Chores: Start Them Early And Often

I am a big fan of giving kids chores, and lots of them.  Chores can help kids feel involved, and help parents feel like they are not alone in the care and running of the household.  Chores also give kids a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.  Granted, assigning chores can come with some serious opposition and digging in of heels, but by expecting involvement from a young age, the arguments over chores can be diminished.  Once established, a good family chore routine can make everyone’s life a little easier.

I think many of us parents are guilty of under-estimating what our kids are capable of doing. We assume that they can’t cook, clean up, or put their clothes away just because they don’t do it of their own free will.  Well, of course they don’t! Who doesn’t want to be waited on like royalty?  The problem is, part of becoming a self-sufficient adult (which is the end-goal of childhood) is learning how to do those things for yourself.  So, I say: start chores early and often.

As soon as kids are able to walk and understand a bit of what you say, you can start asking them to put things away.  Of course, it won’t happen right away, but starting in early toddlerhood gets both you and your little one in some good habits.

Lori Gottlieb recently wrote about how she “outsources” chores to her young son.  For ideas on how she does it, check out her article in Working Mother Magazine

Here are some other ideas for tasks little ones can do:

  • Help change laundry from washer to dryer, etc
  • Bring dirty clothes basket to the laundry room
  • Help unload the dishwasher
  • Empty trashcans
  • Make their bed
  • Put away their laundry
  • Set the table
  • Water houseplants
  • Assist in bringing in groceries from the car
  • Get the newspaper and/or mail
  • Put away their own toys
  • Sweep the floor
  • Wipe down the dinner table
  • Feed the family pets
  • Help pack their own lunches

 

 

What We Can Learn from Single Moms

The other day I got the opportunity to listen to an excellent interview on NPR.  The title of the segment was: Single Moms Make It Work and featured 3 single moms: Lori Gottlieb, Stacia Brown, and Aracely Panameno.Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 3.29.34 PM

The women seemed to enjoy themselves during the 15 minute interview which focused on tips and tricks many single moms use to make their lives run more smoothly.  The interviewees pointed out that while we may have stereotypes about single moms (harried, super-busy women who were left by their partners); these stereotypes don’t always fit reality (big surprise).  Some women may be single by choice, others live in multi-generational homes instead of a more traditional two-parent household.  Whatever their living situation and what led them to it, these women were clear: single moms have lots to teach the rest of us.

  • It’s OK to ask for help.  Stacia Brown pointed out that it is not a sign of weakness to ask others for help.  Rarely can anyone parent alone (even those who have a partner), so being able to reach out when assistance is needed is key.
  • We all have different ways of doing things.  Lori Gottlieb spoke about the fact that different things work for different families.  It is up to us as parents (single or not) to figure out what works best for us and our children.  Sometimes this means we have to learn to live with imperfection in ourselves, our homes, or our children’s craft projects.
  • Outsource the housework.  I just love this tip offered by Lori Gottlieb.  By outsourcing she means getting our kids involved with the running of the household.  Laundry, dishes, watering plants, dusting, cooking – kids are capable of lots more than we often give them credit for.  Demanding that our kids take more responsibility at home helps them learn important skills – and helps us parents in the process!
  • Be disciplined, committed, and organized. Aracely Panameno offered this guidance to the listeners.  I was struck by how important these things are in all aspects of life whether it be parenting, work, or relationships.

To listen to the interview in its entirety, click here.

5 Questions with Lori Gottlieb

I am thrilled to have the author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough here today to answer some questions! I recently reviewed Lori Gottlieb’s book, and am thrilled she agreed to share more about the creation of the book with us.  Welcome, Ms. Gottlieb!

Dr. S.: “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” is a catchy title, but I didn’t think the title was truly reflective of the book’s message. What were some alternate titles? Something else you wish it were called?Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 3.19.07 PM

L.G.: Unfortunately, I didn’t get to choose the title, and I so wish that it accurately reflected the hopeful message of the book, which is about how to find lasting, passionate love.  The book has absolutely nothing to do with lowering one’s standards or “settling.”  In fact, the book is about having very high standards — extremely high standards — but having high standards about the things that matter for long-term, happy marriages, and letting go of the trivial things that don’t.  In Marry Him, I talk to experts who study relationships and marriage from different perspectives — psychologists, behavioral economists, sociologists, neurobiologists, matchmakers, historians, couples counselors, dating coaches, you name it — then I write about their findings and try them out myself, like a dating guinea pig.  What matters for lasting love?  What doesn’t?  Why do we often pick partners who seem fantastic when we first meet them only to discover that they aren’t right for us — and how might we have seen this more clearly from the beginning?  How can we be more conscious about choosing great partners, especially when we’re young enough to have the most available options?  How do our cultural messages about expectations for love sometimes lead us to make decisions that won’t necessarily make us happy?  What does “true love” really mean?  What keeps people in love?

