Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rearing children is a perplexing task

Recently trying to console a longtime friend, a parent with heart broken by repeated misbehavior of a child old enough to know better and do better, reminds us how extremely difficult it is to raise children in this mixed up, messed up world.

"Things are not what they used to be," may be the understatement of the century. Both parents and grandparents scratch their confused heads and ask: "When did children begin to think they were supposed to run the world?"

I do know, in another time, I never had the slightest idea of removing control from my parents. One reason was that my father had his own strong opinion on what was meant by "rearing" children.

Although not always as effective, the method of "parental permissiveness" came along after I married and we had children of our own. This child-rearing philosophy does not always work, with parents who say to children: "Listen to me! No! You are not going to do it! And that's my 'semifinal' word on this matter!"

President Harry Truman, who had one child, Margaret, said: "The way you get along in raising children is find out what they want to do, and tell them they can do it."

Strong, fearless leader of the free world that he was, this hardly seemed consistent with President Truman. But it does show that when it comes to raising children, usual logic goes out the window.

Picture that first big date: Dad gives teenage son the key to his car, a bonus allowance, let's him wear his new sports coat, but he can't tell the boy, "Son, have a good time!" The boy would probably say, "Don't tell me what to do!"

Posted in Times Herald

Jim Griffith

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Faithful gay unions don't threaten marriage

In the early-morning hours of May 1, New York Congressman Vito Fossella was arrested in Virginia for drunk driving. Fossella, a married man with three children, was released into the custody of retired Air Force Lt. Col. Laura Fay, a woman with whom Fossella was conducting an extra-martial affair. The affair resulted in a child that’s now three years old.

But Vito Fossella and Laura Fay aren’t the biggest threats to marriage; it’s monogamous gays and lesbians. At least that’s the notion many religious conservatives are attempting to sell.

The issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples reappeared on the political radar last month when the California Supreme Court ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. It’s not surprising that religious conservatives are trying to get the decision reversed via referendum this fall; they have genuine religious convictions on the issue. What is peculiar, however, is their obsession with same-sex marriage and bizarre insinuation that monogamous gays pose a greater threat to marriage than adulterous straights.

Even if gays and lesbians are at odds with Biblical teachings, it’s difficult to argue that their relationships put heterosexual marriages at risk. The biggest threats to marriage are unfaithful spouses, abusive spouses and parents who neglect or abandon their children. To blame gays and lesbians for these wider societal problems is nothing more than ugly scapegoating.

Monogamy, which should be the core of the same-sex marriage debate, is one of Christianity’s great gifts to mankind. It’s the belief that no matter how rich or powerful an individual becomes, he or she only gets one spouse. It’s a form of sexual egalitarianism that has delivered predominantly Christian societies unprecedented stability and happiness. Surveys show that married people in durable, long-term and monogamous relationships are more content than society as a whole, and there is no reason this beneficial arrangement shouldn’t include gays and lesbians.

Marriage is strengthened, not weakened, by including people who accept the worthy idea of faithful, lifetime relationships. The belief that a committed, loving same-sex couple can somehow undermine a committed, loving opposite-sex couple doesn’t pass the test of logic. Vito Fossella is a threat to marriage. Those seeking what Vito Fossella threw away -- gay or straight -- are not.

Editorial post in the tomah journal

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The hardest part of my job is that everyone lies about parenting

When I was growing up, there was lots of chatter in the media about how models gave girls bad role models. Today that’s old news. What we should talk about now is how the media portrays moms.

Take a look at the spread in People magazine of Jennifer Lopez and her one-month-old twins. The photos are so elegant that at first I thought it was a parody. But in fact, it is mommy porn: the visual fantasy of what being a working mom could be. And it really could be that, if it weren’t that someone like Jennifer Lopez must have a household full of helpers in order to keep her career on track while she has kids: a cook, a trainer, two or three nannies, a cleaner, an assistant, a stylist. And others I’m sure I can’t even imagine.

Here’s another example of mommy porn: Angelina Jolie, and her fifty kids. She has a rule that the nannies (plural, yes, each kid has their own) cannot be photographed holding the kids, because it’s bad for Angelina’s image as a mom. But this is the problem: It looks like these very successful women have it all, even though they don’t.

Here’s what happens: Some reporter interviews someone about their big job. And then the person ends up talking about the mythic work-life-balance topic. And they say something like, “Throughout my career I did [insert something that is supposed to be wonderful for children] for my kids.” And now, of course, we must assume that the kids are doing fine. But why do we believe that? Why do we even ask? We have no hope of learning the truth. After all, there are very few people in the world who are in a position to say that their career is, as they speak, harming their kids.

So journalists writing about moms being moms are not reporting the truth. It is propaganda. It is parents saying that they lived their lives in a way that was good for their kids. But really, who knows? The reporter has little ability to check. So all we’re left with is the parents giving their subjective and hugely biased opinion that their kids are turning out fine.

I’m not saying that every kid is messed up from their parents’ careers. I’m saying that I’m sick of learning about how famous families want us to think they are doing by looking at what is really only mommy porn, what is really just parenting propaganda.

So look, in the interest of truth-telling, I’m telling you this: people are not being honest about what it’s like to be with kids. People are scared to admit that they would rather be at work than with their kids, because work is easier than parenting. (Notable exception: Sally Krawcheck.) If I have to read about how much someone loves their kids one more time, I’m gonna puke. Because we all know that parents love their kids. It’s not interesting. It’s not helpful. It’s not even very relevant. For anyone.

