8 Ways You’re Emotionally Detached in Your Marriage Without Even Realizing It

Published by Redbook- March 2016

It’s so easy to fall into these traps.​

When you walked down the aisle, of course you felt “at one” with the man you love (you probably wouldn’t have married him otherwise). But emotional distance can build up over time—often sneaking up on you without you even realizing—and before you know it, it feels like the two of you are miles apart, disconnected, and maybe not even in love. Unfortunately, it happened for a reason…and you may have played a part in that. These inadvertent behaviors build walls and divide the two of you—but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Learn how to bridge the gap and get your marriage back on the blissful track.
You subtly bash him.

His boxers all over the bathroom floor are irritating, but it doesn’t give you permission to call him a slob. Criticisms are harsh character knockdowns, and they can seriously harm his self-esteem. “I’m not disputing that your spouse might be annoying,” says Guy Winch, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid. “But there has to be a balance of negative to positive things you say.” Because if criticisms or redirections (“do it like this”) are the bulk of your conversations, it’s likely he’ll withdraw, which might cause you to become even more critical, launching a vicious cycle. Winch’s suggestion: Find a balance of 80 percent positive comments to 20 percent negative. Or for every mean thing you say, follow up with five nice things. It forces you to choose your most important critiques to bring up, rather than spiraling into an all-out b*tch-fest.

You bring outside stress into the relationship.

Let’s be honest: When you’re up against a thousand work deadlines and worried your kid will never learn how to potty train, you’re probably not the kindest (uh, none of us are). Gary Lewandowski Jr., Ph.D., co-founder of Science of Relationships, says that’s because once you start feeling stressed, it becomes an egocentric experience. “You stop caring as much about anyone else. The focus is on your plight of excessive demand and inefficient resources,” he says. That can also lead to wandering eyes, he says, and a tendency to take what you already have for granted. And since we already know having an emotional affair can be just as harmful as a physical one, nip it in the bud and find a fun way to relieve stress, whether that’s checking out that brand-new Buti dance studio in town (shake what your momma gave you!) or finally figuring out this whole meditation thing.

You treat him like he’s your kid.

Just because you’re the mom of the house doesn’t mean you should act like his, too. “Talking to your husband from a position of superiority creates contempt,” says Kathy McMahon, Psy.D., clinical psychologist and president of Couples Therapy Inc. “Not only does it damage his self-esteem, but it physically harms him and increases his risk for infectious illness.” (Seriously.) You may think you’re helping by, err, encouraging him when he’s running late, but the bottom line is that it increases resentment, says McMahon. It tells him he needs to be better; he needs to be more like you. “Your husband is capable of deciding how to live his own life,” says McMahon. “If he’s repeatedly doing something that makes you upset, figure out why it bothers you and then talk with him about it, rather than trying to ‘correct’ or punish him like you would your children.”

You never quit scrolling through Instagram.

Here’s a shocking statistic for you: Couples with kids talk to each other for about 35 minutes per week, according to research reported by John Gottman, Ph.D., a professor in psychology known for his work on marital stability. We get that you’re busy, rushing to work and ushering kids to soccer practice, but if you’re sitting right next to each other it’s important to connect with him instead of your phone. Gottman’s research revealed that couples who responded positively to their partner’s bids for attention (winks, conversation starters, smiles) 86 percent of the time stayed hitched, while those who divorced only paid attention 36 percent of the time. Missing these attempts to engage can make your husband (or you) feel unimportant, so take a clue and set the technology down. McMahon suggests having a conversation about current events or—gasp!—taking him to the bedroom. “A little attention can go a long way toward investing in your relationship,” she says.

You assume he’s going to be there forever.

Thinking you and your husband “can always reconnect later, when the kids are older” is a bad plan, says McMahon. “Both of you are changing through that process, and many couples have their kids leave only to realize that they’re now living with a stranger.” Instead, Dr. Anjali Bhagra, associate professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, suggests the two-and-two rule. “Practice two minutes of early morning gratitude, thinking about (and maybe even telling him) what you appreciate, and then don’t critique anything about him in the first two minutes you see him in the evening (no “your shirt would look better tucked in” remarks),” she says. It’ll create a closer connection between the two of you, she says, because just like mom always said—it’s the thought that counts.

You never talk about your dirty laundry.

Literally. When couples get together, there’s usually an understanding of who does what, says Winch (one of you gravitates toward dish duty while the other handles trash takeout). But the division of labor needs to be revisited each time the demands of life change (a baby is born, he gets a promotion that requires more office time). “Otherwise partners can get annoyed or overtaxed, and then they start harboring resentment,” says Winch. If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at how things function day-to-day, get it on the calendar (seriously, just schedule it so it actually gets done). Then you can redistribute tasks so that you both feel happy and like the workload is fair.

You always turn down sex.

“No two people are in the mood at the exact same time all the time, which means there will always be negotiating,” says Winch. “But if you’re rebuffing your spouse’s advances regularly, he’ll eventually stop trying and become emotionally detached in the process.” It may not be your conscious decision to drive him away (sometimes you’re just really freaking tired), but he will be annoyed, confused, and assume he’s not attractive to you anymore. Winch also says you need to communicate exactly why you’re not interested. If he did something to upset you, he may not even be aware because, yes, guys really do need women to spell things out, he says.

You forget to celebrate the wins.

Cheering him on during good times is just as important as supporting him through a job layoff or a serious fight with a family member. “In our hectic lives, it’s easy to gloss over positive achievements because they’re a signal that everything is going well,” says Shelly Gable, Ph.D., professor of psychological and brain sciences and director of the Emotion, Motivation, Behavior and Relationships (EMBeR) Lab. But capitalizing on life’s happy moments—and really celebrating them—shows your husband that you understand what’s important to him, and reassures him that you’ll be there when something doesn’t go well, she says. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to throw a party every time he reaches a goal. But ask him to tell you one good thing that happened that day, then discuss the details. “You know him well, so elaborate on why and how this is good for him,” says Gable. “It can increase his sense of self-worth, which is great for him and your emotional bond.”

How 36 Questions Rebooted My Stale Marriage

Published by Redbook- Jan 2015


“Love is the biggest predictor of human happiness,” says psychologist Arthur Aron. “More so than wealth or success. Relationship quality is even a bigger predictor of human health than smoking or obesity.”

