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Mamapedia City Voices highlights the inside scoop on your city by selected writers, from up-and-coming mom bloggers to well-known mom experts.

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Why I Hate Homework: It's Not What You Think

September 3, 2015

My son just started third grade two weeks ago. Barely two weeks into the school year, I’ve already read Facebook posts from parents of the other third graders complaining about the amount of homework these kids are given. I get it, believe me, I do. I would much rather go for a root canal than sit with my son and lecture him on what needs to be done NOW instead of later and that he needs to do it PROPERLY and never sloppily. I wish we could just sit side-by-side peacefully watching our respective favorite YouTube videos, or have him play Minecraft while I research where I could pitch my writing. But no. I have to dread 4 p.m. every weekday and brace myself for frustration and tears (and I’m not admitting whose they are).

In spite of this daily struggle, I still won’t go so far as to say that we’re faced with an unreasonable amount of homework. I’m aware of the 10-minute rule as endorsed by the National Education Association. This means that depending on the child’s grade level, starting with 1st grade, there should be a maximum of 10 minutes of homework per day and this increases as the child goes up a grade level. Therefore, 2nd graders should only have 20 minutes of homework, 30 minutes for 3rd graders and so on and so forth. Yes there have been days when my son definitely had to work way beyond the 30 minute mark. But there were also days when he was done within 20 minutes or less. Time limits aside, the real reason I don’t feel justified with the complaints is because I’m coming from my own perspective as someone who was educated abroad.

Growing up in the Philippines and attending a private Catholic school from elementary to high school, I can confidently say that I had way more homework than what my son is dealing with. From as early as first grade, we had a different teacher for each subject matter and there were days when it felt like there was homework assigned by each teacher. We just had to deal with it, organize our schedule, and be accountable.

And herein lies the crux of my argument. What I resent most about this whole homework situation now is not the volume of the work required of our children, but the expectation of the current school system regarding the level of parental involvement.

From the moment my son enters the door in the afternoon, I start sounding like a drill sergeant. We both go through his bag, his folders, his journals. We both go through instructions. I help him review. I ask him questions or dictate items to be answered. God forbid there is some craft project needing completion because I usually don’t understand it, and I definitely don’t recall my parents doing the same to me and my siblings when we were young. We had homework and dealt with it ourselves, with my mother taking pride in the fact that not once did she have to tutor any of us.

I wish I could say this is all imagined and merely subjective perception. But when the school repeatedly says that ‘parental involvement enhances the child’s academic success’, one can’t help but take that as something that’s extremely open to various interpretations. What kind of involvement? How much or to what extent? Though I’m certain the school wants us to encourage our children to work independently and to not lose sight of the fact that homework is meant to give the children more practice at home, I still can’t help feel that what we have now only fosters helicopter parenting. It definitely has that effect on me and I know it’s harming both me and my son.

I’m sure a lot of you are thinking that it’s my fault, that I’m the one who has to stay away and control my impulse to hover. I acknowledge that and know that letting go of the reins is something I need to address. However, if I let go or step back even just a little, is this to say that the other parents will let go and step back as well, hover less, hence leveling the playing field? Or would my decision to let go and be less involved simply put my son at a clear disadvantage academically? As a former overachiever and a recovering perfectionist, it’s a risk that’s not so easy for me to take.

So yes, I hate homework because it brings out that side of me I swore I’d never be as a parent. It brings out nothing but ambivalence in me as I do the dance of balancing involvement or support with trying to teach my child accountability, autonomy and self-discipline while still have him excel in all that he does. This current norm of hyper-involved parenting reinforced by the education institutions is driving me insane and makes me ask myself on a daily basis existential questions such as how far should I go, what can I change to make this better for everyone, or am I being a good parent with the choices I make?

