I was hesitant about creating “another mom blog” but felt it was important to continue to tell stories, share advice, lessons and provide some information or support for all moms out there but especially single moms living in the ever exciting and always evolving New York City. And I hope this blog will also help me to stay inspired and be the best mom I can be.
(Q&A with Psychologist Dr. Sarah Trosper Olivo- see what she has to say about when you should let your child have a cell phone)
You are outside skateboarding with your two neighborhood friends, a bomb goes off in the Middle East, you’re laughing, skating around, joking with your pals, seeing who can skate the fastest, just having a blast. You don’t care about the bomb in the Middle East because you don’t know about the bomb in the Middle East. You don’t know because the Internet doesn’t exist yet, Twitter, Facebook, non- existent. Oh and there are no cell phones either.
Can you remember that time?
I often wonder how kids these days manage the load. Yes we are living in a different time and a digital world. And I’m not one of those old-fashioned types that is going to bad-mouth technology. No doubt that technology has given all of us some essential and positive aspects to life. We are certainly more informed about the world today and sometimes that’s a good thing. But we can’t ignore that technology has also given us too much information and sometimes it’s made us dumb-founded, confused and too reactionary. I know I’m guilty of it.
But as adults having technology gradually infused in us, I think we are somewhat able to have a perspective on it. I catch myself logging on too much and I stop, plain and simple. Kids that have grown up after 2000 don’t have that perspective, they live and breath being online. And it worries me as I’m the parent of a 2 year old where technology is so embedded in his life.
Kids today know about school shootings, bombings, murders, natural catastrophes, in an instant. And even if you weren’t plugged into the Internet, someone who is plugged in, is going to tell you all about it. And we are not just talking about bad events. Even something that is perhaps meant to be harmless like some 10 year old who walks on his hands while singing the National Anthem, has a million hits on YouTube or has a million Instagram followers. So what does your child do? Can they beat that? With so much information at our fingertips, it sends out a disturbing message about competitiveness, “I have a million followers, how many do you have?”
It’s exhausting and I think produces a lot of anxiety for kids these days. But of course I wanted to get an expert opinion on all this as we obviously can’t go back in time, technology and social media are a part of our lives for better or worse. But how is it affecting our kids, their behavior, their socialization, their ability to cope, manage the information overload? I always wondered about all this. I’m someone that grew up playing hopscotch and building blocks. Kids today don’t have as much of that free play anymore, or they just don’t utilize it as much.
And of course need I mention this new thing called cyber bullying.
Let’s talk to Dr. Sarah Trosper Olivo to get an expert opinion:
Q) We all know there are positives and negatives to technology, let’s start on a good note, what are some of the positive aspects to kids today exposed to and having so much technology at their disposal?
A) In small or moderate doses, having access to some amount of screen time allows kids to be part of the social conversation at their school, where most kids are playing some popular video game or other. And we’ve seen that kids with some access to touch screens or video games do have a physical and mental dexterity with technology that will be very handy for them in our world full of touch screens. Technology can allow children who are perhaps over-scheduled to have some needed downtime in their brain. They experience something called “flow,” which is when our mind has a very calming balance of being challenged but without mental stress. Musicians talk about it when they’re playing their instrument. Kids brains benefit from flow just like adult brains do.
I think a lot of children today are more aware of social issues, even at young ages. They can see messages about being kind to our earth, treating people different from us with kindness, and using their voice and passion to make changes. I’ve seen so many posts of young children selling lemonade or cookies for refugees or communities impacted by natural disaster. When I was young, I’m pretty sure my lemonade money went straight into the cash register at my local toy store.
Q) what are the negative aspects?
On the flip side, with this compassion comes a lot more worry. Ignorance really can be bliss. It takes a lot of parental monitoring to figure out the right balance for their own kids. Plus parents need to understand the technology and have the willpower to enforce house rules. This can be really hard! I think this has meant that kids often see images or have access to information that’s above their mental pay grade, and they don’t always know how to process it. Even with more innocent games, children often get asked to purchase things for the game in order to keep playing, or they see that their friends are playing online on a different team than them. Kids have to manage FOMO way too early these days if you ask me.
Q) how do you think kids behavior has changed as a result of technology, social media, the internet?
A) I’m certainly not the first one to point out that kids aren’t playing outside nearly as much these days as they used to. Older kids and teens have a lot of very serious conversations over text, where they can’t always read social cues or facial expressions. In my office, when I hear a teen talking about talking to a friend I have to say “talking or texting?” 100% of the time it’s texting.
Q) Do you think there’s a behavioral or developmental difference between technology use e.g. video games or computer use vs social media FB, Twitter, Instagram?
A) I think they lead to different issues. Video or internet use can be used as a coping strategy for anxiety or depression. Sort of a self-medication for young kids who might struggle to be in a social setting. When it becomes a problem for a kid, it’s often a side effect of an emotional issue that was there before the video game playing started. I think social media, on the other hand, can actually generate negative emotion in kids. They’re feeling ok, sign on to Instagram, see a bar mitzvah they weren’t invited to and BOOM, they’re feeling rejected.
Q) At what age is appropriate for a child to have a FB account and a cell phone?
A) Can I say never? Is never an ok answer to give here? Ok, clearly I’m kidding (sort of) but I will tell you I’m holding out as long as possible. I’m working with a group of moms in my town on a “Wait Until 8” campaign, which asks parents to consider waiting until 8th grade for their children to have access to social media. And I would clarify that this means waiting for social media access and a *smart* phone. Companies have caught on to the fact that kids might need phones but that they don’t actually need smart phones. Parents have a lot more options now than they used to, and companies are offering phones that limit or don’t include methods for kids to access social media sites.
Q) I’m sure a lot of parents want to know how much is too much technology? It’s obviously impossible to eliminate technology from a child completely today, but what are the parameters for a good balance?
