Get to Work author, Linda Hirshman breaks down recently published stats about working moms. She wrote a manifesto, so we know what side she's on... still, she argues a good case and reveals some surprising data.
Mothers are working less than in recent years:
60% of married moms of young kids work (down 4% from 1997)
53.5 % of married moms with babies work (down 6% from 1997)
New mothers with husbands making a lot of dough work the least.
Moms work 42.2 hours a week not the oft-cited 80 hour work week
(hmm, I get work-related emails from my mom colleagues at all hours of the night...does that count?)
As Hirshman points out, working mothers took a huge hit with the recent ridiculous "reports" about the dangers of daycare. Even with Emily Bazelon and Judith Warner shouting out LIAR, LIAR, the (wrong) message is out there now. As a friend of mine with a child in daycare, pointed out the headlines could have just as easily read, "Daycare Linked To Higher Verbal Aptitude." Grr.
I have friends who are gay and adopting a baby who is due in three days. They're trying to gear up to be confident new parents, but with each Google forward they get another screenful about the health risks of formula. They've been offered frozen breastmilk from a friend. But it's for a much older baby, not a newborn. It's kind of hard to ship it and it wouldn't last that long. And is it really worth it?
They were starting to feel OK about the slightly less miraculous formula and then last week they called me in a panic after reading the ingredients: palm oil, corn syrup...
But today there's some news that may take the edge off as they shake that first bottle. According to a study conducted by Harvard University and published in the International Journal of Obesity, breastfeeding does not reduce the chances for obesity later in life.
"I'm the first to say breastfeeding is good. But I don't think it's the solution to reducing childhood or adult obesity," said the study's lead author, Karin Michels of Harvard Medical School.
The study included 14,500 women who were breastfed as babies and more than 21,000 who were not.
Days before this study was announced, there was another story about British scientists who are trying to develop a formula that includes leptin-- an ingredient in breastmilk that suppresses hunger and may minimize obesity later in life. We'll see what happens with the leptin...
In the meantime, I hope the obesity study gives my friends some reassurance. That and the fact that they are quite possibly saving a life. Isn't that miraculous enough?
Duties include: typing, excellent communication skills, pulling placenta from bathtub drain.
I'm all for Ricki Lake's home birth in her bathtub--I'm even interested in having my own home birth one day--but this threw me: her assistant cleaned the tub afterwards. I'm not sure if that's a doula job, a midwife job, a house-cleaner? But an assistant? Ah shucks, they're probably really close, and it's a funny story to bond over. But I was once a Hollywood assistant--I even wrote a book about it--so I do empathize with anyone who's trying to get ahead in business and ends up covered with boss's bodily expulsions. If I do have a home birth can I hire home orderlies?
There's been a lot of news this week about breastfeeding, fertility and delayed pregnancy. NPR did a story this morning about a new study showing that breastfeeding reduces the chances of breast cancer for women who "delay childbirth." Basically, having kids later in life increases the chances for breast cancer, however breastfeeding voids out that risk. Luckily, older moms are more likely to breastfeed and rates of breastfeeding in general are slowly climbing. It's also good because--and no matter how many times I hear this I will never get used to it--1 in 9 women get breast cancer.
Also, over at Slate Amanda Schaffer takes a good, long look at the research about breast cancer and fertility treatments. This line drew me in:
"But there is little or no evidence that fertility treatments raise the odds of getting the disease. In other words, don't panic."Older moms rejoice ... even if you are chained to the couch for months on end.
So here's my unsolicited advice to parents: take a step back. Relax. Enjoy. Your baby will sleep without an expert consultant coming to your house. Your toddler will eventually leave diapers behind. I promise... Let your preschooler play in the dirt, and your kindergartener deal with the classmate who pinches her.
Of course, hearing all about the importance of a hands-off parenting style involving what she calls, "benign neglect" may seem a little surprising coming from someone who has spent so much time extolling the virtues of demand feeding, co-sleeping and baby-wearing. But, it seems, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
I have often described my parenting philosophy as "benign neglect." Responsive parenting means just that: we respond to children's needs. It's not the same as over-parenting, in which we anticipate, preempt, or take control of our children's needs and developmental tasks.
