Abandon your insecurities. Trust your instincts. Enjoy raising a happy, considerate child.
SMART CHILDREARING SENSE FROM THE FOUNDING EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF BABBLE.COM
What’s the right way to parent? Any playground or online message board will supply as many opinions as there are adults. Every subject—from sleep training to time-outs to pacifiers—has its supporters and detractors, and every viewpoint can be backed up by a truckload of research and statistics.
It’s enough to reduce any new parent to tears, but you can end the madness. Ada Calhoun—a young mother as well as the founding editor-in-chief of Babble .com—provides a complete and completely reassuring guide that will calm your fears and make those precious early years a source of joy. Her simple yet profound advice: find what works for you and your family and ditch the anxiety and judgment.
Despite what other parenting books—and other parents—might have you believe, there is no universal “best.” Whether you start solids at four months or eight, whether you co-sleep or Ferberize, whether Junior’s mac ’n’ cheese is Day-Glo orange or 100 percent organic is not nearly as important as providing the few absolute essentials (love, food, shelter) while teaching your little one how to be a kind, responsible human being. With its compelling mixture of entertaining, hilarious firsthand accounts and refreshing common sense, Instinctive Parenting will show you how to do that—and even show you how to retain your sanity, your friends, your sense of humor, and your personal life in the process.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Today’s new parents did not grow up in the most secure homes. Our parents divorced in record numbers— close to one in three— and made independence a priority over security.1 They were, many of them quite proudly, hands off. Rejecting their parents’ paternalism, they decided they were going to level with us, to be straightforward and honest and raise us to be freethinkers. Many of us were latchkey kids, watched ridiculous amounts of television, and became our parents’ confidants, their “friends.”
Watch some ’70s TV and see if you can find a euphemism or a “don’t worry about it.”2 Nope. What you can find: poverty, racism, and natural disasters. Our parents weren’t, as a generation, particularly parental. We weren’t coddled, to say the least. Many of our homes were broken, in one way or another.
So as a new generation of parents, we’re overcompensating. We are, proudly, hands on. We’re carrying our babies around in slings until they can walk, researching the hell out of our school districts, and asking our pediatricians five thousand questions at our routine well-baby visits. We’re trying to provide the best, most nurturing environment possible, and in the process many of us are driving ourselves crazy.
We are ambitious, trying to be the very best parents we can be, even if it means a certain level of martyrdom. The result: we are nurturing to a fault. I can’t tell you how many weird sleep arrangements I’ve heard about. The only way one family I know can get any sleep is if the mother and the child sleep in the bed and the husband sleeps on an air mattress on the floor.
We’re in a tough spot, really, when it comes to creating a nest for our family. We’re trying to do a better job than our parents, but since we’ve eschewed their help, we’re cobbling together a parenting strategy from the Internet, our friends, and whatever memories we have of happiness as children (thus, the recent Sesame Street: Old School DVD release and Playskool’s revamped Sit ’n Spin). We have an overload of information— plenty of it ridiculous, much of it contradictory, very little of it ringing completely true to us.
As if that weren’t enough pressure, we’re also really, really busy. How many couples do you know who can easily afford to have one parent stay home full-time, or to have both partners go part-time? Gen X employees work 45.6 hours a week on average, and more women are in the workforce than ever.3 It’s even more challenging to create a warm and nurturing environment when it’s a struggle just to find time to vacuum.
Even those of us lucky enough to work a couple of days a week at home, or to telecommute, are tied to our e-mail or BlackBerries even when we’re away from the office. (In May 2009, CNN.com called this weisure, as in work plus leisure.4 The name actually is appropriate, because it is an ugly word and the intrusion of work into every second of our home lives is kind of gross, too.)
Couples are piecing together a living wage from multiple jobs per family, some full-time, some part-time, some work-at-home, so both parents have hectic schedules to manage. Add to that the kids’ schedules, and you have a cluttered calendar leaving far too little room for relaxing and enjoying one another, but plenty of room for regret and frustration and a sense that life is living you rather than the other way around.
The Baby Boomers were laissez-faire about a lot of things when it came to child-rearing. Mostly through ignorance but also by proclivity, they weren’t too concerned with protecting their kids from cigarette smoke or lead paint, let alone the unvarnished ugliness about the world. Many are the ’70s children who skipped directly from learning about Columbus and his ships to a lesson in oppression and hegemony. Think the women of our parents’ generation did the equivalent of a hundred Google searches trying to figure out if it was okay to have a glass of wine in the third trimester? Please. The cork was out of that bottle before you could say Electric Company.
And yet, in our rebellion against our parents, we’ve arguably gone too far in the other direction. The shelter we’re providing our kids is a little too . . . sheltering. If we raise our kids too much in reaction to others— our parents, the so-called experts, the other parents on the playground, the medical establishment— we’re guaranteed to make just as many mistakes, only different ones. But if we encourage our kids to be kind and generous and we trust our own instincts about all the other stuff, we may just be able to create a happy household for our family.
© 2010 Ada Calhoun
Table of Contents
Introduction: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Baby xi
Part 1 Shelter
On Shelter 3
A Design Opportunity 7
Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? 11
How Much Negativity Is Helpful? 15
Registering: What You Really Need in the Nursery 20
The Thousand-Dollar Question: What Kind of Stroller Are You? 23
The Disgrace That Is the United States's Leave Policy 26
How We Think About Work 31
The Truth About Cats and Dogs and Babies 33
Blogs and Confessions 36
TV or Not TV? 40
Scary Stories 43
Travels with Baby 47
Marital Relations 49
Those First Weeks Back from Leave 55
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go 65
Other Peopled Kids 68
Share and Share Alike 73
The Great Sleep-Training Debate 77
Anxiety-Free Potty-Training 84
Postpartum and Postpostpartum Depression 86
Sex and Marriage 89
Language Development Craziness 92
The Almighty Nap 95
School Days 101
Becoming Like Our Parents-or Not 105
First Friendships 110
Cracking the Whip 112
How Many Kids Should You Have? 117
Part 2 Food
On Food 123
Defending Junk 127
Booze and Drugs (For You, Not the Kid) 130
Time to Eat 132
A Modest Proposal: Bring Back Home Economics 134
Snack Attack 137
Allergy Alert Days 139
The Evil Turkey Sandwich 143
The Breastfeeding Wars 146
Eating Together as a Family 152
Part 3 Love
On Love 159
The Name Game 163
When You're Pregnant, It Takes a Village... to Judge You 167
A Reality Check for Working Parents 174
Here's to Babysitters 180
Birth Stories 185
Labor Plans and Realities 189
Real Abuse 193
The Hard Parts 196
Party Time! 202
What We Talk About When We Talk About Our Kids 213
Having Faith 216
In Praise of Stepchildren 220
Separation Anxiety 222
Regretting Your Life 225
Vaccination Paranoia 231
The Great Circumcision Debate 235
Toddlers in Love 238
Taking Along the Kids 242
Conclusion: Battling the Jinx 251