New MoxieTopic and playlists

New MoxieTopic available: Keeping Kids On An Even Keel During Holidays. Info here on what it’s about, and to buy it ($5). It already went out automatically this morning to All MoxieTopics Subscribers.

And today a lot of people are buying the Christmas workbook! It looks like a day of planning for a lot of people. The workbook gives you access to the secret discussion group on Facebook to talk about the themes and practices people are choosing, as well as some of the challenges of the season.

And, since it’s officially After Thanksgiving now, we can listen to Christmas music with no shame. I have a bunch of playlists up here (guaranteed no Little Drummer Boy on any of them) for all moods, my favorites, a list of melancholy songs, instrumentals, etc.

Vent here safely about Thanksgiving

Or Hanukkah or Black Friday or whatever you need to vent about. Same rules as usual: No vent too big or small. Everyone’s pain is valid and doesn’t diminish anyone else’s. No Misery Poker. If you have any extra energy to give support to another commenter, please do.

Vent anonymously if you want to by putting in fake info.

Be gentle with yourself.

Bad weekends at home with a 6.5 year old

Anonymous writes:

“Holy shit. I would be a horrible SAHM. One entire day with my kid makes me want to scream. And drink. And run away. I have completely disengaged. Horrible transition from part time mom during the week to full time mom on weekends.”

Her son is 6.5.

The age information on her son is important, because 6.5 is a notoriously difficult phase for some kids and that is probably a contributing factor.

But I think a lot of this is the switch from, as Anon says, “part time mom during the week to full time mom on weekends.” It’s really difficult to switch your own energy from one mode to the other from work week to weekends. Having been a SAH mom for awhile and a WOH mom for awhile, the energy you use to get through your day (and week) is totally different, and if you’re used to one kind it can be brutal to have to switch to the other.

So I DON’T think there’s anything abnormal or horrible about you, and I do think some of this is just a function of a really annoying age, but I’m wondering if it might help a little to restructure weekends so your energy was redirected to give you some ease. One actual outing each day might be enough to add in the structure to shift the energy flow. Or, maybe even better, having playdates so your son gets to hang out with another kid and you get to hang out with another adult. (I found that a big part of the problem of being a WOH mom for me was being lonely. I was always either at work or with my kids and rarely had friend time.)

Does anyone have any sympathy or commiseration for Anonymous? I think this is especially difficult because there can be guilt about being a WOH mom already, so to be so frustrated and fried when you are home with your child feels like a big cluster.

Staying at relatives’ houses for the holidays when you don’t want to

If you have been divorced within the past 3 years and have a child between the ages of 2-5 who is currently enrolled in preschool, would you be willing to take this survey for a researcher at Yeshiva University who is studying the effects of parental communication on preschooler behavior? 

Now, I’ve had a request to discuss guilt travel and staying at relatives’ houses over the holidays when you don’t really want to. (The flip side of last week’s guilt hosting question.)

I think first you have to decide whether you really actually need to do this or not, and if you’ve been doing it just because you always have. Is it worth it to keep doing it, or is doing it causing more stress than the payoff (in emotional credits with your relatives, or something else, or even actual enjoyment) is worth. This is one of the things in the Christmas workbook (and that we’re talking about in the secret discussion group for people doing the workbook), the idea of reassessing all the things you do and deciding whether they’re worth it to you or not and how to approach them if they’re not.

I think the calculation of whether you should keep doing it or not is affected by whether or not you have kids, how many, and how old they are. That can add a layer of feeling like you owe it to relatives to bring them your kids to experience. Or it can add a layer of not being able to afford it. Or a layer of “this is the final stressor that is going to put me over the edge.” Or it could add a reason that you need to stay in a hotel that won’t offend people (baby wakes up at night, toddlers need a childproofed space, teenagers have such big feet that there isn’t room for everyone in the house anymore, etc.). So think about your kids and what stage they and you are at and how that affects things.

Another element in the calculation is whether it’s worth it to your partner (if you have one) to stay. If it’s your partner’s family, you may be assuming they are really attached to staying, but it could be the case that they’re not and would be happy doing something else. Or you might assume they’re just doing it out of obligation, but in reality they really want to wake up in their childhood home on Christmas morning.

Another element is the complexity of the plan. Are you going to one place and staying there for several says? Or are you going to be moving from place to place to stay with different groups of people? The first can be relaxing or stifling. The second can be a relief or it can be stressful.

