Enter the women’s restroom in most restaurants, bookstores, or coffee shops across the country and you’ll find a baby-changing table. Walk into the men’s restrooms of these very same businesses and there’s no place for baby. Two bills in California tried to put an end to the diaper-changing inequality; both required changing tables to be accessible to men and women. But California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bills in September stating that it’s better to leave this decision up to private businesses. We want to know, Do you think men’s restrooms in public buildings should have changing tables? Take our poll, and then share a comment below — it could appear in a future issue of Parents.
Whenever I need a quick, mindless break from life and work, I like to scroll through Instagram. Among pictures of majestic London cityscapes and my friends’ adorable
cats and new apartment decor, I happened upon a picture of a newborn baby , who had tubes connected to him in every place imaginable. My heart broke as I read the photo’s caption.
The baby’s mother, Amelia Barnes, recounted the tragic highlights of her son’s birth. On July 8, Amelia was due to give birth to a healthy baby boy. But the baby’s heart rate monitor start going off after eight hours of labor. Amelia had an emergency C-section. Seven minutes later, Landon was born, but his heart still wasn’t beating. Medical personnel resuscitated him after 15 minutes, but his brain and kidneys began to fail along with his heart.
After two days, Landon was removed from life support and shocked his parents by living for 17 more hours. In those magical hours, Amelia and her husband, Justin, were able to have a photo shoot with their son, and Amelia shared many on her Instagram and blog called Landon’s Legacy. Looking through the beautiful family photos, you almost forget the baby has never cried, will never meet the family dog or leave the hospital in a car seat.
Amelia isn’t the only person who has experienced such a loss. With the power of Instagram, she was able to connect with other people in similar situations and create a virtual support system.
In addition to helping others heal with her, Amelia is creating a dialogue on postpartum bodies with the help of social media channels like Instagram. In a world where celebrities grace covers with instantly thin post-baby bodies, Amelia’s photos of her still-swollen belly are refreshing and honest. Even as a woman who has never given birth myself, I’m inspired by her body confidence — even during the hardest time of her life.
Instagram can be more than a way to pass time. Filtered photos and hashtags can reach across the world to tell her story to people she will never meet. To read more about Landon’s Legacy, visit http://ameliakyoga.tumblr.com/.
Image: Red heart with cross sign in female hand, close-up, on light background via Shutterstock
I am just back from five weeks of paternity leave, and now that I’ve hung up my weekday dad jeans, I thought I’d offer some reflections on my experience as a temporary stay-at-home dad with that little cutie you see in the picture (and her two bigger sisters). I started my leave when my wife returned to work after her own maternity leave, so it was a period of transition and new routines for all of us, which we’re dealing with again now that I am back at work.
The experience was, not surprisingly, as much—or more—about my older kids as it was about the baby. And that was just fine with me. It was amazing to spend the extra, relaxed time with my older kids, and I did still have plenty of bonding time with Sophia, the baby. Being able to pick up or drop off my older ones at school, or cook dinner with them, or just be around for the late-afternoon homework-dinner-bath mania was important and memorable to me, as I hope it was to them. As my leave neared an end and my 7-year-old asked if I could teach our babysitter some of the recipes we cooked for dinners, I knew it had had an impact. Same with my 3-year-old, who regularly asks in the mornings, heart-breakingly, whether we’re staying home with her, even as she sees us getting dressed and ready to leave for work.
Still, I realized I do not aspire to full-time SAHD status. While I do wish I could have more time at home with my kids and spend more of their waking hours with them, I am not the guy who would become a full-time dad if I won the lottery tomorrow. I cherish the balance in my life between home and work, kid activities and professional pursuits. Needless to say, it’s a personal choice and I mean no judgment on those who choose otherwise—quite the contrary, I love hearing about the choices so many men have made to be SAHDs—but it’s important to know what is right for you.
I was (happily) shocked at how many dads I saw out and about. I don’t remember feeling the same way the last time I took a paternity leave like this, seven years ago. My memory from then is of feeling like the only dad around during weekday work hours. Not this time: Dads—and grandpas—were present with their kids/grandkids everywhere. It was great to see and made me feel like less of an outlier.
You can’t be partly on leave and partly working. Like being “half pregnant,” it just isn’t possible. For the first half of my leave, I did a decent job of staying away from email and really unplugging, at least when I was with my kids. But when my team here at work experienced upheaval, I found myself drawn back in and wanting to be back at the office to help, and truly felt torn between work and home. It led to the more-than-a-little absurd afternoon when I dropped my oldest at gymnastics and drove on the highway for the sole purpose of getting the two younger kids to fall asleep—at which point I pulled over and called into a meeting. In the middle of the call, my 3-year-old woke up, noisily, understandably demanding to know what we were doing and when we were going home.
Life happens whether you’re on leave or not. Duh, no surprise there, but I still found myself extra resentful when my basement flooded and I needed to spend several of my precious paternity-leave days dealing with the fallout. Not that I expected all bliss and sunshine, but really? A flood? Of course, the stay-at-home parent inevitably also must take the lead on shopping, cooking, waiting home for the repairman, and all things homemaking, regardless of the fact that my leave was intended to be about spending quality time with the kids. When it came to day-to-day tasks, I was more than happy to do them, and still got plenty of great moments with the little ones. But at times, like when I was sloshing through my flooded basement, my focus had to be elsewhere temporarily.
