Is Nagging Really Emotional Labor?

by AustinMom

Before we go any further, I don’t think this a women’s only issue. After reading the article, I thought about our circle of friends and could only identify two couples where this “emotional labor” seems to be taken on by the male rather than female partner.

Maybe this article hit home because in the past few weeks, I have done several of these things that require the preliminary leg work, but feel thankless in the end. I agree my partner takes on specific household chores and does things I ask, but it is those things that take this emotional labor that he runs the other way from. And, his response is exactly like the author’s husband – make one phone call, decide it is too much effort, and try to change the “request” or do it where it causes me other work.

Totebaggers – Does your family resemble this dynamic, regardless of gender?

WOMEN AREN’T NAGS—WE’RE JUST FED UP

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Can We Agree to Disagree?

by AustinMom

This New York Times article came though just after I had blocked two “friends” on Facebook. I rarely block anyone on Facebook because they hold opposing views to mine. However, when their comments moved from respectfully disagreeing to name calling and spewing hate, I was done. I was wondering how we got to this point where we cannot agree to disagree on something, but we choose to only interact with people and in forums where we agree.

The article, which I found very interesting, talks about how you have to understand an idea or position before you can disagree with it. From Amazon to Facebook to the news channels we select, we tend to favor and consume more of the goods, services, ideas and positions we agree with. I purposefully listen to a talk radio show that I almost always disagree with the host. I don’t do it to torture myself as one friend suggested, but to try to be open to at least understanding a different point of view.

What troubled me most in this article is that students on college campus – a place I always thought of as one to explore various points of view – is the place that disagreement seems to be least tolerated. And, this builds on some comments I have seen on college discussions about does the college campus hold the same political viewpoint as my family that I thought were isolated.

Totebaggers – Do you see a trend of limiting your exposure to those media sources and people you agree with? Do you agree that we have lost the art of disagreement?

The Dying Art of Disagreement

Are You Doing What it Takes to be a Superager?

by AustinMom

This article came out a while back, but it just came across my feed again recently. I have seen a mild decline in my partner who retired 7 years ago. I saw it in myself after returning to work with a “hard” after 8 months off event though I did mentally stimulating things. Before I saw this article, I fell into the category of thinking engaging things and mild exercise would be enough. After reading the article and looking at people around me, I can see those superagers around me and they all have the characteristics of doing “hard” mental and/or physical activity. Totebaggers, are you doing what it takes to be a superager?

How do you become a superager? Many labs have observed that these critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. The road to superaging is difficult, though, because these brain regions have another intriguing property: When they increase in activity, you tend to feel pretty bad — tired, stymied, frustrated. Superagers are like Marines: They excel at pushing past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort. Studies suggest that the result is a more youthful brain that helps maintain a sharper memory and a greater ability to pay attention.

This means that pleasant puzzles like Sudoku are not enough to provide the benefits of superaging. Neither are the popular diversions of various “brain game” websites. You must expend enough effort that you feel some “yuck.” Do it till it hurts, and then a bit more.

In the United States, we are obsessed with happiness. But as people get older, research shows, they cultivate happiness by avoiding unpleasant situations. This is sometimes a good idea, as when you avoid a rude neighbor. But if people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain.

How to Become a ‘Superager’

Taking Care of Elderly Relatives

by AustinMom

This topic was triggered by a question asked by a regular recently about what support do you really need to provide the “more healthy” elderly who have their mental capacity and sufficient financial resources. It reminded me that I had that similar question several years ago.

As regulars know, my dad passed away in May 2015 and my mom followed him in April 2016. My mom was 9 years older than my dad, but she was always the healthier one, per their doctors (shared same primary care, cardiologist, and ophthalmologist). My parents were open about discussing both their finances and health care information in the last 5 years before they passed. However, knowing information and stepping in to help or completely manage these things is a big step.

