Emily Oster

8 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

One Thing: A Family Firm Series

Parenting with The Family Firm

Emily Oster

8 min Read

Last August, The Family Firm was published. There is nothing quite like finally releasing a book into the world, and I was so grateful for the reception it received. I will say, though, it was a weird time to put out a book. The world was just sort of reopening — I recorded in person with Good Morning America, and it was the first time the interviewer had been back in the studio since March 2020. Big in-person book events were still mostly out of the question.

Part of what I love about writing books is getting to speak with people about them — to hear their follow-up questions and to talk about why I wrote the book and what I hope they’ll get out of it. I missed that.

So I’m excited that the paperback of The Family Firm is out tomorrow, and it’s an opportunity to do some of these things again. I did an actual in-person book event a couple of weeks ago, and I hope I can do more as the fall continues.

I’m also planning to engage with the ideas from the book here, in the newsletter, beginning today.

First: for those of you who are new here, let me give a little book overview.

An image of "The Family Firm" on a yellow background.

Overview: The Family Firm

The Family Firm has two distinct parts. Much of the book is focused on discussing the data behind many older-kid questions. What do we know about kindergarten entry age? What makes a good school? Is homework important? What about extracurriculars and summer camp? I talk through data on sleep and nutrition, on family meals, on TV time, and even a bit on the question of when to get a phone. There’s a lot in here that I found simply fascinating to research — probably the information on how kids learn to read was my favorite, although the importance of sleep is more actionable.

This part of the book is the most like Expecting Better and Cribsheet. These chapters are a true follow-up. If your kids are aging into elementary school and you want some data-based guidance on the choices you face, this part is for you.

The second part of The Family Firm is focused on taking a deliberate approach to family decision-making and the structure of your family life. The title of the book comes from the idea that some of this deliberate decision-making can be informed by what corporate firms do. This ranges from the very explicit (e.g. use Google Docs, agendas, calendars) to the more abstract (use a structured, four-step decision approach to significant family choices).

In the book, I go all in on this approach. I encourage people to think about the big picture of their family life: What do you want your days to look like? What are your top family priorities? I have worksheets (which you can also access here). The goal is to use these tools to shape the day-to-day of your family life into one you love and, in the longer run, to make future decision-making smoother by aligning priorities.

When the book came out, I heard from people who found these tools helpful. They very nicely sent me photos of themselves filling out worksheets, and shared their family mission statements. This was amazing! But I also heard from people who told me some version of I’m already in the weeds. I do not have time for a spreadsheet — love the data, but this part of the book is just too daunting.

Let’s face it: we’re still dealing with COVID, child care quarantines are still happening, we’re trying to work and parent and all the rest of it, and, frankly, there is burnout. Even if you might see that more deliberate parenting could help, the idea of getting to the other side of this approach seems impossible.

I hear this, and I now understand that not everyone likes worksheets as much as I do. At the same time, I firmly believe that being more deliberate about our choices can — even in the short run, even quickly — improve how our households function. And while looking at everything all at once has a certain appeal, we can take these changes one step at a time.

“One Thing”: A Family Firm miniseries

In line with the paperback publication of The Family Firm, this is the start of an occasional series in which I (along with your help!) think about the way we can identify individual family roadblocks, one at a time, and try to use more deliberate processes to fix them. I’m calling this “One Thing,” because the idea is to identify one roadblock, one logistical issue, one source of conflict.

Here’s where you come in. Thinking back over the past week or month: What was the biggest source of stress/conflict/difficulty in the day-to-day? What’s one thing you wish you could wave a magic wand and change? It could be a big thing — uncertainty about whether a stay-at-home parent should return to work, for example. It could be a little thing, like a constant fight about what’s for breakfast for your 5-year-old. Or maybe it’s logistical: we argue every day about pickup, or drop-off. It might be about time — I am dying to get back to exercise but cannot figure out how to fit it in — or about money.

Share your one thing here. I want to hear from people at any stage of pregnancy or parenting, from non-parents, from single people. You don’t need a multi-person household to have a one thing. I will talk through some of these (anonymously) in later posts. And I may even be in touch, if you’re open to it, to try to talk through and try out some solutions. Like much of the rest of ParentData, this is a bit of an experiment.

To get your juices flowing on your one thing, here are a couple of examples from my own household where we try (“try” being the operative word) to directly address our One Things as they arise.

Sometimes the one thing is small and, frankly, kind of stupid. We have an outdoor eating space in the backyard. I do not like to eat outside because I don’t love bugs and I also find it kind of annoying to bring all the food out. My spouse loves to eat outside because all the food that the children spill is magically cleaned up by some combination of bunnies, squirrels, and skunks. This meant that we were regularly disagreeing, if not exactly arguing, about outdoor eating. So we discussed and developed the policy below. It’s written in the family meal policy document. (No, I’m not making this up.)

