TIME Parenting

Why I Don’t Need to Be a Good Feminist to Be a Good Dad

Hello Lovely—Getty Images

I may not be a card-carrying member of the movement, but I do care about my daughter's well-being and happiness.

When I wrote a piece refusing to ban bossy, a friend asked why the article was categorized under “feminism.” I told her it was because I’m a feminist now! Or maybe because the piece was antifeminist. (I was, after all, speaking out against Sheryl Sandberg, one of the leading figures of the modern movement.) In reality, I had no idea. I didn’t know on which side of the coin my article fell or if, in general, I could categorize myself as a feminist. But it got me thinking: if I want my daughter to grow up in a world where she is not discriminated against based on her gender, don’t I need to be a feminist?

I admit that I don’t know as much about feminism as I should. I’m certainly not well versed in the movement’s history. Other than fighting for equality of the sexes, I don’t have much of a clue as to what makes a person a card-carrying member of the club. The stereotype of the bra-burning, hairy-armpitted man hater persists, but that breed seems outdated (or at least on the fringe). A number of male celebrities call themselves feminists, participating in the Real Men Campaign and fighting for women’s rights. It may be acceptable (and even trendy) for men to be feminists, but I still didn’t know if I am one.

When my daughter was born, my wife and I dressed her in clothes purchased from both girls’ and boys’ departments. This was less a political statement than a preference for science fiction– and superhero-themed T-shirts. We painted her room green and purple and put robots and aliens on the walls. We avoided all things pink and everything Disney. One day, however, we let her watch Snow White. Why not? It’s a classic. Plus, it’s kind of dark and boring. She probably won’t even like it, we figured. Ha! She was enthralled. We lost her forever.

If I were a feminist, would I have taken that chance? Snow White has to rank pretty low on the scale of positive feminist values. There are two women. One is so obsessed with looks that she’s willing to kill her stepdaughter to remain the “fairest in the land.” The other is sweet, beautiful, highly domesticated and needs to be saved, first by seven shorter-than-average men, and then by one dashing creepy prince (who makes a habit of kissing dead chicks). Maybe the fact that I now view the movie through this prism gives me some feminist cred.

My daughter is a girly girl. Saying that is probably a feminist no-no (calling women chicks probably is too). I just mean that she loves all the crap that is shamelessly marketed to girls her age. Despite what my wife and I tried to foist upon her, she prefers pink and princesses and frilly, sparkly things. She also has a keen sense of gender norms. I can tell her only so many times that there’s no such thing as girl colors and boy colors before I just say, “Well, I guess some girls just like blue better.” The same goes for television characters and various activities that are traditionally associated with one gender or the other. I have only so much fight in me when it comes to my daughter. That chick is stubborn!

It’s possible that not only am I not a feminist but that I am even inadvertently reinforcing gender stereotypes. I was once criticized by a relative for letting my daughter play with a toy vacuum cleaner. It didn’t matter that I stay home with the kids and do nearly all the vacuuming while my wife earns 100% of our family income. This relative was just shocked that I allowed my daughter to play with a symbol of female subjugation. It never occurred to me that giving her toys that were similar to the tools of my trade could be construed as sexist. I still don’t think it is.

I support the feminist movement, or at least many aspects of it. There should be more women in movies talking about things other than which guy is the dreamiest. Girl toys should not have to be pink, though they can be. Though I won’t ban the word bossy, girls should be able to be assertive and take leadership positions (without people thinking they are that other B word). When she’s older, damn right my daughter should earn as much as a man doing the same job. And women should always be free from unwanted sexual advances and not shamed for expressing their sexual desires.

In the future I want all these things for my daughter, but right now I mostly just want her to be happy and to have fun. She’s a kid. That’s her job. If that means buying her the clothes and toys that make feminists cringe, I’ll do it without a second thought. I will, however, make sure she knows that her options are not now, and never will be, limited by her gender. I don’t know if I’m a feminist, but I know that I’ll always fight for my girl.

Lesser blogs at Amateur Idiot/Professional Dad. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter (@amateuridiot).

TIME Parenting

Why Your High School Senior Should Take a Gap Year

Jekaterina Nikitina—Getty Images/Flickr Select

The growing trend of taking a year off between high school and college can be a benefit if done right

Earlier this month, more than a million high school seniors across the country committed to attend college. But a growing number of them aren’t going to set foot on campus in the fall, electing instead for a gap year—a trend that is leaving some parents feeling anxious and uncertain.

Many educators tout taking a gap year, saying that kids who step off the academic treadmill after high school to work, travel, volunteer or explore other interests are more mature when they arrive at college and more engaged in their education going forward.

