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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

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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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3 Simple Cleaning Habits to Tame the Chaos of a Busy Home

August 29, 2015

I am admittedly not the greatest housekeeper in the world.

I could blame others for this problem of mine. At times I actually have blamed genetics or habits picked up in childhood and even the people who live under our roof. The inhabitants of our home make it a challenge to keep up with the mess. Just when I think we have all of the kid’s toys picked up downstairs I turn around and trip over a dog toy. Every time I open our front door there is another wad of dog hair to sweep up. And don’t even get me started on the mess made by the mail that stacks up day after day after day.

Because I work during the week, by the time I get home, throw a meal together, and do the bedtime routine… I AM POOPED. I am mentally and physically DONE after being on the go from 5:30am until whenever-the-kids-finally-go-to-sleep. My husband’s work schedule is all over the place, so our family “routine” is all over the place, too. Until recently, Saturdays were our cleaning days and that was just a fact of life. I spent the bulk of my Saturdays cleaning floors, catching up on laundry, dusting, and scrubbing potties.

This summer we put our house on the market and it suddenly became important for us to maintain a higher level of clean in our home. I knew that only cleaning on the weekends wasn’t going to keep our home in a state of readiness for potential showings. We needed to change-up our routine of only cleaning on the weekends.

As a family we implemented three daily tasks and as a result our home has remained SO MUCH CLEANER!

Here are the ways our family tamed the chaos of our home:

We make our beds!
Before this summer, we were never daily bed-makers. We reserved that chore for the times when we knew we would have company or whenever sheets were changed. Now, that we are all making our beds each day, our bedrooms stay cleaner! Our kid’s rooms are more tidy (shock!!) and they take more pride in putting things away and doing things for themselves. Even our 5-year-old does a great job of making his bed and reminds me from time to time to make mine.

We wash and fold a load of laundry every day.
A load of laundry a day keeps the crazy at bay! I HATE LAUNDRY. It is one household task that I abhor. It is never, ever finished. That being said, we do our best to wash one or two loads a day (and put them away, too!). On the days that we don’t, everything starts to back up and chaos comes creeping back in. If I can put a load in to wash each morning and dry at night, as a family we can put clothes away and all is well with the world. On the days that my husband is home during the day he is an ace at keeping the laundry caught up and enlisting kids to fold towels and be responsible for their own clothes.

We go to bed with a clean sink.
This is one task that I struggle with, but when I do stick to keeping the dishes washed our kitchen remains peaceful and clean. When my husband is home and we eat together as a family we have a great system: I cook, he cleans. There is nothing sexier than a man washing dishes! It’s a bit of a different story on the nights when he is working. I do try to go to bed with an empty sink, but I still let this task slide. We are teaching our kids to be more responsible with their dishes and our oldest has even surprised us a few times by emptying the dishwasher when she sees that the dishes inside are clean.

Keeping our home clean truly is a team effort. Our home isn’t completely spotless, but if someone were to drop by today I would be less mortified than I was before we started keeping up with the above mentioned tasks.
The biggest thing I had to let go of was the fact that I don’t have to do everything in order to keep our house clean. My husband doesn’t expect me to be the only one cleaning house and I don’t expect the same out of him. We’re also giving our children more responsibilities and they are proud of the things that they can do for themselves. We all take ownership of our owns messes but also jump in and help keep things clean because we all live there. Now I just need to teach the dog to put his toys away…

Do you have any tips for tidying up in between cleanings?

Jennifer Collins is a professional juggler of kids, work, marriage and life. With a pretty typical family, her life can get really messy sometimes. She blogs at Graceful Mess. You can follow the messes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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When You Stay After He Cheats

August 28, 2015

You never thought you’d be “one of those women” who’d stay with their husband after he’d had an affair. Hell, you never thought you’d be “one of those women” whose husband would ever have an affair.

I said the same things, but like you, I was wrong.

We waited to tie-the-knot. We’d been together for seven years and had four children before we walked down the aisle. And after only 23 months of marriage, my husband broke our vows and betrayed me in a way I’d never imagined by having an affair with a co-worker.

I was hurt, betrayed, and beyond pissed. But I knew I couldn’t just throw away seven years and the family we’d made. My marriage meant more to me than that, even though my husband had an affair.

My husband hated himself for what he’d done, as most men do. They realize how much they put on the line and that there’s a very real chance they could lose everything they’ve ever wanted over a woman who really didn’t mean anything to them.

Just because I had valid reasons for giving my husband and my marriage another shot, and just because my husband was genuinely sorry for everything he’d done, doesn’t mean it’s been an easy road.

If you decide that you want to stay with your husband after the betrayal of an affair, there are a few things you have to be ready to deal with if you really want your marriage to make it.

+Your sadness:+ Even if you’re like me, who didn’t feel immediate sadness, only anger, you’re only fooling yourself if you think you’ll never be sad about the affair. It took a month for my sadness to set in, but when it did, I just about lost it. I’d never been so depressed in my life. After talking through my feelings with my husband and some select friends and family, I was able to pull myself out of the deep depression. I still feel some occasional sadness, even three months later. It might not be so easy for other people, especially if you suffer from depression.

A lack of trust: I’d be lying if I said I’ve begun to trust my husband again. He threw away seven years of trust and it’s not going to rebuild itself in three months. Trusting your husband, even with the smallest of things after an affair, is going to take time and a lot of effort on your husband’s part. You’ll hate feeling like you can’t trust the only person, who before, you would have trusted with your life.

Keeping pettiness to a minimum: When you’re depressed, angry and beyond betrayed because of your husband’s affair, it’s second nature to want to throw it in his face every chance you get. I know this from experience. Every girl who even semi-resembled his co-worker, every half-naked girl on TV, every time he told me he loved me, I’d find a way to throw the affair in his face. It didn’t make things better between us. In fact, it only pushed us farther apart. Acting petty only causes your husband and yourself more pain. Constantly bringing it up isn’t going to help you move past it, and it certainly isn’t going to help you improve your marriage if you can’t get past the affair.

Be ready to love: Being loving is probably the last thing you’ll want to do during the first few days or weeks after finding out about the affair, but it’s one of the most important things you can do if you want to bring your marriage back to a healthy state. Your husband messed up big time, but there’s obviously still a lot of love between you if you’re both willing to work through all of the harsh emotions that an affair can bring about. Show your husband that you love him, show him that your marriage is something that really does mean a lot to you. Show him that you’re willing to put in the extra effort if he is. Do and say things that will be beneficial to the your recovering marriage.

As long as both you and your husband are fully committed to making your marriage work, it will. It will take time, patience, and a lot of hard work, but it is definitely possible if you both put your heart, soul and mind into it.

It has been three months since my husband’s affair. We’re still having hard times every now and then. Sometimes I break down, sometimes I lose it, but most times, things are really good. Our love is stronger, we are both more open with each other, and our future together is looking brighter each and every day.

_Ashley is a wife and mother of 4. She’s always loved to write and when she became a SAHM, she knew this was her chance. She loves to talk about marriage, parenting, fitness and food on her blog, Modern Manic Mommy. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), and Pinterest.

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