The illusion of choice, the free market, and your boobs

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg started an initiative called "Latch on New York" that is asking hospitals to take the formula samples off the bedside tables of new mothers and put them behind the nursing stations or in the drug cabinets so mothers have to ask for them. People are up in arms about this, crying that Mayor Mike is trying to prevent women from choosing and that he's creating a "nanny state."

No.

What he is doing is trying to even the playing field, so huge corporations that don't know or care about your health, your child's health, or any of the decision you make as a parent do not have the ability to pay to have access to your bedside table.

Does it make you angry that formula companies have paid to have the kind of access to you that no one but your chosen medical providers should have? That they have unfettered access to tell you things about your body that may be blatantly false? It makes me angry, but money buys your freedom. I'm surprised the formula companies haven't started striking deals in which women come out of labor and delivery with adhesive stickers (with the name of the formula) stuck across our breasts so the only way even to try to breastfeed is to peel off the stickers first.

Taking formula off your bedside table does nothing to change your ability to choose for yourself. If you are not handed a formula sample in the hospital there is NO EFFECT on your ability to give your child formula when you get down to the lobby, when you get home, a week later, six months later. None. If you are given formula in the hospital we know (based on formula company research) that women are less likely to breastfeed. This means that being given formula in the hospital narrows our choices. Not being given formula, no restriction on choice. Being given formula, restriction on choice.

If you truly care about a woman's right to choose what's best for her and her baby, you will take the financial pressure out of the equation, and eliminate any actions that impede free choice. Putting formula samples right next to the baby's head impedes free choice. Having to ask for formula (just like you have to ask for tylenol, or an extra chucks pad, or another container of orange juice) doesn't impede free choice. It doesn't change anything for women who cannot breastfeed–they can still get those formula samples easily by asking. It doesn't change anything for women who don't want to breastfeed–they can still get those formula samples easily by asking. It could change everything for women who want to breasfeed but don't have correct information or are experiencing problems they can overcome if they're given help, because they will be given EQUAL ACCESS to information that can help them breastfeed and formula samples. They ask for help or they ask for formula. Equal access. No privilege for formula.

I don't want the decisions I make about how to parent my children made by the highest bidder. Especially since the highest bidder doesn't care about me and only wants my money. (Let's not forget that those formula samples are worth about $1.50. A woman who chooses to feed formula based on those samples has just been signed on to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on formula once she leaves the hospital. She is never informed of that. Is THAT free choice?)

I don't care how you feed your baby. But I want you to make a decision about it with all the information, all the support, and all the help you can get. Free choice. I do not want your choices narrowed by the huge financial incentives formula manufacturers pour into hospitals.

As usual, Mayor Mike has gone about his objectives in a ham-fisted way, barrelling in and offending people in an effort to protect consumers. Had I been mayor I'd have gone about it a different way, by requiring any formula company that wants to market directly to consumers in a vulnerable position to fund the salaries of three full-time lactation consultants for every 10 beds in a maternity ward so there is always an LC available to troubleshoot problems, along with providing training in breastfeeding once a year for every RN, LPN, and MD on the floor. Then, go ahead and put formula on the bedside table because there would be an LC right there, too.

But until there is an even playing field, ACTUAL FREE CHOICE WITH BOTH OPTIONS REPRESENTED EQUALLY, don't believe the hype.

 

(Special thanks to Dr. Aneel Karnani of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan for several discussions that informed the argument in this essay.)

 

UPDATE: Don't beliueve that having formula on the table affects your likelihood of breastfeeding? PhD in Parenting has a roundup of the research on it at the bottom of this post.

Confession for my soul

I'll be at BlogHer this weekend. I'm feeling anxious about it.

I do not have social anxiety, usually. I'm an extrovert (I know this is SHOCKING to you) and can talk to people in all kinds of situations. I can go to a party by myself and start up conversations and find something in common with anyone. But BlogHer is different. I get anxious thinking about it, and I just want to hide.

I mentioned this to my ex-husband last week, and he said, "It's because it makes you feel like you did back when we were married." And I knew he was right.

Back when we were married and both blogging, he went to BlogHer and I stayed home to take care of the kids. And I felt like he was a big blogging star and no one knew who I was or was reading me. I felt small and tentative, with little to offer. In life and in blogging.

That's the space I go back to at BlogHer and when I think about BlogHer. It's my battle to fight, to realize that I may not be famous and I may not be the Next Big Thing, but I write, and that means I should be there. And I'm not in competition with my ex anymore. I'm a different person than I was, and I never really was that small person anyway.

