Sunday, November 19, 2006


Dear Friends:

I make this announcement with a sense of sadness: Playground Revolution is readying for hibernation. That means I'll be slowing down for a good long rest, and waking in spring with a new spirit and purpose.

I am starting work on a new book, which means I need to carve out time to write, and I need to be focused on fewer things. When I chalk up the tasks of my life, this is what I see:
a baby at home
an active 8-year old
a weekly seminar to teach
writing, correspondence and email
a part-time administrative job at a nearby university
a small business--MotherTalk-- that recently launched

not to mention:
a house
a yard that I love to till
a husband
a neighborhoodful of relationships

That's without counting my everyday share of the laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, and cleanup, not to mention the energy it takes to stamp down the mild dramas of everyday life. Writing a book about the labor of being a parent does not, no surprise, make that labor go away, even if it does help demystify it all.

Add my twelve hours of babysitting each week,
plus another nine of baby naps,
add untold late-night hours,
mix with my desire to spend afternoons with the girls;

Something has to give. Internet grocery delivery, my newest time-saver delight, helps some, as do paper plates. Still, I find myself needing to limit the sheer number of different things I do. I need to clear some space so I can focus on new directions, and so I can be calmer and happier with what's in front of me right now. In the two years of this blog I've published a book, birthed a new baby, and have experienced all sorts of personal things that haven't even reached the pages of this dear blog. To the extent that I've been part of raising political issues about mothering, parenting, and gender, I'm proud, and I look around now and see all sorts of people carrying on good work. I'm in good company, which also means I can take a well-deserved break.

Playground Revolution will stay open, should anyone wish to read through, search the archives, or otherwise muck around in what I've written over the past few years. If you're new to these pages, welcome, and enjoy.

My book The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars remains available almost everywhere, should you need my insights in book form. If you want to reach me, miriam at is a good way to get my attention.

If you sign in to (look to the right....), you're sure to be alerted when I post again.

The good news: I will continue to post 2-3 times each week at Everyday Mom, so in reality, we'll not be apart for long. Please, please follow me over there. It can be a bit hard to leave comments, but I'd love it if you did, just to know I haven't lost you all. Just follow the directions and it all works out.

Why there and not here, you might ask? Simply, because Everyday Mom is sponsored by Hyland Homeopathy, and they send me a check once a month. In my calculus of time and income, that's an economic reality that matters. I resisted refashioning Playground Revolution into an advertisement-driven, income-earning site. I wanted us to enjoy ideas without who-knows-what peering over from the left-hand column. I'm glad I did, but as we all know, good blogging takes time. I can't continue to keep up both with different content on each blog, so help me out and come on over to Everyday Mom.

When the political spirit strikes, I will blog at MomsRising.

About MotherTalk: Andi, Stacy and I are very excited about MotherTalk and the networks we are building. We've been organizing blog tours and literary salons around the United States, and Canada too, for authors of all stripes. We really believe in MotherTalk. Some of my favorite evenings over the past three years have been MotherTalks in DC and in Philadelphia. We love spreading MotherTalks, whether in the blogosphere or in a living room near you.

To add your name to our list of MotherTalk bloggers, or to our list of salon hosts, people who are open their living rooms to 30 friends and strangers and an author traveling through, for ideas and conversations that would not otherwise happen, write to me at miriam at We keep a MotherTalk blog that announces current and future tours, tells which authors we are representing. It will let you know if there's a salon coming to your neighborhood, and show you how to get involved. Help us spread the word and build community through books and ideas.

Please stay with me at Everyday Mom. Most of all, as I gather acorns and prepare for the Playground's winter sleep, I want to thank all of you for the sheer pleasure of your company, and for the happy luck of finding you in this huge world of ours. Thank you for the comments you've left, the emails you've sent, and the incredibly good blogs so many of you write, blogs that inspire and educate us, and which let us into your world. Thank you.

I really believe in the playgrounds, virtual and material, where we meet, talk, scheme, plan and envision. This work and play will continue for years to come. I'm so glad to be hanging out with each of you, pushing the kids on the swings while we think big and talk about the good future of the world.

Oh, and the revolution part. I've never been much of a messianist, you see. I grew up with tales about various European political revolutions and the supposed glory of it all, but that's never been my model. Personally, all that drama, all those people out in the streets standing in front of bulldozers and tanks...heroic, yes, but the next day? The moms are still getting the kids up for school, packing the lunches, still making it all happen. Where's the real change in that?

One of my mentors, Jean O'Barr of Duke University, impressed me with her vision of social and gender change that happens almost silently, apart from public view, in the backroom and the living room, in the exchange of conversations and the intangible flow of ideas, in the crevices of our families' rhythms, in the give-and-take of workplace relationships. Sometimes we see change in broad rallies and marches in the streets, sometimes through the judges in our courts and our government's new laws. There's change that's reported by our journalists and theorized by our scholars and discussed by all of us with our friends.

