Porn Has Changed My Marriage — For The Better

I was outside grilling shish-kababs with my husband while our kids were bouncing around like the jumping beans they are, when my phone buzzed with a text message from a good friend. “Call me. Jake and I are having serious issues.”

This friend is a bit of a dramatic, but still, I excused myself from the backyard cookout, dialed her number and waited for her to drop the bomb. While the line was ringing, all I could think was, what in the wide world did this sorry bastard do now? Am I going to have to open up the dusty can of good, old-fashioned whoop-ass on him? Dammit, I really liked him too. 

When she finally answered, her voice had just a touch of fury as she explained the events leading up to her and her husband’s argument. And when she finally gathered enough courage to spit it out, she told me, well, screamed at me, “I found porn in Jake’s browser history on his phone! Jake is watching porn!” She sounded as if the world had tipped off its freaking axis right then and there.

And I left the cookout — FRESH OFF THE GRILL SHISH-KABABS — for this?

For someone having no basis of being able to relate to her rational feelings, I did my best to somewhat comfort her distressed state. But at the same time, I gave her my honest opinion on the matter, and I can only imagine how she might’ve taken it to mean I was siding with her husband.

Because while I do understand how some women may feel betrayed by this, I just don’t feel this way. In this particular situation with my friend, she felt hurt because she was only three weeks postpartum, and she knew her body didn’t look like paid porn stars’ bodies usually do.

I know not all men are the same, but my husband is a very visual being. Meaning, he needs something to visually satisfy him in order for him to orgasm. Even when we are having sex together, it’s more pleasurable if it’s happening during the day or when the lights are on.

And when he has his sneaky moments of porn-gazing from time to time, he claims that’s because he cannot reach that happy moment by himself without watching something to help him do so.

Is he giving me excuses to justify his actions of watching porn? Maybe. But do I give a damn? Not at all.

In my experience, watching porn while in a relationship is not betrayal; it’s human nature. And to me, it’s not a slippery slope toward cheating. Why? Because my husband is not a cheater, nor am I. But yet, I still watch porn on the rare and horny occasion I need a visual pick-me-up.

I’m not going to lie and say that I’m itching to have sex every single time my husband wants to, and I won’t lie and say he has sex with me every single time that I get the urge. But our sex life is one of the healthiest things about our relationship. So why do I care if he tries some of nature’s Ambien in the bathroom before bed? To answer it bluntly, I don’t.

If I’m being honest, porn is what helped me come out of my shell in the bedroom. Growing up in a conservative church-going home like I did, I was taught to believe that premarital sex, masturbation, and watching porn were sinful.

So because of that, I had a really hard time opening up about what I wanted out of sex as an adult. And, to be fair, these issues didn’t just stem from sex with my husband — it was this way with every man before him as well. I wanted to ask for the things I desired in the bedroom, but I felt like a silly child on the verge of laughing for doing so.

But porn changed that for me.

I’m uncertain what happened to make my husband and me start watching porn together in the beginning. But when we did, I usually had the pick of the genre. And those porn searches became my subliminal way of telling him, “The sex is great, but smack my ass and toss me around a little, would ya?”

Since he’s taken heed to my sneaky clues, our sex life is not at all what it used to be… in a good way. Now, we are open and honest about what makes us comfortable and uncomfortable in the bedroom, and my subliminal messages aren’t needed.

I won’t solely attribute this change in the bedroom to the porn itself. After all, we both have grown quite a bit from the people we were when we first started dating (me, at a mere 19 years old). But I will say that watching porn together and being able to voice what I needed sexually, gave me a huge boost of courage. It was our “icebreaker,” if you will.

Looking back, I still can’t believe I was ever so shy around my husband during our most intimate moments. That seems so silly to me now. But if it weren’t for the boldness I felt when showing my husband what kind of porn I enjoyed, we might still be living a sexually unpleasing life together.

I won’t pretend this works for all couples, but it’s been just fine for us. It works because we’re transparent and continually open about it. If I wanted to search my husband’s browser history right now, I would find his porn searches undeleted if he’d been watching it recently… and I would not care, because there are no secrets.

I’m aware that porn can be a real addiction for some, and I’m not belittling the hold it has on certain relationships, but my husband and I aren’t addicted. It’s the release we go to individually when we don’t feel like putting forth the physical effort of having sex…. and that’s okay for us.

I know my husband. So for now, I don’t care if he watches porn in the bathroom on occasion.

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I Don’t Let My Tween Have Drop-Off Playdates

“We should totally get our girls together,” my daughter’s friend’s mom gushed as we stood side by side casually chatting at the skating rink. “What’s your cell?”

