Parenting Through Grief

Emily Oster

16 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Parenting Through Grief

The impossible state of needing while giving

Emily Oster

16 min Read

Today’s podcast is about grief, and in it I talk to Marisa Renee Lee, the author of Grief Is Love. I came to her work after my mom died, when a friend texted me an interview Marisa had done about the book. “I haven’t finished this interview,” she wrote, “but I’ve already bought the book and you should too.”  

I did buy the book and have bought it for many others since then, and Marisa has become a real friend. She’s the rare kind of person who sees what you need before you need it, whether that’s a text message or a box of bourbon-laced chocolates. In this conversation we talk — as people who like evidence, but also as friends and fellow grievers — about grief and parenting. 

Grief can mean a lot of different things, from the loss of a loved one to the loss of a much-wanted pregnancy or marriage. It’s a heavy topic for the holidays, but this can also be a tough time when you’re dealing with loss. I hope this helps, even a little. 

To spark your interest, here are three highlights from the conversation: 

How can you be there for your kid while you’re grieving?

Emily Oster:

So, as some of the people listening to this know, my mom died in June of 2022 and she was sick for about 18 months before that. And I will say, for most of that time, I was really doing. I like to be doing; that’s my approach. I like to control the situation with spreadsheets and doing things, and even when things got very hard at the end — when it was very clear there was just nothing to be doing — it almost felt like there was still just logistics and not space for the grief. 

And here’s the moment that was the worst for me. She had assigned me the organization of a celebration of life for her — and she was very clear she didn’t want a funeral, she wanted a celebration of life. So we organized this and I brought all the kids, and we had people talk and give speeches. And I couldn’t keep it together. I mean, it was much harder than the day she died. I was just completely overwhelmed, sobbing, just unable to really function. 

And then my 8-year-old is also sitting there and he’s also crying. And I could not be there for him. So I come into this with the question: In the moment in which grief is just overwhelming, how can we be there for our kids?

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yeah, it’s hard. I think we typically conceive of being there for our kids as taking care of them. That’s our job, right? We’re moms. But I’ve been thinking lately, it’s also really important to be an example for our kids. And I think showing a child that it’s okay to fall apart and be a bit of a mess and have a lot of really big, heavy feelings about the loss of a parent — I think that is another way to be there for a child. I want my son to grow up with different framing than what I had as a child around feelings and emotions and what is and isn’t acceptable, because at the end of the day, we are all going to go through this at some point. And so letting your son know, I have to deal with my feelings and they’re really big and overwhelming and hard, and that is a normal, okay thing — I think that’s important too.

How do you talk to kids about hard things, like death?

Marisa:

I reached out to a dear friend who is a clinical psychologist at UCLA and spends a lot of time helping people prepare for end of life and having these kinds of conversations. And I said, “How do we do this well? How much do you tell kids?” And so, one of the big things she reminded me of, and I’m sure you’ll agree: children are very perceptive. I think they are more perceptive than adults usually give them credit for. And she said, when we aren’t honest about our feelings and our emotions and when we don’t give them context for what we’re going through, that can be scary for them. And they often will start to make up their own narratives about why mommy seems sad or why mommy seems more angry or frustrated or whatever it is than usual.

And those stories that they tend to come up with typically center themselves. And so when we aren’t honest with our kids about our feelings, they may start to run off with a narrative like, oh, mommy’s upset that I did this thing wrong or that I didn’t do well at school, whatever it is. That has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re actually feeling. And so being honest with kids is really important.

Emily:

The advice that I got about this, which I think is very much along these lines, is: be honest, but don’t over-explain. So have a kind of age-appropriate script, which is going to be different for bigger kids and younger kids; give it to them and then expect some follow-up. And I think one of the things people often find very surprising is if you tell your kids something like “Grandma has cancer and the doctors are going to help her, but this is very serious,” often your kid will just be like, “Okay,” and then go back to their iPad. And it’s so hard not to be like, “I’m sorry, did you not hear? Let me repeat.” But then you just let it go, and two days later in the car, all of a sudden they’ll be like, “By the way, can I ask some really detailed questions?” So kids are just processing this stuff in a little bit of a different timescale sometimes.

How do you parent when grief feels all-consuming?

Marisa:

One of the things I talk about a lot in Grief Is Love and in almost every interview that I give is, it’s really hard to grieve well without help. Everyone needs some form of either paid or free help, whether it’s having the spouse be the one to give the speech or having the neighbor pick up the kids from soccer or going to see a therapist — whatever it is for you. I just want to say to people: don’t try to do this all by yourself, because it’s basically impossible. I think it is especially impossible to do completely on your own when there’s also kids involved, because it’s just more complicated.

Emily:

And I think that there are these moments when you just cannot. You cannot be there for your kids. You cannot pick them up from school. It’s too heavy, and that is when you need help.

Marisa:

Yeah. And don’t feel guilty about asking for help. I always like to frame the help as thinking about how you feel when you’re able to do something nice for someone else in need. It’s okay for you to ask others for the same things that you would be willing to do for them. So don’t feel bad about it, because nothing that’s hard in this world is ever accomplished alone. I don’t care if we’re talking about grieving the loss of a parent and balancing work and kids and marriage and everything else at the same time, or starting a super-successful business. Don’t be committed to this American ideology of independence that is mostly a farce.


