Raising A Child Can Costs Over $30K Per Year

by Patrick Villanova

The ongoing costs of child-rearing can be hard to size up – and digest. The average cost to raise a child in the U.S. is $20,813 annually. By understanding what to expect to pay for a child’s needs, parents can better plan for their family’s financial future.

With this in mind, SmartAsset set out to calculate the cost of raising one child in 381 metro areas across the U.S., considering the extra costs of food, housing, childcare, healthcare, transportation and other necessities when a two-adult household adds a child.

Key Findings

  • Childcare costs an average of $9,051 annually. Childcare is the largest cost of having a child, accounting for nearly 50% of the annual cost of raising a child, on average. Childcare costs as much as $22,154 in Ann Arbor, MI, and as little as $4,807 in Sumter, SC.
  • Raising a child costs more than $32,000 per year in these California and Massachusetts areas. In San Francisco, Santa Cruz and San Jose, it costs more than $33,000 annually to raise a child. Barnstable Town and Boston follow with a child costing above $32,000 per year.
  • South Carolina has some of the most affordable places to raise a child. Five of the 10 metro areas with where costs are lowest are located in the Palmetto State: Sumter, Columbia, Florence, Hilton Health Island-Bluffton and Spartanburg. However, the absolute most affordable place to raise a child is Morristown, Tennessee.
  • Couples with one child spend an average of $3,407 on housing than childless couples. The Santa Cruz metro has the most expensive additional housing costs for a child at $12,636 per year. Meanwhile, housing for a child in Fayetteville, NC costs one tenth of that $1,252 per year.
  • Annual food costs for a child come in between $1,768 and $2,111. There’s relatively little variation in this cost based on location. It averages $1,890 annually, while transportation costs come in slightly higher at $2,116.

Most Expensive Places to Raise a Child

  1. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA
    In one year, couples with one child in the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley metro area spend $10,499 more on housing than childless couples. That’s no surprise considering the median value of a home in this part of California is over $1 million. Meanwhile, the cost of child care is also particularly high in the Bay Area ($16,317). After accounting for other expenses, including food and medical care, the total one-year cost of parenting one child in San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley is $35,647.
  1. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
    Raising a child costs an extra $33,877 per year in this metro area, which is located about 70 miles south of San Francisco. Parents with one child in the Santa Cruz-Watsonville area spend $12,636 more per year on housing than two adults with no children – the most across all 381 metro areas in our study.
  2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
    Raising a child in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area is only slightly less expensive than in nearby San Francisco and Santa Cruz, costing $33,228 annually. Childcare in this part of the Bay Area averages $15,785 per year. Meanwhile, parents with one child spend $8,612 more per year on housing than childless couples. But the cost may be worth it to some parents, considering the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro is home to the three highest-rated public school districts in California.
  3. Barnstable, MA
    The Cape Cod town of Barnstable may be great for summer vacations, but it’s an expensive place to raise a child. Parents with one child in the Barnstable metro area can expect to spend $18,094 per year on care. Meanwhile, housing costs an additional $7,572 annually when a child is added to the mix. Add in medical care, food and other expenses, and the total cost of raising a child in Barnstable is $33,184 per year.
  4. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH
    Raising a child in the greater Boston area will cost you an extra $32,307 per year. Like in Barnstable, the average couple with one child in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton metro area spends $2,054 more on food than childless couples each year. They also spend $6,897 more than their childless counterparts.
  5. Ann Arbor, MI
    Raising a child in Ann Arbor costs $31,670 per year, making this college town the sixth-most expensive place. Child care ($22,154) comprises a massive chunk of that annual expense. However, Ann Arbor has one of the top-rated public school systems in the state.
  6. Trenton-Princeton, NJ
    Raising a child in the Trenton-Princeton metro area in Central Jersey costs $31,314 per year. While parents have to contend with some of the highest annual child care costs in the country ($17,437), they also typically spend $1,509 more each year on medical care than childless couples. But housing costs are significantly lower than in parts of California and Massachusetts. A couple with one child typically spends $6,492 less on housing annually than a childless couple.
  7. Kalamazoo-Portage, MI
    The Kalamazoo-Portage metro area in southwestern Michigan is home to the second-highest child care costs at $19,853 per year. However, a couple raising a child typically spends just $3,997 more than two adults living together without any children. Raising children in Kalamazoo also has a unique financial benefit: the Kalamazoo Promise program provides graduates of the local school system free tuition to any in-state public college or university.
  8. Napa, CA
    Located about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, the Napa metro area is the ninth-costliest place to raise a child. The additional cost of housing one child averages $8.712. In total, a child costs couples an extra $30,412 per year in the Napa area.
  9. Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA
    The Santa Rosa-Petaluma metro area, which sits due west of Napa, has the second-lowest child care costs in the top 10. A couple can expect to spend $12,733 per year on child care and another $9,486 on medical care. In total, it costs $29,544 per year to raise a child in this part of Northern California.

Least Expensive Places to Raise a Child 

  1. Morristown, TN: $14,577
  2. Sumter, SC: $14,702
  3. Jackson, TN: $15,246
  4. Gadsden, AL: $15,261
  5. Longview, TX: $15,345
  6. Columbia, SC: $15,389
  7. Florence, SC: $15,556
  8. Dothan, AL: $15,570
  9. Hilton Head Island-Bluffton, SC: $15,652
  10. Spartanburg, SC: $15,823

Data & Methodology

SmartAsset used MIT Living Wage Calculator data to compare the living costs of a household with two adults and one child to that of a childless household with two adults. The data is as of 2022. The costs included in our analysis are food, housing, childcare, healthcare, transportation and other necessities within each metro area.

Financial Tips for New Parents

  • Start saving for your child’s education. It’s never too early to start putting money away for your child’s future education. 529 savings plans are tax-advantaged accounts that help investors put money away for future education costs. Money that’s saved in a 529 plan grows tax free and can also be withdrawn tax free as long as you use the funds to pay for qualified higher education expenses like tuition, mandatory fees and books required for enrollment.
  • Don’t forget about retirement. You’ll have added financial responsibilities as a new parent, but try your best to continue to save for retirement. SmartAsset’s retirement calculator can help you track your progress and estimate how much money you’ll have at retirement age.
  • Work with a financial professional. Whether you want to buy a homeinvest in the stock market or purchase life insurance to protect your family, a financial advisor can help. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area.

Single Parents Statistics

By Nathan Yau

In the 1950s, less than 10% of families with children were single-parent. In 2022, among families with children, 31% were single-parent — more than three times as common.

The total number of families went up. There were 84.2 million of them in 2022.

There was also a growing number of families with children (under 18, living with a parent), but that changed around the time of the Great Recession between 2007 and 2008.

After the baby boom through the early 1960s, families had fewer children overall. This is more obvious as a percentage of total families.

Divorce is more common, so single-parent families are more common. It looked like it was on the way down starting in 2013, but there was an uptick in 2021. The rate stayed the same in 2022 at 31%.

Single-parent families usually meant children lived with their mothers, and it still does, but that seems to be changing. It was 66% more likely for children to live with their father in 2022 than in 1950.

