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Tragedy - Coping skills for our children, for ourselves

on April 16th, 2013 at 6:19:36 PM

When there's a national tragedy like the bombings in Boston, many of us feel stunned and unprepared to help our children cope, especially since they're growing and changing all the time, so we have to adapt to their current needs and level of understanding.

It's important to build resilience in ourselves and our children; it helps us face inevitable disappointments, sadness, and tragedies. One important way to build resilience is to learn about our own emotions, to build our emotional competence. Each family has an emotional system, and if you grew up in a family with a generally healthy emotional system, you are very lucky. Many people struggle with a not-so-healthy emotional legacy. Fortunately, there are lots of resources that can help us learn and grow throughout our lives.

When dealing with a tragedy, an important first step is to take care of ourselves. The constant news coverage can be addictive, and it can contribute to our anxiety. We appreciate the perspective of Kirk Martin of Celebrate Calm:

"Do not feel like you have to watch endless coverage in order to feel like you "care" about the victims. Just because I am choosing not to listen to/watch endless coverage DOES NOT mean that I do not "care" about the victims." ...Read Kirk's post on Facebook (see the April 16, 2013 post).

When it comes to helping our children, many experts recommend this first step: ask what the child has heard, don't assume anything. Here are some resources for talking with children:

Mr. Rogers – on Tragic Events in the News (This is also available in Spanish.)

From Zero to Three –  Cope After Exposure to a Traumatic Event. Note especially the handout “Little Listeners in an Uncertain World: Coping strategies for you and your young child after traumatic events

From Hand-in-Hand Parenting - “Helping Children Exposed to Shocking Events” by Patty Wipfler

Sometimes talking is not the only way, or the best way to help ourselves or our children. Some people find solace in prayer or meditation. Music--listening to it, or better yet, playing music or singing--is a proven way to reduce stress and build connection with your children. Laura Jones writes about just such a moment with her six-year-old (some time ago, back in the days of cassette tapes). They were driving home from an errand: 

"As I reached to switch on the car radio, Rachel requested a song from one of my favorite music cassette tapes. I was surprised; I hadn't realized she had paid any attention to my music. By the time I fumbled with the tape and rewound it to the right track, we were almost home. Rachel sighed in disappointment--but I knew how to handle the situation. I sailed on past our house and just kept driving. The song began, and she knew all the words. She and I sang along with Paul McCartney at the top of our lungs as we rolled through the night, happy with the song and with each other."

If you have a baby, or if you know a baby you could sing to, you might enjoy the songbook and CD "Sing to your Baby" by Grammy-award winning musicians Cathy Fink and March Marxer. It includes lots of sing-play songs like "Baby's Got a Giggle" which you can listen to on the Sing to Your Baby website

Play -- especially roughhousing play, can be a great way to connect with children of all ages. See The Art of Roughhousing book or blog for ideas.

The natural world offers one of my favorite healing powers--from a garden patch to a national park. Spending time outdoors with friends adds another resilience-building factor: community. 

I'm a grandmother now, and I'm still working to build my emotional competence and resilience. I'm grateful for the many wonderful resources and for the milliions of nurturing people, especially parents, who help to build a healthy world, one moment at a time. 

Recognizing unpaid work - heroic work!

on February 27th, 2013 at 3:15:47 AM

In early January I noticed an obituary of John Sheardown, who was a Canadian diplomat in Iran in 1979 during the U.S. hostage crisis. The crisis and eventual rescue of the hostages is the subject of the movie Argo. (If you haven’t heard, Argo won the Oscar for “best picture.”)

The Washington Post explains that for two months, Mr. and Mrs. Sheardown hid Americans at their residence in Tehran—six at first and then four (the others went to the home of the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor). It was a very risky thing to do—their home was closely watched; Iranian guards and tanks patrolled the streets. The Post reports “To feed the extra mouths…they bought groceries at different stores to disguise the amount of food consumed in the home.” (The movie tells a version of the story of the Iran hostage crisis and rescue but has been criticized for inaccuracy by minimizing the role of the Canadians.)

Once the crisis was over Mr. Sheardown and Ambassador Taylor were awarded one of the country’s highest civilian honors—the Order of Canada. Mr. Sheardown then “waged a public and ultimately successful campaign to recognize his wife with the same award.” Mr. Sheardown said in 1981: “The wives had a 24-hour responsibility. What we did was a normal extension of our functions. What they did was extraordinary.”

It was great to read this, to learn that Mr. Sheardown worked so hard to get recognition for his wife (and for the Ambassador's wife) for their unpaid work and heroism!

 

Day-to-Day AND the Big Picture

on January 8th, 2013 at 6:04:08 PM

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day busy-ness of life. Taking the time to think about the “big picture” is valuable, and part of our work at Family and Home Network is to offer a collection of resources that can help parents get information and consider various perspectives.

As the year begins, I’m thinking about the “big picture” of families’ well-being in our society. In spending our time nurturing our own children, we contribute to the well-being of our communities, our nation and to the world. And each of us is impacted by the well-being of our neighbors, our communities, our nation and the world.

We’re starting a new resource page titled “Thinking about the Big Picture.” The topics will include the following: community-building, promoting empathy, building resilience (for children and for parents), cultural influences (commercialism, violence, lack of nurturing), play and happiness, expressing gratitude and experiencing awe.

What are your "big picture" concerns? Would you like to work with us on building our "Thinking About the Big Picture” Resource page?  Let us know! Comment below or use the Feedback tab on the side of the page.

Catherine Myers, Executive Director

The Washington Post fails families - again

on January 6th, 2013 at 5:50:05 PM

We sent this letter to the editors of The Washington Post:

Right from the first line, Janice D’Arcy’s article Can parents share child-raising responsibilities equally? was deeply disappointing. “The new parenting ideal…” Whose new ideal is this? Does the author have any evidence to support this claim? Toward the end of the article D’Arcy states “…reinventing the wheel is necessary for families that need two incomes or have partners who want to be equal.” Is D’Arcy defining equality for us all? Many couples with one parent at home (mother OR father) consider themselves equal partners in raising their children. Is D’Arcy claiming that she knows better? Does she decide the meaning of “equal” or is she equating equal with income-earning? Many of us know better: unpaid work has value and couples can have an equal marriage with one parent at home and one in the paid workforce.

D’Arcy’s portrayal of “traditional” families is terribly biased, and her statement that having one parent at home “doesn’t work” for same-sex couples is just plain wrong. Although experts on working families were consulted for the article, D’Arcy failed to seek expert comment on “traditional” families. This was all the more disappointing to me as I’ve taken the time to communicate with D’Arcy several times in the past year on issues related to families with an at-home parent. I’m the executive director of Family and Home Network, a nonprofit organization focused on helping families spend generous amounts of time together and on speaking out to correct misconceptions about families with an at-home parent. 

Our organization is committed to all families, not just the mid-to-upper income families represented in this article. D’Arcy mentions a few “family-friendly” policy issues that “pushed the United States down the list” in rankings in Save the Children’s report on the “State of the World’s Mothers.” But she fails to acknowledge other, more significant issues that determined the U.S.’s ranking of 25 among developed nations. These include: maternal death rates as well as dramatic disparities in support for pregnant women and for breastfeeding between low-income mothers and middle and higher income mothers. Referencing the Save the Children report while failing to acknowledge the U.S.’s high rate of maternal and child poverty is not acceptable journalism.

As a first step in improving The Post’s reporting on families, editors could remember to avoid stereotyping and disparaging “traditional” families.

Catherine Myers

Executive Director, Family and Home Network

(A shorter version of this letter was submitted to the online comments.)

Numerous times over the years, Family and Home Network has written to The Washington Post to object to misinformation and disparaging stereotypes about families with an at-home parent. It's maddening to do it yet again. We'll be thinking about what action to take next. We want The Post's editors to set acceptable journalistic standards about reporting on families.

The "things" that matter

on December 28th, 2012 at 4:07:54 AM

Family and Home Network focuses on what really matters: intimate, nurturing parent-child relationships and time together.

Since 1984, FAHN has been offering advertisement-free parent-to-parent affirmation, information and advocacy. As a grassroots nonprofit organization, FAHN has always drawn its strength from the parents who connect with us, participate in discussions, contribute essays, send questions, make comments--and give us the financial support we need to keep going...

We can’t do this work without your help!

The scientific evidence is clear: parent-child relationships are at the heart of human development (please see our Children’s Needs information page for more, including references). And intimate, nurturing relationships require time together, a value that is not well supported by our culture.

Many parents tell us they feel uncertain about their decision to leave the workforce (or cut back on paid work) to be home with their children. Some hear dismissive comments about the value of spending time with children. They are grateful to find FAHN's community of parents and our informative, supportive website, as well as our social media avenues (in 2012 we more than doubled the number of parents who connect with us through Facebook, Google+ and Twitter).

This year we were able to offer our six-week Transitioning Home workshops online, reaching parents wherever they live and allowing them to participate right from home. Meeting with small groups of parents (via Google+ Hangouts),we explore expectations and feelings, examine our To Do lists and roles in the family—and we take time to talk about the joys of at-home parenting. We also introduce some of the excellent resources that can help parents and children. Our waiting list is growing, and in 2013 we'll help more volunteers learn to facilitate these discussions so we’ll be able to enroll even more parents.

Our Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies calls on policymakers to craft policies that respect and support parents’ choices about meeting their income-earning and caregiving responsibilities. In January, volunteers from across the country will meet online to plan a major promotion of the Campaign.  

We work hard to keep our expenses low and we are volunteers – please help us continue this work by making a financial contribution–any amount helps! (And please consider volunteering too.)

Please make a tax-deductible donation now! Donate online:

Or mail a check to:

Family and Home Network, P.O. Box 492, Merrifield, VA 22116

 Thank you!

Catherine Myers, Executive Director

cmyers@familyandhome.org

Holidays: Traditions, Expectations and Responsibilities

on November 29th, 2012 at 3:43:20 PM

Who makes holidays happen at your house? Babies are not born with expectations about holidays—we have our own expectations and traditions (or habits) and continue them with our children.

When I talk with parents in our Transitioning Home workshops, we examine the role of at-home parents: just what is this “job” all about? One of the first things we talk about is feelings and expectations. I think that’s a very good way to think about holidays, too (and I’m still learning to do this).

When we were first married, my husband and I spent some holidays with my parents and some with his parents. We just kind of absorbed each other’s family traditions, and once we had children and celebrated holidays at our own home we had these combined (i.e., more numerous) traditions. Compared to many people, we had fairly simple holidays. But still.

It was many years before I started to learn about the importance of talking about expectations. I still have challenges to address, but here’s one success story: cookies. Are they an important Christmas tradition? I finally asked my husband what they meant to him (and told him how stressed I was about finding time to bake). It turned out that he really wanted to continue this tradition—but only two favorite recipes were important to him—and he took over the baking. I was free of cookie-worry.

But then… a couple of years ago I decided to bake some simple butter cookies (with sprinkles!) to mail to some elderly aunts. I started a new tradition without really meaning to, but it’s one I’ve decided is important to me. This year, I’m planning to bake those cookies and mail the boxes with the help of my grandsons. For now anyway, both my husband and I are happy about our cookie traditions. If only everything could be sorted out as easily as the cookies.

One important thing I’ve realized is that family traditions are important, but sometimes it’s time for change -- families inevitably change. After decades of staying home for the holidays, we’re now the grandparents, and we’re traveling to be with our grandsons.

In gathering resources for FAHN’s “Holiday Resource Round-Up” page I’ve re-discovered some favorites and I’ve found new inspiration and strategies. Many of these resources are Christmas-related, but some address all kinds of holidays and traditions. We welcome your suggestions of additional resources!

Please follow this link to our Holiday Resource Round-Up.

Affirmation, Information and Advocacy

on October 25th, 2012 at 1:30:01 AM

It’s great to Partner with Attachment Parenting International this month to celebrate attachment parenting and focus on the theme of parent support.

Family and Home Network has been supporting parents for almost three decades!  We focus on helping families spend generous amounts of time together and we do this by offering parents affirmation, information and advocacy.

First of all, we affirm the importance of the parent-child relationship and the need for parents and children to spend generous amounts of time together. We offer information about research and experts’ advice on love, nurturing and time: Children’s Needs.

We affirm that choosing to spend time with children—whether cutting back on paid employment, or tag-team parenting by working different hours or choosing to be an at-home parent—can be a great choice. We provide a way for parents to share their thoughts and feelings, their experiences with personal growth. There are many affirmative essays on our website; here are excerpts from just a few:    

"The hardest task that many new mothers face is that of bringing shape and meaning to their day. At home there is no pattern, no schedule, no goal, until you make one. When my first child was an infant I had days when I was virtually paralyzed with indecision." Read more: What about YOU? by Nelia Odom.

* * *

“I loved Liam from the time before he was born. People talk about the “miracle of birth”—and it is truly an amazing thing—but for me the true miracle is watching my son grow each day. Just as he continues to grow and develop, so does my love for him. In the beginning I didn’t realize just how much it would mean to me to spend so much time with Liam and be deeply involved with his care. I have since realized just how wonderful an opportunity I have been given…” Read more: Priority One by Tom Mayer.

* * *

 “[…] I did not realize the two roads would diverge at motherhood, although in retrospect it is the most natural place for this to happen to a woman. Yet diverge they did, and choices have been required. So which is the road less traveled by? Certainly mothering at home is a trodden path if ever there was one. On the other hand, my generation -- the ME generation -- encouraged "having it all," and I am choosing a theme closer to giving it all.” Read more: The Road Less Traveled by Robin Morris.

When we offer parents information, we often look first to parents themselves to let us know what they’re thinking and experiencing. When we wondered about support groups, we asked parents: What are you looking for when you set out to find a group? What can we learn from others’ experiences? More than fifty parents told us about their experiences with support groups, and you can read about some of the many different forms that support comes in: Support Groups for Moms. And then don’t miss the accompanying article: How to Find (or Start) a Mothers’ Support Group. Our resource pages include a listing of national support organizations with local chapters.