Full transcript

This transcript was automatically generated and may contain small errors.

Emily Oster

This is ParentData. I’m Emily Oster. 

Today’s podcast is about grief. The holidays are a complicated time for grief. On the one hand, they are a time of joy and celebration and tradition and fun.

And on the other hand, if you have lost someone, whether it’s just recently, whether it’s last year, whether it’s five years ago, the memories that come with those traditions can be a reminder of who’s not there. I lost my mom about 18 months ago, and when we do Christmas, when we do presents, when we do the Swedish Santa, when I make meatballs, I think about her. I make the meatballs that she finally gave me the recipe to after I begged for it. And I think about her when I make them and how I wish she were around to tell me whether I’m using enough egg.

And when we’re having those thoughts, it’s hard to do all the other things. And as parents, we can be in a moment grieving for something that we’ve lost and also trying to give our kids the holiday that they most want, the holiday that we think that they deserve. And it just becomes a little overwhelming. I think when it is overwhelming, that is when we want to reach for our friends and when we want to reach for people who we know will understand those feelings. And for me, one of those people is my guest today, Marisa Renee Lee, who has become a friend over the past few years and who has an amazing book written about grief, about losing her mom, about struggles with miscarriage. The book is called Grief Is Love, and it’s the best thing that I read after my mom passed. And she and I are going to talk today about managing grief and managing your own grief when you’re parenting, and talk about the things that are hard and talk about how we can find joy in those moments also, because the memories are not just sad, they’re also memories of the wonderful things that we had.

So I hope that if you need this episode today, it helps you and I hope if you don’t need it right now, that you’ll save it for a time that maybe you will. After the break, my conversation with Marisa Renee Lee.

Marisa, I’m delighted to have you join me. Can I ask you to introduce yourself?

Marisa Renee Lee:

Wonderful. I’m so happy to be here. So thank you for inviting me. My name’s Marisa Renee Lee. I am a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur and author of the book, Grief Is Love: Living With Loss.

Emily Oster:

So we are talking today about parenting and grief, and this is the ParentData Podcast. So I like to have data. So I thought about what would be the good data point to start with, and I was thinking, well, what share of people will experience grief while they’re parents? Then I thought a hundred percent. That’s one of the easier analyses. And even within… I think we’ll talk a little bit because of our own experiences about losing a parent, but about half of the people in the US will lose a parent before the age of 50, people are having kids when they’re older. For many of us, that’s when our kids are little.

The reality is that none of us are getting through life without grief, even if it’s not that grief. It is something. So that’s the data point to start with. This conversation is relevant to a hundred percent of parents and also people. But what I want to do today is talk about your work, talk about the book. I want to talk about some specific questions that I get from parents in particular, but I actually want to start the conversation with where we are coming to this conversation from. And so I don’t know, I was going to ask you to start, but I would love you to talk a little bit about where you come into this conversation, particularly around the parenting piece.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Author CommentYeah, so unfortunately I come into this conversation with more experience than I care to admit. I would say I first sort of encountered grief back when I was a kid. I was 13 and one day my mom got sick and she just never got better, and it turned out she had multiple sclerosis. Fast-forward nine years later, I am graduating from college. Literally the week I was graduating from Harvard, I found myself in a tiny oncologist office in upstate New York with my parents and my godmother where we learned that in addition to MS, my mom also had stage 4 breast cancer. I spent the next year helping her and my father just navigate this very complicated health situation. And then I did the rational thing. I went to work on Wall Street while also caring for my mother, and she passed away about two and a half years later, right after I turned 25. She was barely 49 at the time. And now as I sit, a woman in her forties, I realize just how young she was when she passed.

I didn’t know what to do with all of that grief when my mom died. I was sort of an adult, but not really, and I decided to just ignore it and try to will it away, that did not work. And so about six months after she passed away, I decided I was going to find a way to live with this pain and without my mom and that someday I would write a book about it. Fast-forward 11 years later, after dealing with infertility for some time with my husband, we finally found ourselves pregnant. We were overjoyed until we lost the pregnancy. And this happened a few months before, I think everyone found themselves in a moment of grief. It’s known as the pandemic. And so I found myself living in the pandemic with a husband who was working on the front lines, navigating personal grief and sort of global grief, and I decided I needed to write about it.

All of my usual good and bad coping mechanisms had been taken away. And so I started writing and that led to the book Grief Is Love that came out in 2022. And along the way, if you can believe it, I found myself smack in the middle of grief again this time as a parent. My husband and I were very lucky. We adopted a baby boy in the summer of 2021 and a few months after his adoption and a few weeks before my book on grief was set to come out, we learned that my husband’s mother was battling stage 4 breast cancer. Yes, the exact same thing that my mom died from, as a new mom getting ready to launch her first book. And so that is the space that I am in right now, that my family and I have been in at this point for about a year and a half just navigating this state of anticipatory grief with a baby who then became a toddler. And it’s been really, really difficult. So that is my story. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, which I will share some of today, and I’ve learned a lot, both things that are grounded in research as well as things from my experiences. So I’m glad I’ll get to share some of that with you all today.

