Tag Archives: Sesame Street

Single Moms, What Do You Want from Our Next President?

I was recently interviewed by Huff Post about the single mom perspective on the first presidential debate and specifically about Romney’s comment to discontinue funding for PBS: the home of Sesame Street. (You can read that article and my interview here: Mitt Romney’s Big Bird Problem: Kids Can’t Vote, but Moms Can.) I was driving down I-85 towards Chapel Hill, N.C.—on my way to see my mother whose mind is ravaged by Alzheimer’s Disease—when I got the call from Laura Bassett, a Huff Post political reporter. Even though I had decided to put work aside for the week I travelled home and focus on my mom—I had to take the interview. My mother, a former social worker and political activist, would have wanted me to. We have a clear opportunity to voice our needs right now. It’s very important, moms, even if you’re insanely busy or overwhelmed or just plain skeptical about the political process. Maybe you doubt whether either candidate can actually get past polarized gridlock and politicking to actually get things done on Capital Hill? If you believe that, you may also believe that it just doesn’t matter what either stand for. I’ve heard that argument. But I think that’s a cop out.

I understand doubts and skepticism. But voicing our needs right now can only be a good thing: as America is listening. Politicians are listening. Business leaders are listening.

For instance, I was thrilled when listening to the lighter speeches that both candidates gave during the Al Smith Foundation Dinner. (Here’s a great NYTimes article highlighting some of their best jabs.) It’s clear that Mitt Romney heard our thoughts and our disdain for the idea that he might want to cut funding for Sesame Street when he said: “The president’s remarks tonight,” he added, “are brought to you by the letter O and the number $16 trillion.”

Clearly, momsrising.org was successful in its campaign to galvanize women and moms across the country about this issue. I’m thrilled, because so many of us just won’t get off our nonpolitical couches. Just this week I reached out to single parent groups and to more than 100 women in my network who are single moms to give them an opportunity to chime in. What do you care about, I asked? In my poll to give them a voice, I asked if they cared more about pay equity; affordable healthcare; affordable tuition; affordable child care; the right to choose, etc. It’s not surprising that only a handful responded. Perhaps we are saturated with all the advertising and debates and this messy political process? Perhaps we are skeptical that anyone in the White House can make a difference in our families’ lives? I think the gist to such low enthusiasm—amongst moms anyway—is this feeling that your opinion doesn’t count or matter.

It does.

I hear many of you single moms when you vent to your online parenting groups about a variety of issues such as expensive medical bills for your children that your ex won’t contribute towards; or child care costs you can’t afford; or  tuition payments so crippling you are considering dropping out of college. I also hear from moms who don’t get any paid sick days and can’t take time off when their children are sick from school. Quality, affordable healthcare; equal pay on the job; affordable tuition—these are the important topics for single moms. (And, of course for most women and moms in America.)

Obama said it correctly during the debate this week, when referring to equal pay in the workplace: “These are not just women’s issues, these are family issues. These are economic issues.”

I know I’m not alone in these thoughts. Women across the country did respond. In North Carolina, a single mom was more concerned about quality schools; healthy lunches; keeping Planned Parenthood alive and avoiding war at all costs. In Arizona, a single mom cared most about security with our borders. In Northern California, another mom voiced concern about jobs; Planned Parenthood; and educational opportunities. Finally, another mom of three in Southern California said she cared deeply about affordable health care and student loans.

Again, what do you care about?

Please chime in and respond to my poll to keep the conversation going!

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Loving Counts

My prophetic little four-year-old said to me tonight: “Loving counts mommy.”

We had been hanging pictures up. I turned and looked at him. I actually blinked as I took in the simple notion, then replied: “Yes, it certainly does.”

What an incredible little man.

Sometimes it’s as simple as that. What counts in your life? Think about it.

What do you love most?

Your family? Your God? Your Work?

Does it show?

