Breadwinning Mothers Carry the Mental Load at Home

Mothers everywhere are increasingly the breadwinners. This title looks great on paper, but with it our “mental load” gets only heavier. When my son was first born I, too, fit that role. I would wake up, feed my baby, take him to his grandparent’s, teach all day, pick up my son, and then do all of the evening stuff at home. My weekends were filled with grading papers, cleaning, meal-prep, and one squeezed-in activity with family or friends.
Sleeping was difficult. My head would rest on the pillow, but the to-do list piled up like a stack of books, keeping my eyelids open. I never felt caught-up. After reading some recent research, turns out, I wasn’t alone in accumulating this “mental load.”
The research was conducted by Business Wire and proved that when women are the breadwinners, we take on more responsibilities outside of work compared to their husbands. Yes, on top of bringing home more money, they truly did it all: cleaning, cooking, paying bills, and the planning all of the extracurriculars. All of this is known as the “mental load.”
According to the annual report in Bright Horizons Family Solutions (BHFS), the mothers are the ones who perform and plan almost all of the family matters. This load is often far too heavy for one’s mind. The report shared that women were more than twice as likely to volunteer in their children’s schools, make the schedules, and assure that all of the family’s responsibilities are met.
It’s no wonder that the term “self-care” had to be invented and made a part of the lives of mothers. With carrying the brunt of the mental load, we need to remind ourselves to go for a run, plan a dinner with our friends, or read a damn book. Although women are now working right next to men in the work arena, the jobs in the home are still unequal. If a mother can work full-time, and even bring home more money, then her partner can certainly carry more of the mental load at home.
But, they’re not. According to the BHFS report, “86 percent of working moms say they handle all family and household responsibilities, 72 percent feel it’s their job to stay on top of kids’ schedules, and 63 percent have missed work to take care of their sick children.” And although this seems greatly unfair to women – and it is – men are feeling this injustice as well.
Fathers today want to be more involved in parenting and in the home. But according to the same report, they are feeling judged by their colleagues at work for doing so. For example, “46 percent of dads feel burnout due to not having enough time with family at home. Further, they are nine percent more likely than working mothers to wish their employer offered more family flexibility and 32 percent more likely than mothers to give up a 10 percent raise for more family time.”
Women are making strides in the workplace. It should be applauded that stereotypes there are slowly diminishing. Yet, the traditional roles of the 50s within the home are still blazing. Yes, it’s encouraging that mothers are turning into the breadwinners, but we should not continue to carry most of the mental load.
When I worked full-time, I should have asked more of my willing husband. He could have handled the bills, or the scheduling, or scrubbed the toilets for that matter. Instead, I carried that mental load myself – to the point of burnout. Now that I work part-time, my mental load is much lighter, and I’m finally sleeping better, too. But to be honest, there are times when I feel like I sacrificed my career.
In hindsight, I should have simply opened my mouth, and given more of the at-home responsibilities to my husband. My mental load would have felt lighter – and I would have, too.

How Parents Unwittingly Nurture Patriarchy

Since Harvey Weinstein – and countless other prominent men – have been outed as sexual predators (at worst) and clueless misogynists (at best), adults are more frequently giving our daughters empowering talks and broaching subjects like consent, patriarchy, and basic human decency with our daughters and sons.
When it comes to truly supporting the next generation to move beyond the patriarchy and #MeToo, however, we often expend more effort talking the talk than we put into walking the walk. In fact, there are three specific ways that many moms and dads unwittingly nurture patriarchy and shape our children to fit perfectly into their predetermined male/female roles in this dominator/dominated culture.

It starts when we dehumanize our children through emotional stratification

From early toddlerhood, parents unconsciously strip both genders of their rights to their full range of human emotion.
Our culture has classified emotions as belonging more naturally to men or women, but this is a false dichotomy. Emotions belong to both genders. “Feminine” and “masculine” emotions are merely constructs of the enculturated human mind. While parents generally treat emotional displays with relative acceptance when children are infants, we commonly change how we react to the emotional expression of our daughters and sons as they grow out of infancy. We start to teach our children that boys feel one way and girls another way, and the belief that there are “feminine” and “masculine” emotions begins to take root.

The problem worsens as we reward girls for submissiveness and boys for dominance

When girls “act out” or behave in ways that are deemed “aggressive,” they are admonished. WE tell them “be nice,” “nice girls don’t talk that way,” and “we don’t hit.” Consistently girls get the message that being loud, physical, or otherwise confrontational isn’t how they’re supposed to behave. They’re supposed to be smaller, quieter, more reserved, more accepting even if others are taking their toys, pulling their hair, or touching them without permission.
When our daughters do speak up for themselves (albeit clumsily or caustically at times), we may call them “selfish,” “sassy,” or “smart-mouthed” without realizing how our criticism and shame often leads them to mask or internalize “negative” emotions and choose to silence their strong voice in order to remain in our good graces.
While parents send some of the same “be nice” and “don’t hit” messages to boys, it happens less often and will decrease as boys continue to grow because we adults believe “boys will be boys.” This belief perpetuates the myth that boys are aggressive by nature and there’s only so much “taming” that parents can do. We tell boys not to let others “push them around” and congratulate them when they show their toughness and mettle in sports. We raise them up as conquering heroes and expect them to “never quit” or give in. Thus, male children, from a very young age, are expected to be more dominant and female children more submissive.
Deviations from these “norms” get called out by adults, and soon by children themselves as they inevitably absorb the beliefs about how boys and girls should be. The seeds of #MeToo are planted early on even if boys are allowed to wear pink and girls can play with trucks, because the overriding messages children get based on their behavior is that it’s “normal” is for males to dominate and females to be dominated.