The only real way to make the decision and then deal with what you end up doing is for everyone to put their cards on the table as much as possible. Be honest with your partner (if you have one) about your desires. Ask them to be honest with you. If your kids are old enough, involve your kids in the talk (if they really really want to see relatives that might affect your decision). And, if you can, be honest with the relatives you’re considering staying with. Maybe everyone is happy with the way things are. Maybe one or two small changes to the usual plan would make everyone love it. Maybe this year you’re going to see what happens if you don’t go.

Two thoughts:

1. There is nothing wrong with needing to have your needs met at a holiday.

2. There is nothing wrong with sacrificing and doing something you don’t want to do if it makes someone else happy.

Things are both true at the same time. You just need to find a balance between them that works this year. Next year might be different.

Who’s got thoughts about this? How have you Chosen Your Own Adventure with regard to staying with relatives on holidays? What have you made your priorities in making the decision to stay or not, or change the way you stay?

Minimalist Holidays email and dealing with unwanted houseguests

I love it when separate people’s plans come together.

So you know I’m all excited about my Christmas workbook and the response it’s getting from people who are finding it useful to redesign their whole approach to the holiday season. It’s framework, and it’s conceptual, and it’ll change how you feel inside the holiday season, but it’s not practical tips and hacks.

So think about how happy I was to get an email from Asha at ParentHacks and Minimalist Parent that they’re running a whole “Minimalist Holidays” email series, starting Monday with PRACTICAL TIPS AND HACKS. I asked her “like what?” and she said

“Topics include:

– getting kids involved in Thanksgiving

– encouragement to delegate the work of the meal

– tips for reining in the gift list

– ideas for shortening the to-do list

– creative substitutions for the table when you don’t have the “perfect” serving pieces


I’m totally in.

It’s free; it’s 12 total emails over the holiday season starting Monday; I signed up yesterday. You should sign up, too, here:

I love emails that give me less to do instead of more to do.


In other news,

an anonymous reader is wondering if anyone has any commiseration for being forced to host houseguests over the holidays when you really don’t want to but absolutely can’t say no without ripping something that can’t be ripped.

This is the other side of the “being forced to visit and stay with people you don’t want to stay with” conundrum.

I think it’s essential that you and your partner (if you have one) be on the same page about it and be honest with each other about it. And also that you have some kind of escape valve to talk about it with. (This is why I’ll be putting up vent posts on Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day so you can vent here anonymously if you don’t have other places to vent safely.)

But I don’t have anything to make it easier.



Reversing course

I made a decision last week to reverse a decision I’d made over the summer. (Sorry to be so vague, but it’s kind of not all that important, although when it happens I’ll tell you.) I’d been holding on to that decision, trying to make it work, excusing things and excusing myself even when I resented the whole situation. So when I made the decision to reverse and go in a totally different direction, it felt like this huge weight off my shoulders.

Then, yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend of mine from business school, who told me almost the exact same thing was happening to her (but on a much larger scale). She’d made a decision, committed to it over the summer, and followed through. And found herself horribly unhappy, feeling totally out of alignment with who she is and what she values and where she feels loved. And guilty about having made a bad decision. And like a failure.

And then she decided just to reverse. And as soon as she made the decision, she felt relieved, and not like a failure, and things started clicking in a strange way and she found a substitute for the original decision that was even better, and is all set to go on her new, reversed course that feels like her.

Right on the heels of that conversation I had another one with someone who had just come to a realization that one of her core beliefs was wrong. And that she might have to reverse.

I’m wondering if this is a season of reversing. Or of examining and correcting course to be on a path that matters to us. In the email I sent out yesterday (I send one out every other week-ish or so–you can get it by signing up in the box there on the right) I talked about deciding what you want to do by working backwards from the feelings you want to have instead of choosing a goal because it sounds like something you should do.

Those of us who are reversing course decided to do it because we felt so bad about our decisions, and we paid attention to those feelings, even when logic said we should just stick it out and suck it up.

I’m wondering if any of you have reversed course lately, or have been considering reversing course. What was holding you back? How do you feel about your decision? Are you feeling more in alignment with yourself now?

Q&A: Prepping 3-year-old for a new sibling

Angie writes:

“With baby #2’s arrival just around the corner, I was wondering what your thoughts are regarding preparing my first for the baby and just how to prepare myself for parenting 2 boys. My first will be one month shy of 3 when the baby comes.”

First, I’d say to read Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (the authors of How To Talk So Kids Will Listen…). Not only is it helpful for understanding your relationships with your own siblings (both as kids and now), it will help you set your kids up for success at interacting with each other. There’s a lot in it about avoiding putting siblings into roles and helping kids support each other instead of competing.