So I'm probably not going to do any excited BlogHer reports or recaps. But I may do some "I love New York" posts. And maybe a I-can't-believe-I-finished-this-last-final-and-group-paper-and-get-an entire-month-off-before-classes-start-again post once I've actually finished the final and paper.

What personal battles are you fighting this week?

 

Olympics Opening Ceremonies: Wow

I was in class Friday night and all day yesterday, so I’m just posting this now. The Opening Ceremonies were totally worth watching, but of course I have some comments:

1. Bob Costas is a disgrace. If he wasn’t saying something horribly offensive he was saying something utterly inane, and vice versa. It was cringe-inducing, and frankly, we deserve better. NBC, I will announce the next Olympics Opening Ceremony for you. I won’t compare any athletes to terrorists, mention brutal dictators, call a technical glitch a “controversy,” or seem shocked that the rest of the world calls it football and we’re the only ones who call it soccer. And I can pronounce the names of the countries. Tweet me and we’ll figure out the logistics for Sochi, ok?

2. Uniforms for the Opening Ceremony. The US and Great Britain had some major problems, obviously. While watching the parade of nations I realized that the best ways to go are either with tracksuits since they’re athletes (and, in theory, might need to run all the way around the track at any second) or dressy since it’s a fancy event (and someone might hand them a martini at any second). That makes the uniform winners Canada and Ireland for the Tracksuit Division, and Nigeria and San Marino for the Dressy Division. Special mention, Elaborate Embroidery Division: Jordan and Mexico.

3. Independent Olympic Athletes. Yes.

4. That big wacky spectacle before the parade of nations. So in the nightclub scene, she dropped her phone, and he found it, and then…called her with her own phone. What did he call, if she didn’t have her phone? How did she answer? It made no sense and I was really confused. Her hair was fantastic, though.

5. British people, were there a lot of in-jokes during the Opening Ceremonies that you all got? Because the whole thing kind of baffled me.

6. Me: “All these people are volunteers?”
My friend Sarah who was watching with me: “Yes! 10,000 of them! I can’t believe they’re so talented.”
Me: “They’re probably out-of-work actors.”
Sarah: “10,000 out-of-work actors?”
Me: “There are that many just in the subway in New York at any given time. Why not London?”
Sarah: “You haven’t even been drinking…”

7. Meredith Viera, I do not think “money shot” means what you think it means.

My Q, your A: Quitting while you’re ahead?

If you want to see what was in the mystery boxes in my garage, check out the pictures in this post.

In honor of the Olympics, Shannon and I have decided to have tea every day for the duration of the games. Join us, please. We'll be doing it at 4 Eastern/3 Central but you can do it whenever makes sense for you. I think Shannon is actually doing tea and scones, but I'll be doing coffee and celery-with-peanut-butter.

I am insane for the Olympics, and have had all the qualifying round soccer games on whenever they show them on NBC Sports. How about the US women, eh? I'm very sad that I'm missing the Opening Ceremony because I'll be in class tonight. (Not least of which because I'll be in class tonight. Sigh.)

So here's a dilemma: My kids finished their swim lessons for the summer this week (before leaving on a road trip with their dad) and both did well and advanced to the next level. My 10-year-old, in particular, is getting very good–he knows all four strokes, dives well, is increasing his stamina and refining his technique. His teacher said he'd do well on the swim team. But he doesn't want to keep swimming.

I'm kind of baffled by this. I COMPLETELY understand not doing things you're NOT good at, and that's been the struggle of my whole life. I think running may be the first thing I ever stuck with that I sucked at, and I am so, so glad I did.

But being good at something and not keeping going with it kind of stumps me. Especially when it's a sport, and he knows he has to be involved in some kind of sport (his dad and I think it's important), so why not go with one you're good at?

Has anyone been through this? When I was in high school I was a pretty serious singer, but made the decision to go to a liberal arts college instead of pursing singing. But I'm not sure it's the same thing, since I didn't stop singing, I just didn't pursue it professionally.

Have you flat-out quit something you were good at? Has your child? If you did something well and continuedd doing it even when you didn't want to, did you eventually enjoy it?

 

Janet Evans on doing what’s in your soul

Am I the only person getting completely pumped for the Olympics? I have always been more of a Winter Olympics fan, but since I've become a runner and have started swimming I'm getting excited about the Summer Olympics, too.

