Monday, May 31, 2010

Lessons Of A Smoking Toddler

Lessons From A Smoking Toddler
By Mimi Hecht

In his tiny hut in a town in Indonesia, Ardi Rizal has become somewhat of a tourist attraction. People watch him and snap pictures, excited to get a glimpse of a two-year-old who has taken up a rather adult habit; his obese toddler body sits aboard a red toy truck as he smokes cigarettes, one after the other. 

When a video of cigarette-addicted Ardi surfaced on YouTube over a week ago, it sparked horrified reactions all over the globe. Health officials are criticizing Indonesia’s tobacco problem (they’re one of the few countries that allow widespread cigarette advertising) while parent-bloggers curse Ardi’s parents for their inability to control their child. To say the least, Ardi’s bad baby habit has us all…well, fuming.   

But with an endless wave of reactions on every front, it seems the real caution inherent in Ardi’s tale has been covered in ash. Responses of horror and condemnation are warranted, but what is this chubby Indonesian toddler really teaching us? 

It’s not surprising to learn that little Ardi’s father is a heavy smoker. After all, the kid had to pick up a cigarette somewhere. How, then, is the world so aghast at this baby's adoption of a bad habit when he was exposed to it every single day? Could it be that the world believes that, because our babies can't walk or speak, they are somehow blind to our actions? 

The public is enamored by videos of Ardi’s smoking because he is a baby acting like an adult. But in Ardi’s defense, he couldn’t be acting more like a baby! After all, what is a baby if not a little vulnerable sponge, soaking up our every mood, word and – more obviously – action?

When our six-month-old copies something we do, we gawk. Clapping hands. Waving goodbye. Watching and learning is primary; parents are their only model of what it means to be a human. They’re developing brains are never going to be as reliant on our actions as they are in their infant and toddler years. We may not see it right away, but they eventually become what they have watched and heard ever since they were born. There’s no hiding. Like father, like son.

And yet, when our young assume so-called “adult habits,” we are astonished. “Did he just say the F-word?!” cry foul-mouthed parents. Or what about the popular video of the toddler dancing to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” in a diaper?  It may seem cute now, but when she turns four and starts dressing skimpy and actually mimicking the inappropriate dance moves, she’ll be on YouTube again. We’ll all be horrified – and somehow surprised.
Perhaps Ardi’s father thought he would stop smoking when his son was “old enough” to be impressionable. Perhaps he doesn’t realize – just like the rest of us often don’t – that “old enough” is actually a very young age.

Every parent needs to realize that our every action – both good deeds and bad habits – get collected by our young…by our very young. And it’s normal. This is what babies do. They don’t become susceptible overnight, but over time. There is not going to be a magical day in which your child alerts you by saying “Mom, Dad, I’m watching now!” So even though our newborns seem like out-of-touch blobs, they’re going to start picking up our shtick sooner than we think. We need to ditch our bad habits and realize that our responsibility to be positive role models starts before they can say, “Mama.” Sure, it’s easier said than done. That’s why if you’re child is still in utero - or even but a thought in G-d’s mind - there’s never been a better time to change.

Although smoking Ardi is an extreme example, he nevertheless makes the point. Through the national exposure his puffing has earned, perhaps the adult world will learn something about the impressions we make on our young. Thank you, little addicted Ardi. While you sit in Indonesia chain smoking, the world is getting a harsh lesson in parenting. Perhaps in that way, your blackening lungs won’t be entirely in vain.  

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jean Diapers?

Every mom can admit that she factors in style when choosing things for her baby. But that's usually reserved for our choice of clothing, stroller, highchair and the like. While the diaper has always been strictly about function and cost, Huggies is trying to appeal to the hip mom inside us. What does this new trend say about motherhood today? Would you buy these jean diapers?

Why All The Stress?

By Mimi Hecht

“The very purest form of birth control ever devised.”

These are the words of a researcher summing up the findings of a two year study in which social scientists from the University of California videotaped every waking, at-home moment in the lives of thirty-two dual-earning, multiple-child, middle class American families. Over 1, 540 hours of videotape were studied for researchers to examine and codify interactions – from every hug to every fuss – between parents and their kids. Scientists are calling it “the richest, most detailed, most complete database of middle-class family living in the world.”

