Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Universal Truths of Motherhood

Being a mother and raising a child is something that can only truly be understood by a mother herself-but does the definition or experience of motherhood change from one place in the world to another? Are there aspects of parenting that are universal across the globe? Shawn Fink, nicknamed the Yoda of Mamas, would say yes to this question, that there are elements of motherhood that are the same no matter how big your house is, how much money you have, or where in the world you live. 

To find these truths, Fink searched all over the world in countries like New Zealand, Australia, England, Trinidad, Norway, Iceland, Canada, Japan, Germany, Scotland, Malaysia, and almost every state in the United States, getting to know mothers in each place and learn about their worries, their joys, their daily routines, and their general experiences as parents. Her findings included that there was no doubt that there are characteristics of being a mother that overlap, no matter what corner of the globe you are raising your child in. She calls these the “Truths of Modern Moms”. 

Truth #1: All mothers are perfectionists.
Fink says that no matter who you are, as women and mothers we crave perfection. We dream of the perfect house, the perfect marriage, the perfect family. It is in our nature to desire more. More joy, more family time, more personal time, more money. This seems to be true whether you are raising a child in Arizona or Tokyo. 

Truth #2: All mother seek a balanced life.
As true as it is that we all seek out a balanced life, it is equally true that such a life is difficult to achieve. But Fink says that this reality is okay- that it is all about effort, adjustment, and reassessment. “Balance is a journey, not a destination.”

Truth #3: All mothers yell sometimes.
The reality is as much as we don’t want to yell, all of us do sometimes. It doesn’t matter that we know it isn’t helpful, sometimes it just feels necessary. Fink describes stopping yelling is like trying to break a bad habit, but once we do learn to stop we discover how calming and empowering it can be.

Truth #4: No one has enough Mommy-Time.
It became very clear to Fink that finding, taking, and cherish personal time when you a a mother is a challenge no matter where you are in the world. But what became just as clear is how important it is to at least try to find that time.

Truth #5: All mothers get lonely.
No matter who you are, when you’re a mom there are going to be times you would do anything to get some alone time- and other times where you feel terribly lonely. Especially when you have an infant, motherhood can feel pretty isolating sometimes. But next time you feel lonely, remember every other mother in the world knows how you feel.

Truth #6: There is no such thing as an expert.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. And this fact doesn’t change if you go to New Zealand, Australia, Iceland or any other place. Every family has different systems that work for them. Every child has a routine that works best for them. And this system or routine might be a disaster in another household. Even within a household, what worked with your first child might not work with the second. Parenting is a continuous, never ending learning experience. And that’s okay- embrace it.

Truth #7: All mothers fear making mistakes.

Any mother, anywhere will tell you that one of her biggest fears as a parent is making a huge mistake or messing up somewhere along the way. The fear of judgement from teachers, neighbors, friends, or other mothers is something that many women stress over constantly. But guess what- you aren’t perfect, you’re human! And as a human being, you’re going to make mistakes. Next time you are comparing yourself to the other classroom mom who just seems to always have it together, remember that she is human too- and might have had a mommy-meltdown ten minutes before walking into the classroom. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Children's Response to a Pregnant Woman's Worries Sends a Powerful and Heart Warming Message About Down Syndrome

A video titled, “Dear Future Mom” has gone viral, receiving over 4 million views on YouTube- and rightfully so. The powerful and touching 3 minute clip features a group of children diagnosed with Down Syndrome addressing and challenging the fears and perceptions regarding the condition. 

The idea for the video began when a pregnant woman, who had just learned her child would be born with Down Syndrome, emailed the National Association of People with Down Syndrome, expressing her worries about the kind of life she should expect her child will have. Her concerns were met with a video response featuring children with the condition reassuring the woman that she should expect that her child will lead a happy and full life, just like they all do. 

The video was released in time for World Down Syndrome Day, a day that works to advocate for the rights of those with the condition as well as raise awareness in hopes that we can all be equals in our journey towards good health and overall wellbeing. 
The message of the video was simple yet very powerful; “Dear Future Mom, your child can be happy. Just like I am. And you’ll be happy too.” 

