Feminism often gets a bad rap as something for lesbian femi-nazis, so suggesting you consider feminist parenting could sound extreme.
That is, until you realize that this craaaaazy idea simply mean that women should have the same social, educational, and economic opportunities as men.
It might be easy to see why people would want to raise feminist daughters - girls have a pretty vested interest in their own futures - but what may not be as obvious is how imperative it is that we raise feminist sons, as well.
As the mother of two boys, 2016 has been a rough ride. When my youngest was a baby I was relieved that I didn't have to deal with all the "baggage" that comes with a daughter and all the media pressure about weight and body image and clothes and all that. Then I learned that rape culture was so prevalent that raising a son who wasn't a rapist was more challenging that I must think.
At first I didn't realize that some of the things I did were feminist, they just made sense. Instilling a sense of body autonomy and teaching consent were practical things to do, but the more I understood about them, the more importance they had. When you have young kids it sounds like a slippery slope to compare haircuts and hugging grandma to rape culture, but it's not.
I'm no expert in this area. Intersectionality still makes my head spin a bit. I'm white and straight raising white sons, so this technically impacts them least of all.
And that's why it's so important to me.
You practically need a new college minor to sift through the literature around this, so here's a Cliffs Notes version of a crash course - a compilation of list articles with enough info to get you started. We're all making it up as we go anyway, but at least you'll have a foundation.
“DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS” by Chimamanda Adichie
10 Ways Feminist Parents Raise Strong-Willed Boys To Be Amazing Men by Sabrina Joy Stevents
10 Things Feminist Moms Do Differently Than Any Other Parents by Jamie Kenney
11 Way to Raise a Feminist Son Because Feminism Is Good for Everyone by Britni de la Cretaz
5 Ways I Practice Intersectional Feminist Parenting by Akilah S. Richards
Why I Am Raising My Child to Be a Feminist and Why I Think You Should Too by Dan Arel
21 Ways to Raise a Feminist Child by Lyndsay
Want to Be a Feminist Parent? 4 Goals to Consider by Paige Lucas-Stannard
9 Way to Teach Consent to Your Toddler Before They're Old Enough to Explain It by Sarah Bunton
This is not exhaustive, but if we make an effort to listen and learn, and model that for our kids, we're on the right track.
My first birth almost three and a half years ago was an unmedicated vaginal birth in a hospital. We had a doula and everything went well. He was born just under 12 hours from my first contraction which got steadily faster and stronger until he was born.
I'll post more about the process of deciding on a homebirth another time, but this baby was born in our bedroom. I loved birthing at home. I'm also glad I hired Ariel Dolfo Photography to capture our birth since it went by so fast I barely remember it!
My first son was born at 40 weeks and 6 days, so I wasn't in a rush. I didn't feel "ready" yet when my due date rolled around.
Sunday I was 40+4, and the first time I felt like the baby was coming very soon was at 4am when I woke up to a few mild contractions. I didn't bother waking my husband up as they subsided and I went back to sleep.
We got up fairly early and I let him know that I thought "today is the day."
If you've ever found yourself sweating and on the brink of tears in the back of your car trying to shove your child as gently as possible into their car seat after 30 minutes of struggle and hysteria in 90 degree weather, you're not alone.
I've been there more times than I care to admit.
Then I read the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. I tried a few of his suggestions. Within a few days, it got easier. He didn't struggle as much. It didn't take as long. I wasn't crying. It was like magic.
Cohen is both a play therapist and a dad. I appreciated his perspective as a professional mixed with his personal experiences at home with his own daughter.
How is your relationship with food? Do you get enough veggies? Do you stress eat? Are you a sugar addict?
This isn't to judge you - most of us struggle with food in some way or another. I'm not immune, either, I just have more tools than the average person.
After working with health coaching clients who still struggle after twenty or thirty years, when it came time to feed my son solids, I wanted to do it "right." Time for some research.
When most of us picture introducing solids, I'd imagine this is the image that comes to mind:
Most parents start their babies on solids waaaaaaaaaaay too early
Most pediatricians recommend introducing solids around 4 to 6 months. The American Association of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusively formula or breastmilk until 6 months.
A 2013 study from the AAP showed that in a sample of over 1300 people, "40.4% of mothers introduced solid foods before age 4 months. The most commonly cited reasons for early introduction of solid food were as follows: “My baby was old enough,” “My baby seemed hungry,” “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula,” “My baby wanted the food I ate,” “A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food,” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.”"