After $9 million and endless hours of video-watching, the researchers handed over a discouraging picture of family-life. The families under scrutiny revealed an extremely high-stress lifestyle brimming with multi-tasking, arguing and severe disorganization. Offering a candid look into parents’ many roles, the study showcased parents as at-home teachers, enforcing homework deadlines; as coaches and personal trainers, sorting through piles of equipment; as camp directors, planning play dates and weekend family-time.  Videographers reported being overwhelmed from recording the incessant coordination and problem-solving.

For everyone involved, witnessing today’s average family was dizzying. And that says nothing of what today’s American families are actually experiencing…

For parents reading the findings, it was “the story of my life.” With the unanimous results of this unique study, you can be sure that your dual-income neighbors are just as exhausted and defeated as you are. If you and your spouse both have a job and you have more than one child, you’re undoubtedly mirroring the stressed-out lives observed in this study. Every week, you’re in need of a deep massage, a few-day getaway and, of course, a session with your therapist. You’re not alone, and you’re not insane (but still, keep the therapist).

With an up-close encounter with parenthood revealing such an unappealing bottom line, the researcher quoted above is spot on: Why even have kids?

People who react to the study with fear of becoming a parent or, worse, disdain for having children, are missing the bigger picture. It’s not simply that having kids is stressful and insurmountable in itself. The new American family (represented by this study) is being brought to its knees crying because of our own inventions – namely, the dual-earning family.  Societal and financial pressures are increasingly bringing mothers into the workforce – and this study is great proof that it has brought significant stress and mismanagement into our homes. Researchers observed that that parents’ flexibility in dividing labor only added to household tension. Child-care responsibilities were usually decided on the fly, instead of being pre-ordained, which intensified anxiety and led to significant decay in family functionality. On the contrary, couples with more rigidly defined responsibilities seemed to function with a lesser degree of anxiety. It seems obvious, then, that the health of our families is dependant on parents’ commitment to their traditional, defined responsibilities. But how could that work with two parents in the workforce? As it turns out, the “old fashioned” family we often mock is exactly the role-defined system we need to save us, before all the frantic multi-tasking and corroding borders eat our families alive.

But while women in the workforce was once seen as an exhilarating right and opportunity, today’s parents that want to return to more traditional roles don’t have the luxury to make a decision. Mothers are increasingly holding jobs out of necessity, not desire.

Perhaps the solution to all the at-home drama is a mere recognition of an ideal - simply acknowledging what worked a few decades ago. By recognizing the unique state of our current parental roles, we can begin to re-structure our homes. Only when we match the inside of our families to our current method can we reduce the pile of stress we have created.

Mothers working means two parents are together holding not one, not two but three jobs. But what has changed inside the home? In all these years, what adjustments have we made to match this new structure? For instance, do fathers reserve the right to be tired and on hiatus when they come home if their partner is equally exhausted from work? Should mothers still be spending 27 percent of their time on housework, compared to dad’s 18 percent?

It could be that the Women’s Rights Movement lacked some foresight. With great intentions (and many great results), they didn’t see the repercussions of failing to ensure that their home’s inner-workings adapted with the turning of the tide. In many ways, the damage has been done – but it’s not irreversible. The answer is not to pull every mother from the workforce. What we need is a movement that brings both parents’ efforts into the home in a defined way with clear divisions of labor. Parents must stop acting as if dual-earning families are the way it always was. We need to rework our household arrangement, each family deciding for themselves what they need to alleviate the mounting tension.

A nation of stressful families means a bleak future on every level, not to mention it’s clearly bad PR for having children altogether. And if we don’t create families, what do we have?  Well, quite frankly, a disintegrating population of very busy lives, spinning in meaningless circles that nobody will even be around to remember.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Busty Barbie Causing a Stir

Parents are complaining that Mattel's new plunging-neckline and cleavage-revealing Barbie is out of line:

But how can you not notice the attire of the mother pointing out the inappropriateness of the new Barbie? Seems she's more worried about the plastic figurine than real life role-models for our daughters. Get with the program!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Jewish Woman’s 10 Commandments

The Jewish Woman’s 10 Commandments
By Mimi Hecht
  1. You Are The Master, The One Master, There Shall Be No Other: A legion of rebels will try to test this first commandment, but you must hold firm. If you are not the Lord of your family, no one (I repeat, no one) will rise in your place. You have been chosen to singlehandedly take your home out of exile.

