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Children and selfishness

Well, now that we’ve finally found a place where our childfree days are numbered, XY and I can figure out what sort of things we really need to do while we’re still youngish and better looking than we’ll be in ten years. Some of these things are kinda selfish, to be perfectly honest: going out and drinking lots of good beer doesn’t really benefit the world at large, aside from whomever gets to laugh at the two of us in our pleasured drunken goofiness. Obviously our bucket list includes lots of planning that, quite frankly, we’d have to take on anyway in building a household together. And we’ve recently come to a point where we’ve decided proximity to public transit & the lake outweigh any concerns about school district, etc., that would get us to move to a family friendly town or neighborhood now, instead of in seven years (the theoretical time our oldest would enter kindergarten, assuming the stars align and we get pregnant within minutes of removing birth control, of course). My fears of navigating CPS are pretty silly compared to the joys of going for a walk on the beach every.single.day in good weather (a perk we currently enjoy, which is why our neighborhood continues to fill us with so much love), and we’ll continue to enjoy those perks even after we have an infant, toddler, or preschooler. So yeah, we’ve decided to probably buy a condo here in the big city, something that will benefit us even if we don’t have kids right away. Of course, during this time I would like to continue to open my mind to learning, thinking, growing, and participating in our culture as an adult too. Even though lots of things will change after we have a kid or kids, philosophical exploring and growth really shouldn’t be related at all to whether or not you have children.

Which is why it really surprises me that to so many people, it IS related.

I mean, I’m happy that having a kid makes many people question their day-to-day decisions, especially things that impact the rest of the world. Specifically, of course, things like the choice to cloth diaper could lead back to encouraging other choices that make people want to have a better planet for their children. The choice to avoid certain things in pregnancy or to breastfeed to optimize a child’s health could help women consider making other choices to help improve their own health.  But it seems weird to me, and sometimes a bit disingenuous, that having kids make you less “selfish”, or that not having kids IS “selfish”.
Let’s be frank here. XY and I want children. But young humans are a big drain on the environment generally, and first-worlders have a particularly bad pull on the world’s resources. Whether or not we cloth-diaper, XY and I will probably continue to own a car, and any driving we do as a family is bound to add to the world’s carbon footprint. The thought of starting a family has also made us consider the possibility of moving to the suburbs (ugh), and the addition of a new person will add to the shuttling about and gas usage that we expend. The energy to run our household may be more evenly distributed between three or four of us rather than “just us two”, but that doesn’t change the fact that American families (including each new individual bundle) end up using way more resources than we should, especially things we have little control over from a materialist environmental perspective, like clean water and unpolluted air that support our cooking, cleaning, and growing our food. The childfree actually already have a one-up on us environmentally, regardless of individual choices like paper or plastic at the grocery store. Any individual choices we make as a family (e.g. cloth diapers) can only go so far to limit the impact our new family member will make on our pretty planet.

Furthermore, the idea that having a child will help you to grow into a less-selfish person because they are a new being who is completely dependent on you, is a bit of putting the cart before the horse, methinks.  Sure, focusing on your child and their needs is an exercise in patience, care and concern, and does help many parents grow into better people generally. But c’mon: there are plenty of careers, volunteer opportunities, and the like that you can spend your time on if you’re main goal in the world is making a difference. If your real motivation in having a child actually has more to do with a desire to propagate a mini-me (or a mini-version of your beloved), then you might as well ‘fess up to yourself and admit it. Particularly BEFORE you get caught up in the selfless day-to-day drag of caring for a needy infant.

I am honestly convinced that I want children, and  that I want at least one biological child of our own. The reasons I want a child? They’re clear as mud most days, but they are definitely tied to a biological drive I’ve got going inside of me, which has been turned on since before I was a sexual being. But anyone trying to “justify” having children as “selfless”, or worse, try and guilt trip the childless for being “selfish”, just seems plain wrong to me. Sure, we want to try and do the best we can by our hypothetical children, but XY and I remain convinced that doing the best includes a lot of foresight into the process. In some ways one could argue that really seriously thinking carefully about various childrearing practices and then carrying them out is a selfless act, because the world DOES need to be repopulated (just maybe not thousands of times over!). But I do not believe the cruel and callousness questioning of the childless by those with children, accusing them of selfishness for their choices, is logically justified. Whatever reasons people choose – even if it’s just because they DON’T have that built-in biological drive, and have zero interest in having or nurturing a child of their own – is moot. Childless folks are no more “selfish” than those with children – and many of the childless are a great deal LESS.