Many common parenting and discipline techniques further normalize non-consensual, coercive relationships

Multiple times a day, well-meaning parents who don’t spank their children still unwittingly prime their children to accept force and coercion as normal. Some do it when they manhandle their toddler into the car seat. Others do it when they use time-outs to “make” a child behave. Some parents remove privileges unless their children “clean their plate” or insist that their children let grandma hug them.
All of these forms of manipulation normalize force and coercion and may resign children to tolerating it, not just from parents, but in their other intimate relationships as well. While there are noble intentions behind some of the aforementioned parental behaviors, the more often we take advantage of our authority, superior strength and size, position, or access to resources, the more our children will come to believe that it’s natural for the people who love you to hurt you (or for you to hurt the people you love).
Because boys and girls have already learned who the top dog is and who isn’t, this acceptance of force in relationships plays out differently for both genders. Boys learn that as the dominators it’s their job to apply the force. Girls in similar but converse fashion realize that it’s their role to accept the subservient position.

We cannot bring about change until we own our own complicity in propping up the existing system

This article is not meant to cast blame on parents or anyone else. It’s critical, however, that parents understand the powerful precedents we set by our choices. I wrote this piece to inspire moms and dads everywhere to become agents of radical culture change and transform our parenting so that it stops perpetuating toxic beliefs and harmful behaviors.
If you’d like to do one concrete thing today to help dismantle the dominant cultural worldview and more fully empower your children, download “Seven Ways You Can Victim-Proof Your Daughter” from the Conscious Moms’ Circle, an international community of conscious parents on Facebook.

What We Can Learn When We Stop Making Fun of the Raw Water Trend

We’re used to seeing words like “natural” and “organic” used to sell us more expensive food. The latest trend in food purity campaigns? Raw water.

We’re used to seeing words like “natural” and “organic” used to sell us more expensive produce, nuts, and sugar. The latest trend in food purity campaigns? Raw water.
New companies are now selling customers unfiltered, untreated, and extremely expensive water. The movement, according to a December 2017 article in the New York Times, has grown in part from skepticism about water treatment practices in the United States, whether that’s concern over fluoride supplementation or lead pipes.
The Twitter response to the Times’ coverage flowed like your colon is apt to do after drinking unfiltered water:


Live Water, one of the companies profiled in the New York Times’ coverage, acknowledged the resulting “media controversy” and recently defended the safety of its product. Live Water describes its water source as “an ancient aquifer that we have extensively tested and has shown no harmful contamination what so ever [sic]. Water is collected from the covered spring head, so there is no chance for surface bacterias [sic] to enter the water.”
The terminology appears scientific. A “covered spring head” sounds like a safety device, but a “spring head” is simply the part of a spring that comes out of the ground. A “covered spring head” could mean a plastic cover on top of the spring, or even just a rock enclosure. There’s no reason to assume that harmful bacteria couldn’t enter that water source, because covered spring head or no, animals choose to defecate wherever they please. Furthermore, even “ancient” aquifers, while acting as nature’s coffee filters, do not filter out all kinds of bacteria.
The grammar errors in Live Water’s hastily-written response to the Times’ negative publicity should suggest that Live Water’s claims have not undergone thorough peer review. Those looking to read more about those claims should read fact-checking site Snopes’ analysis of Live Water’s scientific claims about raw water. There’s no strong evidence that “raw” water provides any health benefits over filtered, treated water. There is plenty of evidence that treated water has changed the world for the better.
Obviously, our country’s drinking water is not without problems. It’s unconscionable that it was just last week, nearly four years from the start of its water crisis, that Flint, Michigan’s water quality was declared restored. But raw spring water is not the answer to these problems. Just ask the citizens of Puerto Rico (many of whom are still in the dark, by the way), who still don’t have reliably safe drinking water. Clean drinking water is perhaps the greatest human invention since fire (which allowed for the boiling and subsequent sanitation of water). In fact, it’s hard to overstate the importance of learning that diseases can be conveyed by water.
In “The Ghost Map” author Steven Johnson explains how physician Jon Snow ended a medical crisis and essentially founded the field of epidemiology when he started marking deaths from cholera cases on a map. Snow’s map allowed him to identify the source of water common to all of the cases. The end to the cholera epidemic was astoundingly simple: authorities removed the handle from the Broad Street Pump and people stopped getting sick. (Sidebar: I haven’t confirmed this with George R. R. Martin, but it’s hard not to see the similarities between his Jon Snow in “Game of Thrones” and the historical counterpart. Both are men who recognized evidence of a sweeping plague before everyone around them took notice. Maybe in the next season Jon Snow should check the water sources north of The Wall.)
Many critics of raw water consumers are comparing the pseudo-scientific arguments for raw water to those made by anti-vaccination activists. Refuse to get vaccinated? You might get whooping cough. Refuse to drink treated water? You might get cholera. Some anti-anti-vaxxers crow about measles outbreaks affecting those who choose to go unvaccinated. It wouldn’t be surprising to see tweets celebrating the first confirmed cases of Giardia among raw water adherents.
The problem with this line of argument is that, in both cases, those on the pro-science side fail to see why the arguments against vaccination and for untreated water are so powerful. It’s easier to believe that a medical industrial complex is after your money, that the invisible regulations that have kept our water (mostly) safe are actually poisoning us, than to accept that the health conditions like autism or chronic pain or cancer have no cures. Viewed in this way, the raw water movement and others that have preceded it take root wherever there is uncertainty and doubt. In our uncertain time, is it surprising that people are willing to pay almost $15 a gallon for water that makes the future feel a little more fixed?
(Actually, make that almost $25 per gallon. The 2.5-gallon jugs of Live Water previously sold at San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery for $36.99 are now going for $60.99.)
https://twitter.com/NellieBowles/status/948525485151092736