How do you view your love life? As wedding anniversaries roll around, do you reflect on your marriage—examine how your love has deepened, contemplate the twists and turns of your relationship, or reminisce about that elusive, initial spark? Do you wonder wistfully if you’ll ever again smolder in the hottest of flames, or if you’re destined to let the embers burn?

Continue reading “How 36 Questions Rebooted My Stale Marriage”

8 Indoor Water Parks You Have to Check Out

Written for Chicago Parent Going Places- Spring 2015

It’s spring in Chicago—time to break out the swimming suits! It might not seem like the ideal season for wet-and-wild fun, but that doesn’t mean splishing and splashing is out of the question. These low-cost and local options—and did we mention indoor?—are just the ticket. My family of four checked them out to give you the inside scoop. Continue reading “8 Indoor Water Parks You Have to Check Out”

10 reasons Detroit rocks for family vacations

Published by Chicago Parent- August 2016

Despite the unfavorable impression some may have in their minds about Detroit, it is a city making a big comeback. Honestly, everyone I told that we were headed to the D wrinkled their nose and asked why. I’ll tell you why–because it seriously rocks. We had so much fun–learning, sampling, seeing and exploring–we left loving it and wanting to go back for more. Here’s our list of ten reasons why you should visit the Motor City with your family.

Cruise in a Model T and experience history firsthand

Greenfield Village is an outdoor museum focused on innovation that literally brings history to life. This vast village, assembled by Henry Ford, contains historic structures, like the first house Thomas Edison wired for light and the home where Noah Webster wrote the first dictionary, as a hobby in his retirement! You can ride various versions of Model T cars, an old steam engine and a 1919 carousel that is famous for animals wearing human clothes. There are workshops, crafts and demonstrations hosted by excellent guides and an inventive playground. You’ll want to spend all day there.

Check out tons of cool cars, planes and trains

The Henry Ford isn’t just for automobile lovers. While this gorgeous museum houses countless vintage cars, it’s also stocked with airplanes, trains, farming equipment and many other things that will move you. Inspired to learn more, my kids and I even bought books on Henry Ford and the Wright brothers there. Dining options are also fun, with an adorable diner and an American Hot Dog House with a Weinermobile parked nearby. My kids couldn’t leave without the Weinermobile wax mold.

Feel the excitement in an extraordinary stadium

Comerica Park is a beautiful, modern ballpark with many kid-friendly amenities, including the Fly Ball Ferris Wheel (shaped like baseballs) and the Comerica Carousel, featuring tigers, of course. You can feel the buzz of energy inside the stadium while enjoying skyline views of Detroit. A must-see when you visit the D. If it’s not baseball season when you visit, catch a Detroit Lions, Detroit Red Wings orDetroit Pistons game. Detroit is city with several impressive sports teams.

Try square pizza, Coney Island hot dogs and delicious barbecue

Detroit-style pizza is square with a crispy crust. They call it deep-dish but, being a Chicagoan, it seems more like pan pizza to me; however, it without a doubt won my heart. Taste the originalBuddy’s Pizza, now celebrating its 70th anniversary.

You can’t visit Detroit without trying a Coney Island hot dog, slathered with chili, yellow mustard and piled with onions. We visited Lafayette Coney Island. My son got a huge kick out of the waiter, who shouted our order, whistled louder than we’ve ever heard, tossed crackers and balanced plates piled with food all the way up his arm. It’s a no-frills diner, but worth the experience.

If you love barbecue, Slows Bar BQ is not to be missed. Mouthwatering meats are slow cooked and drenched in delicious sauces. This restaurant is on many foodies’ lists.

Taste some lip-smacking treats

Desserts that do good? That’s the model behind Detroit Water Ice Factory, the tasty treat shop started by author Mitch Albom. Like Italian ice but creamier, these frosty favorites were developed with the sole goal of helping others. One hundred percent of the profits go toward Detroit’s neediest citizens.

A classic Michigan candy company started in 1875, Sanders & Morley Candy Makers offers free tours on weekdays. Schedule a time for your family to enjoy some free chocolates. Who can turn that down?

Get up close and personal with a penguin

The Detroit Zoo has many natural, open exhibits across its widespread acres; but the penguins are what really steal the show. These charismatic creatures come right up to the window of their sensational snow and ice habitat to interact with guests. My kids were nose to beak with several, and absolutely mesmerized. The new Polk Penguin Conservation Center is extraordinary with its 4-D Antarctic expedition entry experience, underwater viewing gallery with two tunnels and charmingly curious penguins. You could watch them waddle, swim and play for hours.

Pick from plentiful fresh produce

If you’re looking for colorful fruits and veggies and other Michigan-made goodies, you don’t have to look far in Detroit. The Eastern Market is one of the oldest and largest year-round markets in the country. Open every Saturday (and some other days too), you can find tasty local produce and handmade items. The honeybees and clever Detroit T-shirts enamored my kids. We didn’t leave without blueberries and cider.

If you’d like to pick your own produce, several orchards are close to the city limits. Westview Orchards is a cider mill and adventure farm that offers family fun 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Check the calendar for what’s being harvested June through October. You can pick strawberries, peaches, cherries, apples and pumpkins.

Look south to see Canada

Detroit is the only U.S. city where you can gaze south to catch sight of Canada. Get a good view from Rivard Plaza on the Detroit RiverWalk or Belle Isle Park. The Rivard Plaza features a carousel, children’s playground, café and bike rental shop all on the serene waterfront. Belle Isle Park is on an island between Detroit and Canada that requires passes to visit, but is a tranquil retreat. Soak up the scenic views, enjoy the beautiful fountain and interact with nature at the conservatory.

Learn while having fun

I often try to sneak learning into everyday activities. That was super easy at the Michigan Science Center, new Legoland Discovery Center and Sea Life Michigan Aquarium. My kids had just become aware that cars are crash tested while in the Motor City. The crash test dummy videos at the Michigan Science Center absolutely captivated them. They also loved the giant pendulum that demonstrates the Earth’s orbit, and games, like bopping soda cans and selecting a healthy breakfast, that helped emphasize the importance of good nutrition.

Sea Life Michigan Aquarium sends kids on a quest to answer questions about marine life. They earn a stamp for each question they answer and a “gold medal” for completing their mission. This extra interaction definitely increased my kids’ involvement and enthusiasm.