  1. Seven Days You Shall Labor; There Shall Be No Rest: Shabbos, a day of rest? Ha! As the “Divine Day” approached, you lived in an apron, commandeered the kids baths and wardrobes, cleaned up after three tornadoes in the kitchen and, on top of it all, said “yes, my pleeeaassure!” to an additional five guests (see the 8th commandment). So if you’re doing less on the seventh day, it’s not because you’re resting. It’s because, in the light of the “peaceful glow” of your Shabbos candles, you’ve officially entered a comatose state. 

  1. The Diet Shall Commence Tomorrow: You can’t tackle the battle of the bulge when there’s always a reason – or commandment – to eat. The diet is a real thing for the Jewish woman. But it always starts after Chanukah. No, after Purim.  Errr, after Pesach? There’s no hope. So you’re better off just abiding by this intuitive commandment and always start your diet tomorrow. Except, wait, tomorrow’s Shavuos. And we all know what that means.

  1. Thou Shall Have a Multitude Of Number One Priorities: Your husband should always come first. Your kids are of primary importance. You must take care of yourself before anything! Only the Jewish woman can manage making a million things her number one priority. Consider this one of those superpowers that makes you thy home’s infallible master.

  1. Thou Shall Honor...Thyself! If you didn’t have this commandment, you’d evaporate into thin air (and then who would feed the kids?!). So do yourself a favor: go get a manicure. Read a book. Run. Far. Away. By honoring yourself, that’s the best thing you can do for your family (hmm, I see a pattern forming).

  1. Thou Shall Not Covet Another Mother: This commandment is essential to navigating the terrain of Jewish motherhood. If you’re busy looking at all the other YiddisheMamas” out there, you’re never going to be good enough. There’s always someone else with a bigger dining room table, better behaved children and a much more futuristic stroller (yes, even though yours looks like the spaceship your toddler always wanted).

  1. Thou Shall Not Commit Idolatry: Do not place all your cards on your “goya.” Maria will not save you.  Don’t worship or bow to her esteemed maid service. She will drop you in a heartbeat when the Goldbergs down the block offer her few more bucks and a renovated basement to live in.

  1. Thou Shall Never Say "No" In Vain: Every Jewish woman has about three “no”s to use in her lifetime. When you get called to host a simcha, cook for a friend who just gave birth, or spearhead the PTA group, you better say “yes” or risk being banished to eternal guilt. Oh, and not just any good ‘ol “yes” – you have to say “my pleeeaaaassure!” If you’re going to use one of your “no”s, it better be because your lying listless in bed. And if this person is calling because someone else is sick and needs a refuah sheleima(complete recovery), even that excuse won’t do.

  1. Thou Shall Not Take For Granted: Want to get stoned by your fellow Woman of Valor? Take everything for granted. If you want to survive as a Jewish woman, you’re going to have to add some grateful jargon to your current mix of obscenities and gossip. When you talk about your kids turning your hair white at the ripe age of thirty three, say “Thank G-d.” When you speak of that upcoming simcha (celebration) in the family that’s costing you the price of Pesach shopping times a hundred, say “G-d willing.” And, for the love of G-d, when you’re kvetching about your super-imposing and overbearing mother-in-law, don’t forget to say “Keyn AynHoreh!”

  1. Thou Shall Not Break The Rules: If you think you’re entitled to ignore or bend the rules of motherhood every now and then, let this final commandment be a reminder. The second you stop living up to your statutes, someone will call you out. Your husband will say, “Well, that’s the wife’s job” and your kids will yell, “But you’re my mommy!” So before you get ahead of yourself, just know – these reminders are a specially-made version of bolts of lightening.

  1. Thou Shall Never Be Fully Prepared: If you’re a Jewish mother, you’re used to surprises – so you can certainly throw one more commandment into the juggle (if not to just prove yourself than anything else). Your life is full, action-packed and bustling with energy. Always expect the unexpected and realize you’ll never be completely ready. If you think you are, you’re lying – and there’s a whole other set of commandments that deals with that!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day for the Childless

By Mimi Hecht
The Mother’s Day message is that every mother should be treated, pampered and
 praised for her hard work. But what about the rights of women who have
 tried and tried but are yet to become mothers?

