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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Girl Power 2010: From the Supermarket to the Supreme Court

Last week, I had the privilege of watching ABC anchor Diane Sawyer moderate a conversation between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The extraordinary coffee klatch was part of The Women’s Conference, a mega-watt, multi-day convention hosted by Maria Shriver. With her uber Kennedy-Schwarzenegger sphere of influence, Ms. Shriver has become the George Clooney of women’s events. She can lasso some of the country’s most fascinating female leaders and celebrity role models – think Oprah and Michelle Obama – to speak at her annual festival of jacked-up Girl Power.

Sitting in an estrogen-packed auditorium with 14,000 other women (and a few token guys including NBC’s male Dream Team – Matt Lauer, Brian Williams and Al Roker), I listened as two of the most influential and extraordinary women of our time spoke about the struggles and in-your-face discrimination they experienced as they ascended the ranks from law school to the Supreme Court.

Sandra Day O’Connor’s story makes for feminist folklore. The Stanford law school graduate couldn’t get a job when she graduated in 1949. She sent out dozens of resumes only to be told, “we don’t hire women lawyers. How well do you type? ” Eventually, through a family friend, Ms. O’Connor interviewed with the county attorney’s office in San Mateo, California, where she actually offered to work for free. She got the gig, but if working for bupkis didn’t marginalize her enough, Ms. O’Connor was also forced to sit with the secretaries.

A few years later, across the country, newly married Ruth Bader Ginsburg had ambitions of going to law school. She had taken her LSATs and applied to Harvard. But then she got pregnant and thought she may have to quash her law school plans. As she agonized, it was Ms. Ginsburg’s father-in-law who set her straight and told her, “you have the best excuse in the world now not to go to law school, but if you want to go, you’ll figure it out.”

So Ms. Ginsburg chose to man-up in a man’s world and take on Harvard law school while raising a baby. She was one of nine women in a class of 500.

Like Ms. O’Connor, Ms. Ginsburg found that having a uterus was a big-time job impediment. No one wanted to interview her. And despite her credentials and a strong recommendation from the dean of Harvard law school, Ms. Ginsburg was denied a clerkship for Justice Felix Frankfurter because she was a woman.

Five decades later, the cultural landscape has significantly shifted. Today, there are more women in law school today than there are men. We have a female Secretary of State and a female Speaker of the House and dozens of women in Congress. Women are no longer a novelty in politics, but a permanent fixture – witches, Mama Grizzlies and all. And two more women, courtesy of the Obama administration, have joined the Supreme Court’s growing sorority – Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

When Diane Sawyer asked the justices, “how many women are enough on the court?” Without missing a beat, Ginsberg replied, “Nine. There have been nine men there for a long time, so why not nine women?”

Good point.

Then after a boxed lunch of couscous and chicken salad, in a cultural whiplash, the conversation swung from the Supreme Court’s judicial giants to the supermarket stardom of Jessica Simpson. The platinum blonde, best known for her Daisy Dukes, failed relationships and burgeoning clothing line, joined a panel to speak about empowering young women with self esteem.

The irony was not lost on anyone.

So while we women stand on the shoulders of Justice O’Connor and Justice Ginsburg because they broke down barriers, we also stand at the checkout line staring at Jessica Simpson’s thighs because they make headlines.

Yes, we’ve come a long way, baby.

But Simpson’s message about owning her body, ignoring the media, and living an authentic life was refreshingly honest and real, even in its Oprahesque, self-helpy way. Joined by WNBA star Lisa Leslie, self-esteem guru Jess Weiner and Maria Shriver’s 19-year-old daughter, Katherine Schwarzenegger, who recently wrote “Rock What You’ve Got” – a book about body image – the women candidly discussed the modern day dilemma of female self esteem, unattainable beauty standards, and the relentless pressure of the paparazzi.

While self-esteem is hardly frivolous, perhaps it seemed a frivolity back in the O’Connor-Ginsburg era of gross gender discrimination. Five decades ago, there were weightier issues at stake for women than their personal weight woes. But in a post Title VII era, we have the luxury of having lengthy discussions that encourage us to own our curvy hips as well as our brains.

Back in the day, Ms. Ginsburg was more troubled that there were no women’s toilets in the Harvard Law School building and that she couldn’t get a job interview. Whether the media made her feel fat or not probably seemed inconsequential.

But while we’ve made incredible progress as women and can collectively get thousands into a room to discuss everything from the need for affordable childcare to weight loss, Justice Ginsburg pointedly shows us that despite the progress, there is still serious work to be done.

“If I could design an affirmative action program, my dream for the world would be for every child to grow up with two loving parents,” Justice Ginsburg told the rapt audience. “Women will truly be liberated when men take as much responsibility for raising the next generation as women.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

From Kegels to Warts to Pee in a Quart

It all started with a tinkle of pee dripping down my thigh. I first leaked mid-Jumping Jack during a kickboxing class. It was a couple of years after my second baby was born and I was finally feeling motivated to whip my tired, sagging, post-pregnancy body back into shape. But now damp and horrified that I was suddenly incontinent, I stopped jumping and dashed into the ladies’ room to dry off.

“Practice your kegels, ladies!” I remember my pre-natal yoga instructor barking at us. I occasionally would squeeze one in as I sat on the subway or the toilet. But I wasn’t kegel committed. Now I was paying the price.

If pooping on the table at delivery isn’t embarrassing enough, peeing on yourself during any bounce or jolt may be the ultimate penance of childbirth. But this was just the beginning of the traumatic changes that send shockwaves and irreversible damage throughout my body – a change that few of us realize may last forever.

My friend Johanna, mom of two, told me last month, without a hint of embarrassment, that she has Plantar Warts on the soles of her feet from pregnancy that must be painfully removed. “My podiatrist tells me that she sees tons of pregnant and post-partum moms with warts,” Johanna said matter-of-factly.

From worry warts to Plantar Warts, for moms where will the humiliation and toll of motherhood end?

One day while walking, I felt a surge of pain that I self-diagnosed as a pulled muscle shooting electrical sparks from my right butt cheek down through my leg. I thought it was random and arbitrary, only to later learn that it’s sciatica, courtesy of my second born.

Don’t even get me started about my varicose and spider veins that my dermatologist reassuringly promised he could magically zap away after I was done having kids. What he didn’t tell me was that the cost to be de-veined could put my child through a semester of pre-school. Needless to say, my legs continue to be webbed and expanding in their geometric designs at an alarmingly fast pace.

And then there are the skin tags and other growths that sadly are neither covered by insurance nor my Laura Mercier concealer.

My once perky breasts have been dragged down by gravity and literally had the life sucked out of them by my babies’ hungry mouths. And my once lovely tush, well, that too doesn’t have the spunk and lift that in high school made it legendary. And finally, we ladies who gave birth the old fashioned way, know that life down there is just not the same.

