Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Comic Update

I just finished Jill Thompson's At Death's Door and I recommend it highly. It's a different perspective on the events covered in the Sandman graphic novel Season's of Mist (when Satan abandons hell and gives Dream the key to its gates) and focuses on Death, Delirium and Despair. Thompson fills us in on what Dream's sisters were up to, but also touches back to the original story, making the comic accessible even to those who haven't read Seasons of Mist. The art is manga influenced (think black and white anime - all big eyes and perky noses). It's all just as cute as it sounds, but the subject matter is often a bit, um, gruesome, which contrasts nicely with the girly sweetness of the art. I wouldn't want to read a whole series done like this, but it's fun for something different, especially if you've read all the Sandmans and are familiar with the Endless characters.

I also picked up the last issue in Judd Winick's Blood and Water, and I'm a little disappointed by the ending of this series. It started quite strong, but I stand by my earlier assessment that Winick needed more than 5 issues to develop this story. We're meant to see the three main characters as inseparable best friends, but we didn't see enough of their interactions to know this - it's the old "show don't tell" problem, and with only 5 issues to work with and a whole lot of action to cram into those issues, Winick didn't really have the time to do much showing. Because I didn't feel the deep connection between these characters, key events didn't have the impact they should have. Also the build to the big action finale was too quick and consequently it fell flat. I like Winick's concept and I think he's doing something different and interesting with a potentially very tired subject - vampires - but ultimately it was not entirely satisfying.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The Tide is Turning

Dean is the "new McGovern" is old news. The big story now is that Dean may be a more viable candidate than he originally seemed.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Group Dynamics on the Web

I found this article about the way people interact on the internet to be incredibly fascinating. It's basically a primer for software designers on what you need to know about group dynamics to design "social software" (i.e. bulletin boards, discussion groups, etc.), however the information is invaluable to anyone who participates in these sorts of fora (including blogs, since those that have comments features function more as conversations than monologues).

Friday, July 25, 2003

The Thing That Never Makes Me Wake Up in the Middle of the Night in a Cold Sweat. . .

Because I never allow myself to think about it or acknowledge that it's a possibility:

Something happening to Adam.

And I rarely obsess about my children dying either. Yes, I live in denial land. It's a happy place and I don't want to leave, thank you.

Friday Five
5 Things That Make Me Wake Up In The Middle Of The Night In A Cold Sweat
Topic courtesy of Adam

1. Everyone will find out that I'm an imposter. The specifics vary, depending on what I'm stepping out on a limb to do, but it's the same feeling - "I'm not a real whatever, and when everyone finds out, they'll be terribly disappointed and mock me dreadfully.
2. I've done something to warp my children for life. Again, the details vary, but it's always the sense that by saying / not saying / doing / not doing something, I've ruined my children's lives.
3. Four more years of the Republicans running the country.
4. Money. Did I enter all my checks in Quicken? Did we pay the house payment? What if we have an emergency? How will we pay college tuition for three children?
5. The certainty that something I said or did was misinterpreted by someone and I've hurt his or her feelings. I don't mind someone feeling insulted when I intend to insult him or her, but I hate to do it inadvertently.

Other participants: Chris, and Gina. Presumably Will and Merideth will be posting their lists when they return from their exciting vacation to Disney next week.

More on Dean and McGovern

Finally somebody in the media is challenging the accepted wisdom that Dean is the next McGovern. This is an important article and well worth viewing the short ad.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Big Brother is Watching. Be Invisible.

Apparently, reading a left leaning article in public is now enough to warrant a visit from the FBI. I'm expecting a phone call anytime now.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

How to Drink Well on the Cheap

Slate's guide to cheap, drinkable wine. Definitely useful information, with the caveat that "cheap" is defined as anything under $15, and the author doesn't cover domestic wines at all.

Balance

How do we balance our career responsibilities with our home lives? How do families in which all the adults work outside the home function in a world that is still predicated on one breadwinner and one homemaker per household? Dawn Friedman suggests that it may take an overhaul of the ways we think about both work and home - "Those of us who find work fulfilling need to be able to do it without sacrificing our family-life. Those of us who find home fulfilling need to be able to do it without sacrificing our family's budget. Those of us (the majority I'd say) who want both work and home should be able to manage that, too. Jobshare, flex time, maternity leave are sorry consolations; I think we need to jettison the 9 to 5 mind-set and start over from scratch. "

I highly recommend Dawn's blog - This Woman's Work - she writes honestly and thoughtfully about her life as a writer, editor and mother.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Something's Gotta Give

Warning: Extremely childish and graphic late pregnancy whining. You may want to skip this entry.

