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Archive for August, 2008

duckie.jpgIt’s time to celebrate! Congress has agreed to a ban on three dangerous phthalates in products made for children under 12. The decision came in spite of the chemical industry’s desperate (and well-funded) attempt to shut the provision down. Here is a good article in the Washington Post about how parents feel about the ban, the chemicals, and big industry.

Next on the (my) agenda is a ban on bisphenol A (BPA) in food containers. There have been more than 100 studies performed by government scientists and university laboratories that have found health concerns (including breast cancers, diabetes, behavioral disorders such as hyperactivity and reproductive problems) associated with BPA. Indeed, one federal study estimated the chemical is present in the urine of 93 percent of the population.

But, hang on– the FDA just released a report claiming that BPA in food containers poses no health risks. Well, what they really said is, “FDA has concluded that an adequate margin of safety exists for BPA at current levels of exposure from food contact uses.” Isn’t that reassuring? And whoa– surprise, surprise, two of the major studies upon which the report was based were… industry funded. Read the whole article here.

Now is the time to call your representatives! Thank them for voting to ban phthalates (assuming they did), and encourage them to place a ban on BPA in food containers. There is a proposal in the committee stage right now for such a ban. Go consumers! Go mothers!

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The Work Conundrum

working.jpegBefore I begin this monologue, I would like complete disclosure. First, I know I am fortunate to be able to stay home with my children while they are young, even though it has cost us ungodly amounts of student loans. Second, if I were to return to work with two preschool-aged children, the amount of money I would bring in after taxes and all the child care costs would maybe allow us to rent our Saturday night movie without guilt. This is not a “should I go back to work for the money, even though I don’t need it” post, because God knows we need it.. but wouldn’t get it. This is a “should I go back to work, even a little bit, to save the sliver of sanity I have left” post.

There are two realities I cannot get around, when conceiving my ideal work scenario: a) Hubby works insane hours and that is not going to change until after all the children are school-aged, and b) we don’t have the money to have a sitter while I do non-paying good vibe volunteer work. Also, I do love hanging out and playing with my children, especially in the beautiful summer and fall months. Therefore, if I returned to work, it would have to feel very real and rewarding to warrant leaving the children. Alright- so after all those stipulations, what is left?

Here is my ideal scenario: Be home with the children in the morning, and have some fun adventure,- a hike, a swim, the bike ride, etc. Then Baby lays down for nap from 11-1, during which time I prepare dinner and get ready for work. The babysitter comes from 2-5, while I go…change the world for the better for more than the $12/hr that I’m paying the sitter. There is the clutch. How does one find a meaningful part-time job that pays enough to cover the care?

I know there are jobs out there, specially-made for moms who want a part-time gig. And if all I wanted was a break, and half my sitter money paid, I would stuff envelopes or make direct marketing calls (well, maybe not), but I am looking for something outside of a creative pancake recipe that that will challenge me.

I am coming to the conclusion that I need to make something up myself. Something fun and challenging that will better my community, pay at least as much as the sitter charges, and be part-time. If I were a just a sculptor…or a shoemaker….

I would love to hear what you think about working as a mother. Do you? Do you want to, but don’t? Does it bring you the sanity I dream of, or make life even crazier? Is it possible to have job charming while raising children? Or do I need to put all this on hold for another few years? And one last question that could fill a whole new post: if you have decided to stay home with the children, but plan on returning to work some day, at what age do you think it is right to return to work, and why then?

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I have come to believe that the true way to get children to do what you want them to do is to expose them to it as much as possible. Whether it is eating beets or cross-country skiing, the more they see it, and see other people doing it, the more likely they will do it.

Ground-breaking, isn’t it?

Yes, it seems like common sense, but I know I’m not the only mother wondering why my children (who only ride their bikes for one hour every other weekend on the bike path) won’t try riding their bikes without training wheels. Or why my children (who take 4 weeks of swim lessons a year) don’t seem interested in swimming without a foamy thing tied around their waist.

