Important Lessons for Boys

Michael doesn’t like when I polish my nails.

He never has. I think the first time I painted them that he noticed he was about 2 years old. He thought something was wrong with my fingers.

I polished my nails yesterday, out of boredom and out of an attempt at some self care.

“I don’t like when you do that,” Michael said.

“I know,” I answered calmly, “But these are mama’s nails, and mama wants to polish them.”

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This is where is starts, the lesson that more boys and men need to learn.

Women — and other people in general, but this needs to apply especially to women — make choices about their bodies that other people may not agree with, may not like. We may dye our hair outrageous colors, or polish our nails, or wear clothes that others may find faintly ridiculous or provocative.

But it is our hair, and our nails, or our clothes. On our bodies.

My husband occasionally pats my bum when I am doing stuff in the kitchen, and I occasionally pat his too. We embrace and kiss, even in front of the children; we are, in general, an affectionate family. But I don’t like my children to pat my culo, and I ask them not to.

“But Daddy does it,” they protest.

“That’s because I’ve given Daddy permission,” I say. Tacit permission, it’s true, but permission nonetheless. “I am not giving you permission.”

Just because one person is given permission to physically interact with my body in a certain way, that is not blanket permission for the rest of the world.

If a girl or woman has given one person certain access to her body in a certain way, she hasn’t given permission to others because of that. As a matter of fact, there may come a point where she may not give that person who had access before permission.

And that is okay. That is up to her.

Yes, this goes for boys/men and other people too. The larger point here is my body is mine; your body is yours; his/her body is his/hers. We each get to decide; we each get to give permission or not.

It’s important to start teaching these lessons to our children — boys and girls — NOW. My children are only 5 and 9 and 11. Flora demands privacy when she showers or changes; Kate and Michael are quite the opposite — I’m trying to teach them concepts of privacy and modesty anyway. I ask that everyone give Flora her privacy, even if it’s not what they choose. I ask Kate, my most physically enthusiastic and affectionate child, to give people boundaries and personal space.

And I tell my son that I am allowed to polish my nails. Because they are my nails, and I get to decide.

What important lesson do you think children need to start learning early?

How to Be Lazy: A Guide by RPM

You think being lazy means doing nothing, but I assure you, it takes a lot of work to be lazy.

1. Teach your children to do chores. Better yet, get your nanny to teach your children to do chores. You’ll never vacuum again!

2. Get a nanny, at least for the summer. You can ask her to do many things for you so that when you get home at night, at most you have a few dishes to rinse and put in the dishwasher. Wait, your kids are supposed to be doing that.

I regularly ask my nanny to put dinner in the slow cooker and turn it on, take my kids to lessons (violin and swimming this summer), pick stuff up at the store, bake stuff with my kids, and/or help them clean.

3. Shop online. This goes for everything from clothes to groceries. The latter you may have to drive to pick up.

4. Live next door to your in-laws. When you combine this step with the nanny and the fact that your ILs also watch your niece and nephew a few times a week, you will come home to cooked dinners and fed children who you can then send out in the yard to play while you eat and have adult conversation. Bonus: The kitchen needs very little cleaning. (I’ve mentioned this, haven’t I?)

5. If the nanny asks to take the kids to a movie (except for the 2.5-year-old), it’s okay to let her. If Bella offers to let all the kids (again, except for the 2.5-year-old) sleep over at her place, say yes. Taking care of one child (even if he is a 2.5-year-old) is easier than three or five.

Sometimes, you will have to reciprocate by taking all the children (including the 2.5-year-old) for a long walk around the neighborhood or out to ice cream. See? Being lazy: not for the faint of heart.

6. Go over to a friend’s house with similarly aged children. They will all disappear for hours. (New toys! New kids! Dogs! It’s the best.)

7. You could try having a Unisom hangover, grounding your children to their room because they *did* directly disobey you, letting them watch The Lion King on their little TV/VHS player, and waiting until your husband comes home to tuck them in. I don’t suggest this method because it involves a) a lot of yelling and b) a Unisom hangover.

