Paid leave reality check: What are the chances of a national law?

— For the first time in a presidential campaign, both the Democratic and Republican nominees have put forward plans calling for mandated paid leave.

While Donald Trump’s proposal covers only mothers and is not as expansive as Hillary Clinton’s plan, it still represents the first time a Republican presidential nominee has spoken out in favor of paid leave, something that only Democratic presidential nominees have done in recent years.

The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not mandate leave for women after they give birth, and it seems the American public has had enough of that designation. One poll this year found that three out of four Americans support a law calling for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for workers.

With the majority of the public behind the concept, what are the chances it will happen?

I posed that question during a recent panel I moderated on paid parental leave at the 2016 Concordia Summit. The summit is sponsored by Concordia, a nonprofit organization bringing together public and private sector leaders to collaborate on solutions to some of the biggest problems impacting our world.

Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat from New York who was elected to her first term in 2015, said she couldn’t imagine this issue getting “walked back” when there is such public support for it.

“The big obstacle is the hyperpartisan situation that we have in Washington,” said Rice, who provides 16 weeks of paid leave for her staff. “My hope is that after this presidential election, the fact that we have had this kind of presidential election in our lifetime will be a wake-up call to me and my colleagues to actually put aside all of our ideological intransigence and actually try to get something done.”

The private sector leading the way

Getting members of Congress to hear the first-hand accounts from businesses that have decided to provide paid leave to their employees and continue to be successful would definitely help, said Rice.

“We should be looking to our partners in the private sector, watching how they do it and (how) they’re still profitable,” she said.

The panel included representatives from Etsy, Foursquare and Hilton, which all started offering generous paid leave policies this year: Etsy provides 26 weeks of fully paid leave to both female and male employees who become parents through birth or adoption; Foursquare offers 12 weeks of fully paid leave for primary caregivers, who assume the principal role of providing care after birth or adoption, and eight weeks for secondary caregivers; and Hilton offers 10 weeks of full pay for birth mothers and two weeks fully paid for all new parents, including fathers and adoptive parents.

“As we launched, we had a lot of our peers and competitors and other folks in the service industry ask us, ‘Well, how could you do it? How can you afford this?’ ” said Laura Fuentes, senior vice president of talent, rewards and people analytics for Hilton Worldwide.

More than 500 hundred people are either currently on leave or have already used the new policy at Hilton, said Fuentes. “It doesn’t break the bank. It doesn’t drive you into bankruptcy, and in fact, I hope that over time, we’ll also be able to demonstrate the retention and engagement play,” she said.

The more companies that offer paid leave and the more they see the economic benefits from retention, the more pressure there will be on the government to actually roll out a mandatory nationwide policy, said Nitzia Logothetis, founder and interim CEO of the Seleni Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the reproductive and maternal mental health care needs of women. Seleni helped program and co-hosted the panel on paid leave at the Concordia Summit.

“To train somebody from scratch would cost a lot more money than potentially to give someone a paid leave and then have them come back when they’ve been with you for many years. So investing in people is a huge, huge part of it,” Logothetis said. “I think when we can make the link between the economic benefit of actually going back, things will begin to change.”

Heather Jassy, senior vice president of values-aligned business for Etsy, said the way forward for wider acceptance and implementation of paid parental leave policies is “getting past the notion that business can’t be successful and be good, and care about employees. … A lot of this comes down to ‘short-terminism’ in thinking.”

At Etsy, she said, the conversation leading up to its generous paid leave plans for women and men came down to whether the company was going to be more focused on short-term success versus long-term investment in its business.

“Do we think about the next quarter or … how much we’re going to grind out of our employees over the next three months, or do we think about investing in people over the very long-term?” Jassy asked. “So I think it’s about changing the conversation that’s happening in business to something that’s much longer-term and creating something that’s a benefit for all of us.”

How do we pay for it?

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to a national paid leave plan is the question of how we are going to pay for it.

Clinton says she would finance her paid leave proposal — which would provide 12 weeks of partially paid leave to women and men to care for a child or a sick family member — by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Trump says he would pay for his plan — six weeks of partially paid maternity leave for mothers only (he doesn’t offer any paid leave for fathers) — by eliminating the fraud in the unemployment insurance system. The campaign says Trump’s plan would cost about $2.5 billion per year and estimates the fraud in the unemployment system at roughly $3.4 billion.

In California, the first state to require paid leave for its workers, the program is financed through mandatory contributions by workers to the State’s Disability Insurance program, which covers disability and paid family leave insurance coverage.

In New York, under its paid leave plan (PDF), which will go into effect in 2018, each worker will contribute one half of 1% of their wages, with a maximum of 60 cents per week, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

“There’s always the question of how you pay for it?” said Rice, a former district attorney and federal prosecutor. “That can be subject to debate, but my argument to my colleagues when we talk about this is, we can’t afford not to do this, because you have to take the long view, not the short view.”

The power of millennials

Rice encouraged all Americans concerned about paid leave to make their voices heard in Washington to get a national paid leave law. In conversations with the leaders of Etsy, Hilton and Foursquare, it seems millennials are already speaking up and bringing about change in their companies.

“The millennial generation that makes up a lot of our workers has different expectations about how work and private life are balanced, and so they’re demanding” paid leave, said Jeff Glueck, chief executive officer of Foursquare. “I think the political scene (hasn’t) caught up with that yet, but I think there’s a lot more consciousness about how work is important and it’s critical, and we’re doing great work, but we also need lives, and so I think the millennial generation and therefore the tech generation are really driving a lot of this conversation.”

Fuentes said that Hilton surveys its 150,000 employees every year and that while the feedback from millennials is similar to other generations when it comes to benefits and other issues, the millennials are “louder” about it. When they look at the comments, 90% tend to be from millennials, she said.

“Millennials are leaning in and giving us more insight, giving us better examples and that’s really what helped us carve some of these policies,” said Fuentes.

More state laws before a federal policy?

This year, New York became the fourth state in the country, joining California, Rhode Island and New Jersey, in requiring paid leave for its workers. San Francisco also became the first city in the country to back fully paid leave for employees, giving city residents more leave than under the state law, which offers six weeks with 55% of the worker’s salary covered.

Twenty-one additional states plus the District of Columbia are in some stage of exploring paid leave, including having a bill introduced or a task force actively working on the issue, according to Family Values @ Work, a network of coalitions in 24 states working to enact paid sick leave and paid family leave policies.

Will it take more action on the state level before we eventually see a federal law?

“If you look just from a historical perspective, that’s how change is usually brought,” Rice said, comparing the efforts to the movement in states to support full equality for the LGBT community before action on the federal level.

“I think like everything, progress is very slow, but sometimes it’s very fast, and it takes all these different elements … to put their little grain of sand, and then eventually it’s a tipping point where there’s no choice in a sense because the culture has changed,” said Logothetis, of the Seleni Institute.

As more states consider paid leave policies and as the next president may try to make paid leave a federal law, there needs to be more thought given to how the growing number of independent workers would be covered, some business executives say.