So seven years later, I can tell you that the body never fully regains its pizzazz after birthing babies. Unless that is you’re Kate Gosselin, who defies all rules of motherhood and laws of physics, with her white bikini clad bod on the cover of People magazine this month. Apparently, this mother of eight Gosselites is more taut than ever before. We know she’s had some help with a highly publicized pro bono tummy tuck captured on her once titillating TLC series “Jon and Kate Plus Eight.” And celeb watchers have also outted her chest as most likely to have been enhanced. There was also the Botox crisis that sent her eyebrows spiking in various directions... but who is keeping score?

So while the rest of us are plagued with Plantar Warts and muffin tops that won’t disappear no matter how many crunches we do, here is Kate – another touched-up magazine cover story of an unflawed celebrity mom.

“I got this body from running” she told People, all pearly smiles and highlighted hair. As perfect as she looks on the cover, I’m betting that she has pee dripping down her leg when she runs.

Snack Food Nation: Why Our Kids are Getting Fatter

"I love your ponytail. It’s so silky and lovely,” my 7-year-old daughter Lexi cooed to her Malibu Barbie, in the voice of Malibu’s brunette BFF Jasmine. “Thank you. Is it snack time yet?” Malibu responded.

Apparently, even Barbie dolls need to nosh.

But snack time is not just child’s play. Now I’m not an epidemiologist or a pediatrician, but I am a mom who spends an inordinate amount of time both giving into and fending off snack requests from my kids. Now that September’s National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month has comes to an end, I think, we parents, need to collectively wage war against too many snacks.

My hunch is that our overweight nation full of overstuffed kids starts with snacks and begins with babies.

We are all guilty of thrusting a bottle or nipple into the mouth of a crying infant who has already eaten. We then use food as bribes to appease the whining and cranky toddler. From cleverly packaged organic cookies to crisp 100 Calorie chips, we offer snacks as distraction and entertainment. Desperate parents whip out the snack bag to prevent meltdowns on errand expeditions or to occupy the bored child or just simply because it’s easy.

I confess that in my house it started with Veggie Booty – or as we referred to it, Kale Crack for kids. As we hustled endlessly from car to stroller to name-that-enrichment-class, my toddlers were always packing a snack. Granted, most were “healthy,” but still they didn’t go anywhere without a stash of some thing crunchy.

And then there was the sippy cup – their cigarette. A diluted apple juice addiction that soothed them as soon as they gripped the handles As they got older, they moved on to the juice box – 6 ounces of fruit flavored heroin housed in a plastic coated box complete with precious straw. They chased the coveted juice box with abandon. So my bribe often started with something like, “if you’re good while I grocery shop, you’ll get a juice box!”

Recently, CBS Evening News’ Katie Couric tweeted that 50 percent of all 3 to 6-year-old girls think they are fat. Some may blame this statistic on the warped images little girls have of themselves from watching the iCarlys and Mileys on TV. But shockingly today, about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. And childhood obesity is the number one concern of parents trumping drug abuse and smoking.

Blame it on video games and cuts in our schools’ physical education budgets or hormones in meat and milk and toxic chemicals in plastic. All of these may be contributing to an obesity epidemic in America. But I’d argue that our snack food nation is also at least partly to blame.

We are creating a generation of socialized snackers. Every activity from infant music class to kiddie soccer comes with a treat as a “reward.” Ironically, even on the playground, kids are taking mini-snack breaks. And nursery schools that have children for a mere two hours a day still make time for snack time. Some may argue that practicing patience for your juice and how to conscientiously throw away the cup are important social skills. But seriously, do toddlers really need to eat again at 9:30 am?

What’s more absurd is that school age children who play an hour of soccer or baseball have a parent assigned to snack duty who is charged with bringing treats to the field.

Back in the pre-microwave era when families shared the same meal at the same time and moms didn’t double duty as short order cooks, there was a whole lot less snacking going on. The idea that you were going to ruin your appetite and not eat the meatloaf that your mom slaved over meant that mothers fiercely protected mealtime.

Fortunately, our First Mom-in-Chief, Michelle Obama, has made it her mission to regulate American kid consumption and reduce the expanding waistlines of our nation’s children. Her “Let’s Move” program is aimed at combating childhood obesity at every stage from introducing kids to organic Arugula to increasing cardio fitness.

Aside from upping our kids’ exercise, we need to start curbing the calories and changing our culture of snack-as-reward. I’d imagine that a parent bringing a processed food as a post-game treat to Sasha or Malia’s basketball games may be even less welcome than a Tea Party supporter. So I encourage our First Lady to join in combat against excessive extra-curricular snacks.

For a grazer like me who would prefer nibbling tapas over wolfing three squares, I totally get the desire to eat throughout the day. But the next time I hear my kids beg for a snack, an hour after lunch, I may invent a crazy game called – Let’s See if We Can Go from Lunch to Dinner without Snacking. And whoever wins, gets a juice box.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

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Today I Feel Guilty

Today I feel guilty; I’m craving my kids. It’s the limbo days between camp and school where I get a little cranky because I’m not hanging out with my kids. Instead, my nanny Peggy is. As I slogged off to work this morning in a depressing, summer downpour, Lexi, 7, and Jonah, 9, sat at the kitchen table happily playing a card game of UNO with Peggy. They had no real plans today – maybe a museum or a movie. I envied them and I envied Peggy.

It’s been awhile since I felt this way. My children are now “big kids” and their days are often overstuffed with activities. As I scoot them off to school in the morning or enthusiastically wave goodbye to the camp bus, I sometimes feel wistful but not wracked with guilt. When my kids are busy, I actually feel satisfied. My morning mommy moments, which usually involve racing around wildly searching for something critical like a missing flip-flop, barking at my kids to brush their teeth, and hoping that someone will take my dog out to pee, can sustain me until dinner time. I can trot off to work knowing that my children are out there in the world learning their fractions or the breaststroke, and all is well with the universe.

But it is during these precious weeks of my kids’ downtime – summer, winter and spring breaks – that invariably bring me back to that angst-ridden era when not being with my children gnawed ferociously at me. Back then, Jonah and Lexi had infinite hours to be filled with tummy time, trips to the playground and “Mommy and Me” classes. I could feel consumed by guilt if I was not with them. The obsessive compulsive in me kept a mental running tally about hours spent with my children versus hours away at work. I killed myself on the weekends to make the time up to them – and up to myself.

As they’ve gotten older, I’ve cut myself some slack. I sleep later on the weekends because fortunately they don’t need me at 6:30 a.m. They can turn on the TV and watch cartoons and everyone knows that mommy is MUCH happier when she’s well rested. And even though I still don’t do the school pick-ups or play date retrievals, our evening rituals have grown longer and later as they get older. So while my kids’ bedtime can cut into my “Mad Men” I love having more time together.

