Worried about heavy metals?

Dear Is This Normal,

My pediatrician just told me my daughter can move to cereals and even puréed veggies. She is 5 months old and with the whole baby food having metals and arsenic I’m so afraid to buy baby food although I’ve read making your own baby food will cause the same issues. I’m told to try one veggie at a time for a week to make sure there are no allergies. First time mom and I don’t want anything to hinder my child’s development. Any advice on what’s best? 

Signed,
Worried Feeder

Dear Worried,

Oh, do I ever hear you on this. There are plenty of things to worry about when you have a baby, but when that report showing heavy metals in many of the most popular brands of baby foods came out, it’s like our worries and concerns got turned up to 11. And for good reason! We all want to do what’s best for our babes, and to find out that what we’ve been doing is potentially harmful? This whole parenting journey can be so hard to navigate, especially with all of these roadblocks and speed bumps. 

Starting solids is such a fun milestone, and you should be excited about this! But I 100% understand your concerns and hesitation. There’s so much information out there about solids and infant feeding, and a lot of it is contradictory, so it’s hard to know what to do, how to do it, when to do it … you get the idea. My biggest piece of advice is to follow your gut and do what FEELS right for your baby. And work closely with your pediatrician when it comes to figuring out your plan! You know your baby best, and your doc has probably been in her life since she was born. You’ve got the go-ahead to start solids, so now it’s time to formulate a plan that you’re comfortable with. 

Let’s first address the elephant in the room: heavy metals in baby food. Obviously, a cause of major concern (and hopefully a catalyst for changes in the industry!). I want to acknowledge that it’s really not feasible to achieve a zero level when it comes to some heavy metals like inorganic arsenic and cadmium; these elements occur naturally in air, water, and soil, and generations of pesticide use means that the heavy metals have been absorbed into the soil and groundwater and remain even decades after they were banned from use in pesticides. Additionally, some fruits and vegetables are naturally higher in some heavy metals, like sweet potatoes and carrots. These root crops tend to absorb more heavy metals from soil and water. However, the biggest culprit in the heavy metals study was found to be rice; nearly all the baby foods that contained rice tested positive for heavy metal contamination. Rice is particularly susceptible to contamination because of how it’s grown and processed. 

So what are worried parents to do with this troubling information? Our babies have to eat, right? Even though there is no perfect solution that’s going to eliminate 100% of all heavy metals from the foods we eat and the foods we feed our kids, we can definitely take precautions and make choices that significantly lower our exposure. For starters, I’d skip the rice cereals and avoid any baby foods that contain rice – opt instead for organic oats, chia, hemp, or buckwheat. Companies that mimic what you’d do at home, with fresh, organic ingredients and minimal processing like Little Spoon is a great way to go. Little Spoon’s BabyBlends are made by hand, in small batches, using 100% certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients. Their foods are not subjected to extreme heat, lengthy commercial sterilization or processing on heavy machinery. Plus, because they only partner with local farms that perform regular testing on their ingredients and crops (and because Little Spoon runs third-party lab tests on every single batch of food that comes out of their kitchen), there’s a level of traceability and accountability with Little Spoon that you won’t find with other companies.

Another way you can minimize exposure is by feeding your girl a varied diet! Carrots and sweet potatoes have a lot of nutritional value, and experts aren’t suggesting eliminating them completely from your baby’s diet. But, they shouldn’t be a staple, or all she eats. Introducing her to a wide variety of foods at the beginning of her solids journey can decrease the risk of heavy metal exposure. Plus, it helps her develop a more adventurous palate! I totally understand your concern about allergies – I think all parents share those concerns when their babies start solids, food allergies are no joke. But unless you have a family history of allergies, experts say there’s no reason to introduce one food at a time, even in the beginning. If the foods she’s eating are easy to isolate (say, zucchini in the morning and pears at lunch), you would still be able to narrow down the culprit in the event of a reaction. Incorporate foods that are rich in calcium, vitamin C, and iron – these nutrients can actually help block the absorption of heavy metals. Broccoli, bell peppers, chia, spinach, and blueberries can all be amazing first foods for your little one.

