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Who is raising your children?

There is something that has been bothering me a lot lately. It's the phrase, "raising my own children" or any variation thereof, referring to parents who stay home with their children rather than use some sort of child care. This is usually only said by parents who can and do stay home, and even though I don't think it's meant to criticize parents who do use child care, I do think it is an offensive statement.

When I was much younger and long before children were even on my mind, a friend was preparing to have a baby. She was going to quit her job and stay home with her child. And she said to me, "I just don't want someone else raising my child." Even though children weren't even on the radar for me at that time, I remember being very uncomfortable with what she said. She was implying that anybody who does use child care is allowing others to raise their children. That they're not doing the job themselves. (And even though this isn't the point of my post, there were definitely undertones of, "And that's not good enough.") Now that I have a child, her statement bothers me even more. And lately I've seen or read similar words from other parents, and I'd like to advocate that we all stop saying it!

There are many things that bother me about this. First and foremost, I don't like the suggestion that by using child care, we are surrending the raising of our child to someone else. That is just such huge crap that I can't even come up with an eloquent way of saying it. It's horse crap! Raising children is so much more than caring for their basic needs or spending time with them. Raising children means shaping who they become. It means making all the decisions that influence how they grow up and what shapes them. It means choosing who they spend their time with, including who provides their care when we can't. My child care providers don't decide what Mo knows about spirituality or who her doctor is or whether she gets gifts from Santa or how much TV she watches or whether we take her to a pride parade or what to do if she is every bullied at school. We entrust them to be partners in her care, but we decide all of those things and make so many other impossibly hard choices, and daycare only helps us enforce them. That is what raising a child is, and I'm offended by anyone who implies that I'm letting someone else do that because I don't stay home with her. Even if that is not what they mean when they say it, that is what they are implying, and it is an ignorant statement that needs to stop.

Another thing that bothers me about that phrase is that it dismisses and ignores the privilege of choice. Some people have the choice to stay home, others do not. That's really just lovely that you have the OPTION, the CHOICE to stay home, but many parents don't, and you're basically saying, "Oh you both have to work full-time to make ends meet? That's too bad, I guess someone else will have to raise your kids for you." It's wonderful that some people want to stay home with their children and even more wonderful that they have the option to do that. But that is a privilege. A very big privilege that is not afforded many people. So please don't rub your privilege in my face by implying that you think I'm not raising my children because I have to work. 

And also, even some people who have the privilege of choice choose not to stay home. What does your phrasing suggest about them? It suggests that they had a choice to raise their kids on their own, and they chose not to. What is so very wrong about that is that their choice to work is not a choice to let someone else raise their kids. It's a choice to partner with someone else in the care of their children - a difficult choice that is part of the difficult job of raising children.

I fully recognize that most people who say "I'm staying home because I don't want someone else to raise my kids" or "It's important to use that we raise our own children" don't actually mean that because I work, I'm not doing the important work of parenting them and shaping who they become (though some do mean that, unfortunately). But I think it's imperative that we change that language, that we quit implying with our words that working parents who use child care - whether by choice or by circumstance - are somehow not parenting as hard or as well as those that stay home. Child care does not take the place of parenting or of child rearing. Child care is part (one of many parts) of the child rearing process, one of the many decisions parents make in raising their children to shape who they will be.

So please, I beg you, stop saying that you're home with your kids because you want to be the one to "raise them." Even if you don't mean anything about me and my circumstances (and the circumstances of all working parents who use child care) when you say it, please change your language. Instead, how about: "I stay home with my kids because I am privileged enough to have the choice to do so, and I made the decision to care for them full time rather than partner with someone else in their care."

I know that sounds all politically correct and crap, and why do we have to be so damn picky all the time? But language is important. One of the first steps to better understanding is to use the right language. Let's start there.


"Mo"nthly Photo - Eleven

Miss Mo is eleven months old! This has been a pretty exciting month for her, and she's getting to be such a big kid.

We had no way to weigh her and a very imprecise way of measuring her length this month, so those are really just guesses. Guesses that reflect the fact that I don't think she's grown much in a month. In fact, these numbers only give her a half a pound (and no inches) over her 9 and 10 month numbers (which were the same). She's a great eater and still gets plenty of breast milk, but she's just a wee thing I guess.

I helped my sister take my nephew's eleven month photo the night before we did this one, and Will was not at all interested in laying still. So when I laid Mo down on the blanket, I was ready to rapid fire a couple photos before she rolled over and crawled off. Instead, she put her hands up like that and laid perfectly still for several minutes. Like, "No Mom, I got this, I know what I'm doing."

