Are you a “hockey mom” or a “soccer mom”?

October 1, 2010

The New Oxford Dictionary has added a whole wack of new words to the dictionary this year, and while I can’t muster a tonne of enthusiasm that “bromance” and “hashtag” made the list, I am excited that moms have a new definition for our activities. This year, “hockey mom” made the list:

hockey mom n. informal a mother who devotes a great deal of time and effort to supporting her children’s participation in ice hockey.

Now, obviously a hockey mom is much more devoted than a “soccer mom,” which Merriam Webster defines as:

soccer mom n. a typically suburban mother who accompanies her children to their soccer games and is considered as part of a significant voting bloc or demographic group

Obviously we soccer moms are just stuck in our situations, whereas hockey moms put the drive into driving your kid to sports.

My kids don’t play hockey, but even if the definition applies to other sports, I think I’m much more of a soccer mom than a hockey mom. But boy, do I know a lot of hockey moms!

Last summer, when I was coaching Little League baseball, we had a dad who really pushed for his kid on our team, and we called him a “hockey dad.” Can’t find that one in online dictionaries, but I always thought the hockey dad was the guy who pushed so hard that he got into fights with other hockey dads and coaches to get his kid more play time. Obviously, that is not the hockey mom.

Soccer mom was a term invented to define mostly baby boomer suburban moms, so it’s nice to see that we Gen X moms now have a term all our own.

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Can you explain your job so a seven year old can understand?

May 6, 2010

My kids don’t really understand what I do for a living. They know I write, they have some vague understanding that I work with the news people. But they don’t really get what public relations is.

So it was really tough this week when my seven year old’s grade one class called on parents to come talk about their jobs. I kept trying to think of how I would explain it. Could I find a way to describe PR so kids could understand?

Do you understand what PR is? I find many adults have a vague understanding but don’t really know themselves. I teach a course on media relations and even then I feel like it can be hard to define without a lot of examples.

So what did I tell the seven year olds? I asked if any of them have seen a reporter on the news, then asked if they’ve ever seen a reporter interview someone about what’s going on in their organization. Almost all nodded yes, so I told them I was that person being interviewed. They seemed to get that, so I told them I write a lot, and talk a lot. I asked if they like to write. Lots of kids raised their hands. I told them they could be in PR. I asked if any of them liked to talk (my son was first to raise his hand at that!), and then told those that raised their hands that they could be in PR.

When I was a kid, my dad was an engineer, and that’s the only part I understood. My mom “helped people with problems,” which is all I understood about her role as a social worker. I don’t think I really explained the essence of my job to the grade ones, but at least I came up with an explanation they could understand. Could you do any better?


Poor Gen Y, now you get a taste of what Gen X dealt with in our 20s!

April 29, 2010

The recession is over. Haven’t you heard? The media are sure now that we’re all back to prosperity and we’re out of the woods now. The only wrinkle is that the jobs don’t seem to have returned. And according to an article I read in Macleans Magazine this week (ok, the article ran a few weeks ago, but I’m that far behind on my magazine reading. It’s been a busy month!), the poor Millenials, aka Generation Y, are getting the worst of it.

Silly me, I thought those hit the worst were the out-of-work middle agers who lost their secure jobs when they most needed to pay the mortgage, daycare bills and feed their families. But nope, I was wrong. It’s the poor university grad who has to take on some crap job that they are overqualified for because the perfect work experience isn’t dropping into their laps. And I quote:

When Amanda, who asked that Maclean’s not use her last name, got her undergraduate degree in math last June, she wanted to get a job as an analyst. But after four months of unemployment, she took an entry-level position at a Toronto IT firm. While her friends who graduated with similar credentials just a few years earlier started out making about $40,000, she’s earning $30,000.

In fact, most young people entering the job market now are making less than peers who found jobs two or three years ago.

Aww, poor babies. But it sounds a lot like how my entire generation felt coming on the heels of the baby boomer generation. And I think we had it worse, because this recession is just a set back for Gen Y, not a permanent state of affairs like the ones I lived through. I quote again:

Whereas the recession in the early ’80s replaced full-time jobs with part-time jobs, and the one in the ’90s replaced traditional employment with self-employment, this downturn seems to be replacing permanent jobs with temporary jobs.

