Welcome to Kira's Blog

Welcome to My Blog

Life with young children can be challenging, but with the support and advice of friends, we can feel empowered and thankful for the blessing of being a Mom.

My musings are those of a self-proclaimed attachment-parenting Tiger mom, who juggles full-time mommying with a small (but growing!) baby-related business. I hope some of my thoughts help you
Enjoy your day, Enjoy your night, and Enjoy your kids!!!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Children Thinking Fast & Slow

Reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a game-changer for moms.

The book shares a radical way of conceiving how we process information, based on decades of psychological research conducted by the author and his partner. The key principle is this: we have two primary ways of thinking: fast and slow.

• Fast thinking is based on schemas we have built in our minds: patterns of what we have experienced and therefore expect, without really "thinking" too much. Examples are: driving to a place we visit often (school, work, grocery store, etc.), brushing our teeth in the morning, or making a favorite, basic meal (pasta or cereal, for example). We can often do other tasks (or think about other things) while we engage in fast-thinking activities. We don't need to think much about how we do these activities, they are semi-automatic, and we expect the result to be unchanged each time. Fast-thinking also includes attitudes we have about other people in specific situations - stereotypes we carry with us in our minds. We create mental systems: schemas and stereotypes, based on this type of thinking.

• Slow thinking is the opposite: it is new information, careful calculations, that we need to focus on intently. Examples are: processing complicated math problems, navigating a new route somewhere (without GPS assistance), or learning a new program or recipe. We are virtually incapable of multi-tasking when we think slowly, and it is the key way of processing information that will challenge our stereotypes and expectations.

While most reading this book apply these principles to their social or professional lives, I find that moms can greatly benefit from applying the theories to their parenting. Here's how:

Children are Slow-Thinkers.

Babies and young children don't have the life-experience to have already established schemas and patterns that they have mastered. They cannot fast-think nearly ANYthing - from toothbrushing to putting on their jackets to eating a full meal at the table. Fast-thinking is based on practice, practice, practice. Children simply lack this practice and therefore take a LONG TIME to do the activities that we adults take for granted. And even once they know HOW to complete the task, they don't have it mastered so that it's second-nature ("fast-thinking").

In reviewing my own personal motherhood experience, I find myself most often losing patience when I don't "get" why it takes my child so long to complete an activity that s/he knows how to do. The child gets distracted, loses focus, and otherwise fails to complete the activity in the time-frame that a fast-thinking approach would deem appropriate. However, by applying the fast/slow-thinking principles, I am more mindful that children are not simply wired "differently" than me. Or being defiant or flighty. They simply haven't repeated and practiced these skills enough to be habit and fast-thinking.

And there's something else, too: slow-thinking is exclusionary. We can't focus intently on more than one subject at a time. So, if a child is putting his/her shoes on, and someone interrupts him/her with a question, s/he must stop putting on the shoe, in order to answer the question.

So how does this affect motherhood? 

1. We must help our children focus and give them space/time to slow-think through their activities. We should either be silent or carefully remind them "this is the focus right now, not that" as the situation warrants.

2. We should plan our days accordingly. Slow-thinking takes time, and we tend to dismiss or underestimate the amount of time it takes children to process and/or complete an activity. It's not just about "being patient," it's about planning for extra buffer time.

3. We can recognize our own fast- and slow-thinking patterns and keep ourselves in check. If a child is speaking to us while we are slow-thinking something, we should tell the child "wait, I'm focusing on something else right now," rather than assume we can multi-task. Likewise, we may fall into fast-thinking attitudes and opinions of our children and should be careful to slow down and consider that children grow and change. What we quickly/mindlessly know our children to like or need today may not be true tomorrow, so we must allow ourselves the time to slow-think and carefully consider our stereotypes of our children as well (e.g. "he's rude to his friends" or "she's terrible at spelling").

There may be other ways that fast- and slow-thinking affects our children and our mothering - I welcome your comments and suggestions!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Perfect Balance Myth

Having attended a feminist all-women's college, I headed into my 20's bright-eyed and ready to take on "having it all." I was expecting to juggle a healthy, happy family with a successful career, deeply enriching friendships, and generous involvement in a few social-interest groups. My children would be respectful, my husband doting, and my career steady and strong. And who was to tell me this isn't a likely picture? After all, women have come so far, shouldn't we still be shooting for the moon and aiming to crash through the glass ceilings?
Into my 30's, I started to look around at my fellow feminists and found that life wasn't serving us what we thought we had deserved. We had children who were brats or careers in flux. We weren't anywhere near those glass-ceilings, or if we were then we sacrificed everything, including our dignity, in order to reach them.
Most importantly, we are finding that the golden picture that had been painted for us was mostly a myth. There is no perfect balance, and there is no "having it all". Parents who work full-time, dual-careers see their children raised by someone else. And parents who choose to take a break from their career track to take care of their babies find themselves side-swiped and face tremendous headwinds re-entering the work force. Many of us don't have the means for full-time help, so we need to choose between time spent with children, with spouses, at the gym (or otherwise "taking a moment to ourselves") or with general "household management": cleaning up, paying bills, taking care of repairs, grocery shopping, healthy-food-preparation, etc. etc. Some of us are divorced or never found the right life-partner. Some of us have faced unemployment more than once. Some of us filed for bankruptcy or experienced chronic illness or loss. And many of us - perhaps the majority - are jaded and confused. What happened to "having it all"?
Since we all have 24 hours in our day, it's a zero-sum game: you cannot simultaneously prepare healthy dinners while also spending dinner-hour at that terrific Zumba class. Likewise, you cannot simultaneously work late to meet deadlines while also cleaning up the mess the kids made in the kitchen over the weekend. I have found that something has to give: for those of us with families, either children are neglected, the house is in disarray, the career isn't thriving, or the feminist-mom is taking valium just to keep from exploding. And alternatively, those of us without these family-related challenges are constantly put in the position of justifying our single-life or child-free status.
We are doing the next generation a disservice by not preparing them for real challenges that feminism has yet to address. While there are increasing women in the workforce, we are still underpaid compared to our male counterparts, and childcare is considered an afterthought. We are terribly competitive with each other, sharing idyllic photo-stories of ourselves and our lives on the internet, so that others may feel shamed if they haven't found or chosen the same work-life balance that appears on the screen. We want to have-it-all, but we don't have role models to guide us to fulfill that dream.
With all of the glowing stories and interviews in the media, I wish there were more space and room for addressing the struggles and challenges that we face. We need role models who will not only break through glass ceilings, but who will likewise break open their hearts and share their struggles and challenges, so that the rest of us can learn and benefit from the fuller picture. Many of us still have big hopes, dreams, and goals for our future and the future of other women across the country and the world. And in order to meet those goals and achieve those dreams, we need to be honest and open about the sacrifices that are made along the way.

So, for all the women who share my confusion, frustration, or anger, that we didn't expect this impossible balancing-act: you are not alone. If we pull together, we can provide the encouragement, guidance and support that we desperately need to get ahead. Together, we can share our honest and real struggles and experiences and figure out how to build a better system, for future generations of women to truly achieve a perfect-balance.

Friday, December 2, 2016

7 Tips to Taming Technology

In today's world, smartphones are in the hands of younger and younger audiences, giving them access to information and technology that is beyond limits.

Having participated in a few programs and discussions on how to manage this new technology pervasiveness, here are a few tips on how to safely manage family technology use:

1. Be a Role Model. As in all other aspects of parenthood, children turn to their parents for advice and guidance. If you are constantly connected, then they will likely be as well. If you share inappropriate texts or photos, they will likely do the same. And most importantly: if you are constantly distracted by your phone or screen, they will be as well. In other words: if you think your child is: a) addicted to his/her device or game, b) rude or inappropriate online (or viewing/sharing rude/inappropriate things), or c) too easily distracted by texts or games, then check your own patterns of behavior. Keep yourself in line before berating them.

2. Be Involved. If your child enjoys a particular app or game, have him/her explain it to you, show you how it works, and even scroll through or play together. If you are involved in his technology world, there will be fewer surprises. More importantly, if you are interested in his/her games or apps, then your child sees you as a partner and not a threat - so you will be more likely the person s/he turns to if something is amiss.

3. Constantly Revisit. Technology is changing more rapidly every day. Whatever rules or boundaries you have today will likely change within the next few years (or sooner). The technology itself will offer different features, as new programs, games, and apps become available every day, and each wants to be at the cutting-edge. Internet knowledge is becoming like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle: there's too much movement, so by the time you "fully" understand one game/app/program, it's already been modified and upgraded with new features, layout, or content. With this in mind, it behooves us to do our best to stay as current as possible and revisit our assumptions and rules accordingly.

4. Teach Internet Safety. Some parents want to shelter their children from online dangers by limiting their access, restricting their use, and otherwise creating a buffer from potential pitfalls. But as they grow, our children will be one step (or many!) ahead of us in terms of tech-savvy. So the best way to handle internet safety is to invite him/her to understand why you want to keep safe. Have not one discussion, but many. Using age-appropriate language, address your concerns about the internet and why it's important to be mindful of online personas, usernames and passwords, links, and settings. Give your child concrete examples of email spam, stolen identities, bullying, pornography, and any other internet concerns.

5. Discuss Permanence and Online Citizenship. Texting and commenting in writing is permanent. Unlike interactions many of us had growing up, which were mostly face-to-face, today's internet conversations and photos can be referred to, re-read or reviewed permanently. A questionable or inappropriate photo or comment is not forgotten and can be shared across lines: not only will your peers know what's happened, now your teachers, employers, and strangers around the world have access to your mishaps. Our children need to learn how to pause before pressing-go - consider how the photo or message may be interpreted by others, including people we respect. Our online persona should be carefully considered with each text or photo, as we never know who will read or see it down the pike.

6. Carve out "offline" times - and stick to them! It's important to de-tox from all cravings, and technology is no exception. Whether it's specific times in the mornings, evenings, weekends, or holidays, families should set aside a time to de-tech. This no-tech time is a perfect opportunity to check in with each other, engaging in everything from deep conversations to playful banter. It's extremely important that these non-tech times be shared by all family members, including parents, teens, and children. This fosters a sense of togetherness, and life slows down without the constant pings and beeps.

7. Stay active. There's no better way to keep technology-addiction at bay than engaging in other, off-line activity. Whether enjoying painting, dancing, poetry readings or cross-country skiing, a person is, by definition, not texting or gaming when participating in these and many other "real life" activities. Sign up your child or teen for any number of after-school or weekend activities, with special focus on team sports or other group activities that will help develop his/her social skills offline. Better yet, volunteer for worthy organizations, spending valuable time helping others. Choose activities together to sweeten the deal. Bottom line: get moving, get involved, and get active.