By Leah McLaren - Sunday, November 11, 2012 - 0 Comments
Post-partum depression knows no prejudice—race, class or otherwise
On the face of it, expat Canadians Felicia and Jeff Boots were the sort of shiny, privileged couple many Londoners are pre-programmed to envy. They had two beautiful young children (Lily Skye, 14 months, and 10-week-old Mason) and had just moved into a $1.9-million five-bedroom house on a quiet street in a part of south London known as “Nappy Valley”—named for its upper-middle-class café culture of stay-home mummies pushing prams while their husbands rake in bonuses in the city. They had emigrated from the Toronto area so Mr. Boots could pursue his high-finance career in London. They were the last sort of family who would be classified as “at risk.” And yet they most certainly were.
When Jeff Boots came home from the office one evening last May, he found his wife sitting in the dark on the staircase rocking and hugging herself. She asked him not to go upstairs but he did. There, on the floor of a walk-in closet he found the tiny bodies of his suffocated children and a handwritten note from their mother.
Before the paramedics arrived, Jeff Boots was heard wailing in the street. “My lovely son, my beautiful daughter,” his raw anguish shattering the evening air. Felicia Boots was led from the house. She was later charged with their murders. Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 10:49 AM - 0 Comments
A show can be a hit, but if its viewers are over 49, chances are it’ll get the axe
A television show can get ratings and still be a failure. That’s what viewers of Harry’s Law discovered, to their chagrin, when the series was cancelled by NBC even though it was the network’s most popular scripted show. The drama, which earned an Emmy nomination for star Kathy Bates, had an average of eight million viewers per episode, compared to four million for the network’s flagship show The Ofﬁce, and fewer than that for renewed shows like 30 Rock and Parenthood. But most of Harry’s Law’s viewers were over the age of 50, and in modern TV, advertisers only pay high prices for viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. “It’s just harder to monetize that older audience,” NBC president Robert Greenblatt bluntly explained after cancelling the show. “Any rational person would argue a hit show with an older audience is better than no hits at all,” says Rick Ellis, founder of the news site All Your TV. “But broadcast television executives are not always known for their rational behaviour.”
Young adult viewers have been TV’s target demographic for decades, because they’re thought to have less brand loyalty and more disposable income. That didn’t make as much difference back when television shows reached a broader audience: if a show was a hit with old people, like The Golden Girls, it usually “brought in enough younger viewers to be viable,” explains Brian Lowry, chief TV critic for Variety. But today, Ellis says, the young audience is “fragmenting and moving to cable,” so different generations are often watching completely different shows. “The problem with the broadcast networks chasing the younger demo is that most of the time they aren’t reaching them,” Ellis adds.
That means there are an increased number of shows only older people watch, and advertisers don’t consider those shows to be hits. Jesse Stone, Tom Selleck’s series of TV detective movies, brought in a large audience of almost 13 million people—but only 10 per cent of those people were under 50, and the series was cancelled. So was CSI: Miami, which remained very popular with total viewers but looked mediocre in the 18-to-49 age group, or the “key demo” as show business trades call it. The need to attract young people also affects the casting of shows that stay on the air: shows like NCIS surround older stars with mostly young casts, and the recent revival of Dallas gives most of the screen time to a new cast of young, pretty people.
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
The latest evidence makes a case for choosing a job over staying home, fuelling the mommy-wars debate
The Clash’s hit Should I Stay or Should I Go? was written in 1981, but it could serve as the anthem of mothers through the ages grappling with the eternal question of whether they and their children are better off with them returning to work or remaining at home. It ranks among the most polarizing and personal of choices—and everyone thinks their decision is best. And often, they have studies to prove it.
Witness the latest evidence for re-entering the labour force post-baby: researchers at the department of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro compared non-employed mothers to those working full- and part-time, and the effects on maternal health, couple intimacy, work-family conflicts, housework and child care. The article, in the latest Journal of Family Psychology, found that in most cases, employed moms are at an advantage.
“Work offers mothers some pretty important opportunities and resources that may promote parenting and a sense of well-being,” says co-author Cheryl Buehler. “It minimizes social isolation, and helps develop and refine skills like problem-solving, dealing with diverse sets of people and working as a team.” Those abilities lend themselves to motherhood, explains Buehler, because they “provide children with the kinds of environments and experiences that they need to do well in the world.”
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
As actors, they’re notoriously obstreperous, but babies are television’s hottest stars
Emily Spivey told critics that her new show, Up All Night, with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as a hip couple trying to adjust to the challenge of raising a newborn, has a premise “straight out of my baby journal.” It sometimes feels like most shows this season are straight out of a baby journal. Television shows used to avoid babies if possible; Dawn Jeffory Nelson, a professional “baby wrangler” on movies like the new Harold & Kumar picture, told Maclean’s that babies are usually “relegated to the background,” or “they go up the stairs as babies, and they come down and they’re five.” But today, babies are taking over TV in a way that we haven’t seen since the Olsen twins were on Full House.
The story possibilities of babies seem to have fired the imaginations of writers like Spivey, who based her show on her own experience as a working mother. Producers are aware that a baby can add a new dimension to a show: Nelson says that on Dexter, a show she recently did some work on, the psychopathic title character’s baby son “is becoming an important aspect of Dexter’s character.” The family drama Parenthood has incorporated an adoption and a pregnancy, and creator Jason Katims told TV Line that “The baby arc is really interesting and will essentially last the whole season.” And Last Man Standing is supposed to be about Tim Allen’s relationship with his wife and daughters, but builds a number of plots around his attempts to impart manly values to his baby grandson.
