The year in baby sleep schedules

Continuing the theme of “first year of parenting in review,” I thought I’d share how Little Boy’s sleep habits developed over that time.  As far as I can tell, the timing of his nap transitions (going from all-over-the-place naps to 4 naps to 3 to 2) were pretty normal, but his sleep needs are a little higher than average overall (e.g., he’ll nap for two hours where a typical kid might only sleep for 90 minutes).

0–2 days: Hospital

Little Boy slept about as well as can be expected for someone who has been suddenly introduced to the world.  His mother, on the other hand, woke herself up every 20 minutes to make sure that he was still breathing.  (Also, she was rather uncomfortable—did you know that C-section pain can refer up to your shoulder?—and a bajillion hospital staff kept dropping in, but that’s another story.)

2 days–2 weeks: Establishing Breastfeeding

The hospital sent us home with instructions to feed Little Boy at least every 3–4 hours, even if that meant waking him up at night.

We’d initially planned to have him sleep in a bedside “co-sleeper” bassinet, but it turns out that (a) newborns are noisy, and (b) it’s not so easy to just reach over and pick up your baby when you’re recovering from a C-section.  So we moved the bassinet out to the living room and took shifts getting a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

2–3 weeks: Honeymoon Period

Little Boy was solidly above his birth weight at his two-week appointment, so we got our pediatrician’s blessing to let him sleep as long as he wanted at night.  Hooray!  He actually slept for a 6-hour stretch one night, which was amazing.

We knew it wouldn’t last, and it didn’t.  Little Boy’s interest in falling and staying asleep declined rapidly.

3–5 weeks: Honeymoon Period, Part 2

Swaddle and swing to the rescue!  For a roughly week-long period of time, we had it figured out again.  Little Boy’s routine looked like this: wake up, diaper change, eat, fall asleep eating, get Velcroed into a swaddle burrito, lie in baby swing, sleep.  And he’d sleep for 3 or 4 hours at a time.  I actually got kind of worried that he wasn’t eating enough, since he was only asking for food 4–5 times a day, and here were all of these baby care resources telling me that 8–12 times a day was normal.  But he’d nurse for an hour at a time when he did eat, so I guess it all evened out.

In retrospect, I should’ve maybe tried waking him up for regular meals during the day, to help him differentiate between day and night.  At the time, however, we were so grateful for any extended stretch of sleep that we took what we could get.

5–6 weeks: Hell Week(s)

The 6-week fussiness peak is notorious among parents, and Little Boy embraced it with gusto.  Life was starting to get interesting, too interesting.  There were little birds on his swing!  A Mommy and Daddy to smile at!  He was no longer in his own little world, but he couldn’t quite process the rest of the world yet.  The result was a cranky baby who did not sleep.

Baby sleep cycles are 45 minutes long at this age, so that’s how long naps lasted.  Sometimes it was because he was hungry, but usually it was because his little brain couldn’t transition to the next sleep cycle even though he was tired and wanted to keep sleeping.  My own brain practically lost the ability to fall asleep at all for a while.

If you’re a parent going through Hell Week,

1.  I’m sure you’ve tried everything already, but here are some tips that might help.

2.  Feel free to smack anyone who tells you to “enjoy every moment.”

6–9 weeks: Night Sleep Started Developing

Things started to slowly settle down after the 6-week bump.  By 8 weeks old, Little Boy was consistently falling asleep for the night around 10 or 11 p.m. and staying asleep until he got hungry around 3 or 4 a.m.  Somewhere in this time frame is when we introduced a regular bedtime routine.  Nights went roughly like this:

8:30 p.m. (ish, depending on when he last ate) — bath, PJs, nurse

10. p.m. or so — Little Boy falls asleep in his swing

3/4 a.m. — nurse

next few hours — Little Boy maybe sleeps, maybe fidgets and grunts a lot

6:30 or 7 a.m. (ish) — he wakes up for the day

Naps were still chaotic and unpredictable.  For the most part, Little Boy fell asleep nursing and would sleep for either 45 minutes or several hours, but rarely for a time period in-between.