I started my son a little after 6 months (he had a cold so we waited until he wasn't congested). In retrospect I would have waited even longer. He was sitting up decently but didn't have a developed pincer grasp (ability to hold something between two fingertips). I was planning to offer a mix of purees and finger foods, but he threw up applesauce and I got tired of cleaning it up.
So we went with straight Baby Led Weaning (BLW). And I'm so glad we did.
Why Baby Led Weaning Was Best For Us
The "weaning" here is the British term. Americans tend to think of weaning for babies as "stopping breastmilk consumption" as opposed to "gradually reducing breastmilk consumption by introducing solids." So if you prefer the term "baby led solids," go for it.
Our decision came down to a few things:
- I'm lazy. I was skeptical of commercial baby food but didn't really want to make my own. BLW meant we could offer the same (or very similar) foods to what we ate.
- I have strong feelings about bodily autonomy for kids (and everyone), so giving my son control over how and what he ate held a lot of appeal.
- In my coaching practice I've spent a lot of time helping clients re-learn how to listen to their own bodies, so it made sense to me to let my son tune into his own hunger signals instead of me trying to guess.
- A major reason to start with purees is because babies push food out due to their tongue thrust reflex - their natural protection against choking. If you wait until their tongue thrust reflex is gone (a sign that they're developmentally ready to eat solid food), they can simply eat table food.
- When you start with purees, babies learn to swallow first, then chew. With BLW they chew first, then learn to swallow. They'll eventually get chunky or finger foods, so why not just start there?
Now at 3 years old, my son eats a wide variety of foods. He loves fish, mushrooms, and seaweed just as much as macaroni and cheese. He eats chlorella tablets like they're candy. He also eats candy, but asks for a few pieces and then moves on.
Is it because of his personality, or because of how we introduced and offered food from the start? I don't know for sure, but there isn't much I'll change this fall when it comes time to start our second baby on solid food.
Want to know more?
If you're near San Diego with a baby around 3-9 months, I would love to see you at one of my monthly in-person classes in Hillcrest.
Doesn't work with your schedule or live too far away? Now you can now take the class anytime from anywhere!
The online version of Introducing Solids with Baby Led Weaning is ready to go. Just CLICK HERE for more information.
I would love to support you.
noun: doula, plural noun: doulas
1. a woman who is trained to assist another woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born
I've only had 3 major fights with my husband in over a decade spent together. One was about artichokes. Another was about fabric scissors. The third was an actual shouting match - 5 years before I was even pregnant - while walking down the street in downtown Minneapolis about doulas.
"I don't like doulas," my husband sniffed.
"What? Why? What do you even know about doulas?"
"What do they even DO? I think they're annoying. Why would you need one? Isn't that what the doctor is for?"
"YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT."
Fast forward to 2013.
"Honey," my husband chirped, "my co-worker's wife is pregnant! I asked if they had interviewed doulas yet. He had never even heard of them, so I told him they have to have one."
Doula literally comes from the Greek term for "woman servant," and a doula serves as support for you (AND your partner) during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period.
Why would you want a doula?
The presence of a doula has been shown to reduce labor times and improve birth outcomes for both mother and baby. My favorite statistic is that even a doula simply sitting in a chair in the room without actively doing anything else has improved outcomes! Amazing.
The real question is why wouldn't you have one?
A big factor for us was that we didn't know which midwife or OB would be at our son's birth. Knowing my personality and my desire for an unmedicated birth, I knew that having someone I trusted and felt comfortable with would be key for me to relax. We had also never experienced birth before and wanted someone on our team, not the hospital's, to help guide us through it.
What does a doula do (and not do)?
A doula does NOT advocate or speak for you. She is there to support you. Some doulas are massage therapists and may offer bodywork, give counterpressure during contractions, offer aromatherapy options and other comfort measures. Our doula was instrumental in guiding us through early labor and helping us decide when to leave for the hospital. What was most valuable for us as first time parents was her experience of witnessing birth to let us know what was normal.
I still say she was 80% for my husband and 20% for me.
A doula does not speak on your behalf. She may say something like, "You said you didn't want an epidural. The nurse is offering one. Do you want to try to get through a few more contractions before you decide?" Or she may say, "You said you didn't want an epidural, but it's been a long time and you seem really tired. Do you want to discuss your options?"
Where do you find a doula?
