TIME Opinion

The Perils of Nanny Cams and Kid Trackers

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For hours, my almost-4-year-old gets lost in play in his room. Would he act the same if he knew I was watching?

I’m acutely aware of how much time I spend fretting about my kids. I’m an admittedly nervous mother – all hell breaks loose in my house if someone dares to give my toddler a whole grape or a hot dog that hasn’t been halved down the middle. Stories about choking or children who go to bed and never wake up haunt me. I sometimes wonder if all parents watch for the rise and fall of their child’s chest when they peek in on them at night. I also wonder if that is something I will ever stop doing.

If we didn’t raise our first child in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn where we were forced to share a bedroom, I probably would have invested in one of those video monitors that have become so popular among parents like me – the ones who worry. I always assumed that’s who those monitors were for, but a New York Times Motherlode blog post opened my eyes to another type of parent who likes to use them–the observer. In the piece, Thanks to Video Monitors, Parents are the New Big Brother, several admitted to holding on to infant video monitors once their children were well into toddlerhood, because they enjoy peeking into their kids’ world:

Beyond the peace of mind and potential safety benefits that come from extended use of video monitors, many moms and dads would agree that “it’s more fascinating” to watch your child via a video monitor than to listen to him or her via audio, said Alan Fields, co-author of the baby gear review book “Baby Bargains” and the “Best Baby Monitors” online guide. The early audio monitor was a way for parents to hear remotely when their baby woke up, but video monitors let parents see what their baby is doing when they’re not there.

I never really thought about the concept of toddlers and privacy, but if I stop and examine how I feel about it, is it ridiculous to say that I believe they should be afforded some? I think all parents love to peek in on their sleeping children or sneak up and look in unnoticed when their child is lost in play. I certainly understand why parents would be drawn to making a habit of it by ogling a video monitor nightly. But there are things I remember about my childhood – and a lot of my best memories were solitary ones.

I was a private child. I loved playing alone. I see my almost-4-year-old doing the same thing I did as a child—getting lost in play in his room for hours. Would he act the same if he knew I was watching? I don’t think so. I happen to know he is not too young to crave privacy; for one, he’s very adamant about having the door closed when he uses the bathroom. Sometimes when I walk into his room when he’s playing he tells me to “Leave, Mommy.” One child in the New York Times article admits to knowing when she is being watched; her mother hushes her through the monitor when she and her brother play too loudly. “On a recent Saturday morning, Abby pointed out the camera in her room. ‘It’s used for Mommy and Daddy, so if I bang, they are going to talk through the camera,’ she said.”

We’re observing our children more than ever before. We may be raising children to believe – from a very early age – that they’re not entitled to their own space and privacy. As they grow, we hammer this idea into their heads a little more, through a device most of them beg for: the cell phone. Everyone’s favorite accessory isn’t necessarily surveillance, but it is performing the same function—enabling parents to track and observe that their children are okay, without the need for blind trust.

Recently, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio vowed to end the cell phone ban in schools to a collective sigh of relief from parents everywhere. He admitted that his own son violates the ban and called it a “safety issue” for parents to be able to keep track of their kids. Raising children in the city is potentially worrisome, but is having a direct line to your child at all times really a safety issue? When I was growing up and a parent had to reach a child in an emergency, they called the school. Perhaps we have more emergencies now, or are we just so used to being on top of our children that we truly believe they can’t make it to school and back without being able to reach us, immediately?

In our attempts to protect our children, we may be crippling them instead. Learning how to move through the world without a direct line to your parents is an important skill for older children. We’re demanding our kids be reachable at all times for their own good. Or is it for our own good? “On the one hand, being able to reach our children at all times gives parents a sense of security and it gives kids a sense of security,” says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a Princeton, New Jersey psychologist and professor for the new video series, Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids. “But I think also that it can be an easy out – to immediately call a parent if they struggle. If we leap in too quickly to solve problems that our kids can figure out on their own, we steal their opportunity to develop important coping skills.” What’s more we let them think they need our help. “Of course we want to take reasonable steps for safety,” says Kennedy-Moore, “but we also want to give our children the message that ‘I have faith in you. I believe that you can handle this.’ That’s a very empowering message.”