My son was a Columbine shooter. This is my story.

Not sure how I came across this but it was extremely powerful to watch. I can’t imagine being the mom of a child who was responsible for a mass shooting at a school. It takes a lot of guts to confront people and tell this story and Sue Klebold spent a long time doing just that. She has become an activist to advance mental health awareness and suicide prevention. I wanted to share.

My sons oppositional defiant disorder is relentless, but I won’t give up on him.

By Colleen Dilthey Thomas

My impressions of what motherhood was about before I had children are quite different than what it is really like. I wasn’t so naive that I thought I’d have children who never misbehaved and were the consummate obedient Stepfords, but I certainly never expected a child with a behavioral disorder either. When my son was around 7 years old, we realized that he was different. There was anger and defiance that I recognized were not typical of a boy his age, and were also uncharacteristic of his normally cheerful and sweet demeanor.

There were outbursts and arguments that became too much for me to handle on my own. I knew that this was far beyond my pay grade and that I needed to seek professional help. My son was already being treated for ADHD, and when I brought my concerns to his doctor, she explained that he was exhibiting behaviors of Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I had never heard of this before, but I was instantly concerned. What challenges were ahead for my son and the rest of our family? How would we work through this? What were the long-term effects? Was it Terminal? No. Life altering? Absolutely.

The world of ODD is complicated. There are plenty of people who don’t believe that it is a real diagnosis; they think that the child is simply not being raised right. There isn’t enough discipline. The parent isn’t insisting on enough respect. The child is in charge. Ask any mom of an ODD kid and they’ll fight you all day that not only is it a real diagnosis, they’re likely drowning in it. Every day their wherewithal is being tested and they probably feel like a failure. You see, they remember that sweet baby who they nursed and cared for. There were days of sweet giggles and kisses. That child was not always battling them. But then, in a blink, everything changed.When a child has ODD, they will often target their behaviors toward one person. Lucky for me, I am the one he wants to battle. He always wants the last word. I know I should walk away, but I’ll be darned if I am going to let a kid win. He has to learn respect somehow, right? But when I argue, he is winning. He’s getting a rise out of me, just as he intends to.That’s probably the most difficult part. He wants to fight me, his mom. Shouldn’t I be the one who he comes to when he is facing troubles? I always thought that I would be the problem solver, not the one who he hates. Hate is probably a strong word, but I am definitely his biggest frenemy right now. I just want him to be happy.

It sounds so simple, but isn’t that every mother’s wish? No one wants to see their child hurting. His pain is being expressed in argument and anger. My heart is broken for my baby boy.I know that I am not alone in this fight. There are so many kids with ODD who are challenging their mothers every day. Those moms love those children. But they are frustrated, and they are sad, and they are broken. They wonder each day why this is happening to their families. And yeah, they look at other families with envy from time to time. You know what? That’s OK. This doesn’t have to be a life sentence. There is hope for change.

There is one absolute truth in this whole thing, and that is that I am a good mom. I do all of the things that a mom is supposed to do for her children. They are nurtured and cared for and loved. My God, they are so very loved. No, my other children aren’t bogged down with the same problems, but I don’t love them more because of that.

Truth be told, I probably love my son the hardest. I do it because I want him to love me back. Sure, he loves me, but I sometimes wonder if he likes me as much as he dislikes me right now. Does he remember his life before he was so angry? Are there flashbacks of happy times that didn’t include daily arguments? Surely there are. And there are bright days ahead. I know that. But I have to put in the time and the patience with him to ensure that those days come.

ODD won’t rule my life — or his. It will cause challenges and heartache from time to time, but I am not going to let it change the way that I feel about my son. I will not give it the power to make my love for him wane. Instead, I am going to work the plan and give him what he needs: discipline and understanding, but most of all, love. He needs to feel like he is seen for the good and not just the bad.

I sometimes think that I am a better mom because of ODD. It has challenged me to be the best I can, every single day. I am guided by an inner strength which I didn’t really know existed. If you are struggling with ODD, you are not alone. There are other moms that are struggling just like you. Don’t forget, you are a great mom and your child loves you. Take a deep breath and walk away. It sometimes feels like there are no winners with ODD, but sustaining your love and patience for your child makes you the ultimate victor.


Q&A with spiritual leader Alessandra Bogner (Read on to find out)

Corona! Corona! Corona!

What else can anyone say that hasn’t already been said.  It’s changed all of our lives, gave us new perspectives, raised lots of questions about healthcare, safety, government, school protocol and vaccines.  And hopefully made us appreciate life and kindness a little more.

We will all be reading about Covid 19 and the 2020 year in history, but I didn’t want to write an article about how challenging the year was, we all got that.  Parents became teachers (and therapists and nurses and much more), many lost their jobs, people moved to other place, and most importantly, many lost loved ones.

I wanted to write something that focuses on the positive.  We all know that out of many disasters, enlightenment comes, a new way of doing things, a new way of learning.  Yes, parents became teachers, but we learned to appreciate them a lot more and spent precious time with our kids.  Yes, many people lost their jobs, but lots of people also re-invented themselves and found new and better ways of earning a living.  And while many people lost loved ones, extraordinary acts of kindness were displayed because whether you lost someone or not, we all understood and grieved together. 

I was reading something that my good friend Ali Bogner wrote about the “new normal”.  We’ve heard this term before but what does it really mean?  She wrote, “The Universe is showing us that going back to “normal” was not the point of this pandemic. That so-called “normal” we are wishing for is actually what got us into this situation, so we need to evolve and expand beyond what we were”.

I consider Ali a spiritual leader, she’s always bringing enlightenment to people.  She is the author of “Lightworkers of Florence” on her Facebook Page, which talks about so many self-awareness topics.  I am happy she agreed to participate in my blog. 

Q:  What do you think is the single most important thing we have learned from this pandemic?

A: I think that the most important thing we learned is how connected we all are. Humanity is at the beginning of understanding our oneness. The universal laws of cause and effect are becoming more obvious in the sense that we are realizing how the actions of each of us has a consequence on the whole. This was a global event unlike any other we’ve experienced in history. We are not able to physically be with each other and yet, globally, we all felt each other.

Some people would argue that the events of the pandemic brought out so much ugly and divided many people, but I ask you to look deeper. Those are just growing pains in the evolution of sensing each other. Sure, there were heated arguments about masks/no masks, lockdown/no lockdown and our old wounds of racism and intolerance popped up everywhere, but this time, it was a global conversation. As an example, the George Floyd incident sparked rage all over the world.  Florence is an amazing place, but not really known for its involvement on American racism, but it was felt here like it was our own. 

I believe that the important things in life are the invisible – that which we cannot perceive with our five senses. Things like love, respect, joy, grace, compassion – and these things have become more important to us. The veil is slowly being lifted and we are starting to see things in more of a collective way.

Q: When we talk about the “new normal” what do you think that means and how do we prepare for it?