In my extensive research of three actual bonafide AP moms, the switch from “intensive mothering” (literally years of demand breastfeeding, co-sleeping) to a completely non-hovering approach (kids doing the crazy sh*t on jungle gyms, moms gasp, yards! away) in the older years was pretty seamless.
I was talking to Robin Aronson (who co-wrote The Whole Pregnancy Handbook) about all this AP/OP jazz and she was noting that the AP approach is all about reading cues. So, it would make sense that when the kids get older the parents would pick up on the fact that they need to be left alone. (Still I can hear you crying out, What about the AP moms who breastfeed till 5??? Is that leaving them alone? I encourage you to duke it out in the comments box.)
AP shenanigans aside...
... the transition from anticipating the baby’s every need to letting the kid suck on a dirt-encrusted thumb, and climb every mountain so he won’t be afraid of life is neither a bad nor new idea. In a previous decade of intense over-parenting (the 1950s), British psychoanalyst DW Winnicott treated a lot of anxious kids and their over-bearing mothers. His research led him to the concept of the “good enough mother.” Though "good enough" mothering has come to stand in for anything a mother does that's less than ideal or perfect, Winnicott was talking about something very specific. He was describing the healthy psychological process by which the mother gradually withdraws her attention from her child over time. Though she starts off with "an almost complete adaptation to her infant's needs" she gradually eases up and "adapts less and less completely." The mother who resists the impulse to withdraw and be "good enough," and instead stays hovering over that child, is pathological. I find that theory explains how one could go from All Night Breastfeeding to to Benign Neglect without contradicting oneself. (I like to think I have made this transition myself-- I breastfed for an eternity and my two-year-old is currently eating a dirt cake while dangling from the ceiling fan).
It's worth noting that Winnicott also came up with the idea of the “transitional object.” I have a hunch that his timeline for healthy separation came a tad earlier than it does for Attachment Parents for whom the transitional object is a big no, no.
But that's another story! For now, I'm happy to just remain benignly neglectful. And, as always, grateful to anyone who tells me I'm perfect for being that way!
I've never been one for a snapping, pinching garter, but these pregnancy pants suspenders seem like a decent idea. Also available from these manufacturers are ultra-sized swaddling blankets which I would recommend (they are not always easy to find).
The Our Bodies, Ourselves team has written a new book about menopause. In the liberating, anti-establishment fashion typical of their '70s classic, the authors knock off myths about the aging woman one bullet point at a time. In today's Times, Jane Brody mentions the book and looks at the sex lives of older people. The good news: loss of sex drive is neither inevitable nor the result of a woman's changing hormones. The bad news: there are tons of other reasons your sex life could go down the tubes.
I heard about this documentary through Abby Howe-Heyman, one of the midwives who advised on our book. It's called The Business of Being Born, and it's produced by Ricki Lake who enjoyed her own Manhattan home birth. It's premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival-- any New Yorkers interested, there appear to be tickets available for next week's screenings. The filmmaker (Abby Epstein) will be doing a Q & A at the April 29th screening. We're going to check out it and I'm sure we'll be blogging all the way home. Stay tuned.
When I was extremely pregnant, forbidden to fly and anticipating a dark winter of newborn incarceration, I was of course consumed by the idea of getting the hell out of town. I knew that flying with a nursing infant is a whole lot easier than flying with a baby or toddler with any hope of mobility. I got it in my head that spring break was the time. The place was somewhat more vague, but we ended up in Buenos Aires, lured by the company of my cousin, among other rarely-seen relatives. Plus, the food’s great, the dollar is 3 to 1, and my cousin promised that she and her boyfriend would babysit for a night! Sold.
In Argentina, people don't start eating dinner until 9pm. Though we knew this before we left, we somehow failed to imagine it in reality. Our son was okay, if a little unruly and cranked out. The baby was a nightmare. She cried through every meal, and service was “relaxed”, so meals were endless. She was such a miserable wreck that we couldn’t even take anyone up on their babysitting offers. And did I mention it rained the entire time?
