Back to school: Reflections on lessons still to learn as son heads into senior year

We have hit the home stretch — that final year of grade school. Senior year of high school.

How did this happen?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that my husband and I dropped 5-year-old Benjamin off at his kindergarten classroom and stood outside the doorway trying to see what was going on while hoping he didn’t see us?

We’ve done it all: parent-teacher conferences, trips to the principal’s office, field trips, clubs, science fairs, impossibly challenging projects that had us cursing teachers’ names, tests failed, tests aced, school performances that had us beaming with pride.

Now, in this senior year, I can’t help thinking about all the things we still need to teach him. We thought we had more time.

RELATED: Taking a kid to college this month, read this

Luckily, this year Benjamin is actually taking a class called “How to Be an Adult,” because in between physics and calculus, sometimes real life skills take a back seat.

RELATED: Why college kids are coming back home sick

So, for Ben, here’s my list of things to learn this year:

Benjamin Villalpando holds up his learners permit after getting it earlier this year. Nicole Villalpando/Austin-American-Statesman

1. How to drive. Yes, you have a permit, and, yes, we practice, but in this world where Uber is at the touch of your fingertips, you’re not really seeing the point. And you’re not alone. A lot of your classmates aren’t licensed drivers either. Dude, it’s a life skill. Let me help you get it.

2. How to manage money. Debit cards, credit cards, checking accounts, that’s all something that happens in theory. This year we’re moving beyond the savings account to having a checking account with a debit card to practice working within a budget before college next year.

3. How to advocate for your own medical care. It’s time to practice how to make a doctor’s appointment, refill medication and use the insurance card. Mom needs to ease out of being the medical manager.

Ben Villalpando couldn’t wait to start kindergarten in 2006. Now he’s looking at colleges. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

4. How to feed yourself. Yes, you’re a wiz at making cookies, sandwiches and frozen pizza. Let’s try to expand those chef skills.

5. How to clothe yourself. Hooray, you finally mastered the washer and dryer, but shockingly, we haven’t really had you go shopping for clothes. Why? Because you hate it. But it’s time to head to the store, pick out your size and try things on, and then buy them with your debit card. Maybe if you knew how much those jeans cost, they wouldn’t be on the floor all the time.

6. How to read a map and navigate public transportation. If Mom or Dad have always driven you everywhere, can you find your way? Next year at college will you be able to get from your dorm to class, to the grocery store or anywhere else you might want to go?

7. How to have a conversation. In this world of texting, let’s make sure you can talk to people, make eye contact and be comfortable talking to a stranger. (Yes, I know we told you never to talk to strangers, but now you’re going to have to.)

8. How to advocate for yourself to get something fixed. If you have an issue with a store, a professor, a service provider, your dorm room, will you know how to effectively state your case and ask for what you need? Mom or Dad won’t be there to do it for you next year.

9. How to manage your time. That nice alarm that wakes you up every morning with a kiss? That won’t be coming to your dorm room. Nor will the reminder service that tells you to get off your phone and do your homework. You’ll have to do it yourself. Senior year is a great year to build up these skills.

10. How to access resources. If you had a problem, would you know where to turn? If Mom or Dad are the only ones with the power to Google or ask a school administrator what is available to you, what will happen next year? Will you be able to find academic counseling services, tutoring, or even know what the weather is going to be like that day and what clothing is appropriate?

I’m sure there is more to consider, more to teach and more to learn. This time next year, you’ll be off on a new adventure. And that will be wonderfully exciting  —and a little bit scary, too. Good luck, sweet Ben.

Ever been told to slow down? Mom Brooke McAlary tells you how she did it in new book

Brooke McAlary’s young adulthood and first years of parenthood were anything but slow. She had an active career and then became a working mother.

Then, about seven years ago, she was diagnosed with postpartum depression after the birth of her second child.

“I just thought that what was what parenthood was,” she says. “I thought it was exhaustion, numbness, anger and darkness.”

She remembers a time when her son was six weeks old. “I found myself looking at my reflection in the mirror and saying over and over again, ‘I hate you. I hate you,’” she says.

Thankfully, a voice in the back of her head recognized that she didn’t really hate herself and that she needed help. She called her husband and began getting professional treatment.

Her psychiatrist mentioned that maybe she needed to slow down.