With this in mind, a handful of colleges—Princeton and the University of North Carolina, among them—offer scholarships and fellowships to incoming freshmen who take a gap year. Harvard has long encouraged the practice. And in February, Tufts University launched its 1+4 bridge program, which, starting in fall 2015, will offer gap-year opportunities for national and international service regardless of a student’s ability to pay. Meanwhile, organizations that promote a gap year, including the American Gap Association and USA Gap Fairs, are expanding rapidly.

Still, the idea of a gap year can be frightening for parents—especially for those who have carefully cultivated a cradle-to-college track for their children. Many fear that once their son or daughter veers away from a formal education, they won’t go back.

“As parents this is not what you expect,” says Abbe Levin, whose 18-year-old son, Jules Arsenault, attends a small college-preparatory school in Bethel, Maine. “When you have a kid who is not showing interest, or even curiosity about college, that is a tough place to be.”

In the end, though, Levin and her husband came around to accept Jules’s decision to take a gap year—and, in so doing, they wound up following three guidelines that experts say are crucial to ensuring a successful experience.

First, they had Jules apply to college—and then defer enrollment—so that he knows he has something solid waiting for him at the end of his hiatus. For him, that’s a spot at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Second, they’ve made sure that Jules has a structured plan—and isn’t just sitting on the couch, playing video games and thinking about what he’ll do next. And third, they’ve made sure that he has skin in the game, helping to fund his own gap-year plans.

Formal gap year programs can cost as much as $30,000. But there are many low-cost options, including volunteering for a program such as AmeriCorps, City Year or WWOOF-USA, all of which pay for room and board. Other kids work for a while in order to fund a six-month gap-year program or travel abroad.

This is exactly what Jules is doing. Starting next month, he’ll be washing dishes on Monhegan Island in Maine, a tourist destination a boat ride away from his hometown of Boothbay. He’ll work through early October before traveling to Southeast Asia.

“At first I wanted a year off because I thought it was going to fun,” Jules says. “But now I realize that it will give me time to figure out what I want to do. I didn’t want to go to college and not know what I want to study, or get a degree just to have one. With what college costs these days, I wanted to get a degree in something that would be useful to me.”

Levin credits Jules’s high school college counselor for reminding her “that every kid has their own timeline,” and for encouraging her to “let Jules take the lead.” She also bluntly told Levin that if she pushed her son to head straight to college, it could backfire.

“As parents we raise our kids to think for themselves, to be creative, to follow their own path,” Levin says. “But then suddenly, starting in their junior year, we are asking them to go along this very prescribed path that might not be right for them. Now I feel like when he does go to college, he’ll really be ready.”

Studies suggest that Levin is right. Robert Clagett, who served as a senior admissions officer at Harvard and is also the former dean of admissions at Middlebury College, has found that those who delay a year before starting college have GPAs that, on a 4.0 scale, are 0.15 to 0.2 higher than otherwise would be expected.

“What we saw was startling,” says Clagett, now the director of college counseling at St. Stephens Episcopal, a college preparatory school in Austin, Texas. “The prevailing wisdom is that kids are going to lose their hard-earned study skills if they take a gap year. The opposite is true.”

While taking a gap year is not right for everyone, Clagett believes that many college-bound kids could benefit from taking time off—particularly those who are burnt out from years of piling on honors and AP classes, tutors, test prep, community-service projects, varsity sports, piano lessons and other extracurricular activities.

A gap year is a chance for kids to take a breath and do something that doesn’t require them to ask, ‘How will this look on my college application?’” he says. “To just do something for the pure love of doing it.”

Corinne Monaco, 23, was certainly ready to take a breath after she graduated in 2009 from ICE Institute for Collaborative Education, an academically rigorous public school in New York.

“I was always one of those kids who liked school and was looking forward to going to college,” Monaco says. “But by the end of second semester senior year it became clear that I needed a break. I was exhausted. I didn’t have the energy to dive right back into school.”

Monaco worked part-time for the better part of a year for an environmental education, arts and advocacy organization. She then spent a few months traveling across the country.

When she finally got to college, she was genuinely excited to be back in the classroom again. Says Monaco, who will graduate on Saturday from Pitzer College with a dual degree in art and environmental analysis: “Taking a gap year was the best decision I ever made.”


TIME Parenting

How Children Have Become Their Parents’ Bullies

It used to be that kids were scared of their parents. Now parents seem scared of their kids.

At a toy store, I witnessed a common but ludicrous dynamic; a 4-year-old child was emotionally bullying his mother. The helpless mom repeatedly explained to her son that he was not getting a present because it was not his birthday – they were there to buy his friend a present. It was exhausting watching her quickly lose ground. The more the mother talked and explained, the more her little boy screamed, reaching a crescendo with a full-blown kicking and earsplitting tantrum on the floor. The scene upstaged the shoppers, and I was struck by how powerless the mother looked as she was taken down by her 4 year old.