I was watching the US team time trials a few weeks ago, and was amazed to see that Janet Evans, who is 40 years old and a mother of two little kids, was there competing for the first time in 16 years. She swam really well, even against swimmers less than half her age. She did not earn a spot on the team, but the fact that she showed up and was good enough to be there was amazing to me. After one of the trials, they interviewed her, and this is what she said about it (transcription mine):

"I think swimming was always in my soul, and it was who I was, and I got to a point in my life where my kids were good, and were sleeping through the night, and I thought "I want to swim again!" I don't want to swim to make the Olympic team; I want to swim to see what I can do to be a mom and a wife but also to have a little something for myself at the end of the day, and this is in my soul and what I love, so here I am!"

I'm taking two important (IMPORTANT) things out of that:

1. You are still you, always you, even when you're a parent and your kids are in the front of your mind. And it's ok and wonderful that whatever those things in your soul are–swimming, graphic design, music, actuarial services, etc.–are calling to you even when you can't make time for them, because eventually your kids will need you less and the things you love will be able to be a bigger part of the daily mix of your life than they are when your children are little. And even if you're older than anyone else doing those things, you can still hang, if you love it and work hard at it.

2. Everything is easier once your kids sleep through the night.

Stories, please. What is it you don't have the energy for because you're still in the weeds with little children? And those of you with older children, what have you gone back to once you came out of the long tunnel of babyhood?

 

My thoughts on Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and maternity leave

(A few people have asked me if they can just send me coffee money for the writing process. You can Paypal me at magdamedia@gmail.com. I will happily accept your coffee money, but please don't feel obliged!)

Marissa Mayer is the new CEO of Yahoo, and she's pregnant with her first child, and she's announced that she plans to take only a few weeks at home after the birth and continue working the entire time.

There are a bunch of angles to this story. Annie at PhD in Parenting covers a lot of them, so I'm just going to tell you the first few things I thought when I heard the story:

1. It's her first baby. She doesn't know what the experience is like yet. Combine this with…

2. She might really love her job. If I had another baby, of COURSE I'd be writing again right away. I love writing. It's how I am. I'd also be generating ideas like I always do. It would blend together with taking care of the baby, because not being allowed to think or write or talk to people about the projects we're doing would be ludicrous. If Mayer loves her job, OF COURSE she's going to be answering emails and talking to her staff and all of that stuff.

Compartmentalizing–telling women they have to do nothing but take care of their babies, or nothing but go to work all day for 9 hours and not think of their children–is weird and harmful. A mother is still a person. People have things they love to do, that they can't help doing. If you imagined your ideal day, you wouldn't restrict your thoughts to only one topic.

3. I'm happy she has the luxury to find out what mix is right for her. If, on Day 3, she slows down her work because she needs to focus more on the baby (or physical recovery or any of the other zillion things that can happen postpartum), she can do that. If her baby is a breeze and she has an easy recovery and her brain migrates more toward work and she's ready to go back to the office sooner than she thought, she can do that. She can adjust, once she finds out how it's going for her. Most of us can't do that. But if we had the chance, I would hope we'd take that opportunity.

4. No matter what she does, someone's going to be mad at her.

Not me. I'm glad she has the chance to do what she wants to do. I wish all of us did.

Thoughts?

Thinking about disappointment

Yesterday I wrote a post at Moxieville about asking my ex-husband to take our kids out of Boy Scouts, now that they're reaffirmed their ban on gay Scouts and leaders.

I am so disgusted by the BSA and I really do not want my kids to have anything to do with the organization.

But I realize this is a tough thing for their dad. Scouting meant a lot to him. One of the first things he told me when we started dating was that he's an Eagle Scout, and what his project was. He has stories of Scout Camp, and his nemesis at Scout Camp, and all the things he learned and experiences he had.

So it has to be truly disappointing to him that the group that gave him so much good isn't good anymore. (Not that they ever were, but when everyone was homophobic the BSA wasn't any worse than anyone else that way.)

I've taken some abuse from former Boy Scouts who have defended the BSA's right to homophobia very vociferously. While I think fighting for an organization with an indefensible position is bizarre, I understand that it has to be coming from disappointment and fear that the good that these men experienced in Boy Scouts is somehow meaningless.

It's not. What my ex-husband got from Boy Scouts was great. It's with him still. What these men who've gotten so angry at me experienced in Scouting was valuable. It was worthwhile. They are worthwhile.

But it's time for a new understanding of what they can be. What they can stand up for.

People have been talking about alternative organizations, and the alternatives sound good, but they're all co-ed. I think men's space is important. And I wish there was an organization for boys that welcomed all boys and their parents. I wish my boys had regular male role models that reflected different ways of being a man.

I wish my ex-husband didn't have to be disappointed. And that he didn't have to make a choice.

