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Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He is the author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
There’s an app for that.
You’ve heard it time and time again, both as a serious suggestion and as a punch line. Want to track your daily caloric intake? There’s an app for that. Want to get locations and ratings on all Italian restaurants within a 20-mile radius? There’s an app for that. Want a constant distraction from your daily life that will serve as both a healthy mind-stimulator and immeasurable impedance on your parenthood and overall productivity? Unfortunately, there are several apps for that. Most are free, but can be quite costly in other ways.
For me, that app is ultra-popular, Scrabble-inspired Words with Friends. Now, before I go any further, I have to be clear that I’m not criticizing or trying to discourage use of this addictive app. I happen to love the game. In fact, I’m obsessed with it to an unhealthy degree. And that obsession got to be too much one particular day while reading a book to my son. Rather, trying to read a book to my son. At the time, I had 21 active games going, and frankly that number would’ve been higher had the app allowed it. And as it turned out, my kids’ bedtime always seemed to correspond with when my opponents were at their most prolific. Naturally. So, I was right in the middle of Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons book when I looked over at my iPhone to check if any plays had been made in the past 45 seconds. Antonio, my son, frustratingly asked, “Daddy, do you ever put your phone away?”
I did put my phone away. That very moment, in fact. I was completely surprised by the question. More importantly, though, I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself. My son had playfully tried to grab my iPhone out of my hand in the past while I was playing my turn in WWF, but this was the first time he’d verbally expressed disappointment. And it was clear. He thought I cared more about playing some game on my phone than reading to him. That night, after the kids were asleep, I resigned from all my current games and deleted the Words with Friends app from my phone. Considering how addicted I was to it, I even surprised myself at how I was able to do it without the slightest bit of hesitation. But considering how it was starting to make my kid feel, the decision to eliminate it from my life wasn’t difficult in the least.
I won’t lie. I miss playing. Like any part of a daily routine, it had become ingrained in my psyche to the point where any idle moment (and sometimes, not-so-idle moment) was devoted to punishing my opponent with a Triple-Word score. I know there are plenty of people out there who are perfectly capable of striking a healthy balance between their responsibilities and hobbies. But when a hobby becomes so consuming that it’s affecting how your boss, spouse, friends, or especially your children view you, it’s time to walk away. For me, the time had clearly come.
It would be foolish for me to believe that I’m completely in the clear when it comes to distractions. In this day and age, if it isn’t Facebook, it’s Twitter. And if it isn’t Twitter, it’s Instagram. And if it isn’t Instagram, it’s some other social app that’s as attractive to a wandering mind as a fire hydrant to a urinating dog. As parents, our minds need relief more than anybody. But I’ve learned that seeking such relief while your children are awake and in your care is as selfish as it is dangerous.
So, if you have a similar distraction that’s taking you away from something far more important, know that there’s somebody, maybe even one of your children, that have noticed it. And no matter how tempting a Triple-Word score is, no point total is worth ignoring, even for a moment, that very important somebody.
Do you have a habit you’re looking to break? Know someone who does? Let me know about it by leaving a comment below! Or tweet me with the hashtag #appaddict!
And if you are looking for fun activities to do with your kids, check out our free Activity Finder.
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
From the moment we’re conceived, we’re instantly identified and divided according to our gender. If the sonogram shows a penis, blue blankets are dutifully draped upon rocking chairs, the quickest route to the local Boys & Girls Club researched and mentally stored for later. If the sonogram lacks a penis, baby shower attendees will come equipped with (and ready to unleash at a moment’s notice) any shade of pink that exists as of this typing. These two paths are typically followed like GPS directions when you’re in the bad part of town: You don’t dare try to “do it your own way” for fear of serious repercussions.
And we’re all guilty of “genderizing” someone, as I like to call it. I’ve certainly done it. In fact, my wife and I just picked up a flowery dress and a doll for my soon-to-be 2-year-old niece’s birthday party. I mean, it would be rude if I showed up with a Matchbox car and a whiffle ball bat, right? That’s most definitely how I’d feel walking into the party. And I’m not saying giving a girl a doll or a boy a toy car is a bad thing. But where I do have a problem is when it goes beyond gift-giving and becomes a close-minded, limiting philosophy about what our children should be exposed to and where their interests should or shouldn’t lie.
