Monthly Archives: November 2012

Single-Income Families Are Still Possible

I can’t tell you how many times I have been doing a public appearance when some woman in the audience has stood up and started yelling at me for saying that moms should stay at home with their kids.  I remember one woman in particular who said, “I’m at work from 6 in the morning until 8 at night, and I am a very good mother!”  I paused a moment, and then responded, “So, if you did not go in to your job from 6 to 8, could you say that you were a good employee and an asset to the company?” 

She just looked at me with her jaw hanging open. 

Many women try to justify not staying at home with their kids, but being a mommy is not something you should hire out.  Why?  Let’s assume for a moment that I wasn’t there for one day of my son’s life.  Instead of staying home, let’s pretend that I got up, went to work, and came home right when he was going to sleep.  Should I say that’s the right thing to do just because I want to justify my actions?  Of course not.   Yet, there are women out there who attack other women for being stay-at-home moms because they are not at-home moms themselves.  That’s what the “mommy wars” are all about: working mothers who choose not to be at home with their kids attacking those who make the sacrifices.  A lot of young men and women are being brought up by feminists who say that a woman being protected and provided for is a waste of her life.

I won’t lie – it’s very hard to live on one income.  Trust me.  I’ve walked the talk and know how difficult it can be.  I remember very clearly walking into inexpensive malls with my kidlet and crying because I couldn’t buy him a second pair of shoes.  But for better or for worse, I wanted to be a mommy.  When my son was little, I would take care of him all day and then go to work around 9 or 10 at night.  When he was old enough to go to school, I transitioned to going on the air during the day.  By doing that, I got to reap the rewards of being there for him and having all of his influences come from me.  

Even though becoming a single-income parent requires a lot of sacrifices, it is doable.  In order to make the transition, there are a few things you have to do in advance: 

  • Make sure you’re marrying someone who is on the same page as you.  I talked to a couple one time who were both letter carriers.  What they did was put the wife’s salary in the bank for one year and didn’t touch it.  When the year was over, they had no outstanding debts and realized that they could get by on one income.  She quit her job, got pregnant, and became a stay-at-home mom.  So, before you even think about getting married, you need to discuss the future and make plans. 
  • Build up some emergency funds and backup cash. Similar to the couple I just mentioned, spend a year living on only one income, eliminate any outstanding debts, and pile everything else into a bank account. 
  • Don’t buy new cars. You hear about new cars being safer and more convenient, but don’t be fooled. There are plenty of safe, roomy, and convenient USED options.   You don’t want to have to pay the price of a new car (which drops in value the minute you roll out of the dealership), or take on the cost of new car insurance either.
  • Don’t attempt to compete with two-income families.  The reason why they have disposable income may very well be because they’re neglecting and abandoning their children.  That’s not a tradeoff you want to make. 

In addition, you have to learn how to be a “home economist.”  This is quite easy.  One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s actually women of more modest means who generally make the decision to be mothers when they have children.  There are many wonderful websites out there for at-home parents.  Just type “at-home parent” into your browser, and you’ll find coupons galore. 

I still use coupons to this day.  There’s no reason not to.  Just because you have some money doesn’t mean you should throw it away:

  • There are coupons for EVERYTHINGfood, clothes, pet supplies, computer accessories, and more.  Have you noticed when you order something on the net that there’s always a space to write in a coupon code?  The minute I see that, I think, “Whoops, I should have found one!”   I am always looking for coupons.  I don’t go to craft stores without them.  Art and craft places like Michaels have coupon specials going on all the time.  I always wait for the one that’s 20 percent off everything to stock up on the stuff I need (the key word there being “need” not “want”).
  • There are cash-back sites like Ebates.com, which give you money back on the purchases you make from your favorite stores.  There are also credit cards that offer cash-back incentives for the money you spend.  However, be sure to use these types of cards carefully. If you start spending right and left thinking, “Oh well, I’m getting money back,” you’re going to end up spending too much.
  • Look for restaurants that have family meals (“two-for-one adult meals,” or “kids eat free”).  Try to find coupons for restaurants as well.

