S1: Mom and dad are fighting is for grownups, maybe not for little kids. Welcome to Mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, May six. The Bickering Grandparents Edition. I’m Dan Boyce. I’m a writer at Slate and the author of the book How to Be a Family. I’m the dad of my Rocky 16 and harpooners 13. You live in Arlington, Virginia.
S2: I’m Jamilah Lemieux, a writer contributor to Slate Competing Parenting column, and Montu Nyima, who is. Oh my God, I was going to say six, then seven, but now she’s eight. And we live in Los Angeles, California.
S3: And I’m Allison Benedikt and editor at Slate and mom of Harry, who is 12, Sam who is 10, and Wiley, who is eight. And we live in Maplewood, New Jersey.
S1: The boys are back in town. Boys are back in town. Welcome back, Alison. We’re so happy to have you here.
S3: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
S1: On today’s show, we’ve got a letter from a mom who has just had it with her parents bickering with each other in front of the kids. And now her son has had to get our letter writer broker a truce before it’s too late. Then we’re joined by Dr. Joe Walsh of the University of Wisconsin to talk about her research into a new pandemic. Moms, how moms who had babies a year ago coped with a very, very weird first year. Dr. Walsh just completed a study, 30 moms who had babies on March 20, 20. And she knows where she speaks because she’s a new mom, too, on Slate. Plus, we’re talking about berries, berries. Why are they the only food our children eat? Why are they so expensive? What the hell? But first, triumphs and fails. Allison, what do you have for us on your return to the show?
S3: So my kids all finally went back to school this week. First time for the two oldest boys. Yes. Since March. Twenty twenty. So it’s been a journey. And the night before Sunday night, I was a total stress case about like making sure they had everything they had to have in their backpacks. You know, they there at three different schools and the teachers all send different lists of what they need to have. But the main thing that everyone needs to have is a fully charged laptop. So we put the notebooks in the backpack, we put the pencils in the backpack, everything they need. And I just said I would say three thousand twenty four times, please make sure your computer is charged overnight. But I did not check to make sure their computer was charging overnight. I mean, they’re 12 and 10. The youngest one eight. I charge this computer for him anyway. You can see where this is going Monday morning. We wake up early. I make sure, like we’re not rushing. I don’t want anyone to feel stressed. I don’t want anyone to be screaming. And five minutes before Harry, our oldest, needs to leave for school, I hear just like a total meltdown in his room. Yeah, put the charger in the computer. But he had not plugged the charger into the wall.
S1: Step two, it’s always the one that gets you totally dead.
S3: First day back to school in more than a year. Already feeling, I think, pretty nervous because like, you know, he’s a middle school. So they move to different classrooms. And he didn’t you know, he doesn’t know where all of his different classrooms are. He was excited to go back, but definitely stressed. And again, the most important thing in all of his teachers taught him the most important thing is to have a charge computer. So I go upstairs and I say I’m actually shocked. I’m going to pat myself on the back. I didn’t freak out. I just said, it’ll be OK. Just pack up your computer. And when you get to first period, tell your teacher what happened, which is your version that your mother didn’t charge your computer or you didn’t touch your computer. I don’t know. Tell your teacher what happened. She’ll let you plug in. But all the while I’m thinking I don’t really know if that’s true because I had heard that there’s like there aren’t very many plugs at school and it’s going to be a huge issue. So I’ll stop there. And I will not tell you how it ended because I feel like the ending could skew things one way or the other.
S1: It’s an absolute triumph that you didn’t fucking lose your mind, that you didn’t blow your top.
S3: Thank you. The question is more, was it a triumph that I didn’t micromanage to the point of checking that they actually did what I reminded them to do a thousand times? Or was it a fail that I didn’t check to make sure they did? The most important thing
S2: I’m inclined to say it’s a triumph because and I have an eight year old only, so I haven’t gotten to that age yet. But I find that me continuing to do all this shit for her is not making her better at doing the things herself. So sometimes is nice for your children to experience consequences from other sources so you don’t have to be the bad guy. So I was like, you know, all the things I tell you at home. I know I may feel like I’m just making up these rules, like plug up your laptop for school just to be a pain in the ass. But really, that’s the thing that matters. And now you get to see what happens when you don’t do it. So I think it’s a trial.
S1: Little is right that I mean, the classic parenting wisdom is the more times you do something for kids, the less likely they are to ever do it for themselves. And in that respect, you know, it’s there’s there’s no reason to not think that the right thing to do is to remind them. But it’s not your job to do the thing. The only way that it seems a little bit fairly is just that. For the first day of school, you were already managing so many things, you were already like getting their notebooks and getting them into their bags and being like super mom, honestly, that I’m sure it felt to you at the moment a little bit like, well, Jesus, why did I do this? The one most important thing everyone said, however, I also think probably it was fine. That’s my prediction. Why am I right?
S3: You’re right. It wasn’t this intentional strategy where I was like, I’m going to get everything together. But on this one thing, I’m not going to I’m not going to be overbearing because I’ve heard you should let your kids fail. I just forgot. But it was fine. It was completely fine. He plugged it in first period, and when he got home, he had forgotten about it. I did remind them again the next night, but I didn’t I also didn’t check the second night. So it turned out fine. But but it could have been bad, I guess.
S1: How bad plug in last night he did. Yeah. We’ll see what he learned.
S3: Right. Right. Oh, also, when I did go up, when he was freaking out, the thing he was really mad about wasn’t that I hadn’t checked. It was that he had so many plugs, like how was he to know? Like, it’s my fault that he has like an Aleksa plug and a phone plug.
S2: I like all these devices.
S3: Right, exactly.
S1: Classic of it. Djamila, what about you trying for fail.
S2: So I have what might be a double fail, but it’s also my recommendation is tied up in here. So I bought a package of Go Nanase Banana Bread Mix from Nordstrom Rack Weight.
S3: Nordstrom Rack has banana bread mix.
S1: I buy all my banana bread.
S3: Sorry to interrupt you Metsu.
S1: OK, I agree that that’s weird.
