What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

a podcast with Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson

Episode 15: Mom Worsts

 

What’s the WORST part of being a mom?

We put out the call on our Facebook page and received an avalanche of responses, each deserving in its own very horrible way.

In this episode, Amy and Margaret advocate for their own lists of Mom Worsts, and discuss:

—whether that most classic of Mom Worst plagues— lice— can even compare to the daily, unending hell of preparing three meals per day

—whether Flat Stanley (insert your child’s own anthropomorphized “classroom mascot” here) is perhaps the worst thing ever imposed upon motherhood, or if the pinewood derby is even worse

—whether the “All-Family Stomach Flu” is the absolute worst Mom Worst of all (spoiler alert: when Margaret says she will not go into details – DO NOT BELIVE HER)

Only one link this week: Amy’s own Mom Worst, as told to Parenting Magazine:

An Aerial Disaster: One Mom’s Tale of Flying Solo with Her Three Children

What’s your Mom Worst? Tell us in the comments!

Episode 14: Summer Plans

 

Here’s what all parents can agree upon: Summer need not be another Christmas, one lasting for three full months. It’s okay- actually, it’s imperative– for our kids to be a little bit bored.

The trick is to find the right balance between your kids having too much to do and nothing at all to do. Back in the 70s, kids could go outside after breakfast and basically ride their bikes until it got dark. But these days, if you want your kids to have the opportunity for unstructured fun, you have to structure their summers. A little.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • how summer is for formative experiences- as long as said experiences are at least somewhat formed by the kids
  • why summer is designed for your kids to do things differently than they do during the school year
  • the virtues of Camp Grandma
  • whatever happened to summer jobs for teens? While half of teens had summer jobs in the 1980s (including us— hello, Baskin Robbins?) less than one-third do now, according to a Pew Research survey (link below)
  • the summer slide: how to fight it without ruining everyone’s every single day
  • how we as a people must fight against the great shrinking summer. In Putnam County, Tennessee, the school year now starts on July 23rd. Stop the madness!
  • Why Margaret is just completely, fundamentally opposed to physics camp

Here’s some links to two nifty products, and reading on some issues we discuss in this episode:

Schoolhouse Rock: Multiplication Classroom Education (DVD)

The Math Bus: Multiplication and Addition (CD)

from Kingswood Camp: The Value of Down Time

from Scholastic: 3 Ways To Prevent Summer Slide 

from Pew Research: The Fading of the Teen Summer Job 

from Time: American Teens Are Not Getting Summer Jobs 

by Daphne Sashin for CNN: Back To School: Why August is the New September

by Marjorie Ingall for Tablet: Phineas and Ferb: Dynamic Duo

Is your summer too short? Too long? Do you dread your kids’ long lazy days ahead? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Episode 13: Birth Order- Parenting Each Child Best (More or Less)

 

 

 

The study of birth order— how one’s placement amongst siblings can shape one’s personality— began in 1874, when Charles Darwin’s cousin noticed that eldest sons were overrepresented as members of the Royal Society.  In other words, sibling rivalry is survival of the fittest, playing out in real time right at your dinner table.

Some say that assigning personality traits to an only child or a middle child is like reading a horoscope—the traits are vague enough it’s easy to assign them to anyone.

But we are firm believers in the power of birth order. Amy is the oldest of six and annoys all those around her with her insistent list-making. Margaret is third out of four, and she says her car keys have to be around here somewhere. Recognizing the strength of these roles in our families is important because we can work against them— or inadvertently reinforce them— with how we parent.

In this episode you’ll find out:

  • why oldest siblings love rules
  • why middle siblings are more able to change their minds
  • why younger siblings are such smooth talkers
  • how your own birth order affects what kind of parent you are

And we also talk about:

  • how to tap the brakes on your oldest child’s intensity
  • why you should give your middle child the power of small-decision-making
  • why you should resist intervening on the youngest child’s behalf

We can’t fully counteract the influence of these familial roles— nor should we, they’re not THAT big a deal— but awareness is a good thing. Let the middle kid pick what’s for dinner once in a while.

