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Susan L.M. Goldberg

Susan L.M. Goldberg is a writer with a Master's in Radio, Television & Film. Her writing tends towards the intersection of culture, politics and faith with the interest in starting, not stopping the discussion. Follow her on Twitter @SLMGoldberg.
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How to Handle a Dad Who is a Total Tech Geek

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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My husband is a huge tech geek. Therefore, as soon as we started talking about having kids he began researching what he thought was the obvious: Baby monitors, of course. And the stroller/car seat combo along with any other device that had convert-to-age capabilities. Before this child was in my womb he’d already made his shopping list. And apparently he’s not alone.

If you want a glimpse inside your man’s head during pregnancy, because God knows he’s not going to share his roller coaster of emotions with you, check out Instafather.com. A thoughtful combination of practical Dad advice, how-to’s and product reviews, Instafather provides free subscribers with email updates featuring a slew of well-researched information. The best part: It’s written in manspeak. No leaky boobs, no stress hormones: We’re talking the practical side of baby raising, with a fair share of compassion for mom thrown in along with a dose of humor for good measure.

My personal favorite is the Expectant Father Toolkit, an A-Z covering the basic products every Dad should make sure he has on hand. From Butt Paste to “wearable baby gear” (“I use it to get dishes and vacuuming done, but it’s also perfect for a mall or Lowe’s!”), this 101 guide covers the stuff he probably hasn’t already thought of, but will relish using.

What’s behind the site? Curator Andy Shaw explains:

What’s going to help? My handy, super useful (and funny) resources I put together after I did all the legwork for you. I’ve read the books and best articles, studied the “Top Lists”, and narrowed it down to the info you’ll most benefit from. My quick background: I’m a journalist, digital market, comedian, and dad of three (twins in May 2015!), so this content is combining the best of everything I do.

Shaw also has a keen understanding of what it really means to be a Dad: “BEING A DAD IS VITAL TO THE VERY CORE OF YOUR BEING BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE DEPENDS ON YOU TO THE VERY CORE OF THEIR OWN.” Ladies, read the entire article with a tissue in your hand. Then give your hubs a hug. Underneath that grown up version of rough and tumble boyhood is a really mature guy who is so excited to have a baby that he can’t help but want to do it all right.

 

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10 Things I Want to Do Just Like My Dad

Sunday, June 21st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Make my time their time.

For most of my childhood my father worked 60 hours a week. I’d see him for about 10 minutes each morning, a 45 minute dinner hour and as I grew older, for a few minutes before bed 5 days a week. Regardless of how much house work he had to catch up on during the weekends, he always made time to hang out with me and keep a tab on my life and my interests. His lunch hours were spent picking up albums for me at record stores or printing off web pages for me to check out before we had an Internet connection of our own at home. Despite his hectic work schedule I never once felt ignored, let alone forgotten.

Know when to hold them close…

One of my earliest sense memories of my father involves me standing at the bathroom sink, him behind me helping to scrub my hands after we’d built something in his garage workshop. Later those rough-hewn hands would take the time to give me a hug before my mother packed him off to the ER because he couldn’t breathe. He instinctively knew to reassure me before they left that I knew he’d be all right. Never let teenagers fool you into thinking your presence as a parent no longer matters. Even as we transition into adulthood we still want you there for everything that matters.

…and when to push them out of the nest.

Jaded by a lousy public school experience, I had no interest in even attempting college. Not only did my father find a major that piqued my interest, he did all the research and demanded that I move out of the house to live on campus. “You need to get out into the world. It’s time,” he said, point-blank. And he was right. College wound up being one of the best experiences of my life and the place where I met my future husband who is, in many ways, bizarrely like my father.

Always stay positive.

Everything has a bright side and every opportunity is an adventure. Even when hard work is involved or challenges are persistent, there’s always something to think positively about in my Dad’s playbook. Do you know how hard it is to manage that kind of attitude as a voting adult, let alone a parent with two jobs, a mortgage and college educations to pay for? Yet, the older I get the more the jaded cynicism of my youth gives way to the comforting ease of happiness exuded by my father …even if it was after a rant or two about taxes.

Take joy in my own talents and abilities.

My father could have been a professional singer. Instead, when presented with the opportunity to audition in front of some fairly influential people, he decided he’d better stick to his day job for the sake of his wife and kids. Nevertheless, he always managed to take joy in his talents, whether by participating in the local community players or simply singing at the top of his lungs in the shower. He developed enough of a local reputation to have more than one person approach him to inquire if he’d sing at their family event. And when he belted out Sunrise, Sunset at my own wedding the crowd stood in awe. “Hey, can we rewind this thing?” he asked when watching my wedding video. “I want to see my part again.” There is nothing wrong in taking joy in who God made you to be.

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Is 40 Too Old To Be a First-Time Mom?

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

I can’t think of one friend who willingly had kids in their twenties. They say the average age of a first-time mom is 26. Take a look around an OB’s waiting room and you’ll see why: the two prime demographics are either unwed mothers in their late teens/early 20s, or women nearing 40. Caught in the middle, my Gen-X/millennial crossover crowd is busy hearing their biological clocks tick. While we’re happy we didn’t dive into parenthood right after college, we don’t want to make the mistake of pushing babies off until they’re a near-impossibility either.

The fear of waiting too long to have children bears more consequence than the potential stresses of IVF. According to “Katrina Alcorn, author of the bestselling Maxed out: American Moms on the brink, … women who delayed having kids ‘to try to get a foothold in their careers or to get some financial stability’ are being pushed beyond their limits as they struggle with work-life balance and the the additional burdens that mid-life brings.”

When my mother had me at nearly 37 she was considered an anomaly. Today, she’d be 9 times more likely to be the norm. While they didn’t have to wrestle with the stresses of simultaneously caring for elderly parents and children the way Gen-X does today, my parents did face their challenges. Cultivating the energy to keep up with a young child is a task that gets harder with age. While it was nice to have a 12 -year break between college tuitions, they also had to raise the equivalent of two “only children” instead of siblings closer in age who could keep each other busy. The challenges of late-in-life parenting also have longterm consequences. Today’s 40-something crowd will, like my parents, wait nearly 20 years longer than most to become grandparents. If they’re still around.