9–13 weeks: Moved Towards a 4-Nap Routine

“Schedule” is still much too strong a word at this point.  We had noticed that Little Boy was hungry for 4 or 5 meals during the day (plus his night feeding), so we encouraged a routine that had him eating 5 times between about 7 a.m. in the morning and 8:30 p.m. or so at night.  He was no longer regularly falling asleep while nursing, so he’d wake up, eat, hang out awake for a bit, then take a nap.

In a perfect world, he would’ve slept until he got hungry again, but we were still plagued by the 45-Minute Nap Monster.  A 45-minute lap left Little Boy grouchy and still tired, but not particularly interested in eating again just yet.

We flipped his bedtime routine from bath, nurse, bed to nurse, bath, bed (and added a story and song before bed).  His longest night shift stretched until 4 or 5 a.m., which would have been great if he had gone back to sleep easily after that wee-hours feeding.  Fortunately, by 12 weeks old, he was starting to occasionally skip night feedings completely.

The worst part, however, was that he began to seriously fight bedtime.  It took increasingly-longer periods of swinging, rocking, singing, and nursing to relax him enough to fall asleep, after which we had to wait anxiously for the 45-minute mark to see if he’d stay asleep.

3–4.5 months: Long Morning Nap Developed

When Little Boy was 3 months old, we implemented two things: (1) sleep training, and (2) a consistent morning wake-up time.  The latter made the timing of our daytime routines much more predictable, and the former made all three of us much happier at bedtime.  A typical day looked something like this:

7 a.m. — wake up; nurse

8:30 a.m. — down for nap #1

10:30 a.m. or so (depending on length of nap #1) — nurse

around noon — down for nap #2

2 p.m — nurse

3:30 p.m. — down for nap #3

5 p.m. — nurse

6:30 p.m. — down for nap #4 (always only 45 minutes)

8 p.m. — nurse & start bedtime routine

Nap times were not exact—sometimes Little Boy got tired after 90 minutes of awake time, sometimes it took a bit longer.  Nap #1 settled into a solid 2+ hour nap, but naps #2–3 varied, and nap #4 was always short.

Little Boy dropped his last night feeding not long after his 3-month birthday, although he did continue waking up around 5 a.m. for a while.  He would talk loudly but pleasantly to himself for a bit, then fall back asleep.

4.5–8 months: 3-Nap Schedule

By about 4.5 months old, Little Boy could happily stay awake for about 2 hours between naps, and he was consistently making it over the 45-minute hump in nap #2.  His schedule finally became quite regular from day-to-day:

7 a.m. — wake up; nurse

9 a.m. — down for nap #1 (2 hours)

11 a.m. — wake up; nurse

1 p.m. — down for nap #2 (2 hours)

3 p.m. — wake up; nurse

5 p.m. — down for nap #3 (45 minutes)

5:45 p.m. — wake up; nurse

7 p.m. — nurse & start bedtime routine

When we introduced solid foods, those became an evening meal that eventually replaced the 5:45 p.m. nursing session.

8–12 months: 2-nap schedule

Between 7 and 8 months old, nap #3 dropped out of the picture.  Little Boy was staying up a bit longer before nap #2, and he just didn’t need the additional sleep anymore.  So for the last four months, our days have looked like this:

7 a.m. — wake up; nurse

9 a.m. — down for nap #1 (90 minutes–2 hours)

11 a.m. — wake up; nurse

noon — lunch

1:30 p.m. — down for nap #2 (90 minutes)

3 p.m. — wake up; nurse

5/5:30 p.m. — dinner

6:30 p.m. — nurse & start bedtime routine

(This is for days when he’s at home.  He naps for 30-40 minutes max total at daycare, then crashes on the car ride home.)

