Wireless Motherhood: When Social Media is the New Village, by Isa Down


Hey, mamas, anyone else awake? I’m having a really tough time tonight with anxiety, and have no one to talk to.

I wrote that when my son was five-weeks-old. It was 3 a.m. He was sleeping soundly on my chest, and I remember wondering why I couldn’t just enjoy this moment with him. It was so quiet, even the crickets had stopped their incessant chirping. My son’s breaths whispered across my skin with each exhale: it was a completely pristine moment.

Yet there I sat, anxious and alone. There were so many unknowns, and in the middle of the night, as a new single mom, I had no one to talk to. Within moments, women from around the world were commenting that they were thinking of me, sending positive thoughts, hoping everything was okay, there to talk if I needed. They were awake too, facing their own struggles.

In those early weeks and months, I remember feeling more than once that social media was my lifeline. The harsh glare off my phone was a beacon of hope, there in the dark with my son cradled against me.

Anxiety is just one of several perinatal mood disorders (PMD) commonly experienced by women during and after pregnancy. Postpartum depression is the most renowned, but PMDs also include psychosis, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, to name a few. An estimated 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression alone.

Despite their prevalence, women who experience these disorders can feel incredibly isolated. Depression, insomnia, and panic attacks do not fit the socially constructed mold of blissed-out new motherhood. This sets the stage for mothers to be riddled with guilt and shame for not being able to connect, or sleep, or leave the house. There were so many moments when I sat with friends, smiling and nodding, all the while wanting desperately to say: “I am so overwhelmed. I need help.” It’s hard to show the rawness of motherhood, because it still feels so taboo.

Perinatal mood disorders have been the dirty little secret of motherhood for far too long. It’s becoming easier to talk about, as celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and Kristen Bell come forward and share their experiences. Actress Hayden Panettiere’spersonal struggle was even mirrored in her character’s storyline on the TV show “Nashville” last year.

And that does help. Yet hearing that these seemingly perfect women have also struggled doesn’t necessarily make a mama feel less alienated as she watches the hours tick by in the night, alone and anxious. This is true largely because our society is highly autonomous. We prize individual triumph and the ability to succeed on your own above a group mentality. This mindset has its benefits, but also tends to alienate new mothers. In fact, this has become such a big issue that psychologists have wondered if postpartum depression is a misnomer, and should instead be called postpartum neglect.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)


International Women’s Day… so important for children of both genders too! By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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March 8th is International Women’s Day.  Here at “The Forever Years” we feel it is important to have a post acknowledging this special day, as the lives of women children are so closely linked.

The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. 

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International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.  On this day we honour and celebrate the progress of women in the past, but also look towards the future and examine how things can be further improved for women (and the children they care for) around the globe.

Various women, including political, community, and business leaders, as well as leading educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, and television personalities, are usually invited to speak at various events on the day. Such events may include seminars, conferences, luncheons, dinners or breakfasts. The messages given at these events often focus on various themes such as innovation, the portrayal of women in the media, or the importance of education and career opportunities.  Many students in schools and other educational settings participate in special lessons, debates or presentations about the importance of women in society, their influence, and issues that affect them.

Much progress has been made to protect and promote women’s rights in recent times. However, nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men, according to the UN. The majority of the world’s 1.3 billion absolute poor are women. On average, women receive between 30 and 40 percent less pay than men earn for the same work. Women also continue to be victims of violence, with rape and domestic violence listed as significant causes of disability and death among women worldwide.

The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York.  The day has since become recognised internationally and is also the focus of annual United Nations Conferences, addressing issues which affect women (and, so very often, their off spring).  A recent report  in the USA found that 80.6% of single parents are women and this is thought to be similar across the globe.  With the improvement in the situation of women and a focus on this by both male and female there is, by definition, also an improvement in the lives of all children, both boys and girls.

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International Men’s Day is also celebrated on November 19 each year.

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On single parenting and how two is not always better than one, by Lalita Iyer

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So, why haven’t you written about single parenting yet, asked a reader. I didn’t really have an answer to that, except the fact that I write mostly about what I know, and I don’t think I know entirely what single parenting is all about. Because technically, I am not a single parent. This means that I have a spouse on paper, and he does pitch into the financial aspects of parenting, but for the most part, I feel like I’m parenting solo.

I once wrote that I was practically a single parent in one of my columns, and got a rather acerbic email from someone who was one and who told me I had no right to accord myself that status until I was actually one. She was right. But that got me thinking. What made me different? Just a technicality?

We all know what a tedium collaborative parenting can be, although I do know a few people who are winging it. But they are still exceptions. We have seen our parents at cross-wires when raising us. We don’t have to do the same thing to our children. Very often, two-parent households are a sham, a window display for what actually is single parenting.

