YouTube Challenge – I Gave My Kids a Terrible Present

I’m Jealous of My Nanny

A working mom’s dilemma.

By Alison Hart

“Do you think your nanny is too affectionate with your daughter?” my friend asked me at work the other day.

I understood exactly what she was asking. We had had our babies within a month of each other. We were both back in the office, and our children were at home with their nannies. We missed our babies terribly. We both wanted to know whether it was normal to feel the way we did. The answer was — is — complicated.

My husband and I hired a wonderful woman to care for our daughter Mia. I still don’t know how we lucked out. We found Tess* [not her real name] online, through one of those websites that’s like an OK Cupid for parents and sitters. By the time we met her, we had interviewed so many candidates that I wondered how I would keep them all straight in my mind, but Tess stood out. She was warm, funny, and took copious notes. We went with our gut. It could have been a disaster, like a bad first date. But Tess is marvelous, both deeply kind and careful.

On her first day, there were rough patches. Mia cried in the morning. It didn’t help that I’d overfed her before I left for work, because I was worried about my milk supply going down. She cried in the late afternoon, too, and her eyelashes were still wet with tears when I got home, but she was happier. She was lying on her back in her activity gym, and Tess was alongside her, bringing the dangly duckie into reach. Mia was laughing, and I could tell that she would be okay without me.

After that, she and Tess got along like peaches and cream.

As time went on, my coworkers would ask how my daughter was doing, and I would gush with relief. She’s great! She’s happy! One day after I’d been back at work a couple weeks, my father asked whether I was jealous of Tess, but how could I be jealous? I was too overwhelmed with gratitude. And I was so busy getting caught up at work that there wasn’t time to miss Mia. Next thing I knew, I was home again for bathtime, the best part of my day.

So when the jealousy came, it threw me for a loop… (click here to read the rest of the article)

10 Things NOT to Say to a New Mom

By Jill Smokler

I have a friend who just had a baby. Like 99 percent of the population, she left the hospital looking like a semi-deflated version of the pregnant woman who checked in a couple days before. She had the signature pouch, the bloated feet, and the glazed look on her face. Like the rest of us. A few days later, at the baby’s well-visit, an elderly woman began cooing over the infant. “She’s gorgeous,” the woman announced. “And, you’re pregnant again, already?!”

How my friend didn’t attack this stupid woman, I’ll never understand. But, for her and all the other clueless people out there, here are 10 other things not to say to a new mother …

1. OMG! He/she looks just like your husband! We know. Zip it.

2. I lost all my baby weight in the hospital. There is simply no civil response to a statement like this.

3. Breast is best, you know. Yes, we’re aware of that. Mind your own damn business.

4. You look exhausted. No shit.

5. Awwww, did you really want a boy/girl (whichever one you didn’t end up with)? Yes! And fortunately babies come with an exchange policy, so we’re expecting to trade her in any day!

6. You sure have your hands full! Why, yes, yes we do. Want to lend one of yours?

7. She needs a hat. So do you. On your mouth.

8. He’s/She’s so small/big/long/short/thin/fat. In what world are these observations welcome?!

9. My baby was sleeping all night every night from birth. Well, then how about you come and sleep-train mine?

10. When are you having the next one?

[via The Stir]

A daughter’s tribute to her dying mother

[via The Telegraph]

Mom Bloggers, A Force To Be Reckoned With

By Lisa Belkin, Huffington Post

Mom bloggers, you’ve got clout. (And probably Klout — though with the recent revamp of that system it’s hard to tell who has what over there any more.)

A study released this weekend shows that while only 14 percent of American mothers have a blog (and you thought it was everyone you knew?) those who do are more politically aware, socially involved and, might I add, better educated, than the average woman with children (52 percent have a college degree compared with 37 of mothers nationwide.) They are wealthier too (with an average household income of $84,000 which is $14,000 higher than the national average.)

(A side rant here. If Mom bloggers are so smart, why does the press release from Scarborough Research, which conducted this survey, fall back onto that old — offensive — riff on how they are somehow ignoring their kids in order to feed their egos online. “Did your mom ever send you to your room?” it begins. “Was it so that she could have some time to blog?” Didn’t the New York Times Style section learn that hard lesson for everyone when it was excoriated by mothers who blog after running a piece titled “Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand.” And I like to think I played a tiny role in making it clear that these are creative, savvy, business women redefining modern parenting when I wrote a New York Times Magazine piece about the leading practitioners here. Okay. I got that out of my system. Back to the data.)