Right now, at 12 months, we’re starting to see signs that a transition to just 1 nap is headed our way: Little Boy has started fighting his afternoon nap on a semi-regular basis.  Of course, he’s also just learned how to pull himself to a sitting position in his crib (which is new and exciting and therefore preempts going to sleep!), and has been fighting a series of colds.  Today’s afternoon nap took place in the arms of Daddy and Mommy, because our poor little sick dude just couldn’t get comfortable on his own.

TL;DR—As soon as you think you’ve got your kid’s sleep habits figured out, they change.  Especially in the first four months. 

Parents, were your babies easy sleepers, little terrors, or something in-between?  What did you find to be the hardest age when it came to sleep?

Don’t be like this obnoxious breastfeeding advocate

On Friday, I came across science journalist Tara Haelle’s latest piece in Forbes, titled “How Toxic Is Your Breastmilk?”  The headline is pure clickbait, but the article itself is a well-written discussion of a recent medical study.  Breastfeeding mothers need not worry: the “toxin” in question has no known major effects on humans, and the study was conducted on a small, isolated population and may not be widely applicable.

Besides the well-researched reporting, what I really liked about this piece was its overall attitude toward breastfeeding, namely, that it’s good and has known healthy benefits, but it won’t make your child into Superman or Wonder Woman.  The article starts with this:

Contrary to popular belief in some circles, breastmilk is not the pure and magical serum of the Earth goddess which ensures an eternal life of prosperity and good health to all who partake. That’s unicorn milk — it doesn’t exist.

And ends by affirming:

The real take-away, it would seem, is that there is no perfect, “right” way to feed a baby. […] But breastfed and formula-fed children all across the world are all leading happy, productive lives. So carry on. Feed your baby.

Absolutely.  Ab-so-fricking-lutely.  I want to write this on a sign and shout it from the rooftops.

I’ve written before about how the media and zealous breastfeeding advocates tend to over-exaggerate the benefits of breast milk.  It was so nice to see a balanced, positive take on this frequently guilt-inducing issue that I shared the article, first on Twitter (where I am pseudonymous), and then on Facebook (where I am not).

“Don’t panic, your breast milk is probably fine,” my Facebook post began, followed by a brief note about the way the advantages of breastfeeding tend to be over-hyped.  The first few comments I received were normal conversational stuff.  Some friends and I commiserated about how the study referenced in the article was woefully limited, yet the article itself described it well.

Then stuff got weird.

Specifically, a trio of my husband’s relatives started commenting, led by a woman I’ll call J.  All three of them work in health care.  J is the mother of a toddler, whom she breastfed throughout his infancy.  Like many women, she struggled with latch and other issues early on.

J et al. COULD NOT DEAL with the idea that breast milk might be anything less than 100% perfect baby food for 100% of children.  Over the course of a number of comments, they took it upon themselves to inform me that:

Breast milk contains hundreds of compounds that we don’t know how to synthesize and so aren’t in formula.

Yeah, I know, that was the third slide in breastfeeding class.

Breast milk transfers mom’s antibodies to baby, so baby is less likely to get sick.

Uh-huh, that was mentioned in the article, and, you know, everywhere else.

Breast milk has evolved to be the perfect nutrition for babies. 

OK, but you realize this article was about man-made contaminants, right?

The article and specifically my “Don’t panic, your breast milk is probably fine” comment are “scaremongering.”

I see where you’re coming from on the article title, but are we working off of different definitions of “don’t panic”?

Breastfeeding reduces postpartum depression because it promotes “connection and bonding.”

Wait, are you trying to imply that mothers who bottle-feed have trouble bonding with their babies?  The research is also more complicated than that: if you try to breastfeed but fail, your risk for postpartum depression is much higher than if you formula-feed from birth.

The man-made chemicals in formula and the potentially-contaminated water it’s mixed with are way more risky.

I’m not sure the best response to “don’t freak out about chemicals” is “freak out way more about these OTHER chemicals.”  Also, everyone involved in this conversation lives in developed countries with safe water supplies…

Also, opened cans of formula can be contaminated with bacteria.

