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Sex and Education

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

S is for Sex

I watch Glee. Yes, I am a big fan – even when the show gets a bit ridiculous. I love the music. I love the dancing. I love the way they don’t shy away from the controversial topics like alcohol, smoking, homosexuality, and sex. Do I think the show is appropriate for all teens to watch? I don’t live with all teens so I am happy to have each family make their own decisions about what is or isn’t appropriate viewing for them.

One of the things I like most about the show is the way it spurs conversation among my own family members. When the writers and producers risk it all to show teen alcohol struggles, teen pregnancy, bullying, and, yes, teen homosexual relationships, I take those scenarios as teachable moments to talk with my family. We have some great conversations where my kids take the lead on asking the questions AND voicing their opinions.

I realize there are organizations which take strong stands on limiting what kids should be exposed to on TV and I appreciate their intentions and their research into the shows. However, I prefer to use this information as a guide then watch the show and draw my own conclusions. Depending on what I’ve heard or read, I may decide to watch it with one of my kids or preview it on my own first. In either case, it is me, as the provider living in the household, deciding what is best for my family.

I regularly advocate for the health and education of my children and encourage others to do the same. What kids view on TV does influence them so it makes sense to advocate for what we believe in there as well. But please, let each of us decide what is best for our families without making those decisions for us.

Entertainment, not so entertaining…

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz by now. The Simpsons may be cancelled! Yes, another family on the brink of financial disaster. It appears a 45% cut on an eight million dollar salary for about 6 months of work is going to break them. So sad to see another family that was living paycheck to paycheck on the verge of homelessness. If only they had planned ahead and set aside just a fraction of that $8,000,000 each season.

Ridiculous, isn’t it. I mean when you look at it that way. Who do these people think they are, fighting over $4,000,000 when real life families are struggling to keep their homes? Even those families who are employed at degreed professions barely make enough to live secure lives and send their kids to college.

I just got back from taking my dogs on a long walk. I was thinking about this ludicrous “news report” as I walked and took in my surroundings. I wandered past an enormous home and realized it was the one owned by a Nuggets player – I don’t know if he is current or former and I really don’t care – not a basketball fan. I can’t imagine why his family needs all that space but I don’t blame him for buying it. In fact, given the opportunity, I would like to thank him for doing so. You see his big, beautiful home helps pay for one of the best school districts in the region. It also contributes a great deal to the paths I am able to enjoy, the doggie clean up stations, the park benches, and the employment of several private landscaping companies in the neighborhood.

So what is it that makes me angry about that house? The anger about this house is the same anger I feel about the entertainment industry’s money. It’s because I am a parent who, like many parents, wants to give my children every opportunity in life to succeed and be happy. And when I see billions of dollars supporting entertainment while the government cuts funding to the schools, teachers, and community organizations which educated, guided and supported the people who built the corporations-, I get mad.

I was recently told by an educator that I am not the kind of person who just complains about things. I am the kind of person who looks for ways to help solve problems. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can fix the huge mess our country is in all by myself. I do have a couple of ideas to think about though: one local, one much, much, much bigger. Of course, what I am about to say next may be 100% percent wrong. Since I am saying it on the internet, I am sure lots of people will let me know if I am even 0.001% wrong. And, since this post is too long already, I want to hear some of your ideas before I go public with mine!

Give it some thought, see what you come up with and let me know. Over the next few days we can all add our ideas to the pot. Who knows, maybe we’ll hit on an idea or two that is picked up by enough people to actually make a change.

On Balance and Equality and Fairness

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

I made a comment on an op-ed someone shared on Facebook and, as often happens, different people took my comment to mean different things. Therefore, rather than respond to everyone individually in an effort to better explain myself, I figured I would write a post instead.

I know, I know, four posts in less than a month – crazy!

The article, by a female anesthesiologist, takes a pretty strong stand and says if you want to be a doctor, please commit to the career. The cost of educating and producing a physician should not be taken lightly, especially since it is subsidized by local and federal funds. Moreover, if you end up just doing the profession part time, or give it up entirely, you have wasted taxpayer dollars.

OK – I get that part. I also imagine the person who pursued the medical profession put plenty of their own money into it and, quite likely, has substantial education loans to pay back. My guess is, they intend to stick with and make money at the job.

The article goes on to talk about how it is primarily women who tend to become part timers in the medical profession, or give it up altogether, in order to start a family. They can’t seem to find “work-life balance” if they maintain medicine as a full time career.

