Thursday, March 25, 2010

LadyMama Column: Matza Moms

Matzah Moms
By Mimi Hecht
Until recent years, the most common broken-record complaint heard from mothers was that husbands didn’t help out enough. And no matter how many diapers he changed and aprons he donned, helpful husbands never scored enough points to hold up against the ocean of chores and both mentally and physically challenging tasks that fell under mom’s role. The collective mother body had pretty much raised its broom in conclusion that no man can do a job quite as quick, thorough or gladly as a woman.
Over the last few decades, however, the dish-washing gloves have switched hands. With droves of women entering the workforce and leaving their children behind, the roles of husband and wife, father and mother are being redefined. And with the shifting responsibilities producing a more equalized involvement in childcare and household chores, women’s notion that men just aren’t good enough is being put to the test. New research from the University of Texas finds that moms with super helpful hubbies experience a sense of incompetence. Close to 80 dual-earner couples, all parents of toddlers, were interviewed about self-esteem as it relates to their so called “parenting proficiency.” When asked about their perception of their spouse’s involvement, the result on the side of moms was surprising. After toiling to solicit daddy’s help, and now finally conquering his involvement like no other generation, today’s working moms are reporting a low self esteem that they admit is directly related to watching their husbands fit into the maternal role with ease and confidence. Study results showed that the more time husbands spend with the children, the lower their wife’s sense of self-worth.
After all this time being convinced we had the special touch, it turns out that daddy is much better than second-best. And it hurts.
Amazingly enough, our increasingly egalitarian world has not washed away women’s deep self-expectation to be the starring role in parenting. When our spouse goes above and beyond to help – and is good at it – it’s somewhat of a smack in the face.
Has our motherly ego gotten the best of us? Has all our knowledge about “mother’s intuition” and the mother-child bond inflated our sense of worth as it pertains to our role as parents? Can we still believe in the uniqueness of what we offer our families without being threatened…by our own husbands?
As it turns out, our swollen sense of self has left us feeling small. We built up our proficiency so far as to believe that no one else – not even our children’s father – can take our place in any way. When he does, we crumble. Meanwhile, this whole time, we thought it was only the men in our lives who needed some ego-deflating.
It seems the overly-proud mother has a lesson to learn from Passover. The unleavened bread that is the holiday highlight warns us not to bloat our sense of self. To be truly free, we must get rid of all the self pride that is weighing us down. Feeling threatened by our husbands’ proficiency at childrearing and homemaking reveals something very un-motherly – jealousy. And, anyways, if we’re so good at what we do, why does a helpful husband make us feel useless?
No one can truly take a mothers place, and both parents have something unique to offer. But we ladies need to realize that, even with all our motherly prowess, we are somewhat indispensable. That is, with a wonderful husband of course. So let’s accept our spouse’s help. Let’s let him thrive in the role we thought we owned. If it damages our self-esteem, that might not be such a bad thing after all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Study suggests kids can ‘recover’ from autism

Study suggests kids can ‘recover’ from autism - Mental health-
Researcher says 10 percent of autistic children overcome disorder by age 9"

Babies are born to boogie!

Babies love a beat, according to a new study that found dancing comes naturally to infants.

