Toxic Crying it Out

April 26, 2010

Interesting news: Crying it out may hurt baby’s brains

Dr Penelope Leach says recent scientific tests show high levels of the stress hormone cortisol develop in babies when no one answers their cries.

If this happens over long periods and repeatedly, it can be “toxic” to their brains…

Apparently there’s research on both sides – this is not big news. But I have to say, any report that backs up my instinctual inability to let my baby scream himself to sleep makes me feel better… I’ve always felt like I was a failure at being tough…

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New Health Care Bill – Nursing Help for Moms?

April 7, 2010

I heard an ad for a talk show on NPR that I didn’t get to listen to saying that one of the provisions in the new healthcare bill is for employers to provide nursing mothers with a place and time to pump milk.

Really? Is this true? If so – hooray!

This issue has come up for a lot of mothers here in Charlottesville – scrambling to express in a broom closet on a break – hooking up to pumps in a car – getting derided by bosses for asking for a facility… men whose mothers obviously did not nurse them…

If you know anything about this, let me know – and let’s spread the good news!


Ode to UniTaskers Everywhere

August 25, 2009

Stanford did a study and found multitaskers are less productive!

Now, “working moms” tend to promote themselves to the workforce as being ‘cable ready’ with the multitasking abilities employers seem to crave like candy these days – so why, you ask, am I joyous about this study, which might be damning to those of us who have to Do Everything All the Time?

Because I think multitasking is often a sham. Very few people really do it, and very few people really do it well.

Usually, multitasking means:

– I’ve got a good excuse for forgetting something

– I’m too busy to deal with you

– I can’t prioritize

– I’m not focused

– I’m disorganized

– I don’t know how to say No

– I’m reluctant to hire enough staff, so instead I’ll make one person do everything

– I believe that stress is a way of life and I’m willing to put myself and others through it

These days, if you use a computer, you’re a multitasker. You have ten tabs open, you’re Twittering and Tumbling and Fb-ing and emailing and maybe even working; you’re deleting all the Forwards of cute cuddling animals from your inlaws while you discuss the peanut policy at your kid’s preschool on the phone while you instant message your office mate about the toilet paper missing in the bathroom while you scribble a dinner recipe on your calendar.

But if I were an employer, I would want to know if, counter to what is now the norm, can you focus and do one thing at a time and do it well? Can you be thorough? Can you complete a task?

I personally am one of those people who can get lost in a novel that I’m writing or reading, get wrapped up in a daydream or idea that I’m developing, get honed in on a job task I’m finishing, and burn the green beans on the stove and not notice my toddler is peeing on the floor and totally miss just about everything else. It’s a curse – and a gift – that I have that kind of ability to concentrate amidst chaos. One that I don’t tout to prospective employers, because it sounds antithetical to the multitasking they desire.

But sometimes you need to be able to switch gears from one to the other.

So I say – if you’re a true multitasker, awesome.

But if you’re really a better unitasker – be brave. Admit it. Own up to your truth. And cite this study if you need to for proof that not being great at multitasking doesn’t mean you’re a poor worker.

Now being a  mother… I need to learn to put the book down when I’m cooking…


Workforce News: When it helps to be underpaid, underemployed

July 22, 2009

Apparently, men are losing their jobs more than women are during this “economic downturn.”

Not surprising, really – because most of the jobs lost have been in the construction and manufacturing sectors, which are mostly populated by men.

The USA Today article notes that

Women are more likely to work part time than men, perhaps making them less vulnerable. Approximately 25% of women work part time vs. 12% of men, Mission Residential chief economist Richard Moody says.”When employers are actively cutting hours for the workers they do keep, it could be that those already working part time have a bit more security … as they are not likely to be receiving benefits and in general, are likely to cost employers less than full-time workers,” he says.

It’s great to know there’s an upside to being the underdogs in the workforce, isn’t it?

Now, the NPR story did wonder if, as women become the primary breadwinners of US households, if employers will start offering more childcare/eldercare benefits – and if the equal pay cause will get a boost.

I doubt it. Not to be bitter, but it doesn’t look promising. If the reason women are more employed now is because they make up the majority of teachers, nurses, health aides, secretaries, housecleaners, daycare providers, etc., it’s not exactly like they’re in some power position to broker additional perks.

And those of us who are not in a two-parent household, while we may have that part-time job, well, while that’s better than not being employed at all (maybe?), not having benefits or the wages of a full-time job may push us or keep us hovering around the poverty line – and stressed out.

And, isn’t it funny?

– That women are still the primary caregivers for children and the elderly – when are men going to fully engage in this? Until they do, I don’t see employers adapting policies to help with either –

– We still have such gender-segmented workforce populations? Will that ever shift? Will the guys down in IT ever get more than one geeky girl? Will the construction crew ever feature a host of buff women? Our stereotypes are so intimately tied to the jobs we do – still…


Still Drinking Coffee

July 2, 2008

It’s almost 8:30, and I’m still drinking coffee. I’m soooo tired. I’m soooo stupid.

This is worse than college: I stay up all night, I regret it the next morning, but then I do it again.