In addition to putting kids in a position to constantly outsource problem-solving to their parents, cell phones are effectively putting our children on call – all day long. Imagine forfeiting the freedom you had as a child, to leave the house and be absolutely free of your parents until you returned. One mother who grew tired of having her calls seemingly ignored, even went as far as creating an app that will shut down your child’s phone if he doesn’t answer it. Does that sound like someone who is worried about safety, or control? I’d say the latter.

Tonya Rooney, an Early Childhood Education lecturer at Australian Catholic University, has done a lot of research on the repercussions surveillance has on children. In her research article, Trusting children: How do surveillance technologies alter a child’s experience of trust, risk and responsibility, she concludes:

Without a surveillance gaze, children have the opportunity to be trusted, to learn how to trust others, and perhaps to show others they can live up to this trust. Once the surveillance is in place, this opportunity is greatly reduced… if surveillance is applied as a response to fear rather than a more balanced response to any actual risks involved, then arguably both adults and children become reactive agents, contributing to a cycle of suspicion and anxiety, robbing childhood of valuable opportunities to trust and be trusted.

I stomped through Europe in my early twenties without a cell phone and with only a promise to call my mother once a week. If I observe my child secretly in the days of his young life and hand him a cell phone to track him as soon as he’s old enough to leave the house on his own, am I setting him up for the same independence I enjoyed? Will he be able to handle it? It’s a trajectory that we have the power to stop if we realize it may not be in the best interest of our children to raise them to think it’s okay to be watched and tracked.

But, our kids will probably never know the freedom we did, so they won’t know what they’re missing.

TIME

How Letting Your Kids Stay Up Late Could Wreck Your Life

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I plan on putting my kids to bed early until they are older and no longer want to hang out with me

I never, ever, want my children to stay up past 8pm.

Ever.

I don’t want them to have a later bedtime until they are older and no longer want to hang out with me. I love my children, but I also love my sanity, and that sanity comes from bad TV and sweet, sweet silence.

I have six-year-old twins, and right now they go to bed at around 7:30 p.m. I hear other parents talk about their first graders staying up and hanging out with them until 10:00 p.m. at night and it horrifies me. That isn’t because their kids are staying up too late, but because, my God, when do those parents get to have their evening fun time? When do they watch The Bachelorette and eat the cookies they hide from their children?

By 8:00 p.m. at night, I am done. That’s when Mommy clocks out. At that point, I am unable to even pretend to parent anymore. All conversations my children try to have with me between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. are met with one word: No.

“Can you fix my sheets?”

“No.”

“Can you get me more water?”

“No.”

“Can you –”

“No. And before you ask your next question, the answer is also no.”

The more I talked to other parents about bedtimes, however, the more concerned I got that 7:30 p.m. might be too early. I have a tendency to get lulled into complacency by the habits of day-to-day life, and sometimes forget that my children keep getting older and occasionally the rules need to change. So when I learned that my kids had the earliest bedtime of all of their first-grade friends, it made me a little nervous. Was I putting my kids to bed way too early? Was I about to lose the only time of the day when I am able to fully and completely relax? When they’re at school I’m still on alert because my phone could ring at any minute — the school nurse could call asking me to pick up a sick kid, or the principal might ring, telling me that my shy child tried to run off of school property to avoid picture day. Night-time is the only time when I know that my children can’t possibly ask me for anything because they are unconscious.

To address my concerns, I decided to ask an expert for guidance. I called Rebecca Michi, a trained Children’s Sleep Consultant in Seattle who has a British accent and a great attitude. Did she think that 7:30 p.m. was too early a bedtime for a couple of first graders?

“Wake up time has to dictate the bedtime,” she said. “Children can go to bed late if they wake up late. First graders need ten to twelve hours of sleep a night. Otherwise they are sleep deprived, and we all act like two-year-olds when we are sleep deprived.”