Here are some more tips on how to become a “home economist”:

  • Pack lunches.  I’m definitely a “pack a lunch” kind of girl.  It’s cheaper, healthier, and you get exactly what you want.  For one thing, you can avoid buying all that flavor-injected meat and fish.
  • Shop at the Salvation Army.   You can often find new stuff like toys that nobody has opened.  Kids don’t have to know where it came from.  I once went to a really nice thrift store with a friend who was on a tight budget, and we got her daughter a bunch of nice tops and sweaters for only $25.  It was unbelievable.  They looked brand-new to us. 
  • Check your cell phone plan.  There are plans that include free calls to everyone on the same network.  Again, be cautious because a lot of them come with expensive monthly bills and long-term contracts.  
  • Participate in online barter groups.  These are very cool.  One participant wrote, “I’ve received clothes for myself and the kids, toys, musical instruments, books, movies, etc. all in exchange for things that I no longer need but are still functional and someone else can use.”
  • Homeschool your kids.  You won’t have to buy special school clothes, waste time driving to the campus, or be involved in school fundraisers.  And even more importantly, you can make sure your kids actually get an education. Imagine that.
  • Cook healthy meals. Preparing veggies and protein at every meal can be very economical, especially if you buy things in bulk at places like Costco.

You can find page after page of websites telling you how to save money as a stay-at-home parent.  No matter what your income level, it’s stupid not to use them:

  • On Stayathomemoms.about.com, one woman wrote that she doesn’t use the lights or the dishwasher, do the laundry, or consume much electricity during the day because it’s more expensive.  She does one load a day at 11 p.m.  She has a cup of tea and relaxes, throws the clothes in the dryer, and gets them out before the baby gets up in the morning.  That’s it.

The bottom line is that you need to care enough about your children to raise them.  If you can’t or won’t, then don’t have them.  And when you do decide to make sacrifices for them, don’t bitch about it – ever.  If you can’t go out and buy a lot of jewelry and clothes just think, “It’s a small price to pay to have peace, joy, and contentment.”  Being a full-time parent is a very rewarding experience for both you and your child, and with a little planning, you can not only stay at home with your kids, but you can enjoy the process too.  

The Importance of Getting Your Kids Outdoors

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be physically active for at least 60 minutes per day, although they stress that the activity doesn’t have to be consecutive.  Is that not the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?  As long as the time they spend walking across the living room and back to go to the bathroom or play video games adds up to an hour, that’s considered OK.  It’s no wonder nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are overweight or obese. 

I know this may sound obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to be fat.  According to the National Environmental Education Foundation, kids living within two-thirds of a mile of a park with a playground are five times more likely to have higher levels of physical activity and weigh less.  In addition, children exposed to nature can reduce their stress levels by as much as a third.  It only takes a 20-minute walk outside to help children with ADHD concentrate better (believe it or not, you don’t have to just drug them).

With all that being said, it’s hard to imagine why so many of our kids are overweight when there are more than 20,000 parks and 11,000 playgrounds totaling over 1.5 million acres in cities across the U.S.  When my son was little, I’d put him in the kid seat on the back of my English racer and ride him over to the park to play all the time.  I don’t know why more people with kids don’t try moving closer to areas with parks nearby.

What I really don’t understand is why kids these days don’t want to go outside.  When I was young, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was be in the house.  That’s where your parents could tell you what you could and couldn’t do.  Instead, I’d always be outside running, riding my bike, hiking, and playing ball with friends.  And it wasn’t called exercise – it was called playing.  Nowadays, kids have Wii and Xbox, and they need special shoes and other electronic equipment in order to be active.

I think one of the reasons kids aren’t as active is that a lot of parents are either too busy or just too lazy to pay attention to what their kids are doing, where they are doing it, and who they are doing it with.  They also take their children to sedentary “mommy and me” groups where they sit there and put one block on top of the other.   Whatever happened to kids going outside, running, pushing, and falling down laughing?  Parents need to stop being so freaked out about the possibility of their child getting a boo-boo.  My theory is if your kid turns 18 with no scars or broken bones, you have been too controlling (I can’t tell you how relieved I was when my son broke his arm when he was 17).

Furthermore, a recent study suggests that your child’s social network of friends can greatly influence how much they move their butts.  The journal Pediatrics conducted a study of 81 kids between the ages of 5 and 12 for 12 weeks in an after-school program.  They interviewed the kids about who they were hanging out with the most and equipped them with devices called accelerometers to measure their activity levels.  What the researchers found was the children’s activity levels increased or decreased depending on who they were hanging out with.  If a child’s friend was sedentary, then he or she would also be inactive.  When given the choice to keep their activity levels the same or change them to match those of their pals, the children were six times more likely to match their friends.

The takeaway from this study is that kids are influenced by their peers, even in how much they exercise.  You need to arrange play dates and encourage your children to have relationships with kids who are active.  Even if your child tends to be sedentary on his or her own, having friends that like to play will make them more likely to go out, run around, ride bikes, and do normal kid stuff. 

