Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ehtics in 2050

Dunkelman's book, the Vanishing Neighbor, poses and answers several important questions in its pages. But he doesn't answer every question. That would make the book wander off into uncharted unnecessary territory. One of these issues is the general appearance of ethics and social morality in 2050. Ideally, ethics doesn't change. What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. It shouldn't matter what changes around you, but that is not true. In fact, Dunkelman points out two types of ethics that the nation has embraced. The founding fathers ascribed to a work ethic, and many continue to pay lip service to it. However, in the 1950's a "social ethic" rose to begin replacing it. For reasons explained in the book, the social ethic is slowly eroding, but going back to the work ethic will not function either.

So what will replace it?

I am calling my theory "the ethics of isolated toleration." Dunkelman discusses the idea that we are sorting and segregating ourselves along lines that we find currently acceptable. For some this remains race, for most socioeconomic status, for others it is a lifestyle. We don't care what others do as long as we don't have to see it. However, the moment that we have to see it we get uncomfortable. If we are truly tolerant, then we metaphorically close our eyes until we are behind our protective walls. We may not like what they are doing and it is making us uncomfortable, but they have every right to be doing it. If for some reason, a moral opposition does exist, then it should be presented as such, with support. Then the public gets to decide whether to tolerate it a not.

On the other hand, if we may be intolerant at heart, but do not wish to see our intolerance. If this intentional blindness is correct, then we demand that the things that make us uncomfortable go far away from us. The distance allows us to build our private playgrounds where we want to. After all, if we did not find the act or the object offensive on our playground, we wouldn't create a problem.

Which one sounds more like today's world?

To me, our world currently looks like the second one. College students send up a social media ruckus because a literary text in a class contains a trigger word. Statistical minorities scream for better treatment.

In the first case, I have an initial question: If class has not started, how do you know which texts have the trigger words and which don't?

Let's assume that has been answered to my satisfaction. Now, instead of avoiding the class (which may not be possible due to the requirements of the major), you could speak to the teacher, the department head, and the dean before the media about alternative texts, assignments, and plans. Also, if you want other people to accommodate you then you better be working on getting over your issues.

Conversely, as long as the student is showing that she (or he) is being treated for the trauma that caused the trigger then the school should work with the victim. However, if the student is not seeking help to work through the traumatic event, then the school should not be under any obligation to help the student.

The other subject - the statistical minorities being louder than the masses - is a very touchy subject. However, I think I can make my point about our walled isolation gardens and what happens when we step outside of them using two examples. One will be from Dunkelman's book and the other from current media.

Dunkelman points out that technological magic allows a racist, sexist white guy to willingly and comfortably sell a baseball card, or any other thing, to a black woman who lives just down the street or on the other side of the world. The immutable facts of the buyer's life never have to be known to the seller, and vice versa. In this manner, we are isolated but still productive.

On the other hand, several recent news stories depicted a homosexual couple trying to buy a wedding cake from a small business that held to strict Christian principles. The company in question refused, and the story went to the media. For the purpose of this essay, it is not pertinent which side you believe to be correct. The relevant part is whether this would have happened if the cake transaction could have occurred like the baseball card sale. If neither the buyer nor the seller had to reveal polarizing details about themselves, would the cake have been sold without any fuss at all? I think it would have.

When not confronted with details about a person, we assume that the individual fits into our idea of "good people," thus being tolerant. However, when we do see those details - by accident, by choice, or by force - and the person does not conform to "our ways" we send up a hew and cry about how it isn't okay. Depending on the who, the what, and the why the brouhaha may be termed acceptable or unacceptable. These factors will also help determine how viral the issue goes.

Is that ok? Is it okay to appear tolerant and accepting when we can hide our ignorance behind technology? Is it permissible that we stop trying to eliminate the heart of bigotry because the data says that more cross-cultural interactions occur today than in the past? Is it ok to hide pieces of ourselves, even from ourselves?

More to the point, what happens when a catastrophe tears those walls down, and forces us to confront the reality of other people? The ethos of "isolated toleration" is slowly taking over, and it looks good on paper. Is it really what we want?