Uh, guys, you’re turning this into a hate-on-formula party and I’m not OK with that.

And parents mess up formula mixing all the time.

I’m starting to really not be OK with this conversation.

They are offended by the last paragraph of the article.

Uh, you mean the paragraph that says formula-fed children are leading happy and productive lives and feeding your baby is the most important thing? Um…

This article and/or study might’ve been funded by formula companies.

(Actually, they wouldn’t come right out and accuse the study of this, but just kept trying to passive-aggressively imply it.)

Mothers who “can but won’t” breastfeed are “selfish.”

Oh.  No.  You.  Didn’t.  You did NOT just say that.

Did I mention that J not only works in health care, she cares for newborn babies in the hospital?  That’s right, she’s looking after infants while judging the snot out of how their mothers choose to feed them.

Needless to say, the rest of the conversation did not go well.  I did learn what had set J off so intensely, though.  In the course of an increasingly angry back-and-forth, she brought up her own struggles with breastfeeding, telling me that she found it “very insulting” to be told that she “could have saved all that trouble and just formula fed him and he would be just as well off.”

Way to insult everyone who’s ever given their baby formula, J.  Good on you for persevering, but you do not get to make yourself a martyr and decide that everyone who makes different choices is “selfish.”  Because you know what?  Formula-fed babies ARE perfectly fine.  Sibling studies show that pretty clearly.

So yeah, it’s been an emotionally exhausting weekend.

Lessons from my baby: Sometimes, you have to fall on your face

Little Boy currently has a small bruise on his cheekbone, the result of face-planting on a wooden puzzle piece while trying to reach for another toy.  At eleven months old, he remains steadfastly opposed to any tummy-down activities, but has begun to notice that there are interesting things just out of his reach.  His approach to acquiring these objects from a sitting position is to lean as far forward as he possibly can, which, it turns out, is pretty far.  He’s started to realize that he can stretch a little bit farther if he tucks his legs around rather than leaving them stuck out in front.  Eventually—hopefully—these efforts will put him on his hands and knees.

However, he hasn’t quite figured that last part out yet.  Sometimes, when he reaches extra hard for that toy, he loses his balance and tips forward onto his head, whereupon he promptly rolls onto his back and starts loudly complaining about the indignity of it all.

I can’t stop him from falling, much as I want to.  I can make sure he’s falling on carpet and mostly avoiding wooden puzzle pieces, and I can offer tickles and hugs as needed after he falls.  But I can’t teach him to crawl perfectly.  I can encourage and demonstrate, but in the end it’s something he has to figure out for himself, falls and all.

I need to keep this point in mind for my adult life.  I’m used to staying on safe ground, keeping in balance, reading all the rules before I start—generally wearing metaphorical padded cushions.

But sometimes, the only way to learn is to try repeatedly, fail repeatedly, and keep trying.

Sometimes, you have to fall on your face.

My baby has a smartphone?!?

My husband bought our Little Boy a smartphone.

OK, it’s not a real phone.  It’s a toy.  It has a panel of touch-screen-like buttons and lots of flashing lights and music.  Touch the weather “app,” and it will tell you that it’s sunny.  Click on the “camera,” and the phone cheerily instructs you to “say cheese!” Basically, it’s the kind of toy that’s going to be awesomely obnoxious on long car rides.

My baby's "smartphone."

I haven’t even figured out what all the buttons do yet.

I had a wide range of reactions to the arrival of this toy in my house.  This is roughly how my thought process went:

What?  Little Boy doesn’t need any kind of smartphone—he’s not even a year old!

OK, calm down.  You had a toy phone when you were a baby.  (It was one of those classic Fisher Price rotary-dial phones on wheels—remember those?  They’re still making them, although they’ve changed the design a little.)  This is just what phones look like nowadays.

But… I don’t want Little Boy thinking that smartphones make good toys.  Or wanting one of his own.

Let’s face it, a toy phone is going to be the least of your worries in that regard.

Fair point.

