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Modern Parenthood

Keeping the Door Open: One mother's transition from work to home and back again

By Guest Blogger / 08.20.13

My husband and I are folding clothes on a Sunday night. Bless him for helping me tackle the mountain of wrinkled shirts and pants. Not to mention that we were running out of underwear. And bless him for not blaming me for letting the laundry get so out of control; I blame myself enough for the two of us. It’s all bound up in my underlying confusion with regard to work and child rearing.

What prompted me to think about whether I’m actually in or out of the workforce is a recent cover story in the New York Times Magazine by Judith Warner on women who opted out of working outside the home in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Mostly these women—and it’s a very select group—left lucrative jobs to stay home and raise children.

Reevaluating their decision almost two decades out, these women have decided to go back to work. For some, it was figuring out what to do with too much time on their hands now that their children were older. For others, it was the only option after divorce or other economic difficulties. For example, one woman’s husband had been a higher earner who was adversely affected by the 2008 recession. In any case, Warner asserts that, “the culture of motherhood, post-recession, had altered considerably too. The women of the opt-out revolution left the work force at a time when the prevailing ideas about motherhood idealized full-time round-the-clock, child-centered devotion.”

I mention that the group Warner’s research is based on is select because, for the most part, these women are well off and well educated. The majority of them are white and live in affluent neighborhoods. Her article doesn’t touch on women for whom staying at home was an economic sacrifice – women whose net pay would appreciably shrink when childcare became a line item in the budget. As far as I could tell the women in Warner’s article did not significantly alter their lifestyle when they initially left the workforce. But they had measured their worth by their paychecks and 10 or 15 years out, they were unable to assess that worth without a dollar sign in front of it.

I suspect that my situation is more typical of the women who opted out of the formal workforce. I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew that I would stay home with my kids while they were babies. My first-born was a couple of months old and we had had a difficult, colicky night. I was up every couple of hours with her. After her five A.M. feeding I brought her into bed and we fell asleep until nine in the morning. That’s when I knew that I didn’t have the fortitude or the organizational skills to balance a job outside the home with new motherhood. I’m in awe of women who have done both. I know it’s not easy. I know it’s not magic.

But I also knew I wasn’t a 24/7 type of mother. I wanted to write. And so I began to freelance with an eye toward going back to work when my children were in school all day. When they were, I went back part-time as an Internet magazine editor until I was laid off. That was ten years ago. At the time, my husband and I decided that it didn’t make economic sense for me to pursue full-time employment. He was able to support us and our version of luxury was having me at the ready for our children.

I became a full-time writer seven years ago. My income is not that significant. But working from home or the library, I’m always around even if mountains of unfolded laundry surround me. I’m working on a book that may or may not get published, but my husband understands that I’m driven to do it if only for the accomplishment of telling my family story.

Which brings me to the crux of the problem with women who opt in or out. The husbands portrayed in Warner’s article sounded unreasonably difficult. One woman complained that as her kids grew older, her husband’s role as the wage earner and hers as the de-facto housekeeper became problematic. Warner quotes her as asserting that, “I had the sense of being in an unequal marriage. I think he preferred the house to be ‘kept’ in a different kind of way than I was prepared to do it. If I had any angst about being an overeducated stay-at-home mom, it was not about raising kids, but it was about sweeping.”

Raising children is an art, a soul-giving endeavor. Housework is drudgery. These high-flying husbands didn’t appreciate that cleaning was their responsibility too and if they didn’t like it they should hire a house cleaner.

The advice I would give my daughter is not whether or not she should opt out and then back in when she has children. It’s to marry a partner who will fold clothes with her while watching reruns on a Sunday night with nary a complaint.

Prince George and family sit down for a photo in the garden at Kate Middleton's parents' house in Bucklebury, England earlier this month. Middleton's dad took the photo. (AP Photo/Michael Middleton/TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge)

Prince William and Kate Middleton release first photos of the wee Prince George

By Andrew AverillCorrespondent / 08.20.13

Despite the pandemonium that surrounded Prince George's birth and rocketed him to instant infant-celebrity, the first photos of the wee prince released today by royal officials show the proper amount of fuss that ought to be made about a newborn – not too much.