Click here to watch the beautiful clip, “Dear Future Mom”

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Social Media is Changing the World of Sports

It’s hard to deny that social media hasn’t impacted many aspects of our lives. Something that began as a way to connect with friends has rapidly woven its way into businesses, schools, long distance relationships with family or significant others, and much more. And now social media is changing the way we do sports. Within the last few years social media has become a big part of the lives of both the athletes and the fans. Statistics have shown that more than 80% of fans monitor various social media sites while watching a game on television, and up to 60% check into social media while at the game itself. Fans are using social media to check stats and scores, chat with other fans, and reach out to their favorite athletes. And the athletes are capitalizing on the social media buzz to increase their following, share information, and communicate with their fans. Football player Tim Tebow now holds the record for most tweets per second with a staggering 9,420 tweets every second- which is why even if you hated sports you’ve probably still heard about him. 

Social media’s use within sports doesn’t end at the professional level, but in recent years has begun to be increasingly popular for high school and college athletes as well, beginning right at the business of recruiting. Sites like Facebook and Twitter has helped coaches seek out, monitor, and eventually recruit many high school athletes when the only strategy for doing that used to be through mail or phone call after phone call. Social media has assisted countless college athletes into almost a celebrity-like status, some of them having thousands of followers on Twitter alone. 

But with this new-found online fame comes with it a lot of new responsibilities as well. Student athletes need to be wary that at all times they are representing their team, their school, their coaches, and themselves. Some coaches ban the use of social media altogether, but in recent years many of them have accepted that such strategies aren’t as realistic anymore. So now coaches work with athletes to teach them what is acceptable “social media behavior” and what isn’t. The NCAA is also on board with this, holding conferences to educate student athletes about the best ways to use social media, with a special emphasis on Twitter- which is home to the most sports-related issues. During the conferences they explain to the athletes strategies for maintaining a positive image online at all times, including not trash talking teammates or coaches, avoiding conflict with members of opposing teams, and avoiding any profanity or pictures that can potentially send the wrong message. 

When used appropriately, social media has opened up a whole new world for both athletes and their fans. And I expect as the years go on this is a trend that will only continue to grow in both its importance and popularity. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Are Schools Pushing Our Children to the Limit and Making them Sick?

Is homework causing your child to get sick? This is a question that might result in some eye rolls, but reliable research and surveys conducted in middle-class areas present a pretty convincing case. 

Pressure for children to succeed in both sports and in the classroom has led to a desire, fueled both by parents and teachers, to not only achieve but overachieve. Of course we want our kids to be the best they can be and succeed in everything they do, and having a slightly competitive spirit is not a terrible thing given society’s competitive nature- but are we pushing our kids too far? 

Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and co-author of a study on Experimental Education, says that these days children are doing an average of three hours of homework per night, some less and some up to five hours. The problem has become so severe that some schools even have to place a limit on the amount of homework teachers are allowed to give. High achieving schools are separating kids at younger and younger ages, placing them in advanced classes and honors courses in grade school! 

Pope’s study focused in on upper-middle-class school districts because it is known that affluent families whose children attend privileged schools often do not question how much homework their child is being given and, as you can imagine, parents paying a lot of money for their child to be a student at a particular school expect results. But how is the pressure
privileged schools put on children affecting their health and happiness? To answer this question, Pope conducted a survey of over 4,300 students from 10 high-performance high schools. The results showed that 56% of students felt homework was the primary cause of stress in their lives. These levels of stress due to excessive homework not only affected the happiness of the students, but also their physical well being. The connection was very clear, high levels of stress were causing all kinds of physical problems, including sleep deprivation, weight loss, migraines, stomach aches, and even ulcers. Not to mention the impacts stress had on their mental health as well, causing depression and high levels of anxiety. Although the study was conducted with high school students, Pope also has data that presents the same conclusions with younger students. 