Dad can initiate Lunch/Dinner in backyard on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, or holiday-adjacent days, when the temperature is at least 70 Fahrenheit and there is no precipitation.  Mom can veto if the meal is soup. 

Yes, this is extremely minor and, yes, my family is a little unusual. And yet it’s one less little conflict.

Sometimes the one thing is slightly bigger. Until recently, my younger child played the violin. He did not enjoy it, which meant that forcing him to practice every day was a huge struggle. It was a small number of minutes of the day (a very small number), but they were incredibly unpleasant. My intense desire to let him quit so I did not have to deal with this was up against a strong ethos of finishing what we started, of following through on commitments. This one took more discussion and thought (including with his teacher), but ultimately we compromised by finishing out the year, doing a recital, and then taking a break.

Even when it’s slightly bigger, our one thing is never huge and abstract. It’s concrete and possibly actionable (even if not immediately). So there’s your challenge. What’s your one thing? Share it, and maybe we can fix it. And once we do, we can fix the next one, and the next. Pretty soon, your spreadsheets will write themselves.

Before we go: today I’m giving away signed copies of the book on Instagram, so head over there for the chance to win. Or you can preorder a copy of The Family Firm in paperback here. Thanks for reading and, above all, thanks for the support — of The Family Firm and of all the rest.

A child with their head resting on their arms makes a face at a bowl of broccoli and cauliflower.

Dec 12 2022

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Two children wok on homework while their parents try to cook dinner.

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A parent sleeps in a toddler bed while the toddler stands over the parent holding a book.

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Two children wearing tap shoes are seen from the knees down.

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One Thing: Follow-up

Parenting with The Family Firm

Emily Oster

Instagram

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Bug season is upon us. Besides annoyance, this can bring up safety concerns, particularly with ticks. They are carriers of diseases, most notably Lyme disease. So what’s the best course of action?

Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET 
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray

Bug season is upon us. Besides annoyance, this can bring up safety concerns, particularly with ticks. They are carriers of diseases, most notably Lyme disease. So what’s the best course of action?

Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray
...

The list of what not to do while pregnant feels longer than a CVS receipt. At ParentData, we want to empower you to make the right decisions for you. 

What an amazing group of women, and an honor to speak at the #MomsFirstSummit debunking parenting myths. 

What are some pregnancy rules you chose to bend after being empowered by data?

#emilyoster #parentdata #pregnancyproblems #pregnancymyths

The list of what not to do while pregnant feels longer than a CVS receipt. At ParentData, we want to empower you to make the right decisions for you.

What an amazing group of women, and an honor to speak at the #MomsFirstSummit debunking parenting myths.

What are some pregnancy rules you chose to bend after being empowered by data?

#emilyoster #parentdata #pregnancyproblems #pregnancymyths
...

Looking for Memorial Day Weekend plans? Might be the perfect time to give potty training a shot. Potty training is notoriously difficult, and we unfortunately don’t have a lot of evidence-based guidance on what works best. So I asked the ParentData community to fill out a survey and share their knowledge — about 6,000 people responded.

👉Comment “Link” for a DM to an article that summarizes all of the best potty training advice we collected. 

Remember, you are not alone in the potty training struggle! It can be incredibly challenging, so please give yourself some grace.

#emilyoster #parentdata #pottytraining #pottytrainingtips #toddlertips

Looking for Memorial Day Weekend plans? Might be the perfect time to give potty training a shot. Potty training is notoriously difficult, and we unfortunately don’t have a lot of evidence-based guidance on what works best. So I asked the ParentData community to fill out a survey and share their knowledge — about 6,000 people responded.

👉Comment “Link” for a DM to an article that summarizes all of the best potty training advice we collected.

Remember, you are not alone in the potty training struggle! It can be incredibly challenging, so please give yourself some grace.

#emilyoster #parentdata #pottytraining #pottytrainingtips #toddlertips
...

We’re hiring an Associate Editor at ParentData! More details at my link in bio. Please share with the great writers and data-loving people in your network. 📊💻

We’re hiring an Associate Editor at ParentData! More details at my link in bio. Please share with the great writers and data-loving people in your network. 📊💻 ...

Do you brand things a certain way to get your kid to accept it? Like calling carrots “rabbit popsicles”? Or telling them to put on their “super speed socks” in the morning? Share your rebrands in the comments below! You never know who you might be helping out 👇

#emilyoster #funnytweets #relatabletweets #parentingjokes #kidssaythedarndestthings

Do you brand things a certain way to get your kid to accept it? Like calling carrots “rabbit popsicles”? Or telling them to put on their “super speed socks” in the morning? Share your rebrands in the comments below! You never know who you might be helping out 👇

#emilyoster #funnytweets #relatabletweets #parentingjokes #kidssaythedarndestthings
...