The grand irony in the decision to wait until near 40 to have a child is in the finances, or lack thereof. Most couples, whether they are careerists or simply budget conscious, held off on having children because of the expense. Now, thanks to the Grand Recession, the burden of elder care, and the cost of childcare outpacing salary increments, all their hard work saving has pretty much been for naught. Like most in our generation whose early careers were greatly impacted by the economic crash in ’08, my husband and I had endless conversations about how we were going to manage to afford kids, let alone the stay-at-home lifestyle I wanted in order to raise them. In the end we always came to the same conclusion: We could easily scare ourselves out of having kids. What was better, pragmatism or pessimism? Fear or fearlessness?

40 isn’t too old to be a first-time parent. But why wait that long?

 

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Are They Kids or Employees? Are We Parents, or Just the Boss?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The other day I came across a “Consequence Chart” when surfing parenting Tweets. It’s a simple list detailing consequences for various actions taken and it’s meant to hang in a common area of the home as a contractual reminder of punishments for childhood crimes like “using unacceptable words” and “disrespect.” It reminded me of the many corporate flowcharts I viewed during my 9-5 working days in HR. Thinking of those made me impulsively shudder. The last thing I want is for my kids to feel like they’re going into the office every day.

Which is probably also why I have quickly developed a near-seething hatred for “apps that teach your kids time management skills” like the one featured in Paranoia — er, I mean Parents magazine. Why does your 6 year old need a device when all you have to do is say, “It’s time to…”? Since when does a kid that young need to learn how to manage their time independently? Since kindergartens have become “skill-and-drill” factories in which free, imaginative play is sacrificed for the sake of academic excellence. After all, time management is a skill working mommies and daddies both have to excel at, so why shouldn’t junior, too?

In fact, working parents already acculturated to the corporate lifestyle crave parenting styles that provide a businesslike structure in the home. Along with contractual charts and educational apps, there is the infamous calendar containing a schedule loaded with color-coded blocks for before and after-care, playdates, homework time, extracurricular activities and social events. Parents used to having to overbook in order to achieve in a corporate environment have no problem pushing their kids into a high-paced bevy of activities in order to “keep up” with their peers and get smarter, faster. Some parents are so desperate to give their kids every “experience” on the book that they’re crowdsourcing funds to pay for it.

The question becomes, when did parents cease to be parents and begin being bosses of their own children? When is the last time you felt comfortable having a heart-to-heart about your bad day with your boss? The answer is, never. And if you’re the boss of your child, they’re not going to be comfortable expressing themselves to you, either. Being managed doesn’t equate to being happy. Nor, in fact, does it equate to being successful later in life. In fact, the primary accomplishment of corporate parenting is to bring more stress into the home, not less, for kids and parents alike.

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9 Ways Your Marriage Changes When a Baby Is on the Way

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Everything about our life together changed the minute we learned we were pregnant. The obvious changes were welcome ones. Loads of much-needed gifts, the rearranging of rooms, the changing of jobs so I could be the work-from-home mom I always wanted to be. Those weren’t the issue. It was all the seemingly mundane unexpected changes that seemed to carve us into being parents instead of just husband and wife.

9. The Sleepless Nights Start Now.

Around 5:45 one morning my husband dragged himself out of bed and got dressed for work. “Did you need to go in early?” I mumbled, half incoherent after yet another night of on-again, off-again, my-leg-is-numb-again sleep. No, he didn’t. He just couldn’t sleep, either. We were less than four weeks out from our due date and he’s busting a move at work to get things done in anticipation of his upcoming “vacation.” Because this is what you spend your vacation time on when you get pregnant: The baby that’s due any day.

8. Mommy-to-Be Builds Her First Nest in Bed.

Besides, 2 feet of bed space to move around in didn’t exactly bode him a good night’s sleep, either. It was easier to get up and go to work than to wrestle with the pillow fortress that had become my pregnant body’s nest during these last, huge months. We called it practice for dealing with a newborn’s sleep schedule.

7. You’ve Gone from Budget-Conscious to Budget-Paranoid.

Conversations about possible vacation locales now ended with, “It’ll be great to take the baby there when they get older.” Suddenly money was not meant to be wasted on fun. Food shopping becomes an adventure in coupon clipping. By month 5 we decided to avoid browsing the baby aisle, since price comparing diapers left us both in a bit of a panic.

6. Friends Are a Distant Memory.

We began seeing less and less of our friends. It started out with having to somehow get out of a dinner party invite thanks to my all-day-sickness. We weren’t ready to make the big announcement, so I had to claim a virus. Later on, rejections came in the form of, “I’m sorry, but my feet won’t allow me to stand on them for more than 10 minutes at a time,” or “I don’t think my body will fit into your apartment for that massive reunion.”

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Why I Want to Parent Like Steve Jobs

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

One of the first discussions we had as new parents involved how we were going to introduce technology to our child. For my husband, a computer geek and career engineer, the immediate desire was to get his kid pushing buttons fast. Suddenly he was ready to change cell providers just to get a more rugged phone that could be gnawed on or dropped repeatedly.

Then I gave him a quick quiz. How much screen time is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for children 2 and under? If you answered anything greater than zero, you’re wrong. Sorry, worn out parents of toddlers needing distractions in the supermarket, handing them your iPhone may cause more problems than it solves. 

Recent statistics from Canada show that while 70% of preschoolers met recommended physical activity guidelines, that number shot down drastically to 7% of 5-11 year-olds and a meager 5% of 12-17 year-olds. Why? Because these kids are hooked on screens. And who can blame them? Most houses today have at least 2 televisions, 2 personal computing devices, and 2 smartphones readily at hand. Is it any wonder that Great Outdoors Colorado is spending $25 million this summer to get kids “off the couch and outside playing”?

The grand irony in all of this is that Steve Jobs, the man whose company revolutionized smart technology, didn’t permit his own kids to play with iPads. Neither do most parents in Silicon Valley, who prefer sending their children to schools like Steiner Waldorf “which exclude screen time before the age of 12 in favour of physical activity, art and experiential learning.”

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36 Things All Moms Should Do Before Giving Birth – Part 2

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

From Part 1:

Our grandmothers were blessed with a simple trip to the doctor and a confirmation 10 days later with a polite, “See you in nine months.” Today we’re slammed with monthly, bi-monthly and eventually weekly doctor or midwife appointments, several rounds of bloodwork and ultrasounds, and let’s not forget the bevy of paranoia-inducing information from family, friends, books and the infamous court of public opinion known as the Internet.

