See Mom Run

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Image courtesy of Jonas Birmé.

Warning: I’m taking a break today to talk about postpartum issues.  If you have trouble with body talk, please don’t read this post!

Postpartum has been a real “thing”.  I have struggled with PPD.  I’ve been haunted by my ability to get back to “normal”.  I found that the things I needed to hear about a lack of “progress” which I should have expected I didn’t hear until 6 weeks out.  I wasn’t cleared to do anything exercise-wise until 8 weeks.  My doctor was so confused as to why I expected after a heinous pregnancy that my exercise abilities would just return, I would feel great, and I’d have all this energy.  She was also really upset that people had told me that my stomach would bounce back.  And, you know what, most of my friends say their tummies were forever changed and that’s okay.  I grew a human.  I worked really hard to do it.  I destroyed what was “normal” in the process.  There was no “bouncing back”.  “Mom bod” should be a thing if “Dad bod” is but it’s not.

So, thanks to societal expectations and a history of disordered eating in college, I was really, really struggling.  Add to this a stupid thing at work which is encouraging a biggest loser style competition that has public weigh ins and people asking me why I wasn’t joining and I was reeling.  Suddenly, people were comparing notes on how to starve themselves, drink only vinegar for 5 days to “win” a week, etc.  And they were actively pressuring me to do the same – all despite the fact that I had lost a ton of weight when pregnant with my daughter.  I finally started telling people, “Hey, you guys should lay off this weight talk and stop assuming that is my goal”.

I was not cleared to run until 12 weeks postpartum and 3 days after I was cleared, I ran.  I started Couch to 5k (C25K) at the recommendation of my OB.  Having been an ardent running and an endurance athlete, I was like, “This is too freaking easy and won’t do it for me” but I really didn’t have a choice if I didn’t want to harm my health, according to her.  I cut myself a break.  And, with the encouragement of my brother-in-law who runs Ultramarathons, I made plans to run a 5k in May.  It was totally doable.  And while I thought running would come really easily back, the first 2 weeks were brutal.  Once I got over that point, I notice that my stride was coming back, I was physically capable of so much more, and my runner’s high returned.

I would prefer to be on my bike (as usual) but running is what I am capable of doing quickly (you just can’t do a short ride where we live without putting your bike in the car and driving off and my daughter is far too young to be in a kid seat).  I will get back to that next year.  I plan to buy her a bike seat for Christmas.  But, until then, I run.

I’m now hedging on Week 7 of C25k.  And while one person has made me feel crappy and believes my OB is “placating” my “laziness” I’m mostly ignoring it.  My brother in law says she’s a nutjob and other runners have been encouraging.  I feel like I’m doing it well and doing it for the right reasons.

Moreover, I feel like I’m mentally more capable than ever before.  I’m more present and I’m less daunted by a challenge.  I used to abhor hills.  However, it’s not no big deal to climb them.  I work on my form and chug along hills because I live in a place where there are hills everywhere.  My route is almost always a climb or descent.  One hill, in particular, goes on for half a mile.  I just dig in.  My body and mind were tested mightily in my pregnancy.  I have sheer determination and can blow through the block most runners get half way or 2/3’s of the way through a challenging run.  I used to routinely fall in the trap of “I cannot do this” and would spend weeks to climb over that wall.  I have hit the wall and I have refused to back down.

In May, I’m running two 5k’s.  First, the HER 5k I will run for HG.  I’m completing it here remotely since I can’t get to Chicago yet,  I’m shooting to finish on Mother’s Day.  My time won’t matter to me.  Then, I will do the Zoo Run which I will run “with” my brother- and sister-in-law.  I will not keep up with their pace but my goal is to run a sub-35 time if I can.

I have more goals, though.  I bought a jogging stroller so my first goal is to run with my daughter regularly to build up my core.  My second goal is to run a 10k in July.  I plan to use my daughter as my resistance training on my short runs and then do my long training runs on the weekend.  I have run a 10k before and trained basically all the way up to a half.  My running partner bowed out and I didn’t want to have the expense, so I didn’t run it.  However, I think I may be able to do it again.  I don’t see myself ever running a marathon but I do see myself continuing on a healthy path and maybe doing a half.

The real goal that I have is to run the 5k in my husband’s hometown (complete with hellacious hills) while pushing my then 9th month old in her stroller.  Last year, I couldn’t even walk during that 5k.  I cheered on my BiL who won the whole thing while standing next to my husband and hurting.  I took pictures of finishers but god I was beat by the end.  This year, I will come back strong as ever.  I will run fearlessly.  I will do this thing.  I will do it in under 35 minutes, damn it.  I will finish strong.  Next year, maybe I will run a half marathon in Indy or Bloomington.  I’ve always wanted to do either.  And my absolute “must do” will be that 5k in Chicago where I can meet women in person who battled (and survived) HG.  I will do it for myself and my daughter.

If you are interested in finding more info on the HER 5k, you can find it here.  The race will be run in Diversey Harbor on May 20th in Chicago.  The 5k starts at 9 AM and there is a family friendly option fun run that starts at 10 AM.  There are some fun events planned on race weekend, too, and some hotel rooms still available for cheap (especially by Chicago standards) but book soon!  The HER foundation supports research and education for women and families coping with hyperemesis gravidarum, something that plagued me my entire pregnancy.  The disease is fairly common but there are a lack of good providers out there with knowledge.  Women are often misunderstood by doctors and family members, so education and advocacy are key parts to making life with HG easier.  You can read more about my battle on the blog.  In the meantime, help HER by running either in Chicago or virtually with me and make a donation to a great cause in the process!

Implied Judgement is Still Mom Judgement

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Image courtesy of mjrphreak.

There will always be judgey moms who call you a “bad mom” – oftentimes even in your own social circle. I have been judged harshly by some for “choosing” not to breastfeed for medical reasons. I had friends think it was cruel for me to put my child in her own room to sleep in her own crib the night we came home from the hospital. The most frustrating of these judgements came when I wasn’t sad at all about putting my kiddo in daycare. These sanctimommies are the easiest to ignore because you can just write it off as intolerant and never look back.

But what about those judgements that fly under the radar? I have many more friends who claim to “support” my choices by saying “you do you”. That’s great or at least it seems great until you actually discuss any of these “dicey” topics at length. Then, the “I could never” or “I have tried so hard to do it ‘right'” comments came out

A recent conversation with a friend illustrates this. Let’s call her Sophia. She’s been exclusively breastfeeding for 15 months:

Sophia: I wish I could stop breastfeeding. I am just so drained. I want to drink a beer without feeling guilty.  I want to sleep. It’s been so long.  I’m not happy.
Me: So… stop?
Sophia: Well, the WHO says you should breastfeed until 2 years.
Me: That’s a global recommendation mainly due to the scarcity of safe water in the developing world.  We don’t have to worry about that. You’ve given her 15 months. If you aren’t enjoying it, it will not hurt her.  But if you’re resenting her, that could hurt her.
Sophia: Yeah, but I just don’t want to make her sick. I’ve tried so hard to do the right thing.

