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I received an email response to yesterday’s “The Oppression of Motherhood” post that took a different view of Margaret Wente’s article than I proposed. The response came from a mother I respect as much as any mother I have ever known. With the author’s permission I share her perspective.

So I read your blog and the Wente article this morning. I totally didn’t get what you got! Sure it was a little crazy but I didn’t think it was that bad. I didn’t think she was seriously saying you should drink and smoke.

I thought she was saying you should parent how you feel you should and maybe not worry so much. I have certainly felt that on a number of times. Depending on what group of people I hang out with I am made to feel like a bad parent for choosing to vaccinate my children or as a bad parent for NOT vaccinating. I think it is pretty crazy how now a days a lot of people think you are a bad mother if all your toys aren’t wood. I would prefer to give my children natural toys but if you can’t afford that or you choose not to your kids probably won’t die!

When I was pregnant the worry I had over what I ate probably did more harm than eating some less healthy stuff might have done!

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No doubt being intentionally provocative is good for selling newspapers. But the unsuspecting public might be well-served if such a practice carried a caution – “Warning the ideas expressed in this column may be hazardous to the health of the human community.”

Certainly Margaret Wente’s childish attack (“Globe And Mail” June 25, 2010) on women who try to take seriously the responsibilities of motherhood, should come wrapped in cellophane and only be sold from behind the counter. It is hard to imagine her opinions being given serious consideration in a public newspaper.
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I was recently given a copy of a deeply moving letter written to the parents of a young woman who committed suicide after years of desperate struggle with her mental health. The parents had made their daughter’s story public in the hope of finding ways to support other people dealing with mental health issues.
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I have just finished reading, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace. It was a wonderful gift I received on Father’s Day. The book consists of verbatim transcripts of conversations between writers David Foster Wallace and David Lipsky. Their conversation was recorded during the last five days of Wallace’s book tour through the Midwestern United States promoting his enormously successful novel Infinite Jest.
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Recently in our community a debate has raged over the care and support given to people who are struggling with mental health issues. It is not a new discussion; but it has taken on added intensity with the recent public awareness of the tragic deaths of mental health patients who have not been able to find their way to a place of wellbeing.
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There was not supposed to be a “Flat Leadership #4.” But General McChrystal intervened.

Until yesterday morning Stanley Allen McChrystal was the Commander of International Security Assistance Forces and of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. Then he gave an interview to the “Rolling Stone” in which he made unflattering comments about top US administration officials.
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So what does “flat leadership” look like?

This is a beguiling and dangerous question. As soon as you venture to provide an answer, you risk moving outside the parameters of “flat leadership.” Any normative picture of how leadership ought to look carries the danger of imposing artificial parameters upon the community within which that leadership is exercised.

“Flat leadership” is contextual. Leaders must understand that leadership is exercised in particular communal environments and that, just as every human being is unique, so every collection of human beings is unique. There is no prescription that can be universally applied to every human context without doing violence to that context.
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Developing “flat leadership” in the church is going to be costly.

People who have lived contentedly under domineering hierarchical leadership are going to feel profoundly threatened and let down when they see their leaders stepping aside and sitting as equal participants in the circle of community life. Many people find comfort in having an authority figure who pronounces vigorously the way forward every time a decision is required. When the leader begins to shift to open consultation, those who felt secure under the authoritarian style will soon lash back and attack the leader whose style has shifted to a more egalitarian model.
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I suppose it has always been difficult to be a leader. But, it seems that leadership in our day is even more challenging that it may have ever been.

Internet access has turned everyone into an instant expert on every imaginable topic. The frenetic speed of life has rendered serious reflection a lost art and made open, respectful communication almost impossible. The incredible complexities and challenges of human affairs have left leaders often feeling completely paralyzed. The demise of institutional loyalty has left all leaders in a constantly precarious position.

It is tempting to give up on the idea of leadership. But human communities seem to require some kind of leadership. Leaderless communities deteriorate quickly into chaos.
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My father was a quiet solitary man. He lived most comfortably in the silent land of the spirit. Navigating the treacherous terrain of the busy world was not his natural skill. He carried about him the slightly bemused air of someone who could not quite figure out the details of his awkward life.

My father liked order, schedule, and calm. This made the intricate and messy complexities of fatherhood an almost inconceivable mystery.
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