Hand-Crafted, Free Range, Artisan Children

Hand-Crafted, Free Range, Artisan Children

Being a parent in 2018 is a little bonkers. (Also, happy new year, apologies for the unintended hiatus, but life, you know?) We are intellectually and emotionally crushed with information. The recommendations change rapidly and sometimes our pediatricians aren’t even up to date on the latest research.

Safety has become paramount and parenting practices that were considered appropriate since the dawn of humans are now unthinkable (and might get you reported to CPS). For every developmental phase your child will go through you have several schools of thought to research before you make a decision, all of which warn that one misstep will ruin sleep, food, reading, sex, pooping, or emotional connection for the rest of their lives. No pressure though.

Top all of this off with those Facebook algorithms targeting parents with every article out there with titles like, “Want to raise resilient kids? Experts say…” or “Parents who raise successful children do these 8 things” or “Want your child to be an independent adult? Pediatrician says it starts at…”.

Besides creating some extreme anxiety for parents who are just trying to make it through the day without losing their shit on their kids, these articles also treat our children like products. As though we’re trying to ship the perfect product and the results of production are entirely within our control.

I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t think about the kind of adults we want our children to become. Obviously, that’s the main premise of parenting (and keeping them from putting poisonous stuff in their mouths). But the idea that they are some recipe we can whip together with organic, artisan ingredients for the perfect kid soufflé causes us to look past the kids themselves entirely. The distractions and anxieties of “getting it just right” are probably driving us insane. More insane than our parents or their parents ever imagined raising a kid could be.

We all have different priorities as parents. The things that matter most to us based on our own childhood, our lifestyles, and our values. I’m no expert, but I think if we want to stay sane we’ve got to stay focused on the things that really matter to us and then regard all new information as polite suggestions that may or may not fit into our approach.

For me I have 5 things that I think are important to give my daughter.

  • Unconditional love
  • Jesus
  • A love of reading
  • As much fresh air and outdoor time as possible
  • Humor and curiosity

To me, if I give her these things then she can find her way to the right path on her own. And that’s what matters to me. For you, it might be a totally different list, but I bet you could probably boil all the things you care about down to 5 bullet points.

And if we don’t stay focused on the things that we really think matter we’ll end up going crazy trying to do all the right things now so they can turn out to the be the perfect Ivy League attending (but oh so humble), money-making, volunteering, home buying, adventurous eating, vegetable loving, carpe diem-iest, empathetic adult with perfectly balanced gut bacteria (what?!).

We don’t really make children into the adults they will become. We give them tools, habits, and the best information we have and somewhere between genetics, environment, and our parenting they become something entirely independent of our efforts.

We aren’t creating a dish or shipping a product. We’re raising people and there’s no perfect formula and honestly there’s no ideal result. So maybe we can try to have a little more fun with this? I don’t know, I’ll report back when I get there.


No Privilege Without Sacrifice

No Privilege Without Sacrifice

A New York Times opinion piece by Karen Rinaldi is making the social media circuits at the moment. Unlike many others floating through digital channels, the title “Motherhood Isn’t Sacrifice, It’s Selfishness”, is not remotely misleading and is exactly the author’s point. No clickbait here.

You can read the article for yourself, but the essence of it is that by talking about the sacrifices of motherhood we perpetuate a sense of martyrdom that subtly oppresses us and prevents us from embracing our full identity as mothers. Which in theory, in a childless vacuum of fulfilled careers, full nights of sleep, clean floors, and privacy when you poop, that sounds ok I guess.

But, let me provide a reality check from the front lines. Whether it aligns with Ms. Rinaldi’s philosophies or not, sacrifices are happening. Every mother that I know is struggling to come to terms with the sacrifices of motherhood. I personally feel that I’m at my mental, emotional, and physical limit almost every single day. I’ve sacrificed my health, my body, and sometimes my sanity in the interest of providing the best I have to give to my daughter. And it’s a privilege.

Other moms I know are sacrificing careers that they loved and enjoyed because their domestic and financial situations don’t allow them to work and parent right now. New moms are sacrificing their comfort and rest to care for a newborn. Their body that was once solely theirs, is now solace, nutrition, and safety for another. The mental anxiety of figuring out how to take care of yourself in ways that don’t take from your child’s mental, emotional, and physical needs is taxing and sometimes feels impossible. Implementing it can be even more difficult and expensive to boot ($15-$20/hour for some time for yourself, plus whatever cost of drinks/massage/food/activity).  It is a sacrifice, that does not preclude it from also being a privilege.

Ms. Rinaldi claims to want to empower women with her message of privilege not sacrifice, and while I believe her intent, I’m afraid the results will be quite different.