Sophia didn’t try to offend. She didn’t say formula was poison. She didn’t even say I was “doing it wrong”. But the implication was I was in the wrong. In these conversations, the mom judging will never admonish what I’m doing directly but will imply it is wrong and that’s okay. Normally, I just tell myself “well, she thinks I am wrong but who cares?” That’s not completely fair, though. I think I’m finally at the point where I feel the need to push back a bit.  This time, I did.

Me: So, am I doing the wrong thing?
Sophia: Uh… why would you say that?”
Me: Because my baby hasn’t had a drop of breastmilk in her life. You’re saying it’s bad.
Sophia: Oh, I’d never say that! I didn’t say that.
Me: Sure, but you implied it. You said you tried so hard to do the “right” thing. When you say things like that, you may not think it hurts my feelings but it does. Even though you omit that judgement, it’s still a judgement. I hate hearing it. I know I’m always supposed to rag on formula while doing all I can to advocate for my breastfeeding friends but it’s not fair. I’ve supported every one of you girls but you don’t give me the same support.
Sophia: I just don’t see it that way. I think it’s obvious what I meant. Breastfeeding is hard.

I dropped it. It seemed pointless and it made me feel bad to continue. But, dang it, it’s time to say something! These omissions of judgement that are actually judgements are screwed up. By saying “I can’t let my kid cry it out because she’s going to end up damaged”, you are implying that moms who sleep train are damaging their kids. By saying “I could never put my kid in daycare and miss out on all their firsts” you are implying that I’m a bad mom who doesn’t care about her kid and their firsts because my kid is in daycare full-time.

When moms do this, it is still offensive even if intent isn’t to be vicious. Instead, I think the goal of moms doing this is to beat themselves up and raise moral support. We feel bad about something because we have these huge expectations that are impossible to meet day in and day out and we can’t let it go. As moms, though, we need to realize that our choices are own and another choice is not “bad” unless it leads to our child being neglected or harmed. If your kid is fed, has clothing to wear no matter how mismatched and stained, and has a roof over their head, you’re doing a good job. Insinuating that your friends are doing the “wrong” thing by reinforcing that you are suffering to do the “right” thing is reductionist.

Let it go.

The invisible women of the women’s strike:

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Photo by Allen Lew of Flickr.com

The women’s strike was seen by many feminists to be the continuation of momentum from the very successful Women’s March.  It was expected to be less successful because a lot of women can’t strike (I could be fired as a government employee).  However, it did close a number of school districts (which was a BFD). I would also argue this protest served its purpose if the sole purpose was to raise awareness for things like family leave, reproductive rights, and equal pay.  However, assuming that this, alone, was the main takeaway is not helpful.  The women who did not strike have more to say than the women who did, in my opinion.  Let me say that I totally supported and cheered for my friends who were able to strike.  I think it was wonderful and I don’t think their intention in any way was to discount the voices of women of color.  However, I think if we are to use this strike as a moment of visibility, we need to be careful to talk about those invisible women, too.

I have talked before about privilege and feminism – specifically in the context of the romanticization of mothering in a developing nation which is often seen in discourse about how we raise and feed babies.  There are issues with intersectionality in third wave feminism.  The “selfie girls” who were criticised in the aftermath of the Women’s March illustrate an important dialogue about white feminism and the reality of being a minority or working class feminist.  I think it is important to continue to address these issues.

We are doing ourselves, as feminists, no favors by focusing just on the white, privileged women. It’s reductionist.  It is harmful.  This criticism became very vocal with the introduction of “you go girl” feminism in Lean In.  Sandberg makes some good points, of course.  She argues that women need to feel free to take charge, should speak more in meetings, and demand a place at the table.  Moreover, she suggest women need to choose partners who are supportive of them and will share equally. I value all of these things as a working mom and I would give the same advice to a young grad student or trainee.

However, as a working mom who is highly educated and white, there are so many opportunities I am already afforded.  My biggest problems truly are equal pay for a job that already pays my bills and parental leave at a job where I was able to use paid leave already for an FMLA protected leave where I did not have to go on LWOP.  Sandberg argues in Lean In that for our sisters in the trenches working other types of jobs, this should lead to an overall better standard of living.  That makes me uncomfortable because the issue of equality probably is hardest to swallow for these women.  It neglects the needs they have RIGHT NOW.  Asking them to wait while we serve our own needs seems selfish and misdirected.

This approach also puts the ability to succeed on the backs of women.  It’s your  fault if you don’t demand more-even though workplace harassment and institutional barriers are so entrenched in patriarchy that they are incredibly difficult to overcome.

Many feminist theorists have criticized this type of feminism, including the amazing Bell Hooks, in an essay about her “trickle down” feminism.  Hooks writes,

It should surprise no one that women and men who advocate feminist politics were stunned to hear Sandberg promoting her trickle- down theory: the assumption that having more women at the top of corporate hierarchies would make the work world better for all women, including women on the bottom. Taken at face value, this seem a naive hope given that the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal corporate world Sandberg wants women to lean into encourages competition over cooperation. Or as Kate Losse, author of Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network, which is an insider look at the real gender politics of Facebook, contends: “By arguing that women should express their feminism by remaining in the workplace at all costs, Sandberg encourages women to maintain a commitment to the work place without encouraging the workplace to maintain a commitment to them.” It is as though Sandberg believes a subculture of powerful elite women will emerge in the workplace, powerful enough to silence male dominators.

It should surprise no one that women and men who advocate feminist politics were stunned to hear Sandberg promoting her trickle- down theory: the assumption that having more women at the top of corporate hierarchies would make the work world better for all women, including women on the bottom. Taken at face value, this seem a naive hope given that the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal corporate world Sandberg wants women to lean into encourages competition over cooperation. Or as Kate Losse, author of Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network, which is an insider look at the real gender politics of Facebook, contends: “By arguing that women should express their feminism by remaining in the workplace at all costs, Sandberg encourages women to maintain a commitment to the work place without encouraging the workplace to maintain a commitment to them.” It is as though Sandberg believes a subculture of powerful elite women will emerge in the workplace, powerful enough to silence male dominators.

“You go girl” feminism is nearly impossible to achieve due to something political scientists like myself know all too well.  It is one big effing collective action problem.  You can do your best but only through the cooperation of women and, yes, men, can you change corporate culture.  Sandberg clearly hasn’t done that for even her class of uber-privileged ladies.  Uber (please grant me this pun) has a huge harassment scandal brewing and the EEOC is currently seeing an increase in such complaints:

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Source: EEOC (2016)

Clearly, it is not all fixed.  That’s why women marched and struck this week.  Still, focusing just on this is harmful.  I’ve already read a number of articles about the politics of gender equality and the strike.  One I would encourage anyone to read was an Op-Ed written by Meghan Daum in the LA TimesIn it, Daum states,

Make no mistake, March 8 will mostly be a day without women who can afford to skip work, shuffle childcare and household duties to someone else, and shop at stores that are likely to open at 10 and close at 5… Meanwhile, for the millions of women who have no choice but to show up and meet their responsibilities on March 8 (and every day), it will be business as usual.

