Change, Ambivalence and the Facts About Stay-at-Home Moms

Stay-at-home motherhood is a highly examined aspect of modern life with a Babylon-level of voices and opinions. Lisa weighed in last summer with her writing, Nine Reasons I Regret Being a Stay at Home Mom, Grown and Flown’s most widely read and debated post to date. When Pew released research this week entitled, After Decades of Decline, A Rise in Stay-at-Home Mothers, we thought it was time to take another look at the facts and stereotypes that surround mothers who do not work outside the home. Regardless of one’s opinion on the “optimal way” for parents to raise their children and provide for them financially, having a grasp on the facts should be the shared starting point.

stay at home mom, Pew

While Pew’s research showed a marked increase in the number of SAHMs, the causes of this increase were manifold: lack of childcare, declining employment opportunities for those without a university degree and a drop in women’s participation in the labor force.

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Competitive Sports and College Recruiting: Time to Pry Them Apart

Lisa writes: Competitive sports and college admissions often get intertwined, as if the only reason for the former is the latter. But aren’t we confusing two issues? If there were no college recruitment would there be no competitive sport? And, are there advantages to kids and teens to competing athletically at a very high level, regardless of collegiate outcome?

soccer, boys soccer

The reality is that most kids, even those involved in an intensive athletic experiences, will not be recruited to college. Getting recruited to play sports in college is the dream of many athletes, but the facts surrounding this process can be bleak. There are over seven million high school athletes and more the three million kids playing competitive soccer. Only around 5% of high school athletes will compete in the NCAA. And, it is a mere 1 percent of the seven million who will find themselves on a D1 team with scholarship money.

So if you are a parent whose kid has been playing hockey/lacrosse/soccer/football/basketball or you name it, for 10 years and they did not get a place in college, or if you are a parent staring down the barrel of those 10 intensive years, the question is are the time, money and effort you and your family put into sports wasted?

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When Your Child Wants Off the College Carousel

A Grown and Flown friend, Cathy, writes: The process of deciding where to go to college is the single most significant event in your child’s secondary school experience. For many, the college process begins in 9th grade, with some parents seeding the groundwork before middle school. I wasn’t one of them. My daughter began her college search in earnest in her junior year and by senior year had narrowed her choices to eight schools. She was accepted at seven.

college campus, college kid

She registered at a small New England school with a strong academic pedigree. I left her there on a sunny September morning, and as I held her for our goodbye, I noted she was trembling. Sick with worry, I drove the six hours home, tears blinding my eyes. She called (well, texted) frequently in the ensuing months and seemed to be okay. Her grades were excellent and she seemed to like it there. I exhaled. When she came home at spring break, I noted she looked tired and thin but I attributed it to studying. In May, she was home for summer. By July she was fidgety and one night came downstairs and said “Mom, I want to take a year off.” Here are some of the things I learned in the process figuring out what her next steps should be:

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Princeton Mom on Marriage: Facing the Facts

Today on Forbes, Lisa writes: Susan Patton’s words sound like they might have the ring of truth.  When the Princeton Mom tells college age women in her new book, Marry Smart, that “College is the best place to look for your mate,” heads nod.  When she says, “Once you graduate you will meet men who are your intellectual equal—just not that many of them,” it almost sounds as if what she is saying might still be true.  But that ringing is the sound of the past.

Disagreements with Patton’s arguments abound, but the most salient rebuttal is that many of her contentions are based on outdated facts and are no longer accurate. She acknowledges that her book is advice and not a study as says, “There are very few statistics in this book, and my research has been limited to talking with people I know, like and trust…”

Yet, there is a very real reason to set the record straight.  Her points, if taken to heart, send young women a message that they should relegate their hard work, in the classroom and the workplace, to the back seat and instead focus on catching a man in college, lest they risk becoming “a spinster with cats”.  Yet 91% of college educated women (and men) marry, suggesting that the vast majority of those wishing to wed find a partner.

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Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy, Part 2

Lisa writes: Here is part two of our interview with Lacy Crawford (@lacy_crawford), author of Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy. In this fictional account of the college admissions process, Lacy takes a long hard look at five very different families and how they endure the pressure-filled fall of senior year. For many parents of high school kids, this book may be either a window or a mirror on a world that fills them with horror. But perhaps it best serves as a cautionary tale, asking parents to acknowledge that this is the end of a road, a time when your child needs to be very much themselves, a moment when they begin to lead. If Lacy’s characters cannot make that unmistakable fact clear, then reread her wonderful book.

Lacy Crawford, Early Decision

G&F: What do you hope that parents reading this book will walk away with?

