May 28, 2015

My Machiavellian Moment

It was in Southern California, the early years of the twenty-first century, and I was facing an intense moment of crisis. Newly remarried, my husband Eric and I had moved in together with our kids and were trying to blend our family. From the beginning, it was total chaos. Not only had we not set any ground rules for trying to govern our family, we hadn’t even established any ground rules for our marriage.

So, somehow, virtually all of the household chores fell by default to me. This included all the grocery shopping, the cooking and cleaning, the drop-offs and pick-ups from preschool, and all the car-pooling, bathing, bill-paying, laundry, and diaper-changing.

At the same time, I was trying to finish the dissertation I was writing as the final requirement for my Ph.D. in history at UC Berkeley, and I had just started a demanding new full-time job writing legal briefs from home. All of which meant that I was trapped (read: imprisoned!) inside for days at a time with my four rambunctious young kids whose constant bickering was driving me nuts.

Oh, did I skip that part? Four children. Under the age of eight.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my kids dearly and would walk to the far ends of Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and back on their behalf. But they also have the uncanny ability to drive me to the brink of insanity.

At six, Teddy, my oldest and most independent if sensitive daughter, would sometimes mimic me by screaming at her siblings when they irritated her with their silly childhood pranks. "Stop following me! Leave me alone! I can’t take it anymore!" she’d howl, as they giggled while trying to cuddle up next to her on the couch.

Complicating matters was the fact that I share custody of Teddy with my ex-husband Paul. He hasn’t remarried and doesn’t have any other kids, which means that he can shower his undivided attention and affection on her in a way that I never can. Plus, whenever she stays with him, his peaceful well-ordered home is her own little kingdom, where she can reign as she sees fit without so much as a hint of internal subversion or opposition. No one sneaks into her room to steal her beloved white furless stuffed kitten (more about that disaster later). No one rifles through her backpack and tears up her carefully completed homework (more on that epic battle later, too).

Which brings me to my then-three-and-a-half-year-old-daughter Katie. Katie has Down syndrome and is happiness personified. But she can also be infuriatingly stubborn and defiant. Some of her defiance was actually quite impressive in terms of originality, concept, execution, and the sheer creative-destructiveness of it. And had she been performing in some sort of early-childhood-drive-your-mommy-totally-insane-competition, I would’ve given her a perfect 10. A virtual gold-medal-winner in insubordination.

Katie is also an accomplished escape artist (more on that little trick later, too). Whenever I took my eyes off her to, say, take a quick two-minute shower or search for my cell phone that she had turned off and surreptitiously hidden under the sofa cushions, she’d spring like a fox into action and find something even more cunning and crafty to do.

Meanwhile, her trusty co-conspirator was her younger brother Trevor, who was firmly entrenched in the midst of his Terrible Twos and had a tendency to throw earth-shattering tantrums whenever our cat Lucky managed to escape from his grasp (or he otherwise didn’t get exactly what he wanted and exactly when he wanted it).

These behaviors weren’t sufficient to trigger a maternal breakdown, but, in the aggregate, they made me resent motherhood and question my fitness as a parent. “I'm a terrible mother," I'd mutter to myself as I changed yet another diaper and dreamed of the day they were all safely away at college. Then I'd feel guilty for wishing their childhood away.

Still, I desperately wanted to mold them into less irritating little creatures whose constant bickering didn't drive me to drink, who didn't suck every ounce of energy out of me with their constant needs, who were more obedient little people who would quickly and predictably submit to my parental commands.

So, like millions of other modern moms, I ignored centuries of wise advice and tried to change them—by yelling, nagging, or ignoring them. This, of course, only made their behavior worse. They'd argue a little louder, slam doors harder, and leave dirty glasses and plates on the table with greater frequency.

One night, after washing the dishes and tucking our kids into bed, I talked to my husband about the mind-numbingly tedious and oppressively isolating tyranny of motherhood. He didn't understand what I was complaining about and said that staying home all day sounded “great” to him.

“Why don’t you take the kids to the park if you’re going stir crazy in the house?” he helpfully suggested one cold rainy evening.

“The park?” I said sharply. “Why don’t YOU take them to the park?”

After a heated exchange, Eric made a hasty retreat to our bedroom and turned on the TV as I stomped off to my office. Too exhausted to work, I sat at my desk and stared at a dusty old shelf of books. It was practically buckling under the weight of dozens and dozens of history and literature and philosophy titles that were piled up high upon one another in no particular order of importance.