Legoland Discovery Center Michigan is very similar to the Schaumburg location. My kids can play at the Lego Racers: Build & Test stations forever. The steep ramps and endless supply of Legos let them test their engineering skills against other kids and creations. Both Legoland Discovery Center and Sea Life are located in Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, Michigan’s largest indoor outlet mall.

Snuggle up in cozy accommodations

As with most big cities, Detroit boasts a wide variety of hotel offerings. The Inn on Ferry Street is a highly recommended boutique hotel that feels like a bed and breakfast. The four restored Victorian mansions and two carriage houses promise a memorable experience.

My family stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Detroit North in Troy because it is centrally located between the city and suburban attractions, has an indoor pool, complimentary breakfast, pullout couches and a very friendly staff. With all the options across the Detroit metro area, you’re sure to find the perfect accommodations for a comfortable stay.



Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin destination guide

Published on Family Vacation Critic- August 2016

Families will love:

  • Relaxing, walkable resort village
  • Gorgeous, clear, calm lake
  • Car shows and racing

Just a short jaunt from Milwaukee, Green Bay and Chicago, the lakeside village of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin is a rejuvenating escape with a colorful history. Crystal-clear lake waters lap the shores of family-friendly beaches, while racecars zip down the track only a few miles away. Kids will love the swimming and water sports, while parents appreciate the live music, relaxed vibe and delicious dining options within walking distance. A world-class spa, French cooking school or challenging golf course allow parents to play while kids are occupied with Pleasures Program activities.


Read the entire guide on Family Vacation Critic.

NYC’s Sites to Behold

Published by Journal & Topics newspapers- August 1, 2016

When you think of New York City, several iconic destinations probably come to mind. While every place has a story, some are better known than others. These five NYC treasures are on most visitors’ itineraries. However, many may not know the juicy details below about each distinctive destination. Let these tidbits of history and insider tourist tips make your next visit to the Big Apple all the better.

A symbol of justice, freedom and opportunity, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most popular landmarks in the world. You probably know that it was a gift from France, celebrating our friendship on America’s centennial of independence. Did you know that Lady Liberty arrived in the U.S. in 214 wooden cases? “She was shipped by the French Navy,” says Barry Moreno of the National Park Service. “And had to be reconstructed on Liberty Island in time for her unveiling and dedication in October 1886.”

Famous names, such as Gustav Eiffel and Joseph Pulitzer, also contributed to Lady Liberty. Eiffel helped design the interior structure, while Pulitzer fundraised for the pedestal. Talk about the work of many great minds.

If a visit to the crown is on your bucket list, make sure to book a Crown Access ticket on or call (201) 604-2800. A trip to the top can be a crowning joy, only if you plan two to six months in advance, because limited tickets sell out fast. Visitors must climb 354 narrow, spiraling steps; but the views of the Hudson River and Lower Manhattan are astonishing.

Statue Cruises runs ferries to Liberty Island, as well as Ellis Island, the nation’s main entry point for immigrants between 1892 and 1924. Do you have ancestors who traveled through Ellis Island? The American Family Immigration History Center holds 51 million arrival records and 900 ship pictures circa 1892–1957. Bring names, and any identifying details, like birthplace, date of entry or ship name. Start your search with as much or as little information as you have.

While you can access the same database at home at, the staff on site is invaluable in assisting visitors.

“Because they are well versed in the intricacies of the historical notations on the manifest, as well as possible differences between the original name and the more familiar Americanized version, our staff can unlock a mystery that sometimes has the searcher stumped,” says Elizabeth Oravetz, with The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.

Another beauty you’ll want to behold is the Empire State Building. Its 86th floor open-air observatory is the highest in New York, and open 365 days a year — from 8 a.m. until 2 a.m. Indulge in exceptional 360-degree views of New York City and beyond both day and night if you use a CityPASS ( Not only does CityPASS provide a 40% discount on the top six NYC attractions, plus the added benefit of shorter lines, but it also allows you same day reentry to the Empire State Building. Get a lay of the land in the hush of the morning, and then experience the intimate sparkle of the skyline late at night.

The Empire State Building has more to offer than the views below. It also boasts a sensational Art Deco interior. In 2009, 18 months were invested in restoring the building’s aesthetic to the original 1930s design (while it only took 13 months to build the entire building 85 years prior!). Murals of planets and stars in 24-karat gold, as well as that famous anemometer of the building itself with beams of light, make the interior so memorable, it earned a landmark designation. Of the 35,000 landmarks in New York City, only 117 are interiors, according to the Landmark Preservation Commission.

If a peppery pastrami is on your list of must-haves in NYC, check it off with a visit to legendary Katz’s Delicatessen. A fixture on the Lower East Side since 1888, this family-run deli has legions of loyal fans. While the cafeteria-style restaurant with wood-paneled dining room will probably be packed with lines that will test your patience, the reward of tender, juicy, hand-sliced meats will be worth savoring.

Katz’s Delicatessen says their secret to mouthwatering meat is slow curing. According to their website, it takes up to 30 days to cure their meats, while commercially prepared corn beef, they claim, can be pressure-injected to cure in 36 hours. Trust me, you can taste the difference. Just be sure to bring a friend, because their monster sandwiches are bigger than most appetites can handle.

Katz’s Delicatessen is open all night Friday and 24 hours on Saturday, so if you’re not sleeping, it might be an interesting time to stop by. Want to ship some deliciousness to Chicago? You can order packages, platters and pickles at

Another marvel of design and engineering you should be certain to see is Grand Central Station. While there are countless delights for the eyes, like as the Glory of Commerce clock sculpture outside, and the intricately designed ceilings, the inside secret is for your ears. According to Anthony W. Robins (, tour guide, lecturer and author of “Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark”, most visitors’ favorite spot is the Whispering Gallery.

Located outside the Oyster Bar & Restaurant in the basement, this unmarked archway provides for an awe-inspiring experience. By happy accident, the acoustics allow you to speak softly into one arch and your partner in the diagonal arch can hear every word as clearly as if you’re speaking directly to them. “I always end every tour there because everybody adores it,” says Robins. “Grown ups become children again.”

For more information on visiting New York City, visit or call 212-484-1200.

The Beach Town in Michigan You’ll Never Want to Leave

Published by Chicago Parent magazine- Summer Going Places 2016

Summers spent in Michigan, both as a kid and now as a mom of two, are certainly some of my most cherished memories. There really is something to those Tim Allen “Pure Michigan” ads.