“But when we go to the pond, you can go swimming out there once you learn. It will be such fun!” I would try to coax them and, yes, sometimes bribe them. “If you even TRY to ride without you training wheels, we’ll go get ice cream in Davis Square.” Nope. Totally uninterested.

Then we moved from our mostly Italian senior neighborhood to a community filled to the brim with children who are outside all day. On their bikes. Two weeks here, and both my training-wheels-or-bust children were riding 2 wheelers. I’m pretty sure that Dylan will be riding a 2-wheeler by his third birthday.

And swimming…. We live 1/4 mile from the YMCA (which the children can now bike to on their 2-wheelers), which boasts not one but two large pools. So, after my yoga class every Tuesday and Thursday (during which the kids are playing in the free and super duper child watch area), we swim. Though they offer swim lessons, neither of my older children were interested. “I want to take lessons with you, Mommy!” Well, while I don’t give any proper lessons, and actually spend all my time holding the baby, Tiernan and Rowan have both learned how to swim on their own— and even under water, which I was certain wouldn’t happen until they were thrown into a pool at a high school college party.

I have a friend (shout out to Jen Roberts!) who swims with her children nearly every single evening, and on the weekends. Her daughter was jumping off the diving board before mine even knew what a noodle was. Exposure. The good news is that you don’t need to be a member of a fancy county club to swim often around here. Somerville’s Kennedy Pool, right by Porter Square, has lessons and open swim time throughout the year, and I’m sure there are others.

Exposure and peer pressure are two words that often scare parents of young and teen children. But sometimes, they can work in our, and our children’s, favor. Now if I can just get the neighbors’ kids to start eating broccoli outside every night…

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Six Going on Sixteen

I stepped out of the shower this evening to find my six year-old Sunshine face down in her bed sobbing, “Nobody likes me!” She wasn’t crying to anyone; she didn’t even know I was standing there. She was crying to herself, into her pillow. Painful flashbacks rattled me into motion.

After calming Sunshine down from sobs to tears, it became clear that the reason she felt that nobody liked her was because her new BFF had left to go camping with her family for a week, and there were NO other girls around to play with. “Why would Jasmine leave me?”

Now, granted, it was 5:00 p.m., our witching hour, and she was cooked from a long day of hard and fun play (with Jasmine before her traitorous departure), so I knew she was feeling a little more sensitive than normal. I held her and listened to her, and reassured her that Jasmine loved her, as did many, and would return to her soon. After a short pause and some sniffles, she broke out into fresh sobs, “What if a grow up to be FAT?”

Mom sits up and looks at her girl. GIRL. This is not a teen, or even a tween. She’s six, for God’s sake, and should be thinking about snakes or dolls or unicorns–something other than her figure.

teen2.jpegRight?

The confusing thing to me is this: where is she getting this? We don’t have Cosmopolitan mags lying around, or even Vic’s Secret catalogues. Neither Hubby nor I talk about losing weight or being fat, or any of that image stuff. I haven’t heard any of her friends talking like this. They don’t watch commercial TV, and we don’t live in L.A. So what gives? Is it ingrained in girls to be self- conscious about their bodies and looks?

I remember, when Sunshine was like nine months old, hearing a someone say that at the age of 6, parents get glimpses of adolescence because it is a time when children are struggling with increased independence, AND that the behavior usually disappears until around 12 years old. Then hang the F on.

So here we are, and while I’m fumbling along with, “Honey, you’re beautiful, smart and special, no matter how your body looks” and “Isn’t it nice that everyone looks and thinks so differently- that what makes this world so cool!”, Tiernan rolls her eyes (well, tries to roll her eyes) at me, and sluffs off. But, by God, what am I going to do in ten years when she no longer sluffs off to her art table to draw it out, but rather gets in her car (without haven given me the time of day) and drives to her friends house where they will talk over cigarettes, diet pills, and eye shadow about how to be perfect?

I need books. I need preemptive adolescent counseling. I am so not ready for this.

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