Dr. S.: Your book doesn’t have a traditional happy ending.  Was it tough (in either your mind, or the mind of your publisher) to end the book without a big wedding?

L.G.: I think it has a very happy ending, and a real happy ending.  I talk about this in Marry Him, but the “traditional” happy endings we often see in movies involve that final wedding scene, and then we just assume that this couple that has been bickering for the past 90 minutes will go on to be compatible and happy for the rest of their lives.  Look at Hollywood marriages — they don’t tend to end up that way.

As I say in the book, I’ve never dreamed about my wedding. I would dream about being happily married:  Who’s the guy?  What is our daily life like?  What is it like to grow old with this person, to share life’s great adventures with this person, to create a memorable history together, to raise children together, to run a household together, to bring out the best in each other while accepting the worst in each other, to witness each other’s great pleasures in life and be there for each other’s difficult failures or disappointments, to make each other laugh and continue to surprise each other even as time goes on, to know somebody that well over decades and be known that well in turn?  Marriage is a very rich, complex, challenging experience; it’s not about the big wedding day and who do you want to go to Tahiti with for the week.

Anyone can have a wedding.  Marry Him is about finding the right person to go through life with.  One expert in the book says, “There’s no perfect partner; there’s the perfect partner for you.”  So the happy endings in the book are all the stories of the women who used the tools in Marry Him to find to find their perfect partner.  And for me, the happy ending was that while I learned these lessons much later than I would have liked to — my point in the book is that young women will save themselves a lot of heartache and have a much easier time finding love if they learn these lessons early on — I did, finally, learn them.  At the end of the book, I acknowledged that it would be far more challenging to date in my forties than it had been to date in my twenties and thirties (a reality that women need to be aware of), but I also felt that I had a much better chance of meeting the right person now that I’d gained this insight.  I suppose if I were to write a post-script to the book, I’d let readers know that, eventually, I did meet somebody great.  And if I’d dated the way I had before researching and writing Marry Him, I might have missed out on the opportunity to be with this person whom I’m so lucky to have in my life on a daily basis.  But in the book, I follow several women on their dating journeys, and for the ones who take the advice and really examine their old patterns, their endings are very happy, too.

Dr. S.: If you were to give relationship/marriage/commitment advice to a young woman just entering the dating pool, what would be your #1 piece of advice?

I wish it were that easy, that I could give the magic answer and poof — that’s how you find love!  I think that all of the advice in Marry Him needs to be taken together to really help people get clear and to realize that they have far more control over how their dating lives are going than they think.  That said, if I had to pick one general idea, it would be that many people treat dating like ordering a  meal at a restaurant. They want to order up a person a la carte: I’ll take a little of this, more of that, less of the other, and please leave the annoying habit or less-than-ideal physical feature on the side.  But a person comes as he or she comes.  There are “no substitutions” at this restaurant.  It’s not your partner’s job to be everything you want at all times.  That’s impossible.  One expert in the book said to me, “Lori, instead of making a list of all the things you want in a guy, I want you make a list of everything a guy would have to put up with, in order to spend his life with you.”  Our girlfriends are always telling us how fabulous we are, and while we all have many appealing qualities, we’re also as flawed as the next person.  That exercise — writing down what a guy would have to compromise on if he wanted to spend his life with me — really made me see things differently!

Dr. S.: What are you working on these days? Any new books we can look forward to?

I’m working on a piece for The Atlantic about sex in marriage!  I also have a private practice and do relationship consulting at www.lorigottliebtherapy.com.
Dr. S.:  One of the things I often write about in my blog is stress management. We all know that yoga and meditation are great, but I am more interested in unique and creative methods of stress management.  What do you do to relieve stress?