A: Nothing irks me more than someone saying, “I can’t wait until we get back to ‘normal.’” Really? Do you want to go back to what got us into this mess? What the new normal will be is a hard question to answer since we are in the midst of collectively manifesting this right now. And that’s how we should look at it – WE are manifesting something new.

The Universe does not make mistakes; we were given this pandemic as a great re-set to observe what works and what doesn’t and we will be the co-creators of a new world. The world is going to re-start and we have this amazing opportunity to make it more humane, more balanced…but first, we have to be uncomfortable where we are and that’s part of the new normal.

So many people have these nagging feelings of uncertainty and fatigue trying to figure out where they see themselves in the future. This is good! We are entering unknown territory and these feelings of doubt should make us go within a bit more and get in touch with our deeper desires.

Q: Our generation never experienced a Global pandemic before, many older people have a different perspective because they have lived through so many other things like the Holocaust or the Great Depression, what kind of philosophical advice can you offer young people who have lots of anxiety and fear right now?

A: I work with and am very connected to many young people and I would say that the number one thing they all have in common is anxiety. It doesn’t matter how good/bad the family is, the socio-economic or ethnic background – these kids are anxious and that anxiety manifests itself in so many ways like depression, eating disorders, cutting, OCD, violence, substance abuse and a plethora of other things. I believe that our kids are being born into a world with an inner knowing that things need to change and they will be the ones to facilitate that change.

If I could somehow inject our youth with something to help them, it would simply be having a strong sense of faith. Faith that their presence right now in the world is incredibly meaningful and that their path, while difficult and unknown, will bring about a great awakening.

If you take a look at all the kids born during the last 25 years, you will notice so many of them have “problems” such as ADHD, being somewhere on the spectrum and a bunch of processing/cognitive/learning “disabilities.” But I feel certain that it’s “US” who have the disabilities in understanding them. They’ve come into this world “different” because they are ready for something we can’t quite comprehend yet.

Q:  Some people believe that the pandemic had to happen for significant change to come, can you elaborate on this? 

A: We have watched the world turn into this great, egoistic monster that finds its importance in material things and the desire to control. We have observed a lack compassion and respect for each other and our planet. In just a few short months of keeping people at home, there has been significant improvement in the environment from the air to our waters. I think this will bring about a change in how we relate to and treat each other and the planet.

Q:  Because my blog is about parenting, what do you think as parents became most valuable lesson during the pandemic?

A: Parents dealt with so much, didn’t they? Throughout the pandemic, I kept saying “Thank God my kid is older!!” But I know that there were so many parents out there struggling on how to navigate being both parents and teachers during this time without losing their shit.

But it brought about an awareness on how each kid learns differently, the scope of education and what our kids need to be able to thrive in this world. I think our current school systems are extremely antiquated and do not serve this new generation. I was amazed at the resilience and growth that happened with the creation of different ways to teach our kids and the respect we now have for our teachers. The lessons are still being realized, but I believe that as parents, the greatest lesson is that we need to view education differently.

In the past, we have seen the most significant changes come about from passionate parents who want something better for their kids. In fact, my son completed his elementary education in the NYC public school system and I watched schools that transformed into evolved learning environments, not only because of teachers and administrators, but from parents getting involved and creating new structures. The old structures and belief systems surrounding education are now being questioned and this is an opportunity to bring about an evolution in education.

I would like to add that whether you are a parent or not, we collectively need to be there for all our kids. The lockdowns/isolation have affected our kids in ways we cannot imagine. This is not only a problem for the parents and professionals, but for our global village. How are you extending kindness and compassion to every child you meet?

Q: On the one hand, this pandemic seems like a great equalizer, on the other hand it seems like a lot of disparity came up, people who didn’t have resources mostly low-income folks and minorities hurt more, how do you think the “new normal” will change this?

A: I absolutely see this disparity, but again, I think that we have taken the first step toward something different as we sense our connection to each other more and more. I think that people are starting to realize what is really important and it has little to do with owning things. Ultimately, the cure for all our troubles is to unite. While we are certainly not there yet, I believe we have made it to the first level. Growth is not easy and often painful, which is where we are now.

Q:  Not to get political but it became clear we need great leadership during extremely tough times, what do you expect from our leaders during a time of crisis, whether they are government leaders or spiritual leaders?

A: The thing that struck me the most during the pandemic was the absence of great leadership anywhere. What a huge disappointment!! We questioned the motives of all the leaders, because we felt that their decisions and intentions were not in alignment with a greater good for all. Everything felt slathered with secrecy, self-interest and corruption. Is it any wonder why the world of conspiracy theories took on a life of its own? The flip side of this is the lesson that our children are learning. I have a great amount of faith that the kids today will one day become great leaders.

Q:  What acts of kindness did you see that really struck you during the pandemic?

A: I am pleased to say that I witnessed so many! My two favorites are:

People checking in on the elderly to see if they need anything and daily rituals to bring up people’s spirits – such as the 7pm celebration for essential workers in NY and the “balcony singing” of people in Italy.

Q:  Can you finish this sentence “Corona Virus is probably here to stay but  .   .   . 

A:  It is teaching us what is important and will lead to a great renaissance. Look at the black plague of the 1300’s that killed off more than half the population in many European and Asian cities, yet, it brought about the Renaissance that elevated how the world thought.

Instagram – lightworkers_of_florence


When Your Child Needs Early Intervention

(Q&A with ABA Therapist Rosalind Greenberg below)

At 17 months, my son started showing signs of unsettling behavior. The tantrums were long and exhaustive, he started biting and scratching and he was extremely hyperactive. I didn’t think much of any of this as I knew the “terrible twos” were approaching, he wasn’t able to communicate abundantly yet, and I guess I just thought my son just had it a little worse than other toddlers.


The Daycare where Luke attended at the time suggested getting him evaluated and reluctantly, I agreed as I was tired of hearing how disruptive he had become. I had been challenged myself with Luke at home but also rationalized that kids are always worse with their parents than outside the home.

Luke was evaluated at around 21 months and cognitively there were no issues. The OT therapist (Occupational Therapy) also told me there were no major issues, but he would recommend some OT just to keep him grounded and focused, great, it can only help I thought. He didn’t qualify for speech because I was told his receptive language was developing at the standard rate even though his expressive language skills were a bit lacking, okay I could live with that. Then came the eye-opener, the behavioral evaluation.

Like most toddlers, Luke had good and bad days. On the day of his behavioral evaluation, he had a complete meltdown, throwing things, crying, not listening, not making eye-contact, very little communication, so when I finally spoke to this evaluator, she told me there could be signs of Luke being on the Autism Spectrum. As any parent, I was in complete denial and quite angry and upset over this news.


Based on his behavioral evaluation, Luke was granted ABA services (applied behavioral analysis) and we came to find later that fortunately, Luke was not on the Autism Spectrum. While that was a huge relief to me, it also made me worry about what was really going on with him.

Luke is now three years old and there still isn’t a clear diagnosis of what’s going on with him, but we all agree it’s something, perhaps ADHD although it’s difficult to diagnose ADHD at such a young age.