As parents, you need to get your kids playing outside.  Limit their electronic media use to an hour a day.  Don’t let them sit there staring at a screen all day with hyperactive thumbs – it’s like a scene out of a scary movie.

Nightmarish Dream Weddings

The economy is really bad, and it’s not going to get better anytime soon.  Because finances are such an issue, practicality is especially important these days.  However, a lot of people still have delusions of grandeur about certain things like weddings.  Many of them watch too much reality television and get swept away by the fairy tale nonsense.   Instead of seeing a wedding as a stage for making vows to love, cherish, protect, hold dear, and support in sickness and in health, they (especially women) look at it as a major opportunity to be queen for a day.

The average couple spends $27,000 on their wedding. Talk about extravaganzas.  I think the reason for this is because women, in particular, are pressured by friends, family, and even strangers.  They are also victimized by media visions, such as all those incredible photos you see posted on Pinterest.  These kinds of things are what create the sense of fantasy and cause weddings to go way over budget. 

Sadly, what results is couples starting their lives together in debt and often without the resources to go on a honeymoon.  When you’re young, you already have a lot of bills.  If you’ve got $30,000 in student loans to pay off in addition to the wedding, you are not going to have enough money to live on.  Marriage is already tough enough without the added stress of money problems. 

In addition, parents borrow on their homes or dip into their retirement funds to pay for their kids’ weddings.  It’s not all that surprising seeing that couples, on average, spend $12,000 on the reception and $5,000 for the engagement ring.

We really need to simplify.  Love is simple and sweet.  You’re planning a celebration of vows, not the Academy Awards.  At a time when the median U.S. income is about $45,000, no one should be spending $27,000 on a single event.  In one article I read, a couple said, “If it were up to us, we would have a taco truck and a DJ.”   However, instead, women spend thousands and thousands of dollars on dresses that they are (hopefully) only going to wear one time.  What happened to this being a touching and meaningful occasion? 

If you want to cut down on your wedding costs, here are some helpful tips:

1. Avoid wedding seasonWedding season is traditionally May through October.  If you get married off season, things will be a lot cheaper.  In addition, avoid the highest-priced time charged by reception halls (Saturday at 7 p.m.). 

2. Limit the guest list.  When your parents and friends want to bring people you’ve never even heard of, you need to tell them “no.”   Your mom or dad might object, “But, I do business with these people!,” however, the answer is still “no.”  There should be nobody at your wedding that a) you don’t know, or b) you don’t think is there to support your vows.  I know that’s a novel concept these days, but it’s an important one.  You shouldn’t be walking around the room wondering, “Who the hell is that?”  If your parents want to invite business partners or other friends, let them have their own party at some other time and invite all these extraneous people to celebrate that their kid got married.

3. Consider having a wedding buffet, luncheon, brunch, or just a dessert reception instead of a multi-course wedding dinner.  You don’t need to have a major sit-down dinner.  You also don’t have to go overboard with desserts.  Most of the time, people have stuffed themselves and don’t want to eat a huge dessert.  You could offer them cookies or other itty bitty things instead.  And as for the booze – buy it yourself.  It’ll be much cheaper than having a catering hall provide it.

4. Rethink the location.  Consider having your wedding at a national park or the beach.  Ask a relative or friend to use their backyard.  I’ve had several friends’ weddings in my backyard.  I said to them, “Do you know how much money you are going to save if you just have your wedding at my house?  We can rent some tables and spiff it up.   It has got a beautiful view, and most importantly, it’s free.  That’s a good price.”

5. Save on flowers and decor.  Instead of spending a ton of money on floral arrangements, buy some small, inexpensive vases and dress them up with ribbons and other accessories.  Then, get your flowers from the grocery store.  It’s as simple as that.

6. Cut down on attire.  Attire accounts for 10 percent of the average wedding cost.  Did you know that you can rent a gown?  Check out sample sales, department stores and outlet stores.  You don’t have to pay $2,000-7,000 for a dress you’re not going to wear again.  Even if you get divorced and remarried four times, you’re probably not going to wear that same dress. And, if you try to sell a $5,000 dollar dress, you may only get $750 for it.   It’s a ridiculous expense – rent a gown for the night.

7. Go for a DJ instead of live music.  Couples spend an average of 8 percent of their wedding expenses on music.  DJs are very popular these days, and they are much cheaper than hiring a live band.

8. Get an amateur to take your photos and videos.  Why go through all the hassles and fights you’re bound to have with a professional photographer?  Hire an amateur.  Check out the local colleges where people are studying photography and find somebody there.  Or, like one wedding I went to, put disposable cameras on every table so that your guests can take pictures of each other.  You’ll end up with quite a lot of pictures. 

