Two Mom-Driven Media Ventures You Should Follow (and Support!)

I want to take a minute to highlight a couple of newish media ventures that I think readers of this blog would love. Funnily enough, both are a little old-fashioned. One is a literary magazine, printed on real, honest-to-god, paper. It arrives in my mailbox, and I know I need to clear my evening – put away my laptop and phone and snuggle into my bed a few hours before I actually intend to go to sleep. And the other is a podcast. Maybe that doesn’t count as old-fashioned, but as I listen, this form brings all the warmth and comfort of a radio show that makes me want to slow down, close my eyes, and just listen.

Both of these projects are doing something special and filling our need for real parenting voices amidst the chatter from popular websites and advice-filled magazines.  After every installment, they leave me wanting more.

longest shortest time headerThe Longest Shortest Time is a podcast and accompanying blog created by Hillary Frank. Hillary is a writer and a professional radio producer, and her experience shows in the podcast. I love good radio, and this is good radio. I just discovered the Longest Shortest Time last summer, at the recommendation of a friend. I was immediately hooked, and I plowed through the 20 existing episodes, recorded over the last three years, while I packed up our house in preparation for our move.

The Longest Shortest Time is about stories. But stories are different when they’re told from one friend to another, or one mother to another, empathetic mother. That’s something that Hillary recognized. She says:

“Something I did know from having been a radio producer for about 15 years, is – if you have a microphone, and you stick a microphone in someone’s face, they will tell you just about anything, and it’s not awkward. I just started sitting down with moms and calling moms, and dads too, to hear their stories of struggles in early parenthood.”

These are some incredible stories. The most memorable is Hillary’s conversation with her friend Kelly McEvers, an NPR war correspondent, about what it was like to combine early motherhood with her very dangerous line of work. That’s a perspective that I’d never heard before. I am nothing like a war correspondent, in my personality or work, and my experience with motherhood is nothing like Kelly’s. But still, I felt a certain amount of kinship with Kelly when she said this:

LST kelly quote

(The above image is an example of a *spark*card, quotes from the podcast printed on business card-sized paper. Hillary created these as a brilliant way to spark conversations between parents, with the idea that handing these out at your breastfeeding support group, mom-baby yoga class, or just between friends might help continue the conversations that she begins with her podcast. And spread the word about the Longest Shortest Time.)

There are lots more mundane stories as well: stories of babies that won’t nap, breast milk that isn’t enough, and embarrassing episodes of pumping at work. Even if you haven’t had these experiences, you’ll find that you can relate to these other moms. And you’ll want to hold them up, cheer them on, and thank them for telling their stories, because they are a reminder to us all that we are not alone.

Hillary launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Season 2 of the podcast about a month ago. I’m woefully late at getting this blog post up, because the Kickstarter campaign ends TOMORROW! She’s already met her original goal and attracted lots of attention from business sponsors as well. This is awesome – these are exactly the kinds of mom-driven media ventures we should all support. She extended her goal, and I still donated this morning, because I want to cheer her on, and I know that she’ll only create more goodness with this funding.

I encourage you to check out the Longest Shortest Time. If you love it like I do, maybe you’ll want to donate to the Kickstarter. But you can also lend your support to this venture by listening to the podcast and passing it on to your friends. It’s a lovely, vital resource, particularly for new parents.

stealing time

Stealing Time is a literary magazine for parents run by a group of writer moms in Portland, Oregon. If I remember correctly, it was born out of the void left by Brain, Child when it closed its doors a couple of years ago. Brain, Child came back, and I’m a subscriber and a big fan of both magazines. But Stealing Time has turned out to be completely different. It’s raw and real. It’s full of stories, poems, and nonfiction that broaden my understanding of the parenting experience. They inspire a feeling of kinship, rare in this day of parenting media that plays to the mommy wars. This is no mistake; it’s part of the magazine’s mission:

Once we became parents, we knew part of the journey of parenting was writing and reading about it. And it was difficult to find the sort of stories we yearned for. We became disenchanted with media that aimed to provoke and shock and appeal to shallowness. We are tired of being pitted against other parents, we are tired of being told to feel shame for trying too hard or not trying hard enough, we are tired of stories about parenting that pretend that there is only one best way to parent.