At age three, the Department of Education gets involved, and they bring in their own standardized test measurements. They almost didn’t grant him services as he did fairly well on his evaluations this time around, the DOE has to find a big area of deficit or weakness to provide services and if that isn’t strong, they give it to other kids who may be more in need. All the help he had gotten in the previous 10 months had no doubt helped. Luke received a lot of one-on-one attention so when he would have a melt-down, he had someone there to re-direct him, calm him down and it was working.

After much pleading and cajoling at the meeting to see if Luke would get continued services, the DOE granted Luke an IEP (individualized education plan) but with minimal behavioral assistance. He received continued OT but this time Speech was added as we started to realize, his communication was a big source of his frustration. I was concerned about the reduced hours, he went from 20 hours of behavioral therapy a week to only 10 now, and my fears proved true, the reduced hours were hindering Luke and he was starting to regress and act out again.

I’ve been working with the DOE to figure out the best solution for him and it’s been challenging and emotional.  I think as a parent, you just want your child to be well-adjusted, learn and be an overall good kid. Of course, all kids have behavioral issues, they are just little humans full of energy and impulsivity. They don’t understand the rules of society or classrooms or standards that we sometimes place on them. I will continue to do whatever it takes to help my son as that’s what parents do, but there are many lessons to be learned, even as I move forward to figuring out what the problem is and getting him the right help.


Here some of what I have learned 1) put aside your preconceived ideas about special education and get your child help, however and whatever that may be 2) any help is better than no help and will only be beneficial 3) Talk to as many people as possible, parent, teachers, psychologists, etc. 4) get yourself some help as you will surely need it whether that’s talking to a therapist, or medication or an extra set of hands so you have some relief, trust me on this one.

For more lessons, I spoke with Rosalind Greenberg (Licensed Master Social Worker that specializes in ABA therapy and Luke’s best buddy) for professional advice:

Q. What are the biggest misperceptions about Early Childhood Intervention?
The biggest misconception is that if a child is receiving early intervention services it will negatively impact his future educational choices and how others will look at him.
Q. How do you know if your child needs special services such as OT or Speech or ABA?  What are the signs?
The first sign is when a child has a difficult time communicating. It can start as early as 12-months. The child is not babbling or not saying “mama” “dada”. The need for OT usually revolves around play and feeding. Is the child having difficulty holding toys, picking up finger foods. Is he holding a cup/bottle/spoon with all fingers. Is the child able to tolerate all textures of foods in terms of sensory. ABA is discussed and needed when the child has poor eye contact, not responding to his name, showing behaviors that are impacting his development. ABA while used primarily for children with Autism, is also provided for children who need help in terms of behavior and following routines and structure.
Q. In your experience, how has early childhood intervention been beneficial?  Was there ever a case that it didn’t work or help?
Early intervention is beneficial because it gives the children and their caregivers the tools, structure and routines that the child needs to develop. Not every child will be able to speak, but every child will be able to communicate. Therapy is only a short time in a child’s day and life, the activities that the caregivers need to follow when the child is not receiving therapy is crucial. It’s about consistently working in helping a child as a team. Early Intervention always helps but not always as much as a family wants. Its gives tools, activities, exercises that has to be consistently done. It may be able to get rid of certain issues, but it does not “cure” diagnoses.
Q. With Luke it was tricky because his behavior was never extensively bad but he clearly needed help, how are the standard evaluations/tests helpful or not helpful in this case.  In other words, are the tests and evaluations enough to see what’s really going on?  What other measures are there?
Evaluations are important because it highlights where the delay is, i.e cognitive, speech, or adaptive related to activities of daily living. Most important is the observation and the interview the parents gave with the evaluator.
Q. It seems like kids today are more scrutinized and under a microscope than ever before, do you agree and if so, how do you take that into account when observing a child? 
The education system has different expectations of a child than even 10-years ago. A child is expected to be in an educational environment by the age of 3, be aware of his environment, follow a classroom routine and sit for a period of time. Yes, when observing a child, this is taken into account.
Q. I’ve gotten the sense that there’s added pressure on kids today in school to be obedient, smart and cooperative kids, which doesn’t leave much room for them to play and just be kids.  How important is free play for a child and at what age should they really be attentive and studious children?
Free play and physical activity is crucial for children of all ages. Obviously, the older a child gets, there is more school work, but there always needs to be a balance. By the age of 6 child needs to be able to sit behind a desk, but again needs time to play ball, jump rope etc. Going to the park, movement classes are just as crucial as learning the alphabet and addition and subtraction.
Q. Any other advice for parents that are perhaps dealing with a child that needs special attention?
To get your child services as early as possible. When in doubt, have the child evaluated. The earlier the better. Be involved with your child’s services, so you can follow the structure on your own.

Growing Up Digital

(Q&A with Psychologist Dr. Sarah Trosper Olivo- see what she has to say about when you should let your child have a cell phone)


You are outside skateboarding with your two neighborhood friends, a bomb goes off in the Middle East, you’re laughing, skating around, joking with your pals, seeing who can skate the fastest, just having a blast. You don’t care about the bomb in the Middle East because you don’t know about the bomb in the Middle East. You don’t know because the Internet doesn’t exist yet, Twitter, Facebook, non- existent. Oh and there are no cell phones either.

Can you remember that time?

I often wonder how kids these days manage the load. Yes we are living in a different time and a digital world. And I’m not one of those old-fashioned types that is going to bad-mouth technology. No doubt that technology has given all of us some essential and positive aspects to life. We are certainly more informed about the world today and sometimes that’s a good thing. But we can’t ignore that technology has also given us too much information and sometimes it’s made us dumb-founded, confused and too reactionary. I know I’m guilty of it.

But as adults having technology gradually infused in us, I think we are somewhat able to have a perspective on it. I catch myself logging on too much and I stop, plain and simple. Kids that have grown up after 2000 don’t have that perspective, they live and breath being online. And it worries me as I’m the parent of a 2 year old where technology is so embedded in his life.

Kids today know about school shootings, bombings, murders, natural catastrophes, in an instant. And even if you weren’t plugged into the Internet, someone who is plugged in, is going to tell you all about it. And we are not just talking about bad events. Even something that is perhaps meant to be harmless like some 10 year old who walks on his hands while singing the National Anthem, has a million hits on YouTube or has a million Instagram followers. So what does your child do? Can they beat that? With so much information at our fingertips, it sends out a disturbing message about competitiveness, “I have a million followers, how many do you have?”


It’s exhausting and I think produces a lot of anxiety for kids these days. But of course I wanted to get an expert opinion on all this as we obviously can’t go back in time, technology and social media are a part of our lives for better or worse. But how is it affecting our kids, their behavior, their socialization, their ability to cope, manage the information overload? I always wondered about all this. I’m someone that grew up playing hopscotch and building blocks. Kids today don’t have as much of that free play anymore, or they just don’t utilize it as much.

And of course need I mention this new thing called cyber bullying.

