Allison Schneider

How did the cave baby sleep?

Sleep is a truly tricky thing for all new families. It can be a really polarizing topic for many parents as well as professionals who support them.

While I can understand a practitioner's stance to not want to be included due to different approaches being represented, it is of the utmost importance that parents do know their options across the board. This may be a bit long-winded, but take as much or as little of this as you like and I'm happy to elaborate more as well as put you in touch with our Sleep Consultants.

Although the AAP's stance is that an infant should be in the same room with parents for at least 6 months and optimally one year, the policy is very clear that the infant has a separate sleep surface, i.e. not in the parents' bed. Due to this recommendation and the fact that most pediatricians follow these recommendations, it is very difficult to get proper research on co-sleeping and infant safety due to the fact that parents who may be co-sleeping are reluctant to share this information with care providers.

The true research on co-sleeping comes from Dr. James McKenna who is running a sleep lab at Notre Dame University. His research is based in breastfeeding and co-sleeping and supports co-sleeping with breastfed infants as not only safe, but important for development and attachment. That's the academic way to look at this and we could dive into that research as it's fairly new and really interesting, but I'm going to give you the answer we give the families. (Here is a link to more about Dr. McKenna: https://cosleeping.nd.edu/)

At the mama 'hood we base everything we recommend based on what the family wants to do. If a family comes to us looking for sleep training, while we don't do that, we are happy to help them understand different methods and locate a professional who may be able to help with a sleep training program. We try to always remind the mama that the infant is a tiny mammal that lacks cognitive reasoning. The reason an infant left alone will cry for it's mother is not because it's spoiled, it is simply because it is a mammal and it is alerting it's caretaker that it is alone and it needs to be retrieved before the wolves find it. Human infants are born more premature than any other primate. We are underdeveloped at birth due to evolution - when we started walking upright the pelvis narrowed, therefore the birth canal narrowed, therefore human infants heads had to be smaller to come thru the birth canal safely, and human infants were born before reaching a mature gestational age. Babies aren't ready to be left alone, can't take care of anything for themselves, and must use their cries to communicate their needs with their caretakers. Realizing this about our babies is very helpful for parents to realize, a human baby is not equipped to be left alone for a significant amount of time - it is truly not safe. When appropriate I will use the anecdote that if you walk into an orphanage that has babies lined up in cribs, it is eerily silent. The babies aren't crying as a defense mechanism. Because they were crying and no one came to them, in order to defend themselves from predators they stopped crying so the wolves couldn't find them. In essence, they gave up, their mammalian brain took over and knew how to keep itself safe.

Now, are there cases where it may be absolutely necessary to sleep train a baby? Perhaps. If mama is suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety, a lack of sleep can simply exacerbate this and in some cases lead to postpartum psychosis. Therefore making a sleep plan that works which may or may not include sleep "training" makes sense. There is only anecdotal evidence of long term effects of sleep training on infants. However, the parenting style that would seek out rigid sleep training may also lend itself to accept it's outcomes.

As with everything, we ask parents, "What do you want to do?" If they say I want to sleep - we discern what that means for the family. An infant has to eat every few hours, it's just how it works biologically. Expecting a tiny infant to sleep "thru the night" is unrealistic and can be harmful. So we work with the family to define what "thru the night" means. We work on the environment for sleep for the entire family. And if the conversation comes about that what a mama really wants to do is sleep with her baby in bed with her, then we talk about how to do that safely.

From the approach of anthropological parenting we can discern what we could have done "in the cave." However, we don't live in the cave anymore so how can we take what we've learned from how infants and their caretakers have slept for thousands of years and apply it to what we do now. Understanding the infant as a tiny helpless mammal makes a lot of sense to parents once it's broken down for them. Giving parents access to the research, an anthropological perspective, and permission to follow their instincts, generally leads them to an outcome they can feel happy with and empowers them to know they are doing what is best for them and their family in their crazy lives.

Metal

I literally have no idea what I’m doing. My current parenting goal is to prevent my sons from coming home from school when they are teenagers and when I ask how their day was they grunt and head into their room and the next thing I hear from behind their closed bedroom door is heavy metal. I know, it’s good to have goals. Especially such lofty ones.

But seriously, I have no idea what I’m doing. I want them to be happy and feel secure and also teach them to be responsible and kind and generous and blah blah blah. But, and I’ll say it the third time because it’s been proven that things in threes work out somehow (check out the Holy Trinity or if that’s not your thing, the Three Stooges) I have no idea what I’m doing.

And who amongst us does? Parenting experts? Depends on what their expertise says. And P.S. To quote a parent, “Everyone’s a parenting expert, until you have kids!” It’s like that Jillian Michaels writing a book on how to get your body back after having a baby - and um, y’all, she never had a baby. Her wife had the baby. And I’m not saying it’s not a fabulous book or workout program or whatever. I simply prefer to hear from a woman who had to actually “get her body back” and I don’t even know that I agree with all that, but I digress.