I don't know if I can take another three weeks of pregnancy. I'm almost certain the people around me can't take another three weeks of me pregnant, hormonal, and grumpy. The last few weeks of pregnancy are generally unpleasant, but the summer heat is making it unbearable. Well, that and my body's determination to get all geared up for delivering this baby. I feel like I've got a bowling ball in my pelvis, slowly stretching all the joints and bones apart. Walking, or even just changing position, results in bone grating agony. This fun is punctuated with semi-regular contractions which culminate in spasming back pain. The irony is that none of this is necessary, since I'm having a c-section. I could just sit here pleasantly until the 11th of August, enjoying the baby kicking and finishing up my to-do list. Of course, my body didn't get the memo, and this time it's decided it might as well push the baby out. Oh yeah, we're having some fun now.

We have managed to get most of the really urgent stuff marked off the list, so I'm beginning to feel almost ready. I certainly wouldn't complain if things happened a little earlier than planned at this point.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Adrienne Takes on July

Yep, it's that time of the month again. Adrienne's new column is up at AustinMama.com. This month Adrienne's documenting the horrors of summer, and most especially July, a topic I can can certainly agree with, especially this summer.

Spike Gillespie's column is also good this week - we talk a lot about setting "boundaries" for our kids, but what about boundaries for the adults in their lives?

How to Salvage the Mess in Iraq

Bring in the UN. It's what we should have done to begin with, and the task of rebuilding Iraq seems nigh unto impossible without a coalition (something Bush has been trying to line up, and failing spectacularly at - nobody wants in without a UN mandate). It's the best thing for the US and Iraq, and, incidentally, it might repair some of the damage done to our relations with our allies as well.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

And the Most Disturbing Answer Is. . . .

Chris's Friday Five is kind of creepy. Check out item number 4, and Chris's explanation.

Johnny Depp in Eye Liner-It Don't Get No Better Than That

I saw Pirates of the Caribbean last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. To be perfectly honest, I'd have gone to see it even if it was abysmal, because I'd watch Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom take turns reciting the phone book, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good the movie actually is. It's well written (if a trifle long), good performances all around, and the fights are beautifully choreographed (and filmed - fights and dance sequences are all too often shot in a way that makes the action unintelligible). It's been too long since we've had a good swashbuckling movie, and PoTC fits the bill in every particular. Good news - I hear that Disney has already started production on a sequel and a third movie is planned.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Bush Promotes Shotgun Weddings

It looks like Bush's proposal to spend $300 million to promote marriage for mothers on welfare will probably pass. Please note that this proposal requires the states to pony up $100 million of that figure (at a time when state budgets are being slashed and essential services are being cut right and left), and that there's no information whatsoever on how the money will be spent to promote marriage.

Presumably the government won't be paying for the divorces that result from women marrying someone who isn't a good match for them or who they don't know well. I'm all for marriage, but let's not fool ourselves that getting knocked up by someone is necessarily the beginning of a beautiful friendship marriage. Shotgun weddings are notorious for resulting in unhappy and short-lived marriages.

Hey, I have an idea for how the government could promote marriage - make it legal for all those loving gay and lesbian couples to get married! And it wouldn't cost the tax-payers a dime. . . .

Friday Five

Five Historical or Fictional Characters You'd Like to Have Dinner With

1. Christopher Marlowe - The quintessential Renaissance man - actor, playwright, and spy. Not only would he be up on all the theatre gossip, but he could also fill me in on the intrigue from Elizabeth I's court.
2. Lord Peter Wimsey - Detecting hero of Dorothy Sayer's mysteries. Handsome, intelligent, witty and well-read. A long standing literary crush for me.
3. Aphra Behn - One of the earliest professional women writers. She led a notorious and exciting life as a spy, playwright and novelist in Restoration era England and Surinam.
4. Mary Shelley - Daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, wife of Percy Shelley, author of Frankenstein and key Romantic figure. What I'd most like to do is insert myself into a dinner party during the infamous "haunted summer" of 1816 (and so get to dine with not only Mary Shelley, but also Percy Shelley, Byron, Claire Clairemont, and Dr. Polidori), but barring that, I'd love to have a good gossip with Shelley about her experiences with Percy Shelly and Byron. (Not those kinds of experiences! What kind of girl do you think I am?)
5. Oscar Wilde - Just because dinner with Wilde would have to be entertaining.