(Aside: I haven’t been sleeping well. It’s not insomnia — I just keep waking up at night. Wake up, go back to sleep; wake up, go to the bathroom, go back to sleep; wake up, go back to sleep. It’s not very restful. So I thought I would try something to help me sleep all the way through. Melatonin was useless. Unisom gave me weird dreams, and I kept waking up, and I had a hangover and a bad taste in my mouth the next day. If I wanted a hangover and furry tongue, I would’ve just drank a fifth of bourbon.)

8. Have the nanny bathe the children (or let the children shower) before dinner. After all, if they’ve had swimming lessons and outdoor playtime, by 4 p.m. or so, they are dirty and stanky anyway. Except for the 2.5-year-old; you should bathe him right before bed because it’s part of his routine, and let’s face it, regardless of the fact that he is the smallest, he will also be the dirtiest and stickiest. But! He’s the smallest, so he is also easiest and quickest to bathe. Win-win!

Being lazy like this is great because you can either use all the time you’ve freed up through most of these steps to continue to be lazy, read a book, have fun times with your husband, or go to bed early. Or you can fill that time sorting through paperwork you’ve been neglecting and clothes that need to go to Goodwill. Being lazy like this during the week also frees up weekends for library visits and picnics with the kids, evenings for exercise (those long walks) and ice cream, and more quality kid time in general.

How are you lazy, and how does it benefit you?

PSA: Children in Public

I can’t believe I’m writing something like this, but after what I witnessed Wednesday night, it’s clear that some parents have no clue what constitutes “public” and “behavior”.

I was at my daughters’ school Christmas concert. I only took Flora because she was the only participant (she played her violin with the beginning violin class — mostly just exercises. Very cute.)

I was appalled by the lack of parental oversight and by the fact that people left when their kids were done. I felt for the teachers who had worked hard to put the concert together, and I really felt bad for the kids in the last group to perform. They were looking at a lot of empty chairs.

I know that a school gymnasium isn’t Heinz Hall. But I still think parents should have told their children to sit with them and to be quiet. When Flora was not on stage, I made her sit with me. She was squirmy and impatient — she has attention deficit issues — but she listened to me (mostly — she folded the program into a paper airplane when I wasn’t looking). I really don’t understand why parents treated the event as a free-for-all for the non-performing children or younger siblings.

The other thing that I found unbelievably, unacceptably rude was parents leaving with their children after their performances. There were four mini-programs: violins, chorus, beginning band, and advanced band. I was stunned to see parents packing off their kids as soon as they came off stage.

The “concert” was an hour. An hour. It was finished shortly after 8 p.m.

The teachers bring a lot of passion to events like this. The children, while they may not bring a lot of skill, certainly bring a lot of enthusiasm, and I think there’s a lot to be said for that. By letting kids wander around (if not run outright), whisper with their friends, and leave early parents are communicating the message that other people aren’t important. All that matters is what *you* want to do. That’s not a good message for kids.

For the record, I am an advocate for children in public. If you are a parent, I believe that not only do you have a right to bring your offspring out in public, but, frankly, you have a duty to do so. Children believe they are the center of the world (and frankly some parents do too much to foster this belief, IMHO). Teaching them they are not serves them well. Manners, common courtesy, boundaries, patience, learning to entertain oneself — all of these are benefits of learning to behave appropriately in public.

I just have a few minor guidelines.

1. Know your audience. It seems to me that there are enough child-friendly, child-centric places to bring a child that parents don’t need to bring their kids places that are (explictly or implicitly NOT child friendly). For example, let’s take restaurants. There are lots of restaurants where kids are kind of expected if not explicitly welcomed: Chuck E. Cheese, obviously; here in Pittsburgh, Eat ‘n’ Park seems to have been opened especially to cater to children and senior citizens; other chains like The Olive Garden. Busy places with brisk turnover and fast service are parents’ best bets. In my opinion, children’s menus are optional.

The small, exclusively French restaurant where a meal takes three hours? Not a good bet.

