We Shopped Through These 9 Mom-Targeted Facebook Ads So You Didn’t Have To

We clicked and shopped through nine Facebook ads and are fully prepared to separate the wheat from the chaff.

As parents, we are always looking for that perfect product that’s going to make our lives easier. But, ironically – because we’re parents – we have zero time to search for said perfect product.
What we apparently do seem to have time to spend hours on a day? Facebook. Smart companies know this and are happy to target the hell out of us while we’re reposting memes and liking baby pictures. From tampons and bras to kid’s clothes and superior socks, these Facebook ads claim they offer a one-click solution to life’s little problems. But which products are winners and which are snake-oil? We clicked and shopped through nine Facebook ads and are fully prepared to separate the wheat from the chaff. Get ready to spend some money! (Or in a few cases, not…)

Company: LOLA

The Pitch: “100% organic cotton tampons delivered directly to your door.”
Who Shopped: Apryl, writer & mom
What She Bought: Tampon and pad subscription, $27 every two months
Why She Clicked & What She Thought: “I had just recently broken up with my Diva cup and was back to using tampons. The ad made me really need to have them. I didn’t realize all the chemicals I was putting up there. Who knew? I mostly love that you can design your own box with whatever absorbency you will need. It delivers every two months. I never have to run out to the CVS at 9 p.m. in my pajamas for tampons again. It’s nice that they are chemical free, too.”
Recommended? Yes! “To anyone who menstruates. But parents especially, since some days are so hard and busy that we can’t even make sure we have tampons, let alone a moment to ourselves in the bathroom to insert it.”

Company: Glossier

The Pitch: “We’re creating the new essentials: easy-to-use skincare and makeup that form the backbone to your unique beauty routine.”
Who Shopped: Elizabeth, Freelance writer (and self-described “sucker” for Facebook ads.)
What She Bought: “Boy Brow” brow gel, $16
Why She Clicked & How it Went: “I was not looking for brow gel, but I was drawn in by the ads. They were video ads of different women applying the product. It seemed so easy. A few swipes of a mascara wand and your eyebrows stay put all day. I really liked the product. It’s as easy as it seemed and has staying power. I’ve purchased it a second time in fact.”
Recommended? Yes! “I’ve definitely recommended the product to my friends. It was not a disappointment.”

Company: ThirdLove

The Pitch: “The best bra is one you never think about. Available in cup sizes AA through G (DDDD), including our signature half cup sizes.”
Who Shopped: Me! Phaea, writer & mom
What I bought: Tee-Shirt Bra, $68
Why I Clicked & How it Went: After five years of nursing two separate children, I had no idea what size bra I wore. I’d wanted to duck into a store and get measured, but there never seems to be anytime. ThirdLove features an online quiz to help you figure out your size as well as a 30-day free trial period to test out their product. This was a total win-win for me. I took the quiz (32 C ½!) and ordered the recommended Tee-Shirt Bra in Naked-2. When the bra arrived a few days later, I was skeptical because it looked awfully small. But low and behold, it fit me perfectly!
Recommended? Yes! I’m not sure what kind of witchcraft ThirdLove employs to figure out my size without measurements, but I’m a big fan and will absolutely be going back for more.

Company: THINX

The Pitch: “Period Panties for Modern Women.”
Who Shopped: Mary, writer
What She Bought: One pair of Hiphugger panties, $34 & one pair of Boyshort panties, $39
Why She Clicked & How it Went: I had read about THINX in a blog article … but seeing the ad acted as a reminder. I will say though that the ads themselves were a big turnoff. It felt like they were trying really hard to be edgy – lots of raw egg yolks dripping all over. Because of these ads, I actually first went to a competitor period underwear company … but was disappointed. So, I eventually went back to the THINX site, held my tongue, and opened my wallet. I like [the underwear] a lot. I know that I’m a really heavy bleeder in general, so was always planning to use these as a backup in conjunction with tampons or pads. For that, it’s been amazing. No more stained clothes or sheets, and no more mid-day underwear changes. If I’d tried to use them INSTEAD of pads or tampons, I would have been disappointed.”
Recommended? Yes! “I encourage folks to try THINX in spite of the ad campaigns. Since the product works so darn well, THINX can try a bit less with their marketing. Right now it’s a lot of slick hipster lifestyle stuff that just misdirects from the fact this sh*t actually works!”

Company: PatPat

The Pitch: “Good Quality Deals for Babies, Toddlers, Kids & Moms.”
Who Shopped: Emily, writer & stay-at-home mom
What She Bought: Matching family Christmas PJs: $16.99 set of four.
Why She Clicked & How it Went: “I clicked on an ad for family Christmas PJs. We have been wanting to get all matching ones for a Christmas card. I thought ordering them on sale in August would be great so they would be ready to do for the holidays. After a couple weeks, I received an email saying it would take longer than expected and they gave me $5 off my next order. I emailed daily asking for an update. After 2 months, I said I wanted a refund (my card was charged immediately) and the order canceled. I had to send several emails asking this. I finally got an email saying they had canceled it because they didn’t have the items in stock.
Recommended? No! “I can advise against ordering from this company. I was so disappointed not to get what we ordered, and to have to deal with the company.”

Company: Bombas

The Pitch: “Bombas are game-changing socks that have to be felt to be believed.”
Who Shopped: Elizabeth, freelance writer
What She Bought: Woman’s Solids Calf Four-Pack, $45.60
Why She Clicked & How it Went: “I was sick and tired of my darn socks falling down all the time. Especially when wearing short boots. I searched and searched for socks that stayed up but nothing worked. Then I saw the ad for Bombas on Facebook, which claimed to be the world’s best socks or something. They were expensive. I think $45 for a four-pack. But I thought what the heck, let’s see if they live up to their claims. And they totally do!”
Recommended? Yes! “They don’t fall down at all.”