S2: It’s weird, right? But they have like a home section with home things and like, you know, it is I think it was where the cookies are. You know, like when you were checking out, there’s usually cookies and candy and stuff like that. Like, I think they had some mixes there. And for those of you who are shoppers, you know, that is the place where you can very easily like target. You can go in for one thing and end up with a bunch of stuff. Right. Especially because there’s often times very cheap stuff. So I hadn’t been there in a while. I spend maybe one hundred and seventy five dollars total. Right. So I had a few bag like I got in a number of things during this purchase. That’s important. So we always have overripe bananas because we never eat our bananas on time. So I was like, OK, perfect, we can use them to make this fake healthy treat that looks very good. And so when I’m finally like, OK, now let’s make banana muffins on Saturday, she’s like, OK. And you kind of like begrudgingly leaves the TV to do it. I’m like, this is a bonding activity. You know, this is important time that we’re spending together. And it was really kind of me making it by myself, but it was fun. I look at the back of the bag. This next costs twenty three dollars and ninety seven cents. And for the life of me, I could not understand how I’d spent twenty four dollars on banana bread makes and not noticed then. Then I thought about like, you know, I bought a bunch of stuff and some of the things I’ve gotten were on clearance. So it probably all kind of seemed to make sense in the grand scheme of what I’d spent. Like maybe I had like a pair of ten dollar pans.
S1: Right. Something you thought was twenty five dollars is only for exactly right.
S2: And so something that absolutely should have been four dollars or maybe eight dollars, you know, but definitely not twenty five to twenty four dollars. And so I still have the receipt because it was a big purchase and I’d actually return some things from it already. But now I’ve opened the mix like we’re already cooking. So I’m like if these aren’t good I maybe I’ll just take them back and say I didn’t enjoy it because for twenty four dollars they pay out of like twenty four dollars. That’s the sort of concierge experience I expect. Right. Like and so we make the banana and very good. I liked it. We like it surprisingly a lot, a lot more than I expected. So we made the muffins and Nyima leaves for her dad’s house for a few days. The next yields twelve servings. We ended up making about nine muffins. Very nice and very expensive and so
S1: was two fifty. A muffin. You pay more than that at Starbucks.
S2: Their name is like don’t eat all these muffins while I’m gone. I’m like, I’m not going to all these banana muffins while you’re gone. So I realized that Nyima would be coming back and there were not many. I did save one, but that I had not done a good job of keeping banana muffins around for her. So I go online to see like, well, maybe there’s some other maybe I can get them cheaper somewhere else. Maybe they just cost too much in Nordstrom. Right. OK, so what I was supposed to have gotten for twenty three. Ninety seven was a three pack of muffins. I don’t know where the other two muffin packs went. I wish that I could go to I thought I seriously considered going back to Nordstrom Rack with my empty muffin bag and my receipt like look this was not supposed to be twenty three, ninety seven and I know that we hate them but you all let me see our muffins, but I’m not going to do that. What I did do was order the three pack on line. So as Alison said, yes I ah Dan said I do get all of my banana bread from Nordstrom Rack. If you are also interested in Go Nana’s vegan gluten free banana bread mix, which is absolutely delicious, we will link to it in the show notes. That’s my recommendation this week. It is worth. Seven dollars and ninety seven cents for sure.
S1: Way to kill two birds with one stone hitting a fail and a recommendation and one shot, and I sort of think you should go back to Nordstrom Rack and give it your best shot.
S3: I just think the purchase wasn’t the fail. The fail is telling name Poornima that you’d save the muffins for her and then devour them.
S2: I just, I suspect is so much more of myself. And it was like 20. It was like forty eight hours later I was like, man, but you know what I did wrong? I was going to put them in the freezer. That’s where I failed, because if I put them in the freezer, that additional like 90 seconds of defrosting time would have given me pause, you know, like I couldn’t just eat them instantly. Yeah.
S1: All right. Well, glad you know about this product that I will also purchase at my local Nordstrom rack, your number one outlet for banana bread.
S2: It is worth, again, seven dollars and ninety seven cent hands down.
S1: All right, I’ve got to fail. So yesterday, Harper got some mail, it was a letter from the Arlington Library. I opened it up thinking, oh, I wonder if she’s, like, graduated to some kind of older person library. But no, it was an overdue notice, which was surprising to me because libraries around here, like a lot of libraries have last summer, eliminated late fees completely as a way of ensuring equity in the library system. So it’s pretty surprising in a library fine at all. That seemed weird. But then I was extra surprised when I saw the amount of the fine, which was one hundred eighty four dollars and thirty one cents or seven packs of banana bread. And I could not believe my eyes when I saw that number. The letter listed eight books that had due dates like last September, and they were charging Harper the replacement cost for all eight books because they had just never come back. And I was like, well, this is fucking easy. We didn’t go to the library last summer. Could you even go to the library last summer? Everything was closed last summer and we’ll just call them on the phone and this whole thing will just go. But I was looking at the titles. I was like, fuck, some of these tunnels look familiar. Why do they look familiar? So I go into Harper’s room and I just saw the titles, not the part that says that she owes one hundred eighty four dollars and thirty one cents. I say this, do these books look familiar to you? And she immediately just walks right over to herself and pulls one of them off and goes, Yeah, here’s one of them. It was an Arlington Library book. It had the huge Arlington Library sticker right on it. And I was like, where did you get this? And she goes, I just showed up in my room. I liked it. It’s really good. How did I get it? So as far as I can tell someone by someone, I mean me or Alere, but probably me used the library’s online checkout system and then drove to the library to pick up a bunch of books last summer, maybe before a vacation, and then instantly wiped it from everyone’s memory as if it had never happened. And the books just got mixed, like back into the kids’ shelves or in my case, into all the piles on her floor. And we never even thought about it a single time since that day in July or whatever. And because Arlington doesn’t charge late fees, I guess maybe they never sent any kind of overdue notice at all until they decided the books were just obviously never coming back and they needed to get the money out of us. So last night, we embarked on a full house search to see if we could find any more of these books. We found seven of the eight and the library will waive the replacement costs once we return them like normal people. But the Faile is this incredible, just a that this whole thing happened that I have no memory of whatsoever, nor does anyone else in the family. And B, that I’ve already put this blot on my child’s credit rating like she’s aged 13 and she’s going to be sent to debtor’s prison. And that seems unfair of me. So sorry, Harper, for that.
S3: This is just a library for us. This is just like a regular library cycle and I don’t feel too bad about it.
S1: That’s true. You never open your mail, so you would never have known in the first place.
