I don’t know about you, but I always feel awkward when the lady cleaning my teeth asks me questions. It normally goes a little something like this:
Dental hygienist: So, where are you from?
Me: *trying not to get that yucky toothpaste on my tongue* Uh, Rexburg.
Dental hygienist: Oh. Do you like it here?
Me: *trying not to drool on myself* Uh-huh.
Anyway, I think you know what I’m talking about. It’s not the easiest thing to carry on a conversation while someone’s hands are inside your mouth.
But this last dentist visit, conversation was even trickier than usual.
When the dental hygienist found out I’d just had a baby, she offered the token congratulations. When she found out I recently graduated with my bachelor’s degree, she once again congratulated me.
Then she asked me a question, one that shouldn’t have taken me by surprise:
So now what?
She asked if I was planning on graduate school, or what career I hoped to have. I struggled to explain to her that while I want to go on to grad school one day, I wouldn’t be doing it right now. And my husband has a solid job secured that will provide well for our family.
So, I said, I would be focusing on taking care of our baby. I want to be a mom.
She just kind of looked at me, as if being “just a mom” was a totally foreign concept.
This conversation was getting more uncomfortable by the second.
It was as if she couldn’t comprehend why someone would go to college and graduate, only to stay home changing diapers and doing laundry. (And some days I feel like that too, especially when I’m scrubbing poop out of yet another onesie.)
Although I’ve long advocated for motherhood, I’ll admit that I didn’t adequately explain my future plans to this puzzled dental hygienist. So today, dear readers, I hope to at least partially make up for that by letting you all know why I chose to be a mom.
Moms Make a Difference
Growing up, I was never sure what I wanted to be. Because I enjoyed most subjects in school, one day I’d want to be a band director and the next day I’d hope to become a biologist. It seemed to change from week to week, but one thing always stayed the same: I wanted to make a difference.
There were a few years as a teenager when I didn’t want to be a mom. I thought because I’m not naturally your have-some-milk-and-cookies-sweetie kind of gal that I just wasn’t cut out for mom-hood. I thought I could make a bigger difference as a counselor or a nurse, a teacher or a medical researcher.
But then I realized something important: you don’t have to be a cookie cutter mom to make a difference. You don’t have to be good at crafts and canning and cute-outfit-planning. You just have to love.
My little girl doesn’t always have an adorable outfit on with matching hair bow. And sometimes I less than cheerfully get up in the middle of the night to feed her. But my baby still grins at me all the same. Her eyes tell me, “It’s okay, mom. I know you love me.”
And I do. Whether she looks cutesy or not, boy do I love her. And it’s that love that makes all the difference.
Loving Mom, Healthy Kids
There are a lot of ways moms can have significant impacts on their children. It turns out that loving moms can make a big impact on their children’s physical health. For instance, research shows that a mom’s love can offset some of the health challenges normally associated with poverty. Kids who would usually be at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity are instead likely to be physically healthy as adults.
Not only this, but mothers can also help their children have healthier relationships. One longitudinal study found that when kids have a healthy attachment with their mothers, they tend to have better social skills, better emotional regulation, and better conflict recovery — all things that help them form more secure relationships in the future.
Being an involved and concerned mother can also help my children educationally. While some may think that staying at home with my kids is a waste of an education, my decision to be with my children is doing a world of good for their educational future. According to research from the National Education Association, when parents are involved in their children’s education, kids are more likely to perform well in school and go on to graduate. And this is “regardless of family income or background”!
That’s Why I’m a Mom
Don’t get me wrong: anyone from a counselor to a nurse, a teacher to a medical researcher can certainly make a difference. I’m so grateful for all the people who choose professions to help other people. And for those moms who either have to or choose to work outside the home, I applaud you for being able to juggle it all!
But I guess what I wish I had explained to the dental hygienist is that I chose to be a stay-at-home mom because I want to make a difference too. And just because I’m not getting paid to do it doesn’t make it any less worthwhile.
I still remember the first time I gave a Christmas present as a child. I had carefully chosen a few things from the school book fair that I knew my siblings were just going to love: a pink fluffy pen for my sister and a small teddy bear figurine for my little brother. While the gifts were simple, I was excited to share some things I liked with people I loved.
Though I really loved giving gifts, at first my Christmases were all about getting. And with all the wish lists for Santa and Christmas ads on TV, it’s easy for children to focus on themselves. But how can we help our children get excited not just about getting, but also about giving? Here are a few ideas.