My kids wake up at 6:30 a.m. every morning on their own. I can put them to bed at 5 p.m. or I can put them to bed at midnight, and they will still wake up at 6:30 a.m. It’s something my husband and I have had to accept, and by accept I mean we’ve had to murder the part of our souls that has hope. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when Michi didn’t tell me that my kids should stay up later. In fact, based on Michi’s recommendations, 7:30 was a perfect bedtime for them. I couldn’t believe it – I was doing something right…completely by accident, of course, but I’ll take it however I can get it.

Before I ride my high horse off into the sunset, though, it’s important to point out that in addition to my accidentally appropriate bedtime, it’s likely that many inappropriate bedtimes aren’t chosen thoughtlessly. I don’t think there are a lot of parents who are watching The Tonight Show with their kindergartener and saying, “Eh. He’ll go to bed when he feels like it. Now Timmy, go get Momma another martini.” I think there are a lot more parents who keep their kids up due to external factors they can’t control.

For example, there’s Michi’s recommendation that wake-up time dictate bedtime. My kids don’t start school till 9:30 a.m., and with their 6:30 a.m. natural wake-up time that means I never have to force them out of bed in the morning. If I had older kids who were doing homework and then going to bed at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., who then had to be at school and in class at 7:30 a.m. the next morning, I’d be dealing with some overly tired kids and I would be seriously aggravated. I understand the recent push by some parents to move school start times back, because I’m not sure how anyone can expect kids to succeed when they can’t get the rest they need.

I’m also a work-at-home mom. I take my kids to and from school every day. I have three hours with them before school and three hours after. I am not hurting for time with my kids. If I had a job where I had to be at work by 8:00 a.m. and I didn’t get home until 7:00 p.m., and I put my kids to bed at 7:30 p.m., that would mean spending less than an hour a day with my kids during the week, if that. Of course I understand why some parents would want to push that bedtime back by an extra hour or so in order to get some time with their children. You know, for bonding. Or for algebra, which is the opposite of bonding.

Thankfully, I no longer feel any pressure to let my kids stay up past 8:00 p.m. I can turn off their lights, say my final no’s, and ease myself onto my sofa, where frozen yogurt and The Voice await me. Even the experts understand my need for “night time means no children time.” As Michi told me, “Some parents love having their kids up late. I can’t think of anything worse. I want to watch inappropriate TV with my husband and have a glass of wine.” Preach it, British priestess of sleep.

Here’s how I look at it: this is a parenting rule that is not only good for the kids, but also brings me joy. There aren’t a whole lot of those. I’m going to take advantage of it while I can.

Meredith Bland is an award-winning humor and parenting writer from Seattle. She works as a staff writer at Mommyish, and has a humor blog called Pile of Babies. You can follow her on Twitter at @pileofbabies.

TIME

‘Broad Consensus’ that Media Violence Can Lead to Increased Child Aggression

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In the past, there was a perception that the field was divided about whether violent content leads to increased aggression in children, but this study refutes that notion

The vast majority of parents, pediatricians and media researchers all believe that violent movies, video games and television shows can lead to increased aggression in children, according to a new study published in the journal, Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

In the past, there was a perception that the field was divided about whether children’s behavior could be affected by violent content. This study dispels that notion completely by showing that, in fact, there is broad consensus that violent content can lead to more aggression.

For the study, the researchers — Professor Brad Bushman of Ohio State University, Carlos Cruz, a doctoral student at Ohio State, and Mario Gollwitzer, a professor at Philipps University Marburg in Germany — surveyed 371 media psychologists and communication scientists from three professional organizations; 92 members of the Council on Communication and Media of the American Academy of Pediatrics; and a nationally representative sample of 268 American parents. The study revealed that 66 percent of researchers, 67 percent of parents and a whopping 90 percent of pediatricians agree or strongly agree that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior among children.

Brad Bushman, lead author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University believes the journalistic drive for fair and balanced reporting is partially to blame for the view that there is a lack of consensus. “I think there’s a perception partly driven by the mass media that the field is divided,” said Bushman. “When they report on a finding that violent media produces aggression in children, to find a balance, they find someone else who disagrees with it. It leads to the conclusion that scientists don’t know about this topic and that the field is divided. But the field is not divided. There is broad consensus that violent media leads to increased aggression in children.”

