Skip directly to content

We focus on children's needs for warm, nurturing relationships with their parents—and on parents' experiences and feelings as they take the time to meet their children's needs.

Hands Free Mama

on January 8th, 2014 at 3:39:09 PM

 “The time you invest in the people you love will always add up to something that matters.” – Rachel Macy Stafford

Rachel Macy Stafford is the author of Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters. Rachel is a beautiful writer, and she writes on topics dear to the Family and Home Network community: time and relationships.

Rachel tells her own story—about being buried in busy-ness—until finally she recognized the negative effects of her distractedness, her perfectionism and hurry-up habits. She started blogging about her struggles to change, and she heard from many others—mothers, fathers, grandparents, teens—all struggling with similar challenges. Rachel explains the strategies she used to "let go of my daily distractions and grasp moments of loving connection."

Not being a perfectionist myself, I wondered whether that aspect of Rachel’s story would have meaning for me. I was surprised to recognize myself in some of the scenarios Rachel recounts. I’ve certainly overcommitted to a volunteer project, obsessed with worry over things I was powerless to change, been distracted by technology.

If you’ve ever wondered “am I too busy, too distracted?” then Hands Free Mama can be an excellent guide to examining your patterns of behavior. And you can feel great about the things you're already doing to connect with loved ones. I enjoyed being reminded of the value of some things I do with my grandsons: conversations in the car, cuddling, "do nothing" time--and I found some new things to try. The stories Rachel tells, from her own life and from her blogging community, illustrate how emotional connectedness happens--in all it's messy, patched-together imperfection.

A few of the chapter titles illustrate Rachel’s journey to a less distracted life: 1. Acknowledge the cost of your distraction – Awareness; 2. Make purposeful connection – Connectedness; 3. Choose what matters – Deliberateness. There are twelve chapters, each examining a concept that Rachel dug into as she changed. She recounts powerful wake-up moments, acknowledges daily struggles, lists ideas and strategies for changing behavior and outlook, and offers suggested weekly intentions and reflections. Rachel’s belief in God was an important part of her journey, but it’s part of her personal story—I never got the sense that she expected readers to share her beliefs.

There are going to be times for most of us when circumstances conspire to drive us away from our ideals about time and connectedness. No matter how mindful we are about time, things happen. Most of us will experience periods when we are too distracted, too busy. Some families face extraordinary challenges that exhaust them and leave little leeway for deciding how to spend time. Many cultural forces push us away from a focus on investing time in the people we love.

Decades ago, when my children were young, there were books, newspapers, magazines, phones, radio and television. But when we went to the park, I couldn’t make a phone call or check my email (there was no email!). Today there are so many new ways to get distracted! But it's not only the external sources of distraction that matter, as Rachel explores in Chapter 8: Silence the Inner Critic - Acceptance. Hands Free Mama is rich in ideas and inspiration for thinking deeply about the day by day choices I make that add up to the essence of who I am.

I’m grateful for Rachel’s honesty in telling the story of her journey and for her wisdom in forgiving herself for those distracted years. Forgiveness of oneself is an all-too-rare theme in parenting books and it was especially welcome to find it througout Hands Free Mama. Change is hard, and it takes time. Rachel acknowledges this right up front and has structured her book so it can be read and put into practice one-chapter-a-month for a year. I'll be re-reading this book and recommending it to parents for years to come. I know it will inspire introspection, conversations, and best of all, more connectedness in families and communities.

- reviewed by Catherine Myers, Executive Director of Family and Home Network

Thank you to our volunteers and financial supporters!

on January 6th, 2014 at 2:20:20 AM

Before we plunge into 2014, I want to thank the people who make this work possible: our volunteer Board of Directors, Editorial Team, Social Media director, authors and photographers -- and all the donors who responded generously to our year-end fundraising appeal. Thank you all!

As the new year begins, we're reviewing our "to do" list. if you have questions, comments, suggestions -- or if you'd like to volunteer, please speak up!