Little Boy is going to grow up in a world of hyper-connectivity.  He’ll see his father texting on his phone, his mother on browsing on her iPad, and his friends watching movies in the car on their tablets.  There’s no way he’s not going to want a smartphone / smart watch / smart pair of glasses /  implantable chip / whatever is popular in 5–10 years.  And he’s almost certainly going to want it long before we think he’s old enough.

As a generation, we’re forging new parenting ground here, and it’s a little nerve-wracking.  I mean, all of parenthood is about making stuff up as you go along.  But at least with something like newborn care, you can take comfort in the knowledge that humanity has been doing this for thousands of years.  Innumerable generations of mothers and fathers have managed to keep their babies alive without massively screwing them up in the process.  We have no cultural history for managing our toddlers’ web use.

I got my first email account when I was in middle school.  My parents never demanded to know my password or read my messages, mostly because I was a goody two-shoes, but also because I was old enough to understand that there were some things I just shouldn’t click on.  It was also incredibly easy for them to monitor the time I spent online—this was back in the days when you had to yell a warning at the whole household every time you dialed up.  “NOBODY PICK UP THE PHONE, I’M GONNA GO CHECK MY EMAIL.”

Consequently, I can’t draw on my childhood experience when it comes to Internet connectivity.  We are really going to be making this one up as we go.  I guess I better start reading up on parental control settings.

Readers, at what age did you start using the Internet regularly?  What are your thoughts and experiences on giving kids access to cell phones and the Internet?  Does your child have a musical smartphone toy?

The ten-month-old’s guide to eating Cheerios

The Ten-Month-Old’s Guide to Eating Cheerios, brought to you by Little Boy.

1.  Emphatically announce that you are hungry.  (“Ma-ma-ma” means “give this hungry baby some food,” right?)

2.  Grudgingly allow yourself to be strapped into your high chair.

3.  Act noncommittal when your parent produces the Cheerios box and puts some on your tray.

4.  Excitedly bang your high chair tray with both hands, ensuring that Cheerios are evenly distributed.

5.  Carefully pick up a single Cheerio with two fingers of one hand.  Examine it closely.

6.  Poke Cheerio intently with the index finger of your other hand.

7.  Continue examining Cheerio from multiple angles.  Hold it at arm’s length as though orating a great speech.  Take your time.

8.  Attempt to put Cheerio in mouth.  If unsuccessful, go back to step 5.

9.  Repeat steps 5-8 with remaining Cheerios on tray.

10.  Indicate that you are still hungry, causing a parent to put more Cheerios on your high chair tray.

11.  Carefully pick up another single Cheerio.

12.  Slowly and deliberately, stretch your arm out to the side and drop Cheerio on the floor.

13.  Repeat steps 11-12 until stopped by parental intervention.

My husband is an equal co-parent

(This Father’s Day post is a day late because I spent Father’s Day hanging out with three generations of dads and ran out of time to finish writing.  Priorities, what can I say?)

In honor of all the dads out there this Father’s Day, especially the dads in my life, I want to talk about giving dads more credit.  I’m torn about using that phrase, “giving them credit,” because on the one hand, dads already get a lot of credit.  Watches his kids for an afternoon?  Wow, what an awesome dad!  Looking for a job to support his family?  He’ll be extra dedicated, let’s hire him. (This is a real effect.)

But we give fathers almost no credit at all when it comes to one very important thing: taking care of their children.  How often do television commercials play up the bumbling dad, baffled by the thought of changing a single diaper, whose incompetence leaves the household in a mass of confusion and chaos?  How many jokes rely solely on the punchline “ha ha ha men are such idiots at parenting”?  Heck, just yesterday my Facebook feed included a “humorous” set of images supposedly contrasting mothers and fathers.  Mom shops with the baby like a normal person, Dad piles random groceries in the stroller on top of his kid.  Mom carefully helps an older child slice vegetables; Dad lets his toddler stand on the BBQ to flip steaks.  Really?  I’m sure there are fathers out there who haven’t got a clue, but let’s be honest, there are mothers out there who haven’t got a clue either.