Um, sorry, but that was exactly what happened to my generation when we left school. There were almost no career jobs. We were all underemployed. And permanent jobs were out of the question. We were lucky to find temporary or contract work. Heck, I built a career out of temporary and contract work..

Why is it tragic that these over-coddled kids have to work their way up and into a career? We did it and most of us are just fine. And back in my day, living with my parents past my early 20s was entirely unthinkable. I worked as a secretary, copy writer, whatever it took, while paying rent and buying food all by myself. Why can’t they do the same?

Post-script: I just re-read this and I think I’m maybe too hard on Gen Y. It’s not their fault the demographics worked in their favour, giving them, up until this recession, anything they wanted in the work world. It’s their parents’ fault. 🙂


A 1980s movie classic — The Karate Kid — inspires the next generation

April 27, 2010

My 7-year-old has recently started taking Taekwondo lessons. He’s very excited about them. So are we. We are really hoping that what the other parents have told us, that martial arts forces kids with a tendency to goof around and not listen to instruction, to be better learners. We also hope that the class’ lessons about respect for your teachers and your parents might have some spill-over into our home life. It’s been a few weeks so far, and while he’s still excited about Taekwondo, I’m still waiting for that spill-over.

Anyhow, when martial arts entered our home, I made a joke about “wax on, wax off.” I know you know what I mean by that. But the boys didn’t. So I decided my kids needed to see the original Karate Kid, the film that really launched skinny minny Ralph Macchio into our hearts, the 1984 original Karate Kid. So I rented it.

On the way to the video store, I told my son that every adult past a certain age would know what I meant by “wax on, wax off.” He didn’t believe me, so I stopped three random strangers — one in his 30s, one in her 40s, and one in her 60s, and all knew what it meant. At the video store, my son asked the 20-something clerk if he knew what it meant. He didn’t (but the other clerk, same age-ish, who overheard, did know).

The kids and I watched the film last weekend, and I gotta say it didn’t quite live up to my memories of it. The plot seemed a bit thin, and the end went too fast, from (spoiler alert, if you’re 20-something and have never seen the movie, I am about to give away the ending!) overcoming his injury to win the final round at the karate tournament, then the mean boy handing him the trophy and saying that he’s all right after all. But I still loved seeing it. (And thanks to Youtube, I found these clips to include in my blog post. Cool, huh?)

And my kids loved the film too. They immediately ran around doing karate moves everywhere (until a few minutes later when one got kicked in the eye by accident. Occupational hazard in a home with two boys). And now they’re walking around doing the “wax on, wax off” thing themselves all the time.

Show this film to your kids before the remake comes out. In fact, I recommend this strategy for most of the films we loved that are being remade. When was the last time you saw Escape to Witch Mountain?


Baby boomers continue to dominate even into old age

April 26, 2010

As a kid, I grew up aware of the giant generation ahead of me, the one who set the world on fire, who changed the rights of women and minorities. As a young adult, I was aware of the giant generation ahead of me in the workplace, who took up all the jobs, caused the recession of the 80s, and kept me from establishing a solid career, or at least from finding a solid, permanent-seeming job.

As a young mother, I was aware of the giant generation ahead of me that paved some roads for working mothers but left many unpaved. Where is the national daycare policy they promised? Where is the work-life balance they promised? And as a working person, I am certainly aware of the lack of a real social safety net they are leaving for my old age. I have no expectations of social security or old age pensions, something the boomers will enjoy, because their giant generation will bankrupt those government programs.

I know I’m sounding bitter. I am bitter. I’ve been bitter all my life about the boomers, but that’s a feature of my generation, the disaffected Gen X. But recently I read a great op-ed article that was so much more eloquent about the boomers’ self-absorption and how it over-dominates public policy discussions.

In a piece titled Beyond Boomercentrism, Paul Kershaw argues that Canada puts too much focus on boomers and not enough on the young. Our government is all caught up in pension reform that daycare policies and early childhood educational standards are lost. He says:

…We must move beyond the boomercentrism that guides our priority-setting to invest in the smart family policy parents require now, and that children deserve.

