Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

If These Walls Could Speak

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

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How Clean is Too Clean?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

How ‘Thin-spiration’ is Killing The Self-esteem of Young Girls

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

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Experts Say ADHD is Preventable with Improved Breathing

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

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Laura Regan

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

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The new Atlas Shrugged lead dishes expert and doable tips on how to raise children who are conscious of what’s going on environmentally in the world today

K: Tell us about your years growing up in Canada, and your best memories from that.
L: I have to say, just running wild—literally running around with friends, building forts in the woods and just waiting for that, “Dinner!” call from far away. You all sort of think whose parents will call first, and then that they’ll have to go, and they’d be all bummed that they’d have to go first.

K: I remember those…
L: But then the other parents would call, too. That sort of freedom of—I don’t wanna be too nostalgic or downbeat, but I don’t know that that’s totally available to kids now.

K: Yeah, absolutely.
L: Depending on where you live. You know, it was kinda different.

K: It’s a completely different time. Like we used to climb up tall trees.
L: Yeah.

K: Now, I freak out if my kids even think about going up one. I’m like, “Oh my God, they’re gonna fall. How many stitches will they need?” You know?
L:Yeah, I know. Are they wearing a helmet? Everybody needs a helmet now and everything.

K: So, I was told you also have family in the entertainment industry.
L: Not really. Gerald is my father, and my sister was a newscaster. She was well-known in Canada because she hosted a news show.

K: Okay, that’s probably what it was.
L: I wouldn’t call it so much entertainment… And my dad was a politician—that’s not entertaining people.

K: Not at all, haha! I read you’re from Nova Scotia?
L: I’m from Nova Scotia, but I went to University of Montreal, and then I moved to New York because I wasn’t a Drama major at Miguel at Montreal but I wanted to be, and I was kind of in my second and a half year when I realized I wanted to be a Drama major. I did my Junior and Senior year away—I just left. I went to New York, and I made some arrangements with the Dean and I sent him my credits then I started studying acting in New York. I just forged my own path from there.

K: So you already knew you wanted to be an actress long before moving to NYC.
L: Yes, I knew I wanted to learn about drama. I wanted to try to do plays but I was just saying these words because I didn’t know anybody who was an actress. I didn’t know anybody who had ever been in a television show, or in a movie. It was such a far concept to me. It didn’t really seem like something I could really do. I wanted to try, but I didn’t have the first idea how. But once I got to New York—I was on a student visa at first—and right away, I knew that was what I wanted.

K: From Canada to New York, how was the transition like?
L: I’ve always loved big cities, I love New York, London, Paris. I just felt like I belonged, like a ‘This is where I was meant to be,’ kind of thing. It was not a difficult transition at all, except nobody would rent an apartment to me.

K: That is insane.
L: Because I was Canadian—I had no credit.

K: That’s right.
L: The worst part is the horrible sublets in one corner of somebody’s closet that I could occupy from Monday to Friday. And then every Friday I would be thinking, where am I gonna stay, I don’t know where to go.

K: Whose couch am I gonna bum off? And you were how old at this time?
L: I was 20.

K: When people see you, what do they normally say? “Hey you’re that girl from…?”
L: Sometimes they say Mad Men or  any number of the scary movies I’ve done—usually Dead Silence or They. But you know what? It’s a very funny business. The first time I had a big movie come out in theaters, I was like, “Oh my God, it just came out, it’s Friday night!” Three days later, I was at a little supermarket in New York, a little deli on my corner, and I went in and a guy’s like, “Hey, I saw you. You’re…” I was all excited thinking, “Oh my God, he saw the movie!” And he was like, “Uh, you were that blonde in Law and Order.” Or probably worse, like, “Oh, you were in that Tampax commercial.”

K: Thank you for pulling me back to the ground.
L: Yeah, “Uh oh, you didn’t see my movie.” Oh, okay.

K: Haha! What is it like being in successful shows like Mad Men? What lessons do you take from those experiences? First as an actress, and later as a working mother?
L: Everytime I work, I learn something new because every project is different and you’re always with different groups of people. Every set has a different kind of pace, a different feel, and especially if you’re arriving as a guest star, you kind of have to find your footing pretty quickly. You arrive and you’re on set with a 150 new people whom you never met before, and you have to be comfortable. I’m constantly learning and reminding myself to find my way around a new set. But as a mother, that’s interesting. There’s not a lot you take from Mad Men about good mothering, really.

K: In general, what has being in the industry taught you about being a better mother? On time management, or patience?
L: Once I had my first baby, I just felt like there was an extra dose of fulfillment that I really would miss otherwise. I really love being able to do both. I love being able to work, and I feel like when I arrive at home, hopefully it’s a working day where I actually get to be home for the kids’ dinner and bath—which isn’t always the case in the entertainment industry, so that’s tricky. When you miss bedtime and bathtime—which is such a great end of day, being able to tuck them in—that’s hard and sad. Assuming that I do make it, then I arrive home with so much more energy. I don’t arrive home like I’ve gone to work all day. I arrive home so much more energized, and the change of scenery is so good for anyone who’s dealing with young children, I think.

K: It’s like you still get to keep a part of yourself— have the best of both worlds.
L: It is the best and it is tricky—I’ve been a pumping mother for the last 10 and 1/2 months now for my little girl—which is a whole other thing because everybody thinks that you go to your trailer and get maybe half an hour to eat lunch. Well, you gotta pump and clean your pumping stuff, clean the bottles and freeze the milk, and sterilize it. By the time you sit down and you’re with the fork ready to take a bite of lunch, that’s when then they go, (knocking) “Touches!” Then they take you back to the makeup trailer. Everybody’s like, “Did you have a nice lunch?” and you’re like, “Yeah, had a nice lunch.” The movie Atlas Shrugged I did when my baby was just 3 and 1/2 months to 5 months old. She  wasn’t eating food, just sort of thriving on me. That was time management—boy, I had to be on top of it because I was the lead of the movie. I was practically in every scene, and they didn’t have spare time. Luckily, I had help from a girl who became my assistant—she was amazing. I’m just sitting there, pumping away, people were coming in, and the minute I was finished, I just put everything down and she would deal with it. The next time I worked, I wasn’t the star, so I had to do it all myself. I was like, “I really miss Tiffany. This is really hard.” And no one knows what you’re doing either. They’re kind of just sitting outside thinking, “Ugh, she’s taking so long. This actress is such a diva.” Another thing from the entertainment industry I would take is, you just meet such a wide variety of people all day long, so many women have done it differently. My hairdresser on the last thing I did, she had 5 children and her youngest was 14, and I asked if she needed to be home for dinner, or will the older ones take care of the youngest. You hear everybody else’s story of how they made it work, and you take a little bit from everybody—and you feel empowered to be back in the world, creating something.

K: You mentioned that your baby was about 3 months old when you were filming. Did your kids get to be on set with you?
L: My son was 3 at the time, he came to visit and he loves that. He just came one time because he hadn’t really done a lot of set visits before, and he’s a little bit of a loose cannon. What are you gonna say to your 2-year old? “Be quiet, we’re rolling…”

K: I totally understand because my 2-year old son is all over the place.
L: My son thinks I drive a truck, basically. He saw all the trucks and rode up the hydraulic grip thing, he loves pressing the buttons…But I didn’t bring the baby to the set because it was too disruptive for her. A 4-month old does a lot of napping, and she needed to be in an environment where the environment could be about her. So there was a lot of sending milk home…

K: That’s nice to hear. Is your husband also an actor? How did you meet?
L: No, he’s a producer and director. We met at a play in the Flea Theater in New York, and they were doing a production of a Japanese Kabuki Theater. We met through a friend who brought him along, and I think she may have had in mind that we would hit it off. Neither of us really watched the play, mostly we watched each other in the audience kind of, like, trying to eye each other in the dark and see what each other looked like.