9. Send your wedding invitations via email.  I recently got invited to a baby shower via Evite.  All I had to do was click “yay” or “nay” to RSVP.  It was very cute.  Something like that is a whole lot less expensive than the 42 different envelopes packed into one with all the tissue paper and stamps.  Forget all that. Use the net.

10.  Don’t have so many bridesmaids, and let them wear their own choice of attire.  It saves money and makes everybody happier.  Give them a color scheme and say, “Whatever it is, it needs to be ____ shade of blue.”  You can even send them all a swatch of that shade for comparison.  In addition, you only need to have one or two bridesmaids.   You are not one of the royals in England. 

Nowadays, people tend to spend more time on the desserts and who’s going to sit where than they do on what they’re actually committing to: their sacred vows.  Keep it simple, keep it sweet, and most importantly, keep it meaningful.

How to Be an Effective Parent

It is becoming clearer and clearer in today’s society that parents are scared to death of actually being parents, leaders, and authority figures to their kids.  Consequently, the kids run the house, and the “parents” are left feeling frustrated because they can’t get them to do anything except give them lip and attitude.

In my opinion, the current epidemic of incapable parents started with abortions (when children became disposable) and was made worse by day care (when parents didn’t have to be involved).  Throw in shack-ups, people having more and more kids out of wedlock, and the perpetual cycle of divorce and remarriage, and you’ve got the kind of parenting we have today.  This may all sound a little wing nutty to you, but all of these things have indicated to me that there’s a lack of primacy in people’s minds about the needs and well-being of children.  I mean, if you can kill kids in your body or send them off to an institution all day, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern involved. 

There are a couple of things you need to be aware of as a parent.  First, it is not about the quality, but the quantity of time you spend with your kids.  Kids don’t just need quality moments to feel secure and know that you care about them.  If you give them quantity, the quality moments will be covered, and when they don’t have quality moments, you’ll still be there.

Consistency is also an integral part of parenting.  There are a lot of folks out there who are lazy and think being consistent requires too much effort.  However, if one parent is consistent and the other isn’t, the kid will figure out how to use the inconsistent parent against the steady one.  Inconsistency impacts a child’s emotional security.  There’s something comforting about knowing your role and place within a set of rules.  When kids know their responsibilities and understand what’s expected of them in a hierarchy of power, they have a better opportunity to grow.  When they know that there will be consequences if they cross the line, they tend to be more secure in life. 

Consequences need to be reasonable and it’s helpful if they are already made known ahead of time.  Try to make them as close to the issue as possible. Let’s say, for example, that your teen lies about where he or she has gone.  The consequence should be they can’t go anywhere unsupervised for a while.  If they misuse or abuse a cell phone, iPad, or computer, then they should lose it for a while until they earn it back. 

The “earning it back” is usually the part parents leave out of punishments.  It’s not just about making your child suffer for a period of time; it’s about giving them time to figure out a way to earn something back.  You can always give your child a hint, such as, “You breached my trust, and now I don’t trust you.  To regain my trust (or whatever it may be), you have got to figure out a way to earn it back.”  That gets them thinking about themselves and their own destiny.  It also teaches them something about interacting with other people and what they owe them.  They have to learn that the world is not just about them.

Any character trait you want your child to have, you have to model.  Be it politeness, consideration or love, they have to see it played out between Mom and Dad, relatives, and friends.  If somebody you know is struggling with an illness or going through a rough patch and your child sees you bringing them some soup or baking them a pie, they are going to grow up with that as a reflex notion. 

Finally, giving your kids whatever they want or letting them do whatever they want is not how you should show them love.  Children are not your friends – they are wild little creatures that have to be socialized and made into decent human beings so they can produce something of value in the world.  Love is shown through actions (i.e. the time we spend with them, and the gentle touches, hugs and kisses we give them).  Let them know when they’ve done something really well or you are impressed with them.  Give them little gifts now and then.  It doesn’t have to be anything major, just look for little, silly things they might like.  For example, I remember when my kid was little and I was bouncing around the country for short bursts (a day or day and a half), I’d buy him a keychain from every city.  I came close to missing the plane a couple times while I was trying to find a keychain, but it was worth it because it made him happy to know I was thinking about him.  He’d put them all on his backpack. 

When you do something for your kid without them expecting you to do it for them, you provide a better model of love.  Just say, “I know you’ve been under the weather,” or “I see you’ve been working really hard at school.”  “How about I make your favorite dinner?,” or “How about we sit and watch your favorite movie (with some unbuttered popcorn)?” 