A) I personally started talking about Dr. Dan Siegel’s Healthy Mind Platter philosophy really early with my kids. It’s essentially a philosophy that, just like getting a range of foods in our bodies to stay healthy, we also need to do a range of activities to keep our minds healthy. We need sleep time, down time, physical time, connecting time, and so on. (More on this here: www.mindplatter.com) So yes, video games can be down time and social media can be connecting time, and that’s all ok as long as it’s balanced with the other parts of a healthy mind. Once you’re child has access to social media, keep the conversation flowing. Ask them to pay attention to how it impacts them. Give them coping tips for how to manage it. You don’t just give your teen the car keys when they’re 16 and say, “Ok, be careful!” You’re in that car with them, giving them tips and making them slow down when they need to. Teaching them about technology shouldn’t be any different.
Q) While there is no concrete evidence, I’ve read a lot of articles that say kids today are more anxious, depressed and isolated and that social media has had a significant hand in that? Would you agree and if so, what can a parent do to help with this?
A) I absolutely agree, and we’re actually starting to see some pretty clear connections. My biggest piece of advice is to wait, talk to your friends and convince them to hold off, work with the school to encourage limited social media use in school, etc. I know this sounds pretty hard core but I’m telling you it’s as bad as what they’re saying. You put safety locks on the cabinets when they’re babies and lock the liquor cabinet when they’re teens. So put safety measures on their mental health, too. Read articles, pay attention and be involved in your child’s social media use while they live in your house. I’m quoting Anastasia Basil here, who writes a lot on this topic: “Don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything.”
Those are just some of the labels that an Only child gets. Are they true?
Since having Luke at a late age in my life, and knowing I would not be having another child, I started to wonder about all the stereotypes that surround Only children. I’m a Middle child and I get stuck with the “middle child syndrome” characteristics – some are good like creative and independent, which I like to believe apply to me:) But the basic theory is that Middle children are resentful of all the attention the first and youngest children got and so they are rebellious, and if I want to be truthful, that also applies to me.
According to Alfred Adler (Austrian psychologist 1870-1937), birth order had a very big impact on the child’s personality. He believed First-born children were prone to perfectionism and need for affirmation. Since there is always someone who was there first, Second or Middle children grow to be more competitive and rebellious. Youngest children, Adler believed, may be dependent and selfish due to always being taken care of by family members.
What did Adler say about Only children, that they can be over-protected and spoiled – big surprise. Well forgive me Dr. Adler if I say my child will never be spoiled, not if I can help it! But I’m sure that’s what every parent thinks and believes about their child regardless of if they have siblings or not. So what does it really mean to be an Only child?
Obviously having or not having siblings is going to effect your childhood and personality in some way shape or form. There are so many studies and articles about this and as family dynamics have changed, so have the results. In the 19th century being an Only child was not considered to be a good thing at all. Psychologist, G Stanley Hall claimed being a lone child was “a disease in itself”. Another psychologist, Eugene Bohanon said Only children were less venturesome and oversensitive, prone to priggish self conceit.
But this was also a time when having lots of children was more socially accepted, and a time when psychology was still a relatively new science with many testing theories, remember “penis envy” (I think that’s another article:)
The reasons people decide to have just “one” child are many. The percentage of couples who have one child has doubled in the past 20 years, up from 10 percent, based on 2011 Census Bureau figures. Today there are 20 million only-child households in the United States. As couples marry later and extend careers, and as fertility issues increase, the result is more Only children. Asking around some parents I know, finance seems to be a big reason, but a few parents have confessed, they like just focusing on one child. They also like having more freedom in what one child brings. And yes, they worry about having a child that is selfish or lonely.
There are a lot of interesting famous Only children – Al Pacino, Elvis Presley, Alan Greenspan, Ghandi, Carol Brunett, Charles Lindbergh, Isaac Newton, Eleanor Roosevelt and my personal favorite Robin Williams. Robin was kind, creative, passionate and highly intelligent. He also committed suicide because he was depressed. So does that mean that Only children are more prone to depression than other children or that being a highly intelligent person may do that? Or does one not have anything to do with the other?
The intricacies of birth order, or not having siblings, is a bit more complex than “only children are spoiled”. Of course parenting style, environment and education all play important factors in shaping any child but we can’t ignore not having a sibling as a factor. I thought I would ask Child Psychologist Dr. Stan Royzman to get more perspective. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: I know there are a lot of studies about Only children. What are some of the recent findings about Only children both positive and not so positive?”
A: This is true, there are many studies on the subject; however, it may be important to know that much of our knowledge about only children comes to us by way of China from their One Child Policy implemented back in 1979 in an effort to slow population growth. Recent studies tell us that only children are at no greater risk for psychological disorders or academic challenges compared to their non-only child counterparts. Rather, only children may actually possess a buffer against mental illness, and some studies suggest that only children demonstrate higher performances on academic and cognitive measures. The research also tells us that only children have greater achievement motivation and are more likely to attain a higher level of education, and that they show greater levels of life satisfaction and are better equipped for managing stressful situations.
Despite the advantages, the research does suggest some challenges to being an only child. For instance, only children have considerably fewer opportunities to rehearse and troubleshoot relational challenges. Since siblings are around one another for most of the day they need to learn how to navigate nuanced social situations, and they get to do so within a safe environment. Only children must learn how to navigate these complicated relationships as well, but they do so in the context of playdates, daycare, school, and extracurricular activities.
Q: It seems like perceptions about Only children have changed over the years, what is the biggest misconception about Only children today?
A: The stereotypes suggest that only children are spoiled, selfish, lonely, and maladjusted. I can tell you now, as can the research, these stereotypes are simply not true. Despite the growing body of research shooting down the stereotypes, these claims have impacted peoples’ perceptions. For instance, a Gallup poll conducted in the early 2000s indicated that only 3% of American adults believed a one child family to be the ideal family size.