Here’s links to some further reading on this topic:

Ingela Ratledge for Real Simple: What Your Birth Order Says About Your Personality

The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are by Kevin Leman, PhD

Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives  by Frank J. Sulloway

The Secret Power of Middle Children: How Middleborns Can Harness Their Unexpected and Remarkable Abilities by Catherine Salmon,  phD

Enjoying these episodes? Share us on Facebook with the hashtag #trycast!

Episode 12: Helping Kids Deal with Disappointment

 

 

Not to toot our own horns or anything, but when it comes to disappointment, we’ve got vast experience. Amy claims an acting career is a surefire express route to let-down expertise; Margaret claims a screenwriting career might be even more useful.  And while we’ve still turned out quite nicely, thank you, that doesn’t make it any easier when we as parents have to help our children handle disappointment.

We don’t want to coddle our kids. We know we can’t protect them from every moment of sadness and regret. But what’s the best way to help them through such moments?

Dr. Jim Taylor explains what we as parents need to focus on– and it’s not the disappointment itself:

Disappointment is a natural response to failure, but some children react to their disappointment in ways that increase the likelihood of more failure and disappointment.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • why disappointments are developmentally important
  • why silence is the best policy, at least during a child’s “wet cat mode”
  • why “tantrums belong upstairs” is a useful household rule
  • why resilience and grit may be the most important traits our children need for success
  • why some kids take what Margaret calls “the brambly path,” and how to guide them (or not)

And here’s some advice we talk about in the episode and find really useful:

Enjoying our podcast? Discovering a newfound love of the spoken word in your earbuds? Check out Audible, which is offering a thirty-day free trial for our listeners! audibletrial.com/whatfreshhell

And give us a share on social media with the hashtag #trypod so others can find us. Thanks!

 

Episode 11: Do Manners Still Matter?

Manners have been around since at least 2300 BC, when Ptah-Hotep wrote on papyrus that one should refrain from “speaking evilly” and from staring at people.

And as parents, we say manners still matter— to quote Margaret’s mother, no one likes a bratty kid.

But which manners still matter? We think author Tamar Adler put it best in her “Manners Manifesto”:

Perhaps the way to distinguish useful etiquette from frippery is to discern which rules help us be good rather than seem good… Whatever unites [us] merits keeping, and what divides can be folded and stored away with the linen too old and ornamental to use.

Eating the food you’re served, saying please and thank you, holding the door? All that makes other people happy. So our kids should do it.

Although getting them there? That’s easier said than done.

In this episode we talk about

  • why manners are all about context
  • why other people’s manners rule (even if they’re not yours)
  • whether it’s okay to expect (and perhaps forcefully elicit) good manners in your friends’ kids
  • why thank you notes suck but we have to make kids do them anyhow
  • why manners require constant reinforcement
  • why everyone should stop listening to videos in public places without headphones because that’s just absolutely the worst

Here’s some further reading we liked:

And here’s two classic books on manners that will have your kids curtsying by week’s end:

How To Behave and Why, by Munro Leaf

Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book 

What manners matter in your house? Do your children end every request with “sir” or “ma’am”? Stand when ladies enter the room? Call grownups by their last names? Tell us in the comments!

Episode Ten: What To Say When You Don’t Have a Clue

what to say when you don't have a clue

 

We average about one conversation a week, with one or other of our children, during which we are suddenly at a total loss as to what to say. Perhaps you too have had a few Tough Questions like these:

Is Santa real?

What is racism?

If I go to heaven, will my toys come too?

When answering Tough Questions like these, Amy feels that it’s important not to have innocence-ending conversations too early. She calls it “age-appropriate obfuscation.” Keep it simple, keep it reassuring.

But Margaret likes to call this approach “Say ‘Delay,’ Run Away,” and she has somewhat of a point. The Tough Questions need to be answered, and if a parent doesn’t step up, a kid might just seek out some peer education, bound to be rife with misinformation.