Time seems to slow down when you stroll on the beaches, relax in the sunshine and enjoy a boat cruise.

Saugatuck will forever be one of my favorite places on Earth, and I’m not alone in that opinion.

This colorful, lakeside art town has received numerous accolades, including #1 Best Summer Weekend Escape in 2014 and Best Small Coastal Town in 2016 by USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice.

Here are my family’s recommendations for a jaunt around this beautiful beach town and two neighboring destinations you shouldn’t miss.

Simple pleasures of Saugatuck

Saugatuck’s Oval Beach has been hailed as one of the top in the world and best in the Midwest. This serene shoreline nestled between sandy dunes is perfect for a sunny day of building sand castles or gallivanting in the gentle waves. Stay for sunset snuggles and you’ll cement some magnificent memories.

Take a hilly car ride to the beach, or even better, visit via hand-cranked ferry. The Saugatuck Chain Ferry, believed to be the only remaining one in the U.S., has been in use since 1838. For a small fee, you can cross the Kalamazoo River, hand-cranked on a chain, and experience a piece of history. Star of Saugatuck, a large paddle-wheel boat, and Harbor Duck Tours are also great ways to enjoy the water without getting wet.

Saugatuck has a delightful downtown, dotted with colorful boutiques and interesting art galleries. Stroll through the eclectic stores and stop to enjoy tasty treats. Parents will love Uncommon Coffee Roasters, where you can order a frothy cappuccino, then swing around the corner to the Teeny Tiny Toy Store. Just be warned, you should probably set a budget with the kids first, because, although the shop is small, it’s bursting with every toy you can imagine.

Saugatuck Drug Store and Soda Fountain is another place you should hit. Hop on a stool and enjoy a hand-creamed phosphate. This retro drug store is a blast from the past, turning out sodas and malts for more than 100 years. Kids will enjoy shopping for souvenirs; silly T-shirts, toys and colorful kites are just a few of the fun options.

Without a doubt, Saugatuck Dune Rides are my all-time favorite activity in the area. Jump aboard a dune buggy for a giggle-inducing, heart-pounding adventure for the whole family. It’s like a roller coaster ride in the sand dunes, full of quick jokes, fast turns and scenic outlooks. Call ahead to reserve tickets, because summer days sell out quick.

For lunch, you will love Lucy’s Little Kitchen. It’s a cute outdoor café that serves locally farmed foods and fresh seafood. Our kids couldn’t get enough of the sugarcane juice bar.

And make sure to catch the internationally acclaimed Village Puppeteers, who stage free public performances, for a comic romp sure to please your whole crew.

Douglas does a family good

Douglas, sister city to Saugatuck, has several family-friendly options. While Saugatuck can be a bed-and-breakfast town, my flock opted to stay at AmericInn Lodge & Suites due to its indoor swimming pool. That way, our early risers could get a dip in the pool and enjoy a free, hot breakfast before most people even got going for the day.

WayPoint Restaurant is where the locals go for hash brown omelets and super-friendly service. Cabbages & Kings is a delightful bookstore lined with precious children’s gifts.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner at a bowling alley? You just might be tempted to eat every meal at Alley’s Classic American Diner and Bowl. This cute, kitschy diner and bowling alley scored some of our best memories on our last visit.

Fennville is for farm-to-table and fun

Celebrating a special occasion or just looking for a fabulous meal? Fennville, a small farm town a few miles from Saugatuck, is the place to go. Salt of the Earth, a modern farm-to-table restaurant, right next to the Forever Curious Children’s Museum, is a delicious way to reward yourself for a day of supervising play. The rustic, seasonal menu showcases ingredients from within a 50-mile radius of the restaurant. I dove into my pan-seared sea scallops and had to fight my 4-year-old daughter for the fresh bread. Our son devoured his wood-fired pizza, and we all enjoyed the live music.

Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant & Winery comes highly recommended, and for good reason. This fifth generation family fruit farm, famous for grandma’s fruit pies, now also serves wine and cider. Pie flights are a great way to try all the tempting flavors. Parents will enjoy sampling the small batch wines and ciders.

Feeling artistic? Stop by the Express Yourself Art Barn, a whimsical art studio for all ages. Soon you’ll be painting, stringing beads, throwing pottery or whatever your heart desires. The art you create will be a lasting treasure from your vacation time together.

Super Chicago Dads

Published by Chicago Parent magazine- June 2016

Being a good dad doesn’t require perfection, but connection. It calls for love and care, as well as the initiative to be involved day in and day out. We found five Chicago dads who are both tough and tender, and these magnanimous men engage with their families in remarkable ways.

Natural memory maker

Javier Guevara

Kids: Justice, 12, Javier Jr., 7, and Julian, 18 months

Wife: Jennifer

Javier Guevara fell in love with fishing as a kid in Quito, Ecuador. Today, this Wheaton resident owns and operates Ecuador Fly Fishing Tours with his family. Passionate about conservation and exploration, he shares the joy of the outdoors with his kids, the community and fishing enthusiasts. His company takes travelers to gorgeous remote destinations featuring waterfalls, volcanoes, mountains and creeks to collect memories.

When he’s not hosting tours, he can be found fishing with his family, in Ecuador and around Chicago.

Guevara’s kids appreciate the bonding time, playing in rivers and tossing rocks. One of their favorite spots is the Driftless Area in Wisconsin. “It’s less than three hours away, but in the beautiful country, where you don’t see or hear a car,” he says. “There are no cellphones, but beautiful streams, turkeys and bald eagles.” They also recommend the Milwaukee River in September, where big salmon swim up the lake to spawn.

Guevara believes in getting kids outside as frequently as possible. “Never be afraid of exploring,” he says. “There might not be something that catches your eye right away, but there are so many simple things that are so valuable.”

Important history lessons

Scott Johnson

Kids: Noelia, 7, twins Liliana and Benjamin, 4, and Abraham, 7 months

Wife: Raquel

Scott Johnson lived on a 100,000-acre cattle ranch in Kanab, Utah, until a volunteer mission brought him to Chicago. After his years as a Northwestern University wrestler, this big guy found the love of his life in a woman with Honduras heritage. When they married and had children, he taught himself, and his now four kids, how to speak Spanish. “I see my in-laws as pioneers,” he says. “They gave up their lives in Honduras for something that was unknown. I would never want those sacrifices to be forgotten in one generation.”

