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I have strung words together for The New York Times, Vice, and more. I write and shoot people (with a camera, you guys) from my home in upst...

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Will Smith pregnancy announcement

    OK, so how did you announce your pregnancy to the world? Did you spend hours on Pinterest trying to find the perfect pregnancy reveal idea? Pay big bucks to have a professional photographer create your ultimate fantasy? Well, you're about to be upstaged ... by none other than Will Smith!

    And yes, we know what you're thinking ... but no, the Fresh Prince isn't adding to his brood. He and Jada Pinkett-Smith already have their hands full with a house full of teenagers. But Will did help a mom named Emily surprise her friends and family with some very big news. Check it out:

    Will Smith pregnancy announcement

    We're not sure who's more excited in this picture -- Emily or Will! He's such a sweet celeb to do it, and the mama-to-be got herself a two-fer out of this. She gets to share her star sighting AND her big news.

    More From The Stir: 15 Fabulous Pregnancy Announcement Ideas (PHOTOS)

    Emily's friend shared the photo on Reddit with a joke about how "fresh" her announcement was, and we tend to agree -- it's certainly a nice change from the ol' photo of a peed-on stick on Facebook (enough with that already folks, come on!).

    What's the cutest pregnancy announcement you've seen lately? Does it top Emily and Will?

     

    Image via imgur


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    pregnancy testGenerally, when people start talking addictions, the topic at hand is something inherently bad -- say alcohol or gambling. But a 37-year-old mom is getting a lot of attention lately for an addiction that sounds rather nice! In short, Tara Sawyer is addicted to ... pregnancy!

    So "addicted" that the mother of four has been pregnant seven times -- four of which were as a surrogate mother -- because she feels "at my best whilst pregnant." She's even gone so far as to say she doesn't want to stop getting pregnant until her "womb falls out."

    OK, that last part is a joke ... we think?

    Sawyer's glowing assessment of pregnancy seems to have set off the ick factor for a lot of folks around the Internet. Jezebel's assessment is a simple: "ew."

    But is it really that strange or icky?

    Some women love pregnancy. They have that mystical glow you're always hearing about. Their hair is GORGEOUS. They can't get enough sex. They're healthy and vibrant.

    More From The Stir: A Surrogate's Story: The Joy of Growing a Baby for Someone Else

    Not all of us, mind. There are plenty of us who feel like elephants and can't stop throwing up and would rather our husbands stay far, far away for nine whole months. If you had a horrible or even just a not so great pregnancy, being "addicted" to carrying around a child for nine months might be hard to fathom.

    But the enjoyable pregnancy is not a myth. In fact, when CafeMom and Self surveyed moms, 14 percent actually said pregnancy made them feel MORE confident about their bodies.

    And surely most women who have been pregnant can recall how much nicer people seemed to be when you have a bump -- holding doors for you and offering to carry your groceries. If we could get that treatment all the time, life would be a lot easier!

    So is pregnancy addiction weird? If you indulge it to the point where you're constantly having kids you can't afford or care for, then it's a problem.

    But Tara Sawyer has found a way to help other people become parents while indulging in that love. She enjoys being a surrogate, she has no problem passing the babies off to their new moms and dads, and she's helped bring healthy babies into this world. Oh, and she does this all for free.

    Sounds like a win-win! And maybe not the worst idea for other moms who just love being pregnant?

    Did you love being pregnant? What did you love most?

     

    Image via Johannes Jander/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Willow SmithSome unsettling news for parents everywhere today. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith are reportedly under investigation by child protective services. Remember that photo of 13-year-old daughter Willow Smith lying in bed with 20-year-old actor Moises Arias that took the world by storm in early May? Turns out the Instagram post also raised eyebrows at the Los Angeles Department of Children & Family Services.

    Social workers have confirmed they've met with Will and Jada, and they're going to be talking with the couple's teenager about the incident. Think they had it coming? Consider this: you could be next.

    The only reason social services found out about Moises and Willow's relationship -- be it platonic or otherwise -- was because of a social media posting. Moises posted the photo that got tongues wagging, and social workers poking around, on Instagram.

    Without it, no one would have known. And even if someone close to the situation HAD called DCFS, there would have been little to go on -- no evidence, so to speak.

    The fact is, kids have been doing stupid things for centuries. But now everything they do is being blasted out to the masses via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Every move they make -- whether it's with parental approval or not -- is open to criticism. Every move they make opens us, their parents, up to being judged.

    More From The Stir: Will Smith Announces Pregnancy With Another Woman -- Does Jada Know?!

    Think about it. If you see a high school boy posing with a pyramid of beer cans on Facebook, what's your first thought? Your knee-jerk reaction? Isn't it to wonder where his parents are? Because that's what we do as parents? We judge other parents based on their children's actions ... the way we did with Will and Jada?