Q: One of the main reasons I decided to have Luke in daycare was so he interacted with other kids, how important is that for an Only child?
A: I most certainly support having only children enrolled in daycare, and also in preschool. It offers them additional opportunities to interact with others and learn to navigate the social sphere. Fewer opportunities to socialize may lead to some practical and emotional consequences for only children, such as loneliness for instance. Socializing helps children understand that those around them also have ideas, interests, likes and dislikes, and it teaches them to appreciate difference. This is something that siblings have built into their life, but it’s something that parents of only children need to create through various experiences.
Q: Is it a myth or is there some truth to Only children having “imaginary friends?
A: Many children have imaginary friends, only children and those with siblings. Imaginary buddies are typical and some research even tells us that kids have imaginary friends until 7 or 8 years old. I’m not one to reference Sigmund Freud, but he wrote about how the use of fantasy and imagination may be a way to satisfy needs and desires that aren’t being met in our physical reality. To translate this, and in following Freud’s logic, a child may develop an imaginary friend because he or she may be feeling socially or emotionally isolated. Now, the research is inconsistent around this point but the advice is the same either way – make sure a child has a healthy social life by providing them with adequate opportunities to engage with their peers.
Q: I was also reading how many adult Only children really feel a sense of loss from not having any siblings, is that common, and if so, is there anything a parent can do to make them feel less solitary?
A: Siblings possess a confidant and someone with whom to commiserate. Having the sympathy of someone in the same situation could either reduce the subjective experience of the stressor or at least make it more tolerable. There are the subjective reports that we occasionally hear from only children who are now adults, with some saying they wish they had a sibling growing up so that they wouldn’t have felt as lonely. As adults, some may express a wish for siblings so that they could have help planning and caring for their aging parents. So there are issues to consider when it comes to raising only children, but each of the issues is very manageable as long as the parent is aware of what they are.
Q: Like many parents of Only children, I’m afraid of raising a “spoiled” kid, are there different disciplinary measures a parent should take with an Only child that are different than children with siblings?
A: Exactly what does it mean to be spoiled? Well, someone who is spoiled may be less concerned about others, thinking largely about themselves. He or she may feel a sense of entitlement, in that they deserve everything they receive simply because of who they are. Someone who is spoiled may feel it unnecessary to work for what they want, and instead may expect others to simply hand them whatever it is they desire. They may also take people and things for granted, treating others as if they’re dispensable. Although family composition may be related, becoming a spoiled child or a spoiled adult has to do with parental practices more so than the number of siblings someone has.
Occasionally, parents will come into the office for a consult and express their concern about raising a “spoiled” child. After some discussion I present them with several questions in order to better understand where they are in their thought process and whether they’ve been able to develop an action plan.
Question 1: Am I teaching my child to be kind to others?
Question 2: Am I teaching my child that their feelings matter, as do the feelings of others?
Question 3: Am I teaching my child the value and importance of hard work, effort and persistence?
Question 4: Am I teaching my child that disappointment is a natural part of life?
Question 5: Am I teaching my child how to appropriately address and manage disappointment and frustration?
Q: What other advice would you give parents raising an Only child? And would that advice change if you were giving it to a single parent such as myself?
A: To all parents, I would suggest they sit down each month for one hour and spend some time thinking about who they want their child to be in the future. And I don’t mean what kind of profession you would like for them to have; and this exercise has nothing to do with academic success. These days we place so much emphasis on accomplishment and achievement that we relegate personal qualities and character traits to the back-burner, and what’s worse is we don’t realize it. After you’ve determined the personal qualities you would like for your child, ask yourself what it is you are doing to help foster the growth of these traits. In order for your children to meet these expectations they need you as a model, and they require your active guidance and wisdom to become the best possible version of themselves, and of you.
Dr. Stan Royzman, PsyD, MSEd, is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York. He is a regional supervisor for New York Foundling, overseeing mental health services for their North-Manhattan and Bronx clinics. He is also the owner of Cognitive Champs Psychological Services, a private practice located in Midtown Manhattan, where Dr. Royzman and his colleagues provide children, adolescents and young adults with psychotherapy, psychological testing and neuropsychological evaluations. www.CognitiveChamps.com
(Q&A with single mom of a beautiful daughter with Autism, Lilly Jinkins)
I wake up shivering. My forehead is piping hot and I’m aching throughout every inch of my body. I can barely speak but I hear myself saying “honey, can you please tend to Luke this morning, I think I have the flu”. Oh wait, I’m alone. Luke has been crying for almost 10 minutes now. I drag myself out of bed and go to him. I look at the clock. It’s too early to call anyone for help. And the day begins.
I knew being a single mom wouldn’t be easy. And I wanted this more than anything in the world so really I just need deal with it and stop complaining. And I try not to but it’s tough not to vent at times as this is harder than I ever imagined it would be.
Most of my married friends with kids are actually really good about giving me some praise and letting me know they can’t imagine how I do it alone. My sisters are certainly supportive and tell me all the time that I’m doing a great job. This really helps, getting encouragement from friends and family, but many times, you just feel like no one truly understands what you’re going through. And how could they unless they are a single mom. Even then, single moms have different support systems, tolerance levels, and financial circumstances.
Of course there are many challenges to being a single mom – lack of help, financial burdens, sole decision making, etc and just not having that other person to ask a simple question is frustrating. Of course there are support groups and friends you can ask. But when your child wakes up at 3:00 a.m., screaming and nothing is calming him down, it would be great to have another person to assess the situation. Or help keep you in check when you’re about to lose it. Or yes, give you a little break when you’re not feeling well.
Well, I was having one of my “poor me” days when I came across an article about a single mom raising a child with Autism. And it stopped me dead in my tracks. Just like my married friends can’t imagine raising a child on my own, I can’t imagine being a single mom raising an autistic child.
