The hardest and best job

July 20, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
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First, let me say I don’t consider parenting a job. But many times it can be like a job, in that work is involved. And it’s often compared to a job. So, if I’m going to compare parenting to a job, here it is:

Parenting is hard work. (I know, I know – deep stuff right here.) Being a parent is without a doubt the hardest job I have ever had or will ever have. I know I’m stating the obvious…or am I?

I always thought motherhood would come naturally to me, because I always knew I wanted to be a mother. But I’m not sure if being a mother does come naturally to me or not, some days it doesn’t feel like it. And other days it does. What I do know is that I work hard to try to be a good mom; it’s a job that demands both my body and my mind. I’m exhausted at the end of every day.

That said, to quote one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Doyle Melton, “We can do hard things!” Hard is a good thing. It’s a great thing. Yes, being a parent challenges me in ways I never thought possible…

But being a parent is absolutely the best job I have ever had or will ever have.

That’s it in a nutshell – parenting is the hardest, most rewarding, most emotional, best, most wonderful job ever.

I love being AJ’s mom (now that’s stating the obvious). I absolutely love it. Although sometimes I’m not sure if I’ve got it all right, I always know I am where I am meant to be. I’m exhausted and contented at the end of every day. I work hard because I want to, because I love her, because my instinct tells me to.

AJ’s first birthday is in less than a month. This has been a whirlwind year (but I’ll save those emojis for another post). I wouldn’t trade a day of it. I’ve learned to do hard things, and I am loving this role in my life. The hardest things have the best rewards. Being a parent is the hardest and best job.

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

The empowering feeling of saying “no”

July 13, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
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I’ve always been one of those people who creates work for herself. Even when I think I couldn’t be busier, I sign up for a new club or say yes to helping out with something else. I like to try new things and I get bored easily, so I think it’s my subconscious way of keeping my mind fresh and using up energy.

Not to mention that in today’s world, it’s cool to be “busy.” It’s almost a competition – who has less time, who is juggling the most. But now that I have a baby, things have changed. I AM busy. Even before AJ was born, I knew that she would always be my number one priority. It’s easy to say that, but in reality it means constantly evaluating my activities and decisions to make sure I’m not letting the seemingly important but in reality “busy work” get the best of me and my time. And that means saying, “no,” which isn’t always easy to do.

It’s okay to say “no” sometimes! When I’m asked to do something, either by someone else or myself, I no longer immediately say yes. I think about it, even if just for a moment – is this important? How will this affect my parenting with AJ and my relationship with my husband? Will this mean I get less time with my family? If so, is it important enough to warrant that time missed? If not, then I say no. I’d say this resolve is the closest thing I have to a “parenting style.” Being a parent isn’t the only part of my life, but it’s the most important part.

Here are a few examples of how I’ve put this theory into practice lately. The first you may have noticed – I’ve been absent from this blog for several weeks. I’ve been working on a couple big projects at work, which meant working later hours and weekends. These were important projects and the time was warranted and necessary. So I decided to say “no” to blog writing for a few weeks to make up for some of the lost time with AJ. Now that I’m getting back to a regular schedule, I’m back at it on the blog (I can feel your excitement).

It might seem silly, but another thing I’ve said no to recently is Twitter. I haven’t logged on or posted something in weeks. I’m on many different social media platforms, and frankly I find trying to keep them all updated exhausting. Twitter just happened to be the one I started to ignore.

Sometimes, saying no even means saying no to fun things, like a night out with friends, or traveling. If I’m feeling stressed and stretched thin, adding one more thing I “have” to do to the list (even if it’s meant to be fun) will not be fun for me or the people I’m spending time with. I want to present my best self to my friends and family; I don’t want to give them the stressed, crabby version of myself. So every now and then I have to take a rain check.

Saying “no” also means sometimes saying no at work. When someone contacts me at 4:55 p.m. and asks me to do something, I will ask if it can wait until the next day. The work will be there tomorrow, the same as it was today. But AJ changes every day. Not to mention I have to get to day care before it closes.

Saying “no” means setting clear expectations and being in control of your own time. If you haven’t said no to something lately, I highly recommend you try it. It’s great. The stress you didn’t know you had just disappears, and you can really feel the weight lifted off your shoulders.

I’m taking a vacation day today. When I set up my out of office, I did something wild. I said I would not be checking my email. We all know the standard out of office message, “I will be out of the office and will have limited access to email.” Yeah right. Everyone knows almost everyone has email on his or her phone and can check it whenever they want. So I decided to just tell the truth – I’m on vacation, and I’m saying no to emails. I’m using my vacation day to spend time with my daughter and get some things done around the house. If I’m checking my email, I’m working, therefore not taking vacation.