Which is fitting since Mo did her first professional photo shoot last week. I'll have to write about it more thoroughly later, but basically I sent her photos into a local agency a couple months ago, forgot all about it, and then I got a call last week out of the blue that a large local company wanted her for a photo shoot. I'll share more details later, but she was so sweet and I was proud of her wonderful demeanor.

While she's not yet walking, Mo is quite mobile now. For awhile after she learned to crawl, she wasn't very eager to go too far. She mostly crawled around the room we were in, so she was easy to keep track of. But now she's all over the place, and we've reverted to building what we call "baby wall." Our living room opens up into the kitchen and the front room (a multi-purpose area without a good name), so to keep her contained, we line up some larger toys, a couple baskets and the ottoman to block her in.

I think the funniest thing about her crawling is that she has to use her hands, and therefore can't easily use them to transport things. So we often see her crawling around with things in her hands. Sometimes it's just a sock she found or a piece of paper, but sometimes she tries to crawl while holding a bulky toy or, her favorite, a used diaper that hasn't quite made it to the trash yet. Or, even funnier, she'll put something in her mouth to move it around. Fortunately, she hasn't tried that with a diaper yet.

In the last couple weeks, she has gotten better at standing on her own. I wouldn't say she can exactly, but whereas she used to tip right over when we put her in a standing position, she now can hold herself there for a few seconds. And rather than fall or tip, she can usually lower herself down in a controlled way. It's pretty incredible given that it wasn't long ago that she couldn't even support her own head! And while she's not yet walking on her own, she does walk behind her push toy, so she's well on her way.

Mo is an incredible eater. This is something I'm very excited about because I know some kids are programmed to be picky, and I hope this is foreshadowing for her future eating habits. She usually eats breakfast, lunch and a snack at daycare which consist of some finger foods, some purees and yogurt. And she gets a few bottles of breast milk still. Then at home she nurses once or twice, and we feed her dinner. We start with finger foods - cut up fruit, veggies, cheese, chicken, etc. - and she feeds herself, though she is pretty darn slow about it. Because finger foods take her so long, we then heat up some purees to fill her up. She eats like a champ, and we haven't found anything she doesn't like. Between all the healthy food and continued breast feeding, it's interesting she's still so petite. 

In my 10 month post, I wrote about Mo being sick, and she was sick again this past month too! All the germs at daycare finally caught up to her I guess. I think the worse part about her being sick, besides the fact that she's miserable and I can't do anything about it, is that it throws off her beautiful sleep habits. Even after she was mostly feeling better, she kept waking up around 4am and wouldn't go back to sleep without nursing. Fortunately it didn't last too terribly long, and she's back to being a super sleeper again.

We got to celebrate Mo's first Thanksgiving with her. Unfortunately she was still pretty sick. The day before we thought we'd have to miss the family meal altogether, but Thursday morning her temperature was way down, so we decided to go for it. She ended up taking an epic three hour nap amidst the chaos of her cousins playing, and she completely missed dinner. I tried to give her some Thanksgiving goodness when she woke up, but her appetite was still gone from feeling sick. Hopefully next Thanksgiving she'll can really indulge in my favorite holiday!

I think Mo has found her lovie. Much to my chagrin, it's a pink stuffed kitty with a pink bow. Not that it matters really, but I was hoping she'd become attached to something else - maybe her sock monkey or one of her many stuffed elephants or giraffes. It's my fault though. Aside from a small stuffed bird, Kitty is the first thing I added to her crib. Kitty plays music when you pull its tail, and our routine quickly became to lay her down, hand her Kitty, pull the tail and slip out. Now she is thrilled whenever Kitty is around. When we approach her crib to take a nap, she'll see Kitty and lunge for her. Sometimes she grabs Kitty after a nap, wanting to take her downstairs with us. One time Mike heard her suddenly start screaming during a nap, and when he checked on her, he found Kitty on the ground (I think Mo stood up with her in hand, then accidentally dropped the kitty over the side).

Mo is starting to communicate a little more. I'm pretty confident she's saying "hi" and she now attaches meaning to "dada." She says "mama" but I'm not positive she is intentionally referring to me. And when you hand her something, she'll usually make two little sounds that have the exact inflection of "thank you." She has also started to figure out the sign for "all done" though I think she's just mimicking us and doesn't yet know what it means. Probably her cutest noise is when she's frustrated. If you redirect her from something she really wants - like the cat food or a hot stove - she grunts/groans/growls in frustration. And she likes to smack her lips. I think she's trying to imitate a kissing sound, but it ends up more like a lip smack.

Mo is a HUGE help around the house these days. A few of her favorite chores: folding laundry and emptying the dishwasher.

That's it for the 11 month update. Mo says bye-bye!


Mo and Obe

When I met Mike, he had a cat named Oberon. This cat had shown up on outside his apartment some years earlier and Mike took him in. Obe is very emotionally fragile - he does not trust easily. So, a screeching, unpredictable, miniature human does fit well into his world. But he is amazingly patient with Mo.