He compared the drive for balanced reporting to John Oliver’s piece on climate change, in which the late night host revealed the trouble with showing a one-to-one debate, when in fact 97% of the science community believes climate change is real and happening. To make the debate more representative of reality, Oliver invited three climate change deniers to argue against 97 climate scientists who believe in global warming.

The results in Bushman and his team’s study go hand in hand with a study published last year in the journal of Pediatrics. That study, lead by researchers Lindsay A. Robertson, Helena M. McAnally and Robert J. Hancox showed a link between children and adolescents who watch two or more hours of TV per weekday— in which most of the content contains violence — and antisocial behavior in early adulthood.

But there are other factors besides screen time and violent content that can lead to aggression in children. “Many factors can contribute to increased aggression in children. Things like being male, poverty or having a low IQ are not easy to change, but limiting exposure to violent media can be changed,” said Prof. Bushman.“This is one of the factors that people can do something about.”

Aside from going full-Tipper Gore and founding a media watch group and petitioning Congress to limit violence in the media, what can a parent do? Bushman has a few suggestions: Limit screen time, monitor what your kids are watching or playing online and talk to your kids about it. It’s what Bushman does with his own 14-year old son. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day —[My son] has more than that. But, we carefully screen the content,” said Bushman. “There’s no TV in his room, he has an iPad, but has to use it with the door open and give us the iPad at night. All TV programs with violent content can only be accessed via password. And the internet filters out violent content. There are no video games that are age inappropriate.”

When asked if his two older children — ages 18 and 19—ever show their younger sibling something inappropriate, Bushman laughed. “Their dad has been studying the affects of violent media for over 25 years. They know better.”

TIME Innovation

A Piece of Cardboard Is Helping Transform India’s Schools

These desks cost only 20 cents to produce and are making a huge difference for schoolchildren

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

A single sheet of cardboard can’t do much, right? Wrong! In India, many children go to school but don’t have the luxury of sitting behind a desk. To address this issue, the nonprofit organization Aarambh created a necessity out of a single sheet of cardboard: a school desk. The Bombay-based nonprofit worked with designers to come up with the desk design from a simple sheet of cardboard.
They transformed that cardboard into a modern-looking backpack for kids to carry all their school supplies, but when folded out, the briefcase then turns into a work desk.

What’s brilliant about this eco-friendly design is that it costs just 20 cents to produce and each desk is cut in a way so all the student needs to do is fold it together—nothing more is required. This makes education and school supplies even more accessible for families everywhere.

Building the cardboard desks
Courtesy of Aarambh
Students using cardboard desks
Courtesy of Aarambh
Completed cardboard desk
Courtesy of Aarambh
TIME Parenting

The Pain of Passing My Disability on to My Child

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When my daughter was six weeks old, we received official word that she had inherited my bone disorder, a condition that would likely cause her many fractures and possibly painful corrective surgeries

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

When my oldest daughter Leah was born, many people made the same observation: “Look at those fingers! So long and skinny…just like yours, Ellen.” Right after she was born, my husband went with her for a bath as I was stitched up after my c-section. When he returned, he mentioned that her eyes were a “funny color.” All of those observations, straightforward and innocent on the surface, let me know that some of my darkest fears were probably being realized.

My daughter’s long, skinny fingers and toes, the bluish color in the whites of her eyes—these were signs that Leah had inherited a scrambled gene that would wreak havoc on her skeleton. When she was six weeks old, we received official word that Leah had indeed inherited my bone disorder, osteogenesis imperfecta (OI)—a condition that would likely cause her many fractures (I had about three dozen before the age of 11) and possibly painful corrective surgeries. I clutched her fiercely against my chest and told God that he had damn well better take care of this child. That day 14 years ago was the hardest day of my life.

I have spent much of the past 10 years or so writing about genetics and disability and the choices made possible by increasingly sophisticated technologies that allow parents to choose, to some extent, what sort of child they might have. I have talked to dozens of potential parents who, like me, have some serious genetic baggage and fear putting its weight on their children’s shoulders. And I have talked to some people who wonder whether, if their child does inherit some genetic menace that wreaks havoc on that child’s health and well-being, will they regret that they took such chances with a genetic lottery stacked against them?