So I contacted Lilly Jinkins to ask her about what her motherhood experience is like. I was thrilled she decided to answer some questions. Shedding light on Autism is certainly important but interviewing Lilly helped me get a very clear perspective. I was amazed at how positive and uplifting Lilly is when it comes to raising her Autistic daughter Laila Rose, who is 4. Lilly also has a son Jay, 15 who doesn’t have Autism. Major kudos for being a single mom raising not just one child, but two.
If you struggle with being a single mom or just being a parent, it’s important to share stories on how we manage, how we stay focused and positive. It’s important to support each other and reach out to each other as much as we can. No matter what your parental situation is, we are all in it together, the joys, the challenges and the lessons.
Here’s what Lilly had to say.
Q. How did you become a single mom?
I became a single mom three years ago. I was married for thirteen years to my ex. We were married very young and towards the end of our relationship our differences became too much to handle. Though there was much pain through the separation, today we maintain a healthy relationship for our two beautiful children.
Q. I’m a single mom with a long list of challenges and I don’t have a special needs child, what are some of the challenges you have in raising a child with Autism?
My daughter’s Autism diagnosis and my divorce came at the same time in my life. I had very tough days. Raising my child with Autism has taught me how much we need to teach society about acceptance and understanding of people with differences. I have endured many stares at stores and restaurants if my daughter was feeling overwhelmed and having a sensory meltdown. Going through the public-school system to see where my daughter will be placed and how she will be included in the general classroom has also become a challenge. As a special-needs parent I have an undying need to protect her at all costs, though I understand that the biggest present I can give my daughter is to teach her how to survive and become an active member of society.
Q. In reading your stories, your outlook is so positive, how do you maintain that?
Wow! That’s a tough one. You know, I have allowed myself to feel every single emotion possible. I communicate my thoughts all the time, to my friends and family, writing stories for online publications, or just jotting them down to myself. If I am having a tough day, I allow myself to cry! (Often in the shower alone where my kids can’t hear me) Being able to process my thoughts and emotions has given me the opportunity to feel strong and ready to face anything. When my son (who is now taller than me) hugs me, I know that I have found true love in his arms. When my little girl tells me that she loves me (it took years of therapy to get there) I know that there is so much hope in the world. I know I only have this one chance to give my children all the love and support possible to lead a happy life. Waking up every day being grateful for all life has given me and maintaining hope at all costs have helped me maintain a positive outlook.
Q. What are some of the important lessons you have learned in doing this on your own?
I have learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. As a single mother, you really must be “Momma Bear” and make sure your children will be ok and protected no matter what. I learned that my children are the driving force in my life to better myself and never give up. I have also learned to trust my own instinct when it comes to my children and what is best for them.
Q. What advice would you give to any single mom raising a child with any kind of disability or behavioral challenges?
I want to tell all the single mom’s out there that are raising a child with any kind of disability that you are your child’s biggest advocate in life! Speak up when it comes to doctors, teachers, school bus drivers, friends, family, significant others, etc. Never stop learning about your child’s situation so that you know how to take care of them best. Find online support groups with other parents going through what you are. Trust me, it helps so much to know that you are not alone. Most importantly (something I am trying to work on now) take care of yourself as much as possible. Eat right, go for walks, take some time to meditate, read a book. Your child needs you, and as a special needs parent perhaps it will be for longer than expected. Love will carry you through it all.
(see Q&A with HR specialist, Amy Dalton below – yep I asked her about “metoo”)
I got laid off not too long ago. In the world of Advertising, that’s common. In the world of single motherhood, it’s scary.
My company assured me it was strictly financial and they had been laying people off. I guess it’s always a shock when you are one of those people. My immediate reaction was fear because I knew I had to work and support my son. But once the initial shock was over, I was actually relieved.
Everyone says these type of events always end up being a blessing in disguise, or when one door closes another one, often a better one, opens. And it’s very true. I love what I do but I was frustrated at work lately. One of the main reasons for my frustration was they moved my department to Jersey City in an effort for the big parent company to save money on rent. This move added extra time to my commute so it directly effected my son’s schedule and spending less time with him.
The move to Jersey City was not a choice for any of us and so many people were upset, but companies need to do what they have to do to remain profitable. The move wouldn’t have been that bad if the entire company moved, but it was only a few departments so the majority of people I worked with were all back in the NYC office. Working remotely via phone and Skype became the constant. Most of the managers or bosses knew this was a disruption in everyone’s life so they allowed employees to work from home from time to time since we were all working remotely anyway. My boss had been working from home often, even before the move to Jersey City, so it surprised me that he did not grant any of us to work from home, except one producer who worked under me. She was well-connected and had a relative high up in the company. Needless to say, I was frustrated, but I did what I had to do, I made adjustments and saw my son less.
About a month of being laid off, I managed to get some freelance work with a few great dynamic companies. Without me even asking, they all offered me the opportunity to work from home as needed. It was a really nice opportunity especially from where I was. I ended up coming into the office anyways. Sometimes just knowing you have that latitude if needed is really comforting.
I learned so many valuable lessons in getting laid off. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was to stay positive and be open to any work situations and opportunities. Fear and worry get you no where. Be empathetic and be ready to help people when they are looking for a job. I had so many colleagues and friends help me, connect me with people, send my resume around, and it’s a strong reminder to return the favor as you never know when you will be in a situation where you need help.
I learned to trust in myself and my experience and reputation. Having 20 years of experience and working at different companies is a plus. And lastly cherish the time you can spend with your child. Even though I was anxious to start working again, I got to spend quality time with my son and saw him take his very first steps, something I know I would have missed.