    And yet -- do we know whether the parents of that aforementioned teenage boy had any clue what their son was up to? Isn't it possible that they thought he was at a friend's house being supervised by responsible adults, only he did what teenage boys do and sneaked out to a party?

    By the same token, it's entirely possible that Will and Jada thought Willow was doing something entirely different. Or that -- as Jada has said repeatedly -- the photo was much more innocent than our dirty minds are reading it, and there's nothing worth the kerfuffle here.

    Unfortunately, once a photo like this gets out on social media, it's open to interpretation ... and to judgment. It opens parents up to investigations like the one ongoing for the Smiths.

    This is as modern a parenting problem as you can get. Our parents and grandparents worried about their teenagers being teenagers. They didn't have to worry that normal rebellious teenage behavior would be blasted to the world at large via the Internet on a daily basis. There was a privacy, of sorts, a chance for parents to sort things out on their own, without the prying eyes of friends, neighbors, and -- worst case -- the department of social services.

    But those days are over. Social media is here, and our kids are rabid consumers.

    We can't stop our teenagers from doing stupid things. If we had the magic bullet that did that, we'd be millionaires selling that to every parent out there!

    We can, however, be hyper vigilant about social media postings. We can watch their Instagrams, their Facebooks, their Twitters like hawks. We can tell them to pull things down ... and punish them.

    We can, and we must -- not just for their sakes, but for ours.

    What do you think of the reaction to Willow's Instagram photo? What would you have done in the Smiths' place?

     

    Image via Twitter


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Michelle Obama Malia Obama Sasha ObamaMalia Obama is learning to drive! Yes, President Barack and Michelle Obama's daughter is that old. Feeling a little crick in your back? Ready to set your hair in rollers? How could this have happened?

    Malia will turn 16 on the nation's birthday -- July 4 -- and like most teenagers of a certain age, she's itching to get behind the wheel. So how are her famous parents taking it?

    First Lady Michelle Obama jokingly said the world should "look out." But don't worry -- neither she nor the president will be risking their lives behind the wheel with a teenage driver. As she explained on Live With Michael and Kelly:

    I think our agents don’t want us driving with teenagers. I don’t think they want [the president] in the state when she’s learning how to drive. We will, fortunately, be able to hand that responsibility over to someone else.

    Lucky kid! If you thought it was bad when your Dad yelled at you for speeding, imagine having the President of the United States on your case for fiddling with the radio!

    All jokes aside, handing the responsibility of teaching a kid to drive over to someone else isn't the worst idea for regular moms and dads.

    We tend to see our kids as younger than they really are because, deep down anyway, we want them to stay babies forever. That means we're not always the most trusting of their abilities. An independent party is much more likely to be able to accurately assess a new driver's strengths and weaknesses than mom and dad.

    And perhaps it goes without saying, but when someone else is teaching your teenager to drive, you're not getting in fights with your teenager about driving. That has to be good for the family dynamic!

    Would you follow the Obamas' lead and hire someone else to teach the kid to drive?

     

    Image via The White House/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    breastfeeding dollAll right moms, has this happened to you yet? Has your husband asked you to breastfeed ... him? Don't be embarrassed!

    It's not uncommon. In fact, a recent review of Google searches revealed more women have searched the phrase, "my husband wants me to breastfeed him" than "my husband wants to separate" and "my husband wants a baby" combined.

    And now for the real surprise ... why experts say letting dad suckle can actually HELP you breastfeed. And no, there's nothing kinky about it.

    Ever had a plugged milk duct? It hurt, right? And the lactation consultant told you to nurse frequently to empty the breast of milk, to relieve the pressure and keep up your supply?

    Well, if you've got a baby who isn't up for eating, but you need to get that milk out, you can ask dad. Yes, really. One breastfeeding expert actually told TIME there are times when baby and a pump can't get a blockage out, but Dad can.

    More From The Stir: 25 Healing Uses for Breast Milk for Moms & Kids

    If you really think about it, it makes sense. You can't tell baby how hard to suck. You can't increase the pressure of a breast pump. But you CAN tell an adult human being what you need done, and they can adjust accordingly. And if it hurts, well, why not let him try?

    You can kill two bird with one stone -- relieving the pain and letting him satisfy his curiosity (because usually, that's all it is -- Dad wants to know what the heck it tastes like!).

    Granted, if you aren't comfortable with having your partner suck on your nipples, you are under absolutely no obligation to do so. But if you think it could help ... why not?

    Has your partner been asking to breastfeed? How did you respond?

     

    Image via Nico Nelson/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Michael JacksonReady for a time warp? Michael Jackson may have died in 2009, but the kids at Pitman High School in Turlock, California, got the next best thing at their recent talent show: a teenage boy who's got the moves like Jackson. A video of the teen's moonwalk to "Billie Jean" in the high school gym has gone viral because it is just that good -- despite coming from a kid who wasn't even born when the song came out.