At first, she wanted to laugh. After all, she was that person who needed to seem as if she was coping and doing well. Then she Googled “slow down,” and the germ of an idea began to take hold.

“I never got to enjoy anything because I was so busy,” she says.

What would slowing down look like? Could she really do it? How would she start?

She turned her search for answers into the blog “Slow Your Home,” and the podcast “The Slow Home: Podcast.”

On Tuesday, she’ll be at BookPeople talking about her new book, “Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World” ($25.99, SourceBooks).

 

In the book, McAlary, 36, chronicles her journey from a fast-paced life to figuring out how to slow it down. This idea of being too busy is not just an American thing. McAlary is Australian.

Her first step was to rid her house of all the stuff that her family didn’t need. For McAlary, that seemed easier and more achievable than simply doing less.

“My head space at the time was terrible,” she says. “I was in a fragile emotional state.”

People would tell her to meditate or “do less,” but she says, “I could not meditate if I had tried to do it. My head would have exploded.”

She knew she wasn’t prepared to ask herself difficult questions, but she could focus on whether or not she needed something in her house.

She did it one small area at a time. She tried the Marie Kondo method of putting everything in a pile and then asking herself if that thing made her happy. But when she tried to declutter her entire garage at once, she left a pile of junk in the middle of the garage for a year. Instead she shifted to doing small things consistently, such as tackling clutter one drawer at a time.

Then she picked up the book, “642 Tiny Things to Write About,” hoping to spend a vacation restarting her creative writing. An assignment that appealed to her was “Write your eulogy in three sentences.”

It was a tough assignment. She thought about it and considered what she wanted her family to say about her when she was gone. None of the stuff that made her so busy seemed important.

“It was so instrumental in all the decisions I’ve made since,” she says. “It was pretty powerful.”

It’s an exercise she recommends more people do. “It gives us that idea of our central core values,” she says.

For McAlary, slowing down meant being present in her children’s lives.

“The biggest shift was that I was present for the first time, paying true attention to what I was doing, the way I was parenting them, the way I was spending time with them,” she says.

On the surface, it might not have looked much different, but it was. Her kids didn’t notice the change at first, but then one day they asked her to play hide-and-seek, and she gave her traditional response that she was busy. Then she came to them and asked them to play hide-and-seek. “I remember the look on their faces, that I was choosing to play with them,” she says.

Living “slow” doesn’t have to always be about parenting. It can be different for everyone. “We have this idea of what slow should look like,” she says. “That’s just something we’ve made up. It doesn’t have to look like other things. It’s about how it feels rather than how it looks.”

When she first started living slow, it felt like she would never be able to live as slow as others were, but then she realized that everyone starts somewhere, not where they are currently.

“Doing small things every day has such a big impact,” she says. “It always starts with one small step.”

Parents, especially, don’t need to be told what they’re doing wrong. Instead, she offers reassurance to parents: “Hey, you’re doing a good job. … You’re in the thick of it, and you’re doing a great.”

McAlary says she knows, for her, there are keys to living her life in a slow way.

She has to meditate every day, even if it’s just for five minutes before the children wake up.

She has to set boundaries when it comes to technology. If she wants to sit down and write, the phone cannot be on. She also does no screens at dinner and no screens in the bedroom.

She’s not always perfect. Some days are more slow than others. It’s about long-term balance, she says. “Over six months, do I pay attention to the things I need to pay attention to?”

At times, she’ll catch herself slipping and life suddenly feels too complicated again. “One of the most unexpected shifts was increased self-awareness,” she says. “I am able to acknowledge when I’m slipping back into fast. I’m able to put a stop to it before it becomes full-blown fast.”

It’s too much pressure. Instead, she offers her story and invites people to experiment with how they can get to the core of what’s important.

Brooke McAlary reads and signs “Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World”
7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7.
BookPeople 603 N. Lamar Blvd.
bookpeople.com

Should women still use baby powder after Johnson & Johnson lawsuit?

Last week, a jury in Missouri awarded 22 women $4.7 billion in a case that linked Johnson & Johnson baby powder to asbestos and ovarian cancer. 

The company announced it would appeal and issued this statement:

“Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies,” spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said.

Ingredients in baby powder have been linked legally to ovarian cancer. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

What does this mean to women who use baby powder as a moisture absorber in delicate areas?