And so we discovered our mission: To provide a venue for quality literary content about parenting: no guilt, no simple solutions, no mommy wars.

This magazine honors real stories, the ones that transcend pettiness fostered by much of modern parenting media. It also honors good writing. You know that moms and dads have toiled over telling their stories in just the right way, in stolen moments at a coffee shop before school pickup or late at night, after the kids are in bed. These stories inspire me to think about how to better tell my own. And between all the reading and the writing, this magazine feels like it is full of kindred spirits.

You can read some of the literary work publishing in Stealing Time on their website. If you like what you read, subscribe to the print version so that you can snuggle in your bed and turn the physical pages, as I love to do. The next issue of Stealing Time is a special Pregnancy and Birth issue. I’m told it is at the printers now, and I can’t wait to read it.

Passing time and finding time are universal themes of parenthood, right? Check out the Longest Shortest Time and Stealing Time. In a few spare moments, they will both enrich your parenting life.

Preparing Your Child for a Big Move (Book Giveaway!)

So, we’re moving this summer. At least, we think we are. The deal isn’t done yet, and we’re not even sure of our exact closing date, which is maddening. But probably, by the end of the summer, our little family will move to our first-ever, very-own home, just about a mile away from our current rental.

Talking about a move with Cee has been interesting. She’s been coming to look at houses with us from the beginning, starting in February. We struggled to explain to her why we were spending so much time dragging her through empty houses. We talked about moving to a new house, and she just looked confused. “Why, Mama?” Why, indeed, would we want to leave the only home she likely remembers? (We moved from Arizona to Oregon when she was 7 months.) What could be better than this house, the place of warm memories and celebrated milestones?

Cee thrives on the familiar. Even though we’ll still be living in the same neighborhood and not much else about her life will change, I know this move will be stressful for her. Heck, moving is stressful for everyone. So what can we do to ease the transition? I’ve had this question at the back of my head all summer.

I received the following guest post a couple of weeks back from the folks at Twigtale, a small parent-owned company that makes custom photo books to help kids with transitions. The Twigtale books are really cool, and I encourage you to check them out. Putting together a custom photo book for a big event is the kind of thing I might intend to do for Cee but never get around to, but Twigtale makes it easy with with a template and text written by child development experts. (Cee loves looking at our photo albums, but you know how long those take to put together. I’m still working on our 2012 family photo book!) So, I’m posting this article for those of you who, like us, might be approaching a move and as a sort of shout-out to Twigtale. They’ve also kindly offered to give away any custom photo book (about moving or any other topic they cover) to one Science of Mom reader. See the end of the post for more details!

Moving Guide – Preparing Your Child for a Big Move

By Allison LaTona, MFT

Summer is here, and with the warm weather and sunshine comes a lot of change for families.  The structure of the year gives way to more down time and loose fun.

Kids may be anticipating a new school year, with new teachers and classrooms, or perhaps starting school for the very first time.  Some parents decide to work on potty learning in the summer, as they can take advantage of the warmth outside providing more “naked time” for their children to better listen to their bodies.  And perhaps most stressful of all, you may be moving this summer.

So the burning question is, how to best prepare your young children for the move? Continue reading

Baby Meets World: A Conversation with the Author

Yesterday, I posted an excerpt from Nicholas Day’s new book, Baby Meets World. If you missed it, check it out to learn how modern hunter-gatherer societies raise children, and how that task is supported by not just by hard-working mothers but the entire culture. It’s good stuff.

After reading his book, I had lots of questions for author Nicholas Day. Today, I bring you our conversation about his book and on the roles of science, culture, and instinct in parenting.