As I gave her my number, I knew the reality. I wasn’t going to drop my daughter off at their house.

I am “that” mom, the one who is generally labeled as overprotective. I need to “just let kids be kids.”

Though some mean the overprotective label as an insult, it doesn’t offend me. I’m proudly cautious when it comes to my kids.

When I was growing up, my mom did the same. I wasn’t allowed to attend a slumber party until I was in middle school and my mom was well-acquainted with the friend’s parents. I wasn’t dropped off at the mall or movie theater until I was in high school.

While some of my friends were allowed to meet up with their boyfriends in the sixth grade, my parents didn’t allow me to date until I was a sophomore in high school. And even then, there were strict rules. If they weren’t followed, my privileges were revoked.

Of course, in those moments, I was furious. Why were my parents so incredibly uncool? What was the big deal? Everyone else (in my dramatic mind) was allowed to have fun but me. I would slam my bedroom door, blare my Boys II Men album, and furiously write in my diary that my parents sucked.

What I realized is my parents’ strict rules regarding my social life was their way of being good parents to me. They weren’t being helicopters. Instead, they were waiting until I was mature enough to make good choices — including knowing when to ask for help to escape a bad situation — before putting me in environments where things had the potential to go wrong.

This started when I was quite young. When I was in third grade, I got my first slumber party invite to which my parents responded with a hard no. I was a sobbing mess. I imagined my friends watching the newly released Beauty and the Beast VHS while giggling and eating Pop Qwiz. Why couldn’t I be included? My parents allowed me to hang out with the group for a few hours before I was picked up at ten.

Later, my mom would explain to me that a lot of my friends had older siblings or moms whose boyfriends stayed over, and those people may or may not be safe. It was, in fact, better to be “safe than sorry.”

Now that I’m a mom, I can look back and see that my parents made the right decisions. I had friends whose parents allowed them to have too much independence too soon and thus, made terrible choices or had bad and undeserving things happen to them because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Recently, when my tween daughter asked to have a friend come over and hang out on a Friday night, I agreed, found the mom on social media, and sent her a message. She promptly replied that of course her daughter could come over. In my mind, the mom and I would sit at the kitchen bar and chat over a glass of wine while the girls played.

When the mom and daughter arrived, we introduced ourselves and exchanged pleasantries, and then the mom smiled and said she was off to dinner with her fiancé, and she’d be back in two hours to get her daughter. Then she was gone.

She never walked into my house beyond the welcome mat. She didn’t ask if we had guns and were they locked up? Did my daughter have older siblings? What types of things would the girls be doing? Would they be watching or listening to anything I needed her approval for?

I asked if her daughter had any allergies I should be aware of in case the girls wanted a snack. Beyond that, all we had were each other’s first names and cell numbers.

I was shocked. Not because my mind goes to drastics like serial killers on the latest Dateline special. Rather, she knew nearly nothing about us and left us to care for her child. I’m guessing the cell phone she left her daughter with provided all the relief she needed.

The girls played happily together until the mom returned. We chatted for a few minutes by the front door, and then the mom offered to have my daughter over to her house. “Let’s pick a date!” she encouraged.

In that moment, I didn’t know what to say. How would I share “there’s no way in hell I’m dropping my tween off with people I do not know” without offending her? Without insulting her for the very thing she just did?

I absolutely do worry for my kids’ safety. I worry that the friend’s four older, teenage siblings are going to listen to or watch things that aren’t appropriate for my daughter. I worry they’ll have their own friends over, and what if one of those friends tries to harm my child?

I worry about gun safety. I worry about drugs. I worry about sexual assault. Why? Because preventable incidents happen every day to children.

We live in the real world with real threats. And because I’m my daughter’s mom, my number one job is to ensure my child’s safety and well-being.

Our compromise is that I offer to meet up with another parent and child for a date in a public space like a park or the skating rink. I want to get to know the parents. If I get an OK vibe, I’d be up for meeting up at their house while the mom and I chat over coffee. But I’m definitely not going to drop my daughter off with nothing but an exchange of pleasantries, names, and phone numbers.

Trust takes time and experience. And I want my kids to learn that it’s perfectly OK to take their time getting to know someone and to listen to their instincts. I do not care how unpopular or uncool that is. I’d rather my children feel temporary anger toward me, just as I did with my own parents, than deal with the forever trauma of a horrific and preventable event.

I’m sure I won’t always make the right call. I’m certain that at times, I’m too protective. But I’m OK with making the occasional mistake of being too careful.