In the process of looking for work, a few people suggested that I hide my single mom blog while looking as I might not get hired or considered if people knew I was a single mom. I couldn’t imagine a company, recruiter or HR person not hiring me if they knew I was a single mom. But I guess there’s that stigma that a mom might not be as available as someone who isn’t. It was quite the opposite for me when I had Luke. As hectic as things were, I made sure to check emails when at home and on weekends. I wanted people to see that my efficiency didn’t change just because I had a baby.
But it got me thinking. Do companies look badly upon single moms or mothers in general in the work place? Of course no company would say that outwardly as that’s discrimination, but I wondered, do they?
I did a bit of research on the Internet and came across so many studies that talked about how mothers in general are actually more productive than woman who are not mothers. It talked about how moms don’t waste time at work so they hustle and prioritize and organize, hence making their day extremely efficient. This made sense to me.
I was always an efficient person, even before I became a mother, but I would watch many co-workers spend a lot of time socializing, taking hour lunches, “dilly-dallying”, etc and whenever I inquired they were single with no children. This was logical as their work life was still part of their social life.
I always knew I wanted to be a working mom, even as challenging as it is as a single mom, I think it’s healthy to be working and it’s a great example for your child. It’s difficult at times, yes, but I assume it’s difficult for all parents as you are constantly juggling a work-life balance. It’s important to ask for help and surround yourself with good help, something I’m learning and adjusting to as I go.
I am happy to have my blog back on because blogging makes me happy. I don’t want to believe that anyone or any company would hesitate or not hire a person with great qualifications and a great reputation because they are a mother or a single mother at that. But I thought I’d bring in HR specialist, Amy Dalton, to get her point of view, here’s what she had to say:
Q: How do you see the workplace changing for women who have children? Is it getting better, worse or about the same? The answer is twofold – yes, and maybe the same. Yes, I want to believe we are always moving forward as a society (though there are some hiccups along the way). I saw change when I first started my career in a tech startup, and a management consulting company in Human Resources. There were accommodations for working moms and dads – like a reduced work schedule, or flexible time off, or work from home some hours during the week. That said, not all jobs and scenarios were alike. Some managers wanted and required the employee to be in the office and couldn’t offer a different work arrangement. My experience was such that the jobs which were more consultant, heavy travel and management type jobs were more flexible with work hours/work from home. The less senior jobs (typically more administrative) were not as flexible with schedules.
Q: As an HR specialist, I know its discrimination to not hire or fire someone solely based on their family structure eg. Mom or single parent, etc. Do you think this kind of discrimination happens? The optimist in me would say, “No, not nowadays!” But the realist says, “yes, I am sure it is happening, but companies, specifically human resource departments, are more aware and educated.” Let’s face it, a company hires people to make their business churn, and ultimately, they want to be successful. You can’t get that without employees. Companies need “all hands-on deck” and want employees to work hard, be available and loyal. That said, not all companies have same mindsets or philosophies. You would hope businesses, big and small, value their workforce enough to make accommodations and consider life situations.
Q: What can someone do if they think their company is discriminating them based on their social status? If you believe you have been treated unfairly due to your family status, I would suggest meeting with your employer’s personnel or human resources representative. Women and men should know what their rights are. Keep detailed records of conversations and emails, and be prepared to submit a grievance, if needed.
Q: If a company isn’t necessarily engaging in any acts of discrimination but just doesn’t have a good work life balance, what can you do? Not all individuals (parents or childless) have a choice to stay or go from a job. But you can be proactive. The advice I gave, and practiced myself, is to always have your resume updated and always practice networking. You never know when an opportunity will pop up or when your work experience will be valuable to others. You may not know it, but you network all the time – out with friends, conferences, meetings, neighbors. Someone always knows someone who knows someone. Get good at selling yourself. You are your best salesperson. Great job or not, always be “show ready.”
Q: For the record, if you are interviewing for a job, no company can ask you if you are married or have any children, is that correct? Yes, correct. No one should ask you about marital status, age, if you have kids, etc. in an interview. An interviewer doesn’t need to know those answers if they aren’t relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.
Q: We are seeing lots of companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon that are granting women six months leave and even one year maternity leave. The current policy in the United States is three months paid leave. Do you think more companies will start granting longer maternity leave? I have been out of the human resources business world for almost 10 years, but as I said earlier, I hope we are moving forward and evolving as a society to put needs of all families who must balance work and home on higher priority. Almost 14 years ago, when my son was born and we adopted him, I worked for a big, public company who encouraged time off. I took my family leave (FMLA) of 12 weeks and my company also offered another policy for families adopting children. I wound up taking four months off, more than the 12 weeks I was legally allowed to take. The leave consisted of the adoption policy, accrued vacation and personal time, and some of it unpaid. I was fortunate my husband and I could take some of it unpaid and the company was flexible with time off. A lot of families are not as fortunate and aren’t granted with good options. From a mother’s perspective, that, I know, doesn’t feel right.
Q: We always hear about how European companies grant six months or more of maternity leave. Why don’t a lot of U.S. companies grant more than three months leave? I certainly don’t know much about Europe’s practice of maternity leave. I don’t think they love or value family more than the U.S. or work less than counterparts in the U.S. I know employment law and time off is very different in Europe. Resting and resetting seems to be more cultural. I read something recently that said, “Americans maximize their happiness by working, and Europeans maximize their happiness through leisure.”
Q: With technology allowing everyone to be so accessible these days, should companies allow more flexibility for anyone who may need it? It would be fabulous if your contributions and work were judged by what you accomplished and your goals being met, not if you showed your face in the office or dropped everything to be available. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen all the time or isn’t attainable. People’s family situations change and evolve. My recommendation would be to communicate your concerns with your supervisor. Hear his or her side. There are always nuances, and he or she may be in a situation you don’t know about. If you don’t feel like you are being heard, or exhausted your options, I would go to your human resource or personnel department.