Okay, pull back those daggers.

Of course raising children alone is tough, but sometimes it may be psychologically tougher in a two-parent household. I often see couples with children at malls, brunches, movie halls and holiday resorts, resentfully going through the motions of parenting while staring at their screens or avoiding eye contact with each other. And I wonder: how exactly do children benefit from this? When I see couples arguing at airports, restaurants, fitting rooms, toy and bookshops over trivial things escalating to big things, I wonder: is it worth it to stay together ‘for the sake of the children’?. When I look at my own friend circle and see robotic marriages and equally robotic kids, I know the togetherness is plastic, because even their shiny happy selfies look unreal. Because life is not Instagram.

It’s better for the children, they say, and stick around, silently killing each other and their children, every single day. When they talk to single parents, they are often looking for stories of behaviour disorders, psychological breakdowns and other lurid details in the subtext, trying to console themselves they are glad they ‘stuck it out”. But they are often disappointed to find out that the kids are alright.

(Follow the link below to read more…)


How Guilt Over Your Divorce Cripples Good Parenting, by Joel Phillips

Do you carry around something that you feel terrible about? Maybe you weren’t there for your child at a particular important event. I have that.
Maybe you feel like your child was robbed of a “normal” family life because of your divorce, or that your marriage isn’t healthy. I have that one too. As a parent who has been through the trauma of divorce, I have carried a lot of guilt. It’s understandable. But the unnecessary weight of guilt can cripple my effective parenting.

Divorce doesn’t have to be your source of guilt -it can be lots of things. I have known people who carry guilt because of physical defects and handicaps that their kids deal with. It can stem from all sorts of places.

Here’s how it typically works…

I don’t have my kids all the time, because they live with their other parent part of the time. I felt guilty about this, yet helpless to do anything about it and possibly even unaware of the guilt I had about it.

So when they came home, I wanted to make sure they have a good experience.

I didn’t enforce the rules much. We played a lot. I did the chores when they were gone so we didn’t waste any time. It was a little bit like the lost boys and I was Peter Pan.

Depending on how your family interacted and expressed love, you might cope with this differently; shower them with attention, buy them things they don’t need, or some other attempt to be their favorite parent.

Remember, you are driven to make sure they have a good experience when they are with you. At least that’s been my favorite excuse.

It comes from a good place, but in reality, it’s a trap. You want your children to feel loved and safe and you don’t want your time with them to be burdened by being a disciplinarian. So you let some things slide. After all, they will be going back to their mom or dad’s house soon, you rationalize, and they can take care of it.

(To Read more, follow the link below…)

“Boyhood”, the Movie: A Review by Chris Knopp

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With no plot whatsoever to speak of, no memorable action scenes, and no earth shattering new philosophy on life, Richard Linklater’s recent movie Boyhood has on the face of it, much to be underwhelmed by.  Already knowing the premise of the movie I had assumed that it would be ideal to review for ‘The Forever Years’ but now, only a month or so after viewing it, I struggle to recall much of the detail.

So I was curious that despite this, I would still rate it as a must see.  What was going on here?  What essence of the human condition did it cause to resonate in me? Why do I want my own kids to watch this movie?

Let’s be done with some of the more superficial reasons first.  Patricia Arquette – what’s not to like?  No surprises at all re her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win in her role of mum – a wonderfully nuanced performance.  The rest of the cast are solid too – especially Ellar Coltrane in the title role.

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The character Mason (Coltrain) with his “Mum” and “sister” early on in the movie

And speaking of Coltrane, I’m sure most people are aware that this film was shot over twelve years with the same cast so that we actually do see the character Mason, literally grow up on the screen in front of us.  Much has been made of this – “different & daring”, “an important landmark in how great films can be made”, “a master stroke in casting” and so on.  For me, this aspect of the movie was irrelevant and frankly unnecessary – a cool thing to have done, sure, but it added nothing to the movie per se.  I’m perfectly used to effortlessly suspending disbelief when it comes to characters aging across lifetimes in movies.  If it hadn’t been such a talking point prior to its release, I would never have noticed it was the same actor throughout – simply because I had assumed, as I do in ALL such movies, that of course it was the same person!

The next possible reason for loving this movie is a much more subjective one and probably not one that will influence too many others.  Richard Linklater, the director.  The first movie of his I saw was Waking Life.  This is a mind-bending exploration of the fringes of dreams, perception, and reality, a ‘meaning of life’ movie  – a thinking man’s Matrix.  With both Ethan Hawke and Linklater’s own daughter, Loralei, featuring in both movies, there is a cross-over effect that makes it difficult for me not to view the second movie in the same light as the first.  I have watched Waking Life probably at least 15 times now and each time find in it something amazing and new.  How could a movie from such a director not be great?