Dr. Angela Kueck, gynecologic oncologist with St. David’s North Austin Medical Center and Texas Oncology, says she definitely has patients asking her about the case and other cases and baby powder, and she has patients with ovarian cancer who believe the baby powder they used might be the cause, but she cautions them, “In reality, it’s hard to link each individual case,” she says.

The problem with baby powder seemed to be the talc that was in it through the 1970s. (Talc is still found in makeup and other products.) The talc or talcum powder would be sucked up and doctors would find talc crystals inside women.

Dr. Angela Kueck is a gynecologic oncologist with St. David’s North Austin Medical Center and Texas Oncology.

The research isn’t there to indicate how much baby powder over how many years would cause cancer, she says. “The data,” she says, “is not really strong.”

Even though there still are questions about the link to baby powder and ovarian cancer and even though talc is no longer in most baby powders, should you still use it?

Kueck says you can use baby powder, but look for powders that are pure corn starch, or have baking powder or baking soda or are specifically made for that area. Anti-fungal powders can work, too. Avoid using anything with fragrance because that can irritate the area.

Also, don’t use home remedies, Vasoline or deodorant. “In reality, if it’s not for that area, it doesn’t go down there,” she says. Anything you put there can ascend inside you, she says.

The purpose of the powders is to avoid excess moisture because that can lead to yeast infections on the skin, which can be painful. Moisture in that area especially in the summer can be an issue.

If you are finding that you’re needing to use a powder every day for more than two weeks, you should be having a conversation with your doctor about why that is, she says. There could be something happening medically that needs to be addressed in a different way.

 

 

 

 

Can dogs make pregnant women sick like cats can?

For a long time, we’ve known that cats (specifically their poop) can carry toxoplasmosis, which can infect pregnant women and their fetus. It could affect the eyes or the brain of the baby. We’ve been telling pregnant women to have someone else in the house deal with the kitty litter. Pregnant women everywhere were happy to heed this advice.

What about dogs, birds and farm animals? Would the same caution about pregnant women avoiding feces be true?

Pregnant dogs and puppies can be carriers of a disease that could cause miscarriages in women or preterm labor. Nicole Villalpando

Recently, there have been a few cases of pregnant women or children contacting a disease from dogs — specifically pregnant dogs or newborn puppies. You see, mama dogs, or wannabe mama dogs in heat, can carry a disease called brucellosis. They also can pass it onto their puppies through the birth canal. Humans tend to get it by handling newborn puppies or helping in the delivery of the puppies.

Dr. Sina Haeri, director of perinatal research and co-director of maternal fetal medicine at St. David’s Women’s Center of Texas, says brucellosis can cause people to have a fever, joint weakness and fatigue. In pregnant women, they could miscarry if they are in the first trimester. Later on, they have a higher risk of preterm labor and stillbirth. Doctors will want to monitor their cervix closely for signs of preterm labor and the fetus throughout the pregnancy. We don’t have enough data about birth defects from brucellosis, Haeri says.

Contacting brucellosis from dogs, though, is rare. In Haeri’s career here, where he also works in the Marble Falls and Fredericksburg area, and in rural North Carolina, he has seen seven cases. None of them from dogs. Instead, they have happened after a pregnant woman helps a mama sheep, goat or cow deliver their babies. His most recent case was a mama goat biting her pregnant human helper during labor. (See goats don’t handle labor well, either.)

The good thing about brucellosis is it is avoidable in most farm animals because they can be vaccinated against it. Also avoid it by not performing those birthing and breeding activities during pregnancy.  In dogs, though rare, pregnant women also should not handle dogs giving birth or their newborn puppies.

Brucellosis is not something that doctors will screen for, so if you are pregnant and have been exposed to birthing farm animals or dogs, let your doctor know about that if you have a weird fever or joint pain. The treatment would be a six-week course of a two antibiotics.

Toxoplasmosis from cats is much more of a concern. Haeri calls it, “the bane of my existence” and the No. 1 reason why women get referred to him by their obstetricians. The screening for toxoplasmosis comes with a lot of false positives. If you have a negative reading, you can be sure it is negative. If you have a positive one, don’t panic, don’t make any drastic decisions, you might not have it and your baby might not have it. See a specialist for further screening.

