We Are Both Right

Australian Company Offers Return to Work Bonus After Maternity Leave

Usually when we talk about maternity leave, it’s about what’s lacking about it. Especially in the United States. Well a new maternity leave policy implemented by an Australian company once again has me shaking my head at the dismal state of maternity benefits here.
According to The ABC, The Insurance Australia Group, one of the biggest companies in the land Down Under, has changed their maternity leave policy not only provides 14 weeks months of paid maternity leave, but a “back-to-work bonus” that doubles their salary for the first six weeks of their return.
“Basically this initiative came out of some discussions that we had with our people and specifically women on the difficulties and pressures that they faced upon returning to the workforce, and we think this welcome back payment is a good first step in helping them to address a number of those pressures,” IAG’s chief executive Mike Wilkins, told The ABC.
While the response has been overwhelmingly positive, the action is not without its critics. Detractors say that women are being rewarded to take time off to have a baby (which, if you’ve ever had a baby, you know it isn’t time off!). Still, for a woman who is trying to decide whether or not she should return to work, the bonus is a great incentive, one that benefits her co-workers and the company too.
Not to mention, if you are a parent or not, a company that offers a benefit like this obviously cares about its workers and is probably a pretty nice place to work.
Did you receive maternity/paternity benefits?

Moms, Time to Have “The Talk” With Your Daughters — About Math

How do your kids feel about math? While both my kids do very well  in math at school, my son will tell you he loves it, while my daughter says that only does she not like it, she’s not good at it to boot. As it turns out, her lack of enthusiasm for the subject could totally be my fault.

A new study from researchers at the University of Delaware’s School of Education and reported in Miller-McCune finds that moms are less likely to talk to their daughters about numbers at a young age, potentially setting them up to have less confidence about them when they reach elementary school.

The research is fascinating, if not troubling. Scientists recorded mothers talking to their children who were between 20 and 27 months old. The moms mentioned numbers twice as much to their sons as their daughters. The number rose to three times as much when the number was attached to a noun — for example, “Here are five raisins.”

Alicia Chang, the lead researcher told Miller-McCune, “By grade school, boys are very confident at math, and girls are saying boys are better at math. The issue isn’t actual performance but perception of competence. We hypothesized that by the time you’re in grade school, you might like math because your mother was more likely to talk to you about it when you were very, very young.”

The researchers don’t think that the omission is conscious, simply parents talking to their children differently. Still, it’s something to be aware of.

What do you think? Does your daughter like math?

11-Year-Old Willow Smith Shaves Head, Internet Explodes

Earlier this week, Willow Smith, the 11-year-old daughter of superstars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith tweeted a photo of herself with a shaved head.  Ironic when you consider Willow became a “household name” for her song and video, “Whip My Hair,” not surprising if you’ve ever encountered a tween and their mood swings.

In any case, once the photo was posted, the uproar was immediate and loud. Everyone in the blogosphere, from mommiesto celebrity reporters (to hairdressers) had opinions, all varied and all speculative. (Willow hasn’t indicated the reason behind the bold move yet.) The big question seems to be though, is it appropriate for an 11-year-old girl to shave her head? (Although in my opinion, the question should be is it appropriate for an 11-year-old to be on Twitter?)

For me, this is a “choose your battles” situation, both for myself and my child. Hair is not a permanent fixture on our bodies, and if my daughter decided she wanted to shave her head (ha, not likely) then I’d probably sit her down and have a serious discussion about why she wanted to do it. Had she considered the ramifications of her decision? What will happen when she walks into school that first time? Certainly you don’t want to tell your kids to chart their lives based on what other people think, but in the pressure-filled world of tweendom, it’s certainly an important consideration.

It’s tough because I want to let my kids to learn that their choices, both good and ill-advised, shape who they are and who they are going to be. But at the same time, as a parent, sometimes you need to know when to step in and say “No, you aren’t doing this,” offering them guidance as they turn into the person they will become.

Having said that, hair does grow back.

What do you think of Willow’s new hair style?

That’s my iPad! Mine, mine, mine.

Forget planned obsolescence. It looks like technology manufacturers have thought of one better.

Just put your saved-all-my-latte-money-and-rewards-points-to-buy-this iPad into the hands of a toddler and it’s all but guaranteed that you will have to buy another sooner rather than later. Whoever thought of that plan is genius.

At least that’s what I’m thinking after reading about all the new apps and attachments that are coming out just in time for the holidays. Can you say crayon stylus?

Even the Brookstone catalog that arrived in the mail today has an iSomething accessory for kids on almost every page. Everything from a toy helicopter, sing-along microphone to spy robot offers the bonus of being operable via Mommy’s iPod, iPhone and/or iPad.

In other words, they are forcing us to share. Whether we like it or not.

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I like to keep my pricey technology to myself. My children have plenty to keep them occupied that they don’t need to be half-owners of the phone, iPod or laptop that my husband and I just about managed to get ourselves into. It’s bad enough that our three-year-old iPod got corrupted over the weekend. I don’t think a preschooler who likes to rip it off the charger had anything to do with it, but it pains me nonetheless.

