When my first child, my son Justice, was just a toddler I read an article in a parenting magazine that has stayed with me for eighteen years. I wish I had kept it, so I could share it verbatim now, but things like magazine pages are not something a person who regularly misplaces keys and glasses can keep up with. I do remember, however, that the sentence that really jumped out at me was a lot like this:
Our most important job as parents is also the one that hurts the most: raising our children to be independent enough to leave us one day.
High School Graduation represents the best of bittersweet for parents who have raised their children with philosophies similar to the one above. When they walk across the stage to accept their diplomas, our children have reached a lifelong goal. It is time for celebration!
It is also time to realize, if we haven’t already, that our children are going to keep on walking. That they will make important decisions that we don’t agree with, but have to live with. They will make decisions that alter the course of their lives without involving us at all. They will be independent adults fully able to function in society without us. Graduation symbolizes this leap to adulthood with much more poignancy than an eighteenth birthday. So though it is also a time for celebration, it is also (for most of us) a time for tears. But why? This is what we wanted, isn’t it? Yes. And no.
What got me at my son’s graduation last weekend was when the choir sang The Scientist by Coldplay. The chorus could not have been more fitting for a group of students who have grown very close, or for the parents sitting out in the audience.
Nobody said it was easy
It’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh, take me back to the start
The graduate and his sister.
I confess that my tears flowed in time with the music. I want to go back to the start! To hold my crying babies again, to a time where blowing bubbles and unwrapping presents was exciting, to playing with matchbox cars and pulling wagons. It is hard to believe that all of those tiny delightful experiences we had together amount to this wonderful horrible thing… independence.
We are so proud of our son. He has faced many challenges and overcome. And even as he makes decisions we don’t agree with, we know he’s a wonderful person.
I met Mary Zisk at a SCBWI NJ conference two years ago where I critiqued her manuscript. She struck me right away as a rare breed: A writer who truly embraced criticism — a writer who wanted to hear the worst, and learn from it. I liked her right away. After that, Mary started following Nerdy Chicks Rule, and later Sudipta critiqued her work. Sudipta saw that same quality in Mary, so when we looked to expand our blog by adding a contributing author in September of 2013, we agreed that Mary would be the perfect fit. We knew she’d bring something new and different to the table, and she did!
And brought us many great quotables, including Caroline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, and Diana Nyad.
In fact, to see all of Mary’s contributions, you can just click on her name below the title of any of her posts!
Because she has started some new writing projects, Mary is going to take a break from blogging. She hopes to rejoin Nerdy Chicks Rule when she has seen these through. Mary, we wish you all the best! We celebrate your journey with us today so our readers will know where you’re going, and have another chance to see where you’ve been. We hope you will be back soon!
I am the mother of two tweens. TWO OF THEM. That’s double the hormones. Double the attitude. Double the drama.
I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve this, but there it is.
Obviously, there are wonderful things about tweens, too. Like how they are mature enough to be interesting, but they’re still really kids who let you be their mommy (sometimes). But I’ll be painfully honest – it is tough, too. Because they’re mature enough to argue with you and are no longer satisfied with the “Because I said so” answer, but they’re still really kids who cannot fully handle the emotional roller coaster of life.
In my recent interactions, confrontations, and sob-fests with my own tweens, I started to think of things to say to them. I like to think that they respond truly positively to these pearls of wisdom. Here are the top twelve on that list for you to share with your tween:
1. You are literally a part of me.
Practically every meal you eat, I cook. Practically every item of clothing you wear, I provide. I screen your music, your television shows, your books (even when you don’t realize it!). I’m trying to give you the life I always wanted while also forging you in my image. Like Victor Frankenstein made his monster, so have I made you. So no matter how foreign I might seem to you, you are a lot more like me than you want to admit.
2. You are going to be so much smarter than me someday. But today is not the day.
There is nothing that your tween brain has figured out that I cannot deconstruct. And while I am so happy that you are smart and know wholeheartedly that you will be much, much smarter than me someday, the reason I still give you boundaries is because you’re not smarter than me yet.