No kidding! Being a doctor is demanding work. I grew up with a doctor in the house – my father. I know he was extremely busy and worked crazy hours. I also know he made every effort to be involved with anything possible when it came to family. Was he at every choir concert, soccer game, dance recital or school event? No. Do I remember the things he didn’t attend? No. I do, however, remember his face beaming with pride when he was there. I remember hearing his voice stand out above all the others when he would laugh at a show I was in or cheer for my brother when he scored a goal. I remember going with him when he would make rounds at the hospital and I would get cookies from the nurses. I remember listening to him on the phone as he talked an EMT through delivering a baby in a blizzard. I have great memories of growing up with a full time doctor as a parent.

Oh wait, he was my dad, not my mom! It was socially acceptable for him to miss school events, sporting events, and performances. It doesn’t mean he didn’t want to be there, it just means he was expected to sacrifice those things and be at work. But that was a few decades ago (please don’t do the math for my age here). Things have changed, right? Apparently not.

You see, I find it hard to believe anyone, male or female, would invest the time, energy, effort and money into being a doctor if they were not fully committed to the career. I think our society still piles on the guilt for mom to place kids over career and dad to sacrifice family time. This is why many female physicians are so torn and often end up opting out. Not only do they have to deal with ridicule from people about their decision to be in such a demanding and important field, but their spouses often endure ridicule when they show up at events without the wife and find it necessary to defend her choice. Society, as a whole, STILL isn’t ready to accept mom as the primary bread winner as a family structure. I know there are exceptions – I happen to have very good friends who fall into the exception category – so please, don’t bother to criticize me for putting this in writing. But let’s face it,  you and your family need to be prepared to stand your ground and deal with the crap. This isn’t going to be an easy choice for the long haul.

And as for work-life balance… don’t expect to find that. It’s total bullshit! There are some days work will be more important and some days family (and whatever else you consider “life”) will rise to the top. Hell, there are some hours in a day when these things will flip-flop several times. Life is never fair in what it deals out – we tell our kids that all the time. All we can do is know that we are doing our very best at any given moment to make the right choice when, in fact, we have a choice. And, when we feel as if we don’t have a choice, then those are the times we need to power through, tune out the guilt, nod a polite “thank you” to the unsolicited advice givers, and realize we are not doing anything to intentionally screw anyone up; we are simply doing what needs to be done. Our families, our “life,” will understand and be proud of the entire person we are: mom or dad, AND doctor.

An Aunt by Any Other Title.. or no Title at All

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Let me start by welcoming those of you who may be visiting us from Savvy Auntie. As honorary aunts to each others’ children, Devra and I love keeping up with the latest Savvy Auntie news.

I’m gonna come clean here. Titles frighten me a bit. I think it’s because of the pressure it commits to using other titles. If I refer to someone as an Aunt or Uncle, I feel I need to know about cousins, 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, cousins once removed… You get the idea – there’s a lot of pressure here and, to be perfectly honest, I just don’t understand how all of that works. Don’t bother trying to explain it to me – many already have. It doesn’t stick.

Here’s the funny thing though, the one person my kids consistently refer to with the title of Aunt, is Devra. Remember, despite the fact no one can tell us apart on the phone, we are not related (at least not in any way I can identify). Now “Devra” is about as common as “Aviva” but when I mention Devra, if I don’t add “You know, Auntie Dev,” my kids look at me as if to say, “Which Devra do you mean?” How weird is that?

Even stranger, although I have a niece from my brother and a small collection of nieces and nephews on my husband’s side (are they removed or niece/nephew-in-laws?), I rarely think of myself as Aunt Aviva except when I am talking about Devra’s kids who always respond with, “Oh, you mean Aunt Aviva,” when Devra tells them, “It’s Aviva on the phone.” I guess this is how they keep me distinguished from the many other Aviva’s in their lives.

Perhaps I don’t associate myself with the title because, even though I have several aunts, I only call one of my aunts by title – and when I do, it’s not simply a prefix to her name. My Aunt Nancy is only Aunt Nancy when followed by Pants. I have no idea where, when, or how this started. All I can tell you is she is Aunt Nancy Pants – always has been, always will be!

I guess the point is this… title or no title, related or not, Devra and I are fortunate enough to hold a special place in the hearts of our kids that allows us to be a part of their lives as only aunts can be – even if we’re not technically aunts… or are we?