For one, Kate Middleton and husband Prince William ignored tradition and didn't hire a professional photographer. The duchess' father, Michael Middleton, took the photos of the couple, baby, and two dogs, in the garden of the Middleton family home in Bucklebury, England, earlier this month.

And then they are dressed informally. Prince William left the top two buttons of his shirt undone and his sleeves are resting just above the elbow. The duchess is wearing a dress that says anything but pomp and circumstance. 

The photos come a day after Prince William gave his first interview since Prince George was born on July 22.

He told CNN that his son is a "little bit of a rascal" and reminded him of his younger brother, Prince Harry

"At the moment, the only legacy I want to pass on to him is to sleep more and maybe not have to change his nappy so many times," he told CNN as part of a documentary on the prince that will air Sept. 15. 

As for the snapshots – what did professional photographers think of the amateur photos? It was a mixed bag.

Martin Keene, head of pictures at the Press Association news agency, said "any photographer would have been pleased to have taken them." But The Sun newspaper's veteran royal photographer, Arthur Edwards, advised Michael Middleton: "Don't give up the day job."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Disney celebrates the opening of Cars Land at Disney California Adventure park at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., June 13, 2012. (PR Newswire)

Disneyland and Legoland and beaches: Not a bad halfway point for a road trip

By Laurie ToupinGuest Blogger / 08.20.13

[Editor's note: Laurie Toupin and her family are road tripping across America and sharing their experiences in a series of blogs. See the related links menu to the left for past installments.]

"We won! We won!" Jacob, 5, shouted as we pulled into the finish line after completing the "Cars"-themed Radiator Springs Racers ride at Disneyland – easily the most popular attraction in all of our family's road-tripping-through-California adventures combined. 

And understandably so. Riders board shiny convertibles and begin cruising the red rocks surrounding Radiator Springs. Then we are prepped for the big race by Luigi and Doc, characters from Disney's "Cars". Suddenly we are screaming through the countryside beside another car.

Disney pays such close attention to detail that even the wait is an attraction. The line for Indiana Jones Adventure meanders through an underground cavern littered with skeletons, booby traps, lost treasure, and statues. The details were so elaborate that we began to think that the walk was the ride until we came upon the jeeps which took us deeper into the cavern. Here, Disney spared no expense.

The ride was so filled with detail, complete with fire, falling mummies and the famous boulder scene, that Maria, 11, demanded that a warning be placed on the ride saying, "Scary! Do not ride until you are 18."

We were all thankful for the character-filled breakfast directly after, so that Minney, Goofy, Chip and Dale, and Tigger could take our minds off of the ride.

Like at Hersheypark in Pennsylvania, we were able to ride both of these popular rides before daytime guests were allowed in. Called the "Early Magic Hour," Guests of the Disney Resort Hotels are allowed into the park at 7 a.m., an hour before other people. Since August is Disney's peak season, we found this to be indispensable for getting on the major attractions.

However, the combination of a midnight closing and a 7 a.m. opening does not promote happy children – no matter how exciting the rides.

After two days, the kids were happy to get back in the RV and sleep. They didn't care where we going, just as long as they didn't have to walk.

Legoland – An Interactive Park

Legoland was a much different experience. This park, geared for children under 12, is smaller, easy to negotiate, and the rides are very interactive. The Sky View, for example, travels all around the park on rails. But it has to be pedaled by the riders to move.

The big draw of Legoland, however, is the Legoland Hotel which opened in June. Lego creations are everywhere, as are Legos for children to use their imaginations to build their own. Floating Lego bricks even lined the beautiful pool.

The hotel consists of three themed floors: knights and dragons, pirates, or adventurers. Kids get their own room complete with bunk beds, a private TV, and a locked treasure chest containing surprises once they crack the code. A warning on the wall reads, "Adults: keep out." The elevator boasts a disco ball and dance music. Here, kids rule.