I didn’t strike.  I couldn’t strike.  And the strike did not affect me as a woman because my female coworkers couldn’t strike and I was able to avoid buying anything (a man bought me a beer and a pretzel).  I posted about this on social media.  I felt it important to note why I wasn’t striking.  I was working a job to help people who needed me – vulnerable people – for a government that required me to work.  Many women are in the federal and state government workplace not represented by unions.  It’s hard for us in that capacity.  My only ability to take the day off work would be, ironically, through the PTO I do not have left because I just had a baby!  I made it clear that insufficient family leave was the reason I couldn’t strike.

I saw mostly white women striking – women with good jobs, women who are salaried, women working in industries that supported their choices.  I value what they did because it does raise awareness and keep the ball rolling.  But just talking about the strike and the powerful message it sent misses the point.

The women who can afford to strike are the “you go girl” feminists already supported by people like Sandberg.  They are very, very visible.  “Selfie girl” basically explains this all in one picture.  I was able to go out last night and see my dissertation advisor, have a beer with him, and talk about my love of Canadian politics post-dissertation because my husband made a point of taking our kid for the night.  He was able to work around a change in morning routine without my help because we share responsibilities.  If I had had the PTO and wanted to strike, he would have supported me, work would have supported me, and I would have still sent my baby to daycare.  That, I argue, would have totally defeated the purpose of the strike for me and my family.

My sitter is a great lady.  She is semi-retired and we love and value her.  She’s a small business owner.  However, she doesn’t have my education or my privilege.  Every freaking day, she juggles three babies of various ages – one who is scooting, one who is a toddler and walking, and my 3 month old – and does an amazing job at it.  She does things I could not.  She’s also a working class woman who works every day probably too hard for too little.  I feel ashamed at saying that because what she does is so hard to value for us as parents because it’s an invaluable act to help our child grow and we are lucky to afford her.  She, like many women who perform domestic duties, could not strike.  If she had struck, she would have inconvenienced those of us who pay her a lot of money to watch our kids and threatened her own business.  We would have adjusted to accommodate her but her other clients may not have.

My grandmothers were both working class, albeit white.  Would the strike have helped them?  Likely not.  One of my grandmothers ran her own cleaning business.  She had 5 living children to support on a meager income.  Pleasing her clients was what kept food on the table.  Even so, her income was often a precarious thing and very dependent on the economic situation of her clients.  It was variable.  Her work was daunting and hard.  She could not have been on strike.  My other grandmother worked every day at a grueling factory job.  She could not have been on strike.  She was not unionized – even back then.  This was the lot of so many of our mothers and grandmothers – white or otherwise (although it was so much harder for women of color) – but I think we forget about it as the plight many women still face today.  The idea of “blue collar” has changed but “working class” women still exist.

Women of color also exist.  We neglect to speak about their issues.  Again, I cannot speak for them but I feel the need to advocate for them.  These women are paid less even then us white ladies.  Black women make 60 cents vs. a man’s dollar while Latino women make only 55 cents on a man’s dollar. This is opposed to our overall pay gap of 1 dollar for men compared to 77 cents for women.  This means Latino women make almost 40% less than white women and even Black women make almost 30% less than white women.  These women are more likely to work these sorts of precarious jobs where a strike would be disastrous for them and their households.  If your main goal is to put food on the table for your kids, you can’t even afford to take a day off of work when you are already making minimum wage.  So, even if your boss won’t fire you, you don’t have much of a “choice”.

“Working class” or “minority” feminist issues ARE feminist issues.  Full stop.  They should be treated as such.  We shouldn’t stop talking about the strike as  “women were striking” but we should continue on. We should also focus on who could not strike.  That speaks so much louder to the dire situation many women find themselves in.

Why couldn’t we all strike yesterday?  We needed to save our PTO and needed to pay our daycare providers so striking wouldn’t matter anyway.  Our daycare providers and cleaning ladies, which we are privileged enough to have, can’t afford to piss off clients or miss a day’s pay due to a scheduling conflict.  Women couldn’t strike for fear of losing their jobs, folks.  They couldn’t strike because that one day’s pay was the difference between eating and not.

Feminism cannot be everything to everyone all the time, true, but it also cannot keep beating down the women who suffer most.  When working class and minority feminists start to demand inclusion and cry out for more, we need to stop high fiving ourselves and denying them a seat at the table.  Otherwise, we are no better than the misogynists calling us nasty women.

Another Body Altogether

Warning: I’m taking a break today to talk about postpartum issues.  If you have trouble with body talk or periods, please don’t read this post!  I will be putting out another gender and kids post later, so keep an eye out if that is more your style!

My baby turned 3 months this week.  When did that happen?  I also had a follow up for my birth control and endometriosis treatment (an IUD).  I’ve been bleeding for 4 weeks straight (going on 5!).  My doctor had warned me the bleeding my surprise me but I was unprepared for this.  It was sometimes worse than my immediate postpartum bleeding.  I was dumbfounded.

My doctor didn’t want to dismiss my fears but she did tell me, “You need to think of your pre-baby body as a completely different body altogether.  This new body is unknown.  For me, it was like going through puberty again.”  That was frustrating to hear but after reflecting on it for a week, I guess it is helpful.

I’ve felt so wrecked and all broken up postpartum.  I had a hard, arduous pregnancy.  Between losing 35 lbs (and only gaining 1 back) and having SPD, it was awful.  I was at my heaviest in recent history by the time I got pregnant.  I figured losing weight was pointless and time to conceive was pressure.  I was still an endurance athlete and ran about 3 days a week, lifted seriously. I was dedicated to the gym and would run with the dog in the morning at the crack of dawn before work.  I was hoping to run a 5k in the spring.  I assumed it would take MONTHS to get pregnant. And then, like a fool, once I got pregnant with my daughter, I figured I would still work out.  NOPE.  It didn’t work like that.  I was too sick and couldn’t spare the calories.  I was so atrophied when I delivered due to it.

I fit into pre-pregnancy clothing immediately after delivery and now fit into pretty much everything I did before I reached my heaviest weight. I planned to donate all of these clothes the month I got my positive test with Ruth but was then too tired to make it into town to go to Goodwill.  Instead, I kept them.  And then I lost so much weight, I mainly wore pre-pregnancy dresses and pants with a hairtie until I delivered.  Now none of those pants fit because they were just too big about 4 weeks postpartum.  I continued to lose weight (as most women do postpartum) although nothing like I did before.  But, I have so much loose skin and feel so fat.

Today, I started back to “running”.  In my time, I was never fast, but ran sub-30 5k’s in my early 20s and rode up to 65 miles in races and charity rides on my bike.  I also used to regularly run 5-7 miles several times a week before starting the time suck that is grad school.  But now, I’m hoping to do Couch to 5k at the behest of my OBGYN who thinks i’s the safest bet I have to slowly begin running. I wasn’t even cleared to do any running or light weightlifting until 12 weeks postpartum.  It sucks because I’ve never needed to start so slow.