This might sound corny, but I do in life what I suggest people do in Marry Him.  I focus on the important things that I’m grateful for and I let the small things go.  I don’t mean that I’m a Pollyanna.  It’s more that when life’s challenges present themselves — and they always will — I remember that I have all kinds of choices. I can choose to be stressed over minor things or I can choose to put my energy elsewhere.   It’s completely up to me how I react to a particular situation, big or small.  It’s really about having perspective — am I running from the bears and about to be devoured, or is this just disappointing (and the disappointment will pass) or a nuisance that I’ll have to deal with temporarily?  It doesn’t take the stress away completely, but it does make things feel far less overwhelming than they would be if I didn’t slow myself down, access my more objective self, and see the situation for what it is.  I find that having that kind of perspective makes daily life so much more relaxing.

To learn more about Lori Gottlieb, check out her website. To order Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, or read some of her other work, click here. Thanks again!

Book Review: Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough

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How funny to be reviewing Lori Gottlieb’s book: Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough the day after posting this article on avoiding affairs.  I’m sure there is some deep-seated psychological meaning behind that.  Instead of focusing on my psyche, however, I will turn my attention to Ms. Gottlieb’s book.  Here goes:

I want to start by saying that I consider Ms. Gottlieb a colleague after working with her on this article in the New York Times about therapists and marketing.  In addition to being a fine author and journalist, she is also a therapist herself.  She recently told me that she particularly enjoys working with couples.  Check out her site here.

As for the book, apparently it made a splash when it was released a couple of years ago.  And it isn’t hard to tell why: the title is quite an attention grabber.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure the title is consistent with the book, as it isn’t actually about “settling” – as in marrying someone you don’t like, find irritating, or aren’t attracted to.  Instead, it’s a fun-to-read description on Ms. Gottlieb’s own journey in the dating world.

In the book, Ms. Gottlieb is candid about what it’s like to date in all ages and stages of life (with kids and without, never married and divorced, as a 20-something, and as a 40-something).  As someone who married young, it was a real eye-opener for me to read about the realities of the dating pool past college.  I particularly enjoyed the commentary made by some of the older women she interviewed.  Reading their perspectives on what women experience, put up with, and expect now – versus when they were dating – is one of the highlights of the book.

I did find myself feeling frustrated by the entitled attitude of some of the younger women included in the book.  These are women who expect perfection, devotion, loyalty, and passion from the men they are interested in – yet seem to have no appreciation for what they should, do, or can bring to the relationship.  Fairness, equality and compromise don’t seem to be concepts these women understand.  No wonder their relationships don’t ever seem to work out.

For added perspective, I had my mom read the book.  Here are some of her comments:

In regards to having an attitude of entitlement in romantic partners:

I devoured the book even though I didn’t personally relate to it at all.  I am always shocked at how entitled some people think they are – it must be a difficult way to live life because it seems it would be challenging to maintain friendships, jobs, and relationships when all you can focus on is “what’s in it for me”.

In regards to making a list of desirable qualities in a mate (something Ms. Gottlieb does in the beginning of the book):

I can’t imagine making a list of “wants” in a husband and actually sticking to it.  It’s a good idea to list life goals, vacations you want to go on, clothes you need, etc. – putting those constraints on a human being is beyond my comprehension.  Besides, when you meet a person as a potential husband – that person will likely be quite different after several years of marriage.  The book was fascinating reading.

After finishing the book, I was left with a desire to make a list of my own.  Not of the qualities I would want in a mate, but the qualities that might make me a good mate myself.  I wonder which would be longer?

Thanks, Lori Gottlieb, for introducing me to your book! Click here to buy Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.

 

Psychotherapy Is Not Dead

Last weekend What Brand Is Your Therapist was published by the New York Times Lori Gottlieb, the author, interviewed me and a couple of other psychologists for the piece.

In her article Ms. Gottlieb writes about her journey as a new therapist setting up a practice in the congested California market.  As she struggles to find clients, she looks to other, more established clinicians for advice.  Some say find a specialty area, others tell her to focus on consultation and/or coaching work rather than traditional psychotherapy, still others (me) tell her to increase her social media presence.

With this advice in mind, Ms. Gottlieb wonders if Americans have moved past the need for psychotherapy, citing statistics indicating that fewer people have sought talk therapy in recent years.  She also wonders if our super-fast, I-want-results-now culture makes the slower paced psychotherapy process outdated.

After stewing about it for a few days, I have gathered my thoughts, and offer this response proving that psychotherapy is not dead, in fact, it is alive and well.  With this caveat: it is essential that we change (at least a little bit) with the times.  Here goes:

Having been married to an architect for nearly 15 years, I have come to know a bit about that profession.  While it may not seem that a psychologist and an architect would have much in common professionally, I have come to realize that we do – and more than it would seem.  In addition to the arduously long training process involved in both fields, many of the current dynamics and changing business models are similar.  Take a look:

Fads Come and Go.  Colonial, craftsman, beaux arts, mid-centurn modern – these are just a few of the hundreds of styles of architecture around us.  While I might like classical design, others might prefer more contemporary; the one thing we can be sure of is that styles, tastes, and fads will change.  This is a good thing in architecture – it makes our communities more interesting.  What is critical, however, is that the structure underneath is sound.  Any architect would agree that a comprehensive understanding of history, as well as a mastery of structural and construction principles is necessary before good design can emerge.

The same is true for us in the field of psychology.  There is nothing wrong with new ideas, and unique and innovative treatments – so long as there is first a fluency in psychological science.  New treatment strategies, rooted in sound science and disciplined training, can (and should!) be constantly flowing into our daily practice.  Would we accept stagnant, non-innovative care from any other field?

Gray and Green – The New Black?  Some architects have continued to design and draw only by hand, have resisted integrating technology into their firms, and have refrained from embracing environmentally sustainable design and materials clamored for by clients.  Guess what has happened to those architects in this tough economy and competitive world? They are no longer practicing – or at least not at the level to which they would like.  Successful firms have had to innovative, be responsive to the marketplace, and have had to find a way to stay productive and flexible in a time when their clients demand more, have shorter time frames, and more restricted budgets.

Psychologists are no different.  To stay relevant and helpful (that is our mission after all) we must also innovate and find new ways to give people what they want (psychological help) and need (psychological health).  A colleague of mine, June Ching, PhD, recently wrote: “I see a…theme with the ‘old ways’ juxtaposed to the newly emerged technological advances. If the mission is still the same, perhaps joining forces with the ‘grey’ and ‘green’ is a viable option.”

Merging The Old School (“gray”) with the New School (“green”) is the only way to continue to provide the type of help and care we all desire.

Everyone Deserves Mental Health.  Most of us can’t afford to live in a house designed by an architect.  Instead, most of us live in houses that were mass-produced by a CAD-wielding draftsman employed by a large construction company.  Yea, it’s kind of a bummer from a design perspective, but guess what?  The roof still keeps out the rain and the walls still keep us warm at night.  And the price is right.

Again, the similarities with psychotherapy are striking.  Therapy is kind of a weird thing.  Sitting in a room with a stranger spilling your guts week after week, while learning little to nothing about said stranger.  Bizarre.  Not to say we strangers don’t have a lot to offer – we do! But psychotherapy isn’t for everyone.  It’s a significant commitment in terms of time and money, and frankly not everyone is helped by talking about their problems.  Some folks prefer the self-help methods of reading books or watching Oprah to aid their mental health.  Others might find comfort at church or in a peer support group.  Still others may prefer to use pharmacological treatment.  Guess what?  That’s OK!

Psychotherapy has never been a treatment utilized by the masses, and my guess is that it never will be.  The great thing is that it gives us lots of opportunities to reach out to folks who will never sit on our couches.  Podcasts, books, blogs, talks, articles in the New York Times – these are all means by which we can get the word out about the importance of psychology and good mental health.  Realizing that the 50 minute psychotherapy hour isn’t our only means of providing solid, responsible, and useful mental health care should make us feel excited and energized to meet folks in need – wherever and whoever they are.   Because in the end, everyone deserves mental health, not just those who meet us on our own, narrow terms.

It is my opinion that psychotherapy is enjoying a particularly robust period in its history.  The stigma against treatment is down, the access to care is up (thanks to changes in the insurance industry, as well as technology) and psychology, mental health, and emotional wellness are a part of the language of everyday life.  Psychotherapy is far from dead – it is very much alive and growing.  It is up to us to determine how and when to best maximize this growth, for our clients and ourselves.

New York Times: What Brand Is Your Therapist?

This article came out in yesterday’s New York Times.  In it the author, Lori Gottlieb writes about some changes and innovations in the field of psychotherapy.  I was lucky enough to be interviewed for the article and have a quote in the middle of the article.  Check it out here.  I am still working on writing up my thoughts about the ideas presented in the article.  Hint: I’m not sure I agree with Ms. Gottlieb’s conclusions.  Stay tuned!

New York Times: 11/25/2012