Four Things Foster Parents Want You to Know

I talked to foster parents, not to obtain statistics, but to hear their stories. This is what they want you to know.

According to recent statistics, roughly half a million children are in the foster care system in the U.S. About half are eventually reunited with their families, while one-fifth are adopted. Many of them entered the foster system as victims of abuse and neglect.
But what about the foster parents who step in to care for these vulnerable children when they are in crisis? While there is plenty of data about foster children, information about foster parents can be elusive.
I talked to foster parents, not to obtain statistics, but to hear their stories. This is what they want you to know.

1 | Foster parents aren’t superheroes

Most foster parents I talked to want to dispel the myth that they’re saints.
Colorado foster parent Heather Grimes says she’s accustomed to people telling her “I could never do that.” Grimes and her husband have one biological child and have fostered two younger children, one of whom they adopted.
While she says it took a lot of soul-searching to become foster parents, their decision was not driven by the conviction that they were somehow superhuman. Rather, they chose to take on the challenge in order to show their biological daughter the value of helping others. They also felt it was important to be open to the experience, rather than ruling it out based on fear of the unknown.
Foster parents are, in many ways, like all parents, says Dr. John DeGarmo. Having fostered over 50 children and the director of The Foster Care Institute, he understands how vulnerable foster parents are to fatigue, setbacks, and disappointments:
“There are times when we succeed, and there are times when we experience failures. We are not the perfect parents. We are simply trying our best to provide a home and family for a child who needs one, and help a child in need.”

2 | Yes, dealing with loss is hard (but not impossible)

Many foster parents mentioned they frequently field questions about what happens when a child is taken away from them. Mary and Ken, foster parents in Rhode Island whose foster child was ultimately reunited with his family, talked about how frequently people express apprehension over the idea of getting “too close” to the child only to have the child reunite with their biological family.
Mary says she finds that perspective “peculiar,” considering people rarely, if ever, take this stance on other relationships. “We don’t avoid having good friends or a romantic relationship because those engagements might someday come to an end. In fact, many of them do end, and we accept that as part of our life experience.”
As an expert in the field, Dr. DeGarmo encounters this question several times a week: “Doesn’t it hurt it too much to give them back?” Of course it hurts, he says; heartache is to be expected. “When the child leaves our home and our family, our hearts should break. We should experience feelings of grief and loss. After all, we have given all of our hearts and love to a child in need.”
Heather Grimes, whose first foster child ended up being returned to her biological family, says it was extremely challenging – though certainly not impossible – to be separated from that child, who lived with the Grimes’ for nearly a year.
Two years later, Grimes says, “Her photo is still on our fridge, from her first birthday, in that adorable denim jumper, sitting on the fake grass outside of Sweet Cow ice cream. Her eyes are the most gorgeous shade of blue.” While the Grimes’ may have moved on with their lives, that little girl is still in their hearts.

3 | Foster kids are not bad kids

Many parents said they often receive comments about how hard it must be to deal with difficult, out-of-control kids. In reality, says Emily, a foster parent in Missouri, most are not bad kids.
Currently the foster mom of a two-year-old and having fostered three children previously, she explains, “They just grew up in chaotic, unhealthy environments without proper adult supervision. They are capable of learning the right way to behave, express their emotions, etc. if you take the time to show and teach them.”
Tammy Hoskins says being trauma-informed is crucial in supporting foster children. Hoskins works for a Virginia non-profit serving the needs of high-risk youth. She is the mother of 10 children, four of whom are biological children and six of whom she adopted through the foster system.
Because their brains are still developing, children are especially vulnerable to the deleterious effects of trauma, including difficulty with learning, social-emotional development, brain structure, cognition, physical health, and attachment.
Says Hoskins, “To understand, to empathize, and to work with them in collaborative ways to solve problems is crucial to their healing.”
The work of Daniel Siegel, Karen Purvis, and webinars available through the Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) are among the many resources she recommends foster parents take advantage of.

