TIME Family

Runner Wins 3 Marathons in 8 Days to Help Pay Son’s Medical Bills

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"He gives me the energy shot to pick me up and carry me through to the finish"

Bryan Morseman, a runner from Western New York, runs marathons for two reasons. A lifelong runner, he enjoys the sport, but he also uses the prize money to help pay his infant son’s medical bills. Last month he ran three marathons in eight days—two of them back back-to-back—and won them all.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle has Morseman’s full story. His son, Leeim, has spina bifida, a congenital spine defect that poses a variety of health problems and can leave a child unable to walk if left untreated. He has physical therapy three times a week but still might not be able to walk.

“Every time I’m in a race I think of him and how my pain is nothing compared to what he has gone through,” Morseman, told the Democrat & Chronicle. “He gives me the energy shot to pick me up and carry me through to the finish.”

On March 14, Morseman went to Alabama and won the Montgomery Marathon. The next day, on the way back to New York, he stopped in Cary, N.C., and won the Tobacco Road Marathon. On March 22 he went to Virginia Beach and won the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon. He took home a total of $5,750 in prize money.

Morseman works full-time as a precious metals clerk but runs marathons on the weekends. He doesn’t train with a coach but still hopes to qualify for the Olympic trials. Family comes first, though, he said.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME Internet

Watch This Teen’s Plea to Help His Mom Pay for His 53rd Surgery

He has a rare genetic disease that causes facial deformities

Doctors thought Austin Niehus, who was born with Goldenhar syndrome, a rare genetic disease that causes facial deformities, wouldn’t live to see his first birthday.

Fourteen years and 52 surgeries later, he’s still around, and he’s put together a five-minute video sharing his story to raise money to help his mother pay for his next procedure.

Niehus, who lives in Aurora, Colorado, was born deaf and missing an ear (“God made [me] very unique and special,” he says) so he uses note cards he holds up to the camera to communicate.

“I have to have another surgery in June :-(” he says in one. “They will be repairing my [palate].”

He then points to his mouth.

He wanted to raise $4,000 because “insurance doesn’t cover everything” (it won’t cover the plate to close his palate), so his friend suggested he make a video using note cards, he writes.

“I was nervous to do this well … because I was bullied so bad and made fun of a lot!” he admits in the video.

“So to make this video I guess I am being brave!” he writes.

The response has been overwhelming, but, according to a post on his Facebook page, he and his mom haven’t been able to get the messages to thank everyone themselves.

“This is Austin’s Papa,” the post said. “Austin’s mom wanted me to tell you thank you so very much for all your support, kind words and prayers.

“She still has no internet and has to leave the house to find free wifi to view and reply back to your posts, and her data plan on her phone is way over the limit right now,” he wrote Thursday.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Family

‘Selfish, Shallow and Neurotic’: How the Conversation on Childlessness Got Started

"NON" (National Organization for Non-parents; at Disneyland.
Ralph Crane—The LIFE Picture Collecton/Getty Images Caption from TIME. Child protesting against parenthood; A gift on Non-Father's Day.

The National Organization for Non-Parents started a dialogue that continues today

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that more women in America are childless — or childfree, depending on how you look at it — than at any time since recordkeeping began in the 1970s. And it can seem as if the fewer people have children, the more people want to talk about it: For example, the release of the Census statistics coincides with the recent release of a new essay collection edited by Meghan Daum, Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids.

But, though some of the nuance and context in the conversation about childlessness may be new, the conversation itself is not. Much of today’s discussion of the topic echoes the criticism levied at the National Organization for Non-Parents (NON), a group founded in 1972 to promote the childfree lifestyle.

The organization, which later changed its name to the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood, formed in response to a “pronatalist” culture that stigmatized childless couples. As TIME wrote in 1972, “the cultural bias against childless couples is so strong that husbands and wives cannot choose non-parenthood freely; they know they will be branded selfish, shallow and neurotic.”

NON’s 400 members also promoted the benefits of the childfree existence, as TIME explained:

All of the members, even the parents among them, are committed to childlessness as a way of creating ‘social space.’ That means ‘a combination of time, money and energy’ that can be used to conserve planetary resources, beat the high cost of living and free husbands and wives for political activism and the pursuit of free life-styles.

That same year, LIFE Magazine profiled the organization’s executive director, Shirley Radl, a mother of two then at work on a book titled Mother’s Day Is Over. Radl lamented the “Big Lie” she and her husband had fallen for, succumbing to friends’ judgment of their lives as “hedonistic, meaningless.” Her words have not gone stale in the intervening decades:

We don’t tell others what jobs to take, whom they should marry, where to vacation. It’s bad manners to ask how much money they make. Yet others’ breeding habits, if they’re childless, are considered fair game. The couples with children, who are miserable, don’t hesitate to urge others to follow their examples.