I’d also check out the chapter about siblings in NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It looks at research studies and debunks some of the popular mythology about sibling relationships in some interesting ways. It eased my mind a lot about my kids’ relationships with each other, and lines up perfectly with what Faber and Mazlish say in Siblings Without Rivalry, so the two books are good reinforcement for the idea that you can raise siblings who get along. (NurtureShock also debunks some ideas about only children, so it’s definitely worth reading if you have an only, and not guilt-inducing.)

Then, I’d help your little guy (soon to be your big guy) by talking a lot about babies and practicing what it will be like with a baby. Get him a doll if he doesn’t already have one (you might want to find an anatomically correct boy doll if you can, since he’ll be having a brother), and talk about what babies do vs. what big boys like him do. Often a child’s fears of having a sibling are about being afraid the new baby will take his things, so emphasizing what a baby can and can’t do and setting expectations will help.

Know, also, that often kids around the age of 3 will be great with a new baby for the first month or two, then get annoyed that the baby is still there but not a good playmate, and then will be happy about the baby again once the baby starts moving. So it’s all a cycle, and your kids will go through phases of loving that the other one is there and wishing they were the only. It’s normal. Annoying and emotional, but normal.

My biggest piece of advice as a mom of two boys to you about mothering two boys is this: Hug them all the time. Boys need hugs. Which is not to say that girls don’t need hugs, because of course they do. But I think our culture pushes boys to resist hugs or deny that they need hugs, or even be in motion so much that they don’t stop for hugs. But they need them. A lot. Whenever something goes wrong, hug first and then start unraveling it.

Also, expect a lot from them. I spend a lot of time observing and talking to adult men who I admire. And what seems to stand out as the common thread in these deeply good men (who are not all “nice” men, but they are good) is that they were expected to be excellent, and given help being excellent, and helped to correct course when they got off path, and so they were excellent.

And hug them.

(Another thing I didn’t know before I had two boys: Some boy sibling pairs fight. All the time. For fun. Some don’t, but if you end up with one that does, like my guys, establish some protective ground rules about location and form–no sticks in the house, if one is actually hurt either physically or emotionally the other has to make it right, no crotch shots–and then try not to freak out about it too much.)

Who else has advice for Angie, about prepping her son for the new baby, or about being a parent of two boys?


Front half of the service project, and guilt

This year for a holiday service project we’ll be supporting Beyond Baby Mamas‘  project to help feed single-parent families. This is especially important now that SNAP has been cut (grr) and single-parent families are often hardest hit. If you are a single-parent family that needs help with food, sign up here to be a recipient of help from the project (and pass the info on to anyone else you know could use it). Applications are due by Wednesday, November 20, which is next Wednesday.

If you’d like to help feed a single-parent-headed family, stay tuned and I’ll let you know when BBM is ready for that side of things to start happening. Also, follow @BeyondBabyMamas on Twitter.


It feels like a lot of people are feeling guilt right now. About things we’ve done or things we haven’t done, or feelings we’re having about our kids or our situations. Or even things we think we’ll do or not do in the future.

If you’re feeling guilt, stop and think for a minute. Is the guilt helping you by making you act (or not act) in the way you want to? Or are you actively participating in guilt because you aren’t going to change your behavior but want to “make up for it” by suffering with guilt?

That second way isn’t going to get you anywhere. So either let the guilt help you to change things, or decide you’re ok with the way things are and get rid of the guilt. Either one is valid. Like you. You’re valid.  You probably need a little break from whatever you’re doing. Drink a glass of water.




Data points on video games and screen time for kids

(If your parent or PTO or community or church group is interested in selling the Christmas workbooks as a fundraiser, there’s info here:

Kelda writes: 

“I wondered if you would be interested in doing a post on video games and
(young? elementary? all ages?) children. I’ve read some of what you’ve
written about technology and games and thought it made a lot of sense –
if still felt rather far from me and my own inclinations. (I grew up in
the US in the ’80s without a television – scandalously weird at the time,
but something I’m really grateful for now – and I am deeply ambivalent,
you might say, about screen-stuff in general). I have a 5 yo and a 2 yo,
both boys, and while neither of them are talking about things like
Minecraft now, I know it’s just a matter of time. Could we do a
data-points round up of your readers, of their various
responses/policies toward and feelings about games in general and
Minecraft in particular? I really trust the diverse and thoughtful
sensibilities of my fellow Moxites, and I would be SO grateful to have
things to think with about this.