And I was reminded of this piece this past week when I read another article about the movie business, something I know a bit about. It was all about how theatre owners need to prepare for the aging demographic.

What will happen when the boomers are all gone, or are no longer much of a consumer force to be reckoned with? Governments and corporations need to retool for other generational priorities soon, not just to please Gen X and Y (and Z), but to be ready for post-boomer days before it’s too late.

I may be bitter, but I think I’m right.


My mother never had it this bad: The demands of a working mommie’s busy week

April 17, 2010

We have just made it through a working family’s version of a week of h-e-double toothpicks. And I am sure every generation says this about their parents’ years, but I am pretty sure my mother never had a week like this.

With both my husband and I working for ourselves, we usually have some time to run errands and the like during the week. But lately we’ve both been taking on new contracts and are both working full out. For him, it’s meant a race to get home by 4:30 to race the boys to their swimming lessons. Or rushing the boys out the door in the morning to before-care (a daycare feature of their after-school program we almost never used before) so he can get to work early. For me, this week has meant four days of working downtown, instead of only two, meaning no time working from home. It meant working nights to catch up. But I also had two breakfast meetings that had me leave home before the kids even woke up. And I had three evening sessions that meant I got home after the boys were in bed. Plus we had our first baseball game (my son’s team, but as coach it’s my team too), two baseball practices, and I had book club. I’m exhausted just writing it down.

It was so bad that:

  • We didn’t sit down for a family meal together until Friday.
  • I didn’t see my kids for two 24-hour stretches.
  • It took me 2 1/2 days to do three loads of laundry.
  • The guys had to wait around one morning for pants to come out of the dryer because they had nothing clean they were willing to wear.
  • We ran out of milk and vegetables.
  • My older son was practicing for his spelling test on the walk to school Friday because it was the only time I had to help him.

On the bright side, I did bike downtown four days in a row, so at least I got some exercise despite the schedule. And on an even brighter note, it’s really made us appreciate how easy we usually have it, and how great it is to have a weekend to relax. Of course, the weekend would be better if it would stop raining for this afternoon’s baseball game.


Passing on traditions to the next generation — am I doing a good enough job?

March 30, 2010

It’s Passover at my house, so on top of all the regular running around, I’ve spent the last day or so cooking. On this major Jewish holiday, we host family and friends for two big meals. I usually only have to cook for one, but the friend we always go to for the second one can’t do it this year, so I’m doing two big meals. Lots and lots of cooking.

My husband says it’s all on me to do it, because no one else really cares what we eat for dinner or whether I make the chicken soup with matzah balls from scratch, or if I serve my famous chocolate torte for dessert. He might be right, that I’m putting myself through all the holiday stress for my own reasons and not for my family or my guests. But I feel obliged to do it and do it right, because it’s tradition.

As a child, both sets of grandparents were around, and each hosted one Passover meal each year. We kids recited the four questions and my grandfather read from the Hagaddah, the book that tells the story of the Jews being freed from slavery. My grandmother always had matzah ball soup, gefilte fish, and all the trimmings. My mother did some of this cooking in later years as my grandmothers’ health failed, and by the time I was in my 20s, I was hosting my own holiday dinners, trying to carry on the tradition.

Of course, these aren’t just my traditions, they go back hundreds and hundreds of years. But they are also personal traditions that I want to pass on to my boys. My kids attend public school, and don’t get a lot of exposure to Judaism that doesn’t come from me. But soon they’ll have to start Hebrew school to prepare for their bar mitzvahs (Yes, I’m insisting on them.), and hopefully one day will carry on some of my traditions.

But it’s tough to get school-age kids, boys in particular, to pay attention to that kind of thing. And I worry they aren’t picking up on enough of my family’s traditions. The entire weight of that is on my shoulders, and my husband is right to say it’s me that’s pushing for all that. I think I’m pushing for all the right reasons though, but I’m concerned I’m not getting through.

Still, now that both boys can read, they did read parts of the Haggadah out loud themselves last night. I think that’s a good first step in passing on my traditions.