K: That’s funny. Your son, Tadius, is now 3 and 1/2. What’s it like raising a boy?
L: It is wild, and full of injury and bruises. People will ask, “Where did he get that bruise?” I’m like, “I don’t even know which one you’re talking about.” It’s getting on your knees, playing with cars in the dirt, yeah. I think raising a boy is the biggest adventure. It’s high octane. It really is all about trains, cars, building sites, and tractors…Oh, and my son had just entered this stage where he just wants hugs like every 4 minutes. I think, “Oh my God, I’ve gotta have him as much as I can now,  because he’ll get to a stage where he’ll be like, ‘Ugh, stay away mom.’”

K: They say boys are sweeter to their mothers.
L: You know the funny thing about my son is that he has a trait I have, which is not that great—I am a real klutz, a real spaz. I’ll break my toe on a coffee table that hasn’t moved in forever, or I’ll bump into a wall or door jamb that’s always been there. My son is like that, he can fall down just standing there. The baby is creeping around on the floor, and he would fall down. It’s never boring.

K: Same here, I’m very clumsy. I was told you have a huge passion for green living. How did this come about?
L: I’ve had it ever since I was probably 15, in high school, in a World Issues class. I was an avid recycler, and I’d say to my parents, “How many miles per gallon does that vehicle get?” When I was 15, I said I’m never getting a car and I might get a solar car. I didn’t totally hold to that because I got a Prius when I was about 25, or something. I had to buy a car because I was in LA, and it was pretty hard to get around. I’ve always been kind of like a running joke—like if you get a letter from me, you’d have to wonder what’s on the back of it because everything I do is on recycled paper. It comes to me as second nature because I think about it. It bothers me. Every time water flows from the tap, I think, where is this coming from? How are we so lucky that we have clean water, and how can I help if we use a drop more than I should? I’ve always kind of been like that, even when it wasn’t really cool, you know? When I was a teenager, we were aware of stuff like that and I am concerned about the teenagers now kind of aren’t. We didn’t throw things away. When we were in high school, we didn’t get a throwaway cup. We had water bottles that we carry. We had metal cans. I’ve been the person on set, who, if there’s no recycling and I’m on a movie, I’ll do the recycling. One time, I had a driver I overheard talking to one of the other drivers. He was like, “Ugh, it’s so annoying, my car always gets so smelly because she carries recycling.” I’d like to be like Kyra Sedgwick—she runs a very green set. She’s the star of the show and she leaves a box inside the stage for scripts for you to dump them and she recycles them. In our business, you can have vehicles idling as if gas was nothing, as if emissions weren’t anything. I’ll knock on the window and I’ll be polite but I’ll say, “Excuse me, would you mind not idling your vehicle.” Now if it’s their job to sit in the car and it’s -30 degrees Celsius, then you know, I understand they have to have heat on.

K: So you’ve got two kids, Tadius and Alma Rose. Do you think it’s possible for busy mothers to still have that lifestyle?
L: Definitely. I think you just teach the children. They are such little sponges, they want to do exactly what we do. You say something one time and your kid will repeat it, pick up on it. You say, “No this is a recycling bin and when we have a yogurt container, it goes in there.” Or whether it’s about running the water too much. My son knows, he’s 3 and a half, and he’ll say, “Yes, mama, the drought.” Sometimes he likes to play with the water a little bit too much, you know? They wanna behave the way you behave, so you really just lead by example. If you do things and explain to them why you’re doing it, that’s even better because they’ll understand that it’s real—they’ll take note, and they’ll really do it.

K: Absolutely. Any funny kid stories you care to share?
L:My son the other day said—it was the day after we did the photo shoot—he kept saying, “Smile for the camera.” We had some bees around that day, and we were talking about how bees are in decline—how they are important because they make honey and go for the nectar from the flowers, and so on. He was watching them do that, and then he felt something buzzing around his head and he said, “Hey bee, there’s no honey in my eye.” I thought that was just a funny little comment.

K: So cute!
L: My other funny one is kinda shameful if my son ever reads this, finds out that I said it in 20 years. He’s having some struggles going through the final stages of toilet training. Just fine on the peeing, but not so happy about pooing in the toilet. As an example, I just take my daughter the minute she starts making that face, I pick her up and even though she’s not walking yet, I’ll take her and sit her there. Later, I told my husband that she was so good that she did that! Making a big deal about it and my son said, “I’m so proud of that little girl.” And we’re like, is he ever gonna do it himself? He wants so much to be an adult. And then I’ll say, “Tad, when are you gonna be comfortable using the toilet all the time?” And he said, “Oh when I’m Dada’s age I’m definitely gonna use the toilet.” Oh, that’s great.

K: Good to know, haha! So adorable. Nowadays, what’s in your mommy purse?
L: I am terrified. Literally, crumbs in every crevice—you can dump the thing upside down, and you probably have a meal out of what came out of it—but it would not be very clean. There’s always a package of wipes, you know, for the disaster. A kid-friendly spray hand sanitizer. I don’t switch purses very well, so if it’s my purse I’m using at the moment, the mommy stuff goes with me. I’m in an audition trying to find a highlighter, and I pull out cookies and crackers and little toys that vibrate, or a baby teether, something for emergency starvation, stuck in traffic, and something for cleaning hands and dirty faces.

K: I love that. Lastly, if there are three virtues that you want your kids to have, what would they be?
L: Patience, generosity, and fairness. That’s what came to mind. The ‘patience’ thing isn’t going so well yet, haha!

PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANNIE MCELWAIN
INTERVIEW BY KARIZ TANYA FAVIS
MAKE UP BY AMY STROZZI
HAIR BY PAUL NORTON
AS SEEN IN BC’S ANNIVERSARY 2014 ISSUE

When Infertility Becomes A “Guy Thing”

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

How men can combat declining fertility trends.

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When infertility strikes, it can be a massive source of stress for couples, and many are too quick to assume it’s a female issue.

 

Alarmingly, the average sperm count for adult males has decreased by 50 percent since 1938 and is currently declining at a rate of 2 percent each year, according to a study in the British Medical Journal. Stress, exposure to environmental toxins and diets deficient in key vitamins and minerals are likely to blame.

 

“It’s a fact that one in six couples will have difficulty conceiving, but many aren’t aware that almost half the time, it’s the male who is the cause of the problem,” said fertility expert, Dr. Amos Grunebaum. “When couples address this issue, it’s been my experience that the woman is the first to see a specialist to determine her fertility status. It’s a little more difficult to get the man on board with doing the same thing. Some men just don’t want to acknowledge that they may have a fertility problem. As such, they are more reluctant to get tested and I have seen a lot of men delay seeing a specialist or even avoid it completely.”

 

Unfortunately, Dr. Grunebaum can confirm these disturbing statistics as he has seen sperm counts decline in his over 25 years of practice.“From my experience, low sperm count is one of the primary reasons that couples have a difficult time conceiving,” said Dr. Grunebaum, also a medical health advisor for Fairhaven Health. “Quite simply, the fewer sperm a man produces, the lower the likelihood that one will successfully fertilize the egg.”

 

However, according to Dr. Grunebaum, there are a variety of ways men can help improve their reproductive health.