And then there are places that aren’t optimal for children, but it’s unavoidable sometimes. Airplanes. Church. Try to have a plan to minimize others’ pain. Don’t just give your kids free reign because you have to go visit grandma and grandpa, and they live across the country. I dislike when parents throw up their hands in public, like, “Kids will be kids!” No, kids will be adults some day. You can teach them that self-control is a realistic goal.

2. Know your kid. My children are slaves, to a certain extent, to their schedules. I made them that way, kind of on purpose. Especially when it comes to naps and bedtimes — I wanted my children to get naps and have firm bedtimes, so when it came to running errands or being out in public in general, I avoided the nap and bedtime hours. This goes double for meal time. If going to a restaurant is part of your errand running, good on you. Otherwise, make sure junior (and, possibly, you) has something to snack on. A kid with low blood sugar is sure to make everyone unhappy.

3. Don’t push it. Young children have limits. Don’t push them. We can’t always predict when or why our child will meltdown or have a tantrum. Be flexible, be prepared to drop what you are doing, be prepared to pay the check and leave. The days of coffee and dessert are over for awhile. The wonderful thing about kids is that, eventually, they will be able to sit long enough for you (and probably them) to have your cake and eat it too.

PSA: The Power of the Nap

I was never much of a nap taker. Sleep was, in my opinion as a teen and 20-something, overrated. A waste of time.

Then I had children.

When Flora was born, the piece of advice that I got and took to heart was: Sleep when the baby sleeps.

This came in handy, especially when the baby decided 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. was party time. Although there were still nights that I handed her off to her dad to rock, while I crashed for a couple of hours before she definitively needed feeding again.

The only problem with this practice was that I slept instead of eating. My weight plunged after Flora was born. When she was about 6 or 9 months old, I got sick. I went to the doctor to make sure I didn’t have something I could pass onto the baby through my milk.

I remember standing on the scale with the doctor behind me, staring in wonder at my weight. I heard the doc clear his throat before he said, clearly reaching for a diplomatic tone, “You seem to be a little underweight for your height. And the fact that you’re a breast feeding mother.”

It was the medical equivalent of, “Eat a cheeseburger, for goodness sake!”

I was 116 pounds.

When I shared this information with my mother, she asked, “Well, how many calories are you taking in?”

I had no clue. I’ve never counted calories in my life. My mom suggested I try a couple of things to get more calories (trail mix as a snack, putting cheese on my garden burger, eating five times a day, chocolate. I love my mom), put on some weight, and still ensure that I could nap if and when I needed to.

When Kate was born, I discovered a super power: I could will myself to sleep. If Flora was napping (or sleeping at night, or, let’s be honest here, occupied safely in her room with a Little Einstein video), and Kate was also sleeping, I could lay down and be unconscious in about 5 minutes. Kate, God bless her, was a round-the-clock sleeper her first four or five months. She would sleep 3 to 4 hours at a clip, waking up to be changed and fed, and right back to sleep she would go. (Except for those clusterfeedings around 2 months.) When she started being more awake, she decided that day time was a much better time to check out the world, thank heavens.

I have recently rediscovered my super power. (Don’t ask about napping when Michael was born. Flora and Kate were 4 and 6, plus I went back to work full time when he was 3 months old. Naps were nearly unheard of.) The past two Sundays, I have lain myself down in the afternoon when M is napping, and fallen asleep for 30-40 minutes.

It’s been heavenly. I have missed napping. This past Sunday, it was especially vital, because of Daylight Saving Time (and a, er, um, late Saturday night with lots of wine).

My point being: Don’t be disdainful of the nap. Naps are gorgeous, gorgeous things. Especially if you can get to sleep quickly and take a short “power nap” (20 to 30 minutes). There are probably studies out there that prove this point, but take my word for it. Especially if you are going to parent someday, learning to nap is vital. It will keep you sane.

Steps to napping:
1. Lay down in a quiet, darkened room.
2. Empty your mind — this probably takes the most practice. Forget about the chores, the thank you notes you need to write, the dinner you could start. All that will be there when you wake up.
3. If you are a new parent/mom, and aren’t sleeping for long stretches anyway, you have my permission to sleep until the baby wakes up again. This also applies if you are sick. Sleep is a cure; do it for as long as your body will let you.
4. Otherwise, try to limit your nap to 30 minutes. If you nap for an hour or two, you’re totally going to throw yourself off, and you probably won’t be able to fall asleep at bed time.