Haeri encourages women to exercise good caution. Most indoor-only cats are probably fine; outdoor cats are typically the carriers of toxoplasmosis. If you cannot get someone else to do the kitty litter, wear a mask, gloves and wash your hands afterwards.

He also encourages pregnant women to avoid bird droppings as well because of parrot fever aka psittacosis. It gives women flu-like symptoms.

A good rule–  no matter what the pet — is to practice good hygiene and have someone else deal in the droppings during pregnancy. Haeri also says why not throw in the dishes and cleaning the house, too?

Hop on the Breast Express at Mothers’ Milk Bank, IBM to learn more about breastfeeding

The Breast Express is coming to Austin. On Monday, the traveling RV by breast-feeding support app PumpSpotting will be at IBM in North Austin, which PumpSpotting is recognizing for being a supportive company for employees who are lactating.

Woman breastfeeding baby. Getty Images

RELATED: When nursing moms want to work, IBM makes it easier for its employees 

At IBM from 10-11:00 a.m. Monday, the Breast Express will be offering families breastfeeding support, demonstrations of infant massage, babywearing and fitness. From 11 -11:30 a.m., a panel of local breastfeeding resources will offer tips and information on how to get more support.

Carlie Bower sits in one of the individual rooms in a Mother’s Room at IBM. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

On Tuesday, the Breast Express heads over to the new Mothers’ Milk Bank location, 5925 Dillard Circle, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mothers’ will be giving tours of the bank’s milk-processing labs. You can also see the Breast Express Pump Suite, where you can try different pumps; hear from experts, and learn how donating milk can help premature and medically-fragile babies.

Experts include Kim Updegrove, Mothers’ Milk Bank executive director; Amy Van Haren, founder of PumpSpotting; Angie Liuzza and Christine Snowden, donor milk recipient family; Megan Frocke, milk donor and PumpSpotting user, and  Megan Oertel, nursing mom, breastfeeding advocate and representing mother-friendly employer Sparefoot.

Katrina Hunt mixes milk from several donors at the Mothers’ Milk Bank in Austin. The bank has a new location and can process twice as much milk as its earlier locations. American-Statesman 2010

RELATED: New Mothers’ Milk Bank site will be able to process twice as much milk

Last year, the bank donated more than 5 million ounces, a record. 

More kids are taking vitamins than a decade ago, but do they do any good?

Every morning you make your kids breakfast and that breakfast includes a multivitamin in chewable or gummy form. You think, “Hey, even if they aren’t eating as many of the fruits and vegetables the food pyramid might recommend, at least this is something healthy we’re doing.” Right?

Well, it turns out that you wouldn’t be alone. According to a study published in the June issue of the Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics,  a third of U.S. children and adolescents would say they “had taken any vitamins, minerals, herbals or other dietary supplements in the last 30 days.” And the use of alternative or herbal supplements has almost doubled from 3.7 percent to 6. 3 percent from 2003-2004 to 2013-2014.

As Cookie Monster is learning, real fruit and vegetables are good for you. Sesame Workshop,Richard Termine

It had us wondering, do kids even need a multivitamin or other dietary supplement on a regular basis?

The answer for most kids is no, says Dr. Steven Abrams, professor of pediatrics at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas. Abrams was the lead author of the recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics last year that told parents to avoid giving children younger than 1 fruit juice.

“Most kids, if they take a supplement like a standard daily vitamin, it won’t cause any harm,” Abrams says. “For the most part, it probably won’t do any good, either.”

Dr. Steve Abrams is the chair of pediatrics at Dell Medical School at UT Austin.

Rather than giving them vitamins or supplements like Pediasure, he would rather parents concentrate on finding healthy foods their children like and encouraging them to try new things, but not force them. Remember that what they get in the food they eat is more than just the vitamins. In fruit it would be antioxidants and fiber as well.

Many parents will ask about their picky eaters, but he says, kids are probably getting more variety in their diet than we recognize. “If your child is growing normally, there’s a really good chance he’s eating better than you think.”

If not, talk to your pediatrician and do some tests to see if there is a vitamin deficiency, chronic illness or other circumstance that would make your kid an exception to the general rule that vitamin supplements aren’t necessary. For example, Abrams says, teenage girls sometimes might need an iron supplement if they become anemic.