Q: Lastly, I know this story isn’t about sexual harassment but given the latest awareness about sexual harassment and the “metoo” movement that’s going on, as an HR person, do you want to shed some light on it? Every company I worked for had a formal harassment/sexual harassment training program that all new employees took as part of the on-boarding process. My experience was that companies I worked for were always in compliance. That said, it was a presentation that you click through, take a short quiz and you are done. Certainly, it didn’t guarantee the company did their job and no one would harass or assault someone at work, it mostly let the company off the hook in a way as to say “see, we did what we were supposed to.” Companies need to set the tone from the beginning – we pay and treat men and women the same. Starts from head of company and trickles down.
The #Metoo and “Times Up” movements have been powerful and long overdue. I feel like there is this “reckoning”, if you will. In my opinion, women have had an imbalance of power for a very, very long time. Women are finding their voices and are shouting “enough, we are sick of feeling undervalued, underpaid, harassed and shamed”. It’s inspiring. BUT, a big BUT, we must move forward and make real changes with these voices – speak up, get involved, run for office, make a vow to say I am worth more and won’t take it.
My favorite line in Hamilton from Angelica Schuyler sums up how we need to keep moving forward:
I haven’t had sex in well over a year. But that’s not the scary part. The scary part is I don’t really care. This can’t be good.
Don’t get me wrong, I like sex a lot but I feel so fulfilled from being a mom that I don’t have the strong desire to get out in the dating world, meet someone who I can maybe date and yes ultimately have sex with. And I know this isn’t healthy. Having an active sex life is important, I believe it’s a basic human right, damn it!
Now I could get on one of those promiscuous dating sites where people just hook up no strings attached, but that’s never been my thing, not that I have to be in love with every guy I have sex with but at least a casual dating situation would be nice. Although if I hit the 2 year mark, I may just succumb.
The really interesting part is since I’ve become a mom, I’ve been asked out by a few different men – HELLO – where were you guys when I was single without a baby!! But I seem to have made one excuse or another of not pursuing it. And if I’m going to be really honest here, I’m sure there’s a lot of unconscious resentment to it not happening back in my single woman days.
Physically, I haven’t had the desire until maybe about a month or so ago, been feeling those little twangs coming from my sweet spot down there probably saying “hello I’m still here, don’t forget about me”. But even so, they haven’t been strong. A new study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine states that the biggest driver of women with partners having sex after a baby was concern for their partner, not themselves. The top sex-drive killers were fatigue, the attention the baby needs and lack of time.
Even if I did have a strong physical desire, I’m not a divorced mom that has every other weekend free to explore the possibility of dating. So . . .
Here I am, happy, fulfilled, in a thriving exciting city with 1.8 million single men, what’s a single mom to do? I asked Sex Therapist Pamela Kohll for some advice.
Q: How long should anyone go without having sex?
A: As long as anyone wants to go.
Q: So there are no repercussions for someone not having sex for a while?
A: No, there are people who function just fine if they never have sex, there is a whole world of asexual people. However, the more sex you have, the more you want it.
Q: Well that’s good news for me. Is it normal for a new mom to not have any desire to have sex?
A: Yes it is normal not to want to have sex after birthing a child. Birth is a stressor on the body, especially the sex organs. It takes a while to heal, at least 3 months. Also, define what sex is . . . intercourse, oral sex, manual stimulation, etc
Q: I was reading studies that stated not wanting to have sex as a new mom is more emotional than physical? Do you find that to be true?
A: I think it can be both physical and emotional. Again give the body a rest.
Q: I also read that new moms have sex after a baby more for their partners than themselves, would you advise a new mom to have sex for their partner even if they didn’t want to?
A: Do not have sex unless you want to have sex. Having sex for your partner if you aren’t into it is not healthy. Also depends on what “sex” is. Maybe you don’t want intercourse but oral sex is okay, maybe manual stimulation. Discuss with your partner openly and honestly and with a sense of humor.
Q: How long should a new mom wait to have sex?
A: Listen to your body. If you can imagine it, you are probably ready. If not, then you are in the no fly zone time period. But most importantly, check in with your body. If this goes too long, talk to a professional, maybe something happened during childbirth that was traumatic and needs some professional attention.
Q: So if you are a single mom with no prospects of a person to have sex with, what can you do to stimulate your sex life?
A: There are always vibrators, get sensual with yourself, for instance, wear lovely sensual clothing that feels nice to your skin, do activities that embody your body like yoga, meditation, biking, etc. Get a massage, dance, express yourself, listen to sexy music, sing. When you are ready to date, make sure your profile and photo is great, smile, enjoy your baby, your life and your next encounter.
Thank you Pamela.
Pamela Kohl- MS, LMHC, CSAT-S, CCPs, CHFP, New York Intensives Mental Health Counseling. 16 East 41st street Suite 3B, NY, NY 10017. Newyorkintensives.com
I was pregnant during the 2016 Presidential election. I was pretty confident and excited that my son would be born into the first female President of the United States, and thought what a great way for my son to learn the importance of female leadership.
Of course, like many Americans, I was completely disheartened and disturbed that Hillary Clinton did not win. I couldn’t even finish watching the election that Tuesday night as I was getting anxious and I knew that wasn’t good energy to transmit to my unborn baby.
I was and still am in disbelief that Donald Trump is our President. I thought and hoped for a moment after the election that perhaps while he presented himself as a vile and arrogant human being during the candidacy, perhaps winning would humble him and maybe, just maybe he would turn out to be well, not exceptional by any stretch of the means, but at least not horrible, maybe okay. That again has resulted in my hope being completely deflated.
Three weeks after the election, my beautiful son was born. I was overjoyed and in my own happy bubble. As you could imagine, my first month was amazing as I finally had my sweet baby in my arms. I didn’t pay too much attention to what was going on as I was trying to get as much sleep as possible. But being on maternity leave, I would occasionally tune into watch CNN and see the disaster of what the Trump administration is unfold before my eyes.