Pros/cons? Boundary-setting? Different games and their plusses/minuses?
How games have changed family dynamics, better and worse? Tips for
navigating boundaries? Anything at all?!?

I feel like this – screen-time in general, games more specifically,
particular games even more narrowly – is one of the big and very new
challenges of parenting now, and I don’t know where to turn to think
through my own conflicting feelings. And I’d just as soon start thinking
about what my feelings are — and learn a bit more outside my box —
before my kid comes home clamoring for something I haven’t yet begun to

I’m not sure there’s a Right answer here, just one that works for your family. 

I see video games as just another external amusement that people engage with, like books or movies or tv shows, that involve your eyes and brain more than your body. There are differences in the way we engage with books and tv, and there are differences in the way we engage with tv and video games, and books and video games. I’d also argue that there are differences in the way we engage with different kinds of books (reading non-fiction feels radically different from reading fiction to me and seems to be getting even more different as I get older). And I KNOW there are differences in the way we engage with different video games. 

So for me it makes no sense to lump playing Minecraft (which neither of my kids plays so my only familiarity with it is when my friends make cakes for their kids’ birthdays based on it) in with playing Wii Star Wars with playing Call of Duty with a parent with playing Words With Friends with playing Angry Birds. 

For me, personally, I wasn’t comfortable with a lot of the aspects of Call of Duty and the other first-person shooter (FPS) games BUT that is also because I knew I wasn’t going to be playing them along with my kids. I let my kids watch tv when they were little because we watched it together and talked about it (my kids are really good at picking apart the logical fallacies in commercials because we talked about them so much) and I feel like gaming needs similar apprenticing. I have friends who play FPS games with their kids and it’s bonding time for them, and they’re showing their kids how to navigate the boundaries of the story and reality.  I’m not willing to spend time doing that with FPS games because they don’t interest me. Angry Birds, though… We spent a lot of time playing that. (Which will totally come in handy when we need to break into a concrete structure using only birds and a slingshot.)

So essentially what I’m saying is that I think video games are really similar to any other thing that takes your kid out of the immediate physical world and into a story. Humans are hard-wired to create and immerse ourselves in narrative–this is just another form of that. But just as some people don’t like certain kinds of stories, people don’t like certain kinds of video game stories, and that’s fine. Spend some time playing or watching people play different types of video games to figure out which ones you are willing to play with your kids. And then at a certain point your kids will figure out which kinds of games they want to play and those might not be the ones you want to play, so you’ll have to observe and get opinions about when they’re old enough to get into those games without your supervision.

I’m betting you know a ton of adult gamers, so ask them which ones they play and if they’re appropriate for kids your kids’ ages, and what they’d suggest about how to start.  Ask Moxie reader and gamer Elaine writes and podcasts a lot about gaming and kids (“games are my parenting niche,” she says) and you can read her blog MOMOMGWTFBBQ and the column she writes at another gaming site.

But, like anything else, this is a process of developing your own house rules. If you don’t want your kids having certain kinds of engagement with narrative, then just say no. Or decide what your limits are for certain types of engagement. 

Readers, what do you do about gaming and screen time and time engaged in stories in general? 

It’s here: The Get Christmased Workbook

It’s here!

The Get Christmased 2013 Workbook is done and ready for
purchase, in a version for parents and a version for childfree people.

You need this if you:

  • want to love Christmas but never quite feel like you’re
    doing it right
  • wish you knew what to do to make it special for your kids
  • are tired of the consumerism but don’t know what to replace
    it with
  • feel tension between the religious and secular aspects of it
  • could really enjoy it if you had a plan

Only $19, it leads you through a series of questions to
answer for yourself to:

  • Uncover your ideas about Christmas
  •  Identify all the things about Christmas that can
    be problematic
  • Discuss important concepts that might help you
    bring ease to your Christmas season
  • Present some holidays that overlap with
    Christmas that might be of use to you
  • Create a Christmas for your kids that is as great
    as the ones you had growing up, or better
  • Identify what you want the Xmas season to feel
  • Make a plan for Christmas, including choosing
    meaningful themes and activities
  • Write it all down in a master sheet to keep
    track of it

The version for parents is 49 pages and the version for
childfree people is 42 pages, so buy now so you’ll have the time to work
through it and be ready to go when the Christmas season starts.

More info on the Get Christmased workbook for parents here.
Buy now:

More info on the Get Christmased workbook for childfree
people here.
Buy now: