Why I Want To Give Tina Fey A Big Hug

I was poking around on some news sites lately and came across an article delcaring that “Tina Fey feels Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pain” and I admit that I was intrigued. What I went on to read made me want to take the both of them and invite them over for a coffee and a hug. The article went on to quote an interview that Tina Fey did with InStyle magazine.

“Anytime you talk about being a working mother and you complain about it in any way, people eat your face.”

“I remember reading some interview where Gwyneth Paltrow said something like, ‘I missed my kids on the set one day and I was crying.’ And I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ve totally done that.'”

Not everyone is so empathetic.

“On the website where I read it there were these furious comments. ‘But you’re a movie star!’ Yes, it’s much worse for a mom serving in Afghanistan. Of course,” Fey said. “But there’s just no forgiveness.”

And isn’t that the truth.  Why do we as women allow ourselves to buy into this new cultural standard of motherhood as some form of competition? Why are stay-at-home mums better than working ones or working mums more fulfilled than those of us who stay at home with our kids (or any permutation of the above)? Why do we criticize mums who have nannies or other caregivers for their children? Why are we all still supposed to take on the lion’s share of raising the perfect child, keeping the perfect house and making the perfect meal at the end of the day?

I am so very lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of wonderful women who support each other instead of dragging each other down. We babysit each other’s kids when we can, we feed the kids pizza while we share a bottle of wine, we swap information and advice and reassurance. Some of us work, some of us don’t but there is no judgement about who is leading the better life or who is more fulfilled. Sometimes I pine for the days when I would put on a nice skirt and heels and head out to the office, just like they pine for the days when they were able to go to the park in the morning with their kids. We share those thoughts and then pour another glass of wine, smiling.

Here is what I think about Tina and Gwyneth. Yes, they are celebrities and they have scads of money so that they can have a personal trainer, a nanny, a chef and so on and so on. But really, how many of us wouldn’t jump at the chance to have those things? Would I hire a caregiver who could look after my kids for an afternoon while I went for a mani/pedi? Hell yes. Would I get somebody to cook my meals for me so that I could take the kids to the park and not have to come home and scramble because I forgot to defrost the chicken? Ummm, duh.

I love my kids and I have been both a working and a stay-at-home mum.  I couldn’t begin to judge which one was more difficult and each has its challenges and rewards. Gwyneth Paltrow is a working mum who has a job that sometimes takes her away from her kids for stretches at a time. Does she love her kids any less than my friend who has to take overnight business trips or any less than those of us who are often with our kids 24/7 and crave a break? Sounds kind of silly when you think about it that way, doesn’t it?

And really, in some ways, I feel sorry for celebrity mums because they get the double whammy. Not only are they supposed to be perfect mothers, doting on their children, but they are supposed to look perfect physically as well. They are supposed to be toned and coiffed and glowing no matter the circumstances or they will end up in the tabloids under a big headline reading “Is She Letting Herself Go?” They are supposed to appear in public with their children looking like the dutiful and caring mother with no nanny in sight or the headlines will read “So and So Parties While the Nanny Raises the Children.” That’s why celebrity mums are so often photographed lugging the two year old on their hip through the airport with the nanny skulking in the background. They would never hear the end of it if they actually passed the kid off for even a minute. And really, how many of us have breathed that sigh of relief when we have pawned our fussy kid off to our spouse or friend? Hell, I’ve been ready to hand them to perfect strangers at times to give my arms and brain a break. Does Gwyneth have that option? Of course not.

So, to Tina Fey I say “Kudos to you for sticking up for another mum.” I hear what you’re saying and I have a newfound respect and admiration for you for saying it.  Any time you want to come over for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine so that we can compare notes, just let me know. And bring Gwyneth with you as well.

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The Princess Ate A Pea (or not, in this case)

I was perusing the CBC website and came across this article about the soon to be princess Kate Middleton’s weight issues, which made me roll my eyes. But then I read it the article and just couldn’t let it pass without comment.

Kate Middleton’s weight in spotlight ahead of wedding – CBC News.

Now, I have to say from the get-go that I couldn’t give two hoots about the upcoming royal wedding, and the happy couple really hadn’t been on my personal radar until this moment. But as I read the article, I couldn’t help but think that this poor young woman must be ridiculously in love or is a total and complete masochist. She is signing up to have every aspect of her life and appearance scrutinized in a way that would drive most people around the bend.

Already we are hearing that she is apparently too thin on the lead-up to the big day. Now, if the CBC is telling us this, you can just imagine that the speculation in the British press is about a hundred times more prolific. Yes, the poor girl is apparently looking gaunt and, more importantly, made the mistake of saying something to the effect that it was ‘part of the wedding plan.’

I’m going to give Kat ethe benefit of the doubt and say that she didn’t really mean it that way. Maybe she’s just one of those people who doesn’t eat when they’re stressed. I have a friend like that and I simply can’t understand how stress doesn’t make you reach for that extra chocolate chip cookie, but maybe that’s just me. The really infuriating thing is that this is being reported at all. Why is this girl’s weight news? Why are we not talking about how Prince William is looking pretty bald lately? Can we remark on how he should maybe consider hair plugs?

Of course we won’t hear that. Or if we do, it will be out-reported 100 to 1 by how Kate is looking, whether or not she’s gaining or losing weight, and whether or not her shoes matched her handbag. Oh, and look out after the wedding because every time she has an extra crumpet at tea time, there will be reports of a royal pregnancy. Because that’s what it is to be a woman in the spotlight. You may have talent, intelligence, an outstanding career, be a philanthropist, an educator, or a CEO but if you are in the public eye enough for the press to take notice, it all comes down to your appearance. It’s a sad sad fact that women are still seen as objects, that we are dissected and picked apart feature by feature and told what is ‘wrong’ with us. And for somebody like Kate Middleton, who will be hearing it and seeing it every single day for the foreseeable future, I would hope that we, as women, will turn the page, turn the channel, or click away from stories that expect Kate and indeed all women in the public eye to live up to unattainable, unrealistic and ridiculous standards of some media created idealized womanhood. I know that I will.

A Toast To Some Amazing Women on International Women’s Day

I wanted to commemorate this day by honouring some of the awesome women in my family. The older I get the more I realize that it’s the modest accomplishments of so many ordinary women who inspire so many of us in our daily lives. Its their quiet strength that makes you realize that you are not alone and that others have been where you are and understand where you are going. So let’s raise a glass shall we?

To my Great Grandma who married at seventeen and had two daughters but was brave enough to leave her husband and start again back in a time when women were supposed to accept their lot in life. Her third pregnancy led to her second marriage (you go Nanny) and when she died well into her eighties she was still watching the Parliamentary channel every day, despite failing hearing and sight, so she could curse Brian Mulroney.

To my Grandma who raised a daughter and two sickly sons who were in the hospital more than they were out. She worked in a factory and still managed to put meals on the table, kept an immaculate house, and got back and forth to the hospital for visits and volunteer work. She also apparently threw a mean party, if those pictures from the mid ‘60s were anything to go by (picture a scene out of Mad Men in an east end Montreal living room). I remember her best as the Grandma who taught me how to bake and who always seemed to understand me in her understated way. Losing her a couple of years ago was the saddest day of my life.

And to my Mum who never finished high school but who is one of the smartest women I know. She didn’t have an easy life but she never stood in the way of my sister and I, even if she didn’t know how to help. I remember when I was little she worked from home doing telephone surveys with housewives and arranging to send them product samples. She did it with my sister and I underfoot, a poodle and a doberman running around, and she did it in French and English!! As I got older, there were babysitting and retail jobs to help make ends meet but she was always there , and that more than anything kept us on the straight and narrow through those turbulent teen years. I know that she could have been so many different things if she had ever felt she had the opportunity, and it’s for her that I strive to achieve my own dreams. One of my happiest days was giving her a second grandson on her wedding anniversary only about a year after losing my dad.