Mother’s Day for the Childless

This Mother’s Day is my first since giving birth to my son and officially joining the world of mommy-hood. Sitting at my laptop, all the emotional flower ads and excited Facebook posts make me feel like I’m at a Mother’s Day brunch, so I don’t feel bad that I’m spending the day trying to meet my column deadline.

As a mom-blogger, I know my article has to be a about the importance of today. But with every article, post and “tweet” giving millions of moms a platform, I find the need to use this Mother’s Day to become a voice for the women who aren’t making Mother’s Day’s front page.

As the world lauds the importance and fulfillment of motherhood, we are surrounded by the silence of women who pass every prayer-filled day being denied the gift of children. For women who face the anguish of infertility, Mother’s Day is not a festivity, but a lively reminder of a role they so badly want to fill. For them, late April and early May is a hellish season, filled with inescapable banners and fliers in every grocery store, restaurant and mall – all reminding them of what should be or could have been. As heartfelt Mother’s Day poems fill their inboxes and their friends relish in recognizing the joy in being mommies, the childless woman is alone, left only with her imagination and unanswered tears.

I can’t help but feel an extra dose of grief on behalf of women in the Orthodox-Jewish community who are experiencing difficulty conceiving. In a society where having large families is praised and it is common for women to show belly-bumps just months after marriage, the childless woman’s ache cannot rest. She is forever forced to confront her insuppressible yearning when spending time with friends who have babies, listening to a Rebbetzin highlight the centricity of creating a family or simply being asked a common question: “How many kids do you have?”

Moreover, it is common for her to deal with the tactless comments from other mothers who are insensitive to her plight. From assuming she is taking birth control to comments like “Oh, just enjoy this time without kids,” I have heard mothers make senseless remarks - all to a woman who already feels like a second-class citizen in the Jewish community and, to make matters worse, lives in a world where open conversations on the more complex side of intimacy and childbirth are not-yet fully embraced.

The Mother’s Day message is that every mother should be treated, pampered and praised for her hard work. But what about the rights of women who have tried and tried but are yet to become mothers? They spend every day caring for their husbands and homes – living life with a smile despite the fact that everything reminds them of their void. And yet, there are no celebrations, parties, rituals or membership kits for the involuntarily childless couple.

On today’s day of flowers and Hallmark cards, it is the responsibility of every Jewish mother to recognize the women who are not celebrating but instead riddled with pain. Our duty is obvious. We cannot for a second take for granted our having children. As long as there are women who must undergo the emotionally and physically taxing life of constant doctor visits and treatments – not leaving any stone unturned in their desire to conceive – then motherhood is not a given. More importantly, we must sensitize our minds and hearts to the women who endure infertility in our all-about-the-baby society. We need to adjust our attitude to recognize the reality of infertility for many women among us. And whenever we can, we must give them a voice.

To the woman who struggles with infertility: this Mother’s Day is for you. Not because you have a child, but because, through the experience of your longing, you have a deep understanding of motherhood’s significance that outshines even the greatest mom. There is little that someone can say to provide comfort and friends who are mothers have a limited ability to truly understand your agony. However, just know, we recognize your silence. On this holiday where mothers everywhere are flashing their bright lights, we still see you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Alternative Explanations

Try these Alternative Explanations for your spouse behavior.
Thank you,!

Monday, May 10, 2010

LadyMama Column: The Koran Catwalk

By Mimi Hecht
A Burberry inspired burqua walks the runway

In the up-to-the-minute world of fashion, anything that struts down the runway has one chance to do what it absolutely must: catch the eye. The hallmarks of any good designer’s runway show are bright colors, daring shapes and bold prints. But when I saw a televised fashion show recently, the runway indeed showcased all that - but was eye-catching for a whole other reason; all the models were covered from head to toe.

One by one, Turkish models catwalked their way down the runway donning hijibs and burquas, the head-covering and long-dressed attire worn by religious Muslim women. It was the most modest fashion show I have ever seen, but, surprisingly, also the most cutting edge. Each outfit that took to the stage sported prints and embellishments fit for Prada, each look avant-garde enough for Yves Saint Laurent.