Monday, March 15, 2010

LadyMama Column: The Malady of a Maid

The Malady of a Maid
By Mimi Hecht
After living in our two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment for almost eight months, my husband and I finally decided to hire a cleaning lady. I love to clean and have been efficiently up-keeping our pad, but with our usually vibrant trio ravaged by a cold virus and the baby starting to move all over the hardwood, we decided it was high time to do some floor-to-ceiling scrubbing. You know, the kind of cleaning that I just refuse to do. My prince-of-a-husband made the suggestion and I tried to convince him our apartment was fine. But when he mentioned a few hard-hit areas of our home, I knew I had to succumb. We made the call. The cleaning lady would come tomorrow. I got excited.
But that night, I tossed and turned. My nerves were pulsating like the night before a math exam. It hadn’t occurred to me that my house was completely unprepared for someone to tackle its mess. If Clara was going to come work her magic on my house, I had to be ready! If my apartment wasn’t anywhere near clean – how could I hire a cleaning lady?
You see, this is the cleaning lady conundrum. You have to clean your own home before you invite someone in to clean it for you. Suddenly, it made sense to me why, growing up, my mother would tell us kids, “Make sure you clean your room! The maid is coming!” I used to think my mother didn’t understand what acleaning lady was. And suffice to say, having to make my bed and clear my room in anticipation of Rosario’s visit really took the thrill out of the whole thing.
So here I was, the night before my cleaning appointment, considering canceling Clara the cleaning lady because my crib wasn’t clean for her to come clean it (read that three times, it’s absurd!). Only after making a mental list of chores to do before her arrival did I sleep soundly.
I woke up pumped to get the house ready and sparkling for Clara’s grand entrance. I didn’t want Clara to spend time on dishes, and they were completely cluttering the kitchen. So I washed dishes. I couldn’t imagine her picking up our dirty tissues. So I swept. I needed to make room for her to dust. So I cleared countertops. The obvious irrationality was masked by my discomfort in making a stranger clean up for me and a dose of embarrassment at how tragically messy my house had become.
If someone would have peeked through my window and watched me flying around the house anxiously cleaning and organizing, they would have thought I was expecting the Queen of England. But when Clara arrived, it was anything but English. I felt a pain in my heart, a deep regret for slacking off in Spanish 101. I tried to apologize that my house wasn’t ready. For emphasis, let me say that in another way: I said sorry to a cleaning lady that my house wasn’t clean! She didn’t understand; perhaps because I was being preposterous, but probably because the language barrier. But as it turns out, our method of communication was far deeper. Together - yes together - we entered a trance-like cleaning collaboration. She went straight to work with a broom and rag in my room while I danced around her clearing that which I considered out of her jurisdiction. With her expertise - and my mental insanity - the house was spotless in three hours.
In the end, I realize I paid a maid to get me to clean. With Clara’s silent (aka, non-English speaking) companionship, I raced, sweated, danced, whistled and organized my way into a fresh, sparkling apartment. When I offered Clara a glass of water, I nearly gulped it down myself. Yes, she did clean. But I did way too much for having hired her. And it’s my issue.
I wonder if other women just entering a relationship with their own Rosario, Clara or Maria have the same oxymoronic (and mostly moronic) need to clean in anticipation of their hired help. Is it my guilt at not wanting to get down and dirty to scrub? Or is it my empathy for a woman that cleans for a living? As women, are we all entitled to a cleaning lady? If yes, what is her role, what is ours?
All I know is there was something deeply uncomfortable about hiring Clara. But while “Mimi the Maid” does have a ring to it, I can never again be my home's sole cleaner and Clara will be coming again this week. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get ready.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Is it Okay to be Fat?

By Mimi Hecht
First Lady Michelle Obama has a strong stance on a weighty American issue.
Last week, ABC’s Nightline “Face-Off” debate series aired its fifth installment which dealt with one simple and seemingly straightforward question: Is it okay to be fat?
On one side was Crystal Renn, a plus-size model who once starved herself to be thin to meet industry standards; and Mirianne Kirby, self proclaimed “fat activist” who is outspoken against the stigma associated with being "fat.” On the other side, Meme Roth, president of National Action Against Obesity and Kim Bensen, author of "Finally Thin,” who lost 200 pounds after years of struggling with obesity.
I watched the show not because I was curious about the answer but because I was completely dumbfounded as to how there could possibly be a question. What were a bunch of mature adults doing taking up space on television to discuss whether it’s okay to be overweight? Obviously the question was rhetorical!
The eye-opener came when Kirby explained that, though she is hundreds of pounds overweight, she considers herself healthy. “This is just the way my body settled,” she explained. With completely confidence she repeatedly announced, “You can absolutely be fat and healthy.” The other debaters didn’t bother to pry into the details of Kirby’s diet or health; they just argued in horror. But amazingly enough, Kirby’s sentiments found an overwhelming response of agreement on ABC’s site as well as various online blogs.
While I thought the question was preposterous, it turns out that many Americans still think its “okay” to be fat. While anti-obesity activist Roth explained that people will justify anything to protect themselves, Kirby represented an enormous (pun intended) group of people that completely ignore the overwhelming evidence and warnings that being overweight is a surefire road to major physical and mental health issues.
I myself can probably be considered overweight. Especially post-baby, I have some stubborn lingering pounds that I am completely willing to admit may have an adverse affect on my health. If you call me fat, I won’t say “okay.” I know the answer on the scale should call me into action. And I’m nowhere near obese! Why do my few pounds cause me concern and there are obese Americans who call themselves healthy?
I can’t help but wonder, who will clear this up and make it known that being fat is most certainly and unequivocally a serious health concern? I worry, how will America ever tackle its obesity crisis…if we can’t agree it’s a crisis?
Houston, We Have a Problem
Enter the Presidential Task Force. Just two short weeks ago, the First Lady Michelle Obama launched her “Let’s Move” campaign to strategically fight childhood obesity. The national goal to create a healthier America is founded on four pillars: to give parents the support they need, provide healthier food in schools, encourage kids to be more physically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of our country. To aid in the ambitious mission, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum creating the first ever Task Force on Childhood Obesity.
At first, people praised the First Lady for undertaking such a seemingly non-political cause and instead choosing to tackle an issue that could bring America together in the fight towards a healthier country. But when the details emerged, so did the critics. “Let’s Move” initiatives that include removing junk food from school vending machines and raising prices for fatty foods have people crying that, albeit with good intentions, the government intervention is overstepping boundaries.
But with a national health crisis threatening future generations, do we really have time to debate? While many American’s justify a body that results from too much fast-food and too little exercise, the First Lady is exactly what we need – a high profile, influential leader (a mom!) to set the record straight. Michelle Obama is bold enough to label the problem and use the “F” word with honesty: fat is bad.
While Nightline’s debate revealed a portion of society that thinks obesity and health can go together, the First Lady wants everyone to know it isnot okay to be fat. With “Let’s Move” garnering attention in schools everywhere, we can be sure that our children won’t grow up thinking being overweight is a non-issue. The First Lady’s explicit stance – and her stance alone - may just save us. We can argue the details of her plan, but Michelle Obama is taking the very vital first step in attacking obesity: knowing there is a problem.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Female-only megila readings growing in popularity