All because I am desperate for a couple hours to myself.

Which are crucial. Not enough – and often, I still am not totally relaxing – I remain “interruptible” – Ariel Gore in her book The Mother Trip provides the insight that mothers are constantly interruptible, but we need time to be uninterruptible – it was really helpful to read her words and know that my constant feeling of being on call, on high alert, just ON – 24 hours a day – is not because there’s something crazy about ME. It’s commonplace, it’s hormonal, it’s motherhood.

It’s hard to explain to others that only when my kids are sleeping – and I know they’re asleep for at least half an hour, solid – can I come close to getting absorbed in something else – yoga, intimacy, writing, things that only have a benefit when you’re fully present and not leaving one ear perked like a satellite dish toward the children’s room.

Of course, by the end of the night, when they are finally both truly asleep – usually 10 p.m. – the last thing I feel like doing is yoga, intimacy, or writing. I want to veg. I want to watch bad television. I want to sleep. I want to read cheesy blogs. I don’t want to engage in anything that requires me to be thoughtful, soulful, or energetic. I have nothing left to give at that point. My body has been a source of nourishment, caring, and entertainment since 7 that morning – it wants a break.

So my relationships are suffering – long distance ones, that require phone calls – close ones, that require quality one-on-one interaction. Not to mention, my relationship with myself. Of course, the last thing I need right now is to grow distant from the ones I love. Again, Gore advocates for mothers to make time for things like sleep and meditation and sex – but god, it’s hard.

Sleep is so boring. And meditation and sex – though both can be reviving – require focus. Can I just chill with the Netflix for a good 48 hours? With some ice cream and vino, while someone gives me a massage, does my nails, trims my hair, takes notes for me when a thought of worth actually does crop up, a little crocus amid the weedy landscape that is my untended brain?

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Gore’s book and her site, hipmama.com. I don’t think I am at all a “hip” “mama” but it’s nice to know hip mamas exist out there. Mothers are not just saggy, docile, vapid yuppies in ill-fitting jeans driving SUVs badly. They are cool and creative and spiritual and sexual and intellectual and responsible for the human race’s various incarnations. They are not a sub-group for political pundits to try and buttonhole, nor are they a ‘they’ to be tapped and targeted by marketers.

More on that later – probably on my new blog…


Yoga and Meditation… for all

April 3, 2008

I have never been able to take a post-partum baby & mommy yoga class because they are all scheduled during normal work hours.

That, or I now have two kids to drag along to a class, not just one.

So I do my personalized version of yoga-stretching-tai chi in my living room, pausing every once in a while to tend to the demands of my always-hungry infant. Or to fend off the assault of my always-running toddler.

I find the stop-start nature of this annoying, but I’m trying to go with The Flow, to keep in the spirit of things.

Forget proper meditation, though. In the morning, that is. I’ve tried setting my alarm to beat the kids to waking up – HA! What a joke! The earlier I set my alarm, the earlier they wake.

If I can get the toddler to sleep, I can usually get the baby to sleep soon thereafter, and then I can take some afternoon silent space to meditate and stretch, and boy howdy, that makes a difference. Mental and spiritual refreshment is key to helping me stay mindful, in the moment, present with my self and my children.

My friend who has a 10 month old – she teaches high school in upstate NY – took a stress-reduction class that turned out to focus on the meditation techniques of that Zabat-Zinn guy. She was told to do a 40-minute body scan every morning. What? With a baby??? She was more stressed out by trying to fit that into her life…

Still, I’m becoming a firm believer that everyone should meditate – in Britain, the NHS even subsidizes meditation programs! because of the health benefits – full-time workers, white and blue collar, poor and rich alike – but to make space for that, we’d need to have a nationwide midday siesta (you could nap, too – we all need more sleep!) – maybe in rotation to handle waking kids?

I would love to have more tai chi/yoga Gatherings – not classes you have to pay for and attend, but get togethers where people stretch and meditate together.

If I had extra time/energy, I think I would become an activist for getting more yoga, tai chi, meditation classes made available at very low costs to make them more accessible to poor / stressed/ working parents (of both genders). How about some free stuff in the parks? How about getting whole families breathing and meditating together?

So much of the conflicts and strains in our lives directly stem from stress taking control of people.

God these hormones are like drugs. I’m turning into a hippie.


An 80-something’s Take on the Prez Race

January 16, 2008

“I just don’t know how they are letting Hillary Clinton do this! Why is anyone letting her? I guess she lived in the White House for a couple years, but goodness.

I just don’t know about any of these people.

I guess we have to take what they give us.

Of course, it’s all about money, who can afford to run.

Which is just terrible.

We just need a Good Man. Why can’t they give us a Good Man?

McCain? Yes, I guess he’s okay, but he’s old. Some people say that Mitt Romney fellow, but then they worry about him being Mormon, but I don’t know if that will affect him being president or not, do you?

I don’t think the Democrats can win, I don’t think the Republicans are going to let them. I think the Republicans have too much money to let the Democrats get a chance.

I may not vote. I may just not vote.  I just don’t know what’s going to happen here. I’m not for anyone. I just don’t know.”

– my grandma