Happy New Year!

-Catherine Myers, Executive Director

 

 

2013 End-of-year Appeal

on December 3rd, 2013 at 2:46:16 AM

December 2013

Dear Friends,

This has been a very good year for Family and Home Network, and we’re looking forward to a great year in 2014 – when we will celebrate our 30th anniversary!

Family and Home Network’s mission is, simply stated: we focus on helping families spend generous amounts of time together.

We’ve been thrilled to see more attention being paid recently—in policy discussions and in the media—to the impact of parenting. Research evidence shows that the most effective way to help young children is to help their parents. And 33% of parents say they want more time with their children (The Pew Research Center, “Modern Parenthood” 3/14/13).

Unfortunately, there are many work/family activists who strive to keep policymakers’ focus on getting parents to remain in the paid workforce and on providing more child care services. Media stories examine the barriers to parental employment, but not the barriers to at-home parenting.

Here at Family and Home Network we focus on parent/child time together, and on the experiences of parents who forgo or cut back on paid employment in order to care for their children. This includes at-home mothers, at-home fathers, parents who work part-time or couples who “tag-team” (working different hours so they can take turns caring for their children)—there are so many ways parents, and sometimes grandparents, care for children.

We conceptualize our work in three parts: advocacy, information and affirmation. Your support is vital in enabling us to continue our work.

Please support Family and Home Network with a generous year-end, tax-deductible donation!

Advocacy in 2013: as a result of my attendance at policy events and my questions and comments, I was invited to contribute a guest blog to a major Washington, DC think tank, the New America Foundation. FAHN’s Board of Directors worked with me on draft after draft, contributing ideas and editing. The blog post, "Equality and Justice for Families" was published on the New America Foundation website in July. And it is cross-posted on Peggy O'Mara's website (Peggy is the founder of Mothering.com and long-time publisher of Mothering magazine.)

I also wrote a letter to the editor in response to the article “Can American Women Have it All and Be Happy?” by Lin-Yi Zhou in The Forum, the quarterly magazine of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. My letter "Parenting is Vital Work" was published in the Fall 2013 issue.

Family and Home Network offers information and affirmation for parents through our website and weekly postings on Facebook and other social media—and our collaborations with other nonprofit organizations enable us to alert parents to many timely issues. Our Transitioning Home workshops help at-home parents make the transition from a focus on career to life at home with a baby. We look at the “being” as well as the “doing” parts of at-home parenting. Essays from the archives of Welcome Home stand the test of time and continue to offer much-appreciated insight and support to new parents.

Our website serves as a clearinghouse of information for parents, as well as for media representatives and policymakers.  In 2013 we added articles about the latest scientific research on the power of emotional and social competencies, and on effective programs to strengthen parent/child relationships in order to prevent or treat trauma. On our Resource pages we provide brief notes and links on an ever-growing number of topics (don’t miss our Holiday Resources page).

Our very long “to do” list for 2014 and beyond includes: writing articles, building support for inclusive family policies among the public and policymakers, and expanding the reach of our Transitioning Home workshops. We’d love to hear your feedback, questions and ideas—and if you’d like to get involved in our work as a volunteer, please let me know!

Please help us continue to build on our decades of work: give a generous end-of-year contribution today. Thank you!

Sincerely,

Catherine H. Myers

Executive Director

P.S. We love helping parents and children. We can only continue because of the support you give with your donation (every contribution, no matter the amount, helps!).  We all work as volunteers, and we operate with a bare-bones budget (approximately $5,000/year – covering insurance, technology costs, bookkeeping services, office supplies, etc.). If you’d like more information about our finances, please let me know.

Parenting is Vital Work

on November 12th, 2013 at 5:32:12 PM

Last Spring, an article in the magazine of the honor society Phi Kappa Phi grabbed my attention: “Can American Women Have it All and Be Happy?” by Lin-Yi Zhou.