Read TIME’s 2013 cover story on childlessness, here in the TIME archives: The Childfree Life

TIME Family

What It’s Really Like To Be a Surrogate Mother

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“I don’t regret it for a second"

The modern American family takes many forms; our living arrangements and relationships are more diverse than ever. Still, Arin, a 31-year-old woman from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, has assumed a role that most women will never experience. She became a surrogate mother — carrying two biological children for her gay stepbrother, Phillip, and his longtime partner, Shane.

For people who want to be parents, but can’t have children of their own, surrogacy is an increasingly common — though complex — option. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that around 1,000 surrogacy births occur every year in the United States, but there is no official record-keeping for surrogacy and no legal formalities forcing people to document their involvement in the process.

The usual arrangement is gestational surrogacy, which is when an embryo created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) is implanted in and carried by a genetically unrelated female, who is typically found through a private agency. Interestingly, the United States is one of the few countries where it is legal for these surrogates to be paid for their role — other notable exceptions include India, Thailand, and Russia. (U.S. laws vary by state, but generally allow for compensation to surrogates.)

MORE I Got Dumped, Got Cancer, & Got Over It

A less common type of surrogacy is where a surrogate uses her own eggs, which would make her the genetic mother. “I would say that less than 50 births per year come from a genetic mother,” said Hilary Hanafin, PhD, chief counselor for the Center for Surrogate Parenting Inc. in Encino, California. Arin was one of these women.

Phillip and Shane, who live in Seattle, considered gestational surrogacy a few years ago. They had been together for more than a decade and desperately wanted a child. But, after investigating, they found the official procedures for surrogacy — as well as adoption — slow and cumbersome. The thought that Phillip’s stepsister, Arin, might carry their children had come up, but they decided they weren’t yet ready and moved on from the idea.

Then, one late-summer evening in 2012, Arin was visiting Phillip and Shane in Seattle when she decided the time was right. “Let’s just do it!” she remembers blurting over her glass of wine. “Why are we creating this issue? All we have to do is put your sperm in me, and we will have a baby!”

Phillip and Shane, full of excitement and nervousness, agreed. They left dinner, went to Walgreens, bought the necessary equipment to insert Shane’s sperm into Arin, and went home and did the deed. A few days later, Arin returned to Brooklyn. She didn’t get pregnant that time, but it eventually worked.

Arin, Phillip, and Shane’s case is rare by sociological standards. According to Dr. Hanafin, a woman carrying biological children (meaning the egg is hers, rather than implanted from a different woman) for a gay couple is relatively unprecedented. According to Arin, her volunteering as both the surrogate and genetic mother of the child was vehemently discouraged by psychologists she spoke to beforehand.

“They said, ‘That baby will be in your life. You will be attached. It will drive you crazy,’” Arin said. “There isn’t a situation like this out there, at least that we came across. The only other times family was part of it, they didn’t use their own eggs.”

Dr. Hanafin says that there are “rare instances of relinquishment guilt and grief” in surrogates. Women who have had children prior to surrogacy don’t typically encounter any psychological complications when entering a biological surrogacy situation — Dr. Hanafin theorizes that they may be better able to remove their emotions from the process. But, Arin hadn’t given birth to a child previously — which was another unique aspect of her situation.

“I have been counseling for 32 years and have never worked with a woman that wasn’t a mom already,” Dr. Hanafin said. “It’s that unusual. It takes a very healthy group of people to make it work.”

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For Arin, who was 28 at the time and didn’t feel quite ready to start a family of her own, the arrangement suited her. “I wanted to be pregnant and wanted to go through the experience, but not have the responsibility [of raising the child],” she said. The pregnancy was, as she put it, “a fairytale pregnancy.”

As the due-date crept closer, Phillip and Shane rented an apartment in New York City so they could prepare for the birth as a team and be there when Arin went into labor. They also consulted an attorney to finalize the adoption paperwork for Phillip. Since Shane was the biological father, Phillip would become the adoptive parent, with Arin relinquishing her rights as the mother of the child. On June 20, 2013, Dahlia was born: a healthy girl with grey-blue eyes and plump, rosy cheeks.

Medical professionals may have been concerned that Arin would become maternally attached to the child, but she took the transition from surrogate to aunt in stride. “I was not doing this for myself, and when she was born, I was fine with it. It was to the point that it was odd for me to think that I had a child.”

