When Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and notably, father of one, made the comments that “women don’t apply to be judges because they fear the job will take them away from their children”, and that “children need their mothers more than their fathers”, (according to the Toronto Star), with one fell swoop, he handed successful working women some more unnecessary guilt, and made Dads everywhere feel marginal, or even, optional, during the first few years of a child’s life. (I’m thinking maybe MacKay shouldn’t go after the Stay At Home Dad Vote in the next federal election.)
There are fewer women than men in every executive office and position of power; that fact is indisputable and statistically easily proven. But continuing to perpetuate the notion that a woman can’t be as successful, or shouldn’t be as ambitious simply because she has a child, versus her male counterpart, is ridiculous. Has MacKay heard of Sheryl Sandberg? Marissa Mayer? These aren’t the only two successful women in the world, although it seems like it sometimes, but they are the epitome of what women, not entirely defined by their motherhood, can succeed.
MacKay’s comments hit the news just as Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin’s “Darling You Can’t Do Both” book hit the shelves, which deconstructs the many “rules” women have to break to find success in the corporate world. Vonk and Kestin are legends in the Canadian advertising world, and their experiences with gender discrimination and sexism ring true to many, including me, having worked in corporate marketing departments through the 90’s. I had hoped that the next generation of women (women like Sandberg and Myer) wouldn’t have to suffer through the same misogynistic setting.
In the early 90’s, I was employed as a product manager at a bank, and as I crunched numbers in a monthly budget meeting, was called out to pick up my child from daycare, as she was running a fever of 102. When I returned to the office the next morning, my male manager pulled me in to his cubicle and asked me when he should be concerned that my family was more important to me than my job. Isn’t everyone’s family more important to them than their job? Was this a Mother Issue? Does it mean that as a woman we can’t have a family and be a judge, or a vice president, or a product manager?
I started looking for another position, at other organizations. I was being considered for a job at another bank, and the Senior Vice President asked me if I was married, and if I planned on having more children. I advised him that I didn’t have to answer that question (I had two children at the time). His response? “I know I’m not supposed to ask you that, but I assume you want the job. Do you realize that this a real job, not girls playing house?” I didn’t pursue that job, although I did make a stop at the Human Resources department on the way out. He’s still at that bank; he’s been promoted several times.
“It’s not fair”, said a manager in her sixties, sitting next to me at lunch one day. “Back in the 1960’s when I was your age I couldn’t have a family and keep a good job at the bank. They made us resign when we had children. I had to choose. I think you should have to choose too.” I think Peter MacKay would have liked her.
These situations happened over 20 years ago, but it pains me that still, today, men in positions of power, who can get media attention, not only make comments like Peter McKay did, but ultimately, that they themselves believe them. Regardless of the fact that perhaps mothers may have a more biological and emotional role to play in the formative first years of their child’s life (a fact many would dispute), it in no way indicates that they are not capable of doing whatever they want, and need, to do, to be successful and happy. And we all know when Mom’s happy, everyone’s happy, right?
The blanket statement that “women don’t apply” perpetuates the myth that all women, and by definition, are a homogenous group. They’re not. Not all women like to shop, spend hours on Pinterest, bake cupcakes or breastfeed. Just the same as not all men like sports, hardware, and excel in laundry avoidance. As Vonk and Kestin have so accurately written about, it’s time to start breaking some rules, further, it’s time to start making some rules about what we can, and can’t do.
Remember, it’s only work if you’d rather be somewhere else. For the ambitious and successful women who have a passion and talent for what they do, the jobs aren’t taking them away from their children; they’re taking them on a path of professional and personal fulfillment. Can’t we choose to do that without being judged or perhaps even choose to be a judge?
Kathy Buckworth’s latest book “I Am So The Boss Of You” is available at bookstores everywhere.
“Kathy, not everything is funny.”