The Pacific at Last!

After five days of amusement parks, we finally stuck our feet in the Pacific Ocean. It is much colder than we expected! But the white sand beaches of Carlsbad, Calif., are beautiful.

Our beach is surrounded by shear rock cliffs with caves to explore and outcroppings to sit on and watch the waves roll by. I honestly didn't think it looked much different than the New Hampshire portion of the Atlantic, except the sand is whiter.

Colie, 9, commented that it was amazing to think that one could drive 3,000 miles to the other side of the United States. I had to agree.

Now that the excitement of the reaching our destination has passed, I can see signs that the kids are starting to think about home. Jacob is talking about inventing an RV with wings. Colie is talking about her pets. And Maria, 11, is making plans to build a diorama of the Star Wars set she saw at Disney.

We've gone as far west as we possibly could. Tomorrow, we are eastward bound.

Road sign for Route 66 in Santa Rosa, NM. (Melanie Stetston Freeman/Staff)

Family road trip: El Malpais, white-knuckling through a storm, and old Route 66

By Laurie ToupinGuest Blogger / 08.19.13

[Editor's note: Laurie Toupin and her family are road tripping across America and sharing their experiences in a series of blogs. See the related links menu to the left for past installments.]

Arizona may have the Grand Canyon, but New Mexico has the El Malpais National Monument.

Here, the black skeletons of extinct volcanoes proudly stare down at the lava scarred landscape – huge black mesas, cinder cones, plateaus, trenches, caves and other eerie formations.

I had never heard of this place until we passed through it on Route 40 to our RV campsite in Grants, N.M. But it was breathtaking. Even the kids were impressed … which is more than I can say about the Painted Dessert or Petrified Forest National Park, both in Arizona, or any other (to me) amazing geological feature of the West.

At Lavaland Campground in Grants, Jacob, 5, found his first tumbleweed. Now he insists that his carefully collected collection of these spiky weeds sit in the RV's shower so he can take them home. We’ll have to talk about this later…

There is nothing here – no playground, no pool, not even a picnic table. Yet we all had a blast biking around the area. The vistas are incredible. It is cooler here than expected, about 73 degrees. Both Maria and Colie, age 11 and 9, commented that the air smells fresh and clean.

The kids dug moats in the soft, red dirt around the few trees in the campground to help them catch the rain from the storm we saw was coming.

The view of the sky is so unobstructed here from buildings or trees that one can see for miles. We felt like we were in a fish bowl surrounded by massive cloud banks. We could hear the thunder and see the peals of lightning and the streams of rain in the mountains and mesas 360 degrees around us.

There is sand in those mountains

We had already passed through this storm when we traveled through Colorado and visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park. After about a quarter-mile walk, you reach 30 square miles of sand dunes that climb 750 feet in the air. People were scaling the tallest peak. I was happy to coerce Colie, 9, to make it to the first hill!

The sand is so soft and fine. We rolled down the hill, ran up, and rolled down again. We dug in the soft sand and buried each other’s feet. We watched other people slide down the dunes on wake boards. Someone tried a regular sled. But unfortunately, it didn’t work.

Jacob and Maria loved this place. And so did I. But the wind was strong and it kept blowing sand, which stung, so we didn’t stay long. The sand can reach 150 degrees in the afternoon sun. And because it is easier to walk in bare feet, we wanted to leave before the sand got too hot. As it was, the return trip hurt our feet so much that we had to put our shoes back on – this was only 11 in morning.

As we left, I could see the storm miles away. We were heading right into it. When the deluge hit us, the storm's wind accompaniment shook our RV so much that I started white-knuckling the steering wheel. The kids were so quiet.

I was reminded of the story in the Bible when Elisha goes out of the cave’s mouth to seek the Lord. The Lord was not in the earthquake or wind, but rather in a still, small voice. While I clung to that thought, I felt something compelling me to turn veer from my course and take a highway that lead into New Mexico. 