“More and more workers fall into this gray zone where they are Etsy sellers or they’re Aibrnb hosts or they’re Uber drivers … something between a contractor and a full-time employee,” said Glueck, of Foursquare. “You don’t want to create policies that just deter full-time employment,” he said.

At Etsy, the company is concerned about the 1.7 million business owners in America, almost 90% of whom are women, who are Etsy sellers and fall outside the traditional employee-employer relationship.

“We’re thinking about portable benefits packages and things that would be of assistance to those workers as well, so that they could also step away,” Jassy said. “There’s a tremendous opportunity to really create a culture of innovation in our country by providing those sorts of safety nets for those workers as well.”

Kids review the presidential debate: Candidates didn’t ‘play nice’

— A group of middle-schoolers in New Jersey, all members of their school’s student council, were dismayed by the performances of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the first showdown of this most unusual presidential campaign.

Asked whether the presidential candidates “played nice” with each other in their highly anticipated first debate, none of the 16 students who gathered to talk with CNN on Tuesday raised their hands.

Trump, the Republican businessman, interrupted the Democratic politician way too often, said Emma Zwickel, an eighth-grader and a Trump supporter.

“Every time that Hillary said something that Donald Trump didn’t agree with that was about him, Donald would be like, ‘Wrong, wrong, wrong,’ ” said Emma, vice president of the student council at Robert R. Lazar Middle School in Montville, New Jersey. “Hillary at least wasn’t interrupting him.”

Riya Jain, a seventh-grader, said both candidates are not playing fair and should have considered their opponent’s points and listened to what they were saying. “I think that they should listen to each other, because the main thing a president needs to have is listening skills and ideas and being open to different thoughts and opinions.”

If she treated her siblings or friends the way she thinks the candidates treated each other at the debate, Riya said, she would be grounded for a week or maybe longer.

Mihir Tanguturi, a sixth-grader, said he would probably be punished too and wouldn’t have the friendships he has today. “I definitely wouldn’t have many friends at all, and they would know that I wasn’t a very nice person.”

Megha Rameshkumar, a seventh-grader who said she remains undecided, said Trump was being “rude” and not “really respectful” every time he interrupted Clinton.

“I think he should have let her speak, because he had a chance to speak after her, so he could have made his points when he got the chance to speak,” Megha said. “He should have let her talk when she had the chance to talk.”

Ian Hagen, an eighth-grader, said Trump kept speaking over his allotted time, and Ian didn’t appreciate his personal approach with Clinton. “When they were handshaking, he put his hand behind Hillary, and that’s just really rude.”

Sarah Gorman, a sixth-grader and a Clinton supporter, said Trump wasn’t focusing on the issues that were on the table and was instead often pointing fingers at his rival. “He was only talking about his business, and he was also blaming Hillary Clinton for a lot of things that were obviously not her fault.”

Trump needs to “learn how to talk and be respectful,” said Adyna Silverberg, a seventh-grader who said she favors Trump after watching the debate. “Hillary Clinton, she was very nice and respectful, but he just has to be more respectful.”

But Trump wasn’t the only candidate these sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders took issue with during what is now the most-watched television debate in US history, with more than 81 million viewers tuning in. Clinton also didn’t behave well, some of the students said.

“While Donald Trump was saying his speech and talking about what he feels (are) his issues, she was smiling and laughing,” said Aaron Parisi, a sixth-grader who was undecided before the debate but said he now supports Trump.

“She just wasn’t respecting his ideas the way she should have been. She was setting a bad example and basically laughing at what he was saying,” said Aaron, the school’s student council treasurer.

Louis Neri, a seventh-grader and Trump supporter, thought that Clinton was “being a little bit arrogant” and that Trump was the more respectful debater. He also took issue with moderator Lester Holt, anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” saying he believed that some of the questioning was “biased,” with too much of a focus on Trump and not enough on Clinton.

“They asked him about (his) business and all the bankruptcy and debt, and they should have focused on her email scandal … and Benghazi,” he said, referring to the deaths of four Americans at the consulate in Libya in 2012.

Elijah Dor, a sixth-grader, thought Holt did a fine job but Trump was the one being disrespectful. “I felt like Donald Trump was kind of attacking him when he was trying to ask the questions very nicely. It was just really, really rude,” he said.

CNN invited members of the school’s student council to do an interview Tuesday morning after the debate. The students, all under 18, may be #tooyoungtovote, but they’re not too young to care about the issues. Invites by the school were sent to more than 30 students. Twenty-five volunteered to do the interview, and the first 16 students who signed up were selected.

Ten of the students thought Clinton behaved better during the debate, while seven thought Trump did. Overall, the students expressed real frustration with what they are seeing and hearing from the candidates.

“I would say it’s a circus,” said seventh-grader Matthew Wei, who would vote for Trump if he weren’t #tooyoungtovote. “This is one of the most bizarre campaigns ever. It’s all about Hillary Clinton saying something bad about, and making commercials about, Trump. And Donald Trump saying something bad about Hillary.”

Adit Terapanthi, a seventh-grader, said the debate was like a baseball game, with the two candidates constantly trying to score against each other. “It was like ‘Tom & Jerry’ … fighting over every little thing. Donald Trump kept saying, ‘Oh, ISIS formed because of Hillary,’ and Hillary kept saying, ‘Donald Trump didn’t pay his federal taxes’. … They didn’t really propose how they’re going stop ISIS or what they’re going to do about taxes.”

Jade Hieger, a seventh-grader, agreed. “The thing that makes me most frustrated is how they’re treating each other like enemies, like they don’t even respect each other, and they don’t have any tolerance for each other when they’re talking,” she said. “And the fact that Donald Trump was speaking over Hillary and the fact that (she) was laughing at his ideas was a little frustrating as well.”

Looking ahead to the next presidential debate, scheduled for October 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, these middle-schoolers — and possible future political leaders themselves — had plenty of advice for the candidates.

To Trump and Clinton, Michael Usatine, an eighth-grader who says he remains undecided, said he hopes to hear more substance in the next debate. “Instead of fighting over every question, maybe they should let the candidates speak and then tell what they want to do but propose a plan on stage.”

Julia Demetropoulos, an eighth-grader who says she now supports Trump, said her candidate was “really rude” to Clinton and needs to change that in the next showdown. “I think he should treat her and other women better,’ she said. “Definitely let her talk and don’t cut people off.”

Matthew Colatrella, a sixth-grader and a Trump supporter, agreed. “Maybe … to be a little … nicer.”

Parents, beware: These are the 100 deadliest days for teens

Here’s a sobering statistic for the unofficial start of summer, when we gear up for picnics, barbecues and our kids having more free time on their hands: Memorial Day kicks off what’s known as 100 deadliest days for teen drivers.

From 2010 to 2014, more than 5,000 people have died in crashes involving teen drivers in those 100 days, AAA said today. A new study (PDF) by the association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that nearly 60% of teen crashes involved distracted drivers.

The AAA says that over the past five years, the average number of crashes involving drivers ages 16-19 increased 16% per day during the “100 deadliest days,” compared with other days of the year.