My goal is to run a 5k by May.  I think that is doable.  I’d love to run a sub 35 time.  I will still get beat by my 70-something in-laws who do this for a serious hobby.  They run halfs and 10ks still.  My BiL who is a marathoner and ultramarathoner.  He’s run races around the world and now, in early retirement, is trying to run a marathon twice a month.  I feel like what I’m doing pales in comparison and is sad.

I know I will never get my body back.  I welcomed the stretch marks because they are a battle scar in a way.  But my abs are GONE.  I never had a six pack but I had such good abs before my daughter.  Abs that made me carry high and almost not show until 24 weeks.  I never appreciated my strong thighs, big calves, or tight stomach.  I felt so fat before I conceived.  And now I feel like a bowl full of jelly.

I need to get better at accepting my body has changed.  I know my husband still thinks I look good.  Others tell me I look amazing for having had a baby 3 months ago.  I can’t accept compliments from anyone (which I think is a common problem for most women).  I need to cut myself some slack – start slow, make it a goal to finish, don’t get bogged down in how out of shape I am.  If I could just feel more like myself again, I would be happy.  But this is the new body and it’s a whole ‘nother chapter to write from here on out.

Part Two: Gender and Family

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My daughter in “boys clothing”.  Carter’s missed the memo that space is for boys AND girls.

 

This is part one of a series on gender equality in children.  It’s targeted to smashing the patriarchy but it’s not just about our daughters. It’s also, perhaps, more important to those raising strong boys.  Because without men realizing that women are human beings worthy of the same rights, women don’t stand a chance.  This series will discuss the importance of feminism and why we need to teach our kids feminism matters – starting first with theory and then moving to practical examples and applications.

So, last week, I explained why gender norming begins with the examples we set for our children. We can make good choices and be mindful of the ways we interact with one another to ensure our daughters and sons know there is not “women’s work” or “men’s work” just “housework”  We can also press for more egalitarian leave, subsidized daycare, and the like so that women and men have equal opportunities to parent. However, does this totally neutralize the messages girls and boys receive from outside the home?  I argue no.  In this part of the series, I’m going to discuss how the idea of insulation is really limited.  You can control what happens in your house, but what about the homes of your in-laws, your parents, your grandmothers, your siblings, etc.?  Once you leave your home, all bets are off.

Gender norming all comes back to society to an extent.  I will get more in depth with how society and social structures impact gender norms of boys and girls in the third part of this series.  Performing gender or “doing gender” is an part of feminist and gender studies theory.  Creative Sociology has some good information on “doing gender”, as first detailed by West and Zimmerman.  The gist of West and Zimmerman is that society teaches us what “masculine” and “feminine” is.  We fall into habits and routines which are largely based on our biological sex (if we are cisgendered).  This is based on Butler’s notion that gender is a “social construct” or that gender is something we adopt or learn to “perform” but is not tied to biology.  Girls act certain ways because they are told these are “feminine” things and boys act the way they do because they are told these are “masculine” things.

Understanding that biological determinism is harmful to children is step one.  And keeping your kids out of that look seems almost impossible.  We all bring with us conceptions of how we “do” or “perform” gender.  If we are aware of this, though, can we learn from it and “learn better, do better”?  Maybe.

Until kids are old enough to go to school, it is true that, for the most part, your baby and then your toddler will learn the most from you.  Thus, the idea of “insulating” your child, seems a good one.  I think, to a point, this is useful.

Destiny Connect responded to a study about gender norms and young girls. The study found that by age 6, girls were more apt to think of themselves as bad at math and less intelligent.  Zukiswa Zimela wasn’t satisfied with this notion and began to determine what she and other parents could do to help strengthen their daughters against this societal issue.  In “Insulate your daughter against not-good-enough syndrome”, Zimela comes up with four ways to help:

“1. Don’t give your children gendered chores…
2. Teach your daughter to read…
3. Direct praise away from her body…
4. Praise your children for the work they do…”

I think this is sage advice and a good place to start.  We’ve talked about gendered chores before.  I’m very opposed to raising kids who think mending and cooking are for girls and that boys should never have to sew a button or roast a chicken. Zimela also is spot-on with her determination to raise a daughter who has read a wide variety of feminist argument.  I gave a primer on some basic texts next week.  I hope to raise a curious daughter who can read feminist theory and be a wise consumer of media.  Also, praising what our children do and not how they look is a good idea.  I thought this would be easy until I had kids.  Now, I realize that everything your kid does is “cute” and you think they are the most beautiful thing on earth.  But, praising them for being a good friend, doing a chore well, etc. all seems to be better than placing the full emphasis on how pretty or handsome they are.

Still, this neglects a couple of things in terms of challenging how children should “do” gender.  First of all, Zimela’s argument hinges around girls.  That’s exactly what she set out to address so I don’t fault her for that.  Still, we don’t need to just work on our girls.  Boys also need to be introduced to pro-woman ideas and to be aware that there are not girls jobs or boys jobs.  They need to realize women have worth well beyond their bodies.  Secondly, while this must start at home, the performance of gender is sensitive to a lot of forces outside of the home.

I have seen colleagues and friends recently insist “not my daughter” when asked about how patriarchy will affect their kids.  I’ve also seen a lot of commentary, as discussed in last weeks Part One about how women feel their daughter’s don’t need feminism because they are so egalitarian at home.  Fair enough that you want to take the above approach.  Still, remember that the minute your kid leaves your house (which will happen more and more as he or she grows), he or she will face forces well beyond your control.  In fact, this may start even before birth.

Think back to the planning of your baby shower.  This likely happened around the time of your anatomy scan – where most people find out the sex of their child.  Did your family and/or friends who were putting on your shower try to gender the shower? If you didn’t find out the sex, did people express frustration about your shower and registry and what could they possibly get you.  I mean, there wouldn’t be a whole cottage industry of non-medicinal so-called “gender ultrasound” places with a bevvy of groupon deals if “gender” err… sex… didn’t matter.

From the very beginning, you had to make active choices about how to gender your child  if you decided to address and combat gender norms.  Some people try to raise gender neutral children. But even a couple who visibly tried to do this admitted that they struggled to keep the child’s sex (and thus gender identity as it developed) secret from family to protect and shield him.  I’m using a male pronoun as the child did “come out” as identifying as a cis-gender male at age 5.  The family was pressed to disclose this when he started kindergarten.  It starts early.  And I don’t know about your family, but growing up here in the American Midwest with a largely-Catholic family (even though a liberal one as things go), that is a bit of a pipe dream. I’m not even sure how my uber-liberal, sex-positive, feminist friends would approach this subject.  And I’m not sure how I feel about it myself.  I feel like doing something like this to my kid would isolate her.  At the end of the day, my female identity is something I, personally, embrace.  I hope she can embrace hers, too.  Unless she chooses to identify otherwise, which we would support, I plan to raise her as a girl.  Saying you are being gender neutral also raises another question – why is it bad for girls to be girls.  Why are feminine traits undesirable outside the home?  I will get to this in part three.