To stretch even beyond just homework, by having these attitudes drilled into student’s heads  at a  young age we are setting ourselves up to raise a self-centered, overly competitive, and“all work no play, winner-takes-all” generation of people. 

So how can we fix the issue and help our children’s mental and physical health while still raising smart, hard working people? Pope says the level of homework that showed the best results is two hours for high schoolers and a maximum of 90 minutes for middle schoolers, as well as finding a balance between sports and time to just relax. And it is up to parents to monitor their child’s health and find a way to teach them responsibility and being a hard worker without going overboard! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Being the Happiest Mom You Can Be

If you ask a mom if she enjoys motherhood, she’ll probably say yes. She will probably tell you it’s tough but rewarding, that it made her life better and that her kids are the light of her life. And I’m not trying to suggest that she’s lying- because those things are all probably true. But most parents are hesitant to tell the whole truth, like it would be a crime to ever suggest that your kids don’t make you happier than before you were a parent. The rewards of being a parent have always been something people have never been afraid to share, however, talking about the difficulties that motherhood brings seems to be more of a taboo subject. Becoming a mother is a beautiful thing that opens up your heart to a kind of love you could have never previously imagined, but don’t have kids because you are trying to become a happier person…because if that is the case, you might be disappointed. 

Being a mother is a rich and rewarding experience, but it can also be emotionally taxing. Luckily, there are ways you can improve your level of satisfaction and happiness as a parent within your daily life. According to Karen Reivich, a research associate in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the first step to becoming a happier mom is to recognize how important your job as a mother is and to place a lot of value on it. And once you start acknowledging how you’re basically just short of a
superhero…you'll start enjoying your job more!

The next step to being a happier mom is to not sweat the small stuff. Don’t let yourself get really stressed over the little things, but on the flip side, when you are stressed, it’s okay to admit it. Being stressed out or having a bad day does not make you a bad parent, because we all know being a mom can be seriously stressful sometimes! Having a really bad day? Take a second to have your own private mommy meltdown, then let it go and move on! Reorganize your priorities because there are somethings that you go crazy over that at the end of the day just aren’t that important. If you can afford someone to clean your house, hire them! This way you can have a clean house and spend more time with the kids. A house cleaner doesn’t fit the budget? No big deal but ask yourself, is it really that important for the entire house to be spotless? You could spend the time you use obsessing over having every bed made playing with your kids and I promise you, that will be more fulfilling. 

Part of not letting the little things weigh you down is learning to go with the flow. Psychology studies on happiness have shown that people who can go with the flow and adapt tend to be happier people overall. And this idea can definitely be applied to parenting. So the trip to the zoo you organized isn’t going exactly how you planned…instead of getting stressed out over it, just go with it and make the most out of your situation. Kids can turn almost anything into a game, so take that idea and use it towards your own tasks or chores. Reivich uses the example of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, make it less boring and repetitive by turning it into a cooking show with the kids! It's an easy way to make the most fun out of the least fun situations.

Another key to being a happier mom is to appreciate the small things. Even if it is a ten minute cup of coffee to yourself each morning, savor and enjoy those ten minutes as your own personal morning ritual. Take up yoga as your form of exercise. Start a new hobby like gardening or baking. These things will help you to feel more relaxed and have a more positive outlook on each day. They will also help you to be ready to handle the stressors that will inevitably come your way. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

20 Ways You Can Know For Sure You're a Mom

If there is anything about parenting that is for sure, it is that it is a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. Having a child involves a lot of laughs and a lot of tears, sometimes both at the same time. Once you become a parent, your life and behavior changes in a way that someone who doesn’t have a child can't totally understand, and it doesn’t take long after the birth of your child for these changes to become apparent. When real moms were asked how you know that you have fully entered mommy mode, these are the things they said:

You Know You Are a Mom When:

1. As an adult, you can carry around a Hello Kitty backpack on your back through the airport and you don’t get any double takes. 