I tell such people that I think it’s impossible, barring extreme psychological dysfunction, to regret your own child’s existence. And I tell them about my daughter Leah, who is bearing the weight of my own genetic baggage on her fragile skeleton, who has, yes, broken a dozen bones and deeply mourned the losses that come when yet another broken bone messes with our plans. I have watched Leah sink into a place that is really dark and really sad. But I have other stories to tell about Leah, not just the dark and sad ones.

There’s this story: One Sunday morning several months ago, I slipped on some black ice when going to get our newspaper. Landing hard on my back, I broke two ribs and a shoulder bone, and partially collapsed a lung—the kind of injuries that stronger-boned people incur when they fall from trees and roofs. I managed to crawl from the frozen front walk into our entrance hall, but couldn’t go any farther. While I lay there waiting for the ambulance to arrive, as my husband reassured my two younger children and called my mom to come stay with the kids, as I struggled to breathe, Leah sat next to me on the floor. She just sat there, silent. At one point, I said to her, “You know, Leah, don’t you? You know how I’m feeling.” I wasn’t talking just about the pain, but also the crushing disappointment of a regular day ruined, the weightier knowledge of the ruined days to come. I was talking about feeling powerless in the face of something as stupidly mundane as ice, and being betrayed by the fragile body gaining the upper hand on the strong spirit. Leah nodded. Yes, she knew.

A few months later, I was heading to pick Leah up from church choir practice. I was dreading it, because I knew that Leah would be getting some bad news at the rehearsal. For Leah, singing is a passion, and when she joined our church choir about three years ago, she found another family, a community. The choirmaster was a young man called Dr. Roberts. Dr. Roberts is a talented musician but also a gifted teacher. Leah will, I’m sure, remember him for the rest of her life as the kind of teacher and mentor who changed her life. I knew that during this particular rehearsal, Dr. Roberts was planning to let the kids know that he had taken a job in New York City and would be leaving. I knew Leah would be devastated.

She came out from the church to the parking lot and with tears streaming down her face, she said, “You know Mom? This is his dream, this job he’s taking in New York. It’s good. It’s just all good.”

So it seems that, at not quite 15 years old, Leah knows what love looks like. She knows how to help carry another’s burden. She knows that sometimes an empathic presence is more helpful than words. She knows about wanting the best for someone you care about, even when their best is your worst. That she is capable of such wisdom at such a young age is proof to me that I can never regret anything about the person Leah is and is becoming, brittle bones and all.

I want to be perfectly clear, though, about what I don’t mean. I hate those clichés about how we should be grateful for the shitty stuff in our life because it teaches us so much, about how “Everything happens for a reason.” I don’t believe that one bit.

But I’m beginning to understand that Leah’s inheritance from me is not merely a faulty gene and a fragile skeleton, but also the truest kind of compassion—the kind that arises when you know what pain looks like and feels like, and you recognize another’s need, and know just what to do.

Do I regret that Leah inherited my fragile bones? I don’t love it. I even sometimes hate it.

But while I sometimes wish I could have spared her that particular genetic fate, I’m also profoundly grateful that it was not in my power to decide what kind of kid I would get.

Because I never could have predicted, much less devised, the wounded and gracious person my daughter is becoming.

Ellen Painter Dollar is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). She blogs about faith, family, disability, and ethics at Patheos. Dollar also serves on a working group sponsored by the Yale University Interdisciplinary Center on Bioethics, exploring bioethical issues related to health care and people with disabilities.

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TIME

There’s Nothing Wrong with the Mommy Track

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Our culture sings in only two keys about how successful women manage motherhood and work: either you’re driving a hard line to the C-suite, parking the crib in your corner office, or you’re shredding the Mommy track. What about a third way?

Before I became a parent, I was a bestselling author and speaker pounding up the escalators of a different airport every week. I worked insatiably, sometimes meeting three different contacts for a drink, dinner and dessert. When my daughter was born, I was thrilled — and anxious. I had heard the old adage, “You can have it all – just not at once.” On my first day back after maternity leave, I packed up my breast pump and parking meter quarters. I was ready for my life to change.