What’s interesting is the part where parents love their kids but don’t love being with them on a daily basis. It’s very scary to write. But I’m telling you, if the feeling weren’t ubiquitous then there would be no one to be in middle management working 9-5 because they’d all be home with their kids, doing freelance work after bedtime.

People are choosing to go to work rather than stay with their kids all day. But no one talks about making this choice because they are scared their kids will read it. I’m not sure what the right answer is. I just know that somehow there has to be a more honest discussion of parenting in this world.

So with all the mommy porn, the media does a lot to make us think that work life balance is possible, in the same way anorexic bodies without treatment for anorexia is possible.

So there’s real damage from mommy porn. Everyone begins thinking that every woman should be parenting gracefully while working full time. This gives people the temerity to ask me, nearly every day: Who takes care of your kids?

That’s right. The genesis of this rant is that I was meeting with an investor – a guy in his early 40s – and we were talking about my travel schedule and he asked, “Who takes care of your kids?”

I told this to one of my board members and he said, “What??? Why did you answer that question?”

I said I answer it because I get the question every single day. Literally. And I don’t think twice about it anymore. But in fact, it’s a totally offensive question. Here’s how I’m so sure: I tried it out on Mr. Sales Guy. And even though Mr. Sales Guy and I work the same number of hours, he said something to the effect of, “I’m not really sure what goes on with the kids all day, you have to ask my wife.” He answered the question as if we were doing girl talk. As if I had asked him, “What brand of tampon does your wife use?”

So I want to tell you something: Women earn more than men in most major cities today. And in corporate America, up and down the ladder, women and men are on equal footing in the workplace in terms of who gets paid what, as long as neither party has kids. But the level of expectations people have for parenting is absolutely insane. The mommy porn feeds this problem. Everyone is drawn to the ideal of Angelina Jolie as the perfect combination of careerist and mother like the Pied Piper’s tune, and these attitudes are more exhausting to me than any amount of actual parenting ever is.

Penelope Trunk is a career columnist at the Boston Globe. Her syndicated column has run in more than 200 publications. Earlier, she was a software executive, and then she founded two companies. She has been through an IPO, an acquisition and a bankruptcy. Before that she played professional beach volleyball. Her book is Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success (Warner, May 2007).

Posted in

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rising gas, food and other costs magnify struggles of raising children alone

Single parents look for outside support to get through day-to-day.

Finding joy

At Fair Havens, Dean said her 4-year-old and 1-year-old have finally landed in a place they love as she's able to spend time with them playing outside during the evening.

Cooper said the support of her church and its activities for her young kids have helped get them through the last year they've been ready to question why dad's not around anymore.

Church support is one way to "celebrate" these single-parent families when society often doesn't, said Burke Brack, singles minister at Golf Course Road Church of Christ.

The church helps take singles and their children to a camp every summer where they get an affordable vacation and a chance to talk with people going through the same things.

It's conversations like these that help Guy McKenzie know he's doing an OK job with his 17-year-old daughter, who he said he's often a little protective of since he knows what's going through teenage boy's minds.

"It's really good to have the insight of other singles," he said. "To know that things are just normal and not so out of whack."

Since Green knows she doesn't always have the time or resources to do anything extra with her kids, she's enrolled both in Big Brothers Big Sisters where they get to participate in a variety of activities and talk with someone else about everything from gymnastics to more serious things they might have asked their dad.

"They want two parents in their home," Green said. But, since that isn't the case, the support of other adults has been a great release.

Tisdale said these mentors are meant to give kids like the Greens some extra attention and show them life isn't always serious -- a sentiment many single-parent families can't always make a reality.

Trying to do that, though, and taking time for self-maintenance is something Hagler said single parents have to learn.

"Nothing is ever done," Hagler said. "You just learn to go to bed knowing there's dirty dishes in the sink."

Some resources for single-parent families:

- First Baptist Church offers divorce care and other programs for single parents and their kids. For more information contact Minister with singles David Nobles at 683-0611.

- Helping Hands, 699-4900 distributes food weekly and offers assistance with rent, utilities, medical expenses and other things.

- West Texas Opportunities, 685-8311, is currently distributing free diapers and baby wipes as well giving assistance with utilities and other necessities.

- St. Vincent de Paul Ministries, 684-3887, opens its food pantry each Saturday morning and offers short-term assistance with rent, utilities and other things.

- Casa de Amigos, 682-9701, offers health and dental services, education and social services for families with essential needs.

- Midland Fair Havens, 689-3411, serves single mothers who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless and aims to equip them for self-sufficient living.

- Big Brothers Big Sisters, 687-0195, provides mentors for children missing a parent. They are currently seeking volunteers, especially men as most of the requests for pairings come for young boys.

- Golf Course Road Church of Christ has a singles ministry and helps take families to single-parent camp each summer. Contact Burke Brack for more information at 694-8836.

- MidCities Community Church has several small groups, community service and other activities for singles. Contact Associate Pastor of adult ministries Tom Vermillion for more information at 522-1330.

- Crossroads Church is hosting a conference for Single adults June 13-14. Visit for more information.

Post in My West Texas
Kathleen Thurber
Kathleen Thurber can be reached at