Have you ever panic-googled a parenting question when everyone else is asleep? If so, you’re not alone. 

Today is the first episode of a new biweekly series on my podcast: Late-Night Panic Google. On these mini-episodes, you’ll hear from some familiar names about the questions keeping them up at night, and how data can help. First up: @claireholt!

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#parentdata #emilyoster #claireholt #parentingstruggles #parentingtips #latenightpanicgoogle

Have you ever panic-googled a parenting question when everyone else is asleep? If so, you’re not alone.

Today is the first episode of a new biweekly series on my podcast: Late-Night Panic Google. On these mini-episodes, you’ll hear from some familiar names about the questions keeping them up at night, and how data can help. First up: @claireholt!

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#parentdata #emilyoster #claireholt #parentingstruggles #parentingtips #latenightpanicgoogle
...

Sun safety is a must for all ages, especially babies! Here are my tips for keeping your littlest ones protected in the sunshine:
☀️ Most importantly, limit their time out in hot weather. (They get hotter than you do!)
☀️ Keep them in the shade as much as possible when you’re out.
☀️ Long-sleeve but lightweight clothing is your friend, especially on the beach, where even in the shade you can get sunlight reflecting off different surfaces.
☀️ If you want to add a little sunscreen on their hands and feet? Go for it! But be mindful as baby skin tends to more prone to irritation.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on the data around sun and heat exposure for babies.

#sunsafety #babysunscreen #babyhealth #parentdata #emilyoster

Sun safety is a must for all ages, especially babies! Here are my tips for keeping your littlest ones protected in the sunshine:
☀️ Most importantly, limit their time out in hot weather. (They get hotter than you do!)
☀️ Keep them in the shade as much as possible when you’re out.
☀️ Long-sleeve but lightweight clothing is your friend, especially on the beach, where even in the shade you can get sunlight reflecting off different surfaces.
☀️ If you want to add a little sunscreen on their hands and feet? Go for it! But be mindful as baby skin tends to more prone to irritation.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on the data around sun and heat exposure for babies.

#sunsafety #babysunscreen #babyhealth #parentdata #emilyoster
...

I’m calling on you today to share your story. I know that many of you have experienced complications during pregnancy, birth, or postpartum. It’s not something we want to talk about, but it’s important that we do. Not just for awareness, but to help people going through it feel a little less alone.

That’s why I’m asking you to post a story, photo, or reel this week with #MyUnexpectedStory and tag me. I’ll re-share as many as I can to amplify. Let’s fill our feeds with these important stories and lift each other up. Our voices can create change. And your story matters. 💙

#theunexpected #emilyoster #pregnancycomplications #pregnancystory

I’m calling on you today to share your story. I know that many of you have experienced complications during pregnancy, birth, or postpartum. It’s not something we want to talk about, but it’s important that we do. Not just for awareness, but to help people going through it feel a little less alone.

That’s why I’m asking you to post a story, photo, or reel this week with #MyUnexpectedStory and tag me. I’ll re-share as many as I can to amplify. Let’s fill our feeds with these important stories and lift each other up. Our voices can create change. And your story matters. 💙

#theunexpected #emilyoster #pregnancycomplications #pregnancystory
...

OUT NOW: My new book “The Unexpected: Navigating Pregnancy During and After Complications” is available on April 30th. All of my other books came out of my own experiences. I wrote them to answer questions I had, as a pregnant woman and then as a new parent. “The Unexpected” is a book not to answer my own questions but to answer yours. Specifically, to answer the thousands of questions I’ve gotten over the past decade from people whose pregnancies were more complicated than they had expected. This is for you. 💛 Order now at my link in bio!

OUT NOW: My new book “The Unexpected: Navigating Pregnancy During and After Complications” is available on April 30th. All of my other books came out of my own experiences. I wrote them to answer questions I had, as a pregnant woman and then as a new parent. “The Unexpected” is a book not to answer my own questions but to answer yours. Specifically, to answer the thousands of questions I’ve gotten over the past decade from people whose pregnancies were more complicated than they had expected. This is for you. 💛 Order now at my link in bio! ...

OUT NOW: My new book “The Unexpected: Navigating Pregnancy During and After Complications” is available on April 30th. All of my other books came out of my own experiences. I wrote them to answer questions I had, as a pregnant woman and then as a new parent. “The Unexpected” is a book not to answer my own questions but to answer yours. Specifically, to answer the thousands of questions I’ve gotten over the past decade from people whose pregnancies were more complicated than they had expected. This is for you. 💛 Order now at my link in bio!