I realized this is what having bipolar depression must be like. One minute I’m so ridiculously happy, and the next minute, I’m angry, sad and upset.
It’s 9 months later and I am still experiencing the same thing. I have immense joy of being a mother and my time with my son, but I absolutely hate (and I rarely use that word) hate what is happening to my country. I make my critical Trump posts on Facebook, I’ve signed petitions, I’ve called the Senate and Congress, I’ve donated to many organizations that Trump is dismantling, but I still feel sad and hopeless. Yes we’ve had some amazing reaction – the Woman’s March, Judges stopping Trumps racist travel ban, the taking down of confederate statues, Steve Bannon leaving the White House, and this is all great and part of the paramount RESIST movement. But as long as Trump is President, I can’t experience any real peace. Instead I feel so much concern for my nation and I’ve never been more fearful about the state of my country.
So how does one raise a child in this abysmal period? How do you not let the fear and anger get in the way?
The only way we can, with great consideration, love and as much optimism and compassion as possible. And I have to believe that hope and love will conquer in the end. I’m sure when my son is old enough he will one day ask me. My honor roll, kind, compassionate, respectful of all races, and women and anyone different than him will ask me. He will be reading about the Trump era in history books and will ask me, “mom, what was that time really like?” And I will respond, “it was a dark and dreary time in American history but you brought me light and hope into my life.” Thank goodness for my son because it allowed me to not be silent and try to do something, even small actions every day to better this world and country I am still so proud of despite a depraved President.
It’s up to all of us as parents to teach our kids that racism is not acceptable in any shape, that women deserve equal pay for the same work they do as men, that it is all of our jobs to protect this earth and take care of Mother Nature, that it’s not okay to bully someone because they have a different religious belief. And that despite a dark spot in American history, people are ultimately good, and above all love will always win.
When I was trying to get pregnant and it wasn’t happening, I decided to look into alternate routes to motherhood. I loved the idea of adoption, giving a home and life to a child that might otherwise have an underprivileged life.
I began researching and felt overwhelmed, as I’m sure many people do when first taking on the idea of adoption. Although it ultimately didn’t happen for me, I thought I would share my experience with it, as well as my friend Helaina’s, successful adoption of her beautiful little girl Lyra Sky (see Q&A with Helaina below).
International vs U.S. adoption
When I looked into International adoption, I was disappointed in how many countries close their doors to single parent adoption. Vietnam, China, Cambodia and many countries in Africa like DNC, use to grant single parents adoption but no longer. Unless you are willing to take on a special needs child or an older child, many foreign countries will not grant single parents a child.
This seems absurd since most of these children are in foster care or are orphaned and in desperate need for a good home. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. As Madonna (Madonna is my latest “Iconic Single Mom”) experienced in Malawi while adopting her son David, there are very strict rules to abide by, or sometimes no rules at all, which makes it difficult as to who can adopt. Although I feel strongly that the process shouldn’t be easy for anyone, I would love for it to be more open to single moms. See https://www.mljadoptions.com/blog/faqs-single-women-adopting-internationally-20150323 for more information.
International adoption is a long process, taking over a year in most cases, and more costly than U.S. adoption, usually $45,000 vs $20,000. If you choose not to have a special needs child, then you will most likely get a child of 18 months or older. For me, this was a disadvantage as I already had limited resources being a single parent but now I would need to assimilate a foreign cultured child into an English speaking, domestic culture. I wasn’t sure how I was going to adjust or more importantly, how my child would adjust. I began looking into domestic adoption.
After a free seminar at IAC (Independent Adoption Agency) I decided that U.S. adoption would be the way to go. IAC is a non-profit open adoption agency where birth mothers (and sometimes fathers) choose the parent(s) they want. You go through all the common procedures like a criminal investigation, finger-printing, home-study, etc., but you set up a web profile telling potential birth mothers who you are and why you want to adopt. This is a great opportunity to really sell yourself and make yourself appealing to birth mothers.
With U.S. adoption, you will get a newborn and have an opportunity to meet the birth mother, which I really liked.
The statistic were low for birth mothers choosing a single parent but they were also on the rise. IAC statistics were 2009 5% chance for single moms, 2010 8% and in 2011 that rose to 11%. In my process, I opted for very little restrictions on the babies ethnicity, gender and even birth mother’s health status. So while I wouldn’t take a birth mom that did hard-core drugs during her pregnancy, I did say it was okay for some alcohol intake. I was adopting as a single parent so I had to be realistic about my opportunities.
Once my profile and home study were done, my site was launched and I could begin to receive potential calls. IAC coaches you on everything from writing your letter, to designing your site, to what to say when a birth mother calls you.
In the 16 months that my site was active, I received 5 phone calls from birth mothers. All were women that had been raised by single moms themselves and this was re-assuring to me. The discussions were interesting, heartfelt and honest. Although none of these opportunities came to fruition for me, I truly believe these women were extremely courageous and selfless. They knew they couldn’t give their child a secure home full of rich opportunities and adoption would provide that to them. That is the true definition of altruism.
Helaina and her daughter Lyra
How did you know you wanted to adopt?
I was heading down a path of possibly needing an egg donor and a sperm donor. I didn’t need to deliver/give birth if both the egg and sperm were donated. There are children that are coming into this world that need a home, a better home, love, safety, and on going unconditional love and nurturing. I knew I could provide this. So, I decided to adopt. Fortunately I have a few friends that have adopted, so was slightly familiar with the process and knew I could engage in help with them.
What made you choose private adoption?