For me, love is essential. It is essential in every aspect of my life. My boys are everything to me. But I wonder if they always feel that from me. Saying that I love them is one thing. Showing them is quite another.

For a child, I wonder what defines love? It certainly has to be about more than saying ‘I Love You’ or buying cool toys. Kids always seem to cut right to the chase. They know who they can depend upon. They know who is kind. They respond to those who play with them, acknowledge them, listen to them, encourage them, take care of them, accept them.

I know that my two boys are the most appreciative when I’m present with them. They know when it’s time to turn off the computer or cell phone and just be with them.

Being present, however, is much harder than it sounds. The other day I had an insane tax deadline. I was up until 2 a.m. working, slept for three hours, and was back at it. At 7 a.m., as I was finishing my expense spreadsheet, my little guy comes into my room and starts to climb into bed. He ruffles my sheets and starts to crumple some papers and receipts. I yelled upstairs to my older son to take him up and put on Sesame Street. As he padded out of my room, I instantly felt remorse. If I had finished this project earlier, I wouldn’t have sent him away and just enjoyed some cuddle time.

Clearly, ‘loving’ requires a bit of organization and balance so that work doesn’t intrude on important quality time at home.

‘Being present’, according to mindfulness experts, also requires that you let go of anxieties and fears that distract you and pull you out of the moment. If you have deadlines looming, projects that need to be carried out, are going through a divorce or are facing health or personal challenges—it’s incredibly hard to clear worries from your mind and just listen to or play with your children, isn’t it? (For a great article about mindfulness, check out What Really Helps Make Mindfulness Work by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.)

I’m still finding my way and started meditating on a regular basis just this past year. I’ve done yoga for years and find that it helps me clear my mind. The physical exertion and mental focus on intentions and goals allows me to let go of issues and anxieties that may whirl in my mind. I find that afterwards my mental slate is clear and I’m much more focused and calm that evening with the boys. I’m still a work in progress, clearly.

While I’m still honing mindfulness techniques, I have learned that it’s incredibly hard NOT to live in the moment when spending time with a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease. I flew to North Carolina last week to visit my mother who is struggling in what seems to be the final phase of the disease. She didn’t know who I was. She can barely talk or walk. I think she just thought of me as a friendly face. I had to force myself to always smile, relax, and think about what she needed or what would reassure her when visiting. I knew after each visit that she wouldn’t remember I had been there the next day. But I reminded myself that in the moments that I held her hand, or showed her pictures, or just talked with her about various things, that it mattered. It counted. Those moments were hard for me, but they brought her a bit of happiness—even if fleeting. And she deserves that.

On the last day I spent with her—on the day that I likely said my goodbye—my mom was ‘playing’ bingo with other residents. The woman who ran the game would call out the letter and number combinations. My mother, who doesn’t recognize her numbers or letters anymore, would put a marker on any letter/number combination. She apparently still recognized that four in a row allowed her to win—so she just kept putting four in a row. B-6 might be called, but she’d put her acorn on C-12, right beside another marker. I knew not to correct her.

“Wow, mom, you won again!” I’d say with a laugh.

She’d just smile. One time she looked at me inquisitively and said slowly, “I. Like. You.”

That was a big accomplishment as she typically speaks with just one word.

I replied “Well, I Love you.”

She looked at me like I was a bit crazy, giving me a one-over glance.

Later in the day, I went through her sweaters and found one that still fit. As I was putting it on her, she quickly smiled. It was as if she had been shaken and her eyes got wide with acknowledgment. She leaned into me and said, “Love.” I put my forehead to hers and a moment later she said “You.”

As I settled into my seat on my first plane during my trek back to California, I thought that it may be a long time before I got the chance to see mom again. It’s hard to fly back with the two boys due to expense. I know if I was closer I could do more, visit more. It was such a gift to hear her say those words. And in that moment, I know she meant it. In that flash of recognition, she knew who I was. It might have only lasted a second for her—but for me, it counted.

Even when brief and fleeting, loving counts most of all.