As I turned parallel to the storm, the wind’s impact lessened and I was able to relax. The rain continued for a while longer, but it didn’t matter. We were safe.

The people who suggested Colorado over my original route from Kansas into eastern New Mexico were right from an adult’s point of view.

There isn’t much to do in eastern New Mexico except to enjoy the beautiful expanse of dessert scenery. I loved it. But after a while, my children wanted to retreat to a movie in the back of the RV. They stayed there until I called them back out as we entered the El Memphas region. 

An unexpected stop

In Albuquerque, N.M., we picked up I-40 – the interstate that replaced the majority of Route 66 in the western United States

But Historical Route 66 is alive and well thanks to the efforts of one man – Angel Delgadillo. Mr. Delgadillo was a barber in Seligman, Ariz., when the Interstate bypassed his town and caused its tourism dollars to dry up in the 1980s.

He started a campaign to preserve the original Route 66 and founded the Route 66 Association of Arizona in 1987. For 10 years he talked to anyone who would listen.

Eventually, Route 66's gradual dismantling ruffled the feathers of enough people that states began protecting the sections within their borders. Then in the late 1990s, former President Bill Clinton secured $10 million in federal matching grants to help states restore and preserve the road.  

Delgadillo turned his barber shop into a gift shop, museum, and visitor center along the “new” Historical Route 66. Now, many shops and restaurants carry Route 66 paraphernalia and mementos. We’ve stopped at quite a few along the way!

The producer of Cars based his movie on this small revival town, saying that Seligman was as close to Radiator Springs as one could get. The kids were thrilled to find out that this was the home of one of their favorite movies.

I love finding these little gems. But most of all, I am treasuring this time that we are spending together as a family, having adventures and working through whatever experiences the journey hands us. 

So far, our trip can be summed up by the words on a magnet we picked up at Delgadillo’s Route 66 gift shop: Yay! Roadtrips!

Macklemore wants to tell his grandkids he won an MTV VMA. Don't be surprised – rappers have always talked about the importance of family. Here, Macklemore is held up by members of the audience as he performs with Ryan Lewis on ABC's "Good Morning America" show in New York, August 16. (Reuters)

Macklemore tells MTV he'll tell 'grandchildren' about VMAs: The family side of hip-hop

By Guest Blogger / 08.19.13

Hip hop artist Macklemore raised some eyebrows when he spoke to MTV about his six nominations for the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year for the mega-popular track "Thrift Shop."

Macklemore said he was particularly excited about potentially winning Video of the Year. It would, he said, be a story to tell the grandkids.

The line caught some observers off guard, but he was tapping into one of the great thematic wellsprings of hip hop – the motif of family, something that goes back to the genre's roots. Since the beginning of the art form, references to parents and siblings were used as a way to connect to the all-important theme of where you're from and what that means.

Here's Jay Z rapping on "December 4th":

"I was conceived by Gloria Carter and Adnes Reeves
Who made love under the sycamore tree
Which makes me
A more sicker M.C. and my momma would claim
At 10 pounds, when I was born I didn't give her no pain
Although through the years I gave her her fair share...."

Contrary to public perceptions that the genre is a collection of throw-away references to drugs and guns, rap has a rich connection not just to family, but to questions of social justice, the apparently arbitrary nature of life and death, and the ongoing struggle between the haves and the have-nots.

If you're a parent and you don't know rap, you're missing out – not just on a way to connect with your kids, but on one of the world's most vibrant, relevant, and powerful art forms.

Disclosure: a child of the early 80s, I grew up listening to Run-D.M.C. (particularly "Raising Hell") and the Beastie Boys. Their shared penchant for sharp, wry, blunt, New York City-centric music has guided my listening choices ever since.

Recently, I've been digging into my local hip-hop scene in Minneapolis-St. Paul (yes! there's a scene here! and it's great!) notably Heiruspecs, Atmosphere, and Brother Ali.