Some of this baby mania may be due to what the Los Angeles Times has described as “the Modern Family effect.” Lily, the adorable baby adopted by the characters of Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), had viewers all over the world cooing over her. Another show that has quietly proven the effectiveness of babies is Raising Hope, from My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia. The show, where the leads are in charge of raising a serial killer’s baby, has proven that the presence of a little girl can make abrasive characters more family-friendly.
By Rebecca Eckler - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Donor insemination counsellors help women deal with big issues, like boyfriends
Most straight single women who find themselves at a fertility clinic are not thrilled to be there. Many arrive feeling they wasted prime reproductive years in long relationships and are “pretty upset,” says Sherry Dale, a counsellor at LifeQuest Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Toronto. “What woman has ever said, ‘I can’t wait until I’m 40 so I can get some donor sperm?’ ”
Nevertheless, Dale and other counsellors who give advice on donor insemination (DI) say business is booming among single women aged 35 to 42. Most fertility clinics mandate at least one visit with a DI counsellor, but, Dale explains, they’re not gatekeepers. “They are not meeting me to get the go-ahead, or so I can see if they’re sane or nice people. I’m meeting them so they can know what’s ahead, not medically but emotionally.”
On average, about 20 single women attend Jan Silverman’s monthly meetings at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto; others see her one-on-one. “The sentence I hear most is, ‘I just didn’t think this would be my life.’ Some have said to themselves, ‘I’ll do this if I haven’t met a man by 35.’ Then they turn 38, and then 42. That’s a pattern I see over and over.”
By Rebecca Eckler - Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 8:40 AM - 312 Comments
They may say they’re going out for milk, but secret smokers go to great lengths to feed their habit
The first rule of the Secret Smokers Mother’s Club is that you don’t talk about the Secret Smokers Mother’s Club. At least you don’t talk about it to anyone who is a non-smoker and especially to mothers who are non-smokers.
Like Alcoholics Anonymous, none of the mothers who secretly smoke are willing to share their names. It makes sense, since many of them have kept their secret for years. “I never smoke in front of my kids. Never. No one in my life knows I smoke, except for one person and that is my husband. But no one else,” says one member.
According to reports, one in two smokers hides their habit from friends, family and colleagues. And, boy, do these women go to great lengths to keep this secret from their children. “If Noah is watching television and my husband is with him, I’ll take out the garbage, then run around the house and hide in the bushes, because I don’t even want my neighbours to see that I’m a mother who smokes. I feel disgusting about it,” she admits.
But that hasn’t stopped her from smoking, even after two children, and she has no plans to quit. “Because you know people judge smokers anyways, but mothers who smoke? To non-smokers, they’d consider that worth stoning me.”
Club members end up doing a lot of unnecessary chores to get their fix. “I’ll run out to the all-night grocery store,” says one mother. “I’ll tell my husband we’re out of milk, but usually we are anyway. And this store is not close. I don’t go to the store near my house, because I worry I’ll run into people I know. I go to another grocery store that takes me about 30 minutes to get there, so I get a couple of cigarettes in before I go back home.”
But do they notice the smell? These mothers resort to more subterfuge to mask the lingering aroma of smoke. “As soon as I come back from smoking, I wash my hands, my chest, I brush my teeth, and I have clean shirts all over the house, so I can immediately change into one of them,” says one mother.
Another member’s purse could be mistaken for an Avon lady’s kit because she has so many supplies. “I keep a small tube of toothpaste and toothbrush. I have a big bottle of body lotion that smells like vanilla. I have face cream that I rub all over my face. And I have a body spray from Victoria’s Secret that I spray in my hair and all over my clothes.”
This mother also got a great tip from a makeup-artist friend who sometimes smokes. She now carries around Downy April Fresh or Bounce sheets meant for the dryer. “I rub it on my hair and it works amazingly well. Also, they are really small to carry around, which makes it easier.”
If it takes so much energy to keep smoking a secret, why not just quit? These women know the health risks and they have children they’d like to see grow up. “It’s the one last thing of my old life,” explains one. “It’s mine and it’s all mine.” Another adds, “Because I sometimes like to be bad, and as a mother you can’t be bad.”
Then there is the dark side of the addiction. “I really love smoking so much,” says one. “I sometimes find that I’m waiting for my kids to take a nap so I can go smoke. And as awful as this sounds, I’m excited my son will be going to daycare in the afternoons this fall.” Another admits that when she’s having a nicotine fit, she loses her temper with her children more often.
But even though they puff away in secret, they look down on mothers who smoke openly around their children. “When I see a mother smoking, all I can think is, ‘You disgusting wretch,’ ” says one. “When I see a mother smoking and pushing a baby in a stroller, I’m horrified. But who am I to judge? At night, I’m in the bushes putting out my cigarettes in a beer bottle.”
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, May 7, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 5 Comments
Today the popular shows, like ‘Parenthood,’ are sweet and mushy, not mean like ‘Damages’
Parenthood, the television series adaptation of Ron Howard’s movie, uses a mix of soapy drama and comedy to tell the story of five interrelated families. But most of all, it’s a show that is determined to warm our hearts. Every week provides what executive producer Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights) calls “a sense of catharsis,” which often translates into opportunities for characters to cry: Kristina (Monica Potter) cries about her fears that she’s made mistakes raising her autistic son Max (Max Burkholder); single mom Sarah
(Lauren Graham) cries when she has to stop dating her daughter’s English teacher. Scenes that seem funny at first, like the one where Crosby (Dax Shepard) admits that he has an illegitimate son, wind up being full of tears and sentimental guitar music. “My favourite episodes are ones that start very bright and full of humour, and then you find that the emotional stuff creeps up on you when you’re not expecting it,” Katims told Maclean’s. Television is bringing back something that hasn’t been seen in a while: mushiness.