Some of the reasons for the spike make sense. Teens are driving more during the summer, and it might be more recreational than purposeful, the National Safety Council reports. For instance, instead of driving back and forth to school, they might be driving to the beach, lake or river, and heading down roads they haven’t driven before.

But one of the biggest reasons for the summer risk increase is that teens might be driving more frequently with more of their friends.

“We have always known that passengers were a big risk for teens, but what we’re really finding out now is, passengers may be one of the most important risks for teens, even more so than things like texting,” said John Ulczycki, the National Safety Council’s vice president of strategic initiatives.

Think about it this way, Ulczycki said: Passengers are a distraction the entire time a teen is driving, whereas the distraction from texting is probably limited to the seconds or minutes they’re looking at screens instead of the road.

Passengers increase the risk of a teen driver having a fatal crash by at least 44%, according to the National Safety Council.

“It’s tragic that parents don’t really appreciate the risks of passengers,” Ulczycki said, adding that parents may understand the risks of texting or cell phone use but aren’t as aware of the dangers of a new driver hitting the road with friends in the car.

A majority of states have laws on the books regarding the number of passengers allowed for new drivers. Some states don’t allow any for the first six months or year after getting a license; some allow one passenger.

”If you have a kid who had their license for less than one year, you have to think very, very carefully about the conditions or the situations in which you allow them to carry any passengers. You really do,” Ulczycki said.

Ulczycki, a father of six in Wilmette, Illinois, didn’t allow his children to drive with passengers for the first year of their official driving lives. “It was a real bone of contention,” he said. “They weren’t happy about it, but they all survived.”

A 2014 study found that loud conversations and horseplay between passengers were more likely than technology to result in a dangerous incident involving teen drivers.

The study by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center tracked 52 high-school age drivers in North Carolina who agreed to have cameras installed in their cars. The study appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

When there was loud conversation in the car, teen drivers were six times more likely to need to take actions like making an evasive maneuver to avoid a crash. When there was horseplay in the vehicle, they were three times more likely to get into a similarly serious episode, according to the study.

“Forty-three states currently restrict newly licensed drivers from having more than one young passenger in their vehicle,” Robert Foss, senior research scientist at the Highway Safety Research Center, and director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers, said in a news release. “The results of this study illustrate the importance of such restrictions, which increase the safety of drivers, their passengers and others on the road by reducing the potential chaos that novice drivers experience.”

In 2014, we traveled to Roxbury, New Jersey, to talk with Barb Dunn, her husband and her 16-year-old son, Daniel, about how they were trying to teach Daniel about safety as he learns to drive.

When I got back in touch with Dunn about the dangers of the summer months, her anxiety went up.

“My first reaction is fear. Then sadness,” Dunn said via e-mail. “I just heard a similar statistic about prom night being a very dangerous time. … I think we have to take the time to to talk to our children and remind them of the risks and talk about how to minimize them.”

Ulczycki of the National Safety Council said the best advice for parents is to understand the risks about passengers and drive with them so they can get accustomed to having people in the car. He also suggests that parents consider the risks of driving at night.

“It’s not the time of night. It’s how dark it is. That’s really the risk here, and I think too many parents think of night driving as a social curfew. ‘Well, I’ll let my kid stay out until 11 p.m., so he’s fine,’ ” Ulczycki said. “It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the risk of driving after dark.”

Annette DiCola Lanteri, a mom of two in Bayport, Long Island, has two girls who are still a few years away from driving age.

The best thing parents can do, she said on Facebook, is to teach teen drivers the best we can.

“Give them the most knowledge we can so that they can adequately protect themselves, then pray,” DiCola Lanteri said. “There are so many variables and we only have so much control.”

What do you think is the best way to keep teen drivers safe this summer? Share your thoughts in the comments or tell Kelly Wallace on Twitter or CNN Living on Facebook.

For more information on how to keep your teen drivers safe, go to the National Safety Council’s


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‘Saturday Night Live’ heroin sketch sparks outrage

— (CNN) — What were you thinking “Saturday Night Live”? That’s what a lot of fans — and mothers of addicts — are saying after a sketch on this weekend’s show featured a fake drug commercial for “Heroin AM,” an option for people “who want to use heroin” but also “get stuff done.”

In the commercial, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a school-bus-driving mama who says she can “get jacked on scag, and then get to work.” The spoof showcases the product in a box that makes it look like an over-the-counter medicine. It’s “now available in gummy bears, which you can melt down and inject,” says Louis-Dreyfus’ character.

Mothers of addicts are demanding an apology from NBC, “Saturday Night Live” executive producer Lorne Michaels and Louis-Dreyfus.

“I would think after the loss of John Belushi, Chris Farley and other beloved members of your cast that you would have realized that heroin addiction is about as funny as genocide, but judging by your show last night I’d have to say, apparently not,” said Maureen Cavanagh, the founder of Magnolia New Beginnings, a support group which helps people find treatment and comforts families coping with the loss of a loved one from drug addiction.

“You have just attempted to make a serious health epidemic into a joke and it is nothing less than disgusting. Apologize and make it right,” she wrote on her group’s Facebook page.

Tom Farley Jr., Chris Farley’s brother and author of “The Chris Farley Show,” took to Twitter to say he was “pretty bummed” by the sketch and was upset because it came from people he said he loves.

The sketch comes at a time when overdose deaths from opioids, which include heroin as well as prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, remain the leading cause of unintentional death for Americans, climbing 14% from 2013 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every 19 minutes someone dies from an opioid overdose.

Debbie Gross Longo, a member of the Magnolia New Beginnings Facebook community whose son is battling heroin addiction, said via email that the SNL sketch “totally crossed the line.”

“There is nothing comical about a child suffering with addiction,” said Gross Longo, whom I interviewed two years ago. “Unfortunately, we have a grieving site where mothers can talk to each other about the worst pain imaginable, the loss of their child. Many are younger then 25. You have the nerve to think heroin is comedy. … Our mothers are livid and demand a formal apology,” she said, adding that the Magnolia New Beginnings Facebook community had over 5,000 signatures and climbing as of Monday morning on a petition calling for NBC to publicly apologize.

ACI, a New York City-based drug treatment provider, called for an apology and a boycott of “Saturday Night Live.”

“We realize that the show is geared to humor and good fun, but drug addiction and anything related to it is just too serious to be taken lightly.” said Warren Zysman, chief executive officer of ACI, in a statement.

Other viewers took to the SNL Facebook page to complain.

“Do you know how much it hurts when you lose someone who means the world to you to this evil monster?” wrote one Facebook poster. “I’ll never watch this show and I know there are a lot more who feel this way. Bet you’re going to lose a lot of viewers over this one and those you don’t are ignorant.”

Said a Twitter user, “Making fun of the #heroin epidemic is bad satire #snl. If you were poking the drug companies, the families are the ones who felt it.”

A spokesperson for the show declined to comment.

As someone from a family that has and continues to battle addiction, and as someone who has reported on the impact heroin addiction has had on families, I find it impossible to understand the humor behind the “Heroin AM” sketch.