Since my mom passed, I have three acquaintances who have started down this similar path with one or both elderly parents. In each case, the point at which the family member(s) needed to consider downsizing was foreseeable, but then the switch to needing significant participation in caregiving was abrupt and not anticipated.

The “problem” I observed, in my own situation and in theirs, is that when that change takes place you aren’t as prepared as you’d like to be and you are too enmeshed that you don’t have the time to start doing the research. While there is tons of information out there, it all seems to be scattered like parts of a jigsaw puzzle dumped on the floor. No one seems to have that “complete checklist of elder care considerations”, either from the what to do in advance, what to do when you find yourself unexpectedly care-giving, or how to handle the estate upon passing.

From some of the comments on other posts, a number of Totebaggers have recently been, are in the midst of, or can see this coming in their families. If you were asked to contribute to that “complete checklist”, what would you put on it?

Office Dress Code – Is this Good Advice?

by AustinMom

I have worked in my industry and in my city for all of my professional life. I can say that over the past 30 years office wear has become more casual for both men and women. While some meetings and events still require formal business attire, mostly it is business casual. I came across this infographic. Of course it includes click bait – “style tricks that could earn you a promotion” – that pertains only to women.

I would agree with some of this, but maybe it is due to our warmer climate, but short sleeves (that come half-way between your shoulder and elbow) are not an issue in the work place. However, cap sleeves, sleeveless or spaghetti straps are offlimits unless they are under a jacket for women. I am surprised at how many younger women (35 and younger) try to pull off leggings in the workplace. It struck me last week when I went into the office, the number of leggings and tunic sweaters I saw.

How do people dress in your workplace?

This Infographic Is Your Ultimate Guide to Dressing for Work

The List

by AustinMom

The Washington Post has compiled its annual list of what is “IN” and “OUT” for 2017. The article also provides a link to lists as far back as 1978.

What do you think of the list? Will you be happy that the “OUT”s are leaving us? Did you see the “In”s coming? Or, did you have look up what some of the items are?

Discuss!

The List 2017

To Vaccinate or Not

by AustinMom

In my area, as noted in the article, we have a fairly large opposition to vaccinations for children. I think, as the article notes, that many parents of young children today never had the disease vaccinations target nor even have known anyone who had them which leads them to think the disease is eradicated vs. controlled. Our family knows families who by choice do not vaccinate at all by, vaccinate selectively, and/or vaccinate on a much longer schedule than recommended for healthy children. We also know a family who can only vaccinate on a limited basis due to health reasons. Lastly, I grew up with a friend who cannot build an immunity to chicken pox and would have it almost annually; even as a mature adult still gets it every few years.

My mom, who passed away in her early 90’s, was very pro-vaccination as she and most everyone she knew had these childhood diseases and she saw first hand the symptoms and the effects. I received all the vaccines that were available during my childhood. As there were no vaccines, I had chicken pox (mild case) and mumps (on one side and then on the other), but not measles. My children have had all their shots and some that at the time were recommended by our pediatrician before they became required by my state for attending school. While still not required, my children have had the HPV series.

I fully understand families with health issues that prevent them from vaccinating or that require vaccinating on a modified schedule. I understand how vaccinating their peers helps reduce the likelihood that those who cannot be vaccinated will become ill. My pediatrician, who is clearly pro-vaccination, hasn’t issued any requirements for being vaccinated to remain a patient.

Do you think that families should be able to refuse to have their children vaccinated for any reason other than medical necessity? Would you change pediatricians/clinics if they required all patients to be fully vaccinated, unless prevented by health issues?

On vaccinations, a pointed shift for pediatricians

The Mixed Message: School’s Creating Helicopter Parents

by AustinMom

Last week I went to a freshman (high school) parent night and was told about all the things I should be doing to ensure my child’s success. These included (1) making sure they were using the agenda the school gave them, (2) regularly checking their grades, (3) each weekend helping them select the appropriate FIT sessions for the next week, (4) subscribing to the teachers’ webpages for those using that system to get emails when each assignment is posted, (5) logging into my student’s account to see what the assignments are for the teachers using that system, and (6) in my account, I should also set it up so that I get a notification for missing grades, absences/tardies, and when the child’s average falls below a family determined level.