Parenting is one worrisome thing after another, mama. Are they eating the right foods in the right way? Are they sleeping enough? Hitting the milestones they should be hitting? Our worries never really shut off. But our gut, our maternal instinct, our intuition can be such a force in guiding us to do what’s best for our kids. You’re asking the right questions, Worried, and hopefully I’ve been able to give you some answers that can help ease your worries, just for a bit.

Here to Ease Your Worries,

Is This Normal

Monster-in-law?

Dear Is This Normal,

I don’t have a great relationship with my mother-in-law and she keeps saying “mommy’s so mean” to my one year old. For example, if I try feeding my son something new that he doesn’t particularly like or if I take something away from him that he shouldn’t have she will say “mommy’s so mean” I hope she’s just joking but I really don’t want my son hearing that! Can I say something without making it a big deal or should I just let it slide?

Signed,
Not Mean Mommy

Dear NOT mean mommy,

Oh mama, this is so incredibly NOT ok, I can’t even put it into words! I’ve read my fair share of nightmare in-laws stories, and no matter how many I read, they will never not blow my mind. I just cannot fathom what makes people think they can behave this way! Especially when it comes to actual family. You have every right to be upset, and you have every right to be concerned about the message your mother-in-law is sending your son. He may only be a year old, but kids at that age are sponges, and if this continues, it’s only a matter of time before he starts repeating or emulating the same behaviors he sees from his grandma. You and your partner need to nip this in the bud, and NOW.

Have you talked to your partner about their mother’s remarks? You mentioned not having a great relationship with her already, and it sounds like there’s more going on than just this latest example. If that’s the case, you and your partner need to get on the same page and deal with this together. Since she’s your partner’s mother, I would suggest they be the one to address it with her initially; I hear you on not wanting to make it a big deal, and it doesn’t sound like you and her are in a good place to hash this out yourselves. So your partner needs to sit down with their mom, and make it very clear that her insults and criticisms of you (especially in front of your child!) will not be tolerated. And then, once that boundary is set, you both need to present a united front and say something anytime she gets out of line. If she can’t handle that? Well, that’s too bad. If she continues to behave this way, then your next step may be to limit her interactions with her grandson. When you put it to her that way, chances are she’ll get the hint and knock it off. Stop calling you mean to your son, or she doesn’t get to see her grandson anymore! Shrug emoji, she’ll deal or you’ll deal with it.

I know you know this, but in case her hurtful words have started to seep into your conscience, let me make something very clear: you are not a mean mommy. You are not mean for wanting your son to try new foods, or expecting him to follow rules and listen when you tell him to do or not do something! That’s not being mean – that’s called being a parent. Jokes, in moderation, and in the proper context, can be fun for grandparents to crack, but they still need to respect your rules as the parent and support your parenting choices and decision. If your mother-in-law cannot do that, then I’m sorry, she shouldn’t be allowed to be around your son and be given ample opportunity to undermine you and your authority as his parent. 

This is one of those things that you should make a big deal out of – if you don’t, it will only get worse, and as your son gets older and continues to hear this type of nonsense from your mother-in-law, he will start to exhibit the same behavior toward you as she does. Hard line on this one – don’t back down. It’s for your benefit, and your son’s benefit, that this be addressed ASAP. You’re not a mean mommy, but your mother-in-law is certainly acting like one, and it needs to end.

Time to Get Mean (With Your MIL),

Is This Normal

My children are just ridiculously picky

Dear Is This Normal,

My older children were great early eaters as toddlers. Now that they’re 8yrs old and 5yrs old they are both VERY picky. It drives my husband and me insane and we’re not sure how to handle it. They don’t want to eat their veggies, they don’t want to try new things and our 8yr old is always too full to finish dinner but has room for dessert. HELP!! 

Signed, 
Food Fight

Dear Food Fight,

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way. Kids’ tastes and preferences change, and you can’t really gauge what their eating habits are going to be later in life. 

It might be helpful to keep in mind that your picky eaters not wanting to try new things or eat their veggies could be an assertion of independence. It could also be just a little phase they’re going through together. Remember, even though they’re individuals, they’re siblings. So they probably understand how power in numbers works. It’s not unheard of for the younger child to mirror or mimic what big brother or sister is doing.