How do you feel about sharing your technology? Are you happy to hand it over once and a while? Or is it just easier to get them their own (and hope it doesn’t break too soon)?

One last question, and I guess this is my underlying hesitation about the whole thing: Do kids really need all this technology at such a young age? Sure, it’s how they will grow up, but does every toy have to be an app?

“Trouble in Toyland” — Playthings You’ll Want to Avoid this Holiday Season

You’ve made your list and checked it twice but is what you (or Santa) planning to give the child really as safe as you think it is?

Twenty-four seemingly (and not-so-seemingly) innocuous toys have had the dubious honor of being listed in the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s “Trouble in Toyland” report, a survey of toys that don’t meet the standards of safety set the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other health organizations.

While the list isn’t exhaustive, U.S. PIRG shopped a host of toy stores, malls and dollar stores in September and October 2011 nationwide, looking potentially dangerous toys. Using CPSC recalls and other regulatory actions as their guide, the group searched for toys that “posed a potential toxic, choking, strangulation or noise hazard.”

“Choking on small parts, small balls and balloons is still the leading cause of toy-related injury,” said U.S.PIRG’s Nasima Hossain. ”Between 1990 and 2010 over 400 children died from toy-related injuries, but more than half choked on small parts, balloons or balls. While most toys are safe, our researchers still found toys on the shelves that pose choking hazards and other toys that contain hazardous levels of toxic chemicals including lead.”

Toys on the list include a variety of playthings that appeal to kids of all ages including including an Elmo cell phone, a Hot Wheels stunt car, a Tinkerbell watch, a Hello Kitty keychain, a toy-sized Honda motorcycle, and a Whirly Wheel. The full report is an eye-opener, and will certainly give you pause the next time you go toy shopping.

“Parents and toy givers need to remember that while the CPSC is doing a good job, it doesn’t test all toys on the shelves.  Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could also pose hazards,” Hossain said. “The message of today is clear. We cannot, must not, weaken the most basic safety rules that protect young children, America’s littlest consumers.”

For me, seeing a toy that we own on the list (the Fisher-Price Elmo cell phone) was a good reality check. I looked at the list never expecting to see something that is in our own toy box, but there it was, listed as a noise hazard. Are any of your child’s toys on the list? Have you ever bought a toy, only to discover that it isn’t as safe as you would have assumed?

If you come across an unsafe toy, you can report them to the CPSC at www.cpsc.gov and towww.saferproducts. gov or by calling 800-504-7923.

Safe shopping!

#OccupyMomandDadsBed

The #OccupyMomandDadsBed movement may be coming to a bed near you. ©We Are Both Right

It’s official. Our kids are staging a revolt. Their 1% wants to occupy 99% of the parental bed.

When Amanda wrote about the pint-sized bed partner who kept her awake all night (on vacation no less), I felt her pain.

In the case of my house, it looks like our two protesters are determined to kick me and my husband out of our bed every night. Literally. Kicking, punching and all of their other late-night and early morning unconscious flailing that leaves us cowering for cover.

But if we actually retreat — like when we threaten to go into their beds — they stick to us like glue. So I think what they really want is full access to our big bed with the comfy duvet and two parents to cuddle (even if we’re both hanging on to the last one inch of the pillow top with bloody noses). Nothing like being well rested.

We are dealing with two adults, two children and in the worst of times, a dog. It’s a big bed but the extra bodies that are getting longer by the month make it a tight squeeze. Not to mention that since they were little, my kids’ preferred sleeping position is laying perpendicular to me and my husband, so that he has feet pounding his chest and I get a head butting my face.

Still, say what you will about the parenting debate on co-sleeping, I don’t mind it enough to put an end to it. When they were babies, I didn’t encourage cosleeping. I was too afraid of rolling over a little arm and having all those blankets and pillows around them. It wasn’t until they were walking and in beds of their own that I allowed it to happen.

I know, I know. We should have broken this habit long ago. It is a valid point, especially because the path to our bed is now entrenched in their subconscious minds.

But my working mother’s guilt has rationalized it as bonding time. (And sometimes it feels so good to roll over and nuzzle the back of my “baby’s” head.) Anyway, we figure that by the time they find their way to our bed (usually between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.), we have already logged the minimum hours of sleep a parent needs.

So we let them off the hook. My husband jokes that we should just make ours a double-decker king size bed and retreat to the upper level when they invade.

But like I said, the occupiers want to take what we have and expect us to stay along for the ride. *Yawn* And so the #OccupyMomandDadsBed movement grows.

Any of this going on in your home?

It’s No Joke, Playing and Pretending Good for Kids

You are getting your one-year-old dressed and instead of putting his socks on his feet, you try to put them on his ears. Rather than handing your 18-month-old her sippy cup, you pretend to drink from it.