Babies who are exclusively breastfed also might need Vitamin D, because breast milk doesn’t have any Vitamin D in it, but formula does, Abrams says. In Texas, often babies can get Vitamin D through a bit of sun exposure. Moms also can put Vitamin D drops either in a bottle of breast milk or on her nipple when nursing. Breastfed babies also need iron when they turn 4 months old, he says, until they are getting it through their diet after meat or fortified cereal is introduced.

RELATED: When to introduce solid foods to babies

Taking vitamin supplements usually isn’t dangerous unless kids are treating them like candy or are using them instead of medication. Abrams gives examples like using Omega 3 instead of medication to control attention-deficient hyperactivity disorder, or using Vitamin D to try to prevent the flu instead of a flu shot.

Also, supplements with a high concentration of caffeine could be dangerous as well.

What about melatonin as a sleep aid? A new study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics Thursday indicated that melatonin could help children with developmental delays or autism sleep better.  That might be true for those kids, Abrams says, but most kids will do well without melatonin if parents concentrate on improving sleep hygiene by doing things like shutting of the screens before bed and reading a book instead.

RELATED: How much kids sleep matters in obesity prevention

 

 

Who should be screening moms for postpartum depression? More doctors now can

The postpartum depression that can follow having a baby can catch many families off guard and become worrisome not just for the mom experiencing it, but for the baby whose mother might have excessive worries about that baby’s safety or feel a lack of connection to her baby.

That maternal bond is important in the first few years of life as babies learn that if I smile at you, you smile back. If I cry because I’m hungry, you feed me.

“When a baby is parented by a depressed or anxious mother, there is some evidence that long-term exposure can lead to a learning disability, cognitive delays or motor delays,” says Elaine Cavazos, a licensed social worker who specializes in postpartum depression. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Texas and the clinical director of the Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas.

Postpartum depression rates vary from 10 percent to 20 percent to ratios of 1 in 7 postpartum women. It depends on what study you cite.

Getting support from groups like Partners in Parenting or finding fellow parents of young babies can help new parents not feel so alone. AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2016

One of the questions among medical providers has been who can screen for it and when should it be done.

In May the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that doctors offer more postpartum care for women by adding follow up within the first three weeks of delivery in addition to a comprehensive visit within 12 weeks of delivery. Part of that recommendation is a response to recognizing that symptoms of postpartum depression often happen before the traditional six-week checkup.

Mothers actually see their child’s pediatrician more regularly throughout that first year than their own doctors. Usually within a few days of birth, then at a month, two months, four months, six months, nine months and at one year.

“One of the critical things is we have access to the moms because we have access to the babies at a pretty high frequency,” says pediatrician Louis Appel.

Pediatrician Dr. Louis Appel visits with 15-month-old Jose Romo as mother, Laura Patricia Romo looks on during a well child checkup at People’s Community Clinic. For about seven years, doctors there have been screening new moms for postpartum depression during their child’s well-check visits. AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2007

Recognizing that, the 2017 Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2466 that allows pediatricians to charge Medicaid and child health plan programs for the screening of mothers for depression within the first year of a child’s life even if the mother isn’t covered by those programs but the child is. Medicaid covers mothers with low incomes while they are pregnant until 60 days after delivery, at which point they might not have the insurance to be screened for postpartum depression. Now they can still get screened after 60 days by going through the child’s pediatrician and insurance.

Once screened, pediatricians can refer mothers to mental health services.

Appel, says about seven years ago, pediatricians where he works at People’s Community Clinic began doing the screenings because they were looking at what they could do to help with early brain development.

“The thing we landed on was screening for postpartum depression,” he says. “That early bonding is so important to early brain development in children.”

People’s Community Clinic screens by having the nurse or doctor ask two questions known as the Patient Health Questionnaire 2:

1. During the past month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?

2. During the past month, have you often been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things?

If they answer yes to any of those things or if there is a noticeable lack of interaction between mom or baby or an anxiousness around that interaction, the patient would be given a longer 10-question form to fill out.