 

“A diet rich in antioxidants such as Vitamins C, E, and Zinc can go a long way in improving sperm health. Exercising regularly plus limiting caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco intake can also help a great deal,” he added.

 

While low sperm count is known to be a major cause of infertility, for many men, visiting a doctor or clinic to have a sperm analysis done can be a daunting task.

 

“The testing process itself can be a little embarrassing and even more so when faced with the prospect of exposing their condition to the doctor, nurse, or office staff,” he added.

 

“There are many benefits from determining early on if sperm count is a problem for you,” Dr. Grunebaum said. “The sooner an issue is pinpointed, the sooner proper treatment can be started. Treatments for male infertility typically include lifestyle changes, vitamin, mineral or herbal supplementation, prescription medication, or even surgical procedures. But before any of that can begin, the couple has to be able to communicate and agree to take action.”

 

 

CARING FOR ONE’S FERTILITY

For dads and dads-to-be, there are several ways to keep your fertility in check. The first step is to be aware of your overall health and consult a doctor to make sure your sperm count is well in the general average, which is 120 to 350 million per cubic meter. If your sperm count falls short, take a closer look at your lifestyle. Some factors such as smoking and alcohol contribute to infertility. Smoking causes blood vessels to narrow, thereby hindering the blood to flow to the genitals, making it more difficult to produce sperm. Smoking also damages the sperm membrane and can alter DNA, thereby causing birth defects in babies.

 

When it comes to clothing, wear comfortable underwear that does not raise the temperature of the testicles, or keeps it too close to the body. Funny as it may sound, don’t use your laptop on your lap for prolonged periods, as the heat can affect your testicles. Remember that cooler temperature is best for healthy sperm production.

Check your diet. Are you eating the right food to keep your sperm healthy? Go for food that contains zinc, folic acid, vitamin C, and essential fatty acids, like Omega 3. For those who want an extra boost, herbal supplements are available in the market, such as panax ginseng, ginkgo biloba, saw palmetto berry, nutmeg, among others. 

 

 

Words by Dr. Amos Grunebaum

Story from BC Magazine U.S. Spring 2014

Why Attention Deficit Disorder Doesn’t Have To Be A Prison

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Advocate and ADD patient reveals secrets to overcoming diagnosis.

 

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Robert Bernardo knows the stigma of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and he wouldn’t wish it on his worst enemy.

 

What’s worse is that the numbers of children being diagnosed are rising at an unprecedented rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a million more kids had a parent-reported ADD diagnosis in 2007 compared to 2003 in the U.S., a 22 percent increase in 4 years. More than 4.1 million had a current diagnosis in 2007 and 2.7 million were taking medication for the disorder.

 

Bernardo, who went from growing up with ADD to authoring his first book, Johnny Paradise, believes that the stigma of ADD does not have to be an impediment in the lives of those who are diagnosed. While living with ADD can be challenging, Bernardo believes it only makes overcoming those challenges more rewarding.

 

“I’ve lived with ADD for 55 years,” he said. “I have it and I passed it to my children, so I am intimate with both sides of the ADD equation. I know what it is to live with it as a patient, and I know what it is to raise children who have it. The odd thing is that I have no problem with either. Some elements of life are made more difficult by ADD, but it does not make achievement and success impossible. My issue is how others can sometimes treat it as an excuse or a reason why they and their kids do not achieve. I think that’s the wrong approach, and it only fuels the stigma surrounding ADD. I believe that a healthy attitude, forbearance, and perseverance can overcome any of the obstacles that ADD presents. People just have to show a little faith.”

 

Bernardo is living proof, having just published his first novel, with several more on the way. For him, the novels are as much about telling good stories as they are about making a statement. “It took me five years to write my first book,” he added. “But I finished it. Without ADD, maybe it would have taken five months, but that doesn’t matter. There are people without ADD who struggle for years to write their books, but never finish. I made it to the finish line, even though no one would have faulted me for giving up the dream. My point is that anything is possible. ADD can be a hindrance, but it doesn’t have to be a showstopper. The secret is to discard the stigma, forget the people who say you’ll never be able to fulfill your dreams, and embrace only the words and wishes of those who support you. Stop looking to others for inspiration. Find the inspiration inside yourself, and pilot your own ship. If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen.”

 

ADD and ADHD

What is ADHD and how does it differ from ADD? Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) is the term previously used to describe children who find it hard to pay attention, but are not highly impulsive or hyperactive, while ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is the umbrella disorder in which ADD belongs to.

 

 

According to Dr. Steven Kurtz of the Child Mind Institute, one can think of ADHD as having three scales—inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Children who are diagnosed with ADHD or ADD are often rated using these scales. Because the symptoms of this disorder may well persist into adulthood and there is no cure for it to this day, it is important for parents to be aware on how to deal with children with these disorders as they grow. Here are some tips on how to help your child, and your family, cope with this disorder:

Be open and communicate properly. 

Kids who have ADHD or ADD may not completely understand what they’re going through, and may not be aware that they are acting differently from their peers. This might cause problems at school, so make sure to explain to your child that while what he has makes him different, it does not make him less of a person than his peers.

 

Be supportive. 

Some children who have ADHD and/or ADD may have learning disabilities, problems with understanding and communicating, anxiety disorders, depression, conduct disorder, Tourette syndrome, and a string of other disorders that is linked to ADHD/ADD. Make sure that you and your family are able to address his needs accordingly, by going to the doctor and seeking advice about medication, tests, and behavioral therapy, among other options. Make sure you’re ready with information on patient and family history as well.

 

Break it down to basics, and be organized. 

When dealing with a child with ADHD, it’s best to simplify things for him or her. If you’re offering him a snack, ask him if he wants fruit or yogurt, and avoid too many options so that he isn’t overwhelmed. Make his playroom and study area as organized as possible. Turn off the TV and keep away toys and video games during homework time to help him focus on his tasks. Keep his things in the same place every day—for example, a schoolbag may be placed on a chair by his door or desk, so he will always remember that area for his bag.

 

Connect with your school teacher, administrators, and counselors. 

If they are already aware of your child’s condition, they can better help him deal with his tasks in school, or address concerns in the classroom. Get in touch with the local government’s department of education for special programs to find out the best options for your child. 

 

About Robert Bernardo

 

Born in 1955, Robert Bernardo grew up in New Jersey and attended various schools. His Attention Deficit Disorder made it difficult for him to achieve, but he never gave up on his education. He continues to pursue a college degree, and has faith that he will graduate. He has a wife, Lisa, and three teenage kids, Adam, Emily and David. He was an investment broker during his years in Southern California, and also started and sold several highway construction businesses since moving to Texas 20 years ago. It has always been his passion to write on a full-time basis.

 

Words by Robert Bernardo

Story from BC Magazine U.S. Spring 2014

 

A Weighty Discussion

Monday, May 12th, 2014

If your child is overweight, discussing that problem can be one of the most difficult conversations you’ll face as a parent. Now that the holidays have winded down, it’s time to broach the subject of weight—and not just yours. Here are some compelling reasons for overcoming the reluctance to have the “weight talk” with the kids.
 
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If you’re the parent of an overweight child, you probably feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, you know that your child’s health is in jeopardy and that you should take the lead in addressing this problem. But on the other hand, bringing up this touchy topic—not to mention figuring out how to make important lifestyle changes—is difficult, uncomfortable, and potentially embarrassing for all involved. If you’re like most parents in this situation, you probably find yourself putting off the “weight talk” for just a little while longer and a little longer after that. According to Sarah Stone, though, you’re making a big mistake. It’s time to stop stalling and start talking—for the sake of everyone involved.
 