Pretending to know what’s best for the children, or how to help them properly and age appropriately navigate life’s challenges, is a total crap shoot and I don’t care who you are. There will be a Sunday night when I have nailed the weekend, and I mean killed it. I mommed the shit out of the weekend. Everyone had all the right uniforms and plenty of snacks and got enough rest, got along splendidly, we ate at the table all together Sunday night and the children are clean and tucked happily into their beds, and I’m like - yeah I could write one of those parenting books. Then, for some unknown reason, perhaps it’s because his sock wrinkled up the wrong way during the night or the planets decided to realign whilst we all slept, but the older wakes up on Monday and hates EVERYONE - but mostly his little brother and no one will get dressed or put on their shoes or brush their teeth and now we’re running late and I end up yelling, “Why do I always have to yell to get things done? Why can’t y’all do it the first 5 times when I ask nicely?!?!” Then the car ride to school is silent and I remember I actually, yes you guessed it, have no idea what I’m doing.

Let’s just put all the cards on the table here. No matter what parenting “philosophy” we subscribe to, we’re still just winging it. Sometimes we know for sure we aren’t doing something the way our parents did - because it was traumatizing or just felt wrong. Sometimes we take a page from our parents’ book and model a certain parenting behavior around theirs. But even then, they were winging it. For several generations parenting wasn’t a verb as we treat it now. Kids were had, they were fed and clothed and bathed and maybe they played sports in school, maybe they took band, but they certainly weren’t “built” with a specific brand of parenting involved.

I’m happy that we are all so invested in how our kids are doing and if we’re parenting “right.” It’s terrifying to know that a good portion of the child’s college savings may have to go into the pocket of a therapist, but hey, that’s a reality I’ve resigned myself to. I have a good friend who has a magnet on her refrigerator that reads, You aren’t managing an inconvenience. You’re raising a human being. That seems about right to me. She also happens to have one that reads, Parenting: When screwing up your own life just isn’t enough. And that’s it - both of them. Because while it’s a really important “job” it’s also a total rodeo where you’re not the cowboy nor the bull, but the rodeo clown whose job it is to make sure the bull doesn’t gore the cowboy while risking being gored yourself.

We have to laugh at ourselves because we’d cry our eyes out if we didn’t. That’s what I’m getting printed on a magnet for my fridge. I’ll put it next to the one gifted to me several years ago: Choosy moms choose beer. And I’ll try to remember to laugh every day both at myself and with the boys.

As far as the heavy metal goes, maybe I can learn to love it and we can listen together and talk about the lyrics? No, never mind that’s a terrible idea. As a mom I reserve the right to hate heavy metal and as teenage boys they reserve the right to their angsty teen years. Ugh. Let me go find my kerchiefs so I’m more attractive to the bull.

This Ain’t South Padre, That’s For Sure

The end of Girl Scout Cookie season is a really bittersweet time for me. Over the years, I’ve developed the perfect strategy - four boxes of cookies - but the children and the hubs only know about three. See where I’m going with this? Yep, that fourth box is a hidden treasure. Just for me. Each night after the goblins have (finally) gone to sleep I delicately enjoy my Thin Mint with either a cup of hot tea or alongside my Cabernet - both combinations are heavenly. Well, the Thin Mints are gone - have been for a few weeks and now I’m morose as I sadly slip into bed without my chocolatey minty delight - and neither Safeway, nor Whole Foods, nor Target can help - it’s just not the same. However, there is hope! It’s Spring Break and due to the fact that I suffer from dreadful mom-guilt (because there are all those pictures of amazing families on the beaches of Mexico while my kids are stuck in their Denver bungalow during Spring snow storms) it’s the perfect time to bake cookies!

Scene: Small Kitchen in an Urban Denver neighborhood. The trappings of cookie making lay on the counter - powdered sugar covers every surface, including the floor where we can see tiny person powdered sugar footprints leading off SR. Enter woman SR - covered in powdered sugar with fresh streaks down her face and cheeks - it’s unclear if she’s been crying or sweating. From off-stage we hear:

Child 1: (screaming almost hysterically) HE GOT TO DO TWO SCOOPS OF FLOUR AND ALL I GOT TO DO WAS ONE SPOON OF THE OTHER STUFF AND IT WAS A TINY SPOON!!

Child 2: (also from off stage, also shouting) GROW UP YOU BIG BABY!

Woman: (also shouting) I said no talking and stay in your rooms!!!

Woman looks at wall clock which reads 2:50, sinks to the floor, her back resting on the cabinet, buries her head in her hands and sighs the sigh only a mother with children on Spring Break can understand.

Slow fade to black.