“Even my bookshelf’s a mess,” I thought.

And, as I began straightening it, an old copy of The Prince caught my eye. Pulling it from the shelf, I studied its cover – a portrait of Niccolo Machiavelli dressed in his elegant robes of office. His intelligent, determined eyes stared out humbly at me; his thin lips turned up in a slight knowing smile; his stance calm, relaxed, powerful, and confident—everything that I was not at that particular point in my life.

To read more of this excerpt from Machiavelli for Moms click here!

May 14, 2015

Machiavelli was Funny!!

Five hundred years ago, in a letter dated December 10, 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli announced to his friend Francesco Vettori that he had written a "little study" on politics.

That letter, one of the most celebrated in all of Renaissance literature, not only provides an important timeline indicating when Machiavelli likely penned what would become known to the world as The Prince but reveals something that many of his critics don’t know: that he was well-loved by his friends for his bawdy, ironic, self-deprecating sense of humor.

Yes, Machiavelli was funny!

In fact, there's a lot of evidence in his correspondence which suggest that he was a very likable, down-to-earth guy who was probably a blast to hang out with in local taverns and bars. But it’s his poems, tales and plays that give us the clearest glimpse of his dark humor and wit.

In his comedic play, Clizia, for example, he mocks the folly of an older man’s pursuit a beautiful younger woman, and in the novella Belfagor he has his protagonist choose between the torments of hell and "the anxiety of the marriage yoke." Anyone who’s been married for long enough can see the humor in that, right?

Even the dark and brooding German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche found humor in Machiavelli’s prose, noting that in The Prince, he “lets us breathe the dry, refined air of Florence and cannot help presenting the most serious matters in a boisterous allegrissimo, perhaps not without a malicious artistic sense of the contrast he risks—long, difficult, hard, dangerous thoughts and…the very best, most capricious humor.”

But the most startling example of Machiavelli's vivid imagination and lascivious wit can be found in a letter he wrote to his friend Luigi Guicciardini. In it, he tells a tale about an encounter he supposedly had with a grotesque old hag who he was tricked into having sex with one day in Lombardy.

“Damn it all, Luigi!” he begins. “You see how fortune can bring about in men different results in similar matters. You, when you have had her once, you still get the urge to have her again.” He then recounts his own recent foray in a dimly lit room, only to discover, after the fact, that he had been sorely duped.

“My God!” he writes. “The woman was so ugly that I almost dropped dead.” On the top of her bald head, he said, “were a number of lice taking a stroll”; her “eyebrows were full of nits;” “one eye looked up and the other down”; her “nostrils were full of snot and one of them was cut off” and “her mouth looked like Lorenzo de’ Medici’s” but “it was twisted on one side and drooled a bit since she had no teeth to keep the saliva in her mouth. And I swear to God!” he quips, “I don’t believe my lust will return as long as I am in Lombardy.”

Did this actually happen?

Who knows. But that’s not the point. What matters is that Machiavelli could find humor in even the grimmest of situations. That he was a master at this is reflected in a letter he wrote near the end of his life in which he cites the lines from one of Petrarch’s sonnets: If at times I laugh or sing/ I do so because I have no other way than this/ To give vent to my bitter tears.

Aww, poor guy.

But here’s the bottom line: there’s a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt, as humorist Erma Bombeck observed. And that's a fate (especially as parents!) we can’t ever escape.

So what do we do?

Laugh and sing, my friends. Laugh and @&% sing — just like Machiavelli!

For my book click here

January 9, 2015

On Machiavelli and George Clooney

So you might not think that Machiavelli and George Clooney could be mentioned in the same book but they are in Machiavelli for Moms, along with many others, including:

Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Jim Hensen, Harry Houdini, Thomas Jefferson, Steve Jobs, Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Vince Lombardy, Steve Martin, John Quincy Adams, Lorenzo de'Medici, Jopseh Campbell and James Madison. And that's not all. Also mentioned are Cicero, Thucydides, Richard Nixon, Steve Martin, Gene Wilder, Erma Bombeck, Dr. Spock, Emile Zola, Sir Issac Newton and Machiavelli's literary hero, Dante!

To learn more about Machiavelli for Moms click here.

June 25, 2013

Who's Afraid of Down Syndrome?

The first indication that my baby might have Down syndrome came a few days before Mother’s Day in May of 2005 when I received the results of my first trimester prenatal screening test which came back with a statistical risk of 1:3 that the fetus I was carrying had a chromosomal anomaly.