If it is, then how do we avoid the problems presented by catastrophes and isolated toleration? If it is not then how do we change it? What do we replace it with?

Personally, I don't like it.

Isolated tolerance is lazy, misguided and a giant step backward. It is lazy because no one works on a tough area of self-improvement. They only have to improve in those areas they want to improve. Acceptance, cooperation with people of different viewpoints, self-control in the face of something one finds inappropriate, and similar social skills don't need to be worked on. This is because nothing we see is out of line with how the world should work, in our opinion.

Isolated toleration is misguided. It presupposes that the world will continue to structure itself to our needs and wishes. The world is not static. It is constantly changing, and it has never ordered itself to our purposes. We have to adapt to it, and when we try to force it to do so bad things happen. Anyone remember seeding hurricanes?

I can see isolated toleration becoming the standard practice. I do not like it or agree with it, even though I am sure I practice it to some degree. The policy of you don't interfere with me, and I won't mess with you is a good idea, but when bolstered by technology is a terrible plan. Right now, I don't know how to change it, or what to replace it with.

Any ideas?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Why High school?

Every teen wonders, "What 's the point of high school? "at some point. Usually, this question is accompanied by the phrase "I'm never gonna use this!" and unfortunately they are generally right. However, there are several purposes for high school. Some of them obsolete, some of them obscure, and some of them new and shiny.

The original and still the most focused upon reason is to impart knowledge to the young. However, for regular school, this reason is no longer a great one. Much of the information that students learn in school is available online and easily googled. The rest of the information is often quickly forgotten. This often leaves students asking "Why?" Algebra, Biology, Chemistry, History, the advanced English courses are a lot of information for just a little gain.

The fix for this is simple - teach students what they need for when they get into the real world. There are two aspects to this. The first issue is preparing the students for a job. The other aspect is to prepare the students for the realities of life.

Many school systems are now tackling the first, by providing "tracks" in high school that lead to entry qualifications for a variety of jobs that have quite a bit of upward mobility. These paths include things like nursing, welding, military service, and more. These often drop or exchange some of the traditional senior classes to fit in the necessary classes. They also have "college bound" tracks, which look like the traditional high school career.

However, they are not addressing the second problem. No classes were ever actually designed to prepare students for dealing with the realities of life, but the old home economics and cooking classes provided the barest hint at it. The traditional thought behind these two courses is that school was preparing women to take their place as wives and mothers, which is why they went the way of the way of the Dodo in most schools.

Everyone needs to know how to cook some basics. The cooking class should cover some things that make healthy, fast, easy meals on a budget without destroying one's kitchen. I would make this a full year course, with following courses that lead to the start of culinary school.

Home economics should more appropriately be titled Household Management. Several topics should be taught in this class. How to clean everyday household objects like a dishwasher, and a washing machine. This class should also instruct students on how to schedule and track these cleanings and services over the course of a year. This applies to things that they can do, as well as things that they may need to have outside help brought in for - how often to change the oil in a car, taking care of the lawn or outside of the building.

A third class should be all about adult finances. They used to call it balancing a checkbook. Most people no longer use a physical checkbook, they look at their statements online using computers and cell phones. However, versions of checkbooks have become complex enough that eighteen year olds sometimes struggle to read them. That's not the only financial topic that needs to be covered
either. Debt management is another large one; as is basics of housing and paying the bills. Debt management is something that would help more kids avoid bankruptcy. Paying the bills should cover the benefits and disadvantages of automating, budget planning, and managing
the normal payments in a crisis. The final major financial topic to cover should be planning for the future-college, marriage, career upsets, retirement, and death. Finances and outside institutions also need to be taught. These include taxes, and buying cars as well as buying or renting a house. What rights the consumer has and which responsibilities should also fall under this topic.

Parenting should be its own separate class, a fourth class. This should cover taking care of a newborn all the way up to dealing with someone who is their age. Things like shaken baby syndrome, how to talk to a toddler, and more.

English, math, science, and social studies are all required. Four years of each are recommended for those seeking college. Why not 4 years of "life skills" classes? All of these are topics that I learned a little bit the hard way after leaving the school system. (Luckily I didn't learn them the hard way). These used to be taught in the home. However, due to smaller family size, the necessity of two-parent incomes, and the constantly changing rules regarding some of these things they are better taught in school.