Let’s talk to Dr. Sarah Trosper Olivo to get an expert opinion:

Q) We all know there are positives and negatives to technology, let’s start on a good note, what are some of the positive aspects to kids today exposed to and having so much technology at their disposal?
A) In small or moderate doses, having access to some amount of screen time allows kids to be part of the social conversation at their school, where most kids are playing some popular video game or other.  And we’ve seen that kids with some access to touch screens or video games do have a physical and mental dexterity with technology that will be very handy for them in our world full of touch screens.  Technology can allow children who are perhaps over-scheduled to have some needed downtime in their brain. They experience something called “flow,” which is when our mind has a very calming balance of being challenged but without mental stress. Musicians talk about it when they’re playing their instrument. Kids brains benefit from flow just like adult brains do.
I think a lot of children today are more aware of social issues, even at young ages. They can see messages about being kind to our earth, treating people different from us with kindness, and using their voice and passion to make changes. I’ve seen so many posts of young children selling lemonade or cookies for refugees or communities impacted by natural disaster. When I was young, I’m pretty sure my lemonade money went straight into the cash register at my local toy store.
Q) what are the negative aspects?
On the flip side, with this compassion comes a lot more worry. Ignorance really can be bliss. It takes a lot of parental monitoring to figure out the right balance for their own kids. Plus parents need to understand the technology and have the willpower to enforce house rules. This can be really hard! I think this has meant that kids often see images or have access to information that’s above their mental pay grade, and they don’t always know how to process it. Even with more innocent games, children often get asked to purchase things for the game in order to keep playing, or they see that their friends are playing online on a different team than them. Kids have to manage FOMO way too early these days if you ask me.
Q) how do you think kids behavior has changed as a result of technology, social media, the internet?
A) I’m certainly not the first one to point out that kids aren’t playing outside nearly as much these days as they used to. Older kids and teens have a lot of very serious conversations over text, where they can’t always read social cues or facial expressions. In my office, when I hear a teen talking about talking to a friend I have to say “talking or texting?” 100% of the time it’s texting.
Q) Do you think there’s a behavioral or developmental difference between technology use e.g. video games or computer use vs social media FB, Twitter, Instagram?
A) I think they lead to different issues. Video or internet use can be used as a coping strategy for anxiety or depression. Sort of a self-medication for young kids who might struggle to be in a social setting. When it becomes a problem for a kid, it’s often a side effect of an emotional issue that was there before the video game playing started. I think social media, on the other hand, can actually generate negative emotion in kids. They’re feeling ok, sign on to Instagram, see a bar mitzvah they weren’t invited to and BOOM, they’re feeling rejected.
Q) At what age is appropriate for a child to have a FB account and a cell phone?
A) Can I say never? Is never an ok answer to give here? Ok, clearly I’m kidding (sort of) but I will tell you I’m holding out as long as possible. I’m working with a group of moms in my town on a “Wait Until 8” campaign, which asks parents to consider waiting until 8th grade for their children to have access to social media. And I would clarify that this means waiting for social media access and a *smart* phone. Companies have caught on to the fact that kids might need phones but that they don’t actually need smart phones. Parents have a lot more options now than they used to, and companies are offering phones that limit or don’t include methods for kids to access social media sites.
Q) I’m sure a lot of parents want to know how much is too much technology?  It’s obviously impossible to eliminate technology from a child completely today, but what are the parameters for a good balance?
A) I personally started talking about Dr. Dan Siegel’s Healthy Mind Platter philosophy really early with my kids. It’s essentially a philosophy that, just like getting a range of foods in our bodies to stay healthy, we also need to do a range of activities to keep our minds healthy. We need sleep time, down time, physical time, connecting time, and so on. (More on this here: www.mindplatter.com) So yes, video games can be down time and social media can be connecting time, and that’s all ok as long as it’s balanced with the other parts of a healthy mind. Once you’re child has access to social media, keep the conversation flowing. Ask them to pay attention to how it impacts them. Give them coping tips for how to manage it. You don’t just give your teen the car keys when they’re 16 and say, “Ok, be careful!” You’re in that car with them, giving them tips and making them slow down when they need to. Teaching them about technology shouldn’t be any different.
Q) While there is no concrete evidence, I’ve read a lot of articles that say kids today are more anxious, depressed and isolated and that social media has had a significant hand in that?  Would you agree and if so, what can a parent do to help with this?
A) I absolutely agree, and we’re actually starting to see some pretty clear connections. My biggest piece of advice is to wait, talk to your friends and convince them to hold off, work with the school to encourage limited social media use in school, etc. I know this sounds pretty hard core but I’m telling you it’s as bad as what they’re saying. You put safety locks on the cabinets when they’re babies and lock the liquor cabinet when they’re teens. So put safety measures on their mental health, too. Read articles, pay attention and be involved in your child’s social media use while they live in your house. I’m quoting Anastasia Basil here, who writes a lot on this topic: “Don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything.”
Sarah Trosper Olivo, Ph.D.
City and Country CBT
(347) 746-8396

JUST ONE: The Only Child Syndrome

(Q&A with Child Psychologist Dr. Stan Royzman below)

Weird, Spoiled, Precocious, Selfish, Lonely, Aggressive, Perfectionist.

Those are just some of the labels that an Only child gets. Are they true?


Since having Luke at a late age in my life, and knowing I would not be having another child, I started to wonder about all the stereotypes that surround Only children. I’m a Middle child and I get stuck with the “middle child syndrome” characteristics – some are good like creative and independent, which I like to believe apply to me:) But the basic theory is that Middle children are resentful of all the attention the first and youngest children got and so they are rebellious, and if I want to be truthful, that also applies to me.

According to Alfred Adler (Austrian psychologist 1870-1937), birth order had a very big impact on the child’s personality. He believed First-born children were prone to perfectionism and need for affirmation. Since there is always someone who was there first, Second or Middle children grow to be more competitive and rebellious. Youngest children, Adler believed, may be dependent and selfish due to always being taken care of by family members.


What did Adler say about Only children, that they can be over-protected and spoiled – big surprise. Well forgive me Dr. Adler if I say my child will never be spoiled, not if I can help it! But I’m sure that’s what every parent thinks and believes about their child regardless of if they have siblings or not. So what does it really mean to be an Only child?

Obviously having or not having siblings is going to effect your childhood and personality in some way shape or form. There are so many studies and articles about this and as family dynamics have changed, so have the results. In the 19th century being an Only child was not considered to be a good thing at all. Psychologist, G Stanley Hall claimed being a lone child was “a disease in itself”. Another psychologist, Eugene Bohanon said Only children were less venturesome and oversensitive, prone to priggish self conceit.warning-Only-Childquote-being-an-only-child-is-a-disease-in-itself-g-stanley-hall-78024

But this was also a time when having lots of children was more socially accepted, and a time when psychology was still a relatively new science with many testing theories, remember “penis envy” (I think that’s another article:)

The reasons people decide to have just “one” child are many. The percentage of couples who have one child has doubled in the past 20 years, up from 10 percent, based on 2011 Census Bureau figures. Today there are 20 million only-child households in the United States. As couples marry later and extend careers, and as fertility issues increase, the result is more Only children. Asking around some parents I know, finance seems to be a big reason, but a few parents have confessed, they like just focusing on one child.  They also like having more freedom in what one child brings.  And yes, they worry about having a child that is selfish or lonely.