It might not be “cool” to try to make my life less busy, but I’m a mom, and I stopped caring about being cool a long time ago. I say yes to a lot of things. I like to be involved, I like to help out, and I like to have fun with my family and friends. But sometimes, I say “no” to the non-essential so I can say “yes” to the most important.

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

The Monster

July 12, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
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I’ve been having issues lately.

Actually, I’ve been facing more than just issues.

I’ve been battling a gigantic, absolutely enormous, out of control monster that has taken over my life.

I once considered the beast to be my friend. It was generous and provided almost limitless possibilities.

Now, it is selfish and wants to steal away every precious moment with its eager, gluttonous tendencies.

For a while, I thought I could control the monster, but it continues to gain momentum and wreak havoc on all things personal and professional.

Lately, it has been doing its best to prevent me from achieving much of anything.

The monster is called time, and it has an incredible talent for speeding up just when we most want it to slow down.

Even my almost 14-year-old daughter has begun to notice the power time holds over us. She was looking through old family photos when she declared, “I’m growing up too quickly.”

She got that right. Only yesterday, my husband and I were wondering if our charming, two-year old would ever grow hair.

Now she receives daily compliments on her long, thick mane and will be a freshman at the high school where her brother will be a senior.

When they were still in preschool, I never imagined myself as the mother of teenagers. That was a distant and abstract concept – like college was when I was in elementary school. Others told me to plan for it, but I never thought that future belonged to me. Then, when it did arrive, it passed quickly.

And so it is with parenting. We are often so absorbed with routine, day-to-day struggles and tasks that we easily forget to enjoy the one thing we are given each day and can never use in the future: time. And when we do that, time becomes the enemy.

Lately, I’ve been complaining that I have too much on my plate and not enough time to accomplish everything I should. The windows are dirty. The basement needs to be cleaned. The closets need to be organized. Each week, my “to do” list gets longer because I can’t seemed to find the time to tackle even the first few items. I wonder how some women seem to have and do it all when I can’t even accomplish the simplest of tasks.

And then, on Saturday, my daughter put my concerns into perspective. After spending a busy and fun day together with friends, she said, “We didn’t do anything, but today was a really good day.”

She was right. We may not have tackled a task that would leave us a with a sense of accomplishment, but we had done something even more important – we’d made memories together.

And despite all of its power, that’s something time can never take from us.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full-time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Different

June 27, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
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My grandmother died thinking that she had been born defective.

I only realized how deeply ingrained her feelings of shame were when I visited her at the personal care facility that became her final home. I had brought my son, who was a toddler at the time, and handed him some crayons and paper to keep him occupied while we talked.

My grandmother watched as he picked out a blue crayon and began drawing.

“That poor child,” she said shaking her head almost in disgust.

“What do you mean?” I asked as I watched my son scribble. I didn’t think he was destined to be a great artist, but I didn’t consider that to be a tragedy as most of us aren’t.

“He’s left-handed.” she said.

“Yeah, I know,” I replied. I thought the fact was actually cool. Only about 10% of the population is left-handed, and I liked that he was rather unique.

“He’ll life will be difficult because of it,” she said.

I knew she wasn’t just referring to the fact that –  from scissors, to school desks to gear shifts –  the world is designed for right-handed people.

She was referring to the fact that she had been belittled for being born left-handed. In school. she was forced to use her right hand for everything, including handwriting. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. I certainly didn’t do well when I was forced to use my left hand after shattering my right wrist. Even the simplest tasks of getting dressed and putting in my contacts were a struggle.

Some people say that children were forced to write with their right hands because their arms dragged across fresh ink when they used their left. That may be true, but my grandmother’s deep shame at being left-handed was rooted in something deeper.

My daughter, who like my son is also left-handed, keeps me, her right-handed mother, updated about the meaning of being a leftie. She has informed me that the Latin word for “left” is “sinister,” and that left in English comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lyft,” which means broken or weak. Many artistic representations of the devil depict him as left-handed, while the Christian church’s blessings are performed with the right. Granted, since most people are right-handed, the use of the right hand makes sense, and I can personally attest to the fact that my left hand is weak.

But none of that explains why my grandmother was taught that being left-handed was so wrong that she needed to pretend that she was right-handed. Being left-handed didn’t hurt anyone – it just made her life more difficult.