In this very long and complicated article, it was hard to sort out which issues to address in a 400-word Letter to the Editor—and for a while it sat in my “to do” pile. But I finally sent off a letter, and soon heard from the magazine’s editor, Peter Szatmary, who worked with me through several rounds of revisions. My letter to the editor was published in the Fall issue of the Phi Kappa Phi Forum with the headline “Parenting is Vital Work.”

I agree with Professor Zhou that the U.S. needs better family policies, but as I wrote in my letter to the editor: “her focus on promoting policies for mothers who pursue full-time careers leaves out mothers as well as fathers who make other choices.  Instead, policymakers could enact inclusive family policies that support parents regardless of the ways in which they meet their income-earning and caregiving responsibilities.”

If you’re interested in working with Family and Home Network on media and public policy issues, please let me know!  You can reach me by email: cmyers@familyandhome.org

-Catherine Myers, Executive Director

Attachment Play

on September 25th, 2013 at 4:28:43 PM

Play is essential for children! Kids play alone, with siblings, friends—and with their parents. This book is about parent-child play. I loved reading Attachment Play: How to solve children’s behavior problems with play, laughter, and connection. I wish the subtitle could have been even longer, acknowledging the preventative aspect of play: How to prevent or solve…. As the author, Dr. Aletha Solter says, play can foster cooperation and increase happiness.

This is a great resource for any parent (or grandparent) looking for guidance and ideas about playing with children. Don’t worry—no one is suggesting that you need to spend hours a day playing with your child. Let this book inspire you to play a little more. Read it to gain insight into the power of play and learn some guiding principles from an expert who has helped parents and children for decades. The rewards will be worth it! Exercising your play muscles will bring more laughter and joy to everyday life. It will also prepare you to help your child through difficult situations.

Dr. Aletha J. Solter is a developmental psychologist who studied with Jean Piaget in Switzerland, and later earned her Ph.D. at the University of California. She is the founder of the Aware Parenting Institute and author of several other books about parents and children.

The book is organized into three sections, with examples of parent-child play throughout. The first section offers insights into different types of play and how it can strengthen parent-child attachment. In the second section Dr. Solter explains how playing with a child can help to solve behavior problems. And in the third section, she shows how parents can use play, laughter and connection to help children deal with hardships—or prepare for upcoming events such as the birth of a sibling, a medical procedure or beginning school.

Dr. Solter offers reassurance to parents in the chapter “When You Find it Hard to Play.” She writes, “Remember that it’s never too late to initiate attachment pay even if you missed opportunities to play with your children in the past. Remember, too, that the more you play with your children, the more skilled you will become, and the more you will enjoy it. You and your children will begin to feel more connected, and your power struggles will decrease.”

Attachment Play includes information about research on play in an Appendix, as well as Summary Charts of the Nine Forms of Attachment Play, which is useful as a quick reminder/inspiration.

Transforming Family Policy Discussions

on July 15th, 2013 at 1:12:00 PM

We think it's time to transform the family policy discussion from its current focus on "working families" to one that includes all families. The New America Foundation, a Washington, DC think tank, published my guest post on Friday, July 12:

Equality and Justice for All Families

We'd love to hear what you think - please comment on the New America Foundation's blog, or here, or on FAHN's Facebook page or on Twitter.

Choice and Equality for Mothers - and Fathers

on June 3rd, 2013 at 4:52:08 PM

Stephanie Coontz's opinion column in The New York Times ("The Triumph of the Working Mother," 6/1/13) is disappointing and misleading. Coontz perpetuates the false dichotomy of "working" v. "at-home mothers," contradicts her own writing from just two years ago, and ignores evidence published in scholarly journals. And she concludes by calling for better policies for only some families - working families.