Bad weather and impractical dinner hour aside, Buenos Aires was amazingly kid-friendly. During the worst of those wailing restaurant fiascos, there was a family of locals seated next to us. The man, in his fifties, kept glaring over his blood sausage at whoever had the screaming infant. Was he pissed off at the inappropriate soundtrack? (I would have been.) Were we violating some unknown cultural taboo? When our food arrived, he clarified: Could he hold the baby, so we could enjoy our dinner? He then got up, put a napkin gingerly on his shoulder, and walked around with the baby for a good ten minutes, patting her softly on the back and singing to her while we wolfed down the world’s best steak.
But the biggest surprise was that this acceptance of baby reality is not just about individuals; it’s actually CODIFIED. I discovered this while waiting in line at the drugstore. There were three people ahead of me. The cashier motioned to me and said something to the other customers, something I might have understood, had I been a bit more diligent with the “Coffee Break Spanish” podcasts. They stepped aside. I came forward and paid, and asked my relatives to translate the situation. But of course, they said, if you have a baby, you go to the front of the line. You don’t have this in the U.S.? I laughed. We don’t even have paid maternity leave. And just to rub it in, we were assured we wouldn’t have a long wait at the airport, because we’d be ushered up front with our children. Two hours and four lines later, we realized that they had failed to take into account our airline: American. Diapers be damned: this is democracy.
Yet another amazingly specific piece of dietary information for pregnant women: Eating apples when pregnant may help reduce the chances your baby will get asthma. Something about flavanoids, you can read about it here. I guess at least finding a good apple is a tad easier than finding potent, non-mercury-laden omega-3's.
I have no idea what sex and childbirth education for Chinese kids is like but according to this article, it's very minimal. But that's changing! The first step: Show 7 and 8-year-olds a video of a real life C-section.
Apparently, some of the kids were freaked out.
Maybe they should rethink the program but send those videos over here for fully grown American pregnant women to see-- just to clear up any potential confusion about surgery being 'cleaner' than a vaginal birth.
A new British study shows that smoking can as much as double the chances for a girl. They don't know exactly why but theorize that there's something in the smoke that messes with life for the male sperm and possibly the implantation of a male embryo. Girls are so tough, even as blastocysts. According to the findings:
"Mothers who smoked during pregnancy were one-third less likely to have male children than mothers who did not smoke. If the father also smoked, and if factors such as the health and age of the mother were accounted for, the chances of having a male child reduces by almost half."
Not to call this research into question--they studied 9,000 pregnancies--but Bacall and Bogart did have a son.
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If you've been looking for the AbFab of rural mommy blogs, look no further: Here's Crabmommy, a former Brooklyn mom decamped to Wyoming where she crab-parents her crabtot with serious rural panache. Just to give you a sense of it, here's the start of entry called "The Cure for Whining."
I cannot tolerate whining. From children. In my opinion only mothers should be allowed to whine. Our voices are (generally) deeper and our reasons for whining (always) more compelling. And as you know, I love a good whine. I try to whine about something at least twice a day, and indeed, I think mothers should be encouraged to whine whether it comes naturally to them or not. But children can and should be trained not to. Especially if they live in Wyoming and have rural western accents at age two. Rural western accent+carping/whinnying =appalling din.
She goes on to give actual, useful tips for shutting up your whining kid.
What she has to say about spanking is honest and interesting and certainly something people should talk more about. It's so easy to condemn spanking. Obviously, it's BAD bad. And ineffective. And not a good example. And reflective of a mother who is not ON TOP of her emotions. Etc. Etc. But Crabmommy gives her daughter the occasional whack on the leg-- when, for example, she lurches into the street, when she has, obviously, been told not to! If you're a loving mother and a guilty spanker, or you just want to read a very funny rant-- by a mother who takes the idea of "good enough" mothering very seriously--check it out. Here's a taste:
Do I “believe” in spanking? I don’t. I also don’t believe in wearing purple robes (or purple anything); nor do I believe in being mean to one’s really fantastic breadwinner husband; nor do I believe in eating lunch standing up, but these are all things that I do. And there are moments when I have and do spank Astrid, albeit not very effectively, with light taps on inward-arcing diapered bottom –the sort of weak hand-flaps that don’t do much of anything. But occasionally I slap a bare leg to sting. Occasionally I slap and mean it.