Company: Primary

The Pitch: “Kids Clothes Start Here. Brilliant Basics Under $25”
Who Shopped: Stacey, stay-at-home mom
What She Bought: Baby PJ set, $20 & Kid PJ set, $24
Why She Clicked & What She Thought: “I saw the Facebook ad for Primary quite a few times before I ever bought from them. Fast forward to Halloween. The four of us wanted to be characters from Winnie the Pooh, but there was not a single character costume still in stock on the entire internet. So, we decided to DIY. I remembered the Primary pajamas. We got Simon a set of orange pajamas that Patrick then sewed stripes and a belly panel onto. We bought a set of Tigger ears and a tail from amazon, and voila, Simon was Tigger. For Baxter, we bought him a set of the baby pink pajamas and a raspberry-colored tunic. We drew stripes on the tunic with a sharpie and bought a set of Piglet ears from Amazon. Voila, Piglet.”
Recommended? Yes! “I sing the praises of Primary as a Halloween base layer every year. Additionally, the PJs were really well made.”

Company: DressLily

Who Shopped: Elizabeth, freelance writer
The Pitch: “…the latest casual style wear for women and men, comfortable and suitable for everyday wear.”
What She Bought: Halloween Lace Panel Plus Size Dress, $18
Why She Clicked & How it Went: “I loved the look of the dress because I loved the haunted houses and it was only $18 so I figured I’d try it. [I] got the dress yesterday and I love it! I mean, it’s not the best quality but again, it was only $18, and I’m only going to be wearing it once a year. Oh, and the shipping times were long – I think it took a month?”
Recommended? Yes, with exceptions. “I would recommend it though for fun, cheap, special event clothes.

Company: Keen & Social

The Pitch: “…modern and unique products for Men and Women looking for something exciting.”
Who Shopped: Meredith, Project Manager & Mom
What She Bought: Londoner Long Tail Hoodie, $40
Why She Clicked & How it Went: “When I saw the ad, I thought it would be a cool look. I have black “skinny” jeans and some boots and the sweater would cover my personal trouble zones yet looked really cute and what I thought to be fashion forward. Plus, it was 70 percent off.  It took about six to eight weeks to arrive. It looks nothing like the picture. My son called me “Lord of the Rings” when I tried it on. I bought it to try to look kind of hip and cool and instead I looked like I belong on the Shire.”
Recommended? “Nope! [And] I will never order clothes from an ad from Facebook again unless it is a company I know and trust – like Lands’ End, etc.”
While shopping online is always a gamble — and clicking on Facebook ads doubly so — there are certainly a few companies out there that are worth your attention and well-earned cash. Are there any products or online stores you’re crazy about (or crazy-disappointed with?) Share all about it in the comments!

What You Need to Know About Protecting Your Kid From Identity Theft

With their squeaky-clean credit histories, our children’s data are the crown jewels to identity thieves.

It’s a standing joke that in the first week of school, parents have more homework than kids. One form our schools have always sent home is the permission slip for releasing directory information. Like me, perhaps you thought checking “no” and signing it was enough to keep your kids’ information safe. The sad truth is that most schools are under-equipped to keep our children’s data secure. After all, if big financial companies employing the latest in cybersecurity can’t keep our information safe, why should underfunded schools with out-of-date technology?
That should concern parents, because children are especially vulnerable to identity theft. With their squeaky-clean credit histories, our children’s data are the crown jewels to identity thieves. And the consequences aren’t pretty: identity thieves can use the data in multiple ways, like opening credit cards, obtaining government benefits and health care, using Social Security numbers to obtain identification for employment, applying for loans, and more. Once done, they can then sell it to other criminals.
Often, stolen identities are not discovered until it’s time for your teen to apply for an education loan or their first credit card. It can take years to repair damaged credit, and that can hamper your child’s ability to rent an apartment, apply for a loan, or even get a job. “Your credit touches virtually everything,” says John Sileo, a cybersecurity expert with The Sileo Group who has personally battled identity theft.
The New York Times, NBC News, and other outlets have reported that children as young as one-week-old have had their identities stolen. One young person who posted in an online forum for renting apartments in New York City expressed frustration with being unable to rent a place because his identity had been stolen as a teen.

A troubling trend

According to a Carnegie Mellon report, there were 11.7 million reported cases of identity theft in 2008. Researchers in the study looked at over 42,000 identity scans of children 18 and under and found that 10.2 percent had had Social Security numbers stolen – a rate that’s 51 times higher than the rate of adults who experienced the same theft.
Experts say it’s just going to get worse.
One mother I spoke to found out that all three of her children’s identities had been stolen when a pharmacy called to verify a prescription. It took her more than a year to resolve, and she ended up putting credit freezes on all her children’s files. This happened over 10 years ago. “Had it happened now, I think the repercussions would have been much, much worse for my kids,” says the mother, who wished to remain anonymous.
With more data than ever being digitized and more thieves and hackers trolling for vulnerabilities “it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen,” said Rachael Stickland, co-founder of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, an organization that advocates for stricter regulations to safeguard children’s data.
Just this month, the U.S. Department of Education issued a warning that many school districts have been targeted for extortion and threatened with the release of student data. Higher education is also vulnerable. Stickland says that colleges and universities report upwards of 4,000 attacks of ransomware a day.
In addition to inadequate protections at institutions, experts say there simply are not enough regulations in place that keep companies from selling children’s information. While FERPA supposedly protects this information, in 2012 many parents became aware of loopholes when the company inBloom, funded by the Gates Foundation, was able to set up service contracts with schools that accessed student information without parental permission. While the company closed after many states passed laws preventing any outside vendor from aggregating student data, it exposed the inadequacies in the system. The CEO of inBloom defended their database, saying that it was up to the schools to upload the data and that parental concern was really a misunderstanding.