In this episode, we discuss

  • why it’s hard to explain concepts like racism to children young enough to be unaware of it
  • how to let the child lead any delicate discussion with her questions (rather than your answers)
  • the power of the pause before responding
  • why you should always leave a little bit left over to divulge for next time
  • why we all just have to figure out the Easter Bunny back story already

Here’s some of the best advice we have collected:

  • from Meg’s sister in law: Only answer the question you are asked. 
  • from educator Danielle McLaughlin: “In order to actually engage our children, we need to find out what it is that they already know and what are they seeking to understand.”
  • from Michael Thompson, PhD: “Pausing for a moment…lets your child know you are taking him seriously.”
  • from PBS Parents: save a little bit of information for the next conversation on the same topic. Cause it’s coming.

And if you’re still completely tongue-tied…

Here are two books on the facts of life that are both thorough and reassuring:

The Care and Keeping of You Collection (American Girl)

It’s So Amazing! A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families

For talking to our kids about race, The Well Queen Anne, a Methodist church, offers a great resource list here.

And for a how-not-to guide, here’s the tale of Amy’s Tooth Fairy explanation gone horribly awry. Learn from her mistakes.

How do you handle the tough questions in your house? Any advice of your own? Tell us in the comments!

Episode 9: Dividing the Workload

dividing the workload

In any home, there’s the workload everyone can see: the dirty dishes, the broken crayons under the dining room table, the laundry to be folded. And in most of our homes, that workload is divided more equitably than it was in the homes where we grew up.

But then there’s the workload that lives in a parent’s head, the running list of things we hope we won’t forget: the permission slips and prescriptions. The birthday presents and batteries.

And there’s still usually just one parent who’s in charge of THAT.

And if you’re reading this right now? We’re going to guess it’s you.

In your household you’re the one that blogger Mblazoned calls “The Default Parent,”  and while we hasten to append  #notallmen to what we’re about to say…

studies indicate that whether the mother works outside the home or not, all this “stuff” usually remains firmly in the mom’s pile.

And it’s a big pile.

We have a choice: to either change that dynamic, or leave it the way it is but stop feeling resentful about it.

Margaret and me? We’re starting with the moms in the mirror. Make that change.

In this episode we discuss:

•how to make the “invisible workload” more visible

•the power of the Sunday evening calendar meeting

•why we’re going to start saying “thank you” more often

•why letting go of the “why am I always the one who does everything” monologue is harder than we care to admit

Here’s links to some must-reads on this topic:

sociologist Lisa Wade for Money Magazine, on “The Invisible Workload that Drags Women Down” 

mblazoned for Huffington Post: “Are You the Default Parent?”

Ellen Seidman’s Mother’s Day love letter to herself:  “I Am the One Who Notices We Are Running Out of Toilet Paper, And I Rock”

Lisa Belkin for the New York Times: “When Mom and Dad Share It All” 

Are you the one who’s in charge of the snow boots and pipe cleaners in your house? Tell us in the comments!

Episode Eight: Are Our Kids Overscheduled?

overscheduled 2Are our kids overscheduled? Compared to our own childhoods, definitely. But is that necessarily a problem? And how are we, as parents, supposed to tell?

According to Dr. Michael Thompson, author of The Pressured Child:

There is a line between a highly enriched, interesting, growth-promoting childhood and an overscheduled childhood…. and nobody knows where that line is.

In this episode we are all about FINDING THAT LINE. We hash out

  • the myth of the overscheduled child (spoiler: it’s a myth)
  • why even non-scheduled time needs to be— well— scheduled
  • whether to let our kids decide how many extracurriculars they can handle
  • how loving an activity, and being stressed out by its demands, aren’t mutually exclusive ideas
  • how our overscheduled kids have costs for our marriages as well
  • how to push back against the overscheduling creep: (rage, rage against the dawn of the travel sports)
  • making a “priority pyramid” for your family

As you’re finding that line between enriched and overscheduled for your own kids, here’s some links discussed in this episode plus more useful reading:

The Over-Scheduled Child, the book that started the conversation 15 years ago

Pew Social Trends polling kids and parents on extracurricular activities

Health America poll: 78% of kids wish they had more free time  (Amy says yeah, but they just want more Xbox)

Harvard School of Public Health poll: a shocking 26 percent of parents with high-school-age children who play sports hope their child will become a professional athlete one day. (Margaret says these parents should Google the odds. Problem solved.)