This scene is from a biographical play based on real events. (Read: it’s an excerpt from my actual life.)

And the thing is if it weren’t for the Spring Break Guilt of trying to be so FUN! And CREATIVE! And MAKE MEMORIES! I probably could have happily (or begrudgingly) settled for some of the very delicious overpriced gourmet cookies from the gourmet grocers. Had I simply learned my lesson with the koolaid pancakes over Winter break or the Mud Pudding last summer. But noooooo. I refuse to accept that cooking projects with my children are neither fun, nor memory makers, nor a good chance to bond and learn. And again, the reason? Guilt. Mom-guilt. Kids-out-of-school and pinterest-makes-it-look-easy mom guilt.

Truthfully, they’re just as happy to go to the jump-til-you-barf place, get a slushy and play some video games. While these activities cost money and don’t necessarily involve us doing it together (but I will jump like a mo-fo), at least they have a good time and I don’t turn into an irritable mommy-monster who is now wishing it were bedtime and who hates cookies and baking cookies and chocolate and sugar and everything!!

Working mamas and stay at home mamas and part time mamas and single mamas and young mamas and old mamas and all of us experience this at some time or another. It’s just kind of hard wired. We so want the kids to be not only entertained but to have fun memories of doing things with their hands with their parents. I think our generation has it the hardest, because while my mama got Southern Living in the mail for most of my life, she didn’t have Facebook, and Instagram, and Pinterest to remind her all the time of all the things she wasn’t doing with my sister and I. Plus, she was good with plants and not only am I not a baker I sure as shit am not a gardener. (Don’t get me started on the fact I can’t keep a succulent alive.)

This Spring Break I’ve worked every day so far. Not full days, but the boys have been enrolled in full time Camp Daddy. And while no one has been hospitalized, let’s just say I don’t think we’ll be getting any applications from other parents for the summer camp. Tomorrow I’ll stay home with them all day and yes, we’ll go to jump-til-you-barf, and yes before that we’ll attempt to make Animal Faces toast (which then the little won’t want to eat because it’s all touching). I’ll think next year we’ll plan ahead and we’ll get to Mexico finally or we’ll VRBO it in Vail. And who knows? Maybe we will. But most likely we’ll be right back here and I’m going to have to say - f*ck it. They can be bored and learn to get along and play some video games because next week they’ll be back at school with the tests and the homework and so for now, it’s ok just to veg.

And I’ll need to repeat this mantra that it’s ok again and again. Because I need reassurance and cheerleading to help me thru this guilty feeling I have of not making memories. That then evolves into making cookies, that then evolves into yelling, that then evolves into feeling guilty for yelling, and then evolves into feeling guilty that I hate making cookies with my kids.

Ugh. The guilt.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to google that new place where they get to train to be America’s next American Ninja Warrior - because it’s Spring Break and we’re going to have fun, damn it.

Sticks and Stones

I’ve heard so much lately, “I suffered from Postpartum.” “My girlfriend is really struggling, I think she might have Postpartum.” “I had Postpartum with my second child.” Postpartum is not something you have, it’s not something you can suffer from. Postpartum simply means that you just had a baby. That’s it. Postpartum is a stage in the childbearing year. It does not in any sense of the word mean that you are suffering from Postpartum Depression. And here’s why this matters:

All mamas need support postpartum. All mamas, all daddies, all partners, and often all older siblings. Postpartum is the time after the baby is born that things seem crazy, out of whack, completely different, new, and maybe kinda scary. These feelings are normal, expected, and none of them mean something is “wrong”. The postpartum period often includes the "baby blues," again totally normal, and again nothing is wrong. If we put too much weight into the word, "Postpartum" itself, it makes something totally normal and expected seem like something that needs to be treated or fixed.

Postpartum does not mean Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Anxiety. These two are perinatal mood disorders and are not simply the time after you’ve had the baby. Mamas who fall into this category may need more support than mamas not suffering. However, (and I’ll beat this point over the head until it’s unconscious) postpartum mamas - all postpartum mamas - need support.

That support comes in many forms, food for the new family, help with the laundry, holding the baby so mama can shower and get the baby poop breast milk smell off herself. It also means having people around who are supportive and loving so the mama can say, “This is hard.” “I’m exhausted, and I can’t even find my slippers much less that $70 nursing bra I was so excited to use. (Probably wouldn’t fit anyway, what with my boobs the size of cantalopes.)”

We need to connect so other mamas know that their partner isn’t the only idiot in the world who, for some reason, has recently lost the ability to recognize the trash is full and needs to go out and the dog hasn’t had an actual walk since the child was born, but somehow you’re the only one who’s aware of that? Not sleeping is frustrating, and being a milk machine is frustrating, and baby poop on everything is frustrating, and bottle washing is frustrating, and my haircut is frustrating, and the toddler’s loud breathing is frustrating, and whose idea was this anyway?! That, my friends is postpartum.