OUT NOW: My new book “The Unexpected: Navigating Pregnancy During and After Complications” is available on April 30th. All of my other books came out of my own experiences. I wrote them to answer questions I had, as a pregnant woman and then as a new parent. “The Unexpected” is a book not to answer my own questions but to answer yours. Specifically, to answer the thousands of questions I’ve gotten over the past decade from people whose pregnancies were more complicated than they had expected. This is for you. 💛 Order now at my link in bio! ...

OUT NOW: My new book “The Unexpected: Navigating Pregnancy During and After Complications” is available on April 30th. All of my other books came out of my own experiences. I wrote them to answer questions I had, as a pregnant woman and then as a new parent. “The Unexpected” is a book not to answer my own questions but to answer yours. Specifically, to answer the thousands of questions I’ve gotten over the past decade from people whose pregnancies were more complicated than they had expected. This is for you. 💛 Order now at my link in bio!

OUT NOW: My new book “The Unexpected: Navigating Pregnancy During and After Complications” is available on April 30th. All of my other books came out of my own experiences. I wrote them to answer questions I had, as a pregnant woman and then as a new parent. “The Unexpected” is a book not to answer my own questions but to answer yours. Specifically, to answer the thousands of questions I’ve gotten over the past decade from people whose pregnancies were more complicated than they had expected. This is for you. 💛 Order now at my link in bio! ...

Is side sleeping important during pregnancy? Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on whether sleep position affects pregnancy outcomes.

Being pregnant makes you tired, and as time goes by, it gets increasingly hard to get comfortable. You were probably instructed to sleep on your side and not your back, but it turns out that advice is not based on very good data.

We now have much better data on this, and the bulk of the evidence seems to reject the link between sleep position and stillbirth or other negative outcomes. So go ahead and get some sleep however you are most comfortable. 💤

Sources:
📖 #ExpectingBetter pp. 160-163
📈 Robert M. Silver et al., “Prospective Evaluation of Maternal Sleep Position Through 30 Weeks of Gestation and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes,” Obstetrics and Gynecology 134, no. 4 (2019): 667–76. 

#emilyoster #pregnancy #pregnancytips #sleepingposition #pregnantlife

Is side sleeping important during pregnancy? Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on whether sleep position affects pregnancy outcomes.

Being pregnant makes you tired, and as time goes by, it gets increasingly hard to get comfortable. You were probably instructed to sleep on your side and not your back, but it turns out that advice is not based on very good data.

We now have much better data on this, and the bulk of the evidence seems to reject the link between sleep position and stillbirth or other negative outcomes. So go ahead and get some sleep however you are most comfortable. 💤

Sources:
📖 #ExpectingBetter pp. 160-163
📈 Robert M. Silver et al., “Prospective Evaluation of Maternal Sleep Position Through 30 Weeks of Gestation and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes,” Obstetrics and Gynecology 134, no. 4 (2019): 667–76.

#emilyoster #pregnancy #pregnancytips #sleepingposition #pregnantlife
...

My new book, “The Unexpected: Navigating Pregnancy During and After Complications” is available for preorder at the link in my bio!

I co-wrote #TheUnexpected with my friend and maternal fetal medicine specialist, Dr. Nathan Fox. The unfortunate reality is that about half of pregnancies include complications such as preeclampsia, miscarriage, preterm birth, and postpartum depression. Because these are things not talked about enough, it can not only be an isolating experience, but it can also make treatment harder to access.

The book lays out the data on recurrence and delves into treatment options shown to lower risk for these conditions in subsequent pregnancies. It also guides you through how to have productive conversations and make shared decisions with your doctor. I hope none of you need this book, but if you do, it’ll be here for you 💛

#pregnancy #pregnancycomplications #pregnancyjourney #preeclampsiaawareness #postpartumjourney #emilyoster

My new book, “The Unexpected: Navigating Pregnancy During and After Complications” is available for preorder at the link in my bio!

I co-wrote #TheUnexpected with my friend and maternal fetal medicine specialist, Dr. Nathan Fox. The unfortunate reality is that about half of pregnancies include complications such as preeclampsia, miscarriage, preterm birth, and postpartum depression. Because these are things not talked about enough, it can not only be an isolating experience, but it can also make treatment harder to access.

The book lays out the data on recurrence and delves into treatment options shown to lower risk for these conditions in subsequent pregnancies. It also guides you through how to have productive conversations and make shared decisions with your doctor. I hope none of you need this book, but if you do, it’ll be here for you 💛

#pregnancy #pregnancycomplications #pregnancyjourney #preeclampsiaawareness #postpartumjourney #emilyoster
...

We are better writers than influencers, I promise. Thanks to our kids for filming our unboxing videos. People make this look way too easy. 

Only two weeks until our book “The Unexpected” is here! Preorder at the link in my bio. 💙

We are better writers than influencers, I promise. Thanks to our kids for filming our unboxing videos. People make this look way too easy.

Only two weeks until our book “The Unexpected” is here! Preorder at the link in my bio. 💙
...