So-life skills are and important content area that has almost no classes attached to it in school. Those content areas reveal the second reason for high school. The second reason is to help students find out what they want to do with their lives. The variety of classes it to help students finally determine what they want to be when they grow up and then narrow it down. The problem with this is that teachers teach the content, not what you can do with it. Students should be exposed to the content, but also what careers are in the field. There's always more than you think. And yes, you have to get through the basic stuff to get to the fun stuff, but if you don't know the fun stuff is there are you really going to want to learn the basics?

The third reason that schools exist has ebbed greatly in the last few years at least in America. This is indoctrination. Most historically the idea is "We are the greatest country, ours is the best. All other countries should be like us." During the Cold War it moved from country to ideology: "Democratic countries are wonderful. Communism is evil." Today, this point has stretched to the idea that "All humanity is good. Everyone should love all humanity. If you believe the old way, then you're an idiot."

Let me be clear: I don't agree with indoctrination, but I do believe it was one of the original purposes of any public education system. After all, if you teach them to love you when they are young, then they will love you for life.

What I think should replace indoctrination are open, no sources barred, no final right answer, conversations with multiple teachers. This type of class presupposes a couple of things. The first is that students and teachers alike have the self-control to remain calm throughout the conversation. It also means that students must be able to evaluate their sources, both external and internal. We teach evaluating external sources, but not personal ones. Teachers would have to consciously grade students on the quality of their sources, not their stance. English teachers already do this to some extent, but it would have to be spelled out and strictly adhered to for this type of class to work.

The fourth reason for high school is to teach cooperation, tolerance, self-discipline, and a whole host of other unfocused but necessary virtues. Most teachers do try with this one. They assign homework, projects, and other things that get students complaining. However, the teachers are hampered by two things, one internal and one external. The internal one is that they are still focused on teaching subject area content to their students, the ideas of cooperation and self-discipline are barely touched upon. Part of this is external - students must be able to pass the exams necessary to graduate. These are often content heavy, so that is where the teacher focuses.

The other reason they are hampered is external. Parents and well meaning communities want what is best for children to grow up happy. Thus, when they see a student frustrated and struggling they put up an outcry. Kudos for wanting to help, but without a little struggle and frustration there are some lessons that we just don't internalize. Getting through the frustration and the efforts in a school environment where it can be corrected is safer than letting it wait until students enter the real world.

The final reason is, of course, to corral all those who are not yet able to be productive members of society due to age. That way they don't get hurt or into trouble.

Teaching what students need, exposure to a variety of life paths, indoctrination, general life lessons, and safety are all reasons that high school exists. Unfortunately, our current society and bureaucracy put up roadblock after roadblock to doing them correctly. In addition, the institution of education has not caught up with the ability of our times, technologically and socially. There is no one size fits all fix, but these are some ideas to get us thinking.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Henry's Reads

There are the books
in the background.
Henry already loves to read. We have a growing collection of books on the shelf that we've purchased on sale. Also, both sides of the family have sent us books for him. However, I will save our personal bookshelves for discussion during the move. While we can, I have been getting books out of the library to read to Henry. I still do the picking at the library. I try to choose a variety of books, usually between eight and ten, to read to him for the next few weeks.

However, once home the baby is not a passive participant in the reading. After lunch, I suggest reading books and he lights up with big smiles and lots of wiggling. Once we settle in, I offer him two books. He looks from one to the other and back again before putting both hands on one of the books. It is not the position; he chooses the left, and right evenly I concede that it may be color, but sometimes his favorite book of the set is a single neutral color on the front.

After he chooses a look we begin reading. Henry looks at the pictures with big eyes and up at me with big smiles. When appropriate I point to one of the characters and refer to him as Henry, Daddy, or myself. He smiles and taps the book when he begins to recognize "himself," a Will or I. When we finish a page he helps me turn it. Yes, sometimes the pages get a bend or a small tear from his flailing, overeager attempts to help. If it's a little thing that can be pressed out, I say nothing, if something more permanent happens I tell him to be kind to the books and continue. If we turn a page successfully, I say that he was a real help. That always makes him smile as well. When we finish a book, I set it aside, and he is already looking at the rest of the books. Right now we have eight books from the library. Some he loves, and some he never chooses.