It used to be that kids were scared of their parents and now parents seem scared of their kids. The pendulum has swung from children being seen and not heard to being heard and perpetually indulged. Parents seem so uncomfortable with setting limits and taking their rightful position as captain of the family ship. Their hearts are in the right place; they want to be more attentive to their kids’ needs than their parents had been to theirs. But we have over corrected, turning into a generation of “parent pleasers,” rarely saying no for fear of hurting our children’s feelings. And as a result, putting a child to bed or leaving a toy store becomes an ordeal.

It is unsafe for a child to have that much power; kids today are more demanding and more anxious. When parents are skittish about asserting their parental authority, too often kids learn that “no” means “maybe.” That gives kids wiggle room to keep negotiating, throwing fits and emotionally bullying their parents. This reinforces the bad behavior and fuels the notion that the louder they whine, the more they get. Push fast forward on a child who consistently throws tantrums and gets his way. What teacher would want to teach him, what employer would hire him, and who would want to date him?

We have to be able to tolerate our children’s stormy emotions without rushing in to fix them or we are unintentionally crippling our kids. We are trying to grow resilient kids, not fragile, entitled ones. Buying another child a present teaches your child about doing for others, and that the world does not revolve around him. What great life lessons!

Let’s remind ourselves that discipline actually means to teach, not to punish or shame, and that setting loving limits will help raise a thriving child. We can acknowledge and empathize with our children’s feelings but still hold the line: “I know you want a new toy, but we are not buying you one today.” Period. And if the child continues to have a tantrum, you have to leave the store. You need to do what is right for your children, even if it means tolerating a brief drop in your popularity polls. You are the one with experience and perspective – a perspective that children just don’t have. Your job is not to please your child; your job is to parent your child. We have to be able to hold a loving space for our child’s anger or hurt feelings while staying the course.

So how did the toy store debacle end? The mom, drained and exhausted by her child’s tantrum was at the register, purchasing two toys – not realizing that the real gift would have been saying no!

Robin Berman, MD, is a mother, psychiatrist, associate professor at UCLA and author of Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child with Love & Limits.

TIME Culture

A Trophy Wife Eulogy

Malin Akerman in Trophy Wife Michael Ansell—ABC

The canceled show handled divorce and complicated family dynamics better than any other comedy on TV

After one season that was lauded by critics but couldn’t muster the fan support it needed to stay on the air, the ABC comedy Trophy Wife starring Malin Akerman as Kate and Bradley Whitford as Pete—a May December couple who must contend with Pete’s ex-wives—will air its final episode tonight. It was the smartest comedy on TV when it came to issues of the modern family. Trophy Wife is leaving the air much too soon.

Trophy Wife took after Modern Family in a lot of ways. It had a strong ensemble adult cast and a brood of weird, fun children. It had the strange, modern dynamics of a loving family that extended beyond its traditional nuclear core. There were two children with wife #1 and one adopted son with wife #2 before the “trophy wife” (Kate) came around. The show split its time among the family members, pairing off various characters in each episode, and always concluded with a warmhearted moral. It forewent mean spiritedness and sarcasm in favor of warmth. With so many similarities, it’s a mystery why ABC didn’t use Modern Family as a lead-in to Trophy Wife (instead of placing the horribly misogynistic and incredibly un-funny Mixology there).

But the show also eclipsed Modern Family in the delicate and empathetic way it dealt with the politics of a complex family. In Modern Family, ex-wives and husbands aren’t treated with animosity, per se, but they certainly come off as the worse parents. Gloria’s ex-husband, Javier (Benjamin Bratt), always lets his son Manny down, leaving step-dad Jay to pick up the pieces. Jay’s ex, DeDe (Shelley Long), is manipulative, bitter and has some marbles loose. Both characters make rare appearances on the show and are an afterthought to the real story.

To its credit, Trophy Wife directly confronted the complications of divorce that Modern Family often ignores—and did so without vilifying the exes. Pete’s exes—the over-achieving and bossy Diane and the flighty and sweetly incompetent Jackie—interacted with Pete and Kate doing all the things exes do in real life: they dropped the kids off, planned birthday parties, spent holidays together, acted as chaperones on field trips, helped with homework and attended soccer games. One of the running jokes in the show was how Diane and Jackie always turned up at Pete’s house uninvited, but they were never shunned. There were no good guys and bad guys: if Diane and Jackie were too harsh and too loopy, Kate and Pete were too ditzy and too insecure. All the characters learned to get along despite their quirks.

And though the adults often came into conflict over parenting philosophies, there was no doubt that they all loved each other. They always found a way to resolve their problems and bond by the end of the episode. And when other parents or teachers threatened anyone in the family, everyone fiercely defended each other in spite of their private qualms. All the members of the family were one team. I cannot think of a better way to demonstrate that divorced families can be happy families, too.