This is the cat that bit my nephew and my niece when they were minature, screeching and unpredictable. Yet somehow he just knows that Mo is part of our family, our village, our team, and he lets her get away with things he would never tolerate from someone outside that circle.

It started before she was even born. When I was pregnant, Oberon used to curl up around my belly and snuggle with the baby.

During my maternity leave, it was often just the three of us at home - me, Mo and Obe - and we could be found spending our days like this:

He was very interested in her from the beginning, and things were much easier for him when she was a mostly motionless blob who slept a lot.

Then she started to notice and acknowledge him, and he was even more curious.

But then she became mobile, and she really found her voice. Now she chases him around squealing with glee while Obe runs from room to room trying to escape her. He tries to relax on the couch, but she finds him and screeches and laughs and tries to grab his tail or fur.

That's not a great picture to depict how she inadvertantly torments him, but Oberon's face usually looks like this:

Yet he never ever makes a move toward her. He never hisses or growls or swats. He just tolerates. Hopefully someday he'll learn to trust her (and she'll learn to pet him instead of grab at his fur), and he'll cuddle with her the way he did when she was in my belly.

Oh, one more thing. Mo LOVES to play in Obe's water and eat his food.

But don't worry, she shares her food with him too.



Where she goes each day

Time for a daycare update. It has been almost three months since I wrote about the food issue (here and here). Daycare has been a series of ups and downs. First we thought we only needed part-time daycare, and then found out we needed full-time daycare due to a family issue, which was a huge emotional adjustment. Then we spent a lot of time and energy finding the right daycare. Then we settled on one, and when Mo was four months old we took her to visit, and I panicked. Then a couple weeks later, we sent her off and it was hard. And then we spent a couple months working through lots of kinks, like getting them to keep her on a routine and understanding why she had a blow out nearly every day. And when we finally worked through most of that, it was time to give her food, and yeah, see the links above.

At that time, we were considering whether we needed to find a new child care situation altogether. We didn't like that state regulations were telling us how to feed our child and over ruling what we wanted to do as parents. Maybe we needed to get out of a state licensed daycare. And that's pretty much where we left off.

So where are we now? We're still at the same place. We put lots of feelers out again after the food situation, but there was only one bite. A colleague of Mike's has a baby a couple months younger than Mo, and his wife was looking for a way to stay home full-time with her son. We tossed around the idea of her watching Mo too. So we had them over for dinner to see if there was something there. And then a few days later, lo and behold, the colleague's mother decided to retire and offered to stay home with their baby, meaning they no longer needed the income from watching Mo. Oh how convenient for them!

And we've never gotten another lead since.

So we're still at the same place, and it has been OK. We got Mo to eat purees, and now she is hardly interested in anything else, which irks me because we're ready for her to eat table food and she only really wants purees even though she loved table food before the purees and whatever, it's not a big deal. Only it's daycare's fault because they made us give her purees! But it's fine, and she does well at daycare. She eats well there, she sleeps well, she plays with all her friends. She's no longer the littlest there and she's quickly becoming one of the "big kids."

Part of me still hopes maybe someday the right alternative will present itself. Maybe a grandparent will retire and agree to watch her a couple days a week. Or maybe a friend (or friend of a friend even) will want to stay home and will be interested in watching Mo full-time, or even part-time. Or maybe a miracle will occur and we'll be able to afford for me to work part-time, and I can stay home with her a couple days a week.

But in the meantime, I focus on the positive aspects of daycare. And I accept that this is our situation. We don't always get the ideal situation in life right? And if she has to be in daycare full-time, I'm glad we've worked out some issues and have come to like the place we bring her every day.



"Mo"nthly Photo - Ten

Miss Mo is ten months old. The other day my sister and I started talking about a first birthday party for Mo and her cousin Will. I can't quite wrap my mind around that -  her first birthday is just minutes away. In November last year we were meeting with our doula, preparing for the birth. We were celebrating this baby with our families at a shower. We were also switching doctors - from the OBGYN office to my primary doctor, which turned out to be a wonderful choice. And this year I have a busy, mobile, hilarious 10 month old.

Unfortunately Mo has been sick recently. I had a cold, and then she inevitably caught it. Considering she's in daycare full time, it's actually pretty impressive she didn't get sick before 10 months. But it was so sad and pathetic. She had this scruffy little frog voice, and a bad cough. She was so tired but had trouble sleeping, she wouldn't eat, and she was constantly fussy. We don't call her Angel Baby for nothing, she's normally amazingly well behaved, and this was such a drastic change. Mike and I kept looking at each other like, "What the hell do we do?" We don't know how to take care of a difficult baby. After all her other symptoms went away and she was still very not herself for several days, I finally called the doctor. They wanted me to bring her in, but her usual doctor wasn't available. We saw someone else instead, and she made me feel stupid. She did the whole condescending, "Is this your first?" when nothing looked seriously wrong. This is why we love our doctor and I hope we never have to not see her again.


