Monday, December 20, 2010

Little snapshots of life

From the files of the evil mother:

DS falls asleep, Baby and I are doing a little celebratory dance. She's adorably and infectiously giggling. That's because she doesn't know that she's NEXT! Bwahahahaha.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Are you talking to me?

If one reads enough of mother-oriented materials, a few common themes emerge: disciplinary problems, staying home vs. working, breastfeeding freely vs. bottle feeding without prejudice. One will also find that there are themes that are either rarely or almost never covered. Which boggles my mind because I am sure I am not the only going through these issues, but rarely would I find something in parenting blog or magazine on the matter.

But back to the recurring themes, because there's one that has been bugging me for far too long. I am sure you are familiar with the story: the alpha woman gets pregnant, alpha woman decides that her career is too valuable to abandon, something bad/terrible/sad happens or she sees the light and the alpha woman decides to slow down, reduces her hours/finds a job with more life/work balance and the alpha mom, her spouse and her offspirng are all happier than they ever were. Lesson learned: money is not everything, career is not that important, large house/fancy car are not equal substitutes for sanity, happy balance is the best.

Well, here's my beef with this story. I work, and I work full time. I work with all kinds of women, many of whom are moms. I have seen only one alpha woman that fits the description of the story in 12+ years I am in professional workforce. The rest of us? We are not doing it for kicks, or because career is so important to us, or because a 5 bedroom mansion is just too small for our family of four, or because that second Mercedes doesn't pay for itself, you know. We do it because we have to and more often than not we have no other choice.

Every time I read about suggestions to scale down the spending so that I can stay home or work part time, I want to grind my teeth. We don't buy, but rent. Eating out less would mean growing my own vegetables. Our case is by far not the worst. Most women work because their husbands' earnings alone wouldn't pay the bills. End of story. More ironic is that even with two working adults many people financially struggle.

And then I hear the famous line about working part time. Really, the best of both worlds, right? You work a little, make a little money, see more of your kids. Yep, agreed, the best of both worlds. If you don't need full income from your job. If your employer won't scale down or take away the benefits due to reduced hours. And here's the biggie: if this option is available at all. Most employers are very reluctant to allow present employees to scale down on their work hours. If they do, they often reduce the pay, but not the workload. In case of layouts part timers are often the first to go. And being allowed reduced work week requires constant negotiation and re-negotiation and living with the threat of it being taken away. And that's when one already works. Finding a new part time job with decent pay and working conditions is almost impossible.

But that doesn't stop these articles. And suggestions about making do with less. Or reminding us that children are more important than careers and the precious time we spend away from them cannot be made up later. And the first steps/words/milestones we miss cannot be done over. As if I or any other working mother wasn't painfully aware of that. Who are these people writing for? Some clueless, oblivious to their children's needs, insanely successful but still pretty dumb career women? If these people exist in nature, how many are there to warrant that many articles?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why do I yell?

There's a complicated answer fully of lengthy explanations and excuses, and there's a simple one - because I get angry. As I've read last week in R'Pliskin's "Anger! The Inner Teacher" that frustration, annoyance, impatience, resentment, indignation are all different forms of anger. After some pondering, I had to agree. I guess that means that I get angry a lot. Definitely a lot more often than I thought. That's a discovery that is hard to swallow. That's not to say that I act upon every instance of anger, far from it. But it is important to realize that anger comes in different flavors. Hopefully, making the enemy more easily recognizable would make it easier to fight it.

Progress - Week1 of No Yelling

Ok, I do realize that week two is about to end, but I am going to post this any way.

So, here's my progress:

1. Achieved greater awareness of when I want to yell. Hence, less yelling before I even realize I am yelling. (Am I the only one who is surprised to finds herself mid-scream?)

2. Realized that I must control what comes out of my mouth, especially when even slightly ticked off, at all times. 100% vigilance. Easing even a little bit leads to yelling. This sucks.

3. Being sleep-deprived makes controlling oneself much harder. Okay, I knew that, but got a reminder.

4. Less yelling didn't automatically lead to better behaved kids. Nor do they behave worse. However, they are a lot more affectionate towards me and their father. Coincidence?

5. Less yelling. Not all out, some relapses, but, thank G-d, less. (Please, do not test this statement!!!)

I don't know if anyone embarked on this project with me. If yes, anything, any progress you wish to share?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Funny bit - pretend play

On a lighter note :


Me: Kids, why don't you play in pretend daycare? You could pretend that your dolls and bears are children. DD (dear daughter, 6) could be Morah E, DS (dear son, 4) could be Rabbi C.

DD: (enthusiastically) Yeah!!! And Mommy can be Sandra*!

DS: Yeah, Sandra!

(The kicker is that Sandra is a cleaning lady in their daycare...)

Me: (trying to salvage the situation) Why Sandra? Why can't I be another morah?

DD: Because only old people can be Sandra. Sandra is much older than Morah E, and all other morahs are younger...

Yes, sweetie, nice save! Sandra is only 20 years or so older than Mommy...

*name changed to protect the innocent.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Yelling and abuse

In the last few decades, abuse have become a household word. On the one hand, we have raised awareness of the problem, addressed consequences and came up with some solutions. We now know that abuse presents itself in many forms: verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, psychological and even financial. I might be missing some. For the most part, obtaining help, at least in big cities, had become much easier than 20 or 30 years ago. On the flip side, due to extensive use the word itself lost its impact. You often hear people jokingly referring to innocent behaviors, such as dressing girls in blue or giving kids home hair cuts as "child abuse."