Bob D’Amico—ABC

It was easily one of the most sensitive and hilarious treatments of divorce on television. It also happened to be the best freshman network comedy this year. Even more than the most lauded new comedy of the fall, Brooklyn Nine-Nine—whose unexpected Golden Globe saved the hilarious show from Trophy Wife‘s fate—Trophy Wife took full advantage of every actor in its cast. The kids were excellent, and Akerman and Whitford flourished in the ensemble format playing off the severity of Marcia Gay Harden’s Diane and the quirkiness of Michaela Watkins’ Jackie. Akerman’s comedy prowess and beauty will allow her to land on her feet. I worry more for Whitford who hasn’t been offered such a good role since the Bartlet administration.

We can blame ABC for its demise: the show, like Cougar Town, didn’t have the best name. The title was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. There was nothing sexist or icky about Kate and Pete’s relationship or about her relationship with his ex-wives. I expect that the writers thought the name would set up expectations for the characters: each one seemed to fit into a stereotype, and the writers delighted in breaking those molds. But you wouldn’t know that without watching it, so the name was a turnoff.

There were also the aforementioned programming problems. (ABC in general is crashing and burning despite Shonda Rhimes’ valiant efforts to keep it afloat by continuously churning out dramas.) It’s a show that—if it had had a few more seasons—would have been well worth continuing at least on a digital platform like Amazon or another network like TBS, where Cougar Town landed.

The first season will surely be on Netflix soon. You should watch it. In the meantime, R.I.P. Trophy Wife.




Navy Dad Surprises His Daughter by Posing as Catcher in Baseball Game

Grab a tissue

Philip Elmore hadn’t seen his daughter since October.

The United States Navy Gunner’s Mate 1st Class had been stationed in Germany for months and wanted to make his reunion with his 8-year-daughter Isabella a memorable one. He contacted his hometown baseball team, the Charlotte Knights, and asked them to help him surprise his daughter and the team was more than happy to help.

Isabella was invited to make a ceremonial opening pitch for a Friday night Knights’ baseball game. Before she headed to the pitcher’s mound, the team aired a message from her father on the Jumbotron. From his post in Germany, Elmore told his little girl that he loved her and missed her and encouraged her to do her best to nail the catcher with her pitch.

Isabella then took to the mound and threw out a pitch like a pro, easily making it over home plate and to the catcher. When the catcher came to congratulate the girl, she got another surprise: The catcher was her dad. It’s clear she could scarcely believe her eyes, but soon enough she was in her father’s arms.

Grab a tissue and watch.

[Via Fox]

MORE: This Compilation of Troops Surprising Their Kids on Christmas Is the Sweetest Thing You’ll See All Day
MORE: Military Scientists Developing Pizza That Stays Fresh for Up to Three Years

TIME Parenting

World’s Most Famous Baby Photographer on the Power of Motherhood

Anne Geddes' Mother's Day message

Protect. Nurture. Love. These three words have served as my mantra and inspiration throughout my 30-year career as a photographer, allowing me the opportunity to travel the world, meeting and working with families from many walks of life. And throughout this journey, what I’ve learned about the power of motherhood is that the one emotion uniting all of us as women and mothers, is the instinctive drive to ensure that our children are safe, loved and treated with respect. In allowing them to grow and flourish, we protect the future of our world.

This Mother’s Day, let’s take time to join with the devastated mothers of the over 270 girls who have “disappeared” in Nigeria…at the hands of brutal thugs and fanatics who are obviously threatened by females; especially when they are simply demanding their absolute right to an education. I also commend the families of these girls, who value their daughters and bravely support their dreams. Let’s find these girls and bring them home.

To quote Chilean poet Pablo Neruda… “You can cut all the flowers, but you can’t stop the spring”… and this is what the world of motherhood and newborn babies means to me — our eternal chance at new beginnings.

Anne Geddes’ most recent book is Little Blessings.

TIME Parenting

The Best (and Worst) Advice From Famous Moms

In honor of Mother’s Day, we’ve rounded up some of the of the most thoughtful — and sometimes not so thoughtful — advice from moms who don’t hesitate to make their feelings known.


Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets - Game Six
Elsa—Getty Images

The singer, who became a mother almost two and a half years ago, shared advice in Out Magazine on how to be powerful as a woman by embracing many identities at once.

“There is unbelievable power in ownership, and women should own their sexuality. There is a double standard when it comes to sexuality that still persists. Men are free and women are not. That is crazy. The old lessons of submissiveness and fragility made us victims. Women are so much more than that. You can be a businesswoman, a mother, an artist, and a feminist—whatever you want to be—and still be a sexual being. It’s not mutually exclusive.”

