I'm dreading my kids going back to school, but not because of COVID
Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

Yesterday I was hiking along a river with 12-year-old and 7-year-old daughters. We were about an hour from our home in rural Oregon, and someone told us there was a waterfall about half a mile away. It was probably some of the clearest water I've ever seen, almost bathwater clear, and it was a place we'd always talked about going to as a family, but never actually had the time. We were all in swimming suits and we jumped in pools along the way.

We chatted about who knows what, taking our time, just trying to get the most out of the summer. My wife and son were behind us, checking out a pool on the other side of the river that they thought looked interesting. We planned to meet up later at the van, drive back into town, and get some drive-thru.

Naturally, this outing doesn't sound like much, but we've been doing a lot of these little afternoon trips to different locations around Oregon this summer. When we haven't gone on family hikes, we've watched movies every night after dinner. We've shared almost every meal together, gone on walks as a family around our neighborhood, and rode bike rides across town. On the weekends, we almost always roast marshmallows in our backyard.

To contrast this with the summer of 2019—or as many summers as I can recall as a working father and husband—I've never had this kind of time to spend with my kids. Never. I work two jobs, one in education and another as a freelance writer. On a normal day, I'd get up around 5 AM to write, then drive 30 min to my university job, work until 6 PM or later, drive home, have dinner, get the kids to bed, and then maybe write some more before going to bed. My wife also works full-time in education, so most of our interactions have involved coordinating our lives so we can set sail in different directions, managing our work lives and our children's lives.


Weekends have always been filled with sports, or summer camps, or church activities, or shuttling kids to friends' houses. We'd often take a week off here or there to drive to visit Grandmas, aunts, and uncles, all in different states, rushing from one house to another to see everyone, and then rush home. All so I could get back to getting up before my children to rush into work and getting home with just enough time to share a meal and hassle them into bed.

But now, in the summer of 2021, I'm kind of in this strange middle zone. I'm still working from home for the time being, so there's no commute. The summer programs I usually run were reduced because of budget cuts, so I have more time to be with my kids than I've ever had in my nearly 15 years as a dad.

I have to admit, right now I'm kind of dreading sending them back to school. It seems so clear that life is going to go back to what it was before, and I feel a very urgent need to get the most out of this summer.

Don't get me wrong—the pandemic has been terrible. My wife spent just over three weeks in the hospital last October, three of those days in the ICU, and I've never been so afraid of losing the most wonderful person in my life. Having the kids learning from home while my wife and I worked from home was easily one of the most stressful experiences of my life. And all of this is just what I've gone through personally. It doesn't even touch on the financial hardships and the heartbreaking loss of life that literally millions of people have gone through in the past 18 months.

But right now, I feel like I have this opportunity to be with my kids before the madness of school, working endless hours to make ends meet, and extracurricular activities come kicking in my door again. I have this time to just hang out and chat with my three kids, listening to their dorky laughter as we play another round of UNO or as my 12-year-old daughter breaks into her hilarious impersonation of a squid.

So I'm doing everything I can to maximize it this time. I'm savoring it because I know that I might never have it again. We are doing all the hikes we've thought about but never done. We are watching all the movies we've talked about streaming but never had the time to actually stream. We are sharing all the meals, and all the laughs, and all the time that we've never had before.

And I must say, I'm loving it.


Clint Edwards is the creator of the daddy blog No Idea What I'm Doing. He is a parenting contributor to the New York Times and the Washington Post. He has been featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show, and The View, and he is the author of three books on parenting. The most recent is Fatherish.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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