Lastly, to my little sister who is the bravest woman I know. She had three children and had been a stay at home mother for 12 years when she left her emotionally abusive marriage. Since then, she finished her university degree and is working two jobs to pay off the debt that her deadbeat ex has saddled her with. She is raising three fantastic children and somewhere in there found the emotional fortitude to start dating again and weather all the pitfalls and heartbreaks that entails. I wish I had half of her determination and compassion.

Those are the awesome women in my family but there are so many others I know and I promise that I will celebrate them as this blog goes along. I learn from each fabulous woman every day and they help to keep me strong. 

As for myself, I celebrated International Women’s Day in 2002 by giving birth to a 9 ½ pound baby boy. It was one of the happiest days in my life and as he gets older I am trying (and I really do think I’m succeeding) in making him a strong, compassionate, loving, man who will honour and respect the strong, amazing women who are already in, and who will come to be, in his life. To do any less would be a disservice to all those women who have made me the mother and woman I am today.

Confessions of an ’80s fashion fan

Almost two years ago now I celebrated my 40th birthday surrounded by a bunch of wonderful women who all bit the fashion bullet and trawled their local thrift shops, accessory stores and (some sheepishly confessed) their own closets, to dress like they had in the ‘70s, ‘80s or ‘90s. As we bopped all night to the karaoke machine that could be heard for blocks in my downtown Toronto neighbourhood (I was later told by the disgruntled husbands who were left at home while their wives partied) I couldn’t help but notice that, given the choice, almost all of us had on some form of ‘80s fashion. Oh sure, we were decked out in neon and really bad hairdos but fundamentally, we all looked pretty hot for a bunch of almost-middle-aged chicks.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was slipping on a new little ensemble that I had put together and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, I think I wore this outfit in 1985!’ And yet, it looked great. So this got me thinking about what had changed between then and now to get me into the kind of outfit I had sworn I would never ever revisit outside of wild, drunken, themed karaoke parties, and to convince some of you ladies out there that you can do it too.

First off, it’s a matter of cut. Back in the day, we were buying men’s shirts and sweaters, throwing a slouchy belt on it or maybe a pair of tights under it and voila.  Today, we have beautiful knits made to come down to mid-thigh. They fit in the shoulder and the sleeve. There’s room for a bust and not as much bulk at the waist. Try on a long sweater with a pair of leggings. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Second, I have to sing the praises of undergarments. How many of us owned a thong in 1985 (okay, never mind, I don’t want to know).  But really, get rid of the panty lines with some good undergarments either of the skimpy or of the substantially elasticized, holding it all in place variety, and you’ve got a lovely silhouette.

Third, is the wide elastic belt. This little accessory is enough to make a doubter into a believer.  There’s nothing better for concealing a muffin top, and they’re comfortable to boot. I would take a nice stretchy elastic around my waist any day over those horrible faux leather wide belts of the ‘80s that cut into your side every time you moved. My biggest tip would be go get a belt that fits generously though. Don’t try to use it to suck anything in because the belt will double up and fold on you. Not a good look.

Next, we must sing the praises of leggings and fitted skirts. The fabrics and styles we have to choose from now are staggering.  The leggings are thicker, the elasticization is not as extreme, the skirts are cut properly to come just above your knee instead of the ‘80s ‘just covering your bum’ style. Skinny jeans are infinitely forgiving as well. They give you a slimming silhouette while the denim smooths lumps and bumps and doesn’t cling as much as a legging would.

And lastly, the boots. Oh, the boots. They’re everywhere this year and they’re gorgeous. Modernize the look with a knee high black boot with a bit of heel. Face it, pixie boots and skirts are for those sweet young things we see at the mall. But pixie boots and a hot pair of leggings? Why not?

I think what I learned by looking at myself in the mirror is that I can take a look that I rolled my eyes at even a month ago and make it my own. Even something ‘80s inspired can be so very flattering when it’s done right, with a modern twist, and with all the knowledge of fashion and our bodies that we have gained since back-in-the-day. So give the ‘80s a bit of a whirl. But please, ditch the neon. That was never right!

Weight Watchers: Friend or Foe?

