Hi there. JJ here. I'm no longer updating this blog, but you can visit me at jjkeith.net. I also update on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, including copious kid pics. You can buy my new book, Motherhood Smotherhood, by clicking here.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Anything But Babywise

What advice would you give to a woman pregnant with her first child? I mean, I don't know. Don't drop the baby? Don't forget to change diapers every few hours? Find a wooden spoon and bite on it until the baby turns one?

I have two friends pregnant with their first babies. Both were recently kind enough to pretend that I might have some helpful tips for new mothers. On the spot I couldn't come up with much useful information. As for books? "Anything but Babywise" was my impromptu advice. Also: "Uh, you don't need a stroller, but it's nice to have one?" "Definitely get a carseat." "Swaddle, I think, if it works. It's like wrapping a burrito. Eh, Google it."

Kasper isn't quite two yet, but already that baby stuff seems far away. I mean, I don't know if you've seen pictures, but my kids are expressive now! Some of the time, they voice their preferences with words and I couldn't be more pleased with this development. Remember when my kids were babies? Yeah, that was rough. But they're people now! We have conversations!

But my "smell ya later, infancy" attitude isn't helpful for my pregnant friends. So I gave it some thought. Here's the best bits of advice for new mothers I could come up with:
  • Childbirth is just one shitty day with -- odds are very good -- a happy ending. Prepare for it, but don't let it define you. Epidurals suck, but there's no gold medal for pain endurance. If you get a C-section, you still get a baby. I bore one with an epidural and bore one without. It really wasn't all that different. Both hurt before, during and after. In one case, I also got a nice rest that I paid for with having to get a catheter. It wasn't really worth it for me, but it might be for someone else.
  • All the seemingly divisive decisions -- pain meds in labor/newborn sleep arrangements/feeding -- are often phrased as moral imperatives from both sides. Fuck that. Take care of your kid. Do what works. 
  • You don't need a one-word title for how you parent. Have one if you want one, but it isn't essential. You can pick and choose from different philosophies. I might be a minimalist parent or an unparent. I'm not sure. It doesn't matter. I just do shit and shit happens. I try not to be a dick to my kids, but it's okay if sometimes they're inconvenienced by my needing to be a human in addition to being a mother.
  • Related: You co-exist with your children. They don't revolve around you (hence Babywise being evil) and you try to get to a place where you don't revolve around them but forgive yourself for the fact that itty bitty kids require an intense buy-in and you might not have a personality for the first year or two of their lives. 
  • You might lose your mind. That's okay. Get help. 
  • Co-parent. Leave your partner home alone with the baby while you go to the grocery store. Or even better, send them to the grocery store together while you stay home alone. Don't fix it when your partner dresses the baby in two types of stripes. Don't deride your partner's babyminding faculties. Don't believe that only you have the magic to make baby happy. Don't hover over your partner when he or she's with the baby and treat him/her like an employee who has to be trained. Don't refer to what he/she does as "babysitting." 
  • Both sleep training and not sleep training are messes. Figure out what you can tolerate and then act accordingly. 
  • Remember that wave of articles a few months ago about how attachment parenting is incompatible with feminism? Malarky. But regardless of your parenting philosophy, you can imprison yourself if you don't control your tendency to be controlling. Go ahead and try to be perfect if you want, but don't blame the institution of motherhood or your baby when you go two years without finishing a sentence, sleeping through the night or having sex. 
  • Join a mom's group, but stay with it only if it's nurturing to you. If you feel judged or you feel judgy of the other moms, quit. Find a new group. Or don't. It's not high school. You don't need a clique.
  • And for fuck's sake, stop this homemade baby food nonsense. Grab a banana, smoosh it with a fucking fork, then feed it to your baby. You don't have to puree peas. When they want to eat peas, they will just eat them with that cute little pincer grasp they've been working on. Carrots too hard? Steam them. It is so much simpler to feed your kid fresh fruits and vegetables than anyone lets on. It's not a thing. It's just food. Also, they sell this stuff in jars and pouches that's not too bad.
  • You can't win at parenting or homemaking. If you think you're winning then everyone else thinks you're a dick.
When I started teaching I had to hone a teaching persona and that's sort of what I've had to do since becoming a parent. Not coincidentally, Mommy JJ is a lot like Teacher JJ. A student once told me that he imagined me saying "Really!?!" after everything he wrote before deciding if he should keep it and I think that was #winning. I hope my kids pause for the same reason when they request chocolate for lunch or another episode of Futurama. (Don't think too hard about my 2- and 3-year-olds watching Futurama. Shhh....) Kids are beautiful and majestic little human unicorns who are full of total bullshit and they need to be called on that. That said, babies are more genuine than kids and don't yet deserve the "Really?!?" treatment, so give them the benefit of the doubt.

"Really?!?" also comes in handy for the dumb crap strangers sometimes say to you, the crazy bullshit other mothers will spew on you in new mommy groups ("Ferberizing is the only way to go"/"Sleep training causes brain damage"), and your partner's "I don't know how to change diapers as well as you" lies. Sometimes the best thing to do is pretend that you're a pioneer lady on a wagon train and think to yourself, "What's really important here?" Suddenly, organizing baby socks will fall off your to-do list and you'll feel a lot better. ("Sock organizing? Really?!?" you'll say to yourself.)

What am I missing? I mean, I'd add that Ask Moxie is a pretty rad resource, the way she's all inclusive and shit. I always send new moms Moxie's tips for preventing PPD. Maybe also Let's Panic About Babies and the way it pokes fun of it all? Kellymom for breastfeeding. And I may not be a textbook attachment parent, but Dr. Sears rules the dosage charts. What tips would you give to a new parent? Is it impossible to give advice without validating your choices?


HoldOnPumpkin said...

Love this!

Anonymous said...

This is comical! I'm a first time mom and might I add to your list to not worry about all the stupid abbreviations people use on mommy websites, like DH, FTM, and a plethora of other ones that they assume everyone was born understanding!

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