Dahlia, although only a toddler, has been given a full account of the process of her creation. “We want her to know her birth story, where she came from, and how everything happened,” said Phillip. “We have a picture of Arin in her room, and every night we look at it. We say, ‘B-Ma (Biological Mother) loves you,’ and ‘Say goodnight to B-Ma.’ So, for her, it becomes normal. It becomes easy for us to talk to her about it.”

Phillip and Shane were in constant contact with Arin about Dahlia’s development during infancy. (Facetime is a regular thing, and meetups are scheduled every three months, with Arin flying to Seattle or the family coming to New York.) “It’s not like she gave birth and placed her through adoption to a stranger,” Shane said.

It wasn’t more than six months after Dahlia’s birth before the couple asked Arin to carry another child for them.

MORE Two Men — In Jail For Anti-Gay Murders — Just Married Each Other

It took only two tries for Arin to get pregnant, and this time around, they used Phillip’s sperm. Although they have a brother-sister bond, they are not blood-related and wanted to make that clear to avoid any confusion. “We didn’t want people saying, ‘What’s going on here? What’s wrong with this family?” Arin said. The concept of each of them being the biological father of one of their children was very important to Phillip and Shane.

Phillip and Shane’s son, Laydon, was born in Manhattan on January 23, 2015. Arin’s labor was quick and nearly painless, lasting less than four hours.

In the months after Laydon’s birth, Arin has been inundated with photographs, videos, and Facetime sessions with the children — and unbridled appreciation from Phillip and Shane. “Without her, our life wouldn’t be the way it is, and our family wouldn’t be what it is,” Phillip said. “She has literally sacrificed so much and put her own life at risk to help us. We know we will always be in each others’ lives, and now that she is the birth mom of our children, there is even more reason for her to be involved.”

Shane added, “There’s not a word invented that describes the feeling. Sometimes we just look at Dahlia playing and Laydon sleeping, and we think, Is this real? It’s like watching it happen from afar and then it hits you: This is just incredible.”

Now, as spring makes its descent on New York, Arin can be found in her Greenpoint apartment, with her cat sprawled out in the patch of light that pours through the window. Looking back, she can’t help but smile.

“I don’t regret it for a second,” she said. “You forget the pain. You forget the morning sickness. You remember the beautiful moments. I look at these babies and [know] they are a part of my life. I helped create them. Phillip and Shane remind me every day of how I changed their lives.”

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME World

Missing Australian Boy with Autism Found After 4 Days in Wilderness

"He's really in remarkable condition"

An 11-year-old boy who went missing on Friday while camping with his family near Lake Eildon in Victoria, Australia, was found alive on Tuesday.

Police praised Luke Shambrook, who has autism, for his resilience. “Luke is fantastic for what he’s been through, suffering exhaustion of course, dehydrated and some hypothermia, but from where he’s been – four nights and four days in the bush – he’s really in remarkable condition,” Acting Commander Rick Nugent from Victoria Police told ABC News.

The moment rescuers reached Luke Shambrook. #VictoriaPolice #VicPolice #VicPol #SearchAndRescue

A video posted by Victoria Police (@victoriapolice) on

 

Luke disappeared at midday on Friday from the Candlebark Campground in the Fraser National Park, the BBC reports. Police searched the wilderness by land, air and sea before a helicopter finally spotted the boy on Tuesday, nearly two miles from where he was last seen.

“I just, out the corner of my eye, caught a little flash of something,” Acting Sergeant Brad Pascoe, who first saw Luke, told ABC News.

“It wasn’t much but it was enough to make me get the guys to turn the aircraft around. We were able to train the camera in and confirm it was Luke. We were just absolutely over the moon.”

“To find him safe and well, is just wonderful news,” Nugent added. The moment of the boy’s rescue was captured on video, above.

In a statement, authorities thanked dozens of volunteers for their “immense amount of community support” in locating the 11-year-old, who was transported to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne for treatment after his rescue.

“We’re very thankful to live in a society that puts a lot of effort into finding children who go missing,” Luke’s uncle, Peter Roberts, told ABC News.

“We’re very happy that Luke’s been found alive and well even after such a long time.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Research

More Women Aren’t Having Children, Survey Finds

Nearly half of women between 15 and 44 are childless

More women in the U.S. are childless than at any other time since the government began keeping track, a new survey found.

Nearly half of women between the ages of 15 and 44 did not have kids in 2014, up from 46.5% in 2012 to 47.6% in 2014, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The figure is the highest percentage since the Census Bureau started measuring it in 1976.