The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town by Mary Casanova, illustrated by Ard Hoyt is his first western, but it is also about the joy of reading. The first couple of times through he fidgeted. However, I kept reiterating that they were reading books, and now he picks it quite frequently. This would be a good one to use in ESL classes because it shows American culture, teaches that reading is fun and has some excellent movement to it. Plus, the pictures are sophisticated enough for older kids and both they and the story can be used for some creative projects and lesson plans.

The Great Divide: A Mathematical Marathon by Dayle Ann Dodds, illustrated by Tracy Mitchell is neither Henry's nor my favorite. He occasionally chooses it, but not often. This story is about a race, and through the journey, they keep cutting the racers in half. The pictures are too complicated for Henry and though I can put excitement into my voice, this story he understands less than others. Mostly, there is just confusion. This would be an excellent interdisciplinary activity to introduce division with.

Pirates Love Underpants by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Ben Cort is one that he enjoys, but "he" isn't in it. This one is just silly. If he was old enough to understand it, he would probably laugh hysterically. He isn't, so he just smiles at the pictures. It did prove to me that I need to read through the books before reading them to him so that I don't stumble over the words. My six-month-old may not know many words, but he can tell when I stumble over them.

Ten Oni Drummers by Matthew Gollub, illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone has a "henry-figure" in it, but he only appears once. Mostly, he is the narrator counting up the oni and telling us their purpose. In case you didn't know, oni are Japanese demons. However, these one are good. The story explains, read it. The book also teaches counting to ten in Japanese, both orally and in writing. I enjoy reading this one to Henry.

Clark the Shark, Afraid of the Dark by Bruce Hale, illustrated by Guy Francis is a character I would expect to see on Nick Jr. or the Disney little kids stuff. Henry enjoys it. He gets a big smile when I make the sound effects. It has also given me some blog ideas. Hopefully those will show up soon.

When the Library Lights Go Out by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson is the one we haven't finished this time. It is a longer, more complex story than Henry is ready to sit through. I have even stopped offering it to him. However, this is another picture book that could spawn or introduce a whole set of lessons.

Wild Feelings by David Milgrim is one of Henry's favorites because there is a Henry figure on almost every page. Plus, the text is short. If Henry is active it lets us turn pages quickly, but if he's content to sit and listen then I can point out Henry's figure and say when he feels like that character. For example one of the pages is "sad as a lost kitten in the rain," I always say that he was sad when I was in the hospital. I know he doesn't understand everything I'm saying, but I try to get the ideas across. I would have loved to use this one with my older kids in Korea to see what animals and emotions they associate. More lesson plans!

Hungry Monster ABC, An Alphabet Book by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger is our last book. For some reason, I feel like Granny used to have one of the Hungry Monster books for her school. Anyway, this one is good. Henry enjoys the images and it exposes him to the alphabet, but he doesn't really have a frame of reference (school) for it yet. I may try to find a copy after he starts preschool in a few years and try it again.

I know Henry is too young to understand most of the stories. He just enjoys spending time with me. But I think Henry is learning about language when I read. Plus, it also gives him a chance to practice choosing things even if he doesn't understand what he is doing yet.  I'll post Henry's next set of books after our next trip to the library.

Please leave a suggestion of a title that I could read to Henry.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

All We See, Is All We Want to See

Many hold up the 1950's as an idyllic time. Naysayers tout that we have much better tolerance in all sort of directions. You're both right, but not for the reasons that you think.

I'm reading a The Vanishing Neighbor by Dunkelman, and he discusses this at length, but not in quite the same light. The 1950's had more public intolerance than today, but today has its set of problems.

However, in the 1950's a lack of technology and activities forced us into contact with people and ideas with which we did not necessarily agree. On the other hand, we have the ability to reach out and communicate, to learn from, and talk to an even larger variety of people with today's technology.

But we don't.