The first problem with Coontz' column is her assumption that there are two types of mothers - working and at-home:

As the founders of Family and Home Network pointed out 30 years ago, mothers cannot simply be divided into two categories--working and at-home. The statistics most often cited, from the U.S. Department of Labor, include all mothers with children under the age of 18. The "working" category includes: mothers who are employed part-time even just a few hours per week, those who care for other children as well as their own as family child care providers, those working without pay at least 15 hours/week on a "family operated enterprise," those on maternity leave, and others.

In the Journal of Marriage and Family in February 2005. Authors Kathryn Hynes and Marin Clarkberg of Cornell University conducted a complex analysis of data on more than 2400 women. They explain the difference between measuring employment transitions at particular points in time and seeking to understand employment trajectory over a period of time. Hynes and Clarkberg note: “scholars frequently imply that at the first birth, women divide themselves into two groups: workers and homemakers.” And they conclude, “Women’s employment patterns are characterized by significant amounts of change over the life course.”

Second - on mothers' well-being Coontz states, without citing a source:

"Ms. Friedan wins on the question of whether working improves women’s well-being. At all income levels, stay-at-home mothers report more sadness, anger, and episodes of diagnosed depression than their employed counterparts."

Yet in 2011, Coontz wrote in The New York Times ("When we Hated Mom" 5/7/11):

"...in a new Council on Contemporary Families briefing paper, the sociologists Margaret Usdansky and Rachel A. Gordon report that among mothers of young children, those who were not working and preferred not to have a job had a relatively low risk of depression — about as low as mothers who chose to work and were able to attain high-quality jobs.

"Mothers who want to work outside the home but instead are full-time homemakers, however, have a higher risk of depression.  This is a significant group: in 2000, 40 percent of full-time homemakers said they would prefer to be working at a paid job. So telling women who want to work that they or their children will be better off if they stay home is a mistake. Maternal depression is well known as being harmful to children’s development.

"These findings suggest that it is time to stop arguing over who has things worse or who does things better, stay-at-home mothers or employed mothers. Instead, we should pay attention to women’s preferences and options."

The briefing paper by Usdansky and Gordon is published on the website of the Council on Contemporary Families, of which Coontz is co-Chair. Usdansky and Gordon write:

"The study is also important because it reveals the inaccuracies of arguments that all women should work for pay or that all women should stay at home. It's not as simple as these one-size-fits-all arguments suggest. The actual situation, desire, and job quality all matter. Although our study could not measure why women chose to work for pay or not, it is clearly important for mothers of young children to consider their own desires when deciding whether to seek a job."

Furthermore, the research conducted by Usdansky and Gordon, along with Xue Wang and Anna Gluzman, was published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues, March 2012, Volume 33, Issue 1, and in the abstract the authors state:

"...non-employed mothers have elevated depression levels only if they desire employment. Our results demonstrate that neither employment nor non-employment is best for all mothers of young children; rather mental health depends on mothers’ employment preferences and, when they do work for pay, job quality."

Third, Coontz calls for better family policies for only some families -- working families -- ignoring principles of equality and choice as well as her own advice - "pay attention to women's preferences and options."

Family and Home Network's Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies calls for family policies that promote equality and choice for mothers and fathers, policies that support families regardless of the ways in which parents meet their income-earning and caregiving responsiblities.

Family and Home Network will contact the Board of Directors of the Council on Contemporary Families and ask them to support the Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies

Wednesday 6-5-13 update: I sent an email to Stepahnie Coontz, expressing my dismay about her column, and asking her to endorse FAHN's Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies. I received a reply very quickly, Dr. Coontz says, in part, "I didn't choose the headline and found it very dismaying, because if you read the piece carefully you'll see I was just making the argument that work CAN be good for women." And she added that she will be writing again but is currently on deadline with other projects. She adds that the headline "implied a competition between employed and non-employed parents, all of whom do vital WORK."

