Parenting in Public: Hats

With November comes chillier weather around here, and with chillier weather comes comments from strangers on the bus about how Jesse is bundled up (or, more often, lack thereof).  This is my least favorite part of being a car-free family:  all of my parenting choices are out there for people to comment on, always.

Never mind that it was in the upper 50s (warmer than our house is sometimes in the winter!), Jesse was in a mei tai on his dad’s back, and inside a Kinder Coat.

Never mind that we were just walking from a friend’s house to the grocery store (about 7-8 minute walk) and then we had about two minutes outside the store before the bus came.

Never mind that Jesse *hates* having things on his head these days, and I want to pick my battles and only force the issue when I think it’s actually dangerous for him.

Never mind that he was laughing and happy, and clearly not distressed by his lack of hat.

Jesse does own hats, and can occasionally be bribed to wear them with wooden blocks.

Even if all these things were not the case, where do people get the idea that they can go up to a stranger, poke them repeatedly (yeah, I swear I couldn’t make this stuff up) and tell them their kid needs a hat.  The folks over at Car-Free with Kids have a great post on how being car-free means being more visible.  Most of the time, this isn’t actually a bad thing in my book (stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about the good parts!) but on Saturday, all I wanted was to get home with my husband, son, and groceries without being accosted by a well-meaning-but-clueless stranger (who then got annoyed at me when I thanked her for her concern and said the baby was fine).

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Frugal Mama: Child’s Wardrobe on a Budget

To say we’re on a tight budget in our family is an understatement.  Often, people talk about how expensive children are, but, at least with a really young one, it is definitely possible to outfit your child on a budget.

My all-time favorite way to do this is to head over to my local library, where there is a children’s resale shop, run by volunteers, and where all proceeds go to benefit the library.  As far as I’m concerned, this is a win-win situation — I get cheap clothes, toys, and books for my child, and the library gets my money.  Also, it’s good for the planet since we’re reusing clothes that otherwise might end up in the landfill, or we would otherwise have to buy newly manufactured clothes to replace.  Best of all, I can go a little wild and do some impulse-shopping without breaking the bank.  Part of the fun, after all, is falling in love with the adorable outfit Jesse doesn’t *need* but would definitely use, and look cute in.   At a regular clothing store, even a discount store, that kind of impulse can add up FAST, but at Little Fox or a consignment or thrift shop, I can just “splurge” and get the third pair of Robeez (hey, they’re only $3-5 instead of close to $30) just because.

Jesse in the hand-knit sweater I found

Last week, we realized that Jesse was finally growing out of the winter clothes he had worn all last year, and needed some in a bigger size.  Oh, and by winter, I really mean winter.  We usually have our heat set pretty low at home, and layering and warm clothes are essential for comfort November through March.  When I realized Jesse had been wearing the same fleece-lined overalls for a couple of days, I knew it was time.  Luckily, the shop in the library is open Fridays now, which is my day off, and I went with Jesse and got four pairs of lined pants and overalls and four turtlenecks, plus a hand-knit sweater, for $25.  New, this stuff would have been close to $100, if not more, and I saved 75% of that, even though mostly this stuff looks like it was worn by one kid for one season (read: barely at all).  The pair of socks I scored still had the tags on.  Can’t beat that!

How do you save money on essentials for your child’s wardrobe?

Congrats, SomervilleMoms!

One of my local parenting listservs, SomervilleMoms, is an excellent source of parenting advice, used babygear, and tips on what to do with kids locally.  When I was pregnant, pretty much everyone I talked to said I should sign up, and I’m very glad I did — I’ve learned a lot from the list over the past year.  Babble, a parenting website, apparently agrees that SomervilleMoms is an awesome list — we ranked #11 on the east coast in their recent ranking of parenting listservs!  Congrats, SomervilleMoms — keep up the good work!

Do you have a local parenting listserv?  Is it very active, and do you find it helpful?

Fortune Cookies

The other night, we went out for Chinese food, on our way home from a doctor’s appointment.  Grabbing dinner before heading home has become a bit of a tradition after Jesse’s doctor appointments, since we seem to always manage to get appointment times that thrust us into the middle of rush hour on public transit on our way home.  Instead of dealing with the crush of people, we delay heading home, get a treat, and it’s a really pleasant thing to do.

Well, the other night, at the Chinese restaurant, we, of course, got fortune cookies at the end of the meal.  I was the first to open mine:

A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner!

Ok, that was appropriate.  Things have been a little rough around the edges at times with me working full time and James applying for jobs full time, and taking care of Jesse full time.  Next, James opened his:

It isn’t our position, but our disposition, that makes us happy.