Among women between 25 and 29, 49.6% were childless in 2014, also an all-time high. In the group between 30 and 34, 28.9% were childless, up from 28.2% in 2012 but below an all-time high of 29.7% in 2010.

As of 2013, the general fertility rate in the U.S., as measured by the number of babies women between 15 and 44 have over their lifetimes, had fallen for six straight years and sat at 1.86, according to the New York Times. Maintaining a stable U.S. population would require a fertility rate of 2.1.

Read next: There’s Nothing Wrong with the Mommy Track

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Family

How Do You Talk to Kids About God?

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Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

For secular parents, explaining sex is a cinch, but tackling religion can be terrifying

Talking openly with children about sensitive subjects is hard. It always has been. In my parents’ generation, the three-letter taboo was S-E-X. My older sister was 13 when my dad gave a kid “The Talk” for the first time. It was the ’80s, and my dad dodged it like any educated man of his time. He tossed her a sex-education book and said, “Read this, but don’t do it.”

Discussing sex isn’t quite so scary today. Many modern fathers don’t flinch when their daughters ask about anatomy or start inquiring about how babies are made. But progressive thinking has a way of replacing certain taboos with others. And today, for a great many parents, there is a new three-letter word: G-O-D.

With two of Western religion’s most important holidays—Easter and Passover—in the air, I find myself thinking back to the first time I had the “God Talk” with my own daughter. Maxine was barely five years old when she piped up from the backseat on the way home from her Los Alamitos preschool one day.

“Mommy,” she said, “you know what? God made us!”

I felt like a cartoon character being hit in the back of the head with a frying pan. My heart raced. I’m quite sure I began to sputter. Visions of Darwin and the evolving ape-man raced through my mind, followed closely by my childhood image of the big guy upstairs in his flowing white robes. I couldn’t speak.

And, in the awkward silence that followed, I was forced to confront the truth: The idea of talking to my kid about God—and, more specifically, about religion—scared the bejesus out of me.

I swallowed hard and forced myself to speak. “Well,” I said, “Who is God?”

Now, I don’t remember if Maxine actually said “duh,” or whether she simply bounced a “duh” look off the rearview mirror. But I can tell you that the “duh” message came across loud and clear.

“He’s the one who made us,” she said, her eyebrows knitted. “Okay… well, what is God doing now?” I tried for casual.

Again with the nonverbal “duh.”

“God is busy making people and babies,” she answered.

This information could not have been delivered with more certainty. My little girl, who had never heard an utterance of the word “God” in our house, aside from decidedly ungodly uses of the word, now had it all figured out thanks to a Jewish classmate who also happened to be her very first boyfriend. I was beaten to the punch by a cute preschool boy.

I let the subject drop, but my chest constricted all the way home. It stayed that way for hours. Why hadn’t I been prepared for this? What was I supposed to say now that she was getting her information from this boy at school?

As a science-minded non-believer with a generally non-confrontational personality, I was stumped by how to handle the situation. I wanted to be truthful about what I believed to be truth, but I didn’t want to indoctrinate her into my worldview either. And I certainly didn’t want others indoctrinating her into theirs, either. So where did that leave me? Was I to sit Maxine down and tell her that evolution, not God, was responsible for her existence? Was I to impose my own beliefs on her, the way other parents seemed to be doing? Or should I leave her alone to explore on her own timetable? What was the difference between guidance and pressure anyway? What was I willing to “let” her believe, and what wasn’t I?

Luckily for me, I have a husband who is cool under pressure. Later that day, after I’d rather breathlessly presented him with all the facts of the disastrous car ride, I asked him, “What if she believes in God?” His answer, my wakeup call, has become a mantra I repeat often. He said, “It’s not what Maxine believes, but what she does in life that matters.”

What I took from this was: Relax . . . it’s just God.

So I set aside my own irrational concerns and began to talk with my kid about God—lots of gods, actually. We talked about Brahman and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. My husband bought her a Children’s Bible, and I brought home lots of picture books highlighting aspects of various religious cultures.

To my delight, Maxine became genuinely interested in religion—as long as it came in bite-size pieces, rather than overly long oratories. She became engaged in the stories we told, and good at deciphering the various “moral” aspects of various tales for herself. In her hands, the Bible wasn’t a tool of indoctrination, but a tool of religious literacy—even critical thinking. Once when she was reading the 10 Commandments, for example, she got to the 10th and read (aloud): “Never want what belongs to others.” Then she stopped and corrected Moses. “Well, you can WANT what belongs to others,” she said. “You just can’t HAVE it. You can buy one for yourself.”