An ounce of prevention

What it comes down to is that parents are left with little recourse to protect their children, but there are some things we can do. Educating ourselves is the first step, says both Sileo and Stickland. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy provides a free downloadable toolkit that explains what data is collected, how it’s used, and how you can protect your children.
Parents also need to talk to their kids and make sure they know what to share and not share. “Educating kids often gets passed over,” says Sileo. Stickland recommends that parents frequently remind their kids about what they should and shouldn’t be sharing on social media.
Be sure to safeguard your child’s information by shredding documents that contain data. Ask schools and other groups that keep information where it’s stored and how it’s kept private. Only give out information that’s necessary to people you trust.
Some cases of identity theft are actually perpetrated by parents, guardians, and other adults who know the child. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests safeguarding your child’s information from anyone who may find it tempting to steal your child’s identity because they’ve been turned down for benefits or credit.
The FTC also recommends checking your children’s credit reports before they turn 16 so there’s time to address issues before starting the college search process and applying for jobs. You can request a free credit report annually for both yourself and your family members through annualcreditreport.com. Through this service, you can obtain free credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. (There is a charge if you want to check it more than annually.)
You may find that there is no report on file for your child. Sileo recommends not doing anything until there’s actually a report, then freezing it. However, freezing your child’s credit report can be time-consuming and comes with its own challenges. It often requires you sharing the information you’re trying to keep private, like copies of birth certificates and Social Security numbers.
Many parents and advocates would like an easier process for freezing a child’s credit report. A number of states have passed legislation requiring credit bureaus to work with parents to freeze their children’s credit files. On the federal level, Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin has introduced legislation to allow parents and guardians to create a protected, frozen credit file for their children.
“We’re in a surveillance culture. What happens with our data could have a lasting impact,” says Stickland. “I think it should be a consumer right that your credit should be protected by default.”

Warning signs that your child’s credit may be compromised

  • Rejection for government benefits
  • IRS notices about taxes in your child’s name
  • Collection calls or bills for products or services you didn’t buy
  • Claims for medical treatment that they didn’t receive
  • Multiple credit card offers

For more information

What Does Single Motherhood Mean for Kids?

Surprise! A growing body of research finds kids in single parent households aren’t sentenced to lives of poverty, crime, or addiction.

The most common message to parents of all family types is that divorce is horrible for children, and all social ills are rooted in the recent surge in single motherhood, most especially unwed mothers (eek! Unmarried women having sex and babies!). If you’re inclined to unconsciously buy into this thinking (and therefore hold yourself back unnecessarily), do not under any circumstances google “Ann Coulter + single mothers.” Also, remove from your mind President Reagan’s admonishment of the “welfare queen” (whom no one was ever able to find, and who in fact was a propaganda construct), or George W. Bush’s $1.5 billion failed Healthy Marriage Initiative, aimed at curbing all the supposed misfortune rooted in the upward trend of unmarried moms.

Instead, a growing body of research finds that children who grow up in single parent households are not sentenced to lives of poverty, crime, or addiction simply by way of their parents’ marital status. In fact, by many metrics, the majority of kids who grow up with single mothers fare just as well as their peers raised in traditional, nuclear, two-parent households. For example, in one study of 1,700 children by Cornell University researchers, found that single mothers’ education levels and abilities as parents had far more influence on their children’s academic abilities than their relationship statuses or even incomes – and this was true for all races.

In fact, lots of research comes to the same surprising conclusion: It matters little the family structure that a child grows up in, though it matters a lot the dynamics of that family. For example, children whose parents have a high-conflict marriage fare better after their parents break up, and the vast majority of children of divorce do just fine within a few years of the split. One nationally representative study of all kinds of family types found that it didn’t matter if the children were adopted or if the parents were married, single, or remarried. What does matter, found the study, published in the National Journal of Marriage and Family, was whether the home was ruled mostly by harmony or by acrimony, and whether the children experienced a warm, secure environment or a cold and neglectful one. Research also found that children raised by single mothers tended to have closer relationships with extended family like cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, and other adults in their lives. This, I will argue, is something most Americans could use more of.

In other words, family is indeed what you make it, and you can create that warm, secure, and loving home life that is the springboard for a healthy child, regardless of what your family looks like. Just as you have countless opportunities to build a career and earn, you also have the freedom to build a family that you are proud of, to raise wise, thoughtful, hardworking, loving, and kind children. You can and will build not only a home life in which you and your children thrive, but a larger web of loved ones and community members who rise up and support you – and whom you support in return.

That said, I won’t sugarcoat this: There is plenty of very legitimate research that finds that children raised by single mothers are more prone to not-great outcomes, including teen pregnancy, dropping out of school, and incarceration. However, studies also point out that correlation does not automatically equal causation. In the most stark contrasts between kids raised by single mothers and those raised in two-parent households, when controlled for poverty, maternal depression, and lack of support, outcomes are more or less the same.

Another factor in the outcome for kids: All children fare better when both parents are actively involved and co-parent amicably. Many studies found that poverty associated with single motherhood is the common thread in families that fare worse than two-parent households – not the solo parenting in and of itself. It’s not rocket science why. With just one income and no second parent to help with childcare, single parents have to work more to pay for the basics, and have higher child care costs and fewer dollars for music and sports lessons, SAT prep tests, healthy food, or real estate in safe neighborhoods. Plus, poverty, or any financial hardship, is tied to depression, anxiety, and generally being a stressed-out mom with less patience for her kids and more arguments with the adults in her life.

One of the most cited studies about single mothers is the harm caused to children by the instability of boyfriends moving in and out of their home and lives. Leading researcher on single mother families Sarah S. McLanahan, of Princeton University, found that children raised by single mothers (who tend to be younger and poorer than married moms) are more likely to struggle academically because these single moms have less stable relationships with their children’s fathers, and men overall, with new boyfriends and their children moving in and out of the family home.