But today it seemed that on nearly every street corner in Manhattan, moms and their kids huddled under umbrellas making the most of one of their last summer days together. Not that I wanted to be standing in the rain with my kids whining about being wet, but I felt that familiar pang – the residual pull that I should be with my children too.

Next week we go on our summer family vacation – or family relocation as I call it – more trip than vacation. It’s that intense 24/7 family time that I both cherish and frankly fear. But when I send them to school after Labor Day, I will tear up because it’s a brand new school year, but I won’t feel so guilty to go back to work.

The End of Summer?

Like many people, I am a summer romantic. I can rhapsodize about the sweetness of late summer nights sipping Chardonnay with friends as the kids frolic, flip flops flopping and chasing fireflies. I could write poetry about the beauty of a summer camp sleep out roasting marshmallows and singing ballads around a crackling camp fire. And I could feel kinship with Michelle Obama when I heard while touring camps for my own kids in Maine that First Child Malia was off to New England for a gloriously liberating month of overnight camp.

For the nostalgic me, summer smells of woods and beach air and feels ripe with possibility, adventure and a little canoodling behind the camp cabins. For the grown-up mom in me, it also means no carpooling, no homework, no nagging my kids about projects and book reports, and blissfully no after-school scheduling chaos. Let’s face it summer is now my school break too. But a recent Time magazine cover story, “The Case Against Summer Vacation”,8599,2005654,00.html could crush the summer fun right out of all of us.

Critics argue that we’re foolishly holding on to what had started as a 19th century agrarian model and persisted into a now outdated 20th century concept of a long, summer lull. The reality, educators say, is that this hiatus is hurting our children academically. They argue that the highest performing countries in Asia and Europe keep their kids in classrooms up to a month longer than American schools. Simply, the summer vacation is a luxury that many children can’t afford, especially children of low-income families who don’t have access to the enrichment programs or summer camps that can provide growth and stimulation. So for these children, the summer months are not just endlessly idle weeks of boredom and inactivity, but seriously detrimental to future success.

We’ve always accepted that with a break in school comes a summer slide. But these days that slide is proving less acceptable, particularly as our education system continues to woefully underperform dozens of other countries around the world. This is why many schools today, including my children’s elementary school, arm the kids with packets of “summer material.” When I first reached into my kids’ backpacks on the last day of school and found lengthy calendars that plotted daily reinforcement exercises for each day of the summer, I got tense. While I was impressed by how organized my teachers seemed, I also cringed. I wanted to whine along with my kids that I just didn’t want to do the school work because didn’t everyone know…it’s SUMMER!

I am a summer slacker I suppose. I remember summer reading lists as I child and tackling the classics as I sat by the pool, but I don’t remember my mom pushing me to practice long division. I guess I just don’t have the nag in me this summer – I used up a lot of my capital on spelling and science tests last school year and frankly, it was exhausting. So truth be told, I haven’t a clue where I put those calendars since retrieving them from the backpacks in June. And aside from shouting out a few multiplication facts to my son during a drive to the beach recently, I’ve been shamefully negligent in keeping up on his “minute math.”

Do I feel guilty? Absolutely. Am I doing my children a true disservice and potentially harming their future, I hope not. But while America still hangs on to its retro idea of summer vacation, I plan to enjoy it, along with my children.

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Monday, October 05, 2009

When Class Mom Becomes a Competitive Sport

Last year when my son Jonah asked me to be the class mom, I responded “but I’m your mom sweetie,” I don’t need to be the class mom. He was temporarily disappointed, but didn’t push the point. This year Jonah was adamant. “Mommy,” he announced at the end of August, “you will be the class mom this year…you MUST.”

Having your mom as Class Mom when you’re in third grade seems to carry elite status. It’s like being a hall monitor or on safety patrol, but better because your mom is ALWAYS in the classroom for the smorgasbord of events – events that often involve food.

So midway through last year, Jonah began plotting my move to become his Class Mom – the quintessential Queen Mama School Bee. Maybe he was motivated by first choice cupcakes at the end-of-the-month collective birthday parties or maybe he simply wanted to bask in the glow of my in-class presence, who knows. But the pressure was on and I didn’t want to let him down.

So I promised that this year to volunteer as class martyr and throw myself into the minutiae of mind numbing responsibilities like collecting Scholastic book order forms. I am not knocking the importance of the administrative efforts that must happen to make a classroom run smoothly, I just have no interest in doing them. And while I swear I am at the school for pretty much everything – or certainly everything that warrants an in-person visit, the class mom literally is there for EVERYTHING. Things frankly, I’ve chosen to avoid.

So believing that Jonah would feel more pride in my being his Class Mom than if I were to say win a Nobel Prize for eradicating the Swine Flu, I decided to suck it up and sign up. After all, how much longer will my son actually want to see me in his classroom?

What I didn’t realize was that this Class Mom thing had become super competitive. In past years at Back-To-School night a paper was passed around seeking volunteers. I would always push the paper to other desks mumbling softly so the other moms could hear and not think that I was shirking my duties something like, “I really wish I could, but I work full time.”

But this year, in a PTA reorganization effort, we were asked to apply for Class Mom with a one-page application sent out along with a ream of other back to school forms. The application outlined the responsibilities of the Class Mom which included phone call chains, teacher gifts, potential mid-morning/mid-day meetings and other activities that as they noted may not be conducive to a working mother. I signed the form thinking that I’ll just work it out as we go along. Let’s be honest, how many mid-morning meetings do I really need to be at?

Jonah, assuming that I was his Class Mom after I filled out the application, was overjoyed until I received an email notifying me that I was not chosen because of “mass interest” and instead I was awarded my “second choice” to be my younger daughter Lexi’s Class Mom.

But Lexi was not my second choice – not that I wouldn’t want to be her Queen Mama School Bee, but because Jonah would KILL me. The next three days continued with me emailing the designated PTA class parent operative who clearly has the unenviable job of dealing with irate moms who don’t get their proper class assignments. I explained my dilemma and a dozen emails later, the lovely PTA lady informed me that there was “good news” because Jonah’s teacher would be thrilled for me to volunteer and help with some of the paperwork in class.

Clearly, they didn’t understand my selfish intentions. I am not looking to fill my time during the day with paperwork, I just NEEDED to be at all of these in-class events where class parents can come but regular parents aren’t invited.