4 | The foster system isn’t just a cold bureaucracy

While the foster system can be impersonal and frustrating, known for its many rules and regulations, it has its upsides, too.
Heather Grimes was surprised to find how much she appreciated being part of the foster system. “I appreciated interacting with the parents of [our first foster child] with the social workers, medical professionals, everyone. I felt like I was supporting a bigger cause. I felt such a sense of pride that my family chose to go to such great lengths for others.”
Dr. DeGarmo points out that foster parents are helping not just the children, but the whole family. “Part of being a foster parent is helping the parents of the children living with us…helping our fellow human beings.”
He also notes that many biological parents of foster children were in the foster system themselves and, for lack of resources, are stuck in this cycle. As most foster parents were quick to point out, the biological parents aren’t necessarily bad people. They, too, love their kids, and they have flaws – like all parents.
From talking to foster parents, I learned that being a foster parent doesn’t require a superhero cape, sainthood, or limitless patience. It does take commitment, compassion, and a desire to help others.

No, Teens Are Not Eating Laundry Pods

All of this media attention is already infuriating for the way it maligns all teenagers as reckless and stupid.

Have you had a very important conversation with your teens about the proper use of household cleaners?

That’s the message of load after load of news reports about the latest internet craze, the “Tide Pod Challenge.” The resulting waves of panic stem from a January 16 report from the American Association of Poison Control Centers about the increase in teenagers exposed to Tide Pods. According to that report, there have been 39 reported cases of intentional single-use laundry packet exposure among teenagers in 2018.

That number does represent a rise over previous years. In fact, there have been as many cases reported in January 2018 than there were in all of 2016. That increase has led concerned parents, YouTube personalities, and one NFL player to discourage teens from eating the pods.

All of this media attention is already infuriating for the way it maligns all teenagers as reckless and stupid. Even if the coverage wasn’t washing over teens’ motivations for taking the challenge, and even if it wasn’t stoking so much unnecessary fear about household objects, it would still be inaccurate because it’s just not clear that teens are actually eating the pods.

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a story with the headline “Yes, People Really Are Eating Tide Pods. No, It’s Not Safe,” making it one more news outlet in a chorus raising the alarm. NBC News attempted to explain “Why some teens are intentionally ingesting Tide pods.” Mashable, while reasonably suggesting that we all calm down about laundry packet exposure, slipped into the same linguistic trap in the second half of its headline: “Very, very very few teens are trying to eat Tide Pods.

All of this news coverage makes two issues clear: no one agrees about the capitalization of “Tide Pod,” and everyone is similarly confused about the definition of eating.

Nearly all of the articles and television segments covering Tide Pods quote the AAPCC’s assertion about how dangerous single-use laundry packets are: “The resulting health implications from misuse can be serious. Known potential effects include seizure, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, coma, and even death.”

All of these consequences of swallowing single-use laundry packets have been observed among pediatric and elderly populations. As of yet, we have no knowledge of which symptoms were reported by the teenagers included in the AAPCC report. So, is it just a matter of time before one enterprising YouTuber takes the challenge too far?

That’s possible, of course, but highly unlikely. Knowyourmeme, which offers the most exhaustive timeline of the Tide Pod Challenge, demonstrates that for years it was merely a satirical suggestion, perhaps brought on by the very medical studies that found a rise in laundry detergent injuries among children. The challenge appears to have been issued in July 2017 by a Redditor who offered others to bite into the pods.

Biting appears to be what most of the people in the videos were doing.

Most of the YouTube laundry pod challenges have been taken down, so we cannot be completely assured that no teens were attempting to eat the pods on camera. There are still compilation videos to be found for the curious. In those compilations, people are definitely biting.

That behavior is consistent with the average YouTube “challenge” video, where eating is not always the goal. What sells are people biting into something and then sputtering and gasping as they spit it out. Other videos in the challenge oeuvre demonstrate that participants rarely swallow the item: the clicks and shares appear to stem from the spewing clouds of cinnamon, hot pepper, or, now, laundry detergent.

Why does it matter that teens are only biting the pods? When we claim teens are eating the pods, we make the situation sound more dangerous than it is. Children who bite into a pod aren’t likely to understand that liquid will gush out of it. Surprised, they sometimes swallow the detergent, which can lead to escalating and extremely dangerous injuries. Teens who bite into a pod know exactly what’s going to happen, which is why they are filming themselves doing it.

How to Live a Life of Lagom (and Prosper) Like the Swedes

Still obsessed with the Scandinavians, people are now moving onto the Swedish lifestyle word: lagom.

Hygge, the Danish concept of coziness and contentment, recently took the world by storm, causing many of us to invest in warm socks, candles, and loads of hot chocolate. Still obsessed with the Scandinavians, people are now moving onto the Swedish lifestyle word: lagom. Loosely translated, it means “not too much and not too little,” the just-right amount of everything.

Books and articles are already flooding the market, telling us how we can live a life of lagom. Sweden ranks in the top ten when it comes to happiest countries, and many wonder if it’s their balanced approach to life that gives them the edge. Others worry that lagom will fizzle out in countries where moderation and thinking of the whole over the individual have never been the norm.