Naps, like hangovers, change once you have children. A hangover can be nursed over the course of a long, lazy day when you are single or childfree. Not so when you have children. Children do not know from hangovers, trust me. Naps, when you are a sleep-deprived parent, become an almost holy experience. You will yearn for one like you probably used to yearn for food or sex.

And, as they say, practice makes perfect! If you learn how to nap now, it will serve you well when you need it most.

Are you down with the nap? Or is sleep a waste of time?

PSA: Forget the Terrible 2s. It’s 3 That’s Going to Kick Your Butt.

In two separate timelines yesterday, I had conversations about 3-year-olds.

The conclusion is pretty much the title of this post.

Look, 2 is definitely challenging.

A newborn is like a soft little marshmallow. Or a houseplant. A very needy, demanding houseplant, to be sure — I don’t know of a plant that wakes you up for water at 2 a.m. And then again at 4 a.m., 5:30 a.m., and 6 a.m.

But, still, newborns stay in one place. They really just need food, cuddles, warm clothes, and sleep. (A lot of food sometimes.) Oh, and diaper changes. Lots and lots of diaper changes.

Then they start rolling, and army crawling, and walking, and after about 12 months, you have no more peace as a parent. And then they start talking. But they are cute as the dickens, and despite the constant monitoring and mess, there is not a thing in the world like smiles, hugs, and kisses from your toddler. They are pure id and pure love.

Two years old is challenging for all the reasons the baby books tell you. Here’s a completely loving and dependent child who is suddenly discovering she is a completely different entity than you. And her priorities are different than yours. You want to clean the kitchen, and she wants to draw. You want to put shoes on her so you can go to the store, and she wants to explore under the bathroom sink. You want to go in, she wants to stay out. You want to sit down, and she wants to turn her room into a toy dump.

Sometimes, absolutely, cleaning the kitchen can go hang, and you should sit down and draw or play dress up or watch a Disney movie with your child.

But sometimes, the kitchen really needs to be cleaned.

Two is the age where naps, in your child’s opinion, become optional, and vegetables are negotiable.

Now, take 2, and add a bigger, stronger child, a more willful child, and A CHILD THAT CAN SPEAK. She knows her own mind (or at least what she wants RIGHT NOW), and she’s going to tell you about it. Oh, and eventually, you’ll be trying to potty train her, too. This child will defy you in words and actions. She will pull away, pull away, pull away, then cling like saran wrap. She will do everything in her power to prove to you that everything is in her power.

She is, sadly, wrong about that.

Age 3 required more deep breathing and patience than I thought I had. Especially the year that Kate was 3 and I was pregnant with Michael. If you are going to have more than one child, don’t wait until you have a 3-year-old. Trust me on this.

Three-year-olds don’t go out of their way to drive their parents nuts. It only seems that way. This is the age of serious boundary testing (until they are teenagers). Your 3-year-old will push and push and push, and then push some more, and keep pushing well past the point that you feel is reasonable — because he or she is not a reasonable being, she is THREE, and if you give in at any point of that pushing, even after the temper tantrum and the dried tears, your 3-year-old will realize that he or she can get away with *anything*. As @MichelleSmiles put it on Twitter yesterday: “They understand their power by 3.”

Age 3 is the reason the phrase “pick your battles” was invented. Some kids will fight you on *everything*. Some kids will only fight you on everything every other day. But rest assured, fighting will happen. Know what is important to you when you get ready to engage.

The worst part of age 3 for me both times was potty training. I tried one thing with Flora and found it incredibly frustrating. I tried a different tact with Kate, and found it incredibly frustrating. Potty encouraging (that’s more or less the tact I tried with Kate) was especially no fun because I was so nauseous all the time. I have no advice. I’m pretty sure I’m going to let Michael train himself. Or offer Flora a million dollars to do it for me.

Minor aside: 3-year-old poop? Is vile.

In conclusion: It’s time that we spread the word to new parents far and wide. Forget about the terrible 2s. The terrible 2s will seem adorable after you have survived the terrifying 3s. The best advice I can give you is two-fold: 1. Pick your battles. 2. Hold on for the ride. It’s going to be a wild and wooly year. But you and your child will survive. Age 4 is right around the corner.

Public Service Announcement: Periods 101

I’m not talking about grammar. I’m talking about the monthly visitor. Aunt Flo. Or, as we refer to it in my household, the painters.

So, you know, you may not want to read any further. However, if you are married or otherwise share a household with a woman, and/or if you are raising daughters, you may want to stick around.

Here’s the upshot: Periods aren’t gross. Or dirty. Or disgusting.

They are normal and healthy, albeit a tad inconvenient at times.

I understand that the sight of blood can be off putting, even, to young children, alarming. Since having children, when I go to the bathroom at home, I seldom do it alone. I’ve had to have explain (in very simple terms) “feminine napkins”, or pads, panty liners, and tampons much earlier than I ever figured I would have to.

My mother was very matter-of-fact about menstruation. She gave me what I needed when I needed it. When I confessed I was nervous about using tampons (which I was until I went to college), she told me there was nothing to be nervous about, but also said pads were fine at my age.

I, too, plan to be matter-of-fact about menstruation. I’m not going to go all new-Age, Wiccan mystic on it, that the womb produces earth-blood and is a sacred space, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But I would like to dispel the notion that when women’s bodies do the stuff that women’s bodies are supposed to do it’s something to be hidden, or be ashamed of, or treated like a big dirty secret. Or worse, like a disease.

Menstruation is normal and healthy. So for that matter is pregnancy. Neither is something that needs to be “treated” by doctors or medication. Yeah, sometimes women are going to have cramps and need ibuprophen and, maybe, a heating pad. That takes some getting used to. So do tampons. And hormones.

And, for the record, I have had very few problems with menstruation. I don’t have PCOS or fibroids or endometriosis. For a few months in my late 20s, I had amenorreah due — of all things — to too much vitamin A in my diet. I had to give up sweet potatoes, carrots, and cantaloupe for a few months until things regulated. That was about as wonky as my period got.

So: husbands, fathers, guys, don’t treat your SO’s or daughter’s periods as something gross and to be shunned. It’s perfectly normal. If you’re not comfortable with having sex while your wife is menstruating, that’s okay. (It’s probably okay with her, too.) We’re way past the day of the red tent, okay?

Also for the record, I practically jump up and down every time I get my period these days. Because, really, it’s too early for menopause, and not getting my period would mean (probably) one thing. And I’m not really up for that again!

PSA: Go Ask Someone Else

Dearest children of the world:

I understand that in many, if not most, cases, your mother is your primary caregiver. She is there when you wake up, no matter the time. She tends to your needs: shelter, clothes, food. When you are sick, she is there. When you are well, she is there.

You have come to depend on her and expect her to be at your beck and call.

I have something to tell you though. Just a thought, something to mull over the next time you would like help tying your shoes.

If there is another adult in the vicinity, such as your father, an aunt or uncle, or a grandparent — even an older cousin — you can ask him or her for help.

I know this is confusing. But it turns out that adults who are not your mother can actually also help you.

Most adults have the basic skills that you have come to depend on your mother for. They can get you a snack or a glass or water. They can accompany you to the bathroom. They can help you change your clothes.

I’m not telling you this because your mother no longer wants to help you. She loves to help you; she loves being the go-to person in your life for everything from skinned knees to bedtime stories.

It’s just that on occasion, she is in the middle of something else, and if there is another adult around, she would like you to please go ask him (or her).

Maybe she is going to the bathroom. Or she’s in the shower. In which case, you should probably go find your dad to get that pop tart for you.

Perhaps she is helping a sibling with homework. Or breast feeding a baby. Or changing a poopy diaper. Maybe she is removing hot cookies from the oven.

In these latter examples, you really should look around and see if another adult person is available. If another adult is in close proximity, you should direct your request regarding finding a pencil to him or her. Persistently if necessary.

It’s time for you to start understanding a few things:

1. Your mother is an independent being with her own physical needs (i.e. to feed herself, visit the potty, ingest coffee, sleep).
2. Your mother is just one person.
3. Other adults are capable of performing the same tasks your mother does. Learn to ask them for assistance, and always remember to use your manners. (You should do that with your mother, too. She’s your mom, not your servant.)

Again, your mother loves you, and loves taking care of you, providing for you, from your needs to your wants. She didn’t willingly bring you into this world to ignore you. And if there isn’t another adult handy, which is common, she begs your forgiveness for not immediately leaping to your aid. The next PSA will be about that underrated virture, patience.

Sincerely,
A Mom

Repost: Public Service Announcement II

(I am reposting this because. Because I am right here again, and I am tired, and I am even moreso *right here* with three children and a full-time-outside-the-home-job and a house exploding with stuff and back-to-school events. My household is overwhelmed and understaffed, and I am… having some problems dealing with it.)

Dear Husbands:

Psst. Your wife is mad at you. Especially if you have children.

It’s okay. Or it can be okay.

Do you know what your wife wants? Of course you don’t — that’s why she’s mad at you! And yes, she wants some things that you just don’t feel like doing, it’s true. But you will be amazed at how little “extra” you have to do.

Here are some things you can do — right now, today! — that will help your wife be less angry at you:

Four simple words: “How can I help?” Ask your wife this tonight after dinner. Really listen to her answer. She wants you to clean up the kitchen? Just do it. Or would she rather you bathe the children? Just do it. And do it all on your own, the first time she asks you. Your wife doesn’t want to be a nag, but if she asks you to do something and you say, “Okay, I’ll do that” and then start surfing YouTube on your computer, she’s going to have to ask you again. And possibly again, and then you will say, “I said I would do it! Stop nagging me” and then her head will explode.

Take care of the kids. No, really. You should have some basic knowledge of how to take care of the children. And, truly, I mean basic. Have a rough idea of their schedules. Know when they eat meals and/or snacks; have a clue about what they like or dislike. Know where their clothes are and how to dress the children appropriately. Do the bath thing, start to finish, once a week. Put them to bed — yes, both (or more) of them, if applicable. Let your wife clean up the kitchen uninterrupted and then sit down a read a book. We will understand if it’s not every night. And we’re not asking you to remember the doctor appointments or school details. Basic.

Let her sleep in. Some couples I know divide the weekend: He sleeps in Saturday; she sleeps in Sunday, or vice versa. In short, though, even if you can only do it once a month or so: get up with the children, and don’t let them wake her up. Let her loll in bed until 8:30 or 9 a.m. If you sleep in more often (be honest, guys), then give her a break.

Figure out how to give your wife some uninterrupted time. I don’t know if you know how many times your wife is interrupted in the course of her life with the children. If they are awake, be assured that they are interrupting her. Roughly every 30 seconds (this gets better as they get older, or so I hear). She is constantly turning away from whatever she happens to be doing (cooking dinner, cleaning, laundry, even trying to read a magazine or going to the bathroom) to “deal with” the children. Even if it’s to look at something they want her to see or stopping to say “hi” to the toddler who has run into the room for the umpteenth time yelling, “Hi, Mommy!”, it’s getting on her nerves a little bit.

There are two ways your wife wants uninterrupted time: She wants it out of the house, and she wants it in the house.

Give your wife a few hours — or even a day — off. Encourage her to leave the house. Don’t ask what she is going to do. Don’t ask when she is coming home. Don’t call her cell phone to ask her when or what to feed the children, or if they need baths, or what time they go to bed. This time alone, I almost guarantee, will pay dividends. Doesn’t have to be every weekend. Once a month, though? Would rock.

Give your wife a few hours around the house without the children underfoot. You know that really messy room you’ve been complaining about? Or have you noticed that the kitchen floor hasn’t been mopped in a while? Are boxes of things she means to donate piling up? Quit bugging her about it. She wants to deal with it, she really does. Some days it’s hard enough cleaning up the mess from that day, let alone getting to things that have accumulated. Disappear with the kids for a few hours. Take the children to the mall or the Children’s Museum, or to the zoo, or to a movie. Treat them to lunch at a restaurant. Give your wife a few hours in the house alone. That room, that floor, those boxes, will probably be taken care of. Really. It’s bugging her too.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Well why doesn’t she just tell me this stuff?” There are a few possible reasons that your wife hasn’t mentioned how upset she is:

First, it’s possible that she simply cannot believe that you don’t know what needs to be done around the house and/or with the children. She thinks that you will wake up, and start doing that little bit more — putting your socks in the hamper, carrying that basket of laundry upstairs, bathing the children. She hasn’t said anything because she doesn’t think she needs to say anything.

Second, she assumes that it is her role to do “everything” and since you work full-time (you do work full-time, right?), you deserve a break today. This is very sweet of her, of course, but here’s the thing. It’s not helping her be less angry. And when she snaps — and she will lose it sooner or later, sooner if she also works outside of the home — and throws something at your head, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

I know, I know, she doesn’t do everything. But that’s how she feels. So help her out a little bit.

Third, she has told you. She has asked you. And you either haven’t really heard her, or after agreeing to do certain things at certain times or on certain days, you haven’t followed through.

No, your wife is not perfect. And yes, she could possibly manage her time a little better, too.

Here’s another a big, important point: Your wife doesn’t want to be angry with you. She didn’t get here alone, but she feels alone — and angry, right now. Be her partner; help her out. She didn’t marry your and have children on a whim. She loves you.

Addendum: Here are some other thoughts. Seriously consider hiring a cleaning service, because your wife wants to actually be with her kids more than she wants clean toilets. Obviously. Don’t tell your wife she has to make sacrifices, because she has sacrificed a lot for you and this family, buddy — starting with her body and ending with her sanity — and she’s simply not giving up more. And if you are already doing a lot of this stuff, she’s probably not mad, but if you started doing some of this stuff and then stopped — she’s even more pissed. Just sayin’.

PSA: Infant/Baby Etiquette 101

Number One, and I cannot emphasize this enough: Don’t. Touch. The Baby.

Babies are cute. Babies are adorable, and huggable, and squeezable, and lovable.

As a woman inflicted with baby lust for the past 18 months or so, I understand how strong the urge to touch a baby is.

But if you are a stranger, please, please, please, don’t touch the baby.

If you absolutely must touch the baby, please ask the mother and/or father first. Please, when they offer you some Purell, don’t get offended — use it. We don’t know where you’ve been and what your hygiene habits are, and we don’t mean to come off as judgmental, but this is our baby we are talking about, our precious, and the last thing we need is for that baby to pick up something from a well-meaning stranger who couldn’t keep her/his hands to her/his self and bring it home with us, where it may make sleeping, nursing, and otherwise generally adoring our baby more difficult.

Please, don’t touch the baby.

Thank you.

1a. Now obviously, if you’re heading to your BFF’s house to visit with the new parents and their new baby (I hope you’re bringing food!), you are somewhat expected to touch the baby. Please wash your hands first. Thank you!

1b. If on the other hand, you are heading to your BFF’s house, and you would rather not touch the baby — it happens; the newborn head-flop thing makes people, especially men I’ve noticed, extremely nervous — it is okay to beg off. Simply say something to the effect of, “Infants make me nervous. I’ll just look while my wife holds her.” I, for one, have never been offended that someone doesn’t want to hold my baby. As a person with baby issues at one point in my life, I get it, and it’s okay.

Number Two: Don’t judge me for how I am feeding my baby.

If I am using a bottle, I don’t need a lecture from you about how breast milk is best for my baby. For all you know, that bottle has breast milk in it. And even if it doesn’t, it’s none of your damn business.