“Communication is an essential part of effective parenting—but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy or enjoyable,” says Stone. “It certainly doesn’t help that most parents are never trained in this critical skill—especially when our children and sensitive topics are involved. And children’s weight in particular is too often the elephant in the room.”
 
The good news is, as the current director of operations at MindStream Academy, a co-ed health and wellness boarding school for teens who want to get fit, lose weight, build self-esteem, better manage stress, and take control over their health and wellness destinies, Stone can shed some much-needed light on this tough topic.
 
First, she says, it’s helpful to understand that you’re not alone in feeling reluctant to discuss your child’s weight. In fact, a recent study conducted by FIT, a partnership of WebMD and Sanford Health, showed that about 5 percent of parents struggle when talking to their kids about drugs and alcohol and that 10 percent are uncomfortable talking about sex, but 25 percent are hesitant to discuss their children’s weight issues. In fact, many parents of eight to seventeen year-olds admit to avoiding the weight conversation altogether.
 
“These statistics are not surprising, but they are tragic,” says Stone. “The developing years are when the brain learns habits that will last a lifetime. So right now is when a lasting change can be made relatively easily. Frighteningly though, if parents don’t act, the health habits of today’s children will only get worse from every conceivable angle—increased disease risk across the spectrum, poorer quality of life, and massive public and private expenditures that will weigh heavily on the economy and on the lifestyle of almost every citizen.” 
 
 
 
To help you get over your reluctance to have the weight discussion, here are five reasons she says parents are likely to hold back when it comes to talking about their children’s number one health issue.
 
They maintain complete radio silence (on parenting issues, anyway). When your child is small, it goes without saying that you’ll tell her what to do in most areas of her life—or at least make strong suggestions. But as kids grow into their tweens and teens, this autocratic approach often falls by the wayside. Since teens are supposed to start making their own decisions and growing into their independence, some formerly involved moms and dads believe that they can stop being parents and start being friends.
 
 
 
“There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to cultivate a fun, positive relationship with your kids, but never forget that being your child’s buddy is not your primary function,” Stone insists. “A parent’s job is to provide guidance, love, support, and effective preparation for life, even if that causes temporary resentment. Good parenting means recognizing that children have issues and then guiding them lovingly to effective solutions.”
 
They want to spare their children’s feelings. It’s something of an understatement to say that your child’s wellbeing is important to you. The last thing you want to do is cause him any sort of hurt. For that simple reason—a reluctance to see their children in emotional pain—many parents avoid telling their kids that their weight is unhealthy.
 
“Just as effective parenting isn’t about being a friend, it’s also not about sparing feelings,” asserts Stone. “On some level, parents know that if a child is very sensitive about a subject, that’s exactly why we should be talking to them. Letting children continue to feel shame, humiliation, and embarrassment because they (or you) don’t want to talk is only compounding the problem. In other words, avoidance is a symptom that you don’t want to reinforce.”
 
They know that food isn’t a clear-cut “bad guy.” “It’s a lot easier to talk about drugs rather than weight because there’s a moral structure to the discussion,” points out Stone. “Using illegal drugs is wrong, and therefore, the guideline is much more concrete for parents to set forth and enforce. But neither weight nor eating are moral choices; they are a function of everyday decisions. St. Augustine once said that ‘Abstinence is easier than perfect moderation,’ and of course, he was right.”
 
They don’t know how to help.  Understandably, many parents are reluctant to broach the subject of their kids being overweight because they simply don’t know what to say to effectively guide their children. After all, with incredibly lucrative industries revolving around health and weight loss, parents (as well as kids) are faced with a massive amount of often-conflicting information about how to best proceed.
 
 
 
“It’s one thing to address the issue, but being unsure of where it’s going and what advice to give can certainly inhibit the discussion,” admits Stone. “It’s important to understand that in reality, weight management is about many aspects of lifestyle ranging from sleep to stress management, not just food and exercise. Meanwhile, the average parent is still stuck in a ‘fat culture’ that revolves around the concept of diet, rather than understanding that this is about more far-reaching behaviors and the whole person.”
 
They have their own weight issues. In a culture in which 70 percent of people are overweight if not obese, many parents struggle with the problem of carrying extra pounds themselves. If that’s the case in your family, you—the pot—may be (understandably) reluctant to call the kettle black. Plus, you probably know that the “do as I say, not as I do” strategy doesn’t tend to work over the long term. And, toughest of all to admit, you might realize that doing something about your child’s weight will force you to tackle your own as well.
 
“Parents inevitably bring their own feelings about weight to the table, which can certainly prevent meaningful discussion,” points out Stone. “Often, they too feel helpless and thus, not in a position to give advice. Also, raising your own child can elicit emotionally fraught memories from your own childhood. If weight has been a lifelong issue for you, you’ll instinctively try to avoid those resurrected emotions. Remember, though, while you cannot change the past, you do have the power to create a better future for yourself and for your child.”
 
“Once they realize that it’s dangerous to put off the weight talk, many parents believe that they can safely leave the discussion to the family doctor, pediatrician, or other health professional,” adds Stone. “Getting professional input is a great idea, especially if nothing else is working. But know, though, that research suggests that health professionals also have difficulties raising sensitive issues with their teenage patients.
 
“Ultimately, while others might talk to your children about weight, the most important discussion they can have is with you. That’s because parents control the health environment at home and establish the wellness culture in the family. They are in a position to actually do something about the obstacles their kids are facing. And given that your children’s lives are quite literally on the line, avoiding the subject is a terrible abrogation of parental responsibility.  
 
Eight Tips for Approaching the “Weight Talk”
 
If your child is overweight, deciding to talk about this unhealthy lifestyle is only the first step. It can also be a huge challenge to have a productive, helpful discussion—especially if your child is unwilling to hear what you have to say.
 
Put the focus squarely on health and off weight.
Whether by default or by design, each family has a health and wellness “culture.” This includes the types of food that are kept in the house, how heavily physical activity is emphasized, what sleep patterns are encouraged, how much health information is available, and more. As a parent, you should emphasize each aspect of this health culture, not just your child’s weight.
 
Recognize that you spend too much time focusing on weight.
Most people don’t realize how much they use weight as a yardstick to measure their overall quality of life as well as their worth. That’s why, when broaching the subject of weight with your child (and in your own life), it’s important to stop talking about weight—and even, to some extent, appearance—and emphasize other characteristics. For example, talk about how an unhealthy lifestyle influences your child’s self-esteem and thus demeanor, as well as how he expresses himself and the impression he makes on other people.
 
Walk the walk.
In the end, your example is the best way to change your child’s health behaviors. Stone points out that teens in particular are sensitive to hypocrisy. So if you aren’t ready to make any and all of the changes that you’re asking of your child, don’t instigate the weight discussion in the first place.
 
 
Ask your child what would help.
Yes, you’re the authority figure in this relationship, but it can be a mistake to assume that you know the best way to help your child become healthier. One of the problems with giving support from a position of experience is that you tend to think that your child’s situation is the same as yours, and therefore, the things that worked for you will work for her. That’s not necessarily the case. Instead, it’s always a great idea to ask what your child thinks the best course of action would be.
 