Of course what interested these marketing researchers was the spending habits of this niche, and the conclusion was that Mom bloggers are willing to put their money where their values are. They are 69% more likely to buy organic food on a regular basis, 46% more likely to purchase locally grown food, and 49% more likely than all mothers to buy eco-friendly cleaning products (and 89 percent more likely to pay more for them.)

There were nuggets in the report for those marketing political candidates, too. To wit: “Mom Bloggers” say they “always” vote in presidential elections (76 percent) and statewide contests (45 percent) and they identify as Democrat (29 percent), Republican (25 percent) and indpendet (29 percent) in almost equal shares. They are twice as likely to have donated to a political organization over the past year, 85 percent more likely to base their support on a candidate’s views on the environment, and 39 percent more likely to have volunteered in a campaign or social cause.

What interests me about the data, though, since I am not a marketer but rather a personal and professional consumer of blogs by parents, is the role these sites have come to play in modern parenting. That was not among the data in this particular study, so let’s use the comments to start accumulating our own.

Certainly few of us raise our children based solely on conversations or information found online. But I do believe that these play an increasing role in our thoughts and choices. What I find most compelling as I wander around them each day is twofold. First, each of us only knows the intimate workings of one or two households — specifically the ones in which we have lived. So, the way other people do things is essentially a mystery. We catch glimpses, but they are only that.

Blogs, however, offer an open window, and sometimes a door. We get to see how others handle the dilemmas of parenting, and, in years of covering parenting in an electronic world, I have seen many a time when a parent’s mind was changed by the virtual conversation. I remember posting an email from one reader asking how to properly punish her 13-year-old for her messy room and pouty moods. Hundreds of readers gently but insistently told her to choose her battles, and that perhaps it was better for the long game to just close her daughter’s bedroom door. She wrote back to say she had taken the advice, and that her relationship with her tween was transformed, and that she was relieved to have a place to ask things she would never share face to face for fear of being judged.

And that is the second power of these virtual conversations. They allow honesty through anonymity.

Parents need to talk. But they can’t always talk completely truthfully. In part that is because of the cycle of posturing we all seem to inhabit, where we can’t admit we are struggling because no one else seems to be. Mostly, though, I think there are things we don’t discuss openly because it is not our privacy we would be breaching, but our children’s. Their struggles, and setbacks and weaknesses cause us pain, but to share them would be to tell their secrets.

Either way, the result is often the feeling that we are the only ones navigate any particular rocky route. Until we go online. On thousands of sites we get to open up about things we can’t quite say out loud, and hear back from far more people than could ever fit in our actual circle.

Which blogs play this role in your life? What bloggers do you read regularly, and what do you take away from your visits?


Motherhood Uncensored, Indeed

By Cristie Ritz King, founder of The Right Hand Mom

The information I took in when I glanced at the website for Motherhood Out Loud had me prepared to laugh at the familiar moments I’d come to know as universal in this parenting journey. What I didn’t expect was that I would alternate my laughter with streaming tears.

You can’t really describe Motherhood Out Loud as a play. It’s more a collection of monologues but it’s not really that either. Monologues somehow conjour up images of solo actors staring into the dark, going on and on as if they’re the only ones in the room. Hence the mono.

Motherhood Out Loud is far from detached and never boring. The actors never stare into the distance. They play off each other at times, the audience other times and they even stand back and let the graphics on stage take their turn telling the story.

The website calls Motherhood Out Loud,  ”Utterly unpredictable, Motherhood Out Loud shatters traditional notions about parenthood, unveils its inherent comedy and celebrates the deeply personal truths that span and unite generations.”

I’d say that’s just about right on. There were moments where I thought the actors were telling my story and other moments where I had no personal concept of how the character might feel, such as the Gay Dad wondering when mall Santas will stop asking his daughter where her mommy is or the Mom with the biological son fielding out-of-bounds questions about her adopted Chinese daughter. No matter whether I could see myself in their shoes or not, the universal truths of parenthood came through each and every story and the result was raucous laughter AND heart wrenching tears.

Much like Motherhood itself, Motherhood Out Loud evoked emotions in me that often caught me by surprise, sometimes scared me, but in the end left me utterly satisfied.

