My Major Parenting Decisions, Explained

>> Wednesday, April 25, 2018

People are nosey by nature. And I'm an open book. I get so many DMs about different lifestyle and parenting choices we've made with people asking why we do it that way, how it works for us, etc. Usually it's people who are mulling over their own decisions and looking to gather info. So, I figured I'd post some thoughts on the questions I get the most frequently. This is just what works for us as a family. It's not what I think everyone should do by any means.

Our kids are vegetarian and always have been.

So many of you asked me yesterday about why our family is vegetarian and if our kids still are or if they're ever eaten meat, etc. Lots of variations on the general theme. I've written about it in the past, but -- in short -- I decided to stop eating meat when I was 13. I never liked meat, so it was purely a dietary preference thing. I haven't eaten meat since and I was vegan for several years in college and different spurts in my twenties. For me, being a lacto-ovo vegetarian works best, which means I eat milk and cheese and eggs, etc. Stephen has been a vegetarian since college, when he actually started as a vegan. He has been vegetarian ever since, but has dabbled in eating fish on occasion. Usually when we're on vacation at the ocean and it is freshly caught that day locally.

We didn't sit down and have a big talk about whether or not our kids would eat meat. It was just this understanding that we have lived a vegetarian lifestyle and eaten primarily vegan and vegetarian foods for a big chunk of our lives. Our kids would follow suit. Ada has had fish but doesn't like it. We feed both girls a lacto-ovo diet because it's what we eat as a family. Neither kid has ever eaten meat. Ada is actually quite opposed. She's getting to the age where she's asking a lot of questions and feels a lot of pride in being a vegetarian.

Now our decision to live this way spans beyond dietary preference. We do appreciate the animal rights, environmental impact, and health benefits of eating this way. It's also cheaper, which is a bonus. This isn't to say I'm forbidding our kids from eating meat, but I do not think I would ever prepare it in the home. But we'll cross that bridge as we come to it. So far, most people in our lives just know we are vegetarian, and it hasn't been an issue. We write it on forms for school and summer camps, and -- just like allergies, etc. -- it's been catered to without any issues.

I have never planned to homeschool.

Don't get me wrong, the idea of homeschooling is very intriguing to me. I love the idea of guiding my kids along their path of learning and allowing a more flexible and, at times, more enriching environment for them to grow their brains and learn about the world. I just think I can do this in addition to a quality public school education.

There is this inherent privilege, though, that comes with being able to homeschool. I feel like it isn't brought up too much. Like, I just know I cannot fully commit to a full course of homeschooling grades K through 12 for my children because -- while I'm not working tons of hours right now -- I know I will want to return to more full-time work in the future. This isn't just for me . . . it's practical for our family that I not leave the workforce for that long. I do work from home now, but I'm hoping to expand on those hours after all my kids are school age.

I can totally geek out when I look at different homeschool curriculums. I love the creativity and space that it allows. The flexibility with scheduling, etc. But honestly, my husband is a public school teacher. For this reason, I do support public education. We moved specifically to a school district that is consistently ranked in the top two in the area (Stephen's school is the other top). Plus, the flexibility is nice . . . but we wouldn't be traveling throughout the year since Stephen's job doesn't allow for time off.

Instead, we try to use our summers to get those less-traditional opportunities. I am hoping whatever job I choose in the future will allow for flexibility in the summers so we can enjoy this time as a family.

I will continue to stay at home/work from home.

Yes. Money. It's not the smartest financial thing, perhaps, for me to be at home with part-time hours. Stephen and I both feel strongly that me being home is important. I see working moms totally rocking their situations, and there are times when I look longingly at the structure their days permit. When my kid is screaming and skipping naps, I wonder what it might be like to be at lunch in my old office in peace and quiet. But I know that working moms deal with so much too, like astronomical daycare costs and feelings of guilt, etc.

It's like a no-win situation. Stephen coaches two sports, which I complain about, but it gives our yearly income a nice boost. Now that we're getting close to paying off student loans and other debts . . . we have more wiggle room. This isn't to say I'm comfortably living large over here. I'll do an updated budget post soon. I cherish this time I get to spend with my kids. I surely complain at times, but I think we all do from time to time.

I do plan to either expand freelancing hours to more full-time or to go back to a FT or PT real-life job when my kids are all in school. But, as I mentioned earlier, I'd like to have a schedule that allows me to enjoy lots of time in the summer with my family.

I cloth diapered, then didn't, but might again.

Several of you have asked if I plan to cloth diaper baby number three. I had plans to do it with Eloise. I did it for nearly a year and a half with Ada. But I got sucked in by the convenience of Aldi diapers. They have worked wonderfully for us, and they don't cost terribly too much. But along the way I have felt guilty tossing out so much trash. Like, really guilty at times. And I look at our budget and how I may need to step back on my freelancing hours . . . cloth may be in our future.

I do have an impressive stash that would work well for the new baby. I think I'll write more about this in a baby-related post. To summarize, I support cloth diapering. But I don't understand people who rave about it. It's poop and pee that you have to get up close and personal with. As much as supporters say it's awesome . . . it isn't, like, FUN. So for me, it would be more out of my feelings of environmental responsibility and money. I wouldn't be giddy about it.

I breastfeed. But it's complicated.

I do also plan to breastfeeding this next baby if I'm lucky. I breastfed Ada for nearly 18 months and I breastfed Eloise to age one. With Eloise, I had lot of difficulty because I felt over-touched a lot. Getting used to the demands after years of independence was hard for me. I have no romantic notions that it will be different this time. But, as mentioned above, to save money I know I will need to fully commit.

That said, I feel better prepared this time around for the challenges I may face. I will try to have a plan in place to make sure I don't get too overwhelmed. This may mean pumping more bottles and trying bottles sooner. This may mean occasional supplementation with formula, which did NOT impact our relationship or my supply whatsoever.

In the end, breastfeeding is a very personal choice. And I feel fed is best. I have absolutely no judgement for women who do purely formula, as I was brought up that way. And I have no judgement for women who allow their kids full access to their boobs at all times. I am a more baby-led, but also mom-allowed breastfeeding. I know that doesn't make sense. But scheduling feeds as soon as we're able helps me with my sanity.

I guess more on this will come in another post as well.

We don't bed-share.

While I love the idea and understand the practicality of bed-sharing, it's not for me. I explained this a bit on Instastories a couple weeks ago. While I do room-in with my babies for up to six months (yay reflux scares!) . . . putting my babies in my bed scares the crap out of me, especially in the beginning. I've experienced sleep paralysis and other weird issues that make me truly feel it isn't safe . . . FOR ME. I don't judge, though, because there were a couple times when Ada was small when it worked out very well to get through a tough night.

But I don't plan to bed-share with our new baby. She will sleep next to the bed in a Pack 'n Play (my neighbor was so kind to give me hers with a bassinet attachment!).

We're having three kids. A "larger" family.

I talk a lot about saving money. So some people -- family included -- have asked why we would add another child to our family is money is a concern. That's complicated. And it's hard to fully explain. First of all, family size is another highly personal issue, despite how visible it is to society. People are always going to comment. But when thought long and hard over whether or not adding a third would be good in our case.

When we were going through infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, our ideas of being a family of five really solidified. We realized that we value the people in our lives more than the things. We may not be jetting off to Disney world. We may not have a fancy van with heated seats, automatic doors, etc. (I've been lusting over these lately!). We may just be camping and living on the simple things in life. But we felt strongly that if we didn't go for number three, we'd regret it.

And that's OK. College is a question some have specifically asked about. This is a HUGE topic, so I'm going to gloss over our thoughts. I do not feel that it is my responsibility as a parent to pay for full college for all my children. I feel it is my responsibility to help my children find their path in life. I'd like them to at least go to community college . . . but I am not going to teach them that a four-year school is THE PATH, as we were taught. My parents generously paid for half my education. I worked and got loans for the rest. And I shouldn't have gone to a private, out-of-state school. It's my responsibility to help guide my kids to better choices that will be good for their education and financial futures.

That said, we truly value education, so we will help our kids with whatever they choose to do.

We let our kids watch television. Sometimes lots of it.

Eloise is watching Sesame Street as I type this blog post. As a work-from-home mom, I have utilized television with both my girls to get things done. I am also very present with them and play with them many hours each day. We spend lots of time outdoors. We go to museums and play centers. But television -- in my humble opinion -- is totally fine.

I don't coach learning at home.

This is getting rather long.  So I'll go over one last topic. Many have asked what I'm doing to teach Eloise things at home. And the answer to this is "nothing specific". With Ada, I definitely went out of my way to be like: "Look at the blue ball. Blue. Can you say blue? Where's the blue ball?" You get the point. Anyway, some of this is OK. And when it arises naturally, sure -- I do it. But I don't work in coaching the alphabet, shapes, etc. throughout the day. Granted Eloise is still young. But I'm in the camp that play gets a lot of this stuff into the mix naturally (we also read lots of books).

So, with Eloise and this future baby girl, I am taking a more relaxed approach. A more learn-by-doing, don't fret the rest approach. I will be sending Eloise to preschool at age three. I may even enroll her in a short program next year for socialization, etc. But I truly feel like young children just need to be young children. We'll sing songs, we'll go out and explore the world, we'll do art projects . . . but we won't sit and do flash cards.

Phew. I feel very much open to judgement now, but I'm OK with that. We all do things the way we do them for a reason. So, it's all good.

* Image source is from Etsy. How cute is that? It's customizable. I may need to get one!

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