The active choice to raise a child without borders and limits began with our anatomy scan.  Then the scourge of pink I had feared began.  We first went to buy clothing before we knew we were having a girl at about 16 weeks.  Carter’s was having a sale.  We went in and asked where the “gender neutral” clothing was.  I was directed to one sad little rack of white onesies and some boy onesies.  It was in the boy section.  It was piss poor.  Baby clothing is so very gendered.  I once joked it was all “stupid ballerinas” and “dumb princesses” for girls and “dump trucks” and “football guys” for boys.

To the credit of most of my family and my in-laws, people have been really good at realizing I did not want lots of bows and lace.  I made it known repeatedly that most of the clothing I had bought was from the “boys” section (honestly, even the “gender neutral” stuff is “boy clothing”) and that I effing hated headbands.  HATED THEM.  To me, they were a sign that said, “LOOK AT ME I HAVE A VAGINA TELL ME I’M PRETTY”.  Your mileage may vary but I took an active stance against tutus and huge bows on her head.  When she’s old enough to choose, she can wear them. The few “girly” things we were gifted, she hasn’t much liked (even a really adorable tutu with a huge crinoline).  So, I know I’m not depriving her.  Still, members of the extended family have made our desire to raise her with minimal princess imagery seem not only impossible but deviant.  While MOST of our family plays a long, some do this grudgingly and there will always be a few who just utterly disregard your wishes as parents.

It gets even harder when your kid starts to play with toys.  Toys are inherently gendered – even moreso, perhaps, than clothes.  And, I would argue, this is more harmful to kids.  Because with toys, kids learn motor skills and learn to “do” gender. It’s very difficult to find anything that isn’t coded in a blue-versus-pink hellscape these days.

And it wouldn’t matter if research wasn’t identifying that highly gendered toys were shown to be negative for development or at least less beneficial.  Judith Blakemore of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (shoutout to someone from my alma-mater’s system) tells the National Association for the Education of Young Children that gendered toys can be harmful to all children – male or female – but that, in particular, feminine-specified toys were often not helping kids build cognitive skills.  Dr. Blakemore states,

We found that girls’ toys were associated with physical attractiveness, nurturing, and domestic skill, whereas boys’ toys were rated as violent, competitive, exciting, and somewhat dangerous. The toys rated as most likely to be educational and to develop children’s physical, cognitive, artistic, and other skills were typically categorized as neutral or moderately masculine. We concluded that strongly gender-typed toys appear to be less supportive of optimal development than neutral or moderately gender-typed toys.

Research from Monmouth University shows that it’s not the type of toy that’s the problem.  It’s the marketing.  Boys and girls would gladly play better with a variety of cognitively-enriching toys that teach analytical skills, social intelligence, and caring for others if they weren’t coded in “pink vs. blue”.  And good luck with finding other options.  Toy aisles today are more gendered than ever before.  Target recently announced it would stop it with gendered aisles and separate sections for boys and girls clothing.  It’s helpful (especially to parents like me who dress their girls in a lot of “boy” clothing because why the heck not) but it’s still very obvious to see what boy vs. girl looks like because the marketing doesn’t change and the colors don’t change.

So, why does all of this matter?  Well, have you attended a family Christmas (or other religious or secular gift holiday) or birthday party recently?  Do your children ever receive presents?  If you have, you’ve probably noticed the bulk of toys and books the children receive are gendered.  It’s not hard to see why.  Great Aunt Edna is not going to have time to scour the internet to find a seller on amazon who makes gender-neutral firetrucks.  She’s going to roll up to walmart and buy something she thinks your daughter or son would like based on her own knowledge of gender norms (which, I’m betting, are much more rigid than yours if you are seeking out information on feminist theory).  She won’t be malicious about it.  It just won’t be on her radar.

My daughter is 3 months old (see her above in “boy clothes”).  People are already asking when I will be buying her dolls, does she have dolls, does she need dolls, etc.  My answer is “please do not bring her dolls.  If she wants them, we will buy them”.  I know at least one person will do it whether or not I ask.  She can have *a* doll and be just fine.  If she wants more dolls some day, we will seek them out.  Dolls can help her learn compassion and caring but by only buying her dolls, what message are we sending?  To me, it seems to suggest she should focus on only caring for others, raising children, and that being a mom is the most desirable and ONLY thing she should aspire to.  This makes my skin crawl.  I am actually really unfulfilled being “just mom” myself.  And I was often unsure kids were for me.  I am glad I decided to have this baby but OMFG I hate being a stay at home parent.  My husband enjoys it much more.  There is nothing “wrong” with me for preferring to work on legislation vs. teaching her ABC’s or changing diapers.  I do not have the patience and I need gratification from other things.  That’s normal.  I would never say my “most important role” is mom.  It is an important role.  My most important role is being a tolerant, and compassionate person  who also happens to be a mom, a doctor, and a researcher.

Would it be different if we had a boy?  I don’t think so.  The goal would be different but we would still want to raise a kid who wouldn’t be bounded by hegemonic masculinity in its rigid form.  If we had a son (we do have both a son and a daughter they are 9 and 11 and have already identified as very gender-conforming which is fine) and someone wanted to bring him a doll when he was a baby or toddler, I would encourage them to bring him one.  He should learn to take care of people.  If all he got were footballs and trucks, that would not help him build compassion or service skills he will need in society and I would probably buy him a plush doll.  If he never played with it, I would drop the issue.  I want my kids to choose activities and toys they find to be good not be forced into a rigid idea of what is “good”.

I cringe at gendered conversations and fear my 3 month old’s first birthday a little because I was a gender non-conforming child.  I did not like dolls.  In fact, they terrified me.  I preferred horses and cars and dinosaurs.  I played tea party with stuffed animals and trucks.  I used to carry around an old briefcase of my dad’s and pretend I was a doctor or a lawyer or a president.  I wrote briefings to President Bush (the first Bush, I’m old people) as a toddler because I was concerned for his health.  I grew up to have a job where I now write policy briefs for a living so maybe nothing changed and this was good practice?  Regardless, this led me to hate every gift-giving holiday.  My parents didn’t ever force the issue.  In fact, they went above and beyond to start requiring all people participating in gifts bring receipts and enclose them as an SOP.  I had a lot of aunts and uncles and a lot of cousins, so this was a lot of gifting pressure.

But even with all of this, my parents could not stop the world from telling me I should feel less because of how I “did” gender.  I was a girl.  No one could ever tell me otherwise.  Still, I did not like “girl toys”.  Every holiday was an excuse to make it known I was doing something wrong – barbies, baby dolls, Polly Pockets (god what choking hazards those were and none of us cared!), Easy Bake Ovens, etc flew at my feet.  I didn’t want any of these gifts.  I thanked people politely because that was our rule but was so sad.  My parents would take me to exchange them a day later.  My sister, on the other hand, was gender-conforming as she could be.  She would jump up and down with glee at her gifts.  Pink was everything in her world.  Even at 7 or 8, I was keenly aware of what I was doing “wrong”.