I got this feedback from my boss during one of my last formal job performance reviews. My initial reaction was that I found that pretty funny. And so shortly after, I left corporate life and started writing about how really funny it was to try to juggle a full time job and a house full of kids.
I wrote for 20 minutes a day. This was mostly due to the fact that the impetus to leave my job was to start a maternity leave with my fourth child, coupled with the fact that my nanny had decided to take her own leave, of us (two events I’m not totally unconvinced were not connected).
And so I wrote. And wrote.
Flash forward 12 years, six books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles later, and as I was on my way to a writers’ workshop this week, I ran into that same boss at the airport.
“So how are things going?” she asked. “ With the writing, and all that.”
“Pretty good”, I said. (You can tell I’m a writer, I know.)
And as she headed off to her business conference, and I to mine, I realized that I should have taken the time to thank her. Because sometimes it’s these “moments of truth” that other people inadvertently hand us that take us from one place to another.
My old boss (okay she’s technically younger than me, but who isn’t) is still in the same industry, although she’s switched companies, and it suits her. She looked great, she was excited about her work, and it showed. It worked for her. What I’m doing works for me. Sometimes we get caught up in what we’re “supposed” to do and we forget all about what we want to do.
Is everything funny? I still wasn’t sure it was. Fortunately, and funnily enough, I was at the airport to head to Dayton to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. I had the opportunity to listen to the hugely successful writer, Lisa Scottoline, known for her female driven lawyer thrillers.
But she has recently turned to writing humour, collaborating with her daughter initially for a column called “Chick Wit”, which has turned into a series of books. Because, in her words, she felt something was missing when Erma passed away. That voice of family, and humour.
At the conference she revealed that her 94-year-old mother had been placed in hospice. At one point during her talk she actually stopped to check her voice messages before she could carry on. “Is this funny?” she asked? “Of course not. Will I find humour in it? Absolutely.” She went on to tell a story of her acquiring holy water to keep in the cupboard, for that final moment, only to have her brother almost drink it, mistaking it for gin.
So maybe my former boss was right. Not everything is funny, but finding the humour in even our toughest times is what makes us human. When you can’t find the humour, it might be time to move on.
The name of my last book? “I Am So The Boss Of You.”
Maybe she was right. “He who laughs…lasts.” Erma Bombeck.
Post Script: Lisa Scottoline’s mother passed away two days after her talk.
Read Kathy Buckworth’s Be The Boss column every month. Buy “I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business” at bookstores everywhere, or visit www.kathybuckworth.com!
Self-proclaimed “SuperNanny” Jo Frost has recently released a book, in which she explains how to keep toddlers from running and ruining the lives of parents, and basic instructional advice about how to avoid complete meltdowns in public. Theirs, not yours, apparently. She comes at the angle of disciplining children seemingly better and smarter than any parent. After all, what do parents know? Besides our own children since the day they were born?
I’ve always found her advice, while theoretically sound, is like getting advice from that crabby older lady in the grocery store who shakes her head at your squirming and yelling toddler. Advising on how to discipline children, when they aren’t your own, or when you don’t have children at all, is sort of like me giving my teen son a few pointers on how to dress cool. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never been a teen boy. Or dressed cool, for that matter.
Think about the substitute teacher that comes into a normally unruly classroom. Simply by not bringing any baggage to the situation, he or she is more easily able to establish new rules which the children are more likely to follow. And they’re just as likely to fall back into their own routines with their regular teacher once the sub has gone.
As parents, we have great huge piles of baggage with our children. Try as we might, we can’t tag it “unclaimed” and send it back. We were there from the beginning, and we inherently know that we will be there in the end…the end being hopefully when we pack them off to live their own lives. And so our discipline and our methods are somewhat tainted by the background knowledge of how many times they have previously struck their brother, the number and breadth of ways their sister has insulted them, and the uneasy feeling about the upcoming vacation where everyone will be expected to just get along.