I was surprised that such fashion-forward Muslim attire actually had a market, and, considering Islam’s notorious pride in averting modern Western culture, I found the runway somewhat amusing. But then I saw it everywhere I looked. They’re often called ‘haute-couture hijabs” and they’re showing up all over the European, Australian and even American runways. As it turns out, top-fashion modest-wear for Islamic women is not an extremely fashion-forward move, but in fact a reflection of the budding desire in the average 21st century religious Muslim woman to keep up with modern clothing trends.

The growing fashion movement spearheaded by Islam’s youth is offending and alarming many traditional Muslims, who view it as a step in the wrong direction. Many Muslims – from scholars to shop owners – are protesting the new fashions, saying that, although the clothing covers the body, the patterns and designs are too showy to be considered modest. The meaning behind the Koran’s stipulated dress code, they argue, is to detract attention from females. And in the words of one anonymous Turkish clothing-store owner, “How can a hijab be modest if it’s bright pink?” Fashion-conscious hijab wearers are responding that – in the words of the editor of - “It’s important to show that Muslim women can dress modestly and stylishly at the same time.” The site, for example, showcases all sorts of modest fashion finds and nominates a stylish hijab wearer - a “haute hijabi” - every week. A commenter on the site echoes the sentiments of its many followers by saying “May Allah bless you for taking the initiative to find a way to bring together a woman’s love for fashion and the proper guidelines for Islamic attire.” Indeed, increasingly popular “haute hijabi” sites are proving that that ability to maintain style is a serious incentive for Islam’s women to either keep up - or take on - the tradition.  

For the first time in my life, I relate to the Islamic women’s plight. As a Jewess, the story sounds all too familiar. I have dealt with this essential “modesty vs. style” conundrum ever since I was sixteen and bought a red dress. My father then told me a line I would hear for many years to come: “You can be covering all the right parts and still be untznius (immodest).” But because I was insistent on expressing myself fully and maintaining my style, I was going to find every way to be fashionable while adhering to the Jewish dress-code. Whether it was loud colors or an eye-catching style, I walked the grey-line until the present day. Like many other Jewish women, I take pride in proving that modesty stipulations need not result in drab or “ancient” clothing.

But, if I were to be honest, the difference between me and today’s Islamic women is that my desire to be stylish often leads me to bend the rules. While my Jewish role models are women who adhere strictly to our modesty guidelines while staying on the forefront of style, I myself am often not strong enough to walk that line (or, in this case, runway). While I certainly try my best, it’s not unseen for me to sacrifice the law and nature of Tzniut all for a high-fashion piece of clothing.

This is where I am inspired by the emergent group of stylish Muslim women. The Islamic fashionista seems to be battling this conundrum with incredible commitment. She asks not “How can I make something stylish, modest?” but “How can I make something modest…stylish?” There is a difference. They are not choosing or favoring fashion, they are integrating it. In doing so, Muslim women are adapting to the world with sincere conviction to their faith’s principles – something I cannot say for myself or many of my Jewish girlfriends.

While Jewish women following all the rules in style may be a norm and there are plenty Muslim women who forego the Hijab all together, the resurgence of Islam women proudly following the Muslim dress-code is undeniably because burquas and hijabs are finding a place in fashion. Through their perseverance and confidence in walking the Koran catwalk, Islam’s modern-day women are ensuring that their tradition of modesty carries on for a long time to come.

To all the Islamic traditionalists who fear their women are “letting go” and forfeiting sacred traditions, I say this: Fashion is making modesty enjoyable for your young women. In a decade, when printed and adorned Islamic attire for women will be the uncontested norm, every Muslim will know that it was fashion that saved the hijab.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Biology of Love: Bonding with your Baby

Mother-infant bond: A look at the biology of love

Guru Deepak Chopra and author Alexander Tsiaras explore the science behind the extraordinary relationship mothers and babies share, from conception through the first year of life.

Related stories:
Discuss: When did you feel the bond begin with your baby?

U.S. Scores Poorly in World Motherhood Rankings

U.S. Scores Poorly in World Motherhood Rankings - Pregnancy - "U.S. Scores Poorly in World Motherhood Rankings"

Monday, May 3, 2010

Looking for Authors!

Are you a woman, wife or mom looking to be a part of a growing community of modern Jewish moms? Do you have something to contribute?