Emily Oster:

So I’ll tell you where I’m coming into. So as some of the people listening to this know, my mom died in June of 2022 and she was sick for about 18 months after that. And I will say for most of that time I was really doing. I liked to be doing, that’s my approach. I like to control the situation with spreadsheets and doing, and even when things got very hard at the end when it was very clear there was just nothing to be doing, it almost felt like there was still just logistics and not space for the grief. And here’s the moment that was the worst for me in the parenting grief space. So mom had asked me before she died, she had assigned me the organization of a celebration of life for her, and she was very clear she didn’t want a funeral, she wanted a celebration of life.

She wanted six months later. So we organized this and I brought all the kids and we had people talk and give speeches like a few people, four close friends, and we’re sitting there in a place called the New Haven Lawn Club. And I couldn’t keep it together. I mean, it was much harder than the day she died. I was just completely overwhelmed, sobbing, just unable to really function. And then my eight-year-old is also sitting there and he’s also crying. And I could not be there for him. The person who was there for him was his cousin, and that was sweet and wonderful, but I just couldn’t be there for him. And for me, that was where I come into this with is the question of in the moment in which grief is just overwhelming and there are some of them, how can we be there for our kids?

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yeah, it’s hard. Yeah, I’ll comment on that and say, I think we typically conceive of being there for our kids as taking care of them. That’s our job, right?q We’re moms. But I’ve been thinking lately, it’s also really important to be an example for our kids. And I think showing a child that it’s okay to fall apart and be a bit of a mess and have a lot of really big heavy feelings about the loss of a parent, I think that is another way to be there for a child. I want my son to grow up with different framing than what I had as a child around feelings and emotions and what is and isn’t acceptable because at the end of the day, you said this conversation we’re having is relevant for a hundred percent of people because we are all going to go through this at some point. And so letting your son know I have to deal with my feelings and they’re really big and overwhelming and hard, and that is a normal okay thing. I think that’s important too.

Emily Oster:

So there’s something in what you said there about the framing, which for me was the most novel, important, striking part about your book, which is the way you talk about framing grief as not something that we end at the end of some stages. You do the stages and then it’s done-

Marisa Renee Lee:

I wish.

Emily Oster:

I mean, we wish, right? That would be-

Marisa Renee Lee:

Oh, my God, the two of us. We would’ve aced that test. No kidding.

Emily Oster:

I would’ve been so good. I would’ve won that. Unfortunately, it was not there to win. But what is… I mean, talk a little bit more about the way that you frame thinking about living with it.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yeah. So for me, I realized, I sat down to start this book 12 years after my mom had passed away. And it became very clear when I encountered that grief of pregnancy loss moment, all I wanted was my mom. I love my husband, he’s a wonderful person, yada, yada, yada. But all I wanted was my mother. I wanted her to comfort me, I wanted her to take care of me. I wanted her to console me and somehow make it all better even though nothing was going to make it better, right? And I realized then that there are going to continue to be these things that happen as you and I and soon Matt, as we continue to live our lives that are going to make us think about our people. It’s not like you lose someone you love and your brain gets erased and you no longer think about them ever again. We still have to be out in a world where there’s lots of families that have moms and dads who are still alive, and so things are just going to come up, whether it’s a holiday, a birthday, even an unexpected positive work milestone. You don’t know what it is until it happens.

Emily Oster:

There was this moment right after… Sorry to interrupt you, but like-

Marisa Renee Lee:

No, please.

Emily Oster:

After maybe two or three months after my mom died, when something happened at work, and it was such a minor thing, no one could even understand this, but it is something she would have loved. And somebody called me to tell me this, and I was supposed to be having a reaction. It was like my boss who called me to tell me this thing, and I was supposed to be having this reaction. And all I’m thinking is I cannot effing believe that my mom died before I could tell her this. That is just so unfair.

Marisa Renee Lee:

That’s it. That’s it. And you’re going to have those. Unfortunately, again, I’m 15 and a half years in at this point. Those things are going to keep happening, whether it was the big moments, like the day we got the call about a baby who’s now my son or the little things like… My sister said something really ridiculous a few months ago, I don’t even remember what it is anymore, but I laughed and I was just like, oh, my God, I wish my mom was here right now because that was just completely nuts. I love her, but I was like, wow, did she really just say that? So yeah, because we continue to have those moments, it’s about learning to live with those moments. It’s not about, oh, my mom died and so now that’s in the past and I’m over it, and it’s just whatever. It’s not really a big deal. No, that’s just not how it works. It’s just not how it works.

Emily Oster:

And the frame you have really at the end, I mean, it’s in the title of the book, is the more positive version of this, which is the Grief Is Love, that it is because of the love that we feel this so much. And in some ways trying to turn it off is almost the opposite of recognizing how important that was in the moments.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yeah. And I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to define grief in this book because I think it is this longer thing. And so I went with grief is the repeated experience of learning to live in the midst of a significant loss. Because you’ll have, like I said, these moments that you can predict. At some point, your kids are going to graduate school, they’re going to get married. There are going to be these sort of more obvious milestone moments where you know, oh, I’m going to be thinking about when my mom and I did this or that. And then there are the things like that work news where you were just like, oh my God, she’s the only person who would care about this as much as I do, and how is she not here to share this with me? And so giving yourself permission to have those moments throughout your life and not feel bad about it and not beat yourself up about it, that is what it looks like to live a full life in the midst of a significant loss.