Author Jenny Offil has written a stunning piece about listening to music in Rite Aid (the only place her baby would sleep) and, in the process, slowly developing a deep appreciation for "Rocketman."
Because "Rocketman" although written and performed by two of the gayest men ever to walk the earth, is actually about having a kid. It's about finding yourself suddenly at a distance from the world you once walked through and took for granted. It's about the applause of strangers and the alienation of friends. It's about how what is supposed to be a transcendent experience can also be a profoundly lonely one. Or maybe it's just another song about being a junkie, I don't know. It doesn't much matter to me because "Rocketman" showed me the musical corollary for my new life which turned out to be songs about hurtling through space.
It's up at moistworks.com. (You have to scroll down to Monday, March 26th to read it.)
We're all about striving for imperfection over here at thenewmom. (In fact, "strive for imperfection" is one of the "anti-rules" we lay out in From the Hips.) And we're so happy to know that Judith Warner is there every week to help remind us exactly why it's so important! Today in her Domestic Disturbances column, she considers the positive influence a little early rejection may have for the kinds of super high-acheiveing, "amazing" girls profiled last weekend in the Times.
Many, I think, never figure out how to handle the emptiness that comes when the rush of achievement fades away, or the loneliness — the sense of invisibility — when no one is there to hand out yet another “A.” The fact is: when you are narrowly programmed to achieve, you are like a windup toy with only one movement in its repertoire. You’re fine when you’re wound up; but wind you down, and you grind to a halt. I think this is partly why so many grown-up amazing girls with high-earning husbands find themselves having to quit work when they have kids. They simply can’t perform at work and at home at the high level that they demand of themselves.
When I was pregnant I overheard a new mother answer that question about 'how she does it all' and she said, quickly, and with a smile, "Oh, it's easy: I suck at my job and I'm a terrible mom." It gave me great hope.
In an attempt to get enthused about a second child-- not expecting, just deciding-- I thought I'd look at some baby name sites. After all, that always worked for me when I was ... fifteen. After futzing around a bit in the Welsh section, I found myself in urgent need of a name like Lola or Gigi and the next thing you know I was here and utterly inspired!
This is literally late-breaking news (as in, it's late, it was broken on March 27th) but I have to blog about it because it applies to parenting and to women especially. The NY Times reported that multitasking is actually inefficient. When I read this I started waving my arms around and ranting at my husband, "See, there's proof!" I've always been cranky about multitasking but I've been even more cranky about the idea that women are *natural* multitaskers. I think it's been used as a tool of oppression. And I don't think it's true.
As a young woman it meant that I would be well-suited for an assistant/admin/"great organizational skills"/secretarial job or hosting/taking care of the house and career, etc. As a mother, it means I should have no problem shuttling from a toddler breakdown over a "crumped" cowboy hat, to writing a paragraph on the complicated issues raised by elective c-sections, to a call from UPS about a lost package. I hate this. And as the article points out, you screw up when you're juggling. Don't get me wrong: I'm not raging against multitasking mothers as individuals-- I'm one of them. Multitasking is quite simply the way my life is arranged. I cannot comprehend how parents/mothers survived without wireless 12" powerbooks for ordering groceries/conducting work from home/googling "red rash three year old". How could those moms have made it happen in Colonial Williamsburg??? (I guess they were shuttling between candle-dipping, fire-stoking and scarlett fever-tending.) I just object to the idea that us mothers are meant to be so divided. And that we don't crave a neatly compartmentalized (male) life where we can actually get things done (one at a time). Didn't Virginia Woolf once write an essay about all this?
It’s spring and we're finally emerging from a winter of writing and baby-having. Our book, From the Hips, is coming out in just a few weeks on May 22, and we’re working on a new site design. We’ll be blogging, offering resources and letting you know about our book at fromthehips.com. Hope to see you here very soon.