Even though I hated seeing her sick, she did become a little love muffin. Mo is not a cuddler. She likes to sit on our laps and she'll tolerate a squeezer, but she's not a snuggler. So when she was sick and buried her head in my chest for hours at a time, I was in heaven. I missed two days of work when she had a fever so I could stay home and soak up all the cuddles and try to help my baby feel better. 


Mo now has four teeth, and she grinds them a lot and it drives me crazy. Between her top teeth she has this amazing gap. I can't even stand how cute it is.

I've been trying to teach her how to give kisses or blow kisses, but she's not quite getting it. She doesn't respond to commands for anything really. I know she can clap and wave, but she will never do it when we ask. She's still not talking much. Some dadas and gagas, but definitely more squeals and giggles and grunts. And she whispers a lot. However, I'm not worried about her communication because she's very alert, and she's obviously working on other things. She has great fine motor skills, and she's getting stronger on her legs. She's taken a few steps behind her push walker toys, and she's a pretty fast crawler. She hasn't quite figured out how to consistently get down from standing though, which means we often find her like this when she should be sleeping:

We had our first big choking scare a few weeks ago. Mo crawled over and sampled a piece of cat food, and I wasn't too worried because the pieces are really small and a little cat isn't going to hurt. Except she choked on it! I watch her pretty carefully when she's eating, and sometimes she'll choke a little but a few coughs and she's got it worked out. This time she couldn't cough and I knew we had a problem. I tried to swipe it out, but I kept scratching her throat with my finger nail, so I quickly flipped her on her belly over my arm and whacked the damn thing out. It only lasted a few seconds, but we were both a little shaken afterward. She also had her first bloody lip. While she's learning to stand and walk, she falls a lot, and a couple times this month she has bitten her lip and made it bleed. Even though I know she's ok, my mommy instincts do not like to see my baby bleeding.

We celebrated her first Halloween. At daycare she was a chicken, but the zipper on the costume broke so at home we squeezed her into a too-small elephant costume. It was a cold, rainy evening, but my family came over to trick or treat, so we took Mo out to a few houses. It was pretty adorable.


Shortly after Halloween I packed away her 6-9 month clothes. She's now in 12 month clothes, which seems crazy because there are some things I bought in that size before she was born and at the time I couldn't believe she'd ever fit into them. And now, certain things are even a bit snug. Like these pajamas. I bought them before I was pregnant even, and the seemed enormous, and now her delicious thunder thighs are barely contained in them.

Mo has remained a pretty good eater. She still prefers to eat from a spoon so we mostly do purees, but she'll eat just about any pureed fruit or veggie. We've been introducing more finger foods - cheese, chicken, eggs, puffs, cut up vegetables. For awhile she didn't seem to understand those things were for eating, but she has been getting the hang of it. We recently rearranged our front room to better accomodate an eating area, and we try to have dinner at the table whenver possible now. Mo is also figuring out a sippy cup. That's something we've been offering her for awhile, and she has always grabbed at it eagerly, but only recently did she start to tip it up to drink. Even now I sometimes have to remind her, and she'll act surprised when water comes out.

She seems to understand the concept of chasing now. If one of us crawls behind her and says, "I'm gonna get you," she laughs and crawls faster until eventually she curls up in a ball in anticipation of our tickles. We're getting ready to put a few more gates up because she has discovered the stairs to the second floor and it's only a matter of time before she figures out how to scale them. As proficient as she is at crawling though, she mostly prefers to hang out with us so she rarely crawls out of view. Although the other day I was putting away her laundry and I watched her crawl out of the room. I quietly followed to see what she would do. She crawled down the hall, stopping to looking into every doorway, until she noticed the stairs (going down) ahead of her, and then she bolted toward them. I had to hustle to grab before she reached the edge. 

Despite being sick and grumpy lately, Mo is such a joy for us and everyone. She is easy-going and very chill. She is pretty easily amused, but she won't laugh at just anything. When she does chuckle at us it's all the more rewarding because we know it was something truly funny. Her giggles are not a raucous laughter, but they are the sweetest sounds I know.

A distant friend of mine lost her baby at one month old recently. When I heard about it, I immediately got Mo out of bed and snuggled with her for an hour. I don't know why life thinks I need this constant reminder of my good fortune, but for some reason the people around me keep suffering these awful tragedies that never let me forget for a second how blessed I am to be Momo's mama. 

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