We choose, consciously or not, to associate with like minded people. Before what Toffler and Dunkelman call "The Third Wave," ignoring or blocking out other people's opinions meant that they knew we were doing so, and often they could do something about it. Those with a strong will and conviction in their beliefs did. Today social media apps let us block, ignore, unfriend, mute, and otherwise silence the things we don't want to see or hear. Social media is getting more and more sophisticated about it too; making the decisions even less conscious. If we interact with stripes, they show us more stripes and fewer polka dots. If we dislike something floral but favorite something plaid, we see less florals and more plaids until our entire "newsfeed" fills with stripes and plaids.

Is that really "news" if all we are seeing, is all we want to see?

Dunkelman points out that this goes past our digital lives and into the real world. The researchers who discovered it call it "the Big Sort," and Dunkelman agrees. The neighborhoods where we work, play, and live are homogeneous in at least one aspect. It could be race or socioeconomic status (class), which are the traditional two. It may also be a lifestyle - homebodies, families with kids, partiers, hipsters, or more. Even outside of the Capital are two nearly identical neighborhoods, conservatives in one, and progressives in the other.

So, if we live and play, and even work, amid people who have something so utterly essential in common, then when do we interact with people who have a fundamental difference from us?

We don't.

There are exceptions. The family that goes to the soup kitchen regularly in their Mercedes. The college student who babysits for large families. But if you look closer, I bet there is something in common. Maybe before they get the Mercedes, Mom and Dad had to patronize shelters. Carol College probably comes from a large family, which gives her the experience to babysit for one, even of she would rather party.

The incidents of discrimination have lowered, but not because society is changing. They are lower because we can build the world we want to see around us, blocking out what we don't.

Wouldn't it be better to work together to create a world we all want to see? Are you strong enough to seek out and confront diversity? How will you do so today?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Return to Normal

Today is the first day in three weeks that we have a relatively normal schedule back. Will is at work, Robert at school, Tiny and I are home alone.

Today I have already been more productive than I was during my recovery. Most of that is the five in the morning start that I get when Will has to go to Physical Training. I got dishes washed, laundry in the washer, fed and played with Henry, put the dishes away, moved the laundry, and now I am writing this blog. All by ten in the morning. Next up is another load of dishes, which should catch us up. Also, putting away the three loads of clean laundry sitting in the living room. There is always more to do.

A second major factor in getting things done today is Henry being on formula. He eats faster on the formula and bottle than he ever did at the breast. When Henry finishes the bottle, I know that my baby has had a full breakfast and can transition him to play. Then when he goes down for a nap. He sleeps deeply for a long time so that I have a chance to do something for me, and something for the house.

As our schedule gets more solidified I will share it in a few weeks.

Will has returned to work today. There is not a lot of updates there. The next major one should be in about two weeks or a little more. I will share that then.

Robert started spring ball today. That means he gets up at five with Will and I to be at school at six thirty and then doesn't return until lunch.

As for me, I am doing much better. I am eating a regular diet, slowly adding dairy back in and loving it. However, I must go slow. If I get too much fatly of greasy foods in one day I get nauseas and tired, even migraines, but those are easy to control just by eating healthier.

And now it is after lunch before I get to return to the writing of this However, everyone has come and fed and gone again, including Henry back to dreamland. I got that second load of dishes done and it was super disgusting. The only clothes not put away belong in the room with the sleeping baby, so I've got tp wait. I only have to put away that second load of dishes to have accomplished all the goals I set myself for today. But there is always more to do, especially with family coming and a move following that.

Setting just a couple high priority goals seems to work better for me than a long to-do list does. Today's goals were two loads of dishes and a load of laundry, all of washed, dried, and put away. That meant that the three baskets of clean clothes in the living room also needed to get put average I'm nearly done.

Tomorrow's big goals are one load of dishes and one load of laundry. All of it should be washed dried and put away. My final goal for the day is to get through with the stack of sit down busy work that has been sitting there. It seems to grow very fast, but I wanted to make sure that I wanted to keep it all down low.

Now I am at the end of the day. I didn't get a whole lot done in the afternoon, but I think I know why now. Henry screamed all afternoon. I had to settle him down repeatedly. I gave it some thought and discussed it with Will. Tomorrow I will be adding a small bottle to his feedings before reading and music time. That will give him something to hold him over until dinner. The screaming was a combination of I'm tired, I'm angry, and I'm hungry.