Like hygge, lagom encapsulates gratitude because it’s about contentedness in any season. Unlike hygge, lagom is not as sexy or indulgent. It’s easy to want to drink that extra cup of coffee or to take a break in the middle of the day and enjoy a book, hygge-style. It’s less appealing to consider giving up excesses in the name of lagom.

This may be the reason lagom is not being met with the unbridled enthusiasm of hygge. For every article extolling its benefits, there’s another one from a jaded author begging the world not to follow in Sweden’s middle-of-the-road footsteps.

What, if anything, can lagom offer us when it comes to balanced living? Is it a good concept for our kids to embrace?

Minimalism, but not exactly

Lagom has been described as minimalism, but in the just-the-right amount way. Whether it’s putting together capsule wardrobes, contemplating working overtime, or deciding how much dessert to eat, lagom guides Swedes in decision-making so they err on the side of moderation.

It’s not a bad idea to teach kids moderation as a guiding principle. Many developed countries raise children who live with constant excess in their lives, and parents worry about children growing up thinking only of themselves and no one else. Lagom’s focus on the group, and on only taking your portion and no one else’s, is both wise and considerate. The current interest in minimalism and simplicity in the States is evidence that this might be the perfect time for lagom.

The environmental impact of lagom is also positive. Buying less, wasting less, and using what you have are excellent ways to live sustainably and live lagom. Growing a garden, buying locally, and only purchasing the right number of needed items teaches kids that living with less can be more.

An attitude of moderation even carries over to relationships and how Swedes interact with each other, and this is where questions about the benefits of the concept arise.

Lola Akinmade-Åkerström, author of “Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well,” says that adjusting to lagom was difficult at first. Having lived previously in both Nigeria and the United States, she wasn’t prepared for the way that the concept of lagom could make ex-pats feel like Swedes were simply distant and cold. The gregariousness and boasting of her former cultures was gone, and that left a lot of quiet. It took time for her to understand that this was simply a side effect of the lagomapproach to relationships.

Others aren’t as kind when talking about lagom in social interactions. When Richard Orange wrote a piece about lagom, he called it his “adopted country’s suffocating doctrine of Lutheran self-denial.” He bitterly claimed that lagom means “being moderate in personality, views, and politics,” leaving those who are outside of the norm or who live more passionate lives feeling ostracized from those who practice lagom.

Benefits of relational lagom

There are some landmines to sidestep when trying to incorporate lagom into relationships and social interactions. However, it can still be beneficial. Lagom squashes comparisons and boasting behavior. It’s the opposite of keeping up with the Jones’. It instead shifts the focus to making sure we’re not taking a slice of what the Jones’ should have, be it time to speak or items to own.

Akinmade-Åkerström says with time, she even felt comfortable with the silence that emerged when everyone wasn’t bragging about their accomplishments. “It feels liberating not to have to wear your accomplishments on your sleeve.”

It’s a cool kind of confidence we want for ourselves and our kids, the be-proud-of-yourself-and-don’t-constantly-seek-outside-approval type. There’s no striving to be loved for what we can do or what we own. Living lagom means we don’t teach our kids that having more, doing more, or bragging often is what makes them loved.

Living the right amount of lagom

The key to successful lagom may be applying it in, well, a lagom-like manner. Anna Brones, author of “Live Lagom: Balanced Living, The Swedish Way,” says her Swedish mother moved to the United States in part to escape lagom. Her mother found lagom to be “less about balance and more about the social equalizer; the thing that restrained you, kept you from being able to fully express who you were and what you wanted.” Her mother was an artist, so she found this definition of lagom particularly confining.

Still, Brones says that lagom crept into her family’s life in the way they ate, the way they interacted with the environment, and what they purchased. Her mother lived lagom in many ways without realizing it, and it became a normal way of life for Brones, one she appreciated.

Akinmade-Åkerström says the secret to lagom is to define it as optimal, to be used when the time is right in the way that works. “My personal lagom isn’t your personal lagom,” she notes.

We have to make our own decisions about when lagom is right for the situation and when it’s not, as well as what just-right is to us. This helps keep the lagom concept a guide, not a straitjacket confining our every move.

If balance and moderation are goals, lagom has a lot to offer. It can be applied to how often we engage in technology, consume sugar, or stay late at work. In its best form, lagom is the magic of good enough, knocking out the compulsion to work harder, do more, and never be satisfied in any area of life. Lagom, with its message of good enough, just might be the word we need.

Research Confirms Gendered Toys Help Create Inequality

The findings support previous research that has highlighted the strong influence of gender labels such as “for boys” or “for girls.”

Campaigners who call for toys to be marketed in non-gender specific ways have been backed up by a new study that shows how easy it is to manipulate young children’s ideas about gender and color. The study, carried out by researchers Sui Ping Yeung and Wang Ivy Wong from the University of Hong Kong, shows that young children are easily manipulated into beliefs about gender differences, which can be created by simply applying gender labels.

129 Chinese children between five and seven years old took part in the study. First, the children’s preferences for pink and blue were assessed. Then the children were split into two groups and given cards and toys of yellow and green. One group received no reference to gender regarding these colors. These children expressed no preference for a specific color. The other group was told that green was a boy’s color and yellow a girl’s. These kids went on to express preferences for the “right” color according to their own particular genders.