The same went for any clothing I received.  I didn’t wear dresses.  I stuck to jeans and t-shirts.  Every time I came to a “fancy” gathering, I wore basically what my male cousins wore but got lambasted by my grandmother for doing it all wrong.  When I decided I couldn’t keep somewhat androgynous clothing up after my body exploded into womanhood at age 11 with the onset of puberty, I adopted bras reluctantly and decided to completely change my wardrobe to fit – not hide – my new body.  Suddenly dresses were good.  They were more comfortable than pants because of my big hip to waist ratio.  And I was beyond the stage of running around like a little kid.  The immediate change in people’s behavior towards me at family gatherings was so telling.  Suddenly, I was being praised for just my appearance.  I was rewarded for doing gender “properly”.  While my mom, I think, thought this was good for me, it still stings.  I am happy being a woman and being able to choose womanly (or not) things to wear but the fact that this either made me look “bad” or “good” in the minds of those who loved me was a painful realization.  My worth was reduced not to my intelligence, personality, or dedication to my family but instead to a set of arbitrary gender expectations.

So, the moral of the story, gender norms are everywhere.  You could be the most egalitarian family on earth and still face issues.  When you leave that household to see grandma or Aunt Edna or your kid’s godparents, you will have gendered interactions.  You can’t hide from it unless you want to raise your kids in unhealthy social solitude.  As your kids grow, things will make you uncomfortable.  It’s okay to say “we don’t do that” or “Allison likes trucks not dolls” but good luck getting that to stick with most people.  Do the good work but realize insulating your kids from gender norms is basically impossible.  I have accepted this.  The difference is, I’m going to talk to my daughter at length and ensure that she knows no matter what toys she chooses to play with, she is still loved, respected, and treated as an equal.  When she receives gendered gifts, we will accept them with a “thank you” and no forced happiness.  I will build amazon gift lists with toys she likes and try to get her interested in STEM early because her older siblings enjoyed it and my husband and I feel strongly that analytical skills are best learned at this stage and will serve anyone from a writer to a scientist.  I just also have to remind myself I can only do so much outside of our comfortable, feminist refuge.

 

Part One: Gender in the Home

 

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Image courtesy of astoller of Flickr.com

 

This is part one of a series on gender equality in children.  It’s targeted to smashing the patriarchy but it’s not just about our daughters. It’s also, perhaps, more important to those raising strong boys.  Because without men realizing that women are human beings worthy of the same rights, women don’t stand a chance.  This series will discuss the importance of feminism and why we need to teach our kids feminism matters – starting first with theory and then moving to practical examples and applications.

So, I’ve talked about the March on Washington and the March for Life before but I think we need to talk more about how we still need these things.  If we are to find gender norms that hold our kids back, activism matters.

Some women felt we didn’t need the women’s march. I think those women are patently wrong. And I think they missed the point. Seriously so!

I hope some day to tell my daughter about how all mommy’s friends marched on state capitols, government buildings, and Washington on that historic January afternoon when she was only a few weeks old. I wasn’t cleared for exercise yet and it depressed me I could not walk. Still, I hope she is inspired to know that my friends didn’t desert us and stood for her and so many little girls.

Sure we’ve come a long way from the issues our mothers and grandmothers faced but let’s not forget where we came from and how recently we were fighting for basic human rights.  Let’s begin in the Victorian Period when the First Wave started.  We may romanticize the beautiful dresses of the period.  I do.  My husband jokes that if there is a period piece, I’m addicted.  It’s true.  I love Victoria and will watch it tonight for sure.  Still, we should remember that Queen Victoria was considered an extension of her husband in many ways.  Prince Albert had an uneasy go of accepting that his allowance and abilities relied on her in many ways.  The show does a decent job of illustrating this at times.  It’s not perfect (see romanitcization) but it illustrates the uneasy play between private and political life.

During the Victoria era, women did not have property rights in most cases and could not vote.  Even women as fortunate as Victoria!  She was at the helm as a Head of State and could not vote.  As a gender studies and political science major in college, I read a lot on this subject.  One of my favorite discussions of property rights and suffrage deals with John Stuart Mill and Mary Wollstonecraft Mill.  J.S. Mill’s “The Subjugation of Women” and Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” are standard reading for burgeoning feminist scholars.  If I wrote a syllabus, I’d probably start my class here.  Wollstonecraft, in particular, touches on the issue of the home. She states that equality in education and rights between women and men would strengthen marriage as an institution and would benefit children and, thus, society. Some radical feminists will scoff at this, certainly, viewing all marriage as harmful to women but I would argue that this was about as militant as feminism was for the time. Likewise, Wollstonecraft’s defense of bringing the personal as the political is important.

What does this “personal as political” mean?  Why does it matter?  The personal as political is what drove the march for suffrage and property rights for women.  No longer were women content with letting their husband’s rule their lives.  This Victorian concept, discussed interestingly enough by the Victoria and Albert Museum, was later taken up by second wave feminists as a call for politicians to grant women more rights – rights like contraception, abortion, the choice to divorce, and the ability to be free of domestic violence. Prior to First Wave Feminism, it was thought women didn’t need political or property rights because their husbands had their best interests in mind.  Issues like this were “personal” and confined to the household and not acceptable topics for public discussion.  Remember, women couldn’t discuss or show their pregnancies still.  This would continue until Lucille Ball was pregnant on I Love Lucy in the 1950s!  Domestic violence and birth control were similar issues for Second Wave feminists.  You see, domestic violence was not a public issue. It was between you and your husband, ladies.  But if you wanted to leave?  Well, the state would admonish you and make it nearly impossible to divorce your husband.

Carol Hanisch’s essay is the seminal text on the personal as Political was published in 1969.  1969, ladies and gentlemen.  She argued that the biggest issues still facing women were simple and that excluding non-radical feminists from the dialogue wasn’t helpful.  I will still hammer this home. It’s no secret I really don’t find radical feminism to be helpful.  We aren’t there yet.  We are still in the trenches fighting for basic rights almost 50 years later. We aren’t dealing with issues specifically outlined in Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique or Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper as most of us either get to choose to stay home or work if we are privileged enough to have a family life which affords this.  But we aren’t in a world where we can say “equality” yet, either.  At the same time, in our largely heteronormative world where a majority of people marry and have babies, many so-called “women’s issues” are “family issues” and, thus, still big feminist issues.

Our mothers grew up witnessing this Personal as Political debate.  They had to claw like crazy to break into the workforce and get professional jobs.  This is not to say women hadn’t been in the workforce.  You see, our working class sisters had been working as cleaning ladies and factory workers for years prior with very little respect.  One of my grandmothers was a lifelong factory worker and the other was a cleaning lady and often the only breadwinner in her family.  My grandfather was always trying to be an artist.  She had 5 living children so she had to support them somehow.  But for our mothers who wanted to earn a wage and advance their careers – often with the same education or more education than their husbands – they had to work twice as hard.  Women of color probably had to work three times as hard.  And then they came home at night to the same responsibilities their stay-at-home-mothers had had.

This was even the case in my otherwise egalitarian house.  My mom would work similar hours to my dad, would do most (if not all) drop offs and pick ups and would do almost all of the housework and all the cooking during the week.  If one of us was sick, my mom took over. My dad did some household chores on the weekends and cooked our weekend meals.  He also taught me how to cook and was an excellent pasta and bread maker.  But, honestly, my mom did twice as much as my Dad.  Neither of them ever treated us differently but that was the example I had of what mom did vs. what dad did.

And I internalized it a lot.  Until my hellish pregnancy which had me bedridden for half and unable to cook for fear of vomiting in the sink.  I did almost all of our laundry, I did most of the cleaning (minus dishes, garbage, and toilet bowls), and cooked all of our home-cooked meals because my husband doesn’t cook.  But then I had to ask for him to step up.  I couldn’t work a full time job, struggle through a difficult pregnancy, and do it all.  It just wasn’t possible anymore.  So, we had to find a better balance. We still struggle.  We have a newborn now.  It’s impossible to eat out like normal people because we don’t want her to get sick and we don’t want to worry about screaming. So, I basically cook all of our meals.  I also, now that I’m back at work, I commute about 7 hours a week.  My husband now cleans and does laundry but he won’t fold and sort it properly, so that still leaves me a lot.  It’s gotten much better but it is nowhere near perfect. He’s taken more night feedings to help with the deficit but with PPD, I still struggle.  He does drop off and pick up for daycare so I don’t double my commute.

And I realize that as I type this, the implication of all of that is “he does it to help me” as if he doesn’t share an equal part in this and I am the default parent. He doesn’t see it that way.  He’s openly told me this week that he sees me as looking at her more as his “project” than as his responsibility.  That stung.  Maybe it’s not wrong.  In response, I pointed out to him that when he leaves it incumbent upon myself to cook every. damn. meal. and to watch him play xbox quietly while I make and clean up dinner while trying to take care of  a screaming baby, I feel like that’s the message I get.  I internalize that.  I bend over backward to kill myself doing it.  I turn into my mom. I go to a place I don’t want to because damn it it’s 2017.  So, we are having more conversations going forward about what we both can do to stop this.  I’m getting an hour of zen a day.  NO ONE is playing Xbox until everything is cleaned up and we are both sitting down.  Still, the fact we even have to have these discussions is indicative of gender inequality.  My husband is not an asshole. He’s a feminist.  But we’re all figuring this out.  He’s been through this before.  But his ex was a stay-at-home mom.  I am not and I am drained after a day of solo parenting in a way he isn’t.  Part of this is PPD.  And part of it is just my personality.

My anecdotal experience is not unique.  In this country, women still do significantly more housework than men.  Around the world, women miss significantly more work than men taking care of children because men don’t feel comfortable being “that” parent. Men are denied paid leave or do not take their paid leave (for the record, my husband took his paternity leave.  He said it made parenting a newborn and bonding with a newborn so much easier this time.  Still, his work did not have a formal paternity leave policy.  He was lucky to have a (female) boss and company that wanted to be flexible with us.  Hopefully, in the future, other dads will benefit from this precedent.  But he had to ask and push for it.  Many men don’t feel like they can.  And he will be the go-to pick up a sick kid parent.  That’s our agreement since I commute.  But I still worry enough about gender roles.

My daughter will learn to cook food and fix things around the house.  He will teach her how to replace a baseboard or lay down tile.  I will teach her how to make a roux.  But I don’t want her to think it has to be this way.  If her future partner (male or female) prefers to cook and she prefers to mow the yard, that’s cool.  I want her to know how to do it all, though.  And I want us to try to illustrate that moms and dads are all responsible for and capable of taking care of the household.

Parenting equality is not private issue.  It’s a public one.  Or, at least, I argue it should be as we still are nowhere near “equal”.  We need to push for paternity leave and equal pay.  We need to teach our sons how to cook and our daughters how to fix things.  We need to not stop calling dads babysitters and acknowledge their responsibility as parents and their innate abilities to be primary caregivers (yes, dads can be great stay-at-home parents!).  We need to as a society decide that parenting is unisex and that women are no more equipped to do it than men.  That’s the first step.

This isn’t just about working parents, either.  I see many friends who are struggling to balance a stay-at-home parent and their sanity.  Many dads, it seems, don’t get the very real stress of being a SAHM or the fact that keeping a tiny human alive is a full-time job.  I can’t speak to the alternative (dad stays at home) because this is really rare in my social circle.  My Dad was a SAHP for about 2 years but even he arranged childcare and worked PT for that period.  A few of my friends have husbands/partners that stay home as the primary caregiver.  I think that’s wonderful.  But even in my circle of Dr. Moms, it is far more common for both parents to work or mom to quit her job to make a career of momming (if even just until the kid is 2 or 3).  Just because mom stays home doesn’t mean she should then do all the housework and cooking.  We’ve talked about this recently.  The prospect of in the future me taking a job in a larger city with substantially more pay would allow my husband to stay home for awhile.  He’s expressed interest in it.  I know if this happens, our balance will need to change.  We’d treat it like daycare. We don’t expect our daycare to also clean our house or cook dinner.  Why should the working parent assume the SAHP is somehow capable of doing everything all the time?

I also think as much as we need breastfeeding protections in this country, we need to stop equating the parenting of newborns with breastfeeding success.  If I had a dime for every time a friend insisted she hadn’t slept in ages because she couldn’t pump enough for her husband to do a nightfeed, I would be a rich lady. Breastfeeding is hard when you work.  Really hard.  And it almost inherently puts more pressure on moms than dads.  This is not to say I disapprove of this but saying that it makes moms more important or let dads off the hook isn’t fair.  And while you can argue dads can do other things to make up for this added labor of breastfeeding, I would argue you can almost never make up for this all-encompassing tie a mom has to her baby.  I can leave the house without a worry because my baby is formula fed.  I could even go on an overnight trip.  And I can say, “I need you to take the night feed because I just can’t go another night without two REM cycles”.  But a mom who is breastfeeding can’t say that.  We should probably acknowledge that breastfeeding is inherently a labor of love for women that requires them to take on a disproportionate amount of work.  Granting more maternity and paternity leave would take some of this burden off moms and dads going through the struggles of starting breastfeeding.  And if it is not working, we should stop shaming moms.  And as moms, we should feel like it is okay to value our mental health and sleep.  This is ultimately what led me to buy the damn brezza (well, my husband bought it for us, actually) and say “I can’t do this” well before she was born.

Overall, we’ve come a long way from not being able to own property.  That’s great.  But moms are still doing more than dads.  Our daughters and sons have the most important and most immediate lessons on gender norms in our households. We need to talk about the very real challenges women face and try to do better in our households to explain that both parents are responsible for the security, health, and happiness of the family.

The lowdown on cloth diapers

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Cloth diapers are fantastic but may be daunting to a noob like I was.  I thought I would write a post about the first 10 weeks of our experience with them.  We’ve used a number of styles of diapers thus far.  I figured I would write a post reviewing some popular types of cloth diapers.

I’ve decided to rank them in terms of ease of use, affordability, cute factor, and reluctant husband rating (which is because my husband, like many husbands, seems to find them a little scary).