S2: I don’t know if we left the Brooklyn Public Library system debt free. I’m not 100 percent confident that we didn’t maybe take a book or two.
S1: I don’t think they extradite across state lines. But you might want to check before you before you register for any other library. All right. Before we talk about your business, let’s talk about our business. First of all, subscribe to the show. You’re listening to the show already. But wouldn’t it be great if instead of having to go find the show, it was just in your phone? That’s how subscribing to a podcast works. It’s free. You don’t have to pay anything. And then it just appears on your phone. It’s amazing to keep up with everything in the parenting universe. Sign up for the Slate parenting newsletter. Basically, it’s just an email for me every week with a funny story in it. But also I gather up all of Slate’s great parenting content in one place. You can find it by signing up at Slate dot com slash parenting email. Finally, if you want to connect with other parents, join the Slate Parenting Group on Facebook. It’s super active, it’s super supportive and it’s super moderated. So assholes get booted. Just search for slate parenting on Facebook. OK, back to the show. Let’s get into our listener question. It’s being read, as always, by the Majestical Shasha Lanard.
S4: Dear mom and dad, my parents adore my children and they eagerly offer to babysit whenever my husband and I need help. They bake pastries, play fun games and make amazing science projects. However, my parents bicker and argue constantly, including in front of my seven and three year old. It didn’t seem like such a big deal when the kids were younger. But now my seven year old son is starting to ask them to please stop arguing. And when they’re not around, he’ll ask me, Why is Gamp so mean to Nana? Recently, my son has started answering Nana in the same disrespectful tone that my father uses to speak to my mom. He even rolls his eyes when my admittedly eccentric mom tells meandering stories. To make matters worse, he has started complaining. When I tell him Gamp and Nana are coming over and he tells me he doesn’t want to go to their house anymore. He asks to see my husband’s parents instead of Gambi and Nana because they are nicer, which I take to mean that they show real affection for one another. I have already spoken to my parents about not yelling at each other in front of the kids, but these conversations just seem to start more arguments. Well, I told your dad to stop yelling or you know, how sensitive your mom is. Separately, my parents are amazing and positive role models, and it would pain me to have to cut ties with them because they love their grandchildren so dearly. It also would be nearly impossible for them to see my kids separately from one another as they’re always together. My mom doesn’t drive, so she relies on my dad to bring her to my house. And because my dad has glaucoma, he does not like to make the drive to our house alone. I have been dealing with my parents constant bickering since I was young, and I have begged them to get divorced because they are obviously not happy together, but for some insane reason, they choose to stay married. Is there anything I can do to get through to them or are they just too old to change? Am I traumatizing my kids by allowing them to hang out with my bickering parents? Please help.
S2: Well, there are people that are committed to staying together no matter what. And if your parents own unhappiness hasn’t been Catalyst’s enough to push them towards separation and you expressing your concern many times over the years and begging them to separate hasn’t worked, then? I don’t know that continuing to beat that drum will, but I think that there needs to be some expectations set around how your parents behave around your children. And I know that that can be difficult to do because we still in many ways can defer to our parents as authority figures. It’s hard to have boundaries, period, let alone with the people who raise them. But you don’t want your children to see this behavior and to believe that it’s normal and healthy and acceptable or aspirational in any way. It isn’t how you want them to know their grandparents. It isn’t how you want them to know love and relationships. And I think that you should tell your parents, look, we either have to figure out a way that the children spend time with you all separately or you have to pull it together when they’re around. Otherwise you’re not going to be able to spend much time with them.
S3: I have a different feeling about this. Well, it may be colored by the fact that Dan actually, when he reached out to me to come fill in for Elizabeth, he was like, I have the perfect question for you. And when I read it, I was like, oh, why does he think this is the perfect question for me? And I started to think maybe it’s because I’ve talked a lot about sort of like the affectionate bickering that my husband and I partake in.
S1: So that that you wrote a great piece for us about playing Rubik’s Cube with your parents and then going at each other so hard that you couldn’t even, like, believe it.
S3: My point is that that was in my mind and I think when I was reading this letter. And so I feel like, you know, I’m not in the room. But some of the ways that she phrased the lines and the questions, talking about bickering and eye rolling, I felt like there is some affection between these two people. Still, it doesn’t sound great, but it doesn’t sound like, you know, all out war in front of her kids. And if I’m right, then I think, you know, your parents probably are not going to change. I think you’re right, Djamila, that she should continue talking to her parents and talking to them, not just about like your fighting is, you know, this needs to change, but like really about how it is in focusing the conversation and how it’s impacting the grandkids, how it makes the grand kids feel, not whether it’s right or wrong, whether it’s OK to fight or not, who’s right and who’s wrong in the actual fights. But just like what it’s doing to the kids. But also, I do think as long as it’s not like scary abusive yelling or like very one sided and cruel, I think you need to normalize fighting a bit for your kids, like instead of saying, I know it’s awful and Grampian gonna fight and I wish they would stop. You can talk about how sometimes when people love each other, they get exasperated with each other and when they’re in long relationships, maybe even more so. And are there times that you and your sister fight or that you get very mad at me and yell at me, even though you love me or your friends? You know, adults obviously have to be the adults in the room. But I also think, like, it’s OK for kids to know that adults are humans. And that includes arguing.
S1: I was really struck by that line in the letter about, oh, I don’t know why they just haven’t gotten divorced and I wish they get divorced forever. Like, isn’t it possible that they they do really actually love each other and that’s why they’re still together, not just because they’re hard headed or to spite you personally, letter writer, I mean, and that this is just their way of dealing with each other. As Alison said, it’s hard for us to know what the vibe actually is. Hard to know whether the letter writer is dampening things for the purposes of the letter to avoid making it seem maybe as bad as it is. I will say, Alison, you mentioned, unless it’s really one sided, does seem like the situation is a little bit one sided. Like throughout the letter, there’s sort of clues that it’s not exactly that they’re both bickering. It’s like the dad is kind of a dick to the mom. Maybe she gets him just as good. I don’t know. But like, that seems to be where it begins.
S2: Remember, the kid says, why is Gappy so mean to Nnenna? Yeah, right.