1. Give to the community.
There are so many needs all over the world that it can be hard to know where to start. But a great way to give is to serve close to home! Check out www.justserve.org for ideas on how to help out in your communities. Whether it’s volunteering at your local soup kitchen or helping out at the animal shelter, serving as a family in the community can really help your kids learn to give this Christmas.
2. Give to individuals in need.
Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed by big service projects. But giving in small ways can be just as meaningful! Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd teaches that parents can help their kids expand their circle of concern by teaching them to find people who might need help, such as a lonely classmate or a kid who is bullied. As you help your kids find people in need and then serve them, your children will think a little more about giving and less about getting.
3. Give to each other.
Sometimes we forget that one of the best places to practice giving is in our homes! Kids can practice giving every day as they interact with parents and siblings. And as Dr. Weissbourd explains, that daily practice is vital: “Learning to be caring is like learning to play a sport or an instrument. Daily repetition . . . makes caring second nature.” Whether it’s giving a small gift to a sibling for Christmas or having a *family service advent calendar, serving each other will help your kids focus more on what Christmas is really about.
‘Tis the Season to Give!
This Christmas time, take the time to teach your kids to give! As you help out in the community, reach out to individuals in need, and serve each other with love, your kids will learn that Christmas is about more than just getting.
*Every December, we created a special advent calendar. We would each draw 4 names randomly (there were 6 of us total, which worked out well) and write down a special act of service for that person. Maybe they would get breakfast in bed, maybe we’d do their chore for the day, or maybe we’d play their favorite game with them. Then all the papers were mixed up and pinned to the advent calendar. Each day, it would be someone’s turn to open a paper and see the special service promised. We were always so excited for our simple but special advent calendar!
Elizabeth Warner is the content manager for Family Good Things, just gave birth to her first child, and will graduate in December 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in marriage and family studies. For more articles by Elizabeth, Dr. Rob, or Dr. Tim, check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.
Dr. Tim is spending a few months in Washington, D.C. doing research at the Marriage & Religion Research Institute. Watch his latest video to hear about what he’s been doing and learn why dads really do matter!
I check my watch again: 3:45 am, and I’m wide awake. Exhausted, but awake.
Part of it is because I’m 8 months pregnant and my body hurts all over. (I think my body is practicing the no sleep thing for when the baby comes. 😛 )
But part of it is because I can’t stop thinking about my Facebook feed yesterday.
At first, I was confused by the two word status updates popping up everywhere: “Me too.” But then one friend wrote a little explanation along with it. She said, “If all the people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy and paste if you feel so inclined.”
As more and more of my friends joined in with their “Me too,” my heart ached. I didn’t know whether to click like, love, or sad. I was so proud of these brave women for speaking out, but so sad that we live in a world full of so much sexual harassment.
While sexual violence has fallen significantly since 1993, it’s still a huge problem today. In fact, statistics show that every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And if you’re a woman, you have about a 1 in 5 chance of being raped at some point in your life.
Everyone is affected by sexual harassment or assault a little bit differently. But often there are both physical and mental consequences. In addition to the risk of STIs and pregnancy, victims of sexual assault often struggle with PTSD, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. It can also cause more general emotional challenges, like difficulty trusting others or feelings of fear and helplessness.
One month from today, our baby girl is due to come into this world. I can’t help but worrying, will she have to post “me too” one day? Will she end up being part of the almost 20% of women who get raped in their lifetime? Will she have to struggle with the fear and pain that comes from being a victim of sexual harassment or assault?
I sincerely hope not.
While I’m grateful for the many women and men who are fighting against this plague of sexual violence, there are some aspects of our society today that seem to contribute in a negative way.
Many people are pushing back against sexual violence, but some of these same people are also advocating strongly for sexual exploration and freedom. This March while visiting the UN Commission on the Status of women, I heard many voices advocating for sexual rights of all kinds.
And to some extent, I’m grateful for the work that’s been done so far. I’m grateful that I can decide when I want to marry and have children, that I have control over my sex life.
On the other hand, it seems that the push for sexual freedom has had some unforeseen consequences. Dr. Leslie C. Bell explains it well:
“Today’s 20-something women have more freedom than their grandmothers could have imagined – educational, professional, and personal. But while this freedom has engendered a great deal of opportunity, it hasn’t necessarily resulted in women having good sex and satisfying relationships in their twenties.”