By denying what mothers give of themselves, so deeply and with love, for their children, she is denying us the opportunity to acknowledge and validate our realities. On top of that, she’s opening the door for others to remove or deny their support as a society or community, chocking up our struggles to a martyr complex instead of what it truly is – a seismic giving of ourselves that requires the support of every single family member, friend, neighbor, employer, and government entity that we can get on board.

Mothers in America have a hard enough time getting the support that the rest of the developed countries of the world have as it is, without having our efforts undermined and minimized.

Being a mother is really the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never been so scared to mess something up in all my life. I had not anticipated feeling that way. Every single day I give everything I have to being the best mother I can. I fail, often. I make mistakes and even coping with the mistakes I’ve made is more energy and emotion I need to expend. I sacrifice free time, physical comfort, and career ambitions to be the best mother that I can. And the way that motherhood draws on every part of yourself means that motherhood is not “hard work”…”like every other meaningful aspect of our lives.” It is not the only life experience that requires much of us, but it is certainly another level of sacrifice for the vast majority of us, unlike anything else we have ever encountered.

But these sacrifices are slowly and surprisingly transforming me as a person and even on the days when I ask myself what kind of ridiculous hubris causes a woman to think having a child is a good idea, I still wouldn’t go back and make a different choice if I could.

Under the pressure of motherhood, I have become kinder, more resilient, more understanding of other viewpoints, more dedicated to social justice, and less arrogant. I have sacrificed taut skin, greyless hair, and perky breasts, but in return, I received a confidence and awe in the power and capacity of my body. I have sacrificed my free time and in return, I received a realignment of priorities. I have sacrificed my prior ideas of dignity and identity and in return, I received an ability to laugh at myself and embrace a complex and changing identity.

I can think of few privileges that do not also demand sacrifices of us. The most rewarding and enriching life experiences require something of us in order to be worth anything to us. Motherhood is an incredible sacrifice, and it is an incredible privilege.


Working Moms: Social Pioneers

Working Moms: Social Pioneers

The world is in a phase of social deconstruction.  Relative to the entire timeline of humanity it’s pretty new, but relative to our lifetimes this evolution has been happening for generations.  We’re deconstructing our world views, gender views, nationalist views, racial views.  Everything.  It’s healthy and it’s painful and it’s disruptive.

We’re in an interesting place right now because we’re still ripping up the old systems and we really haven’t yet established new ones.  It’s painful to acknowledge that the old, flawed systems, some of them, served necessary functions for society.  Today we’re talking about working moms, so let’s look at that.

Division of labor in the home seems oppressive now, but from an evolutionary standpoint it was a smart survival technique.  Humans were not always able to leverage technology in order to get necessary work done and most men are biologically more equipped for hard manual labor.

Leaving someone at home to protect and care for progeny while another hunted, scavenged, farmed, fought, etc. helped our species continue.  This is not an inherently oppressive system.  It makes sense.  And is in fact exactly what we do in the modern corporate world.  You hire people who have specific specialties and divvy up tasks based on individual strengths.

However, you don’t need me to tell you that due to human nature this system was made oppressive for all kinds of reasons like ego, religion, etc etc.  And in many societies, for a very long time, men became “superior” and women “inferior”.  Men – owners, women – property.  This played out in all kinds of ways and now here we are in 2016 ripping that kind of thinking out of our societies.

Women are refusing to be made to feel inferior.  It’s liberating and it’s empowering and it’s exhausting.

Yup.  There it is.  It’s EXHAUSTING.  Because we haven’t figured out a support system for this new way to be.  We’re literally figuring out how to make this work every. step. of. the. way.

The argument is playing out across the internet:

“You can have it all!”

“We can’t possibly have it all!”

And the real truth is, we don’t know.  We know that one person can only do so much and being a mother, a wife, an employee, and a person isn’t possible without support or superpowers.

For now, if we can afford it, we pay for support.  Or if we’re lucky enough to have family for support, then we have that.  But it’s still not ideal, the costs of childcare are astronomical and in America our screening for caregivers is often not up to parent’s standards. Employers are largely puzzled by how to handle all things relating to maternal employees.

Here’s what I hear over and over again from other moms though, “I hope that things will be different by the time our daughters are mothers.”

That’s where we have to focus.  When we advocate for a better social structure that benefits mothers, we aren’t really advocating for ourselves.  By the time any meaningful change happens I likely will not be having children.  But my daughter may.  Your son might.

Just like prior generations were advocates for a change that tore apart what was detrimental, we have to advocate for building up something that is beneficial.

Working moms – we’re social pioneers.  Let’s get to work building something better for the next generation of parents.