Observe how your child (and the whole family) uses food.
Your discussion will be better received and more effective if you are well informed, so before instigating “the talk,” observe how your child uses food. If you see that she eats in order to manage her emotions, you’ve gained an important piece of information about a very damaging habit. The truth is, we aren’t always are best observers of ourselves. So if you can determine whether or not your child is using food as a drug to avoid discomfort or as a stress manager, you’re one step closer to attacking the root of the problem.
 
Don’t be judgmental.
One thing is for sure: nobody is perfect. And another thing is also for sure: if you attack someone, he’ll stop listening to you. Taking those two truths into account, Stone insists that you should avoid blaming your child at all costs. The fact is, we live in a fat culture—so in many ways, your child’s struggle isn’t his fault. However, it is his and your responsibility to do something about it. The focus should always be on how you can help your child move forward from here, expressed as lovingly as possible.
 
Focus on change, even if you run into resistance. 
The purpose of any discussion about losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle is to bring about change. Talking to your teen about his weight angst for an hour might have some value because it allows him to vent, but try not to leave the discussion there. Try to take one step forward too, even if your child is resistant to change. An effective way to overcome resistance (or even cut the conversation short if things are getting heated) is to get a commitment to make just one change in the next week. Stone adds that focusing on one simple change a week seems manageable (as opposed to dropping 30 pounds, which is overwhelming), and is a very constructive way to move the conversation forward without getting too bogged down.
 
And if you really can’t get through…
Sometimes, despite their best efforts, parents just can’t get a positive response from their children. If this happens in your family, Stone is adamant that someone needs to have the weight discussion with your child. Getting professional help is always a good idea, but there may be siblings, other relatives, friends, or even teachers who might get a more receptive response. And if all else fails? Well, Stone insists, all else can’t be allowed to fail. Your child’s life is too important.
 
Sarah Stone is co-creator and director of operations for MindStream Academy. Along with founder Ray Travaglione, she has worked on the MindStream Academy project from its inception. She is an honors graduate of the University of Toledo whose dream was always to work with youth. After her previous work as director of admissions at a teenage recovery management facility, Sarah found a path that led her to her work at MindStream. Her dream has been realized as she takes great pride in helping teens work to heal and nurture what is broken and learn to be tolerant and understanding of themselves.
 
Words by Sarah Stone

Story from BC Magazine U.S. Spring 2014

Lucky Number Seven

Monday, May 12th, 2014

One little girl, two bewildered and frustrated parents, and seven would be nannies.
 
1
 
To some New York parents, “seven” is the number of the train they ride to work, the floor they live on, or the series BMW parked in their garage.  For me, well, it’s the number of nannies we’ve gone through over the past three years: an often-comical, sometimes frustrating, and occasionally agonizing series of trials and tribulations—all to find the perfect nanny to watch my one and only whirlwind of joy.
 
After succeeding for two decades in Hollywood and then Wall Street, I figured motherhood—and subsequently finding a nanny—would be relatively easy. Being a mother has simply been one of the single greatest experiences of my life. But finding a nanny? Well, that turned out to be another thing entirely.
 
A NEW DAUGHTER & A DOULA
 
After the birth of my daughter, I decided to extend the standard 12-week maternity leave offered in my benefits package. My husband was simply terrified of our newborn: other than changing the occasional diaper, he just stared befuddled at our sleeping, suckling, pooping, spitting-up angel. In order to regroup, I found a lovely doula named Jenny—the perfect short-term solution, even if she was a bit…granola/earthy.
 
But what I really needed was some more permanent part-time help. It would give me some flexibility to go to doctor appointments, get back in shape, do household errands, and even stay somewhat connected with my office. 
 
So I started the search for what I will call Nanny Number One (“No. 1” for short). During my few saner (yet still sleep deprived) moments when Jenny was around, I had joined an indispensable resource: an online mom’s group specific to our neighborhood. The postings allowed me to feel in touch with all of the things happening in our area, and connect with nearby moms over everything from common problems to current gear recommendations.
 
 I also attended a few of the local social moms’ gatherings. At one of those fetes, I met a very chic and quirky mom—also a career woman for many years—who already had a part-time person in place. The proverbial light bulb went off: I could just use her nanny the other days and we could share this great person whom she endlessly raved about. 
 
NUMBER ONE
 
I met No. 1. She seemed nice, and I asked the basic questions about her experience, safety, and how long she had been working for my newfound friend, etc. She seemed to answer everything in the correct manner, and so No.1 would work for us two days a week, while still working for my friend for three—the perfect “nanny share.” She was sweet, positive, and a mom too, which I liked a lot, and reassured me as to her ability in watching a newborn (which she did with a certain aplomb). 
 
The summer ended all too fast. I wasn’t the least bit ready to get back to the office, so I resigned. I had No. 1 and the hubby (still lovable, and upgraded to ‘quasi-useful’) to help out with the baby, while I embarked on the search for a new position.  During that search, I realized that while my future position might not be 60 hours a week, it would still be in the 40- to 50-hour range—meaning I would need to secure a full-time nanny prior to accepting anything.
 
I thought: I’ll ask No. 1 if she has any friends looking for a full-time gig. But No. 1 didn’t want to make any suggestions: she started recommending herself! Yes, she wanted to drop my friend’s kid like a hot potato and come work for me full-time. In fact, she confided, her true desire was to work for just a single family. That was understandable, maybe, but also not terribly honest, and definitely not acceptable. I was not about to screw over my new amiga, especially after everything she’d done. No. 1 had to go. 
 
NUMBER TWO
 
To search for No. 2, I went back to my mom group postings. I found some names and started to call those who fit the full-time criteria. Thus, the first big round of interviews began. But after two weekends and about 15 babysitter prospects later, I had failed to come up with one acceptable candidate.
 
Plan B: reach out to friends and work colleagues who had children. Maybe they could give me some advice, or had a fabulous person they could recommend.
 
That tactic worked: a former coworker suggested a nanny who had cared for her son for the past four years. The boy was off to a full-time preschool, and she no longer needed the help.  Perfect, right?  Plus, No. 2 had tons of experience and lots of personality. We hired her on the spot.
 
Still new to the world of nannies, I didn’t formalize anything in writing of our arrangement.  We negotiated a salary, the times she would work, a few paid holidays and the standard offerings that other moms had recommended (such as overtime and a taxi home if they left after 9 p.m., certain paid holidays, a metro card for the subway, etc.).
 
No. 2 started, and I began a new job. Then, a few weeks into her employment, No. 2 started asking a lot of questions. First, she first wanted to know when she would get a raise! It was a bit precipitous, two weeks in.
 
Then she wanted weekly petty cash. When I probed a little further, inquiring as to what she intended to use the petty cash for, she responded, “…snacks, coffee, or anything I might need during the day.” I was supposed to fund her Starbucks addiction while she watched my kid? I demurred subtly, mentioning that we had a fully stocked refrigerator. I also said that I would be happy to pick up any special requests she had next time I went to the market.
 
Next, No. 2 asked if she could explore the City with my daughter, wanting permission to take her on the bus or the subway. She added that it was something she did quite often during her previous tenure; however, that child was 4 years old. At this point, my daughter was all of 6 months old. I wasn’t ready for a new nanny to venture on to public transportation with my infant.
 
This was not going well at all. To top everything off, No. 2 was unhappy about my decisions. And then the truth came out…No.2 was still in touch and very friendly with several nannies from her former job (located near Union Square, we were in TriBeCa) and wanted to continue those social relationships while dragging my daughter along. It was not going to happen. Time to start the search again. 
 
NUMBER THREE
 
We interviewed ten other candidates before finding No. 3.  On paper, she was stellar! She had worked with newborns, multiples, preemies, knew the downtown neighborhoods, references couldn’t say enough and we seemed to be on the same page with all of the logistics and terms for her employment.
 