In addition to Mimi's weekly column and mom-related posts, we're growing a foundation of authors who have something to contribute on a consistent (daily, weekly or monthly) basis. Whether personal experiences, opinion on the news or advice for other moms - we want your voice!

Send a note to and we'll get you a profile to be featured on the site.*

*We're also happy to promote your blog or service in your profile!

Here's a sample profile of a new LadyMama author:

Name: Ahuva Gamliel, ND, AP
City/State: Sunny Isles Beach, FL
About me: I'm a Naturopathic Doctor & Acupuncture Physician by profession but a full-time mom! I love my occupation even more than my profession :-) When I am not mothering or doctoring, I enjoy the outdoors, especially water-sports such as surfing and scuba-diving. I love to read, dance, and express myself creatively through personal articles, poetry, slide-shows, photography and other forms.
My mama motto: One day at a time!
Advice for new moms: Educate before you vaccinate. Get information from both sides and make an informed decision!

One Favorite Thing

One day in school when I was fourteen years old, I chose an alternative to doodling in class, opting instead for the more sophisticated task of transcribing a list of my favorite things. This week, ten years later, I unearthed the two page list, a revealing time capsule of my adolescent mind. Dated Monday May 24th, 2000, the list included the following highlights:

Finishing a good book

Taking a nap in the middle of the day
Getting mail


A perfect hair day

Knowing all the answers

Getting paid after babysitting

Having clothes in my closet with tags on them
Drinking cold water after exercising

Being made a fancy breakfast
A hot shower on a cold morning

Having just turned twenty four, and now married with a baby, I couldn’t help but let the discovery speak volumes about my life today. And as we approach Mother’s Day, the revelation was all too clear.

My how things change (and not just because a strong portion of the list had to do with sleeping)!Walking barefoot is now unsanitary, writing is no longer a hobby but a career and snail mail means bills, not a good read from a pen pal. My luxuriously naïve child mentality has transformed into an overprotective one-track mind void of any of life’s little treasures!

I thought it would be interesting to compose a more updated version of “Mimi’s Favorite Things.” I started churning out some notes: Hearing the baby laugh, going out with my husband, getting the high-chair all clean, rocking the baby to sleep – it was a list of everything and anything having to do with my family, treasuring the moments with my husband and child. Oh no, I thought. My luxuriously naïve child mentality has transformed into an overprotective one-track mind void of any of life’s little treasures!

Could motherhood have taken the place of an abundance of favorites? Has being a mother become my one favorite thing?

Ya, just go on and say it. It’s pathetic. Today’s list of my favorite things is not really a list at all but rather one overarching priority. Anything that falls under that umbrella of motherhood – from a walk in the park to a doctor’s visit – is now my most preferred and enjoyable activity.

One would think my life as a wife and mother has become more complicated and downtrodden with responsibilities - with no room for “favorite things.” But the truth is, there is nothing to mourn. Life has actually become simpler and a whole lot more rewarding by virtue of the fact that I know my guiding priority. No matter what our entire society will say about that, it’s a fact. And I will say it proudly. My natural and intuitive joy is my family, and just knowing that - and recognizing it with confidence, not embarrassment – has made life more pleasurable, worth more than a million favorites. Anything enjoyable beyond experiences with my family– like finishing a book or a perfect hair day - well, that’s just the icing on the beautiful, multi-flavored and oh-so-layered extra-fattening cake. And you know what? I get a deeper satisfaction from my happy family moments than I ever did from any “favorite things” when I was fourteen. As it turns out, it’s better to have one real big and important favorite thing than a two page list of small life-treats.

If you’re a mother, you know it’s true. You can’t have any “favorite things” if your family isn’t happy, healthy and – at the minimum – functioning. No matter what our enjoyable little fixes, once we make the foray into motherhood, it all comes down to our one favorite thing. And the sooner we accept this often unpopular attitude, the more we’ll enjoy the small things in life.

That being said, there are some things I could afford to reinstitute from my list – like sweating after a good exercise, getting paid for all my babysitting (I’d be a millionaires) and, of course, knowing all the answers.

Why Abbie Dorn Deserves To See Her Children

Why Abbie Dorn Deserves To See Her Children – The Sisterhood –