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There are a lot of interesting famous Only children – Al Pacino, Elvis Presley, Alan Greenspan, Ghandi, Carol Brunett, Charles Lindbergh, Isaac Newton, Eleanor Roosevelt and my personal favorite Robin Williams. Robin was kind, creative, passionate and highly intelligent. He also committed suicide because he was depressed. So does that mean that Only children are more prone to depression than other children or that being a highly intelligent person may do that?  Or does one not have anything to do with the other?

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The intricacies of birth order, or not having siblings, is a bit more complex than “only children are spoiled”. Of course parenting style, environment and education all play important factors in shaping any child but we can’t ignore not having a sibling as a factor. I thought I would ask Child Psychologist Dr. Stan Royzman to get more perspective.  Here’s what he had to say:

Q: I know there are a lot of studies about Only children.  What are some of the recent findings about Only children both positive and not so positive?”

A: This is true, there are many studies on the subject; however, it may be important to know that much of our knowledge about only children comes to us by way of China from their One Child Policy implemented back in 1979 in an effort to slow population growth.  Recent studies tell us that only children are at no greater risk for psychological disorders or academic challenges compared to their non-only child counterparts. Rather, only children may actually possess a buffer against mental illness, and some studies suggest that only children demonstrate higher performances on academic and cognitive measures. The research also tells us that only children have greater achievement motivation and are more likely to attain a higher level of education, and that they show greater levels of life satisfaction and are better equipped for managing stressful situations.

Despite the advantages, the research does suggest some challenges to being an only child. For instance, only children have considerably fewer opportunities to rehearse and troubleshoot relational challenges.  Since siblings are around one another for most of the day they need to learn how to navigate nuanced social situations, and they get to do so within a safe environment. Only children must learn how to navigate these complicated relationships as well, but they do so in the context of playdates, daycare, school, and extracurricular activities.

Q: It seems like perceptions about Only children have changed over the years, what is the biggest misconception about Only children today?

A:  The stereotypes suggest that only children are spoiled, selfish, lonely, and maladjusted. I can tell you now, as can the research, these stereotypes are simply not true. Despite the growing body of research shooting down the stereotypes, these claims have impacted peoples’ perceptions. For instance, a Gallup poll conducted in the early 2000s indicated that only 3% of American adults believed a one child family to be the ideal family size.

Q: One of the main reasons I decided to have Luke in daycare was so he interacted with other kids, how important is that for an Only child?

A: I most certainly support having only children enrolled in daycare, and also in preschool. It offers them additional opportunities to interact with others and learn to navigate the social sphere. Fewer opportunities to socialize may lead to some practical and emotional consequences for only children, such as loneliness for instance. Socializing helps children understand that those around them also have ideas, interests, likes and dislikes, and it teaches them to appreciate difference. This is something that siblings have built into their life, but it’s something that parents of only children need to create through various experiences.

Q:  Is it a myth or is there some truth to Only children having “imaginary friends?

A:  Many children have imaginary friends, only children and those with siblings. Imaginary buddies are typical and some research even tells us that kids have imaginary friends until 7 or 8 years old.  I’m not one to reference Sigmund Freud, but he wrote about how the use of fantasy and imagination may be a way to satisfy needs and desires that aren’t being met in our physical reality.  To translate this, and in following Freud’s logic, a child may develop an imaginary friend because he or she may be feeling socially or emotionally isolated. Now, the research is inconsistent around this point but the advice is the same either way – make sure a child has a healthy social life by providing them with adequate opportunities to engage with their peers.

Q: I was also reading how many adult Only children really feel a sense of loss from not having any siblings, is that common, and if so, is there anything a parent can do to make them feel less solitary?

A: Siblings possess a confidant and someone with whom to commiserate. Having the sympathy of someone in the same situation could either reduce the subjective experience of the stressor or at least make it more tolerable.  There are the subjective reports that we occasionally hear from only children who are now adults, with some saying they wish they had a sibling growing up so that they wouldn’t have felt as lonely. As adults, some may express a wish for siblings so that they could have help planning and caring for their aging parents. So there are issues to consider when it comes to raising only children, but each of the issues is very manageable as long as the parent is aware of what they are.

Q: Like many parents of Only children, I’m afraid of raising a “spoiled” kid, are there different disciplinary measures a parent should take with an Only child that are different than children with siblings?

A: Exactly what does it mean to be spoiled? Well, someone who is spoiled may be less concerned about others, thinking largely about themselves. He or she may feel a sense of entitlement, in that they deserve everything they receive simply because of who they are. Someone who is spoiled may feel it unnecessary to work for what they want, and instead may expect others to simply hand them whatever it is they desire. They may also take people and things for granted, treating others as if they’re dispensable. Although family composition may be related, becoming a spoiled child or a spoiled adult has to do with parental practices more so than the number of siblings someone has.

Occasionally, parents will come into the office for a consult and express their concern about raising a “spoiled” child.  After some discussion I present them with several questions in order to better understand where they are in their thought process and whether they’ve been able to develop an action plan.

Question 1: Am I teaching my child to be kind to others?

Question 2: Am I teaching my child that their feelings matter, as do the feelings of others?

Question 3: Am I teaching my child the value and importance of hard work, effort and persistence?

Question 4: Am I teaching my child that disappointment is a natural part of life?

Question 5: Am I teaching my child how to appropriately address and manage disappointment and frustration?

Q:  What other advice would you give parents raising an Only child? And would that advice change if you were giving it to a single parent such as myself?

A: To all parents, I would suggest they sit down each month for one hour and spend some time thinking about who they want their child to be in the future. And I don’t mean what kind of profession you would like for them to have; and this exercise has nothing to do with academic success. These days we place so much emphasis on accomplishment and achievement that we relegate personal qualities and character traits to the back-burner, and what’s worse is we don’t realize it. After you’ve determined the personal qualities you would like for your child, ask yourself what it is you are doing to help foster the growth of these traits. In order for your children to meet these expectations they need you as a model, and they require your active guidance and wisdom to become the best possible version of themselves, and of you.

Dr. Stan Royzman, PsyD, MSEd, is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York. He is a regional supervisor for New York Foundling, overseeing mental health services for their North-Manhattan and Bronx clinics. He is also the owner of Cognitive Champs Psychological Services, a private practice located in Midtown Manhattan, where Dr. Royzman and his colleagues provide children, adolescents and young adults with psychotherapy, psychological testing and neuropsychological evaluations. www.CognitiveChamps.com



(Q&A with single mom of a beautiful daughter with Autism, Lilly Jinkins)

I wake up shivering.  My forehead is piping hot and I’m aching throughout every inch of my body.  I can barely speak but I hear myself saying “honey, can you please tend to Luke this morning, I think I have the flu”.  Oh wait, I’m alone.  Luke has been crying for almost 10 minutes now.  I drag myself out of bed and go to him.  I look at the clock.  It’s too early to call anyone for help.  And the day begins.