I'm no rap scholar (and yes, they exist), but I know enough to observe that the popular perception of rap is tethered to the darkest stuff available –nihilistic so-called "gangsta" rap that glorifies violence, drugs, and sex ... which is to say, three of the most potent and perennial topics in popular music since the Rolling Stones wrote "Let’s Spend the Night Together" and the Beatles penned "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer."

That perception, which puts many parents at direct odds with rap, is wrong on two levels.

The first is that if it's rap, then the setting is "the streets," the values are 100 percent materialistic and nihilistic, and language is universally foul and aggressive. All it takes is a cursory scan of the current hip-hop catalog to pick up on the fact that there are artists hitting the genre from all angles: light, bubble gum party rap; thoughtful, philosophical conscious rap; crunk, G-Funk, nerdcore, reggaeton; and many, many others.

The second level is the idea that if hip hop is set in the streets and contains aggressive, foul-mouthed content, it's morally degenerate stuff that corrupts the youth of today.

Not even vaguely.

There's hardcore gangsta rap that's as smart and well-grounded as anything ever written by Bob Dylan or the Beatles – and then there's stuff produced for shock value alone, often by outsiders who know as much about hard life on the street as I do. (Which is to say, very, very little.) And neither of those attributes speak to the musical quality of the songs in question – the artists' flow, vocabulary, and storytellers' instinct are deeply personal and vary wildly from artist to artist and even album to album.

Rap isn't a mood or place, it's a medium – commercially and artistically relevant, modern, spoken-word poetry. And "poetry" is a key word here.

Once upon a time, young people used the words of the philandering Yeats, the opium-addicted Coleridge, or the profoundly scandalous Lord Byron to cast their most profound thoughts or feelings out into the world, using the writers' words as both an extension of their souls and a shield behind which to hide.

Now it's 50 Cent, Jay Z, or Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and that doesn't represent any dumbing down or collapse of culture – it's a new idiom but the same anxieties and hopes are there.

Love, defiant pride, anxiety about finding a place in society, anger against the old generation, all there, writ large and with words that stun when contemplated.

Ultimately, though, the question boils down to this: What context is your child bringing to the music?

If rap is the poetry that inspires, reaffirms, grounds, and revives, then the precise lyrical content isn't going to make or break its listener.

I have high school friends who were listening seriously to hardcore rap and are now doctors, teachers, chefs and so forth – the music didn't ruin their sense of self or morality, it provided entertainment, and emotional fuel, and more grist for the mill of understanding the world in all its complexity and contradictions.

With that, I'll leave you with some lyrics from Jurassic 5's "Concrete Schoolyard," as a solid a track as has ever been written:

"I'm on some old and forgotten
Sun up to sun down / Like picking cotton
The nutty professor / science droppin'
Rockin' Robin's hood / From New York to Compton
Me and my three sons / Jabari, Shakir, and Kahsum"

Benjamin Lesczynski, 8, of New York, takes a sip of a "Big Gulp" while protesting the proposed "soda-ban," outside City Hall in New York in this file photo taken July 9, 2012. (Reuters)

Soda causes childhood behavior problems, reaps government subsidies

By Guest Blogger / 08.16.13

Add this to the long list of reasons to demonize soda: a study published in the Journal Pediatrics says that the beverage contributes to behavioral problems in children as young as 5 years old.

Kids drinking more soda were seen as more likely to physically and/or verbally attack other children and destroy property.

This is a fresh wrinkle, but it adds to a host of existing studies that suggest, among other things, that soda consumption contributes to childhood obesity, lack of nutrition, (and, along with an overall poor diet, contributes to poor academic performance) and can eventually lead to heart disease.

So, we can take it as read that research suggests that soda and children are a bad combination, unless you're angling for fragile, chunky bundles of rage.

You might think, then, that the government has set up a carefully weighed system of subsidies and taxes to support healthy beverages for kids, and made it more expensive (and therefore less desirable) to manufacture and distribute soda.