A Love Letter to Moms Who Supplement

A Love Letter to Moms Who Supplement

I swear this isn’t a lactation blog, really, I have other things to talk about.  But here we go again…

Dedicated to my dear friend Ann

Dear Supplementing Mom,

I see you.  I see you posting in Facebook groups desperately looking for some advice to boost your milk supply.  You’ve scoured KellyMom and plumbed the depths of Google and tried everything.  Maybe it was a tongue tie discovered too late, maybe your body had trouble recovering from a traumatic delivery, maybe there’s no damn discernible reason other than that life doesn’t work out the way we want all the time.  But you’ve heard breast is best and you’ve wanted so badly to give your baby best.

But here you are in the store, staring down the formula aisle with a pit in your stomach and a bad taste in your mouth.  You are doing what you need to do to provide your baby with the nutrition he or she needs to grow, and honestly, the breastfeeding/health community has often failed to support you before and after this tough decision.

First, I think you are a total goddess.  You are amazing.  You do the hardest thing every damn day for that little person.  It’s really easy to pat yourself on the back for accomplishing your goal.  You know what’s really hard?  Sacrificing the ideal because in this case the compromise is the heavy lifter who can get the job done.  For those of us who were afforded all the necessary resources and happenstance to succeed as breastfeeders we don’t have to confront what would happen if we couldn’t make our ideal a reality for our child (in this category, trust me it’s coming for us in something else).  For those who decide to quit and formula feed entirely there can be a relief, to no longer feel that pressure to make breastfeeding work.

Those of you that supplement will straddle that conflict and struggle we feel on a daily basis.  You give your baby the best your body will allow under the circumstances, and then where your body quits you do the right thing and get help.  You don’t make it an all or nothing scenario.  To acknowledge your limits, accept help, and continue to do the best for yourself and your baby is incredibly hard and incredibly honorable.

You are amazing.  Your child is lucky to have you as a mom.  And those of us who’ve had success with breastfeeding will one day find that we can’t always have what we want, even for our children who we love above everything else.  If there’s any guilt, hurt, or regret lingering from your decision to supplement would you kindly look it in the eyes and tell it to fuck off?  From me?  You’ve got more important shit to do Mama.


Modern Amazon


Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form—no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space—ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.

-Walt Whitman, Continuities


Formula Proponents: Your Privilege is Showing

Formula Proponents: Your Privilege is Showing

Recently on Facebook a few women, including myself and a very well known breastfeeding advocate were called bullies for some comments we made against “Fed is Best“.  I really try to stay out of the Facebook fray as much as possible and instead compose my thoughts and frustrations into constructive posts here on the blog.  I guess I was feeling extra saucy last night when I jumped in to comment on Facebook.  So, of course being called a “bully” had me thinking about all the different perspectives and why some of us are so adamant about breastfeeding education.

While thinking about all this, it suddenly dawned on me how incredibly privileged it is to promote formula usage as an out from breastfeeding.  (Disclaimer (per the usual): I respect that there are a variety of reasons why babies DO need to be formula fed, and also I think that making moms feel guilty for formula feeding is neither constructive nor acceptable.)

Why is promoting formula usage a privileged perspective?


There, I said it.  That shit is not cheap.  And for families who can easily absorb that cost (think somewhere between $1,000 to $3,000+ per year depending on the brand/formula your child can tolerate) it’s really easy to say, “Eh, I guess this isn’t working.  Formula it is!”  And if you have that luxury, then great.  It’s your choice to do that.

But when people are PROMOTING formula, they have to think about families that CANNOT afford this extra cost.

How about beyond the cost of formula?  For families who live in places with easy access to potable drinking water using formula is no big deal.  However there are many places in this world where clean drinking water isn’t available by just turning on the tap.

Let’s fast forward, baby is eating solid foods, hurray!  Well, now if you can afford fresh, healthy, organic food, then that’s obviously great for your child.  But for families who cannot afford to go to Whole Foods and drop $300/week for their family, breastfeeding could make a huge difference in the long term and short term health of their child.  Breastmilk is an immunity booster and a complete nutritional food.

So, when there are people who don’t want us to push breastfeeding education because they feel that just talking about the benefits of breastfeeding is automatically an act of war against mothers who use formula, it’s an obvious sign of privilege.

You can clearly afford formula, so for you, what’s the big deal?  But there are so many families for whom picking up a can of formula is not the easy option, and educating them on how to successfully breastfeed is PARAMOUNT to their child’s health.

**Edited 8/23/16 based on a constructive conversation with a reader and friend!

This totally cuts both ways.  Because, let me tell you, formula SHAMING is also a big sign of privilege.