Those who think the sketch was perfect say those of us who don’t get it are missing the point.

“See, the humor in the sketch is that the hell dust is being peddled by middle-aged suburban white parents, which ironically is a large portion of those abusing heroin,” wrote Paul Sacca on the site BroBible. “A doctor prescribes a person an opiate painkiller, the person becomes addicted. They can’t get another prescription or realize that street heroin has nearly the same chemical composition and effects, yet cheaper. Then Mr. Smith, your mailman, becomes a heroin addict who can’t get chiva into his veins fast enough.”

He added, “You are completely allowed to tackle a sensitive and heartbreaking subject through comedy.”

What do you think? Do you think the SNL sketch on heroin crossed the line? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv.

WATCH: Is 50 the new 40 for motherhood?

— Janet Jackson might soon become the new symbol of the rise of the 50-year-old mom.

The 49-year-old singer/songwriter, who turns 50 next month, announced to fans in a video on Twitter on Wednesday that she would be delaying the second leg of her “Unbreakable” world tour because she and her husband are focused on family planning.


A Message from Janet

A message from Janet…

A message from Janet…

Posted by Janet Jackson on Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Janet Jackson announces tour postponement to start a family

“I thought it was important that you be the first to know. My husband and I are planning our family, so I’m going to have to delay the tour,” she said with a smile. “Please, if you can try and understand that it’s important that I do this now. I have to rest up, doctor’s orders. But I have not forgotten about you. I will continue the tour as soon as I possibly can.”

There’s no word on how Jackson and her husband, 41-year-old Qatari billionaire Wissam Al Mana, hope to build a family, whether through natural means, fertility treatments, surrogacy or adoption.

If Jackson has or adopts a child, she would be following in the footsteps of other mothers, such as singer Sophie B. Hawkins, who already had a young son, and decided to have another baby at 50. She admitted her age made her think more than twice about the humongous and life-changing step.

“I went through waking up crying and saying, ‘Am I too old? Will I suddenly at 51 have my knees give out?’ ” Hawkins, who used a sperm donor and was implanted with her own frozen embryo, told People magazine in 2015.

“Now I don’t have any of those fears because I feel healthy and strong. I’m also setting up a good net of support, and that’s the key to anybody having a child.”

Jackson and Hawkins are part of a small but growing trend of women doing what was unthinkable only a few decades ago: becoming moms at 50 and beyond, according to a recent story in AARP The Magazine.

In 2013, an average of 13 children were born every week to mothers 50 years and older, the magazine reported. In 2012, women 50 and older had 600 babies, up from 144 births in 1997, based on numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And those numbers don’t take into account the women who become mothers through adoption or surrogacy, women like Deborah, who had a child “close to 50,” she says. She used a surrogate after she learned through in vitro fertilization that she could get pregnant but could not carry a child to term.

A few years later, Deborah, who wanted to use only her first name for this article, had another child after her surrogate offered to carry and deliver a second baby for her and her husband.

“That was the best decision we made, or she helped us make … because I do think that it’s a bit of a burden on an only child to have an older parent,” she said.

‘Sometimes they think I’m the grandma’

Deborah, now the mom of two girls 9 and 13, says she’s never felt judged or even singled out for her unconventional path. Part of the reason for that, she suggests, is that she’s raising her children in the New York area, where midlife mothering is fairly common.

“I think when my kids were little, like when I was in the nursery school crowd, I don’t even think I was the oldest parent,” she said. “I mean, if you go to other parts of the country, sometimes they think I’m the grandma.”

Cyma Shapiro, who adopted a child from Russia at 46 and another at 48 and has stepchildren who are 29 and 31, hasn’t gotten the “Are you the grandmother?” reaction. But she knows plenty of women, many of whom write for her blog, who have heard that and then some about their decision to enter motherhood in their late 40s, 50s and even 60s.

“They get … ‘Could you really have had this kid?’ and ‘Why did you adopt at such an old age?’ and ‘If you had him yourself, how did you get there?’ “

After DeAnna Scott, who had twins through surrogacy at 46, was featured in a newspaper article a few years ago, most of the comments were not exactly supportive, she said.

“A lot of feedback to that article was … ‘You people are selfish’ and ‘How could you do this?’ and I didn’t read the rest,” said Scott, a contract manager and photographer who lives in Ventura, California.

“Personally, I don’t think anyone around me would really have the guts to say that to me.”

Frieda Birnbaum of Saddle River, New Jersey, definitely heard it all after her decision to have twins at age 60 became front page news around the world. (She had a child at 53 and has two grown children, all with the same husband.)

“I wanted to have twins, they (said), to look younger, to make a movie or to write a book,” said Birnbaum, a research psychologist who appears regularly on nationally syndicated radio programs.

“I don’t think so. Taking progesterone shots is not really something that I would risk my life for a book for. … I did it because my husband wanted to try.”

No one ever questioned her husband about the decision; it’s part of the double standard that midlife mothers face, said Birnbaum.

“I was on a (radio) show with Rod Stewart, who just had a child … they didn’t speak about him having a child. It wasn’t a matter of discussion at all.” (Stewart’s seventh child was born when he was 60 and his eighth at 66.)

When 40-plus moms were front page news

Dr. Mark Sauer, vice chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, is one of the early pioneers of using in vitro fertilization with older women. When he published a study in 1990 in the New England Journal of Medicine about his work impregnating 40-year-old women, it became an international event, he says.

“It was a banner headline everywhere, and people thought, rightfully so by the way back in the context of that time, that these women were really old,” said Sauer, who’s also professor of obstetrics and gynecology and program director of the Center for Women’s Reproductive Care at the Columbia University Medical Center.

Twenty-five years later, Americans seem more comfortable with IVF in general and with women getting pregnant in their 40s, Sauer said. There are also signs, namely in the medical field, that people are growing more accustomed to women having children at 50 and older, he said.

He cites how some 30-year-old residents at the hospital sometimes don’t even mention deliveries overnight by women 50 and above in the morning reports, because “it’s so commonplace.”

“I’ve at times said, ‘Are you not going to say something about the 53-year-old?’ They’ll be like, ‘What do you want to know about her?’ “

The challenges to midlife mothering

Becoming a mother at 50 or older is certainly not a decision that most women approach lightly.

For women who want to get pregnant, they’ll probably need to rely on IVF and use egg donations, unless they froze embryos at a younger age. IVF with an egg donation could cost as much as $25,000 to $30,000 for a single attempt.

The older the woman, the greater the health risks of hypertension, diabetes and even death, medical experts say. There are also health risks to the child.

“What never gets picked up in these stories … is there’s a lot of women doing this stuff that doesn’t work for them. They don’t get pregnant, or they miscarry, or God forbid, they have a disabled child, and now they’re maybe 50, 55, and they’re got to deal with it.

“They have to be prepared for that,” Sauer said.

There are immense challenges for women who become mothers through adoption and surrogacy later in life, too.

Scott, the mother of twins who are 21 months old, said it wasn’t until her kids were born that she “started to get a little freaked out.”

