Acorn Baby

 By Rebecca Gingerich

“Hard work makes a mother.  We like to think something magical happens at birth, and for some it does; but, the real magic is keeping on when all you want to do is run.”

— Call the Midwife (‘Nurse Phyllis Crane’)

The dust has settled, the smoke has cleared, and here I sit as a completely different person from who I once was.  Anyone else out there with a difficult second born child?  Based on the many conversations I’ve had with mothers, this seems to be the going trend.  The experience I had with my second born son forever changed me for the better…eventually.

Nursing Mother and Child, Pablo Picasso

The default temperament of this baby was misery.  Pure and sheer misery.  The constant cries literally brought me to my knees most days, as overwhelming levels of anxiety washed over every bone in my body.  I would have emotional breakdowns every couple of months while I waited out the chaos, hoping he would magically snap out of it once he could eat solids…or sit up…maybe when he could crawl…or when he could walk..or God forbid, would I have to wait until he could talk??  These milestones proved to show no sign of improvement to his miserable little self.  The neediness and the constant cry for attention drove me to the ground.  Survival mode was my closest friend for the first few years of this little boy’s existence.  

“What we can’t handle or manage, we don’t like..”  

— Stan Tatkin

During these initial years, I did not like my second born — and that was a hard pill to swallow.  What made matters worse is my firstborn child had to witness the gradual decline of his once content, stable, and self-controlled mother.  I sadly recall a very difficult day when I lost my temper and was yelling at the baby to stop crying (not my best mommy moment).  I turned around to see my four year old son walk to his bedroom and close the door behind him.  I proceeded to follow him, gently opened the door, and saw him lying on his bed with his fingers firmly shoved into his ears.  To this day, this memory brings tears to my eyes.  I swiftly came to his side and apologized for my emotional outburst.  I told him I would do better.  Going forward, I did my utmost best to venture off alone somewhere in the house when a private ‘freak out’ session was in order.  Looking back, it was such an added blessing to have my firstborn child with me; it definitely helped keep me going, and gave me purpose outside of the universe of ‘cranky baby’.

“The purpose of life is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant.” 

— Jordan Peterson

In the midst of this trying season, I managed to stumble upon Jordan Peterson, who is a well renowned clinical psychologist.  I watched one of his many Youtube videos, and randomly found his talk about ‘The Big Five Personality Traits’ (one of them being agreeableness vs disagreeableness).  This peaked my interest, as I am typically a less agreeable person by nature.  I learned that the majority of agreeable people on the planet are indeed women.  He stated, “..you’re wired to be exploited by infants”.  I then began to laugh and thought to myself, “YES, that is exactly what my little ornery baby is doing…he is exploiting me!”  Right then and there a revelation was born — I am not agreeable; therefore, I am not easily exploited; therefore, I am losing my mind because I have absolutely no control over my current situation.  It was a ‘light bulb’ moment that greatly helped me understand myself in the context of motherhood.  And I guess it’s no surprise that I gave birth to a child with a temperament very similar to my own (which my husband conveniently reminds me of every so often).

“‘Child’, said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story…I tell no one any story but his own.’”

— The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis

Before this insightful self-awareness kicked in, I did experience pockets of wondering, “What is wrong with me?”…“Why can’t I adapt to this child’s temperament?”…“Why do I lose my cool so easily?”  Now, it’s important to note that just because I am less agreeable, this obviously never excused bad behaviour.  I never leveraged my temperament to promote a lack of self-control; instead, it meant I had to work very, very hard to try and maintain a healthy level of self-regulation, especially during the first few years of my second baby’s life.  

“..give thanks in all circumstances..” 

— 1 Thessalonians 5:18   

I also wrestled with the comparison game.  Some days I felt like a ‘lightweight’ mom.  Here I had a healthy baby boy — what the heck was I complaining about?  I initially dismissed my feelings of anxiety and stress, as there were mothers out there who were dealing with much more stressful situations than my own.  I thought, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”…”I shouldn’t be struggling as much as I am”.  Thankfully, throughout all of these moments of self-doubt, my older sister helped me understand that we cannot compare our suffering to others (and this was coming from a mother with a child who has Type 1 Diabetes).  She knew a struggle far deeper than my own; yet, she helped me acknowledge and accept that just because my pain and suffering was not as severe as someone else’s, my feelings still mattered, and they needed to be expressed and worked through.  How freeing this was for me!  In fully embracing these negative emotions, I was able to mourn my own personal suffering, and then ultimately I was able to gain perspective and see the blessings that surrounded me each and every day.  This was a wonderful balance that gave me a vast sense of self-acceptance, as well as a genuine heart of gratitude.  