Pre-existing preferences for yellow and green were statistically controlled, so the resulting differences between the groups strongly infer that the boy/girl labels caused this effect. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is that when girls and boys express a preference for the colors pink or blue, it’s likely that this is because they have learned that these are the “appropriate” colors for their gender.

Wong said, “By applying gender labels, not only concrete materials such as toys could become gender-typed, but also abstract qualities such as colors, with children increasing or decreasing their likings for particular colors based on the gender labels available in their social environment.”

The findings support previous research that has highlighted the strong influence of gender labels such as “for boys” or “for girls.” The observations also support gender schema theory, which posits that from the earliest stages of social development children adjust their behavior to align with the gender norms of their culture. These norms then act as a guide for later behaviors and life choices.

Wong also explained that “blue for boys” and “pink for girls” is not just a Western construct, but something that has become prevalent in Asian societies as well. “Many gender differences and stereotypes in developed Asian regions resemble those in the West, which is not surprising given the high degree of Westernization and the prevalence of gender color-coding typical of Western cultures in Hong Kong.”

In addition to looking at kids’ color preferences, children were tested on how well they completed puzzles. No difference was found in performance when the children were given yellow and green puzzles unless the children had been exposed to gender labels, in which case the boys outperformed the girls.

Jess Day from Let Toys Be Toys, the prominent UK campaign to end gendered toy marketing, commented on the findings. “This interesting research backs up our analysis, that labelling toys and books by gender isn’t just unfair or unkind, it actually helps to create inequality. When we tell children that ‘x is for girls/boys’, they don’t just learn that a whole bunch of fun stuff is ‘not for them’, they’re also being fed the idea that their gender defines everything about them, backing up all the other stereotypes about girls and boys, men and women, that children see and hear every day.”

It’s clear that, as the next generation of kids gets older, it will be important to let them choose whatever colors they want.

Seven Ways to Support Your Aspiring YouTuber

If your children want to create their own Internet videos for fun or for profit, here are seven ways you can guide and support their endeavor

In December 2017, the Washington Post ran an article on Ryan, a six-year-old boy who made $11 million in a year reviewing toys on his YouTube channel. The article went viral and sparked many conversations about YouTube as a way to get rich quick.
While most people on YouTube or other video hosting sites won’t earn that kind of money, making videos still has benefits. Young videographers and vloggers learn to tell stories, use editing software, and market their brand. They improve their communication skills and flex their creativity.
If your children want to create their own Internet videos for fun or for profit, here are seven ways you can guide and support their endeavor:

Talk about consent

Before you let your children upload their videos to the Internet, talk to them about the ways they need consent. Have an honest conversation about what they hope to film and what responsibilities they have with the footage.
When do they need to blur faces or leave out something they filmed? When do they need permission to film in a location or permission from a person? Talk about what they should consider when someone asks them to take down a video or delete their footage.
For older children, consider discussing “prank” videos, sensitive subjects, and the ways that they could be taking advantage of people or situations for their own gain. If you aren’t sure of an answer, have them research it.

Discuss Internet privacy

If your child is filming their own life beyond a single room, have a serious conversation about their privacy. These days, full names are often part of someone’s personal brand, but they can have a username instead.
Decide what information they should keep to themselves and what they should look for in their backgrounds. What should they do if a skateboarding video shows your street sign or house number? Is it okay for a “follow me around” video to show the name of their school? Should they call family members by their names, initials, or nicknames?
Safety and privacy are paramount when upsetting people online often leads to threats of violence.

Let them do what they want, within reason

You may be surprised to know which types of videos are the most popular online. Some people enjoy watching other people open packages. Other people can spend hours watching people play board games and video games. Some people like watching people watch other videos.
Let your child decide what kind of videos they want to make, even if you don’t like or understand their choices. Consider setting a few hard boundaries, or for younger kids, consider being the only one allowed to upload the final videos.
Learn to recognize the difference between a video that isn’t to your taste and a video that shouldn’t be public.

Make sure they’re doing it for the right reasons

Some YouTube stars become household names. With the top earnings becoming public every year, it’s easy for children to think it’s an easy way to make a lot of money and become famous. Of course, many video makers never gain a huge following and don’t make millions of dollars a year.
The ones that do work hard, putting out videos often or putting time and effort into fewer, high quality videos. A lot of them have teams working for them, too. Once they see the work involved, your child may quit, and that’s okay.
If they stick with it, though, make sure they know why they want to make videos. Maybe it’s fun or interesting or they love the small following they have. Whatever their reasons for making videos, figure it out and remind them of their reasons whenever they need it.

Be honest about career possibilities

Some people can still make a living from online videos. Others use their platform as a stepping stone to filmmaking, working in animation, creating their own product lines, or becoming spokespeople. Golden Globe-nominated actress Issa Rae starred in YouTube videos before producing and starring in her own show on HBO.
Still others make their videos as a hobby or a side income while having a full-time job. In 2015, many YouTube stars spoke about how they weren’t making enough to live off their videos, but they were too famous to have a job with the public. Make sure your child knows that it’s possible but unlikely to make a career from the videos alone.