Quick Update on life stats

I know: BORING. But even though I have many lengthy, thoughtful, blog posts I’ve considered posting here, I have a hard time completing them. Right now I am mostly focused on having the best year possible next year. Lengthy blog posts, meet lazy OnMon. She will inform you of her coming plans for a year of awesome before trying for a babe.

I’ve recently changed positions at work, and starting in September will be working a morning shift five days a week, instead of four overnights. To be frank, it’s very exciting – I had no idea how poorly my body was going to react to overnights when I started over a year ago. As it turns out, it’s been pretty bad. I’ve had a hard time getting anything done in a reasonable amount of time, and am SO TIRED most every day, because my body refuses to stay asleep for more than 5 hours during an average day (usually closer to 4 or 3). Yes, I have light-blocking curtains, and wear sunglasses before bed, and even have hit up the melatonin once in a while to try and prolong sleep. Nothing. Really. Helps. So, a normal work schedule should be an improvement, I hope. This position also offers some self-scheduling flexibility, which MIGHT mean that I can keep working full-time (if I want to) after XY and I have kids! And there’s lots of other advantages, too, relating to autonomy and workload. Mostly it’s just a good thing to look forward to.

Other news: I’m going to be an auntie! My bro and his love are expecting their first at the beginning of 2013, and the whole family could not be more excited. Of course I’m giving them all sorts of unsolicited, non-experienced parent advice. Luckily they know what to expect from me and aren’t too sick of talking baby-and-preggers stuff yet. I even have plans for presents to be made in the coming year…we’ll see whether the DIY bug gets the best of me yet.

In light of all these changes, I’ve made some changes to my goals for the coming months. In improving my health pre-conception, I’d really like to work on building bone mass through regular exercise (my goal is 20 minute runs 5 times a week), and improving my core so I will have super-strong muscles ready for the “marathon of labor” (I’m also seriously considering the Gyne-Flex for “resistance-Kegels”, ’cause who doesn’t love an ultra-powerful vagina?). I’ve also switched my vitamins from Cod Liver Oil to a fish oil Omega3 supplement and a separate capsule 1000 units of Vitamin D. Just some small tweaks, but we’ll see what the coming months bring. Methinks there are good times ahead.

New Sidebar – a bucket list for preconception

Nothing wildly innovative about doing this. It’s pretty logical to write a to-do list before conceiving, but I think I have to express how happy I am that XY and I have come to this point.

We have vague goals! And some specific goals! And a realish deadline!

Seriously, though, the most important thing is the date. I keep coming back to the question of “when” and really, I just don’t want to push my biological clock too hard on the question of when to start trying to conceive. So my 31st birthday, and/or our second wedding anniversary a few months later, will be it. Which could be less than fourteen months away! Both of these are dependent on a third variable, the timing of the Grand European (but mostly Belgian) Beer tour. Which may be dependent on the timing of a family wedding in England. Either way, we really need to scrimp and save to get plenty of funds ready for purchasing airfare and necessities abroad, so we will have to change our savings strategy to be a bit more diverse (starting a travel dreams fund being the main thing).

The official roll-out of our new budget will be next month, once we hit $25K in our “homies” savings fund for our down payment. Fingers crossed for exciting times ahead, especially since we’ll also be hopefully spending a lot of time this year navigating the housing market, and XY’s fleshing out professional development opportunities to flex his salary muscle…stay tuned!

Unitaskers versus multitaskers

I’ll admit it. For someone who has certainly put way too much thought into baby products, I am strongly attracted to anything that fits in the multitasker category. I am loathe to see the parade of new products that will enter my life and be strewn across our apartment, all for the supposed necessity of helping my baby cope, so something that fits the bill for two or more jobs or multiple ages of development definitely intrigues me. Anyway, the multitaskers all sound very sensible.

-Wow, you can pump breastmilk, store and feed from the same bottle?

-That cloth diaper fits from birth to forty pounds?

-Your stroller also teaches your child the alphabet and composts waste to fertilize your houseplants?

Sometimes, though, when one peruses through the reviews, it’s noted that the multitaskers don’t seem to be all they’re touted to be. If one product does three so-so jobs that a parent considers vital, that might be better left to three separate products. Take pumping, feeding and storing from the same bottle. If you’re a hippie like me, you’d doubtless love the storage option of glass. Evenflo and other glass bottles with a standard neck can all be attached to breastpumps directly (and some companies sell adapters for their bottles), so you could, theoretically, pump and store and feed with one bottle, saving time. The downside? Glass is heavy, yo. If you’re intrigued by hands-free pumping and the opportunities it offers mamas for doing some multitasking of their own (like, you know, reading blogs on the internet), you don’t really want to be weighed down literally by a pair of eight oz glass milk jugs hanging off your own jugs. Yeah, you can prop the bottles up on a table, but then you’re even more “tied to the pump” and whatever awkward position you have to hold in front of your laptop. And on the other end, your baby might have her own preferences for what bottle is best, and not eating is not an option for parents. Multitaskers do work for many families, but they’re not always going to work for every situation, and it’s best to evaluate them with caution and pessimism before being blown away by the possibilities.