Honorable mentions: Sir Francis Lymond (from The Lymond Chronicles), Sherlock Holmes, King Mob or Ragged Robin (from The Invisibles), Dream from The Sandman, and Sir Richard Francis Burton.

Other participants: Adam, Merideth (although her's may be a little late, since she's out of pocket today, Will, Chris, and Gina.

New Robin McKinley Novel

Sunshine is slated to appear in October. Neil Gaiman is reading an advance copy and has good things to say about it in his blog.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Gina Joins the Fray

Gina responds to Chris's Dean / McGovern post.

Is Dean the new McGovern?

Chris and a good many other commentators certainly think so. Democracy Dave and Will of the People post a brilliant rebuttal to this position. Gina has already attacked this argument after it was advanced in Salon.

The bottom line is that Dean, while he appeals to the far left due to his oppostion to the second Gulf War, is actually fairly moderate. I don't think I'm a far out lefty, and in many ways Dean is more conservative than I am, especially in his positions on gun control (the NRA has endorsed him, for goodness' sake - how liberal can he be?), and the death penalty. Dean has the potential to bring many former Naderites back to the Democratic camp, but I don't think he'll alienate very many of the centrist Democrats who voted for Gore. Let's not forget that Gore won the popular vote, without the support of the Greens. A candidate who drew both of those groups of voters would win by a clear majority in 2004.

Bad News for the Oxford American

The wonderful magazine of Southern literature and culture, Oxford American, has shut down again. Apparently the subscriber base was solid, but they weren't making enough on ad revenue.

This is really depressing. This has happened before, and they were able to reorganize and came back (not quite as good as ever, but still very enjoyable.) I'll be surprised if it returns in anything resembling it's original form.

The Decline of America

An almost plausible description of what America could look like in 2050, if the Republicans get their way. The author extrapolates on current events to build a horrifying scenario. Sure, he's got an agenda, but he's playing fair - he's starting from actual contemporary events and taking them to their logical (albeit worst) possible conclusions.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Baby Update

We're, at the most, 3 1/2 weeks away from B-Day. My c-section is scheduled for August 11th, but according to the doctor I've already started dilating, and in her words, "if there's anything you need to get done before this baby comes, I'd go do it." Of course, you can start dilating and not go into labor for weeks, but it took me by surprise, since I didn't start dilating until about 38 or 39 weeks in my previous pregnancies (I'm currently 35 weeks), and didn't go into labor until my due date. If nothing else, this shook me up a bit and made it all seem real. We've been coasting along, thinking we had all the time in the world to get ready for this baby, and there's still lots that needs to be done, even if he doesn't get here until the 11th. For example, it might be a good idea to send in our pre-registration form to the hospital and wash some baby clothes. . . .

Patriotism

A few days ago a I had a revelation about patriotism. I saw a car flying a Spurs (the San Antonio basketball team) flag (you know the kind that attach to an antenna) with an American flag bumpersticker and another bumpersticker that said "I support our troops and our president." I realized that for a good many people in this country, patriotism is something akin to being a sports fan. They support a sports team because it's affiliated with their alma mater (or where they wish they'd gone to school) or the city or state in which they live. They support America because they were born here. It's as simple as that. Being a sports fan is about cheering for your team, not questioning your teams' decisions and patriotism for these people doesn't involve questioning our government's decisions. It's "my country right or wrong" no matter what. Anyone who doesn't exhibit the same rah rah go America attitude, and especially anyone who actually disagrees with the president or dares to suggest that our government did something wrong, is, in Ann Coulter's words, a traitor.

It's the patriotism that would stomp all over the constitution to protect the flag. The patriotism of the Patriot Act. The patriotism of "freedom fries" and refusing to order French wine in a restaurant.

But there is another kind of patriotism. The patriotism of "Our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right" (Senator Carl Schurz). I love my country, but I will not stand by and give my support when my moral compass tells me we are in the wrong. There is no intrinsic morality or superiority in actions taken by the American government. And when I disagree I will use my voice and my vote to work to change the government and to make things right. Dissent is the essence of democracy. To deny this is the real betrayal of what our country stands for.

Bush's Lies Redux

Chris posts eloquently about Bush's latest revision of pre-war events. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one whose blood pressure is at a boiling point due to Bush's falsehoods.

Monday, July 14, 2003

The View from Abroad

The Guardian on Howard Dean.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Why Liberals Are Angry

Just in case the conservatives couldn't figure it out, Michael Tomasky spells it out for them.