So I declined both positions, as Lexi’s class mom and as Jonah’s special volunteer. I’ve promised Jonah that next year I will be his Class Mom, even if that means I have to bribe the PTA parent chair for the position. But before I take out my checkbook, I’m secretly hoping Jonah will change his mind. After all, safety patrol is way cool too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Staring Facebook in the Face

I love boys....always have. There were the two Alans and a Brad, a Noah a Scott a Chris and a slew of Mikes...I wound up even marrying one. There were also the scandalous Todd and Lance. And, of course, there was the beautiful Dutch guy, Iljan, my summer camp love. It was an exquisite romance – six weeks of intense, young passion followed by a year of heartache when he went home to the Netherlands.

I was four when I shared my first kiss with my first Alan. I fantasized about marrying him. I worshipped Alan and wanted to dress like him. It was pure and uncomplicated until he told me that he preferred Emily, a girl who looked like Pocahontas with jet black hair and bright green eyes. She wore dresses and played with Barbie dolls. I wore shorts and played with balls. I remember sleeping in Alan’s trundle bed – we were both in kindergarten when he told me about his crush on Emily. It broke my heart. I was only 5 years old.

I couldn’t tell you what I ate for dinner two nights ago or remember the names of all of my college roommates and I’ve been known to even forget my home phone number, but strangely, I can’t forget the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I played Spin-The-Bottle at my 12-year-old birthday party and landed on Noah. I leaned in to kiss him. He pulled away. I was crushed.

What is it about those first experiences, first loves, first heartbreaks that stay ingrained in you for all eternity? Thirty years can pass and I can still recall what I was doing and wearing when Brad, my fifth grade boyfriend, dumped me for Melissa. We had only gone steady for 24 hours. What could I have possibly done?

Those boys have been more than 1,000 miles away for more than two decades since I left Miami for Chicago then D.C. and now New York. But Facebook has magically reconnected me to my past and all the complicated feelings of insecurity, nostalgia and obsession that are intertwined with those boys.

Like many of my fellow over 30-something Facebookers, the addiction kicked in last summer when the novelty of FB networking kicked in. And then I took a hiatus. Facebook is a time suck and frankly, who has the time?

But now on the cusp of my 20th high school reunion, I've taken to Facebook with renewed gusto. More of those boys have recently joined but now I'm finding it sort of depressing. It's not that they look bad; it's that frankly I wouldn't be able to recognize these guys if I fell over them in a Starbucks….they just look, well, old.

For decades they’ve been captured in my memory as forever adolescent. And that’s when time stopped. It’s as if they’ve been cryogenically preserved as Peter Pans in my brain only to resurface on Facebook as unrecognizably almost 40-year-old men.

I find myself searching their photos for recognition, my eyes adjusting to their aged images. What happened to their necks, their hair, their braces? Maybe I’m projecting, because if they’re getting old, what does that mean about me?

And that cuts to the core of Facebook, high school reunions and reconnecting with your former lives. It reminds you of the passage of time. It takes you back to another era – an era in which you may not want to return.

Noah never even knew that I loved him. I’ve confirmed that now – 25 years later when one of my oldest friends in the world, Nikki, exchanged some emails with him. Noah didn’t have a clue. And after all of these years, I thought he just rejected me. So besides the somewhat queasy feeling I have connecting with old friends on Facebook, there is some closure in it after all. And by the way, Noah still looks great. I hope to see him in Miami when I go home for my reunion.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Is A Mom Worth?

I’ve always had a hunch that I am being grossly underpaid. After all, shouldn’t I be more flush given that by 9 p.m. each night I’m so wiped that my body feels like it’s been mowed down by a Mack truck and I need a triple shot of espresso just to get me moving in the morning.

Last week, confirmed my suspicion. While I get bi-weekly direct deposits courtesy of my office gig in publicity, I’ve gotten bupkus over the past eight years for my vastly more complicated, messy, exhausting and yes, sometimes heartwarming career as Mommy.

According to I should be earning $85,876 for the “mom job” portion of my work day while my stay-at-home mom friends deserve $134,121 for their various labors of love. Wow! Well, it’s no wonder why we moms feel so gypped. My eight years of lost wages would total a whopping $687,008. Jeez, with that kind of cash I may actually be able to afford sleep away camp, braces, college or more importantly, a long overdue spa visit for me. calculated the mommy paycheck based on an algorithm that took into account hours worked and the job titles that best matched a mom’s definition of her work including: housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, CEO and psychologist. The less glam jobs like launderer and van driver yielded low hourly wages. But add up the oodles of hours worked together with the more skilled and higher paying professions of CEO and psychologist, and moms are apparently deserving of some serious cash.

While I applaud the website for putting a price on a mom’s worth even if it’s just a clever PR move, I think’s press release must have either been written by a guy trapped in a time warp or Dr. Laura. Trying to neutralize the harsh reality that women are screwed financially in their mom job, the press release sought out to prove that moms – at least good moms – have no needs, are utterly selfless and don’t give a hoot about money.

“The rewards I have by being there all the time in spite of my own needs are priceless,” said Laura Pennington, a stay-at-home mother of three from El Paso, Texas. “My children’s well-being and education are my priority regardless of the daily marathon I face from sun up to well after sun down.”

Seriously? Maybe this is one of the reasons our society doesn’t recognize the work we do. Sisters, where is the outrage? Ok, I get it that our rewards are not financial and that the mini painted flower pots, handmade cards and foam necklaces I got for Mother’s Day from my kiddies are indeed priceless. But until society truly appreciates a mother’s value in caring and raising her children, well, frankly nothing much more will change at home or in the workforce.

Some other interesting nuggets that came out of the study include:

Moms work an average of 90 hours per week.

Working moms spend 44 hours per week at their “work job” and 49.8 hours at their “mom job” for a total of 93.8 hours a week. The stay at home moms work 91.6 hours at her mom job.

Working Moms Get Less Sleep. Working moms reported getting only 6.4 hours of sleep per night, versus 6.7 hours.

Working Moms Work 7.2 hours as housekeeper, versus 22.1 for Stay-at-Home Moms.

Working Moms, who report being more focused and efficient in their day job so they can come home and have more time for their “mom job.” Often these moms skip lunch, come in early, and give up exercise in order to save time to be with their kids for homework and other activities.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Destined for Greatness

A colleague of mine recently said to me without irony, “I think that you think you are destined for greatness.” He didn’t say this as a compliment. It felt more like a zinger – an accusation along the lines of 'who the heck do you think you are, Missy, wanting so much more out of life? Isn’t this Popsicle stand good enough for you?'

Wanting to keep the peace, I bit my lip and said almost nothing. But the snarky words have been gnawing at me. Shouldn’t we all feel destined for greatness or at least want to do great things with our lives? The fact is, what motivates me are fears of failure more than the belief that my fate will be fabulous. And as it turns out, fear is a fantastic motivator. But because this comment on my character came during Women’s History Month, the few weeks set aside each year to recognize the tremendous accomplishments American women have made, I found my colleague’s statement not only condescending but ironic.