3. You are not a disappointment.
Yes, you do things that disappoint me. And, yes, sometimes I want to trade you in for a toaster. But the things you do are not the person you are. I might be disappointed in some of your actions, but for my entire life and yours, you will never be a disappointment to me.
4. There’s a 90% chance that the friends you care so much about now will be irrelevant to you in 5 years.
It’s about perspective. You won’t believe me when I tell you that it doesn’t matter what she thinks or it’s ok if she doesn’t want to hang out with you anymore. But I’ll tell you anyway. Because you need to hear it, even though it doesn’t sound true. Yet.
5. He’s going to break your heart.
Even if there isn’t a “he” yet, it’s going to happen. And it will hurt. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it. And you’re going to feel like you are the only one who has ever felt so bad. But you’re not, or you won’t be. And I’ll be here for you if or when that happens.
6. They’ll all break your heart, but you will get over it.
This applies to those friends who stopped hanging out with you (see 4) or the crush who didn’t pan out the way you wanted (see 5). They’ll break your heart, and you will survive. You will learn why all women worship at the altar of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. There is nothing on earth that can crush you. As soon as you internalize that, moving on will become so much easier.
7. You will get caught.
I don’t care what it was that you did. I don’t care how careful you think you were. I don’t care how smart you are (see 2). You will get caught. Let me repeat that. YOU WILL GET CAUGHT. Factor that in to your calculations BEFORE you do whatever it is you will get caught for. I promise, this will make your life better than it will make mine.
8. Monkeys like rutabagas, too.
Or something equally nonsensical. Especially in moments of tension. Your life is drama, drama, drama these days and, every once in a while, I’m going to remind you that “monkeys like rutabagas” or that “pinochle isn’t a real word, no matter how many times Gramma says it.” I will say those things, and you will laugh. And sometimes that is the point.
9. Laughing makes everything better.
Thus, the purpose of 8. You take yourself entirely too seriously at times. And if I try telling you that directly, you just get even more serious. So instead, I’m going to make you laugh, even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to. And eventually, you will learn that laughing helps you get through most things in life.
10. Life is about jumping through hoops.
I get it. You already know how to do [INSERT TASK HERE] and you don’t understand why you have to jump through some hoop just to prove it. Especially if it is something meaningless (and let’s face it, you think everything is meaningless). Well, let me tell you something, chickie – LIFE IS ABOUT JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS. Better get good at it now, since that is what adults do all day long. If there was a way to avoid that, I would’ve found it a long time ago.
11. You should have a theme song.
There should be a song that absolutely sums up who you are right this moment – or who you want to be. Identify it and make it your theme song. Because this simple exercise forces you to be self-aware – and self-awareness is the cornerstone of happiness. You can fix anything in your life, you can make anything better, as long as you are honest about what it is that needs changing. (And, by the way, your theme song not only can change over time, it should change. No one is one thing forever.)
12. Because I’m your mother and I say so.
I promise I will try reasoning with you, sharing my logic and my thoughts. I promise I will generally follow the same set of rules so that you can learn how to anticipate my reactions and not just wait for me to give them to you. And I promise I will listen you and let myself be persuaded by your arguments at appropriate times. But, every once in a while, the answer is going to be, “Because I’m your mother and I say so.” Which I know is a totally unsatisfactory answer. Make your peace with that.
Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that 2014 is off to a wonderful start for each and every one of you.
As we start this new year, the Nerdy Chicks wanted to take a moment and reflect on 2013. This past year was a great year for Nerdy Chicks Rule. We covered so many topics near and dear to our hearts — and we had a lot of fun, too.
We reflected on life, on education, and on mothers.
We discussed college, art, and losing.
We interviewed women we admire. We quoted women we respect.
We blogged about gardening, gifts, and gratitude.
We covered reading, writing, and arithmetic. And a whole lot of other things that don’t fall into cutesy category headings!
Like I said, it was a great year, and these are just a few examples of the kinds of posts we featured. If you missed any, take a moment to browse through and tell us what you think.