This research is important, and I urge you to heed it. However, do not let it scare you into celibacy, or shame you into sneaking or lying about your romantic life, or keep you up late worrying that decisions that led to this point have sentenced your children to a crappy life. Far from it.

Instead, this research highlights a mother’s relationship instability, which is within your control. The research is not about financially independent, unmarried moms who date a bunch of people without committing to them. The risks associated with partner instability have little to do with men who do not live in your house, who are not automatically designated boyfriends, and do not move in with their children or spur other major life changes that come with serious, committed relationships. The risk of negative outcomes for your kids, we can assume, plummets if you have a healthy attitude about romance, and if you are financially stable enough that you’re not compulsively tempted to cohabit out of financial destitution rather than healthy commitment to a shared future with a person you love.

Excerpted from THE KICKASS SINGLE MOM by Emma Johnson with the permission of TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Copyright © 2017 by Emma Johnson.

What Is the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, and Why Does It Matter

Here is CHIP 101 – a brief overview of everything you need to know about this important program.

You might have seen the news that federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired at the end of September. But you might not be as familiar with what the program does, who it covers, or what this latest development means. So here is CHIP 101 – a brief overview of everything you need to know about this important program.

What is CHIP?

Congress created CHIP in 1997 with support from Republicans and Democrats. It gave states money to give insurance to children who are not eligible for Medicaid – the public health insurance program that covers low-income Americans. Since then, CHIP as been re-authorized in 2009 and 2015, but funding expired on September 30th of this year.
States can use the money they get from CHIP in two ways: either to pay for more kids to be on Medicaid, or to create a separate health insurance program. Some states use both approaches, enrolling lower income families in Medicaid and putting moderate income families on a separate program. About half the kids who benefit from CHIP funds are on Medicaid coverage.
Separate CHIP programs often go by their own names, like Florida KidCare or BadgerCare Plus in Wisconsin. So if you have a state program for children’s insurance, it’s likely funded through CHIP even if you haven’t heard it called that.

Who uses CHIP?

Nationwide, about nine million children receive their health insurance from CHIP funds – about one in every eight kids. In 20 states, pregnant women can also be covered through CHIP.
CHIP covers both low-income and moderate-income families under certain income limits. The limits are based on family size and a percentage of something called the federal poverty threshold. The federal poverty threshold is basically a number the federal government sets every year to determine who is living below the poverty line, and who is not. Eligibility for most state and federal programs is calculated based on a percentage of this number since families living above it may also benefit from the programs.
Each state can set their own upward-income limit for CHIP. The average nationwide is 255 percent of the federal poverty threshold. So for a single mom with two kids, this means having an income less than $52,000 a year. For a two parent, three kid family, it means having an income of less than $73,000 a year.
Because of CHIP, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance coverage for children is now at record high – 95 percent. Even though many of the families that benefit from CHIP are middle class, it has definitely helped expand insurance to kids who did not have it before.

So what does it mean that funding expired?

CHIP funding has already expired – meaning states are not getting any money for their programs from the federal government – but it doesn’t mean that kids are immediately booted off the program. States typically have a reserve of federal CHIP funds that can get them through the next few months. But 11 states estimate they will run out of funds before the end of the year, and 21 more, including Washington, D.C., are expecting their reserves to be tapped by March 2018.
Even if states run out of CHIP funds, they won’t be immediately shutting down their insurance programs. States who used CHIP funding to enroll kids in Medicaid must keep them in the program until 2019. The federal government basically agrees to pay for a certain percentage of the costs of Medicaid and CHIP. Under the old program, the federal government actually pays more per-kid for CHIP – even though those families tend to have higher incomes – because Congress wanted to give states an added incentive to expand coverage to those families. But with funding now expired, the state will have start paying a significantly higher percentage of the cost of covering CHIP kids because they won’t be receiving as much from the federal government.
Coverage for kids who are on separate CHIP programs is a bit more precarious. If funding runs out, states will be able to start capping or freezing enrollment, meaning some families who would have been eligible won’t be able to receive coverage. Worst case scenario, some states may be forced to shut down their programs altogether.
If CHIP programs close, some kids will be able to receive coverage through parents’ employer plans, but many will go without insurance altogether. Study after study shows that children do better when they have health insurance coverage. They have better health throughout their lives, are more likely to graduate from high school and college, and their families are less likely to go bankrupt.

What happens next?

The House and Senate are currently considering bills to extend funding for CHIP through 2022. These bill keeps up current funding levels through 2019, and then reduces it for the remaining years. The new bill would raise costs for high-income Medicare beneficiaries to offset the costs.

What can I do?

If you are concerned about your child’s access to insurance, contact your local state office for more information. They will be able to help you determine which type of plan you are on and if you will potentially be affected.
You can also contact your members of Congress to share your experience of using CHIP. In the past, the program has received support from both sides of the aisle, so representatives from both political parties will appreciate hearing your stories.

Study Say U.S. Dads Are Getting Older, Does It Matter?

Apparently American fathers are taking a few more years to perfect their best dad jokes.

Over the past few decades, women have been waiting longer to have babies. It’s no surprise considering reproductive advancements (like egg freezing), and the fact that more women are pursuing higher education and career goals, leading to a delay in baby-making plans.

You could probably guess that the average age of men becoming fathers has risen too. A study published in Human Reproduction analyzed statistics from 168,867,480 live births from 1972 to 2015, as recorded by the National Vital Statistics System. The data showed that the mean age of men in the U.S. with newborns has risen from 27.4 to 30.9. That’s an increase of 3.5 years.