The bittersweet truth is that at one point many of us women did feel destined for Big Things. We were the “Sesame Street” and “Free to Be You and Me” generation who were told to aim high and dream large and anything was possible, even if you were as awkward as Big Bird. But as the reality and routines of life crash around us each day, it’s easy for us moms to feel that our dreams have been aborted, interrupted or at the very least deferred. Kids, mortgages and the utter exhaustion and chaos of managing the two have a way of sidetracking and dashing lots of dreams, which is perhaps why we moms need to be reminded, not belittled, about our potential for greatness.

Maybe this is why I am totally infatuated with Michelle Obama and how she is redefining the role of First Lady, sculpted arms and all. While Americans are furious with Wall Street and the greedy bums who are getting bonuses at a time when there are apparently more unemployed people in America than the entire population of Pennsylvania, there is some sunny news coming from the Beltway – coming from our nation’s First Mom – the person with no doubt, the greatest gig in Washington right now.

Today, Michelle Obama and a bunch of D.C. fifth graders started digging an organic garden on the White House lawn. Growing green produce in the backyard of the White House may be less politically charged than printing Greenbacks and organic Arugula will not exactly kick start our battered economy, but it does make for a tasty salad with a peppery kick. But hey, this is symbolism. So while our Commander-in-Chief keeps reminding us that it’s time for Americans to roll up their sleeves and dig deep – sacrifices need to be made – digging in the dirt and planting organic berries actually seems to be on message, and a heck of a lot more fun than dealing with AIG.

And, yesterday, in honor of Women’s History Month, our First Mom – our nation’s head cheerleader – spoke at a local high school and invited more than 100 high school girls to the White House for dinner. The message was simple, inspiring and very 1970s – yes, you can be anything you want to be.

“Someone in your school thought you had a lot of potential,” the First Lady said to students from Southeast Washington’s Anacostia High School, a school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in D.C. “I didn’t want to talk to kids who had already arrived; I wanted to talk to kids who are pushing to get to the next place.”

I get the feeling that Michelle Obama never believed it was her destiny to live in the White House, but I bet her husband believed he was destined for greatness or at least, like me and other neurotic high achievers, was either motivated by a great fear of failure or had something to prove to his father.

But as the First Lady reminded me this week, we can’t stop dreaming and trying to make a difference. We must each keep striving for greatness, not just for ourselves, but to show our children that yes, anything is possible.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mommy Knows Best?

One of the things I’ve always struggled with since becoming a mom is wondering if I’m doing it right. It all started at 3 a.m. after my son was born and I roamed the hospital corridors with a screaming, famished, newborn who was angrily attached to my nipple and clearly didn’t understand why his mother’s breasts were still empty. “Where’s my milk? Feed me already, damnit!” he made clear in his primal screams to me. He hadn’t been in this world more than 12 hours and I already felt like a failure because I couldn’t satiate him. Throughout my pregnancy, I had been intent on exclusively breast feeding and feared the horrors of “nipple confusion” that had been drilled into me at Lamaze. My instructor made me feel like feeding a newborn formula was the lethal equivalent to shooting them up with Crack Cocaine. So I starved my baby for the first few days thinking that I was doing the right thing.

When baby #2 came exactly two years later, I insisted that I have an emergency bottle of formula at my side. “Yes, I’m nursing but my kid needs to eat,” I confidently told the militant maternity nurses who looked scornfully at my Similac and made multiple threats that my nursing wouldn’t take. But I ignored them. After nine months of successfully nursing #1, I felt like I had a Ph.D. in the ability of the breast and was confident that my dual feeding method would work until my milk came in.

But as the cliché goes, the bigger they get, the bigger the problems. And these days, I constantly feel like I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. We know it takes a village to raise a child, particularly a complicated kid. So I have spent years consulting at great length and great fees my fellow villagers, particularly the doctors among my tribe. But ultimately, I’ve found that the buck stops with mom. Like my first night in the hospital, those BIG decisions seem to fall squarely on me. Not to completely diss my husband, but he looks to me to lead on the kid stuff.

A year ago, I decided to medicate my son for ADHD. I imagine many of you are cringing, especially if you adhere to the Tom Cruise philosophy that all of these disorders are just a bunch of hogwash or that ADHD is the most over diagnosed, over medicated, over hyped condition that has given an excuse for scores of lazy and neurotic parents to dope their kids to their detriment or to no real benefit. I get it because at one time I also thought that ADHD was just a flimsy diagnosis to label today’s ants-in-the-pants kids. But when it’s your kid who is facing a smorgasbord of fuzzy, hard-to-put-your-finger on issues without clear diagnoses, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and just want solutions.

Am I insecure about how I handling all of this? Absolutely. If your child has asthma, you give them an inhaler. If they have lice, you call in the nitpicker and de-lice your home. But if your kid has a complicated cocktail of various issues, what do you do?

I am one of those got-to-feel-it women who rely on my gut for almost all of my decisions from whom to marry to what color to paint my house. So while my maternal instincts often give me direction such as, Fruit Loops are not for dinner, you must wear a helmet to ski, and you cannot, for any reason, punch your sister, making medical and psychological decisions makes me tense, insecure and yes, defensive. Do I send my seven-year-old to therapy as some suggest or wait until he’s older and can handle it? Do I force him into yoga as a holistic remedy or jack him up on Omega-3 vitamins, as the Internet would recommend? What do I share with his school? My friends? My family? One thing that I’ve realized is once you put your kid on meds, you face judgment everywhere.

At a recent meeting with my son’s teacher, who happens to be wonderful, I was surprised by how shocked and slightly horrified she was that I was medicating her student. I immediately went into defensive mode explaining in probably too much detail how we thoroughly arrived at this remedy after consulting every expert I could meet with in the tri-state area. And still she seemed wary.

For those of us in this precarious place of trying our darndest to make sense of our kids and their needs, we can often feel that we’re steering a ship without a map, a compass or a day in nautical school. Who am I to make these decisions? I know that I am not alone and have outsourced as much professional advice as I can, but ultimately in the blurry world that is child psychology much is left to the parents to decide how to deal.

“Am I doing the right thing?” I constantly ask myself. And then I hear my friend Lauren’s words ringing in my ears, “you’re taking action and you’re doing the best that you can.” And sometimes that’s all a mom can do.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sarah’s Spanx

True Story. A friend of mine just returned from a weekend in Pittsburgh where she apparently checked into the same Marriott hotel room where Sarah Palin had just checked out. Housekeeping had not yet cleaned the room and so aside from an unmade bed, an empty can of Coke and a towel strewn bathroom, my friend made a surprising discovery – a discarded pair of black Spanx in the garbage.