Kristin Cavallari

Kristin Cavallari Visits "FOX & Friends"
Jamie McCarthy—Getty Images

Following in the footsteps of Jenny McCarthy, former reality TV star Kristin Cavallari admitted to not vaccinating her son during an interview on Fox & Friends during which she urged mothers to think of vaccination as a personal choice

Listen, to each their own. I understand both sides of it. I’ve ready too many books about autism and there’s some scary statistics out there. It’s our personal choice, and, you know, if you’re really concerned about your kid get them vaccinated.”

Hillary Clinton

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in A No Ceilings Conversation at Lower Eastside Girls Club  in New York
Andrew Kelly—Reuters

The former secretary of state shared some of her wisdom at the opening of the Women of the World Conference in New York in April, talking about the double standard for women and advice for how they can get ahead.

Too many young women are harder on themselves than circumstances warrant. They are too often selling themselves short. They too often take criticism personally instead of seriously. You should take criticism seriously because you might learn something, but you can’t let it crush you. You have to be resilient to keep moving forward despite whatever the personal setbacks and even insults that come your way might be. That takes a sense of humor about yourself and others, believe me this hard-won advice. But it is a process. You need other women, you need your friends to support you, and you need male friends as well as female ones. You need good role models all of that is true. But at the end of the day, you really have to be good if you have high aspirations. You need to be well-educated, prepared, and willing to take your chances when they come your way. Cut yourself a little bit of slack.”

Angelina Jolie

86th Annual Academy Awards - People Magazine Press Room
Jason LaVeris—WireImage/Getty Images

The Maleficent actress has become an outspoken advocate for all the rights and health of all women, especially in the wake of her preventative double mastectomy last year. She’s also a mom of six who spoke to Entertainment Weekly earlier this year about how motherhood has changed her life.

“It changes you forever. It changes your perspective and it gives you a nice purpose and focus. I am disheartened by many things but I wake up, like I woke up this morning, to kids and we talk and we laugh and we play and I’m light again, and I’m a kid again, and I’m loving and soft again because they’ve brought that back in my life.”

Michelle Obama

Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this year, shortly after Justin Bieber was arrested on drunk driving charges and authorities claimed his private jet reeked of marijuana, First Lady Michelle Obama talked about what she would do if she were the singer’s mother during an interview with Univision Radio host Enrique Santos. The mother of two (Sasha, 12, and Malia, 15) reminded listeners that Beiber’s just a kid despite his larger than life role as an entertainer.

“They just want you near, you know – they want that advice from a parent. They want to see you on a daily basis, because the thing is he’s still a kid. He’s still growing up. So, I would pull him close.”

Gwyneth Paltrow

Goldene Kamera 2014 - Red Carpet Arrivals
Luca Teuchmann—WireImage/Getty Images

The queen of healthy living can’t seem to avoid controversy this year, especially after she unwittingly stirred up another round in the mommy wars by commenting on how difficult it is for her as a working actress on a movie set versus a regular mom with a nine to five job. But with a recent statement on her lifestyle site, Goop, she attempted to smooth some ruffled mommy feathers.

“Is it not hard enough to attempt to raise children thoughtfully, while contributing something, or bringing home some (or more) of the bacon? Why do we feel so entitled to opine, often so negatively, on the choices of other women? Perhaps because there is so much pressure to do it all, and do it all well all at the same time (impossible).”

Susan Patton (Princeton Mom)

Today - Season 63
NBC/Getty Images

The viral sensation sparked conversation online after a Valentine’s Day-themed editorial in the Wall Street Journal encouraged women to start looking for a husband instead of focusing on their career.

“You should be spending far more time planning for your husband than for your career—and you should start doing so much sooner than you think. This is especially the case if you are a woman with exceptionally good academic credentials, aiming for corporate stardom.”

Jada Pinkett-Smith

2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Arrivals
David Livingston—Getty Images

This actress has never hesitated to talk about how much faith she has in her kids. After people criticized her for allowing her daugther Willow to cut her hair, she spoke out on her Facebook page about the decision-making process.

“The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women,girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain.”

Sheryl Sandberg

The Davos World Economic Forum 2014
Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Facebook COO might be best known for her “Lean In,” career manifesto for young women, but she’s also also shared advice about motherhood during an interview with NPR last March.

“I want everyone to be able to choose, but I want us to be able to choose unencumbered by gender choosing for us. I have a 7-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. Success for me is that if my son chooses to be a stay-at-home parent, he is cheered on for that decision. And if my daughter chooses to work outside the home and is successful, she is cheered on and supported.”