Whether you’re a pregnant mum or an expecting dad, here’s what I’ve learned that will spare you feeling overwhelmed so you can skip straight to the joys of pregnancy.

20. Enjoy sex.

I’m not saying you’ll stop having sex. In fact, sex can be a great way to induce labor in a healthy pregnancy if you’re at or over term. Just be willing to get really creative about it. And just start repeating the mantra, “The baby is asleep in the other room,” now. Mom, you’re going to feel the baby move while you’re getting it on. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it funny. But your guy won’t. Mentioning it might just send him to therapy.

19. Make room for baby.

You have a lot of stuff that you don’t need. Let it go. The more you bond with your baby, the less attached you are to pretty much everything else, making it super-easy to conquer any lingering nostalgia. Remember: A new tenant is moving in and they’ll be bringing their stuff with them. Lots and lots of really cute stuff that needs lots and lots of space.

18. Pack away your beloved breakables to share with your baby when they’re older.

Come across a family heirloom or precious collectible you can’t wait to share with your 12 year old? Put it in a clearly marked box in a safe space where you can see it, but they can’t. You’ll thank yourself in ten years.

17. Take some bump photos.

We didn’t do this religiously, but it was pretty cool when my hubby layered the photos to see how much baby and I had grown over the course of 9 months. It also makes all those, “My God, you’re getting huge!” comments a lot easier to handle. Remember, girls: when it comes to pregnancy size is an achievement!

16. Indulge in a magazine (or two, or three) that has nothing to do with being a mommy.

Sure, you can’t fit into those clothes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t admire them. And the shoes. All the gorgeous, strappy, stiletto-heeled shoes…

15. Sleep.

Around week 20 I admitted to my midwife that I was taking some serious naps during the day. “Is that normal?” She looked at me like I was crazy. “This is your first, right?” When I nodded, she nearly laughed. “Enjoy it while you can!” Girl, if you have the time, take it. If you don’t, make it. Rest up and give your body the best chance to handle the workout that is labor. Just remember to talk to your healthcare provider if you’re feeling abnormally tired as that is a key sign of iron deficiency, a very common occurrence in pregnancy.

14. Establish family quality time with your partner.

Babies aren’t half as patient or forgiving of late work hours, household projects, or girls’ nights out as are two grown adults. Instead of waiting for baby to arrive, begin establishing time each day to spend together with baby. It’s a great way for daddy to interact with his little one who needs to hear his voice and feel his touch as well. It didn’t take long for our babe to perk up in anticipation of family time, stretch towards Daddy’s voice, and respond to our mutual touch.

13. Revisit your own childhood.

Make a list of all the great things you want to re-live with your kids. Toys, movies, day trips and the like. In certain ways you really do get to be a kid again when you have one of your own. Only this time you’re the one making all the decisions. It really is the best of both worlds.

12. Decide what you want to pass along.

You and your partner are now going to be integrating traditions from two different households. Have great parenting styles or cultural traditions you want to pass along? Talk about it now so a plan is in place when baby arrives. Kids don’t care what you do, they care how you do it. Stability is key. Get the negotiating (and the fighting) out of the way now.

11. Discuss with your partner what you want to do differently.

My mother’s best advice on parenting: “Parents are adults who have kids.” No one is magical or perfect. Admitting that there are things you’d do differently from your own parents doesn’t mean you don’t love them, it just means you are your own person. Don’t hesitate to take the meat and leave the bones when it comes to making your own parenting decisions.

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Why It’s Hot to Rag on Jurassic Park, Chris Pratt and Sexism in Hollywood

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

So, some so-called feminist wrote a “scathing” review of Jurassic World in the Daily Beast, accusing the film of being overtly sexist because it features a corporate bitch who discovers her mothering instinct in the midst of rescuing her two nephews from an onslaught of wild dinosaurs. Let’s make one thing clear: If that woman existed in real life and pulled a car off her child, as women have the innate power to do when their child’s life is in danger, she’d be a hero. If she’s a Hollywood character, however, she’s just a figment — oh, sorry, “construct” — of the sexist male imagination. Pardon me while I hit the snooze button and roll over.

Before you get your anti-feminist panties in a bunch, here’s the bottom line: It’s sexy for American feminists (contemporary feminists, Western feminists — whatever we want to call the non-Paglia, non-Hoff Sommers crowd) to criticize Hollywood’s portrayal of women. Why? Because 90% of the mainstream audience doesn’t listen to a word these critics say about sexism, stereotypes or constructs. They do, however, get easily distracted by pop culture like children (or dogs) staring at shiny objects.

Case in point: Put Ayaan Hirsi Ali in front of a crowd to talk FGM and see how long it takes them to whip out their smartphones to see what Kim Kardashian is up to. Feminism has to be a First World Problem if it wants to get ratings on this side of the globe. Yazidis jumping from cliffs to avoid forced marriages and sex slavery at the hands of ISIS? Too heady. Too political. Too scary. Chris Pratt getting a woman hot and bothered for motherhood? Now that’s something people will click on. In fact, most women will click on it in the hopes of seeing, well, Chris Pratt.

What the Daily Beast feminists and their compatriots willfully choose to ignore time and time again is that Hollywood is a business. Action franchises are the only vehicles making money at the box office. What is Jurassic World but Indiana Jones meets dinosaurs? And why not? It is a Spielberg piece, after all. Notice the well-timed buzz regarding Indy’s resurrection with Pratt at the helm, a rumor started just as Jurassic World was about to be released? Indiana Jones, the franchise all about the guy going on an adventure and rescuing the girl. Why not use one guaranteed blockbuster as a vehicle to market another beloved formulaic action series to a built-in audience? 

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Lena Dunham Breaks Up America’s Favorite Couple

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

NBC New York reports:

There’s some major heartbreak coming up on “The Simpsons” and we’re not sure our hearts can handle the pain.

Homer and Marge, one of TV’s longstanding married couples (27 seasons and counting), are separating this season…and Lena Dunham is the one to blame? What the what?!

In an interview with Variety, executive producer Al Jean used the term “homewrecker” to describe Dunham’s character. How grossly apropos.