Alice: Becoming a parent changes all of us. What was it about your particular transition to fatherhood that made you want to research and write this book, to dive into the history and the science of parenting in a way that extended beyond your own reality of parenting?

IMG_4413Nicholas: In a way, I think it was the part of me that wasn’t changed that led to this book: I had stupid questions about babies in the same way I have stupid questions about everything else. (It’s a personality flaw.) I didn’t see why I had to think of babies as simply problems to be solved. Most baby books have what I think of as the leaky faucet approach: if your baby is dripping, we recommend this socket wrench. And there were many, many times when all I wanted was that socket wrench. But I also thought babies were interesting subjects all on their own. I wanted a book that acknowledged that. And I wanted a book that was wide-angled. The study of infancy is highly compartmentalized: the different disciplines don’t talk to each other. The few good books about babies tend to be highly focused: they look at babies through the lens of a cognitive scientist, say, or a developmental psychologist. But there are so many lenses out there! It seemed a shame to only see a baby as like this or like that. There’s so much left outside the frame. So this book tries to show readers the many different versions of a baby that people have seen—and still see today.

It’s strange. You wouldn’t think that babies would be an obscure subject: they are everywhere. (In our highly fertile neighborhood, I sometimes feel like Hitchcock’s The Birds is being reenacted—but this time with babies.)  But they’ve been weirdly neglected. This is sort of hard to believe: any book about babies has to clear the high hurdle of being another damn book about babies. (Right? Like that’s what we need. Also, we totally need more diet books.) But I concluded that we really did need that. Babies are still strangers in our midst.

Alice: Your book focuses on four basic facts of infancy: “suck, smile, touch, toddle.” How did you choose these topics? Why not “eat, sleep, poop, cry,” for example?

Nicholas: I joke about this at the end of the book—that there’s so much going on in infancy I could easily have chosen spitting, shitting, screaming, sharing.

Part of why I went with these topics was that I actually wanted answers about them: I really wanted to know where a smile comes from and what a first smile might mean, for example. But I also thought these subjects had been overlooked. There’s been an enormous amount written on sleep, for very obvious reasons: any new parent is obsessed with sleep. But there’s very little written about smiling or walking. It’s the leaky faucet problem: because a smile can’t be fixed, no one writes about it. Continue reading

What Would the Kung Do? An Anthropological Perspective on Intensive Parenting

Baby Meets World- finalI recently had the pleasure of reading Baby Meets World, a new book by Nicholas Day. (Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book.) Baby Meets World is a mix of history of parenting advice and modern, fascinating science about some of the most fundamental truths of infancy (as the subtitle states: “suck, smile, touch, toddle”). You may have seen the author’s recent blog on Slate, called How Babies Work. I liked the blog, but I like the book more. In a world of conflicting parenting advice, Day’s many examples of how wrong or just plain weird the expert advice has been through the ages is refreshing perspective. And even as this book describes the modern science of infancy – highlighting just how amazing babies are – it cautions us that we can’t understand babies, even in the most empirical way, without putting them in the context of the culture into which they are born.

Reading Baby Meets World led me to an email conversation with the author, which I’ll post on the blog tomorrow. He also offered to share an excerpt from the book with you. I chose an excerpt from the “Touch” section of the book – my favorite of the four sections. Since it comes near the end of this section, it requires a bit of an introduction to put it in context.

We know touch is important to babies, but Western parenting culture has had a complicated relationship with touch. Just a century ago, parents were barely allowed to visit their children in newborn nurseries or pediatric hospital wards. That history is now, thankfully, behind us, and skin-to-skin contact and baby wearing have become mainstream practices.

Part of the renewed interest in touch over the last fifty years has come from anthropological accounts of hunter-gatherer societies. We figure that maybe we have lost touch with our roots, that maybe we could re-learn the right way to parent from modern hunter-gatherer societies, who presumably parent the way we were meant to.