I knew being a single mom wouldn’t be easy.  And I wanted this more than anything in the world so really I just need deal with it and stop complaining.   And I try not to but it’s tough not to vent at times as this is harder than I ever imagined it would be.

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Most of my married friends with kids are actually really good about giving me some praise and letting me know they can’t imagine how I do it alone. My sisters are certainly supportive and tell me all the time that I’m doing a great job.   This really helps, getting encouragement from friends and family, but many times, you just feel like no one truly understands what you’re going through. And how could they unless they are a single mom. Even then, single moms have different support systems, tolerance levels, and financial circumstances.

Of course there are many challenges to being a single mom – lack of help, financial burdens, sole decision making, etc and just not having that other person to ask a simple question is frustrating.  Of course there are support groups and friends you can ask. But when your child wakes up at 3:00 a.m., screaming and nothing is calming him down, it would be great to have another person to assess the situation. Or help keep you in check when you’re about to lose it. Or yes, give you a little break when you’re not feeling well.

Well, I was having one of my “poor me” days when I came across an article about a single mom raising a child with Autism. And it stopped me dead in my tracks. Just like my married friends can’t imagine raising a child on my own, I can’t imagine being a single mom raising an autistic child.

So I contacted Lilly Jinkins to ask her about what her motherhood experience is like. I was thrilled she decided to answer some questions. Shedding light on Autism is certainly important but interviewing Lilly helped me get a very clear perspective.  I was amazed at how positive and uplifting Lilly is when it comes to raising her Autistic daughter Laila Rose, who is 4. Lilly also has a son Jay, 15 who doesn’t have Autism. Major kudos for being a single mom raising not just one child, but two.

If you struggle with being a single mom or just being a parent, it’s important to share stories on how we manage, how we stay focused and positive. It’s important to support each other and reach out to each other as much as we can. No matter what your parental situation is, we are all in it together, the joys, the challenges and the lessons.

Here’s what Lilly had to say.


Q. How did you become a single mom?

I became a single mom three years ago. I was married for thirteen years to my ex. We were married very young and towards the end of our relationship our differences became too much to handle. Though there was much pain through the separation, today we maintain a healthy relationship for our two beautiful children.

Q. I’m a single mom with a long list of challenges and I don’t have a special needs child, what are some of the challenges you have in raising a child with Autism?

My daughter’s Autism diagnosis and my divorce came at the same time in my life.  I had very tough days. Raising my child with Autism has taught me how much we need to teach society about acceptance and understanding of people with differences. I have endured many stares at stores and restaurants if my daughter was feeling overwhelmed and having a sensory meltdown. Going through the public-school system to see where my daughter will be placed and how she will be included in the general classroom has also become a challenge. As a special-needs parent I have an undying need to protect her at all costs, though I understand that the biggest present I can give my daughter is to teach her how to survive and become an active member of society.

Q. In reading your stories, your outlook is so positive, how do you maintain that?

Wow! That’s a tough one. You know, I have allowed myself to feel every single emotion possible. I communicate my thoughts all the time, to my friends and family, writing stories for online publications, or just jotting them down to myself. If I am having a tough day, I allow myself to cry! (Often in the shower alone where my kids can’t hear me) Being able to process my thoughts and emotions has given me the opportunity to feel strong and ready to face anything. When my son (who is now taller than me) hugs me, I know that I have found true love in his arms. When my little girl tells me that she loves me (it took years of therapy to get there) I know that there is so much hope in the world. I know I only have this one chance to give my children all the love and support possible to lead a happy life. Waking up every day being grateful for all life has given me and maintaining hope at all costs have helped me maintain a positive outlook.

Q. What are some of the important lessons you have learned in doing this on your own?

I have learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. As a single mother, you really must be “Momma Bear” and make sure your children will be ok and protected no matter what. I learned that my children are the driving force in my life to better myself and never give up. I have also learned to trust my own instinct when it comes to my children and what is best for them.

Q. What advice would you give to any single mom raising a child with any kind of disability or behavioral challenges?

I want to tell all the single mom’s out there that are raising a child with any kind of disability that you are your child’s biggest advocate in life! Speak up when it comes to doctors, teachers, school bus drivers, friends, family, significant others, etc. Never stop learning about your child’s situation so that you know how to take care of them best. Find online support groups with other parents going through what you are. Trust me, it helps so much to know that you are not alone. Most importantly (something I am trying to work on now) take care of yourself as much as possible. Eat right, go for walks, take some time to meditate, read a book. Your child needs you, and as a special needs parent perhaps it will be for longer than expected. Love will carry you through it all.


For more information about Autism and other related disabilities go to https://themighty.com/ and www.sparkforautism.org


(see Q&A with HR specialist, Amy Dalton below – yep I asked her about “metoo”)

I got laid off not too long ago. In the world of Advertising, that’s common. In the world of single motherhood, it’s scary.


My company assured me it was strictly financial and they had been laying people off. I guess it’s always a shock when you are one of those people. My immediate reaction was fear because I knew I had to work and support my son.  But once the initial shock was over, I was actually relieved.

Everyone says these type of events always end up being a blessing in disguise, or when one door closes another one, often a better one, opens.  And it’s very true.  I love what I do but I was frustrated at work lately.  One of the main reasons for my frustration was they moved my department to Jersey City in an effort for the big parent company to save money on rent. This move added extra time to my commute so it directly effected my son’s schedule and spending less time with him.

The move to Jersey City was not a choice for any of us and so many people were upset, but companies need to do what they have to do to remain profitable.  The move wouldn’t have been that bad if the entire company moved, but it was only a few departments so the majority of people I worked with were all back in the NYC office.  Working remotely via phone and Skype became the constant.  Most of the managers or bosses knew this was a disruption in everyone’s life so they allowed employees to work from home from time to time since we were all working remotely anyway.  My boss had been working from home often, even before the move to Jersey City, so it surprised me that he did not grant any of us to work from home, except one producer who worked under me.  She was well-connected and had a relative high up in the company.  Needless to say, I was frustrated, but I did what I had to do, I made adjustments and saw my son less.

About a month of being laid off, I managed to get some freelance work with a few great dynamic companies.  Without me even asking, they all offered me the opportunity to work from home as needed.  It was a really nice opportunity especially from where I was.  I ended up coming into the office anyways.  Sometimes just knowing you have that latitude if needed is really comforting.

I learned so many valuable lessons in getting laid off.  One of the most valuable lessons I learned was to stay positive and be open to any work situations and opportunities.  Fear and worry get you no where.  Be empathetic and be ready to help people when they are looking for a job.  I had so many colleagues and friends help me, connect me with people, send my resume around, and it’s a strong reminder to return the favor as you never know when you will be in a situation where you need help.

I learned to trust in myself and my experience and reputation.  Having 20 years of experience and working at different companies is a plus.  And lastly cherish the time you can spend with your child.  Even though I was anxious to start working again, I got to spend quality time with my son and saw him take his very first steps, something I know I would have missed.