I think Tomasky is right that anger won't win the general election, and potentially could alienate far more moderates than the lefties it attracts. But I wonder if some anger isn't appropriate at this stage. I worry about those candidates who don't seem particularly fussed by the way the Republicans have changed the rules in the middle of the game. A little genuine outrage is entirely appropriate, and I fits neatly into the standard primary strategy of wooing fringe voters before being nominated, and working on moderates after the primary.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Harry Potter and the Right Wing Christians

What would happen if J. K. Rowling decided to tap into the lucrative "Left Behind" market? This is a scream! (No spoilers.)

Thanks to Adrienne for the link. . . .

Friday Five

Five Ways That You Are Turning Into Your Mom or Dad
topic suggested by Gina

1. Gaining weight in the exact same places my mother does, giving us the same basic body shape (when I'm not pregnant), although even when I'm not pregnant I'm quite a bit heavier than my mom was at my age.
2. Spending long summer afternoons at the pool with my kids. My childhood summers all reeked of chlorine. Unfortunately, my kids aren't yet independent enough that I can follow mom's example completely and lie in the sun reading a trashy biography while the kids swim.
3. Using "you're on my list" to indicate that someone in the family is in big trouble.
4. Dirty dishes in the sink drive me nuts.
5. Regularly threaten to throw away all the toys in my kids rooms if they don't pick them up (actually, this was more my dad's modus operandi).

Other participants: Adam, Merideth, Will, and Chris.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

How To Give Our Children Roots and Wings

More from Katie Allison Granju, on the contradictions between the way Americans parent infants and older children.

Polygamist Fundamentalists and Child Abuse

Katie Allison Granju blogs about polygamous Mormons forcing young teens to enter into plural marriages with much older men. Her links are really horrific, especially those which indicate that child protective services has done nothing to help these girls, and in fact, often returns those who've run away to their parents, who then turn them back over to their "husbands." Apparently the state will prosecute these marriages when they suspect welfare fraud (those wives who are not legally married to their husbands will often file for welfare benefits for their children), but not to protect abused children. Nice.

It almost makes me think we would be better off legalizing polygamy, since it could then be scrutinized and subject to the same laws as monogamous marriages. Of course the biggest problem is that these cults (I don't think that's too strong a word) brainwash girls and women into believing that they have no choice, so very few of them will complain or try to escape. I don't know what the answer is, but surely there's something more that can be done than just shrugging and allowing young women to be brutalized in this fashion.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Money Makes the World Go Round

Great post in Democracy Dave and Will of the People about Shrub and his money grubbing ways. Right now it's at the top of the blog. (Hey guys, add permalinks, please.)

Another Blow In the Literary Class Wars

I was deeply saddened when A. S. Byatt, one of my favorite authors, joined the Harry Potter naysayers claiming that the books were poorly written wish fulfillment and only readers whose literary palates had been jaded by overexposure to pop culture would want to read them. Byatt joins the chorus of literary critics denouncing the popularity of Rowling's books and drawing strict battle lines between such middle brow fair and true high culture (and denouncing cultural studies for endowing popular literature with the stamp of academic approval.)

Salon's Charles Tayler has written a concise and literate rebuttal to this argument. Tayler reveals Byatt's position for the thin and shabby thing that it is, while recognizing the inherent impossibility of dividing literature into such narrowly defined camps.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

You Called?

In the "Be Careful What You Ask For" department, a preacher who asked for a sign from God was struck by lightening.

Redbook Magazine - Innocent Provider of Domestic Tips or Purveyor of Pornography?

Slate reports that Walmart will now be selling four magazines behind special covers to hide suggestive cover texts - Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Glamour, and, oddly enough, Redbook. Redbook, which is designed to appeal to thirtysomething married gals, doesn't exactly fit in this "sex and the single girl" category.

However, Redbook covers have a history of controversy. The November 1997 cover featured Pierce Brosnan, his significant other, Keely Shaye Smith, and their infant. The newstand cover featured a picture of Smith breastfeeding the child while Brosnan looked on. The subscriber cover was a more traditional shot of all three looking at the camera. Redbook explained that some subscribers might not want to have their children see the breastfeeding image. Some large chains were antsy about the breastfeeding photo and debated shelving the issue with Playboy and Penthouse to protect shoppers from the indecency of a woman feeding her child.