I suppose the only logical thing for me to do right now is to experiment. Clearly, I need to define for myself just what ‘parental involvement’ means and start implementing what is necessary, no matter how painful it might be in the beginning. If the school won’t spell it out, then we as parents need to decide what works best for our families, what is the healthiest and most beneficial for our children not only in the short-term but mostly for the human beings they need to become in the future.

I need to remember that my parents standing back never made me feel unloved and that I still did pretty damn well in school. Most of all, parents need to remember that our success as parents lies not in our children’s academic success or ‘perfection’, but in their level of resilience. Let’s not be that group that raised a generation of cripples.

Joy is a writer, blogger, hopeless romantic and full-time over-analyzer who lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband and son. She was born and raised in the Philippines and was an academic who taught Sociology in that past life. She blogs at Catharsis where she indulges all her cerebral meanders as she navigates the world of parenting, mid-life angst and everything in between. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Are You Questioning Your Marriage?

September 2, 2015

We live in Wilmington, NC – a historic, quaint riverfront community that is Southern but not thick. There are sweeping views of the Cape Fear River, beaches in stumbling distance, and a healthy nightlife. Accordingly, we live in a land of weddings. Riverboats have dancing parties with brides swirling in white, and we often stumble on merry-goers happily drunk in their designer dresses and ballet flats.

Two weekends ago my husband and I sat outside with our boys, enjoying a beer at a local brewery, when a caravan of revelers joined us. They were arguing about what time the ceremony started and where they were to be. They were young, beautiful, and charming.

I remember being them.

I looked at my husband and said, “Do you remember when we had a wedding a weekend? Do you remember when that was us?” We lightly touched fingertips before our three-year-old tried to throw a rock at a truck.

Fast forward a weekend later and I was hanging out with friends, having meaningful and heartfelt conversations for two days straight. I felt happy to connect and it was a gift to accept their lives as they opened up. But, yet, my heart also feels sad. The word of the weekend across all conversations was Divorce.

My various friends echoed each other and, quite honestly, much of what they said started to echo ugly in my own deep thoughts. It made me realize that as women, we are in a state of change.

We have gone from blissful, carefree weekends of being entrenched in coupledom to heavy weekends of trying to decide who we are and if our marriages are irrevocably damaged. My friends, I am at the age where the women in my life are asking themselves two questions:

  • 1. Would I be happier outside of this marriage at this point? and
  • 2. Am I modeling a healthy relationship to my child(ren)?

We are scared and confused. Marriage feels heavy right now.

At our age, we are looking forward to a future, trying to imagine it while still holding on desperately to the past. Past mistakes and any mean words thrown against us are still fresh and clinging, but we hold tight to a future full of hope, with exotic vacations and the lifestyle we always wanted. We are aging up to those golden years, so close we can almost feel the warmth of free time, but we still don’t have the ability to get through a book.

We are changing with each year of motherhood and our confidence in ourselves is growing, yet we are scared and want nothing more than for someone to hug us and say, “You are wonderful. I love you so much. Don’t change, you are perfect the way you are.”

Our lives aren’t fun right now; they are full of drop-offs, and pick-ups, and teams, and schedules, and demands, and baking frozen chicken nuggets. Yet we desperately want nothing more than the person in our life who loves us the most to make it fun.

We have been through many major transitions and we feel exhausted, as though we simply can’t give anymore, then everyday there is another emotional demand to be met, a lesson to be taught, and a BandAid to apply.

We want to feel sexy, desirable and passion-inducing yet we carry muddy children in from the rain and wipe snot with our shirt sleeves.

Life is just hard right now. It is beautiful and the most gorgeous, blessed adventure I will ever go on, but it is messy. In all of the mess and confusion, our marriages are swept into the fold and, unfortunately, sometimes are more dangerously swept out.

Transitions are always hard and at this age of parenting, moving from the in-the-trenches newborn stage to the where-now-is-that-freedom preschool and early elementary age, is a transition. Parenting is always a transition.