Now this doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but it does show a clear upward trend notable across all ethnic groups. Additionally, it was noted that the rate of dads over 40 with newborns has more than doubled in that time period, from 4.1 to 8.9 percent. Further, the rate of fathers over 50 nearly doubled as well. (Hello, George Clooney with new twins at age 56!)

What does it mean?

We know that there are increased risks for women becoming pregnant at an advanced maternal age (over 35), but what effect does an older father have?

“There is data that a man’s fertility declines with age. In addition, there are some potential risks to children,” said Dr. Michael Eisenberg, lead researcher in the study. “Our findings substantiate the need for further research on the health and social implications of older fathers.”

Advanced paternal age carries some risks for families

  • Delayed conception

A large study published in Human Reproduction revealed the older a man is, the longer it takes for a couple to conceive. Men over age 40 were 30 percent less likely to make a baby within 12 months as compared to those under 30 years old. This could be due to changes in sperm quality, hormone levels, and overall reproductive function. Rate of miscarriage also seems to increase with paternal age.

  • Birth defects and genetic disorders

As a man gets older, sperm DNA damage and gene mutations occur at a higher rate, which can be passed on to offspring. A study published in Epidemiology reported that increasing paternal age is associated with a higher risk of cleft palate in babies. An earlier study found a correlation between advanced paternal age and conditions like achondroplasia, a bone growth disorder that causes dwarfism.

  • Psychiatric concerns

JAMA Psychiatry reports a correlation between older fathers and increased risk of disorders like autism, psychosis, and bipolar disorder in their children. More research has also shown a higher likelihood of developing schizophrenia.

So is younger better?

It’s important to note that the risks are still low overall. We’re talking total chance of up to two percent in most cases, so the odds of kids being affected is still minimal. What’s more impactful is the age and health of the mother carrying the baby, in combination with fatherly factors.

There are also benefits associated with older fathers

  • Emotional and financial stability

“Age brings with it emotional stability, psychological strength, and financial security,” says Pasquale Patrizio, M.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine.

With age comes wisdom, experience, and a more secure sense of self. An older person has been around the block and is less likely to have time or room for unnecessary drama and immaturity. They’ve also had more time to further their education, pursue career goals, and achieve financial success. This all creates a more stable environment overall for kids.

  • Smarter kids

Older dads may raise smarter, “geekier” kids. (Yes, researchers actually formulated a “geek index” to use in a study published in Translational Psychiatry.) Kids were evaluated for factors that indicate higher IQ, stronger focus abilities, and less concern with fitting in with peers. Scores tended to be higher in kids whose fathers were over 35 at the time of conception. Boys with dads who were over 50 at the time of conception were 32 percent more likely to score very high on STEM subject exams than those born to dads under age 25. Looks like these kids’ academic and job futures are bright!

  • Children (and even grandchildren) may live longer

By now you know that undesired changes in sperm occur as men get older, but there’s one beneficial adjustment. Telomeres (components of chromosomes that protect against aging) become longer. Longer telomeres indicate longer life span. More research reveals that this trait is passed on to offspring, meaning that future generations could naturally be set up to live longer.

All things considered, if you want science to tell you the perfect age to have children, you probably won’t get a clear answer. Apparently American fathers are taking a few more years to perfect their best dad jokes, and that’s okay!

Do you think parents should have kids later in life? Share your thoughts below.

The Tooth Fairy Needs a Loan

Expendable income is nonexistent these days. Even for tooth-loss.

The other day, I had to borrow three bucks from my fourth grader. “I’ll pay you right back,” I promised, fishing desperately through the coin tray for quarters and only finding two.
He looked at me with a combination of amusement and pity.
“I know you’re saving up for that Lego City Fire Boat set,” I continued, “but we also really need eggs, and they only take cash at the barn.”
Without a word, he reached into his backpack, pulled out his bulging little wallet with the soccer ball insignia, selected three ones in a distinctly bankerly manner, and handed them up to the front seat.
“Thanks, bud. I owe you.”
That same son, in a chatty mood a few nights later, wanted to talk about the following:
1 | Why do kids lose a bunch of teeth when they’re six or seven, then don’t lose any for a while, and then lose a bunch more around 11 or 12?
2 | When can we finish building the tree house? Will it have outlets? How about furniture?
3 | How come we can’t get one of those huge TVs that covers the wall? Because you need one of those for the PlayStation we also don’t have.
4 | When can we go to Jamaica again? I really liked Jamaica.
5 | Here are the pets I would like, please, in this order, from most favorite to least favorite: a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy that I would call Bernie (Feel the Bern!), a turtle named Todd, a chameleon or gecko or some lizard sort of thing, and lastly, chickens, plus the coop they’d live in, “because then we’d have eggs, Mom, and you wouldn’t need to borrow my money.”
This all made me chuckle acerbically since every one of these conversation topics required sums I don’t have, and won’t for the foreseeable future given that expendable income is nonexistent these days.
Even for tooth-loss.
Because everyone knows lost teeth require quarters from the Tooth Fairy, and I just spent my last two on eggs. (Why didn’t we just start with a few shiny pennies? He wouldn’t have known the difference! Plus, it would have allowed for inflation.)
My son is nine, thankfully, so we’ve got a couple years to rebuild the Tooth Fairy stash, and we better, because his younger brother is going on six and will start looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame before you can whistle “she sells seashells by the seashore” five times fast between your tooth gaps.
This all comes after shifting little brother out of Preschool into Kindergarten (cash savings!), which was promptly usurped by an “Escrow Shortage Remittance Form,” indicating that our monthly mortgage payment has been euphemistically “adjusted” due to a property reassessment in our town (audible swearing followed by nail-biting and consecutive nights of sleep loss).
Then comes the super enriching and also expensive suite of afterschool activities. I mean, our children’s minds and bodies are being molded as we sit here and breathe so we’d better get them horseback riding and playing piano and joining the Chess Club and studying Shaolin Kung Fu before they’re past the point of absorbing new information. In fact, it might already be too late!!
This’ll all work out, though, because I’m a night owl who loves burning it at both ends, and the hubs has landed some good gigs just in time for the cold months when the higher utility bills and fire wood expenditures and projected snow removal costs kick in. (“Winter is coming.”)
I will scrimp and save like a Spartan this stick season, because that’s the kind of behavior a shriveling landscape inspires – an old Puritan habit that gets swiftly nullified by an egregious show of Roman opulence over the holidays because I’m an American and I’ll be damned if I fail to keep the magic alive for my children!
In the spring, we’ll hire ourselves to finish off pressing house projects (so resourceful and handy!), but the money we save will be lost in the time taken away from the work we do to get paid. Which makes me wonder about full-on homesteading and whether I could begin to enjoy the ever-present smell of animal dung.
Also, after two decades of reporting to someone else’s offices, I have taken a flying leap into doing what I love for a living. Even though that elusive book deal is a slippery fish, and I’m starting to feel a little less like a writer and more like a used car salesman what with all the pitching and slinging, but at least I am whole and my soul is not dead.
And today, after depositing a few checks (feelin’ flush!) then spending $200 of it at the grocery store without even trying (oof), I will now transport my darlings 30 minutes out of the way to get their hair cut at an adult salon just in time for picture day because it’s the only establishment I can find in this state that doesn’t leave them looking like the psychiatrically dubious love children of Justin Bieber and Sid Vicious.
If I diagrammed the fiscal see-saw affect described here, you’d feel nauseous just looking at it. Best to assume we’re back to square…zero. It’s a familiar and strangely reliable state of affairs, actually – for its indisputability if nothing else.
So, boys, do your old mom a solid and brush extra well tonight and every night hereafter. We’re going to need those teeth to stay in your head for as long as possible, because this Tooth Fairy needs a loan.