“You will come to know that what appears today to be a sacrifice will prove instead to be the greatest investment that you will ever make.” 

— Gordon B. Hinckley

Oak Leaves and Acorns, Leonardo da Vinci

To my great and utter joy, this very difficult stage did not last forever.  Eventually, my strong-willed boy reached an age where communication, consistency, and firm discipline helped restore most of the control I had originally lost.  I vividly remember that beautiful spring day, walking with my two boys along a nearby scenic route.  My second born was now three years old, and life was progressively getting easier (and more positive) in regards to my relationship with him — things were looking up!  

As we were slowly meandering along, he stopped to look at some rocks along the path.  I waited for him as he explored the environment, and then I noticed he picked something up.  I walked over to him and asked him what he had found.  He held up his prized possession and exclaimed, “A heart!”  I stooped down and inspected the object in his hand.  It was half an acorn, and the inside resembled just as he had described it — a heart.  He then extended his little arm towards me and proceeded to give me his “heart”.  I couldn’t help but see the metaphorical significance this precious moment had offered me.  My boy was an acorn.  The hard, rough exterior represented the extremely difficult stage of his infancy.  But with time, the outer shell cracked, and deep within, the heart (at last) exposed itself.  The clouds had separated, and I could finally see the light.  A new chapter had begun.  

While we journeyed back home that afternoon, the tears streamed down my face as I firmly held half of that little acorn in my hand.  I had arrived.  I had survived.  Hallelujah, I had reached the depths of my little boy’s heart.

-Rebecca

What’s With That Gender Pay Gap?

From Guest Author Rebecca Gingerich

“Whenever only one sex wins, both sexes lose.”

— Warren Farrell

Ain’t that the truth?  From where I stand, it seems us humans have been stuck playing a rather unproductive game of ‘tit for tat’ for far too long now.  Within our highly politicized society, the idea of traditional gender roles and responsibilities has progressively become more and more offensive to consider, let alone talk about.  So, let’s stir the pot for a moment, shall we?

The word ‘feminism’ has a lot of different meanings and therefore evokes various connotations, depending on the person you talk to.  A political activist and journalist by the name of Gloria Steinem said, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of men and women”.  The majority of us can agree with this statement, as it validates equal human value and promotes the dignity we all inherently possess.

The next word that comes forward in today’s society is the term ‘equity’.  This has become a relative term with a confused conclusion for most of us.  The dictionary’s definition is: “The quality of being fair and impartial”.  So, we then begin to ask ourselves: what does the word ‘fair’ really mean?  Does it mean that we treat everyone the exact same?  Does it mean that if we did treat everyone the exact same, we’d see perfectly even results across the board in regards to areas such as gender representation and salary?

The above questions have us then stumble upon the ‘gender pay gap’ study. The findings of this study are based on the average difference of workplace earnings between the sexes. And naturally, some will attribute men making more money than women to sexism. But, do these findings actually represent gender discrimination?  On a side note, women are currently over-represented within post-secondary institutions, which tells us this gap is certainly not due to a lack of access to higher education.  

So, does this study take into consideration personal/lifestyle choices each gender group generally makes throughout the span of a lifetime (e.g., hours worked, parental leaves, field of work, qualifications, ect.)?  Could it possibly be that men and women make different choices in various areas of life, which in turn affect the differences in pay?  It is definitely a complex situation with many different variables at play, which begs the question: can a general statistic like this one ever thoroughly and accurately explain its findings?

“Men and women aren’t the same. That doesn’t mean they can’t be treated fairly.” 

— Jordan Peterson

I distinctly remember learning the proper definition of the word ‘equity’ when I was in college many moons ago.  We were taught that everyone has equal value and should have the same opportunities in life; however, there was the acknowledgement that each individual has a unique set of needs that require varying approaches and result in varying outcomes.  The same is true of parenting.  

A couple of years ago, my husband and I were visiting another couple who also have children.  We got on the topic of parenting styles, and how drastically different each child can be compared to his/her siblings.  Our friend jokingly said, “I just treat them all equally the same”.  I piped up and playfully responded with, “And now, they’re all equally screwed up!”  We all laughed and then the conversation progressed to what specific strategies work best for each of our individual children.  We didn’t discuss which one of our kids was our favorite, or which one we treated better than the others.  We all would have wholeheartedly agreed that we love each of our children equally, and we have their best interest at heart even though we do treat them differently based on their specific needs in any given situation.  