It’s evident that he enjoys teaching his kids life’s important lessons. “Everything I do, the kids are not only welcome to join, but I prefer it,” Johnson says.

When he gets home from work, he enjoys cooking with the kids. “It takes three times as long,” he admits. “But the excitement of making the food translates into excitement for eating it. My role as an adult is to teach my children everything to the point where they don’t need me any more.”

Good sport

Hitesh Patel

Kids: Yash, 9, Rian, 6, and Jhenna, 4

Wife: Alpita

Hitesh Patel’s sportsmanship shines through every season as he coaches soccer, T-ball, baseball, football, hockey and basketball, to name a few.

He was an instructor at the park district before he started his 15-year career with the Chicago Police Department and is now a sergeant. This dad of three chose to work the night shift so he could spend as much time as possible with his kids, including school pickup and dropoff, as well as manning many after-school activities.

“As a coach, I get to be involved in my kids’ lives, see who their friends are and meet their parents,” Patel says. “As kids get older, they won’t want their parents as involved. I try to enjoy these times and get to know the people that they’ll be hanging out with for the rest of their lives.”

Not only has he protected Chicago streets from gangs, drugs and guns, he volunteers his time to provide security at his kids’ school. “Our most precious gifts are inside that building,” he says.

Clowning around

Randy Johnson

Kids: Jake, 11, and Austin, 7

Wife: Linda

Randy Johnson met his wife, Linda, at a Chicago Park District youth circus program when they 11 and 12. After touring with Ringling Bros., Randy has performed in the Triton Troupers Circus, an all-volunteer show at Triton College every spring, with his family for 32 years. Jake, 11, has been a part of the performance since he was in the womb (his mom performs the Spanish web). Austin, 7, had his first major role this year in the 45th anniversary show. He played “Dead or Alive,” a classic clown gag, with his dad.

“You can’t buy an experience like this,” Randy says. “But it comes with a lot of hard work.”

While Randy is proud to pass on his passion for performing, he says the kids got into it for the non-competitive physical activity.

“You have to love a sport to stick to it,” says Randy. “My kids didn’t love some of the sports they tried and practice became drudgery.” Jake and Austin were attracted to circus acts for their gymnastics-like quality without the competitiveness.

Scary fun

Daniel Kmiec

Kids: Katelyn, 11, and Carin, 7

Wife: Valerie

Daniel Kmiec’s wife, Valerie, stayed home with their children until her dream of opening a salon came true nearly three years ago. Now Daniel, a machinist at O’Hare International Airport, is his girls’ primary caregiver.

“Both are sweethearts and exact opposites,” he says. “Carin is a girly girl who likes to play with Barbies and she also helps me work on cars. Katelyn is into gaming—chess tournaments and Minecraft.”

Not only does this hands-on dad have a soft spot for his girls, but he likes to plan intricate parties for them, namely, Halloween haunted house parties. He tricks out their garage with black lights and ghouls, packs a buffet table full of hot chocolate and punch with floating fingers and hosts classic kids games, like donuts on a string and bobbing for apples.

“As a kid, I helped my dad dress up a two-flat hallway for Halloween,” he says. “I wanted to carry on that fun family tradition. When the girls suggested we do a haunted house, I was crazy enough to say yes.”

It’s a big project, but he says it does model dedication. “I want to teach them that if you work hard, you can enjoy fun things with your friends,” he says.



The Need for Sleep: Why You Should Turn Off Tech and Get Some Rest

Published by Make It Better- May 2016

“We are now part of a sleep deprivation epidemic,” says Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post and author of “The Sleep Revolution,” her 15th book, during her program at the Chicago Humanities Festival, the first of the new Spring Festival, Style. “Our addiction to technology makes it harder to disconnect with our devices and reconnect with ourselves,” says Huffington. She likens it to the first industrial revolution. “Human beings are treating themselves like machines, with the main goal of minimizing downtime,” says Huffington. Sleep is seen as an evolutionary fault, a waste of time, when, in fact, quality sleep is as necessary to our health and well-being as diet and exercise.

Sleep for Your Health

Sleep is the time for the brain to clean out toxins, repair tissues, consolidate memories and process emotions. “Insufficient sleep is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and mood disorders,” says Dr. Robert S. Rosenberg, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, Arizona, and author of “The Doctor’s Guide to Sleep Solutions for Stress and Anxiety.”

Sleep to Be Slim

“Weight loss is all about hormone function,” says Shawn Stevenson, creator of The Model Health Show, a popular nutrition and fitness podcast on iTunes, and author of “Sleep Smarter.” “Sleep quality is more influential to hormone health than diet or exercise.” He cites a University of Chicago study of participants on restricted-calorie diets. “Participants who slept 8.5 hours a night lost 55 percent more body fat than those who slept 5.5 hours,” says Stevenson. Metabolism slows down when you’re not getting enough rest, making it hard to get rid of stubborn belly fat. “The biggest influence of sleep deprivation is that you’re hungry the next day,” says Stevenson. “You’ll go for snacks you wouldn’t normally eat, and justify it because you’re tired.” When you’re struggling with biology versus willpower, Stevenson says, biology is going to win.

Sleep to Look and Feel Refreshed

There is such a thing as beauty sleep. “The biggest secretion of the human growth hormone, known as the youth hormone, happens during deep sleep,” says Stevenson. Looking for that radiant, youthful glow? Get some rest and you’ll look naturally recharged, and maybe even enhance your love life, too.

Sleep to Improve Your Relationship

“Well-rested women are 14 percent more likely to be engaged in healthy sexual activity the next day,” says Stevenson. “They’ll also experience increased sexual arousal during that intercourse.” Other relationship interactions improve too. A UC Berkeley brain imaging study found that those who are sleep-deprived can be hypersensitive and over-aggressive. “You’ll want to bite your partner’s head off for something small because the survival part of your brain is hijacking the system,” says Stevenson. Get some rest and petty arguments should diminish.

Sleep for the Whole Family

Most members of the modern family aren’t getting enough rest, and the reason is often tied to technology. “Parents of teens report that their kids get seven hours of sleep a night, when they should be getting at least 8.5,” says Kristen Knutson, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at theUniversity of Chicago. While younger children should, and are reported to, sleep longer, each age group is about an hour deficient on shut-eye per night.