My take on this: I DID read Coontz's piece carefully, and the problem is not just with the headline chosen by editors. We'll see what happens next. It's fine to express support for the WORK of employed and non-employed parents -- but putting that support into policy means economic support for ALL parents, whether they care for their child(ren) themselves or pay others to provide care.  More later... I have to go care for my grandsons now!

 

What Parents Want

on May 21st, 2013 at 3:27:48 PM

The Pew Research Center reports on current attitudes of parents with children younger than 18: among mothers who are currently working, 52% would prefer to be home with their children; among fathers, almost half would prefer to be home with their children. Among all mothers, only 32% would prefer to work full-time; 47% prefer part-time work and 20% prefer not to be employed. Yet only 19% of mothers are working part-time, while 51% work full-time and 29% do not work at all. (“Modern Parenthood” March 2013).

Many advocates for families continue to call for more child care in order to support maternal employment, implying that this is what most mothers want. Some argue that it is best for all parents to remain in the full-time workforce. The fact that most parents (of children of all ages) prefer part-time employment and some prefer to be at-home full time is rarely acknowledged. In its study of parents of infants and young children, Public Agenda found “Seventy percent of parents with children five and under say that one parent at home is the best child care arrangement during a child’s earliest years” (Public Agenda “Necessary Compromises” 2000).

In Chapter 1 of her book Maternal Desire clinical psychologist Daphne de Marneffe examines "The 'Problem' of Maternal Desire":

"The oft-heard question about day care -- 'Does day care hurt children?' -- turns children into the repository of our mutual desire for human connection. If the studies show that children do fine in day care, we independent adults are supposed to go about our business without remorse. On this view, mothers' feelings simply aren't relevant; the only issue is day care's effects on children. But what is good for parents and what is good for children are equally relevant in a moral evaluation of day care. And adults' desire to nurture their children is much more passionate and complex than the opposition of dependent child and independent adult would have us believe."

Family and Home Network advocates for parents who spend (or want to spend) generous amounts of time with their children. You can help by learning more about our Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies, by volunteering, by recommending FAHN to friends, by keeping us informed of media stories on families and child care issues, and by supporting FAHN with a tax-deductible donation.

Advocating for Inclusive Family Policies

on May 13th, 2013 at 2:04:31 PM

Today (Monday May 13, 2013) at 12:15, at a Washington, DC think tank – The New America Foundation - there is an event titled “The Hell of American Day Care.” The event will be live streamed and there is a Twitter chat @AssetsNAF #fixingdaycare.

The event is organized around Jonathan Cohn’s recent article in The New Republic (same title as the event).

FAHN’s executive director, Catherine Myers, will participate in the Twitter chat to advocate for "fixing" day care by first making government support for families inclusive - letting parents decide whether to care for their children themselves or pay others. (See FAHN's Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies).

Catherine on Twitter: @cathyfamilyhome

When Jonathan Cohn was interviewed on NPR’s program Fresh Air, a military mom commented on their website:

“Think on this: When a mother stays at home with her children, she sacrifices her time and her mental/emotional energy for the good of her children. Daycare providers, no matter what they make, have the opposite motivation. Daycare providers are there for personal gain, a paycheck. You can't buy mothering. No amount of money will fix that.
I was glad that the interviewee at least mentioned potential tax breaks for stay-at-home moms (SAHM's). We are a military family and when my husband is deployed, we qualify for all kinds of daycare subsidies and benefits. As a SAHM, I get nothing. I do the work and carry all the burden of two parents alone and the government doesn't value it at all.”

Join us if you can on Twitter or let us know what you think in the comments here or via the Feedback tab.

Screen-Free Week

on April 28th, 2013 at 5:41:03 PM

Our friends at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sponsor Screen-Free Week each year (April 29-May 5, 2013).

Are you participating at home? Is your child's school participating?

For ideas, see "101 Screen-Free Activities" (a pdf file). Or check out FAHN's own "Ideas for Summer Fun".

We'd love to hear about your experiences during Screen-Free week!

 

 

 

Pages