Recognize the skills it takes to make these videos

Take the time to consider what skills your child has learned from making videos. If they make films, they’re learning about scripts, lighting, costumes, sets, and working with others. Do they make animations, add graphics, or generate effects? How much is involved in the editing process? Have either of you considered how much marketing knowledge your child has acquired?
Acknowledge how much they learn so they can see how far they’ve come. Recognizing their skills might also keep morale up if their videos don’t get as many views as they’d hoped.

Don’t let their education slip

While your child can learn a lot from creating their own videos, they need to keep up with their schooling, too. Don’t discuss their education as something they will need in case they never make it with their videos.
Instead, frame it as a way to get inspiration for their videos. Maybe their history class will spark a new movie idea. Maybe physics will give them an idea for a stunt. English, literature, and creative writing classes have obvious ties to the video industry, but the other subjects might just inspire a whole new series, as long as your child is still paying attention.

#Meworried – the Challenges of Raising a Son in the #Metoo Era

Practically, parents of boys are in a precarious position, one where the rules of inter-gender engagement seem to be in constant flux.

It’s a remarkable time in the march toward gender equality.
We find ourselves in the midst of a long-overdue reckoning, a purge of sexually abusive men from all walks of fame. From Hollywood and Washington, D.C. to senior executives in media, tech, and other private sectors, each day seems to see another high-profile male figure abruptly fall from grace via credible accusations of sexual harassment, intimidation, or worse.
With the resulting #MeToo movement, women everywhere are collectively shouting one word: “Finally.” This sudden outpouring is the result of a dam, at the brink of bursting for far too long, giving way all at once for lack of repair. Thankfully, the ensuing flood is washing a lot of creeps away with it.
It is an oxymoronic upheaval: The stories of abuse are ugly, their tellers’ courage and impact beautiful. Sometimes progress comes in spurts, and this current avalanche has spurred a giant leap forward for equality, reshifting workplace power dynamics – and our national narrative – drastically, dramatically, and deservedly.
It’s truly terrific and, as a husband with a working wife, I have a personal stake in this progress.
However, I’m also the father to a son. That’s where all this gets significantly more complicated.

From overdue to overdo

Our society still struggles mightily with historically dominant groups subjugating historically oppressed groups. We have a long way to go before claiming the spirit of equality prevails throughout our society. But in this case, we’re learning to give the benefit of the doubt to women in their efforts to overcome the constraints and indignities of bigotry.
It’s human nature to overcompensate when righting egregious, longstanding wrongs. This is perfectly understandable and altogether appropriate. Progress is imperfect and, for lack of perfection, turnabout is fair play.
Until it isn’t.
As thrilled as I am to see a bunch of sexual deviants get the comeuppance they so obviously deserve, as a father, I can’t help but worry about collateral damage from this still-cresting tidal wave. To explain:
In America, those accused of wrongdoing are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, a safeguard against lives and careers being ruined by hearsay. Of course, when several victims accuse a lone perpetrator, it’s reasonable to believe these allegations are credible. Instances of single accusations, however, are decidedly more complicated.
And that’s what concerns me. In terms of believability, my son is the wrong gender in our societal narrative of he said/she said. Will he be expelled from college, or fired from a job, simply because one woman, with no proof, accuses him of something inappropriate?
Ideally, our laws and norms are safeguards against overcompensating for generations of unpunished wrongs by indulging in evidence-free condemnations. Due process prevents us from overdoing it.
But practically, parents of boys are in a precarious position, one where the rules of inter-gender engagement seem to be in constant flux. As society understandably amplifies the voices of accusers, we find ourselves raising the potentially accused.
We’re in uncharted territory here. Preparing our boys for this will require a level of guidance and communication that our predecessors in parenthood could never have envisioned – and that we ourselves have yet to fully grasp for its fluidity.

An accusation away

There is, of course, no shortage of useful parenting advice on associating with women. Much of it is very straightforward: Never objectify women. Never verbally abuse woman. Never, ever raise your hands to a woman.
Other advice is less obvious but easily instilled by parents: In high school, don’t dismiss a girl’s ability to do anything (for example, sports) because of her gender. In college, a drunk “yes” isn’t a real yes. In the workplace, don’t interrupt or talk down your female colleagues. They get enough of that from less enlightened men.
But with #MeToo, we’re entering an era where no sage parental advice, even if followed to the letter, can prevent potentially disastrous consequences with any real certainty. I worry that, no matter how pure his intentions or appropriate his actions, my son is just an accusation away from ruin.
We’re already seeing scenarios where children simply exploring their burgeoning sexuality – birds and the bees stuff that all kids go through – are being treated like juvenile delinquent perverts. A few years ago, a six-year-old was suspended for sexual harassment for kissing a classmate. For me, it was enough to worry, usually correctly, that a girl I liked would reject me. My son has to worry about being suspended to boot.
What other mistakes, I wonder, will my son not be allowed to make without being labeled a sexual predator? Will a drunken college hookup – during which both parties are smashed – be construed as sexual assault? Will he be fired from a job for an innocuous compliment taken out of context?
Will his education, reputation, or even his livelihood be jeopardized merely on the say-so of one other person, with no evidence?
For now, the answer is simply “I don’t know.” We’re in the middle of an overdue seismic shift in this country. Once the dust settles, we can hopefully chart less tenuous paths for our boys. For my son’s sake, I sure hope so.
 