Having multiple sources of support is a great strategy, and finding local, person-to-person support is really important. But it isn’t always easy to take those first steps in reaching out, as Gina Riazi recounts in A Brief Moment. And at-home dads face some unique challenges in the community, including “mom-centric customs” as Damon Riley describes in Not an Interloper.

We heard from many parents that an especially difficult time for them was when they were making the transition from the paid workforce to at-home parenting, In response, we developed our six-week Transitioning Home workshops. Using Google+ hangouts, small groups of parents connect online—right from their own homes. There is private access to online readings: informational, science-based readings as well as essays exploring personal experiences and emotions. A participant workbook offers brief assignments and the once-a-week 90-minute group discussion is led by a facilitator. Our waiting list is growing, and we’re working on ways to offer more groups in the near future.

In addition to affirmation and information, we believe that a crucial aspect of our work is advocacy: paying attention to the media and to public policies. We speak up about misleading information or stereotyping of at-home parents as well as about the widespread misuse of statistics. Our Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies calls on policymakers to support parents regardless of the ways in which they meet their income-earning and caregiving responsibilities. Our advocacy efforts have grown out of the concerns parents share with us; advocacy is a vital aspect of our support for parents.

When Family and Home Network was founded in 1984, it printed an award-winning monthly journal—Welcome Home—and mailed it to subscribers. The organization also printed books and special publications. But like many publishers, in recent years FAHN has had to give up printing on paper and rethink its communication strategy. Our all-volunteer team faced a very limited budget and a very big learning curve. Today, thanks to open source technology tools, FAHN is rebuilding and growing again. FAHN connects with parents via our website, with our Transitioning Home workshops, as well as social media, including our Facebook page, Google+ page, and Twitter account.  

In spite of all the changes in how we reach out to parents, the three pillars of support we offer to parents remain constant: affirmation, information and advocacy. 

Celebrating Parent Support!

on October 8th, 2012 at 4:45:23 PM

We’re so happy to announce that Family and Home Network is a Partner in Attachment Parenting International’s month-long October celebration of attachment parenting, with its focus this year on parent support!

 

Graduation!

on September 9th, 2012 at 10:46:25 PM

Before I dive any deeper into my September “to do” list I want to share a personal milestone, express my gratitude, and issue an invitation.  

The milestone

This May I graduated from George Mason University with a Bachelor of Individualized Studies in Human Development, Parenting and Policy.

My gratitude

First of all, I’m grateful to my husband for decades of understanding and support, which was crucial as I pursued my path of at-home mothering, volunteering and returning to college.

In the 1980s, I found great support and encouragement, as well as wonderful opportunities to learn as I began volunteering with Mothers at Home (the original name of Family and Home Network). I’m grateful to the three at-home mothers who founded this organization. They established a culture of inclusiveness and of listening to parents—parents with widely divergent socio-economic circumstances, education levels, political outlooks and religious beliefs. They examined and articulated cultural and policy issues that continue to resonate today.

I’m grateful to my colleagues—editors, members of the Board, staff and volunteers—who generously shared their professional expertise in many different fields. And I’m especially grateful for the great friendships that grew out of our work together.

I learned so much from the thousands of parents who communicated through our monthly journal Welcome Home. And I learned from leaders of other parent organizations and professionals working to help parents and children.

When I returned to college I drew on these years of “experiential learning” to inform my choice of classes, the questions I asked and the topics of my research papers. Thanks to the university’s program designed for adults returning to college – the Bachelor of Individualized Studies program – I was able to weave my studies and my work with FAHN together. And I was fortunate to find a great mentor, Dr. Susanne A. Denham, who is nationally renowned for her research on young children’s emotions. Digging into the scientific literature made me even more passionate about Family and Home Network’s mission: helping families spend generous amounts of time together.  

An invitation

For three decades, volunteers have sustained Family and Home Network. Please consider joining us! (We meet online so you can join us from almost anywhere.) For more information please see our Volunteer Information page.

And at anytime, please let us know of your concerns, questions, ideas—post a comment, use our contact form or send me an email: cmyers@familyandhome.org

Cathy Myers, Executive Director

End-of-Summer Update

on September 5th, 2012 at 1:10:46 PM

It’s been quiet here because we were very busy this summer with our families. We all work as volunteers, and we try to live by our values: time with family is the most important thing, so sometimes we just have to put our work on the back burner! Now we're happy to be spending some of our time focused on FAHN again.

We are shifting the traditional question we ask children (what did you do this summer?) to ourselves, with a focus on favorite “family together” times. Our Board and volunteers are sharing their favorite summer time memories, please tell us yours! 

- Cathy Myers, Executive Director

 

(We are also posting this on our Facebook page - please comment in either or both places!)

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