We’re running, in essence, a family business (or of course, the business of being a family) and if you’ve worked in a corporation who has brought in an outside consultant to “fix” things, you know that while most of the advice and business plans that they present is fantastic in theory, (how can it not be when it involves so many super graphs and charts), the odds of effectively implementing these changes and making a real difference in the running of the business is slim to none.
Likewise, when a SuperNanny steps into an out of control household, her single biggest weapon in fighting against toddler meltdowns is that she is simply not the toddler’s parent. This is something, as parents, that we can never replicate, without being charged with child abandonment at the time of birth. What we can do, of course, is to make sure that our children know who is in charge, as I wrote about in my latest book, I Am So The Boss Of You.
Because there is no doubt that SuperNanny is in charge, and is deploying an effective, if not attainable, model of a perfectly run autocratic household. Her advice is really for other nannies, caregivers of children, or know-it-all-unrelated Grandmas in stores, not parents. Not that I wouldn’t hire her to be a Substitute Mom for me, every once in a while.
On a recent media trip to Panorama, BC, I had the opportunity to interview Kimberly Joines, who competes at the World Cup level on the Canadian Paralympic Ski Team, and who is heading to Sochi, Russia for the Paralympic Winter Games in March, following the Olympic Winter Games in February. Kimberly is a “Sit Skier”, meaning she skis down the hill (at record speed, naturally) in a custom built “bucket” and mono ski.
Kimberly found herself in a wheelchair after breaking her back during a snowboard accident. When I commented on her courage and drive to literally pick herself back up and get right back in the game, at a much higher level, she looked at me and said “What else was I going to do? Sit on the couch for the rest of my life?” I said, frankly, yes, that I thought a lot of people might do just that. In fact, there are some that do that now, with a perfectly healthy back.
Kimberly’s spirit is incredibly strong. She has also decided to be The Boss of her own future. Stay with me for this next segue way.
Two days later while sitting in a hotel room in Detroit, I found myself watching an old episode of The Brady Bunch. There only are old episodes, as this show aired in the 1970’s. This particular show had their youngest daughter, Cindy, about eight years old, dealing with a bully, Buddy Hinton, making fun of her lisp. When she complains to mom and dad, they tell her to “fix” her lisp by taking books out of the library with lots of “s’s” in them, and reading them out loud. They wanted HER to fix HER own problem.
Today, those parents would be marching into the school demanding that someone change the other child’s behavior. Arguably, this is not acceptable, civil behaviour and I don’t advocate bullying at all, but I do think that parents are quick to either fix the problem for the child themselves, or to go to the school authorities to have them deal with it. While it might be admirable and reflexive to protect our children, eventually, like Kimberly, they’re going to have to have the strong self-motivation to move forward through any type of small or significant obstacle.
Later that same day, I had the opportunity to meet Mary Barra, the first female CEO of a global automobile company, heading up General Motors. Mary, a professional engineer in a profession and industry dominated by men, worked her way up to the very top of the company. I’m willing to bet she has fought her own battles with her own Buddy Hintons as well, to rise to be The Boss. No couch sitting for Mary, either.
The ability to take control and find the motivation to act and advocate for ourselves is a skill set our children, maybe particularly our daughters, need to learn in order to grow up to be world class athletes or CEOs. So the next time they’re facing a “battle”, or a “Buddy”, take a step back, so they can make a move forward.
(Kimberly won a silver medal in the World Cup event at Panorama Resort just after I interviewed her. She is keen to gather Twitter Followers leading up to her Sochi performance, follow along with her at @9livesjoines)
Another day, another parenting theory. You know when you hear the words “Currently taking Hollywood parents by storm” that it’s going to be a good one. And by good, I mean one that might involve chewing your child’s food first for them or something like that. This one? It’s based on the book “Baby Knows Best”, a new parenting style, where the babies are not treated like babies, but like adults. R.I.E., or Resources for Infant Educarers.
