Category Archives: Rhonda Franz

6 Opportunities for Quantity Time With Your Teenager

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Teenagers are busy people these days. And they may not want to spend their free time sitting at the table while parents try to engage them in a near-perfect episode of Let’s Have Some Quality Time. Add into the equation other children in the family, demanding jobs, parents who travel or are on-call, and it’s hard to find time for in-depth conversation on a daily basis.

So, scrap the idea of what that has to look like, and take the opportunities, regardless how small, to spend the time you’ve got with the teenager you love.

1. In the Car

Your teenager might be driving (with you as the chaperone), or maybe you’re the one schlepping her to and from events each day. Regardless of who is behind the wheel, it’s an opportunity to talk and catch up on what’s going on in their lives. All that time on the road adds up.

2. Out to Lunch

Or supper. Either one. Brandi Sharum, an Arkansas mom of five says her husband used to pick up their oldest child and her friends from school and go out for supper before Wednesday night church activities. Their oldest is now in college, and still meets up with her Dad for an occasional lunch. Connection is always better with food.

3. Shopping

Whether it’s grocery shopping, just scanning for bargains, or choosing an outfit for a school dance, just doing something with your child that she likes to do makes the time well worth it. One of Sharum’s daughters enjoys shopping, so that’s what she does with her. “It’s different with each child.”

4. Homework

Maybe it doesn’t have to be such a battle after all. Shari Brookins lives in Kansas and is the mom of four children. She and her teenage daughter both love math, so when her daughter brings home math homework, they work on problems, each trying to be the first one with the correct answer. Homework wars demolished by homework peace.

5. Watching TV

You heard me. Wendy Jackson, the mom of a ten-year-old and a fourteen-year-old, said she sometimes just sits with her teenager during one of his shows, asking him questions about the plot and characters, which he loves explaining. “You might have to try it,” she advises parents, “even if you don’t enjoy what they’re watching.”

6. Just…Anything They Are Already Doing

As long as you take the opportunities often. Deb Bonner has raised two sons. She said that anything from showing interest in their friends, to going to their events, to just talking (even for only a few minutes) lets kids know you love them and want to be involved in their lives. “Do these things repeatedly throughout the teen years for lots of memories — for you, and them.”

Out the Door: 4 Tips for Home Base Survival With a Parent On Call

Pilots, clergy, law enforcement, doctors, reporters — these professions tend to require some kind of on-call work, often unpredictable. When Mom or Dad has to head away from home and back to the job, it can be a difficult gig, not just for the one who had to leave the soccer game, but for the spouse and young children left behind as well.

Giving up a job isn’t usually an option, but changing up the way house and home are managed on a shifting schedule is doable. With a pilot for a husband, our weekly (and sometimes daily) schedule changes at a moment’s notice.

1. Plan with lots of flexibility, and perhaps backup, in mind.

It’s difficult to plan fun family outings when you know that plan is subject to change. Is the outing something easily handled if a parent is left on her own? Would it help to have a backup babysitter or family member available to keep the baby? When we’re able to have that option, it opens up a whole new possibility for sticking with the plan.

2. Add special occasions to the traveling schedule.

When Daddy is gone for a few days, it helps us to break up the monotony by tossing an event that’s out of the ordinary. I might grab a pizza at a place the children have been begging to go, call friends and meet at a park for a supper picnic, or work on homework together at the local playground. Anything that adds even a little variety to our week is a huge help.

3. Put together a jar full of fun.

Write down several activities or fun events — each on its own small piece of paper. Place these in a jar and pull it out when a parent has to leave. Ideas to include: children get to skip a chore that day, one sibling gets to “be in charge” for the bedtime routine, or everyone gets an extra 20 minutes of outside play before supper. Being able to skip a chore in our household is a huge hit.

4. Keep tabs.

Whether you put it on a post-it note, write in a journal, or take a bunch of photos with your phone, capture special moments the traveling parent may have missed: a field trip, a recipe children helped with for dinner, or just a favorite bedtime story they read. My children love sending photos to Daddy and drawing pictures about what they did while he was gone. Would yours?

Interview With Tracey Beckerman, Author of Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir


Tracy Beckerman began writing, after she moved with two young children from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey, as a way to find herself and share a few laughs about the endless sea of “mom bob” haircuts, minivans, and coordinated tennis outfits. What started out as a single column for a local NJ paper a few years ago turned into a hit and is now nationally syndicated to hundreds of newspapers and millions of readers all over the country.

Tracy talks with Parenting Squad editor, Rhonda Franz, about her new book, Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir, and how moms can de-stress and find the funny in the everyday situations.

Reclaim Your Inner Cool With Lost in Suburbia

Other than the obvious factor that humor can totally distress stressful situations, what were your other reasons for writing the book?

I had always assumed I was the only woman on the planet who had ever felt like she’d lost her identity when she became a full-time mom. But after I started to meet other women who’d left the workforce to stay home with their kids, I found out there were lots of other moms who were also “Lost in Suburbia.” There were many of us who defined ourselves by what we did for a living… so when we didn’t do it anymore, we were really lost. I thought if I shared my story, other moms who felt this way would realize they weren’t alone and have the confidence to take steps to reinvent themselves!