Jessica Simpson

11th Annual John Varvatos Stuart House Benefit - Arrivals
Tommaso Boddi—WireImage/Getty Images

The actress, fashion mogul and mother of two, has been very public about her pregnancies and post-baby weight loss campaign with Weight Watchers. And she continues to showcase her early years of motherhood through social media, regularly posting to Instagram with captions like: “Falling asleep looking at pictures of my kids…now I know what my life is about. I am so grateful.” But her gratefulness doesn’t come without the nerves of a new mom, as she told People during her second pregnancy, “There are little things that you kind of obsess over. I never knew how protective I was until I had my own child. I’m already thinking about intruders coming into the house and what our escape route would be.”

Tina Fey

Celebrities Visit "Late Show With David Letterman" - August 21, 2013
Jeffrey Ufberg—WireImage/Getty Images

To no one’s surprise, comedienne Tina Fey mixed humor into her honesty about motherhood. She told David Letterman that though it was great to be home with her kids more, “you’re just like a human napkin for your kids, like, they just wipe their face on you and stuff.” And she’s learned to take even the difficult moments of motherhood with a grain of salt, considering when her youngest daughter was two, she tried to choke Fey after being upset about bath time being over. “It’s so funny because they’re not strong enough to kill you and they want to kill you so bad!”

Kim Kardashian

"Charles James: Beyond Fashion" Costume Institute Gala - Arrivals
Larry Busacca—Getty Images

Keeping up with motherhood is no small feat for the queen of the Kardashian Klan. Her daughter, aptly named North, with rapper Kanye West, gave the reality star a new take on racism, she explained on her blog. “To be honest, before I had North, I never really gave racism or discrimination a lot of thought. It is obviously a topic that Kanye is passionate about, but I guess it was easier for me to believe that it was someone else’s battle. But recently, I’ve read and personally experienced some incidents that have sickened me and made me take notice. I realize that racism and discrimination are still alive, and just as hateful and deadly as they ever have been,” she wrote. “I feel a responsibility as a mother, a public figure, a human being, to do what I can to make sure that not only my child, but all children, don’t have to grow up in a world where they are judged by the color of their skin, or their gender, or their sexual orientation. I want my daughter growing up in a world where love for one another is the most important thing. So the first step I’m taking is to stop pretending like this isn’t my issue or my problem, because it is, it’s everyone’s… because the California teenager who was harassed and killed by his classmates for being gay, the teenage blogger in Pakistan who was shot on her school bus for speaking out in favor of women’s rights, the boy in Florida who was wrongly accused of committing a crime and ultimately killed because of the color of his skin, they are all someone’s son and someone’s daughter and it is our responsibility to give them a voice and speak out for those who can’t and hopefully in the process, ensure that hate is something our children never have to see.”

TIME Parenting

A Case for Parenting the Dolphin–Not Tiger–Mom Way

Amy Chua appears on NBC News' "Today" show. NBC NewsWire—NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

Today’s disturbing trend of over-parenting is interfering with kids' self-motivation and ability to adapt.

I just accomplished my childhood dream of becoming an author, but my mom won’t be able to read my book. She never went to school, so she can’t read. Because of this, she never hovered over my homework and didn’t even know I applied to medical school when I was 19. She didn’t read any parenting books or blogs either. My mom parented me (and my four siblings) simply with what she felt in her gut was right for her kids and family. Like most parents of her generation and those that came before her, my mom raised her children by looking and listening to her parental intuition.

My mom was a Dolphin Mom, which means she was a collaborative (authoritative) parent. She was not a controlling (authoritarian) Tiger Mom, or a indulging (permissive) Jellyfish Mom. In addition to this parenting style, my Dolphin Mom prioritized long-term goals of living a healthy, balanced life with connection and purpose over short-term goals of medals and test scores.

As a psychiatrist and medical director, I have seen firsthand how modern-day parents are fast losing that knowledge gifted to us by nature. I believe this disconnect from our parental intuition partly explains the great paradox of our time: that we are the most involved group of parents in human history, yet our children have the highest rates of anxiety, depression, obesity and addiction than ever before. Today’s disturbing trend of over-parenting is under-preparing our children for a rapidly changing and ultra-competitive 21st Century by interfering with their self-motivation and ability to adapt.

This Mother’s Day, I will thank my mom for being a Dolphin Mom, for not over-parenting and for nurturing my nature and self-motivation. And for those who want to follow her example, this is how she parented:

Dolphin Moms are balanced and collaborative.

My mom was not an over-controlling, overbearing Tiger Mom. Nor was she a permissive, directionless Jellyfish Mom. My mom was the balance of these extremes, firm yet flexible. She had rules and expectations, including expecting us to do well in academics and be disciplined. But she also valued our autonomy, individual passions and independent choices.

Dolphin Moms do not overschedule.

I was never in a single scheduled activity. My parents didn’t have the time, money or interest to sign me up. My mom believed that the smartest people were not the busiest, but the most peaceful. Like many of today’s grandparents, she is horrified at our hurried lifestyles – and I agree. I’ve seen far too many kids who are sleep deprived, stressed out and burnt out simply because of the schedules imposed on them by their parents.