No high chairs, no time outs, no yelling. No praise, no soothers, and no toys. I thought the “diaper free” parents were a bit misguided – that one is more about the parents being trained to know when the baby needs to pee rather than training the baby, also I’m sure was developed by a laundry detergent company – but this one really baffles me. I believe in autocratic parenting, where Mom and/or Dad are the boss. Given that premise, part of this philosophy actually appeals to me. The building independence, no excessive praise except for a job well done, and not infantilizing a five-year-old, those ones you see walking around with a bottle hanging from their mouth, or cutting up chicken for a ten year old.
I’m all for teaching kids independence and responsibility – yes, that 12-year-old can make their own lunch and should have been doing so since age eight – but the idea of trying to relate to babies as adults presumes that the babies will give you the same courtesy back. Not too many of my adult friends ask me to wipe their bottoms, spit food in my face, or ask to be carried. I would suggest that if you do have friends like this, the most adult thing you can do would be to dump them. The challenge is society frowns on dumping babies if they do the same to you.
Treating babies like adults makes them, in a sense, your equal, which is where I think the theory loses the last of its credibility. In order to raise them, guide them, and (gasp) discipline them, there has to be a clear line of who is really in charge. And if they’re not clear on that as infants, good luck when they get older.
Let’s play this out, shall we? Here’s a real life example: The other day my 11-year-old was fighting for something particular for dinner, he had polled the other kids and announced that the vote was 4-2, in favour of the kids. I told him that would make sense if the kids’ votes were actually as important as the adults’ votes, if they in fact counted at all. So really, the score was 2-0.
On the one hand, no other adult in your home would run a vote about what their host was making for dinner, so he was not acting in a truly adult fashion. On the other, as an autocrat, I had no responsibility to bending to his wishes. And I can tell you as someone who also has adult children; their votes don’t count any more than their underage siblings, in my house. Did I mention I’m the boss here?
Of course, give your children independence where it makes sense, and allow them to make decisions (and suffer the consequences) where you can. But not at the cost of parental guidance. I’d support a Treat Adults Like Babies theory if it resulted in guilt-free naps in the afternoon. Let’s try that one first, shall we?
Welcome to my new column, Be The Boss. After writing Funny Mummy for over ten years, my focus, and much of yours, I’m sure, has shifted and I’m going to offering advice, humour, and (of course) commentary on how we , as busy moms, can take control of our family, business, and personal lives by acting as smart CEO’s of each of these areas. I thought an appropriate place to start would be at the beginning…at the beginning of my book “I Am So The Boss Of You”, which basically outlines my entire philosophy in this area. So, here it is, enjoy, and please join me in thanking the many smart women (and a few men) behind the websites who share my words with you.
“You are not the boss of me! ”Hey, Mom! Yes, you! The one running to the fridge to pour your eight-year-old son a glass of chocolate milk before he has an epic meltdown (just as you’re about to go out with your friends for the first time in six months). How many times have you heard that expression? Come on, you know you have. What’s that? You’ve lost count? Of course. I don’t care whether you’re a working mom, a stay-at home mom, a work-from-home mom, a single mom, or an empty-nest mom. It doesn’t matter if you live in North America, Europe, India, or on Planet Xenon. And it makes no difference whether your children are toddling, walking, or driving. If you have children – any children at all – you
have heard that annoying pronouncement several thousand times: “You are not the boss of me!” It’s been screamed at you by Michael, in the midst of his full-on tantrum in aisle three. It’s been spat out by Jennifer, followed by a delightful teenage stomp-stomp-stomp-slam. And it’s quite possible (you’re not entirely sure because you were sleep-deprived at the time) that little Maria strung those seven words together to construct her very first sentence, at the ripe old age of nine months. Just before she threw turnips in your face.