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by mom-of-four Laura Vanderkam, about making room for what you want your life to include (she’s on the overscheduled-as-myth side)

9 ideas for slowing down your family schedule, from Joshua Becker

and our personal favorite: Ten Signs Your Parent is Overscheduled, by KJ Dell’Antonia for the NY Times. Chew on this nugget of truth:

A schedule full of action is indeed cruel, overbearing and destructive to someone’s well-being: mine.

Are your kids (and their parents) hopelessly overscheduled? What, if anything, have you done to set boundaries? Tell us in the comments!

how to review a podcast on iTunes (now Apple Podcasts)

One of the best ways to support our podcast (or any podcast you’re enjoying) is to rate and review it on Apple Podcasts. But it’s not always easy or intuitive to do so.

Here’s step-by-step instructions on how to do so, either from your computer or from your phone or tablet:

How to leave an Apple Podcasts review on your computer:

  1. go to the Apple Podcasts landing page for the podcast you’d like to review (ours is http://bit.ly/whatfreshhellpodcast )
  2. click “view in iTunes”
  3. if you get the prompt “Do you want to allow this page to open iTunes?” select “allow”
  4. click “Ratings and Reviews”
  5. under “Customer Ratings,” click the stars next to “Click to Rate”
  6. under “Customer Reviews,” click “Write a Review”
  7. write the review, click Submit

How to leave an Apple Podcasts rating or review on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. download the “Podcasts” app if it’s not already on your device
  2. launch Podcast app
  3. tap the Search tab (you need to do this even if we’re already listed in your app)
  4. enter “What Fresh Hell” (or name of podcast you’re searching for)
  5. tap the blue Search key at the bottom right.
  6. tap the album art for the podcast.
  7. tap the Reviews tab.
  8. tap the purple “Write a Review”
  9. review, click Submit

here’s a YouTube video to walk you through the iPhone review steps, in case you prefer a visual guide.

Thanks for reviewing!

Episode Seven: Mom Goals


momgoalsNew year, new leaf! In this episode we’re talking “mom goals” for the coming year. Productivity guru (and mom of four) Laura Vanderkam says that “goals should be our tools, not our masters.” But since we need to set goals in the first place in order to make them achievable, we’ll take her advice, skip the feel-bad part, and kick this year’s butt.

 

Amy’s mom goals for this year are:

  • more meditation, because it makes me a happier and calmer parent.  Headspace is a great app offering a user-friendly introduction. My kids like it too.
  • more one-on-one time with each of my kids (and I may steal Margaret’s idea for one-on-one birthday dinners)
  • keep up the #devicefreedinners, and institute device-free playdates (a great idea from author Daphne Uviller)
  • reconnect with three old friends— and Facebook doesn’t count (from Gretchen Rubin’s podcast episode “Revive a Dormant Friendship” )
  • more books, less smartphone scrolling
  • structure more time for my personal goals by writing them down. I got a great Christmas present— the Productivity Planner— that I love so far!

Margaret’s mom goals for this year are:

  • get fit, and she’s not playing. She’s going to use self-help dude Keith Ferrazzi’s goal-setting system to lay out how she’ll accomplish this in the next five days, five weeks, and five months.
  • yell less. If she needs more advice on this topic, she might look to this foremost parenting expert quoted in this New York Times article, who prefers the word “hollering.”
  • set specific personal goals for the rare free non-kid-focused hours that she has. Vague goals=Candy Crush.

Another approach to resolutions in the new year, from Lisa Belkin in the New York Times, is to choose a one-word goal to guide your coming year. Amy’s word is “participate.” Margaret’s is “don’t-be-this-mom:”

What are your mom goals for the year? Tell us in the comments— we’d love to hear them!

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