Given the typical content of Redbook (Would You Choose Your Mate Again? Look Party Perfect Fast! Is Your Child Getting Enough Exercise?) Cosmo and Playboy might seem like strange company for the magazine. My grandmother, however, could have predicted this. She was so prescient that several years ago she cancelled her subscription to Redbook, declaring it filthy trash that she wouldn't have in her house. My mom and I were a little surprised by this extreme reaction to such an innocuous seeming magazine, but it took some doing to elicit an explanation. Both my grandparents kept declaring that it was "dirty" without many more details. Finally, mom and I retreated to the relative privacy of my grandmother's kitchen where she explained in hushed tones that the most recent issue had an article encouraging wives to "lick their husband's penises!" (Cue horrified shrieks suppressed laughter.) Once my grandmother had let the cat out of the bag, my grandfather chimed in, "That's just filthy! It's like something an animal would do. Like what dogs do!" Clearly, Redbook's insidious campaign to corrupt America could not evade my grandparent's sharp notice.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

All Boy?

One thing I've learned from being the mother of a son is that boys are also limited by traditional gender roles. In some ways, boys now are more limited than girls (although this probably arises from a sexist attitude that it's admirable for a girl to aspire to "masculine" pursuits, while it's shameful for a boy to be "feminine"). Jenni Murray's 10 Myths About Boys debunks some of the most common stereotypes.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Friday Five

The 5 belongings or habits that mark me as a member of my demographic:
(Topic suggested by Chris)

1. Minivan, complete with carseats, melted crayons, and half-eaten bags of goldfish
2. Suburban house in a good school district
3. 2.87* children (do children count as belongings or habits?)
4. Large dog
5. Husband employed in tech industry

*Based on remaining gestation period of #3

Other Friday Five participants: Gina, Adam, Merideth, Will, and Chris

If you're wondering why the religious right is losing the "culture wars," take a look at Gina's list compared to mine. Which demographic would you rather belong to? Of course many straights have clued in that you don't have to be gay to enjoy the perks of the "homosexual lifestyle,"* and this acknowledgement that it sounds like more fun than being another straight, white, suburban middle class drone has erased a good bit of the stigma associated with being homosexual.

*Apparently the trendy term here is metrosexual, although it usually only refers to men.

More on Coulter's Treaon

Salon has a more indepth analysis of Coulter's falsehoods and omissions. Especially interesting are the facts she left out about her hero Joseph McCarthy. (Does anybody not know that non-Salon members have to watch an ad?)

The Thinking Woman's Sex Symbol?

Fametracker does a fame audit on Johnny Depp.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Stop Procrastinating and Get Writing

A useful link for writers - 50 Strategies for Making Yourself Work.

Ann Coulter's Blatant Disregard for the Truth

Great column in Spinsanity dissecting Ann Coulter's new book Treason and detailing her many misleading or misattributed quotes, distortions, and outright lies. If I agreed with anything Coulter said, I'd find her "scholarship" downright embarrassing. Is it just me or is the Republican party's new mantra, "the end justifies the means"?

The Spinsanity link is courtesy of Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish. Sullivan (a somewhat unorthodox Republican) agrees with me about Coulter being embarrassing - "Part of me likes Coulter's iconoclasm, panache, smarts. But you still have to draw the line somewhere; and, in my view, she damages conservatism as much as Michael Moore damages liberalism. It's one thing in spirited debates to lose civility at times; it's another thing to make a lack of civility your fundamental modus operandi." But notice how he completely fails to address her fraudulent scholarship, instead focusing on her "lack of civility."

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Speaking of Comics. . .

I have a few recommendations, based on my recent reading:

1. Fables written by Bill Willingham. I just finished the first graphic novel, Legends in Exile and I was blown away. Fairy Tale characters living in exile in New York City. The Big Bad Wolf and Snow White investigate the mysterious disappearance of Snow White's sister, Rose Red. A bizarre, but charming, noir sensibility. Inventive and clever story telling and lush artwork. Highly recommended.

2. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. A detailed examination of the conventions of comics, in comic book form. Even the most committed comic geek will probably discover something new.

3. Blood and Water by Judd Winick. A compelling 5 issue miniseries which focuses on a dying man who's gifted with immortal youth when his best friends reveal that they are vampires. But have his friends made a terrible mistake? Only one issue left, but back issues are probably available at your local comic shop. A slightly different take on vampires, suspenseful and nicely drawn. My only caveat is that the story feels slightly rushed - it might have worked better as a longer series.