I chose private over agency because of the unique experience communicating with the birth moms prior to the birth. For me it was important to know the birth mom. This of course is a more intense, intimate, emotional process, one that I could not ever even imagine until I was in it. To the point where I almost gave up as I was pushed to a place that the level of unfamiliarity and emotions were so intense, that I though this was not for me. I am so grateful that I pushed through, by saying to myself, that each day will become easier. I am so thankful that my friends and family helped me through this.
What were some of your fears and hopes when you were going through the process?
Obviously, the biggest fear is if the birth mother was going to change her mind. This was a constant fear throughout the entire process, right up until 45 days after Lyra’s birth. In the beginning, hoping that there would be phone calls coming in, birth mothers that would be interested in my profile…me. Then, not losing them, then the birth mothers not changing their mind, or finding another potential adoptive candidate. Then the realization that I’m single, will they want their child to go to a single parent household … in NYC … You just start thinking about every possibility of what the birth mother is looking for, comparing yourself, and the fears just multiply. But you have to put them aside. The entire time, hoping that this was the one and that I was the one.
There were approximately 8 birth mothers that I spoke to in the beginning, but as soon as I spoke to Lyra’s birth mom, I did know she was the one, and I believe she thought I was the one, but again, you’re dealing with human emotions that change daily. I was told to not count on any one person…I obviously had a hard time with this as well.
How long did it take for Lyra to come into your life?
8 months after I sat with a lawyer and said I want to adopt. I began talking to her birth mom when she was about 3 months pregnant. I was on the phone when we found out she (we) were having a girl, I visited the birth mom when she was about 7 months pregnant, and then went out 5 days before the scheduled C-Section. Lyra spent her first night with me and every night after.
What was meeting the birth mother like?
Intense. Even before meeting her, it was intense. Each day of communicating was intense, her questions, me trying to find the right answers….while trying to be empathetic and compassionate but strong, grateful, emotional, having the right emotions, not too many, not too little, trying to be as honest as I could be, etc. Meeting her at that point was almost a relief and necessary as we had been speaking on the phone at that point for 4 months. But again, intense, she wanted me to know everything about her and her family. We spent a couple very long days together.
What do you wish could be improved or better about the adoption process?
I can’t say. This is a very personal, emotional experience, between two human beings. You just have to be your best, honest self. It’s not a process that can be ‘improved.’ If there were companies, firms, agencies, etc. involved, then I could say that there could be improvements, but this experience is unique for each situation.
Is there is any advice you have for anyone going through adoption?
This is tough to answer, because, again, each experience is unique and personal. You are dealing with the emotions of a couple to several human beings…making life decisions. Maybe the piece of advice I would give is don’t give up. When you think it’s getting difficult, it is, and it will get even harder, but you must stick with it if you want it. And I can assure you, it’s so worth it.
When I was pregnant, the thought of putting my unborn son into day care didn’t seem like a bad idea. I thought, it will be good socialization for him especially since he will most likely be an only child. But once Luke was born and I saw how much personal attention and care he required, I began to get nervous about putting him in day care at only 3 months of age.
I lucked out and was able to have a nanny for 3 months, and putting off day care for three more months seemed a bit more appropriate. Dora, my Spanish-speaking nanny from Columbia was exceptional, and willing to work within my budget. She was visiting the States for three months so it worked out wonderful for both of us. Luke loved Dora. She was attentive and loving towards Luke. Every time Dora walked in the door in the morning, Luke would be all smiles so I knew he was in good hands.
Of course there are positives and negatives to both nannies and day care. The personalized attention your baby gets with a nanny will no doubt give you peace of mind. And your baby will most likely get in a solid routine with a nanny. But studies have found that being around other babies is not only great stimulation for your baby, but they learn to develop healthy coping skills and be better prepared for school.
When Dora left, I didn’t think Luke was ready to go straight from full time nanny to full time day care, but being a single mom, I had to be realistic about what I could afford. I came up with a compromise. Twice a week Luke would be with his new nanny, Kiara, and 3 days a week he would be in his new day care, All My Children, located at 112 Ridge street, (picking a day care is a whole other story), I felt this was a good way to gradually introduce day care and see if Luke would be okay with it.
Luke did transition well into day care and I am surprised at how much he likes it. He loves being around other babies. He is in his third month and never cries when I drop him off or pick him up. Most day cares will give you a progress report when you pick up your baby on how they did that day. But I always talk to the staff so that I can get as much information as possible.
Being a Producer, I am extremely organized, probably to a fault and day cares in general tend to be a bit disorganized when it comes to logistics and administration, or at least this has been my experience with All My Children. But most important, you want to feel good about the actual caregivers looking after your little one, and in this aspect, All My Children is great.
Kiara, as well is a great nanny. She was a baby nurse for many years, and so has great advice for me. One great piece of advice she gave me when I was introducing Luke to food was to not mix everything together, as I had been, to see what he really likes and what he may or may not develop an allergy to.
I do find that Luke’s overall schedule is not as great when he is at day care as to be expected, but writing out instructions helped with this. It’s still not perfect but it will never be and learning to let go is a big part of motherhood.
Here are some Pro’s and Con’s I have found with both:
Pros to Day Care – Luke loves the stimulation, developing sharing and coping skills, music class once a week, formula and food is included (if you use theirs), and it’s extremely cost-efficient.
Cons to Day Care – no one-on-one personalization, his schedule is sometimes off, no immediate attention, plan on your child getting sick often – but this can also be a pro as it will help build your child’s immune system up.
Pros to Nanny – one-on-one personalization, nanny comes right to your door, better assessment of behavior, he cries, she picks him up right away.
Cons to Nanny – more costly – you will need to give your nanny paid vacation and holiday, and no other baby stimulation – this is a big one as the more babies are around other babies, they learn to share and problem solve.
The combination of nanny and day care works for me and it’s a little less expensive than a full time nanny, but whatever you decide to do, you should of course do extensive research on both and of course meet your nanny and visit each day care.