A trusted friend or family member can be a doula, but it should be someone you're comfortable with since they'll be present when you're in a vulnerable state during labor.
DONA is the group that certifies trained doulas, and you can search for a local match who is available around your due date at DoulaMatch.net. It doesn't make them a better choice necessarily, it just verifies that they have training and some experience.
How do you pick?
We found a list of local doulas, visited their websites, contacted several to make sure they were available, and interviewed 3 doulas. We really liked them all, but we chose the one who provided what we felt was the personality we needed in the delivery room. I'm very organized and responsible, so I wanted someone with a softer presence.
Many cities have doula meet-and-greet events so you can mix and mingle with a group of doulas and decide who you might want to interview. Then of course their schedule and pricing needs to be a good fit.
People are sometimes surprised at the cost of doula support, but they can only take so many clients due to the unpredictability of birth. Most also offer prenatal and postpartum support, may have additional lactation training, and probably need childcare for their own kids for the potentially long-haul of your labor.
Some may work on a sliding scale, offer payment plans or trades, or there may be student doulas in your area with less experience and a lower cost. Several we met offer discounts for homebirths since they're not always covered by insurance. The earlier you make a decision, the earlier you can budget for it.
When my husband and I started talking about trying for another baby, one of his first questions was, "Do we just have the same doula again? Is that a thing?"
But do I NEED a doula?
Of course not. And some women prefer their mother, sister, or friend to act in a similar capacity.
But if you have the option, I can't think of a reason NOT to have that additional help.
Did you have a doula at your birth?
If your baby is approaching the 4-6 month range, it's time to start thinking about feeding your baby solid foods. But where to start?
Many pediatricians still recommend spoon-feeding purees to your infant, but what if there was a method that involved less work for you and built a better foundation for a healthy relationship with food for your child?
Enter baby-led weaning.
Starting solids doesn't have to involve jars of gross mush or hours steaming, pureeing, and freezing cubes yourself.
Baby led weaning follows your child's own cues for readiness to set him or her up with a healthy relationship to food and their body.
In this 90-minute class we will cover:
- when the ideal time is to start solids and why
- what foods are best for what ages
- how and when to introduce allergenic foods
You'll form a foundation for confidently feeding your baby, and receive a list of suggested items to buy, and a chart of when to introduce which foods.
The class is an hour and a half and includes time for questions so you can ask about specific situations for your child. Best of all, you can join from the comfort of your home via phone. I will also record the class in case your baby wakes up and you have to step away so you can listen later. The recording, along with an emailed handout of notes will give you a reference as you progress on your feeding journey.
After becoming a mother you're rarely alone. My son's favorite place has always been pressed against me at all times.
(I'm not sure how dads get a free solo pass to the bathroom but there has to be some mystery left in the universe.)
Yet, at the same time, motherhood can be extremely isolating.
We no longer live in village communities where extended multi-generational families care for each other. I'm not romanticizing this idea, but as someone whose immediate family lives thousands of miles away, there is a certain appeal.
We feel pressure to bounce back, whether it's into our pre-baby jeans, fitness routine, work schedule, or other obligations.
Yet we have no idea how motherhood will change us. No matter when (or if) we fit back into those jeans, a different person is putting them on. Our lives revolve around different needs and priorities, few of which are our own.
I have over 1,000 friends on Facebook, yet do I really know what's going on in their lives? I talked to a friend recently on Skype and said, "I know all about your kids' sleep schedules, but how are YOU?"
I love all the connections I have on social media to share experiences, yet how deep do those connections go? And what experiences do we actually share?
I'm guilty of this myself.
Every night I post three "daily positives" on my Facebook wall. They range from moments of gratitude to fun things we did or silver linings I experienced that day. Some days I truly have to dig deep.
Those posts are for ME.
But when other people look at them, they may think everything over here is sunshine and roses all the time.
I don't post about the breakfast my son threw on the floor that I had to clean up, or the potty accident he had, or how he ran out the back door naked while I was trying to clean up the afore(not)mentioned messes. I don't want to dwell on those moments in my own life.
I don't want to constantly read about those moments from others, either, to be honest.
Like I mentioned to a friend, people don't get dogs so they can pick up poop, but that's also part of the deal.
But I know that my posts play into the idea that everything is going well all the time. And that's not true.
After this topic came up multiple times in a week, I organized my first mama circle here in San Diego. I have never led anything like this before and wanted to make sure it worked like I thought it would. It ended with everyone in tears and a group hug. It was amazing.