In the four years that have passed since Maxine first told me about God, we have discussed the subject countless times. I have learned that compassion and an open mind are more important than being right. I’ve also learned that the best way to combat intolerance is with knowledge, and that the best way to combat indoctrination is with critical thinking. No longer is there awkwardness around the subject. We talk about lots of different beliefs, encourage her to learn about what motivates the faith of others, and make clear that there is no shame in choosing an unpopular path. After all, her own parents are happy, well-adjusted, and (I like to think) good-hearted people.

Today, Maxine is 9 and believes in God “two days a week — on Sundays and Wednesday.” Is that logical or rational? No. But who cares? It works for her, and that’s what’s important.

I haven’t always done everything right. I have stumbled sloppily through more than a few conversations along my own journey and regretted my word choices now and again. (Our unique biases have a way of filtering through from time to time, despite our best efforts.) But, because the conversations keep coming, I’ve almost always had a chance to right my wrongs, to clarify my position, to bring a new perspective to each situation. The point here is not to be perfect—as my daughter says, “That would be boring”—but to give us something to aim for.

Exposing kids to various brands of spirituality and religion (not to mention non-religious philosophies) is not only fascinating and surprisingly fun; it also has the potential to improve our children’s— and our own—awareness about and compassion for the multiplicity of kinds of people in the world. Like the “sex talk,” discussions about God may come up sooner (and differently) than you had pictured. But it’s our obligation to embrace it. After all, if we’re not prepared to explore ideas of God, religion, and faith with our curious children, someone else will do it for us.

Someone cute.

Wendy Thomas Russell is an award-winning journalist and author of Relax, It’s Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You’re Not Religious. Russell hosts a blog called Natural Wonderers at Patheos.com and writes an online column for the PBS NewsHour. She wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

I Look at My Cell Phone Instead of Playing with My Children and That’s Okay

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

We should never be expected to give up our lives

xojane

At my age rarely a week goes by that an article doesn’t pop up in my news feed to warn me of the danger cell phones pose to my children. Not actual physical danger like texting while driving, but rather the more damaging psychological kind that comes about from checking Facebook while they swing at the playground.

Always desperately precious in tone, these articles are compelling to me as a stay at home mother of three. They warn of missing childhoods and creating humans with a sort of techno version of reactive attachment disorder, two things that are horrifying to contemplate as a person who gave up my own career to focus all my energy on these three people, to make them as perfect as I can make them so they can be a force of good in the world.

For years I fell for this guilt trip, but as my oldest nears 14, I feel like I have enough years of mothering under my belt to finally call nonsense.

The number of ways that you can damage your child as a mother is legion. There’s physical abuse, and psychological, but there’s a sneakier type that can also be damaging and that is making your children think they are the center of the universe.

One of the best compliments I’ve ever received as a parent was when my oldest daughter was four. The lead teacher at her Montessori school, a kindly old hippie who had nurtured twenty years of children, stopped me to say what a good human she was. Coming from him that meant so much, but it was what he said next to explain himself that has always stuck with me: “You can love them too much, you know.”

The idea of course not being that there should ever be a limit to what we feel for our children, but rather that as a parent it is damaging to love them slavishly, to give ourselves up to them absolutely. As a young mother it was a powerful statement and I’ve never forgotten the message behind it. It is this attitude of “loving them too much” that sits behind every article I’ve ever read about “putting your phone down” to look at your children. You can love them too much and that does them no good at all.

Modern mothers don’t get cut any slack. In this era of Pinterest parties and the monthly picture next to the keepsake bear to measure how much they’ve grown we are expected to not only love and nurture our children, but to package them in a compelling way for public consumption. We can no longer rest on just feeding them and reading to them and keeping them safe and warm, we are expected to play with them vigorously and do crafts and make pillow forts and go on scavenger hunts in the yard.

Stay at home motherdom has become less about the practical economics of child rearing and more like a really expensive day camp with mom as camp counselor. We are no longer fully adult women who have advanced degrees and careers and a life of the mind, we are now the equivalent of a 15-year-old CIT at a beautiful lake in New Hampshire. AND WE MUST LOVE IT.

And some of us do love it, and some of us are more natural at it than others. Some mothers are just latent kindergarten teachers; they draw strength from making their own play-doh and finger painting. But that was never me. And as my children have gotten older, I realize that’s okay.

What nobody tells you before you have kids is how mind-numbingly boring it can be. Once they are fed and asleep and you have showered and unloaded the dishwasher there’s not a whole lot to do. My oldest was born in 2001, years before we could hold the internet in our hand. I think back to a couple of things from her early days after we’d gotten our routine down solid: 1. Reading a whole lot of books 2. Being fantastically lonely and bored. I remember lying on the floor with her crawling all over me, loving the smell of her and the shape of her and how funny she was and wondering what was wrong with me that I wished I’d had something else to occupy me at the same time. Someone to talk to or something to laugh at, something to engage my brain while we waited for her dad to get home.

I wonder how our grandmothers and great grandmothers managed in such different times. Those were the days of front porches when the majority of women on your street or in the apartments next door were probably in the house going stir crazy just like you and you could pop out for a smoke and a chat while your babes napped inside and communally bitch about whatever it is we bitch about. Combine that with there being no expectation that mothers would actually play with their children and you have a very different set of circumstances. Long gone are the days of the Goonies where children could disappear on their own adventures. We are our children’s best playmates, for better or worse.

Which is why I feel zero guilt when I pull out my phone. My children’s lives are magical. A treehouse and chickens and a driveway to ride bikes in. A big dog to run with and regular vacations to the ocean. We go for walks and to playgrounds and watch the Simpsons while we eat dinner. We have obscure family jokes and we enjoy each other’s company. And during the course of any of this, while they are occupied with the comfort and magic of the life I have laboriously constructed for them I will often pull out my phone, to check the weather, or my messages or just see what my friends are doing on Facebook. I’ll read the news or edit a story or send a text to my mother.

Do my kids get annoyed? Of course they do, because they are children and children would always prefer you be looking at them. But children also need to understand that their mother doesn’t only belong to them, that she also belongs to herself and that she should be allowed her moments to do what she wants to do, like they are allowed theirs.

When I think back to my own childhood I remember my mother in the kitchen. My dad traveled and my mom would come home from work and fix dinner for me and my sister and the entire time she would talk to her sisters on the big beige telephone that hung on the wall. She had a thirty-foot cord so she could do all of her business in the house without ever having to hang up or put it down. Did I want her to put it down? Yes. But I understood that was just her thing, and I always had what I needed and we hung out and talked and she read to me and took me places. We were friends then and we are friends now.

And now that I’m grown and I realize how hard she worked I understand how important that was for her. I would never begrudge her that thirty-foot cord.

I am lucky that I get to be there full time for my kids. This is the life I chose and I am grateful I have this option. But just because I chose it doesn’t mean that I gave up who I am and what I need as a person. I think it is crucial that our children always understand that as mothers we are also individual humans with interests and friends other than them. This glorious lifeline of the internet that allows people who stay home to reach out to others has doubtless saved lives and I’m grateful I get to mother in this time of possibility, and I’m sad for those women who had to go it alone. We may have given up our livelihoods for our kids, but we should never be expected to give up our lives.

Jenny Poore wrote this article for xoJane.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

What It’s Like To Be in a Long-Distance Marriage

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

It’s not impossible, but even with Internet, email, and text, long-distance living isn’t cake

xojane

My husband, Gabe, and I probably have what many of our friends would call a really solid marriage.

We’re never afraid to talk about what we’re really feeling; we complement each other in all the right ways; and we’ve gone through some really tough times only to come out on the other side stronger and better equipped for the roller-coaster ride of lifelong partnership. So when I accepted a job out of state, we were both convinced that if any couple could deal with the unique challenges, it was us.

I had always wanted to work with books, ever since I was a little kid. When I began to gain experience in publishing, I knew it was the right direction for me. I had been told repeatedly that my chances of gaining employment were higher if I moved from Northern California to the East Coast, and it was an idea I had resisted for years. But misery at my current job and lack of future prospects stirred the curiosity in me.

I asked Gabe what he thought about me looking for jobs out of state, just to see if I was qualified, and he was immediately supportive.

“You should apply. See what happens,” he said. So I put my resume out to every position that piqued my interest, no matter where it was located. Out of more than two dozen applications, only one publisher called for an interview. They offered me a job as an assistant production editor. The job was all the way in Albany, New York, three thousand miles away from where I had lived my entire life, in Oakland. I was over the moon, and completely conflicted.

I called Gabe immediately. His first reaction was that I needed to take the job, that it was a great opportunity, and that it was something I really wanted. I took a weekend to weigh my options and run a budget. I talked the decision to death with Gabe, who wasn’t prepared to move with me yet, but encouraged me nonetheless.