Motherhood Out Loud is playing at Primary Stages in NYC. The show runs through the end of October. For $5 discount on tickets use the code BWWMOM and purchase tickets here. *

On the Couch With the Women of Motherhood Out Loud

Mary Bacon, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, and Randy Graff are currently starring in the New York premiere of Motherhood Out Loud with Primary Stages, playing at 59E59 Theaters through October 29th. Motherhood Out Loud is a hilarious and moving tribute to motherhood, as written by some of America’s most celebrated writers. Check out what they have to say when we put them on the couch!

Q: What do you consider to be your best asset?
MB: My sense of humor – it’s not always present, but when it is, it gets me through anything!
SE: My heart.
RG: I’m a good friend.

Q: What was your proudest moment?
MB: When my son Abadi , 18 months, sang the ABCS entirely on his own
SE: Winning and originating the role of Mama Nadi in RUINED.
RG: I can’t single one out, but I teach for Primary Stages, and every time I see a student “get it” it blows me away.

Q: What is your favorite drink?
MB: Ok – Dr. Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar with Ginger!! I don’t imbibe the hard stuff…maybe that’s why this appeals…
SE: A really dirty vodka martini with 3 olives, or a great glass of any Spanish red wine.
RG: A chocolate egg cream. I’m from Brooklyn.

Q: What is your favorite food?
MB: Peanut butter. With. Anything.
SE: Spanish and African cuisine.
RG: Love pizza. Straight up.

Q: What is your favorite condiment?
MB: Mustard!!!
SE: Bragg’s Amino Acids.
RG: Tahini sauce.

Q: What is your current obsession?

MB: I am well on my way of becoming a huge fan of Laura Dern’s new series Enlightened. She is out of control she’s so good.
SE: My spiritual development and creating a low glycemic eating plan.
RG: Unpacking….my husband and I just moved. I am a compulsive unpacker.

Q: If you could give up one of your vices, what would it be?
MB: Impatience.
SE: My addiction to sugar…but maybe not give it up totally…just decrease it by 70%? Oy…
RG: Chocolate.

Q: What is the one professional accomplishment you long for most?
MB: To just keep working with greater and greater talents.
SE: Starring in a sold-out, amazing Broadway show, maybe sing a couple of songs, and winning a TONY Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress for my performance.
RG: I would like to never have to audition again! Dream on…

Q: What is the one thing you waste too much money on?
MB: Boots. And cabs!!
SE: Groupon, Living Social Daily Deals, etc.
RG: Shoes.

Q: What is the one activity you waste too much time doing?
MB: Jumping from article to article on the NY Times website…..
SE: Window shopping online.
RG: Being online late at night. Like now.

Q: What do you consider to be the single greatest threat to your health?
MB: Being a Type One diabetic, as I am , and just suffering from the ravages of what high blood sugar does – even though I am very careful, it’s unavoidable at times – hopefully I’ll stay lucky…..Oh, and stress. In fact, when I am stressed, the blood sugar stays elevated, so there you go….
SE: Sugar!!!
RG: That would be the worrying thing. But I’m working on that.

Q: What is the single best trait you inherited or learned from your parents?
MB: Sense of humor and a love of good writing and editing.
SE: The importance of bonding with your culture and community while maintaining your individuality.
RG: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Q: What is the single worst trait you inherited or learned from your parents?
MB: My mom used to overeact in horrifying decibles – I sound just like her.
SE: ooohh, I’m not telling you that!
RG: Worrying.

Q: What in the world most thrills you?
MB: Putting on a great play with a great cast – and the first night when you hear from the audience that it is indeed a story, it’s come together, people walk away really affected in whatever way was intended. The unknown in theatre…when things magically come together, and I have no idea how it happened… is thrilling…and what I’d call grace.
SE: Spending time with my nephew and my niece; witnessing someone achieve a personal goal
RG: Listening to my husband play the piano.

Q: What current trend in popular culture most irritates you?
MB: talking on the phone EVERYWHERE or trying to get somewhere on the street with people texting as they are walking. And everyone in America needing to be special enough to star in a reality show.
SE: The invasive obsession of celebrities’ personal lives, and the importance it’s given in our society. Also focusing and celebrating the business side of this industry instead of true creativity.
RG: These housewife shows.

Q: What was the single most embarrassing moment you’ve ever experienced on the job?
MB: I could not get off the stage my first job in New York. I was replacing someone and no one told me where the exit doors on stage were! Had to wait til the end of the scene…
SE: Having to face upstage during a specific moment in THE PLANK PROJECT because Jenn Harris’s genius performance made me laugh hysterically! It happened every single performance!!
RG: I know what it is and I’m too embarrassed to tell.