When dads do take on parenting duties, they still get treated as “substitute moms” or “mom’s support system” rather than fully qualified parents in their own right.  I like what blogger Mannly Mama says about this in “It Ain’t Babysitting“:

If you see a dad out with his kids, let’s stop assuming he is “doing mom a favor” and getting them out of the house. He might be but he may want to take his kids out because he, I dunno, loves them?

Go read her whole post, it’s great.  My husband shared it on Facebook a while back.  The idea that moms are the primary parents is so darn pervasive, though, that when one of his relatives chose to comment on that very link, it was to tell my husband that he was “a good father” because he had “helped [Crazy Grad Mama’s real name] a great deal.”  I know she meant it to be complimentary, but way to miss the point.

Dads are perfectly capable of being proficient parents, and we should both expect them to be and give them the opportunity.  My husband changed all of his son’s diapers during the first week of Little Boy’s life (except for, as he always insists I point out, the two times the hospital nurses did the job).  He taught me how to give Little Boy a bath, and continues to manage the bedtime routine solo on a weekly basis so that I can attend a postpartum support group.  Except for actually making breast milk, there is nothing that I, the mom, can do that he, the dad, can’t.

In fact, for more than six months, between the end of my maternity leave and the start of Little Boy’s time in daycare, my husband used his ability to work from home to trade off shifts of work and child care with me.  While I spent mornings busy with research at the university, my son was home with his father, getting love and attention and snuggles and playtime.  My husband wasn’t doing me a favor, and he wasn’t “babysitting.”  I didn’t have to give him a detailed list of instructions on how to look after his own child.  He’s not a secondary caregiver.

My husband is an awesome guy, no doubt about that, but he’s not some kind of magical miracle father.  He’s just a good parent, doing what good parents do.  He and I sometimes have different approaches to the details of parenting, but that’s because we’re different people, not because one of us has ovaries and the other doesn’t.

I recognize that in many families, by choice or necessity, one parent (and it’s usually the mom) stays home with the kids while the other parent works.  The stay-at-home parent is going to be the more experienced one, and that’s OK.  But there’s a big difference between “doesn’t know this week’s favorite toy” and “doesn’t know where the diapers are.”

Men, as a group, are not doomed to be idiots about babies.  (Or about cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. etc.)  Let’s not treat them that way.

Happy Father’s Day!

Raising a boy in a world of gender stereotypes

During a recent conversation with my parents, the subject of college-branded baby clothes arose.  (My parents live near my alma mater and are fond of purchasing such themed items.)

“Little Boy’s going to need a new college onesie,” I said.  “He’s already nearly outgrown the one you gave us for Christmas.”

“We’ll keep an eye out,” they promised.  “Mostly what we’ve seen in stores lately is baby cheerleading outfits, and those aren’t for him.”

They’re not for him.

Why not?

For this particular question, the answer is personal taste.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to dress my hypothetical baby daughter in a cheerleading costume, either — it’s just not my style.  And lest you get the wrong idea about my parents, they raised a boy who played with dolls and a girl who won science competitions.  They would be appalled to think that I was using them as an example of sexist behavior, however unconscious.

But our exchange brought up a topic that I’ve been struggling with since Little Boy was born, namely, how do we raise a boy in a way that supports gender equality, without setting him up to be teased or pushing him to be someone he’s not?

The discussion around gender biases in American culture revolves around women.  We talk about how to encourage girls to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).  Parents of daughters talk about their choice to allow, or not allow, all things princess-y and pink into their homes.  These discussions are necessary and important, because despite all the progress we’ve made in the last 50 years, idiots are still saying stupid things about women’s capabilities in science and women still face systematic hurdles in breaking into these fields.  Not to mention all of the other countless ways in which sexism affects women’s lives.