Day describes some of these modern hunter-gatherers, including the Kung of the Kalahari Desert. Kung infants are carried and held almost constantly. They are breastfed frequently, as often as every fifteen minutes. If they’re not being held by their mothers, they’re being passed around between community members, showered with kisses and constantly entertained. They’re hardly ever set down on the ground to move of their own accord; the Kung believe this impairs motor development.

I’ve read about the Kung before. They’re sometimes held up as an ideal for modern parents in the same conversation that chastises us for relying too much on gadgets like strollers and baby swings. But in this chapter, Day tells us how the culture of the Kung supports this kind of intensive parenting:

“The entire structure of a Kung community supports the (many) demands of Kung parenting. A Kung mother is virtually always around other adults, who take turns holding the child. The situation is the polar opposite of that of many American mothers, who can feel marooned on an island with no one but this ferret-like creature around.”

And this:

“Almost half the time a Kung infant cries out, he is comforted by someone who isn’t his mother or by his mother plus someone else. When the mother responds alone, other people offer to take the child later on. The Kung mother isn’t abandoned with a wailing infant. But despite this shared caretaking, the Kung, as Konner notes, “have often been misrepresented as having almost exclusive maternal care.”

In other words, the Kung practice what we might call intensive parenting, but the mother does not do this alone. She has lots of help. And this is where our excerpt picks up…

Excerpt from Chapter 13: “In Which Touch Gets Perhaps a Little Too Much Power” (from Baby Meets World by Nicholas Day)

It’s worth dwelling on the distinction between exclusive maternal care and alloparenting— the term for when someone who isn’t a parent acts as a parent, as the Kung do when they respond to any crying baby. If the most important messages to get across to a baby— love, security, commitment— are communicated through touch, then the obvious follow- up question is: does it matter who’s doing the touching? The parent or the alloparent?

From the perspective of attachment theory, all child rearing is aimed at the same end: the tight bond between mother and child. There aren’t multiple different strategies toward a successful outcome— there’s only that one. (Bowlby waffled on this a little bit but not much: his hypothetical caregiver was clearly a mother.) The mother is supposed to be doing the touching. This argument wades into the evolutionary past for evidence— the low fat content of human milk, for example, which required infants to nurse frequently, for which they needed a mother right there, all the time. In devising his theory, Bowlby cited the behavior of primates like gorillas and chimpanzees, for whom child care is exclusively maternal— no one else need apply.

But studies of hunter-gatherers like the Kung, the very people you’d expect to be closest to our deep past, have shown that caregiving by someone in addition to the mother is common, even if other people rarely supplant the mother as the primary attachment figure. Continue reading

Guest Post: What the World Looks and Sounds Like to a Newborn Baby

Hi-ResBrinkCover I am delighted to have a guest post from Author Susan Brink today. Susan’s book, The Fourth Trimester: Understanding, Nurturing, and Protecting an Infant Through the First Three Months, was released a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed this book. It is billed as an “operating manual” for newborns, but it read to me more like an “understanding manual.” This is actually more helpful, because if you can understand why your newborn is doing the things she’s doing, you’re on your way to figuring out how you and your baby will survive and thrive in this period. The Fourth Trimester includes chapters on crying, sleeping, feeding, sound, sight, touch, physical development, and stimulation. Each is full of both science (well-cited, I might add) and stories from real parents. The sight and sound chapters were two of my favorites, so I’m happy that Susan chose these topics for her guest post on Science of Mom. Enjoy!

WHAT THE WORLD LOOKS AND SOUNDS LIKE TO A NEWBORN BABY

By Susan Brink

Imagine yourself in Paris, and you don’t speak French. Pretend for a moment that you’re from rural America, have never seen a big city much less the elegant capitol of France, and you’re trying to cross the Champs-Elysees at the Arc de Triomphe. You dare not step into traffic, you can’t read the street signs, and you cannot understand what people are trying to tell you. Sights and sounds overwhelm you. Nothing makes sense.

