Author: Melanie Dunn

“Being a Mother” Versus “The Practice of Mothering”

  As I descended the staircase of my office building yesterday, a thought popped into my head about the work I do.  I’m usually inclined to say “I’m a lawyer” when someone asks me what I do for a living, where I work, what I do for work, etc.  I let that three-word descriptor marinate in my gut for a minute, and it did not feel good.  It felt slimy, like a genteel expression of “I’m a sleazy profiteer who peddles fantasies of justice! So what do you do?” The irony of feeling this way about “being a lawyer” is that I actually love the work I do, in terms of the subject matter and the people I serve.  I help parents get special education programming and services for their children.  That should make me feel great—and thankfully, it usually does, or else I wouldn’t have lasted long in this profession.  But my preference would be to do this for free, just because it’s a good thing to do for parents and children in need.  If I had a passive income source or became independently wealthy, I would just volunteer my time as a special education lawyer.  There are lots of problems inherent in working as a lawyer, and those are the aspects of the work that make me feel more like a well trained pitbull than a human...

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The New Challenge In Raising Our Girls Is Innocent and Well-Intentioned Sexism

Quick, read this phrase and tell me what immediately springs to mind: “Women in STEM.” Where did your brain go?  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I doubt your first thought was “women are well-represented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines and professions, not to mention the fact that they hold leadership positions in these fields and are earning as much as men in these careers.  Nope, nothing amiss here!”  You probably got that stomach lurch or brain flash that indicated the controversy and contention behind this topic.  The fact that we need to talk specifically about “women” in STEM, and not just people in STEM or STEM careers generally, tells you that we’re dealing with thorny issues about sex, gender and the debate over whether the under-representation of women in STEM is something we should worry about or just something that is the way it is, shrug.  In case you haven’t guessed, you can count me among the former group, not the latter. Many of us, especially the Boomers among us, have a story or two about a person, male or female, who has openly and quite unabashedly asserted that girls and women are simply wired differently than their male counterparts, making them ill-suited for careers in the hard sciences.  Hell, some folks believe, based on whatever pseudo-science they encounter on the internet or unearth from...

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Here’s Why Some People Are Quick to Blame the Parents When a Child Is Killed In a Horrific Accident.

In the wake of a string of very bad news this week, it would be nicer to shift our focus to a more pleasant subject. But I would be remiss if I did not heap massive kudos upon the author of this Scary Mommy post for pointing out why we need to show compassion, not shame and blame, toward other parents when terrible things happen involving their children. I need not recount this devastating tale; chances are you know of it already, and if you don’t, well, the article tells you all you need to know. Melissa Fenton’s post said everything I was feeling in my heart when I heard that some people on the internet were being less than compassionate to these grieving parents. But I also had to ask the question – why are some of us so eager to find fault with a child’s parents when that child succumbs to an awful and devastating accident? I remember when an acquaintance of mine had his apartment broken into. Right down the freaking front door, apparently in broad daylight, with valuables stolen and the house turned upside down. I remember immediately searching for a reason why this had happened to him – why he was surely at fault for allowing this to occur. Maybe, for example, he had left his car on the street with something valuable inside,...

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Helping My Daughter to Avoid Following in My (Failed) Footsteps

Kindergarten these days is REALLY different from the one I attended in 1985.  The most obvious difference is the full day.  Does half-day kindergarten even exist in any school district anymore?  With the push for early childhood education, more and more children are starting their formal education even earlier, at the age of three or four.  So full-day kindergarten just seems like a given. But it doesn’t stop there.  My kindergartener and I recently finished reading Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary.  Remember reading that as a kid in the ‘80s?  Oh, did you read it even earlier than that?  You might have, if you’re a bit older than me – that book was published in 1968.  But even as a kid in the late ‘80s, nothing about Ramona’s kindergarten class seemed odd to me in the same way it does now.  Half-day, yes; only mothers were involved in any activity related to school, yes; naptime during kindergarten – even though it’s ONLY a half day, what?! – yes! What is really striking about Ramona’s kindergarten, however, is the academic component, or perhaps the lack thereof, compared to the more rigorous literacy-focused curriculum my kid is getting in her magnet school program.  And while her particular magnet school happens to be focused on early literacy, I do believe that any kindergarten class today has got to be more serious...

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Spring Break

I have been “working from home” all week because my kids have been out of school for April vacation.  I am managing to get some things done, but the hardest part is not having complete control over my day.  You just can’t plan for and schedule around temper tantrums, unexplained crying jags, whining and clinginess.  And the kids make it tough as well. I jest, but for real, it’s best to table really important projects during an extended period at home with small ones underfoot. If you are prone to distraction even without child grunts and yells in the background, then you are better off simply acknowledging the harsh reality that even basic life tasks must be left unfulfilled for the time being.  That is not hyperbole.  You can hold it while your three-year-old insists on jumping up and down on your full bladder as you try in vain to remove her long enough to race to the bathroom.  I strongly recommend keeping a box of Depends on hand when a day of no school is anticipated. You might try going to the park, to let the kids run around and release some energy so they will sleep soundly later that night.  You might think you can bring along some work to do while they are preoccupied on the playscape.  Sadly, the playscape will hold their interest just long...

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