Before I go on, FIT sessions are mandatory 25 minute tutoring/study sessions that occur 3 days a week. Teachers post the topic/style of each of their sessions each week, such as Q&A review for Pre-AP Biology Test 2 or Review of Quadratic Functions, or the student can select a quiet study hall or a “open” study hall that allows talking so kids can work on group projects. Teachers or counselors can sign a student up for a FIT session that the student cannot change.

Yes, I set up my parent account so I can see grades, get notifications for missing grades and when an average falls “too low”. However, I think the rest of those items are my student’s responsibility, but I am absolutely willing to help her with any issue if she asks. The teachers and counselors have told them to do these things and have showed them how. I believe that my student should not be counting on me to do these things and then remind her about all her assignments. If she does not handle the responsiblity appropriately, then it is my job to step in and help her figure out what needs to happen differently.

The next day this article (Standford Dean) comes through my feed about the negative effects of helicopter parenting and not to do “everything” for them. The event last night that told me what “good”, “involved” parents should do seems to be promoting helicopter parenting.

About 5 days later I attended a set of college presentations with my HS junior. One of the speakers introduced the term “helium parenting”. The article (Helium Parenting) describes it better, but think about how a balloon is tethered to your hand when you hold it, but it can still move around freely within limits. Then, when you let go, it goes off completely on its own. Helium parents provide that freedom within boundaries knowing that they will ultimatley let go.

Totebaggers, do you feel that you are getting mixed messages about how “involved” you are to be in your child(ren)’s school life? Do you feel like you are a “helicopter” or “helium” parent?

What a Stanford Dean Says Parents are Doing That’s Ruining Their Kids

Helium Parenting

The Sandwich Generation

by AustinMom

I am a typical member of the sandwich generation that the article below describes – caring for an elderly parent and raising minor children. As regular Totebaggers know, I lost my father about eight months ago and, as an only child, have been taking on more and more caregiving responsibilities for my elderly mother, whose health is also declining. Thankfully, my parents worked very hard to ensure they have sufficient resources at this stage in their lives and I am not providing financial support. I provide almost all the emotional support to my mother as well as handle most of the major decision making and a fair number of day-to-day tasks such as bill paying and grocery shopping. And, I attend all doctor appointments and try to be present a significant amount of time during any hospitalization and visit almost daily when she is in any type of rehabilitation situation.

This article talks more about the statistics and less about the physical and emotional challenges of the sandwich generation. While some articles look at these issues, I find they fall into (1) how to prepare financially so that when you are the elderly parent you have sufficient income/wealth, (2) resources for you to wade through to find a community/facility/services appropriate for the elderly person, or (3) caution caregivers to be aware of their own symptoms, usually focusing on mental health. But, there doesn’t seem to be much about how to balance or appropriately handle all the different directions you are being pulled.

I have been looking for those articles because lately I am just feeling exhausted and very pressed for time. While I am thankful that my mother has been around this long in my life, I also feel that I am missing part of my children’s lives as they will soon be entering college and moving on. And at the very same time, I know my children are looking at my actions for what is reasonable and ethical behavior for handing elder care.

The Sandwich Generation

So Totebaggers – Are you part of the sandwich generation? Do you feel that you are always blazing the new trail or that one is there that is easy to follow? Are you that primary caregiver? If not, how to you feel about the other family member who is providing all this care?

Would you welcome Syrian refugees in your community?

by AustinMom

I came across three links in my Facebook feed this week that I found very interesting. The first I thought it was a helpful primer. The second shows where those refugees already allowed into the US have been settled. The third shows those states opposed to and/or refusing to accept more refugees. My state is one that has a number of refugees and is “refusing” more. How do you feel about this? Would you welcome them into your community?