Count on the marriage breakup and more this coming season on Fox’s long running classic that jumped the shark ages ago. (Just ask Harry Shearer.) The question for all pop aficionados remains, is there anything Lena Dunham can’t destroy?

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British Court: Beating Your Kids Is OK if You’re an Immigrant

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

In America if a parent is caught so much as verbally reprimanding a child in a harsh tone they run the risk of being reported to Child Protective Services. However, in Britain, a parent can walk away from accusations of beatings with a leather belt as long as they are an immigrant:

Immigrants should be allowed to “slap and hit” their children because of a “different cultural context” when they are new arrivals in Britain, a High Court judge suggested yesterday.

Mrs Justice Pauffley indicated police and social services should make allowances for immigrant groups, as she heard an application from an Indian man alleged to have beaten his wife and seven-year-old son.

…The father denied ever using a belt to strike the child but admitted he would deliver a “slap or a tap” to “keep him disciplined”.

In her ruling the judge concluded: “I do not believe there was punitively harsh treatment of [the boy] of the kind that would merit the term physical abuse.

“Proper allowance must be made for what is, almost certainly, a different cultural context.

The judge in the case didn’t bother to worry about the father’s history of spousal abuse or the child’s testimony that he is often depressed. She simply took the man at his word because of his immigrant status.

When does cultural sensitivity go too far? For decades, affirmative action policies have set the precedent for treating different people groups, well, differently. Now there are western courts using the same screwed-up logic to determine which kids get to be beaten and which are forced into protective custody based on their cultural heritage? 

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36 Things All Moms Should Do Before Giving Birth — Part 1

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

My own pregnancy roller coaster went a little bit like this: The test is positive! Hooray, we’re pregnant! Can’t we get this kid delivered overnight?! Oh. My. God, we have so much to do! And less than 9 months to do it in! 

Our grandmothers were blessed with a simple trip to the doctor and a confirmation 10 days later with a polite, “See you in nine months.” Today we’re slammed with monthly, bi-monthly and eventually weekly doctor or midwife appointments, several rounds of bloodwork and ultrasounds, and let’s not forget the bevy of paranoia-inducing information from family, friends, books and the infamous court of public opinion known as the Internet.

Whether you’re a pregnant mum or an expecting dad, here’s what I’ve learned that will spare you feeling overwhelmed so you can skip straight to the joys of pregnancy.

36. Study various birthing methods so you can decide what’s right for you.

Doctor or midwife? Bradley Birthing? Hypnobirthing? Lamas? Do you want an analgesic or an epidural if the pain becomes overwhelming? If your water breaks before your contractions start do you want to wait it out at home or just head to the hospital? How long do you want to wait before labor is induced? C-section, yes or no? This is your baby and how they get out of your body is your decision. Seek out reliable expert advice, hit up YouTube for some videos of first-hand experiences, and make this one of the discussions you have with your partner and your healthcare provider early on.

35. Introduce yourself to the contradictions of parenting advice.

Welcome to the court of mommy opinion. You will be found guilty at least 50% of the time. Brush it off now. Your mommy instincts are going to kick in pretty quickly once you’ve learned you’re pregnant and they’ll only grow stronger with your baby’s development. To be sure, there are things to learn, but in the end you’re the mom. Trust your gut.

34. Make a Honey-Do List for your Hubby.

Now is the time to get anything and everything you want done around the house completed without complaint. All that stuff he’s been pushing off for ages is going to become high priority as he realizes he’s got 2 people to take care of now, not just a grown woman with a mind of her own.

33. Establish a flexible fitness routine.

Exercise is essential for pregnant women, especially desk jockeys like myself who habitually blew off the treadmill or the gym in favor of taking a post-work nap. Your energy levels will ebb and flow during pregnancy so establish a routine that will work with you and your changing body. Already working out, or concerned about what you should or shouldn’t be doing? Talk to your doctor. A few key concepts you’ll hear repeated over and over: 30 minutes of cardio daily and no lying flat after 20 weeks.

32. Cultivate a spiritual practice.

Pregnancy is a spiritual experience. If you haven’t talked to God in a while, take this time to get in touch. It can be as simple as getting outside for a few minutes and just saying thank you for the life growing inside you. There are a series of short meditations available on YouTube that are great stress relievers for pregnant moms. Whatever you choose to do, make it a point to maintain your practice once the baby has arrived. You’ll need those 5-10 minutes of quiet to stay on track in between feedings, changings and playtimes.

31. Celebrate this momentous change with your best girl buddy.

You have reached a huge milestone in the life of a woman. There is no better way to celebrate this empowering experience than to surround yourself with some serious girl support. Grab your mom, mother-in-law, best friend, or co-worker and celebrate either before or after the all-day-sickness dissipates.

30. Go shopping!

I became incredibly budget conscious when we found out our little one was on the way. Suddenly I’d start denying myself even the simplest of things because I kept thinking, “We’re going to have to buy diapers!” Give yourself a break that won’t break the bank. Even more importantly, don’t turn the gift of your pregnancy into a reason to judge or deny yourself. You are creating life. You deserve a treat.

29. Start and keep a journal about your pregnancy.

Your child will thank you later. Especially if she starts digging through her boxes to find the baby calendar you kept for her. “So, when did I start rolling over? Walking? Hm…”.

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The World Where Being an Odd Mom Means Loving Your Kids

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Watching a four year old boy jiggle his mother’s underwear’d-rear end was an odd way to open a TV show. Then again, it was the perfect kind of quirk for Bravo, a network devoted to mocking worship of all that is rich, fake, and wannabe-famous. This, of course, makes the “odd” in Odd Mom Out the antithesis of a real housewife: Jill, a brunette in a blonde world who lives in a walk-up and stays at home with her kids, opting out of the gym/spa/Me-Me-Me lifestyle of her absurdly loaded peers.

You’ll never hear it acknowledged openly in the premiere episode, but Jill’s gripes with the cold, heartless, endlessly superficial world of the Upper East Side elite are all rooted in her Jewish values. She is her children’s mother, nanny and best friend rolled into one. Foregoing sex with her husband, she runs to her son’s bed to comfort him during a series of nightmares. (Her WASP husband’s cold remark: “he needs to grow a pair.”) When her best friend Vanessa reminds her that she is indeed, rich, Jill’s reply carries the classic Jewish guilt trip: “When I was growing up there was some shame around being rich.” Best of all, the show’s tagline about being brunette (ahem, Jewish) in a blonde (ahem, white) world is challenged when her WASP in-laws attempt to convince her to get highlights during a spa day, sending her running for the hills.