While my own children still live in a world that is designed for right-handed people, they no longer are shamed as my grandmother was. For years now, society has accepted that some people are simply born left-handed. We no longer expect them to act in a way that is against their true nature or  to hide whom they really are.

It’s a pretty phenomenal concept that seems to finally be making progress regarding other human differences as well.

It’s about time.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Breakfast Club

June 14, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
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I fell in love with the movie The Breakfast Club when I first saw it on my eighteenth birthday more than 30 years ago.

At the time, I couldn’t imagine that my two teenagers would enjoy watching it in the year 2015. In fact, I would have found the idea completely impossible.

The movie was about my generation.

The angst of the five teenage characters stuck in detention on a Saturday clearly demonstrated that we suffered from the mistakes and misguided expectations of our parents.

As the character Andrew, played by Emilio Estevez said, “Everyone’s home lives are unsatisfying. If it wasn’t, people would live with their parents forever.”

The first time I heard him say that line, I thought no truer words have ever been spoken. I couldn’t wait to put as much distance between my parents and me as possible. I was sure that all of my faults were products of my parents’ faults. My only hope for a normal life was to escape them.

Now, watching the movie with my own kids, I have a different perspective.

Hairstyles may change, fashion may change. technology may change, even language may change, but human nature doesn’t change that quickly.

The Breakfast Club is about the ridiculous social constructs of high school. By the end of the movie, the characters recognize that individuals are much more complicated than the labels they are given.

All these years later, I realize that those social structures and labels from high school aren’t that different from those in the world today. As adults, we just do a better job at pretending we’ve outgrown them.

We haven’t.

The people with money and connections make the rules. Those with the right social contacts are recognized and applauded for their good work even though others do just as much. The misbehavior of athletes is often accepted, and low-income people are blamed for their situations.

When The Breakfast Club was first released, my generation hoped we’d be better than that.

We rolled our eyes during a scene in the basement of the school that features a conversation between the principal and Carl the  janitor. Principal Vernon warns Carl that, when they get old, the kids are going to be running the country and they should be worried. At the time, I just considered Vernon an old guy who was out of touch with young people.

Now, the generation that scared him IS running the country, and, unfortunately, we do  demonstrate the self-absorbed behavior about which he worried.

But, there is also hope.

Unlike Principal Vernon, I’m not nearly as concerned about the generation coming up behind us.

From what I’ve observed, they are more accepting of differences and more likely to challenge the status quo. In other words, I think they really do get the lessons in The Breakfast Club.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

When He Becomes She

June 6, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
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I’m doing it again. I’m writing about something in the life of one of my children that is basically none of my business.

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been telling myself not to write about my son’s friend.

She’s not a close friend of his, so I don’t really know her. Also, my son never mentioned anything about what she was going through until my husband and I asked. Most of all, her life is absolutely none of my business.

I’ve only made it my business because she’s requiring me to confront my own biases and beliefs.

I’ve always considered myself open-minded and accepting, but her situation made me dig a bit deeper. And, in light of recent headlines about Caitlyn Jenner, the timing couldn’t have been better.

You see, my son’s friend is physically a boy. At least for the moment. But my son and his friends call her she because that is what she wants.

When my husband and I saw her wearing a dress for the first time, we thought maybe she had a lost a bet. And when we asked our son about it, he said “she’s transitioning,” as though it was no big deal.

It was a big deal to my husband and me.

“Shouldn’t he wait to make that decision until he’s out of high school?” my husband asked.

“Why should she wait to be the person she is?” my son replied, making a point about which pronoun he used,

He seems unfazed about the whole situation.

I, on the other had, was having a difficult time wrapping my head around the situation. I have volunteered side by side with the friend’s mother, and my thoughts kept going to her. Or, maybe, they were really going  back to me.

Because I know without a doubt that if my son were to come to me and tell me he was a woman trapped in a male body, I would have a very difficult time coming to terms with the situation.

I would probably ask him to wait a few years before he did anything about it – just to be sure. And, truthfully and sadly, I would be very concerned about what others thought about my family. I hate feeling like that, but it’s the truth.

I was sharing this with a friend, who told me a story about her niece, once her nephew, who had transitioned in high school.

At the time, my friend’s children were in elementary school, and she had to explain the situation to them before a family gathering.

The nephew who was transitioning was the youngest, and apparently the quietest, of three boys.

“He won’t be quiet anymore,” my friend’s son said.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I’m eight years old,” her son said. “I’m always around girls. I live with my sister. I go to school with girls. I play sports with girls. I have experience with girls, and girls are anything but quiet. Things are going to change.”

That was the extent of his concern about his male cousin becoming a female.

His observations may have been a bit sexist and not entirely logical, but they illustrate a wisdom that adults often lose. He was focused on his cousin’s personality, not whether he was a she.

It’s something my son understands and something I need to remember.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

I don’t want to be perfect

June 1, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
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“You’re perfect,” said my husband after I’d had a particularly rough morning.

“No, I’m not,” I said.

“Yes, you are,” he responded.

“I don’t want to be perfect.”

Despite my husband’s sweet (and maybe delusional) comment, I am not, in fact, perfect. Nor do I want to be – which is something I didn’t realize until I said it out loud to Chris last week.

Since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be perfect. To be the best at everything I do. If I wasn’t the best, it wasn’t worth doing. I wasn’t always able to be perfect at everything, but I sure tried my hardest.

Motherhood has changed me. Instead of striving for perfection, I am striving for happiness. And being happy means trying my hardest, but making mistakes. It means focusing on what’s important, and letting go of what’s not. It means not being so hard on myself.

Anyone who says they are perfect at everything, well, I normally wouldn’t be so bold, but I think they are lying. No one is perfect, despite the face we put out to the world.

I know I’m not the only mom or the only female to struggle with this issue. We have internal and external forces constantly pushing us to be the perfect mother, the perfect spouse, the perfect employee, the perfect friend.

I usually brush aside articles and comments on how social media, popular culture, etc. set unrealistic expectations for women. I’m sure they don’t help the issue, but I think at least for me, the desire to be perfect starts internally rather than from what I see, hear or read. I have a strong need to please and a competitive nature. These combined traits sometimes lead to unrealistic expectations for myself.

I remember reading a script from an interview where a popular newscaster said, “You can’t have it all,” referring to women and the quest to have the perfect home, career and social life.

“She’s wrong,” I thought, “You can have it all if you try hard enough.”

Well, I don’t think she was wrong or right. I don’t think it’s black and white. I think maybe you can have it all, but just not on the same day. Or maybe even on the same day, just not all at the same time.

One of my advisors in college told me, “You can’t be good at everything all at once.” Although they were comforting words at the time, lately they’ve taken on new meaning. I’ve realized I can’t be perfect at all the roles in my life at the same time. When I push myself to my limit on all fronts, it ends in me being stressed to the point of breaking and good at none of my roles.

I recently saw a post on Facebook from a page called A Mighty Girl about raising our daughters to NOT strive for perfection, but instead to focus on authentic happiness. I scrolled past the post, uninterested (I’m not one for self-help books), but now I think I need to revisit this concept. I don’t want AJ to think she has to be perfect. I want her to be happy with herself, imperfections and all.

At the end of the day, AJ doesn’t care if I’m perfect. She cares that I’m there for her, that I love her and that I take care of her. And that I do. Isn’t that what we all really ask of each other anyway?

I’m not perfect, and I’m thankful for that!

Taking a Stand

May 30, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
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For hours, I’ve been debating whether or not to write about the situation that unfolded at my daughter’s middle rainbowschool this past week.

My daughter has more or less told me not to share it, but she also knows I’m a person who writes stories that need to be told.

This is one of those stories.

To be perfectly honest, I only know one side of it  – the one that my daughter and her friends are sharing. But even if they don’t have all the facts straight, it is their actions – not that of the school personnel – that others need to know about.

Thursday night was the eighth grade dance, the last middle school dance for my daughter and her friends. It was a big deal. Many of the girls were picking out their dresses weeks ago, and my daughter, who usually takes less than ten minutes to get ready and rarely wears makeup, spent at least an hour beautifying.

Later that evening, no one was talking about what people wore or with whom they danced. They were talking about the girl who was kicked out of the dance.

At first, no adult minded that the ninth grader, who had attended the middle school the year before, attended the dance. But after spending time with her date, another girl, something happened.

Other students are reporting that she was told to leave by a member of the faculty who made derogatory comments about homosexuality and said that the teenage girls are too young to know about their sexuality. She called them “confused.”

I don’t know if that is completely true, partially true or not true at all.

What I do know is that the eighth grade class wasn’t going to tolerate even the hint of homophobia.

The next day, the students made a collective statement. The painted rainbows and the words “It’s okay to be gay” on their arms and even their faces.

I know there are still people who don’t agree with them, but I think everyone should be proud of 13 and 14 year-olds who are willing to stand up for others.