Partners and grandparents and well-meaning neighbors have all become stuck in thinking the word “postpartum” somehow means a mama is suffering from a mood disorder. No, she’s suffering from being in the fourth trimester of a pregnancy. She’s suffering from all the frustrations mentioned above. Ok, maybe not the haircut, but most of the other things. Support is necessary. So, if mama says she’s going to “Postpartum Support Group” don’t wig and call the therapist - be thankful she’s going - then she can get all her frustration out and come home feeling more human.

If, on the other hand, a mama is suffering from Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, it’s no big deal. She needs the same support, just a little extra. She may need a visit to a doctor on top of support group, she may need extra sleep, or more time to herself. But let’s make sure to stop - all new parents are in the postpartum phase, and that is in no way a heavy word - it’s just what it is. Help the new parents in your world by lending a hand or an ear or some arms to hold an infant. Let the new parents know they aren’t alone, and if they are suffering, they don’t have to suffer alone. And if the mama is your partner and she seems to need a little extra help, educate yourself and don’t make her feel broken. She’s not broken, she’s exhausted and that fourth trimester is a bitch.

YAWN.

Parenting a new infant is something else. It’s really just Something Else. It’s so difficult to explain to non-parents exactly what it’s like to bring home a tiny helpless human whose wellbeing is your sole responsibility. Plus you can’t get over the fact that there’s a tiny person here that is yours. As in your kid, your baby, yours forever and ever.

And when you bring the baby home, you have no idea what to do with it. You have to feed it all the time, and then it sleeps. But it won’t sleep in the bassinet, it won’t sleep in the bouncy thing your cousin Suzy swears by, it won’t sleep in it’s crib, or that doc-a-whatever, or the co-sleeper or ANYWHERE BUT ON YOUR CHEST!! And you think, this can’t be right. There’s just no way that all these people all over the world who have tiny infants just hold them all the time. How do they do things like eat, or bathe, or I don’t know, pee?

Truth be told, our infants as humans are born severely underdeveloped. And I mean that in the nicest way. They are literally born these premature little creatures when compared to other primate babies. This means their brains continue to develop at embryonic rates for a year after birth. Did you hear me people? Embryonic rates. Embryonic.

Why is this so, you may ask. Well it’s pretty simple. When we began to walk upright our pelvises had to change to accommodate this new modality. The pelvis became smaller and therefore the birth canal could no longer accommodate a fully formed head. Enter evolution and babies being born earlier in gestation and that means for a year after birth they’re completely not gestated. (Ok, gestated is ridiculous and I get that, but you catch my drift.)

So think of it this way - the damn thing should still be inside you. In its hot tub, floating around with food and drink on demand, being lulled to sleep by you walking around. Once we think about it - newborns like to be bounced and shushed. Remember what it sounds like in that pregnant belly from hearing it on the doppler? Member when the baby in your belly only “woke up” at night while you were laying still and not moving. TA-DA! The baby just wants back in, and can you blame it? In addition she wants to smell you. Hear your heartbeat and the sound of your voice. He wants your warmth and to know that he hasn’t been left for the wolves.

There are so many products that promise to lull your baby back to sleep for you so you don’t have to do that work. One in particular is extraordinarily expensive and will put the baby back to sleep with rocking, vibrating, and any other number of bells and whistles. I gotta say y’all, no. Just stop it. Now, there are the babies who never stop crying. Like never. And they drive the parents to tears and the edge of beyond. If that baby needs to sleep in a swing so it can stay asleep and let the poor tired mama get some much needed sleep - more power to you. The deal is, the parenting of the waking infant is not only necessary for that baby brain to continue to develop properly but it’s necessary training for the rest of parenting life.

Yes, it’s difficult with the baby up in the middle of the night. You’re exhausted and hopeless and frankly, helpless. But you have to do it. You must persevere. Because while they can develop a product to help rock a baby back to sleep I don’t think they have one yet to talk to your teenager about sex. Or one to prevent their first heartbreak or loss or to keep them from taking stupid risks and drinking at a party. Nighttime parenting is necessary parenting time. It’s necessary that you rock your baby thru the difficult nights. It’s necessary that you get up and change the diapers and attend to their needs for so many reasons.

Parenting is hard - just ask the parents of the teenagers in the High School down the street from you. It’s hard to be the parent. It’s hard to do all the things all the time. But you gotta do it, because they need you. They need you now and later and always. They need you and they’re crying out for you to tell you so. Remember, this first year you are completing the gestation of this tiny human. Remember, the baby is just a tiny helpless mammal. It needs you for literally everything, especially to make it feel safe.

But girl, let me tell you, if you need to get that damn rocker - soother thingy to keep yourself sane, get it. It’s better that than a really sad, tired, and crazy mama.