“When you think about it, it’s like, I’m old, and I’m just going to get older as my kids get older, and when they graduate, they’re going to have old parents, and God forbid, I probably won’t live to see grandchildren.

“But I don’t know. It’s kind of like ‘eff it.’ “

Shapiro, the founder of Mothering in the Middle, said she hopes she and other women in their late 40s, 50s and 60s will continue to speak out candidly about the challenges of midlife motherhood — challenges they couldn’t even imagine, because they were the pioneers.

“None of us could have pre-supposed 10 years later what we would have felt like going through menopause. None of us could have really honestly understood what it meant physiologically, what it meant hormonally, how we would handle it, how we would handle younger children, how we would handle dying parents or aging parents. I mean, there are serious issues,” said Shapiro, who put together a traveling art gallery featuring mothers 40 and above, which went to 13 venues across Canada and the United States.

Shapiro says her message is not that women should reconsider becoming mothers later in the life, just that they should consider the experiences of women who have done it before deciding whether it’s the right path for them.

“I think we have a responsibility to be calling out the nature of the choices we made,” Shapiro said. “I mean, we have 10 years under our belt, a lot of us, or 15 years under our belt, so I think that’s our responsibility to other women to just sort of say, ‘OK, cool, just think about all of this, too.’ “

The benefits? Experience and support

There are plenty of upsides to becoming a mother later in life, women say. Topping the list is experience.

“I’ve gone through a lot of stuff, and I’ve come to parenthood bringing a completely different perspective than somebody that’s just starting out,” said Scott, the mother of twins born through surrogacy.

“I’ve been around. I’ve been around the block.”

Deborah, who also had her kids through surrogacy, said her friends who have been through motherhood have been a tremendous resource.

“If you have a close relationship with your friends, they are that much farther ahead of you, and so I’ve benefited from their advice,” she said. “My best friend that I grew up with, her son’s getting married … and I’m looking at high school.”

As for the children, most of the mothers I spoke with said their kids don’t think of them as ‘older’ parents. They think of them as parents.

“I think the thing my children feel is that they were so wanted and so loved,” Deborah said.

“It’s like a dream come true for us, so every day, I wake up and say, ‘I’m the luckiest person in the world,’ and I hope they feel that.”

What do you think about women becoming mothers in their 50s? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter or CNN Living on Facebook.

Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter. This is an update to a story first published in March 2015.

Michelle Obama to girls: ‘Push past those doubters’

— When Michelle Obama traveled to Cambodia last summer as part of her Let Girls Learn initiative, she had a message for any girls facing barriers to education: Move beyond the “doubters.”

It is something the first lady says she herself faced growing up. “There were some teachers that I ran into who doubted that a girl like me — a black girl from the south side of Chicago — should apply to Princeton or could get into Harvard,” Michelle Obama said during a recent panel discussion at the American Magazine Media Conference.

Those cultural barriers — whether they be from within girls’ own families or their communities or their countries, along with messages that girls are not smart enough or good enough to go to school — are part of the reason why 62 million girls worldwide don’t have access to education, a number the first lady is trying to dramatically reduce as part of Let Girls Learn, the program she and the President launched exactly one year ago.

“As I told those girls in Cambodia, our job is to push past those doubters and to find those caring adults that see the positive in us because they are out there,” she said. “Because for all the people that told me I couldn’t do it, I had parents who believed deeply in my ability to do whatever I wanted to do.”

Now in her final year as first lady, Obama is more than comfortable injecting the personal into her messaging, and firmly believes that by sharing her personal story, she can connect to young girls everywhere.

“When you’re the first lady or you’re an actress, you’re larger in life to many girls living in poor communities, living in urban cities, not just here in the United States, but around the world. You seem untouchable,” she said, on a panel along with actresses Julianne Moore and Lena Dunham, and moderated by Lesley Jane Seymour of More magazine.

“And for me, it is so important for kids, in particular, to understand that I am them, they are me.”

Consequences of barriers are ‘devastating’

A big component of Let Girls Learn is raising awareness about the plight of adolescent girls worldwide who are not able to attend and complete school, something the first lady did again Tuesday in connection with International Women’s Day.

“I’m passionate about this because I truly see myself in these girls — in their hunger, in their burning determination to rise above their circumstances and reach for something more. And I know that many of you do, too,” said Obama during a speech in Washington marking the first anniversary of Let Girls Learn.

The first lady also announced how dozens of companies have together donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the effort, and how others are creating products to raise awareness or promote Let Girls Learn in their advertisements. More than 40 countries have also signed on to become Peace Corps Let Girls Learn countries, which means Peace Corps volunteers in those countries will get additional training and support so they can become “agents of change” for girls’ education in their local communities, said Carrie Hessler-Radelet, director of the Peace Corps.

“Because they live and work in their communities of service, Peace Corps volunteers have close relationships with girls and their families as well as village leaders, teachers, school administrators and others,” said Hessler-Radelet during a conference call with reporters. “Working with these key stakeholders, volunteers help identify the specific local barriers to educating and empowering girls and the sustainable interventions needed to break down those barriers.”

The consequences of those barriers are “devastating,” Obama said, citing how girls who aren’t educated face higher rates of HIV, maternal mortality, infant mortality and higher birth rates. They also have lower wages, which impacts not just them, but their communities and their countries, and all of us, the first lady said, citing a study by the World Bank, which found that every year of secondary school education correlates with an 18% increase in a girls’ future earning potential.

That point was hammered home by my own 8-year-old daughter, unbeknownst to me, when she wrote an essay about why she thinks girls should get just as much education as boys.

“If you don’t get a good education, you can’t do a lot of things,” she wrote. “For instance, you can’t go to college or you can’t get a good job and make money for your family.” As someone who covers girl empowerment, I was blown away — and thrilled — that my daughter seems to have actually gotten the message, even at a such a young age.

If we have “more educated, empowered people in the world buying products and producing goods, and spending resources and traveling and learning — that’s going to impact our economy, as well,” the first lady said.

An unconventional media strategy

Obama has taken that message to unusual places, from sitting down with YouTube sensation Michelle Phan to being part of an episode on “Project Runway Junior.” Her unconventional media strategy — think dancing with Jimmy Fallon and rapping about college — is all part of a very well-thought effort on how to reach young people, she said.

“It’s simple: Who are we trying to get our message to? And oftentimes, we’re trying to talk to young people,” she said. “And as a mom living with two generation Zers, I think that’s what you all are called. You’re Zers — teens with an attitude. I’ve got two of them in my house,” she said to laughter in the audience. “They’re on their phones. They’re not watching the evening news. They’re not reading The New York Times. No offense, but they’re not. So we have to try to reach them where they are.”

The first lady said she’s just adapting to the changing times, and is convinced that if Eleanor Roosevelt were alive today, she would have a Twitter account, because that’s how people communicate today.

There might be different platforms for the “next first spouse” that they’ll need to use to communicate with the audiences they are trying to reach, she said, joking that the audience “caught” her use of the phrase “first spouse,” which would certainly apply if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency and her husband takes on the role that has always gone to a woman before him.