The presence of electronics, especially in the children’s bedrooms, had a significant negative impact on sleep. However, rules that ensured tech was turned off at a certain hour helped. “Sleep is like diet,” says Knutson, “It’s really hard for one family member to change and be successful. All have to come together for an age-appropriate conversation about the importance of sleep.” Huffington says you can rely on what her mom used to tell her — you will feel more alert, perform better (in school, sports and work) and be less cranky.

Wake Up to a Good Life

Huffington says certain cultures, like in big cities or cutthroat corporations, can glamorize sleep deprivation. People wear it like a badge of honor, bragging that they only got four hours of sleep the night before. “That’s the cognitive equivalent of going to work drunk,” Huffington says. She too was guilty of running on too little sleep, but didn’t just wake up one morning and see the error in her ways. She collapsed from sleep deprivation, hit her head on a desk and broke her cheekbone. “If that hadn’t happened, I probably would have had a heart attack, like so many executives collapsing on treadmills these days,” she says. Huffington commends Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini for rewarding his workforce when they sleep seven or more hours per night. Productivity goes up when you’re mindful of well-being.

Recharge Yourself

Huffington wants to rekindle the romance with sleep, so that we actually look forward to it. Sleep, for her, used to be a heavily mined border that she avoided crossing at all costs. She’d constantly push herself to finish a project or answer 20 more emails. “We endlessly prolong work,” she says. “It never stops because our smartphones follow us everywhere.” She says the most important step to a sleep revolution is to turn devices off and gently escort them out of the bedroom at least 30 minutes before sleep. “We take better care of our smartphones than ourselves,” says Huffington. “We know how much battery is left in our smartphones, but what about ourselves? On the day that I collapsed, if you would have asked me how I felt, I would have said fine.” It’s not enough to just get things done. When you get more rest, you reawaken some of the joys in life.

Sleep Solutions

Don’t Count on Catch-Up

“Those who get 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep per night have the healthiest, longest lifespans,” says Rosenberg. But catch-up sleep doesn’t work. “Even if you sleep 10 to 12 hours per night on the weekend, but four to five every weeknight, the damage is already done to the brain and central nervous system,” says Rosenberg. Instead, he recommends a steady sleep/wake schedule that you can stick to on both weekdays and weekends. Sure, you might want to stay up a bit later on the weekends, but be wary of “social jet lag”— meaning if you sleep until noon on Sunday, it’s going to be difficult to get to sleep that night for work on Monday morning.

Have a Bright Day

“Expose yourself to sunlight as soon as possible after awakening,” says Rosenberg. Open the blinds and enjoy your morning coffee in front of a window. “People who work in well-lit areas are more alert, have less mood disorders and sleep better at night than people who work in dark cubby holes,” says Rosenberg. If you work in a cube without a window, take walks when possible. We know those who exercise sleep better, deeper and longer, and that morning exercise sets you up for a great day. New research does indicate though that exercising at night is better than not exercising at all. Omega 3s in fish and fish oil supplements can also help you sleep better and feel less stressed.

Find Out If There’s More to the Snore

According to Rosenberg, 54 percent of men snore and 22 percent of middle-aged men have sleep apnea, a condition that can lead to heart attack or stroke. If your partner is a habitual snorer, check with his or her doctor to see if sleep apnea is the cause. And if you get a bedroom divorce to improve your sleep, it doesn’t mean you can’t have conjugal visits.

OTCs Can Negatively Impact Memory

“Avoid medications, if possible,” says Rosenberg. “Especially over-the-counter ones, like Unisom or Tylenol PM. A big study just came out linking anticholinergic drugs to an increased risk of dementia.” Rosenberg recommends going to sleep the natural way, with your own sleep routine. “If you’re a worrier, do constructive worrying,” he says. “At 6 p.m., write down your problems and possible solutions, then put them in a desk drawer. Don’t bring them into the bedroom.”

Expert Tips for an Optimum Sleep Environment

Rosenberg’s recommendations:

  • Keep it cool: 65-68 degrees.
  • Make it dark: Eye masks and dark curtains help.
  • Limit distractions: Use fans or Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Try hypnosis or meditation: Apps are available.
  • Apply or diffuse lavender oil: Proven to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Huffington’s ritual:

  • Hot bath with Epsom salts: “Water washes away the day.”
  • Beautiful lingerie: Sleep clothes cue sleep.
  • Physical, non-work-related books: No tech in the bedroom.

Knutson’s tips:

  • Find what is most comfortable to you: Cotton pjs and silk sheets?
  • Limit caffeine: Try herbal tea.
  • Don’t drink alcohol: It will wake you in the middle of the night.

Stevenson’s hack:

  • If you can’t stop working an hour before bed: Use a blue light blocker (Lux is an helpful app; Night Shift is an iOS 9 update).

MIB team favorite:


3 Restaurants with Grandma-Inspired Recipes

Published in Chicago Parent Going Places- Spring 2016


When it comes to cooking, Grandma knows best. In fact these restaurants’ menus were inspired by the owners’ grandmothers’ classic, comforting recipes. Savor traditional Italian, southern and Mexican cuisine in these new Chicago eateries. Grandma would be so proud, she’d kiss the cook!


925 W. Randolph St., (312) 690-7295

From grandma with love: Fresh, homemade pastas and meatballs

The scene: Located in the West Loop, Formento’s is an elegant Italian restaurant that opened in February 2015 as a nod to the co-owner’s grandmother, Nonna Formento. Big windows, leather booths, bright tablecloths and jazzy music make for a lively environment to enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner.

Adult diners: You can’t go wrong when ordering the specialties. Silky, soft homemade pasta melts in your mouth. The Bucatini Carbonara was simply the best. Topped with black pepper, guanciale (like bacon, but better) and a farm fresh egg yolk, it is like heaven on a plate. Nonna’s Meatballs are sensational. We opted for the meatball sub, with giardiniera on ciabatta.

Kiddie diners: Formento’s offers an Etch A Sketch to kids for a fun twist. While I am not proud to say my 4-year-old daughter is the pickiest eater on the planet, the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes on the brunch menu completely won her over. Topped with tempting summer berries, they brought out a big, bright smile. The lemon curd was scrumptious, but our server was thoughtful enough to serve it on the side.