The most voiced comment? "I thought I was the only one."
You're not the only one.
It's hard to be vulnerable at all, let alone when we're chasing our kids at the park or trying to stop our toddlers from eating food they found on the ground or changing a diaper. It's hard to maintain a complete train of thought when we're parenting, let alone finish a sentence - or truly listen to one. It's hard to truly connect.
Humans are social animals. Even introverts need to be heard and understood.
Mothers Circle is held the second Friday of the month in San Diego. To hear about upcoming circles, or upcoming training to hold your own circles, get updates by email.
When I ran my January meal planning challenge, it was as much for me as for everyone else. I loved seeing what everyone else was making, what their goals were, and what changes they saw during the month.
At our house, our goal was to save time, energy, and money - plus try to use up some languishing pantry items stuffed in the mysterious depths of the cupboards or freezer. And we did! Sure there were a few days that we had to switch around due to life happening, but it was a relief to avoid the last minute decision making of what to make for dinner.
Overwhelmed at the prospect? I have an online meal planning workshop coming up. Or for more tips, check out my meal planning Pinterest board!
I only plan 4 dinners each week since we usually have enough for leftovers at least once, plus we have dinner at a friend's house most Thursdays. My husband works weekends and we often have activities, so I keep those nights open.
We also get a CSA (community supported agriculture) box of local veggies each Thursday at the farmers market, so we incorporate those as much as possible. We eat a little seafood at home, otherwise I'm vegetarian, and I'm currently not eating gluten, either.
Polenta with Peppers and Mushrooms
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Spinach and Artichoke Quinoa Casserole
Homemade Gluten-Free Pizza
Chickpea and Mushroom Polenta (we didn't love this one)
Lentil and Hominy Chili
Gluten-Free Crispy Orange Cauliflower
BBQ Tempeh Tacos with Shredded Cabbage
Black Bean Enchiladas
Wild Rice Soup
Cold Vietnamese Noodle Bowls
Homemade Gluten-Free Pizza
Black Bean Tacos
Vegetarian Chili with Gluten-Free Cornbread
What are some of your go-to meals?
If your best meal planning intentions end up in a mess of recipes and guilty takeout, you're not alone. Join me from home (wear your PJs, I won't judge) and we'll cover strategies to finally get you started with my online meal planning workshop.
Before my son was born I read a lot more about birth than parenting. Considering that information only covered about 12 hours from my first contraction, I had a lot of catch up to do once he arrived.
And wow, the learning curve felt steep. When he was around 10 months old I finally read this article about features of a high needs baby. My son met 11 of the 12 criteria.
I just thought all babies were like that because he was the only one I had.
Other moms' mentioned their high-needs babies and I thought about how terrible that sounded - my son wouldn't sleep longer than 37 minutes, had to be constantly held, and went from 0-to-hysterical in 3 seconds flat. And they had it worse?
Apparently not. Whew.
(Looking back I have no idea how I survived those first two years with my sanity relatively intact, though that's up for debate.)
Entering my third trimester of pregnancy with my second child I vacillate between peace and panic. On one hand, at least I have some idea of what to expect.
On the other hand, I have some idea of what to expect -- plus a 3-year-old. Hold me.
With my first I felt intense pressure to "do it right." I wanted to read all the books and articles and expert opinions.
Then I learned that anyone who tells you there is one way to do anything is selling you their book.
Do I give weight in to experienced professionals say and what studies can show us? Yes. But the most important thing is doing what works for me and my family. I am the expert at my children.
So I'll stock up on strategies for smooth transitions for siblings, but this time I will have fewer expectations of myself. Because I don't know much about THIS baby yet.
In a class with Pam England (author of Birthing From Within) she explained her philosophy of "B+ Parenting."
She said that none of us can ever be a perfect parent. When we think we can, we set ourselves up for failure. Instead, she says, aim to be a B+ parent. Better than average, but without the pressure of never screwing anything up.
We will inevitably screw up.
That's what parenting is about. It's picking our battles and trying not to screw up too bad while loving the crap out of these little imperfect humans. We're learning along with them.
You're doing the best you can with what you have available at the moment. That's enough.
Not feeling like it lately? Motherhood can be an overwhelming hamster wheel of laundry and trying to remember what else you need to do.
If you're feeling stuck and don't even know where to start, you're not alone. If you need a hand to make the leap, I'd love to offer mine.