    Think kids today just don't appreciate the classics? Think again! Check this kid out (click to about 1:15 to get to the good part):

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    OK, so the crotch grabs were a wee bit unsettling (as they were back in the day!), but how gratifying is it to see our old folks' music being enjoyed by a new generation? Michael's music endures for another generation!

    What "old" songs from you childhood do your kids love?

     

    Image via PDA - Pitman Daily Announcements/YouTube


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    pumped breast milkCheck out any baby nursery these days, and you're sure to see a breast pump sitting there, waiting for use. Pumping breast milk enables most moms to share feeding duties and keep breastfeeding even after they've returned to work. But for a growing number of moms, it's also the only way they're feeding their kids.

    Sometimes called exclusive pumping or exclusively pumping, the practice of feeding baby breast milk only through a bottle is one moms may choose for a number of reasons -- from having a premature baby in a NICU who can't latch on to having inverted nipples that won't revert with stimulation. If you're struggling with breastfeeding the traditional way, pumping your milk can be a good way to keep baby on breast milk, says certified lactation consultant and doula Christine Santos, owner of Psalm 139 Studios in Florida. "A mom who exclusively pumps can make enough breast milk to sustain her baby," Santos tells The Stir.

    So how do you exclusively pump? Here's what a mom needs to know to make it work:

    1. Get an industrial grade pump. "The ones sold in stores aren't going to cut it," Santos warns. Industrial pumps can be purchased, but it's costly. To keep costs down, they can be also rented -- often from your local hospital.

    2. Pump on a schedule. To keep up your supply of breast milk -- even if it will be fed to a baby via a bottle -- you have to act similarly to the way you would if you were breastfeeding the traditional way, says pediatrician Dr. Jennifer A. Gardner, CEO and founder of the Healthy Kids Company. That means pumping frequently throughout the day at fairly regular intervals to empty the breasts of milk. "It is this emptying that stimulates more breast milk production," she explains.

    3. Use your baby! Baby may not be eating directly from the breast, but your body knows it's making milk for him. So use that! "To help initiate the let down reflex before pumping, it helps to have the baby nearby or look at a picture of the baby," Dr. Gardner suggests. "A blanket that the baby uses around the mom’s neck or shoulders can also help."

    4. Drink plenty of fluids. Making breast milk is hard work for the body, whether baby is suckling from the breast or you're pumping. Liquid in helps with liquid out.

    More From The Stir: Tips for Breastfeeding When Only 1 Breast 'Works'

    5. Track baby's intake. "Breastfed babies do not drink as much as formula fed babies," Santos says, "and they eat more frequently." Exact intake will vary by baby, but moms should watch for steady weight gain, six or more wet diapers a day, and other signs that baby is eating enough.

    6. Avoid supplementing -- if possible. As long as baby is getting enough to eat (something your pediatrician can and should assess), Santos advises moms who are exclusively pumping stick to feeding baby breast milk as this will help her keep up her supply. "If a mom who is attempting to exclusively breastfeed automatically begins supplementing, it begins a downward spiral where her milk supply will dwindle," she explains. "A newborn doesn't consume very much milk, so there is time for her milk to come in with adequate supply."

    7. Ignore what other people say. Exclusive pumping isn't for everyone, but it can and does work for some moms, Santos says, so who cares if you're not breastfeeding the "traditional" way. And if it doesn't work out? "Whatever way you choose to feed your child, remember this: the greatest thing you can give a child is your love," she says.

    Have you been pumping your breast milk? What are your best tips?

     

    Image via Corbis


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Gwyneth PaltrowDid you hear an odd sound this week? It might have been Gwyneth Paltrow screaming in anguish. Her kids, Apple and Moses, were recently spotted scarfing down ... wait for it ... fast food!

    And not just any fast food! Gwynnie's soon-to-be ex-husband Chris Martin reportedly took his 8- and 10-year-old out for French fries. Greasy, carb-laden French fries. So much for keeping her kids on healthy diets, huh?

    OK, OK, hold your glee at one of America's most hated moms getting her comeuppance to a minimum, would ya? The truth is, GOOP-y sanctimony aside, Gwyneth's infamously draconian food rules are not actually that uncommon. We've all met that mom on the playground who insists her kids just lurv them some kale and carob and wouldn't even think of touching a cupcake.

    Let this big celebrity brouhaha be a lesson to all of them!

    Yes, many kids love kale. But most of them also love cupcakes ... and hot dogs ... and French fries.

    When you make certain foods verboten, instead of teaching kids to enjoy everything in moderation, you tend to set them up for just what Apple and Moses were reportedly seen doing -- scarfing down their unhealthy eats like there was no tomorrow. It's like sending a kid off to college who has never seen alcohol being enjoyed responsibly. They haven't seen good practices, and they don't know where to begin!

    We aren't knocking Gwyneth -- or any mom really -- for watching what her kids eat. Kids should certainly be eating healthy foods! But it's also a parent's responsibility to let the "bad" foods trickle in once in awhile, to show our kids good practices.