And, lastly, is a fourth link about the US opposition to accepting Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. Do you see this as the same or different and why?

Syria’s war: A 5-minute history

Paris Attacks Intensify Debate Over How Many Syrian Refugees to Allow Into the U.S.

Here’s a map of every state refusing to accept Syrian refugees

Pre-WWII poll shows that Americans did not want to accept Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany

Parent Teacher Conference Season

By AustinMom

It’s that time again, the announcement and sign up for parent teacher conferences is here. Elementary conferences were pretty straight forward, with usually only one teacher to visit. If you weren’t certain about what topics to raise a quick search provides a plethora of results.

Middle school and high school conferences, at least in our area, are both set up for you to allow you to visit every teacher, or at least as many as you choose to. For both of our schools, you get a 10 minute slot per teacher, making it important to use that time effectively. With the current technology, we see grades posted online and generally have a good idea in advance of how they are doing from a numeric perspective.

At this level, I find that the teacher rarely has something specific they want to convey and the parent must lead the conversation. I have a few questions I ask every year tailored to each of my kid’s general approach to school. For my introvert, it focuses on class participation and advocating for herself. For my child who receives minimal accommodations, it focuses on feedback that these are working, which generally tells you if the teacher is implementing them. I also always ask for feedback on where each child is compared to their peers, about any standardized tests that have been taken, and anything that is coming up before the end of the semester that I should be aware of, especially if they require parental involvement. In the Spring I ask about next year’s class placements, will they be recommending the more rigorous courses, such as accelerated math in middle school or AP Calculus AB or BC in high school.

Totebaggers, Do you go to the conferences? If so, what do you try to glean from them? Do you have a favorite question or topic to discuss? Or, do you think they are a waste of time?

School Start Times

by AustinMom

I know my kids’ private school start dates are earlier than many as both start the week of August 17 this year.  The article below talks about school start times and how middle and high schoolers shouldn’t start before 8:30 am given their internal clocks stay up to11 pm and they need to get the requisite 9 hours of sleep.  Our middle school begins at 8:00 am and high school begins at 8:20 am.

In our metro area we have at least 6 different school districts with different start dates, though not before August 24, and different start times.  Those high schools with 9 am start times do not let out until 4 pm and kids riding the bus are often not home until 5 pm.  The main complaints of parents I have heard about this later start time are (1) the kids have an hour or more at home after the parents have left for work before they have to leave for school, (2) after school sports practices then often go over into the dinner hour, and (3) it often means the kids are up doing homework after parents have gone to bed.

Some discussions I have had with other parents have raised the following points about 9 am starts – (1) start time really doesn’t matter because often club or some sports practices are moved to the mornings which still puts the kids on campus as early as 7 am, (2) after school activities are just shifted later, so a 4-6 pm practice moves to a 5-7 pm practice, which interferes more with the dinner hour, especially if you have younger kids whose school hours in the same district are 7:45 am to 2:45 pm, (3) kids with lots of homework (especially after an after-school practice) often aren’t in bed by 11 pm as you have just shifted it later in the day, and (4) even to take the bus for a 9 am start kids are to be “at the stop” by 8:15 am, so assuming they are getting up at 7:30 am, they would have to be in bed by 10:30 pm to get their 9 hours.

Totebaggers – What hours do your kids attend school?  Do they start earlier than 8:30 am?  Do you think it’s a problem?  Do you like later start times, if your district has them.

You won’t believe how early school starts in some states

Rewards That Aren’t Raises

By AustinMom

When we first start out in our careers, it is often all about the money as parents withdraw their financial support and our paychecks must cover all of our basic needs plus our desires. However, when pay exceeds those basic needs, do we value that raise or other rewards, such as more time off?