Another surprisingly appropriate fortune, for someone job hunting (especially given his usual cheerful, calm disposition!).  Then, of course, the question was, what to do with the third fortune cookie (this was the first time Jesse had been brought one).  We decided, that since I’m still nursing him regularly, the best way for Jesse to enjoy the cookie would be for me to eat it, and then it would eventually turn into milk, so I cracked open the cookie and found the following, perfect baby fortune (even if it isn’t really a fortune — neither are the other two!):

The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

This just seemed like such a sweet sentiment, especially for a baby who is on the smaller end of the spectrum — a reminder that it’ll all work out if we keep trying and holding our ground.

Embarking on a new adventure

Well, as I said in my first post, in early October I applied for the breastfeeding counselor training program through my local Nursing Mothers’ Council.  Last Thursday, I found out that I got in!  I’m wicked excited to get started with the training — kicking off the program by attending their all-day Breastfeeding Basics workshop on Saturday.  I’ve got a mentor all lined up, and now we’re just awaiting the next steps, since this is a different training model than the one they’ve used in years past.  I’m very excited about beginning this journey!

Dads, Babywearing, and Silver Linings

Dads Can (& Should!) Wear Babies, Too | The Stir.

The basic premise of the above-linked post is pretty straightforward and uncontroversial.  Basically, it’s that dads should bond with their babies, and babywearing is a good way to do that.  Sadly, lots of dads seem to think that babywearing is “unmanly” or some other nonsense.

I feel lucky that my husband is an enthusiastic babywearer and he is all about daddy-baby bonding.  From the get-go, James has been just as hands-on as I have:  those first few weeks, when it felt like I was nursing constantly, James changed 95% of all the diapers (he had to teach on Mondays, but was home otherwise), in the middle of the night, he went and got Jesse and brought him to our bed to nurse, and then brought him back again, he made sure I had food to eat so I could concentrate on feeding the baby.  I turned to James for advice on all things baby, because he had way more experience going into this than I did, since his younger brother is ten years younger than he is, and he helped a lot when Daniel was little.

When I got pregnant, James was in the end-stages of a PhD program.  His dissertation defense was a month and a half before Jesse was born, and his thesis revisions were turned in the week before I went back to work after maternity leave.  The plan had originally been for him to finish up a couple of months earlier, but bed rest derailed those plans — instead of powering through his thesis revisions and pounding the pavement looking for jobs, he spent a lot of time keeping me company, keeping me hydrated (despite the ever-increasing amount of water I was supposed to imbibe — he definitely had his work cut out for him!) and taking care of all of the household chores.  It was a lot of work, and his job search got understandably delayed.

During the summer I was pregnant, we looked at bunch of different daycares, got on waiting lists, and hoped that we a) would need a spot (because that would need James would have a job) and b) one of our top two choices would have a spot for us.  We got incredibly lucky, and our top choice offered us a spot a month into my maternity leave, but there was no job on the horizon for James.  We had no choice but to decline the spot.

At the time, I was kind of annoyed that we’d gone to all the site visits, filled out applications, etc.  It felt like we wasted our time and the daycare’s time.  Fast forward nine months.  James still doesn’t have a job (so turning down the daycare spot was definitely the right move!) but James and Jesse have had nine months to spend together.  When James was out of town for a job interview a couple of weeks ago, it was obvious that Jesse really missed him, and the look of delight when he saw him come home was priceless.  They have their own silly games, James understands Jesse in a way nobody else could, and it’s just been a wonderful silver lining to his unemployment.  They’ve bonded in a way that I don’t think they would have been able to if James were working out of the house full-time.  Of course, it’s still possible for working dads to bond with their kids, but this week I’ve been thinking about how very special it has been for them to get to spend all this extra time together.

In the summer, we both decided that wearing the baby was just too warm, but now that the air has a chill in it, we’re both back to wearing Jesse more often, and James does that just as much as I do.  He may not have my need to “carrier-hop” and collect a bunch of different baby carriers, but he did get a woven wrap for his birthday, and I know that wrap will get a lot of use in the years to come as he holds our son close.

How Baby Signs can help with breastfeeding | Best for Babes

How Baby Signs can help with breastfeeding | Best for Babes.

Do you sign with your child?  Have you found it to be helpful?  Jesse got the sign for “milk” really early, and that’s still the main thing he signs for.  Even though I sometimes wish he had more signs, I’m very grateful he can signal when he wants to nurse.