    It's during childhood that we learn to balance out the good and the bad foods. One cupcake a week, one piece of a chocolate a day, one birthday party full of sweets a month ... that's not going to kill a kid. In fact, letting kids indulge once in awhile teaches them how to incorporate "treats" into their life without going overboard ... you know, like scarfing down French fries.

    How do you handle "treats" vs. healthy food?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    preemieFast fact: did you know that every year, one in eight babies is born premature in America? That's a lot of preemies! Which begs the question: if there are so many kids being born more than three weeks before their due date; why is it so many Americans still can't wrap their head around what it means to have a premature baby?

    From rude comments that blame moms -- unfairly -- for early delivery to strange things said about how baby looks, when The Stir asked parents of preemies what bothers them most about what people have said to them about their babies, they served up some doozies! So, folks, a piece of advice? If you know someone who has a preemie, you might want to strike the following from your conversations:

    1. He looks like a little alien baby. How about just saying he's cute? Or not commenting on his looks at all?

    2. I would have given up (broken down) by now. As one mom said, "I didn't know that was an option!"

    3. Get him baptized; just in case. How about a little positivity?

    4. What did you do wrong? The are myriad reasons why a baby can be born premature, and plenty of them having NOTHING to do with mom. Even moms who do everything "right" during pregnancy can have a preemie.

    5. Why didn't you try harder to carry your baby longer? This goes hand-in-hand with #4, and the fact is, moms do try! But even going on bed rest for several months, lying in a hospital bed taking medicines meant to keep the uterus from contracting, can't guarantee the baby will stay in the womb. Sometimes pre-term labor just happens.

    6. The hospital is the best place for your child. Sometimes it is, but if the baby has been discharged from the NICU by medical professionals, don't they know better? Leave a mom alone!

    7. You're too scared of germs. You can't protect them forever. Maybe you think you're being funny, but a premature baby's immune system is not as developed as their full-term peers, which makes it harder to fight off infection. Mom isn't being a helicopter parent; she's just taking care of her baby!

    8. She's so tiny! It's not rude, per se, but you do realize that Mom and Dad have heard this one 50 or 60 times by now? Get some new material!

    9. You shouldn't bring baby around people; they're too small. The opposite of #7, this comes when people are being over-protective of somebody else's child. If mom has gotten the all-clear from her baby's doctors, then it's nobody's business where she takes her baby!

    10. Don't you know breast is best? Many moms of NICU babies successfully breastfeed, but it's not always easy or possible. Regardless; mom knows best about her baby ... not you.

    11. You're not a real mom. Moms who had their preemies via emergency C-section offered up this "gem" that really hit them in the guts, and all we can say is ... REALLY?

    12. You probably shouldn't get pregnant again. While it's true that giving birth to one pre-term baby is a risk factor for having another one, the fact is, not every mom who has a preemie will go early the second time around. That's a decision between, mom, dad, and her health care professional.

    13. How much does he weigh? Again, not rude, exactly, but how many times do Mom and Dad have to field this question? He's a baby, not a carnival act!

    14. You need to feed that baby more and fatten him up! Sure, because you can just magically make a baby grow!

    15. You should have known better than to try for another one. Because she should have had a crystal ball?

    16. Don't get attached until you know for sure that she's going to make it. Did you really just tell a parent not to attach to their own child?

    17. How could you leave your child at the hospital? Sometimes that's what a parent has to do! Maybe there's no room for Mom or Dad at the hospital. Maybe they have kids at home to take care of or need to go to work to pay the medical bills. Maybe, maybe, maybe ...

    18. She's too big to be a preemie. According to the CDC, "preterm birth is the birth of an infant prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy." Size has nothing to do with it.

    19. You're lucky the hospital takes care of the baby so you can sleep. News flash: when your baby is in the NICU, you're probably not getting great sleep. It's called worrying!

    20. You should have aborted one. This has been said to moms of multiples, and well, it's just plain cruel. While multiples may be born early, it's not necessarily the case -- in fact, only about 60 percent of twins are preemies!

    Did you have a preemie? What was the most annoying thing someone said to you?

     

    Image via bradleyolin/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    weightIt's been going on so long, it's practically tradition. Teachers pack papers in a kid's bookbag to send home to Mom and Dad. Kid gets out of the teacher's sight, and they take a peek at whatever said paper says. But what a 9-year-old girl in New York City found on a note to her parents recently was shocking -- for both child and Mom. The slim third grader was being labeled "overweight" in a school health assessment.

    At 4 feet, 1 inch tall and 66 pounds, the idea that Gwendolyn Williams is in any way overweight is ludicrous. She looks like most third graders -- healthy. But just as ludicrous is the notion that a school would put the thought in a young child's head that their body size matters.