S1: Right. So through the letter, you see these little clues that it’s maybe not to a bickering, maybe so much as one way haranguing. And that I think is worth thinking about a little bit differently. But I do think in some respects it’s worth it to help kids make their way through situations. And relationships between adults that are different than the ones that are used to that are different than the one between you and your spouse, letter writer, and as long as it isn’t something that is truly abusive to find ways to talk to them about it, that aren’t only about how bad that this is, I will also say if it really is truly driving you insane and if it really does feel to you, let a writer like it’s it’s not just like loving bickering. It’s way worse than that. And maybe you didn’t, like, quite give it all up in the letter. It’s worth it to consider the possibility that for maybe the next six months in your relationship with your parents, you might need to forego the babysitting, this wonderful thing you have or they just come and take care of your kids while you go out and do something else. If you really want to try and change this a little, you you might need to do away with that and make their interactions with the kids one on one social interactions. And the only way really to make that happen, given what you describe, you know, with your parents driving in the fact that they’re always together is that they become one grandparents with the kids and one is with you and you take them somewhere else to have some one on one time. And during that one on one time, you can talk to them, as Alison and Jailable suggested, about how these things influence their relationships with the children and how the children are viewing them. But yeah, doing it with an eye toward hopefully changing them is probably not the route. The most you can hope for is for them to check themselves a little before it gets too bad when the kids are in the room and save all the really good fighting for when they get home.
S3: The point about kind of engineering a circumstance where one grandparent is with the kids and the other is with you, it sounds like, you know, a pain, but it’s much preferable to like the two options being either keep it like this or my kids can’t see their grandparents anymore. That seems like the worst case scenario possible,
S1: especially because the letter writer stresses how great they are with the kids. You know, this isn’t a case where you’re just like grit your teeth because you feel like kids should have a relationship with their grandparents no matter how bad they are. They’re like great grandparents. It’s just that they yell at each other a lot.
S2: It’s important that when you do have this conversation, if you choose to have it, that you mentioned specifically how your children or at least one of them seems to perhaps seized upon how Grampy speaks to Nana. Right. Like, I don’t there not many kids that are happy with the idea of someone being mean to Nana, you know what I mean? And so like that, that if there is a play fighting or playful fighting dynamic at hand, like, they have to understand that kids are not sophisticated enough to really understand that even with you trying to explain and saying, hey, I know I may look, you know, one way, but it’s actually that it’s still important that they’re not seeing too much of this because they can’t really process that yet. And the last thing you want to normalize is the idea of feeling like it’s OK to treat someone badly if they’re if they’re perceiving this as bad treatment. Right. Like if that is how they are seeing this, then you don’t want them to think it’s OK to be treated badly or to treat someone unkindly in a relationship.
S1: What’s your guy’s advice? If, like if the letter writer is really downplaying this and actually it’s like legitimately horrible,
S3: I mean, that’s different. I still think given the lying about all caps separately, they’re wonderful, great role models, that they should try the model that you’re talking about. I mean, you know, they should get their parents into therapy, like there are lots of things that they could do. But I think the goal here isn’t to save their parents marriage or to improve it, improve their parents marriage. It’s to develop a healthy relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. And so, yeah, they might have to, like, put themselves in the middle of that a bit and split them up for the visits.
S2: I think if this is a situation that’s really that kind of like volatile or scary or if the letter writer is holding back here, then I think it’s incredibly important that you remove that from the kid’s line of sight and that they experience your parents separately and that your parents understand why this is happening and that you know, that this is something that we find to be very unhealthy for our children. And it’s really important that you understand what you are exposing our kids to. And perhaps that can be of use to you in terms of thinking about what a long term solution looks like for your parents. But, you know, as everyone has said, it is unlikely that they are going to change the terms of their relationship. I think the greatest aspiration here is for them to get a filter.
S1: All right. Letter writer, thank you for writing it about this. And please send us an update. We want to know how this goes. If you start to have these conversations, if you start to have these solo times and whether they have the ability to install that filter, I’m really curious. Send us an update. Mom and dad. It’s like Dotcom and everyone else. Have you have a question you want us to chew on? Email us mom and dad at Cytochrome. If it’s about yelling, I’ll bring in our special yelling. Correspondent Alison Benedikte, or you can post it to the Slate parenting Facebook group, just search for Slate parenting on Facebook Dotcom. All right, let’s move on to our next segment. If you’ve got kids, you certainly remember how hectic and crazed that very first year was, you got sleeplessness, you’ve got feeding worries, trying to figure out how to work and have a kid, maybe PPD above all of it. That’s the knowledge that everything has changed irrevocably for your family and trying to figure out what that means. So now imagine that, except for also it’s the pandemic. What has that been like for new parents in the year? Twenty, twenty, twenty, twenty one. We are joined by Dr. Tova Walsh, a professor of social work at the University of Wisconsin who’s just finished a study on this very question. She talked to dozens of March 20, 20 moms to hear their stories of a very unusual first year of parenthood. Hi, Tova
S5: High and Jamila and Alison,
S1: thanks so much for joining us. So now this question is not pardon the expression sorry, but it’s not merely academic to you because you are also a new pandemic, mom, right?
S5: That’s right. So this is personal as well as academic for me.
S1: Tell us about your baby. And when that baby was born
S5: as my baby. My daughter Lily was born March twenty four, twenty twenty. The day before she was born, our governor announced a safer at home order would go into effect, which did go into effect the day we brought her home from the hospital. So it was a pretty turbulent start for her.
S1: So you talk to a whole bunch of moms who gave birth in March 20 20, like you. Tell us a little bit about what kinds of stories you heard from them, particularly about those first chaotic months in their child’s lives and in our pandemic lives.
S5: So the stories that I heard from the moms I spoke to really underscored for me how distinct that moment was in March. So babies have been born now for a year during a pandemic. But the moms that I spoke to had things changing all around them, right. As they gave birth. Some mothers described going into the hospital and things were pretty normal. And in the time that they were there, you know, news unfolding outside in the world and even within the hospital, things changing in a big way. So nurses coming into the room and saying, you know, you should be sure your partner doesn’t leave. If he leaves, I’m not sure he’ll be allowed back in. Nurses saying, you know, I don’t want you to be alarmed, but we’re going to be wearing some new equipment that you’ve probably never seen before and then coming into the room and forms of PPE that people had never seen before. And that look like something out of a out of a movie that you would see in a really scary situation. People described going home from the hospital on streets that were usually really busy and they were just eerily quiet because lockdown’s had gone into effect while they were in the hospital. So it was just really jarring in terms of feeling like just as their baby was born, just the world had changed. And some people described it as feeling actually more like the world was ending.