The Helicopter Parent

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So, the Winter Olympics just wrapped up, and let me say, holy shitballs, people - those athletes are amazing. They train for their entire lives and sometimes go home champions and sometimes just go home with stories. However, if you want to see some everyday Olympic caliber amazingness, watch a parent change the sheets on a bunk bed, or wrestle a toddler into a pull-up - sorry, Shaun White - I’m just sayin’, I haven’t even had time to train for this shit, but here I am making magic happen.

A fascinating event that some parents tackle with Olympic level focus, training, and voracious dedication is Other Parent Judgment. Listening to some of these Olympians (aka parents), you’ll hear all kinds of technical terms like “Attachment Parent”, “Free-Range Parent”, “Tiger-Parent”, and my personal favorite, “Helicopter Parent” being thrown around. Our everyday Olympians are experts on these terms much as I heard Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski call out a “Triple Toe Loop” or “Double Sow Cow” (or whatever the hell it’s called) like it was nothing. Now Johnny and Tara earned their licks to be critiquing the figure skaters but the question I have for the parent-athletes is: Where does this desire to label come from? Is it ingrained in them much as the desire for a gold is etched into the being of Mikaela Shiffrin? Or does it come from somewhere else? Somewhere less admirable?

Here’s the thing - parenting is hard. It’s really hard and having other parents, or even better grandparents, or even better than that non-parents judging our every move is so not helpful.

I could go on and on about all of the parenting labels that parents put on themselves as well as are bestowed upon us by others whether deserving or not. But I won’t. I will however address the one that I have been guilty of throwing around like an insult until I came to understand it better: The Helicopter Parent.

You know what I’m talking about - the mom who follows little Jimmy all over the playground equipment making sure he’s safe. The dad who won’t let the kids ride anywhere with their grandparents because the carseats haven’t been checked by the fire station. The mama who makes sure you’ve triple washed your hands and then still asks you to use hand sanitizer one more time before holding the baby, even though it’s August and flu season was over months ago. We’ve taken comfort in labeling these parents helicopters - hovering about their little person constantly so as to protect them from every scrape, bruise, unkind word, and unpleasant smell.

However, when we take a step back, we need to realize what we’re actually witnessing is something deeper. It’s not just care and concern for the tiny person these parents are in charge of keeping alive, but it’s quite possibly, and most likely, a perinatal mood disorder called postpartum anxiety.

The mama’s too anxious to just relax and chat at the playground, not because she’s uptight, but because her brain actually won’t let her. Daddy can’t enjoy a day at the pool with the kiddos because his mind won’t stop racing to the terrible “what ifs”. Leaving the baby with a sitter can be the single most stressful moment for these parents not because they’re worried that the baby might not get a nutritious meal or to bed on time but because they're terrified the sitter might strap the baby in the carseat and leave town. They can’t help it. Their mind won’t stop and it’s not their choice, it’s also not their fault.

Parents get to come at this lifelong Olympic event any way they want. So here’s what I suggest: as fellow parents we take a step back. As with everything in life, we have no idea what’s happening in someone else’s world. If you see a daddy hovering over his daughter all around the zoo, it’s not your place to label him. Have compassion, show him kindness, and know this parenting thing is not the same for any of us. I take solace in the fact that when I was suffering from postpartum depression I didn’t have to wear an armband to show I was not doing great. On the other had, it would have been extremely helpful if I had worn one so then people would maybe have had more compassion for me or at least more patience.

Let’s do this for one another - as a parenting community - as a tribe. Respect our fellow little-person-keeper-alivers and save the commentary for Johnny and Tara. Your fellow Olympians may be gold medalist mac-n-cheese makers while you don’t make the podium in that event, but they can’t hold a candle to you in bedtime story telling. We’re all aspiring to be the best at something (read magical bandaid application). We all have dreams, people.

Now, can we talk about Johnny’s hair?

Please Welcome to the Stage...

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So, we have this turtle. It’s an orange eared African slider or some such something and truth be told I have no idea how or why we have the damn thing.

That’s not totally fair. We have it because I, yes I, in my infinite wisdom decided a turtle was a great pet! It lives in my older son’s room, very low maintenance, and it’s a pet - so we have a pet. Turtle. A pet turtle, which really isn’t a “pet” at all.

Let’s back up.

Before I had kids, I was fiercely independent. I had an idea about the person I was going to be and in most visions it didn’t necessarily include a house, husband, two kids, and a pet. I every-so-often thought about “if” I ever had a kid what kind of mom I’d be. I’d be strict, firm, a hard-ass, but still fun, silly, and a little bit wild. We’d have grand adventures and I’d teach them all about independent films, music, literature, dance, theatre, and football. I’d teach them to have an allegiance to the University of Texas Longhorns, and an appreciation for a perfectly executed Boeuf Bourguignon. We’d live in an apartment in a fabulous city that had arts, culture, and great parks and we’d laugh and argue and navigate life on my terms.