4. Planetary Batman: Night on Earth by Warren Ellis. Planetary. Batman. Crossover. Squee! Ok, I'll try to contain my enthusiasm. It's fabulous (but be warned, it's really a Planetary story in which Batman makes an appearance, he's definitely secondary to the Planetary team) You should go buy it Right Now. Best line: Elijah to Jakita, "You like him don't you? He's your special Bat-friend."

Other Comics you should be reading: Astro City, Rex Mundi, Girl Genius, and Fray.

Good News for Gaiman Fans

This summer marks a return to his roots for Gaiman. He's got two new comic projects coming out in the next few months. Go out now and reserve a copy of 1602, which should be out on August 13th (someone's going to have to bring a copy to me at the hospital). It looks absolutely amazing. Then on September 17th, Gaiman's graphic novel, Endless Nights arrives in your local comic shop. It's a series of stories about the various members of the Endless family, each drawn by a different artist.

In other Endless news, Jill Thompson retells the events of Gaiman's Seasons of Mist from Death's point of view in At Death's Door. This manga style graphic novel will be released in July.

Do You Feel Empowered Yet?

Interesting article about the dubious feminism of female action movie heroes. The best line: "Why can't a female action hero be something more than Barbie with a gun? Why, in short, can't she be Buffy?"

Highlights from this Month's Sequential Tart

Sequential Tart is a very cool woman-focused web-zine about the comic book industry. The whole issue is great, but here are the best features for July:

*Chad Cunningham writes evocatively about his early experiences with comic books.
*A belated, but well-written wrap up of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
*Another BtVS wrapup, which focuses on what comic creators can learn about portraying women from Buffy. I don't agree with Lien-Cooper's assessment of the last 3 seasons, but otherwise the article is dead on.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Drop My Basket Index

40.5. Not a good day.

RIP Katharine Hepburn

Zadie Smith eulogizes Katharine Hepburn in grand style.

It's Not Nice to Be Smarter Than Other People

You know, this article from the Onion would be funny if I didn't know so many people who honestly think like this.

Trading Places

Heterosexuals have been adopting the best parts of gay culture for years now, while homosexuals are fighting for the right to join the military and get married, and having children in record numbers. This week's The Stranger features a series of very funny articles in which gay and lesbian writers argue that straights should have to take the bad with the good - Appropriate This!

The Mommy Wars

Why are parenting issues like natural childbirth vs. epidurals, breastfeeding vs. formula, and stay at home vs. work outside the home so divisive for women? Obviously there are some men who also get wrought up about these issues, but they're primarily right wing whackos who want to control every aspect of women's lives and are justifying it with loud cries of "What about the children!" Most of the energy expended on these topics is coming from women attacking other women's choices (men pretty much get a pass in these debates, as if they have no input in how their children are raised). Why is it that so many women are threatened by the idea of other women making different parenting choices?

I think Dawn Friedman has part of the answer when she writes, "When I was first home and was feeling so sad and defensive and angry that it was such a financial sacrifice, I thought that every parent ought to make the same choices that we did. When people told me that they couldn't afford to be home, I'd feel like my head was going to blow up. "We can't afford it either," I'd think, "And we're doing it!" I had a huge martyr complex about it. But now, stepping back from those difficult first years, I can see that just because someone can do it doesn't mean they should. We'll be paying for our decision forever. The loss of my income and my retirement is permanent and we're unlikely to catch up. I also think how hard it was for me -- truly convicted that our decision was the absolutely right thing for Noah -- and I think that for someone who doesn't have the same issues with child care that I do, the sacrifices wouldn't be worth it." We are all so deeply invested in our parenting choices (especially women, who are more likely to be defined by their roles as mothers than men are by their roles as fathers) - we've agonized over what the right choices are and we've frequently made sacrifices to do what we feel is best for our children. This makes the idea that we may have made the wrong choice very scary. And it's always easier to think you've made the right choice if everyone around you is doing the same thing. Black and white is much simpler than shades of grey. If other parents made different decisions then it can call into question whether you should have made the decision you did.

But here's the thing - these decisions can never be black and white. The ways we choose to parent our children are based on our own childhoods, our personalities, our children's personalities, all the varying circumstances of our lives. Each family's circumstances are unique, so "the best thing" for each family is going to be slightly different. It's a waste of time to compare our choices to other people's, because they are basing their choices on a different set of factors. We not only have to have the courage of our convictions to believe that what works for us is best for us, but we also have to trust other women (and men) to make the best decisions for their own families. Maybe then we can stop competing for Mommy of the Year and start supporting one another.