S1: What did moms tell you about what happens to them when anxiety gets so amped up in those first months which were already there? So much stressful stuff going on?
S5: Yeah. So definitely anxiety was really amped up for moms during that time. And, you know, I share that feeling with the moms that I interviewed. And so, you know, what moms described was just a really compound effect of having all the usual worries of if especially if it’s a first baby, just how am I going to keep this tiny, fragile human alive and then, you know, not understanding at all kind of how to gauge risk anymore in this world. That was changing so quickly as we were taking in information about the pandemic, but still at that point, didn’t really know much about, you know, how it spread or how we could protect ourselves or protect our infants and had this sense of our babies as being so vulnerable, you know, so lots of moms describe just, you know, you’re up all night feeding and then you’re your doom scrolling here on your phone. You’re reading these things that are terrifying. And then added to that was the fact that lots of the things that moms would usually do to take care of themselves became inaccessible. So, you know, the friend that I would usually reach out to to take a walk, for example, moms would tell me you couldn’t do that. I would have liked to go and see a therapist, but that was off limits. And I was at home in a tiny space where there was no privacy, even if telehealth was an option, really know where to do that, where I wouldn’t also hear a crying baby or hear my spouse couldn’t find a space to do that. Sometimes just talked about struggling really profoundly. It was really striking to hear how just how many impacts there were on mental health. So there was you know, there’s the pandemic, there was parenting, there is assessing risk. There was all the sources of support and comfort that they were looking for being cut off, whether it was family, whether it was professionals, just a lot of things hitting at once. And for some moms, that was very, very difficult
S2: thinking about support and how that might have changed from even before you’ve left the hospital. Right. Like, I don’t know that you all were able to have a breastfeeding class with the nurse or even have the photographer come in and take pictures, some of those traditional in the hospital rituals, let alone like having friends come by to watch the baby while you and your husband go for a walk or, you know, come and sitting around so you can clean the house or any number of things. I’m curious to know those mothers that you spoke to, how many of them decided to take the risk when they could and say, I just really need some help, I can’t do this anymore. I have to break outside of my bubble or my pad or I don’t have a pad. I just I’m getting help where I can take it. Or most of them are very strict. And in terms of adhering to recommendations around covid.
S5: Right. That’s a great question. So it was really a mix. And, you know, I should say that I was interviewing moms from around the country. So experience experiences also really varied depending on where people were. So if you were in a city that was really an epicenter of the virus and, you know, you had a lot of, you know, close contacts who are getting ill and you were hearing those things up close and personal, then people were really hunkered down in those situations. You know, for people in other parts of the country, it was really a mix of people being very, very cautious. And sometimes that had to do with feelings of anxiety and just feeling like I need to just stay as hunkered down as I can to protect my baby. Sometimes, you know, it was circumstances allowing that, you know, so a parent who had a reasonable amount of leave or a partner who also had some leave, it felt doable. And so they could do that, you know, and then there were mothers who and felt like they needed to get some support for their own mental health or they had older kids and they had to work and kids schools were closed and they have an infant and they’re not sleeping. And it’s just nearly impossible. You know, and what was really striking was hearing some stories from some of those moms who sought help. You know, just how difficult it was to access help. You might reach out and try to find some help and find most of those avenues cut off. Or in one case, I spoke with one mom who kind of started off feeling like. Who is going to be as conservative as possible and then realized she needed to get some help, she wasn’t going to make it, it wasn’t sustainable how much she was doing to care for and two very young children on her own during the pandemic and and reached out to her own mom. And it had to do a little bit of traveling to get there, but went to be with her parents and then got there. And shortly afterward, her mother was diagnosed for covid and found herself, you know, caring for a parent who was ill. And then her mother was hospitalized and her father was falling apart. And here she is now caring for an infant and a toddler and not sleeping and being kind of radio control for the whole family since she was in town, you know, checking in to see how her mom was doing and then relaying that information to others. And just some of the stories I heard were just so overwhelming. And even when moms reached out for support, just how difficult it was to find support when so many people were in crisis. So I think one of the things that I think about when I say, you know, as I do this work is just, you know, it’s always a huge life event to have a baby and usually kind of people will rally around you as best they’re able. But everyone was in crisis. And so some of the moms who made choices and felt comfortable seeking some help found it really difficult to access.
S3: It’s so interesting because there were times during lockdown. And now that you’re describing all of this, it seems kind of delusional of me to have thought this or naive. But there were times there in lockdown where I thought, well, this would be the perfect time to have a baby because you’re like you’re stuck inside, you’re nesting. You can just hang out with this kid and not have any other kind of pressures to go do things. But it doesn’t sound like that’s how it played out for many people. And I’m very curious about the sort of after the leave part, because I remember with my kids like that period of four, four parents who work outside of the home, when your when your maternity leave is over and you go back to work like that separation, it’s super hard at first, but it also seems really important to getting you to the other side. Like you actually literally you leave the house, you go commute, you see all these other people and you slowly become that version of yourself again. I just wonder if you heard about what it was like to transition back to work for parents next to their babies nursery. And if that was different for them than the typical experience.