When Fancy Underwear Gave Me Back My Perspective

How easily we can imagine to buy more, to have more, and maybe to be more, would be so much better in every way than where we are right now.

When we were on vacation in the Cape a few weeks ago, we took the family out for our only early dinner in a cute little town near where we were staying. “Early” because my moral compass tells me people should not have to be subjected to us while they are on vacation. “Only” because I value my sanity and my marriage and taking four children to a restaurant does little to help either one. There was also another reason for that “only.”

It’s expensive.

There but for the grace of God we survived said meal and did minimal damage to the establishment. We’d already walked a few blocks back towards the car when I realized I’d left my water bottle. I ran back alone, grabbed it, and then, on a whim, ducked into the clothing boutique next door to quickly check out the cutest little top they had hanging in the window.

It was cold in there with the AC blasting and it felt good to come in out of the heat. Plus it smelled good, like linen and soap and what I can only imagine was old money. I wandered around a little, feeling eyes on me, until I found the top from the window. It was a tank, a camisole really, made of the kind of material that felt like nothing at all between my fingers. I couldn’t stop touching it. Then I saw the tag.

$400.

I dropped it like it was hot. (The shirt, that is. I did not start dancing, unless you count slowly backing out of there with my hands held up lest I break something expensive by dancing.) $400 is a car payment for us. More than two of those early dinners out. A significant dent in my mortgage. Groceries to feed us for almost two weeks. Shoes for the kids to wear when school starts.

As I walked back to where my family was waiting for me in our car (that wasn’t new at any point in this decade), I felt it.

Envy.

For just a second, that green yucky temptress wove her way through and around my ankles, threatening to creep up and make me stumble. What would it be like, I wondered, to be able to just buy it? To have so little worries about money or responsibility that dropping that much money on what was essentially an undergarment, albeit a very lovely one, was a viable and real option?

It’s crazy how fast that can happen, isn’t it? How quickly we can turn tables from “this vacation is such a blessing,” to “but why not me?” How easily we can imagine ourselves in a place that just by virtue of that small ability: to buy more, to have more, and maybe to be more, would be so much better in every way than where we are right now?

Then I rounded the corner and my kids, my husband, and my big old beast of a car were there and it was like running headfirst into the truth.

Smack.

I have four beautiful, relatively healthy, sometimes clean, and occasionally well-behaved babies.

I have a hunky husband who is willing to corral those babies while I take time to run my fingers over silky intimates I can’t afford.

I have a reliable mode of transportation.

I have a job that affords me a week off to go on vacation. I have a job that doesn’t discriminate against me for being female or a mother. In this economic and political climate, hell, I have a job!

I have access to quality food and clean water that flows out of a tap like a goddamn miracle and toilets that flush and a house that can be made cool in the summer and warm in the winter and clothes for our six bodies and neighbors who watch out for us when we leave. I have family and friends and a body and enough years behind me now to know how to appreciate them and enough years hopefully ahead of me still to actually do just that.

I do not, however, have a fancy shirt. Sure I could make a list here of all the other fancy things I’d love to have, but what would be the point of that? I have the one thing I need more than all that, the thing that smacked me in the forehead and knocked the envy right out of me: Perspective.

Perspective is what tells me I don’t have everything and probably never will, but I sure as hell have enough. I don’t always have it – perspective that is. Not as often as I probably should and certainly not as often as I would like, but I had enough perspective as I strapped the littlest into his seat that keeps him safe and we drove off towards home (sans cami) to tell myself the truth, which is this:

Scratch enough. That’s not what this is at all. What I have, friends, is way more than enough.

This post originally appeared here.

My Life as A Home Shopping Addict

This is not a tale of the dynamics of addiction. Although there wasn’t a doubt that I was a shopaholic, my story is one of disclosure.

For far too many years, I found myself shopping with QSN*, one of the several popular home shopping TV networks. I didn’t buy the occasional blouse or crock pot, I bought a myriad of items that I absolutely did not need. Sadly, I often bought products that I didn’t even want.