Oh, yes. You’ve heard that expression. We all have. In fact, we’ve heard it so many times, and for so many years, that we don’t really even hear it anymore. We tune it out. With so many choices and styles before us (and so many other moms waiting to offer, or publicly blog, judgment on our efforts), it’s not hard to see why we’ve been overlooking the obvious. After twenty or so years of parenting, even I was starting to distrust my own excellent instincts (four kids – all still alive, FYI).
And then, in the middle of a two-hour meeting on how to use time more efficiently, it struck me: Why are we working so hard to find the perfect way to parent when we already have an excellent model right in front of us? One that operates efficiently, effectively, and economically? One that millions of people the world over are already employing (though not quite in the way I mean)? One that goes through an audit process, for goodness sake? One that our dear children have been dropping hints about for years? It’s right there – from the mouths of babes, as they say: “You are not the boss of me!”
Oh yes, my little friend, I am! I am the boss of you, in every imaginable way. Physically, mentally, financially, parents rule – basically, we’re at the top of the food chain. We get to tell our children when to go to bed, and we get to choose their mealtimes and what is served at those meals. We select their extracurricular activities, and, for a (ridiculously) short stretch of time, we even get to pick what they wear. Perhaps this generation of parents needs to take a moment to remind itself that we really are The Boss, El Presidente, Le Grand Fromage.
Excerpted from “I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family “The Business” by Kathy Buckworth, McClelland & Stewart, 2013. Available at Chapters, Indigo, Amazon, Kobo, and soon on Audible. This book has recently been optioned by Warner Bros. Television. Visit www.kathybuckworth.com and read “Be The Boss” every month.
Katie Holmes and her young daughter Suri are constantly surrounded by the paparazzi in New York City, where they make their home. Recently, they were videotaped trying to get into a car, and Suri admonished the waiting photographers, telling them to get out of the way. One paparazzo responded, calling her a brat, for which another paparazzo reprimanded him, as did the many commentators on morning talk shows once the video went online.
Mostly the conversation revolved around whether anyone should be able to call someone else’s child a brat, to their face, particularly when it’s done in front of their mother and out loud, versus the usual muttering of this sentiment while mom and child are out of listening distance. This is where I find it’s a bit of a ridiculous conversation in this context.
First of all, it should be noted that Katie Holmes herself did not at the time, or at any point so far react or respond to the comment; in fact I doubt she even heard it. I liken it to my kids’ hockey games I occasionally go to, where (surprise) there are many parents yelling less than complimentary terms at other children, as well as their own. I’ve asked my kids if this bothers them, and they say “We can’t hear anything. Good or bad. It’s too loud in the arena and we’re focused on the game.”
I think this is probably the case with Holmes. She is in a public arena, focused on “the game”, which in her case is simply trying to get her daughter safely through the streets and into a waiting car, while trying to maintain the most perfect parenting public image possible. I think we all know how hard public parenting can be, even when there aren’t a hundred photographers watching.
As for Suri, she is a small child who faces an unusual amount of frustration and criticism as she makes her way around her highly scrutinized and documented world. Check out the mock twitter account attributed to her, @surisburnbook, in which the author also presents Suri as a brat, consumed with the idea that other Hollywood progeny are stealing her spotlight. Which of course they are.
Is she actually a brat? Perhaps. Should the photographer have spoken to her in this way? Probably not, but let’s face it, some kids are brats, we all know one or two, and chances are, she was acting in a bratty way. But this is not the same as a peer calling your child a brat on a playground. This is the result of a person whose profession requires him or her to stake out the less than interesting lives of school age children. A profession that also thrives and is rewarded for receiving a reaction from the subjects they stalk.
By elevating this story to “discussion status”, we are simply encouraging other photographers to see how far they can go with these unwitting and unintended celebrities. Let’s face it, “Brats” are rewarded with tabloid fame. The Kardashian girls, Lyndsay Lohan, and the biggest brat of them all, Justin Bieber, are proof enough of that. Let’s all take a page from Katie’s book and not react to this at all. I think Suri’s right; we should get out of her way.
Read Funny Mummy every month. Follow Kathy on Twitter @KathyBuckworth. Get Kathy’s latest book “I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business” at bookstores on online at Amazon.
Prince George has arrived. From the moment it was announced that Prince William’s wife Kate was expecting their first child, and third-in-line-for-the-throne-heir, many moms and the media have struggled to find commonalities between their new baby experience, and everyone else’s.
The thing is, there’s nothing common about Kate’s life, anymore. From having to appear in front of millions of people one day after she gave birth, being subjected to comments and criticism about her outfits, the way they positioned the baby in the car seat, and whether or not her real prince will be one in the diaper changing department, Kate will experience everything a new mom goes through, but with a royal spin.
For instance, Kate, like most women post-partum, will find that much of her hair will likely fall out during the first few months after giving birth. However, unlike most new moms, she could buy Detroit (and maybe BlackBerry) with the money she would make selling it on eBay.
She’ll also have the services of a royal hairdresser to keep her perfectly coiffed at all times. Do most new moms even know where they put that hairbrush down? (Check the fridge.) One suspects Kate will also have time to shower everyday, something that also plagues her greasy haired counterparts.
But it’s not just during the infant and post-pregnancy stage where Kate will have different hurdles. Everyday challenges a new mom faces will always have a slight variance for Kate, as the years go by.
Potty training days will bring new meaning to the term “sitting on the throne.” And while most babies are congratulated for speaking their first word, the first royal wave will also have to be celebrated. Come birthday time, George asking for a pony will likely be a little redundant.
For William, “Bring your child to work day”, which doesn’t typically happen until the child is 14, will need to begin pre-planning now due to the security detail involved. And there’s really no point to Baby Wales taking Daddy in for Career Day, as no other kid in the class will be able to aspire to have the same “Next in line for the throne” job.
Instead of sitting in line for hours to sign their child up for swimming lessons, they will have to spend hours interviewing the Royal Swim Instructor. Likewise the Royal Soccer Coach, Royal T-Ball Trainer and Royal Lice Remover. Should their child get lice, they can force everyone around them to cut off their hair.
This, history tells us, is a vast improvement over ordering a whole head to be cut off. And do you want to be the Teacher that has to tell Kate her son thinks that HE is running the class? (He is, shhhh.)
But I think the biggest parenting challenge Kate will face, that none of us have to (although some of us surrender to), is via Prince George’s predetermined career path. Technically, and hierarchically, he is literally, The Boss of Her.
Kathy Buckworth’s latest book “I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business” has been optioned by Warner Brothers Television. Visit www.kathybuckworth.com and follow Kathy on Twitter @KathyBuckworth!
One of the great things about barbecuing is that it is normally relatively easy to suck the man of the house into actually cooking. Something to do with an open flame and the inherent explosive danger proves irresistible to these gullible fellows. Of course, the big downside is because they have spent a good twenty minutes searing a steak, they expect to get the credit for the entire meal, which, by the way, consists of salad, potatoes, fruit and dessert, all of which has taken you about two hours to complete. It’s okay, we can let them have this.
The barbequing gets them out of the kitchen, into the backyard, and out of our hair. Personally, I try to find additional things for my husband to do while in the backyard manning the grill—including garbage clean up, putting the hose away, backwashing the pool, installing some fencing…. Be creative and see how far it takes you. It is important, however, to make sure that hubby isn’t so distracted by these secondary activities that he forgets the meat on the barbecue itself. I learned this the hard way during an unfortunate oak plank flaming beef episode. Remember these are men; not universally known for their multi-tasking skill set.
Also, be prepared for the following conversation:
Him: Okay, honey, so I’ll take care of dinner tonight. I picked up some steaks.
Me: Great. So what are we having with them?
Him: Potatoes and corn.
Me: You have that?
Him: We always have potatoes and corn in the house. (Sadly, we do.)