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PSA: Take More Candid Pics Of Your Spouse With The Kids

I was on Facebook the other day and the most adorable picture came up as a memory. It was from seven years ago, when I was attending graduate school in Minnesota. Mel and I took our daughter, Norah, to the fire station for a tour. It was part of her preschool class. They dressed her up in a fire jacket, with a fire hat, all of it several sizes too big. Then my wife snapped a picture of me next to her.

The funny thing is, back then, Mel was always taking pictures of me with the kids. And you know what happened? She’d show them to me, and tell me I looked like a cute dad. But then, I’d look at one of them, and decide I looked out of shape, or awkward, or my shirt wasn’t fitting right, and I’d ask her to delete that sucker. I’d ask her not to post it online, but usually ended up relenting.

But now, looking at that picture from the fire station, I can’t believe how young I look, and I can’t believe how cute my daughter was, and all I want to do while looking at that sucker is to hold that little girl again. I feel this warmth in my heart looking at it, and I must have looked at that picture a dozen times since it came up on Facebook, and smiled.

Just writing about it right now is making me smile.

But the sad part is, until recently, I didn’t take nearly as many pictures of my wife as she did of me. Then, periodically, she’d ask why we don’t have very many pictures of her with the kids that aren’t selfies, and instead of taking more pictures, I often end up keeping my mouth shut, when what I really should have been doing is taking pictures like a little ninja, hiding them away, and then showing them to her later so she could feel that same warmth I felt looking at that picture from the fire station.

I take a lot of pictures of Mel with the kids now. And I know, this all might seem silly, but what I’ve realized is that taking pictures of your partner with the kids is important. This whole parenting gig is passing us by pretty fast. Looking back to all those Facebook memories, I’m still struggling with the idea that I’ve been on Facebook long enough for it to have “memories” at all, let alone for it to say that a post was from 10 years ago.

Time’s flying by, and frankly, we all deserve pictures of ourselves with our children — even ones that aren’t selfies.

And listen, taking pictures isn’t hard. Just pull out your phone, catch her in the moment, reading books with the kids, or teaching them to bake cookies, or watching TV with a little one on their lap, or washing their hair in the evenings, and snap a picture. Be sneaky about it. Make them candid. Your wife deserves to have some memories too. She deserves to see her children look at their mother with admiration, or frustration, or compassion, or love. She deserves to see how motherhood looks from a different angle.

She deserves to look back and realize she wasn’t as out of shape as she thought, or wasn’t as mean as she remembers, or that the kids weren’t as frustrating and it might have seemed. She deserves to look back and smile and laugh and long for those little smiles and hands and feet.

And sure, she might not like the picture in the moment. She might not like the way she looked, or the way she was dressed, or the fact that she was wobbly pregnant. But take it anyway. If she asks you not to share it online, don’t. You don’t even have to show it to her in the moment. Wait until she’s forgotten. Wait until the kids have changed, and she has too. Then, when the time is right, show it to her and laugh, and talk about how much you admire her motherhood.

Taking pictures of your wife with the kids, it says a lot without saying anything. It tells your wife that you admire her hard work with the children. It shows her how much you appreciate her efforts, and that you think the way she looks is picture worthy. It shows that you want to take a little bit of her, in that moment, loving your children, and put it in your pocket to save for later.

It’s probably one of the easiest things you can do, and yet it’s also one of the most overlooked.

It will help her remember a moment she might not even know was significant, and it will help her to realize that you understood how beautiful motherhood is.

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Born Before 1989? You Might Need Another Dose Of Measles Vaccine

If you were born before 1989, you may want to call your doctor about getting one more dose of the measles vaccine

Amid what’s now officially the worst measles outbreak since the disease was declared eradicated back in 2000, healthcare professionals are warning adults born before 1989 that they might not be as protected against the disease as they think.

The CDC recommend the measles vaccine for every American over a year old. It’s administered in two doses with the first dose providing around 93 percent chance of immunity. The second dose ups it to 97. Trouble is, even as recently as the 1980s, only one dose was given. That means a whole lot of us (slowly raises hand) are probably in need of a second dose of the vaccine.

The concern over whether adults are as protected as possible against the disease come as the story of an Israeli woman who had been vaccinated got the measles and slipped into a coma, according to CNN. She was reportedly healthy before contracting the illness. “She’s been in a deep coma for 10 days, and we’re now just hoping for the best,” says Dr. Itamar Grotto, associate director general of Israel’s Ministry of Health.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University and an adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccines, says he knew an outbreak like this was imminent. “We have the reintroduction of a serious viral infection with a population that’s withholding the vaccine from their children, and now it’s spreading beyond that population,” he says.