Of course, the other reason I did it was to show all the cool girls from high school that I was a big deal. Not that I have a chip on my shoulder, or anything.

Is it always easy for you to see the humor in parenting situations? Or at least in other people’s parenting situations?

There is a formula for comedy. It goes Time + Tragedy = Humor. Not everything is funny when it first happens. And some things are never funny, no matter how much distance you give them. But I think most people can find the humor in the small stuff, especially kid things and dog things and house things that seem like a nightmare when they happen, but are pretty hilarious once the dust settles. Of course other people’s parenting situations are funny immediately. Just not to them.

Of course moms have to laugh at themselves. What makes us feel so guilty (about ourselves and our “mom performance”) and so judgy (about other moms)?

I think on some level, most of us feel pretty insecure about our parenting skills, at least in the beginning. You could have zero parenting experience, but when your kid is born, you just have to jump in and wing it. You have no idea if you are doing it right and then you read one of the “experts” out there who say “this is the right way to parent” and it’s usually not the way you are doing it.

When people feel insecure, sadly, they often put down others and judge them to make themselves feel better. I’d love to see more women supporting other women… building them up instead of trying to tear them down.

I remember the first time I had my son in a stroller. I forgot to buckle him in and when I tilted the stroller to get it over a step, he rolled out the back. I was horrified. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I didn’t tell anyone for a week, and then when I confided in a friend, she told me she accidentally dropped her son three times when he was an infant. Fortunately babies bounce.

What’s the big deal about moms “losing themselves?” Isn’t it okay to make sacrifices for our children and our families?

Clearly when the baby is born you have to put the baby first. There’s no other way. They need to be fed when they’re hungry, changed when they are wet, and put down for a nap when they are tired. (The same is true for husbands, by the way.) There’s none of this, “I’ll feed you in a sec, honey, Mommy’s checking her Facebook now.”

But I think that after a while, it’s OK to start taking back some time for yourself. My husband’s old Russian barber used to say, “Happy Wife, Happy Life.” Once you have kids, it should be “Happy Mommy, Happy Family.” (Yeah. I know it doesn’t rhyme, but you try rhyming something with “Mommy.”)

The point is, you’re a much better mom if you treat yourself well and you’re happy.

What are a few things we can do as moms to be taken seriously by others not take ourselves too seriously, and still come out sane, or mostly sane?

I think moms actually have to stop trying so hard to convince everyone that what we do is important. I use to tell my husband every single thing I did during the day to prove to him how busy I’d been. He would say, “Honey, I really don’t think you’re sitting around eating bon bons. I know you’re working hard.”

But I felt I had to justify my hard work since I wasn’t out there earning a paycheck. My kids are doing great, my house is moderately clean, and everyone is happy — there’s the proof that I’m doing a good job. Of course I can’t keep a goldfish alive for more than a week, but you can’t have everything.

As for not taking yourself too seriously, that’s pretty easy to do when you have kids around to remind you that you’re really not as cool as you think you are.

Tracy has appeared on The Today Show, CBS Early Show and Better TV. Her latest blog posts and column articles on marriage, funny family anecdotes, and being a “cool mom” in the suburbs can be found on her LOST IN SUBURBIA® blog (which won her the title of “America’s Top Blogger” by Lifetime Television’s hit TV show, The Balancing Act in 2010). You can purchase her new “momoir” from the Lost in Suburbia book website.

Squad Roundup: Helpful Hints for the Home and Family

We have gathered up current, handy resources for our readers and their families today!

Everyday Hints

There’s nothing like a great list of helpful advice for common problems, and USA Weekend realized that readers know best. Problem Solved! 22 Simple Solutions for Everyday Jams at USA Weekend shares how to warm a baby bottle on the fly, preventing ice particles from forming on ice cream in your freezer, a completely free, environmentally-free material for packing items to mail. The weekly magazine published some of the best helpful hints passed along from readers of their publication. Tips include everyday practical ways to reuse, reduce, and save money, as well as household tips about painting and unclogging stopped-up drains.

Laundry

Getting laundry done is one thing. Making sure it’s clean, out of the dryer, and into its proper place when you need it is quite another. Conquer Chaos in the Laundry Room by Organized Home treats the washing-clothes gig as the big job it is, and breaks down the steps required to process mounds of dirty socks, shirts, and pants. Sometimes, all you need is a system.

From Clutter to Clean

Are you spring cleaning your house? You probably know it’s important to have donation bags and trash bags ready to haul your stuff out the door. Thanks to Clear Out That Clutter: 15 Places to Sell Your Stuff, you can add a “to sell” bag. Going far beyond eBay, Wise Bread has collected a whole bunch of ways to come up with new cash for your old stuff.

Post-Easter Eggs

Dealing with dozens of post-Easter eggs? Some people consider those little bargains the ideal food. Check out nutrition information and recipe ideas with Eggs—One of Nature’s Most Perfect Foods by Lifetime Television’s The Balancing Act.

Are You Ready for Some Summer?

Summer sunshine will soon be here. It’s time to start thinking about how the household will run with children out of the classroom. Read through sound advice with Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans from Simple Kids.