Much of the push for sexual freedom has placed an emphasis on our own personal fulfillment. Do whatever you want, whatever makes you feel good physically. Sex is about you, not about anyone else, today’s media seems to say.
Unfortunately, that emphasis on personal fulfillment may have had the opposite effect.
With all this sexual freedom, pursuing whatever you want physically, you may think it would lead to better sex. But according to research from Dr. John Gottman, perhaps the biggest key to sexual fulfillment is your friendship. While casual sex can be fun and exciting, one survey found that the happiest couples are those who communicate and build up the intimacy that is foundational for fulfilling sex. When sex is about your relationship, not just about you, it becomes a whole lot better.
So in actuality, it turns out that sexual fulfillment isn’t just about the physical. And it certainly isn’t just about you.
If we aren’t careful, the way we promote sexual freedom can also promote sexual selfishness. This selfishness will not only lead to less fulfilling sex, but it also can be dangerous. This line of thinking that says “Sex is all about me” is one that ignores the other person involved.
I’m sure those who rape or sexually assault others are, in a twisted way, seeking their own sexual pleasure. They have decided to use their sexual freedom selfishly. And unfortunately, they do this at a great cost to those around them.
Sexual Freedom Isn’t Free
In teaching our kids about their sexuality, we must help them realize that sexuality isn’t just about them. Other people are involved, people who deserve to be loved and respected.
As we push not just for sexual freedom but for mutual love and respect, we can achieve sexual freedom without promoting sexual selfishness. We can help our kids see that sexual freedom isn’t really free, because with these rights come great responsibilities.
Getting ready to welcome our baby girl into the world has put this all in a new light for me. I hope the numbers of sexual harassment and assault can continue to decline. I hope sincerely that she doesn’t become a part of the statistics. And I hope that one day, nobody has to say “Me too.”
Elizabeth Warner is the content manager for Family Good Things and will graduate in December 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in marriage and family studies. For more articles by Elizabeth, Dr. Rob, or Dr. Tim, check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.
You’ve probably already figured this out, but parenting is hard work!
Before I go any further, I want to get one thing straight. I love being a parent. My wonderful wife and I have been blessed with 6 talented, beautiful, and sweet children. No, they are not perfect. But, I genuinely believe that they are much better children than I was at their age. It’s really a privilege to be their dad. And more than that, it’s a lot of fun!
That said, not every day is just fun and games. While being a parent brings many joys, it also brings its fair share of challenges.
While I do love being a dad, sometimes I get down on myself because I long to be a better parent. And the harsh reality is that I really have no excuses! I have two degrees in Family Studies (including my PhD), and I have taught family classes at the university level for the past decade (including parenting classes).
I really do know what I’m supposed to be doing. So why do I mess up so much?!
Some of My Frequent Mess Ups
I am often too impatient with my children. (Honestly, I didn’t even realize that I struggled with patience until I became a parent!)
I’m too quick to correct a child in front of other family members. I know this is wrong, I really do – but in the emotion of the moment, it’s easy to make the wrong choice.
I sometimes mishandle children’s emotions. As my oldest child entered adolescence, words like “this really isn’t something to cry about” would sometimes escape my lips – which isn’t exactly following the counsel that Dr. Tim provided here.
Hang in There!
Unfortunately, wallowing in my weaknesses will never help me be a better parent. Sometimes we simply need to get up one more time when we’re knocked down and recognize that our children will generally forgive us of our “humanness” – especially when they know we’re trying our hardest.
As you honestly assess your own parenting deficiencies, please also remember the many, many good things you are already doing for your children. The fact that you would read a blog article like this speaks volumes to you as a mother (or father). Yet for many of you, especially women, it can be hard to notice the good things that you’re doing; it’s so easy to be blinded by our feelings of inadequacy!
As a scholar, a teacher, and a father, I assure you that there is no greater cause than helping our families successfully navigate life. And in my opinion, there is no other job, duty, or task as important as being a parent.
So the next time you’re having one of those not-so-fun parenting days, hang in there. You’re doing better than you think!
Please help us strengthen families by sharing this article with your friends and family! For more of Dr. Rob’s articles (as well as articles by Dr. Tim), please also check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.
We’ve all heard the jokes about how short a child’s attention span can be, but is an adult’s really that much better?