Now that the number of confirmed measles cases is the highest it’s been in nearly two decades, the advice of doctors to consider getting another dose of measles vaccine is probably something we should listen to. After all, us parents are around our own children all the time — don’t we want to protect them along with the rest of the humans we come into contact with?

The current measles outbreak has caused the FDA to remind the public how safe and necessary the vaccine is. “We cannot state strongly enough – the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that vaccines are among the most effective and safest interventions to both prevent individual illness and protect public health,” wrote Dr. Peter Marks of the FDA. “Vaccinating against measles, mumps and rubella not only protects us and our children, it protects people who can’t be vaccinated, including children with compromised immune systems due to illness and its treatment, such as cancer.”

The thing is, measles isn’t some harmless childhood illness with no serious repercussions. According to the CDC, 1 out of every 1,000 children who gets measles will develop encephalitis, which can cause convulsions, loss of hearing, or even intellectual disabilities. Also, 1 or 2 U.S. children out of 1,000 infected will die from the disease. The rate globally is 1 or 2 out of 100 children.

With the stakes this high, it’s hard to understand why anyone would pass on vaccines if they’re in proper health to receive them. If you think you may be eligible and in need of a second dose of the measles vaccine contact your healthcare provider to have that discussion.

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How I Survived A Teething Baby And Got Serious About My Kids’ Dental Care

mom with baby and toddler

When I decided to have my kids close in age, I didn’t consider that I would have an infant and a toddler at the same time. I was blinded by the idea of them growing up as best friends, building forts, and keeping each other’s secrets, even when it meant they would both be in trouble as a result. I didn’t consider that they would both be in diapers at the same time, or worse, that they would be tandem-teething, one cutting their first tooth while the other worked on 2-year molars.

Image via Giphy

Where Is the Instruction Manual?

Motherhood is utter chaos on the best day, but I’m going to be honest, I was wildly unprepared for the mayhem that came with teething and teaching my kids appropriate dental hygiene. Did you know your kid will have 20 teeth by the time they turn 3? Or that you’re supposed to take them to the dentist by the time they’re a year old? ‘Cause I didn’t. I had no idea. Baby’s first tooth should really come with an instruction manual. There could be an entire section dedicated to keeping the sink and surrounding counter space toothpaste-free too. Why must children splatter-paint the entire bathroom with toothpaste? And how the heck do you get them to stop doing that?

Image via Giphy

But alas, no one told me any of this, so there I was, waist-deep in another chaotic day with a fussy, teething baby and a toddler who had no interest in things that didn’t involve screaming. Like any rational but completely desperate mother, I turned to my social media mommy group for advice. My post may have been a slightly incoherent rant about teething that ended with a desperate plea for help. (I hadn’t slept in like three days. I was a mess!)

I Got 99 Problems But Teething Ain’t One

To my absolute delight, the comments started rolling in. Apparently, I wasn’t the first mom to stumble into a tandem-teething nightmare. Mom after mom recommended Baby Orajel™ Non-Medicated Cooling Gels for both my baby and my toddler. It’s benzocaine-free and made for babies 3 months and older, so it was perfect for my teething 3-month-old and my toddler’s nightmarish 2-year molars. There was only one problem, I didn’t have any on hand, which meant we would have to go out…in public.

Image via Giphy

So, there I was, standing in the oral care aisle of my local Walmart, the baby crying in my arms while my toddler threw groceries over the side of the cart. With bloodshot eyes and a messy bun that looked more like an untidy bird’s nest, I was 2 minutes from joining the kids in a total meltdown, when a seasoned mom walked by and handed me the Baby Orajel™ Non-Medicated Cooling Gels I was looking for.

“Been there,” she said with a smile. “Just rub this on his gums.”

Suddenly the wind was back in my sails just knowing I wasn’t alone. I could totally do this!

Image via Giphy

The Queen of Dental Hygiene

I turned back to the wall of dental products and grabbed some Orajel Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Fluoride-Free Training Toothpaste. After all, if I was going to be the Queen of Dental Hygiene, I needed all the best stuff! I’d help my toddler learn proper brushing technique (even if he covered my entire bathroom in toothpaste) and get the baby started down the right path with Baby Orajel Tooth & Gum Cleanser. (Yeah, turns out you’re supposed to clean their gums. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME THIS?!)

I was ready. My dental care game was stronger than ever, and my kids were destined for a lifetime of happy smiles.

We made it back home with a much happier baby thanks to the cooling gel, a toddler who was totally pumped about his new Daniel Tiger training toothbrush, and me — an exhausted mother who looked like a pile of dirty laundry, but felt like a million bucks because Orajel just totally saved my day.

