Netflix for Books?

I’ve seen many ads on Pinterest for Epic! children’s book subscription, a digital download service tailored to young bookworms. They tout that kids receive personalized selections based on previously read books, and the more they read, the better the recommendations get. You have to have some kind of digital device (phone, computer, tablet), and it’s $8 a month with your first month free. However…

WHAT ABOUT THE FUCKING LIBRARY?! IT’S FREE!

Part of the enjoyment of going to the library is looking through stacks of books and finding something different every time. You might get into a pirate phase, which morphs into explorers, then into the history of Greenland (did you know it’s not that green?). Or you read books that are cat themed until you see a book about dinosaurs and wow, is that cooler than ever! This “personalized” service only goes down a path of interest and reading level, but leaves no room for expanded ideas. If your kid loves reading, encourage them to try all kinds of books. I’ve worked with kids who hated reading until we found the right subject for them, and they finally wanted to become better readers.

I realize for some people it might be tough getting to a local library, but if your child goes to school they probably have one there. You can ask their teacher about borrowing a book they love from the classroom, or organize a book swap with other parents, the school, even your community. Buying a digital book only gets kids more hooked onto the already addictive tech teat, but whatever works for your family is up to you. No judgments, but I personally love flipping the pages of a real book.

How I Realized My Expectations Were Wrong

In the last few months of my pregnancy I was so excited to do all the things I knew would make me a Great Mom; I bought a baby carrier, read up on breastfeeding and pumping tips (including making a chart for storing breast milk properly), pinned a million baby activities on Pinterest, and went to an accelerated birthing class. Turns out that only the birthing class would make a difference. Everything else ended up being totally worthless. The top-rated carrier that was still over $100 second-hand? It’s too big for me to wear. (As a very short person, this is the case with many things.) Breastfeeding and pumping info? My milk wasn’t plentiful enough, so after a few short and aggravating weeks we gave up for formula. Baby activities? Well, that was a tad useful, but mostly reserved for a baby that can sit up or at least lay on their tummy for more than 10 seconds without bawling their eyes out.

Did I feel completely shitty about now being a Cut-Rate Mom? Was I on the path to becoming a Bad Mom? Sorta. I find I’m constantly reminding myself that I don’t have to do the most in order to make sure my baby is doing well. Moreover, I remember that people have been raising babies for thousands of years without all the gadgets, apps, parenting books, and guilt-trips we have now. It’s pretty easy to make sure your baby grows up “normal” as long as you love it and care for it to the best of your abilities. Family, friends, support groups, there’s so many people to help when you can’t handle it (I’ve definitely had to reach out a few times when I needed a break for my mental health, and a couple times where I just needed a goddamn shower) AND IT’S OKAY! Being a parent is tough as hell, some times it takes longer than you’d like for things to mellow out and fall into a groove, but it will happen.

When I had complained on Instagram about being stuck for hours with a sleeping baby on my chest instead of being productive, my mother pointed out that my baby is only this little for a short time, and whatever I want to do can wait. I am important to her, and I need to take care of myself too. Looking back I realize how stupid I was being. My baby LOVES me so much, she could only sleep while being as close to me as possible. And I complained about it because I wanted to do chores! I’d been worrying about a lot of the wrong things, or stuff that ended up being no problem at all. Now all I worry about is if she’ll fall asleep before we get to the park, or if she’s going to suddenly hate the baby food I just made 6 jars of.

It doesn’t matter if you have the nicest stroller, educational toys, go to mommy & me yoga, or do photoshoots of your breastfeeding sessions. You might do all those things and find out you hate it all. The best times you have could be when you got 4 hours of sleep, haven’t showered in a week, and got delivery every night, but your baby finally slept through the night while you got to scroll Facebook before passing out at 7pm. Expectations are not reality, and you could drive yourself mad trying to make it work out that way. Whatever works best for you is it. Period.

 

 

Show Me The Money

*Okay, just as a heads up, this is a genuine and slightly uncomfortable topic for me to talk about, but I feel it’s more common than people like to think.*

Money: you can never get enough of it. When you plan on having a family, one of the first things you do is get your finances together to make sure you can afford All The Things. Aside from all the baby gear, there’s time off work (for one or both parents, and anywhere from a few weeks to indefinite leave), more doctor appointments, emergency savings, a college fund… just an impossible amount of things to account for. The good news is you can always start saving way before you have a baby. There’s a million and one sites to learn how to coupon and bargain hunt, stretch a dollar, and still save money for a family trip to Disneyland. But realistically, that’s for people with a career. What about people who just have a job?

“That’s the same thing!” you yell at your computer screen. But no, it isn’t. A person with a career has set hours every week. They get a salary. They maybe work in an office environment. If they want to take time off, they give advanced notice and it’s no problem. A person with a job has a schedule that can change week-to-week. They get a check every one or two weeks. They work at a shop doing customer service or sales. If they want time off, they need to give at least two weeks notice and still might not get all the time they asked for because their shifts can’t be covered that long. It’s extremely different, especially when it comes to the money.

My husband and I both worked in a service industry. When I got pregnant, I let my boss know I wouldn’t be coming back after maternity leave so she could look for a replacement. My husband was lucky enough to get paternity leave, and stayed home the first 7 weeks after the baby came. We both saved the best we could before then, but on a single income it’s difficult to pay all our bills and afford groceries. Just the necessities is still a squeak past what he earns each month, and we have a fantastic grandma who helps us by buying formula and diapers. Without her, we would probably be on a broke college student diet to be able to afford our baby’s food.