Me: Okay, whatever.
Him: Right then, I’m starting up the barbecue.
Me: Yeah, listen, I only need about an hour to get the other stuff ready. You might want to wait.
Him: (Gone outside.)
Me: *%^&*’ng idiot.
Him: I’m ready for those steaks now.
Me: Fabulous. Hope they need about forty-give minutes on the barbecue because that’s how long the rest of the dinner is going to take. Hey, who’s setting the table?
Him: (Back outside again, stopping only to grab a beer out of the fridge.)
Me: %^$&#*’ng idiot. Kids, get in here and set the table and help me husk the corn!
Him: Okay, we’re almost done.
Me: Stupendous. Just cut my finger with a knife while trying to peel the potatoes because your idiot son used the potato peeler to whittle a stick last week. Oh, yeah. The corn is still hard and we’ve only found four forks.
Him: (Gone. The sound of a beer cap twisting can be heard from the deck.)
Me: ^&$^#’ng idiot. Ouch. Crap. Damn.
Him: And we’re ready. Kids, dinner!
Me: What the hell are you doing? The potatoes are half raw, the water for the corn hasn’t boiled yet and I’m still on hold with Telehealth to see about this red line that’s travelling up my arm from the cut on my finger.
Him: Mmmmmm. Now that’s a steak. Your Dad knows how to cook, eh guys?
If you plan to go the barbequing route during the week, you might want to make sure you have bagged salad, frozen French fries, or other “ready in an instant” side dishes in the fridge or freezer. As an alternative, you can also practice counting to ten. Whatever works for you.
Excerpted with permission from Kathy Buckworth’s “Shut Up and Eat! Tales of Chicken, Children and Chardonnay”, Key Porter Books, 2010. Available at bookstores everywhere, online at Kobo and now on Audible.com.
One of my favourite lines from the “The Simpsons” is when Bart complains he is having the worst day of his life. “So far”, responds his unsympathetic yet correctly predictive father, Homer.
I liken that to a study by Today.com that suggests three is the most stressful number of children to have. A mom of three explains that the stress level increases when it comes to things like crossing the street, versus two kids. I would agree that getting three kids to do anything in tandem is harder than getting two kids to do it.
But I have four kids, and to the best of my recollection, I don’t recall sprouting an extra arm when that last child arrived. Similarly, my friends with five, six and more children have no more appendages which it make it less stressful, or easier for them to cross the street. Maybe for moms of three, three is the most stressful number of children for them to have…so far.
The study indicates mothers of more than three kids, on average, self-described themselves as at a lower stress level than their triumvirate sisters. It concludes that families with more than three children experience the “Duggar Effect”, referencing the TLC reality family with 19 children. While I am 15 short of this number, admittedly older kids can, on occasion, help younger kids.
But does that really offset the stress of knowing you have more children to feed, clothe, potty train, change sheets for, teach how to drive, suffer through first dates, explain birth control to and pay for their post-secondary education? According to MoneySense.ca, the average cost of raising a child in Canada is almost $245,000. Adding this expense for each child doesn’t raise your stress level? Really?
I’m not saying that three kids aren’t stressful for a lot of people. It can be. Just like it is very stressful for some parents of one child, two, four, five, etc. I call it the Pitter Patter Principle. (The original Peter Principle I’m referencing states that people are promoted to a level of incompetency.) Perhaps those who are lucky enough to actively choose the number of children they have, sometimes also reach beyond the level of what they would see as acceptable stress. They are not incompetent in this way, of course. They just learn when to stop.
So what comes first? The proverbial chicken or the fertilized egg? The stress of having kids or the stress level of the parents prior to having them? Since we can’t give back the number of children we had past the third one to do a truly fair comparison (I may have tried), I guess we’ll never know.
This column was originally run in the Metro News. Kathy’s new book “I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business” has been optioned by Warner Bros Television. Pick it up at a bookstore near you.