I was a teenager in the 1980’s and am part of a generation that has a reputation for not caring about much of anything but ourselves. Sometimes, I wonder if the world would still be plagued with so many problems if we had been a bit more passionate about people who were different and a little less worried about meeting our own needs.

As I listened to my daughter talk about what an entire eighth grade class did, I didn’t just swell with pride for her and her peer group.

I also filled with a sense of hope for the future.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Back to (Sleep) Square One

May 25, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
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Just when you can start to see the light at the end of the sleepless night tunnel…9 month sleep regression hits. I think this might be the worst sleep saga yet.

I write about sleep (or lack thereof) a lot, probably because I love it so much. I used to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. One of my favorite pastimes was taking a good nap. Now, if I get a solid five hours without waking up, I feel like a new person. Naps are a thing of the past – even if I get a few minutes to relax, I’m too wired to sleep and have a million other things to do.

The newborn phase is by far the worst as far as amount of sleep goes, when they literally cannot sleep for more than three hours, because if they do you are supposed to wake them up to feed them. But, my days didn’t require as much energy, since I was still on maternity leave and a newborn doesn’t do much besides sleep, eat and lie there looking cute. Even after we no longer had to wake AJ to feed her, she kept up the pattern of sleeping for only three to four hours for months.

Finally, she started to sleep through the night. Things were looking up; she would sleep through the night more than half the time. And on the nights she would wake up, I would nurse her and she would go right back to sleep.

But about two weeks ago, AJ started waking up at night. And by waking up, I mean every night, within seconds after we turn out our light to go to sleep she starts screaming. As soon as we pick her up, she immediately falls back to sleep. And as soon as we put her in her crib, she immediately starts screaming again. We can hold her for two minutes or two hours; the second she hits the mattress the whole ordeal begins again.

I don’t know what is causing this new development at night. It could be some sort of separation anxiety; it could be a side effect of all the physical and mental growth happening right now. Or it could be AJ is learning how to manipulate us to get what she wants (I suspect this is the case). Whatever the cause, we’ve tried just about everything to get back to normal. We’ve done what the experts say to do and we’ve done what the old wives’ tales say to do. Nothing seems to provide the desired result, which is AJ sleeping in her crib, and me sleeping in my bed.

I think if we really picked a plan and stuck with it, we might see better results. But I’m in pure survival mode at 2 a.m.; whatever it takes to get her to sleep is what I do.

As I’ve maintained with all difficult things so far in motherhood, I believe (hope, pray) that this too shall pass. Has anyone else gone through a phase like this? How did you survive it? Did you find the magic touch to get your baby to sleep in his or her own crib through the night, or did you simply have to ride it out?

The Duggars’ Greatest Crime

May 23, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
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This is one of those times when I have more to say than I have words to express my emotions.

And yet, I will use this limited space to share the anger I’ve felt since first reading that Josh Duggar admitted to molesting young girls, including relatives, when he was a teenager.

I’ve never watched an episode of the Duggars’ television show, 19 Kids and Counting, and up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know the name of even one Duggar kid.

I wasn’t so removed from popular culture that I wasn’t aware of the family who periodically appeared on the Today Show to announce another pregnancy, but I never gave them more thought than they seemed out of touch with reality.

I am the same age as Michelle,the matriarch of the family, and I remember thinking that she must have very low self-esteem to need to keep having babies to get attention.

Then, a couple of years ago I was so bored while waiting for a hair appointment that I picked up a magazine with the Duggars on the cover and read an article about them. I learned more about the family than I ever wanted to know. They aren’t just a really big family. They are a really big family that thinks women should be subservient to men. For example, they believe that a woman destroys a husband’s manliness if she is financially independent and should submit to him. Even worse, they teach their children that women must cover their bodies from head to toe so they don’t tempt men.

In other words, men can’t control themselves, so women are responsible for ensuring they don’t make unwanted sexual advances. The family even has a code word – Nike – that they use when a woman they consider to be scantily clad (which might mean she’s wearing shorts and a v-neck t-shirt) walks by. When the word is uttered, the males in the family are supposed to look down at their shoes so they don’t “see things they shouldn’t see.”

And now the oldest Duggar son has admitted he is guilty of incidents of sexual assault that were hidden from the public for years. During those same years, the Duggars’ media dynasty grew right along with the size of their family. During that same time, Josh’s victims heard the Duggars talk about how women need to cover up because men can’t control themselves

In other words, the victims not only had to endure the silence about Josh’s crimes but they had to listen to the Duggars perpetuate the myth that victims of a sexual assault did something to provoke their attacker.

While that is not be a criminal offense, it is a terrible, terrible crime.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.