Q: What is your favorite place in the world?
MB: My treehouse in Vermont.
SE: Spain
RG: The Catskill Mountains. They remind me of my childhood and the air is incredibly sweet.

Q: What is the most important trait you seek in a romantic partner?
MB: Humor.
SE: A sense of humor; an open heart and mind
RG: Trust.

Q: Do you prefer the company of dogs or cats?
MB: Ummm – depends on the dog. Or cat.
SE: Cats.
RG: Dogs.

Q: What would have to happen to make today the best day of your life?
SE: I’d feng shui a friend’s home, spend time with my family, go dancing with friends, perform in a show, and afterwards, drink Spanish wine while spending some romantic time with my lover on a private plane going to my fabulous home in Barcelona.
RG: To know that everyone I love is strong and healthy and peaceful.

Q: What is your personal motto?
MB: Keep going. Let go of results and keep going.
SE: Say “YES!” to everything!
RG: Live in the moment.

My Son, the Anti-Bully Bodyguard by Robin Gorman Newman

Seth announced today, as he bolted out the door for the school bus, that he’s a bodyguard.

 “For whom?” I said. “Ariel,” he replied. “A girl in my class.”

 “And, why does she need a bodyguard?” I asked.

 “Some kids are saying not nice things,” he answered.

 I kissed him good-bye, and thought, Okay, they’re 8 years old, and it’s starting. But, it had actually arisen before.

Last year, at the end of school, a mom of a boy in Seth’s class shared that Seth had spoken up to some kids on her son’s behalf. She was hugely impressed and appreciative of his efforts and self-assurance, and wasn’t sure if I was aware. I wasn’t, and thanked her.

A couple of years prior, Seth, himself, had an unsettling experience in school after lunch. He called them the bully girls, and complained of female students chasing him during recess. It sounded as if they admired him but didn’t know how to express it. I asked if he spoke up to his teacher, and he said he told the recess attendant, but things weren’t improving. I then called his teacher who said she’d explore. I asked Seth to name them… he couldn’t, and I sensed he wouldn’t even if he did. He’s proud and wouldn’t want a mom intervention. That could potentially lead to more bullying in his mind. What’s a mom to do? I didn’t want to dismiss his discomfort.

The bully girls are no longer an issue, thankfully, but other kids are. Not for Seth, but for his friends. And, Seth is coming to the rescue. I’m proud of him, but concerned. Will he one day encounter someone tough to stand up to? Seth isn’t striking back with aggression. He is telling bully kids to cut it out. I don’t know if they’re listening, but he speaks from the heart and truly cares about the well-being of others. He has a strong sense of right ‘n wrong.

Seth has long been a Rescue Hero in the making. That’s when he’s not busy being a CSI Investigator, SWAT Team member, Policeman, Fireman, EMS worker, Spy or Power Ranger. He has an impressive collection of baseball caps emblazoned with a wide array of motifs fitting these various bills. He has costumes replete with pants, vests and accessories that further feed the frenzy. On top of that, he has Nerf guns, play handcuffs, flashlights, invisible ink pens, etc. Add to all that a widely vivid imagination, and you never know what can result.

 I witnessed it firsthand at an impromptu play date. He and a friend rode bikes up and down the street, but when the paraphernalia and role play started to break out, things took a more complex turn. I was watching them and then retreated briefly to my office where I could see them out the window. I learned I can’t turn my back for 5 seconds. The phone rang, and it was my next door neighbor Jill. “Do you know that Seth and his friend are stopping traffic?”she said. I was stunned… thanked her for calling and ran out the door. Seth was on one side of the street in front of the house, and his playmate across the street, and they strung plastic rope across the road so cars had to stop. They put out plastic cones Seth plays with when creating a construction zone. They proclaimed they were stopping cars to make sure drivers were wearing seatbelts. They took huge pride in pointing out the Fed Ex truck they had also stopped, and how the driver thanked them for so diligently trying to protect people.

 I ordered them off the street and explained how, while they meant well, there are people in this world who might not embrace their efforts. Seth then showed me a hammer (real one) he had taken from our garage, and demonstrated how he could defend himself. Part of me was glad he had thought of that, but I didn’t want him in a fight. Whether standing up to bullies or enforcing what feels right, I know my son comes from a good place. I’m grateful he has strong, positive values. These aren’t easy to instill. But as a mom concerned about the welfare of her child, it’s not easy to watch when he launches into action.


Note: This piece first appeared on The Huffington Post.


Correct Again!