Jill’s struggle to maintain her Jewish ethic in a foreign domain translates easily to the 21st century culture of judgmental parenting. Every decision she makes about her children is scrutinized by her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, fellow Pre-K moms and, worst of all, the headmaster of the elite private preschool where her children attend. This isn’t just an upper class dilemma. 21st century Mommy culture has, more often than not, replaced critical thinking with critical opinions. Here’s a hint: When you’re almost at blows over the values of breastfeeding, you know it’s time for a reality check.

Still, Weber’s tongue-in-cheek comedy may translate better via book than television. No doubt the show’s charmer, she carries the dead weight of blonde boredom on her shoulders. Unless she can somehow humanize the caricatures she’s created in her Upper East Side yuppie cadre, viewers may fall asleep fast at jokes that could easily be boiled down to the length of a YouTube sketch. But, to be fair, pilots are never a good judge of a show’s character. Weber is preciously smarter than most in the Bravo demographic. Giving her character an artsy skull fetish (quite the hip trend in NYC as of late) provides wonderfully intelligent subtext. Is Jill the goth nihilist in the bunch, or is she the heroine who conquers the nihilism in her superficial universe, mounting their heads on her wall with the pride of a huntress?

In the end, Weber’s message is what makes her appearance on Bravo shockingly refreshing. It is a wise one, encouraging moms to stay true to their values and not cave in to social pressures when it comes to parenting. And if the Queen Channel of Social Pressures can sneak a message like that onto the air, perhaps there is hope for mommys after all.

 

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Duggar Girls’ Pain Makes for Great Spin-Off PR

Monday, June 8th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Why hasn’t TLC officially cancelled the Duggars? Ask Jill and Jessa, the daughters who are going through “immeasurable pain” presumably because they have to re-live the humiliating experience of being fondled by their brother when they were pre-teens. They’re so humiliated that they booked an exclusive with Fox News to air their shame before an international audience. They’re so filled with pain, in fact, that they’re proceeding with negotiations to create their own spin-off for TLC:

Us Weekly reports that the Duggars’ adult and married children Jessa and Jill, along with their husbands, Ben Seewald and Derick Dillard, are in talks for their own spinoff series.

“They’ve invested a lot of time in developing these story lines and the last thing they want to do is to throw it all away,” a source told the magazine, stressing that Josh would not be part of the new spinoff. TLC declined to comment on reports of a spinoff and reiterated to The Huffington Post that no long-term decisions have been made regarding the ultimate fate of “19 Kids and Counting.”

The idea of a spinoff featuring the Duggar daughters isn’t crazy, given that they’ve become the stars of the family’s current show. In fact, last year a record 4.4 million people tuned in to see Jill get married, while Jessa’s wedding special brought in 4.3 million viewers this past April.

Jill Duggar Dillard is so traumatized by the revelation of her brother’s actions that she’s taking the time to post pictures of her own 2-month old on Instagram. What a great way to protect the privacy of your own children. What an even better way to keep in touch with your fans and potential spin-off viewers.

This isn’t about morals. This is about money. A magazine owned by a porn company started the fight and the Duggars aren’t going to back down, not with millions at stake. Spare your offense. It’s just business.

 

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How This Bad Parenting Technique Can Turn Kids into Alcoholics

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Parents today have a bevy of scientifically proven parenting methods to choose from when it comes to raising their children. Magazines don’t just talk about putting them to bed on time or making sure they eat their vegetables. Now, it’s all about how you do it that matters. Are you going to attach and hug the vegetables into their mouths? Are you going to free range and reason they’ll go to bed when they’re tired, school night or not? In the end, will they love you more or less for it? Dear God, what therapy am I preparing them for?!

Researchers at Brigham Young University recently determined that helicopter parenting can be severely detrimental to children. Unlike free range or attachment parenting, “helicopter” parenting, first popularized at the dawn of the millennium, involves parents “making important decisions for children, solving their problems and intervening in their children’s conflicts.” It makes sense that this level of over-involvement would have a lousy impact on a kid’s outcome. But, what is truly interesting about BYU’s latest findings has less to do with helicoptering and more to do with the emotional aspects of the parent-child relationship.

Now they’ve found that helicopter parenting combined with an absence of parental warmth is especially detrimental to young adults’ well-being. …Warmth is measured by parental availability to talk and spend time together. …Results showed that the lack of warmth intensifies both the decrease in self-worth and increase in risk behaviors in the young-adult children of helicopter parents. High levels of parental warmth reduced the negative effects, but did not eliminate them completely.

Helicopter parenting comes with its own set of problems. A lack of parental warmth, however, seems to come with baggage all its own. We all know that child abuse has negative long term impacts. But, do we stop to consider that,

“toxic” childhood stress has been linked to elevated cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and other physical conditions posing a significant health risk. The researchers suggest that toxic childhood stress alters neural responses to stress, boosting the emotional and physical arousal to threat and making it more difficult for that reaction to be shut off. 

Physicians have noted the link between a child’s inability to emotionally connect with their parents and peer orientation. The emotional need that isn’t met at home is met through friends, resulting in “…a hostile and sexualized youth culture.  Children end up becoming overly conformist, desensitized, and alienated; being ‘cool’ matters more to them than anything else.” What else is cooler in your college years than binge drinking every Friday night?

Helicoptering, attaching or free-ranging are all trumped by the decision to intentionally cultivate an emotional relationship with your child. Perhaps that’s why it’s time to put down the textbook, stop staring at your smartphone, and just start talking to your kids.

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The Violet Crow Takes a Borscht Belt Twist on Film Noir for the Ultimate Summer Mystery

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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What do Jews, Quakers and biotech have in common? Jersey, of course, the setting for Michael Sheldon’s debut novel The Violet Crow. Private Detective Bruno X, a rough around the edges Yiddish trash talker with a sixth sense for murder, is called in to consult on an unsolved mystery at a small Quaker school in southern New Jersey. Peppered with its fair share of intrigue and romance, Crow plays in your head like a beautiful parody of a film noir, richly detailed in its hard boiled madness.