Change comes big, and change comes small, and all of it matters. Change enters the quiet corners of our lives and consciousness, until different sorts of decisions are made. Like that. This is the kind of revolution I've always imagined, the kind where you don't realize it's happened till you wake up one day and realize things are different, and you wonder how it all happened so quickly.

Let me end. Take care of yourselves, we inhabit our bodies and minds for a long time. Love your kids and your favorite people. Believe in the lives you are living, the witness to a better way that you are creating. Know that the legacy of gender can be changed. We've seen it happen before, and we are, I believe, in the long winter of making gender change once more.

Above all: don't forget to raise a fuss when a fuss needs to be raised. Bon courage, and know that we've all got your back.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Uproars about Breastfeeding

Last week, a woman was on a plane, child in tow. She sat in the last seat, next to the window, and breastfed her child. The cabin attendant, it seems, asked her to cover up with a blanket, and some series of exchanges took place which ended up with the woman being asked to leave the plane before take off. There's now a lawsuit, filed in Vermont, which is where the plane was headed. Vermont is one of the states that protects the legal right to breastfeed.

The MomsRising blog reports on this, and it's been all over several listservs, including the Mothers & More POWER loop. Breastfeeding, it seems, is the motherhood issue that time and again yields most easily to action. Perhaps it's specificity makes it easier to move to anger. In many cases, moms who know breastfeeding is protected legally in their state can allow themselves to get mad when they feel that a legally protected right has been trampled. It's easier to be outraged when you feel relatively protected than in some of the riskier acts of workplace insurgence. And often, there's a single person who has done you wrong: a barrista, a TV commentator, a cabin attendant. So many motherhood issues have such wide berth, and often no there's no specific person to blame, but instead, a wide network of attitudes and assumptions.

Because there's a history here, I'm posting here the pages from The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars about Maryland mother Lorig Charkoudian, and her focused anger and activism after a Starbucks barrista asked her to cease breastfeeding--and in an empty Starbucks, at that.

Here's from chapter seven, called, appropriately for this blog, "Playground Revolution":

... Small acts of change might look like Lorig Charkoudian and her fight to breastfeed in public. If Starbucks was once the literary staging ground for stories about overprivileged mothers relaxing after their morning gym routines, such tales took a markedly different turn at the Silver Spring, Maryland, Starbucks last July. Lorig was on a day off from her job as a mediator. She’d been visiting friends and running errands. At four o’clock she stopped at Starbucks to get a cold drink and a comfy, clean spot so the baby could nurse. Lorig and her child had settled into a chair in the nearly empty coffee shop when the barista stopped by their table and suggested she cover not just herself but the baby’s whole head, or take a chair into the bathroom and nurse there: “He suggested I take my baby to eat in the bathroom. No one should be asked to eat in the bathroom.

“I was stunned,” Lorig recalls. “I’d nursed her for fourteen months. I’d brought her to work with me for the first seven months, and nursed her in offices and conference rooms and meetings throughout the state. I’ve nursed her at church. I’ve nursed her at baseball stadiums. Only once was someone uncomfortable with this, and when he said something, we had a good conversation about it. I had heard other women tell stories about being asked to leave places, but it had never happened to me.”

Maryland is one of twenty or so states that legally protects women’s right to breastfeed with no restrictions or limits. Even if a woman shows lots of breast in public while she nurses, it’s legal and protected. “That’s the thing,” says Lorig. “Everyone assumes I must have been nearly naked. I wasn’t. I was covered up. All you could see was the baby’s head.” No one in the store had even complained—it turned out that a month before, a customer had complained, and the employees were now being extra careful to ward off nursing mothers.

“We try to keep our customers happy,” explained the Starbucks rep when Lorig asked to speak with the manager, and then the district representative, and eventually, the regional vice president.

“But what about breastfeeding mothers?” responded Lorig, and began a long discussion with Starbucks about breastfeeding and its virtues. The discussion was followed by letters to Starbucks officials—letters that asked, first, that Starbucks comply with Maryland law and train its employees accordingly, and second, that it adopt for its nearly six thousand coffee shops a nationwide policy that protects women’s right to breastfeed.

“It’s amazing to me now,” Lorig says. “But as committed to breastfeeding as I am, as surprisingly pleasant as breastfeeding had been, and despite how outraged I became, my first response, when they asked me to stop breastfeeding, was shame. It’s that sense of shame that’s the problem. When there’s shame associated with breastfeeding, women are less likely to nurse their babies or to nurse them as long as they want. Or they’ll feel cooped up at home while they nurse.”