However, I did get some things done. Henry and I read four books. Then we sang and danced a little before I tried to settle him back down to nap. I also got the magnets back on the fridge (we had a small debacle that resulted in getting a new fridge). As well as a little bit of the room cleaned up. Mostly I picked up after having played with Henry, though. Then I had to try to relax while he screamed. I really hate it when he cries, I want to help him, but I don't always know how. I hope the extra bottle will help.

Written yesterday. More to follow on other subjects.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


For those of you that don't know, I was recently in the hospital for gall bladder surgery. It began a few years ago but has been severely building over the last couple of months. Then for the last few weeks, I had been eating less and less while having more and more pain. Easter Sunday we ended up in the Emergency Room. At the height of the attack, I was sweating from my crown to my knees, couldn't see straight, couldn't stand up, and felt like I was going to vomit. We went to the ER, and it was the fastest trip through triage to an evaluation room that we've ever had. They said gall bladder before I did They gave me two separate ultrasounds and agreed that it needed to come out. However, there were no doctors available at the hospital to do it. They began looking for a hospital to transfer me to. I ended up getting a thirty-minute ambulance ride to the third closest hospital. Since they gave me pain killers, and by that time it had been several hours since I had eaten anything, I felt pretty good for my first ambulance ride.

At the new hospital, my husband met me, and we started the whole thing over again. They asked all the same questions and gave me a new ultrasound. Will had to leave shortly, but at least, he came for a few minutes Then my pain started rising again. It shot through the roof, and I had not eaten anything. They couldn't give me anything until after they admitted me. From transfer to admittance was about five hours. I was climbing the walls, screaming in pain. They finally gave me something robust enough to kill it enough for me to sleep, but that meant that I had to pump and dump.

Monday they did the first of two procedures, an endoscopy. They put a camera and some tools down my throat and into my gall bladder to unblock the ducts. After which I felt better, and they put me on a full liquid diet.

Tuesday they removed my gall bladder using a laparoscopy procedure. I was super groggy after that, and couldn't even focus on my baby. Later
that day I went on a full liquid diet, but my sister (who was kind enough to have driven up for me) had to bring me some dairy free options. At first, they believed they would have the do a repeat of Monday's procedure on Wednesday, but I began to recover.

Wednesday they observed me, and Thursday they switched me to solid foods before discharging me in the evening. That's what happened to me. What happened to my family, and afterwards is another story entirely.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Pumping and Psychological Health

I exclusively breastfeed Henry. That is not to say that he hasn't had a bottle. He's had several of them. I breast pump regularly, and I feed bottles to him as do Will and Robert. He gets both every day.

Don't get me wrong - breast pumping is hard, and I would not want to exclusively breast pump. I have great respect for women who do either. If one only pumps that means they have to keep to a rigorous pumping schedule and get up in the middle of the night long after baby is sleeping through it. Exclusively breastfeeding from the breast means that the woman has to stay right near the baby until she finishes feeding. Not a lot of alone time or dating time.

Most women fall somewhere in the middle (like me) or add in some formula. I haven't given him formula yet, and at four months I don't intend to.

I have not always regularly pumped. In the beginning, it felt like a lot of work to pump. However, scouring the internet gave me some useful tips. My favorite is that breastmilk is safe in the fridge for twenty-four hours so why not the pumping equipment?

During the periods when I do not regularly pump I can feel my stress levels rising, and often my breaking point of bursting into tears is much lower. Pumping eases my mind, lowering my stress, and helping me to relax and allow me to deal better with the rest of the world. Breastfeeding does not have the same effect on my mental state. I think this is because when I breastfeed I have to care for Henry and make sure that he is latched well and stable in my lap. I bond with Henry and we have a wonderful time together, but it doesn't ease my mind in the same way.