Not so much.

As it stands, if you want to spend your SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) dollars on soda and other sugary drinks, you're welcome to – although numerous groups are lobbying to stop the government from, in essence, spending billions each year on liquids that actually help drive up health costs.

That's not the only way the government (i.e., the representatives of the public) is subsidizing the drink that does the most to undermine public health (second only to, arguably, alcohol).

Domestic corn subsidies (and sugar tariffs) help ensure that high-fructose corn syrup is profoundly cheap, and therefore a major part of our lives and diets – perhaps nowhere more so than in the cheap, sugary beverages that fuel our days.

Those who advocate a lesser role for soda in our diet don't need to call for new taxes – they can simply work for action against the soda subsidies that already exist and put public money toward a drink that does nothing whatsoever in the interest of the public.

Children climb across a suspended wire tunnel under an airplane at the City Museum, March 18, 2009, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/file)

Road trip: St. Louis Arch and City Museum, driving long hours takes its toll

By Laurie ToupinGuest Blogger / 08.16.13

[Editor's note: Laurie Toupin and her family are road tripping across America and sharing their experiences in a series of blogs. See the related links menu to the left for past installments.]

The City Museum of St. Louis defies description. 

There's a school bus hanging over the edge of a ten-story building... An abandoned airplane sitting atop the branches of a rod iron tree... A treehouse atop iron trees with dragons as branches.

Part junk yard art, part indoor/outdoor play structure, part amusement park.

If the definition of a museum is a place where one can explore, then the name applies. Otherwise this place is more like someone took truck loads of junk meant for the local junk yard and welded them together into connecting structures which can be climbed on, walked through, and explored.

Every hole, however small, leads to hidden passages through whales, scorpions, dark tunnels, and dinosaur mouths.

It was amazing. And to think we wouldn't have found it if I hadn't been talking to the gift shop clerk at the St. Louis Arch. We stopped there first to see this amazing engineering feat and ride the tiny little cars up to the top. `

That was fun, but of the two stops, the kids truly enjoyed the City Museum. And who could blame them? It was so unique and unusual.

I love the unexpected. And today truly felt like an adventure. We passed the world's largest wind chime this morning in Illinois.  We stopped in Vandalia, Ill., to see the former capitol building where Abraham Lincoln did his first politicking as part of the Illinois General Assembly in 1834.

After the Arch and City Museum, we traveled to Kansas for the night and found a store called Nostalgiaville in Missouri. This store was loaded with blasts from the past...Betty Boop, The Three Stooges, Elvis, even Scooby Doo paraphernalia plastered every inch of this three store front shop. My daughter, Colie, was thrilled to find a pair of pink Elvis heart-shaped earrings for herself. And I could indulge in teaching a little historic pop-culture.

But the day did take its toll. By the time we got to Lawrence, Kan., that night, we were all done and stayed at the Jellystone Campground.

I know I've been on the road too long when I get excited to see the GPS say we have only 3:59 hours to go. I thought traveling five hours a day would be good. But five hours really means six or seven depending on traffic, weather, and gas stops. And we need a break. The kids can only watch so many movies, play so many board games, and entertain themselves so long. They need to be held, read to, and listened to.

While our destinations may be fun and exciting, a mother who is always distracted by driving during their waking hours is not what they need on their vacation.

Jacob, 5, especially, needed a day to play and just "be with Mama." He'd been good so far, but I could tell he had reached his breaking point. Plus I needed to do laundry, dishes, and have a normal day of meals. Our destination is awaiting us in California, but keeping the kids healthy and happy along the way is more important.

Because of this, I am changing our route. Instead of heading south on I-40 to Dodge City, Kan., as originally planned, we are going to continue on I-70 toward Colorado, Utah, and then head south. There are still plenty of wonderful things to see that way. And it cuts off about 10 hours on our trip. While it is fun to see a lot, sometimes less is more.