Being an effective parent is in your power.  Take responsibility, and you’ll take away the attitude.

Fake vs. Real Love – A ‘Chemistry’ Lesson

In today’s world, you meet someone, you text, you think they’re the greatest thing in the world, you have sex, and it’s over.  You don’t even bother to get to know them – it’s just, “Hello. Do you have 15 minutes?  Let’s hook up.”  The romance of actually trying to build a relationship is not much in season.  Of course, there are shack-ups, but those are really just fake relationships. 

I want to talk about the difference between real love and the fake stuff.   Fake love is the immediate chemistry.  We all know what that is – the chemical rush of horniness that can last from three weeks to a year and a half and then “Poof!” it’s gone.  It’s a little different for males than females because they are each biologically focused on different things.  Males are focused on their sperm taking over the world one female at a time.  Females, on the other hand, are biologically concerned with safety, security, and being provided for so their babies will be safe.  Although the biological system in human beings can be somewhat overridden, chemistry for a male is still a) she’s a hot babe, and b) I’m going to look hot walking around with her.  It’s initially superficial, and it lasts longer the younger the male is.  For the female, a male’s attractiveness is semi-irrelevant (I mean, “piggy dirty” is not acceptable, but other than that, she doesn’t care).  She just wants to see if he can take care of her.

Men are perfectly capable of engaging in sex without emotional bonds.  That’s why prostitutes have always existed.  Today, a lot of women are behaving like that, and it’s one of the many reasons why female depression is so high.  “Just having fun” leaves a lot of women feeling used up and lonely.  They engage in multiple meaningless situations of physicality, which don’t make anybody – men or women – feel better.  It takes time to develop a relationship, and a lot of you folks aren’t doing that.  You are just trying to get some physical and emotional needs met.  The problem with that is there’s no giving involved – the cornerstone of a real relationship. 

The onset of real love and fake love can feel very similar.  It’s obsessive – you can’t think about anything else, and you might lose weight, sleep, or time.  However, when it’s fake love, you are both only projecting fantasies and assuming things about each other.  You can’t see future problems because you are both idealizing all of each other’s qualities and insisting that the other person is the best you’ve ever met.  However, you haven’t actually “met” them.  You are only seeing an idealized version of that person. 

That is why courting is so important.  It’s how you learn more about a person other than just, “She’s beautiful and a bombshell in bed.”  You have to let the dust settle.  Until that happens, you really have no idea if you’re right for each other.

When two people immediately start planning for the future within weeks of meeting, it’s a sign that they don’t know a damn thing about each other.  I’ve always told women that if a guy is proposing that quickly, it isn’t because he loves them.  Real love evolves into (and I know this word is going freak some people out) service.  You see, fake love is all about how the other person makes you feel.  Real love is about your commitment to making someone else feel good.  Real love involves two people focusing on the needs of each other and doing loving acts over and over again without anyone keeping score.  That’s why fake love ends up being such a bummer and a letdown – you hit a wall because all you’re thinking about is how you feel.   

Now, just because fake love is largely about physicality doesn’t mean it’s unimportant to real love, especially in the case of men.  I find it really annoying when women call my show saying they’ve gained between 30 and 50 lbs and still expect their husbands to love them exactly the same.  Your husband may have deep feelings of caring and commitment toward you, but it doesn’t change the fact that your blubber is not a turn-on.  If you would have asked him, “What would you think if I gained a lot of weight,” I guarantee you that his answer would have been, “I want you to be fit and nice-looking like you are now.”  Women get all mad and upset when I tell them that because they think, “If he loved me, he wouldn’t say something so hurtful.”  Come on!  All he’s doing is telling you the damn truth.  As a spouse, taking good care of yourself and being healthy are very important.  Chemistry still matters later on, and a lot of it has to do with how you look to your spouse.  

On another note, what happens when you don’t have chemistry with someone?

Well, some people hang around for a while to see if the chemistry will evolve.  I’m not a big believer in that.  I think there are probably some circumstances where that does happen, but beating your head against the wall to make it happen is probably not a good plan.  When you hear about two long-time friends who start feeling sexy about each other one day, that is not really chemistry developing – it’s just chemistry they weren’t aware of that is now coming forth.  In my opinion, the chemistry was probably there from day one, but their brains were not functioning on that level. 

If you have persisted and still don’t feel chemistry, don’t try to force things.  It isn’t fair to you or your potential partner to do that.   You can’t manufacture or counterfeit passion, and there is no substitute for chemistry.  Give each romantic experiment a good try, but don’t wait forever.  If nothing happens, you have to move on.