Anatomy of Guilt

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Months ago when Ilisa Cohen, a Senior Editor at Working Mother Magazine, contacted us and requested an interview.  Ilisa had no idea we seriously considered turning her down.  Not because we don’t like being interviewed, if you’ve ever met Aviva and me  you know we both love to talk. About anything. Really. Anything. Need proof? Here….

Are we afraid of being misquoted? Nah. Misquotes can always be corrected. Not a deal breaker by any means. The reason we hesitated is we’ve been vocal regarding our lack of confidence in the “Best Company” lists Working Mother Magazine publishes annually.   We’ve never thought more than a handful of companies listed in the 100 actually belong on those lists.  While there are a few diamonds in mud, a majority of the companies on the list aren’t really “Best” at all. The question we asked of ourselves was, “Would it be hypocritical for us to contribute our commentary for an article being published in Working Mother Magazine?”

After careful consideration, we decided to accept the interview.  The way we came to this decision is the topic was guilt, not family/work policy(and yes, if you noticed we are putting family in front of work, instead of the other way around and it is intentional on our part).  It was our hope the article could help alleviate guilt for Working Mother Magazine readers.

The front cover announces, “Never feel Guilty again!” Attention grabbing yes, true? Probably not. Unproductive guilt is an emotional vampire, it’s the sort of guilt we experience that sucks the joy out of parenthood. And yes, we agree that is the sort of guilt we don’t need to keep around and entertain. However, we’ve always maintained  guilt is a valid emotion and is productive when is serves to remind us to get back on track  if we’ve really gone off the rails.  And who amongst us doesn’t make a mistake? Regardless if you ever feel guilty or not, it’s more than likely we can all agree–Nobody is perfect. Period.

The article is online,“The Anatomy of Guilt.” We would love for you to take a look at it and come back here for discussion.

Discussion:

While the article is well-written and well-sourced, we had expected the article to dig a bit deeper.  The time honored tradition of quoting experts  advising stressed out parents to “Just take a break” plays into the oversimplification of what it actually takes to decrease an incredibly active guilt-o-meter. What is missing from the piece, and really almost every article written on the topic of guilt, are the practical suggestions for how to take a break. Again, to be  fair, this isn’t a problem unique to the Working Mother Magazine article.  It happens a lot. In parenting classes, in family/work programs, in wellness workshops. You name it, someone is saying “Just give yourself a break” or “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

And what happens if you don’t have any practical suggestions for doing either of those things? Gee, let’s guess? You feel even worse and even guiltier as you consider, “I just can’t take a break right now” or “I can’t afford a baby sitter” or “Why can’t I just stop being so hard on myself?”  See how it goes?  While “Just give yourself a break” and ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself” are offered as a way to reassure and give parents permission to ease up on themselves, it’s not the same thing as offering concrete ideas to parents who are stressed out and feeling like crap or have situations beyond their control they cannot help, such as having to work like a dog at their job (or even two jobs!) to afford three hots and a cot for their family.

Let’s come together as a community and talk about reality, how do we “take a break,” what will it take for us to “stop being so hard on ourselves?”

We’ll start it rolling with a few of our ideas, and some we’ve picked up from other places. We’d like you to continue the conversation in the comments.

  • Do your research. Check out competing companies and see if they have any family/work policies your own company might be able to adapt. If you walk into your supervisor’s office and say “Look what they are doing. Maybe we could do it too?” You might find your boss might actually go for it. If you don’t get a full “Green light GO!”, suggest trying it out for a trial period. If you never ask, how will you ever know if the possibility exists?
  • Are you overly connected? Disconnected? Get a grip on your PDA, Computer or Cell phone use.
  • Take pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. Make a list of whatever is weighing on your mind. Is it not enough time with the kids? Bills piling up? Too much fast-food eating? Whatever it is write it down. Then separate the items into two columns, “I can control this” or “Not up to me.”  This process will allow you to actively consider where you are spending your emotional energy and if it’s being wasted or not.
  • Are you too self-critical? Snap out of it. Literally.  Wear a rubberband on your wrist and whenever you catch yourself with a negative thought, give the rubber band a little  snap.  (Devra used this method to stop biting her nails– as an adult!)

Now it’s your turn. Discuss the article, guilt inducing situations, suggestions to alleviate guilt…GO!

Guilt: What’s a holiday without this special gift?