I think that pumping breast milk is mentally relaxing for several reasons. Having a supply in the fridge allows me to walk away and let Will and Robert take care of Henry if I need to do so for my mental health. (So far I've had to do that for all of one feeding when I felt in desperate need of a shower and some me time one evening early on). However, it does provide an obvious escape route that says that I can have some me time, or Will and I can have some us time without being derelict in my duties. It also means that if something happens to me that Will and Robert have a meal or two to either get more milk from me or to get some formula from the store. (I hope that doesn't happen, but at least, I don't have to worry about it). Things always seem darker when there is no escape route. Having the pumped milk provides one.

On the other hand, even when I'm not pumping enough to keep in a single sitting pumping helps put my mind at ease. Pumping the breast milk proves to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Henry is getting enough milk when he suckles. Pumping is much less efficient than the baby on the breast. A pump can only suck it cannot mimic the motion that a baby makes with its tongue to get the milk out. So, if I am getting anything out of by pumping, then Henry must be getting more out when he eats. He may not be gaining weight the way they want him to, but I know he is getting as much as he wants to eat. (I feed him until he refuses the breast, and I offer it regularly).

Lastly, I couldn't find any internet sources to back me up, but I think being milk full raises the stress levels in the mother. After all, if we were in a hunt and gather where we wore the babies against our naked breasts, and they could eat continuously, then the breasts were never full. If they were then, there was something wrong. So I feel more stressed out when my breasts feel full. I didn't make that connection until recently. Several spats of regularly pumping and several lengths of not pumping at all. Eventually, I began to take notice that I always felt more stressed when I wasn't pumping. This time, around as I regularly pump, I'm not just taking a general daily stock. I'm monitoring how I feel before and after I pump.

Physically, I never feel like my breasts are overfull or empty. They feel a little different before a feeding than after, the same is true before and after a pumping. However, it's not a painful fullness which is what I was led to expect. They also do not feel deflated. For me it's a roundness before and softness after. My breasts have felt painful from not getting the milk out twice. Once when we spent the day running around so much that I couldn't feed Henry when I was supposed to, or we would have had to miss appointments. (I know, bad mother, but I did get him fed as soon as I could.) The other was the first time he slept through the night. I didn't set alarms because Henry was so regular that he was an alarm. The first night he slept through I woke up with one aching boob and laying in a puddle because I sleep on my side. After that, my body woke me up when it was time to feed Henry or pump.

However, the difference mentally is astonishing. When I haven't pumped as often as I should have for the day, I find more things worrying me. I find more things getting under my skin to stress me out. The effect of twenty minutes of pumping is like an hour of meditation or writing in my journal. It feels almost like a catharsis.

The biggest reason I think that there is such a difference between breastfeeding and pumping for my mental health is that when I feed, Henry is there, and I have to watch out for him. I have to make sure he's latched correctly, feeding enough, and getting taken care of. I am also bonding and interacting with him. For a self-proclaimed introvert, such regular requirements of interacting are taxing. Especially since breastfeeding is one of those activities that it is difficult to modify. I can rearrange which order I do chores in. I can change which books we read, which songs we sing, and many other aspects of our interaction. However, trying to find a new comfortable efficient position to breastfeed in is very difficult.

On the other hand, the breast pump doesn't tax me at all. In this respect, because of my mental health, pumping is basically a selfish act, not a selfless one. The machinery of the pump doesn't bother me at all now that I know what I am doing with it. Even the sound of the motor has become so familiar that it is silly. However, I am not required to interact with anyone while pumping. I can sit and meditate, read, or write while I pump. I wrote most of this post while pumping. It's also a guilt-free "me time" because it does result in a product that is useful to the family - the hoard of breast milk in the fridge.

So, while I cannot imaging exclusively pumping, I also cannot imagine only breastfeeding. Our family found a good balance with pumping whenever I put Henry down for a nap. It keeps me from wanting to run to check on him if he needs to cry a little before sleeping, and provides him with more meals that he can have with the family. I do check on him when I finish my twenty minutes of pumping, most of the time he is happily asleep.

Breast pumping, the road to stress-free baby parenting. 
I pull it out and pump and then I put it back in. I wash it once a day and put it in the dishwasher at the same time. That saves me twenty minutes each time I pump. I also save on water and soap that cleaning the equipment each time requires. So far, it doesn't seem to be having any adverse effects on Henry.