Emily Oster:

So we started this with how we come to this because I think in some ways that’s the most important grounding for how we bring it to our children, but there are more specific questions that come up with kids. The first one is just how much do I tell them? Yes, about what’s going on, but more than that, how much do I tell them about how I feel? How much do I tell my kids how sad I am?

Marisa Renee Lee:

So I had my own instincts here, but-

Emily Oster:

Is there data?

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yes. I was going to say, but knowing how you feel about data and research, I reached out to a dear friend who is a clinical psychologist at UCLA and spends a lot of time helping people prepare for end of life and having these kinds of conversations. She also is someone who lost a parent at a young age and has three young children herself. And I said, “How do we do this well? How much do you tell kids?” And so, one of the big things she reminded me of, and I’m sure you’ll agree, children are very perceptive. I think they are more perceptive than adults usually give them credit for. And she said, when we aren’t honest about our feelings and our emotions and when we don’t give them context for what we’re going through, that can be scary for them. And they often will start to make up their own narratives about why mommy seems sad or why mommy seems more angry or frustrated or whatever it is than usual.

And those stories that they tend to come up with typically center themselves. And so when aren’t honest with our kids about our feelings, they may start to run off with a narrative like, oh, mommy’s upset that I did this thing wrong or that I didn’t do well at school, whatever it is. That has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re actually feeling. And so being honest with kids is really important. And I have to share a personal story where I was honest, but I made a mistake because Dr. Cleary had another piece of advice here. So I have been very honest with Bennett, telling him about my mom. He says, Grandma Lisa, he knows, like this is a necklace made from some of Grandma Lisa’s jewelry. Sorry, I realize it’s a podcast. So nobody saw that. But he has contacts where there’s pictures in the house. He knows Grandma Lisa died. Recently, a close family friend, someone who I love dear and who I’d talked to Bennett about, died as well.

And before she died, she had cancer, and we have a bedtime routine where he says prayers for people. And he was saying prayers for this woman, TTPT. And one day he decided he wanted to say prayers for TTPT. She had died that day. And so I said, “TTPT died.” What I did not explain… And my son is almost two, I gave him no context for what it means to have died. And so now I’m in this really hilarious and inappropriate space with my kid where he will randomly just declare that so-and-so has died. And these are people that are very much alive. The other day he said, “Daddy died.” I’m like, “Daddy’s in the kitchen. Daddy did not die.” So now I’m having to backtrack the… And it’s not that I shouldn’t have been honest, but according to the expert, Dr. Lizzie Cleary, she is amazing. She says, you also have to give very clear explanations when you’re honest.

And she said, in the case of Emily’s mom, for instance, you would say something to your kids like Grandma had cancer. Cancer is when bad cells take over good cells in your body. This is where Grandma’s cancer was, this kind of cancer, it’s not very common. It usually happens with older people. People are usually around this age when they die, so that they have just more clarity around what is happening. And it seems graphic and uncomfortable to me to go into that level of detail with a child, but if you don’t, they make up their own stories and we don’t want them to do that.

Emily Oster:

The advice that I got about this, which I think is very much in these lines, is be honest, but don’t over explain. So have a kind of age-appropriate script, which is going to be different for bigger kids and younger kids, give it to them and then expect some follow-up. And I think one of the things people often find very surprising is if you tell your kids something like, grandma has cancer and the doctors are going to help her, but this is very serious or whatever, often your kid will just be like, okay, and then go back to their iPad. And it’s so hard not to be like-

Marisa Renee Lee:

You’re like, what?

Emily Oster:

“I’m sorry, did you not hear? Let me repeat.” But then you just let it go and two days later in the car, all of a sudden they’ll be like, “By the way, can I ask some really detailed questions?” So kids are just processing this stuff in a little bit of a different timescale sometimes.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yeah, they’re pretty funny.

Emily Oster:

I mean, I think for me, part of this was some of the information giving to my kids was very hard for me to do personally.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yeah.

Emily Oster:

And this was where I really credit my husband with being able to provide the information. I remember when we first talked about my mom being sick, he was like, okay, I’m going to do it. And then he just gave them this speech, very much like speech, he just gave and explained that she was sick and just in a very matter of fact way that I would not have been able to achieve. And I think some of that is almost in the space of giving… In the area of giving yourself space and grace and saying, “I can’t be the person who delivers this,” and that’s okay.

Marisa Renee Lee:

And also I will say to that point, one of the things I talk about a lot in Grief Is Love and in almost every interview that I give is, it’s really hard to grieve well without help. Everyone needs some form of either paid or free help, whether it’s having the spouse be the one to give the speech or having the neighbor pick up the kids from soccer or going to see a therapist, whatever it is for you, I just want to say to people, don’t try to do this all by yourself because it’s basically impossible. I think it is especially impossible to do completely on your own when there’s also kids involved. Because it’s just more complicated.