While I see myself as far from the perfect parent, this is one area where I feel like I’m doing the right thing- giving my kids the freedom to explore their surroundings and establish their “favorite things” independent of my input and potentially misleading influence. After all, who am I to impede their happiness?
Well, regardless of the child’s contentment, I’ve known an embarrassing amount of people who force their preconceived theories on their kids quite liberally.
“Put down that doll. It’s for girls.”
“Isabella, you can’t be Batman for Halloween. Only boys can be Batman.”
It happens everywhere, and you’ve seen it happen, too. I think we’re far too quick to label a toy as “for girls” or “for boys” when, in reality, there is very little actual difference between the two. And really, when I think of the toys I “borrowed” from my sister growing up, many of them would raise an eyebrow with the traditionalists out there (not to mention my undying affinity for The Golden Girls). Let’s go through them, one by one, so maybe we can determine what’s so “girly” about them.
Barbies: Growing up with one sibling, a sister, getting intimately acquainted with Barbie was inevitable. And like any kid (girl or not), I thoroughly enjoyed playing make believe. And in fact, Barbie was where I first realized my fascination with taking women’s clothes off! Not much “girly” about that.
Kitchen: Some of the most famous chefs in the world are men! And I’m sure they started by making their moms fake blueberry pies in their fake oven.
Baby Stroller: For whatever reason, pushing a stroller is always seen as a feminine act. But any father will tell you that we spend just as much time behind a stroller than behind a grill.
Dolls: Perhaps the most traditionally girly toy of all. And you’ll almost never see a boy given this as a gift. But I’ve got news for all you traditionalists out there. Boys play with dolls all the time. We might call them “action figures,” but they’re dolls. They are toys designed to appear like a living thing, allowing children to create fictional scenarios and fantasize about them being real. They’re dolls. Even if they’re wearing a helmet and carrying a gun.
The color pink or purple: I’m not necessarily suggesting that you adorn your sons in hot pink Juicy sweatpants, but my 4-year-old came home from camp the other day and grumbled that another kid told him “purple is for girls.” It should be noted that purple is Antonio’s favorite color and has been at least since he’s been able to speak. I was infinitely proud when he followed that up with, “But it doesn’t matter.” He’d heard that phrase from my wife. And that’s exactly the kind of thinking I want to instill in my sons. I firmly believe that allowing children to be themselves instead of forcing them to be like everyone else yields a happy kid who won’t resent his/her parents for stifling their creativity.
This leads me to a post I recently came across on the NFL Facebook page. It was a photo of a woman, donned in standard referee stripes, with two simple words: Coming Soon? It was about Sarah Thomas, who is in line to become the NFL’s first ever full-time female referee this season. I’m a massive NFL fan, but I knew immediately that the comment thread would include a significant dose of close-mindedness (read: barely literate ignoramuses). However, even I was surprised by what I saw.
Since I was seeing exponentially more of the top two comments than of the bottom two, I decided to chime in and have my voice be heard.
Turns out I wasn’t alone. As of this screen-grab, 465 other NFL fans agreed. But some…did not.
What I’ve highlighted above is exactly the type of ignorance I never want my sons to exhibit. And yes, my “brilliant observation” comment was strictly sarcastic. Not that its recipient was aware of that.
Clearly, not every football fan is prepared for female involvement in their male-dominated game of choice. But maybe, just maybe, they’d be a little bit more prepared if they were raised to retain the open-mindedness they were born with, encouraged and not discouraged to try new things, and instilled within them respect for the opposite sex.
If you disagree, I’m sorry to hear that. But as a parent, I feel that it’s my responsibility to enable my kids’ happiness, not restrict it.
Thoughts? Rebuttals? Enter them by adding a comment below!
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Joe DeProspero
Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
When Fia was born, the internet saved me. Now, it’s killing me. Lately I have been writing about how I decided to unplug and what I discovered in unplugging. In short, my mind isn’t constantly racing and I feel more in-the-moment with my babies.
It was a different story with Fia. The web was my connection to the world. I would spend hours giving and getting advice from moms. I’d scour blogs and read everything from sleep training to reflux. I’d write about my own mental health. I’ve often said it wasn’t my husband or my therapist who pulled me through those early months. It was other moms. Many of whom I never met in person.
So it’s no surprise a recent study says that new moms who are in the blogosphere feel more connected, less alone, less stressed, even less depressed.
“That potentially is going to spill out into other aspects of their well being, including their marital relationship with their partner, the ways that they’re feeling about their parenting stress, and eventually into their levels of depression,” says Brandon T. McDaniel, graduate student in human development and family studies, Penn State.