When letters to corporate Starbucks yielded no response, Lorig wrote up a flyer for a Sunday, August 8, nurse-in and sent it round to all the parent listservs in the D.C. area. The nurse-in flyer spread, at the speed of many forwarded emails, around the region. “It was the easiest thing I’ve ever done,” says Lorig. She’d been involved in community projects in the past, especially on conflict resolution and mediation, but she had never organized a nurse-in. She found three other volunteers. With the help of a techie coworker they set up a website. They called print shops and asked how quickly they could print up stickers saying, “Can you drink that latte in the bathroom, I’m breastfeeding here.” Using examples on the Internet, they composed and sent out press releases.

Just before the nurse-in, Lorig received a letter back from Starbucks, apologizing for her treatment and telling her that Starbucks would set about training its employees to follow local law. Nothing was said about changing corporate policy. Though thankful for Starbucks’ small steps, Lorig felt that a company that claimed to be socially responsible should go further. Even Burger King has a nationwide policy, created in response to threatened protests a few years back. And, irony of ironies, the Starbucks Foundation supports and gives money to a breastfeeding advocacy group. The nurse-in became the launch of a national campaign to change Starbucks policy.
On the day of the nurse-in, the Washington Post, the local ABC affiliate, and the community gazette showed up to find nearly a hundred people gathered for the event. The Associated Press picked up the story from the Post, and Reuters reported it as well; news spread quickly throughout the country. Radio shows followed the next day, and Lorig appeared on CNN soon after. The debate raged in the Washington Post for a week, fueled by a particularly nasty style section piece that compared breastfeeding to picking your nose or farting in public, and follow-up letters, a political cartoon, and a supportive editorial.

It didn’t stop there, either. Kathie Sever, a clothing shop owner and mother in Austin, Texas, read about the nurse-in on’s list of action alerts. Excited, she sat down at her computer and sent a message about the nurse-in to her AustinMama listserv and included a link to, the homepage that Lorig’s techie coworker had drawn up. Within a few hours, four hundred Austin mothers read about what the Maryland mothers had done. So did Kim Lane, the editor of, who suggested online that the moms exercise their right to peaceable assembly and show support for breastfeeding mothers everywhere. Within days there was a nurse-in coordinator, a location, a time, announcement postcards, and stickers and handouts for the event itself. People emailed back to say they’d be there. Sixty people showed up at a Starbucks in Austin, Texas, as did the Austin Chronicle. The nursing mothers breastfed their babies. Others handed out flyers and talked to passersby. The Starbucks customers were receptive, curious, and outraged. They wanted a corporation that built its reputation and sales by being socially responsible to be truly responsive to mothers, too.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Stuntmother on Dorothy Parker

I'm loving Stuntmother's post today mythologizing of Dorothy Parker, because we all need fab role models to help us summon our courage and get out there to do our stuff in the world.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Crossposted from Everyday Mom.

Post-election day, and this will be my memory forever:

Waking up, my husband, who's been up for an hour, tells me the Democrats have taken the House, and that two Senate races are still too close to call.

NPR is turned on.

My oldest daughter, Samira, ambles in, wearing her fuzzy purple PJ's, and heaves herself over me to cuddle from the other side of the bed. I tell her what's going on, and that our family is happy about the new political turn.

We start to talk about how Nancy Pelosi will become the Speaker of the House. I tell her what an important position this is. We've been talking over the past few days about Congress, the Senate, the House of Representatives, though it's still a bit abstract. I tell her that Nancy's from San Francisco, and that rings a bell of familiarity. I tell her how our country has never had a woman in such a singularly powerful position before, how we've never had a chamber of Congress run by a woman.

And I thought to myself: never by a woman who is also a mother, who is also a mother, yes, of five children. At 66--the age that many Americans dream of retiring by--Nancy Pelosi is at her peak and moving ahead. I and so many women I know who are in our middle years, who had careers that zoomed quickly and moved fast, and which we assumed would follow the usual path journeyed by men, by mythical men who keep moving ahead (as opposed to real life men, whose careers too, often falter in middle age), here's yet another example of a woman who had major caretaking responsibilities, and in a few months will be Speaker. This adds extra inspiration to me, and probably to others of us who wonder whether life's public options peter out after these middle, caretaking years, or whether second and third acts lay ahead for us all.

And then we roused ourselves from the comfy pile of pillows and blankets, pulled on some clothes, woke the baby (I'm here to report that miss 4 am can now be called SlumberBaby--she has slept through the night twice in a row...), and headed downstairs to make breakfast, pack the day, feed miss SlumberBaby, and in every sundry way, begin the new day.

There will be tons of specific political commentary, today, over the next few days and weeks. But here at home, what matters is the new sense of hope and possibility.