    Whatever happened to teaching kids about health, first and foremost? To avoiding talk of size? To protectingthem from body dysmorphia for as long as humanly possible?

    This health assessment has raised eyebrows because it has put an unhealthy label on a clearly healthy child.

    But what should also alarm parents is that this weight (pun very much intended) was put on a child's shoulders. The school didn't just tell her parents; they made sure this child heard the message too.

    That's a problem!

    Regardless of a child's actual size, they don't need to hear there is something wrong with their body. They don't need to be made to focus on appearance.

    Children as young as 5 have been noted in medical literature as putting themselves on diets or -- scarier still -- needing treatment for anorexia. What's more, when agirl is called "fat," her risk of being obese later in life is higher than her peers. If the criticism comes from a family member, the risk is 60 percent higher. It's 40 percent higher if it comes from a friend ... or a teacher.

    What's said at school matters to kids.

    What's said about their weight matters to kids.

    Typically, schools that have begun programs akin to that at Gwendolyn's claim they're meant to encourage parents to talk to their kids about nutrition and exercise.

    That sounds harmless enough -- even well-intentioned -- but it can easily be accomplished without putting labels on kids, without telling young children that there is something wrong with their bodies.

    How would you feel if your child got one of these letters? Should schools cut this practice out?

     

    Image via davidd/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    picky eaterAny parent who has ever had a picky eater on their hands knows it can be frustrating. The food your kid seemed to gobble down a month ago is now pushed away, and they seem to want to subsist on just one or two foods. You're doing everything you can think of to get them to eat ... but are you making it worse?

    Turns out sometimes the tricks parents employ with the best intentions are actually making the matter worse. Want your child to eat up? Don't try any of these common mistakes at home!

    1. Forcing your child to eat. "Toddlers are mini-humans, not robots," says Danielle Fatemi, a pediatric dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "They have days where they will eat more or less than usual."

    2. Making a child finish a meal. It may seem like a good way to get enough nutrients in their belly, but the age old practice is a good way to set a child up for an eating disorder. "It can lead to kids disregarding their body talk that tells them when to stop eating (aka their internal appetite regulation hormones), and may lead to a habit of overeating," warns Jill Castle, childhood nutrition expert and co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters From High Chair to High School.

    3. Using dessert as a bribe. Think a treat tied to every veggie they eat is a good idea? Think again, says Fatemi. "By withholding dessert, you teach your child that it’s the best food," she explains. "That may set your child up to have a preference for sweets, or junk food."

    4. Becoming a short order cook. This can quickly become a bad, bad habit for parents, and it's a hard one to break. Fatemi advises drawing a hard and fast line: "Serve one meal, and maybe have one healthy backup option, and that’s it," she says.

    5. Overloading the plate. If your child hasn't been eating, it can be tempting to heap the plate full of food so they'll fill up. That can backfire, big time, Fatemi says, as a full plate can be overwhelming for a toddler. Stick to the appropriate portions for a child's size. The US Department of Agriculture has suggested meal plans that can help.

    6. Using food as a reward or a punishment. Scientists have linked use of food as reward or punishment in childhood to binge eating and other problematic eating practices in adulthood. In particular, Castle says rewarding kids with food for eating behavior -- trying a new food, eating more, or eating a disliked vegetable -- can cause problems down the line. If you are looking to reward kids for something, she suggests trying stickers or other non-food rewards.

    What have you found backfired with your picky eater?

     

    Made these mistakes and need help? Help is on the way: 10 Tips to Ensure Picky Eaters Get the Nutrition They Need


    Image via © Mother Image/Caitie McCabe/mother image/Corbis


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Emma ThompsonUh oh. Looks like Gwyneth Paltrow just got another pal in the celeb moms without a clue club. Actress Emma Thompson just became the latest mom worth millions of dollars to throw out a nasty jab at working moms.

    The mother of 14-year-old Gaiatook a year off from filming as a "birthday present" to herself and to her family. OK, fair enough; she can do whatever she wants with her life, right? Well, here's the problem: Thompson apparently thinks every mom should do this. And that's not all. 

    Thompson went so far as to say, "You can’t be a great mum and keep working all the time."

    Uh.

    Huh.

    Let's just set aside the fact that Thompson, who is married to another actor, reportedly has a net worth of $64 million, making it possible for her to give up work for the rest of her life if she sees fit. Just for a second, shall we? She did, after all, soften the blow a little bit by saying moms should do this -- "if they can afford it."

    More From The Stir: Angelina Jolie Brings the 'Mommy Wars' to a Whole Other Level

    Let's, instead, talk about good moms -- more specifically the notion that one thing as particular as taking off work is going to make you one.

    It's not.

    There are plenty of women who haven't worked a single day of their children's childhoods who are NOT good moms (which isn't to say that stay-at-home moms don't rock ... we should be clear, there are plenty of fantastic stay-at-home moms, but correlation does not equal causation and all that jazz). Just as there are plenty of hard-working women whose children can attest to their excellence in the mothering department.