The good news is, this is likely just a phase, and they will eventually outgrow it. Until they do, you want to make sure you’re approaching this in the best way possible. 

As much as you want to fight with them over what they eat—or assert your own authority and force them to eat—I would strongly caution against it. Will they sit at the table and dutifully eat three bites under your watchful eye? Sure. Will that create a lot of mixed feelings about food and their relationship with food, and create some unnecessary hostility in your relationship? Damn right it will. So don’t make food or meal times a battle, and don’t use punishment, pressure, or anger to get your way. 

On the flip side of that, don’t use rewards or bribes to get your way either. You mention your 8 year old always has room for dessert.  But if they’re not eating nutritious food, dessert shouldn’t even be on the table! And they CERTAINLY shouldn’t be getting it after not eating their dinner. If they’re hungry enough for dessert, they were hungry enough for dinner, and they’ll be even hungrier at breakfast! Take away? Don’t take away dessert as a punishment, but also make sure its not necessarily the reward, either.

Until they outgrow this current food stage, there are some things you can do to make meal time easier, and even entice your kids to broaden their horizons and try new foods. Like I mentioned earlier, don’t force your kids to eat. At these ages, it’s important for them to learn when they’re full by listening to their bodies’ cues. You don’t want to teach them to ignore or override those cues. Make their portions smaller, and if they want more, they’ll ask for it. 

Include foods that you know they will eat, as well as one food you want them to try. They’ll be more likely to try the new food/veggie if they have familiar foods on their plate. But don’t turn yourself into a short-order cook. One family, one meal, no exceptions (allowing for allergies or special diets, of course). If you start making meals for fussy kids, you’ll set a REALLY hard precedent to break down the road. 

It can also help to give your kids more control over the foods that end up on their plates. Take them shopping with you, let them explore different produce or meats or grains, and allow each child to pick out one new thing to make for dinner. Then get them in the kitchen with you and let them help! 

Another big help is to stick with a routine when it comes to meal times: same time (ish) everyday, no distractions, just a quiet family meal. Finally, don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen when it comes to new foods and veggies. Put veggies in things they wouldn’t expect to have them, and highlight how versatile foods can be when you think outside the box. 

But the biggest piece of advice I have for you is to just be patient. I know that’s frustrating to hear. We hear it so much when it comes to kids! But they move in and out of phases like this all the time. And when it comes to food in particular, patience is key. It can take kids, even older kids, 8-10 tries of a new food before they actually deem it acceptable to eat. Try to keep your cool and just continue introducing new foods and making food exciting and fun. They’ll come around eventually. My older sister lived on buttered pasta between the ages of 9-13, and now her favorite food is sea urchin. They’ll come around, when they’re ready. 

Make Dinner, Not War,
Is This Normal

I want another baby – now!

Dear Is This Normal,

Is it normal to want another baby so soon after having my first baby? It was like as soon as she was born, I just wanted to keep re-living the whole experience—aches and pains and all. I’m ashamed to tell people this: I know it’s insane. Even with how exhausted I get with her at two months old now. But I’m also afraid. . .how can I love another baby as much as I love my sweet daughter? 

Signed,
Ready for #2

Dear Ready,

Dear Ready,

OMG, this is so incredibly sweet and pure. Is it insane? Maaaaaaaaybe a little. Is it normal? YES! It’s normal because it’s how you feel. Every emotion and feeling we have about our own motherhood experience is 100% real, valid, and totally effing normal. 

Pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood are wondrous and awesome and transformative. You’re still in the first stages and honey it gets even more beautiful. And harder! It gets harder. 

But that doesn’t mean that what you’re feeling now will diminish or lessen as your little one gets older. Some people just really, really love the experience. The process. There is nothing wrong with that and you should not feel at all ashamed for feeling the way you do! When to have another baby is a decision between you and your partner and should depend SOLELY on what’s best for your family, not what anyone else thinks based on some made-up social rules about second pregnancy planning. 

I will say, two kids is a whole different ball game and it might be a good idea to talk to some parents whose kids are close together in age. My own girls are four years apart and spaced that way semi-intentionally, but plenty of parents have kids back to back and love it! 