Based on my age at the time, the risk should have been 1:180. I was shaken by the results, but didn’t worry too much, assuring myself that the test had a notoriously high rate of false positives. Still, I had to decide whether to have an amniocentesis, a minimally invasive prenatal test which carries a 1:200 risk of miscarriage but gives a definitive diagnosis.

For more than a month, I struggled with the decision, terrified of the possibility of miscarriage. Yet, at the same time, I had this deep maternal instinct that my baby did have Down syndrome. Something about this pregnancy just felt different than my previous one, which made the decision much more difficult because I knew that if I opted to not take the test, and my baby did have Down syndrome, I would be depriving myself and my husband of critical medical information upon which to base the next parental decision: whether to have an abortion.

Between weeks 11 and 19, I read everything I could find on Down syndrome. I went on the Internet. I read books, blogs and medical journals. And most of what I learned was disturbing: that Down syndrome is associated with all sorts of medical problems and varying degrees of mental retardation, from moderate to profound.

I also found studies which indicated that nine out of every ten American women who learn that they are carrying a fetus with Down syndrome choose to terminate the pregnancy.

This statistic raised a whole new set of fears: why are so many people afraid of Down syndrome? Do the presumed burdens and defects associated with the syndrome almost always justify abortion? And if my baby does have Down syndrome, and I choose to not have an abortion, will I be viewed by society with prejudice, pity, or even scorn? “Why didn’t she just have an abortion,” some people might say disapprovingly.

Beginning in week 20, I began to feel my baby kick, and finally decided not to have an amniocentesis for the simple if selfish reason that I didn't want to put myself in the position of playing god and making a decision that I knew I would regret for the rest of my life, regardless of how devastating the alternative might be or what burdens it might place on my family and me.

At that point, I let go of my fears and, for the remainder of my pregnancy, tried hard not to think about the “What ifs.” I relaxed even more as each bimonthly ultrasound did not reveal any soft markers for Down syndrome, and, as the last weeks of my pregnancy slowly progressed, I began to feel more and more confident that the screening test was, in fact, inaccurate. "All of this anxiety will be forgotten as soon as I see my baby," I assured myself.

On November 15, 2005, I went in for my week 37 ultrasound. By then, the appointments had become routine, but when the sonographer fell silent and suddenly left the room without saying a word, a wave of worry washed over me.

Moments later, the perinatologist entered the room, silently studied the grainy black screen, then said, matter-of-factly, “Your amniotic fluid is dangerously low. You’re gonna have this baby today. Go straight to Labor and Delivery, and I will call your doctor.” Then he exited the room as quietly and unceremoniously as he had entered.

“What?” I thought, in denial and shock. I’m not ready to have this baby. My bag isn’t packed. I have work to do. And I have to pick up my daughter at three o’clock!

As I got dressed in a daze, I glanced at the screen and saw that my baby’s long bones (the femur and humerus) were measuring at 33 weeks. But I was in my 37th week! That was four weeks behind! It was then that all of my fears about Down syndrome came rushing back over me. From months of obsessive research, I knew that “shortened long bones” was a physiological sign of Down syndrome.

As I headed toward the hospital, I thought, “Today will either be one of the happiest days of my life or one of the most devastating, and I will know which one in a few hours.”

This sense of finality lent some relief to an otherwise terrifying situation. There would be no more tests to take. No more weeks left to worry about things I couldn’t control. My baby would soon be born, whether or not she had Down syndrome.

My husband, Eric, arrived in the operating room a few minutes after the epidural was administered. After the blue screen was put up, I felt a few tugs, then saw our baby being lifted up and her umbilical cord cut.

As Katie let out her first cries of life, Eric excitedly grabbed his camera and began snapping photographs.

“Is she okay?” I asked, afraid of the answer.

“She’s beautiful!” he exclaimed, clicking more pictures.

“Maybe she is okay,” I thought, and, for a moment, my spirit soared. But my hopes were shattered when I heard the neonatologist whisper, “Did she have an amnio?”

“No,” my obstetrician quietly replied.

“Why would she ask that?” I panicked. No one had asked that when my first daughter was born. But nothing else was said. My doctor stitched me back up, congratulated me, and then quietly slipped out of the room.

More than an hour passed, and no one said anything about Down syndrome. But still, I was filled with a sense of doom. Then a nurse brought Katie to us, swaddled tightly in a pink flannel blanket and tiny white hospital cap.