Xavier Schmidt has his picture taken by his parents outside Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., May 17, 2012 (Reuters)

Teens do seek online privacy help, think parents overreact to stranger-danger

By Guest blogger / 08.16.13

Privacy in social media is important to US teens (and undoubtedly all teens). We knew this but just got further confirmation today from the Pew Internet Project’s new study, “Where Teens Seek Online Privacy Advice.”

“The majority of teens set their profile to either fully or partially private,” the authors report, and if they can’t figure out how to manage their settings themselves, they get advice – in fact “70% of teen Internet users have asked for or sought out advice on managing their privacy online” – more than three-quarters of 12- and 13-year-olds (77%) and 67% of 14- to 17-year-olds. But teens are also very self-reliant, as many parents know (because we sometimes ask them for help!). [In fact, in a focus group, a 13-year-old told the authors that her parents told her to figure it out herself.]

“For their day-to-day privacy management, teens generally rely on themselves to figure out the practical aspects of sharing and settings on their own … whether by being walked through their choices by the app or platform when they first sign up, or through search and use of their preferred platform,” according to the study, which was both quantitative (survey) and qualitative (focus groups).

Pew found no real difference in privacy practices (see the chart) between teens who do and don’t seek advice, except in two areas: “The teens who seek advice are more likely than non-seekers to block other people and to delete or deactivate a profile entirely.”

Breaking the advice-seeking down, Pew found that parents were right up there with friends and humans much preferred to online sources:

  • 42 percent of teen Net users “have asked a friend or peer for advice” and 41 percent have asked a parent
  • 37 percent have asked a sibling or cousin
  • 13 percent have gone to a Web site for advice, whether the service providing the settings or another source online
  • 9 percent have asked a teacher
  • 3 percent have gone to some other person or resource

The majority of the focus group teens said they wouldn’t seek advice from adults, though, and “one focus group participant [a 16-year-old girl] captured a primary reason that parents, teachers, and other adults are not seen as a go-to resource for information about Internet privacy,” the authors wrote, quoting her as saying: “I think parents don’t understand that we can apply life skills onto the Internet, whereas it’s a little more confusing, maybe, for them, that switch [from life to Internet]. But because we’ve grown up with it, we can easily see, OK, stranger in real life, stranger on the computer, same thing.”

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier blogs at NetFamilyNews.

Sam Horowitz at his bar mitzvah, ladies and gentlemen. Nothing will beat it. (Screenshot YouTube/Elixir Entertainment)

Horowitz bar mitzvah: So you think you can mitzvah? (+video)

By Correspondent / 08.15.13

So you think you can Mitzvah? Sam Horowitz, 13, entered manhood and reset the bar in bar mitzvah with a Christina Aguilera “burlesque” routine that looked more like Abby Lee choreographed it than a rabbi.

This was an extravaganza that Sam and his mom Angela Horowitz came up with after seeing a show where people popped out of chandeliers, the boy told Good Morning America.

Among the many things Jewish mothers are said to be, choreographer wasn’t on the list until now.

Bar mitzvah is a Jewish coming of age religious ceremony. "Mitzvah" is "commandment" in Hebrew. Girls have a bat mitzvah.

My maiden name is Goldenthal and I spent plenty of time in synagogues and at bar mitzvahs in my day. While my mom is Roman Catholic, my sons often tell me my Jewish mother gene is dominant.

I am pretty sure the Torah (code of Jewish law) does not require burlesque dancers gyrating to the tune of Christina Aguilera’s “Show Me How You Burlesque.”

These were not girls his age dancing, but women clad in gold fringe, micro mini-dresses shaking everything they have for twice what it’s worth.

Sam, in white tux, materialized from a massive chandelier to join the dancers in a choreographed number to “Dance Again” by Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull.

The video of the event has gone viral.

Try as I might there was nothing to compare with it on YouTube except the possible exception of Batzilla, a hilarious pre-bat mitzvah mash up of reality TV and mitzvah girls.

The boy had to practice the dance routine three hours every weekend for a month, but his religious study was a much greater time commitment.