“I’m just being neutral, because, you know, the world is big and interesting,” she said.

Life after the White House

As for life beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the first lady said the issues of increasing access to girls’ education around the world and educating children in the United States — including encouraging them to go on to college — are issues that she plans to tackle for a very long time. “When we leave office in a year, as Barack and I say, we’ll still be young. We still got some life in us,” she said. “So we’re in the process of thinking through how do we best use the next phase, the next platform that we have to continue to impact the issues that we care about.”

She compares her post-White House life to her thoughts as she prepared to become first lady. People would ask her what her platform was going to be, she said. “I was like, ‘Really. I don’t even know what that platform is going to feel like, so I can’t answer that question.’ I don’t know what that role is going to be.”

She says she feels the same way about the next phase of her life and what she’s going to do. “I don’t know what it will feel like to be the former first lady and what power or voice I will have, and how to best use that effectively. I’ll know better when I’m there.”

What do you think is the best way to help girls learn? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv.

The acronyms teens really use on social media

— For the sake of this story, I’d like to invent a new acronym: IAVS, which means, “I am very sorry.”

The reason for the apology stems from a story I wrote last year, “28 Internet acronyms every parent should know.”

“Wouldn’t it be interesting to do a piece on the acronyms that teens are using across the Internet, especially on social media and apps, to help parents understand what, in fact, their kids are talking about?” I thought.

I consulted existing lists of Internet acronyms and talked with Internet safety experts. It seemed fine — until the story published and I received a wildly critical response on social media, often with language that I can’t include here.

My Twitter feed blew up with people saying I didn’t know what I was talking about and that teens weren’t using most of the acronyms on my list.

Here’s why I’m sorry: For that story, I never consulted with the true experts — teens, themselves.

I’m thankful to have a chance for a re-do, and this time I know we’ll get it right because our list comes straight from the social media posts of 13-year-olds around the country.

As part of a two-year investigation, #Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens, Anderson Cooper and his “AC360°” team connected with 200 eighth-graders at eight different schools around the United States. They, along with their parents and schools, gave CNN and two child-development experts permission to review what they were posting on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook over a six-month period.

The end result: 150,000 posts written by 13-year-olds. They speak volumes about how teens communicate and what impact social media has on their lives. (The CNN Special Report “#Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens” airs at 9 p.m. ET Monday. Watch to find out the results of the first large-scale study of its kind on teens and social media.)

So what better way to know what acronyms and other shorthand teens, or in this case, 13-year-olds, use on social media than to scan their posts? Here are some of the more popular acronyms and sayings, from the innocent to the racy.

  1. OOTD – Outfit of the day
  2. KOTD – Kicks of the day — Typically refers to sneakers
  3. HMU – Hit me up — Usually asking for someone’s Snapchat username, a phone number to text or for a direct message
  4. Smash – I would have sex with you — A girl might post a provocative picture and a boy might write “smash.”
  5. Cook session – When one or several teens gang up on another kid on social media
  6. TBH – To be honest — A teen might post a picture of himself or herself and ask for a TBH, usually looking for positive responses.
  7. TBR – To be rude — While TBH often leads to positive responses, TBR is usually followed by a negative response.
  8. OOMF – One of my followers — A secretive way to talk about one of their followers without saying their name, such as “OOMF was so hot today.”
  9. BAE – Baby — affectionate term for someone’s girlfriend, boyfriend etc.
  10. WCW – Woman Crush Wednesday — A girl will post a picture of another girl she thinks is pretty, while guys will post pictures of girls they think are hot.
  11. MCM – Man Crush Monday — Similar to Woman Crush Wednesday, but featuring pictures of men
  12. BMS – Broke my scale — A way to say they like the way someone looks
  13. RDH – Rate date hate — As in “rate me, would you date me, do you hate me?” A typical response might be “rate 10 date yes hate no” or “10/y/n.”
  14. IDK – I don’t know
  15. RN – Right now
  16. KIK – Another social media app, Kik, that they want to communicate on
  17. FML – F* my life
  18. AF – As f* — A teen might tweet “mad af” or “you seem chill af.”
  19. LMAO – Laughing my ass off
  20. S/O or SO – Shout out
  21. ILYSM – I like you so much or I love you so much
  22. CWD – Comment when done — Similar to TBH, urging others to comment on their photo of whatever they’re posting
  23. LOL – Laugh out loud — Yes, you’ll still find teens using LOL and OMG.

What are some of the other acronyms or sayings teens are using on social media? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv or CNN Parents on Facebook.

Does sports participation deserve a trophy? Let the parental debate begin!

— Whoa, who knew the debate over participation trophies — those awards children get just for showing up and playing sports — would strike such a chord?

After NFL linebacker James Harrison took to Instagram this weekend, announcing he would be sending back the trophies his sons, 6 and 8, received “until they earn a real trophy,” parents on social media responded in droves, with the majority applauding Harrison, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

CNN Video

Do kids deserve trophies just for participating?

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison took away his two sons’ “participation trophies.” He says kids shouldn’t get awards just for showing up. CNN’s Kelly Wallace reports.

Former NFL Super Bowl champ Kurt Warner, on Twitter, stood fully with Harrison. “They don’t let kids pass classes 4 just showing up,” Warner wrote.

On the other side are parents such as Whit Honea, a father of two sons, 9 and 12, who participate in sports, and author of “The Parents’ Phrase Book: Hundreds of Easy, Useful Phrases, Scripts, and Techniques for Every Situation.”

While Honea, who has also coached sports, doesn’t believe trophies are necessary, he does believe they reward effort, not the final outcome.

“The idea of a participatory trophy is not to make everyone a winner, but to acknowledge that the child put time and effort forward and to provide a memento of the experience,” said Honea on Facebook.

“Having a child return the trophy compounds the idea that only being the best is good enough when in fact giving one’s best should have that mantle.”

My girls, 7 and 9, get a trophy at the end of every soccer season. The impromptu ceremony includes a cheer for the effort of each gal on the team and then each parent trying to get a quick photo of his or her child before the kids go off and play.

What could possibly be wrong with celebrating my girls’ effort as long as we, as parents, aren’t holding them back from making mistakes and learning from disappointments, such as losing a key game or missing a goal?

Dangers of an ‘everyone gets a trophy’ culture?

Ashley Merryman, co-author of “Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing,” says there are many reasons to be concerned about the “everyone gets a trophy no matter what” culture.

“The idea was if we give kids trophies, if we tell them they’re wonderful, if we tell them they’re special, they’ll sort of develop a sense of fearlessness and then they’ll actually be more willing to do difficult things, and actually we now have about 20 years of research that shows that’s not true,” said Merryman.

“That if you tell a kid they’re wonderful and they believe you, then it just confirms their belief and that’s not about healthy self-esteem, that’s about narcissism.”

In fact, a study earlier this year found that children whose parents overvalued them were more likely to develop narcissistic traits, such as superiority and entitlement — two qualities that aren’t necessarily going to benefit our kids when the going gets rough.

Another concern about participation trophies, said Merryman, who wrote a New York Times op-ed “Losing is Good for You,” is that they don’t give our kids room to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

“It’s fine to say … ‘You didn’t go to all of the games. You didn’t practice soccer. The other kid worked really hard and he did really well and he deserves a trophy and you should go over and congratulate him.’ That’s a hard lesson, but it’s an important lesson,” she said.

“So I would rather have kids realize that there are no stakes and they can make mistakes and move on then have them find out the first time in their lives, when they are in their teens and 20s, that not everyone is going to give them a trophy.”

The business of participation trophies

I’ve certainly reported on how so-called helicopter parenting can lead our kids to be less confident and more troubled adults. And the rise in participation trophies is no doubt somewhat connected to our modern and sometimes overinvolved parenting style.

Hilary Levey Friedman, author of “Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture,” said there are many parents who want these participation trophies and that the people who run the camps and classes need to provide them to keep their businesses going.

“In most cases, this is going to go in the opposite direction. Someone is going to say, ‘Why didn’t my child get a trophy?’ and they don’t want the kids to be upset, they want people to come back … and so it just sort of becomes part of what’s expected,” said Levey Friedman, a professor of American Studies at Brown University.

After interviews with 37 children for her book, she found kids to be “super savvy” when it comes to their trophies, including what they got them for and why.

“I had one child who would say to me about several of them. ‘Well, I kind of purposely played in this easier one because I knew I would win and now I don’t really count that as a real victory because I went in and I knew it was below my level,’ ” said Levey Friedman.

“And so kids know. They definitely know and so that’s a dangerous thing to just think, ‘Oh, you are going to get something all the time and everybody has to be a winner’ because then how do you exist later on in life?”

But I keep thinking about my girls: they don’t play soccer because they get a trophy. They play because they love the sport. And the trophy pretty much just gathers dust on their shelves. The real thing they care about is the game itself, which is where we, as a family, like to keep the focus, on the effort they put in and how it felt afterward.

Putting participation trophies in perspective

Mark Hyman, whose books include “Until It Hurts: America’s Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids,” said there are many reasons to be concerned about the future of youth sports, citing a 70% drop-out rate for children in organized sports by 13, concussions in youth football, lacrosse and soccer, and the high cost and professionalization of sports.

“And 6-year-old children getting participation trophies to me is not a problem that deserves a lot of our attention or concern,” said Hyman, who is also author of “The Most Expensive Game in Town: The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today’s Families.”

Merryman, the co-author of “Top Dog,” said she doesn’t see it as an “either/or conversation” and believes parents’ strong feelings about participation trophies can perhaps lead to more conversations about youth sports in general, including how many sports kids are playing and the mental and physical impact of today’s sports culture on our kids.

All sides would agree that what parents should be seeking from youth sports is for kids to become passionate about playing sports, to be active and spend time with their friends. Sports should not be seen as a “career path to the Steelers or Harvard Law School or to the White House,” said Hyman, who is also an assistant teaching professor of management for the George Washington University Sports Management Program.

When you view sports as just a healthy part of growing up, there’s nothing really threatening about a 6-year-old getting a trophy, he added.

“I don’t know anyone who is successful in life or has been unsuccessful in life who has been in some ways set back by having received a participation trophy as a 6-year-old,” he said. “I have a feeling that Jon Stewart got participation trophies, Barack Obama got participation trophies. It just doesn’t add up to me that this is some big developmental obstacle for children.”

Ashley Merryman and Hilary Levey Friedman answered questions on the effect of participation trophies on kids — and what to propose instead — on the CNN Parents Facebook page. What do you think? Do you think participation trophies are harmless or bad for children? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv or CNN Parents on Facebook.

VIDEO: Is it ever OK to snoop on your partner?

— Here’s a scenario to consider: Your partner leaves his cell phone on the dining room table. His texts and emails can be easily accessed with just the touch of a fingertip. Would you look? Have you ever looked?

CNN Video

Is it ever OK to snoop on your partner?

If you said yes, you are definitely not alone.

In a 2013 study conducted in the United Kingdom and reported in The Telegraph, 34% of women admitted they had looked through the cell phone of a partner or ex-partner without their knowledge.

But before women start feeling guilty about those stats, take a look at the findings for men.

Nearly twice as many men, 62%, admitted doing the very same thing, according to the study of 2,081 adults in the UK who were in a relationship at the time.

The study also found that the stakes of this unapproved snooping could be huge. Nearly a third, 31% of people surveyed, said they would consider terminating the relationship if they learned their partner had been looking over their texts, emails and social media messages on their cell phone without their consent.

Snooping is ‘last straw’ for some

Micky, a mom of two, said that snooping was the “last straw” in a long line of events that led to the end of her first marriage.

Her first husband, she said, never trusted her. “Ultimately, the marriage ended after a big blowup when he confronted me about some remarks to a friend in a private email, revealing that he’d been snooping on me,” Micky said. (We are not using her last name or the last names of other women and men in the story because of the sensitive nature of the topic.)

Much to her disappointment, Micky said, early on in her relationship with her second husband — her then-boyfriend — she read some of his Skype text conversations.

“It was a huge mistake,” she said, adding that she eventually confronted her partner about what she read. “He explained the conversation but was really disappointed in my snooping since it revealed a mistrust on my part. I was so embarrassed and ashamed I had done that.”

Laurie, also a mom of two, said she approached the issue a whole lot differently 10 years ago than she would today.

Back then, she said, she snooped “numerous times,” checking her partners’ emails and even getting into their accounts on various dating websites because she thought they were cheating on her.

Today, she said, she wouldn’t do it.

“Snooping says not only are you insecure, but you also do not have a trusting relationship,” Laurie said. “This is not the type of relationship I would choose to be a part of.”

If partners in a relationship have to snoop on one another, then there is a problem in the relationship, said Janeane, a mother of four who said she has never snooped on her husband.

“A relationship without trust is worthless,” she said. “If you want to know something, ask.”

David, a married father of two, said that if a girlfriend snooped on him during his dating years, that relationship would probably end very quickly.

“Confidence is my aphrodisiac,” he said. “I don’t like drama in my life, and an insecure girlfriend wouldn’t make the cut.”

Are there cases where it’s OK to snoop?

Julie Holland, a New York psychiatrist and author of “Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having and What’s Really Making You Crazy,” says communication is key.

“My advice (to patients) is always that you need to talk more with your partner and not less,” she said. Plus, she says, people probably won’t get to the bottom of anything by snooping, because partners could always have other email accounts or could have deleted texts and emails.

“You’re not necessarily going to find what you’re looking for, but you’re certainly opening a can of worms in terms of trust and intimacy issues.”

But are there ever times where it’s OK or necessary?

“If your gut is telling you that something is wrong and you’ve had that moment where you talk about it, and then you still are not satisfied with the answer,” it might be OK to investigate some more, said Leslie Yazel, executive editor of Cosmopolitan.

She pointed to cases, reported in her magazine, in which young women found out that a boyfriend was a drug abuser or a sex addict by looking at their phone or finding a second phone in the house.

“And these girls were able to get out of really bad situations,” Yazel said, conceding that these examples were on the extreme side.