Then, on February 13th, 2007 my first son arrived and I became a pile of mush, but the kind of mush that can turn into Wonder Woman and shoot laser beams from its eyeballs if needed to protect this tiny boy. Willing to make any sacrifice necessary - including travel, my career, and sometimes my own happiness. That tiny little mess of a human taught me about love like I’d never known. I had a vague idea of how tragic love can be, how painful and terrifying. I’d known before his arrival that just because I love something doesn’t mean it’s safe or will stay. And now, with his arrival, I knew even more deeply that neither love nor life is on my terms.

So, we grew him a brother, because a built in playmate is super convenient for a mama. Then we got them a house, and two cars, and playdates, and a zoo membership, and a teeny tiny toilet, and little veggie flavored puffs. I discovered a career that would never have been known to me had I not had them. We made doctor’s appointments, enrolled in preschools, then ECE programs then, sniff Kindergarten, and are now looking at Middle Schools. We travel to exotic places like Woody Creek to see their cousins, and Lubbock, Texas to visit their second cousins, and Phoenix, Arizona to attend Spring Training because as it turns out football is terrible for brains and as luck would have it their daddy is a baseball guy and therefore so are they.

We do live in a great city with abundant culture, beautiful art and history museums, amazing restaurants, and fabulous parks - and we visit them all. We go see, “Sing” instead of “Get Out” or, “A Christmas Carol” instead of “Chicago” but hey, there’s time for that. They like pizza and hamburgers, but also love our neighborhood Moroccan restaurant and can navigate a pair of chopsticks (with those little plastic helper thingies).

Before I was mama, part of my plan was to live in hotel rooms in Paris and Tokyo and Rome. To pick up at a moment’s notice and move where the wind and the job took me. Live wildly, freely, and without knowing the word, “no”. Now, I’m the one saying “no”. No more oreos, no you can’t have a hedgehog (or a sloth), no you can’t play the Xbox, no I won’t sleep in your bed tonight. So, when on a scribbled letter to Santa, a sweet little seven-year-old asked for a turtle for Christmas I said yes. In fact I thought “F&*$ Yes!”

And now we have a turtle. Which, if you touch it you have to wash your hands RIGHT AWAY because, salmonella. And while I wouldn't have life any other way, I do occassionally like to check into a hotel downtown and order room service, all by myself.

Enjoy Every Second

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It’s one of the most heard phrases by new parents. People cooing over your newborn look up at you and with all good intentions, say, “Enjoy every second. It goes so fast.”

First of all, stop saying this people. Stop it. Seriously. Stop.

New parents are stuck with a tiny little alien dictator who not only doesn’t speak English, or Spanish, or French, or Mandarin, but DOESN’T SPEAK and yet demands, very loudly what it wants, when it wants it, and mostly that’s right friggin’ now and it’s nearly impossible to determine what “it” is the little thing wants.

There are so many methods of bouncing and shushing and swishing and twisting and carry it on it’s belly, no with it’s belly pressed just so against your shoulder, no not like that, like this, oh my god never mind I’ll just do it.

What the well-intending wishers of this sage advice are really trying to tell new parents is that the infant stage goes so quickly, especially in the life of a human being. Many of the well-wishers are reminiscent about their time with their own infants. Because, while it was just a moment ago, it was a lifetime, and many of their own children are grown or growing and can feed themselves, and use the bathroom without a parental assist, not to mention some drive or are married or live halfway around the globe and only visit once every other year. What the brilliant advice-givers wouldn’t give to go back and enjoy just a few moments with their tiny cuddled on their breast as they snoozed on the couch.

Understandable for them, but for the sake of the new parents again, just don’t. Find something else to say like, “Hey do you like my slick new Converse?” or “I’m not sure the last time I made my three-year-old bathe” or maybe even “That is one cute damn baby!” Please, in the name of all things holy don’t ask if the baby sleeps thru the night, because not only, NO, but that actually makes you sound like a total idiot because no, new babies don’t sleep thru the night because they have to EAT. So no, Aunt Marsha, baby Lily doesn’t sleep thru the night, that would be very worrisome and bad at this age, you blithering idiot.

Truth is, it’s such a short time in the grand scheme of things, but one day can feel like an eternity, and it’s totally fabulous when the baby is first awake in the morning and cooing and life is good, but what are you going to do with it for the next 8 hours and 47 minutes until your partner gets home? There are no showers, no real meals, no way to tell if it’s been 20 minutes or 2 days, and while moments are so amazing, truth is a day with a baby who isn’t feeling well or didn’t nap can make a mama feel like a beached whale waiting for the kind townspeople to come along with buckets to keep her covered in sea water until the tide comes back in.