Right before No. 3 started, she kept saying: “You won’t go wrong with me, I am one of the best, and I will make your life so easy.” That was on top of her chanting: “Ronni rocks! And she will do it all.”
 
She was a little loud in the house the first few days, which kind of annoyed my husband (as he worked from home on occasion), but I chalked it up to her enthusiasm. Everything went fine until day four, when No. 3 tells me that she simply must make more money—effective immediately. This was outright extortion.
 
I knew I was paying top dollar after conferring with a number of other moms. However, the truth finally came out— No. 3 turned out to have another family—one with twins, and apparently willing to pay more. She took her weekly salary and walked out the door. Once again, we were without childcare.
 
NUMBER FOUR
 
I simply had to find No. 4. I spent every spare moment in the search: before work, lunch time, after work, practically through the night.
 
Then I bumped into a neighbor, the mother of a 2-year-old boy, in the elevator. I told her my woes, and she offered a solution:  Her son’s nanny had an aunt who was looking for a babysitting position. I agreed to meet with the aunt. 
 
My husband flew to Brazil and then Chile as part of a work assignment. The same day he flew out, I interviewed and hired No. 4, a.k.a. “Auntie,” on the spot. My only real concern was that she was a tad bit older than the previous nannies. Okay, make that a lot older. Could No. 4 keep up with my very active daughter for a full day? Both my daughter’s grandmothers and great-grandmother are on the West Coast, making her unaccustomed to long periods with someone older.
 
These questions kept me up at night—but I needed someone fast, reliable, and it came from a resource I knew and liked. At least short-term, I hoped I could make it work. 
 
She was quirky. She made soup every day for my daughter and herself. But she seemed a little reckless with things in the house. Pots and pans were being destroyed at an auspicious rate, along with glasses. The baby’s things suffered the same fate: she managed to flatten the tire on our big stroller—twice in two weeks. The money was less a concern to me (though fixing the stroller at 176 bucks a pop wasn’t inconsequential) than the looming question in my mind: where was this woman taking my 1-year old? No explanation was forthcoming.
 
Finally, hubby came back. He was tan, happy, from a great, productive trip—I wanted to kill him. His first morning back, we sat down for a chat with No. 4. We were covering the basics; safety and whatnot, when he politely asked what she would do in case of an emergency. 
 
Most of us would say, “call 911,” “call the parents,” “call the pediatrician.” Except she told him: “There will never be any emergencies.” As lovely and optimistic of a notion as that might be, clearly this was the wrong answer. No. 4 was out.
 
NUMBER FIVE
 
My new search approach involved a) Checking references and b) Having the next nanny work a few half-days over the weekend in order to get to know her style and whether we could relate. I started to feel like I never should have gone back to the office, given how difficult this was all becoming. I had felt so good about keeping up my career while balancing a positive home life—but at this juncture, it all seemed to be such a mess and I was losing confidence that I could rally to find the “right” person.
 
And then No. 5 walked in our door, proud as a peacock with colored hair to match. She could have been funk impresario George Clinton’s younger sister. I really liked her because she had been a former nurse, because that meant long hours working with newborns. She was also neat as a pin in her appearance (hair color aside) and very proud of her prior experience.  After a few trial days, we hired her.  Unlike the others, No. 5 seemed extremely social and liked to go out quite a bit. She made loads of play dates and tons of new friends. My husband agreed she was a winner. 
 
That was before the accident.
 
No. 5 was coming up on almost a year when, one afternoon on the playground, my daughter fell and broke her leg.  My husband and I were just crushed. To see our little one in a cast, immobile, was just so sad. Luckily though, a friend introduced us to the head of pediatric orthopedic surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, who assured us it was a common break for lots of toddlers and not to worry.
 
Certainly accidents happen, and No. 5 called me immediately to say my daughter had fallen. But what troubled me was how No. 5 really couldn’t explain how it had transpired. Obviously she fell, that much didn’t require an explanation, but the circumstances remained a mystery. The lack of details smelled fishy, and No. 5 was asked to leave.  
 
Soon after No. 5 left, the truth came out, courtesy of some nannies from the area who had seen our daughter fall. They all recounted the same sad tale: No. 5 had been sitting on a bench, gossiping with her friends, a fair distance from my little one, and just not paying attention. It was that simple.
 
Five nannies in 23 months—was this a record? Was I an unreasonable Momzilla? Time for new tactics—again. I thought about an agency, but in the end I decided to speak with Edwina, a longtime staffer who worked in my boss’ household.  He had a big and very professional staff, many from the agency I would have inevitably engaged. So I spoke to Ed, who seemed to have a solid network of people she could recommend to care for my daughter. I asked her for recommendations, which they happily provided.
 
NUMBER SIX
 
So I began the interview process again, exhausted, but still determined to find the allusive “right” fit.  This time, I insisted that my husband be much more engaged in the process. Maybe he would see something I didn’t. We decided to interview candidates separately.  
 
Now my list of questions was rock-solid: vacation days, time off, sick leave and any other issues that had come up in the past, in addition to a well-defined salary in the agreement and very specific terms about hours, overtime, travel and expenses—I even had an attorney friend write up a letter agreement that spelled it all out.
 
After an exhaustive search, No. 6 joined our little household. She came on board on the tail end of my daughter in her cast, but I could see from Day One she took exceptional time and care of her. I tried showing No. 6 how I liked things done and what was the best for our daughter, especially with the broken leg. Happily, the cast came off the day of her second birthday: we ate, drank and celebrated a lot.  She was a little wobbly but seemed to bounce back almost immediately and was ready for a fun active summer.
 
No. 6 seemed quiet around me, I think she was a bit nervous, because she came from a connection that worked for my boss and seemed to want to do a few extra things around the house to help out and show us she was a hard worker.  She liked to clean, organize, and managed to redo our daughter’s closet and dresser every week.  I didn’t mind, even if it took a few minutes extra to find things on the weekend, as it was very tidy and I appreciated her efforts.
 
Late summer, we went away on vacation to Cape Cod for a summer holiday—and decided to take No. 6 with us (something we had mentioned in her agreement and prior to hiring her.) However, in the end it was decidedly no vacation for me. Apparently, No. 6 didn’t like the sand and surf (odd considering she came from an island nation in the South China Sea). She spent her days hiding from the sun under the umbrella and relentlessly complained every minute of every day. While my daughter, now typical of any 28-month-old, wanted to play, build sand castles, find seashells, run her toes in the water, and enjoy a day in the sun, No. 6 was the inertia personified. I ended up being the one chasing after our daughter. Though we were having a ball, I really wanted some help, but No. 6 wanted no part of it. After three days of this nonsense, I sent her packing.
 
Back home, No. 6 seemed to have lost her energy. If I didn’t organize classes, story time or other activities, she went to go on play dates with the same two neighbor sibs almost every day. I had started the preschool tour process, as well as searching for an alternative (at least 3 times a week) that would let us get rid of No. 6. I didn’t want to make a change until autumn, when our daughter would start preschool. But plans have a funny way of not working out.
 
The holidays passed without incident, and we were on to the New Year. Our daughter’s 3rd birthday was in sight, along with summer, and then pre-school—until one ill-fated afternoon when I came home early from work to find No. 6 also in the lobby of our building, but not with my daughter. 
 
I shouted at her immediately: “Where is she!? Where is my daughter!? Why are you down here without her?!” 
 
No. 6 told me she had misplaced her cell phone and came to search for it in the lobby. The doorman, who adores our little perpetual energy progeny, got off the house phone, and looked at me aghast and ashen.
 
I was hysterical. Livid! Panicked! I jumped in to the elevator, sobbing, and shouting at her to explain where my child was, and all she said is, “She’s fine, and she’s upstairs.” I thought, with another babysitter? Napping?
 
It was far worse: this idiot had left my 31-month old daughter in a water-filled tub, alone, in a locked apartment. Thank goodness my daughter was just sitting there, smile on her face, singing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
 
This was inexcusable. No. 6 came back upstairs, and I told her to leave, immediately. I didn’t want to hear a word that came out of her mouth. She insisted on trying to explain her actions, and I literally had to push her out the door. I cried most of the weekend after this happened, and filled out the paperwork for the three-day-a-week pre-preschool program that started the following week.
 
NUMBER ONE
 
I met No. 1. She seemed nice, and I asked the basic questions about her experience, safety, and how long she had been working for my newfound friend, etc. She seemed to answer everything in the correct manner, and so No.1 would work for us two days a week, while still working for my friend for three—the perfect “nanny share.” She was sweet, positive, and a mom too, which I liked a lot, and reassured me as to her ability in watching a newborn (which she did with a certain aplomb). 
 
The summer ended all too fast. I wasn’t the least bit ready to get back to the office, so I resigned. I had No. 1 and the hubby (still lovable, and upgraded to ‘quasi-useful’) to help out with the baby, while I embarked on the search for a new position.  During that search, I realized that while my future position might not be 60 hours a week, it would still be in the 40- to 50-hour range—meaning I would need to secure a full-time nanny prior to accepting anything.
 
I thought: I’ll ask No. 1 if she has any friends looking for a full-time gig. But No. 1 didn’t want to make any suggestions: she started recommending herself! Yes, she wanted to drop my friend’s kid like a hot potato and come work for me full-time. In fact, she confided, her true desire was to work for just a single family. That was understandable, maybe, but also not terribly honest, and definitely not acceptable. I was not about to screw over my new amiga, especially after everything she’d done. No. 1 had to go. 
 
NUMBER TWO
 
To search for No. 2, I went back to my mom group postings. I found some names and started to call those who fit the full-time criteria. Thus, the first big round of interviews began. But after two weekends and about 15 babysitter prospects later, I had failed to come up with one acceptable candidate.
 
Plan B: reach out to friends and work colleagues who had children. Maybe they could give me some advice, or had a fabulous person they could recommend.
 
That tactic worked: a former coworker suggested a nanny who had cared for her son for the past four years. The boy was off to a full-time preschool, and she no longer needed the help.  Perfect, right?  Plus, No. 2 had tons of experience and lots of personality. We hired her on the spot.
 
Still new to the world of nannies, I didn’t formalize anything in writing of our arrangement.  We negotiated a salary, the times she would work, a few paid holidays and the standard offerings that other moms had recommended (such as overtime and a taxi home if they left after 9 p.m., certain paid holidays, a metro card for the subway, etc.).
 
No. 2 started, and I began a new job. Then, a few weeks into her employment, No. 2 started asking a lot of questions. First, she first wanted to know when she would get a raise! It was a bit precipitous, two weeks in.
 
Then she wanted weekly petty cash. When I probed a little further, inquiring as to what she intended to use the petty cash for, she responded, “…snacks, coffee, or anything I might need during the day.” I was supposed to fund her Starbucks addiction while she watched my kid? I demurred subtly, mentioning that we had a fully stocked refrigerator. I also said that I would be happy to pick up any special requests she had next time I went to the market.
 
Next, No. 2 asked if she could explore the City with my daughter, wanting permission to take her on the bus or the subway. She added that it was something she did quite often during her previous tenure; however, that child was 4 years old. At this point, my daughter was all of 6 months old. I wasn’t ready for a new nanny to venture on to public transportation with my infant.
 
This was not going well at all. To top everything off, No. 2 was unhappy about my decisions. And then the truth came out…No.2 was still in touch and very friendly with several nannies from her former job (located near Union Square, we were in TriBeCa) and wanted to continue those social relationships while dragging my daughter along. It was not going to happen. Time to start the search again. 
 
NUMBER THREE
 
We interviewed ten other candidates before finding No. 3.  On paper, she was stellar! She had worked with newborns, multiples, preemies, knew the downtown neighborhoods, references couldn’t say enough and we seemed to be on the same page with all of the logistics and terms for her employment.
 
Right before No. 3 started, she kept saying: “You won’t go wrong with me, I am one of the best, and I will make your life so easy.” That was on top of her chanting: “Ronni rocks! And she will do it all.”
 
She was a little loud in the house the first few days, which kind of annoyed my husband (as he worked from home on occasion), but I chalked it up to her enthusiasm. Everything went fine until day four, when No. 3 tells me that she simply must make more money—effective immediately. This was outright extortion.
 
I knew I was paying top dollar after conferring with a number of other moms. However, the truth finally came out— No. 3 turned out to have another family—one with twins, and apparently willing to pay more. She took her weekly salary and walked out the door. Once again, we were without childcare.
 
NUMBER FOUR
 
I simply had to find No. 4. I spent every spare moment in the search: before work, lunch time, after work, practically through the night.
 
Then I bumped into a neighbor, the mother of a 2-year-old boy, in the elevator. I told her my woes, and she offered a solution:  Her son’s nanny had an aunt who was looking for a babysitting position. I agreed to meet with the aunt. 
 
My husband flew to Brazil and then Chile as part of a work assignment. The same day he flew out, I interviewed and hired No. 4, a.k.a. “Auntie,” on the spot. My only real concern was that she was a tad bit older than the previous nannies. Okay, make that a lot older. Could No. 4 keep up with my very active daughter for a full day? Both my daughter’s grandmothers and great-grandmother are on the West Coast, making her unaccustomed to long periods with someone older.
 
These questions kept me up at night—but I needed someone fast, reliable, and it came from a resource I knew and liked. At least short-term, I hoped I could make it work. 
 
She was quirky. She made soup every day for my daughter and herself. But she seemed a little reckless with things in the house. Pots and pans were being destroyed at an auspicious rate, along with glasses. The baby’s things suffered the same fate: she managed to flatten the tire on our big stroller—twice in two weeks. The money was less a concern to me (though fixing the stroller at 176 bucks a pop wasn’t inconsequential) than the looming question in my mind: where was this woman taking my 1-year old? No explanation was forthcoming.
 
Finally, hubby came back. He was tan, happy, from a great, productive trip—I wanted to kill him. His first morning back, we sat down for a chat with No. 4. We were covering the basics; safety and whatnot, when he politely asked what she would do in case of an emergency. 
 
Most of us would say, “call 911,” “call the parents,” “call the pediatrician.” Except she told him: “There will never be any emergencies.” As lovely and optimistic of a notion as that might be, clearly this was the wrong answer. No. 4 was out.
 
NUMBER FIVE
 
My new search approach involved a) Checking references and b) Having the next nanny work a few half-days over the weekend in order to get to know her style and whether we could relate. I started to feel like I never should have gone back to the office, given how difficult this was all becoming. I had felt so good about keeping up my career while balancing a positive home life—but at this juncture, it all seemed to be such a mess and I was losing confidence that I could rally to find the “right” person.
 
And then No. 5 walked in our door, proud as a peacock with colored hair to match. She could have been funk impresario George Clinton’s younger sister. I really liked her because she had been a former nurse, because that meant long hours working with newborns. She was also neat as a pin in her appearance (hair color aside) and very proud of her prior experience.  After a few trial days, we hired her.  Unlike the others, No. 5 seemed extremely social and liked to go out quite a bit. She made loads of play dates and tons of new friends. My husband agreed she was a winner. 
 
That was before the accident.
 
No. 5 was coming up on almost a year when, one afternoon on the playground, my daughter fell and broke her leg.  My husband and I were just crushed. To see our little one in a cast, immobile, was just so sad. Luckily though, a friend introduced us to the head of pediatric orthopedic surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, who assured us it was a common break for lots of toddlers and not to worry.
 
Certainly accidents happen, and No. 5 called me immediately to say my daughter had fallen. But what troubled me was how No. 5 really couldn’t explain how it had transpired. Obviously she fell, that much didn’t require an explanation, but the circumstances remained a mystery. The lack of details smelled fishy, and No. 5 was asked to leave.  
 
Soon after No. 5 left, the truth came out, courtesy of some nannies from the area who had seen our daughter fall. They all recounted the same sad tale: No. 5 had been sitting on a bench, gossiping with her friends, a fair distance from my little one, and just not paying attention. It was that simple.
 
Five nannies in 23 months—was this a record? Was I an unreasonable Momzilla? Time for new tactics—again. I thought about an agency, but in the end I decided to speak with Edwina, a longtime staffer who worked in my boss’ household.  He had a big and very professional staff, many from the agency I would have inevitably engaged. So I spoke to Ed, who seemed to have a solid network of people she could recommend to care for my daughter. I asked her for recommendations, which they happily provided.
 
NUMBER SIX
 
So I began the interview process again, exhausted, but still determined to find the allusive “right” fit.  This time, I insisted that my husband be much more engaged in the process. Maybe he would see something I didn’t. We decided to interview candidates separately.  
 
Now my list of questions was rock-solid: vacation days, time off, sick leave and any other issues that had come up in the past, in addition to a well-defined salary in the agreement and very specific terms about hours, overtime, travel and expenses—I even had an attorney friend write up a letter agreement that spelled it all out.
 
After an exhaustive search, No. 6 joined our little household. She came on board on the tail end of my daughter in her cast, but I could see from Day One she took exceptional time and care of her. I tried showing No. 6 how I liked things done and what was the best for our daughter, especially with the broken leg. Happily, the cast came off the day of her second birthday: we ate, drank and celebrated a lot.  She was a little wobbly but seemed to bounce back almost immediately and was ready for a fun active summer.
 
No. 6 seemed quiet around me, I think she was a bit nervous, because she came from a connection that worked for my boss and seemed to want to do a few extra things around the house to help out and show us she was a hard worker.  She liked to clean, organize, and managed to redo our daughter’s closet and dresser every week.  I didn’t mind, even if it took a few minutes extra to find things on the weekend, as it was very tidy and I appreciated her efforts.
 
Late summer, we went away on vacation to Cape Cod for a summer holiday—and decided to take No. 6 with us (something we had mentioned in her agreement and prior to hiring her.) However, in the end it was decidedly no vacation for me. Apparently, No. 6 didn’t like the sand and surf (odd considering she came from an island nation in the South China Sea). She spent her days hiding from the sun under the umbrella and relentlessly complained every minute of every day. While my daughter, now typical of any 28-month-old, wanted to play, build sand castles, find seashells, run her toes in the water, and enjoy a day in the sun, No. 6 was the inertia personified. I ended up being the one chasing after our daughter. Though we were having a ball, I really wanted some help, but No. 6 wanted no part of it. After three days of this nonsense, I sent her packing.
 
Back home, No. 6 seemed to have lost her energy. If I didn’t organize classes, story time or other activities, she went to go on play dates with the same two neighbor sibs almost every day. I had started the preschool tour process, as well as searching for an alternative (at least 3 times a week) that would let us get rid of No. 6. I didn’t want to make a change until autumn, when our daughter would start preschool. But plans have a funny way of not working out.
 
The holidays passed without incident, and we were on to the New Year. Our daughter’s 3rd birthday was in sight, along with summer, and then pre-school—until one ill-fated afternoon when I came home early from work to find No. 6 also in the lobby of our building, but not with my daughter. 
 
I shouted at her immediately: “Where is she!? Where is my daughter!? Why are you down here without her?!” 
 
No. 6 told me she had misplaced her cell phone and came to search for it in the lobby. The doorman, who adores our little perpetual energy progeny, got off the house phone, and looked at me aghast and ashen.
 
I was hysterical. Livid! Panicked! I jumped in to the elevator, sobbing, and shouting at her to explain where my child was, and all she said is, “She’s fine, and she’s upstairs.” I thought, with another babysitter? Napping?
 
It was far worse: this idiot had left my 31-month old daughter in a water-filled tub, alone, in a locked apartment. Thank goodness my daughter was just sitting there, smile on her face, singing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
 
This was inexcusable. No. 6 came back upstairs, and I told her to leave, immediately. I didn’t want to hear a word that came out of her mouth. She insisted on trying to explain her actions, and I literally had to push her out the door. I cried most of the weekend after this happened, and filled out the paperwork for the three-day-a-week pre-preschool program that started the following week.
 
NUMBERS SEVEN AND EIGHT…
 
I was fortunate to get a space at a program in the City, but there was still the issue of covering two days a week when my daughter was not in school.  After the weekend, our doorman (who had heard the lobby exchange with No. 6) mentioned he had a twin sister with babysitting experience who was looking for work. Their mother worked for another child in the building, she came highly recommended. 
 
This was it: a part-time hourly sitter, no vacation pay, no sick days, who I could send home if I got off early. After checking references, meeting her twice and introducing her to my husband, No. 7 would work just two days—when I made a drastic and fateful decision. I knew I loved my daughter more than anything. I didn’t have to work at the moment. What was stopping me from staying home and playing domestic goddess until my daughter started school in September?
 
In making that decision, I was reminded what a friend told me at the beginning of this baby-care odyssey: “No one will ever care for your child they way you will yourself.” After three years of trial and error, I can only agree. 
 
In the fall, my daughter will start full-time preschool 5 days a week and I will go back to work full-time work. Which begs yet another question: who will pick her up at 4 in the afternoon each day? Maybe it will mark the return of No. 7. If my mother refuses to move back East, there will be only one solution: Nanny No. 8. 
 
Words by M. Kaye Sigmond

Illustrations by Ahlee Del Rosario

Story from BC Magazine U.S. Spring 2014

Be in the Know: The Affordable Care Act

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

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BC parents, please be aware of the new coverage guidelines under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; the health insurance reform legislation signed into law that requires health plans to cover preventive services at no cost, which positively impacts new mothers and their babies. The Act states that preventive services that have strong scientific evidence of their health benefits, such as breastfeeding, must be covered and plans can no longer charge a patient a co-payment, co-insurance, or deductible for these services.

 

This means that breastfeeding services and supplies are now covered, without cost sharing in health plans (in effect beginning in August 2012), making it easier and more affordable for new moms to use hospital-proven breast pumps that can aid in their breastfeeding success. The Ameda®, Inc. Purely Yours® Personal Double Electric Breast Pump combines hospital-recommended technology and mom-friendly features. It’s perfect for mothers working full-time and for those who want a fast and easy breast-pumping experience. This comfortable and effective breast pump motor weighs only 1 lb.

 

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For more information, log on to ameda.com.