But the beginning can be … challenging. It can be done obviously, parents of multiples are out here running the world every damn day. But it’s always a good idea to know exactly what you’d be in for—you can never be too prepared when it comes to parenting. Think: TWO TODDLERS AT THE EXACT SAME TIME. 

As far as being scared you won’t be able to love another child as much as you love your daughter, that’s a fear all parents have. And it’s trite, but true: you don’t have to make room in your heart for another baby, your heart just grows in size to love them both (or all) the same. 

You may be surprised by how that love is different, though. A lot of parents are much more relaxed the second time around, so you may find yourself being able to appreciate the little things you missed with your first baby. And your babies will likely be very different, too! So your second will have quirks and traits and do little things that your first didn’t. You may fall in love faster with different aspects of your second baby. It’s familiar but totally new, which is completely wild and sums up this whole parenting thing pretty well. 

You’ll know when you’re READY ready for a second baby. And whenever that is, you’ll wonder how you ever lived that long without them. 

It’s Just As Great the Second Time Around,
Is This Normal

My kids spits everything out. Help!

Dear Is This Normal,

My 15 month old daughter has taken up the WORST habit of spitting during feeding times. She spits almost everything out, literally right onto my face! I’ll have to go through 3-4 different foods until she gets to one she likes and will stop the horrid spitting. I have no idea how to get her to stop. I think it’s more behavioral than anything, but I don’t know the appropriate way to discipline it as I’m afraid that she won’t eat if I don’t offer her a million options until she gets one she likes or wants. Feeding has always been such a struggle for us and I have no idea how to navigate this! Any help is appreciated!! 

Signed, 
Please Stop Spitting!

Dear Stop Spitting,

UGH. Toddlers, amirite?! Listen, I love toddlers. Well, I love other people’s toddlers, I should say. No amount of money in the whole world would get me to go down THAT particular road again, no ma’am. But there is no human on the planet as funny, sweet, infuriating, and brutally honest as a toddler. We used to call my youngest the Sourpatch Kid, because she was equal parts sour and sweet and it was sort of a crapshoot what you were going to get on any given day. BUT, that being said, I’m not entirely convinced that what you’re dealing with should be chalked up to typical toddler behavior. Pull up a seat, let’s talk food, and see if we can’t get to the bottom of your toddler spitting out her food.

So, babies are born with certain reflexes, like the ability to suck. You put a nipple in their mouth, they (usually) know exactly what to do with it, although it may take some work to perfect it. But once they start eating solid foods, they have to literally learn how to eat. Their gag reflex has to relax, and their thrust reflex has to calm down. For some babies, this happens easily around 4-6 months of age. For other babies, it can be a months-long process. You mention that feeding has always been a struggle, so you probably understand that in more ways than you care to!

But here’s the thing: babies don’t magically start eating well when they become toddlers. Sometimes, feeding issues can follow little ones into the toddler years. Add to that the totally developmentally-normal habit of refusing new foods and/or textures, and it can become a real cluster. 

I don’t think your little girl is spitting out food because she wants to drive you mad. I think she may be responding to tastes or textures that she either doesn’t like (yet) or feel unfamiliar in her mouth. You have to remember, to a toddler, unfamiliar equals bad or dangerous. 

She may not be able to chew the food, or she may not think she can swallow it. Or she just flat-out does not like it, which is also a very likely possibility. It sounds like it’s just new or unfamiliar foods and textures she’s spitting out, because she chews and eats foods she likes just fine. So I’m guessing we have a case of food refusal here. Luckily, with some patience, you can move past this! But notice how I said … patience. 

Toddlers will eat dirt and food they find in their car seat, so it’s sort of wild they won’t eat, like, peas. But whaddaya gonna do, you know? It can take kids as many as 10-15 tries of a food before they actually decide, “Hey! This isn’t so bad!”. And I don’t mean 10-15 bites in one meal – I mean 10-15 different occasions of trying a food. So, ya gotta do what you gotta do – just keep offering her new foods and textures. Cut their food into very small bites, and offer the new food or texture first. Give her a chance to taste it, get a good mouthfeel, and if she spits it out, don’t react! Just move on to the next food. She clearly has some foods she likes, so include those in her meals so you know she’s getting enough to eat. 