Ixcateco Grill

3402 W. Montrose Ave.,  (773) 539-5887

From grandma with love: Mexican moles and fresh tortillas

The scene: A protégé of Rick Bayless, chef/owner Anselmo Ramirez made Albany Park home to his new authentic Southern Mexican restaurant. You’ll feel like family at this full-service BYOB, where the staff is kind and welcoming, even when your kids are, well, acting like kids.

Adult diners: The menu showcases seasonal ingredients. I have many Mexicans in my extended family, so I’ve had the treat of enjoying authentic Mexican cuisine for years. But the Picaditas appetizer, masa canoes topped with poultry carnitas and pickled cactus, was a newfound favorite. However, the real runaway hit is Ramirez’s moles. Modeled after his abuela’s recipes, these exquisite sauces are simmered for 20 hours. Try the chicken with black mole. Red and green moles also adorn the rotating menu.

Kiddie diners: Ask for kids’ tacos or quesadillas, served on fresh tortillas made by Ramirez’s mother. Our little ones loved the desserts. The tres leches cake melts in your mouth, and the coconut sorbet was a light, icy treat that wasn’t too sweet.

Luella’s Southern Kitchen

4609 N. Lincoln Ave., (773) 961-8196

From grandma with love: Crispy chicken & waffles and savory shrimp & grits

The scene: This casual new Lincoln Square restaurant serves southern favorites, like chicken gumbo and skillet cornbread. Owner/chef Darnell Reed was inspired by his grandmother, Luella’s, flare for southern cooking. As a boy, he spent hours in her Chicago kitchen, learning the flavors and techniques from her Mississippi upbringing. As an experienced chef, he continues to lean on Luella’s expertise. You may even see her there, dining on her favorite dishes.

Adult diners: The Apple Cider Chicken and Waffles and Shrimp and Grits were both highly recommended, and for good reason. The chicken is crispy and juicy, atop a waffle with a unique cider flavor and just the right amount of crunch. New Orleans BBQ shrimp crown velvety, cream cheese grits. Your bellies will feel the love here.

Kiddie diners: Kids can’t go wrong with buttermilk pancakes. Biscuits with seasonal jam were also quite tasty: crusty on the outside and crumbly on the inside. You’ll wish you could make them this good at home … but you might have to call grandma for the recipe.

9 Fights You’re Not Having But Should

Published by April 2016

A whopping 69 percent of marital problems never get solved, according to relationship expert John Gottman, Ph.D. If you’re a social butterfly and he’s a homebody, that’s not likely to change, so there’s no sense in bickering about it. But some fights are worth having because they can save your marriage. “Fights are important escape valves for feelings and values,” says April Masini, relationship expert and author of Romantic Date Ideas. Just make sure you use these disagreements to deepen your bond, without blowing up or disengaging. Duana Welch, Ph.D., relationship science expert and author of Love Factually, explains, “The deadliest thing is to disconnect without discussing what’s really bothering you.”

Why you’re always the one to bring up the issues

Gottman found that women bring up the problems in heterosexual relationships 80 percent of the time. While men can say ladies complain a lot, we’re actually doing very important work. “Women are like relationship mechanics,” says Welch. “If you don’t have someone fine-tuning the engine, it probably won’t last.” Conflicts are necessary to develop true intimacy. “If you don’t talk about it, you don’t get closer,” say Don and Carrie Cole, Master Certified Gottman Therapists and founders of The Center for Relationship Wellness. How you bring up the issues really matters. “If the first three minutes of a conflict discussion are harsh, it will fail most of the time,” says Carrie Cole. In fact, Gottman found that couples who ultimately divorce start discussions with significantly more negativity and criticism than couples who stayed together. So make sure you have a soft start—state the facts and how you feel—and don’t attack your partner.

How your relationship will evolve after the baby

We all know the transition to parenthood can be a bumpy one. Unfortunately, 67 percent of couples experience a sudden and steep drop in satisfaction in the first three years of their new baby’s life, according to Gottman. What’s the secret sauce for the happy couples that remain? They don’t constantly battle over how to diaper the baby or dwell on the loss of their previous lives. Content couples embrace their new family unit and work together for the better of all involved. Sure, you’re going to have different opinions on how to raise kids, but that doesn’t mean your partner is always wrong. Welch says, the rule of thumb for any disagreement should be whether what the other is doing is dangerous. “If not, express your preference, then back off,” she says.

Your spending habits

“Are you crazy? We can’t afford that!” to “You’re such a tightwad!” are unproductive ways to duel over dollars. ” Money is powerfully symbolic of many things—self worth, values, and a sense of security,” say Bob and Judith Wright, relationship experts, authors of The Heart of the Fight, and co-founders of The Wright Foundation. “How you spend your cash can stem from a desire to be appreciated, socially affirmed, or loved.” Instead of saying, “All you want to do is spend money!” or “You’re no fun—I just want a few nice things!” try to get to the bottom of each other’s underlying desires and compromise in ways that honor both, say the Coles. “Proactively put out your judgments and fears,” say the Wrights. “Then focus on honing a strategy for the future.”

How much cleaning will make you both happy

Both husbands and wives report more satisfying sex lives in homes where the husband does his share of the housework. So what exactly is the right amount? It differs from couple to couple, but according to 40 years of Gottman research, it comes down to what you think is fair. “If he’s doing housework cheerfully and unasked, he’s probably golden,” says Welch. So spell out what you want him to handle and don’t forget to feel the heat together after the kitchen is clean.

The squabble over why you never have fun together anymore

With packed calendars, it’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind and make your marriage about administrating a household. But, as the famous saying goes, laughter is the shortest distance between two people, so don’t forget to fight for being pals and prioritize having good times together. Date nights are great, but not always doable. Greg Smalley, VP of Marriage Ministries at Focus on the Family and author of Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage, recommends taking advantage of daily moments, like leaving for the day or going to bed. “Say something encouraging as he heads out the door (‘you’re going to rock that meeting!’), says Smalley. “Or express one thing you’re thankful for each night (‘you cooked an awesome dinner tonight’). As he closes his eyes, that’ll be the last thing he hears from you.” Silly texts and sexy Snapchats are other easy ways to infuse a little fun and remind each other that you’re friends first.