It takes a whole family of products to treat a whole family. Orajel Non-Medicated Cooling Gels are free of benzocaine and will soothe your baby’s teething gums day and night. For more resources on teething and learning to how brush, visit Orajel’s resource center.

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Why My Partner And I Make Sure We’re Affectionate In Front Of Our Kids

My wife was standing in the kitchen looking at something on her phone. I came up from behind, put my arms around her waist, and kissed her neck. She shivered slightly, then she turned around, and I did one of those dramatic dip kiss things you see in movies. She held onto my shoulders, laughed a little as we kissed. Then I pulled her back up, and winked, and then we kissed one more time.

It was then that I could feel someone watching us. To our right were our son (age 12) and our daughter (age 9) doing homework at the kitchen table. Norah smiled, like she often does in situations like this. When Mel and I show affection, she thinks it’s cute. But my son, well… he might as well have been looking at a gruesome car accident, his mouth open slightly, blue eyes ready to roll.

Mel and I have never had a formal discussion on why we are affectionate around our children, so I can’t speak for why she does it. But I’ll tell you why I do. My parents went through a pretty nasty divorce when I was nine. I don’t have a lot of memories of them together, and the ones I do have are mostly of them fighting. But I have this one memory of the two of them in the living room. My father was in tight Wrangler jeans and black socks. He wore a blue button up work shirt with his name below the right shoulder, his black hair parted to the side. My mother was in a green and flower print dress and also shoeless. They were standing back to back, and my father was running his left hand across their heads, trying to figure out who was taller. Mom was on her tippy toes so she could match my father’s height. He looked down, and caught her cheating. They both flipped around, and laughed, and then dad took her in his arms, and dipped her, dramatically, just like I did in the kitchen years later with Mel.

I was watching silently from the hallway, and I remember that I couldn’t stop smiling. I’m still smiling, right now, as I write about it. It was one of the most adorable things I’d ever seen, and I remember thinking that someday, I wanted a relationship like that. I’d never seen my father show his love for my mother in that way. And when I think back on that moment, I realize that it was this little glimpse of what a loving relationship ought to look like. It felt like this road map for affection.

It’s funny how a small moment like that can really change someone. My father died divorcing his fourth wife. My mother is on her third marriage, now. That memory is really the only one I have of seeing either of them show affection with each other, or any of the partners they were with later in life. And you know what? That’s sad. It feels like each one of their marriages were closer to roommates than loving, affectionate couples.

I don’t want to set that example for my children. I want them to go into a relationship expecting healthy playful affection. And it’s not only physical affection I want them to observe. I can’t remember my parents saying, “I love you.” I can’t remember them going out on dates, or my father bringing home flowers, or them going away for the weekend. I tell Mel I love her every day, and she says it back to me. We hold hands in front of the kids. I take my children with me to buy flowers for their mother, and I include them in the process. I talk to them about how important this sort of action is in a relationship.

My wife is a gardener. We moved into a new house about a year ago, and this spring I built Mel new garden beds. When I filled them with dirt, I dragged our son out to help. As we were shoveling, he asked me why we were doing all this when neither of us enjoyed gardening. I took a breath, looked down at him, and asked if he loved his mother.

He nodded.

“Good,” I said. “So do I.”

Then I gestured at the truck full of dirt, and the garden beds, and the shovels, all of it, and said, “This is what love looks like. We help the ones we love. That’s how it works.”

More than anything, I’m trying to give them the example that I didn’t have. I don’t want them to go into a relationship and not understand that love is a verb. Love must be shown through actions and words. I want them to expect affection from the person they love, and I want them to feel comfortable freely showing their affection because I know how important that is.

When my son watched Mel and me kiss in the kitchen, we didn’t explain ourselves. We didn’t tell him to get over it, or anything like that. Instead, I came around the right side of the table, and Mel came around from the left. We cried out, in unison, “Hug sandwich!”

Mel and I smashed him between us. Mel kissed his head, and he tried pushing us away, acting like he wasn’t enjoying all this affection coming from his doting parents. Then he went slack, and after a moment, he wrapped his arms around both of us.

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‘Snowplow Parents’ Are The New ‘Helicopter Parents’ — But Worse

Growing up with a hard-working single mom, I had to learn fast how to get things done on my own. My mom was there for me, but there wasn’t a ton of hand-holding. And although—as mom to two young girls—she was overprotective in her way, she wasn’t as much a helicopter mom as a fierce mama-bear.

When I watched the celebrity-studded college admissions scandal unfold last month, I thought back to my college application process. Thanks to my mom’s parents, who wanted to make sure their grandkids went to good, safe schools, we lived in a humble apartment in an affluent Long Island town during my high school years.