    What's startling about Thompson's comment isn't simply that she is so out of touch with regular moms, but that she simplified good motherhood to the point of absurdity.

    Good motherhood is many things.

    It's loving your kids -- truly loving them, from deep down within you. It's showing that love to your kids on a consistent basis.

    It's also more tangible -- feeding them, bathing them, clothing them, sheltering them; ensuring they have the basics covered to the very best of your abilities.

    It's not abusing them in any way, shape, or form -- be it physical, verbal, mental, emotional.

    It's recognizing your strengths and your limitations too, and learning when to ask for help. It's recognizing your kids as individuals, and learning to play to their strengths and to help them overcome their limitations.

    It's being interested, engaged, involved, as much as you can be. It's also not losing yourself, because kids need good, strong role models.

    It's all that and so much more.

    Can you do that without taking a year off work? Good! Plenty of moms can.

    And if you can't, well, then by all means, give your notice today. But that's about you and your limitations ... not about every other mom out there.

    Because being a good mom is many things, but most of all, it's personal. Just as every kid is different, so is every mom.

    What do you think makes you a good mom?

     

    Image via London Ent/Splash News


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Kate GosselinShe's baaaaack! Kate Gosselin is returning to television next month with a TV special on TLC, featuring her eight kids. And she's already doling out her special brand of parenting advice. Want to keep your teenagers in line?

    Kate has a special way to torture them with technology and destroy their trust in you in one fell swoop!

    In the first clip from the Kate Plus 8 special that airs June 25 on TLC, Kate is seen punishing one of her 13-year-old twins for being disrespectful by taking the girl's iPhone. As she explains:

    I got those girls cellphones and iPads, so I could take them away ... I've learned I'm not the only parent of teens who has discovered that little gem.

    It's, well, it's an interesting tactic?

    Folks, we all know kids need to be disciplined when they are being disrespectful, because if you don't nip it in the bud at home, it will leak out into the public. Kids test their parents' limits, and we need to set up boundaries and stick to them. It's GOOD to see Kate disciplining her kids without resorting to violence ('memba the wooden spoon incident?).

    That said, it seems a little odd to specifically buy something nice for your child with the intention of using it to punish them. For lack of a better word, it seems ... untrustworthy?

    It sounds like a Trojan Horse of parenting ... here kid, here's a gift, now I can use it to destroy you!

    Now, to be clear, that doesn't mean you shouldn't put limits on the use of gadgets because they are, after all, a privilege. But we are supposed to buy presents for our kids out of the goodness of our hearts, not with an ulterior motive! That's part of showing love and respect for our kids. 

    And we all know respect is a two-way street.

    What do you think of Kate's devious parenting plan? Clever or cruel?

     

    Image via David Tingey/Splash News


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    black and whiteEver ask an American child what they think about racial differences? A recent MTV survey found 89 percent of millennials believe everyone should be treated the same -- no matter their race. It's good news ... but it's also news that's masking a big problem in America.

    Only 37 percent of the young people in that same MTV survey said they were raised in a home where their families talked about race. And when researchers at the University of Texas at Austin looked at how racism is discussed in families back in 2012, they found most white moms take a colorblind or colormute approach to the subject -- that is if they talk about it at all.

    Why is racism something American families are largely ignoring?

    According to Erin Winkler, PhD, associate professor and chair of the Department of Africology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the answer goes beyond parents. 

    "Our society as a whole is not comfortable having a national conversation about race and racialized inequality in the contemporary moment," Winkler explains. "As such, these conversations are not cultivated in school, in media, and in the public realm in general. So, it stands to reason, then, that many parents are uncomfortable talking about these issues with their children."

    Unfortunately, ignoring racism doesn't work. It still exists in America, and as one study at the University of Washington found, children as young as 15 months old can show racial bias.

    So what should parents be doing?

    Winkler gave us some tips to help parents manage this tough conversation:

    1. Get comfortable talking about raceby talking to other adults. If you can't have the conversation with other adults, it's going to be much harder to have it with your kids, Winkler warns. Reach out to experts or other parents for support and/or practice.

    2. Start young. "Research shows that parents have no problem talking to their children about gender at a very young age, but hold off talking about race until a much older age, if ever," Winkler notes, calling it a mistake. "What holding off the conversation does is simply (a) teach children that we do not talk about race (although they can clearly see through media, curriculum, and the world around them that it seems to matter), and (b) leave children to come to their own conclusions about why the racialized patterns they see in the world exist." Parents should start talking about race when their kids are as young as 3 or 4 -- preschool age.

    3. Build off what you see. Teachable moments really are all around us, Winkler says. "Racialized representations in children’s movies and books are a good place to start. Which characters -- animals, cars, planes, etc. -- seem to have which kind of accents? Do the children think real people with those kinds of accents act the same way as the characters in the movie with those accents?" she says.