Sam told GMA, “The party really was special, but the party is just a celebration. It’s really about the service, and it took two years to prepare for that. It’s a really big milestone in my life and it meant a lot to me, so I’m happy people are enjoying it.”

Seeing how extravagant this mom got for her son’s coming of age party, I imagine she is already choreographing his wedding. For that she’s gonna have to top a YouTube classic, the JK Wedding, which currently stands at 81 million views and has spawned a host of copycat wedding videos.

I believe that if anyone can top that, my money’s on a Jewish mother because they are goal oriented, loving, and unstoppable.

After all, what's the difference between a Rottweiler and a Jewish mother? Eventually, the Rottweiler lets go.

Grammy Award winner and mom Jennifer Hudson holds Elle Jolie, 12 months, at the "Pampers Lullabies" listening party in New York, June 27, 2012. (Invision)

What I learned making the switch from mommy marketer to mommy consumer

By Correspondent / 08.15.13

“Treat yourself.” “Indulge in something for you.” “You deserve a break.”

I am pretty sure I have used one, maybe even all three of these phrases combined in promotional e-mail pitches to mommy bloggers. I’ve tried desperately to convince them that moms deserve better. Like an iced-vanilla-caramel latte kind of better.

Over the course of my career in public relations I have spent hundreds of hours crafting pitches to mommy bloggers, hawking coffee, dog treats, and online search directory sites, among other things.

As a marketer, I feel a little guilty for my role in trying to convince moms to spend money on stuff they don’t necessarily need, pursuing their expendable income by pandering to their mommy sensibilities.

Now I am a stay-at-home mom with a six-month-old son and more time than ever before to watch daytime television and check Facebook. I also have a gigantic bullseye on my back.

I have become the hunted.

I can’t help but notice all of the television ads featuring women my age, who look like me, mothering their fake families.

NyQuil blames my husband for keeping the baby up with his hacking cough. Target promises that I can remain sexy and on budget while preparing cupcakes for a school bake sale. And Cheerios has me by the purse strings anytime it shows the wide-eyed toddler learning to eat Cheerios just like mom.

In the car, McDonalds tries to convince me to hit the drive thru for a McCafe without the kids, stressing the importance of taking a few moments for myself, lest I am otherwise tempted to run my minivan off the road and end it all.

Oh, and it is assumed that I now drive a minivan. Brainstorm: Here’s an idea, send new parents home from the hospital with a guide to breastfeeding and financing information on a Honda Odyssey. Woohoo, this girl’s still got it!

But, I digress. I’ve also noticed that the Today Show – the mother of all mommy-targeted morning shows – is featuring boy bands I listened to as a preteen in its summer concert series. They’re dusting off teen heartthrobs of the 90s to lure in me and my peers for the ad dollars.

And for good reason. According to a 2012 CBC study, moms control over $2 trillion dollars of purchasing power in the US. At the beginning of my career, mommy blogs didn’t even exist. There are now conferences and coalitions that focus entirely on marketing to moms. The M2Moms conference web site boasts,”Since its founding in 2005, the event has been attended by thousands of senior-level brand managers and marketing executives from Fortune 500 companies....”

In many ways it is fun as a marketer to experience being marketed to as a mom, especially with a little bit of know-how about what’s behind the curtain. I’ve also learned that the guilt I feel for trying to convince moms to buy $4 lattes doesn’t outweigh the irresistible urge I have right now to spend on anything that gets me out of the house and interacting with someone whose diaper I don’t have to change.

I am now the major purchaser in the house, and so the bullseye gets bigger every day. I recently purchased a diaper sprayer to help remove the poo from my baby’s cloth diapers. What the heck is that going to do to the Amazon search algorithm?

As for the mommy bloggers of my past, I still apologize for filling your inboxes with trite and unoriginal pitches from my former, childless self. I didn’t know then what I know now.

This post originally appeared on Medium.com.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Lane Brown blogs at Mudlatte.com.

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