People seem to assume I took leave for my wife, to ease her return to work. Several people made comments to this effect. But while helping her was a nice benefit, it takes a very mom-centric worldview to make the assumption that that was my primary motivation. I took this time to bond with my baby, and to prolong the time that she spends full-time with a parent before our nanny became her primary caregiver during workdays. I took the time to be a full-time parent for a short period and spend more time than I otherwise could with my older girls. I took it so that I could have some time when they, my daughters, were the center of my day. Yes, it helped my wife and put her mind at ease, but she would have been fine without my taking leave, and this was not among the top reasons I took the time off.
I am Stoller Man. Yes, it’s true: I earned a new nickname (and a new beard, but that’s a different story). Perhaps it’s my new superhero identity. It came from a moment of absent-mindedness, when I stopped at the bakery with Sophia asleep in her stroller, and in my haste to get out before she woke up, forgot my order on the counter after paying for it. I returned to find this note:
All in all, I feel like paternity leave accomplished what I wanted from it. Despite the intrusions I mentioned above, I was able to focus for this period on spending quality time with my three children in a (mostly) relaxed environment where they were my main concerns. Not to imply that it was all peace and bliss–I do have three children, after all, and we had our share of tantrums, yelling, fights, and frustration. But I wasn’t seeking some fairy-tale existence: The point was that I was there. And, of course, happy as I am to be back at work, I miss the girls during the day. When it comes to work-life balance, finding that happy medium remains an elusive goal.
Prince William and Duchess Kate were criticized for taking a vacation alone together and leaving 8-month-old Prince George at home with her parents. After all, not everyone feels comfortable leaving their infant at home with a caretaker. But defenders of these “second honeymoons,” as they’re affectionately called, say it’s a chance to reconnect with your spouse post-baby. We want to know, Do you think it’s ok for new parents to take baby-free getaways? Take our poll, and share your comments.
Who could ever spank a baby? Plenty of parents, apparently. In a new study from the University of Michigan, 30 percent of 1-year-olds had been spanked at least once in the past month by their mother, father, or both. While spanking as a discipline tool and a topic of controversy are nothing new, earlier research focused on children closer to age 3. This study shows parents are spanking even sooner, well before those Terrible Two’s (and Three’s) test even the most patient parents’ fortitude.
I’ll be blunt: I don’t get spanking. I don’t do it, and I don’t buy the logic in support of it. Spanking, frankly, seems stupid. As we reported in Parents in our story “The Great Spanking Debate,” parents cited their kids’ aggressive behavior as a justification for spanking. This makes no sense to me. How does hitting a child teach him not to hit his siblings or pull the dog’s tail? In fact, the opposite happens: In a 2010 Pediatrics study, 3-year-olds who were spanked more than twice a month were 50 percent more likely to exhibit hostile tendencies by age 5. (If it’s relevant, I was occasionally spanked as a child. Although I “still turned out fine,” you won’t hear me use that line to defend a retro practice long past its expiration date.)
When my oldest was a baby, I sometimes used the same babysitter that a smart, cool mom of three I liked did. When my son was 11 months old, the sitter asked if it would be okay if she occasionally “gave him a little swat” when he was being “naughty.” Horrified that a woman I had paid to care for my child would even ask such a question, I said absolutely not. When I relayed the story to my friend, she said the babysitter probably asked me because she spanked my friend’s son—and had my friend’s permission to do so. That’s when I first learned being a non-spanker would be like that—it’s always a surprise to find most people are not, in fact, down on spanking. And in spite of the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t condone spanking of any kind, four of five parents still spank.
None of this is to say I haven’t been tempted to spank. I had a couple of close calls with my oldest. I remember a particularly difficult moment when he was a toddler, at a children’s museum storytime. While other kids were enjoying the read-aloud book, mine was more interested in running around the perimeter of the room. My request to “sit down” was met with a little hand swatting me across the cheek, followed by gleeful cackles. (A couple of moms sitting with their perfectly behaved daughters in their laps cast judgy sidelong glances; I immaturely secretly wished triplet boys, or at least one especially wild and unruly girl, in each of their futures.) We promptly left, and my dominant hand was tense at my side, but I resisted the very real temptation to strike back. I’m sure those who spank will say this is a scenario where I should have spanked (boys are, indeed, spanked more often than girls), but our wild child tamed with time and (lots and lots of) patience, without resorting to hitting him. (Also, we dropped storytime: clearly not our scene.)
I didn’t spank then for the same reason I don’t spank my 2-year-old now, even when she won’t sit in her car seat and is instead doing acrobatic contortions to avoid being strapped in. (Counting to three and flashing Serious-Mom Eyes usually does the trick. I don’t know what it is about the magic of counting—I still don’t know what actually happens if we get to three without cooperation—but it usually works.) I don’t spank because I’d feel terrible afterwards. I don’t spank because I don’t trust myself when I’m feeling angry not to use excessive force—and any physical force is wrong in my book anyway. (Some parents claim they spank but only when they’re “not angry;” I have trouble believing this.) I don’t spank because in the long term, spanking doesn’t work. I don’t spank, because it’s rude, to your child, and to other people who have to witness it. Finally, spanking’s simply not compassionate. How would you feel if you were not at your best one day, maybe complaining a little too much or not doing what you were supposed to be doing around the house, and someone gave you a stiff slap on the rear or the arm? Would you do better next time?
While I don’t believe in spanking, I know many of you do. But do you at least agree that raising a hand to a baby, perhaps before she’s even taken her first steps, is way too young?