The only thing I know is that marriage is work, from both partners. At some point marriage becomes the newborn child: you have to nurture it, feed it, change its crap for a clean start (and yes, it will probably crap again), and sometimes you have to go in and just make peaceful noises even though you are exhausted.

And like raising a child, marriage requires a commitment. You have to commit to plow through the rough times while exercising patience and belief that at the end of the journey your relationship will be deeper and more powerful.

I wish the men in our lives understood all of this. I wish there was a way they could feel the changes we are going through in our hearts and heads, the changes we can’t verbalize. Sometimes I want to shake them and say, “Just hug us more, make dinner once in awhile, and love us. Just love us. Ask us questions, be interested in us, and love us.”

I don’t know what the answer is for my friends. Unless abuse and infidelity are involved, it is hard to know if it is time to leave. Like the riverboats that go by, the most blissful unions on top can leave some murky waters a few levels down.

I know that I am in a loving relationship, one where we are both In It To Win It, but even that, if I am honest, feels heavy at times. But my marriage can also make me feel the most light-hearted and successful at this business of life than anything else at my disposal (even, indeed, if marriage is considered disposable). I personally plan to hang on in the transitions, tend to my baby, and see what happens at the light of our golden age. Then I want to shake the husbands and say, “Love them, please. Make marriage your new child and nurture it.”

Allison Barrett Carter is a freelance writer in North Carolina. She is on a journey to keep learning and finding the best life, documenting it all on her website. Her pieces have appeared in many places such as New York Times’ Motherlode, Washington Post’s On Parenting, Role Reboot, The Good Men Project and in several print anthologies as well as various local news outlets. Follow her on Twitter or on her Facebook page.

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Stereotyping Our Children in the Toy Aisles... What Can We Do?

September 1, 2015

There is a lot of discussion as of late about gender and toys. I’ve read articles questioning Lego’s sexist marketing strategies. It would seem people want to see Lego do more to avoid gender-stereotypes in their Lego sets.

And then I’ve read other articles which offer a fresh perspective on the debate; questioning why we consider things that are “girly” to be bad.

As a parent of a boy and a girl, I have observed them playing with each other’s toys disregarding whether the toy was created to appeal to their gender or their sibling’s gender.

I do wish that toys marketed towards girls included more gender-neutral colors and incorporated less “traditional” female roles. I also wish that toys marketed towards boys included more nurturing concepts and less emphasis on superpowers and weapons.

But, I also think that the toy companies and toy stores are not the only ones to blame. We (both parents and society) fuel the idea of gender-specific toys. We buy the toys, we tell our children which toys are for girls and which are for boys. We also teach them that pink and purple are for girls and blue is for boys.

What would happen if we didn’t do that? Toy companies want to sell toys. If we stopped playing into the idea of gender-specific toys maybe toy companies would stop marketing them in this way.

As a child I played with Barbies, Legos, Lincoln logs and cars. Nobody told me that cars were just for boys and nobody discouraged me from playing Barbies. I see my daughter doing the same. And, I want my son to feel the same way. There is a lot of emphasis on a lack of stimulating toys for girls, but there is also a lot of shaming boys for wanting to play with toys marketed towards girls. I want my son to feel as comfortable choosing to play with baby dolls and kitchen sets as he does with superheros and transformers.

Children have incredible imaginations and may turn a robot into a princess and vice versa if we let them. Maybe we should step out of their way and let them just play. Who cares which aisle the toy came from, what color it is and let our children decide what to play with. We might be surprised by their choices.

How do you feel about gender stereotyping in toys? Do you buy your girls pink and your boys blue? Do you make a conscious effort around this topic?

Kerrie LaRosa is a parent educator serving families in the Greater Washington Area. She received a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts from Boston College. Kerrie holds a clinical social work license in California and has been trained in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy and the Incredible Years Parenting Program. Kerrie helps families manage children’s emotional and behavioral issues, cope with grief and loss, and adjust to major life transitions. Kerrie works with parents to understand their child’s temperament, navigate their child’s developmental stages and learn effective discipline techniques. Learn more about Kerrie at
www.larosaparentcoach.com.