In this 2011 file photo, nurse practitioner Peggy Wall conducts a prenatal visit with patient Leticia Martinez at in the Women’s Health department at People’s Community Clinic. New guidelines encourage obstetricians to follow up with new moms sooner after birth than six weeks. AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2011

Doctors and nurses then refer patients to the clinic’s social workers, sometimes in-person that day or by phone later. If Appel didn’t have those in-house resources, he says he would refer the mom to her primary care physician or to other community health resources or the national crisis line for postpartum depression. Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas also keeps a list of providers and what insurance companies they take.

It’s not just moms who can get postpartum depression. It can happen to dad’s, too, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 4 percent of new father’s experience it as well. Cavazos says that in her practice, she sees dads as well as adoptive parents.

The depression for moms might start in pregnancy. “The more severe cases probably we might have seen while she was pregnant,” Cavazos says.

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that parents actually have a prenatal visit with pediatricians. This can help pediatricians anticipate postpartum depression by looking for any perinatal depression as well as give guidelines for those first few weeks of infant care. It also helps establish a partnership between the doctor and the family, and for the doctor to get a sense of pregnancy complications, family medical histories and any exposure that baby might have had to drugs or alcohol while in the womb.

Cavazos says the hallmark of postpartum depression is intrusive thoughts that something awful is going to happen to the baby or they are going to do something awful to the baby or something awful to themselves and the baby. The mom becomes super vigilant about the baby’s care and won’t let anyone else care for the baby, or she is unable to engage with the baby because she’s afraid she’ll do something wrong.

Cavazos says it’s like she is thinking, “What’s the very worst thing that can happen to her?” and she’s playing it over and over again in her head, but it’s not a Child Protective Case, because it is fear-driven and anxiety-driven, not something she will actually act on, Cavazos says.

Her family will take note that she just doesn’t seem like herself.

Postpartum psychosis, though, can happen, but is very rare. That’s when she doesn’t feel fear or anxious. She feels almost like a deity or something outside herself is making her do things, Cavazos says, and that’s a psychiatric emergency. The mom needs to be separated from the baby and get help immediately.

With postpartum depression, Cavazos will ask the mom if she’s sleeping, and that will get a laugh. She worries if women are getting less than five hours of sleep a day combined. She also wants to know about whether they have access to nutritious food and are eating. She might want them to have their vitamin D and thyroid levels checked to rule out other possibilities.

Sometimes antidepressants will be necessary. Even for moms that are nursing, “the general consensus is if the mom is depressed, the benefits far outweigh the risks of the medication,” Appel says.

Other times, the treatment is self-care and talk therapy.

Cavazos will work on what feelings the moms have about the baby, what things cause them to become overwhelmed with the baby’s care, what resources they have to get help, and also normalize what she is feeling.

Often moms don’t stay long in therapy, usually four or five visits to eight visits because of the amount of bandwidth they have. After all, they have a new baby, but sometimes they will make therapy part of their self-care regimen. Sometimes Cavazos will recommend a support group or some sort of parenting group to help the mom not feel so alone. And she’ll help reassure moms that they have good parenting skills and find ways to strengthen those skills.

RELATED: Partners in Parenting help new moms, dads get support

Appel encourages a mom’s partner or support system to help as much as possible and to “give new moms permission to … take any help people can give,” he says. That whole “sleep when baby sleeps” is important. “You should not be doing the laundry or cleaning the house,” he says.

Does ‘Incredibles 2’ get the work-life balance wrong?

The family in “Incredibles” are just like us. OK, yes, they are superheroes with super powers, but they, too struggle with the work-life balance. In the first movie, Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) struggles with a job he hates, but it pays the bills. He’s looking for excitement, for the glory days of saving the day. His wife, Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) is his loving wife, who is much more practical as they settle into a new life away from their superhero days. And then, he gets called up (by the guy who ends up being the villain) to be a superhero again. He’s away from home, but checking in on the family — who later have to help him save the day.

“Incredibles 2″is now in theaters. Contributed by Disney/Pixar

In the new movie, the roles are reversed. Elastigirl is the one who gets called up to be a superhero and Mr. Incredible turns into Mr. Mom. It’s a rough go for both of them in the beginning as the roles are reversed. Yet, Mr. Incredible figures out things about baby Jack-Jack that his wife hasn’t discovered, he learns new math to help Dash and he tries to help teenage daughter Violet with her dating heartbreak.

RELATED: First year of baby’s life from a dad

His wife, feels torn between this exciting new job and what she’s missing at home. My favorite scene is when she’s on her super motorcycle racing off to stop a runaway train when she gets a call from Dash. Multitasking happens, and, of course, we all see that she isn’t really able to do both at the same time, certainly not both well.

She needs help. She needs it from her husband, but she also needs it from her kids, too.

And so, we accept that the Incredibles are just like us. And yet, why do we buy into the fact that Dad struggles as Mr. Mom and Mom struggles with the guilt of having to work outside the home? Does he really not know how to do anything for the kids? Did the kids just fall from the sky one day, rather than him being part of the raising of them since they were born?

Did she never have to be away from her kids, do any work outside the home until now? Are the kids helpless without Mom? Is Mom really the only one who can do the things that make the trains run on time at home?

RELATED: Moms go in and out of the workforce to make it work for them

As much as I can identify with the Incredibles family, it’s missing something. Moms and Dads share much more equally in the raising of kids these days. Dads pick up kids from school and take them to activities all the time. Dads even take kids to the doctors or cook dinner or wash the laundry. Moms sometimes work late or go out of town for work. Kids get help from both parents with homework. And that’s if there are two parents in the house. Sometimes it’s Mom or Dad doing all of it.

The 1950s are over — and truthfully, at least in my family, that stereotype never really existed. Both my grandmothers worked in the 1950s, my mother also worked in the 1980s, and I work in the 2010s. My grandfather helped his kids with homework, my dad made dinner and did carpool, my husband and I split the driving, the cooking, the cleaning, and we both work, a lot.

Why is it that “Incredibles 2” still in 2018 played into the hardship of dads as Mr. Mom and Mom and CEO? Our kids are watching and they deserve better than stereotypes.

 

Matt Coyne’s first year of fatherhood turned into ‘Man vs. Baby,’ the book

Head to any bookstore or online bookseller and you can find dozens of new titles about motherhood. Some are deeply moving, some are instructional and still others find the humor in this difficult job.

Books about fatherhood? Not as many.

On Dec. 7, 2015, Matt Coyne, a graphic designer from England who had become father to Charlie three months before, sat down and wrote a Facebook post about what these first three months had been like. He was honest about his ineptitude, he was real about his role versus his partner’s role (you just can’t compare the level of tired or the work she’s doing), and he was hysterically funny. Side-splitting, make-you-wet-your-pants (especially if you’ve had children) funny.

“I used to think the theory that the moon landing was a hoax was total bullocks, just because it required a huge amount of people to share a secret,” he writes. “I now think it’s a distinct possibility, given the conspiracy of silence about how horrendous labor is. The labor suite is like being in ‘Nam. It is nothing like you see in sitcoms or in films, unless that film is ‘Saw IV,’ or it’s the chest-bursting scene from ‘Alien.’ So, to those who told me that the birth would be a magical experience … you’re a bunch of (expletive) liars.”

Matt Coyne became a father to Charlie almost three years ago. He wrote “Man vs. Baby: The Chaos & Comedy of Real-life Parenting,” ($17, Simon & Schuster).

Oh, yes, there are obscenities sprinkled throughout this recap of the first three months. He doesn’t hold back on Charlie peeing into his eye during diaper changes, the lack of sleep, the family coming to see Charlie, the fact that the baby is all-consuming.

“I was trying to make sense of what I had learned, which is nothing,” says Coyne, 43.

At first he got 20 likes on his Facebook page. Then friends reached out and requested that he change the privacy settings so they could share it with other friends. It wasn’t supposed to be anything, really; just something he wrote in the Notes app on his phone and then posted to Facebook.

“Very little I do is calculated,” he says.

It’s now been viewed 18 million times.

Book publishers reached out and news shows. While he has a degree in English, he wasn’t sure he could turn one Facebook post into a full book. He began with a blog he called Man vs. Baby.

It has now turned into a book about this first year, named after the blog, but with the subtitle: “The Chaos & Comedy of Real-life Parenting.” ($17, Simon and Schuster).

“I was a graphic designer,” he says. ” I was very bad at it. … Now this is what I do for a living until it goes horribly wrong.”

Fatherhood has come with its share of surprises, which Coyne writes about, and talks to us about by telephone.

“All of the sudden you have no time to do anything other than focus on this human being,” he says. “It comes as a massive shock to the system. You can’t decide to go to a restaurant. You can’t decide to flip on the TV,” without thinking about the baby and the baby’s schedule and whether or not you’ll wake him up.

He went into it knowing he would be sleep deprived, but he had no idea just what that would feel like. He writes: “For two weeks, I didn’t shower, didn’t shave, and barely ate, and neither of us escaped from bathrobes and sweatpants. We looked like forgotten patients in the basement of a Victorian asylum.”

Coyne’s theory is that every parent thinks that the time they are in the hardest part. The first three months seemed like the hardest part, but then friends told him the toddler years were far harder. Now they tell him to just wait until Charlie’s a teenager.

“It’s never boring,” he says.

On this Father’s Day, he says, “the ultimate goal is just like a Mum on Mother’s Day — to do absolutely nothing and get on with doing nothing. I’m supposed to say, ‘spend a lot of time with the kid,’ but I do that all year long.”

Actually, instead of watching Netflix like he’d like, he and the family are going to a working farm in England to do things like pet and feed the animals.

The response to the blog and now the book has been surprising to Coyne. The readers of the blog are 90 percent women.

“They are moms who are interested in a dad’s perspective,” he says.

“You would think there would be differences,” but he says, “I’m not convinced there’s so much of a difference.”

Well, there is one thing: How much time dads spend in the bathroom. “Clearly we use excuses all the time,” he says.

The American audience found the blog after celebrities started sharing it. “They’re really lovely about it,” he says of his American readers.

There are actually two versions of the book: The English version and the American version that explains some of the English phrases in footnotes.

Sometimes they call him on the fact that he swears a lot. “That’s an English thing,” he says. “They’re called sentence enhancers.”

He also gets comments when he talks about vaccinations, and he feels a twinge of guilt that an English doctor started the controversy.

Coyne is now working on a second book about the next year of Charlie’s life. Charlie will turn 3 in September.

The first book was planned out during that first year based on milestones leading up to ending with Charlie walking. Of course, Charlie didn’t follow that script.

“You’re desperate for it to happen,” he says, then you ask, “why did I want it to happen?”

His next book will include maps of Charlie’s walk to the park. In the first book, the map is a round-about way to avoid an elderly neighbor who turns a wave hello into an all-day event fawning over Charlie. In this next book, it will show the day they didn’t move from their front step for three hours because they saw a ladybug, or the day that they walked for miles chasing a cat.

“Now I need all my energy to keep up with him,” he says.

There won’t be a book about adding a sibling to the family, though.

“The idea of having another one might finish me off,” he says.

And if it sounds like Coyne is complaining, he’s not. Fatherhood has been the most positive thing. “I wasn’t expecting to be quite so attached to him,” he says.

New children’s store opening near downtown Austin

St. Edward’s University alum Karina Drake is opening up a new children’s boutique near downtown Austin Saturday. The store, Alexa James Baby, is named after Drake’s own daughter.

She was inspired by raising Alexa James in New York City until the family moved home to Texas.

“Living in the city had its challenges, but exploring NYC through Alexa’s eyes was very inspiring,” Drake says in a press release. “There was something really special about mixing the magic of childhood with such a modern, adult setting.”

The store will feature clothing from sizes newborn to 6 toddler as well as toys, books, items for the nursery and cards. Drake will stock items from local designers as well as European designers.

The new Alexa James Baby boutique opens on Saturday. Kate Weaver

Drake wanted the store to be more than a place to buy things. Interior designer Claire Zinnecker created reading nooks as well as play areas. Drake plans to offer story times, happy hours, coffee and more events.

You can find clothing and toys at Alexa James Baby. Kate Weaver

Drake said she wanted “to create a space that fostered community, especially for mothers. After having Alexa, I found myself searching for escapes and destinations in the neighborhood. I would walk to beautiful baby shops in Tribeca and SoHo more for the amazing experience they offered than the actual items I was purchasing. My goal is to create an environment like that here in Austin.”

The store at 908 W. 12th St., No. C, will celebrate its grand opening 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The first 20 people will get special gift bags, but you’ll also find samples, in-store discounts and more. RSVP on Eventbrite. Find more information on AlexaJBaby.com

Alexa James Baby. Kate Weaver