If I choose to breast feed my infant in public, please look someplace else instead of getting huffy and offended. I know that it’s hard to believe, but breasts are not for selling beer (or cars, or website URLs). They are for feeding babies. I tend to be a modest public feeder, and I prefer to drape a blanket over my shoulder and my child, but some women do not have any qualms about it. (And some babies HATE to be covered. They have a point; you don’t eat with a blanket over your head.) Do us both a favor, and avert your gaze.

It is my baby’s right to eat; it is my right to feed him/her. I don’t need to go to the bathroom to spare you a flash of boobage with a baby’s head latched to it. Do you take your meals in a public restroom?

Dear Lord, I hope not.

Anyhoo, I am not a lactivist, and, frankly, I have no problems with moms who choose to formula feed for whatever reason, so I’m not going to go on and on about this. Just: leave me and my eating baby alone. “Kay? Thanks.

3. (This is a tough one, I admit to being guilty of it.) Try very hard not to exclaim over the size of the baby. “He’s so big!” is just as troubling as “He’s so small!” Few factors that influence a baby’s size (DNA primary among them) are under a parent’s control. About all we parents can do is feed the baby, and hope he/she grows well.

4. If you have opinions about whether moms should stay at home, or work outside the home, you don’t have to share them. Almost every single parent I know has hashed over the options of what to do after the baby is born, and has decided what is best for his/her/their family. I’m sure there is even many a mommy or daddy out there who has gotten six months into decision A and for whatever reason has changed course to go with decision B (or C, for that matter). It’s extremely personal.

5. Don’t tell me what my baby should/should not be wearing. Or how to carry/hold him or her.

Or, really, anything. He/She is MY baby. Weighing in on any of these matters makes you sound like a Judgey McJudgerson. Parenting is the hardest job on the planet (to my experience, so far, anyway), and I am figuring out what works — from socks or no socks, to a sling or a stroller — for me and for my baby. You (I would think, if you’re offering an opinion) have had your turn with your children. And now, it’s mine (and my partner’s).

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In the spirit of my follow-up to the pregnancy PSA:

You may absolutely exclaim over how adorable/beautiful/happy my child is.

You may tell me I am doing a good job.

You may: hold open a door, pick up something I have dropped, pick up something my child has dropped (and hand it to ME), and/or offer to hold my bag or umbrella. I’m telling you, along with a baby a parent should get either a third arm or the power of telekinesis.

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Okay? What did I forget this time?

PSA: Follow-Up

I was asked via Twitter (and very nicely): If these are the things you can’t ask of or say to a pregnant woman, what can you ask or say?

I think it’s acceptable to say the following.

1. “Congratulations!” After all, if she’s telling you, it’s probably good news. (Unless she’s the prom queen in the high school bathroom. That might be awkward.)

2. “When are you due?”

3. “Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” (Some moms-to-be will be smart asses and answer this question, “Yes.” Also be advised that the mom-to-be will not know this until week 20/month 5, or later.)

4. Variation on #3: “Will you find out if it’s a boy or a girl?” Hey, some people still like to be surprised.

5. If you hear the term midwife or doula, you may, politely and with no skepticism whatsoever in your voice, inquire about those terms if you have questions. In short, a midwife is a certified nurse-midwife to be exact; they are fully licensed for well-woman and gynecological care, and can deliver babies. They cannot administer medicine (such as pitocin and/or epidurals; a registered nurse, doctor or anesthesiologist has to do that kind of thing). Doulas, on the other hand, are support for the mother, there to encourage and assist her. They are not medical personnel. As I mentioned, labor is not exactly a walk in the park, and sometimes a woman needs all the help she can get.

But don’t, whatever you do for the love of Pete, question a mother-to-be’s judgement to use midwives, doulas, birthing centers, or even have a home birth. How to bring a baby into the world is as intensely personal as the decision to have a baby in the first place.

6. “Do you need anything?” I don’t mean for you to ask this question so you can find out where the couple is registered. Just a more general, “Hey, can I help you out?” This is probably reserved for close friends, rather than co-workers and acquaintances, as the answer may vary from, “Yeah, can you pick me up a caramel latte while you’re out?” to “I need help folding my laundry and bathing my children.”

After the birth: Food is always welcome. Just so ya know.

Moms? Dads? Anything to add?