Emily Oster:

And I think that there are these moments of this question of just the days you cannot do. When you just cannot. You cannot be there for your kids. You cannot pick them up from school in which it’s too heavy, and that is when you need help.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yeah. And don’t feel guilty about asking for help. I always like to frame the help as think about how you feel when you’re able to do something nice for someone else in need. It’s okay for you to ask others for the same things that you would be willing to do for them. So don’t feel bad about it because nothing that’s hard in this world is ever accomplished alone. I don’t care if we’re talking about grieving the loss of a parent and balancing work and kids and marriage and everything else at the same time, or starting a super successful business. Don’t be committed to this American ideology of independence that is mostly a farce.

Emily Oster:

One of the most notable things after my mom passed was the number of people like you who were people that I knew but wasn’t close to, but had had this experience, who were the people who would just email me and be like, “Hey, what do you need”-

Marisa Renee Lee:

Because you know. Yeah.

Emily Oster:

“I am just reaching to you today.” And I think that is so telling for me. It’s something I have now tried to do on the other end that just with any of these experiences, you have them in the UCO. Yes, that is in fact what I needed and also something I would like to give to other people.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yeah, because once you’ve been through it, you know. You don’t wait for someone to ask for help. You just show up and say, “Okay, I’m here. Here are the things that I’m offering.” And to folks who are listening and are trying to figure out how to support someone else through grief, just three quick tips and ways to think about it. So one is just physically being present. It is a really hard thing to do, but sometimes it’s nice to just stop by and be with someone when they’re in it. It has definitely made a difference in my life. The other is just the practical things, picking the kids up, dropping off a meal, taking the dog for a walk, helping with a work thing when you know they’re overwhelmed by grief. And then the third, and this is one of my personal favorites, is the authentic support. And it can either mean doing something for that person that helps to remind them of who they are beyond this horrible moment that they’re living through or doing something for them or giving them something that connects them back to the person that they lost.

And so after our pregnancy loss, I have 11 roommates from college, and it turned out each one was assigned a month where they had to send something to Matt and I. And I didn’t know this until looking back, I was like, “Wow, you guys did a really good job.” And they’re like, “Oh, yeah, there was a spreadsheet. That was organized.” I was like, “Okay.” And right before Christmas that year, someone sent me these awesome black Santa Claus earrings, and it was pick me and also very closely tied to my relationship with my mom. And so thinking of those things that are just going to make someone smile or make their life a little bit easier when they’re in the thick of grief, I think really does make a difference.

Emily Oster:

It’s amazing how, in talking about the ways that people showed up for us while we were grieving, the ways that we needed to be held, the parallels between that and the help I remember needing when I first had a newborn…

Marisa Renee Lee:

Oh, my God, yes. Oh, my God, you are so right. So my son showed up three weeks before I was supposed to turn in Grief Is Love. About a month and a half before we got the call about Bennett, I had decided to rewrite almost the entire book, a good 50, 60%. It was painful. And it was due right after Labor Day. And then we got a call on a Thursday that this baby had been born the day before, and if we wanted him, he was ours. And we said yes, without hesitation. We had nothing, by the way, nothing. I had one of Emily’s books, Cribsheet.

Emily Oster:

So great.

Marisa Renee Lee:

And you know what else I had?

Emily Oster:

An Amazon Prime subscription, I hope.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Oh, yes, yes. We already had that. Amazon Prime, yes. But I had had your book, and then I had this zip up hoodie that they sold in the special White House shop that was just for employees inside the actual building. So a hoodie for a six to 12 month old that I bought hoping for some future baby. And they also sold these stuffed bow dogs, like after Obama’s dog. And that was it. Literally that was it. And so we got on a plane and everybody else did everything for us. For months after, people say, “Oh, why’d you get that stroller?” Or “How do you like your car seat?” Or “Why those?” But I’m like, “I don’t know. Yeah, it works.” I didn’t have time to worry about any of that stuff because we just were given a baby and it was crazy. And the whole time I was in new mom, newborn land craziness all by ourselves, and I was trying to finish the book.

Emily Oster:

Because it was during COVID-

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yeah. It was during COVID. Yeah, it was during COVID, we’re in another state. No family, no friends, just me and Matt hanging out with this baby somebody just gave us and me trying to finish Grief Is Love at the same time. And so much of the last chapters of that book were inspired by Bennett’s arrival and recognizing that there’s so much about birth and new life that is so much like death. They’re both just these deep transformative experiences. So yeah, it was wild.

Emily Oster:

So wild. So the last thing about kids that I want to touch on is their own grief, right? So there are some of these things that we can be grieving, like a pregnancy loss, which our kids may not know anything about. And that’s a particular thing of sort of being in grief when your two-year-old has no idea what happened and doesn’t really understand why you can’t play with them. And then there are pieces, particularly with older kids where they are also experiencing their own loss. And it’s interesting, when I was 18 or maybe 20, my grandmother died, my mother’s mother. And I remember going home and being very sad. And my mother telling me basically, “I can’t be with your sadness.” Not in a negative way, but just like, this is too much for me. I cannot also take yours. And that was really honest, and there were many other people there. So it was a very honest thing that I do think about it in my own kids things, but I worry sometimes when we do this with our kids that we don’t allow their own grief, that the same way we’re trying to push it down for ourselves, also try to push it down for them.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yeah. And we really need to not do that. At the end of the day, grief is a normal part of life. It’s a part that none of us wants to deal with. That I know for sure. But I also haven’t come up with any secret recipe for avoiding it or a magic pill that makes it go away. And so I think it’s really important when kids are grieving, whether it is your kids grieving the loss of your mom or the little grief moments that happen throughout childhood and adolescence when maybe they tried out for a team and they didn’t make it, or something’s happening with their friend group at school. Those kinds of things really do matter. And I think they get at teaching kids to be full human beings.