But here’s what I didn’t count on: feeling ashamed because I refused to put work above all else. Because I yearned to spend quality time with my daughter. Because I wanted actual work-life balance.

Instead of shutting down my laptop at 7 or 8 pm, I now relieved my sitter at 4:30. I rarely logged on after bedtime, or on weekends. But as I played with the baby on the floor, I was miles away in my head. Would my clients and colleagues write me off if I didn’t produce at the same pace? What would my next big project be? I read my daughter books in a toneless, distant voice, ruminating furiously.

I had plowed through a pile of work that month – finishing a grant, giving speeches, writing an advice column, teaching 60 high school students, answering countless emails – yet I still felt like a slacker. It never occurred to me that I was working, and working hard. Why?

Our culture sings in only two keys about how successful women manage motherhood and work: either you’re driving a hard line to the C-suite, parking the crib in your corner office, or you’re shredding the Mommy track.

But what about those of us who are still working hard, and who live and work somewhere between the two? I love being a mom, and I also love (and can’t afford not to) work.

So why do we speak in such crude terms about the nuanced, ever-changing dance of work-life balance? To begin with, the choices are rigged. To hear popular media tell it, the alternative to leaning in seems like a thinly veiled insult: the words “opt out” or “mommy track” suggest that the “in” – the standard of true success– is paid work.

In our million-mile-an-hour culture of never enough, working less is interpreted as working less well. This isn’t always the case. Parents quickly become expert at doing more work in less time, redirecting chit-chat and out-for-lunch hours toward getting the job done faster. Yet it’s mothers, far more than fathers, who are judged critically.

Perhaps even more galling, the suggestion that women can either elect to work harder or opt out demeans the nearly 50 million working mothers who maybe can’t afford the choice.

Brown University Professor Yael Chatav Schoenbrun knew she wouldn’t fit the mold. “I made a decision,” she wrote in the New York Times, “to back down, but not bail out.” She would work hard, just not as hard as she did before parenthood. Recalling her angst over choosing her own path, she shared a puzzling conclusion. “The real problem,” she wrote, “was me.”

But was it really? This kind of self-blame comes so easily to women. It recalls the self-flagellating angst of a generation that Betty Friedan profiled in The Feminine Mystique. The reality is more complex. New research has confirmed what many have suspected for a long time: moms are less likely to be hired for jobs, perceived as competent, or be paid as much as equally qualified male colleagues. But for men, having kids helps their careers. Dads are more likely to be hired than childless men and are more likely to earn more after they have kids.

Doesn’t some responsibility lie, too, with a culture that insists on pigeonholing its women into two extreme, unattainable ways of being? It is a familiar trope: We are to be nice, and liked by everyone; or else we are labeled aggressive. We’re humble or conceited; compliant, good girls or sluts. Rarely are women offered a middle road, one that imagines them as real, complex, dynamic beings.

When we frame women’s choices in terms of extreme work or extreme mothering, women think they have to define themselves in terms of a single goal, everything else be damned. Instead of having the chance to succeed in either realm, women committed to both work and mothering end up feeling inadequate in both. Mommy wars are the sad by-product of the drive to prove one’s worth in a contest where no one ever gets to feel like they are enough as they are.

Working mothers who feel inadequate, even as they continue to work hard, may suffer from what Brene Brown, author of the bestseller Daring Greatly, calls the “never enough” problem: a persistent, self-defeating belief that we will not be worthy or lovable until we are richer, thinner, more powerful, more successful, and so on. We are made to feel, she writes, “that an ordinary life is a meaningless life.”

Perhaps this is why working women are inducted into motherhood being warned that we will never feel like good enough moms or good enough professionals. Ruthless perfectionists that we are, we drink this kool-aid without question.

But what if it’s precisely that juicy, flawed mix of experiences that adds up to a life well-lived? What if by trading in the fruitless drive to be perfect, we inherit a richly textured self?

Besides, the endless diaper changes and tantrums give way, soon enough, to the first day of kindergarten – and a lot more time to devote to a career.