While the other kids were enrolled in every expensive extracurricular activity under the sun, and received college-exam tutoring for all subjects, none of those were options for us. I remember doing poorly on the math section of the SAT, and begging my mom for a tutor. She was able to pay for about two tutoring sessions for me, but it was a stretch.

When it came time to fill out college applications, I resented the fact that I essentially had to do it alone. I had no freaking clue what I was doing and made a ton of mistakes. However, things did work out well in the end. I worked my way through college, and feel proud of the choices I made, and the accolades I earned. I don’t know that I would have the strength or life-skills I do now if my mom had done it all for me back then.

Now a mother of two boys, one of whom is in middle school and will be a high schooler before I know it, I think often about how much hand-holding I want to give my kids as they move closer to their “adulting” years. In many ways, I “baby” them more than my own mom did. Maybe it’s the fact that I want to make my kids’ lives a little easier than mine was. But perhaps it’s a generational thing—after all, our generation is the ultimate example of helicopter parents, aren’t we?

However, as I make my way through the pre-teen and teen years with my kids, I’m realizing that I have a whole lot more to contend with than I previously thought. The shocking thing these days is that it’s not so much a matter of how much hand-holding or helicoptering we each feel comfortable doing. Now we have to contend with a much more aggressive and all-encompassing parenting style than our parents did, or even than other parents did just a decade or so ago.

Enter “snowplow” parenting. Snowplow parents are willing to do everything in their power to remove every single obstacle in their kids’ ways, no matter what it takes. The New York Times describes snowplow parents as parents who are just like their namesake: “machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success, so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities.”

Celebrities like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are basically the epitome of snowplow parents. And although bribing your way into college, or paying someone to take an exam for your kids are extreme examples of snowplow parents—and realities that can only be attained by affluent parents willing to break the law—the principle can hold true even if you don’t meet those requirements.

According to a recent poll by The New York Times and Morning Consult, snowplow parenting is rampant, and not just among parents of high schoolers, either. Ready to be totally shocked?

The poll found that among parents of young adults, aged 18-28, about 75% had made doctor or haircut appointments for their kids, or reminded them of upcoming school deadlines. 16% had texted or called their kids to wake them so they wouldn’t miss a college exam. 8% had contacted their kids’ college professor to fix a grade or other problem.

And get this: 11% of parents said they would not hesitate to contact their kids’ employer if there was an issue. I mean, wow. It has never ever occurred to me to ask my parents to help me deal with my freaking boss. Just…wow.

I am not sure what to make of all this, or where this puts my generation of parents. It’s hard to even get your head around the snowplow brand of parenting. I can understand wanting your child to succeed and wanting them not to experience too much turmoil or heartache. But my goodness, learning to deal with mistakes or failure is an important part of life–not to mention the fact that teaching basic life-skills to our kids, like waking up for class on time and making doctor appointments, should be a no-brainer.

If anything else, it helps me put my own parenting decisions into perspective. Yes, I’ll likely help my kids out a little more with their college applications than my own mom did, but honestly, that’s in large part because I have a committed partner to pick up the slack around here. And maybe I will hire a tutor for my kids at some point, but only if we can afford it, and if it seems like something my kids would benefit from.

I think the truth is that most of us aren’t as extreme as these snowplow parents we keep hearing about in the media. We are just parents trying to make the best choices for our kids—trying to give them proper scaffolding, while also figuring out how much they need to be challenged, how much we need to step back and let go.

And I think maybe, for most of us, we just need to step back, trust our instincts, and have faith that it will all work out right in the end.

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Before You Reconnect With An Estranged Family Member, Consider This

When I was a little girl, my family and I took a lot of vacations to visit my grandparents. I always looked forward to it — we’d hop in the car, go to Friendly’s for breakfast, play games, and in 8 hours, we’d be there.

I loved the smell of their house. My grandmother always had great food we didn’t get at home; she’d make popcorn on rainy days, and let us slide on our butts down her carpeted spiral staircase.

She’d take me and my sisters out to lunch and buy us an outfit at stores my parents couldn’t afford. I loved spending time with her. I loved seeing all my aunts and uncles and cousins because they all lived near her and she’d plan a few gatherings during our week-long stay.

I had a deep, dark secret though. My grandfather was molesting me and I didn’t tell anyone until I was 16. One, because I was petrified, ashamed, and scared. He told me not to tell anyone and he’d give me money.

But the part I’ve struggled with the most has been the fact that I’d held onto the secret for so long because I was afraid the family trips, the fun, the connections, the special memories of going shopping with my grandmother would end. So I kept my mouth shut for as long as I could.