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When I Found Out My Husband Was On Ashley Madison...

August 31, 2015

By now you’ve inevitably read 100 stories about the Ashley Madison hack, and possibly 100 more about good ol’ biblical Josh Duggar and his hypocritical ways. You’ve probably rolled your eyes, scrolled down quickly, or maybe you’ve taken the few minutes to read some of the stories. Or, perhaps you’re more like me, scrolling through the comments where some are funny enough to give even the best comedians a run for their money.

People are so, judgey! Everyone seems to have an opinion, and most are taking it personally.

Regardless, Ashley Madison and the Duggars aren’t just keeping up with the Kardashians – they’ve managed to surpass even Caitlyn Jenner in the gossip chop shop that has become the media. Bloggers and mothers, like myself, have taken to expressing their own opinions and some have even gone viral – like in this open letter to Anna Duggar.

Yes. Ashley Madison cheaters are a-holes. Yes, wives should leave cheating husbands. Yes, Josh Duggar was right when he called himself a hypocrite. Yup, yeah, uh huh. I even suspect a few more skeletons in that closet are dancing behind the door. Yes, I know I’m being judgey too.

But, I sort of have a personal stake in all of this. No, I don’t actually care whether or not this Ashley Madison hack rips the Duggar family apart, or what Anna Duggar’s next move will be because ultimately it’s just not my business. I do feel badly for her and for their kids who will grow up in the shadows of their father’s sins. What I do care about is my own incredibly awkward situation and how this national gossip affects me, and my marriage.

Because I fell for it. I took the bait and bit, hard. Now I’m left reeling, wondering what to think, what to feel and how to make my next move. I am Anna Duggar.

While scrolling through Facebook last week I happened to see an NPR story with an Enquiroresque title,
bq. “Husband Found On Ashley Madison: It Wasn’t Me. (His Wife Believes Him).”
But hey, it’s NPR – so I read it. And then I thought, what if my husband’s email is in that database? Would I want to know? Should I look? Of course I shouldn’t look. We have a great marriage and there isn’t a single reason my husband needs that dirty hoe, Ashley, in his life. I will prove his innocence! I said to the voice in the back of my mind, whispering at first then getting louder and louder in anticipation. So, I found the Ashley Madison leaked email checker and confidently entered my husband’s email address. I felt guilty and a little embarrassed that I wasn’t trusting my husband while clicking enter.

Then, this happened…

My husband was one of the 36 million a-holes who signed up for a cheater’s website with the slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair.”

The analyst in me at first felt disbelief, and of course I entered my own untarnished email into the system as a sort of control, and it wasn’t found. That son-of-a-b was a registered user of Ashley Madison! Is a registered user of Ashley Madison? Sigh. Now what? First, I got quiet. That’s probably the easiest way to set off alarm bells in my husband’s guilty head. Me, silent. Uh, oh. I waited a while, digesting the big news I wish I hadn’t known. And, for good measure, I waited a little while longer.

Then, I seized the moment and broached the conversation in the car, “You know that Ashley Madison hack? There’s this database where you can put in your email address and…”

Him Interrupting, “My gmail came up?”

Yes, yes it did you a$$hole! I thought, but said nothing. With a nod of my head I signified the end of the conversation, for now. I drove home in silence. He had an errand to run. I opted to stay home. When he returned he came and sat next to me and said, “I heard about the site and I was just curious. I had to enter my email address to look around. I wondered if you or anyone else I knew was on there. I couldn’t figure the site out so I unsubscribed and that’s the truth.”

To which I simply replied, “You know I’m going to blog about this, right?”

And, you know what? I believe him. I just do. No alarm bells. No anger. After a brief moment of doubt, I’m back.