As Eric gently cradled her in his arms, I studied her face with clinical detachment. Her eyes slanted upward, her tongue occasionally thrust out as if it was too large for her mouth, and her face looked somewhat flattened.

But, still, no one said anything. The nurse sat with us for another hour, chatting about trivial matters and laughing casually with the hospital staff. I just lay there, silently shaking, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When the sky outside began to darken, the neonatologist entered the room. She had dark brown skin, darker brown eyes, and glided silently across the room like a shadow. To me, she looked like the Grim Reaper.

When she reached the edge of my hospital bed, she looked down at me for a moment, then uttered that one simple sentence that changed my life forever: “Your baby shows signs of Down syndrome.”

And that was it. The words had finally been spoken.

As I watched the Grim Reaper’s mouth move, spewing out words like “possible heart defects” and “mental retardation,” I looked at Eric and literally saw the color drain from his face, a face which, just a few moments earlier, had been flush with happiness and pride and excitement about our new family life. But now, he just sat there, silently processing this devastating information.

When the Grim Reaper stopped talking, I heard Eric quietly say, “Okay.” Then I turned my face toward the wall and felt a stream of warm tears slowly roll down my right cheek.

After that, everything got blurry, and I felt as if I was watching myself in a movie. I could see myself from a distance, lying in the hospital bed. I could see the Grim Reaper standing next to me. This is not my life, I thought. This is not happening to me. It’s happening to another version of me.

I later learned that this phenomenon is a psychological defense mechanism that the brain employs to dissociate itself from situations that are too devastating to immediately process or accept. It’s as if the psyche temporarily disassociates itself from itself. Hence, the feeling of being outside of oneself, watching one’s self.

I will never forget that moment, because in that moment, everything in my life changed. Before Katie was born, I led what I felt was a very charmed life. But now, it seemed, tragedy had struck. My luck had finally run out.

As I lay in the recovery room, not wanting to look at or hold my baby, I felt as if my world was falling apart. My life, as I had known it, was over. How would this affect my daughter? What would it do to my relationship with Eric? And how would I cope?

When I finally looked at my baby, I was overwhelmed by intense feelings of grief, fear, revulsion and shock. When Eric asked if I wanted to hold her, I shook my head, and quietly said that I couldn’t because my body was still shaking too hard from the epidural. But that wasn’t true, and I knew it. I just didn’t want to hold her. Holding her would make her real. Holding her would make her mine. And I did not want her to be mine. I wasn’t ready to come out of my dissociative state.

After a few hours, the reality began to sink in, and I knew that we had to tell our family and friends that our baby might have Down syndrome. I also knew that I couldn’t say those words without sobbing, so Eric called my parents for me.

My father, a very wise and rational man, was silent for a while, then, with a quavering voice, gently said, “It doesn't matter.”

My mother, in denial, quickly offered, “Maybe the doctor is wrong.”

Most people, however, simply said, “I’m sorry,” which are the most painful words of all to hear when you have just had a baby.

Thankfully, Katie passed all of her medical tests, and so, two long days after she was born, she and I were released from the hospital and I went home with a baby I did not want. I wanted a baby, just not this particular baby.

I am, of course, very ashamed to admit this. But that's the truth. That is exactly how I felt. And I have since learned that that is how many parents of babies with Down syndrome and other congenital anomalies feel in the first few days and weeks immediately following the birth, especially if they didn't learn of their baby’s condition prenatally.

For me, the first few months of Katie’s life were agonizing. I did not bond with her. I did not feel love for her. And I cried all the time, especially in the middle of the night when I was breastfeeding her or changing her diapers, because I felt like I was taking care of someone else’s baby. And because I wished that she was someone else’s baby.

Being alone in the house with her was also hard. But going out in public was even worse. Wherever I went – the grocery store, the mall, the park – all I saw were happy young mothers with their beautiful, “normal” babies. Occasionally, a happy, young mother would look at Katie and smile uncomfortably, then glance at me, with obvious pity, then turn away, not knowing what to do or say. Because these social exchanges were so painful, I began covering Katie’s stroller with a blanket so no one could see her.

Then, when Katie was four months old, something happened to her that changed me forever as her parent: she contracted Hib (Haemophilus influenza type B) disease, a rare form of bacterial meningitis that, before the advent of vaccines, was deadly in about one out of every ten cases.