Female-only megila readings growing in popularity

LadyMama Column: My Blackberry Baby

How many parents can say they successfully captured their child’s very first smile on camera? How many mothers wish they would have had their camera within reach when their child looked them in their eyes and revealed that first toothless grin?

I never had to make that wish or feel such regret. Thanks to an inseparable relationship with my Blackberry – a multimedia amusement park also known as a smartphone - I will forever have a picture of my son’s very first shining smile. As with every other attempt to capture the perfect shot, I was holding up my Blackberry camera and making funny sounds to get his attention when he broke out in his first charming smile. I went mad with joy and immediately sent the photo to my husband.

That first smile was exactly the clich̩ I was told it would be Рa slice of heaven. It was big and bright, with a twinkle in his eye, and gave me warm-fuzzies all over.

I have only one regret. I saw it through a screen.

I fell victim to the Blackberry craze just one month after I gave birth (a labor present of sorts). I immediately felt the joy in having a gadget that would allow me to capture pictures, videos and voice notes and instantly share them. My parents live on the West Coast and I wouldn’t tolerate them missing even one moment of their first grandchild’s life.

Month’s later and a tour through my Blackberry photo and video library showcases a unique collection of original works. “Morning Poop Kisses,” “Nakey Hug” “Sleeping with One Eye Open,” and “Sneeze Cough Smile” are actual titles of just a few of the hundreds of snapshots and clips to forever remember my baby’s many moments. With his every move (poops, laughs and even sneezes) recorded on my little device, there’s practically nothing left to witness! But thankfully, he is ever-changing and always entering unknown territory, leaving endless opportunities to record more original masterpieces. And when I do, it takes two seconds to – directly from my phone – e-mail the family, upload to Facebook, Twitter and my blog.

There’s no other way to put it. Thanks to my Blackberry, I have become my child’s own paparazzi. My right hand is always ready – like a cowboy and his holster – to record every share-worthy baby minute (Did you know that the stroller cup-holder fits a Blackberry perfectly?). But while many people complain of “Blackberry Thumb” – a sprain-like sensation from typing too much on their handheld – my problem is worse. And if things don’t change soon, I threaten the wellbeing of my family.

Admittedly, I often feel like I am observing my son through a screen - my Blackberry Baby. And the moments don’t seem to be as valuable as they once were. When I flip through my mobile photos to show a friend, it’s like nothing is precious. Oh, that picture? Eh, I have better. Ya, he’s smiling in that one…but look at this one! I wonder, if I accidentally pressed something and deleted all the files that are slowing down my phone…what would I have left? Do all my child’s adorable moments exist as strongly in my mind as they do on my Blackberry?

The benefit of having a media-miracle to aid in sharing my son’s life is obvious. Thanks to my Blackberry, my parents feel like they’re with me every step of the way. Recently, when I sent my mother a picture of the baby finally attempting to crawl, I got an immediate reply text: “Put socks on him! It’s cold!”

But with the advantages of being able to share every second comes the risk of watching my son’s life hurriedly pass on a screen. What would have happened had I not viewed my son’s first smile through a screen and quickly e-mailed it to every one? I probably would have saturated in the magical moment, let it linger just a little longer. It would have always been a distinctive event in both our lives. But instead, it’s only a picture. Yes, only a picture. It may be worth a thousand words, but it can never take the place of the indispensable mother and child moment I missed.

The other day, about fifteen minutes after putting my exhausted son down for a nap, I was typing on my computer when I heard him giggling uncontrollably. Before I went to his room, I quickly tried to locate my Blackberry so I could video him laughing. I then realized that the adorable giggling was, in fact, my ringtone. I forgot that, earlier in the day, I had recorded his giggles and set it as my default ringer. Wow, I thought to myself, I am completely hopeless.

As hard as it will be to reverse six months of constantly stalking my child with my Blackberry, I am ready to change. I have missed too many moments trying not to miss them. I can’t record my toddler’s every move if it carries the risk of distancing me from the involvement so necessary to his development, and our vital bond. To every mother who feels she might be raising a Blackberry Baby, my advice is simple: Put down your Blackberry. You don’t want to miss a thing.