The complete experience of being human includes some grief, whether it is the loss of a person or the loss of something else that you hoped came to pass that just didn’t. And teaching kids how to deal with that and how to hold compassion for themselves. And also how to hold two conflicting emotions, giving your kids’ room. I remember you saying your daughter borrowed what was your mother’s jacket and found a $20 bill and a lipstick in the pocket, and you’re laughing because it’s hilarious. And also it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to hold both. And so I think modeling that for our kids and encouraging them to do that is really important.

Emily Oster:

And some of that is just how we react in those moments when they tell us, “I’m feeling sad about this.” Rather than saying… Being careful not to say, “Well, don’t feel sad,” or “Let’s think about the bright side.” Be able to say, “Yeah, I’m also sad about that lipstick” but also-

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yeah. [inaudible 00:31:29] that, okay.

Emily Oster:

“Isn’t it bizarre that she would constantly leave $20 everywhere?” And there must be millions of dollars in my mother’s clothes.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Yes, exactly.

Emily Oster:

We can hold them both.

So the book is, Grief Is Love. It is the book I send to everybody who is going through this, I’d recommend to everybody. It really helped me and I’m really grateful to you for writing it.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Oh, thank you.

Emily Oster:

And for being here with me. So thank you.

Marisa Renee Lee:

Thank you, thank you. I’m so glad.

A mother cups her child's face during a hard conversation.

15 min read

Talking About Death with Small Children

Guest Post by Miranda Featherstone

Miranda Featherstone

Feb 28 2022

6 min read

Talking About Hard Things with Kids

A five-step approach

Emily Oster

Oct 19 2023

18 min read

Parenting Through Divorce

I get a lot of hard questions with no good answer, but among the very hardest are questions from parents Read more

Emily Oster

Instagram

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Parenting trends are like Cabbage Patch Kids: they’re usually only popular because a bunch of people are using them! Most of the time, these trends are not based on new scientific research, and even if they are, that new research doesn’t reflect all of what we’ve studied before.

In the future, before hopping onto the latest trend, check the data first. Unlike Cabbage Patch Kids, parenting trends can add a lot of unnecessary stress and challenges to your plate. What’s a recent trend that you’ve been wondering about?

#parentdata #emilyoster #parentingtips #parentingadvice #parentinghacks

Parenting trends are like Cabbage Patch Kids: they’re usually only popular because a bunch of people are using them! Most of the time, these trends are not based on new scientific research, and even if they are, that new research doesn’t reflect all of what we’ve studied before.

In the future, before hopping onto the latest trend, check the data first. Unlike Cabbage Patch Kids, parenting trends can add a lot of unnecessary stress and challenges to your plate. What’s a recent trend that you’ve been wondering about?

#parentdata #emilyoster #parentingtips #parentingadvice #parentinghacks
...

As of this week, 1 million copies of my books have been sold. This feels humbling and, frankly, unbelievable. I’m so thankful to those of you who’ve read and passed along your recommendations of the books.

When I wrote Expecting Better, I had no plan for all of this — I wrote that book because I felt compelled to write it, because it was the book I wanted to read. As I’ve come out with more books, and now ParentData, I am closer to seeing what I hope we can all create. That is: a world where everyone has access to reliable data, based on causal evidence, to make informed, confident decisions that work for their families.

I’m so grateful you’re all here as a part of this, and I want to thank you! If you’ve been waiting for the right moment to sign up for full access to ParentData, this is it. ⭐️ Comment “Link” for a DM with a discount code for 20% off of a new monthly or annual subscription to ParentData! 

Thank you again for being the best community of readers and internet-friends on the planet. I am so lucky to have you all here.

#parentdata #emilyoster #expectingbetter #cribsheet #familyfirm #parentingcommunity

As of this week, 1 million copies of my books have been sold. This feels humbling and, frankly, unbelievable. I’m so thankful to those of you who’ve read and passed along your recommendations of the books.

When I wrote Expecting Better, I had no plan for all of this — I wrote that book because I felt compelled to write it, because it was the book I wanted to read. As I’ve come out with more books, and now ParentData, I am closer to seeing what I hope we can all create. That is: a world where everyone has access to reliable data, based on causal evidence, to make informed, confident decisions that work for their families.

I’m so grateful you’re all here as a part of this, and I want to thank you! If you’ve been waiting for the right moment to sign up for full access to ParentData, this is it. ⭐️ Comment “Link” for a DM with a discount code for 20% off of a new monthly or annual subscription to ParentData!

Thank you again for being the best community of readers and internet-friends on the planet. I am so lucky to have you all here.

#parentdata #emilyoster #expectingbetter #cribsheet #familyfirm #parentingcommunity
...

Just eat your Cheerios and move on.

Just eat your Cheerios and move on. ...