Once again, Mr. Isherwood, you are correct! Motherhood is a distinctly over-rated enterprise–not being a mother, I feel (with you) that I can say that with total objectivity. It is certainly no topic for any real theatrical enterprise–since it is so common, it cannot help but be cliché! But leave it to artists to think that the common can be universal rather than merely trite! The real villain here, though, as you indicate at the end, is children–it is the culture of childhood (with its sippy cups and diapers) which ruins perfectly good people and turns them into perfectly awful mothers (my wife and I happily avoided this fate–snip snip!). And it is the base evolutionary obsession with procreation which leads to the sort of cult of fecundity to which mothers (and theaters, in this case) fall prey. As a proud sterile man, I am tired of all the obvious representations of fertility onstage, tired of the sort of sexual rambunctiousness which could lead to depictions of such worn out idioms as “childhood” and “motherhood”! There really is no excuse to perpetuate this sort of nonsense any more. I much prefer plays which have a preoccupation with the fading dignity of real manliness, which see the world in a kind of cold blue light of once-removed reason and wit. I have a feeling you would agree. You are fighting the good fight, Mr. Isherwood, and with your acumen and authority so rigid and unquestionable (and so true!), I hope you will keep up the good work: keep destroying incorrect theater! Onward, soldier!

— Dean Thropwelle, NYC

In Strangers’ Glances at Family, Tensions Linger

By Susan Saulny

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — “How come she’s so white and you’re so dark?”

The question tore through Heather Greenwood as she was about to check out at a store here one afternoon this summer. Her brown hands were pushing the shopping cart that held her babbling toddler, Noelle, all platinum curls, fair skin and ice-blue eyes.

The woman behind Mrs. Greenwood, who was white, asked once she realized, by the way they were talking, that they were mother and child. “It’s just not possible,” she charged indignantly. “You’re so…dark!”

It was not the first time someone had demanded an explanation from Mrs. Greenwood about her biological daughter, but it was among the more aggressive. Shaken almost to tears, she wanted to flee, to shield her little one from this kind of talk. But after quickly paying the cashier, she managed a reply. “How come?” she said. “Because that’s the way God made us.”

The Greenwood family tree, emblematic of a growing number of American bloodlines, has roots on many continents. Its mix of races — by marriage, adoption and other close relationships — can be challenging to track, sometimes confusing even for the family itself.

For starters: Mrs. Greenwood, 37, is the daughter of a black father and a white mother. She was adopted into a white family as a child. Mrs. Greenwood married a white man with whom she has two daughters. Her son from a previous relationship is half Costa Rican. She also has a half brother who is white, and siblings in her adoptive family who are biracial, among a host of other close relatives — one from as far away as South Korea.

The population of mixed-race Americans like Mrs. Greenwood and her children is growing quickly, driven largely by immigration and intermarriage. One in seven new marriages is between spouses of different races or ethnicities, for example. And among American children, the multiracial population has increased almost 50 percent, to 4.2 million, since 2000.

But the experiences of mixed-race Americans can be vastly different. Many mixed-race youths say they feel wider acceptance than past generations, particularly on college campuses and in pop culture. Extensive interviews and days spent with the Greenwoods show that, when they are alone, the family strives to be colorblind. But what they face outside their home is another story. People seem to notice nothing but race. Strangers gawk. Make rude and racist comments. Tell offensive jokes. Ask impolite questions.

The Greenwoods’ experiences offer a telling glimpse into contemporary race relations, according to sociologists and members of other mixed-race families.

It is a life of small but relentless reminders that old tensions about race remain, said Mrs. Greenwood, a homemaker with training in social work.

“People confront you, and it’s not once in a while, it’s all the time,” she said. “Each time is like a little paper cut, and you might think, ‘Well, that’s not a big deal.’ But imagine a lifetime of that. It hurts.”

Jenifer L. Bratter, an associate sociology professor at Rice University who has studied multiracialism, said that as long as race continued to affect where people live, how much money they make and how they are treated, then multiracial families would be met with double-takes. “Unless we solve those issues of inequality in other areas, interracial families are going to be questioned about why they’d cross that line,” she said.

According to Census data, interracial couples have a slightly higher divorce rate than same-race couples — perhaps, sociologists say, because of the heightened stress in their lives as they buck enduring norms. And children in mixed families face the challenge of navigating questions about their identities.

“If we could just go about whatever we’re doing and not be asked anything about our family’s colors,” Mrs. Greenwood said, “that would be a dream.”

A Family’s Story… (read the rest of the article here)