Cloth Prefolds and Thirsties Covers – When my daughter was born, I hadn’t bought any newborn diapers.  I wasn’t sure how big she would be and if it would be a good investment.  Honestly, I went cheap as chips on these for that reason.  The week we took her home, I bought 5 Thirsties covers for about $15.00 on ebay and 10 prefolds.  I also bought several snappis.  Altogether, I would do this again if I had a 5 lb, 11 oz newborn.  If you have a baby 7+ lbs, skip this step and go with a bigger stage diaper or used disposables for a bit.  I think cloth prefolds and covers are the most economical option available and, as far as the wash goes, they are fantastically simple.  You can do about anything to cloth and you will be dandy.  And prefolds are workhorses.  This is what my mom did with us and I still remember using them as cleaning rags YEARS after my baby sister was a baby.  I now use clean prefolds for the same purpose and just toss them in the laundry after use.  The covers can be reused a couple of times in a day.  We gave our stash a break at night with disposables.  If you want to use cloth all day and night, I recommend getting 7 or 8 covers and 15 prefolds at least for a daily wash and 12 or so covers and at least 24 prefolds for an every other day wash schedule.  These were not so husband approved.  And they had a learning curve but they were great when I was home all day and could make them work.  If you don’t like worrying about snappis at night (we didn’t) these will not work for day and night use.  If you like cute diapers, you can find a number of adorable covers this way.

 

Ease of Use: ***

Affordability: *****

Cute Factor: *****

Reluctant Husband Rating: *

Total Score: 14/20

 

 

GDiapers (size small) – I actually liked these but I can see why many families don’t like them and they don’t work on all babies.  My daughter fit into them around 7.5 lbs and sized out of them around 9 lbs.  I got them used.  I would NOT have bought them new TBH because the investment is too expensive and you can’t buy just one to try.  They do come in newborn sizes but for the investment cost, I would have chosen prefolds and covers any day of the week over these from a cost standpoint.  I had 10 covers and 18 liners and 18 inserts (the liners and inserts for newborn gdiaps are also used for the small size I have).  This would last us 2 days with night diapers being disposables.  Most covers can be reused once with a new insert snapped in.  I would get at least 14 covers and 20 liners for an every other day wash schedule or 8 covers and 12 liners for every day wash schedules. The use of liners that are waterproof and covers is kind of genius but, at the same time, this makes stuffing them a PITA!  Putting them together on nights I stuffed diapers was not always pleasant.  They also were a pain to wash.  Pro-tip: if you go with these, separate your liners and pants and put them in lingerie bags so that you don’t lose the liners and your covers (pants) don’t destroy your clothes.  The elastic on them was a fantastically easy thing and suddenly my husband didn’t mind cloth as much.  Also if you want to use paper liners (I will get to this in another post but I’m a big fan), these are so easy to use with them.  Gdiapers also have the option of thin disposable liners when you are on the go.  This might be a draw for those who want a few diapers in their stash specifically for being on the go. If you want to use them overnight a well as in the day, I don’t think they are the best option.  The liners have to be small and they will not give you great coverage if your kid is both a heavy wetter and a great sleeper (ours has been regularly sleeping through the night since 6 weeks but don’t hate me!).  If you like “cute” diapers, they come in a variety of cute colors and are very slim under clothing in a way prefolds and covers and pockets are not.

 

 Ease of Use: ***

Affordability: ***

Cute Factor: ****

Reluctant Husband Rating: ***

Total Score: 13/20
 

Pocket Diapers (Various Types) – These have been great.  Honestly, I was worried it would be a pain or they would have to be washed specially but these are literally the easiest diapers to wash so far.  You could throw them in with basically any laundry if you have snap versions.  For those of you who would prefer elastics and Velcro, I would still recommend a lingerie bag for your diapers so you don’t get them stuck to one another/other stuff in your wash.  They are also, in my husband’s opinion, the best to put on.  He will even comply with night use without grumbling.  And I find them just fine to put on at night (even the snaps, although the Velcro/elastics are easier).  As night diapers, they work fantastic.  You can add doublers.  They also come in amazingly cute patterns and colors and I love to put my daughter in them alone (see above haha) or with a t shirt because she’s freaking adorable in them. We’ve bought or been gifted several brands.  My mom found us some very nice used bum genius types – we got elastics and snaps.  And we bought a BUNCH of Alva baby diapers on Prime Day.  Altogether, we have about 20 diapers and can go about two days without a wash.  But, TBH, we do a wash every day for basically our household stuff and just throw them in with everything else.   They are ALL easy to stuff and that’s why I don’t mind just pulling them out of our laundry while sorting and just stuffing them as I go. There are some downsides to them, though. They are one-use objects.  You can’t invest in fewer covers than inserts and reuse the covers.  This is a big draw of both gdiapers and covers and prefolds.  They also take up SPACE.  When you are like me and you DGAF about taking your kid cloth diapered anywhere, you will have to worry about the size constraints of your travel wetbag.  Mine would hold at least 3 gdiaps but only holds 2 of these puppies.  YMMV but this is just simple math.  They are not tiny.  They also do not fit tiny babies.  Mine was about 7.5 weeks old before we rotated these in.  They are 8 lbs and up for a reason.  She was 9 lbs before they fit her beanpole butt.

Finally, the investment cost in a stash of these is HIGH.  If you go with Bum Genius or another well-known brand, they will re-sell and last you through subsequent kids but they will run you at least $10.00/piece used here (often not including inserts).  That cost adds up.  Alvas are much cheaper and while mine seem to be holding up great now, they are not as nice as the Bum Genius ones.  And the problem with buying Alvas is that the microfiber inserts suck compared to other options.  I highly recommend investing in some better ones.  Yes, you can use prefolds as inserts but overnight, I find these insufficient without a doubler.  I bought hemp inserts and they are fantastic but they cost.  A large stash of pockets that will last you about two days of day and night diapers will be about 24.  Halve that for one day.  You will probably want to buy 30 liners or have prefolds on hand to act as double duty for night use.

 

Ease of Use: *****

Affordability: **

Cute Factor: *****

Reluctant Husband Rating: *****

Total Score: 17/20

 

 

Overall, I found the GDiapers to be my least favorite system, prefolds and covers to be better, and my favorite system has been the pocket diapers.  However, I didn’t dislike any of these systems.  I think the point with cloth diapers is you have to find out what works for you by trying a few things. I recommend not being daunted by cost.  Buy used, join swap groups on facebook or locally through a moms group, and re-sell things that don’t work.  I re-sold my thirsties covers for what I paid.  I also plan to re-sell my gdiapers for about the same.  They don’t look any worse for wear.  This may ease your worries.  Likewise, cloth diapers can save you money. Some people worry about the cost of washing more frequently but I don’t think we’ve noticed a huge upswing in our water or gas bills. We end up doing laundry every other day at least anyhow.  Later, I’m going to make a post with some tips that I’ve found help as a lazy person and as a working mom. But if you are looking to learn more, there are two resources I can so recommend – Fluff Love University and R/ClothDiaps both of which I’ve searched extensively in my experience learning to cloth diaper.