Insurance for the Hardest Unpaid Job In The World
March 18, 2010 · Posted in Fatherhood, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Separation/Divorce, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off on Insurance for the Hardest Unpaid Job In The World

life_insurance1ALERT! Women are still making 77 cents on the dollar! Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the founder of the Center for Work-Life Policy has estimated that the penalty is 10% of income for every two years out of the job market, a loss that is never recouped. If a woman divorces, the Rutgers Divorce Project states, her standard of living decreases by 27% and a man’s increases by 10%. So between lower wages in general, no social security benefits for full time mothers, and divorce rates holding between 40 and 50%, what’s a woman to do?

Here’s an idea that you and your spouse can implement which takes these facts into consideration. Not romantic, but realistic and fiscally responsible planning. How about a Family Insurance Plan?  A self-made insurance policy for the mother who stays at home for a number of years. Each year you can put aside a percentage of the family income toward this safety net. We get life insurance so that our family is cared for if we die, so why wouldn’t we honor the work being done at home and protect your family financially at the same time.

Whenever this is suggested in Mother’s groups, women first get excited and then deflate- fearful about bringing this up with their husbands. Men and women alike have difficulty attaching a monetary value to being the family manager. More importantly, woman are worried that bringing this up feels like a vote of no confidence in the marriage.

On the contrary, this is a protective forward-thinking gift to the whole family. You address the financial sacrifice that women make by deciding to either decrease, or stop their work outside the home, and you protect your children from undue financial hardship. Sounds like a win-win!

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Mistakes Are Our Teachers
March 9, 2010 · Posted in Buddhism/Parenting, Fatherhood, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Mistakes Are Our Teachers

mistakes-happenFirst time back in yoga class in five months. The shoulder tear I incurred had me in pain and out for the count for quite some time. I settled into a seated position as we chanted a Sanskrit sentence that translates to “Birth is our teacher, Life is our teacher, Death is our teacher.” Guru, the word for teacher in the chant, really means the removal of darkness to see light. The teacher talked a bit about how life, and our mistakes, are our Gurus. They remove some blindness, some darkness, and something becomes clear, illuminated, something learned, movement happens.

Good timing. The shoulder tear was my mistake. Pushing myself, denying my age – not listening to my body. The teacher had said to me “you can just stay where you are” as I continued to bend backwards. Inside I responded like a four year old stamping her feet. “I WANT TO DO THIS!”  A moment of satisfaction and pride quickly turned into an MRI and five months of pain.  So much for side plank into full wheel!

Five months later, overjoyed to be back in class, I felt grateful of my mistake. I had learned (again) how ego leads to pain, learned patience and respect for the healing process, and learned to be kind to my body instead of feeling angry at it for not performing.

In parenting, we constantly worry about doing “the right thing.” The mistakes we make – too harsh a tone, disciplining when comfort is needed and comforting when discipline is needed, all the many things that feel so not right are our teachers. If we pay attention to our actions and try with all our might not to beat up on ourselves, we grow, we make adjustments, we apologize.

What better lesson to model and teach our children. Harmony, disharmony, repair. That’s the best we can do.

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Snark Alert! Sarcasm Stings
March 4, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Fatherhood, Parenting, Relationships, Teens · Permalink · Comments (2)

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This post from Straight Talk On Relationships reminds us that our tone and general attitude toward our partner influences the relationship greatly. Often times what we think is ‘all in good fun’, really puts a rift in the communication.

THE STING OF SARCASM DOESN’T BELONG IN RELATIONSHIPS

By Lisa Merlo Booth

Lately I’ve been seeing the effects of sarcasm everywhere.  Whether it’s watching my own family, my friends’ families or the families of my clients, sarcasm still has that same familiar sting.  Sarcasm comes from the Greek word sarkasmos or sarkazein, which means to tear flesh, or to bite the lips in rage.

The purpose of sarcasm is to mock others.  The better the cut-down, the funnier we think it is.  Sarcasm hurts because it is meant to hurt.

Sarcasm is often an unspoken truth, judgment or resentment wrapped up as a joke.  We throw out a comment and then follow it up with a smile or a chuckle and think that’s okay.  It’s just a little joke.  Unfortunately, the smile or chuckle does not soften the sting.

Regardless of whether it’s an older brother greeting his little sister with “Hey mighty mouth,” a friend saying “Nice of you to show up on your time frame,” or a cousin chiding another cousin with “You always could eat. couldn’t you,” sarcasm is often a caustic attempt at humor.