As soon as I told my mom about it when I was 16, though, what I feared would happen did — they all thought I was a liar and wanted nothing to do with me. Even my own mother struggled between protecting her daughter and siding with her father.

I didn’t see or talk to anyone on my mother’s side of the family for 25 years and it deeply strained my relationship with my mom. It left a big void in my life and when I’d hear people talk about going to visit their grandparents, I felt a flutter in my chest and a kind of nostalgia that hurt.

When I had children, they had a great-grandmother who was still alive (my grandfather died when before my daughter was born) and lots of great aunts, uncles, and cousins I never told them about. It felt like my deep, dark secret was never going to end. But one day, when I was 36, something came over me and I wanted to let go of it.

One of my aunts came to visit my mother and they asked if they could come over see us too. As we sat on my front porch, the three of us deep in conversation, a humming bird came by and buzzed over my shoulders, then my aunt’s shoulders, then my mother’s. I felt like it was a sign and I went with it.

The next thing I knew, we were talking about a family reunion and together we decided the best thing to do would be to have my grandmother visit me and my children first and the following summer, we’d have a big family reunion. All would be forgiven and everything would be right in the world. At least, that was the hope.

I really wanted that to be the case. I tried, but reconnecting with family members after a few decades is trying, stressful, and can bring up a lot of painful memories, at best. It can be downright traumatic, at worst.

If you are debating whether to reunite with an estranged family member — or have recently and you are struggling because you thought you were ready but are wondering if you made the right decision — Leah Samler, a faculty member at Pepperdine University online clinical psychology master’s program has some advice. She reminds us, “When making the choice to mend ties, it’s important to consider the seriousness of the matter and the reasons for the conflict.”

Susan Finley, another faculty member with OnlinePsychology@Pepperdine, has a good rule of thumb to follow when deciding if you are going to reconnect with a family member or not: If it’s not completely your decision to reconnect with someone from your past, “then table that decision.” Finley also adds, “reconnections are best when there’s a genuine motivation to heal and reconcile.”

It’s important if you are going to take the steps to invite a family member from your past back into your life that you feel safe. Some tips to consider before meeting up with an estranged family member are:

1. Think about having a mediator present.

2. Be prepared to be rejected.

3. Ask for help if you need it.

4. Never show up unannounced; connecting with an estranged family member should be a planned meeting you are both comfortable with.

5. Make sure you have done the appropriate work on healing yourself first.

Also remember just because you have agreed to reconcile, that doesn’t mean you are bound to this person. It is still okay if you decide you’ve made a mistake and you aren’t ready yet, or seeing them again has cemented your decision that you are better off if they aren’t in your life.

Finley reminds us, “It’s okay to cut ties, and it doesn’t make you a bad person.”

Only you know what is mentally healthy and can make you feel like your best self. A person, even if they are related to you, doesn’t belong in your life if you don’t want them there and it’s important to listen to that voice.

Finley adds, forgiveness may look different to everyone. “Not having resentment surrounding it, and not keeping score” is really important if you want to move forward.

I decided after seeing my grandmother again it was too much for me. I had to believe in my feelings enough to walk away again. She didn’t believe me — she hadn’t come to me wanting to heal and move on. She wanted to reconcile under the assumption I would change my story and make it right for her, and that wasn’t something I could do.

Not then. Not now. Not ever.

And after trying to reconnect, I can know that I am truly healed. Because I didn’t — and don’t — need that in my life any longer.

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This is The Worst Measles Outbreak Since It Was Declared Eliminated In 2000

There have been 681 measles cases across 22 states this year, making 2019 the worst year for measles in decades

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 71 new measles cases in the last week, bringing the 2019 tally to 626 cases in 22 states. CNN reports the slightly higher number of 681 that includes cases reported after April 19, bringing the number of cases to an all-time high since the United States declared the disease eradicated nineteen years ago.

And it’s only the middle of April.

Who are we to blame? According to the experts, people who aren’t vaccinated, and people who aren’t vaccinating their kids.

“I do believe that parents’ concerns about vaccines leads to under-vaccination, and most of the cases that we’re seeing are in unvaccinated communities,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC.

A rundown of the states that have reported confirmed measles cases includes Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

The report doesn’t include cases that haven’t been confirmed with a health professional.

The outbreaks have become so concerning that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took an odd step to remind the public that the MMR vaccine has been shown to be safe in literally hundreds of studies – and that it’s the best way to protect against measles.