We are really looking forward to having you all join us for this coming year. Things are only going to get better.
I always thought I would be a mother who worked, but I never imagined I would be a working mother. And being a working mother has caused me some guilt over the years.
Now, before we go any further, I have to say something very important: in my opinion, all mothers are working mothers. The idea that the only mothers who work are the ones who earn money outside of the home is insulting and shows a marked lack of understanding of a mother’s roles and contributions. But in the interests of keeping to the traditional use the term and staying consistent with the research I want to share today, I’m going to refer to those mothers who work outside the home as “working mothers.”
When I first had my children, I imagined spending my days with them, enriching their lives through lessons, crafts, activities, long philosophical discussions… I figured I would write, but I would only do so after they went to bed or while they were at school. My life would be about my children first, and about my career second. Life had a different plan for me though.
If you are a mother like me and you work, you probably feel a little guilty for having to work, or for wanting to work. Over the years, I’ve learned that that is completely normal. Mothers live in a guilty place. We know we’re making all sorts of mistakes, and while we are trying to do the best we can for our kids, we rarely meet the impossible standards we set for ourselves. I remember years ago seeing a cartoon that said something like, “The Nature versus Nurture debate is finally resolved: It’s all MOM’S FAULT.”
I have often felt like a bad mother because, instead of being there for every moment of my children’s lives, I am working.
What if the guilt is misplaced?
A few months back, while I was probably supposed to be working on novel revisions or a new book (or cleaning my kitchen), I came across a website that held the documents from a 1998 conference in Madison, Wisconsin called “Parenthood in America.” There are a lot of great articles at this site, and I encourage you to read them and consider the research that was done.
There was one article in particular that touched me. It was called “The Effects of the Mother’s Employment on the Family and the Child,” and it was written by Dr. Lois Wladis Hoffman, PhD, a Professor Emerita in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Dr. Hoffman wanted to understand how children were affected by their mothers working, so she and her team examined a sample of 400 families with children in the third or fourth grade who lived in a large industrial city in the Midwest. In other words, average American children. The families in Dr. Hoffman’s study were single-parent households and two-parent households. They spanned many races and economic backgrounds.
Her results helped me feel less guilty.
If you want to read the study for yourself, you will find it here. But let me give you some of the highlights:
“Daughters of employed mothers have been found to have higher academic achievement, greater career success, more nontraditional career choices, and greater occupational commitment.”
“The children [sons and daughters] of employed mothers obtained higher scores on the three achievement tests, for language, reading, and math, across gender, socioeconomic status, and marital status, middle-class boys included.”
“Daughters of employed mothers have been found to be more independent, particularly in interaction with their peers in a school setting, and to score higher on socioemotional adjustment measures.”
“Daughters with employed mothers, across the different groups, showed more positive assertiveness as rated by the teacher (that is, they participated in class discussions, they asked questions when instructions were unclear, they were comfortable in leadership positions), and they showed less acting-out behavior. They were less shy, more independent and had a higher sense of efficacy.”
Before you think I am trying to say that all women should work, let me share one more bit of Dr. Hoffman’s study. The researchers examined not only employment status but also the mother’s sense of well-being. In other words, how happy is she with her life? They basically found something in the research that we could have figured out with our common sense – that when mothers feel good about themselves, when they are happy, when they have a positive sense of self, their children succeed. This is true of all mothers, across all criteria.
At the beginning of this post, I said that I never planned to be a working mother. I certainly didn’t. But the truth is, my career makes me very happy. I feel fulfilled, I feel strong, I feel accomplished. And that’s possibly what made me feel the most guilty – that I enjoyed something that took me away from my children. Now I know that I did the right thing for me and for my family by pursuing something that made me happy – that it actually helped my kids be happy, too.
So no more guilt. Well, not about working. (But about that ice cream container that “disappeared,” maybe a little guilt….)
Pop over to Tara Lazar’s blog if you get a chance to see my newest cover reveals and enter the giveaway contest!