2. Instead of running away from projectile vomit, you are pushing your way through the crowd ready to use your hands as a paper towel if necessary. 

3. You have perfected multitasking to the point where it resembles an art.

4. Your new best friend is wine. And you guys have a great relationship.

5. Happy hour is no longer between 4-5 but now it is the small window of time between when you’ve put your kids to bed and you collapse into bed. 

6. Even being able to pee without an audience becomes a rare and appreciated event

7. You know more about the shows on the Disney Channel and Nick Jr. than the shows your friends watch.

8. Getting a brand new mini van with automatic doors feels kind of like getting a brand new sports car

9. Moms’ nights out are sacred and necessary for your sanity.

10. A 10 minute shower with the door locked parallels a day at the spa. 

11. Even your nicest purses have stashes of baby wipes and Tide to Go.

12. You would give yourself a fever, a cold, or even the flu in a heartbeat to prevent any of your kids from it.

13. The amount of milk you buy in one week could keep an entire dairy farm in business.

14. You can change a diaper in record time, in the dark, and possibly while they are still going to the bathroom.

15. It is not unusual for you and your husband to not be the only occupants of your bed.

16. Breakfast for dinner is a celebration to your kids and vacation for you.

17. You’ve spent more money on carpet cleaner and stain removers than make up.

18. There are crayon or marker scribbles on various surfaces in your house.

19. You have to hide your nail polish in places your daughters will never find it.

20. Fast food and drive thrus are two of the best things that have happened to you. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

The 5 Best Cities to Party in on Saint Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day is an awesome holiday for so many reasons. It’s basically a day where you can dress all in green and drink beer for breakfast, judgement free. And who wouldn’t love that? Irish or not, it’s an easy holiday to get in the spirit for- but some places around the country really know how to get into the festivities. So what are the best cities to be in on St. Patrick’s Day?

1. Boston, Massachusetts
This one comes as no surprise! Boston was actually the first city to host an annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Created by the Irish Society of Boston in 1737, the amazing parade even started before Dublin, Ireland had one! If you ever get the chance to attend the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, it surely won’t disappoint. It is complete with all the St. Patrick’s Day festivities you can think of, including floats, a marching band, bagpipers, over 850,000 attendees all dressed in green, and of course plenty of booze. 

2. New York City, New York
Like Boston, this was also not much of a surprise. Combine the city’s reputation for their spectacular holiday celebrations with the prominent Irish community and you’ll get one heck of a St. Patrick’s Day party. In addition to their jaw dropping parade, that has more than 2 million people in attendance, you can also head to countless restaurants, Irish pubs, and countless festivals and events for an awesome St. Patrick’s Day party. Take, for example, the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Open Day. This event is hosted at the Irish Arts Center where you and your family can indulge in Irish music, eat delicious authentic Irish cuisine, attend workshops, and watch dances. 

3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
After Boston, Philadelphia gets to take credit for having one of the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parades. And since it’s creation, it has not gotten any less amazing! Over 500,000 people gather in the city streets to drink, eat Irish food, and celebrate among each other. 

4. Chicago, Illinois
You may not know it, but it is in fact Chicago that takes the reign for one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States. This probably comes from the fact that Chicago has not one but two parades to ring in the holiday. The first parade, on Columbus Drive, draws a crowd of around 350,000 people and the second, on the South Side, sees numbers around 250,000. But perhaps the best and most unique feature Chicago brings to it’s St. Patty’s Day celebration is the “Dyeing of the River.” Each year on March 17 for the past 43 years the city dyes the Chicago River bright green to acknowledge the exciting holiday. I’m definitely putting this city on my bucket list for St. Patrick’s Day!

5. Kansas City, Missouri

This city was a little more of a surprise, but after reading about it I can definitely see why each year over 200,000 people turn up for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Not only is the parade a spectacularly fun event but they give out prizes too. And the grand prize? An all expense paid trip to Ireland. Now that is truly a celebration of the Irish! Even once the parade has concluded, you can continue the party with dozens of Irish pubs to choose from.