    "Research also shows children are likely to transfer or apply linguistic connotations to people, so if you read books with your child that associate positive things with white -- 'Snow White,' 'the good witch,' 'pure as the driven snow' -- and negative things with black -- 'evil,' 'sin,' 'dirty,' 'the wicked witch' -- it is a good idea to talk with your child about, for example, good things they associate with darker colors or bad things they associate with lighter colors. All of this is to get them into the mode of critical and complex thinking, which research shows above all else helps reduce prejudice in children."

    4. Be a good role model. Teaching your kids to be open and accepting is not just about what you say; it's what you do. If you tell them to accept diversity, but they don't see a diverse group of adult friends at your home, for example, you're not practicing what you preach, and it won't hit home.

    5. Don't treat racism as something from the past. "Unfortunately, when talking about racism with children, adults often tend to focus solely on heroic figures of the past," Winkler explains. "While it is critically important for children to understand this history, research has shown that when we only present the history without helping children connect it to contemporary issues, children can actually have higher levels of prejudice." Teach history, but also talk about current issues, especially those in your own community.

    6. Don't ascribe racist actions to "bad" or "sick" people. "This teaches children that the unfair, racialized conditions in today’s society are caused only by individual 'bad people,' when in fact this is a structural, societal problem that requires that it be addressed at a societal level," Winkler notes. Kids need to know that people they may love or like may say or do racist things too -- and that it's something we can all work to address, including them. 

    7. Avoid colorblindness. It may seem like a positive thing to teach kids to ignore race, but Winkler says research shows it actually backfires. It can increase racial prejudice and make it harder for kids to recognize racial inequalities.

    8. Don't stop your kids from talking about race. "Parents 'shush' their children when they make observations related to race rather than using those comments as an opportunity to open a dialog," Winkler says. Instead, use your child's comment to open the door. Explain to them why what they said was inappropriate (or not).

    9. Get your kids involved. Kids don't have to wait until someone drops a racial epithet in front of them to be an agent of change. Winkler suggests taking your kids to meet someone in your area who is working for social justice or getting your child thinking about things they can do to make their town or school a fairer place.

    Have you had the racism conversation with your kids yet? How did it go?

     

    Image via © timsa/istock


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Maya Angelou PoemsIt seems the whole world is mourning the passing of the great Maya Angelou. The Pulitzer Prize nominee was, after all, one of the greatest voices of a generation -- her books and poems touched millions of American adults. So how is it that we can explain the depth and breadth of the legendary author's influence on America to our kids?

    Although she may be best known for tomes such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which is better saved for the teen years (or older), Angelou is also the author of myriad books for kids. They're a perfect way to open the doors to a conversation about Angelou, and open your child's eyes to one of the greatest authors of our time.

    Which Angelou book is on your shelves?

     

    Image via Amazon


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    yearbookHaul out the pearls and clutch them tightly, folks, the prudes are on the prowl. At least they were at a high school in Utah this week, where it seems someone decided to Photoshop pictures of girls in the yearbook to adjust their tank tops and low-cut tops ... without telling the girls or their parents. 

    What Wasatch High School claims was meant to bring the photos up to dress code is being criticized as slut shaming the young women in question -- and for good reason! A comparison of some of the altered photos shows random sleeves added to some girls, and necklines brought up over non-existent cleavage. Even more confounding, other photos from the yearbook remain untouched, despite presenting some of the same "problems."

    It's not out of the ordinary for a school to have a dress code, or even for tank tops and low cut shirts to be verboten. What is unsettling is for a school to ignore its dress code on picture day, then suddenly take to Photoshop on photos of children.

    What kind of message does it send to kids when their images are Photoshopped? That they don't have control over how they look? That they can be "improved" upon by a computer?

    That's why so many of us are concerned about the Photoshopping of models, isn't it? Because it tells our kids that people need to be changed to look "better"?

    These days many school picture services do offer alterations -- they'll take out zits or scars. But those offers are made to parents. Parents get to sign off on them, if they're done at all. Which is how it should be for any alteration of a child's photograph -- be it scrubbing up a bug bite or pulling up a neckline.

    Would you allow your kids' school to mess with their photos? How far is too far?

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    Image via © mattjeacock/istock


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    breast milkWell, Mom, you always knew breast milk was like liquid gold. But you probably never saw this one coming. Did you know there are male athletes out there who just can't get enough of the stuff you feed your baby?

    Yup, turns out guys are gulping the boob juice down by the cup full, calling it a natural energy drink. Say it with us now: WHAT?!

    It's not that we're disgusted, folks. We're really not. If babies can drink it, there's no reason adults can't.

    We are, however, mystified. Where are these men getting this breast milk, and why is it not going to babies in need?

