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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Helping parents get it right

My mother-in-law is a teacher. She works with four-year-olds and sent me a very kind and thoughtful perspective on the whole TV-destroys-kids dilemma. She's a little shy about commenting on my blog, so I'm publishing her comment here for all of you to enjoy. I hope she doesn't mind:
I just read your most recent blog article and was thrilled to see you are still writing. And what a great topic.

We staff have found at school, or at least I have, that we are not very specific with parents at times and give the impression ALL TV is bad. I remember in the early 70's when many people got rid of their TVs because they were so bad for children....we did not, we chose to have moderation and give guidelines for what our kids watched.

We also watched programs with them, not always, but we did with new ones, to see what the content was all about. Sesame Street came on at the perfect time for dinner preparation. A babysitter? Maybe...Mr. Rogers was watched by multiple stay at homes mothers because he made them feel important also....Selectivity and moderation are vital and trusting parents that they are smart enough to know what that means in their family's life.

We seem to get down on our parents about movies, videos, computer games and TV and one wonders what is left......I made some guidelines last year for our parents and when I get back to school will find them and send them off for you if you would like....or perhaps bring them with me......finding them is another story. HAHA Anyhoo, a great article, thought provoking and right on target.
If she finds those guidelines, I'll post them. I'm sure we'll find that we are all doing okay with a little TV-helper now and again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Cloth vs. disposable? Does it matter?

Toddler in Chief has always worn cloth diapers. Sadly he is the only kid I know who wears cloth diapers. We have a diaper service and everything. It's great.

There are a lot of misconceptions about having cloth diapers and having a diaper service. First of all, people think there is more work. There is no extra work. I just take the dirty diapers off TIC and put them in the bin. I don't rinse them. I don't scrape off extra goodies. They just go in the bin. Then once a week, my super fabulous diaper service comes by and takes away the dirty ones and leaves a bag of clean ones. I don't have huge bags of extra garbage to throw away and I feel good because I'm not loading up the landfill with extra waste.

Some people also think that disposable diapers are actually *better* for the environment because use have to use soap and chlorine and water to wash cloth diapers. They fail to recognize that it takes water and energy and chemicals to create disposable diapers. Check out this chart that compares water and energy consumption for both types of diapers. Two days worth of diapers can be laundered in water equivalent to one toilet flush.

I also like that I know when TIC's diaper is dirty. With a disposable diaper you can't always tell. Plus, cotton diapers are super soft on his skin, which I like. Whenever we travel and TIC needs to wear disposable diapers, he always gets a horrible rash from all that plastic/elastic. Icky.

I don't usually get up on my horse in this matter, but sometimes I do feel self-righteous. But the other day I was out with my fantastic therapist friend. Her kid wears "green" disposable diapers, which TIC also wears occasionally. And she had a great point. Instead of getting down on other moms about what kind of diaper their kids wear, how about focusing our energy on ending the war, reducing poverty, bettering our schools.

Still, at least with the diapers, I feel like I can actually make a difference by not putting all that extra garbage in the landfills. All that other stuff? Well, I'm not sure how to have an impact on reducing poverty or increasing literacy. I feel helpless in those other areas, so I latch onto stuff that I can control in my own house. And I try not to judge other moms. Whatever gets us through the day.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Set parents up for success instead of failure

We all know that we should be spending as much time interacting with out kids as possible and that television is the anti-Christ. But let's face reality: sometimes we need our kid to sit still and be quiet for 15 minutes so that we can make an important telephone call or empty the dryer without having all the clean clothes tossed on the floor. And the TV is just the trick.

There are always studies and warnings telling us how bad television is for little kids, like the one that Maggie Jackson wrote about last week for the Boston Globe. Her article entitled, "Don't let TV be the baby-sitter" was about a warning released by the American Academy of Pediatrics that said children age 2 and younger should avoid all screen media.

I watch Sesame Street when I was a kid and I turned out okay. I even secretly watched "The Price is Right" when I stayed home sick from school. And I turned out okay. And I doubt that my mom stays up late at night fretting that my SAT score might have been 10 points higher if she had spent every waking moment interacting with me instead of letting me experience life on my own from time to time. Even if those life experiences weren't always on the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommended to-do list.

We also know that kids shouldn't eat sugar and fat or drink soda. And I cringed when I saw a woman giving her infant Coca-Cola out of the 16-ounce bottle at the airport last week. But I'll bet her kid will turn out okay too. My father-in-law drank nothing but Coca-Cola when he was a kid because he was living in the Philippines and the water wasn't safe. And he turned out okay too. Maybe that mom always gives her kid a sip of Coke and maybe it was because her kid was thirsty and that's all she had handy when we were sitting on the airplane for an hour before take-off. I'm not condoning kids drinking soda (because I think that soda is poison for everyone). I'm just saying, that sometimes we do things, just because it gets us through the day.

So instead of telling us that exposure to kids television (or any television) "disrupts young children's focus, possibly setting them up for later attention issues," or that it "may hurt their developing attention spans, their ability to play, and interactions with parents," why don't we get some realistic guidelines that parents might actually be able to follow.

Sure no television with full parental interaction might be better for little kids, but perhaps half an hour of Blue's Clues or The Wiggles won't hurt them. Perhaps recommend the kind of programs that are least harmful for kids and a maximum recommended dose of television per day. Let's set parents up for success instead of failure.