Here are the advantages I had as a breastfeeding mother that are not widely available to all moms (especially in the U.S.):

  1. Paid maternity leave
  2. Money to hire a lactation consultant
  3. Healthcare that covered my breast pump
  4. A city with pump-friendly/breastfeeding-friendly ordinances (and an employer who enthusiastically complied)

In the U.S. especially we are slowly becoming more supportive of working/pumping/breastfeeding moms, but as of right now it is still a huge uphill battle.  Moms in the medical field especially get a lot of push back from colleagues/employers, and if they work in emergency services the nature of their work can make it very hard to impossible to keep a regular pumping routine.

Remember that a child’s health, a mother’s health, and a family happiness rarely hinges on one thing.  I like to think that most breastfeeding advocates feel so strongly because they care about infant and maternal health for all.

But, even while we believe deeply in the bonding, healing and nurturing power of breastfeeding, we have to practice compassion, empathy and understanding.  Our daily reality is our own and we rarely know every challenge that other families face to give their children the best they can.  We have to have open, honest, fact-based and love-based conversations.


What Makes a Mother: Giving Up on Guilt

What Makes a Mother: Giving Up on Guilt

Going through a mother’s existential crisis here.  And with a new job that requires travel my desperation for answers is only growing.  My idea of what makes a mother is, of course, heavily influenced by my own mother.  As far back as I can remember, she was always there (she primarily worked from home).  And so my lack of presence in my daughter’s life has led me to question whether I can work and be my own best version of a mother.  If I’m not always there, if I’m not filling up my daughter’s conscious hours, who am I?

My lack of presence, my ratio of hours with my daughter vs. without has been haunting me since I started dropping her off at a baby sitter regularly.  I felt that presence was the one thing I can’t offer as a working mother.  Maybe it’s the vodka in my iced tea or this heat wave is knocking something loose in my brain, but I’ve come to two conclusions.

1) Letting this guilt rip me up, twist my guts, and pummel my heart doesn’t help me or my daughter.  I don’t come home a better mother for it. I come home exhausted from feeling conflicted all day.  Kids are very perceptive; I’m sure she’s picking up on my negative emotions when I bring this guilty feeling home with me.  I’ve lived with this feeling for so long because I thought it would drive me to come up with some fantastically creative solution.  But the truth is that mothering in America comes with some unfairness.

The majority of mothers in America work.  The majority of American companies have not evolved to support a working mother yet.  As Annabel Crabb said so succinctly, “The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”  And so I’m not going to solve this problem for myself and all American women in a few months.  This is going to take time (hopefully not too much), women raising their voices and coming together to resolve.

For now, this is the reality I’ve been dealt, I must be the best mother in these circumstances.  I’m giving up on guilt, because it isn’t making me a better mother.  And I don’t have time for anything that doesn’t make me a better mother.


2) Be present.  I may not have as many hours to offer my daughter as I would hope, not as much presence.  But I can be truly and fully with her when we’re together.  I can do everything possible to make those hours count.

I still have to do laundry, clean the house, cook, grocery shop, all the things that keep a family running, but I put those things off until after her bedtime if I can.  If that’s not possible I try to turn chores into a game we can play together.  If all else fails, I’ll clean when she goes to college.  When she wants to walk me in circles around the kitchen a tenth time, I’ll try to remember to say “yes” and tell that pile of dishes mocking me to shut the hell up.

That’s what I’ve got for now.  If I figure out some magical cure for the working mom blues, please know that I’ll have it posted here ASAP.

What Makes a Mother?

What Makes a Mother?

This is a genuine question.  I’m looking for audience participation here. But let me tell you why I’m thinking about it.

I’m a working mom.  If you’ve read my blog you may have noticed.  Being away from my daughter 40+ hours per week has caused me weekly existential crises of the mom-nature.  My own mother worked from home the vast majority of my childhood and so, to me (to a degree) what makes a mother is presence.  The fact that a mother is there, after everyone else leaves and when you need her most.  When I had summers off I was at home with my parents (they both worked out of the home, but my father frequently traveled as well).  I always knew my mom would be at home, available, present.  My relationship with my daughter can’t revolve around presence though.  That’s not something I can offer as much as I would like to.  So, I’m here trying to step far enough away from my existential crises to understand what makes me a mother.

I keep asking myself, if someone else is with my child during the workweek, what makes me Mom?  I know that in this modern time when the gender and family roles aren’t so strictly defined as they used to, I’m not the only mom asking myself this question.  What makes a mother?   I think some of the answers must be as old as the existence of mammals, but some of them might surprise us too.

So, I want to hear from you.  Have a mom?  Are a mom?  Know a mom?  Tell me in the comments below, tell me on my Facebook page, tell me on twitter.