So where does yelling fall in this picture? Sarah Chana Radcliffe, the author of "Raise Your Children Without Raising Your Voice" states in her book that all yelling is abusive. I would venture out to say that in this case 99% of parents had abused their kids at one point or another. Which brings us to the question of whether that makes all these parents, myself included, abusers. (It is besides the point that Child Protective Services won't get involved over excessive yelling.) Or does that make them the parents who engage in abusive behaviors? And is there really a difference? (This reminds me of an article I have read about Irish, who have started substituting the word "alcoholic" with "alcohol dependent," a phrase describing a notoriously wide and not precisely defined range of alcohol consumption. The author of the article pointed out that 95% of Irish men depend on alcohol to relax after work; does that mean that the entire country needs to go to rehab?)

I have been thinking about this for a while. Obviously, if one yells at a kid to terrify or intimidate them, it's abusive. But what if one yells out in frustration? I am starting to not be so sure. Then again, if a husband consistently yells at his wife in frustration, I consider that a form of verbal and emotional abuse. Do the standards for children differ from those we apply to spouses?

Yelling: not all bad

Every parenting book I read starts off with the chapter that goes on at great length about the evils of poor parenting. The book I bought on yelling went on and on about why it is bad. I frankly do not understand why they are doing this. Obviously, I already figured out that bad parenting is...well...bad. Obviously, I want to change. Need proof? I bought/rented/borrowed your book and am reading it! The only reason I can come up with is that the authors are trying to strengthen readers' resolve to improve and possibly bring in some scientific studies laypeople are not aware of.

I will avoid the reason why one shouldn't yell at her kids. They are too numerous and too obvious to recount. I will only list one reason that I haven't seen in the literature so far. And this reason is as follows - yelling works only when done occasionally and only in limited circumstances. If done often, it becomes white noise, and kids no longer pay much or desired attention to it. Yes, you have heard this before, but please bare with me.

There are situations when yelling is absolutely necessary and getting your child's attention RIGHT NOW is of utmost importance. They are the times when a child is doing something dangerous, but is out of parent's immediate reach. Putting something in the electric outlet, stepping on a broken glass, carelessly crossing the street when the car is approaching - these are examples that are coming to mind. If I freak out and break into a yelling tirade when my son pours apple juice all over the floor, even on purpose, and over other similar mischief, yelling becomes equivalent with mother trying to stop fun activity. So when he eventually reaches for a sharp or hot object, he will much less likely heed the warning, "DON'T TOUCH THAT!" no matter how loudly uttered. Ultimately, I had used up my power of a scream on things of little importance.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October is a scream-free month.


My name is Chana and is a Screamaholic. Had I been a member of the frequent yelling club, earning a mile for every time I yell, I would not have to pay for a plane ticket to LA. Or possibly Israel. Or maybe even Mars. And back. So yeah, I yell. I am also not proud of it, and I feel guilty about it. A lot.

This year before Rosh Hashana, when going through a my usual list in Shimon Apisdorf's Survival Guide to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the answer to "What would you regret the most if left undone this year?" came immediately, with no close runner-ups in sight. I would deeply regret if I continued communicating with kids the way I do now. I made a commitment to dedicate this year to yelling less. Actually, eliminating it entirely.

I think it's a very serious and multi-faceted project. It's not just stopping the act of yelling itself, which would be awesome, don't get me wrong. It's also addressing the why's of yelling: after all, there are reasons - or if you prefer excuses - why I yell. Some are related to kids and their behavior, some are my personal, some completely in my control and some are beyond it with everything in between. I had come to conclusion that the entire way I parent needs to be reassessed. Actually, the entire way I function needs revamping. It's not only my parenting, I and my life, need some serious analysis and changes.

I think I am up for it. At the very least I owe it to myself and my kids to try. I am starting small - avoiding yelling. For one month. As much as I can. Care to join?

Picture courtesy of Google Images.


The idea I have thought about for a awhile is now taking some sort of physical shape. The layout of the blog will probably be tweaked in the near or not so near future, but for now it seems like I need to seize the opportunity and already start. So here are a few short intros.

Why blog?
I have been a mother for six years. That means that for the past six years, I have endlessly talked about my children, read numerous books on parenting, attended some classes, and ambushed innocent bystanders and co-workers with the pictures of my kids. Most of my friends had become mothers at approximately similar time, and it would only seem natural to share our experiences and ideas. Given that we are all busy (parenting!) and rarely see each other, I wanted to create an online group, sharing ideas, success stories, venting frustrations or simply retelling the cute little thing our darlings did today.

Why Facebook?
Most of the interested parties are already on FB. Hence it will be easy to link to new posts and have discussion there. The idea is to create a private FB group, by invitation only, where all or most people know each other, which will give us a chance to say what we want to say and not show it to all our friends and our friends' friends. In addition, participants can post their own updates on the wall, which won't have to relate to the blog's posts.

What will the format be like?
Ok, this is only the idea. Like I said before, waiting to iron out all organizational kinks could take time, and there's no guarantee that my enthusiasm will still be there. So the idea is as follows: have a topic of the month and post about it. Initially I will probably do most of the posting, but I hope that guest posts will become a regular feature. Then, we could have discussions on our super-secret FB group, or in the blog comment themselves. Any ideas to improve the system will be highly appreciated. Also, topics of interest.

What would be the themes?
As much as I would like this to be fun, I also want this to be somewhat of use. I will post about my own challenges and try to avoid generalizing and making assumptions about other mothers. I will try posting interesting links, possibly review parenting books, share parenting ideas. We'll see.

I think the important thing is to start. So let's do it!

Pictures courtesy of and