I looked for months for any tips to get us through this until my husband could get a raise, or we could move somewhere cheaper, or I could find a way to earn some income. What did I find? Fucking nothing. Everything online is about using coupons, creating stockpiles, freezing bulk amounts of food, and buying things on sale. The most helpful thing I did was create a budget and calculate what our expenses were each month. We buy generic, shop the cheapest prices, buy less meat, and we still barely scrape by. What about assistance, you might ask. Even on one income, we make too much for WIC assistance. We are stuck on the line between too little and too much. It is a tricky place to be, and there isn’t much we can do about it.

So what am I telling you this for? There is a lot of unexpected things that come with being married and having children. Save more than you think you should, if you in fact can. If you are fortunate enough to have people to help you, take the help. When you’re ready for a baby shower, ask for gift cards to get groceries. Your baby won’t need toys for a long time, and even when they do, they don’t know that a box of tissues isn’t as fun as a light-up dancing puppy robot. Do your best, and be considerate of your friends with kids. If you have a more comfortable lifestyle, offer to pick up their groceries or diapers. Bring them dinner. Even if they don’t need the help financially, they will appreciate the gesture of kindness.

Un-bow-lievable

One of the most exciting parts of having a baby is picking out all the cute little outfits (even ones that seem ridiculously fancy), and isn’t that what it’s really all about? So of course, when you find out you’re having a girl, that is amplified by 400%. It’s simple to see why, just take a look at any kids clothing section : it’s 75% girls stuff. Throughout your life, it will always be a bajillion options for women’s clothes while guys get just enough choices to pick the same outfit for their entire life.

A lot of people talk about toxic masculinity, but what about toxic femininity? Boys will not just be boys anymore, while girls can and should do anything. As our world changes, we talk about raising our boys and girls right, breaking gender stereotypes, giving our kids equal opportunities to do and be whatever they want. And then I see something like this: a baby bow subscription service.

Now I know that looking a certain way doesn’t dictate your personality. Just because you want to wear a tutu and tiara doesn’t mean you can’t climb trees and play in the mud. Wearing your favorite team jersey doesn’t mean you can’t bake cookies or play with dolls. But it irks me when people have to assert that their baby is a girl. I dress my little girl in mostly boys clothes (just as cute, fits for longer, more color choices) and have had people call her a boy when complimenting her. When that happens, I don’t bother correcting them. But it happens when she’s wearing a yellow baseball shirt, or a gray and blue onesie. Why is she assumed to be a boy just because she isn’t wearing pink?

People can chose to dress their kids however they want, of course. Nobody should dictate how you want yourself or your kids to look. But is this extreme girliness worth $30 a month? Why not put that money into a savings account instead, or put it towards a family vacation fund? Almost anything else would be more worth while than a gender identifier.

Fast Real Food

Ah, cooking. You love it or you hate it, but either way you need food. As someone who enjoys cooking, it can be frustrating trying to make dinner when you also have a baby to put to bed. Sure, bub (the spouse) can help when he gets home from work, but he’s fucking hungry-turning-hangry. What’s the actually simple thing I do? Buy precut veggies. And some other stuff. (Note: if you have a baby that takes long naps and you don’t have /want to do other chores, feel free to buy cheaper whole veggies and chop them in those pockets of time.)

I love making one-pan dinners, and this is about that. This works whether you are vegetarian, omnivorous, vegan, gluten free, etc. There’s a recipe I got from Good Housekeeping magazine for a rustic smoky chicken and veggies that I make all the time, but the best part is all the veggie substitutes. *See end of post for the list.* And the seasoning is literally three things! If that’s too much work, buy a rub/seasoning mix with the precut veggies. (Very much in love with Just Cook spices, BTW.) Anyway, pick some favorite veggies, a protein if you want it, toss some olive oil on everything then sprinkle on the spices. Pop it in the oven for 20-25 minutes (like 10 minutes before bub is due home) so you can take care of whatever the baby needs, and he can make sure the kitchen doesn’t burn down.

SNOOze, You lose

Of the many things to worry about with new babies, sleep is always at the top of the list. So if you heard about an amazing product that would not only make it easier to get your baby to sleep but also gives you a beautiful restful night, you’d want this shit ASAP. No matter the cost, right? Is $1,160 worth it?

The SNOO Smart Sleeper was developed by Dr. David Karp (the guy who came up with the 5 S’s for baby sleep), beautifully designed, and made with lots of useful bits (transition mode to ready baby for a real crib, alerts if they need something). But… is it all really worth it? What if you have a colicky baby? What about the connection you get from cradling your precious baby while it falls asleep? The battle scars of bags under your eyes? Drinking 13 cups of coffee to be awake enough to barely function? That shit is worth it!

When you

#goals

For my introductory post, I’d like to make something clear: my intent is to be humorously real about parenting and call out some of the bullshit products, services, and glossed over aspects of caring for babies. What’s my credibility? Nothing! My past two jobs were selling toys, and child care. I have a five month old baby, and am now a stay at home mom. Most of my parenting skills are either natural instinct, book learnin’, or passed down by my mom (who also worked in child care for many years).

Nothing I say is to be taken as sage advice, it’s more like an unloading of “what the fuck is the purpose of this?” based on what I see aimed at mothers on social media. Think of it as wine time with other mom friends; complaining about your partner (they always leave dirty diapers on the damned changing table), questioning the expansive wallets of other families (a customized leather rocking horse with Swarovski crystal embellishments?!), comparing more “interesting” aspects of children (does your baby cough and fart at the same time?).

My only aim is to amuse and delight other moms who are tired of seeing perfectly beautiful families while thinking of how you really should’ve married rich/had kids earlier/joined a gym/focused on giving up carbs. Nobody is perfect and this is the proof. #goals