Are you a big tease or a good parent? Possibly the former, but according to a new study by UK-based Economic and Social Research Council, definitely the latter.

Researchers found that parents who joke around and play pretend with their toddlers are “giving them a head start in terms of life skills.” The study examined interactions between parents and children ages 15 and 24 months.

“Parents, carers and early years educators shouldn’t underestimate the importance of interacting with young children through jokes and pretending,” researcher Dr. Elena Hoicka said. “Spending time doing this fun stuff with kids helps them learn how to do it themselves and gives them a set of skills which are important in childhood and beyond.”

Dr. Hoicka defined the difference between joking and pretending.

“Both involve intentionally doing or saying the wrong thing. However, joking is about doing something wrong just for the sake of it. In contrast, pretending is about doing something wrong which is imagined to be right. For example, parents might use a sponge like a duck while pretending but use a cat as a duck when joking.”

But it isn’t all about fun and games. The study found that parents who joke or tease or played pretend with their young children tended to speak slowly, loudly and repeated their words. They used a slate of vocabulary and different tones to indicate various moods. Not only does this help toddlers learn to distinguish between when a parent is being serious or not, it also adds to their language development skills.

So if you are regretting your decision not to be a stand-up comedian, now is the time to make-good.

Do you joke with your little ones? In what way?

Halloween Making a Permanent Move to Saturdays?

As much as I love Halloween, I’m dreading it a bit this year. Halloween falls on a Monday which means that we (and this is a collective, nationwide we) have a very limited amount of time from when the kids get off the bus from school and go to bed to squeeze in a lot of celebrating as well as our day-to-day things  – costume wrangling, instrument practicing, trick-or-treating, homework, eating dinner (sorry, even on Halloween the kids have to eat something hot and nutritious).

A Connecticut lawmaker, State Representative Tim Larson, feels our pain. He is proposing a bill that would permanently designate the last Saturday in October as the scariest day of the year. His reasoning is that moving the holiday to the weekend, would make the day safer, less harried and more fun.

“Halloween is fun night for the whole family, but not so much when you have to race home from work, get the kids ready for trick or treating, welcome the neighborhood children, and then try to get everyone to bed for an early school and work morning,” Larson said in a statement.

He’s meeting with some adversity, most notably Connecticut governor Dannel P. Malloy, whose spokesperson told The Hartford Courant, “The Governor is worried about confusing the ghosts, goblins, and witches – so he thinks leaving Halloween on Oct. 31st is the right thing to do. No disrespect intended toward Rep. Larson, of course.”

I think it’s a great idea, although my husband points out that if Halloween was permanently on a Saturday, the opportunity for little and not-so-little goblins to make mischief will be extended. In any case, we don’t live in Connecticut, so it’s a moot point for us for now. Still, I’m hopeful that is an idea that will catch fire.

What do you think? Would you welcome a weekend Halloween celebration?

No More Lullabies? New Study Says Singing to Babies is a Thing of the Past

It’s a memory I’ll always cherish. It’s the wee small hours of the morning and my husband, a brand-new dad, is cradling our newborn son C., trying to soothe him back to sleep. As T. walked around the room rocking C., he began to sing softly, hoping his crooning would send our new baby back to dreamland.

His song of choice? “Thunder Road,” by Bruce Springsteen.

Naturally.

Laugh, smile, (sing along if you want to), but that my husband chose to sing to our son to help him settle down is apparently a thing of the past. A new book reveals that many parents, mom in particular, have rejected the practice, deeming it uncool.

My rocking spouse and I respectfully disagree.

I love to sing to my babies, especially in the middle of the night. While I tend to favor more traditional songs (“You Are My Sunshine” is my favorite), my husband prefers tracks of the Top 40 variety. And while I don’t think either one of us will be trying out for X Factor anytime soon, I think we do a good job — not only were our children responsive to our warbling, but today all three are pretty music-oriented (although no Boss fans just yet).

For me, singing lullabies (pop songs or otherwise) was a great way to bond with my little ones. It was a way for me to offer comfort in the sound of my voice (and the feel of my arms around the child) without talking. In the middle of the night, when my brain was mush and I didn’t know what to say to console my crying baby, I could do something that was soothing — to both of us.

What do you think? Do you sing to your babies? Which songs?

Teaching About 9/11 in Schools

Some of this year’s incoming 4th graders weren’t even a gleam in their parents’ eyes as the events of September 11, 2001 unfolded (my son included).

And up until now, this first generation of children who didn’t have a lasting, conscious impression of that day might have been too young to even comprehend its impact when the subject has come up since. But as time goes on, the lessons surrounding that day become more teachable and in many ways, even more important to impart.

So how do we explain the significance of 9/11 in the history of our world, our nation, our communities and even within our own families?

Well, I was intrigued to read how the story is unfolding in classrooms around the country. It reassures me to know that resources are being dedicated to developing curriculum and educators are participating in an exchange of lesson plans.

How do you feel about your children learning about 9/11 in school? Have you made it a point to talk about it at home, even with your young ones?