Dolphin Moms do not over instruct.

My mom believed in classroom learning, but also real-world learning. I learned math by counting change for passengers in my dad’s taxi. I learned spelling by translating documents to English. I learned that living in the real world is what ultimately prepares you for the real world. And without schedules and constant instruction, I learned to play freely and vigorously. It was not until I became an expert on the science of self-motivation did I realize the power of play. Play is directly linked to the development of our prefrontal cortex and helps a child develop vital social, intellectual and emotional skills that cannot be acquired any other way.

Dolphin Moms don’t over protect.

Of course, my mom protected me from serious harm, but she didn’t shelter me from life’s ups and downs. She let me make my own mistakes – plenty of them! And as long as I was okay, she didn’t rescue me when I fell down. My mom was known for saying, “It’s your choice, but it’s also your mess to clean up if it doesn’t work out.”

Dolphin Moms create a pod of support.

Social connection and bonding are the centerpieces of our culture. Dolphin Moms encourage their children to connect and contribute to others in a meaningful way. This forms essential social skills, character, values and a sense of community for mom and their children. My mom expected me to be fully independent yet fully connected to my family and community. She expected me to live a healthy life of balance, meaning and purpose.

Dolphin Moms adapt.

My mom did not parent all five of her kids the exact same way, nor did she stick to the same methods as her kids grew up. She constantly adapted to her changing kids and their changing environment.

As a mom of three, I have learned more about parenting from my mom than from my 15 years of academic training, my 12 years of clinical practice and all the books and blogs that I read. So although my mom will wait for the audiobook version of my book, The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids Without Turning Into a Tiger, she doesn’t really need to. She has lived The Dolphin Way her whole life.

Dr. Shimi Kang is a Harvard-trained physician and an expert in the neuroscience, psychology and day-to-day reality of human motivation. She is currently the Medical Director for Child and Youth Mental Health for the city of Vancouver and a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia.

TIME Parenting

What Mothers Really Want for Mother’s Day

Elderly Care
Enrique Pellejer—flickr Editorial/Getty Images

Sandwich generation moms need flexible work schedules and family leave policies more than they need cards, flowers and jewelry.

Last year, Mother’s Day spending on brunches, jewelry, salon appointments, flowers and greeting cards topped $20 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. And no doubt retailers hope to meet that amount this year too. Brands like American Greetings and Kay Jewelers, a Mother’s Day advertising regular, portray the holiday, and therefore motherhood, as an event for young women doted on by attentive husbands and young children. But for many, both the holiday and the reality are as much about being a mother as they are about having, and caring for, their own mothers. And mothers taking care of mothers need more than mimosas and manicures to cope with life in the sandwich generation.

Last year, I started the day having breakfast at home with my family. I then drove more than an hour with my kids to visit my mother, while my husband headed out to visit his. I spent the afternoon with my elderly parents, providing lunch and a cake and doing a few odd jobs for them at their home. I returned home after six to start the Sunday night routine: showers, stray homework assignments and stressing about the impending workweek. I went to bed that night feeling a mixture of emotions: grateful for another year with my mother, guilty for wanting the day to myself, overwhelmed by all that my parents needed and I couldn’t give them in a five-hour visit and, as always, exhausted.

Based on data from the National Alliance for Caregiving, the AARP and Pew Research, I’m pretty much an average caregiver in the sandwich generation: female, married, late 40s, a living parent or parents age 65 or older, at least one dependent child and feeling pressed for time. Luckily for me, because I’m also among the 40% of women who serve as primary breadwinners for their household, I won’t experience the same career and financial setbacks that many caregivers do—at least I hope.

The Census Bureau reports there are 39.6 million eldercare providers in the U.S., and the majority of them are women. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP, 70% of them suffer work-related difficulties as a result of their caregiving roles, with female caregivers in particular at risk of financial hardship. That’s because many women report changing their work arrangements to accommodate their caregiving duties by switching to a less demanding job, taking time off or quitting altogether. I know I’ve considered it. But as a result of women making career changes to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities, they are more likely to lose job-related benefits and suffer lost wages. In fact, a study from MetLife and the National Alliance for Caregiving calculated women lose an estimated $324,044 in wages due to caregiving. Often, a working mother’s time out of the office during her childbearing years is compounded by the time she takes off later to care for her parents. With one in three American women already living in poverty or on the brink, it’s imperative we find a way to support these working mothers and daughters.

So while brunches and spa treatments are certainly welcome on Sunday, May 11, a more meaningful way to honor mothers is to recognize their multifaceted roles as parents, adult children and breadwinners, and to advocate for workplace solutions such as flexible schedules and family leave policies, and access to financial and career planning tools. That’s how we keep mothers at work: allow their mothers to age with dignity and raise the next generation of compassionate caregivers. And what mother wouldn’t want that on Mother’s Day?

Liz O’Donnell is the author of the book Mogul, Mom & Maid: the Balancing Act of the Modern Woman and founder of Hello Ladies, named one of the top 100 websites for women by Forbes and a Best of the Net by Working Mother Magazine.

TIME Culture

Study: Keyboards Are Influencing What You Name Your Baby

Darryl Leniuk / Getty Images

A University of Chicago psychologist analyzed baby names cataloged for the past 50 years and found a modern right-side bias

A psychology professor from the University of Chicago is doubling down on research that caused a great kerfuffle among linguists in 2012. In Daniel Casasanto’s previous paper, he presented the QWERTY effect, named after the standard American keyboard: that words typed using more letters on the right side of the keyboard (like y, u, i, o, p, m, n, j, k, l) tend to be be viewed as more positive, while words typed with more letters from the left side (like z, x, c, v, b, a, s, d and f) tend to be viewed as more negative.

Now, in a paper to be presented this summer at the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Casasanto will present findings that show Americans have started to favor baby names typed with more right-side keys since 1990, the point his team chose as the beginning of the keyboard-centric era. This builds on the same basic theory that people favor things on their dominant side, and because the vast majority of people are right-handed, that means most humans should associate positive feelings with the right side of the keyboard, too.

It just so happens that the top two baby names for 2013, announced on May 9 by the Social Security Administration, were Sophia and Noah, both of which use more letters from the right side than the left. But Casasanto, who used SSA data from 1960 to 2012 to do his analysis, warns that this isn’t a theory that operates on an individual, name-by-name level.

“It may be that Asa, which is spelled with all left-hand letters, is nevertheless a popular name throughout history,” he says. “It doesn’t mean that suddenly everyone is naming all of their babies with letters from the right side instead of the left. This means this is a very clear influence that is contributing to the choices we make. This is an effect that works unconsciously and can only be detected statistically.”

Along with his colleagues Kyle Jasmin, Geoffrey Brookshire and Tom Gijssels, Casasanto computed the “right side advantage” year-over-year for every name given to at least 100 babies for over a half-century. What they found was that the number of right side letters–with the imaginary dividing line running where the home keys are divided–started to significantly outnumber the left-sided letters over time. They also found that in names invented after 1990, right-side letters were more common than in names that existed before that time.

The basic theory behind this research started bubbling out of Casasanto’s psychology lab years ago. “We discovered that people implicitly associate good stuff, positive things with their dominant side of space and bad things with their non-dominant side,” he says. In his foundational right-left study, Casasanto showed people pairs of alien creatures, one on the right and one on the left. He then asked which was smarter or nicer or more honest, switching which sides the aliens appeared on for different respondents. On average, he found that the righties were choosing the alien on the right and the lefties were choosing the alien on the left.

Casasanto’s lab repeated these results in other studies, finding the same implicit bias to like things on one’s dominant side, whether it was an arbitrary political candidate or job applicant. He also found that if, say, a right-handed fellow was forced to perform tasks with his left hand, experiencing what it felt like to favor those motor skills, immediately after the tasks he would show a bias for things on his left. “Because we interact with things on our dominant side more fluently, with a greater sense of ease, we come to associate that side with positive things,” he says, “and the other side, where we interact more clumsily, with negative.”

Since debuting the QWERTY effect, Casasanto has discovered that it holds true for multiple languages, some of which have keyboards shaped differently than the typical America computer; for made-up words and for the individual letters on the right and left sides of the keyboard. But he knows the assertion that spending all day at a desk could have an influence on what people choose to call their children is not going to go down easy with everyone. “This intuition that we have a stable mental dictionary, a mental encyclopedia, is so deeply ingrained in psychology and linguistics, threats to that are threatening to our mind-view,” he says. “What we’re showing here is a new sense of non-arbitrariness in language, a new way in which the form of a word and the way we articulate it—not with our mouth but with our fingers—is connected to the meaning of those words.”

He also knows people will point out individual names that seem to upend the theory, loving them or hating them despite their right-ness or left-ness. But that, he says, misses the point. Consider, he says, the statistic that Dutch people are the tallest in the world, on average. That doesn’t mean that every Dutch person will be tall or that a Dutch baby can be predicted to be tall. “If you know a lot of Dutch people and you can think of five of them who are short, that doesn’t make the statistic not true,” he says.

And so Ava, an all-left name that has been in the SSA’s top ten for the past decade, may remain a favored name for decades to come. But perhaps, if Casasanto’s theory holds true, some new parents might eventually opt for something like Mia instead.

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