The refreshing aspect of Sheldon’s work is his ability to explore the nefarious results of politically correct thinking without ever getting political. Everything from GMO’s, to college philosophy, to the mainstream distrust of big business surfaces in Crow, weaving together an intriguing tale that never once reads as dry or preachy. Don’t be wary of Bruno’s telepathic powers, either. Far from the stuff of Mystic Meg, his Kabbalistic context adds a rich cultural flair that develops, not distracts, from Bruno’s distinctive character.

To be sure, Sheldon went out on a limb putting a psychic Jewish detective with a Borscht Belt sense of humor in the middle of a Quaker mystery in the Jersey pines. But the leap is refreshing and still quite believable. (Contrary to popular opinion, not all of us live in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.) The culture clash gives Sheldon’s characters the ability to play off of one another and develop naturally in the mind of the reader. Like walking into a bar, nothing is forced. This is Bruno’s party and you’re simply invited to play along.

A South Jersey native, Michael Sheldon has previously written the business memoir of investment pioneer George Russell, Success by Ten (Wiley, 2009), along with several articles on his other passion, photography, for PDN. Several of his short fiction pieces have been published at Liberty Island, including  “Better Than Fresh Apricots,” “Dark and Stormy,” and “T.B.O.P. (The Beast of Philadelphia)”.

Released this week by Liberty Island, the folks who encourage you to “let your right brain run free,” The Violet Crow is the first in a promising detective series that hearkens back to the stylings of Edgar Award Winning mystery writers like William DeAndrea (Killed in the Ratings) and imaginative linguists like Rupert Holmes (Swing). If you like your mysteries populated with unique characters and thoughtful dialogue on contemporary issues, don’t miss out on the first in what is sure to be a landmark mystery series for the armchair detective crowd.

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Why Are Gay Atheists More Comfortable with the Bible than Christians and Jews Are?

Sunday, May 31st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Writing on the recent Catholic Church reaction to the gay marriage referendum in Ireland, Matthew Parris parodies Exodus 32, the chapter in which Moses descends from Sinai with the original tablets only to find the Hebrews worshiping a golden calf:

‘And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the Irish referendum’s huge majority for gay marriage, and the dancing: and Moses’ alarm was palpable…

‘And he took a copy of the Pink Paper and, flourishing it, said, “We have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities.

‘”I appreciate how these naked revellers feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution.

‘”We need to find a new language to connect with a whole generation of young people,” the prophet concluded; then, casting off his garments, Moses said, “Hey, lead me to the coolest gay bar in the camp.”’

Don’t laugh. With a couple of adjustments for updated circumstances, I am quoting the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, almost verbatim. The archbishop was responding last Sunday to Irish people’s endorsement of gay marriage by a margin of almost two to one.

This self-proclaimed gay atheist expresses an opinion not that far off from Camille Paglia’s own reflections on the church and religious life. Where are the morals? The standards? Why are religious institutions constantly bending to the whim of public opinion? His most insightful remark:

Can’t these Christians see that the moral basis of their faith cannot be sought in the pollsters’ arithmetic? … can a preponderance of public opinion reverse the polarity between virtue and vice? Would it have occurred for a moment to Moses (let alone God) that he’d better defer to Moloch-worship because that’s what most of the Israelites wanted to do?

In the end Parris winds up questioning the current batch of Church fathers. The same questions could be asked of many a rabbi who has busied themselves rewriting, reconstructing and reforming their faith to one extreme or the other, let alone abusing it for their own perverted whims. Are they truly arbiters of God, or are they merely an oligarchy of their own making who realize they’d better go with the flow lest they lose their earthly power?

Perhaps that is the gift of these atheists who are unintimidated by the glare of organized religion. Contrary to the faithful, they have not been blinded by the light. They do, in fact, recognize a dichotomy where there is one, because they fully acknowledge that they are one. If only the self-proclaimed righteous among us could be so brutally honest.

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Comedy Gurus Turn American Morals into a Big, Fat Joke

Friday, May 29th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

A Gallup poll released this week indicates that Americans are making the great exodus towards secularism on a number of key social issues including gay “relations,” sex and children outside of marriage, and divorce. Shortly after the stats were released, Megan Garber proffered insightful commentary at The Atlantic as to why comedians are the reigning arbiters of American cultural values. Combine the data with the theory and the conclusion is rather straightforward: Contemporary American morals are a complete joke.

Garber’s argument paints contemporary comedy (think: Schumer, Stewart, Colbert, Oliver, et. al.) as a humorous version of a religious community replete with ideological boundaries (“who’s in and who’s out”), a definitive lingo (“cultural criticism” as “productive subversion”) and temples to call their own (“largely of, by and for the Internet”).   She doesn’t go so far as to dub these comedians religious leaders. That wouldn’t be on trend. Instead, they are “public intellectuals” who gear the values of an increasingly secularized society.

Constituting their own branch of pop culture polytheism, they are the brainier versions of the “spirit junkies” pervading millennial religious consciousness. “Comedians are fashioning themselves not just as joke-tellers, but as truth-tellers—as intellectual and moral guides through the cultural debates of the moment.” In other words, they are sycophants playing the role of gurus to an audience hungry for spiritual direction. The only difference between comedians and spiritual guides, besides the lack of incense on set? As Jon Stewart once said to me, “I tell the jokes.” This from the guy who holds the seat of “moral influence over the national soul.”

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Inside the Dark and Scary World of Mommy Tech

Friday, May 29th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

“I don’t know how your father and I managed to raise perfectly healthy children without all this stuff.”

That was my mother’s reaction to Buy Buy Baby, the suburban megastore modeled after its sister location, Bed Bath & Beyond. We got a kick out of the baby monitors that allow you to speak to your child when you aren’t even in the room. But by the time we got to the food processors I could see signs of overload furrowing my mother’s brow. “Don’t you already have at least three gadgets that can do that for you?” Then came the Big Brother of all baby tech items: the sleeper that monitors your baby’s biometrics 24/7 and reports them via app to your smartphone.

Creepy.

The goal of all of these gadgets and their corresponding apps, books and blogs is simple: Make life easier for mom and dad. The question is, when does all this tech add more stress, not less, to a parent’s already overwhelmed psyche? The same goes for technology geared towards babies and toddlers. Science says kids shouldn’t be exposed to screen media before the age of 2. Yet, thanks to the prevalence of parent tech, babies are grabbing for mommy’s smartphone as soon as they are mobile. Children are acculturated to technology before they are biologically equipped to handle the consequences. As a parent, where do you draw the line?

In the weeks leading up to my own delivery, I began to seriously de-tech. I closed out my Facebook account for starters. (Elbow-deep in poo is not the way I want to catch up with friends.) I also turned off all noise-related notifications on my phone. (The last thing I want is all my hard work soothing my baby to be thrown out the window by one untimely chirp.) My husband and I have already laid down one ground rule: No touching mommy and daddy’s phones. Ever. Sure, parents of angsty toddlers riding in shopping carts might roll their eyes at us now, but the reality is that even we’d much prefer playing with Ellie the Elephant than checking our work email on the weekend anyway.

Bottom line: the whole point of parent tech is to give you more time with your child. If the app or item winds up taking more time to research and use than it actually saves, you’re better off doing it the old fashioned way. After all, sometimes it really is easier to avoid Google and just give mom a quick call.

 

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Survey Says: Want to Be Happy? Have Kids! Less Stressed? Stay at Home with Them!

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Yahoo Parenting and Care.com partnered on a survey of couples with and without children to determine who was happier. The non-kid couples proved happier by a 10% margin. That margin shifted drastically, however, when the couples were asked what they thought would make them even happier: 54% of those supposedly already happier couples agreed that having children would make them even happier.

In other words, “Yes, we’re happy now,” ticked one box while the following “..but…” ticked another.

When asked about their own pursuit of happiness, couples with children agreed by a solid majority that their life is better now that they have children.

“Kids are parents’ No.1 source of happiness,” Katie Bugbee, senior managing editor at Care.com, tells Yahoo Parenting about the research. However, once a person becomes a mother or a father, what constitutes happiness changes, 81 percent of survey takers admit. “They’re looking at happiness in a different way,” explains Bugbee,

Parents experience work in a different way, too, post-kids. Working parents, for example, are less likely to say they’re “very” motivated in their career compared to employees without children — 36 percent vs. 50 percent respectively.

The stay-at-home crowd (female and male) are overwhelmingly happy with their decision. Mothers who stay at home, but work part time, survey as the happiest in the bunch, leading Bugbee to advise, ”Talk with your employer about going part-time, perhaps, or work with your partner to lighten your load if you’re stressed.”

Stress plays a key factor in contemporary parenting, often due to economic pressures. The rise in ADHD and autism among children has been directly linked to both stressful experiences and the child’s inability to form relationships with parents beginning at an early age. The survey says spending more time with your kids makes you happier. The science agrees it is good for your kids, too. So, what’s the solution? How can we, as a culture, generate more time with our kids?

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5 Spiritual Lessons I Learned From My Pregnancy

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
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Whether this is your first time out or you’ve already been around the bend, take a moment to congratulate yourself, Ms. Mom. You are a miracle maker. You, hovering over the toilet in the midst of all-day sickness, are in the midst of accomplishing what no one else on this earth but you can do. What pregnancy has taught me thus far is that motherhood, whether it is via pregnancy, foster care, or adoption, is a spiritual calling. Keep these five key lessons in your back pocket when you’re worn out and need a reminder of how divine you truly are.

 

5. Parenting is a calling, not a career, a chore, or the result of a shopping trip.

“I want a child” is an all-too common phrase in today’s world. If you’ve ever said it, listen very carefully to discern if the emphasis is on “a child” or simply “I want.” Having a child is not the answer to a mid-life crisis or a vision board checklist. Nor should motherhood ever be defined as a chore. If I hear one more person tell me how tired I’m going to be once my child is born I’m going to start wearing a spit up-covered t-shirt that says, “Duh! Who cares?” My child is already my life, not a task on my to-do list that takes away from “me-time,” nor a person who exists to make me feel special. Child rearing is a devout work. Unless you are accepting of the idea that you will, in some way, be on the same level as Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and an ascetic from time to time, just buy a dog and be done with it.

 

4. Childbirth is a spiritual experience.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth should be required reading for every expecting mother. Regardless of how you choose to give birth, you should be aware of the fact that we have been acculturated to treat birth as an illness worthy of hospitalization. A baby is not a tumor in need of removal for the mother’s survival. Giving birth is not only a life-affirming experience, it is the primary connection we have with God and the source of our continued existence. By ignoring this fact and forcing patients to focus on pain, the medical community has done a huge disservice to women. Instead of believing that our bodies are doing exactly what they are meant to do, women focus on the struggles of pregnancy and the pain of labor, psyching themselves up for an experience worthy of a horror film. As a result their fear diminishes their faith in themselves and the very natural spiritual process of bringing new life into this world.

 

3. As with any spiritual experience, there are great moments of hope and of doubt.

Episode after episode of Call the Midwife has been running on my DVD player for months. Each baby that is born brings a tear to my eye. Finally, the other day I heard myself saying, “I get to do this. Me. This is for me.” Then it hit me that a part of me had doubted all along that I could have this incredible joy for myself. Sometimes we put up walls of doubt to protect our most fragile emotions. The hope that engulfs you every time you have a good ultrasound, a good doctor’s visit, can easily be consumed the following day when you’re sure you haven’t felt your baby move enough. For me, one nosebleed sent me flying into a state of panic. Doubt creates a tough barrier for faith to crack through. But it must, not only for the sake of our relationship with our child, but so that we may fully partake in this incredible blessing.

Continue Reading…

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Reality TV Hits New Tasteless Height: ‘What’s Next, Big Brother Auschwitz?’

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Forward picked up the Telegraph‘s report on a new Czech reality TV show that requires participants to live under Nazi occupation:

Just when you think reality television has reached peak absurdity levels, the trashy TV gods deliver something like this. Presenting “Holiday in the Protectorate,” a Czech show that requires a family to live for two-months under World War II-like conditions, Gestapo included.

According to the Telegraph , the lucky three-generations will have to contend with actors playing Nazi informants and soldiers, food shortages on a farm decked out with 76-year-old furniture. The whole thing will play out in period-appropriate clothing and with rare original currency, to add to the sense of terror and uncertainty.