That being said, the multitaskers I’m intruigued by are:

Read more…

Book Review – Native Reading

I’ve been curious about this book for a long time, and finally decided to order it for a friend (heh heh heh). And of course, read it first (heh heh heh). Seriously, though, it’s an intriguing concept, and one that’s even a bit controversial, as the Amazon.com reviews indicate. Kailing presents a solid theory for introducing kids to the written word fluidly and consistently, to mimic and parallel the natural acquisition of spoken language. Unlike Glenn Doman‘s “Your Baby Can Read” series, which has even been studied (and debunked), Kailing presents a method that basically just uses the tools you have on hand (books and letter toys) and his own small case studies: both his kids learned to read fluently by age three, although the difference between his son (an enthusiastic reader showing readiness and early reading almost perfectly parallel with his talking development) and his daughter (a far less interested reader, who nonetheless grasped reading on her own shortly before age three) is striking, and bears note for how effective his methods might be for toddlers with vastly different personalities and interests.

To me, probably the most controversial aspect is honestly the control aspect, even as that seems the silliest: “forcing” my child to read early. I can’t imagine that if following Kailing’s methods didn’t work, I would continue pressing my kids too hard into reading until/unless school made it an issue. After all, my half-sister was dyslexic, and had terrible experiences with school pretty much until she graduated high school and devoted her life to a career with animals. I really want to make sure I listen to my child if they’re struggling with anything, and never “force” anything on them (with the exception of holding my hand when we walk into a busy intersection – safety isn’t open to debate). Kailing actually believes that effective use of his methods to promote early reading might prevent dyslexia in some children, if children are actually receptive to reading earlier than school sage – if so, it’s definitely worthy of more discussion and research; I’ve seen myself how disabling dyslexia can be. Kailing’s idea is to make the methods for learning reading part of the fun: learning the letters as if they were individual personalities as well as interconnected sounds having the potential to form phonemes. Consistently pointing to the written word as one reads a book to make sure that a child recognizes it. His idea is that integration and connection between the written and spoken word should be subtle and logical, not forced, like the idea of a baby recognizing whole words written on a flashcard (e.g. Dorman’s methods). The only drawback I can really see, however, if Kailing’s methods did work for my child would be an increased likely need for glasses at an early age, although the research linking myopia and heavy reading is less certain than previously thought. (XY and I are both myopics, he since late elementary school, I since early high school, so any genetic causality already seems pretty likely. FOUR EYED BABY.)

So, what about those subtle and fun methods? Read more…

BabyTrippin’

(Late post, due to rereading Anna Karenina, which I had no idea I LOVED. Last time I read it I’d never experienced an adult [love] relationship, and thought everyone was a little silly. Now I relate way too much to pretty much every character. So much for being a grownup.)

I have at least one major conflict between my desire to reproduce and my love of personal freedom that would be restricted by said reproduction.

Travel. Read more…

“Will I really be able to breastfeed as much as I want?”

Um, maybe?

First off, what do you want?

If you’re just wondering if you’ll be able to breastfeed at all, then all you’ve got to look at is whether you’ve got what it takes:

  • Do you have breasts?
  • Are you pregnant, or very newly delivered?
  • HIV negative and not about to undergo cancer treatment?
  • Your baby doesn’t have galactosemia?
  • You’re not desperate to take any strong neurological, psychological, or other drugs that you’ve been avoiding during pregnancy? (Check with a lactation consultant or pediatrician referencing Dr. Thomas Hale about what’s safe or not for drugs passed though milk during breastfeeding.)
  • Are you feeling positive about the idea of breastfeeding and wanting to nourish your child with your body?

Yes? Good! (Note that if you have breasts that are hypoplastic, or have undergone breast surgery, or if you have PCOS or another underlying hormonal condition, you may have an uphill challenge with breastfeeding and might not be able to breastfeed exclusively. If your baby has special needs or is a preemie you might have other challenges and stress. The exclusionary categories I mentioned above are for breastfeeding at all. Some breastfeeding, if you choose it, is probably better than none, and may well be hugely rewarding for you and your baby. You may even be able to nurse partially or exclusively if you’ve adopted!)

Now let’s move back to the original question: “breastfeeding as much as I want.” Read more…

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