“We cannot state strongly enough – the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that vaccines are among the most effective and safest interventions to both prevent individual illness and protect public health,” wrote Dr. Peter Marks of the FDA. “Vaccinating against measles, mumps and rubella not only protects us and our children, it protects people who can’t be vaccinated, including children with compromised immune systems due to illness and its treatment, such as cancer.

He continued:

“We do not take lightly our responsibility to ensure the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, and work diligently to assess safety and effectiveness of all licensed vaccines for their intended uses.”

The United States has a relatively high MMR vaccine percentage. According to the CDC, a little over 91 percent of kids were vaccinated in 2017. But, herd immunity (in which entire populations are protected from outbreaks) is only achieved at about 95 percent immunity – and vaccine numbers have been dropping in recent years due to the ill-informed anti-vaxx movement. On top of that, while overall rates of immunization are high, there are growing pockets of non-vaccinated children, especially in religious communities or communities where anti-vaccine rumors have spread. These pockets are where outbreaks are occurring.

The measles is of great concern both because it is extremely contagious and because it can have serious long-term health consequences. While the mortality rate is somewhat low with proper medical intervention, it can cause hearing loss and brain damage in some children, as well as long-term immune system issues. Babies, many of whom are not yet vaccinated because of their age, are more susceptible for serious ramifications, including death. All in all, one to two of every 1,000 people who contracts the measles dies, and about 25 percent of patients require hospitalization.

Common symptoms of the measles include a fever, a runny nose, a cough and of course the signature rash spreads across the entire body. If you believe you or a family member might have contracted the measles, seek medical help immediately – and call ahead to your doctor’s office or hospital so they can be ready for you.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “vaccine hesitancy” is one of the top 10 threats to global health – and social media websites and online echo chambers are making the problem worse as they spread fake news, shoddy science, and anecdotes.

Perhaps the craziest part about this outbreak is that it is very, very easy to fix: if everyone who is healthy enough to get vaccinated got vaccinated, measles could (once again) be eradicated extremely quickly.

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This Mom Asks Guests To Pay A Cover Charge For Her Kid’s Birthday Every Year

A friend of the mom is asking for advice after being charged a cover fee for a kid’s birthday party

Tired of being charged a cover fee for her child to attend a friend’s birthday party every year, one mom wrote to the Boston Globe‘s “Miss Conduct” column for advice. Apparently, her mom friend is asking each parent for $20 to “cover the cost” of each child’s attendance to her child’s birthday party. Which… no. You just don’t do that.

The mom says her close friend, The Cover Charge Mom in question, is a “lovely and kind” person. But that every year for her kid’s birthday party, she charges people to attend. “If it is at a venue, the e-mail will say something along the lines of ‘please bring $20 to cover the cost of your child.’ If it is at her home, there will be an envelope or basket asking for ‘donations.'”

This Mom Asks Guests To Pay A Cover Charge For Her Kid's Birthday Every Year

The advice-seeker notes that the family doesn’t struggle financially and that people talk about the mom behind her back for making people pay to attend a kid’s party. Much like the mom who made all of the unsuspecting children attending her child’s Build-A-Bear party hand over their bears to her child, this mom could use a little reality check.

The advice columnist, Robin Abrahams (the Miss Conduct herself) is all for confronting the mom in question. “Don’t tell her people are talking behind her back or say ‘we all feel that way’ — that kind of thing only makes people paranoid,” she writes back. “But yes, speak up before her poor daughter has to, since sooner or later the girl will realize what her mother is up to and be humiliated.”

This Mom Asks Guests To Pay A Cover Charge For Her Kid's Birthday Every Year

A very solid point. Money can be such an awkward topic of conversation for some people, so it’s understandable that the writer would want to confront her friend gently. But let’s get real here, when you host a party — whether it’s at a venue or your home — you and you alone are responsible for everything that goes into planning and paying for it. If you don’t want to pay for food and entertainment, don’t have a party. Or throw a smaller, budget-friendly, immediate-family-only party, perhaps.

This Mom Asks Guests To Pay A Cover Charge For Her Kid's Birthday Every Year

And please, for the love of Beyoncé, this mom needs to think of her daughter. If parents are talking about the cover charge, the kids who are invited are likely hearing it. Which means the birthday girl herself will eventually hear it — if not now, then certainly when she’s older. My dad was a notorious cheapskate and while I love him dearly, there are absolutely memories floating around my subconscious directly related to his tight fist that make me cringe when they break through the surface.

Abrahams advises keeping all opinions of personal finances out of the conversation — it’s true none of us really ever know how our friends and family are doing financially. Though charging kids admission for cake, ice cream, and an hour of watching another kid open presents isn’t a solution to money worries — that much should be clear.

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