That’s something to think about when wondering what the world looks and sounds like to a newborn baby. But there’s more. Dr. Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berekley, adds two elements to the confusing mix: love and caffeine. “You want to know what it’s like to be a baby?” says Gopnik. “It’s like being in love for the first time in Paris after four double espressos. It’s fantastic. It’s a wonderful state to be in. And very likely, you’ll wake up at three a.m….crying.”

We look into a newborn baby’s eyes and wonder what he sees. We watch her reactions and wonder what she hears. But now we’ve got a wealth of recent research into what newborns see and hear that adds scientific chops to what parents have been imagining for ages. Continue reading

Your Baby Talk Questions… Answered

beyond baby talkWe had just an incredible number of interesting questions about language development submitted on the Beyond Baby Talk post. I love how our kids make us so curious, how they compel us to think about things that we’ve probably taken for granted for most of our lives.

Congratulations to “Dukes Haven Homestead” on being the commenter chosen at random to win the giveaway of a copy of Beyond Baby Talk! I think she’ll find the chapter on siblings and birth order especially interesting, since she has a baby and a toddler to talk with now.

As promised, the authors of Beyond Baby Talk, Drs. Kenn Apel and Julie Masterson, took the time to answer a few of our readers’ questions. The rest of your questions certainly gave me some ideas for future blog posts, for that time in the near (truly!) future when I have time to research and write another post!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Your Baby Talk Questions Answered

by Drs. Kenn Apel and Julie Masterson

What gets more bang for the buck– variety or repetition? Should I be singing the same songs over and over or always surprise my baby with new songs?

                                         ~ Tara Sutherland

They both get you bang! On the one hand, you get bang for your buck with some repetition in song, and in language that accompanies daily routines (using the same kind of phrases and routine language when engaged in bath time or changing time) because your baby begins to “catch on” when she hears the same words and phrases attached to the same contexts/movements/objects. On the other hand, variety is good because it allows your baby to experience different words and phrases that make up language. Continue reading

Beyond Baby Talk: A giveaway and a call for your questions!

You can’t be a parent and not be fascinated with development. A child’s growth – from newborn to toddler and into childhood – it’s such an incredible transformation. It’s quite a privilege to witness it, and from the front row, too.

During the first year, I was most interested in Cee’s gross motor development. I loved watching her move her body in deliberate ways, from the way she turned her head away from something too stimulating as a newborn to sitting up for the first time, to pulling up, cruising, crawling, and then boldly to walking, climbing, and running.

Now, nearing her second birthday, the most fascinating development frontier for me is Cee’s language. She surprises me with new words everyday. It’s exploding.

It was perfect timing, then, that I received a copy of the newly revised book, “Beyond Baby Talk” by Drs. Kenn Apel and Julie Masterson, professors of Communication Sciences and Disorders at University of South Carolina, Columbia, and Missouri State University, respectively. (The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association sponsored the book, and they sent me a review copy. As always, I only review books that I’d recommend to my friends, and I receive no compensation for doing so.)

I’m super excited that Drs. Apel and Masterson have agreed to do an author interview with Science of Mom readers, answering your questions about language development. Just leave your question in the comments below, and the Beyond Baby Talk authors will answer several of them in a follow-up post in a couple of weeks. Plus, we’ll also be giving away a copy of the book!

Now, let me tell you a little about Beyond Baby Talk (but let’s call it BBB). Continue reading

Baby Unplugged Books: A Review and Giveaway!

I received a delightful package last week. Dr. John Hutton sent me the seven books in his Baby Unplugged board book series, each about a wonderful, old-fashioned piece of childhood: Pets, Blanket, Yard, Ball, Book, Beach, and Box.

BabyC and I read through the books together, and we both enjoyed them so much that I wanted to recommend them in a review and pass five of them on to you as a giveaway. We’re keeping “Yard,” because it is my favorite, and “Pets,” because BabyC chewed on it.