But at every meal, offer one new food for every fav food on her plate. Keep offering her the same foods over and over again (remember, small bites, as she still might have some feeding issues that depend on her stage of development). After you’ve tried a certain food 10-15 times, and she still refuses it, just move on. Don’t discipline her, don’t get frustrated. There are SO many foods she can try, and I promise you, she will start to like some of them. 

She’s not spitting the food out because she’s misbehaving: she’s doing it because she doesn’t like it right now or isn’t able to handle it just yet. That’s fine and so totally normal. The hardest part is being patient and not losing it when meal time becomes a battle, I know. But believe me when I say this is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to toddler behaviors we could really do without. 

Not Looking for a Food Fight,
Is This Normal

How do I conquer holiday stress?

Dear Is This Normal,

The holidays are always so stressful for me. I have young kids running around, constantly running from family members house to another family members house and my schedule with my kids always gets so MESSED UP.  I need some tips on how to manage the holidays. They always get the best of me. 

Signed,
Stressed Holiday Mama

Dear Stressed Mama,

We know it’s not easy this time of year, but don’t forget that it truly CAN be one of the best times of year for you, too. If we can find ways to help get your ducks in a row during this very validly stressful time, you may just be able to stop and enjoy the moments along the way. A few of them, anyway. 

No matter what, whether you’re traveling to see family or hosting the celebration at home, there will be changes in your toddler’s daily routine this time of year – so let’s plan to minimize the stress where we can so you can focus on the fun. 

Set your perfectionist cap to the side:

Don’t let the stereotypical holiday Instagram picture of perfection set an unrealistic bar for you! Something is likely not going to go right — whether it’s a cancelled flight, the gift you wanted to buy your kid being out of stock everywhere, or the cat pulling down your Christmas tree (yes, this actually happens). Give yourself some grace in those moments (or have some fun with it like Lauren Conrad), whatever they may be and whenever they may happen. 

Plan early:

One of the most important things you can do is map out your approach to the holidays in advance. Make a list, check it twice. Make it your spirit guide. This will give you the framework to decide which invites to accept and to figure which events or activities you want to plan arrangements for. It will also give you the chance to identify any gaps and, importantly, any commitments you want to LET GO OF because it’s just not worth it. 

Make downtime part of your plans, too!

It can be easy to get swept away in the holiday frenzy and feel the need to fit every party and activity into your schedule. Before you jump right in, think about how much you and your family can handle: your mini is used to their structured routine and the constant change in environment is bound to take a toll. Give them (and yourself) moments of nothing in the line-up, whether that’s some quiet time to read, play alone with some of their favorite toys, or even to watch a short educational program on the TV. Either way, allow them (and you!) the chance to reset.  

Don’t forget nap time and bedtime:

As parents, we often have to make compromises– but those should be deliberate and strategic instead of accidental! When the invites come in from friends and family, consider the time of day of the events as well. If the time conflicts with nap time or bedtime, it might be the sign those are invites you should choose to skip—at least for this year. If the event goes into the evening, plan to show up at the start and have a toddler-friendly departure time.

Establish your own traditions:

It can be easy for your plans to be overtaken by traditions set by other family members but what are the traditions just you and your immediate family share? If you have none, are there some you might want to start this year? It doesn’t have to be big, but it’s good to think about prioritizing something that’s just for you guys to enjoy. Maybe it’s watching holiday movies in PJs on Christmas Eve or driving around doing family car carol karaoke as you look at the lights in the neighborhood. 

And, most importantly, take time to enjoy it all! The season goes so quickly and with each year, so many things change. So take it all in! And don’t forget to give yourself some ‘me’ time along the way. 

Happy Holidays,

Is This Normal

In-Laws for the holidays

Dear Is This Normal,

This is my first holiday with a baby and we’re planning to spend the week with my husband’s family at their house. I am incredibly stressed with the situation – they always seem to give me a hard time about being ‘overbearing’ or too fussy with the baby. I’m too rigid with sleep schedules, feedings etc. in their eyes and I’m feeling extremely anxious to be in their presence all week without being judged and called out for trying to parent my way. Any tips for how to handle? I really don’t want to create drama over the holidays and get into a fight with them, but I’m already gearing up for feeling ostracized.