Why I'm Tired of the Unsolicited "Just Wait Until" Parenting Tips

What ever happened to the old adage that if you don’t have anything good to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all?

I’m pregnant. Let the “just wait until” statements begin.

Let me preface this with a few things: I understand that for the most part, people mean well. So usually these “let me warn you” statements are intended to either commiserate slightly over the difficulties that all parents go through, or to give you a friendly bit of advice over what you can come to expect.

Also, while I am an experienced aunt, I’ve only been a mother to a wonderful baby boy for 10 months (my second is scheduled to join us in just three more months) so I understand that I’m no veteran and that perhaps all the things to come in motherhood will sour me a little more. Perhaps, a few years from now, I’ll be more prone to making such statements myself (but if you knew me, you’d agree: that’s not a likely scenario).

Now let me say this, none of those things are enough to convince me that the overwhelming presence of negative rather than positive feedback should be the norm. What ever happened to the old adage that if you don’t have anything good to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all? Why is it that almost everyone’s go-to reaction is one with a negative tone?

Examples of the statements that I’m talking about:

You’re pregnant? Oh, just wait until the mood swings really kick in and you can’t keep it together. Just wait until you’re so big that you have to waddle. Just wait until the very end of your pregnancy when you’re uncomfortable all the time.

You can’t sleep because you’re so pregnant? Oh, just wait until the baby comes and then you’ll see what real lack of sleep is. (This one makes another appearance in round two because, apparently, you don’t know what sleep deprivation is until you have two kids).

You just had a baby? Oh, just wait until he is over the newborn phase and doesn’t sleep all the time. Just wait until she’s teething. Just wait until he’s crawling. Just wait until she’s walking. Just wait until he’s talking. Just wait until the terrible twos. Just wait until it’s impossible to feed her because she refuses everything you give her. Just wait until he’s in school and bringing home all kinds of germs and you’re all miserable from being sick. Just wait until she’s seven or eight and has an attitude already. Just wait until the dreaded teenage years.

Now, let’s agree that parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard. You may be a postpartum mom whose hormones have turned you into some crazy version of the person you used to be and you barely recognize yourself while you’re supposed to be overjoyed at the presence of your new little angel. Meanwhile, you’re just impressed with yourself if you got through an entire day without crying.

You worry about this tiny little person from their first cold to the first bump on their head, skinned knee, bite from another child at the park, broken bone, broken heart, the list goes on and on. If I spent all my time dreading the “wait untils” or worrying about the next difficult thing around the corner, when would I have time to enjoy all the wonderful, amazing, incredible things that a child brings to a parent’s life?

That being said, I am under no illusions. I fully understand that no matter how much I love them, my children will test me endlessly and will, on numerous occasions, push me to the brink of my sanity. However, isn’t that part of the process? Often the most worthwhile and rewarding things in life are the most difficult. Life isn’t always easy, so it should come as no surprise that parenting isn’t either.

To those few people who’ve talked pregnancy or parenting with me, and said things such as, “How wonderful for you,” “That’s great,” “Enjoy every moment of it, it’s a really special time,” “My favourite age is x, they’re so fun at that time,” and simply left it at that – thank you. Thank you for the positivity. Thank you for leaving it at that.

These sentiments seem so few and far between that, while people generally give off statements of “I’m happy for you,” it’s typically followed with that incessant “But just wait until” that makes me cringe on the inside. Can’t we just be happy for people and leave it that? No? Maybe? Let’s just try it and see what happens.

You’re pregnant? That’s awesome! What an exciting time, I’m happy for you.

You’re nearing the end of your pregnancy? Great! Best of luck with labor and delivery. I truly hope all goes smoothly for you and I’m excited that your new little bundle will be in your arms shortly.

You just had a baby? Wow! How wonderful! I hope that the whole family is doing well. I am so happy for you during this special time with a new little person to help fill your home with love.

Your little one is now walking? Aww, I love when they reach special new milestones. It’s great to see the little ones walking (or running) around discovering things at their own pace.

You’re pregnant with your second baby? Woohoo! A sibling for your son (or daughter) and another beautiful little person to add to a home just bursting with love! (Third, fourth, or fifth pregnancy? The sentiment carries on, as well as: Good on you, not everyone is brave enough for a big family!)

Personally, I’ve found that those who leave you with a purely positive comment are few and far between, so much so that I’ve truly come to cherish those interactions. I also believe that most don’t even realize the negative tone that they give off in their comments.

We can endeavor to change that. Let’s be more mindful of the things that we say to parents who can (and should) be reveling in the joys that child-rearing brings. For the undeniably tough moments that come with it, hang in there. I can guarantee that you’re not the only one to feel that struggle. Worry not, you can get through it.

What so often works for me when I need to reset is to look into the beautiful, innocent eyes of that tiny little person and let the love just wash over me for a moment. He has so much life yet to come and his possibilities are endless. It’s a wonderful thing to be in the presence of. Life often pushes us to forget that – just don’t let it.