“Seriously…you found Sarah’s Spanx in the trash?” I asked my friend. “Did you take them? You could’ve auctioned them on Ebay! What size was she?”

My friend – who does not want to be outted on Spanxgate – has been kicking herself that she didn’t snag the slimming control top and auction it online. She realizes she could have given the money to the Obama campaign or better yet, to charities that support women who can’t afford Spanx. No doubt, Sarah’s undergarments could have fetched some serious cash from everyone from an apolitical panty fetishist to a rabid Right Winger. And the media would have gone berserk.

You can imagine the tawdry headlines: “Sarah Palin Trashes Taxpayer Paid Spanx in Pittsburgh Hotel Room” or the inevitable “Sarah Gets Spanked in Pittsburgh!”

As the “Obama-is-a-Socialist” argument gets tired and the Palin Family Shopping Spree story has run its course, pundits would now be pontificating on whether money spent on Palin’s girdle was a good idea and how much is too much to spend on sucking in a woman’s muffin top.

Larry King would be asking pols if Spanx makes Sarah more relatable to the every woman battling cellulite or if her overpriced thigh huggers suggest a secret diva. And Elisabeth Hasselbeck, defending her new BFF, would be arguing that yes, Wal-Mart shoppers can relate to the pricey, scientifically engineered Lycra that can only be found at fancy department stores like Saks because, well, everyone knows a girl wants to look svelte. “But let’s not forget, what’s really important is that Obama has a socialist agenda!”

And inevitably, Gloria Steinem would probably pen an op-ed in The New York Times about the ongoing sexism in the media’s presidential campaign coverage titled: “A Woman is Still Measured by the Size of Her Girdle.”

So the good news is that given my friend’s discretion or sheer squeamishness about digging into the trash, (no, she never checked the size) Sarah narrowly avoided what could have been this election’s “October Surprise,” – the Sarah Spanx scandal. So fortunately for us Americans, the seriousness of the campaign can continue.

And when the post mortem on Election 2008 begins on November 5th and we reflect back on John Edwards’s $400 tarmac side haircut and whether Hillary’s laugh was too loud or forced and if McCain could have benefited from tooth whitening next to Obama and Biden’s fabulous sets of pearly whites, we’ll be relieved that at least this election we never got wrapped up in the utter silliness of a candidate’s underwear. Boxers or briefs? That’s just so 1992.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Grace for President

In my local bookstore I recently discovered “Grace for President,” the most fabulous and timely book for children, particularly little girls. The story is about Grace Campbell, an African American, about 8 years old, who is incredulous when she learns that America has never had a female president. “Where are the girls?” Grace asks when her teacher unfurls a poster of our nation’s past presidents. “Our country has never had a woman president,” her teacher answers. “I’d like to be president,” Grace announces to her class. Her enthusiastic teacher thinks that’s a “star spangled idea” and decides to host a school election. The race comes down to Grace versus Thomas Cobb, the popular, blue eyed, soccer team captain and spelling bee and science fair champ – a tough challenger.

As the book goes on, Grace makes campaign promises about beautifying the school and getting rid of the bullies. She follows through on her commitments and works after school to clean up the grounds. Thomas promises to give free tutoring and soccer lessons. It’s a tough race and with the electoral votes nearly tied, the election comes down to the three remaining votes from the state of Wyoming. It is there at the podium with the whole school watching, when Sam, a little boy representing Wyoming, earnestly announces that his state is voting for Grace Campbell for president because she’s the “best person for the job.” It’s a triumphant end with Grace narrowly beating the shoe-in, Thomas. But for all of the girl power, the book which was published last year, now feels bittersweet.

With Hillary Clinton out of the race, there will be no “girl president” any time soon, unless, in the tragic event that girl is Sarah Palin.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I am still completely flummoxed that there are those in this country who are still drinking the conservative Kool-Aid and believe that McCain’s female understudy could effectively lead America during one of the most stressful and complicated times our country has ever seen. From our total economic meltdown to Bin Laden still plotting evil in an Afghan cave, to our polar bears dying, the continued threat of terrorism, an energy crisis, and an Iranian nuclear weapon, this is clearly not the time for Joe Six Pack burping in the bleachers and his Hockey Mom wife to guide our nation. Am I crazy to think that Americans should want to hire the most brilliant, informed brain and skilled politician we can find who is insane enough to take on the toughest job on the planet?

While I’ve questioned McCain’s random and pandering political choice of veep from the beginning and knew Sarah Palin never represented me, in the past few days, she has really kicked it old school to represent the worst of America – the fear mongering, racist who paints a picture of her rival as a dangerous, unknown foreigner with the funky name. She is now using her charming folksiness to become the Republican Mean Girl sliming Obama as “someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”

Maybe Sarah has no choice but to carry on her unofficial role of desperate VP attack dog. But this is not the role model we want for our children. A few nights ago my friend Allison was reading “Grace for President” to her 4-year-old daughter Charlotte. She was not sure Charlotte really grasped the book because it is geared for older children. But when Charlotte rolled over and clutched her blanket as Allison was kissing her goodnight, Charlotte said “mommy, I’m going to be president one day.” Hopefully, America will have our first girl president before Charlotte grows up, but doggone it for the love of our country, let’s pray that girl is not Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Ninth Nanny

I just lost my ninth nanny. I go through nannies the way some women go through men. Nine nannies in seven years seems suspect. Some wonder if we’re secretly beating the nannies or keeping them chained inside the playroom. Why else would we have had such a spectacular run of bad luck in keeping childcare?

Our latest casualty is Stephanie, an attractive, athletic, marathon running Mormon who has been with us for a year. My kids adore her, she even took them camping a few weeks ago. Always anxious that I’m going to lose a good nanny, I tried to keep the love alive by throwing in job perks including free gym membership and tutoring. (I rewrote all of her English papers last semester.) I even indulged Stephanie in her various and pricey diets – from the all organic cleansing one to Weight Watchers. And this summer, knowing how Stephanie likes the outdoors, I got her a gig at my children’s day camp. After a raise and the promise of a roundtrip ticket back to Utah during Christmas, Stephanie committed to staying with us another year. We were thrilled. And then, my nightmare replayed itself, Stephanie got poached.

At 10 pm, two nights ago Stephanie announced to me that she would be leaving in a couple of weeks because a mom in a neighboring, tonier town offered her more money and THREE roundtrip tickets to Utah each year.

First I was shocked; then I got angry. Strangely I was more peeved at the mom who poached my nanny than at Stephanie herself. I see Stephanie as a kid who is being practical and is trying to put herself through school. At least this is what I tried to convince myself in between spurts of crying to my husband about how our kids are going to be crushed when Stephanie leaves. I also felt like a total sucker. I was buying her organic raspberries in November! While I felt betrayed by Stephanie and nauseated by the thought of finding someone new and integrating them into our chaotic family, I was seething that another mom – for the second time – had poached one of my nannies. About a year ago my nanny Sally was spotted on the playground by a predator mom and offered more money to leave us. But Sally didn’t even have the courage or decency to tell me she got a new job. She simply moved out on a Friday night without our knowing and never said goodbye to my kids. It was devastating.