Scrooge Daughter-in-Law

Dear Scrooge,

Ah, the holidays! A time for families to gather and spend time together, and bond with the newest member of the clan. What joy, what fun! Or … not. Listen, babies do weird things to people, and navigating the holidays with a new baby is difficult terrain, to say the least. The audacity of some people, to question a new mother or father on how they’re parenting their brand new baby, seems to reach EPIC levels during the holidays. Maybe because you’re seeing a lot of people you don’t normally see very often, but also because some people just don’t have the good graces or manners to mind their own damn business. I feel you, Scrooge, I really do. 

I get that you want to do what you can to keep the peace and not make a tough situation tougher. But it’s also important, MOST important, that you feel comfortable being the mom that you are, and are able to parent your new baby in the way that works best for your family. Do you want to piss people off? No, of course not. Do you want to compromise who you are as a parent, put your baby through undo stress, or be forced into situations that make you uncomfortable? No way, no how. 

This is going to require a united front between you and your husband, and it’s going to require setting some boundaries before you head to your in-laws’ home for the holidays. I’m sure they’re expecting a week of anything goes with their grandbaby, and while that plays well in theory, it’s just not the reality for an infant. Unless grandma and grandpa want a week of screaming ANGRY BABY, they should want structured naptimes & feedings, too! Communicate with your in-laws before the trip that while you respect their views and appreciate their advice and help (after all, they’ve done this before), neither you nor your husband will tolerate your parenting choices being judged because they don’t align with your in-laws’ expectations. Expect some hurt feelings (but don’t feel guilty over them). As you’ll soon discover MANY MANY TIMES on this parenting trip, someone else’s hurt feelings are not your responsibility when it comes to doing what’s best for YOUR baby. 

Now, I’m not suggesting that you be a complete hard-ass on the trip and try to rule them like a drill sergeant. As important as it is to set your own boundaries, it’s also important to give in a little, when and where you’re comfortable doing so. This is their grandbaby! You want to give them as many opportunities as possible to be doting and helpful grandparents (key word being HELPFUL). There are plenty of ways you can do that! Rather than you or your husband always being the one to hold or rock the baby, hand them off to your in-laws and give your arms a rest. When it’s time for a nap or bedtime, ask your MIL to help get the room ready. Make her part of the Team Sleep – let her know what baby’s optimal sleep sitch is, and put her in charge of preparing the environment. And if you notice little things they do that aren’t exactly what you’d do, but aren’t derailing your own parenting goals or style in anyway, be like Elsa and let that ish goooooooo. You can absolutely maintain your own boundaries and set your own expectations without being nitpicky about stuff that doesn’t matter in the long run. 

Best of luck to you this holiday season, Scrooge! It isn’t easy to balance being a new parent with wanting to keep everyone happy, but remember, that isn’t your job. Your in-laws will get on board, or they’ll be missing out on some bonding time with you, their son, and their new grandbaby. Put the ball in their court before you get there, and keep doing what’s best for your family.

Bah Humbug,

Is This Normal

Nanny Guilt

Dear Is This Normal,

My husband and I both have demanding jobs. One might say mine is more demanding, with off-hours calls to other continents, international travel, and a higher intensity work environment. Yet, our nanny, whom we generally adore, assumes I will be the one to plan birthday parties, bow out of work to attend dance class, be the primary decision maker on all questions related to our daughters, take the girls to the doctor….you get it. 

Somehow my brain’s first response to these scenarios is guilt (of course) because, no, I can’t skip my five calls this morning to go to story time with them, and no, I don’t plan on throwing a Pinterest-inspired birthday bash for my toddler. I don’t have the time or energy! Is it normal that my nanny, who sees me running around like a madwoman to keep up with work and all the demands of parenting on a daily basis, treats me as if my job is an optional activity?

Signed, 

I Won’t Be Shamed for Being a Working Mom

Dear Working Mom,

UGH. Ok, I want to first say: GO ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF. I know this working mom thing isn’t easy, not by a long shot, so the fact that you’re doing it and succeeding at it deserves an immense amount of credit. I am also very intimately acquainted with the working mom guilt you speak of, and it’s the worst. Working moms, whether they work by choice or necessity, are doing what they need to do for themselves and their families. And rather than shame us for it, it’d be SUPER great if people could be more supportive and just worry about their own selves, yes? Yes. 

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s talk about this nanny situation! This is really really indicative of a broader, societal problem where people assume that women—because we are women—will just automatically take the reins when it comes to parenting, home life, and anything kid-related. And that is not the case in so many families, especially modern families with at least one working parent. We went in on those kids 50/50, so dammit, we’re splitting the work. 

I don’t think your nanny means any harm by it, but sadly, I would say it’s normal to assume that the mother will be the one to drop what she’s doing to tend to the kids, or plan the parties, or call out sick when their kid is sick. Perhaps your nanny has some deeply-held beliefs about motherhood and working moms, and has a hard time separating that from the work she does for your family. Or perhaps, she just assumes that (again) because you’re a mom, this stuff falls under your umbrella. All things considered, if this is the only issue you have with her, you may be inclined to let it slide. But that doesn’t mean you and your husband shouldn’t address it with her.

If you and your husband are on the same page as far as handling kid stuff as it comes up, then it’s time to have a sit down with your nanny and get her on the same page, too. Is it possible that she just doesn’t know that he can do a lot of the stuff she assumes you should do? Because he can! He can totally take the girls to dance (dance dads are awesome), and he can 100% take them to doctor’s appointments. 

It might be time to gently remind your nanny that your daughters have two capable, involved parents, and that rather than single you out for this kind of stuff, she should start alerting BOTH of you and letting you guys hash out the details. Some days, you will be the one around to go to story time. But their dad will be around on some days, too, and not only is it burdensome on you to put it all on your plate, it’s actually kind of a slight to dad that she doesn’t even consider him in these situations.

Finally, I want to just say: screw the working mom guilt. Screw it! Don’t feel guilty for working, for enjoying your work, or for putting a lot of yourself into your work. There’s nothing shameful about providing for your family, and there’s nothing shameful about enjoying your job. You’re juggling a demanding job while raising your kids and you should be incredibly proud of that. It’s not easy, not by a long shot, but if it’s worth it to you, then it’s exactly what you should be doing.

No Shame in Our Game,

Is This Normal

Why does your hair fall out after having a baby?

Dear Is This Normal,

Why does your hair fall out after having a baby? I’ve been noticing more hair coming out and my front hairline is receding. My child was born over a year ago, too. Any advice would help please. 

Signed, 

Losing It

Dear Losing It,

Ohhhhhh yes. The dreaded postpartum hair loss! It’s just another one of those delightful side effects of pregnancy and childbirth. And I realize there is no sarcasm font, but just so you know, I am using “delightful” VERY sarcastically. No one likes to lose their hair, especially all at once. Unfortunately, it is totally normal. But there are some things we can do to lessen the blow, so to speak.

Let’s talk a bit about why our hair falls out after we have a baby. See, one of the NICE things about pregnancy is that it gives thick, luxurious hair. We’re taking these amazing prenatal vitamins, for one thing. Plus the hormones our body is producing actually keeps our hair from falling out. The average person loses about 100 strands of hair a day, but not during pregnancy! That hair stays put, it’s all shiny and beautiful, and everyone is happy. 

But then … you have the baby. And those pregnancy hormones come to a screeching halt. You see where I’m going with this, yes? So you have your baby, your body starts getting back to normal, and all that hair you’ve been hanging onto has to go somewhere. It can definitely be alarming, because it doesn’t come out in wisps. For a lot of women that hair falls out in chunks, consistently, for weeks and months. Plus you’re tired and stressed and maybe your diet isn’t so great. All of these things can contribute to the problem. If you breastfed your baby and recently weaned or switched to formula, you may notice the cycle start all over again, albeit not as bad. Some women hang onto that extra pregnancy hair during breastfeeding and start to lose it when they stop.

While there’s nothing you can do to keep it from happening (SO SORRY), there are some things you can do to help. Eating well and taking your prenatal vitamin (even after you’re no longer … natal) can improve the health and strength of your hair. Don’t wash your hair too often. Use a good quality shampoo and conditioner. After washing your hair, use wide-tooth detangling combs to comb your hair out and try to avoid putting your hair up in tight rubber bands. Scrunchies are all the rage teens right now, and they’re much gentler on your hair! During the shedding phase, skip the chemical processes at the salon and try to minimize heat styling. 

If you’re still experiencing significant hair loss more than 12 months postpartum, make an appointment with your doc to see if there might be something else going on. Hair loss, when accompanied by other symptoms, can be a sign of other postpartum conditions like hypothyroidism or iron-deficiency anemia. A blood test can determine if there’s something amiss with your thyroid or iron levels, and the sooner you get that addressed, the better you’ll be in the long run! 

In the meantime, try to be as gentle as you can with your hair. And don’t stress over it too much. Stress can also cause hair loss, which is just so rude.

Thin-Haired Moms Unite,

Is This Normal

How do I let my child explore their gender expression?

Dear Is This Normal,

How do I let my child explore their gender expression? 

Signed, 

Supportive Parent

Dear Supportive,

You know that meme? The one with the horse rubbing their sweet face against the fence post that says, “I love this post”? I wish I could put that meme here, BECAUSE I LOVE THIS POST. I love that you asked, because it shows a willingness to learn and adapt (which is not easy as adults, let’s be honest). It shows that the times, they are a-changin’! It shows that this is a thing we as parents are thinking about now, instead of just going along with the status quo. It’s called growth, baby, and we really love to see it.

Let’s first define the difference between gender and assigned sex, because they are two very different things. When your child is born, they are assigned a biological sex based on their external gentalia. People are also born intersex (this is when they have biological characteristics that are considered male and others that are considered female) and may be assigned a sex through surgery if the external genitalia aren’t obviously male or female. 

Gender and gender identity, on the other hand, refer to a person’s sense of who they are, and can be developed through many factors like biological traits, societal construct, and environmental influences. Gender and biological sex are not mutually exclusive. They are independent of one another and don’t always align.

So let’s talk a bit about those societal influences. We all heard them growing up: boys wear blue, they play in the dirt, they’re rough and tumble, they don’t cry, they love trucks and pretending things are guns. Annnd girls wear pink, are dainty and fragile, play pretend mama with their dolls, and are ruled by emotion.

Everywhere you look, those stereotypes are drilled into us and our kids. In the kids’ clothing and toy sections of stores. In bookstores. On television and movies. Hell, we even see it in products aimed at adults, who should presumably know better! Two different kinds of razors for men and women. Pink tool kits filled with all the same tools that you’d find in a “men’s” tool kit. Nevermind the fact that the pink crap is usually more expensive too (different gripe, different post, AMA).

Our jobs as parents is to push back against those gender stereotypes by  letting our kids be kids while exploring who they are as humans. Gender identity generally develops in stages and by age four most kids have a good idea of which gender they identify with the most. But all kids need to be able to explore different gender roles freely and comfortably and with the support of their parents and loved ones. And that starts at home, with us. 

Now, how do you give your child the freedom to explore their gender expression? Honestly, by just letting them EXPLORE. As parents, we must resist the urge to confine them to mainstream gender roles. Let them play without your influence or interference. Introduce them to different non-conforming gender roles through books and television shows that show, for example, men as nurses or women as construction workers. Provide them with a wide range of toys to play with, and don’t limit them. Offer your sons baby dolls and your daughters dump trucks. 

When your kids are babies, move away from the traditional blue and pink clothes and opt for more gender neutral choices. When they get old enough to start participating in sports or activities, let them choose! Your daughters can play football and your sons can dance, if that’s what they want to do. If your child starts expressing a gender identity that’s different from the sex they were assigned at birth (through their clothing or hair styles or chosen name, for example), then just be supportive. That’s really what it all boils down to: support and love your kids. And be prepared to adopt a zero tolerance policy for bullying, disrespect, deliberate misgendering, and negativity aimed at your child from society, or family, or friends. Your kid needs to know you have their back, no exceptions. 

You got this, Supportive. Just asking the question and demonstrating a willingness to learn and grow in order to best support your kids is HUGE. Keep asking questions, too. So much of parenting is being able to constantly evolve as our kids grow and develop and their needs (and our methods) change. Best to you and yours, now and always.

Here’s to Kids Being Whoever They’re Meant to Be!

Is This Normal