He and his colleagues at Brigham Young University surveyed 157 new mothers who had babies under 18 months. They asked about their use of media, both in terms of blogging and social media like Facebook. The social media aspect didn’t have much impact. But writing and reading blogs did. I think therein lies the difference.
When you are texting and checking your phone all day for emails, your mind spins. You feel less-connected to just about everything. It becomes an addiction. When you’re blogging or reading blogs you feel more a part of something. I’m not tooting my own horn here. For me, the phone is my addiction, the blog is my salvation.
I think the author of the study explained it well. He pointed out several potential benefits for new mothers who blog:
- It gives moms a way to connect with family and friends who live far away.
- It gives moms a creative outlet. They can showcase their hobbies and accomplishments, especially the stay-at-home moms.
Both of these make sense to me. We moms often struggle with feeling under-appreciated. I know my blog gives me a sense of self that I may have lost otherwise.
In the study, the moms reported spending about three hours per day on the computer and using the Internet. That was only behind sleep at seven hours a day and caring for their babies at nine hours a day.
I think about the generations of moms before us. On the one hand, their lives seemed simpler. They weren’t checking iphones and texting all the time. What did they do with those extra three hours? I often wonder if they were more focused and present? Or if they were more stressed and depressed? We know by Betty Friedan’s, The Feminine Mystique
that many were questioning their purpose in life. Housewives were admitting their unhappiness and realizing motherhood wasn’t always enough. It still isn’t for many of us. In that regard, I think we are lucky to have all the technology at our fingertips. We can connect and feel connected. For many stay at home moms, blogging has even turned into a career.
How you manage it is the key.
There’s a fine line between fulfilling your life and dominating your life; between oversharenting
and not sharing enough. Should you be writing about your kids or spending time with them? I guess it comes down to finding your own personal balance. I know I’ve been working hard to find mine.
As for why social media like Facebook
did little for the moms? Here’s what I think: Social media, for all its good, is a time-suck
. I know it doesn’t leave me feeling content. Blogging, on the other hand, is writing. When I get to sit down and use my creative energy to put something organic out there, I feel purposeful and accomplished. Plus, if it helps others, I actually feel useful. Writing inspires me. It keeps my brain functioning in a way that diapers and breast pumps don’t.
But how do you embrace social media, disconnect from the internet/Blackberry, blog about motherhood, and not feel hypocritical?
I have said before that I’m going for quality over quantity. Set limits for your online time/your kid time/your wife time and stick to them. Put the phone away after a certain time of day. It takes discipline, but I think in this day and age, it’s the only way we can straddle all our worlds without losing sight of the most important one: our kids.
Image: Blog Pic via Shutterstock
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
Monday, June 18th, 2012
Today I am partially unplugging for the week. My goal? To become more mindful and present. Here’s why:
My friend Teresa came over yesterday. She is pregnant and a vegetarian. I was ordering pizza. I needed a crucial answer. I texted her: can u pick the meat off or do I get veggie pizza? What kind of veggies?
She didn’t text back. I got a little indignant. I went ahead and ordered (one plain, one pepperoni). When she arrived I asked if she had seen my text. She said something that I’ve been floating through my increasingly scattered brain for a few days.
“I try and only check my phone every 2 hours. Especially when I’m with my son. It makes me feel like I’m not a good mom when I start responding and not focusing on him. I find that the more I check my phone, the more depressed I am at the end of the day because my mood is constantly shifting based on what comes in.”
What she said = gold in my book. And my brain. I kid you not: last week I had a headache for 3 days. I could tell it was from tension. Nothing made it go away. I honestly think it’s because I’m so scattered with a lack of schedule (read: Frustrated. Need to Vent) and feel pulled in a million directions that no amount of aspirin or Motrin will help. What will help is changing my behavior. Drastically.
Granted I wrote last week about the beauty of social media. How I’m now a believer in it. But, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t put limits on all this stuff.
On any given day, here is how my crazy goes:
Fia and I are playing. I check my phone. She frolics, I text or email someone back. Then I run into the kitchen. Open freezer. Remember someone else I was going to email about something. Write them. Freezer is still open. I pull out chicken to thaw. Fia shouts, “Mama, what are you doing?” I open a cabinet. ”I’m coming baby.” I pull out a glass and fill it with water. I check the phone. Oops–respond to an email. Cabinet still open. I almost walk into it (two years ago I did and broke my nose. No sh-t). Glance out window. She isn’t maimed. I shoot a quick text to another friend. Reply to the email. Fia asks for me again. I walk outside with my phone. Oops. Forgot water. Back inside. And on and on.