    According to the NY Mag expose on this booming business, macho men are buying up milk for as much as $2.50 an ounce. Meanwhile, moms across the nation are struggling to keep their kids on breast milk because of family leave policies that are largely anti-mother and the support for breastfeeding mothers just isn't there. It seems there are babies out there who could USE that milk ... and moms who would be grateful to have it!

    More From The Stir: Why Breastfeeding Your Husband Isn't Such a Bad Idea

    Sure, a mom has a right to do whatever she wants with her extra milk, and if she's bringing in a few bucks, well, who can blame her for getting creative in a tough economy. But being a mom in this nation is tough, and we all need to stick together.

    Instead of selling our breast milk to random guys who can just go buy a Gatorade, wouldn't it behoove us to help another mother out?

    Just a thought!

    Would you sell your breast milk? How much would you want for it?

     

    Image via © Ceneri/istock


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    father's day gift

    Does Father's Day sneak up on you every year, leaving you scrambling for a gift? Well, you're in luck. Because it's a day for men who have kids, it's the perfect holiday to get your kids busy making something for their dear ol' dad.

    Talk about a win win: you get some quality time doing crafts with the kiddos AND they can whip up something fun for their favorite guy. We've pulled together some of our favorite Father's Day gifts created by moms around the web that can be made with your kids ... some even made entirely by kids! And every one will make Dad's day.

    We could see #9 working for an end-of-the-year teacher's gift as well as a present for Dad, don't you think?

    What are your kids giving their father this Father's Day?

     10 Kid-Friendly Father's Day Crafts

    Top image via Eighteen25


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    toddler sucking thumbIf your baby sucks their thumb, you've probably heard the warnings: thumb sucking will ruin their teeth! Been trying to wrench that little digit out of baby's mouth ever since but struggling? You're not alone. As much as 46 percent of "typically developing" kids under 4 suck their thumbs.

    And yes, it can damage their teeth, says Dr. David Zirlin, pediatric dentist at White Plains Pediatric Dentistry. But you can stop pulling that thumb from baby's mouth right now -- and don't bother grabbing a pacifier.

    "Both thumb sucking and pacifier use can shift the teeth unfavorably creating a bite discrepancy," warns Dr. Zirlin. "The most common dental movement is the upper front teeth (central incisors) move forward and upward, creating an anterior openbite."

    Sucking your thumb can also cause maxillary constriction or crowded, crooked teeth, and what's known as a posterior crossbite or misalignment of your dental arches.

    But Zirlin tells parents the "damage" thumb sucking does to your kiddo's teeth is usually not long-term.

    "Dental effects directly correlate with frequency, intensity, and duration of the habit," he explains.

    If a baby is sucking their thumb, it's likely no big deal. What Dr. Zirlin calls "adverse dental effects" typically don't happen until after 24 months of thumb sucking, and they're more significant after 48 months.

    Even then, he says, "Many of the effects are reversible and unlikely to cause long-term problems if the habit is discontinued before eruption of the adult teeth."

    Considering one survey found only 12 percent of adults still suck their thumbs, chances are your child is going to be just fine!

    Do you have a thumb sucker? What have you done to break the habit?

     

    Image © VOISIN/phanie/Phanie Sarl/Corbis


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    condomsTough question time: how would you feel if someone gave your sixth grader a condom? Would it change your mind if the child asked for birth control? That's what will happen in an Oregon school next fall.

    Kids in grades six and up will be able to go to a teacher and make a request for a condom. The cost of the birth control will be covered by the district.

    Shocked? Don't be.

    The Gervais School District isn't going about this willy-nilly. Kids who ask for a condom will have to talk to someone on staff about sex ed. Only then will they get their hands on a foil packet.

    A perfect answer? Not even close.

    More From The Stir: 8 Mom-Approved Books on Puberty That Kids Will Actually Like

    But is there a perfect answer to how we deal with kids and sex? Even the most savvy of parents, folks who have read all the books and asked all the appropriate experts, can fumble on the one-yard line because, hey, these are our kids, and kids + sex = scary business for parents.

    The fact is, most sixth graders are not ready for sex. BUT if they are having sex, isn't it much better for them to be having safe sex?

    Think of it this way: girls are hitting puberty at an increasingly young age in America, and with that comes the potential for pregnancy at a much younger age. No one wants a pregnant sixth grader. No one.

    Not to mention STDs can happen at any age if you're sexually active and not practicing safe sex.

    Granted, parents should want to take care of the sex talk and any providing of birth control themselves. Hence it may seem like the school is usurping a parent's power here.

    But good parents will do this, and likely few parents who are proactive about the sex talk will have to worry about having a sixth grader go running to their teacher for a foil packet.

    Sadly, not all parents are good parents. Not all kids have a Mom and Dad at home who are sitting them down to talk about their bodies and their rights to say no and all that the sex talk entails.

    Is it really so bad that someone is stepping up for those kids?

    Would you support this program coming to your child's school? What do you think would happen?

     

    Image via © Image Source/Corbis


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