What if I just gave it a year to see how I liked it first? He kept reminding me it was an adventure, and that our being apart was only temporary. We both thought I’d gain experience and then try to find something back home. So three months later, I drove cross-country with my bulldog and a few possessions in the back of a four-wheel CRV to Albany.

The first four months were the hardest. I wasn’t homesick—in fact, I immediately loved upstate New York. It’s beautiful, historic, steeped with culture, and within hours of other great East Coast cities and states. The people are excessively friendly.

I have made some amazing friends, and I couldn’t be at a better job working with a better group of people. What I did miss was having my best friend and partner to come home to every night, to wake up next to in the morning.

For the first time in my life I was living alone in a place where I knew no one and nothing. Although I was grateful for the opportunity, I cried everywhere — in the park, at the vet, in the bathroom at work, on the phone at 1 a.m. It was a huge transition.

At first, we called each other almost every day or we were regularly in the middle of a text message conversation. Email, Gchat, text, and Facebook have made it relatively easy to keep track of each other’s comings, goings, events, etc., but have never made up for the lack of physical contact.

Even though we have had an open marriage since before we said, “I do” (I personally associate with polyamory and have a steady love in NY), I missed his suffocating bear hugs, our unique interactions via Post-it on the bathroom mirror, the way he would impersonate Rick Flair randomly in the kitchen. He would post videos to my Facebook wall of all the silly movie sayings and Saturday Night Live episodes we liked to repeat. We would send each other daily videos and pictures of our respective bulldogs doing random or mundane things. Many dirty pictures passed to and fro.

Eventually, things began to settle and we eased into a long-distance life of checking in every few days. I flew home a couple times a year, and he would fly out on our anniversary. Once, we met in Seattle during a book conference, and we remarked at how interesting our lives were—we were “jet setters,” living bi-coastal, like rock stars. The reality was that the costs of those trips were exorbitant, and it only gave us the ability to see each other about three times a year, if he could get a cheap stand-by flight, or my parents paid for half my ticket home and I put the rest on my credit card.

I never saw him for more than a few days. And forget visiting on holidays—the cost of a flight from one coast to another exceeded a grand. When I did visit, we were always running from one place to another, eating, or sleeping. It was never a vacation, I was always exhausted, and I never felt as though I had enough time with him.

Other things about me changed. Living apart made knowing his daily habits impossible so practicing things I was previously great at, like empathy, became challenging. I imagined him partying instead of taking care of the dog, or forgetting overdue bills because he slept all day, or ignoring household chores by playing video games.

What I didn’t realize was that he was cleaning out the garage or going to class, and that money was so tight he was eating off the same plate over and over and not doing laundry to conserve utility costs.

I also began to forget what it was about him I loved and needed. So much of our life together became about the tangible—money, bills, work, dogs—that the sentimental took a back seat. I forgot how hard he could make me laugh, or how easily he squashed my anxiety. His consideration, thoughtfulness, and endless positivity were things that, because they weren’t present daily, I overlooked. I knew if the distance continued, time would erase my truth about him, what was important.

Less than a year passed before I proposed he move or we consider separating. We both tried to be rational. I was a New York convert; he loved California. We both loved each other, but I couldn’t stand the idea of being married and not being together. What was the point?

I wanted a partner to commiserate with every day, and I knew he wanted that, too. What we were doing was not fair to our relationship, and expecting it to go on was unrealistic. I also knew that asking him to move for me was no small thing—he would be giving up his entire life in favor of mine, in favor of this career, which was something I had wanted my entire life. I knew if I moved home, I would inevitably resent him, but if he moved to be with me, would he do the same?

We went back and forth about it for months, and I questioned my selfishness, wondering if I should give up everything I worked for and go back to California, but he rejected that immediately. He repeatedly told me he didn’t have lofty career ambitions like I did, that he could work anywhere, make new friends.

When people asked he said, “Jenn has found herself in New York and has become the person she wanted to be, and I could never take that away from her.” But in the back of my mind, I will always know he gave up a place he loved, friends he cared about, and hobbies he enjoyed in yearlong temperate weather.

I’ve been here for two years and he is finally moving in June. With the amount we hope to make on the sale of our California home, we can buy something triple the size in New York. I can afford almost all of our bills here on my paycheck, allowing him the freedom to find something he might like to do for work and not something he has to do.

I hope every day that he learns to appreciate seasons, and comes to adore the unique charm of upstate. In return, I will be grateful for him, and I will never forget the sacrifices he’s making to be together.

Jenn Bennett wrote this article for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

The Government’s Role in Supporting Families 2.0

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Families have changed since the 1960's, but our policies surrounding families have not changed since then

You don’t need to be a demographic expert to know that the stereotypical nuclear family is no longer the norm; in fact, it is an artifact of a bygone era. Since 1960, the percentage of American households with a married couple raising their own children has dropped from 37 to 16 percent, while fewer than half of children today are living with heterosexual parents in their first marriage.

“Families are changing,” said Liza Mundy, the director of New America’s Breadwinning and Caregiving Program, and “will continue to change” in ways that reflect a greater sense of social and cultural freedom of choice. Meanwhile, however, “our social policies are still rooted in the ideas of 1960s.” Institutions of government need to evolve “to acknowledge the changes that have taken place in the family and to update and coordinate the social policies that serve families,” said Mundy at a recent New America event.

In other words, there’s a disconnect between today’s lived experience and today’s policies. So, she asked, how can government build effective social policy across a range of issues facing real-life multi-generational families—rather than cookie-cutter caricatures from the 1960s?

President Obama has attempted to answer that question with his recently released 2016 Budget, which aims to “help America’s hard-working families get ahead in a time of relentless economic and technological change.” Now, the question on the table for Mundy and her fellow discussants is: will the proposal – which includes efforts to expand access to childcare and early learning, workforce training, and tax credits – achieve that lofty goal?

One facet of the budget stood out for most of the panelists, and made them optimistic: its focus on collaboration across federal, state and local government agencies and institutions.

Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Career Technical and Adult Education in the Department of Education , singled out the Performance Partnership Pilot—in which tribal, city, state governments can pool resources to create holistic strategy to reach out to disconnected youth—as well as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which contains what he described as a “number of specific changes that I believe will lead to more holistic policy-making at the state and local levels.” Mary Alice McCarthy, a senior policy analyst for New America’s Higher Education Initiative, echoed Uvin’s optimism about programs in Obama’s budget that call for greater cooperation between the federal government and municipal or state governments.

Pointing specifically to three proposals from the Obama Budget—the Department of Education’s America’s College Promise program, the Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship programs, and the Department of Commerce’s National Network of Manufacturing Innovation Institutes—McCarthy emphasized their collaborative nature. She praised the President’s budget proposal overall for posing this question: “Who else needs to be part of this conversation outside the federal government to build family-centered social policy?”

According to McCarthy, everyone needs to be at the table—workers, employers, and government. The National Network of Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, for example, is “building partnerships among businesses, educational institutions and local government agencies to support development of advanced manufacturing hubs” in cities where the “erosion of the manufacturing sector…has put a strain on families.” Having all these stakeholders in the conversation about social policy, said McCarthy, would reflect the interconnectedness of what real families need: affordable higher education, secure and predictable pathways into employment, and more good jobs.

These holistic approaches to policy resonated with Laura Bornfreund, deputy director of New America’s Early Education Initiative, who pointed to the President’s proposed expansion of Head Start, with its “whole-child focus,” and federal Pre-School Development Grants, which contain provisions that encourage states to provide full-day kindergarten as well. She also cited the Promise Neighborhoods, modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, in which the Department of Education supports partnerships with local organizations and nonprofits to provide services and specifically seeks to “break down agency ‘silos’” to implement solutions to community challenges.

Justin King, policy director of the Asset Building Program, agreed that inter-agency cooperation is key to pushing forward the aspects of the President’s budget proposal that promote financial stability for families while modernizing government’s understanding of what a family is: “There’s a critical role for government to play in supporting household economic stability and supporting the ability [for families] to save across the big picture.” That role, said King, must include support—such as the Automatic IRA proposal—for low-income families to save money for emergencies and retirement. When it comes to giving families help to save, said King, “the effort is there, the will is there, the resources are there, but it’s just not always applied with care. And it’s not always targeted to the families that need the most help, that are striving for a better life.”

President Obama’s budget proposal may be fruitful fodder for discussion, but it’s still only a blueprint for the future. As Uvin put it, this budget is “an important vehicle for advancing ideas,” but “there are other things that we can do and need to do and that we have done.” He concluded that it’s “essential” for government to create “flexible” policies for families and to “engage external stakeholders from the get-go, so that the continuation of critical policy innovations is not exclusively dependent on whether there is the political leadership that is present to advance them.”

Having opened with a question, Mundy concluded with one as well: how do you make policy without privileging one kind of family? By focusing attention where the “opportunity gaps are greatest,” said Uvin, “from cradle to career.”

Jane Greenway Carr is an ACLS Public Fellow and Contributing Editor at New America. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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