Disappointment hurts.

Cooking greens for lunch

I've been making a concerted effort to eat more healthily over the last four or five months, and it's been paying off. I'm down 13 pounds since March, and am feeling better than I have in forever.

A big part of why this has been so relatively easy is that I'm working from home. I can prep and eat food as the day goes on, and not have to have it all done in time to leave in the morning. Of course, this didn't help me all last fall and winter when I was making cookies all day and eating them, but then something clicked and I started realizing I could use my proximity to the kitchen all day long for good instead of evil.

The upshot of all of this is that I'm eating a lot more greens than I have before. I put them in green smoothies (favorite recipe: raw baby spinach, cucumber, blueberries, optional protein powder, water), but I've also been cooking with them. For some reason lunchtime is now associated with sauteed greens for me, and three days a week I make some variation of: green beans, garlic, walnuts, zucchini or bell pepper, and greens (chard, red chard, rainbow chard, kale, spinach, bok choy), and maybe a protein (chicken or sausage or shrimp). Sautee in a little olive oil, season with sea salt, then eat while watching Days Of Our Lives.

This picture is of my lunch last Friday, which consisted of green beans, walnuts, chopped garlic, sliced zucchini, and a really nice chard from Living Stones Community Farm, which sells at the farmers market I can walk to:

Sauteed greens

How can you not feel good eating this almost every day?

Who else is cooking greens this summer? What do you do with them?

Q&A: Changing adult friendships

B writes:

"I have a friend who I met about 12 years ago. At the time, we had much in common – both sang in a local group, both single and starting out in our careers. Fast forward to today. I've been married, and divorced and am raising a boy. I've recently altered the direction of my career and I'm thinking about dating (finally) again. She remains single and has had some ups and downs in her career. She desperately wants to get married and have kids.

I don't have a lot of available time to simply hang out. The time that I do have (when my son is with his father) I divide between errands and alone time and other girlfriendships that, frankly, satisfy me more. I have tried putting a little distance between us, but if I don't answer her texts quickly enough she responds with something like "I guess I'm not important to you" which just pisses me off.

Is this typical of adult women friendships?"

I don't think it's typical, per se, but I do think it happens.

I think it especially happens when you're in different places, and I don't mean situations. You can be in radically different situations (I bet you have other single friends without kids, for example), but still be in the same emotional place, or at least able to identify with that place. It sounds like you're in a place of gratitude and exploration, and she's in a place of scarcity.

(I'd also argue that you didn't really have that much in common in the first place. One activity and a few demographics. It was pretty much, "You like peanut butter, too? *I* like peanut butter!" But when you're young that can seem like enough. See: Story of my first marriage. But that doesn't make for the kind of bonding that can weather a lot of stresses on the friendship.)

When people are happy with themselves and the direction they're going, it's easier to let go of friendships that may have served them at some earlier period and understand that things have changed. Ironically, though, it's also easier to maintain friendships with people you don't have much in common with anymore if both of you are happy with yourselves.

It sounds like you're happy with yourself, but she is not, and that's causing a huge disconnect. And you're willing to move on to relationships that nurture you and let this one go. So I guess the question is whether you want to talk about it with her and get things out in the open, or just hope she gets the message and moves on herself.

Readers? How would you deal or have you dealt with changes like this?

The Table of Contents

Wow. Thank you, everyone! What a lovely outpouring of support for writing my book. It makes me only slightly less terrified to post the Table of Contents.

There are going to be two different "tracks" in the book–the chronological "this is likely to happen now" track, and the topics for discussion track (including ideas about learning to make decisions as a parent as well as the stuff that crops up as you go along). I had thought of doing two separate sections, but then realized that I'm the kind of person who would just read the chronological section and miss out on the discussions, so maybe it would make more sense to put the discussions in when they're likely to happen, as intercalary chapters.

Here's the outline as it stands right now:

Introduction

Chapter 1: We’re all in this together, separately

  • Discussion of the shock of new parents
  • Sources of support and protecting yourself from anti-support
  • Importance of finding your own method and assessing the usefulness of expert advice

Chapter 2: Problemsolving for Parents

  • What are your goals? Make a mission statement for parenting to help guide you through the decisionmaking process
  • Principle-based parenting vs. rules-based parenting
  • “Safe, respectful, and kind” concept
  • How to approach solving specific problems. LIFO approach, FIFO approach, TQM, or low-hanging fruit method.
  • Designing your own framework for decision-making in the moment