The article below opines that workers who are taking other rewards in lieu of raises may be hurting themselves in the long run. In my opinion, the article mixes some non-monetary and monetary benefits in the same category. For example, paid health insurance – assuming you will carry health insurance, shifting the cost from the employee (automatic payroll withdrawal) to employer paid does free up cash for the employee. Others, such as time off or access to a gym membership you won’t use (due to location or desire) do not impact your paycheck.

Has your company shifted to other rewards in lieu of raises? How has it affected you? How do you see it affecting the next generation of workers (including your kids)?

Companies have found something to give their workers instead of raises

Summer Homework – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by AustinMom

Students scramble to complete summer homework

I came across this article, just after my daughter received her third summer homework assignment. So far, she has to (1) read a novel for English class, (2) read a book for World History, (3) read a couple chapters out of the World History textbook and answer some questions, (4) read a chapter out of one Chemistry text and answer the questions for that chapter, (5) read 2 chapters out of the second Chemistry text and answer the questions for those chapters, and (5) watch 2 Chemistry videos and complete the guided notes. All this is due on the first day of school. She is also expecting some pre-calculus homework as well.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, this is the equivalent of 2-3 nights of homework for each class or similar to what a week will feel like once school starts with her block schedule. If it seems overwhelming now, it will give her the chance to change her schedule the first day from all AP and Pre-AP to a mix that includes some “on level” classes as well. On the other hand, she worked very hard in school all year, she uses summer to catch up on her pleasure reading, and she went to an academic camp for 3 weeks that included reading almost the entire textbook, a short research paper, a presentation on another topic, and small group project. In short, she isn’t vegging out for 11 weeks in front of the tv or computer. But, even if she were, don’t these students deserve down time?

Totebaggers, do your students have summer homework? Did you? Is this summer homework really necessary? Does it only result in students dropping higher level courses to get out of the homework? Do the students benefit? If so, then why is summer homework focused on the higher performing students and not assigned across the board?

Rich or Poor – Can You Teach It?

by AustinMom

Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 15 Poverty Habits Parents Teach Their Children

This came through my Facebook feed as it likely did for other totebaggers. I found the initial list of items of how the rich differ from the poor as interesting. However, the author then provides a list suggesting what we (parents and schools) should teach our children. I was expecting some level of parallelism between the two lists, but to me it seems that he went on to suggest what he thought was important. I noted that he did not suggest that parents attend back to school night, encourage academic achievement in order to make the honor roll, or instruct their children on proper flossing habits. What did you think of the list? Do you have other things you think are more important than the list the author provides?

Middle Class Discussion

by AustinMom

While the term “middle class” is frequently used, even the Census Bureau does not have an official definition because the middle is relative to the entire spectrum.  A 2011 Pew Charitable Trust Study, listed the range the 30 to 70 percentiles of income in America (in dollars that is $32,900 to $64,000). However, this percentile income range for “middle class” also varies based on the cost of living and salaries in your area.  This means “middle class” is more about a frame of mind or what is viewed as important – as of August 2012 that was a secure job and health insurance (Secure Job – Ticket to the Middle Class).

The nebulousness of middle class is borne out in two recent articles.  The first article talks about middle class from a psychological perspective, near the end is an interactive chart that is interesting. (Economically Insecure Middle Class)

The second one shows how defining “middle class” by income as a fixed dollar range can be misleading.  (Living Paycheck to Paycheck on $75K).

I used the this Census site (Census State Income) to get a rough estimate of middle class based on the percentile definition. The range is $25,000 to $75,000. Based on this figure, we have dipped into the middle class in the last 10 years, but overall have remained slightly above that. However, within Texas I live in an area (as are most big cities in the state) where the cost of living is slightly above the average national cost of living. (Cost of Living)  Including this measure, our income is slightly more than the city’s average cost of living. Since that does not include saving for totebag important items such as retirement and college, I would say our family falls in the definition of middle class.

Do you think you are middle class based on your income and location?