We don’t talk as much about breaking gender stereotypes for boys.  There are no major campaigns to encourage boys to go into nursing or early childhood eduction.  We focus on guiding girls away from pink, not boys toward it.  When a woman wears men’s clothing, it’s unfashionable at worst.  When a man wears women’s clothes, it’s national news.

I am not — I repeat, I am NOT — trying to imply that boys have it harder or any such nonsense like that.   My white, male, middle-class child was born into a world built for him to succeed.  He will be “playing on the lowest difficulty setting,” as John Scalzi puts it.  Whoever Little Boy becomes and whoever he discovers himself to be, he will have a supportive and loving family behind him.

No, what bothers me about our culture’s current approach is that it still very much implies that there are “girls’ things” and “boys’ things.”  Now we say, “Hey girls, you can do boys’ things too!”  Which is great.  It’s progress.  But it’s not equality.

Let me elaborate with a specific example.  If Little Boy had been born a Little Girl, I might dress her in a frilly pink dress one day, baby blue jeans the next, and nobody would think anything of it.  But how would they react if I put Little Boy in a frilly pink dress?  Most of my friends and family could probably wrap their minds around the idea of allowing an older boy to wear a pink dress if he requested it, but a parent choosing a dress for a baby son would just be …

Weird.

Unnecessary.

Trying to make a statement.

Because “girly” things, pink dresses included, are for girls only.

Hidden in this cultural gender divide is the persistent notion that “girly” things are inferior.  American society can begin to process the idea that girls might want blocks and trains and video games, and that women might want to be firefighters and astronauts and CEOs.  Those are “male” things.  They are “better.”  Of course everyone would want them.

“Female” things?  Dresses and high heels and makeup?  Child care and sewing and ballet?  We don’t encourage boys to try these things to see if they might like them.  We assume that boys could never be interested in such “lesser” things, and so we never even offer.

As with most parenting choices, it’s hard to know what path to take.  I want Little Boy to grow up with as few “X is for boys, Y is for girls” opinions as possible.  I want him to feel free to be himself, whether that means playing on the football team or painting pictures of flowers — or both.  I want him to approach other people not as “men” and “women,” but as individuals with personalities and preferences and feelings.

But I’ll be fighting the heavy weight of culture, and I don’t want to transfer too much of that weight to Little Boy himself.  Children can be cruel to the strange ones.  His peers wouldn’t notice if he wore a pink skirt to daycare tomorrow, but in a few years they will.  I don’t want him to stick out like a sore thumb before he’s ready.

Little Boy will definitely grow up knowing how to cook and clean and do laundry, with a father who does all those things as his role model.  We’ll teach him how to knit and sew, and run and read and mow the lawn.  I’ll dig my dolls out of storage for him, to go along with trains and books and LEGOs.  Maybe I’ll buy him a nice boy doll of his own.  Or many boy dolls, if he shows interest.

Pink shirts?  Yeah, I think that’s going to happen.

Pink dresses?  I don’t know.

Early to bed

I could make a joke about how you know you’re a parent when your idea of a great Friday night is staying in, realizing you’re too tired to finish the movie, and snuggling up in bed for a good night’s sleep.

But who am I kidding?  That’s always been my idea of a great Friday night.

No, the true sign that you’re a parent is when you can recite multiple Sandra Boynton books from memory – and randomly do so throughout the day.

The fear of judgment continues

Hi, my name is Crazy Grad Mama, and I’m an insecure parent

My latest mommy-guilt paranoia is about the food we pack for daycare.  We’ve taken an adventurous but lackadaisical approach to introducing solid food, one that’s based on offering Little Boy spoonfuls of leftover spaghetti, bites of avocado, crusts of PB&J, and even a small sliver of pizza.  At the time Little Boy started daycare, he’d been regularly eating one solid meal per day at dinnertime and was just starting on the concept of lunch.  I figured sending him one bowlful of something for lunch (plus plenty of Cheerios for snack time) would be plenty to begin with.  Applesauce one day, yogurt the next, maybe some puréed peas – I could handle this.

