What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

a podcast with Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson

Month: October 2016

Episode 3: Screen Time

This week’s episode is all about screen time. Given: Unlimited screen time is bad. But how much is okay? How much is too much? How do you handle the nightly battles of “But PLEASE, Mom! Just one more level!” when it’s time to unplug?

Most importantly: is it ever okay to let our kids’ brains melt just long enough to get dinner finished?

In this episode, we talk about how to limit screen time for each age group– toddlers to teens– while acknowledging that screens are an increasing part of our children’s lives, both inside the classroom and out.

Since we recorded this episode the American Academy of Pediatrics has lifted its draconian “no screens under two” rule, which we heartily agree with. Encourage parents to make good choices; don’t treat us like idiots who are incapable of exercising judgment. Really, don’t. You wouldn’t like us when we’re angry.

Here’s links to other writing and products mentioned in this episode:

Resources for when you’re ready to go hard-core
  • screenfree.org
  • unpluggedchallenge.com
  • sabbathmanifesto.org (National Day of Unplugging)
  • Time Timer
Good writing that has something to say on the subject:


Episode 2: Helping or Helicoptering


You just brought your kid’s forgotten lunch to school. Again. Is that helping or helicoptering?

You know overparenting when you see it— in other people. Sometimes it’s harder to gauge in yourself.

As moms go, Margaret tends toward the laissez-faire, and Amy towards the shall-we-say particularly attentive. In this episode we tease out

  • our own worst bad calls on this topic
  • the best question to ask yourself when you’re not sure if you’re hovering or just helping
  • why you need to start letting your kids fail now
Perhaps it’s best to just keep in mind Margaret’s solemn words of advice:

When in doubt, let your children be more miserable.

Here’s a few of the books and articles we mention in this episode:

Little Failure– hilarious and mega-prizewinning memoir by Gary Shteyngart- what happens to a guy whose parents never, EVER told him he was special. In this case, he becomes a genius and prize-winning author. So there you go.

How To Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims

When Parents Are Too Connected (Toronto Star)


photo courtesy of Principal Steve Straessle of the Catholic High School for Boys, Little Rock, AR:  Principal’s Problem-Solving Rule for Parents Goes Viral

Episode 1: Your Picky Eater

Welcome to the podcast!


Whether you call it “picky eating,” “restricted eating,” or as some pediatricians like to call it, “avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder” (ARFID)— if you’ve got more than one kid, chances are you’ve got a kid whose acceptable foodstuffs can be counted on one hand.

We’ve each dealt with a picky eater at home. Amy’s teenager has pretty much outgrown it; Margaret’s still in the thick of it with her grade schooler. So we know from picky eating, and in this episode, we discuss

  • why picky eaters are NOT the result of bad parenting
  • why almost every kid suddenly becomes a picky eater at about the age of two
  • why picky eating can eventually get better on its own… but why we say you still gotta force the issue a little
  • how to get the daily dinnertime battle for control under control
  • how getting the picky eater motivated to solve the problem may be the quickest path to progress


If you have a picky eater, it’s not your fault. Leave the guilt behind and get to work! It takes time, it takes baby steps— but in this episode you’ll hear lots of ways to get started.

Here’s some of the studies and other links we reference in the episode:

  • a study in the journal Pediatrics suggesting a link between picky eating and other emotional issues, like anxiety and depression. Their results suggest that if your child’s picky eating is moderate or worse, intervention is important:


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