentence “Why buy the cow when the milk is for free” a lot. And I learned that there is a big divide between men and womem’s expectations when it comes to dating.

We meet a man we like, we go on our first date together and soon we start envisioning what our children will look like, how the wedding will be and how our name will sound next to his last name…

Meanwhile, he is trying to make you feel comfortable….so you will sleep with him!

Cliche, but happens all the time.

I think men are more afraid than in the past, for various reasons:

1. The higher rate of divorce.  Men of course see the cup half emtpy.

2. They hear horror stories of men being ripped off their life savings. They forget million dollar settlements happen with the few that have many more millions to spare and use during his lifetime and that women work as well and contribute to the household finances;

3. Influenced by the media, James Bond movies and Playboy magazine, men dream of having a  lifestyle where they can have an exciting life with different women who look like Barbie-even if they look like the Big Bad Wolf;

4.  Dowdy TV shows showing family men as being idiots. How boring it is to become a married man with kids. His wife will gain 30 lbs, start wearing mom jeans and never put on any lipstick anymore (unfortunately happens a lot in this country-women do let themselves go after marriage);

5. The collective histeria amongst men towards marriage and women in general. I hear it a lot: “all women are crazy”. “He is locked down”. “He is p***y whipped” (for a man who has a harmonious relationship).  Jokes about marriage. Negative comments about marriage.  As if by getting married a man’s life is over.

And then there are natural biological reasons:

1) Men are less emotional and romantic therefore less interested in sappy things like weddings and engagements; of course there many many romantic men out there who go all the way with proposals and such. Minority indeed.

2) Men are wired biologically to have sex with many women (hmmm..I have a problem with that..). Maybe the cavemen…

Since I was a victim of a commitment phobic as well, I googled the subject and found a wonderful website: www.hiscoldfeet.com

Andrea created this website. She was wise to detect the same problem that it took me years to understand. She now is writing a book, inspired by the tons of women who have visited her website. I actually predict Hollywood will be picking up on that theme soon and make a movie out of her book, just like the “He is just not into you” guy.

Which brings me to the “He is just not into you” idea. That episode in Sex and the City really hit me. I agree that relationships must have that sizzle in the beginning, that need to talk a lot, to see each other a lot.  When any of my still single or divorced GF’s meet a man who only call them once a week, it is so clear to me that he is not into them!! What if she happens to die during the week, how many days will her body be rotting before he finds out? 🙂

Anyhow, the only way to get out of  a relationship with a commitment phobe is to leave it for good. Most of the time it makes the guys with cold feet come back. They need to lose you to value you, a fact with man men. Some, I think the minority, never bother coming back, which just shows you you were really going down a dead end street.

So why not just date and relax and enjoy your man? No matter how liberal you want to me, how “Love and Peace” you want to be, there are certain protections that come with marriage. Also, there is a bigger sense of permanence and pride when you say “my husband” instead of “my boyfriend”.  There is a calm that comes with being married, knowing that that person is your mate for life and will be there for you, that even after a big argument it is not the end. Being able to make some lifelong plans together is another plus. 

As sad and difficult as it is to leave a man you love, you must do it if marriage is in your life plan (and children). Otherwise you risk to lose your best years waiting for a man to lose his irrational fears.  And by doing so you either free him to evaluate what he wants and offer you marriage, or YOU are free to meet another man who is also looking to settle down.

What you should never do: force a man to marry you, give him ultimatums. He will resist even more, just like a child. Or he will end up marrying you and hating you..and you will have a marriage from hell.  He will resist any attempt to “control” him and will not be in tune with your needs. He will resent you and avoid you with sports and hobbies and friends/lovers.

So first talk to him sincerely about what you want. After a reasonable period of dating where you both know each other well (for some 2 years, for some less, for some more).

If he refuses to talk about it, or if he flatly tells you he is not interested in marriage*, start planning your exit strategy. If you were naive enough to live with a man without marriage, you will have to find your own place.

I have been through the sheer frustration, loss of self esteem, anger, self doubt, sadness and physical and mental stress that is to be in a commitment phobic relationship. I don’t wish this to anyone. So listen to what I told you..and read about this issue.

* We have all heard that this same man who doesn’t want to marry you will marry the next woman in 6 months. I can’t understand this phenomena. Maybe he just wasn’t into you too?

October 1, 2007 Posted by | Relationships | 3 Comments