S5: Yeah. Well, first, I just want to go back to what you started with, Alison, just to mention that actually quite a few moms in my interview said to me how many people had said to them, you know, this is such a perfect time, you know, in the way you’re really lucky to be having a baby right now. You were probably just going to be at home anyway. It’s kind of like quarantine when you have a new baby. And how for some moms, that just became so difficult to hear over and over again when they were thinking, I am desperate for someone to come and give me a hug or someone to hold my baby. And, you know, just hearing time and again how lucky they were. It was a really tough thing, although I can see the thought process that gets you there. Right. But it did not feel that way. And some people really found it hard to hear. But, you know, going back to your question, I think you’re exactly right that it’s always difficult to to bring a baby on a first day to day care, to have that separation for the first time when you’ve been together continuously. And, you know, the moms that I interviewed talked about just how very much harder it was in the context of a pandemic. You know, for many moms, they weren’t allowed to visit or kind of go into the daycare. So some of the normal ways that you might use that separation by going in with your baby and maybe visiting for a little bit one day before you go and drop them off or, you know, things along those lines weren’t possible. The things you might do to reassure yourself just to get a feel for the room, kind of they couldn’t do that. And in some cases, actually, when mom talked to me about feeling pretty confident that she found a great place and, you know, bringing her baby to the state care and getting things started and it seemed to be going well. And then, you know, seeing some pictures on Facebook that made it clear that the provider was not being honest about how much risk she was taking in her own life around covid and feeling like she needed to pull her baby from that daycare. And this was in a situation with really limited daycare options. So what it then meant was it impacted her own work and her ability to work. And and a lot of moms who really struggled with disrupted daycare plans, disrupting their own work lives, juggling, working from home and caring for an infant and trying to do it all. And people were just massively, massively overwhelmed. Who I talked to just, you know, at this point, I’m talking to them. A year out, some moms had been for a year caring for their child at home because they couldn’t find a situation that felt safe out of the home and others had their kids at daycare. But as one mom was saying, it feels like a decision, the daycare decision, it’s one that you make every day. They were just constantly monitoring. You know, now rates are going up in my town. Should they be rethinking this? Is it still an OK thing to do? And so just lots of struggles about what was OK and what’s the greater risk? Is that losing my job or is it having my child in an unsafe setting when both of those things would be harmful to my child and my family knew?
S1: Motherhood is always such a minefield in terms of understanding that you’re being judged by everyone around you and feeling that way so strongly. And it seemed like the pandemic also just gave new mothers a new way to feel like they were being judged and also gave the people around them because we didn’t understand risk and have trouble understanding risk. New ways to condemn the things that they saw.
S5: That’s right, and for some months, these conversations were so fraught even with family members, like maybe you had, you know, parents who were taking things less seriously than you were and trying to explain why you weren’t comfortable with them, you know, flying and coming immediately to visit the baby. You just described a lot of friction in their relationships with important people in their lives who they had imagined just, you know, being there and it being a really bonding time for everybody around the baby. But then there’s this extra layer of, you know, feeling judged or feeling like you need to justify your decisions or kind of set these boundaries. And to some extent, you know, these are kind of normative things that you kind of navigate with your own parents or with other people after having a baby that you’re going to make your own decisions. But here, the stakes felt so high that it just became really intense. Really quickly, I think, to be doing this,
S1: you even had a mom who was literally hemorrhaging and then reaching out for help in the community, find out that even that was a way for her to get judged.
S5: This was just such an unbearable story. It really haunts me. And I’m grateful to her for sharing it and for wanting it to be out in the world so that other moms, you know, don’t feel as alone if they had similar experiences. But I did, as you were saying, talked to one mom who came home after a C-section and had two kids under two years old who she was parenting on her own, for the most part, since her husband had to continue working. Her recovery was really, you know, impeded by caring for being on her feet all the time and caring for her two little ones. And she found herself hemorrhaging and her doctor told her, you need to get some help. It doesn’t matter if there’s a lockdown like you can’t survive like this. And when she posted in a neighborhood group where people would post for child care for various kinds of things that you might post on a neighborhood listserv, as she really got shamed for breaking public health protocols during the pandemic. And here she was just trying to live through it. And she you know, she described how even a year out, like it’s you know, she walks down the street and like, it’s hard to look neighbors in the eye after the way she was treated.
S2: Parents of much older children, seasoned parents, have had a hard time keeping their kids occupied without having daycare or school to keep them busy. So when you were talking to these moms, what are they saying their days are like with their babies? Like have people who didn’t intend to be tablet parents had to turn to the tablet to try and entertain a baby who really can’t keep up with the tablet? Like, what sort of things have they been doing to fill their child’s time?
S5: A lot of the moms that I spoke with really just felt huge guilt around this, like had pictured kind of all the things that, you know, that they would be doing when they were with their child and that their child would be doing with other people when they were working, that we’d all be supporting their babies development. And then it came down to this kind of survival mode of I’m trying to keep my job and be with my baby and I can’t one hundred percent be engaged and doing, you know, stimulating developmentally appropriate activities with the baby to every minute while I’m also on a conference call or, you know, sending something off that I got to send off. And so moms felt pretty awful about that. And I heard a lot of guilt around that. You know, one of the ways that some moms coped is just trying to do it all basically without sleep, you know, working when they could and working more after baby goes to sleep and trying to be on during the day and still somehow work at night, you know, and of course, that’s not sustainable. And they had to turn to screens more or just kind of, you know, figure out kind of things that they could engage their baby so that they could be juggling and multitasking and getting their work done. And that was really a difficult a very difficult balancing act. I think it was getting even harder, as I talked to mom says, this is the one year point. So, you know, so early on, you could kind of wear a baby and maybe some moms described, you know, being on the move. They would take all of their work calls kind of walking and the baby would sleep in the stroller or sleep on their chest if they were wearing them. But by the time I was talking to them with a one year old, it was becoming more and more difficult for those moms who hadn’t figured out a sustainable childcare arrangement to continue working. And now they have a mobile child who you really need to keep up with and be engaged with in a different way.
S3: Let me just ask one last question. A year and one month out. How are you? Thank you. You know,
S5: a year out. And I think the combination of the anniversary of the pandemic and my daughter’s birthday was hit me really hard. It was really, really sad to realize, OK, really, people aren’t going to meet her as a baby. Right. So my daughter hasn’t met three out of her four grandparents and she has one great grandmother who we are so eager for her to meet. You know, I think throughout the year as the year unfolded, like in March, I couldn’t have imagined that a year and change later, she wouldn’t have met in March of twenty twenty, I mean, wouldn’t have met everyone by now. And then maybe that’s just as well. That would have been such an unbearable loss. So it, you know, so it feels like the losses have kind of accumulated over the year. And so a year out it’s filling both. I feel more aware of kind of all the loss and all that. I’m accepting that really a year has gone by and that’s how it’s going to be. And also kind of cautiously hopeful as I look ahead and having recently gotten my second shot and starting to think about how we can figure out a safe way to travel, to go meet the great grandmother. And I’m feeling a little bit hopeful and also just very aware of what we’ve lost that year in the life of a baby. They change so much. That’s that’s a time that that we didn’t get to share with a lot of people who are very important to us.