This is a subject that I’m really conflicted on. About three years ago, I decided to embark on my first ever diet (I’m not counting that brief time in my early teens where I supplemented snacking with a raging caffeine habit in the form of cups and cups of tea). I’m sure this would be surprising to a lot of women, particularly those who would identify them as lifetime plus-sizers like myself.  Most women I know, of every size, have at least a few diets under their belts (so to speak) by the time they hit 30. Why didn’t I?

Every woman on my mum’s side of the family is plus sized, and I was always one of the slimmest. At 5’8’ and averaging a size 16 in my adult life, my body was pretty proportioned and I could carry the weight less visibly. I had never experienced people making negative comments about my weight (until the Angry Skinny Chick incident that I wrote about a couple of posts ago) and I certainly never had helpful female relatives breathing down my neck to lose a few pounds “because we’re just worried about your health, dear.”

But, after two pregnancies and two humungous babies, I was feeling out of shape in a way I never had before. All of my extra weight was resting around my stomach and I was really feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. So, when my sister in law mentioned that she had joined the online branch of Weight Watchers, I decided to give it a try as well.

It made me look at food in a way I never had before. The thought of measuring out portions and figuring out point values was almost like a game to me because I had never worried about what I was eating before. Despite being heavy, I had never encountered a problem with my cholesterol or blood pressure and I went religiously every year for my full physical with the doctor. I had never been shamed for taking an extra portion or ordering desert in a restaurant and had grown up in a house where tea and “something sweet” was pretty much compulsory.

So, I cut back on what I ate and the first week I lost four pounds. I was hooked. After the first week and a half I started exercising more. I was already belly dancing once a week but as the weight dropped off, I would break into a jog on my way to pick the kids up from school. I would put on loud tunes and dance around the kitchen. People starting complimenting me and I was praising the virtues of Weight Watchers.

Then, after losing 30 pounds, I started to backslide. I’m an emotional eater and I had a lot of stress in my life. My wonderful Grandma passed away and that was devastating. I soon began snacking at night, telling myself it was only a little bit and it wouldn’t matter, but soon the pounds started creeping on.

So, here I am with still 6 pounds of my original 30 gone but I am conflicted about going back on Weight Watchers. I know that most people regain the weight, just like I did, but the fact is that I’ll be 42 in a month and I want to feel healthier. I think that those people who are heavy and happy, who love their bodies at any size, are simply fantastic. But for me, part of loving myself  is admitting that after a lifetime of being moderately overweight, I have health problems that come along with carrying the extra pounds. I have a chronic sore back, have gone through spurts with sore knees and achy hips, I have bunions, and am not as active as I would like to be.

I find myself trying to justify rejoining Weight Watchers since they have readjusted the way they calculate points. Every which way you turn, you can year Jennifer Hudson going on about how they are now encouraging health rather than weight loss. They want you to eat all the fruit and veggies you can with no point penalties and they no longer calculate food points by calories but by fat, protein, carbs and fibre.  The focus is on food quality rather than quantity.

On the other hand, I know that health at all size activists like Golda Poretsky or Jill Nash would tsk tsk me for falling back into that diet mentality of deprivation and obsession. Sigh. What’s a chubby mummy to do?

Here’s what my thinking is right now and I will certainly share my success or failure, although I do suck at admitting I’m wrong (you’ve been warned). I’m going to give Weight Watchers another try but with a different frame of mind. I think I do need to be mindful of what I put in my mouth. I’m a terrible nibbler and I will make my portions much bigger than they need to be, especially at dinner when there’s usually enough kid drama and distraction going on to get me to overeat to the point where I feel uncomfortable afterwards. I need to be reminded that I can nibble on blueberries in the middle of the afternoon instead of having some kind of baked good. Will I let myself feel hungry? Hell no. But I will keep track of how much I’m exercising compared to how many times I choose to eat some kind of fatty or salty treat. I’m also keeping my scale firmly under my bedroom dresser collecting dust because that’s where it belongs.

Will it work? Who knows.  Maybe I’ll become a point obsessed zombie with a shrine to Jennifer Hudson in the basement. Or maybe I’ll start to get healthier.  We’ll have to wait and see.