Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Online Mothering Mentor

Her name is Catherine Newman.

I've only commented on her blog once or twice.

I found her when I was pregnant with Cecelia, and she was pregnant with her daughter Birdy. That was 12 years ago.

I followed her weekly "blog" on before blogs even existed.

I read her book, even though I didn't need to because I read all those posts.

I followed her when she left to start her own blog.

She now writes on Dalai Mama, among other things.

She is a fantastic cook. She posts recipes, and when I try them once or twice a year when I have time they are fantastic.

Her crack broccoli is a fave go to at my house for a veggie on a school night. Her fried eggs with sizzling vinegar is one of my most beloved dishes.

I occasionally read what she is reading. Buy the games she is playing with her family. Recommend them to my friends.

I am still catching up on blogs from when I did not have internet on vacation last week. Catherine has been writing articles for New York Times on Motherlode over the last year or so. I read one today that brought me to my knees. It's not the first of her articles to do this to me.

That's why I'm writing this post. To share this fantastic article. Give kids your undivided attention - Or no attention at all. I'm taking an evening weekly six week parenting class from a highly experienced social worker based on a book her husband co-wrote - Parenting the Strong-Willed Child.  She trained in urban Atlanta and rural Mississippi and has two grown children. Catherine's article reminds me of what I am learning there to supplement my own awesome but lacking in some areas (aren't we all?) parenting. Strategies to gain control of your relationship to your kids and help them prosper and grow with capability and responsibility and love. I've got fountains of knowledge from this class from both the social worker and other parents despite only being halfway through it.

Thanks for everything Catherine. You don't know me but I love you!! Thanks especially for all the substitute mothering.


  1. I get that you really admire this person, but I don't like that article at all. It's another one of those "blame the moms with their ipads and smartphones" things-- managing to combine both the "shame mothers for not paying intense attention to their kids" and the "shame mothers for paying too much attention to their kids" narratives... which is a pretty impressive feat.

    Also, what exactly is she trying to maximize here? Lower teen pregnancy or incarceration? Higher grades or income? How is doing it her way instead if the way those "bad" mothers on their iphones that she's demonizing result in "better" kids? Along what measure? How would we even know? (After all, those horror stories about what happens when kids watch tv in the 50s-80s turned out to be valueless according to research on long-term outcomes. It did not rot brains.)

    You're probably not doing your kids any harm by following what the so-called experts say, but there's no evidence that people who do it differently (absent abuse, obviously) by trusting their instincts or doing what works for them are doing it wrong either.

    It's ok to trust yourself. It's ok to not go to parenting classes or not do whatever it is that the latest expert recommends (and throughout history the latest expert recommendations have changed pretty dramatically! Not that experts are even in agreement now.). There's a huge range of ways to raise kids that turn out just fine and a huge variety of personalities that respond differently to parenting styles. And at some point it's up to the kids to move beyond whatever we did or didn't do.

  2. I obviously touched a nerve. Or she did. I use an iphone. I have never felt shamed by Catherine. I don't live my life like she does and I don't expect you to live your life like me or her. I am sure you are doing a fantastic job whether you take parenting classes or not. I'm sorry you got that from all this. I learned of this class because a local newscaster brought her into our school and I did not have time to take the 10-11 class that all the other moms were taking. She is revolutionizing elementary and teen issues. I think your kids will get this in school and if you don't go it's ok!

    1. And I think they are getting it from you too. I enjoy your insightful comments on this blog.

  3. Thanks for the recommendation. Adding her to Feedly. I especially enjoyed this:

    "The upshot was a diminished expectation that parents should properly hover around gushing compliments while your Playmobil guys breastfeed all the zoo animals." Oh man. I know exactly what she's referring to.

    1. One thing I love about her is her self-deprecating humor that runs right alongside her penetrating wisdom. She's had me laughing through all of my parenthood pain since being pregnant with Cecelia back in residency. I would look forward to her Friday posts on babycenter all week long! You won't be sorry Martina, she's a gem. Thanks for the feedback.

  4. I really enjoyed the article that you recommended. I didn't get the sense that she was "demonizing" anyone. As a mom of a 4 year old and one week old ;-) I appreciate her suggestion that we encourage independent play from our children as well as dive in fully at a designated time that our children can look forward to. It's a balancing act and it makes perfect sense to me!

    1. We all read articles from our own experience and perspective and where we are in our lives and our day. That's what makes writing art - every interpretation is correct to the individual at the time they read it. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
      Wow congrats to you! My best friend in med school, an ophthalmologist, waited until after residence to have kids. She did this thing I thought was really cool - would let kids play in playroom unspecified (at the right age of course) for a few minutes - going up to 15 or 20 and increasing as they aged and did well up to a half hour or hour I forget. When one was toddler and other was 5 or so she found the younger with a diaper on his head and a mess on the floor but they were laughing and playing so well without mom and dad there it was totally worth it!

    2. I meant residency and unsupervised, ha ha. I've got to get back to my cases:)

  5. Wow. Thank you for that, Gizabeth, and for shepherding this conversation in such a tender way. xo Catherine

  6. Ack! A brush with divinity:). Bask bask. You are also a big time writing and philosophy of life and all around feel good friend mentor. Thank you.


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