I recently watched another classic coming of age movie with my older boys.  Stand by Me has to be one of my all-time top 10 movies.  It captures an essence of boyhood that we might all have wanted to experience – an exciting, yet serious and scary, adventure with our best friends, aged twelve, coloured with humour, loyalty, loss and grief.  All this narrated via the nostalgic voice of a middle aged man with his own children who desperately misses his “forever years” and the friends that inhabited them.  But Stand by Me isn’t actually how it was for most of us, and probably not even how it was for the author (Stephen King), on whose short story it was based. It depicts a golden age, an end to innocence, and that inexorable creep of the world turning from the primary colours of right and wrong, to the smudgy beige that life resigns us to.

But Boyhood is not nostalgic.  It doesn’t glorify the highs or over-dramatise the lows.  It depicts an average life.  It could as easily have based the story on your life or mine.  And it’s not just about the boy.  We see each character grow, change, evolve over the course of twelve years – and the multiple interactions between individual characters also develop and change.  It’s not the things that are said and done that are memorable, but as often the things that are not said or not done. It’s the expression that passes between mother and son, a pause in the conversation between the parents, a defiant pose by the sister, – it’s these, often tiny, subtleties that cause us to ‘know’ these people.

There’s almost a sense of The Truman Show here – though we’re not watching for entertainment, nor for a story line, nor action, nor thrills, – we’re watching real people, feeling what real people feel, and understanding why they do what they do. It’s almost too personal and slightly uncomfortable – it doesn’t give us the personal space we expect in most movies.  They are you, they are me, they are every person. We come away understanding a little better, the thing we might call the human condition.


Meet the cast: Dad (Ethan Hawke), Mason (Ellar Coltrane), Mum (Patricia Arquette), Grandma (Libby Villari), and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater).  One of the later scenes of the film.

I said that I wanted my own children to some day see this movie.  I couldn’t initially pinpoint exactly why.  It occurred to me that it might be to illustrate some aspect of choices and consequences, and I’m sure there are probably some good examples that could be extracted here.  But somehow I felt it was something deeper than this.  It wasn’t really until the final scene that the idea came into focus.

The tough times, whether they applied to just the boy, or his mother, or the entire family, were always short-lived.  Sure, the movie skips ahead months or occasionally even years at a time, so of course things move on and things get better or people adjust.  But in our own lives, and especially in the lives of children, these times truly can seem like “forever”. We believe “things will always be this bad.  There’s no way I can see this getting better.  How can I face a future like this?” The movie provides a fast forward to the near future and gives real meaning to the wise advice from the well known anecdote, “it will pass”.

Seeing this repeatedly throughout the movie, reinforces the concept that life is a journey, not a destination.  It’s a bit like Dunedin weather – if you don’t like it, wait 20 minutes!  Understanding this about life gives you a resilience that bolsters your faith that dark clouds will give way to sunshine, and prepares you, without fear, for their return.

In the final scene there is a sense of newness, an exciting future, and a joie de vivre that allows Mason to truly take happiness from the fullness of his life so far, and take on with confidence, whatever the future holds for him. This resilience is the most important thing I would hope my own children might take from the wisdom of Boyhood.

Below:  The trailer for “Boyhood”.


Single Parents’ Day, 21st March

Single Parents CollageEver tried raising kids? Single Parents’ Day celebrates those brave, stoical people that do it on their own, and in many cases without a safety net.

Most single parents didn’t intend to be single parents when they started. Single parenthood usually comes about due to unfortunate and stressful events. Raising children even with two parents can be hard work, so take a moment to applaud those people who, usually through no fault of their own, are having to fly solo.

Children of single parents include Julia Roberts, Bradley Wiggins and Adele, so it’s clearly possible for single parents to raise very talented, high-achieving people. Despite this, there is still a stigma attached to single parent families. This is a real shame.

National Single Parents Day is a day set aside in the USA since 1984 to recognize and support single parents raising their children.  An article was written by Janice Moglen, in 1984,  with hopes that Single Parents Day may one day gain the recognition many associate with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  She collaborated with the organization, Parents Without Partners, and began to petition to have states declare recognition of Single Parents Day.  It is the belief that the day, March 21, was chosen to coincide with the inception of Parents Without Partners, which began on March 21, 1957. Proclamation 5166 was presented to, and signed, by President Ronald Reagan declaring March 21st, 1984 as the first National Single Parents Day.

We at “The Forever Years” feel this is a great idea!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to spread Single Parents’ Day so that it isn’t just a national day in the USA, but so that single parents around the globe are acknowledged!

We all know of a family member, friend, neighbour, co-worker or someone who is a single parent.  On March 21st, Single Parents Day, acknowledge, support and appreciate them, and  make this day a special one for the single parent/parents you know.


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