I don’t know how moms could do this to each other. There should be a non-poaching pact among us. Stealing another woman’s nanny is like sleeping with her husband – maybe even worse. Robbing a working mother of good childcare could more quickly destroy the fabric of a family than a one night stand. I’d seriously sacrifice my husband for a fling faster than I would want to lose a good nanny to another family.

My nanny dramas are legendary. There was Vanessa, the Mexican hottie who we flew in from Mexico City and showed up dripping in Chanel. Within a few weeks, she contracted Scabies or some other itchy ailment and after three unsuccessful visits to a dermatologist, she too packed up and without warning disappeared. There was the Czech nanny who told me she didn’t like my children and after four days in my house, I deposited her in another town with garbage bags full of her clothes.

She was followed by Mercelena, the curvy Colombian graduate of the Au Pair in America system who suddenly decided to take a job at a mechanics shop three months after starting with us. Then came Natasha, the Rastafarian, vegan Yogi with dreads down to her ass who had me running to Whole Foods for soy milk the first night she arrived so she could drink her organic tea in the morning. Natasha never finished the soy milk because she never returned to us after her first week, leaving a closet full of clothes behind. Natasha caused the most alarm after we cracked into her cell phone’s voice mail and heard dozens of threatening messages from her so-called boyfriend. Alarmed that the yogi was in trouble, we contacted the police who eventually located Natasha in her apartment, apparently completely shocked that we were actually looking for her. And after two months of Natasha’s underwear and jeans sitting in a corner and never hearing from her again, we sent her stuff to Good Will.

And most recently there was Stephanie, the best friend of a friend’s nanny. We brought her in from Utah and hoped for the best. We thought we had a great thing – until two nights ago. Now with fourteen days before school, my race to find a new fabulous, warm, responsible nanny begins again. We have contacted the agencies and posted ads online. A Manny (male nanny) emailed me this morning. Maybe that’s the way to go. Mannies in New York are apparently progressive and chic. But if anyone has someone good for me, please let me know….gym membership included.

And I promise never to poach.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Breast Pump in the White House

This has been an historical election season; busting down barriers thought impossible to penetrate only a few years ago. From Hillary Clinton’s ovaries (yes, Hillary haters, she is a woman), Barack Obama’s bi-racial DNA and Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith to Mike Huckabee’s funny name, this has been perhaps the most colorful and inclusive American presidential campaign season ever. So much so that the rest of the world – at least the modern, Western, Starbucks-gulping world – has taken notice and been in awe of the progressive state of our political system. But one thing has been gnawing at me. It’s the mommy issue.

John Edwards, Barack Obama and even Fred Thompson, the aging TV star, turned blip on the presidential scene, each have really young children. Aside from seeing gorgeous photos of the genetically perfect Romneys, or the cute Edwards children, Thompson’s toddlers, and the precocious Obama girls, the kid thing has been absent in the campaign. Forget that Thompson is old enough to be his children’s grandfather and Giuliani’s kids loathe him – but you get the point. Presidential hopefuls toting their offspring along on the campaign bus make for a sweet visual. End of story.

But let’s swap the pants for the pantsuits and imagine if the candidates were moms, not dads, of young children grinding it out in Iowa and Michigan and Florida for votes? What if it were Elizabeth Edwards or Michelle Obama at the top of the ticket? How then would the media and America react?

If we think the media skewer strong, independent women like Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama for being well, strong and independent, I can only imagine the fun they would have with the “mommy candidate.” Instead of Michelle sporting a machine gun and an afro on the cover of “The New Yorker” as the magazine did this week in a distasteful attempt at satire, it could show her carrying a breast pump dangling from her briefcase, as she’s about to fumble the “football” of nuclear strike codes.

So I don’t think it would only be Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads attacking the mommy candidate. I bet everyone from the Granola Mom to the grandmother in Middle America would take issue with a woman leaving her children to take the job as leader of the free world.

It isn’t fair. But in our society we scrutinize moms. Dads get credit for showing up. Moms get chastised if they don’t show up all of the time. We know that Michelle is a “good mom,” because she swears she won’t spend more than one night away from her girls even amidst the throes of an exhausting and rigorous campaign trail.

While Americans question whether Obama is experienced enough to be president and examine his policy positions, no one seems to be questioning his ability to parent while in the White House. It’s understood that Michelle will take care of that.

I don’t know if it is society or biology or a combination of both that makes us feel that mommies need to be around more than the daddies do, but that’s simply the way it works. With Hillary out, many doubt we’ll be electing a female president anytime soon. But a menopausal woman in the Oval Office seems much more likely than the mom with the breast pump, unless Jenna Bush now gets pregnant and pays her dad a visit sometime soon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Wendy Sachs at home in New York

Monday, October 22, 2007

Kids Say The Darndest Things... Sing Them Too

They are blissfully unaware, unedited and even painfully honest. Sometimes it’s cute…like when my daughter Lexi at three years old asked my father-in-law, who has a generous midsection, if he had a baby inside his tummy. Sometimes it’s not so cute like when my son Jonah asked me why I looked different when I woke up in the morning compared to after I got dressed. (Answer – bronzer and lipstick) “You look like an old mommy in the morning,” Jonah recently said. My daughter confirmed this as well.

But when my kids came home from camp singing songs they learned on the bus – hand clapping, rhyming songs, I was shocked. “What was that you just sang?” I asked Jonah, suspiciously. When he repeated the lyrics with the hand movements to create “Chinese and Japanese eyes” I was horrified. The tunes actually sounded remotely familiar. Did I sing those at camp too? I don’t remember my mom getting tense about my tunes. But now they seemed radioactive.

The more I told my kids not to sing the songs because they were mean and hurt people’s feelings, the louder they sang them. When I tried to ignore the offensive lyrics singing hoping that the lack of my response would get them to stop, they sang even louder.

For the record, we live in a very progressive and tolerant community. My town in New Jersey is known for its social activism and diverse population of African Americans, Gays, Lesbians, Asians and Jews. It is not uncommon to see a gay couple with adopted African American children from nearby Newark. Our town population would make for a great Benetton ad – and I love that. My children are exposed to and interact with lots of people who do not look like themselves. But they had no sense that their words were in any way hurtful.

Needless to say, I was horrified when my kids broke out one of their offensive tunes in the middle of my local Starbucks. At first I nearly choked on my latte. Then I loudly reprimanded my kids. People stared. I wanted to scream out, “I swear I don’t teach them this!” But no one would believe me -- people always blame the parents. Isn’t racism taught at home?