This is not a tale of the dynamics of addiction or a guide to a Twelve Step Program. Although there wasn’t a doubt that I was a shopaholic, my story is one of disclosure, my step one perhaps: “Admitted that I was a shopaholic and that I had lost all control.”

I knew the hosts intimately. Don* was also a farmer when not in front of the camera. Karen* is a size medium and a pet lover. All in all, I could give you background on a dozen hosts, which included those I liked and others that I wouldn’t care to have lunch with.

Speaking of food, us diehard “Q” fans came to know all the cooking wares (only this club of chronic shoppers used the term Q). “Hey Ronda, Today’s Great Value at the Q is a Keurig coffee maker, complete with an assortment of k cups. You can choose from a selection of 11 colors.” I was family, you see, as I consorted with other Q fans.

Kyle, my UPS guy, would deliver up to four packages daily. I delighted in his visits and gleefully opened each box. At my home, Christmas was five days weekly, year round. The act of tearing into said parcels was delightful, however the ultimate thrill came when ordering by phone.

“Good morning, Sarah. This is Kathy. I’d like to purchase item number S7492 in cranberry. Come to think of it, I’ll take another in sunflower yellow.” Now the proud owner of two new sets of dinner dishes, I could have my choice of salad plates from one of the many sets I owned. After all, I reasoned, one tires of the same crockery day after day.

I bought clothes that I rarely wore, electronic devices that I didn’t or couldn’t use, jewelry, shoes, food products, and more. I was in debt up to my eyeballs, but that wasn’t a sound reason to stop. I also spent gobs of money on friends and family. If a Q box was delivered to your door, chances were it was a gift from me.

Regardless of his chronic chastisements, my son owned a scuba diving watch even though he didn’t partake in that activity. My BFF had more winter frocks than she could shake a stick at and my brother was a monument to fashion as he skied.

Indeed, I had a problem, a problem that arose from boredom, loneliness, and a sense of entitlement. Raised in a wealthy geographic environment, I was used to having it all. “It” was horses and cars and renowned, well-off friends. If your father was somebody, then so were you. I was cool, as was fitting to my wonderfulness. That was until I reached the black years of 25 on.

By 48, I was newly divorced and friendless, and my loneliness cut to the core. My son had begun his life, freed from the umbilical cord at last. As well as shopping excessively, I drank too much, smoked too much, and cried too much. A kind therapist guided me as I saw the light and after a three-year stint in therapy, I could say that I was done.

During those three years, I banned myself from this shopping channel and withdrew painfully. Selling my home to pay off my debt, I spent days in bed, paralyzed by the Ghost of Times Past. Could I ever function? Would I learn that I was a valid person in my own right, regardless of being destitute?

Depressed, OCD-ish, anxious, and fearful of life, I was truly one large mess of symptoms. Change was paramount and, on a fall day, I figuratively began putting one foot in front of the other. Literally, I began to take walks and eventually became acquainted with my neighbors. Several friendships formed and life had new meaning. Joining a Twelve Step Program to address my alcoholism, I learned even more.

I learned that I wasn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread. I learned that my symptoms were a way in which my psyche said, “Whoa.” Finally, I learned that I had merit, regardless of my financial status.

I also journaled, a lot. As the author Dorothy Parker stated, “I hate writing, I loved having written.” I leapt from journaler to writer to author in a matter of time. I found my niche.

I have been sober for 19 years and I no longer shop obsessively. More importantly, I became a tolerant and patient person for the most part. I saw the merits in being a giver and I cut down my demanding persona. I would love to feel worthy of love, and I’m working toward that dream.

As I look back, my metamorphosis began with the Q.

Kyle still delivers the occasional package which contain necessary items such as a winter coat. Kyle has said, “You’ve come a long way, Kath. You wouldn’t believe how many people have homes full of these things. I’m proud of you.”

Now, as I conclude my confession, I will add, “Kathy, you are okay.”

[*The names are fictional so that I won’t get sued.]

How to Get Back to School Like a Boss

Get down to business and get the kids ready to hit the books and slay the 2017/2018 school year. Let the back-to-school prep begin!

Summer of 2017 is officially coming to a close and it is time for us parents to switch gears and get ready to send our little ones back out into the wide world of learning and growth.
Bye kids. Summer has been a blast but I for one am so ready for you to return to your natural habitats. We have vacationed, crafted, stayed up late, and eaten enough ice cream and popsicles to fuel my mom guilt right up to the holiday season. It is time to get down to business and get our children ready to hit the books and slay the 2017/2018 school year. Let the back-to-school prep begin!

1 | Start rolling your pennies

Or get a second job. Or sell your plasma. You are going to be really strapped for cash for the next month. God, kids are expensive. There are backpacks, lunch boxes, supplies, and shoes to purchase. Snazzy outfits will be selected with care for the first week of school just so that moms everywhere can take pictures of their spawn looking fly and post them to Facebook. (We all know the kids will be wearing ratty shorts and T-shirts everyday after that first week of school until the snow starts falling.) I have four girls in various schools this year, so if you need me I will be Googling “How to harvest your eggs for cash.”

2 | Order what you can on Amazon Prime

Let the kids look at backpacks on the computer and order them with a touch of a button. If you can manage to stand in “aisle hell” of Target for three hours as your kids debate between a Trolls or emoji backpack then you are my hero, but I can’t do that any longer. It hurts too much.

3 | Back to routine we go fools!