What was your baby’s first sign?  Which signs do you find most helpful to teach?

PB&J: Or, What’s Your Staple Food?

I will never forget my first day home alone with my son after coming back from the hospital.  It was literally the day after we got home, and my husband had to go teach recitations for the course he was TAing all day.  I was ravenous, desperate to eat something, anything, but also massively exhausted.  Finally when it got to the point where I just couldn’t imagine nursing Jesse again before eating something myself (I don’t recommend letting it get to this point, by the way!) I put him in the Moby and made myself

Jesse eating peanut butter straight from a spoon

Jesse eating peanut butter straight from a spoon

a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Protein, sugar, and carbs — what more could I want? (ok, veggies.  good point).   Thus, a new love was born.  I feel very lucky that nobody in my household is allergic to peanuts, allowing me this simple, filling, relatively healthy lunch option when I’ve got less than no time. I don’t know if it’s all that peanut making its way to his taste buds through my milk, but Jesse’s favorite food is now anything peanut, as well.

What’s your go-to easy to prepare food when you’re on your own?

Who are we?

Recently, my local moms’ listserv has had a discussion about parenting blogs, started by someone asking for suggestions.  One of the women on the list put in a plug for her blog, Beyond Moms, which is based on the theory that we are people in addition to just moms.  I really support this idea, but more than that, I think it’s vital that we talk about it.  At the new moms’ group I attend, the facilitator often starts off with an ice-breaker question as we go around the circle introducing ourselves and our babies.  Sometimes this is parenting-related (for instance, why did you pick the name you chose for your baby) but often it isn’t.  She says she thinks it’s important to get to know each other as women before we get to know each other as moms.  Particularly in the post-partum, newborn haze, I think this is an important acknowledgment to make — we are more than just our babies’ mothers, as important as that role is too.

I think there is often an adversarial tone to a lot of parenting discussion on the internet, and that bothers me — I like finding the middle ground, and part of that is that I want to find space for me and space for my relationship with husband somewhere in the chaos that can be parenthood.  I think sometimes we try to push people into boxes — this mom is “free-range,” that mom is an “attachment parent” etc. Personally, although outwardly you might think I exhibit a lot of AP traits, the motivations are often not coming from there:  I babywear not so much for my baby’s development, although that’s a nice perk, but because I like being able to go stroller-less and be more mobile, especially in the winter — it makes my life better in allowing me to more easily get out and see other adults, for instance.  The firmer attachment is nice, but I think my son would probably do just fine without babywearing if that was what worked better for me (*gasp* I know, I know, it seems blasphemous, especially given how much I really do think babywearing can be incredibly helpful).

I was once told by a health professional that

When you have a baby at home, you really can’t expect to get anything else done at all — you shouldn’t expect that you’ll have time to cook, clean the house, or whatever else is on your agenda — you need to let the baby drive the agenda.

To be honest, I found this to be profoundly disturbing.  It seemed like she was implying that, by becoming a mother, I basically ceased to exist — I had become a femme covert,  not “covered” by my husband, but by my child.  I get what she was trying to say, I think.  I think she was saying that it’s vitally important that the baby’s needs get met, and in that I wholeheartedly agree.  But I don’t think mothers need to be completely subsumed by their children in order for that to happen.  I think that taking care of myself and my mental health helps my child because that then gives me the mental reserves to take care of my child.

I also take issue with the notion that seems to abound in some circles that you have to provide activities for your child every waking moment (ok, I may be using a bit of hyperbole here).  One of my favorite things to do after a long day at work is to sit on the livingroom floor with my son while he plays with toys (or “reads” to me, by babbling while turning pages of one of his favorite books).  I chat with him a little bit, but mostly, I’m just sitting and letting him explore and having a little bit of my own down time (and knitting time, which is always good for my mental health).  When I need to cook, I bring his toys into the kitchen and he can play, and we can chat while I cook.   When I hang laundry, sometimes I put him in a carrier on my back and he giggles while the laundry flaps in his face.  In all these situations, I am making sure that Jesse’s needs are taken care of, while still getting done the basic chores of living, and I don’t think it’s bad that he sees that these things need to get done.

I’ll get off my soapbox now, and leave you with the thought that I am a mom, but I am also a person who loves to knit, cook, and have a relatively clean living space, and those are all important.   Tonight, I’ll be going out to dinner with a former professor and some friends from college, to talk about getting together an “alumni council.”  Jesse will be home with his dad, but this is something that I care about doing, and every now and then, I can put me first, and that’s ok.

What do you do to keep your non-mom identity after becoming a mother?