“..if you leave men and women to make their own choices you will not get equal outcome.”

— Jordan Peterson

This brings us to equal opportunity versus equal outcome.  If we believe that equal outcome is indeed possible through the means of fair treatment, then we have completely missed the boat.  Society’s obsession with obliterating differences between the sexes has enforced an impossible mission that won’t rest until a 50/50 gender quota has been reached in any given vocation.  My husband and I are a perfect example of how sexism is not driving these pay differences.  I am a qualified elementary school teacher and my husband works as a full-time pastor.  If I had chosen to become a full-time teacher shortly after graduating university, by now my salary would definitely be higher than his.  However, because I decided not to follow a full-time career, my husband makes significantly more money than I do each year; so, is this sexism or is it equity?  On paper, it could look very much like sexism, but if you actually sat down with me and asked for clarification, you’d find out that I had all the same opportunities as my husband; but I chose differently, based on my own set of needs and desires as a woman.

“Feminism is doomed to failure because it is based on an attempt to repeal and restructure human nature.”

— Phyllis Schlafly

Is it just me, or is extreme, modern day feminism trying to bury the differences between men and women in order to convince the world that women can instead be just like men, or wait for it… maybe even better?  We are fooled into thinking that whoever brings home more “bacon” wins the superiority contest.  North American society has lost sight of our God given responsibility to work as a united front within the context of marriage; we all have a different part to play. Sadly, greed and society’s power hungry definition of ‘success’ has and continues to consume each and every move many of us make.  

“Men and women have roles – their roles are different, but their rights are equal.”

Harri Holkeri

Well, where do we go from here?  How do we navigate through a world that tantrums like an unruly two year old when things aren’t perfectly cut down the middle every time in every scenario, especially in areas such as the workplace?  When will society wake up and start realizing (and even celebrating) the differences between men and women?  When did it all become about the money?  Why do most women not feel validated unless they have (or are striving towards) a career?  Why does motherhood seem to be the very last item on a young woman’s to-do list?  

“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”

— C.S. Lewis

Now, do I think that women shouldn’t have careers? No.  Do I think that women shouldn’t pursue higher education?  No.  Do I think that all women should have children?  No.  What I do think is if a woman and her husband eventually decide to start a family, her priorities have a good chance (but not always) of changing in regards to her previous involvement within the workforce.  She might want to scale back on hours, extend her maternity leave, decline a promotion, or she might even quit her job altogether.  There are so many things she might actually want to do that will inevitably reflect poorly on the all too powerful ‘gender pay gap’, which assumes women must be oppressed if the numbers are not equal in terms of workplace earnings.

Motherhood can also lead to interruptions in women’s career paths and have an impact on long-term earnings.”

pewresearch.org

I understand that it is very difficult these days to get by on just one income within the household; my family is no exception.  I am required to work part-time in order to help support my family.  Most women are sitting in this same boat with me, while many others are required to pursue full-time employment.  This is life, this is reality.  However, it troubles me when our society seems to think a woman earning and/or working less than her husband is somehow unjust.  What a potentially damaging mindset — all in the name of money and workplace status.  We wouldn’t bat an eye if the husband decided to cut down his hours at work to help take care of the kids; but, when a woman does it, statistics will enthusiastically proclaim from the mountaintops, “Gender discrimination!!”

“Women leave the labour market during crucial years, setting them substantially back in labour market terms. They decide to take time out to have and raise children … perhaps moving to more flexible work or less demanding jobs.” 

— Ben Southwood (Adam Smith Institute)

With all that said, I believe in order to achieve true gender equality, we must first acknowledge that gender differences do indeed exist.  Then we must accept the fact that men and women often make different choices, as both groups carry varying responsibilities throughout life.  This in turn will affect many facets, including earnings at work.  Now, are there ever exceptions to the rule?  Of course.  After all, we are complex beings with some wiggle room in regards to roles and preferences.  However, my point here is that the overall pay difference is not a result of gender discrimination, but rather the result of different paths taken between the sexes.  

“When men and women are able to respect and accept their differences then love has a chance to blossom.”

John Gray

“Life is not a competition between men and women.  It is a collaboration.” 

— David Alejandro Fearnhead

At the end of the day, let us begin to lean into this reality, and start validating the hard work many women tirelessly demonstrate outside of the workplace.  May we bring dignity back to humanity, and start affirming the things that really matter in this world.  Let a pay check be a pay check; a means to feed and clothe our family (a noble task in itself, no doubt).  Once and for all, let the gender wars end, and may both sexes come back to the table as true partners in life.  

By Rebecca Gingerich