These kinds of warnings remind me of the no-condoms-to-be-distrubuted-in-school rules. Let's just acknowledge that parents are going to let their kids watch some TV, just as everyone should acknowledge that high school kids are going to have sex. Instead of pretending that they don't--in both cases--let's provide solutions that will enable the best outcome.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Disillusioned, discouraged, discontinued

Writing here has been an amazing outlet for me during the past year. But as I hunker down and actually make a go of this freelance thing, I find myself being pulled in a variety of directions, emotionally, mentally, and physically. And mostly that leaves me without the time and energy to keep writing here.

When I started this venture, I was addressing the larger concerns of working parents. But as I progressed with my own aspirations to continue writing professionally, I digressed to focus primarily on my own internal struggles as a mom who also wants to work.

If anyone is interested in this ongoing battle, there are many, many great blogs out there. Please check out Writing Mommy: Bethany Hiitola. She rocks and is my absolute favorite blogger, probably because she shares a lot of the same struggles that I have written about. A couple of others I want to mention are:

Playground Revolution
Bitch. Ph. D
Half Changed World

I might be back, but for now I need to release myself from the pressure I feel to write. I guess I just need a little less guilt in my world right now ;-)

Suzanne Galante
(Aspiring) Freelance Writer

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

From bliss to piss in 60 seconds flat

It only took one 50-word email to turn my stomach on this whole freelance gig. Just got an email from Editor, and she wants me to focus on this two-part series that I have due in August. In the meantime, the other story that I've worked hard on is probably getting shelved for now.

I had filed my latest story before I headed to the east coast last week. I was feeling great about it. Talked to lots of great sources, shelled out a bunch of money so that Toddler in Chief was out of my hair so that I could focus and work uninterrupted, and filed the story early.

Granted I have not worked for a magazine before, and maybe stories get put on hold all the time to make room for different stories. But so far I'm not a fan. I don't do this freelance-writing stuff just to go through the motions. The whole point is that I'm working, not for the sake of yakking on the telephone with strangers and practicing my typing skills. Rather, I want to publish my work, build up my portfolio, and I want to get paid for all this work.

It's not all about the money, but a 25 percent kill-fee would be pathetic for the amount of time I put into this article. I'm also working because I want to keep my skills in good shape and so that I don’t go completely forgo who I was before I had TIC. I'm doing this for me and if I start not liking the results, then I may need to head down a different path.

I'm sure I’m feeling extra crotchety right now because it's 99 degrees and extremely muggy right now at 10:30 pm, in charming Western New York. Maybe I won't feel so agitated in the morning or if Editor changes her mind after reading my mildly-persuading email trying to convince her to publish the piece anyway.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Something totally new: I'm a mom!

My sister-in-law and I were out trying to find a fun place to go dancing in downtown Buffalo last night. We were walking around the hip Chippewa part of the city and stopped at a club called Jade, hoping for some 80s music. We didn't find any, but we were chatting with the bouncer and somehow it came up that I live near San Francisco. He used to live in San Jose.

And then he asked me what I do in San Francisco. While that sounds like a simple enough and seemingly-innocent question, it has been a very touchy topic. Without a "real" job, I have had somewhat of an identity crisis. I wrote in March:
We are what we eat. We are what we do for a living. And what we do for a living, as a parent, isn't readily recognized as a glamorous, tell-me-more kind of job.
I have struggled with this topic since I became an at-home mom more than two years ago. But here's the kicker. Instead of hesitating, I just said, "I'm a mom. I'm also a writer."

There it was. It was out there. Instead of starting my answer with the typical "I'm a writer" part, I started with the mom part. That was a first! And it was very liberating to say out loud without any kind of apology. I don't know why it came out that way. I didn't plan it and I hadn't been thinking about it. It was just my natural, spur of the moment, honest answer.

Maybe I'm feeling good about my work. And my undernourished ego has been temporarily satiated with my new writing assignments. So perhaps I don't feel the need to embellish my life by starting with the usual, "I'm a writer." Maybe because the work is sort of steady (at least for the time being), and satisfying, I don't need to prove anything to anyone. I’m a mom. And I'm a writer. And I'm okay with it—in that order.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A money-losing venture

Now that I'm plugging away on this latest story, Toddler in Chief is spending more time with the sitter. That is directly correlated to money leaving the checking account at faster rates than normal.

Three days last week, two days this week. And that equals cha-ching. No one ever said child care was cheap. I'm done reporting, which feels great. Now I just have six pages of notes to transform into something worth reading, and more importantly, worth printing, so that I get paid. As I've said before, this is not all about the money. (It's really about the fame and the glory ;-) Seriously, it's about bulking up my portfolio with recent clips and for mental stimulation so that I can continue to form cohesive thoughts and perform tasks that have nothing to do with assembling the wooden train tracks so that TIC can play with Thomas.

I don't want to go broke accomplishing this.

Okay, It's true. Father in Chief and I will be just fine if I pay for 10 or 15 hours of child care per week. I just don't want to lose money on this venture. I'd be okay with breaking even. I just hate the idea of paying more for child care to pursue my writing career than I actually bring home. And that is the reality of this story. It's not a huge story and at 25 cents a word, it doesn't amount to much compared to the amount of time I do researching and playing phone tag and interviewing and writing and then all the follow-up work with my editor. I know I'll become more efficient and disciplined with my time the more I write. But for now, it's a losing venture.

I know it's good for TIC to get used to being with other care providers, so that is worth something too. Mostly, why do I feel like my career isn't worth spending money on? I'm worth it. Note to self: stop being so hard of myself. Repeat: I'm worth it. Confession: TIC is with the sitter and I'm blogging. So maybe if I hunkered down and focused while TIC was with the sitter, I'd get more done and would need to pay for fewer hours of child care and would not be in a money-losing venture. Hhmm...