{You know I don’t do many reviews or giveaways. I’m selective about them – I only review books that I can truly recommend. Dr. Hutton sent me these books as samples, and I haven’t received any compensation for writing this review.}

Dr. Hutton is a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the owner of an independent children’s bookstore in Cincinnati called Blue Manatee Books, and the father of three children. He’s also a passionate advocate for keeping childhood screen-free and encouraging good, old-fashioned play. He wrote and self-published the Baby Unplugged series of board books. You can read more about Dr. Hutton’s screen-free mission on his blog, Baby Unplugged (also on Facebook). He often writes about the science of play and research on the effects of screen time, so I am following his blog with interest.

I’ll get to the books in a minute, but first I want to tell you about how they arrived. They were packed in a special Blue Manatee box. When I opened the box, I was greeted by a piece of paper that read, in large font, “attention, grownup!” OK, box. You have my attention. This piece of paper reminded me to please not throw away or recycle this box, not just yet. Continue reading

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm (Review and Giveaway)

As a new parent, still finding my way, I’m drawn to stories from other parents. I think I am looking for some commonality in our experience. I want to read stories that make me think, “That’s how I feel, too!” I also want to read stories that might enlighten me to a different way of understanding my child and motherhood.

Mei-Ling Hopgood’s new book, How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, is full of these types of stories. On the surface, this book is about cultural differences in parenting practices around the world. But by the end of the book, I was left with a feeling of kinship with parents around the world. I might have gleaned a few new parenting ideas from this book, but more importantly, it broadened my perspective of the many wonderfully different ways to raise a child.

I first heard of this book through a cool blog I discovered recently, Ms. Mary Mack. Created by the fabulous Nicole Blades, Ms. Mary Mack “takes an anthropological approach to motherhood.” A couple of months ago, Ms. Mary Mack hosted an interview with Mei-Ling Hopgood about what she learned from writing the book. I was intrigued and actually won a copy of her book through that post. Lucky me! I enjoyed this book so much that I wanted to review it myself and share it with you. (Nicole and I have also talked about exchanging guest posts, so stay tuned for more from her. In the meantime, definitely check out her blog, especially her Global Mamas series if you want to hear more cross-cultural parenting stories.)

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm is Hopgood’s exploration of parenting practices from around the globe. Continue reading

Guest Post: Mothers With One Child Are Happiest (and a Giveaway!)

Today’s guest post comes from Dr. Susan Newman and discusses the support for choosing to have just one child in the modern family. Dr. Newman has written a book on the same topic, and she is giving away a copy of it to one lucky ScienceofMom reader. See below the post to enter the giveaway. I’m looking forward to some good discussion on this one!

Mothers With One Child Are Happiest

Resisting the temptation and pressure to have more children

by Susan Newman, Ph.D.

Having an only child is desirable from a wide range of viewpoints and practicalities, but that doesn’t make decisions about family size any easier. Going from one child to two (or two to three or more) is a dilemma single parents and couples wrestle with, sometimes for years.

The mother of a three-year-old child talked to me about whether or not she really wants a second child. She is not an isolated case of men and women who are asking the same question.

The husband of an almost 40 year-old wants to give their five-year-old a sibling. His wife doesn’t. She told me that she has weakened and agreed to see a fertility specialist, but isn’t sure she can cope with another child or fertility treatments.

A friend, age 34, has been teetering on the second baby fence for four years, but her resolve is being undone by pressure from her family to have another. She hesitates knowing her job (and promotions) will be in jeopardy if she takes another maternity leave.

Although each situation is unique, the profound confusion surrounding the question of having more children is similar. Some people begin with a very practical approach and ask themselves questions like these: What will we give up in time, money, freedom, intimacy, and job advancement with another child in the household? How thin will we be able to stretch our financial resources? Continue reading