We rushed her to our pediatrician, who told us to go straight to the Children’s Hospital, where she was taken from my arms and rushed to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to be given a spinal tap.

The next morning, the pediatric infectious disease specialist told us that intravenous antibiotics might cure the infection, if we had caught it in time, but they wouldn’t know for 72 hours. And so I spent the next three days and nights terrified that my baby, who I thought I did not want, might die.

As terrifying as that week was, it was also profoundly transformative because it was then that I finally stopped crying for myself. The tears that I shed were no longer for me. They were for Katie – because here was this beautiful four month old baby girl, who had just had a spinal tap, was battling a deadly infection, and was hooked up to an IV for a week, but still woke up every morning, smiling.

From that week on, I began to see Katie for who she is: a precious little girl. Like other little girls, Katie gets cranky when she’s hungry or tired, loves pizza and chocolate chip cookies, and likes to splash in the bath. For too long, all that I saw when I looked at my daughter was Down syndrome. Now what I am finally able to see is my beautiful little girl.

Excerpt from my new book. To learn or read more click here

May 2, 2013

Three Myths about Machiavelli: Or, Why Does Everyone Think He's Such a Meanie?

MYTH 1: The Prince is a Guidebook for Tyrants.

When Machiavelli sat down to write his little primer on politics, he couldn’t have known or even imagined that it would become the most infamous political tract of all time, one that would, in one way or another, influence some of the greatest political thinkers of all time, from Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume, and Montisiqueu to James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams. Instead, he intended it to be a sort of glorified job application in which he sought to dazzle and impress the Medici princes who held power in Florence with the vast knowledge he had acquired through years of experience and study.

In his dedicatory letter to Lorenzo de’Medici, he writes:

Those who desire to win the favor of princes generally endeavor to do so by offering them those things which they themselves prize most, or such as they observe the prince to delight in most. Thence it is that princes have very often presented to them horses, arms, cloth of gold, precious stones, and similar ornaments worthy of their greatness.

Wishing now myself to offer to your Magnificence some proof of my devotion, I have found nothing amongst all I possess that I hold more dear or esteem more highly than the knowledge of the actions of great men, which I have acquired by long experience of modern affairs and a continued study of ancient history.

His overtures, however, went unanswered and it’s not certain if Lorenzo even bothered to read his little gift.

Nevertheless, The Prince addressed an immediate crisis that Machiavelli had seen with his own eyes – the disunity and ruin of Italy – and was meant to be a kind of "how to" book, a pragmatic master plan, a pithy and pungent no-hold-barred call to action for a cunning and ruthless new ruler endowed with the ambition to create a strong, unified state, one that – and this is important – is “distinguished from tyranny by the fact that it serves what Machiavelli calls the ‘common good.’" And by that term he has in mind, according to historian Paul Rahe, “war, conquest, and empire aimed at satisfying at the expense of outsiders the ambitions of the citizens and their longing for power, glory and wealth.”

His republicanism, as Rahe explains: inflames appetite; it sanctions and encourages licentiousness; and then, by means of laws and orders and channels appetite in such a way as to sustain liberty and encourage expansion.

Bottom line: Machiavelli made it clear throughout his career that he hated tyrannies, and so for this and other reasons, it seems safe to say that he didn’t intend his little masterpiece to be a guidebook for tyrants.

MYTH 2: The Ends Justify the Means

Machiavelli didn’t actually write this infamous phrase in The Prince. What he wrote was more along the lines of: "in considering the actions of must consider the final result." That’s not to say, however, that he wasn’t concerned with ends and means. In his Discourses on Livy, a longer and more thoughtful book, he writes, “while the act accuses him, the result excuses him, and when the result is good, like that of Romulus, it will always excuse him, because one should reproach a man who is violent in order to ruin things, not one who is so in order to set them aright.”

That’s a little arcane. But Machiavelli’s referring here to Romulus' murder of his brother Remus, an act that, according to mythology, led to the founding of the ancient city of Rome. So what’s the difference between justifying such an act and excusing it? Well, according to Peter Bandanella:

Machiavelli seems willing to excuse some shocking acts (such as the murder of Remus by Romulus) if the deed is done for an extremely important and moral cause (in this case, the foundation of the city of Rome, and implicitly its empire). To justify such an action as the killing of a brother means to render such an action just, and Machiavelli certainly does not believe that what Romulus did was just. But he is willing, in this particular and limited case, to excuse what Romulus did, not because it was just but because excusing an action means to recognize that an action is wrong but was committed under extraordinary circumstances that attenuate its wrongness.