Czech critics are up in arms, threatening to file complaints and questioning what kind of Pandora’s box will be opened thanks to this show. The program’s director responded with the following creepy statement:

“We are aware that it is controversial to return to so turbulent a period,” she continued. “However, we believe that it is correct to attempt to do this, providing that certain ethical rules and historical reality are observed.”

And the Czech Emmy for Most Creative Use of the Term “Ethical” Goes To….

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Will the 21st Century Reunite Church and State?

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Before, organized, uniformed and relatively disciplined and conventional Arab armies fought under their national flag. Today the armies have been replaced by terrorist gangsters and black-cloaked jihadists. Conventional war has been replaced by terrorist attacks. Battles fought between tanks and infantry in remote deserts have been replaced by battles fought in densely populated civilian areas and behind the protection of human shields.

In my view if such events as the Gaza conflict last summer were played out in the 1960s and 70s, the support for Israel in the West would have been greater than it was even then. The savage and murderous actions of the Palestinians are far more shocking today.

So I again ask the question, what has changed? And the answer is: The morality and values of the West. They have been transformed almost beyond recognition.

The statement was made by Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan, in an address to the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, an Israeli think-tank housed at Bar-Ilan University. The direct nature of his dialogue suits his history as a military leader. It is also a far cry from today’s “polite” approach to anything relating to Biblical values in a mainstream media discussion. “Thanks but no thanks,” is what you’ll usually get, followed by some snide accusation of hypocrisy or inferiority. But has this anti-values attitude truly impacted our culture for the better?

Kemp argues, “The destruction of defining values mean that people will now accept physical acts that would before have been utterly abhorrent to them.” As Richard Dreyfuss recently argued in a PJMedia/Diary of a Mad Voter guest post:

Western kids are reportedly trying to join ISIS; why? Perhaps because the only spiritual movement being discussed in public, however ugly its ideology, is extremist Islam. Judeo-Christian spirituality seems pallid and disconnected; certainly Americans are no longer learning the secular faith of the Constitution, the musculature of republican democracy, its values of individual worth, its religious tolerance, its embrace of opportunity and merit.

Kids who grow up in a spiritual void may drift to ideological thuggery because we let go of its most powerful enemy, the mobility of mind that comes from Enlightenment values.

Perhaps one of the greatest questions we can ask ourselves as we head into 2016 isn’t who, but why. If the 20th century was defined by the separation of Church and State, the 21st will need to be defined by the reuniting of God and politics across the moral divide.

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How One Iraqi War Vet is Helping His Fellow Soldiers to Armor Down

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Veteran Ben King is taking his role as a psychological operations sergeant in the U.S. Army into new territory. Now returned home to civilian life, Ben has created Armor Down. The organization re-contextualizes yoga and mindfulness meditation into a basic training-esque physical fitness routine with one simple goal: To aid in restoring physical and psychological wellness to returning soldiers afflicted with PTSD.

King’s journey into mindfulness was inspired by his own struggle with post-traumatic stress. Defined as, “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditation practices,” mindfulness is western psychology’s adaptation of an ancient Buddhist practice into non-religious terms. King chronicles in his blog:

Early in my PTS experience rage would erupt and I would lash out violently or with shame filled crying. …

In my present experience, I experience rage as signal of tension in parts of my body. The rage expresses itself sensationally and I use that expression to guide my awareness to those ares of sensation and do what I can to settle them. If they don’t settle I never mind, and go through my many tools to mitigate the consequences. Sometimes I even have to sit and just wait for the rage to pass.

The difference now is that not only do I not feel shame for feeling rage, I feel appreciative. I recognize it as an expression of intelligence, one that is affording me an opportunity to evolve.

This was an exciting revelation because it meant that I didn’t have to live in a sanitized environment scared that something would set me off, on the contrary there was no environment that I couldn’t enter because it didn’t netter [sic.] whether I was feeling good or bad because I know how to work with either.

A certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in public anthropology, King created Armor Down as a way to reach out to veterans in need:

Armor Down pursues its mission by linking content describing or demonstrating these techniques to Quick Response (QR) codes, which can be reproduced on printed materials and scanned by smartphones. It is a key feature of Armor Down that providing content in this manner eliminates the stigma of having to request it and encourages anonymous feedback.

One of Armor Down’s biggest projects is Mindful Memorial Day, a Washington D.C.-based volunteer event that honors fallen soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through ceremonies of gratitude. It is a reminder that while we honor the fallen, we must also honor the living by meeting their need to Armor Down into civilian life.

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Did You Receive Your ‘Wife Bonus’ This Year?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

In Lifestyles of the Rich and Non-Famous news, Manhattan bankers’ wives have negotiated bonuses for good “work” performance at home:

A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband’s fund had done but her own performance — how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a “good” school — the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don’t just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.

These real housewives aren’t the only ones measuring their net worth as moms in terms of career metrics, including potential financial gain. There are a slew of professional development experiences out there for women who have turned mothering into a career:

MamaCon, a mothers’ convention, proffers “…top-notch parenting development and education, self-care tips that really work, relationship support, amazing vendors, wine tasting, great food and outstanding entertainment.”

For Mom Bloggers (yes, it’s a title) there’s the Mom 2.0 Summit, “…the premier professional conference for influential mom bloggers and female entrepreneurs who create online content. Every year, women leaders in media and business converge at the Summit to compare notes, discuss ideas, and forecast what’s next for women online and in the marketplace.”

Minority and alternative parents who identify as “blogger or on-line influencers interested in connecting with brands and monetizing your blog” can attend the Niche Parent Network and Conference, a “diverse and multicultural network connecting digital parents with brands that want to reach them.”

There’s also a slew of BabyCons out there, including the New York Baby Show, “the largest show for new and expectant parents in the country.” Self-described as the “loving lollapalooza of Baby Shows,” it’s a 2-day product and information convention. Combine Buy Buy Baby with your local hospital’s first-time parenting class, load it with steroids, and you have the mother of all information-laden “how to be the perfect parent” events.

Has American culture crafted motherhood into a career choice? Is that necessarily a good thing? Or are we seeking to redefine motherhood in contemporary feminist terms, as a choice that doesn’t threaten or conflict with cultural expectations that a woman seek professional fulfillment beyond raising the next generation? Whether it is clever marketing or cultural conformity, does this put more pressure, not less, on today’s mothers?

 

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