Lacy: Levity, confidence, and a sense of perspective. Also there are some honest tips, and if they help, great.

Helicopter parenting, of the type you feature, is quickly falling out of favor. Doing too much for our kids is no longer a badge of honor among parents. The number of high school seniors has peaked and the rise in applications at some schools has stalled. Do you see any of these factors altering the pressure that you describe?

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Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy, a Conversation with Lacy Crawford

Lisa writes: Lacy Crawford is the author of the wonderful new book, Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy (William Morrow.) For fifteen years she served as a discreet college admissions counselor to the super rich, shepherding their children through the maze of applications and essays. From August until acceptance, two or three times a week, she worked with students helping them research schools and draft, rewrite and polish their essays. While Lacy was employed by parents to guide their children, it is clear that those who hired her were in great need of her help as well. (BTW, Lacy can be reached via twitter at @Lacy_Crawford)

Early Decision, Lacy Crawford

After years of working with high school seniors Lacy faced an even more daunting task, filling out applications for nursery school for her own baby. “I’d been secretly judging these parents for ten years,” Lacy recalled in an interview with The Daily Beast. “But there I was, ready to step on the same moving walkway, and I thought, ‘I know how this ends.’ This ends with me hiring someone like me to get my kid into college.” It was then that she began to take the notes that would turn her very real experiences into a superb work of fiction.

Mary Dell and I met Lacy at the book salon of the incomparable Aidan Donnelley Rowley and, while I politely bought the book as I love to support authors, I had no intention of opening its cover, or even taking it out of the bag. [Read more...]



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Never Again Will I…

Lisa writes: My youngest son heads off to college sometime in August. When he finally slams the screen door, he will be emptying the nest my husband and I began to fill 22 years ago. With his departure, I reflect on a few things that, frankly, I am more than a little ready to let go. While everyone I know is already sick of hearing how much I will miss him, here are a few things that I will never have to do again:

sons, family, brothers

Sit in a car outside a school, gym or private home, waiting. In my car, in the dark, by myself.

Quiz anyone on vocabulary words. My husband has all the words he needs.

Worry about who is in whose bedroom, which door is opened or closed, and what other parents’ rules are for their kids who are in my home. Once you have lived out from under our roof, your personal life is your own.

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College Admissions: Don’t Go It Alone

Mary Dell writes: Dear Moms, We feel for you, we really do. Since your kid entered kindergarten, you have probably heard that nothing in parenting compares to the stress of college admissions. Few of you have arrived at this stage without feeling a degree of anxiety now that it is your child who has begun to think about life after high school.

college admissions

Lisa and I are two moms with five kids between our families. Our youngest are high school seniors who have the end in sight. “The end” is not only college application season, but also their high school years and childhood in general. Letting them go is part of the college process and one reason why it feels so painful. In fact, we could sit right down and weep between now and graduation but, instead, we want to throw an arm around your shoulder knowing that it is you who needs support right now. So we offer advice, a digital hug, from two moms to you:

Looking for colleges is a family matter.

Do not feel remotely guilty being involved, despite experts who may tell you to let your child “own the process.” It is their search, but parents should be there to lend an ear, a hand, and a credit card as needed.

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Do Your Laundry Or You’ll Die Alone: The Wit and Wisdom of Becky Blades

Lisa writes: Mary Dell and I have read Becky Blades’ beautiful volume, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone,  and we love it. We don’t just love it because we have high school (and college!) graduates this year. We love it because it is the perfect gift of wit and wisdom for any girl/young woman, age 15-25, and because of the messages of empowerment, understanding and optimism Becky conveys.  It is a little manual for life, and who doesn’t need that?

Do Your Laundry or You'll Die Alone

But Becky’s book is even better with some of the back story. Her slender and beautifully illustrated volume is very much a “mom story” that so many of us can relate to, and we had the pleasure of interviewing her to hear  firsthand.

Interview With Author Becky Blades

Lisa: You say in the book that you wrote this as a reminder to oldest daughter before she headed off to Harvard? Why did she need reminding and why didn’t you just tell her what you had to say?

Becky: My firstborn, Taylor Kay, was a driven child, and busy, busy, busy. Every minute seemed so intense – with few of those hang-around-and-chat moments where topics just come up. When we WERE in the same room, I shared her attention with the crowd of people who were texting or Facebooking on her phone. Since she was working so hard, and I didn’t want every conversation to be an argument, I gave her a pass on that, and other things – like doing her laundry.

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Is it Worth the Money?

Lisa and our good friend, Sharon Greenthal, who blogs at Empty House, Full Mind, asked the question “What is worth spending money on?” Money is a private and often touchy subject, yet the respondents were candid and their answers, revealing.  Here is the post appearing today on both blogs.