No wonder I don’t feel “present.” No wonder I have self doubt about my mom abilities. Or frankly any of my abilities. It’s a CONSTANT yo-yo of emotions. Even as creatures of adaptation, our brains aren’t made for that.
My mom in her crass wisdom used the quote, “If you have one foot in tomorrow and one foot in yesterday, then you’re pissing on today.” I’m going to say that when I have one foot on my computer and one foot on my kids, I’m pissing on the present. I can’t straddle the worlds anymore. It’s a lose-lose situation, and one that apparently has consequences. A recent article in the New York Times says there is a thing called Facebook Depression. And that constant texting and emailing can cause mental illness. These include OCD behavior (me) and narcissism (probably me).
As my friend Teresa said, “Bottom line: this sh-t isn’t good for us.”
I find in moments when I am down on my knees, sans blackberry, playing with Fia, helping her poop, whatever, there is never stillness. Instead of absorbing everything about her and our moments (yes, even if it’s in a disgusting public bathroom), my mind spins. Crazy sentences begin. I literally have conversations with people, thinking about what I will text or email them–which then turns into an entirely different conversation that can range from my purpose in life to my next grocery trip. I am so tired of hearing myself.
TIME. TO. STOP. THE. F–KING. CHATTER.
Here’s what I’m doing: I am going to overhaul my life and really examine how I can schedule my week in a more seamless and sane fashion. Following Teresa’s lead, I will allot myself time to check my phone and time to put it away. I will schedule chunks of time for my kids without the phone even in reach. I think this will reduce my mom guilt too. I’m going for quality over quantity.
Like I said, I’m giving this a week. Anyone else want to join me in this venture? I’ll report back on June 25th. If you want to do this too, post comments on this blog and I can share them in the follow-up post. And not to worry; I’ll read your comments during my allotted “work time.”
Lastly, if anyone has any suggestions on how to manage time and technology better, please share!
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blackberry, depression, facebook, facebook depression, ibook, ipad, iphone, mental illness, milestone monday, narcissism, neurosis, neurotic, OCD, oversharenting, social media, tech, technology, twitter | Categories:
Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
I now believe in twitter. And the power of social media. Doesn’t mean I like doing it. But I do think there is something to it.
Case in point: a few weeks ago, my editors at Parents sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal on Oversharenting. They asked if I wanted to blog about it. I did. I tweeted it out with a slew of other stuff. From that tweet, I began a “twitter conversation” (is that what you call it?) with a producer at KCBS. Next thing I know, he was asking if they could interview me for a story on Oversharenting. (click here to view.)
I connected with another woman on twitter by posting about Emmett’s reflux. She happens to be a nurse who works in pediatrics. She gave me some amazing information and now we email advice and updates.
I wrote a post about my angst over the alleged allegations of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. I went to Penn State and grew up in State College, so the story really hit home. (His trial is going on right now.) That landed me a segment on Fox LA.
I still don’t have that many followers, but it’s growing. I have a woman helping me navigate the waters and she’s great. She isn’t putting pressure on me, but what she does is point out articles I’m interested in. I’m a huge fan of Nicholas Kristof’s columns in the New York Times. He takes on the bravest of topics, often writing about the impoverished women and children of the world. She helps flag some for me to retweet to my small flock. You hope over time, you start to make a difference.
This all sounds like a big, gross blog on self-promotion. But it’s not. It really comes down to my resistance of trying something new. Then, getting over that resistance, embracing it with baby steps, and seeing first hand results.
Does it mean I get a better spot in the universe? No. Do more followers mean I’m more important? No. But if the point of my career is to write, it’s nice to have readers, conversation and feedback. When Parents posts my blogs on their Facebook page, I get to see real-time responses. Two years ago I didn’t even have a Facebook page.
I am quickly realizing in the digital age, it takes a digital village. The key is how to manage it. There is definitely an art to this, and it does take time. I’m not ready to let it rule my life, but I have seen it work.
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facebook, Fox LA, Jerry Sandusky, KCBS, oversharent, oversharenting, penn state, twitter, Wall Street Journal | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips