Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work--which places a feminist lens on a variety of topics including motherhood, maternal health, gender, pop culture and reproductive rights--has been featured in Bitch magazine, Cosmopolitan, Every Mother Counts, The New York Times, CNN, and more. Her first book, "The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood To Fit Reality", came out in January 2014 from Seal Press. She is currently working on her second book on the "Perfect Birth Myth." Follow her on twitter @TheMamafesto.
Everyone has an opinion about my husband and I having only one child. From my mother to the clerk at the corner store, everyone needs to explain to us why having an only child is the best or worst…decision of our lives. I usually smile and nod, knowing no matter what I say, they'll remain firm in their opinion, despite it being our lives, our family. I know I'm not alone in this. In fact, I devoted an entire essay to this in my first book, and have since had many parents of… >> Read More
Even now, almost 10 years after the birth of my only child, I find myself still faced with the occasional, "What was your baby shower like?"
The question usually surfaces during a chat amongst…moms or with a pregnant friend. They're either reminiscing about the fun they had at theirs, or anxiously anticipating their own. And, each time, I reply with the same answer: "I didn't have a baby shower." Despite the ensuing 10 years since my son's birth, I'm still not quite used to the looks of confused… >> Read More
Judy Batalion's new book, “White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess In Between,” is as much an homage to the Holocaust, mental health, and the intricate dynamics of…Jewish families, as it is a memoir. Through weaving the story of her own pregnancy with glimpses into her life as a child and young adult, Batalion brings us into her world as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and how her family's challenging past has a direct impact on her own growing family. While… >> Read More
When my son was almost a year old, we went out to a diner to meet my sister-in-law for lunch. After ordering our food, my son started to get a bit fussy and his toys didn't seem to satisfy him at the…moment, so I went for what usually works: Nursing. My son quietly fed while my husband and I caught up with my sister-in-law. Our waitress, a young woman in her teens, came over, yet instead of talking to us about our order, or checking to see if we needed anything, she looked at me pointedly,… >> Read More
Many of us still remember that one special teacher, the one who touched our lives in some powerful way and transformed learning for us. For many Jewish children in Western Massachusetts, that…educator is gan (kindergarten) teacher Amy Meltzer. My son was lucky enough to have Morah Amy two years ago when he started school at Lander Grinspoon Academy, so I'm well aware of the magic and wonder that Amy brings to the classroom. From raising butterflies and tapping maple trees to make syrup, to writing and… >> Read More
This is the finale of a series Avital wrote about her experience as a mother with anxiety. Read her previous posts here, here, here, and here.
I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself…into when I started this series about living and parenting with anxiety. To be quite honest, my motivations were somewhat selfish in pitching it to Kveller. I figured it would allow me a space to process what had been happening to me. And, I would at least get paid for the most difficult months of… >> Read More
Avital is blogging about her experience as a mother with anxiety. Read her previous posts here, here, and here.
I was never one to worry about my weight all that much. Which I feel is a pretty…big deal, given that we live in a society that pushes an "ideal" female body type via magazines, television, and movies. I managed to make it through my teens and 20s with a pretty good sense of body image--thanks, Mom! No, seriously. Having a mother who wasn't especially weight obsessed allowed me to feel comfortable… >> Read More
Avital is blogging about her experience as a mother with anxiety. Read her first post here, and her second post here.
I know a thing or two about the myth of the "good mother." In fact, you could…say I wrote the book on it… As someone who is actively invested in tearing down the dangerous idealization of motherhood, you would think I would have cut myself a little slack when I was diagnosed with anxiety. Only, it doesn't really work that way. No amount of logical thinking and self-affirmation was able to… >> Read More
Avital is blogging about her experience as a mother with anxiety. Read her first post here.
The first time I had an anxiety-related meltdown in public, I was shopping at our local food co-op. It…was only days after I had been diagnosed with anxiety. I was still certain there was something else besides anxiety going on. I was continuously nauseous despite not having eaten much for a couple of weeks. I was beyond weak--go figure--and the only time I was able to force myself to crawl out of bed… >> Read More
"How are you doing?" is such an innocuous question, but the answer--for me at least--not so much. Do I lie and brush it off with an "Oh, fine," before changing the subject? Or do I really get into…it, telling them exactly how I'm doing? Well, at the moment my heart feels like someone is squeezing the ever-loving life out of it. No, I'm not having a heart attack, even though I swear I can feel pain radiating down the left side of my arm, leaving sparks of numbness in its wake. My… >> Read More
I've always loved the Jewish High Holidays. The blowing of the shofar, the time spent with family, the food (oh! the food!), and the overall sense of starting over with a clean slate. And now,…as a parent, I've truly come to appreciate the opportunity for reflection and forgiveness that the High Holidays provide. Even with Yom Kippur--a mostly somber affair--we have a chance to own up to our wrongdoings, apologize for them, vow to do our best not to repeat them, and then start anew. What better parenting tool… >> Read More
"The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield." --Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent of "Burwell v. Hobby Lobby."
Today, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling that says the…government can’t require certain employers to provide insurance coverage for birth control and emergency contraception that conflict with their religious beliefs. The case centers around Hobby Lobby, a self-proclaimed Christian corporation and chain of craft stores, and their refusal to cover birth control for their employees. These Supreme Court cases can be tricky to fully… >> Read More
Sometimes I forget that we live in a particular sort of liberal bubble here in our “Happy Valley.” And there are other times when it couldn’t be clearer.
The other day I turned on the…television so my son could watch an episode of his beloved Wild Kratts . But, since it takes our sort-of-old TV a few seconds to actually turn on once you press the button (and since I’m horribly impatient), I popped into the kitchen to grab a snack while my son waited eagerly on the couch.… >> Read More
Whether you weave in one, a few, or all 10 of these tips, consider honoring the matriarchal roots of Judaism this Passover with a little girl power fun at your seder this year.
1. Add an Orange…& Coffee Bean to Your Seder Plate The Orange: The orange represents both inclusion and solidarity with women and the LGBT community. The new tradition was started by Professor Susannah Heschel, who was inspired by women at Oberlin College in 1984 who made space on their seder plate to represent all who were not explicitly present in the… >> Read More
Yesterday, we announced the launch of The Purim Superhero, the first LGBT-inclusive Jewish children’s book in English. Today, one mother reflects on initial reactions to the book.
The other…day, Kveller's partner site MyJewishLearning.com posted on their Facebook page about a new children's book coming out that focuses on Purim. According to the write-up, Elisabeth Kushner's The Purim Superhero is "the sweet story of a boy named Nate who has a Purim dilemma: he loves aliens and really wants to wear an alien costume for Purim,… >> Read More
I've never once been told not to eat when it came to my Jewish family. In fact, the opposite holds true. I'm usually not eating enough.
Have some more matzah balls.
Did you try the stuffed cabbage…yet? Here, take a little bit more tzimmes. There's never enough food. The food itself: warm, rich, and soul-satisfying made me feel loved and taken care of, just like I felt about the women and men who prepared it all for me growing up. I've taken many of the food-focused life lessons I learned in… >> Read More
Last week, Julie Satow expressed her disappointing experience with doulas during her first two births. This week, Avital offers a different perspective.
When I was six months pregnant with my son,…my husband and I ended up moving to another state. We moved for a variety of reasons, and despite looking forward to our new location, it meant that we were now further away from both sets of parents as well as countless friends. Our move shook up my plans for a homebirth. We didn't have… >> Read More
We don't have any toy guns in our house.
Okay, that's not 100 percent accurate. We have a handful of miniscule, grey, plastic Lego guns so tiny you don't even notice them until you…step--barefoot--upon them, and then you notice them plenty. But they don't count. They're not real approximations of guns that can hurt or kill. I've battled with myself over the toy gun issue for years now. When my son was 4 he suddenly picked up an interest in guns. I'm not sure where his intrigue or… >> Read More
"...and I tried a new recipe this year, orange zested cranberry sauce. I think it was a hit. And the turkey! You should have seen the turkey we--"
My friend, who I had been catching up with,…suddenly stopped mid-sentence. He glanced over at me, an apologetic look taking over his face. "Oh, I'm sorry. Do you, you know, even celebrate Thanksgiving?" My raised eyebrow and pointed stare were enough for him to start backpedaling. >> Read More
"How do you pronounce it? Ah-vee-tle? Ah-vie-tle?"
"It's pronounced Ah-vee-TAHL."
"Oh...yeah. I get it. That's pretty."
I always dreaded the first day of class from…ninth grade on. Because on that first day you had to sit through roll call--where they ran down the list, calling out students one at a time, checking off attendance and putting faces to names. It shouldn't have been that big of a deal. But my name? It always seemed to cause a stumbling block… >> Read More
I have to admit to feeling a rush of pride and satisfaction each time I hear my son call me Ima. And, for a gal who grew up begrudgingly bilingual, that’s a pretty big deal.
My first languages as…a young child were English and Hebrew. With an Israeli father (and grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, cousins... you get the picture) and a mother who spent a chunk of her young adulthood in Israel, it should come as no big surprise that we were a bilingual house. My first words were "mom" and "aba." I… >> Read More
As a parent, I'm fully aware that I have a slew of difficult, but necessary, conversations with my son ahead of me. We've already tackled one of the toughest: Where do babies come from? Despite…reading a variety of parenting books and blogs, I still wasn't sure how I would handle it when the time came, but at 3.5, when my son started asking questions, I found it was actually pretty easy. >> Read More
I can still remember being 5 years old, sitting in the hallway outside my kindergarten classroom, while my buddy--an eighth grader--taught me the Ma Nishtana, the four questions for the Passover…seder. Eight years later, and it was my turn to help a new kindergartner learn the tune and words to the same questions. I'm a Schechter gal, through and through. From kindergarten through eighth grade, I attended Ezra Academy, a Solomon Schechter Jewish day school in the suburbs of New Haven, CT. Not only did I attend… >> Read More
Growing up, one of the major rules of Judaism that was hammered into my head over and over and over again was: Jews do not get tattoos.
I'm not sure how much of that was true observance on my…parents' part, or convenient tradition that provided the perfect parenting excuse, but either way, it wasn't something that was easily forgotten. >> Read More