The ol’ should we have sex tonight debate

Differences in sex drives are hard not to take personally. “If he wants sex more than you do, he’s going to feel perpetually rejected,” says Welch. “And you might feel used for your body.” Instead of arguing whether you should have sex tonight, bring up the idea that it’s okay to enjoy a little “self love.” That way, Welch says, each can scratch their own itch, and you can come together when you’re both into it. Masturbation is the safest tool to use in this situation, but make sure you still prioritize sex together, rather than apart.

Why your MIL can’t come over unannounced

While your mother-in-law may think she’s helping by, um, inviting herself over, appropriate boundaries need to be established. If your mother-in-law is intrusive and disrespectful, your husband needs to put her in her place, says Welch. He can politely tell her that he appreciates her desire to help, but if there’s a side to take, it’s going to be with his spouse. “If you think his mother has a higher place in his priorities than you, divorce is likely,” says Welch. “He needs to, respectfully but firmly, man up to his mom.”

Who should be telling the stepkids to clean their rooms

You and your husband chose each other, but any kids from previous relationships have to go along for the ride. It takes time to earn trust and love, and yelling over messy rooms probably isn’t the way to warm their hearts. Instead, Welch recommends disciplining behind the scenes. When there’s trouble with the stepkids, approach your spouse privately and calmly, says Welch. The biological parent should step in and deal with the issue. The non-biological parent can provide support in the background. “It’s to everyone’s advantage to be kind and gentle to the child who did not choose this marriage,” says Welch.

Why you got into a fight in the first place

You had a big blowout and it wasn’t pretty. Instead of trying to sweep it under the rug, address why you had that disagreement. Discuss what went wrong, how each of you felt, and how to prevent such a negative outcome the next time, say the Coles. This isn’t about opening the battle back up, but understanding each other and moving forward together. “Never go back into a bad moment,” says Carrie Cole. “Instead, try to uncover the importance and meaning of the underlying conflict.” Knowing why he’s doing what he’s doing will help you feel closer. The aftermath of a fight can be one of the most productive ways to fight for your marriage.

Secrets for success: How to be the family babysitters and nannies want

Published by Chicago Parent magazine- June 2015

Winner of national Parenting Media Association award for service feature

Desperate for a date night, parents can rush out the door as soon as the sitter arrives. Think about that babysitter left in the lurch without the 411 on the family’s nighttime routines, especially when the baby wakes up and howls like a wild coyote and there’s no milk in the house. Do you think that sitter will want to come back?

Caring for other people’s kids, in their homes, on their terms, is tough work. If parents expect top-notch childcare, we, in turn, need to be exceptional employers. What makes the best childcare relationships work?

With summer kicking into high gear, we talked with Chicago-area nannies and babysitter as well as parents and parenting experts to secure their secrets for childcare success al year round.

Put details in writing

When you professionalize the hiring process, everyone feels like they have equal footing. Spell out the job description, vacation and sick time in a contract. “Families without contracts usually run into problems within three months,” says Erin Krex, president of First Class Care, Inc. “It’s commonly over something promised in an offer but later forgotten.” When details are in writing, you both have reminders.

“Put together a Household Handbook,” suggests Marcie Wolbeck of Cultural Care Au Pair and Chicago mom of three. “Write down things like which child hates spinach and your approved discipline methods. It’s a great resource for caregivers to better meet your expectations.”

Get serious about expectations

“You need to be specific and honest about what you really want,” says Katie Bugbee, parenting expert at Lay out expectations for hours, flexibility, household chores, personality type and activity level. A babysitter is an occasional helper while a nanny manages more responsibilities, like helping with homework and cooking. “Even if it’s only a few hours a week, if you depend on that person, consider the job a part-time nanny,” says Bugbee. “An elevated description will get stronger candidates.”

Throw it all out there

The interview is the time to see if you click and make sure all your requests stick. Be clear on your expectations and confirm the candidate can deliver. “Throw her all the curveballs she could face,” suggests Bugbee. How would you encourage him to eat dinner or handle bedtime battles?

“If you’d like her to save smartphone use until after the kids are asleep and she raises her eyebrows, realize it might not be the best fit,” says Tammy Gold, author of Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer.

Just like you expect the caregiver to be honest, tell her exactly what you need. “Put everything on the table in the interview and try not to ask for other things afterwards,” says Branndi Camp, nanny for nine years. How duped would you feel if you were continually asked to take on additional responsibility without increased pay?

Respect each other

While parents insist they don’t want anyone telling them how to raise their children, caregivers say they don’t want to be treated like slaves. Reciprocal respect is imperative.

“If you feel like you have to check on your child and his nanny all day long, you probably don’t have the right nanny,” says Chicago mother Amanda Hughes.

Teach children to respect the caregiver, too. Give her control and don’t let little ones push the limits. “I tell kids if we both want me to come back, we need to follow the rules,” says Nubia Camacha, babysitter for 30 years.

Make time to talk

Communication is key. Knowing that it’s hard to discuss sticky issues with kids at your legs, schedule a regular time to chat with caregivers.

“If you feel uncomfortable about something, don’t hold back,” says Camp. Nothing is more rancid in a relationship than negative feelings festering. Instead of feeling resentful, find a positive way to discuss the issue.

“I’ve never walked away from a meeting angry,” says Lisa McCormick, a nanny for 27 years. “Even if there was a difference in opinion, we uncovered solutions achievable for both of us.”

Show your gratitude

When Gold asks caregivers what they like most about the families they work for, the number one response is, “They appreciate me!”

Don’t forget to say thank you for everything she does and enables you to do. “If the baby threw up, reward her with a few extra bucks or book another evening of babysitting right away,” says Bugbee.

“Flowers and gifts are great, but handwritten notes are the best,” McCormick says. Think about special perks you can provide too. Caregivers love to brag about exclusive rewards, like hard-to-get concert tickets.

Back each other up

Agree on limits and expectations for independence, then follow through. Caregivers cite rules like picking up toys, putting away dishes or tying their own shoes that were relaxed over weekends.

Tired moms and dads think they’re making life easier by avoiding battles. “But parents and caregivers need to be seen as a united front in childrearing,” says nanny Katie Franseen.

Be cognizant of her time too

Canceling last minute is the worst, but if your kid is sick, offer to pay the sitter’s fee. If you’re occasionally running late, a phone call will do, but remember caregivers have lives, too.

If you want the best for your kids while you’re away, treating their caregivers with gratitude and respect is as important as pay.

“Happy parents plus happy caregivers equals doubly happy kids,” says Gold.