In other words, justifying such an act assumes that no moral wrong was committed whereas excusing it concedes that a wrong was committed but its wrongness is attenuated or “excused” by the greater good or “end” that is served. Either way, the point remains that Machiavelli never wrote that phrase about the ends justifying the means to which he partly owes his sinister reputation.

MYTH 3: Machiavelli was a Meanie.

Machiavelli’s personal letters contain some of his most beautiful writing and reveal him as a loving father, loyal friend, and deeply thoughtful, sensitive man. (Of course, some of his letters are quite lurid but that’s a story for another day.)

In any event, in a letter to his son Guido, Machiavelli discusses the problem posed by a mad mule. “Since the young mule has gone mad,” he writes, “it must be treated just the reverse of the way crazy people are, for they are tied up, and I want you to let it loose...take off its bridle and halter and let it go wherever it likes...The village is big and the beast is small; it can do no one any harm.”

Here again, we see that there is more to Machiavelli than his brutal realism. And by that I mean that if he was as hard-hearted as his critics portray him to be, he would’ve instructed his son to simply destroy the poor beast, don’t ya think? Either way, the point remains that Machiavelli wasn’t a meanie. In fact, when it came to his family, friends, and even a mad mule, he could be, and probably often was, a real softie!

To learn about my new book click here

April 22, 2013

On Parenting, Politics, and Machiavelli's Intent in Writing "The Prince"

SOME SCHOLARS argue that Machiavelli's intent in writing The Prince was driven by his desire to trap Lorenzo de’Medici by offering carefully crafted advice designed to undo the ruler if taken seriously and followed. Others claim that it's a cautionary tale intended to warn men of what tyrants could be and do. Still others posit that Machiavelli was a supremely passionate and pragmatic patriot who loved his city more than his own soul. And others still yet think that the author of The Prince wrote a satire for "he surely could not have literally meant what he wrote.”

Despite these benign scholarly interpretations, Machiavelli’s name today is a byword for treachery, mendacity, and a cunning and ruthless disregard for moral standards. The Oxford Dictionary defines a “Machiavellian” as an outrageously unscrupulous schemer. The term is also used to describe a personality characterized by dishonesty, cynicism and manipulation -- all of which, though understandable, don’t fully or fairly represent who Machiavelli was as a man or what his intent was in writing The Prince.

So, for the sake of debate, let me ask: to what, precisely, does Machiavelli owe his sinister reputation?

To this, you might cite such maxims as: If you must commit a crime do not advertise it beforehand since otherwise your enemies may destroy you before you destroy them. Men should either be caressed or annihilated. A wise ruler cannot and should not keep his word when it would be to his disadvantage. It is better to be feared than loved. And that infamous phrase that has been grossly mistranslated for centuries: The ends justify the means.

And you’re right: these and other similarly shocking statements help explain how Machiavelli earned his sinister reputation. But they also help prove the point that for some five hundred years this guy has gotten a bad rap.


Because they all have one thing in common: “they’ll all designed,” as Isaiah Berlin observed, “to create or resurrect or maintain an order that will satisfy what the author conceives as men’s most permanent interests." And,” Berlin adds, the “end is always the same: a state conceived after the analogy of Periclean Athens, or Sparta, but above all the Roman Republic.” Such an end, then, which men naturally desire, “excuses” any means.

So what does this have to do with parenting? Quite a bit, I would submit, because when it comes to imposing order and stability in our homes and ensuring the happiness and well-being of our subjects (or kids) the achievement of this "end" justifies or excuses any means.

Let me back this up with a quick example. Say your little prince or princess wakes up with the flu. Your ends, then, is caring for your child, right? But here's the thing: you have to go to work and you’re out of vacation days. So what do you do?

Well, some moms might call in and say that they're sick in order to stay home with their child. Is it morally right to deceive their boss? No. But if in judging the means (deceit) you look only at the ends (a well-cared for child), then I would submit, and I think other moms might agree, it’s excusable. Right?

Either way, it's important to note that Machiavelli never actually wrote "the ends justify the means" in The Prince. What he wrote was more along the lines of "in considering the actions of must consider the final result."

To learn more click here

February 6, 2013

Machiavelli for Moms: Maxims on the Effective Governance of Children (Simon & Schuster)

Machiavelli for Moms has been hailed by Parade Magazine as "a funny and creative new parenting guide." For an excerpt click here!