The further we get away from summer, the less they’ve been singing the songs. But now both of my kids are extremely curious about people with what they call “brown skin.” “Carly’s nanny has brown skin,” Jonah says. He also tells me about other children in his class with brown skin. When we got a new nanny, he wanted to know if she would have brown or peach skin. (We’ve had several nannies from the Caribbean, one from Colombia and now one from Utah).

I like to write it off as simply kids’ curiosity. My daughter tells me about the girl with red hair in her class. She now wants red hair too. My son’s best friend Lilly told her mom that she likes the “brown skinned girl” in class with the “puffy hair.” But in our culturally sensitive society today, alarms go off when our kids point out differences in other people and label them. Jonah just started Hebrew school and now divides the world into Jewish and Christian. He hasn’t learned about Muslim or Hindu yet.

I give my “Everyone in the world looks different, practices different religions, believes in different things, eats different foods and that’s what makes people special” speech all of the time, but frankly it still doesn’t make me feel less embarrassed when my children publicly and very loudly point out different people in the neighborhood. And it’s not just color or weight. “Why is that man sleeping on the street with dirty clothes?” Jonah asked me the other day as we walked through New York City.

While we adults have been taught to not see color or differences and maybe even step around the homeless person on the street without even a glance, children do pay attention to everyone. And as long as they are taught sensitivity and tolerance, maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Click Here To See Book At Amazon

What to look for in stores!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Breaking All The Rules

One thing, among millions of others that nobody warns you about before having kids, is how your children can ruin your friendships. Now I’m not blaming the kids themselves for being particularly offensive to grownups. (Although mine certainly can be.) But it’s the way we parent these little apple-juice-guzzling, tantrum-prone chocoholics that can create enormous tension between even the closest of girlfriends. I know – I’ve personally lost some friends due to my Slacker Mom tendencies.

Make no mistake, motherhood and how we mother is all about judgment. It’s personal. It’s delicate. And come to my house at 6 p.m. and it’s a certifiable train wreck. In my six years of parenting, I’ve realized that there are two types of Moms – those who have lots of rules and those like me and my friends who simply don’t.

I have also discerned in my years as a Mommy that the Rules have a recognizable pattern and really affect three seemingly simple, but radioactive issues: Sugar, Entertainment and Sleep. Dig deeper into these categories and you will find loads of daily conflict that can explode when Rule Moms interact with Chill Moms.

The Rule Moms, also known as The Organic Moms wouldn’t be caught dead feeding their infant cow’s milk or a regular jar of Beech Nut. As their kids get older, these Moms evolve into the snack food snubbing, Sugar Nazis who on principle would never allow juice, fruit punch or anything but purified water at dinner.

These are the moms who don’t let their babies nap in a stroller, won’t walk outside without a floppy hat on their child’s head, sterilize every nipple or binky that drops on the ground, and reject all commercial television until the age of five.

The Chill Moms, in which I proudly claim membership, simply don’t have the energy to sterilize, count sugar grams, split gumballs in thirds (which just happened to a friend who went out to brunch with an Organic Mom. The gumball splitting then boomeranged into a tantrum situation for her three year old.) reapply sunscreen every 30 minutes, and turn off the TV.

We try. We do. We love our kids and pray that we turn out compassionate, healthy, happy human beings. But bribing them with ice cream sandwiches at 5 p.m. so we adults can relax, talk and sip a glass of Sauvignon Blanc seems like smarter parenting to us. Are we not vigilant enough? Are we lazy? Are we doormats? Perhaps we are…but our style is our signature and as we collectively band together we have perspective. So the kids don’t eat their organic broccoli for a week, and scarf down only chicken nuggets and M&Ms – is this the end of the world? If you think that it is, then I highly suggest that you have a glass of wine.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Puke, Snot and Other Reasons Women are Prepared to Save the World

As I was picking my son’s nose tonight, I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized why women are indeed the more capable sex. It’s not simply our patience, our innate nurturing or our ability to multi-task. It’s that we deal with the disgusting. Even the most squeamish among us rise to the occasion when confronted with the truly gross. It’s no wonder why Nancy Pelosi, mother of five and grandmother of a bunch is now Speaker of the House. Yes, apparently she’s sharp as a tack even if she recently took a congressional trip to Syria, which frankly was really dumb. But I bet she knows her way around the really yucky which is probably why she’s fared so well in Congress. She holds her nose to it all, kicks ass and prevails. God Bless America.

So back to my son’s nose. Tonight as Michael was putting my five-year-old son Jonah to bed, Jonah got a terrific nosebleed – the tissue soaking kind. My kid, who is known for his dramatic, blood curdling screams if he even gets a scratch on his pinky finger, was surprisingly brave given the pints of blood spurting from his nostrils. And for the record, as soon as the blood started pouring, Michael ran to find me and then conveniently disappeared.

So after ten minutes of my pinching, Jonah’s nosebleed slowed and he began complaining about something lodged in his right nostril. It was a stubborn piece of snot and he needed help. I don’t regularly help pick my kids’ noses, but feeling sorry for the trauma Jonah just endured, I gingerly tried to extricate the boogie. This, of course, aggravated his tender nose and the bleeding began again. After some starts and stops I convinced Jonah to live with the snot and I promised to get it out if it still presented when he woke up in the morning.

But the nosebleed/snot episode frankly pales in comparison to catching my daughter’s vomit in my bare hands as I stood in the check out line at Costco last spring. After inhaling a Costco size crate of blueberries while she sat in the shopping cart, Lexi, 3, then began to violently barf up blueberries. I am still bewildered by why my instinct was to shoot out my bare hands to literally catch the throw up. The whole scene was so vile that I think I was in a state of shock – but being a mom – I rallied. As New Jersey, bulk, discount shoppers stood aghast, I stripped Lexi down to her panties, opened the 50-pack of paper towels I was about to purchase and cleaned up.

Subconsciously, I was probably equipped to deal with the Costco crisis after years of becoming somewhat numb to all of the poop that I’ve had to handle. It starts at birth with the meconium – that foul, tar colored first dump that a newborn takes. That, of course, is followed by the familiar explosive diarrhea that somehow shoots up the back, behind the ears, into the folds of the neck and into every baby crevice and crease. We as moms, use the term, “poopie” because it’s a cuter euphemism to the reality of cleaning up another person’s shit.

I am famously known for my sensitive nose, distaste for odors, easy nausea and general squeamishness. But I’ve realized that all of the tushes I’ve wiped and unpleasant episodes I’ve experienced must have had a higher purpose. I say, if women can boldly and adeptly clean up all of those really nasty messes, damn it, we can clean up the world.