The AAP’s guidelines recommend sleeping in the same room as your baby “ideally for the first six months.” However, the risk of SIDS is dramatically lower after four months, and the evidence in favor of the protective effect of room sharing is quite weak (both overall and even more so after four months). There is also growing evidence that infants who sleep in their own room by four months sleep better at four months, better at nine months, and even better at 30 months.

With this in mind, it’s worth asking why this recommendation continues at all — or at least why the AAP doesn’t push it back to four months. They say decreased arousals from sleep are linked to SIDS, which could mean that babies sleeping in their own room is risky. But this link is extremely indirect, and they do not show direct evidence to support it.

According to the data we have, parents should sleep in the same room as a baby for as long as it works for them! Sharing a room with a child may have negative impacts on both child and adult sleep. We should give families more help in navigating these trade-offs and making the decisions that work best for them.

#emilyoster #parentdata #roomsharing #sids #parentingguide

The AAP’s guidelines recommend sleeping in the same room as your baby “ideally for the first six months.” However, the risk of SIDS is dramatically lower after four months, and the evidence in favor of the protective effect of room sharing is quite weak (both overall and even more so after four months). There is also growing evidence that infants who sleep in their own room by four months sleep better at four months, better at nine months, and even better at 30 months.

With this in mind, it’s worth asking why this recommendation continues at all — or at least why the AAP doesn’t push it back to four months. They say decreased arousals from sleep are linked to SIDS, which could mean that babies sleeping in their own room is risky. But this link is extremely indirect, and they do not show direct evidence to support it.

According to the data we have, parents should sleep in the same room as a baby for as long as it works for them! Sharing a room with a child may have negative impacts on both child and adult sleep. We should give families more help in navigating these trade-offs and making the decisions that work best for them.

#emilyoster #parentdata #roomsharing #sids #parentingguide
...

It was an absolute pleasure to be featured on the @tamronhallshow! We talked about all things data-driven parenting and, in this clip, what I call the plague of secret parenting. To balance having a career and having a family, we can’t hide the fact that we’re parents. If mothers and fathers at the top can speak more openly about child-care obligations, it will help us all set a new precedent.

Watch the full segment at the link in my bio 🔗

#tamronhall #tamronhallshow #emilyoster #parentingsupport #workingparents

It was an absolute pleasure to be featured on the @tamronhallshow! We talked about all things data-driven parenting and, in this clip, what I call the plague of secret parenting. To balance having a career and having a family, we can’t hide the fact that we’re parents. If mothers and fathers at the top can speak more openly about child-care obligations, it will help us all set a new precedent.

Watch the full segment at the link in my bio 🔗

#tamronhall #tamronhallshow #emilyoster #parentingsupport #workingparents
...

Invisible labor. It’s the work — in our households especially — that has to happen but that no one sees. It’s making the doctor’s appointment, ensuring birthday cards are purchased, remembering the milk.

My guest on this episode, @everodsky, has come up with a solution here, or at least a way for us to recognize the problem and make our own solutions. I’ve wanted to speak with Eve for ages, since I read her book Fair Play. We had a great conversation about the division of household labor, one I think you’ll get a lot out of!

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

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #householdtips #fairplay #invisiblelabor

Invisible labor. It’s the work — in our households especially — that has to happen but that no one sees. It’s making the doctor’s appointment, ensuring birthday cards are purchased, remembering the milk.

My guest on this episode, @everodsky, has come up with a solution here, or at least a way for us to recognize the problem and make our own solutions. I’ve wanted to speak with Eve for ages, since I read her book Fair Play. We had a great conversation about the division of household labor, one I think you’ll get a lot out of!

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

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #householdtips #fairplay #invisiblelabor
...

Prenatal vitamins 💊 If there is any product that seems designed to prey on our fears, it’s this one. You’re newly pregnant and you want to do it right. Everyone agrees you need prenatal vitamins, so you get them. But do you want to be that person who just… buys the generic prenatal vitamins?

Good news: fancier vitamins are not better.  Folic acid is the most important prenatal ingredient. Iron (with vitamin C) and DHA are also nice to have. Other included ingredients have only weak or no evidence to support their use. (If you do not consume animal products, add B12, plus a few others depending on your diet.)

Vitamins are just vitamins. Any prenatal vitamin that contains these is enough. 

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article with everything you need to know about prenatal vitamins.

#emilyoster #parentdata #prenatalvitamins #pregnancydiet #pregnancytips

Prenatal vitamins 💊 If there is any product that seems designed to prey on our fears, it’s this one. You’re newly pregnant and you want to do it right. Everyone agrees you need prenatal vitamins, so you get them. But do you want to be that person who just… buys the generic prenatal vitamins?

Good news: fancier vitamins are not better. Folic acid is the most important prenatal ingredient. Iron (with vitamin C) and DHA are also nice to have. Other included ingredients have only weak or no evidence to support their use. (If you do not consume animal products, add B12, plus a few others depending on your diet.)

Vitamins are just vitamins. Any prenatal vitamin that contains these is enough.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article with everything you need to know about prenatal vitamins.

#emilyoster #parentdata #prenatalvitamins #pregnancydiet #pregnancytips
...