So, instead, remark on what good parents these rookies are. Point out how the baby is so happy to be snuggled up so happy on mama (or daddy). Tell them an entertaining story about the asshole at work they aren’t missing or maybe learn to do a couple magic tricks and simply entertain them. Should a new parent ask, then advise away. Until then: magic tricks, or just bring tacos, everyone likes tacos.

My Mom Friends Suck

By Allison Schneider, Co-Founder of the mama'hood

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I’ll never forget after my first son was born, I was graciously invited by another new mama to come with her to a playgroup for the babies. Great, I thought, what could go wrong, thought I.

The first time I attended the once a month group, it was October and we were supposed to bring our babies with their costume, which was adorable and super fun. There were probably 9 mamas and babies there plus myself and a girlfriend I invited and had known pre-babies. My pre-baby friend, Alexa’s daughter was only 2 months and while she probably wouldn’t “play” at least we’d be out of the house around a group of other grown ups. Sounds perfectly reasonable and fun! I decided to bring a bottle of wine as a hostess gift, and hey maybe we could open it and have a little? I may as well have shown up with a lit cigarette, carrying a toxic waste bag marked “RSV”. The hostess (not the mama who had invited me) acted so shocked I wasn’t sure if she knew that many adult humans consider wine a delicious treat to be enjoyed on occasion. My friend Alexa and I could tell right then we might not fit in with this group exactly.

I quickly located the mama who invited me and made sure I hadn’t just handed a bottle of wine to a recovering alcoholic. She assured me that she and the hostess had known one another for a while and the hostess actually used to love wine, but she’s breastfeeding, so that’s a big “no-no.” Oh boy. I too was breastfeeding and while I didn’t intend to slosh back a jug of Carlo Rossi, I was certain a glass wouldn’t prevent my son from attending MIT. (I mean let’s be honest, anything is possible, but I’m pretty sure my husband and my mixed DNA would take care of smashing that dream.)

Off to an amazing start, Alexa and I tried our hardest to join the “fun”. I put my boy down with the other kiddos on the rug, and struck up conversation with one of the mamas. Before I had finished my name she asked what percentile my son fell into? Ummm, well, ummm, like today? Or when he was born, errrrr? I could tell I really impressed this woman with my idiotic mumbling about maybe the 90th(?) or 50ish for one of them. When I finished rambling with a confident, “but he’s happy and growing, so we’re happy with that!” She was done talking to me.

Not to be discouraged, I went on to work my mommy-friend-making-magic on another mama. Her son was about a month younger than mine and they were sitting happily drooling over toys when the newest line of questioning began. She wanted to know when my son had first rolled over? First sat up independently? Was he eating solids? How about sleep? As I tried to answer these questions I realized she was asking so she could report all the stats on her little one. He was an extremely advanced baby. Slept like an angel in his crib all night, sat up independently at three days old, and had already been admitted to three Ivy League schools, all they had to do now was choose where the family should relocate!

It went on like this until it was time to dress the babies in their costumes and take a picture. Luckily, during the picture Alexa found me and we efficiently planned our exit. With much apologizing on our parts (we were both raised by Southerners and we apologize for everything) we excused ourselves, quickly buckled the babies in, and were out of there. On the drive back to my house, we exchanged war stories. Alexa told me she had no idea a group of women could be so singly focused on competing babies and holy shit is this just what it’s like now? We got back to my house, ordered in Chinese, had the dads stop on their way for a bottle of wine and enjoyed the night relaying the details of the weird alter world where we had spent the afternoon. Now, I don’t like to give up easily, so we decided we’d try again. Maybe it wasn’t as weird as it seemed. Brilliantly, I decided I’d host and I’d make snacks and have some bevvies, with or without booze, and while is was a “playdate” it was actually a mommy date - a time to talk about things other than four month sleep regressions and diaper rashes. So I set it up, invited all the mamas from the Halloween party, plus a few I’d met in other places, (I may have even purchased a brand new button down from Target) and threw myself on the mercy of the moms’ group.

It started out slowly, and appeared it was possibly going to be an epic disaster. A few of the very competitive mamas were there, the worst offender, however, couldn’t stay long, and her sidekick happened to have carpooled. So, there we found ourselves. Cold chardonnay, delicious Costco delicacies, drooling babies, and what was that sound? Laughter? We talked about how little sleep there was, how irritating our husbands were, the old, baby-free friends who we never saw anymore. And actually enjoyed ourselves.