Morbid curiosity is something that we all have and my husband fell into the idiot abyss. My husband is not Josh Duggar, and I am not Anna Duggar. Because, you can bet your bottom dollar I’d have force fed my husband my wedding ring from the bottom up if I believed he really was a cheater, even for a second.

Would you have checked the database? What would you do if you found your husband’s name in the list of Ashley Madison subscribers? Me, a good dose of public shaming and I’m moving on.

Erica Buteau is head chef at Chateau Buteau where she cooks for her family of eight, also known there as babe, Mom, Nonna and sometimes referee. Her PR Friendly blog, ButeauFull Chaos! focuses on product reviews, parenting, being a mom, empowering women, children’s issues (including Autism, ADHD, Childhood Bipolar Disorder and Learning Disabilities), family travel and recipes.

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The Heavy Heart of a Working Mom

August 30, 2015

I work and I have you. I wish you were my job. Instead, I pay other people and you become their job. I pack you up each night into zippered pockets: diapers, wipes, formula, in case they run out of my milk. You live a compartmentalized infancy. An extra set of clothes, my least favorite, occupies the main section of your diaper bag. When you have an accident or make a mess, you are wearing the mismatched and faded outfit of a brother who is eight years older. I call you my little ragamuffin as I spin you in the air above me, and pull you closer smelling the remains of lunch and sleep as I breathe in.

At work, I am surrounded by the smells of burnt coffee and other people’s lunches, my nose a prisoner to their taste buds. My olfactory experience is rounded out by dry erase markers and the hand sanitizer of my cube mate. At home, I change your diaper and discover a red rash, another reminder of how little I know about your days, about you.

You are mine for such a short time, and the hours we share are often occupied with errands and chores. I cry alone in my car when you ask me not to leave you in your deep and congested little voice. The beginnings of yet another cold, one I feel responsible for because everyone knows daycare kids are exposed to everything, and if you could only stay home with me you would never get sick, right? His immune system is stronger for it, the doctor says. He’ll be fine they all say. But will I?

I missed your first word only to hear about it after the fact. Years ago I would have been expected to stay home with you, but today I need to work to make our lives work. Today, I am mother, wife and earner. Today, just as back then, in the time when housewives had no choices, I am forced into a life I didn’t choose. I work to afford childcare and an education I can never seem to pay off. I spend many hours trying to figure out a way to be with you as often as possible. Can I sell something? Organs? Eggs? I am not surprised when I realize I am only half-joking.

You are sick and find comfort in the arms of someone else, because I have a meeting on revenue streams and content ideas. When I finally reach you, your body, a hot crimson, can’t stand to be touched. You scream all the way home, and I attempt to soothe you while I navigate the evening traffic and contemplate a dinner I have forgotten to plan.

I am torn, divided, split in a million pieces because I am too much to too many when all I want is to be your mother. Each month you grow, hitting milestones I miss. I become a second-hand documenter of events I’ve never seen, recording them in a baby book filled with spotty facts I am only half certain of. When you run out of things, notes are left for me on your cubby because I am that person too. Before I know it, I’ve missed the best stuff, but I have pictures to remind me and stories, though so many are not my own.

I drop off and pick up until I no longer can. I am losing all the details of our life and I can’t, I won’t. And then I am done; finished with the money and benefits. All the corporate perks have been traded in for this 365 day, 24/7 job with no vacation and no sick days. I have given it all away for a few years that will slip by without notice. But, someday I will be glad I chose to let all the noise and complications fall away so I could be just your mother.

Nicole Johnson is a fiction writer, blogger and stay at home mom raising four children, a dog, a cat and a husband. She fears birds, anything with the potential to cause fire, and Disney World. She loves scary movies, books with ambiguous endings and all things dark, absurd and funny. Her blog, Suburban Sh!t Show: Tales from the Tree-Lined Trenches chronicles her life in the sh!t show, and she can be found on Facebook and Twitter, which is her new obsession because it forces her to get to the damn point.

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