Monday, November 23, 2009

Caregiving is not a choice for any of us!

Lynn Harris wrote a thoughtful, detailed feature on, Everybody Hates Mommy. And unfortunately, yet predictably, the haters are coming out on the comments. The second commenter wrote in to vote in FAVOR of Harris' synopsis of anti-parent sentiment:
"I am sick and tired of young mothers' sense of entitlement. It was your choice to get pregnant. Deal with it. You do not get a pat on the back or a seat from me because you decided to reproduce."

So first of all, I hope you'll read Lynn's piece and post a supportive comment to show that we are out there in the public dialogue, too.

The "choice" narrative has really been stuck in my craw lately. It's a version of "rugged American individualism" run rampant, and it shows up in so many places. Unfortunately, as "choice" has become our guiding metaphor, the concept has become weakened by the ubiquity of consumer choice. It's been devalued to the point of "What's your choice? Chocolate or vanilla ice cream?" I am not going to go to bat for a choice as trivial as that one, and I worry that motherhood has been trivialized in that manner.

It may be a choice on some level for individual women to have children, but it's not a choice for children to have mothers. And it's not a choice for society to bring new citizens on board! The way we treat families in this country shows that we do not truly value our children, which is truly a tragedy. Just go into any school that is lacking basic supplies and see how valued those children feel by society.

And devaluing parents devalues children and interferes with caregiving. As I have written before, in the United States we don't have basic job protection for parents, health care, which we are working on now, and other social benefits that are standard in every other wealthy country. At international conferences, women from Canada to New Zealand to India have come up to tell me that the mothers in the United States are putting up with a terrible deal, and we barely even know how bad we have it. That's a real downside to American exceptionalism--we just assume that the way we do it here is the best way, perhaps the only way to do things, and we are unwilling to learn from the rest of the world.

We need to come to grips with the fact that caregiving is NOT optional. Every powerful man was once a screaming baby with a woman feeding him, wiping his butt, and tucking him in at night. Perhaps it was his mother, perhaps a nanny who was a woman of another race. A few years back I heard Professor Jane Brown talk about why people are so squeamish about seeing mothers breastfeeding, and she said it is because it reminds us of our "creaturliness," which ultimately reminds us of our mortality. I think the same might be said about caregiving in general. Powerful, wealthy men can cling to the illusion of "choice" to eventually move beyond the world of caregiving, leaving that to the women and minorities to take care of. When Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona recently said during the health care debate, "I don't need maternity care, so requiring that on my insurance policy is something that I don't need and will make the policy more expensive," I was so thankful that Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan was there to retort, "I think your mom probably did."

Jon Kyl may want to live with the illusion that he never needed care, and will never need it again, but the fact is that ALL OF US needed intense caregiving in our early years, and many of us will need it again in our elder years.

This is why even the most rugged, healthy young individualists need to worry about caregiving. People can "choose" to be selfish bastards if they wish, but what happens when their parents get old and need care? What happens when they can't manage to juggle their job and their Mom and Dad's care, or can't afford to pay for professional elder care? Then they'll find out what it means not to have a "choice." And I can tell them, it will happen sooner than they think, perhaps as they themselves are hitting their early forties and their own careers are starting to reach the stratosphere.

I've gotten a preview of this myself, especially since my parents are divorced and therefore they don't have each other to lean on. I love each of them dearly and I know that I am privileged to have personal savings and a flexible work schedule that allows me to be with them when necessary. I literally do not know how I would be able to juggle a strict 8 to 5 job like the one I used to have, with the family caregiving needs I am responsible for on both ends of the generational spectrum.

As a country, we need to get a handle on this, now. We are in serious denial about what the aging of the Baby Boomers is going to mean to our country. Especially now, with many seniors' retirement accounts diminished by the financial meltdown, and adult children under financial stress as well, we need to find ways to value caregiving in all its forms, and create support systems that allow families to provide care and remain economically sound.

In my optimistic moments I hope that if we're willing to move beyond denial, caregiving can become an issue that brings many people together. When Gloria Steinem spoke in Raleigh a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised but pleased to see that the first issue she talked about was valuing the economic contribution of family caregiving.

This issue is eternal but for too long it has been invisible and marginalized: at best, sentimentalized, at worst, scorned. Our the modern generational twist makes this truly a lifelong issue. As challenging and intense as parenting is, we need to face the fact that we may be caring for aging parents for more years than we raise our children. Did I mention that my 93 and 91 year old grandparents are still alive, one on each side of the family? So even as I worry about my parents, they are each concerned about one of theirs, as well.

We need to value all of our citizens and family members, from young to old. So don't tell me to deal with the fact that I am choosing to care for my child any more than you are choosing to have parents.

Correction: post updated to reflect the fact that Lynn Harris' piece is a feature on, not a post to Salon's Broadsheet blog.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Our "Courageous Parenting" team of experts, ready to help you move beyond "helicopter parenting"

I had already been planning to announce our final roster of Courageous Parenting anthology contributors, and today turns out to be the perfect day to do so, as this week's new Time Magazine cover story by Nancy Gibbs puts an exclamation point on the idea that it's time to end the age of over-parenting. Authors including Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids have been pioneers advancing this trend. Our goal with Courageous Parenting is to expand the conversation by not only providing inspiration to raise independent kids, but also the skills and strategies that parents need in order to do so.

The new Courageous Parenting anthology will be published in March 2010 in paperback and e-book form. If you sign up on now, we will send you a free copy of the e-book as soon as it is released. How's that for a deal?