Sarcasm has become a way for many people and families to connect.  They learn to constantly rib each other as a way of communicating.  They think when the ribbing hurts, it must be because the target is too sensitive.  Seldom do we actually think that the person is hurt because of what we said.  It must be, we think, because they don’t know how to take a joke.

Not surprisingly however, sarcasm is often funniest to the person who’s speaking it.  Typically it’s not nearly as funny to those on the receiving end. Unfortunately, when (and if) those on the receiving end try to stand up for themselves, the speakers tell them they can’t take a joke.  The target then begins to question themselves and try their best to ignore the sting.

When it comes to sarcasm and teasing, however, the rules to follow are simple;
•    If it stings—it’s not funny
•    Just because you say it with a smile and a chuckle, doesn’t mean it’s funny or it doesn’t hurt
•    If the person on the receiving end says they don’t like it or it hurts, then stop it—it hurts.

I love a great sense of humor and would never tell people to stop being playful.  Just make sure that when you’re using humor, it’s not at someone else’s expense.  That takes the humor out of it.

CHALLENGE:  Watch sarcasm in the world.  Pay attention to all the “jokes” at others’ expense and see if you can catch the underbelly or sarcasm.  If someone in your life doesn’t like your teasing or sarcasm, stop dismissing what they’re saying and LISTEN.  Be playful—not hurtful.  NOTE:  the person on the receiving end is the judge of whether or not what you said is hurtful—not you.

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Can’t Spank? Then Scream.
February 23, 2010 · Posted in Child Abuse, Communication, Discipline, Fatherhood, K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships, Teens · Permalink · Comments (1)

screamingThe New York Times article, For Some Parents Shouting is the New Spanking, by Hillary Stout,  bravely shines the light on a slightly taboo topic. In many parenting circles, spanking is a discipline tool of the past.Whether or not parents actually resort to spanking is another story.

When it comes to screaming, however, it often seems accepted as a matter of course. Everyone  has a reflexive, knee jerk stance based on family of origin. If you came from a family of screamers, yelling might feel completely normal. Many people feel it is an ethnic rite or genetically encoded behavior. Others remember their parents yelling and screaming and the fear that it engendered. These parents do a yeoman’s job of controlling their tempers, but nevertheless find themselves overtaken by fury and frustration at times. Some grew up with simmering issues but no communication, so “letting it all out” can feel like a healthier way.

The problem is that yelling and screaming can feel so damn good while you are doing it. You feel powerful, like you are someone to be reckoned with, self-righteous and entitled.  After all, what human being can cope with the amount of badgering, whining, and defiance that kids dish out. In actuality, the desire to yell actually comes from the opposite place: a place of helplessness, feeling overburdened and incompetent. Screaming and yelling bring false empowerment. True power is when parents control themselves, for example, putting their child in their room without yelling or ranting or being able to take away privileges in a three word sentence like “No TV tomorrow!!”

Unfortunately, the nature of children and the culture we live in has the deck stacked against parents. Kids need repeated reminders, often years of reminders to do things like saying please and thank you, coming to the dinner table and not smashing their siblings. Our culture is all about getting what you want by taking no prisoners.  Given those forces, staying respectful calls for a kind of determination, focus and self control that seems only a zen master could muster. The good news is that self control can be learned. Start with this rule. Screaming, name calling, ranting and shaming is NOT ALLOWED. It is a boundary violation and something to avoid. Remember, it is not our right as a parent.

Since most people are not zen masters, realistically you probabaly will yell or scream when you are in your most helpless and overwhelmed state. Treat it as if you had hit your child. After you calm down, apologize. Remind them that it wasn’t OK, and that you are really focused on learning to control that behavior, just like they are.

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Mutual Support System
December 24, 2009 · Posted in Communication, Fatherhood, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Mutual Support System

Vic Support pic

This post from Straight Talk On Relationships offers great insight into enhancing your ability to support your partner.  Enjoy!

THE ART OF BEING SUPPORTIVE IN RELATIONSHIPS

By Lisa Merlo Booth

When we first enter relationships it seems as though our relationship IQ is in the genius range.  We’re loving, great listeners, good sharers and incredibly supportive.  The longer we stay in relationships, however, it seems as though some of us develop relationship dementia — we simply forget how to be in a relationship.

This effect is similar to the one I see when I’m training therapists across the country in Terry Real’s Relational Life Therapy Model.  When I’m running a workshop, the therapists are quite adept at speaking about the concepts of the model when we are in lecture format.  When they are placed in a role-play situation, however, their IQ’s drastically decline.  For the participant role-playing the therapist, it’s as though there is an IQ vacuum that sucks 50 IQ points out of their brains—and adds 50 IQ points to the therapists who are observing.  Because this phenomenon is so universal, we all laugh, normalize it and have a lot of empathy for the person in the “brain-drain chair.”

Regarding relationships, however, the brain-drain is anything but a laughing matter.  It seems the longer a person is in a relationship, the larger the brain-drain effect.  This is particularly true around supporting one another.  Couples in the honeymoon stage are brilliant supporters.  They are encouraging, understanding and great motivators.  Of course, in the early stages of a relationship there is very little to lose by encouraging your new loved one to take risks, leave their job, start a new business, etc.  Your finances, future and children are not wrapped up in that risk.  As the relationship progresses and your life is more intertwined with your partner’s, this level of support is much more difficult to give.

For those of you who struggle with supporting your partner, here’s a cheat sheet for you:
1.    Join them where they are.  If your partner comes to you with an idea they are excited about—first join them in their excitement.  Do not start with all the reasons why their idea will not work.  When you talk about all the negatives right off the bat, you’re a major downer!  Stop throwing a bucket of water on your partner’s idea and just listen.  The same is true when they come home and talk about something cool that happened at work.  Just because it’s not something you would think is cool doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy their energy around it.
2.    Pay attention to their energy.  Some partners don’t readily talk about their struggles.  If this is true for your partner, learn to listen to what is unspoken and check in.  “Honey would you like a hug?  You look beat.” “Honey, you seem down. Is everything okay?”  If they don’t want to talk, just let them know you’re here if they change their mind or want to run anything by you.
3.    Listen with the ear of a friend.  If your partner is struggling at work or with friends or even with parenting—first be on their side.  Too often we’re quick to point out what our partners did that was wrong or should do next time that we forget to just be their friend.  Don’t try to fix it or point out where your partner was off—just listen.  Every once in a while let them know you’re sorry they had a hard day.  Do not offer advice unless you ask them if they want it.
4.     Lead with a gift.  If they say that they would like advice, make sure you lead with a gift.  Do not just launch into all the things they didn’t do well, instead start with what they did do well.  For example if they’re upset about parenting, you might say, “First off, honey I know you love our children very much.  I also know you’re really working hard to teach them how to be responsible, which I think is great.  Sometimes I worry though that you may be pushing the responsibility part harder than you do the relationship.  I believe that if you let up a bit on the responsibility part, it will help your relationship with our son.”  The gift must be heart felt and genuine—not just words you’re throwing out so you can get to the advice.
5.    Breathe and use a pause button.  If your partner comes home with a BIG idea (such as quitting their job or moving to a different country), remember to breathe.  Just because they have this idea doesn’t mean they are going to do it.  Once you’ve slowed yourself down, listen to the idea with an open mind—knowing that listening does not mean agreeing.  If you’re too agitated to talk calmly, just tell your partner you’ll need to think about what they said for a few days.  Later get some space and figure out what your concerns are and what information you need in order to be better able to take your partner’s idea seriously.  Too often, one partner gets reactive and angry in response to the other partner’s “crazy” idea.  If you’re that reactive then chances are your reactivity is about you not the idea or your partner.
6.    Check in.  If you know your partner is going through a tough time at work due to layoffs or new management, etc. then check in with them.  Let them know you’re aware things are stressful and that you have their back.  If they are facing layoffs—you need to stay calm in the storm.  Let your partner know that you will manage whatever happens as a team.  Do not tell your partner that they had better not get laid off.  That’s ridiculous and unfair pressure to put on them.  Be their backbone during this time.

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The Gates Arrest: A Teachable Moment for Parents
July 28, 2009 · Posted in Fatherhood, Mental Health, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (2)

imagesThe controversy over the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Sgt. James Crowley in Cambridge, Massachusetts is a “teachable moment”  about race and an opportunity to learn how we tick as humans. We can use this situation to learn about our own psychological trigger points.  It is easy to understand that Gates’ trigger was the idea that he was being racially profiled. The police officer’s trigger may have been fear or being disrespected. Triggers are issues that live inside us that are so tender or raw or provocative that when touched, produce a huge reaction that doesn’t quite feel under our control.

As parents this kind of triggering happens all the time. Raising children is provocative. Each of us have our triggers from childhood–it can be anything from feeling ignored to shyness, or grades, or fighting with your siblings. Family life is filled with situations in which these issues are played out. Something in the present day  sets off an overreaction of some kind. If you could rewind the tape you would have handled it very differently.

Here’s an example:

A father, who was very shy growing up was very athletically able and played sports all the time.  It was his gateway and savior, helping to gradually make friends. His eight year old son is shy as well, but he resists joining soccer or baseball. This dad becomes enraged when his son refuses to do sports, he likes science. The father is panicked that his son will never make friends if he doesn’t play sports. When he understands the trigger he can calm himself down, remind himself that there are many ways to make friends and that pressuring and fighting with this son will only make matters worse. Knowing your triggers helps to diffuse a tremendous amount of conflict.

Identifying your triggers from childhood is helpful in parenting int hat it gives you more control over your reactions and helps you understand your child more clearly.

This exercise can help identify potential hot buttons and so you can be on alert when they get pressed:

When I was little I worried about…

When I was little I hated when my parents…

When I was growing up ……was hard with my siblings

I get most jealous about….

The thing I most want to protect my child from experiencing is…

When you and your partner write these lists and share them you can troubleshoot the issues that are hard to handle for each of you.  You then will have a road map for those triggers bound to be pulled and you can prepare yourself in advance to handle them.

I think we can more deeply understand how that interaction between Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley escalated so quickly. Let’s use the situation to learn something about ourselves as parents.

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A Letter to all Fathers
June 18, 2009 · Posted in Fatherhood, Infant Development, Marriage, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (8)

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Dear Mothers,

Please show this to all the men in your lives. In it they will find the simple secret of what all children want from their fathers.

Dear Father,

Here is what I need from you.  When I am a baby, take care of me. Bathe me, feed me, and diaper me. We will have fun while you are doing those things. You might not do things perfectly but I really don’t care about that, I just want to be with you and I will hold on to the memory of a masculine caregiver, the early touch of a strong, solid, but gentle man.

When I am a toddler, play, play, and play some more. Rough and tumble me and make me laugh. Let me explore. Encourage me to find my own abilities. Let me try and fall and try again. If I am a boy don’t tell me it’s nothing when I cry, don’t belittle me for needing my mom, or being scared or even being angry when I can’t get my way.  These are my natural emotions and the more I can express them out loud with you the safer I will feel.  This will help me be more sure of my feelings and I will not be ashamed to be vulnerable. If I am a girl look at me with adoring eyes and delight. Encourage my physicality and playfulness and my assertiveness. Scoop me up when I am sad and hold me close and stroke my hair.

When I am a little older, take me to school sometimes. I will feel so proud to show off my dad. Talk to my teachers, get to know my friends. They are important to me even though I am a little kid. Take me out on your own. We don’t always need to have mom with us. Let’s have our own adventures, our own special things we do. Teach me to do all the things you can do, but if I like to do something else better, come and learn about that. I feel important when you are interested in the things I like.

You can go to work and love your job, but don’t stay there when you really could be with me. Don’t talk on the phone or stay on your blackberry when you come home from work.  If you always work or you are always distracted I will come to feel unworthy. Play puzzles with me, build with legos , read to me, watch me swim in the tub.  When I am not listening tell me what is right. Try not to yell. Put me in my room, or take  something away but don’t hold  my wrong doing against me. All kids misbehave. That is what we are supposed to do while we are learning about the world. Don’t push me to the best at everything even though you will want me to be the best that I can be. It makes me feel loved if you accept that sometimes I’m just OK or even not so good at something.

The most important thing, Dad, is that you be brave enough to be honest with yourself. What ever has hurt you in life will become a part of our relationship. Pay attention to that. If you have been neglected don’t neglect me or smother me, if you have been hurt physically, don’t hurt me or be so afraid of your anger that you withdraw. Tell me about your growing up so I can understand you. Let me know your story.
Control your anger, be kind and respectful to my mother and give her love. Listen to her, spend time with her, show me how to treat women or what I deserve from other men. I love to see you two having your own private love affair. Show me how to love and be loved. Give me space and freedom and confidence and teach me respect and kindness, and that all people matter.

Never leave me, ever. I know you can’t imagine that now, but some dads do. More than you think. Never stop rooting for me, having faith in me, believing in my abilities and telling me that you love me and are proud. Care about the details in my life not just the generalities. Put me to sleep, snuggle me, kiss me on my neck and belly, and I will feel like I am the biggest gift in the world to you.

Don’t worry dad, you’re going to be great! Have a Happy Father’s Day!

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