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

For many people, gifting this year is different. Maybe it’s because economics have taken their toll, maybe you’ve gone green, maybe you just want to stop the retail madness and define the holiday differently. Who would think making changes would be guilt-inducing? But they can be, so let’s take a look at some possible ways to deal with guilt, such as let it go or having the guilt guide you toward creating some wonderful holiday memories.

1. Any gift is a good gift. Remember the old adage “You’ll get nothing and like it?” Well, if someone is getting a gift from you, then you’ve already gone above and beyond according to that adage.

2. Rock it old school when it comes to spending time with your loved ones. Lots of children like hearing “Way back when” stories of your childhood, their childhood, their grandparents childhoods. So why not bring some of those experiences back during the holiday season? Try making a short family movie, or dig out family photos and have a caption contest. Maybe you can encourage everyone to write (or for smaller kids dictate) a favorite holiday memory and make copies to send home with everyone.

3. If you are having a Staycation, be tourists in your own town. Look up sites to see and go see them. If you are visiting family, share some of your favorite hometown places with your kids.

4. Here’s an article Aviva and I were interviewed for in Baltimore’s Child Magazine about dealing with special circumstances that arise with combining special needs kids and special holiday celebrations. (However, the info is definitely applicable to any family, not just those with a extraordinary child.)

5. Take a look at what Di has to say about Mommy Guilt and resolutions.

Now consider what would make your holiday less stressful or guilt-inducing. Really. Consider it.

We’ll wait.

Ready?

I’ll begin the conversation by saying in our house we put a holiday recipe book in front of our kids and said “You pick em and you make em. We’ll help.”

C’mon. Let’s Be Baaaaaaad!

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Go ahead. Break some rules with your kids. Do it. I just read this article by our blogmiga Meagan Francis in which she describes the excitement her children experienced from going with their dad to the midnight showing of Indiana Jones.
On a…

Wait. For. It.

SCHOOL NIGHT!

Then she goes on to discuss how quickly feeling good about a parenting decision can switch to feeling crummy when you realize your decision may not be receiving approval marks from other parents. This is an experience many parents can relate to and share. It does burst one’s bubble of parental confidence at times to discover what you are doing isn’t “mainstream”, but you know what? Maybe the other parents are being non-commonsensical. After all, a 12 year old watching midnight movie on a weeknight with their parent isn’t the same thing as an 12 year old being dropped off at a midnight movie by a parent. Period.

Some of my most fond memories of childhood are when my parents “broke the rules” with me. Letting me sleep over at my friend Louisa’s house on a school night so our entire gaggle of girlfriends could watch The Lords of Flatbush on TV. Being Brooklyn Girls we had just had to see this movie and it was The Fonz people! I also remember the time my dad took me when I was a young teen to a bar to celebrate my birthday because a famous folk singer and human rights activist was playing that night and he thought it would make my birthday extra special. Which it did.

I remember these as special experiences I shared with my parents. Not every day events. These occasional deviations from the day to day, became memories from my childhood I cherish.

So go ahead, take your kid to a midnight showing of that special movie you know they really want to see, pick up your child from school in the middle of the day and whisk them to McDonald’s with you for lunch. Is an author your child enjoys reading coming to a bookstore near you? Take your kid to the signing and so what if it’s on a school night. I did this with Son One when This guy came to town and it was AWESOME.

Occasionally it’s good to be bad. And it’s really not all that bad if you stop and think about it. If no laws are being broken and no feelings are being hurt,and common sense is being observed then I say, “Go for it!”

I bet you will be surprised at what kinds of rule breaking you can come up with that isn’t expensive, doesn’t take tons of time and yet will be something you and your children will look back upon and love that you did together.

Delurk and tell us what you want legislators to know about your life and what you need

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

We’ve got some big ears listening to us right now. On Wednesday we met with a senate staffer on Capital Hill to discuss family/care giving policies in our country. Here is the question we were pondering:

What kind of policy can everyone, regardless of political affiliation, support? What would get parents motivated to get to the election booth? Our demographic is low at the polls, but there are definitely policies being discussed on The Hill that families need to discuss and learn about. If you could choose one type of caregiving policy to support and actually vote for, what would it be?
Is it universal health care? Paid vacation? Paid sick days? Universal respite care? A 30 hour work week with no “exempt” status to justify some having to work 70 hour weeks? Something else?
What? Name it! What is your numero uno concern?
We will be following up on our discussion and meeting with more folks on The Hill. So let us know what you want from our legislative system.
We want to help make it happen! So let us hear your voice and tell us what you want and we’ll make sure we get it to those big ears!