S1: Thank you very much for joining us today. This is a great conversation and I’m really glad you did this research and good luck to you and your daughter and your family. This research is so new it isn’t even published yet. So listeners are getting your breaking parenting. Science is right here. Mom and dad are fine. Thank you again for doing this. And thanks so much for joining us.
S5: Thanks so much for having me on. I really appreciate
S3: it. Thank you.
S1: All right. Let’s move on to recommendation’s. Jarmila, you have already recommended a fabulous Nordstrom rack, banana bread and other associated bread flavors. Allison, what are you recommending?
S3: OK, I’m going to recommend a book called Everything That is Untrue by Daniel Nyeri. So I don’t really read with my kids anymore, both because they’ve gotten older and because, honestly, the pandemic has just meant that we watch TV every night together instead of reading, and then they go in their beds and read. But recently Sam had a concussion and so he wasn’t allowed to watch TV, look at screens, read or run around, which is what else is there? There’s nothing else he loves to read. Whenever he loves a book. Then I search for a book that seems just like that book and he never likes it, like it never works. So finally, for the first time in like a year, we went to the bookstore and browsed up and down the aisles and he picked this book just based on its cover anyway. Then I Googled it and it was, you know, beloved and well reviewed. It’s about a young Iranian refugee who moved to Oklahoma based on a true story based on the on the author’s life. And it takes you back and forth between Iran and and his life in Oklahoma. And it’s really just beautifully written. It’s really poetic. He’s ten. And I think it’s it’s definitely challenging that in a good way. And he I only read two chapters to him and I just was so impressed with the writing. But he now is just every morning comes down and says, like, this is the best book I’ve ever read. So I’m really recommending it. Based on his recommendation. Everything said is untrue. I also like that it’s a kid’s book that has like a very adult title. Yeah, that’s good. And everything says entry sound like, you know, super sad love story or something.
S1: It sounds like something that you would find at number seven on the New York Times bestseller list. Yeah, yeah. All right. I’m recommending essay on Romper Dotcom. By a writer named Lauren Bandz, which is called, I was told there would be mom friends, which I read just after we booked to this interview with Tovar, our researcher at the University of Wisconsin, about having a baby in the first year of the pandemic. This is an essay about having a baby in the first year of the pandemic, but specifically about how Lauren, the author, was under the impression that all her friend making difficulties as an adult would be solved the instant she had a baby, because there just be a world of mom should meet and enjoy the company of. But in fact, thanks to the pandemic when she had a baby one year ago, she has been absolutely unable to do this thing that she had long dreamed of as sort of a corollary of parenting. It’s a very funny essay. It is not too heavy or too sad, but it does have a little bit of an undercurrent of all the stuff that I was talking about in our interview about all the opportunities lost in this year. And I liked it a lot. It’s really good. We’ll put a link on the show page for this essay. I was told there would be mom friends.
S3: I have noticed more stuff on Romper lately that I’ve wanted to read,
S1: this is part of a big package they did on pandemic parenting. That also includes a really good Lydia Keasling essay and a bunch of other ones. And I do agree that they seem to be stepping up the editorial assigning of good essays to good people. So good job, Robert. All right. That’s it for our show one last time. If you’ve got a question, email us mom or dad or opposed to the Slaten parenting Facebook. Mom and dad are fighting us, produced by Rosemarie Bellson, Perdu Mealamu and Alison Benedicte. I’m Dan Coates. Thanks for listening. Hello, Slate. Plus listeners, thank you so much for your support, which allows Slate to do the journalism it does and which allows us to make the podcast. We do a really grateful for everything you do for us. Thank you. This week we are talking berries. So last week in Slate Dotcom, Rebecca Onion wrote a piece about the scourge of many parents food budgets and the glorious colors of parenting Instagram berries. We posted the piece of the Slate parenting Facebook page and holy shit, it struck a chord. Kids love berries. They love them. They house a five dollar carton of blueberries and five minutes my kids go the raspberries like their candy. Apparently every parent has this problem. I love that it’s healthy, but I don’t love that. It’s like four dollars for 14 berries. Jarmila Alison, is this a problem in your house?
S2: I myself went through such a bad raspberry problem at the beginning of the pandemic. It was like when groceries were a challenging thing to get. We didn’t have a car. Things had to be delivered. I went months without stepping into a grocery store. I had just gotten into this habit of needing to eat all of the raspberries. And the sad thing is, yes, mama does like them. So I began hiding raspberries. I would have like the house’s raspberries and my red. There’s only two of us here, you know, but like, I had my secret raspberry supply, so I broke the raspberry habit. I’ve been dying to get some. And now that we’ve had this conversation, I know that my next grocery store trip is going to include raspberries, which sucks because I’m going to be back off the wagon, too.
S1: So we only made this worse.
S2: We made the squares. Yes, but they they go so quickly, but they also well, that’s the other side about raspberries is like you should let your kids devour them, because if you don’t if they have this much moisture on them, they’re going to rot in your refrigerator in two days.
S1: That’s right. Tomorrow they are going to be a raspberry. Yes.
S3: So do you think the reaction was so strong on Facebook, because we all didn’t realize, like we because I have one rasberry kid or one bad kid, crazy amounts of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries and to some degree strawberries. But I just I didn’t know this was a thing. And now it makes me feel not you know, I’m not so alone.
S1: I think that was part of it for a lot of the parents, that it would be like, oh, I did not understand. Everyone else had this question. But I also think there’s something about the combination of this is the thing we do for our kids, which is so obviously good for them. Yet the price tag is so high that it legitimately makes even the like the most the parents who are like the most willing to just give up shit for their kids. It makes them think twice because you cannot believe how fast that shit goes down their gullets.
S3: This is not flattering to me, but I never really notice unless I’m going somewhere like my if I’m going to visit my parents or my in-laws and they ask for like a grocery list beforehand and I’m like just a few things raspberries, blueberries, black strawberries. And then I’m like, this is a little high maintenance. Or if I’m shopping on my mom and she’s like, are you going to get oh, you’re getting raspberries like yeah, parents.
S1: But otherwise grandparents definitely think raspberries are like, why would you ever feed that to a child that’s like gold.
S3: Yes, but otherwise I’m kind of like you were with your Nordstrom Rack purchase, which is just like get all the groceries all together. And some are more than others. And I don’t think really about the particular cost of the berry.
