Sugarlaws: Living Sweetly.

bear’s favorite books: newborn to six months

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November 21st, 2014 · Print Print

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I’ve written before about how reading is such an important part of our day-to-day parenting, but I thought that this week, I’d go into a little bit more depth about the books that Bear has really enjoyed for his first six months. 

Because, see: when you’re a new parent, lots of people give you the books that they loved as a child.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that — it’s an incredibly sweet and thoughtful gift and one that I’m always thrilled to receive. 

But sometimes, the books that people loved as a five- or seven-year-old aren’t right for an infant. 

Because, you know.  I’d love to say that our kid is a literary genius, but the fact is: when you hand him a book, sometimes he looks at the words and pictures. 

But most of the time he just sticks it in his mouth. 

But there are a few authors who seem to get babies, and if you’re looking for a great new-mom gift (or just something to entertain your kiddo for a few extra seconds), here are two authors I particularly recommend.

Sandra Boynton: Sandra has become a household name for us, and her celebrity status is incredibly well-deserved.  I can’t even tell you how many hours we’ve spent reading and reciting her books to Bear: hands down, she is his favorite, bar none.  Her books are simple, and they teach skills like counting, colors and animals — and yet they’re also fun, with twist endings and little personalities for each of the characters.  My favorite, which Bear is perusing in the photo above, is Birthday Monsters — so if you have a kiddo with a big day coming up, this would be a terrific gift!

Eric Hill: I confess, our copy of Where’s Spot is a particularly special one — it’s the tattered, much-loved copy that I had as a kid.  My mom saved it for somewhere close to three decades, and shipped it to me last winter, before our baby arrived.  Bear loves this book and I do too — there’s something so sweet about seeing the pages that my mom taped together after my sister and I loved that book to tatters, and then letting my son have the same experience. 

We also have a lot of tried-and-true favorites: The Giving Tree, The Little Engine That Could, and (of course!) Where the Wild Things Are.  But more so than any book itself, the best part is sitting with our son and showing him new ideas, stories, and pictures, and helping him make them his own.  So if you can, take a few minutes out of your day to read your child a bedtime story (or a morning, or afternoon story — whatever works for you!) and help them develop a love of reading and learning that they will have for their whole lives.

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why paternity leave is important too

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November 19th, 2014 · Print Print

In case you haven’t been following this issue, paternity leave — paid or unpaid time off that new dads take to spend with their kids — has been a hot topic lately.  It’s an issue that Chad and I have spent a lot of time discussing and planning in the last few months, and I thought it might be valuable to talk a little bit about our perspective. 

In case you haven’t been following, here’s a quick summary.  Currently, the United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t offer any type of paid leave for new parents.  Thanks to the Family Medical Leave Act, larger employers must offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave to new parents.  That’s it. 

Now, that’s a problem for new moms.  It means that lots of moms have to go back to work earlier than they’d like, or need to make hard choices about their careers and the ability to balance a family. 

But there is a deeper problem.  And one that a lot of people don’t think about.

When we talk about parental leave, we mean maternity leave

As in: Only women take it. 

As in: Only women are offered it, much of the time.

But raising children isn’t just the job of the mom anymore.  Studies show that the happiest households are those that with dads who do chores and spend time with kids.  Not only do those moms get more satisfaction out of their marriages, but dads do too. 

The fact is: the disengaged dad is a relic.  We don’t live in a society where, like Don Draper, dad comes home on the evening train with a cocktail after the kids are in bed.  It’s not true in any family I know — instead, dads value their time with their children as much as moms do, and our parental leave policies should reflect that. 

And Chad and I were extremely lucky.  We had a situation that any new family would dream of: my husband was permitted a generous amount of paid leave from his law firm.  An amount that many moms don’t get, let alone dads. 

And I was nervous.  Paternity leave isn’t as widely accepted as maternity leave, and I wondered: Would this affect his future career?  What doors would close because he made this choice?  Would people be angry that he took time away from his job, for the mere purpose of spending time with our son?

Then suddenly I realized: those are the questions that face every woman who has taken maternity leave.  Paid or unpaid.  What repercussions would this have for her career?  What sacrifices are she willing to make, to take time with her children?

Sure, there are some biological reasons that moms have to make these choices more often than dads do.  But they are important to both genders.  Moms and Dads have to make these decisions.  Pretending that this is only an issue for moms keeps parental leave as a women’s issue, and it quite nearly guarantees that we will never make progress in getting to a solution that works. 

But parental leave isn’t a women’s issue.  It’s an issue for parents: men, women, gay parents, adoptive parents, everyone

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And you know what?  When Chad was home more, spending time with the baby, his perspective changed.  Up until then, I had been the primary caretaker of our son, and he just didn’t understand what I meant when I said that it had been a hard day.  His perspective was different: no matter how hard a baby was, it wasn’t as hard as being a lawyer (I confess: I felt the same way before our baby was born). 

Then, we had a morning where Chad took care of Bear on a particularly fussy day, and I slept in (yes, I was up all night and then handed the baby off at 7 am and slept till 10, and it was the best thing ever). 

And when I came downstairs to see them, he told me: “I know what you mean, now.  It’s really hard.”

And you guys, I melted.  Months after my worst day, when I was all but immune to those tough days when the baby crying never seems to end, it meant so much to me to have it recognized by my husband.  To have him say, “I understand what you’ve been struggling with, these past months.  I get it now.”

And who knows?  Maybe we would have gotten there without parental leave, but maybe not.  I am still working; my career is fundamentally important to me, but balancing our son and my work has been incredibly challenging, like it is for any mom.  And to have a dad who understands that balance, who knows what you’re going through on a bad day: it’s invaluable. 

It makes two parents into partners.

So when we advocate for leave for moms, I think we should be advocating for dads too.  It’s families that need this help. 

Placing the burden solely on moms is never going to fix this problem.  But advocating for leave policies for both men and women, for retiring those outdated gender stereotypes — I think that’s what’s crucial for us all to move forward. 

So let’s figure out how to get there.

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do’s and don’ts of holiday presents for new babies!

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November 18th, 2014 · Print Print

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Today on SheKnows, I wrote about a few do’s and don’ts when you’re shopping for holiday presents for new babies!  As everyone starts getting into the holiday spirit, spend a little time thinking about the gifts that a baby will love… that won’t drive mom nuts!

Head over here to read the full piece!

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