Except that after about a week, we were informed that he needed more food.  It’s his teachers’ job to give us feedback on this, of course, but there are a range of approaches to saying, “Hey, you need to pack more food because your kid is getting hungry in the afternoon,” and, well, they didn’t really hit the right one.  Cue me feeling like a crappy parent.

This also means coming up with twice as many packable baby meals per week.  But there’s a reason I’m not usually the family cook, and that reason is the fact that I can barely muster up the mental energy to care about cooking (much less meal planning) on a regular basis.

Half of Little Boy’s current easy-prep menu turns out to be unsuitable for packing – avocados and bananas turn brown, peanut butter is an allergy no-no.  He’s not far enough along in the art of self-feeding to assume that he’ll eat large quantities of finger food (indeed, his teachers report that he mostly plays with the Cheerios), so the random small bits of adult food we provide at home won’t be much good for satiating his hunger at daycare.

It’s starting to annoy my husband a little, I think.  The increasingly desperate look on my face when I realize that we’re going to have to send Little Boy with yogurt and applesauce again.  “His teachers are going to think we’re terrible parents,” I say.  “We can’t send him with the same thing every day.”

Someday, I might look back on these times and laugh that I was so worried about something that seems so irrelevant in the long run.  It’s not like I’m sending my kid to daycare with fried Twinkies and Pepsi.  And it’s such an easy issue to solve, once we hit a weekend when I’m not feeling quite so sick.  Fruits and vegetables are readily boiled / steamed / baked and puréed once you have them on hand.

The underlying insecurity, however, is not so easy to solve.  I have a tendency to assume that people are thinking the worst, especially when it comes to my mothering.  (For instance, I used to close the windows when Little Boy did tummy time, because he protested the indignity so strenuously that I worried others would hear the crying and be concerned.)  Right now, it really matters to me that the daycare teachers think well of us.  I don’t need to be the best at this, but I don’t want to be laughably far behind.

In which I am not really surprised by statistics

On Friday, the New York Times described the results of a Harvard Business School study about the effect of working mothers: across the developed world, the grown daughters of working moms are more likely to work themselves, and the grown sons of working moms spend more time on child care and housework.  No one should be shocked by this – after all, parents are their children’s greatest role models.

I don’t want to harp on this particular study.  I’m secure in the knowledge that my own choice to work outside the home is the right choice for my family, and I don’t want to imply that stay-at-home parents can’t be strong models of gender equity as well.  (This particular study didn’t differentiate between working full-time, part-time, long-term, short-term, at home, or out of the home.  It counted as a “working mother” any mom who “ever work[ed] for pay” before her kids were 14.  That includes everyone from high-powered attorneys to stay-at-home moms who babysit.)

No, what I want to talk about is the third sentence of that New York Times article.

… 41 percent of adults say the increase in working mothers is bad for society, while just 22 percent say it is good, according to the Pew Research Center.

Uh, what?

I clicked on the link and spent some time reading the Pew study, which was conducted in 2007.  Yup, turns out if you’re a working mother in the U.S., that disapproval you think you’re feeling from society isn’t all in your head.  Interestingly, there’s no statistical difference in the opinions of men and women on this subject, and there was very little change in attitudes from 1997-2007.

It also turns out that almost nobody (men, women, stay-at-home moms, or working moms) thinks that mothers working full-time is best for the children, although 41% say that a mother working part-time is ideal.  They didn’t ask the “what’s best for the kids” question about fathers, because of course not.

On the plus side, 36% of the respondents said that “more fathers staying home with children so their wives can work full-time” was good for society, with just 21% saying that was bad.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to make this distinction?  If longer and PAID maternity and paternity leaves were readily available in the U.S.?  If we didn’t have a working culture that assumes long hours = more dedicated = better employee, so that moms and dads (and people without kids) didn’t have to choose between “work” and “life outside work” but could have some of both instead?

While we’re working on that, we need to get over the idea that working moms are bad for society.  Seriously, America.  You’re better than that.