S1: I will say that my indignance over Berry eating always has mostly revolved not around the cost, which seems like, you know, they’re they’re a fragile item that is that are picked at the peak of freshness and then delivered to me two days later. Like, I understand why they cost a lot and more of that, as Jamila says, someone else’s the barriers before I can eat the berries, which I find very objectionable. And so I like Djamila. I have sectors of the fridge that I like. I’ll build up a wall of milk around the corner like the back right corner of the fridge and then stack a couple of things that berries behind the wall of milk and hopes that my kids won’t find them and they can be dad berries. But then sometimes I forget about them and then there’s a rotten mass of dad berries once we finally pull the milk out
S3: and then you have that like pink, like wetness.
S1: It’s just like I only realise when the raspberry water flows to the front of the fridge, why is it that they are not the kids cannot get as excited? Or maybe your kids are, but it seems like kids can’t be as excited as a whole. Big fruits. Djamila, you already said you always have a million old bananas around to make banana bread with because you never eat the bananas. Why is it so much more fun to eat berries than to eat a banana or an apple or like a pear? Remember, pears.
S2: No one likes pears than we do.
S3: We get all that stuff too. However, my kids will only eat them.
S2: Oh my gosh. Yes, that’s what I
S3: cut the pear. We cut the apple. How does this happen that kids don’t just like bite into apple?
S2: They don’t do they do not enjoy. I think it’s because they cut up fruit is like a regular thing. I don’t know. I think they’re just used to seeing cut of fruit and I’m guilty of buying kind of fruit at times. I was going to ask you if you had any other guilty fruit items, mine would be cut watermelon or cut pineapple or mango mango because I have a really hard time picking them out myself. I met a cute guy at the farmer’s market, so this may not be an issue anymore, but I’m really
S1: good at mangoes.
S2: Yes, very good mangoes. He helped me pick out mangoes. But Guy but and I feel guilty, you know, like I don’t feel bad that these things exist because there are people who absolutely need to purchase cut up fruit who cannot cut of their own for I can in theory. But it is so much work, watermelons and pineapples and. Oh my. It’s just stuff everywhere, juice everywhere. But if it’s cut up, you know, it’s the work is done for me. So I think that berries have the same appeal because one you can eat them. It’s like you’re dominating something, right. You can just like throw an apple in your mouth the way you can just take a grape or, you know, or a raspberry or some little tiny fruit and just, you know, you’re done. Now, I’ve done this to you, but I don’t know. I think that the smallness of berries is somehow connected to this generation that grew up having, like, cut up fruit, start to them at school or at parties and stuff where we might have just had, like, I don’t know, chips and soda.
S1: I also think they get kind of fruit at school all the time in bags being paid by some company, you know, that just packages them all up in Illinois and sprays them with some kind of preservative.
S2: Halliburton three,
S1: right. Right. And so, yes, I like the idea of biting into an apple is just absolutely absurd. If you just add that to my children. They would be like, what? What what are you talking about?
S2: Because they get sliced apples. That is not. Now, that was not a thing. Did you ever think that Apple will be sold to you and a slice when you were a little kid?
S1: No. And so they’re like my you are my teeth to go into this apple, like all the way into the apple. And then just my face like that covers my face like a pig. No, they’re not into it. A bunch of people on the parenting page made a suggestion which I honestly honest to God, it had never dawned on me. This is how embarrassing this is, just by a bunch of frozen fruit and servitor kids as if it was fresh fruit. Does that work?
S3: I’ve not tried that, but I do know that a friend of Wali’s, the mom, keeps frozen fruit in her freezer and she says when while he comes over, he just eats it all like he just loves it.
S1: So yet another family that you’re costing enormous amounts of money. We use frozen food for smoothies all the time. But for some reason, it just never dawned on me that, in fact, it’s you.
S3: It doesn’t seem as healthy.
S2: Doesn’t I’m really sitting here like, why have I never defrosted frozen fruit? Why have I only used it for smoothies and milkshakes?
S1: I bet it’s exactly as healthy.
S2: It’s not exactly as expensive if it’s the Prozac, if it’s the good frozen one. Like I feel like the affordable frozen one is soaked in like high fructose corn syrup, maybe.
S1: Definitely like fruit cups are like that statured still served in sugar water. But I don’t know. No, I think that just like if you get a bunch of frozen berries at Trader Joe’s or in the freezer section, I think it’s actually a lot more a lot more affordable than buying it fresh. And it shouldn’t really be any different nutritionally. And it’s so crazy and so revealing of me and my personal food predilections that this never really dawned on me to discourage my kids like fruit.
S2: I have one really good raspberry confession. The raspberry thing got so bad that at one point raspberries were on sale. Both the organic ones and the not organic ones and the organic ones tasted way better. And I bought myself organic raspberries and hid them and served my child the regular person raspberries.
S3: That’s totally appropriate.
S1: Yeah, I’m not going to buy any for that try. And kids don’t need organic food. Come on, give yourself the good stuff. Your body needs a little bit more TLC than a young, hale and hearty child. That is true.
S2: Yeah. Look at her skin.
S3: Can I ask you guys one last raspberry question? Because now that I know other people’s kids eat so many berries and now that I know really this is wonderful that people’s kids don’t bite into apples, which I thought was just like a freakish thing with my, like, lazy to get the raspberry container. You know, it has holes. Do you wash up there? Is that container a strainer?
S1: Yes, I that’s why it has holes. Yes, OK. With blueberries, strawberries, you wash it in the container, you shake it out so little out of the water gets out and you put it on a paper towel on the counter and then you walk away for 17 seconds. And then when you come back, they’re all gone and your kid is eating them.
S3: But is that only if you’re going to eat them all in one gallon? Do that, do you do put them back in the fridge. Do they get has
S1: is have you ever put berries back in the fridge? That’s not my experience. So I don’t know about the experiences that they just disappear into people’s faces.
S2: I listen, I wonder about this, too. I think that maybe we’re supposed to do that rinse off thing, the darn described and then, like, put them back in the container and store them in there. But like, I feel that I have just rinsed them out, shook and not caught them out and then put them in the refrigerator and ended up with the pink gush.
S3: Right. Right.
S1: OK, OK. I’ll just need your various faster get your kids on it. Thanks as always. For us listeners, please continue checking the Facebook page for a hot news. Topics like berries until next time. We’ll talk to you next week. Thanks.