A few months later, we tried to recreate the magic at Alexa’s house, but as with all things baby and new parenting, the good days are just as much a fluke as the bad. I did, however, learn a very valuable lesson: Don’t find sucky mommy friends who make you question bringing the baby to bed with you so you can finally f-ing sleep or lecture you on organic non-gmo baby foods and the effects of the wireless router in your house on baby’s brain development. Find good mama friends who get it. Find mama friends who know it may not be their way but it also isn’t their business. Who are happy to listen and laugh, who will let you cry when you want to pull your own hair out and are happy to watch both littles for you to finally get your hair done. Because while there may be scientists saying the wireless router in my house is bad for my baby’s brain development, there are days when Facebook is ALL I HAVE of the outside world and by God, not going crazy is just as important as the homemade applesauce from the apples you grew in your orchard, Marissa.

Leave the baby at the neighbors’

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By Allison Schneider, the mama 'hood Co-Founder

There is a myth running rampant in our culture - it is slowly and sometimes lovingly, sometimes vehemently - being broken down, but running none the less, that claims becoming a mother is the most rewarding, satisfying, joyful thing a woman can accomplish. The brigade setting out to dismantle this myth comes in several forms, but for the most part humorous social media posts are leading the way. The viral video of the mama hiding in the pantry to eat candy whilst little fingers can be seen wiggling beneath the door. The hilarious parental twitter accounts and deliciously ridiculous toddlers whose parents can make light of this whole parenting thing. And, let me be the first to say, Hallelujah. Praise the good (insert deity here) that we are no longer expecting mothers with perfectly kept homes, a cold drink and warm lamb chops on the table every night. Parenting has become a bit more real and so many can find the absolute humor in it.

Then there are the mamas who say, yeah, if only. If only I could get to the point where I was hiding in the pantry to sneak Twizzlers instead of trying to decide if I should actually put the baby in the crib, walk out the front door and just keep going. This is not just the thought of mamas suffering from Postpartum Depression or another perinatal mood disorder. This is the thought of so many new mamas and daddies who can’t believe how hard and overwhelming this is. When a new mama has these thoughts they are almost always followed by thoughts of guilt for feeling this way or fear that they aren’t a good parent, not cut out for this. Not two weeks ago, I had a mama in Postpartum Group who has a four month old, tell the mama with the three week old, “Please, don’t feel bad, as recently as two days ago I thought maybe I’ll go knock on the door and see if the neighbors want a baby.” First of all, feeling like this does not make you a “bad” mom and not feeling like this does not make you a “good” mom. In fact, there’s no such thing as a good or a bad mom. There, I said it. There’s no such thing. Women have babies every day. Several times a day all over this country and the world. Some feel great and are so overwhelmed with joy, and others wonder when the overwhelming sense of joy they were anticipating will kick in.

We as a culture are getting better about acknowledging not all new parents feel joy and uncontrollable love for their new baby. We are not, however, getting very much better about addressing it. We were never intended to do this parenting thing is isolation, from a couch armed with only a mobile phone and non-stop internet access, and no community. When a new parent is feeling overwhelmed, guilty, ashamed, and like they are a “bad” parent, it’s our duty to say, like the mama in Postpartum Group did, “It’s ok, I felt like that too.” I still feel like that sometimes and there were times I thought we had made the biggest mistake of our lives. Like we shouldn’t have had a baby. Our job as members of this larger parenting community is not to tell any parent how they should feel about this new tiny human in their lives. Our job is to acknowledge all of the joyful and scary feelings of the newest members of our community and do our best to let them know they aren’t alone. They aren’t strange or sick or disgraceful - they are new parents and navigating the choppy seas of new parenthood are difficult even for the most experienced sailors.

Ok, but how? Be the one to say it first. Say to a new mama in your life, “Hey I was right there, where you are now, not twenty four hours ago, or two months ago, or 10 years ago.” It doesn’t matter how far removed you are from the time, let the new parents know they aren’t alone. And if you never experienced those feelings, keep it to yourself. Just be a good person, shut up, and listen with your heart instead of your head.

So, when your friend has a new baby at home, drop by with food for lunch - hopefully one of her favorites, as well as dinner to heat up, and then don’t ask her how it’s going, because it’s exhausting and amazing, and perfect and overwhelming, and lovely and terrifying. Tell her to go hop in the shower and while she’s in there get her lunch out, put it on a plate on a placemat at the table. Crack her a bottle of kombucha or Chardonnay or an IPA, and set her a place. And then when she emerges she has food, and drink and someone to hold the baby while she eats. Because we were never meant to do this alone. Historically we have lived in tribes and groups so when one mama needed a rest another could hold the baby.

And mamas, when your friend comes over to hold the baby, let them. The baby will be just fine - in fact better for the fact that her mama is feeling a bit better, refreshed and nourished. Then, in a day or two when you are feeling mostly lonesome for adult company, find your friend, or her friend who you’ve never met but who just had a baby, or a La Leche League group, or a postpartum group, so you can have company and feel like you can say to someone that while you’re glad you didn’t you may have felt like leaving the baby at the neighbors’.