Chapter 3: Sleep, Crying, and Tension, aka Anti-Chaos Theory

  • Discussion of baby sleep and what’s realistic
  • Developmental spurts and when babies go through sleep regressions (references to Wonder Weeks and Bed Timing)
  • Tension Increasers/Tension Releasers Theory
  • Characteristics of Tension Increasers and how to handle them
  • Characteristics of Tension Releasers and how to handle them
  • Sleep prognosis

Chapter 4: Birth through 12 weeks

  • First days
  • Days and nights mixed up
  • Breastfeeding: When to get help
  • Three-week growth spurt
  • What do you do all day?
  • Six-week growth spurt
  • 6-8 weeks is the peak of crying
  • Maybe, finally, starting to settle into a routine
  • 3-month growth spurt
  • Back to work/not back to work

Chapter 5: Worry

  • Normal worry vs. unusual worry
  • Persistent thoughts
  • Worry as Defensive pessimism
  • Turn worry to your advantage

Chapter 6: Is it possible that you have PPD? Let’s find out.

  • Signs and symptoms of PPD (for moms and dads)
  • For people who have PPD, ways to get help now.
  • For people who don’t have PPD, ways to keep your system balanced so you’re less likely to get it.
  • Stories from people who came through PPD.

Chapter 7: Four months

  • Sleep regression!
  • Naps are ridiculous, but improving
  • Things are getting serious now
  • Chapter 8: Anger
  • Why anger now?
  • Who are you angry at?
  • Productive ways to channel your anger
  • Allowing yourself to be angry and allowing your child to be angry

Chapter 9: Friendship

  • How your pre-baby friendships may change, and the range of emotions associated with that
  • Why now is the easiest time to make friends since the first week of college
  • Making friends (for people who are going back to work)
  • Making friends (for people who will be staying home for awhile)
  • Maintaining parent friendships through different decisions
  • Don’t make weekends “family time”

Chapter 10: Six months

  • What is exactly is going on?
  • Sleep transition time: good, bad, or just different
  • Is your child flipping days and nights? Or feeding in weird ways?
  • What’s the new normal?

Chapter 11: Your body, yourself

  • Six months out, and your body still isn’t back to the way it was prepregnancy (probably).
  • What’s the prognosis?
  • Realistic standards, realistic expectations
  • Taking care of your physical health

Chapter 12: The linear notion of time, or what does not exist

  • The old normal
  • The new normal
  • Focus
  • Learning from this amorphous phase

Chapter 13: Nine months

  • Sleep regression
  • Independence/clingy phase
  • Increased fear

Chapter 14: Doubt, and who you are now

  • Why is nine months so hard for parents?
  • Finding where you are in the landscape
  • Reality check for your capacity right now
  • Realistic timeline for improvement

Chapter 15: One year

  • You all made it!
  • What happens at one year
  • Switching the way you feed your child (if you decide to do so at the one-year mark)
  • Beginnings of toddler behavior
  • 13-month sleep regression

Chapter 16: Love and sex

  • How loving your child affects loving your partner
  • Who you are as a romantic partner now
  • What about your needs?
  • Um, sex

Chapter 17: Young toddler

  • Constant busyness
  • Opposition
  • Exercise, the miracle cure
  • Not taking it personally

Chapter 18: Independence

  • The beginning of true independence
  • Side effects of independence
  • Food resistance
  • Communication goes both ways, sort of
  • Independence for you

Chapter 19: Sleep: Yours

  • Are you sleeping through the night?
  • How much of your sleep is related to your child’s sleep and how much of it is you?
  • Nutritional needs for better sleep
  • Other support for your own sleep

Chapter 20: 18 months

  • The worst sleep regression yet
  • Defiance
  • Food refusal times three
  • A huge period of growth combined with disequilibrium
  • Communication

Chapter 21: Anger, redux

  • Why toddlers can tap into your anger so effectively
  • Managing your anger
  • Thinking about this phase as practice for later phases
  • Perspective

Chapter 22: 21 months

  • New fluency and cheerfulness
  • Communication
  • Better sleep

Chapter 23: What’s next?

  • Figuring out what’s next for you now that your child is out of the baby and toddler stage
  • Who are you as a parent?
  • Are you satisfied with your family configuration and workload?
  • Making changes

Chapter 24: Two years

  • You made it—no longer parenting a baby
  • Strong separation anxiety phase
  • Maybe thinking about having another, or maybe not
  • Oh, and there’s another sleep regression from 24-27 months

Appendix: First, do no harm: Books you can read that won’t gaslight you, websites that won’t make you feel inadequate, and other resources

  • Book list
  • Website list
  • Other resources

 

What am I forgetting?