In the weeks between tossing out the turkey carcass and dragging the Christmas tree to the curb, the average American family is expected to spend $740 on gifts in this brief, intense shopping period. As the year winds down we will also give generously, writing checks for $79 billion in charitable donations or a quarter of our annual giving.

bank vault, money, bank

How we spend our money speaks to who we are and what we value. For each of us it is a trial and error process. We spend impulsively, and we live to regret the purchase. We save up carefully, and the object of our desire become obsolete or out of fashion. We buy things or experiences, we invest in education, and charity and with each step learn more about our personal relationships to money and more about ourselves.

How we spend our money is a sticky, complicated question that is burdened by the behavior of our family of origin and says something about the example we hope to set for our own children.

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Why Parents Should Push Their Kids to Play Team Sports

Lisa writes: One of the great parenting quandaries is when to push our kids and when to back off. This issue surfaces in every aspect of their lives from academics to music lessons to team sports. For each child there is a different answer and for each family a different story, but on the issue of sports, there seem to be a few universal truths.

team sports, varsity sports, soccer team

Sports loom large in our world and while there are many insidious aspects to this, the value of sports, particularly team sports, in a child’s life cannot be overstated.

One of the good thing about sports is that many bad things will happen. Games will be lost. Injuries incurred. Your child might be benched, demoted, or not perform up to his/her abilities. Your child might hate his coach and feel that he is incapable or unfair. And all of this will be good. All of this will be the solid foundation that his later life will rest upon.

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Oversharing: Why We Do it and How to Stop

Lisa writes: I entered the world of social media much like entering my kitchen at night, in total darkness with my hands stretched out in front of me. I forged ahead in this global orgy of oversharing with the certain knowledge that I knew nothing and would soon be stubbing my toe, or worse.

Oversharing on social media

The first time a lightbulb went on was during The Social Network when I heard the words, “As if every thought that tumbles through your head is so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared. The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink.” Perhaps that brilliant turn of phrase should be stamped on every digital device, much like the warnings on the side of cigarette packages. Users of both products may need to be reminded of the dangers that lie ahead. While toxic fumes pose a very real threat to our health, oversharing and forgetting the permanent nature of our online musings comes with its own risks.

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When Teen Music Went Silent

Mary Dell writes: At last week’s ceremony for the new Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship at Harvard, honoree rap artist Nas remarked  “Hip-hop is important like computer science. The world is changing. If you want to understand the youth, listen to the music. This is what’s happening right underneath your nose.” Though the value of computer science and the eternal bond between youth and music are indisputable, hip-hop is not anywhere near my nose. In fact, once Steve Jobs invented the iPod in 2001, the teen music we shared in our home went radio silent.

nas, lifeisgood, hip-hop music

 

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College Students: The Parents Learn, Too

Lisa writes: With two sons in college and another working his way in that direction, I should have acquired some real insights into parenting college students, wisdom that only a mother in my position could have gained. Instead, I have learned some very basic truths about life with college students.

college students, campus

 

Filthy Dorm Rooms

College dorm rooms never get cleaned, never. So when a parent has not actually set foot in their child’s dorm room since move-in day, a very unpleasant and foul surprise awaits. I have real trouble resisting the urge to straighten, so it is best if I just stay away. On move-out day I come prepared with garbage bags and old clothes; until then I meet my kids at the Starbucks in their college towns.

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Neither Bad People Nor Bad Parents

Lisa writes: Would you lie for your kid?  Cheat? Steal? My guess is that for most of us there is a point where we would do each of these things.  There are conditions, like famine and war, where we would leave our morals behind and act on our protective instincts to assure our children’s survival. But in real life, the one where we get up and go to work and the kids go to school, most parents, I believe, hold onto their moral compasses acting neither as bad people nor bad parents.

Lisa Heffernan and Jennifer Breheny Wallace

Saturday morning I was on Fox and Friends with guest Jennifer Breheny Wallace, discussing the recent New York Magazine article, “Is Ethical Parenting Possible?”  In Lisa Miller’s article she asserts that,  “Parenthood, like war, is a state in which it’s impossible to be moral. Worse, the moral weakness of parents is always on display, for children bear witness to their incessant ethical hairsplitting.”

Here I have to disagree.  Parenting is not a war, in fact it is the very opposite.  In parenting there is no enemy.  We may feel pressure, but we are not being attacked. There are no short burst of firepower, but rather a sustained multi decade long process of nurturing a helpless infant into a self-sufficient adult.  There are high points and low points but there is certainly no moment when we can claim certain victory and walk away.

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