Diane, who is married with no kids, said that if and only if she had reason to believe her husband were engaged in “illegal or immoral conduct” would she feel an obligation to investigate.

But beyond that, she said, snooping shows a lack of trust, personal insecurity and a “complete disregard for the person’s right to privacy.”

She also brought up the unintended consequences.

A friend of hers looked at her husband’s emails and found he had been having an online flirtation with a former girlfriend, someone he had known years before he met his wife, she said.

“There was nothing going on. It was a midlife crisis, and it was over before she found out, but it nearly destroyed a 28-year marriage.”

To some, checking emails/texts isn’t ‘snooping’

Kitty, who is not married, says that in relationships, she and her partner have an understanding that they are always free to read each other’s emails and texts.

“What I do in relationships, I don’t necessarily refer to as ‘snooping,’ as that would imply that I am sneaking to do it,” she said. “If we are operating separately, that means we are not in a monogamous relationship.

“Have I read my partners’ emails and texts? Yes, and they were fully aware I did so. But on the other hand, they were free to read mine,” she said.

A mom of two, who didn’t want to even use her first name, admitted snooping very early on in her relationship with her now-husband.

“I did it in the beginning of my relationship because I did not trust him (or any men for that matter),” she said.

Ultimately, she found out he was not only trustworthy but also a “little boring,” she said. “No porn, no gambling. He was all about work.”

While she said she is not proud of what she did and would never admit it to her husband, she doesn’t regret it.

“Not sure how long it would have taken me to trust him so completely if I didn’t snoop.”

Do you think it’s OK to ever snoop on your partner? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv or CNN Parents on Facebook.

Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

Unlocking ‘The Woman Code:’ 4 tips to know your value

— There’s been plenty of talk of late — welcome discussion in my humble opinion — about equal pay for equal work.

Academy Award winner Patricia Arquette sparked an online conversation and debate following her call for pay equality after accepting the award for best supporting actress at this year’s Oscars.

There is something all women can do no matter their income level or background -- and it's something that could dramatically alter the course of their lives, according to bestselling new book

(Photo: Courtesy Revell Publishing)

There is something all women can do no matter their income level or background — and it’s something that could dramatically alter the course of their lives, according to bestselling new book “The Woman Code.”

And, earlier this month, the embattled and now ex co-chair of Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal, whipped up another firestorm by putting the onus on women. If women want to eliminate pay disparities in Hollywood, they need to demand more money.

“What women have to do is not work for less money,” she said, according to CNN Money. “They have to walk away.”

That is certainly easier said than done for most women in America, who can’t afford to turn their backs on their jobs when they are helping to support families or doing it all on their own. But there is something all women can do no matter their income level or background — and it’s something that could dramatically alter the course of their lives, according to bestselling new book “The Woman Code.”

Author Sophia Nelson — a motivational speaker, lawyer and former White House reporter who has more energy pulsing from her petite frame than most of us could ever imagine — says before any woman can push for a raise or a promotion, she’s got to put her attention on one and only one person: herself.

“You’ve got to love you,” said Nelson during a recent chat at CNN’s studios. “You’ve got to like you and so many of us in the 21st century do not as women like and value ourselves.”

It may sound too simplistic to you or more psychobabble than actionable advice, but think about it. Why have books like “The Confidence Code,” about how women lack the same confidence as men, struck such a chord; or ads such as #LikeAGirl, about how our girls lose confidence post-puberty, gone viral and been prominently featured during the Super Bowl?

For a host of reasons, many women grow up not truly appreciating what we can do and what we can be, says Nelson, whose book is broken down into 20 different codes or keys that can help women “unlock” their true potential.

Code number one, she says, is for women to know their own value, and we’re talking value beyond what they earn or believe they should earn.

Tip No. 1: Your past does not define you

“So many women are defined by hurts that happened to them, the family they grew up in,” said Nelson, “and they never really move past the definitions that their families gave them.”

We’ve got these tapes that we play in our heads, she says. So, if you were constantly told supportive things, such as “you can do anything,” which I heard at home and at school, that can push you to overcome challenges.

But, if you were repeatedly told negative things, such as “you are too shy, not ambitious enough, not good enough,” those words can stay with you — but only if you let them, says Nelson, who frequently appears on television and radio as a political and cultural commentator.

“If you were given negative tapes, you have to make peace with that,” she said. “And you have to decide I’m not going to be defined by that. I’m going to be the definer of me. And that’s what I really want women to get out of this. Everything you need to win at life is inside of you. It’s already there. Greatness is there so it doesn’t matter how you start. It matters how you finish.”

Love. That. Quote.

Tip No. 2: Teach people how to treat you

Another key to knowing your value, says Nelson, is teaching people how to treat you.

“If you don’t speak up for yourself, no one else ever will,” she said.

“That code was hard for me because when somebody does something not nice to us … we’re thinking ‘Well, they’re a jerk,’ but guess what? If you didn’t raise your voice, if you didn’t say that wasn’t acceptable, people are going to treat you any old way.”

Good advice, but not the easiest to execute, I said, especially when women who speak up are too often called the b-word or receive the “Who does she think she is?” reaction.

“That’s exactly true,” said Nelson. “However, if we want to shift it for your daughter, my nieces, the younger women coming up, then that means we have to do a culture shift. And part of living by a code and knowing your value and teaching people how to treat you is you establish a boundary.

“You are not a ‘B’ because you say that wasn’t polite or I didn’t like it; you are asserting yourself. Men do it all the time. And I think when we teach our sons and our nephews and the men in our lives that it’s OK for us to assert ourselves … we’re being a human being. We are saying what we don’t like. We have to make it OK for women and girls to speak up.”

Tip No. 3: Being accountable for yourself

We are too often taught to put everyone else before us, says Nelson: kids, husband, partner, job, you name it. I, for one, am guilty of that, and I bet many of you reading this are in the same category. But we end up not only hurting ourselves by this approach; we hurt everything around us as well.

“When you are accountable for you, you say if I’m a happy me, if I’m making good choices, if I’m taking care of me, everybody else is going to benefit from that.”

Tip No. 4: Guarding your heart

Being accountable for you and taking care of your needs doesn’t mean you become your own island. It means you find a way to put your priorities near the top of the list. It also means you guard your own heart, says Nelson.

“Guarding your heart doesn’t mean gating your heart,” she said. “It means when you get hurt, you’re resilient. You get back up. You love again. It means you choose the right people, not the wrong people. And when you come across the wrong people, you honor you, and say, ‘Now wait a minute.’ “

It means letting go of the toxic personal and professional relationships and knowing when it’s time to move on from a job, make a career change or choose a new personal path.

“Everything you need to win is inside you. You just got to push it out.”

I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions but I did start 2015 with a motto: Let’s do this thing. It means seize the moment, go for what you want, take chances, take risks.

I was reminded of that as I read “The Woman Code.”

Let’s do this thing, women. Let’s do it now.

Do you feel the issue of “knowing your value” has ever held you back in your personal or professional lives? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter or CNN Living on Facebook.