My highest vision for this book is that it will improve families' lives. In Courageous Parenting, we show you ways that you can become prepared for your children's growing independence, both by investing in your own personal development, as well as learning parenting tools and strategies that help you reach your parenting goals. This is parenting in the big picture: your kids will not wake up on their 18th birthdays magically transformed into capable, competent young adults. Their development is an ongoing journey! We parents need to learn how to lay that groundwork in small steps that promote increasing capability, responsibility and independence along the way.

It is such a privilege for me to work with these authors. Here is what we will be talking about in Courageous Parenting:

Introduction by me, Amy Tiemann, Ph. D., author of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family and creator of

I. The Courage to Invest in Your Own Development

The Transformative Power of Self-Care by Renee Peterson Trudeau, author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life, creator of Personal Renewal Groups for Moms and writer for The Journey.

Tools for Career Reinvention, Kella Hatcher and Maryanne Perrin, co-founders of Balancing Professionals consulting.

II. Developing Your Courageous Parenting Style

The Courage to Let our Kids Solve Their Own Problems by Maya Frost, author of The New Global Student, creator of Smart Education Design.

The Courage to Become Your Own Parenting “Expert” by Melissa Stanton, author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide, writing online at and Real Life Support for Moms.

The Power of Personal Significance for Kids of All Ages by Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, offering local and online parent training.

I’m Worried I Worry Too Much But How Do I Stop? by Jamie Woolf, author of Mom-in-Chief, creator of

III. Real World Safety Skills for All

Kidpower: Skills for Safety, Skills for Independence by Irene van der Zande, founder of Kidpower, Teenpower, Fullpower International.

How to Say “Yes” to Your Kids’ Online Activities, by Linda Criddle, internet safety expert, author of Look Both Ways, Help Protect Your Family on the Internet, and the founder of

IV. Finding your voice and raising it for the community

PunditMom on Mom Bloggers Raising Their Political Voices by Joanne Bamberger, author of the PunditMom blog.

Activist Parents: Challenge and Progress Through the Eyes of by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder of

It Takes a Motherhood by Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann, founders of

I have spent years developing relationships with these talented experts. Each and every one of them has changed my life in a significant way, and they have the potential to so for you, too!

Sign up now on the home page to receive a free e-book of the new Courageous Parenting anthology when it comes out in March 2010!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Mojo Mom Podcast with Melissa Stanton

I hope you'll listen in to this week's new episode of The Mojo Mom Podcast with my guest Melissa Stanton:

Mojo Mom continues her series of interviews with contributors to the upcoming new anthology she's editing, "Courageous Parenting." This week Amy Tiemann talks to Melissa Stanton, author of "The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide" about The Courage to Become Your Own Parenting "Expert."

You can learn even more about Melissa's work by visiting her websites, and the Real Life Support for Moms blog.

...and, I hope you will sign up on the home page to receive a free e-book of the new Courageous Parenting anthology when it comes out in early 2010!

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I've been in the hive not in a cave... And, here is why we need Courageous Parenting

It's Friday, again, already? Hard to believe. I know my blogging has suffered from infrequent-itis lately, but I wanted to tell you it's because I've been as busy as a bee in a hive, not hibernating like a bear in a cave.

What's been keeping me so busy behind the scenes? The new Courageous Parenting anthology, of course. I am working with 14 talented contributors, and now we've brought on board our intrepid editor Lacey, working with me and my loyal project manager Patty, to pull this whole thing together.

I am so grateful that I don't have to do any of this alone! Lacey and I are really getting into the heart of the book, working on individual chapters as well as creating a coherent whole.

I'll reveal the whole roster of contributors on Monday, but today I keep thinking about why we need Courageous Parenting. We live in a disproportionately fearful time, although our children and families are actually growing up in quite a safe era. We live in an overly child-centric society, yet our kids eventually need to grow up and become independent. They aren't just going to wake up as capable and competent young adults on their 18th birthdays: we need to give them skills and life experience to be prepared to be independent.

Courageous Parenting aims to give parents those skills and strategies they need to grow up independent kids, and also the courage to work on our own development. Because for our kids to feel good about leaving the nest, it helps to know that we have our own lives and are not totally dependent on motherhoood to create our identities and happiness.

I am a big fan of Sarah Haskins and her Current TV show Target Women. This week's parody is not only funny, it's a brilliant dissection of the way we are sold fear on a daily basis.

In Mojo Mom, I wrote about unpacking our guilt and examining it, looking for the true signals that indicate there is something we need to change, and discarding the rest as unhelpful baggage. It's time we do the same for worry and fear. True fear signals are vital signs to listen to, but our society has become overrun with a constant static blast of worry, much of it broadcast in the style of those Broadview Security ads in the Target Women video.

In Courageous Parenting, we aim to give you solid information, inspiration, and skills that will increase your family's capacity for joy and exploration, without so much worry getting in the way.

Sign up on the home page to receive a free e-book of the new Courageous Parenting anthology when it comes out in early 2010!

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Mojo Mom Podcast, Positive Parenting Solutions and Courageous Parenting

It's been a very busy week so I haven't blogged, but I did get a new Mojo Mom Podcast ready for you. It's a good one -- Positive Parenting Solutions founder Amy McCready and I had a lot to talk about, and we really got into the heart of several key positive discipline strategies.

I hope you'll listen in:

This week Amy Tiemann continues her series of conversations with "Courageous Parenting" anthology contributors, talking to Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions.

Amy McCready's training gives parents valuable tools that prevent behavior problems from arising in the first place, as well as teaching parents strategies to respond constructively and effectively when problems do arise.

Today Amy and Amy delve into the substance behind the recent headline, "For Some Parents, Shouting is the New Spanking," and talk about the themes of personal belonging and significance, why this is important to kids, and how to develop these qualities within your family.

Sign up on to receive a free e-book edition of "Courageous Parenting" when it is released in March 2010.

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