Have you ever thought about how many times per day you use your phone? On average, that number is somewhere around 2,617 times a day.
I can’t even tell you how often I have reached for my phone while doing homework, or looked up from my beloved screen to notice that everyone around me is also staring at theirs. When was the last time you went out to dinner with a group of friends and no one touched their phone? Or the last time you played a game with your kids without also mindlessly scrolling through Facebook?
It’s like we think we deserve a break from life, or a reward for our 5 minutes of effort. But the question we really need to ask ourselves is, are we rewarding ourselves because we think we deserve it, or because we literally can’t help it?
In the same survey, 75% reported that they slept next to their phone, and 69% felt that they would forget their wallet before their phone. Almost half said they would consider losing their phone to be a “tragedy.”
If we take a look into the homes of Americans, we will see that 90% of households have at least one smartphone, desktop/laptop, tablet, or other media-streaming device. While this may not come as a surprise, nearly 20% of households have at least 10 of those devices. In some cases, that means there are probably more devices than people. Let that sink in for a moment…
What Technology Addiction Looks Like in Romantic Relationships
Dating in today’s world is a little different than it was 20 years ago. Sadly, too many of us have had those awkward conversations where we had to repeat ourselves because our date was distracted by his or her phone. It often feels like we can’t even carry on a regular conversation.
If you can relate to this, you’re not alone. There’s even a term to describe it! “Phubbing” is when a person ignores or snubs someone in a social setting by paying more attention to their smart phone than the person they’re with.
Unfortunately, this kind of behavior has become the norm. When we walk into a restaurant, it’s not uncommon to see couples physically sitting together but mentally existing in completely different worlds. We seem to be losing the very human connection that makes our relationships meaningful.
What It Looks Like in Families
In a poll of 1,240 U.S. parents and children, about 60% of kids ages 12-18 reported that they could not give up their smartphones, and 1/3 of parents reported that they argue about screen time with their children on a daily basis.
Spending 6-9 hours per day using digital media, kids and adolescents feel pressure to stay connected, incessantly check for notifications, and respond quickly to texts for fear of missing out (FOMO).
What kind of effect does all this screen time have on families? Sadly, not a positive one. Family relationships are weakening. Teens are isolating themselves even more than they were in the past. Children and parents alike need instant gratification and are becoming more concerned with self than with family.
Speaking of parents, if mom and dad are constantly on their devices, why shouldn’t their kids follow suit? The old saying “Do as I say, and not as I do” isn’t nearly as effective as we sometimes wish it was. We have to be careful and think about the example we’re setting for our little ones.
What It Looks Like in Society
At this point you might be thinking, “Yeah, yeah I get it. Technology addiction is bad for me. But is it really affecting society?”
A more obvious issue is texting and driving. In a survey given in 2012, 75% of teenagers said that they text and drive, and 56% of parents also admitted that they check their phone while driving.
Lastly, we cannot ignore the effect that technology addiction has on mental health. Those who struggle with a technology addiction experience a high increase in anxiety and depression symptoms. Naturally, this affects their educational, professional, and family life.
What can we do?
Before you get too worried that I’m going to ask you to burn all of your smart phones and other devices, I want to be clear: I’m not saying technology is inherently evil. Technology is amazing and can serve many useful and wonderful purposes. The important thing to be aware of here is the danger of addiction that comes from using it too much.
So knowing what you now know, here are 3 simple things you can do to make a change:
When you go on a date with your loved one, turn your phones off. You won’t believe how much more connected you will feel even after just one uninterrupted hour together.
Set a limit on screen time for your kids AND yourself. Find more quality activities for your children instead, and be a good role model by abiding by the same rules as much as possible.
Leave your phone at home and go for a walk or a jog. Regular exercise is not only great for mental and physical health, but it helps with concentration, as well.
Technology addiction is real and very much alive in the U.S. today. If we can pay attention long enough, we might just be able to improve relationships, strengthen families, and better society as a whole without ever touching a smart phone.
Paige Gibbs is a student at Brigham Young University – Idaho studying Marriage and Family Studies with a Professional General Emphasis. She is from Soda Springs, Idaho and is the youngest of 5 daughters. Paige and her husband, Bracken, are high school sweethearts and have been married for almost 3 years. She is passionate about protecting marriage and the family and also loves sports, outdoor recreation, and trying out new recipes.