I have spent my life in fear of being average. But the joy I experience as a parent is driving me to face that fear in a way I never thought possible. As I bumble through paving my own third way, I am learning to lower my standards when I need to: to prep last minute; to write bullet points instead of full paragraphs; to say no. At first, I was sure the bottom would literally fall out of my career – and therefore my world. Slowly, I saw that no one really cared. They may not have even noticed. (It’s often said that we are our own worst judges. In some cases, we may also be our only worst judges.)

Waves of anxiety about my career still find me, often in the middle of the night. It is an ongoing struggle to remember that I am enough as I am. But now, when I sit on the floor with my daughter, I see our time as anything but a detour from my ambition. She is the passion project I was waiting for.

 

TIME

Tiger Mom, Hold That Growl

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A new study debunks the idea that punitive, Tiger Mom-style parenting is superior.

Yale professor Amy Chua wrote “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” in 2011, introducing the phrase “Tiger Mom” into popular culture and celebrating her strict parenting style. But in China, the birthplace of tiger parenting, kids whose parents control their lives with cheerless demands for perfection are becoming a problem.

Researchers from UC Riverside published a new study this week, based on data from nearly 600 middle- and high-school students in Hangzhou, China, debunking the idea that punitive tiger parenting is superior. It finds that less supportive parenting techniques used by some Chinese parents damages self-esteem and complicates school adjustment, while also putting kids at greater risk of depression and problem behaviors. “Our research shows that Tiger Mother type of parenting, specifically controlling, punitive, and less supportive type of parenting is really not working in this sample of Chinese adolescents,” said Cixin Wang, an assistant professor at UC Riverside’s Graduate School of Education. “It also shows that it is important for Chinese parents, who tend to be less emotionally expressive and use less praise in parenting, to show their approval, love and support for their children.”

Chua’s book was packed with vivid, sometimes shocking tales of her strict approach to raising her own daughters, including limiting their social lives, shaming them as punishment when they failed, and forcing them to practice music until their performances were perfect. Ultimately, Chua’s daughters became very successful, and she insists that her hard-edged, unsentimental tactics are the key. Anyone who had ever marveled at the disproportionate academic success among Asian-American kids compared with other minorities now had an intriguing, rather disturbing, explanation: These kids’ cold-hearted tiger moms were demanding perfect grades and mastery of musical instruments, and withholding praise and affection until their kids fell in line. It used to be called tough love until Chua gave it this cooler name.

Giving a parenting style a cool name is not the same as proving its worth. In the wake of Chua’s sensational claims, thoughtful research has found that high-achieving Asian-American students have parental support and put in the necessary work – just as successful students from any culture must do. The flip side, of course, is that when high standards and a strong work ethic are accompanied by emotionally unsupportive parenting, Asian-American students are more likely to suffer negative effects – just as the children of cold or distant parents from any culture are. Furthermore, it turns out that Chua’s brand of harsh parenting is not even very common among Chinese-American parents, who are more likely to be closely involved with their school-age children in a firm, encouraging, but overall positive way. Only when too much pressure to perform enters the picture do Asian-American kids suffer loss of self-esteem.

None of this is new. Chua’s colorful account seemed to make everyone forget about other research, published years earlier, which identified mundane and logical factors in Asian-American students’ high-achieving ways. As long ago as 1988, large studies of minority students found that Asian-American students were more likely to come from stable, two-parent households, to spend more time “on task,” (meaning homework or music practice), and to have better study habits, greater access to after-school lessons and activities, and more parental involvement.

Maybe our greatest chance for having successful kids is to leave behind the cultural stereotypes and focus on the best practices of all high-achieving households. Have high expectations, and communicate them clearly. Be aware of what your children are doing at school, and insist that they make their best effort on assignments and homework. Find opportunities for them to build on their curiosity in music classes, at the public library, at museums or on websites. You don’t have to pay for fancy lessons – whatever your family can afford can work. Of course, kids have different challenges and innate abilities. No one knows and loves your child the way you do, so you will know best whether he is working up to his potential. Make it clear that everyone in your family works hard at his or her job, and that is how you expect the kids to approach their studies, music lessons, sports, and other structured activities. You can set a very high bar and still come through with a hug and a word of encouragement when your child falls short of expectations—yours or his own. I have yet to see a research study that advises against this parenting style. If only I could come up with a cool name for it.

TIME

Single Parents With Young Kids Have As Much Sex As Singles Without Kids, Study Says

Young couple lying in bed under sheets, low section, close-up of feet
Jonathan Kirn—Getty Images

No, this is not a headline from "The Onion."

Turns out that single parents are dating and having as much sex as singles without children.

A new study from The Kinsey Institute has found that single parents of children younger than age 5 date and are sexually active as often as singles without children — and more often than single parents of older children. (I’m guessing that later bedtime and increased ability to lay out guilt trips is to blame for this last phenomenon.)

Researchers began the study thinking that single parents would put hooking up on the back burner while trying to make a human being from scratch. Apparently, not so much. “For single parents, there is only so much time and so much energy to be used for a variety of competing demands in their life. Without the help of a partner, singles often have to divert more energy to parenting and so in theory one might think single parents would not be dating as much. But that’s not what we found,” Justin R. Garcia, an evolutionary biologist at The Kinsey Institute and assistant professor of gender studies at IU Bloomington, said in a press release.

Turns out it’s pretty easy to right-swipe on Tinder while watching Yo Gabba Gabba. Still, it’s news to me that having a kid under the age of 5 is no longer a barrier to a swingin’ single lifestyle. When my son was a toddler he was a barrier to just about everything, including showering, grocery shopping, using the restroom and doing anything alone with my husband. “These data are counter to theory and what was previously assumed about patterns of dating and sexual behavior among U.S. singles,” said Garcia.

But what’s a little less clear is exactly why this counter-intuitive phenomenon is true. The study gives us a few hints: “Male and female parents of young children experience hormonal changes that can affect their sexuality.” It also says that with single moms there’s a desire to find a partner again and people with young children are often younger themselves and tend to have a higher sex drive than older moms.

Remember, this study doesn’t say that single parents are having more sex than married parents. Although, or more realistically, married couples without children or married couples trying to have children probably have more sex than anyone else on earth. “We know that on average, singles have relatively less sexual activity than coupled people — singles tend to have lower rates of sexual frequency likely because they have to first find a partner to have sex with,” Garcia said.

TIME

40 Classic Children’s Books Even Adults Love

The most formative books may be those of your childhood: Dozens of Real Simple readers remember beloved children’s books that turned them on to reading. They reveal why in their own words. Visit RealSimple.com to read the full list.

Here are the first five books:

 

  • 1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

    The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
    Harper & Row

    As a child I loved the simple story and it has resonated with me more and more as an adult. —Samantha Sadler Layman

    To buy: Ages 1 to 8; $17, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: 6 Funny Movies to Watch This Weekend)

  • 2. Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

    The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
    Grosset & Dunlap

    My dad read it to me as a baby girl recovering in the hospital. We read together until his grandsons were born. And then we read to them. “Just quietly under the cork tree.” —Cindy Lee Claplanhoo

    To buy: Ages 3 to 5; $4, amazon.com.

  • 3. The Saggy Baggy Elephant by Kathryn Jackson and Byron Jackson

    The Saggy Baggy Elephant Book
    Little Golden Book

    My grandma would read that to me when I was little. I was so proud when I could finally read it by myself. —Charmin Garst Savage

    To buy: Ages 3 to 7; $4, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: Banishing Life’s Little Annoyances)

  • 4. Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

    Are You My Mother?
    Random House Books for Young Readers

    Are You My Mother? showed love and opportunities were everywhere. —Denise Thompson

    To buy: Ages 3 to 7; $9, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: 50 Great Books That Will Change Your Life)

  • 5. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

    Harold and the Purple Crayon
    HarperCollins

    I was so inspired by Harold’s imagination and realized that books could take me anyplace I wanted to go, just like Harold. —Leslie Fischer

    To buy: Ages 3 to 7; $7, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: 5 Ways to Stay Cool Under Pressure)

    Read the full list HERE.

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