Buh-bye 11 p.m. bedtimes and neighborhood barbecues that linger way into the night. It is time to enforce actual bedtimes, and it won’t be pretty. Your kids will fight this one tooth and nail. They will not take kindly to having lights out by 8:30 pm with a few precious weeks of summer left, but it must be done. If you start this process now it will only make life easier for everyone the week before school starts.
I find that removing clocks from bedrooms helps with this process. Just lie to them. Tell them it is 9 p.m. when you simply can no longer parent for the day. When you feel like letting them stay up until they crash, remind yourself how miserable life will be during those first school rise and shines as you drag your small humans from their cozy beds at the crack of dawn so that they don’t miss the damn bus.

4 | Re-introduce your children to books, manners, and toothbrushes

All of those things that tend to fall to the wayside during the lazy summer months must be brought back to the surface. Make a Powerpoint presentation if you are feeling up to it. A few nights ago I announced that we would be reinstating nightly reading before bed and my girls looked at me like I was spitting Swahili at them. Goodbye mind-numbing YouTube videos, hello (equally mind-numbing) Rainbow Fairy Magic.

5 | Create a color coded spreadsheet

On the sheet put of all activities that your family is signed up for in the fall. Bus schedules, school start and end times, volunteer days, soccer practice, swim practice, and music lessons are all coming at us at full speed. Color code that shit and hope that you make it to at least 80 percent of the events that you committed to. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.

6 | Get healthy and get creative (virtually, at least)

I don’t know what it is about fall but this is the time of year that I become a bone fide Pinterest Freak. I will scour the virtual, crafty world for healthy family recipes and crockpot meals galore and pin the hell out of them. Approximately one percent of pinned recipes will ever be attempted. Adorable back-to-school kits and crafts get hot glued together, along with my fingers. Headbands and hair bows with rulers and apples are made with the blood, sweat, and tears of mothers everywhere. Study hacks, tips, and tricks get saved for later dates (like never) and we moms are look like total winners on social media.

7 | Make four thousand appointments for the kids

Yearly physicals, dentist appointments, haircuts, perhaps a good therapy session for yourself – book away. Just block out the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the rest of the month and prepare to taxi the kids around to their various unfavorable appointments. Remember, it could probably be worse – you could be me and have to fit in four of everything. I’ll be doubling down on the therapy thank you very much.

8 | Soak those kids up

Yes we have had our fill of summer and yes the kids are driving us bananas, but in a few weeks we will barely see them until next summer and we will miss them.

Early Child Development Programs Can Make Children and Parents More Successful, Says Study

Early child development programs are more beneficial than previously thought – especially for disadvantaged children and their families.

Having a child, while rewarding, comes with a steep price. The average cost to raise a child to 18 is now $230,000 for a typical family. Diapers, formula, clothing, medical and dental – the expenses often make child care, including early development programs, out of reach for many parents.
Yet, a growing body of research suggests these programs are more beneficial than previously thought – especially for disadvantaged children and their families. And it has the biggest positive effect on women’s employment and pay, and the sons they raise.
According to a new study by Nobel-winning economist James Heckman and researchers at the University of Chicago and University of Southern California, early childhood development programs can deliver an annual return of 13 percent per child on upfront costs through better outcomes in education, health, employment, and social behavior in the decades that follow – a rate of return that’s comparable to returns on a savings account or the stock market. In one group analyzed, mothers earned more when children were in preschool, and the effect was still there after several decades.
When boys in this group reached age 30, they had earned on average $19,800 more annually than those in the control group. They also received an additional six months of education. Girls in this group received two more years of education and earned about $2,500 more than girls in the control group.
In an interview with UChicagoNews, Heckman said, “Investing in the continuum of learning from birth to age five not only impacts each child, but it also strengthens our country’s workforce today and prepares future generations to be competitive in the global economy tomorrow.”
In other words, early child development programs can make children and parents more successful.
Olga, a freelance writer and mother of three, is forever grateful to the women who ran the early child care program her children attended. “My kids started daycare at six months old (all three of them) and that allowed me to finish my thesis, and later to start my blog, not to mention that it saved my sanity,” she told me. In addition, the program taught her children their third language, giving them an advantage over other kids the same age.
Yet, a report by New America and Care.com put the average cost of child care at $16,514 a year – ranging from $10,468 for a center-based child care program to $28,905 for a nanny. With the average household income just shy of $52,000, combined with average living expenses that topple $1,500 a month, the cost of early child development programs are prohibitive for many families who struggle to balance the demands of caring for their children with working.
The Department of Health and Human Services says child care should cost around seven percent of a family’s income at most. In the Care.com survey, one in three respondents said they spent at least 20 percent of their annual household income on child care. Nearly one in three parents would put themselves in debt (or even further in the hole) to pay for child care, up from 25 percent in 2016.
Sadly, it’s children whose parents can least afford child care who would benefit from it the most. Children born into affluent families usually have more options, and access to higher quality early programs. Heckman’s study demonstrated long-term results by following children from birth until age 35. Two programs in North Carolina were analyzed. Both offer free, full-time care to lower income children. Data from the two studies was collected and calculated using a return on investment through life outcomes, such as health, involvement in crime, labor income, IQ, and increases in mothers’ labor income as a result of subsidized childcare. In addition to better outcomes in the areas identified, Heckman and his team also found that children in the two programs saw a permanent boost in IQ.
Another recent study, which followed nearly one million children in Denmark from birth through old age, revealed that high-quality preschool had multigenerational benefits. Children who attended these programs had more schooling and an increased likelihood of living beyond 65. They also had children who received more education and greater employment opportunities.
Olga reflects on her upbringing, from the other side of the fence, as that of a daughter. “I had a nanny when I was a child while my mom worked,” she said. “She’s in academia and she is now a highly recognized expert in her field. My father stayed at home more, but I loved my nanny. And I know without her, my mom wouldn’t be able to come as far as she did. And, no, I don’t think it was bad for me to have a nanny.”
So, while expensive at the onset, high quality child care programs may be worth the long-term investment – with greater financial, social, and health returns.