In the process of looking for work, a few people suggested that I hide my single mom blog while looking as I might not get hired or considered if people knew I was a single mom. I couldn’t imagine a company, recruiter or HR person not hiring me if they knew I was a single mom.  But I guess there’s that stigma that a mom might not be as available as someone who isn’t.  It was quite the opposite for me when I had Luke.  As hectic as things were, I made sure to check emails when at home and on weekends.  I wanted people to see that my efficiency didn’t change just because I had a baby.

But it got me thinking. Do companies look badly upon single moms or mothers in general in the work place? Of course no company would say that outwardly as that’s discrimination, but I wondered, do they?

I did a bit of research on the Internet and came across so many studies that talked about how mothers in general are actually more productive than woman who are not mothers. It talked about how moms don’t waste time at work so they hustle and prioritize and organize, hence making their day extremely efficient.  This made sense to me.


I was always an efficient person, even before I became a mother, but I would watch many co-workers spend a lot of time socializing, taking hour lunches, “dilly-dallying”, etc and whenever I inquired they were single with no children. This was logical as their work life was still part of their social life.

I always knew I wanted to be a working mom, even as challenging as it is as a single mom, I think it’s healthy to be working and it’s a great example for your child.  It’s difficult at times, yes, but I assume it’s difficult for all parents as you are constantly juggling a work-life balance.  It’s important to ask for help and surround yourself with good help, something I’m learning and adjusting to as I go.

I am happy to have my blog back on because blogging makes me happy. I don’t want to believe that anyone or any company would hesitate or not hire a person with great qualifications and a great reputation because they are a mother or a single mother at that.  But I thought I’d bring in HR specialist, Amy Dalton, to get her point of view, here’s what she had to say:

Q: How do you see the workplace changing for women who have children? Is it getting better, worse or about the same?  The answer is twofold – yes, and maybe the same. Yes, I want to believe we are always moving forward as a society (though there are some hiccups along the way). I saw change when I first started my career in a tech startup, and a management consulting company in Human Resources. There were accommodations for working moms and dads – like a reduced work schedule, or flexible time off, or work from home some hours during the week. That said, not all jobs and scenarios were alike. Some managers wanted and required the employee to be in the office and couldn’t offer a different work arrangement. My experience was such that the jobs which were more consultant, heavy travel and management type jobs were more flexible with work hours/work from home. The less senior jobs (typically more administrative) were not as flexible with schedules.

Q: As an HR specialist, I know its discrimination to not hire or fire someone solely based on their family structure eg. Mom or single parent, etc. Do you think this kind of discrimination happens?   The optimist in me would say, “No, not nowadays!” But the realist says, “yes, I am sure it is happening, but companies, specifically human resource departments, are more aware and educated.” Let’s face it, a company hires people to make their business churn, and ultimately, they want to be successful.   You can’t get that without employees. Companies need “all hands-on deck” and want employees to work hard, be available and loyal. That said, not all companies have same mindsets or philosophies. You would hope businesses, big and small, value their workforce enough to make accommodations and consider life situations.

Q: What can someone do if they think their company is discriminating them based on their social status?  If you believe you have been treated unfairly due to your family status, I would suggest meeting with your employer’s personnel or human resources representative. Women and men should know what their rights are. Keep detailed records of conversations and emails, and be prepared to submit a grievance, if needed.

Q: If a company isn’t necessarily engaging in any acts of discrimination but just doesn’t have a good work life balance, what can you do?  Not all individuals (parents or childless) have a choice to stay or go from a job. But you can be proactive. The advice I gave, and practiced myself, is to always have your resume updated and always practice networking. You never know when an opportunity will pop up or when your work experience will be valuable to others. You may not know it, but you network all the time – out with friends, conferences, meetings, neighbors. Someone always knows someone who knows someone. Get good at selling yourself. You are your best salesperson. Great job or not, always be “show ready.”

Q: For the record, if you are interviewing for a job, no company can ask you if you are married or have any children, is that correct?  Yes, correct. No one should ask you about marital status, age, if you have kids, etc. in an interview. An interviewer doesn’t need to know those answers if they aren’t relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.

Q: We are seeing lots of companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon that are granting women six months leave and even one year maternity leave. The current policy in the United States is three months paid leave. Do you think more companies will start granting longer maternity leave?   I have been out of the human resources business world for almost 10 years, but as I said earlier, I hope we are moving forward and evolving as a society to put needs of all families who must balance work and home on higher priority. Almost 14 years ago, when my son was born and we adopted him, I worked for a big, public company who encouraged time off. I took my family leave (FMLA) of 12 weeks and my company also offered another policy for families adopting children. I wound up taking four months off, more than the 12 weeks I was legally allowed to take. The leave consisted of the adoption policy, accrued vacation and personal time, and some of it unpaid. I was fortunate my husband and I could take some of it unpaid and the company was flexible with time off. A lot of families are not as fortunate and aren’t granted with good options. From a mother’s perspective, that, I know, doesn’t feel right.

Q: We always hear about how European companies grant six months or more of maternity leave. Why don’t a lot of U.S. companies grant more than three months leave?  I certainly don’t know much about Europe’s practice of maternity leave. I don’t think they love or value family more than the U.S. or work less than counterparts in the U.S. I know employment law and time off is very different in Europe. Resting and resetting seems to be more cultural. I read something recently that said, “Americans maximize their happiness by working, and Europeans maximize their happiness through leisure.”

Q: With technology allowing everyone to be so accessible these days, should companies allow more flexibility for anyone who may need it?  It would be fabulous if your contributions and work were judged by what you accomplished and your goals being met, not if you showed your face in the office or dropped everything to be available. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen all the time or isn’t attainable. People’s family situations change and evolve. My recommendation would be to communicate your concerns with your supervisor. Hear his or her side. There are always nuances, and he or she may be in a situation you don’t know about. If you don’t feel like you are being heard, or exhausted your options, I would go to your human resource or personnel department.

Q:  Lastly, I know this story isn’t about sexual harassment but given the latest awareness about sexual harassment and the “metoo” movement that’s going on, as an HR person, do you want to shed some light on it?  Every company I worked for had a formal harassment/sexual harassment training program that all new employees took as part of the on-boarding process.  My experience was that companies I worked for were always in compliance.  That said, it was a presentation that you click through, take a short quiz and you are done.  Certainly, it didn’t guarantee the company did their job and no one would harass or assault someone at work, it mostly let the company off the hook in a way as to say “see, we did what we were supposed to.”  Companies need to set the tone from the beginning – we pay and treat men and women the same.  Starts from head of company and trickles down.

The #Metoo and “Times Up” movements have been powerful and long overdue.  I feel like there is this “reckoning”, if you will.  In my opinion, women have had an imbalance of power for a very, very long time.  Women are finding their voices and are shouting “enough, we are sick of feeling undervalued, underpaid, harassed and shamed”.  It’s inspiring. BUT, a big BUT, we must move forward and make real changes with these voices –  speak up, get involved, run for office, make a vow to say I am worth more and won’t take it.

My favorite line in Hamilton from Angelica Schuyler sums up how we need to keep moving forward: