Thursday, July 29, 2010


Did you know that the newest frontier in giving is diapers? As I found out this past weekend while reading the paper, a suburban mom named Kristen Grode is herself surprised to see that the nonprofit she launched this spring to build Minnesota's first diaper bank, collecting diapers from the public and then delivering them to agencies that help struggling parents, coincides with the burgeoning of a national movement on diaper rights. Yale University held its first "diaper colloquium" earlier this year; the first national study on "diaper needs" was recently released; and a national campaign to improve access to diapers has been launched in Connecticut. "The humble diaper, it seems, is becoming a new frontier of social policy. Advocates argue they are an essential need for children and parents, much like infant formula and food stamps, which are available through the government."

Truly; I am in favor of the government helping. And I have great respect for the work of nonprofit organizations. And am awed by the willingness of this nation's public--friends, neighbors, local communities--to reach out and help each other.

But what ticks me off in this case, is all that's missed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

prime-time TV deals with teen baby boom

We don't have television, so I'm not up-to-date on popular culture. But I was very pleased to read in the paper that there's now a surge of shows that are tackling teen pregnancy and even abortion; and apparently, many of these shows do it in a nuanced, honest manner, acknowledging teenage sexuality and teenage pregnancy. While unfortunately, there are still vast cultural silences around contraception, abortion and homosexuality.
(Matt Lauria and Madison Burge in NBC's "Friday Night Lights")

On a somewhat related topic, I've since I first addressed the topic of children's sexuality and proper attire at the City pool, learned that while all kids need to wear either a swim diaper, swimsuit, swim trunk or bikini while they're in the pool, a top is not necessary. I was told it was ok for her to be naked if I was just changing her but if she was going into the water, she needed something on. I don't know if this means that I could keep her naked as long as she's out of the pool (a real long "change" period?) or not. Unfortunately she's not much fond of wearing just the bikini bottoms either (as opposed to a full swimsuit), but it may just be the frilly skirt that it has on it. In the meantime, I'm looking for a basic bikini bottom for her.

Monday, July 26, 2010

happy moms?

It's summer time, which means "fellesferie" (literally "all together vacation") in Norway;  basically, everyone's off for the month of July, vacationing.

 (On a 1 1/2  hr. ferry "cruise" of Lake Superior around Duluth during our three-night summer vacation there this summer.)

The interesting part about it, to me, is all the e-mails and facebook status updates I've been receiving from friends in my native Norway, telling me that, yes, they're having a splendid time, though it's raining a lot ... and it gets kind of hard to be with the kids all the time like that.

My response? "See?! It really is really hard, huh! To parent a child full time." (if not in so many words.)

In this recent post I quoted studies that show how, in general, moms in the US feel overwhelmed, while Scandinavian moms feel happy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

unhappy moms

The New York Magazine article about Why Parents Hate Parenting that I've talked about earlier, quotes this online discussion between moms:

(Photo: Jessica Todd Harper, from the New York Magazine article)

"MOMS: Ever feel alone in how you perceive this role? I swear I feel like I’m surrounded by women who were once smart & interesting but have become zombies who only talk about soccer and coupons.
This was an opening gambit on UrbanBaby this past April. It could have devolved into a sanctimommy pile-on. It didn’t.

I totally feel this way.

I am a f/t wohm—Work Outside the Home Mom—have a career, and I don’t feel smart or interesting anymore! I don’t talk about soccer or coupons, but just feel too tired to talk about anything that interesting.

I freely admit that I have gained “more” than I have lost by becoming a parent, but I still miss aspects of my old life."

I'm beginning to feel the full effects of mommy mush brain. Maybe it's because I'm a full time mom again this summer, trying to make it about easygoing times and fun, and not just time efficiency, work and tasks. I suspect it also has something to do with the fact that she's been resisting naps since spring a year ago and now will only nap occasionally. Meaning that by dinner time, I feel fried most days. More and more, during the hours between 3 and 5 p.m., I feel "ill," to use the words of a mama friend of mine in town.

In any case, I don't feel smart or interesting anymore, and I find myself avoiding situations where my shot brain would be put on the spot.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Recently I've kept returning to an article titled "The 12 Building Blocks of Discipline" by Thelma Harms, Ph.D., coauthor of the public television series Raising America's Children and director of curriculum development at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (more about her publications here). One of her building blocks is about sensible limits. The part about sharing is what strikes me the most:

"We have to be realistic about the behavior we can expect from children of different ages. Toddlers need a few simple safety rules and a rule against aggression. Most of all they need close supervision.

Preschoolers, whose world is more extensive and independent, need some rules about observing safety guidelines, treating others kindly, and respecting property. Sharing, taking turns, and not interrupting adults, are hard behaviors for preschoolers to learn. So it is best to try to limit situations in which preschoolers must constantly exercise these difficult skills."

This thing about sharing, though, isn't a challenge just for toddlers and preschoolers. For them the actual sharing is a challenge; for parents it might be finding the appropriate time and space to share the challenges of parenting.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

why parents hate parenting

This article in the New York Magazine, All Joy and No fun, about why parents hate parenting, reports some pretty interesting statistics on how parents in the US feel overwhelmed by the task of parenting. We're exhausted, moms in particular miss their former lives of intellectual stimulation, we feel we fall short, and marriages suffer.

(Photo: Jennifer Todd Harper. Pictured is Harper when one of her twin babies.)

In countries where the social support system is in place to relieve parents, on the other hand, the numbers are different:

"One hates to invoke Scandinavia in stories about child-rearing, but it can’t be an accident that the one superbly designed study that said, unambiguously, that having kids makes you happier was done with Danish subjects." In short, "countries with stronger welfare systems produce more children—and happier parents.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

sexual child vs. sexualization of childhood

We were at the pool this morning and my 2-year old daughter was not happy about wearing her swimsuit. I can't blame her. I hate wearing a swimsuit myself; that cold sticky feel when it's wet. So I always wear a bikini, even now, with my droopy belly. In any case, she wanted hers off and had we been in Norway, I would gladly have let her run around naked as do all the other kids there through the toddling years. But when I once let my daughter run around naked for a little bit here here while I was getting us ready to leave the pool, even a friend of mine (a very laid-back art history teacher) made a comment. Here all little boys and girls wear swim trunks or swimsuits, or bikinis. Which I find ridiculous. I mean, putting a bikini top on a 2-year old girl, as if there was something to cover up?

(My daughter, Lilly, in her swimsuit at the City pool.)

My daughter has one of these bikinis, courtesy of her American grandma, and she'd probably feel more comfortable in it. But I refuse to let her wear it with the top. And a few years ago, I read in the newspaper that a mom at a pool in one of Minneapolis' suburbs had been arrested for letting her 2-year old daughter wear only a bikini bottom with no top.

I brought this up to another mom at the pool this morning, and she thought in our small college town, people wouldn't mind. So I'm considering testing the case. And protest if they make an issue out of it.

Sure, children are born sexual beings, as asserts sexuality educator Debra W. Haffner in From Diapers to Dating. A Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children. But in our culture, they are sexualized in a way that is not healthy but rather a symptom of our culture's unhealthy relationship to sexuality, as discusses Sallie Tisdale in Talk Dirty to Me: An Intimate Philosophy of Sex.

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