When it comes to introducing your newborn to the world, timing matters. It’s a good idea to minimize germ exposure in the first 6-8 weeks; after that, it’s inevitable and, very likely, a good idea! This doesn’t mean you need to be trapped inside. The most significant exposure risks are from seeing other people at home — family, etc. These interactions are not infinitely risky, but they do pose more risk than a walk or a trip to the grocery store, since they involve closer interaction. Think simple and make sure everyone is washing their hands before holding the baby. 💛

#parentdata #emilyoster #newborncare #parentingadvice #parentingtips

When it comes to introducing your newborn to the world, timing matters. It’s a good idea to minimize germ exposure in the first 6-8 weeks; after that, it’s inevitable and, very likely, a good idea! This doesn’t mean you need to be trapped inside. The most significant exposure risks are from seeing other people at home — family, etc. These interactions are not infinitely risky, but they do pose more risk than a walk or a trip to the grocery store, since they involve closer interaction. Think simple and make sure everyone is washing their hands before holding the baby. 💛

#parentdata #emilyoster #newborncare #parentingadvice #parentingtips
...

The first edition of Hot Flash is out now! Comment “Link” for a DM to learn more about the late-reproductive stage.

There are times when we expect hormonal shifts. Our reproductive lives are bookended by puberty and menopause. We discuss those changes often because they are definitive and dramatic — a first period is something many of us remember clearly. But between ages 13 and 53, our hormones are changing in more subtle ways. During the late-reproductive stage (in your 40s), you can expect a lot of changes in your menstrual cycle, including the length and symptoms you experience throughout. It’s an important time in our lives that is often overlooked!

🔥 Hot Flash from ParentData is a weekly newsletter on navigating your health and hormones in the post-reproductive years. Written by Dr. Gillian Goddard, Hot Flash provides all of the information you need to have a productive, evidence-based conversation about hormonal health with your doctor.

#emilyoster #parentdata #hotflash #perimenopause #womenshealth

The first edition of Hot Flash is out now! Comment “Link” for a DM to learn more about the late-reproductive stage.

There are times when we expect hormonal shifts. Our reproductive lives are bookended by puberty and menopause. We discuss those changes often because they are definitive and dramatic — a first period is something many of us remember clearly. But between ages 13 and 53, our hormones are changing in more subtle ways. During the late-reproductive stage (in your 40s), you can expect a lot of changes in your menstrual cycle, including the length and symptoms you experience throughout. It’s an important time in our lives that is often overlooked!

🔥 Hot Flash from ParentData is a weekly newsletter on navigating your health and hormones in the post-reproductive years. Written by Dr. Gillian Goddard, Hot Flash provides all of the information you need to have a productive, evidence-based conversation about hormonal health with your doctor.

#emilyoster #parentdata #hotflash #perimenopause #womenshealth
...

There are plenty of reels telling you how to parent. Plenty of panic headlines saying that “studies show” what’s best for your kid. Even good data, from a trusted source, can send us into a spiral of comparison. But I want you to remember that no one knows your kid better than you. It’s important to absorb the research, but only you will know the approach that works best for you and your child. 💙

Now tell me in the comments: what’s a parenting move you’ve made recently that feels right to you?

#parentingcommunity #parentingsupport #parentingquotes #emilyoster #parentdata

There are plenty of reels telling you how to parent. Plenty of panic headlines saying that “studies show” what’s best for your kid. Even good data, from a trusted source, can send us into a spiral of comparison. But I want you to remember that no one knows your kid better than you. It’s important to absorb the research, but only you will know the approach that works best for you and your child. 💙

Now tell me in the comments: what’s a parenting move you’ve made recently that feels right to you?

#parentingcommunity #parentingsupport #parentingquotes #emilyoster #parentdata
...

Let’s talk about sex (after) baby! Today on the podcast, I was lucky enough to speak with @enagoski about her new book on sexual connection in long-term relationships. Especially after having kids, this is something many people struggle with. Emily tells us to stop worrying about what’s “normal” and focus on pleasure in its many forms.

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

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #emilyoster #emilynagoski #comeasyouare #cometogether #longtermrelationship #intimacy #relationships

Let’s talk about sex (after) baby! Today on the podcast, I was lucky enough to speak with @enagoski about her new book on sexual connection in long-term relationships. Especially after having kids, this is something many people struggle with. Emily tells us to stop worrying about what’s “normal” and focus on pleasure in its many forms.

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

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #emilyoster #emilynagoski #comeasyouare #cometogether #longtermrelationship #intimacy #relationships
...

Ever wondered if you can safely use leftover baby formula? 🍼 The CDC says to throw out unused formula immediately because of the risk of bacterial growth. However, research suggests that bacterial concentrations do not appreciably increase after 3, 12, or even 24 hours at refrigerator temperatures. Good news! This means there’s not a strong data-based reason to throw out formula right away if you store it in the fridge.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on another common formula question: should you throw away old formula powder?

#emilyoster #parentdata #babyformula #babyfeeding #parentingstruggles

Ever wondered if you can safely use leftover baby formula? 🍼 The CDC says to throw out unused formula immediately because of the risk of bacterial growth. However, research suggests that bacterial concentrations do not appreciably increase after 3, 12, or even 24 hours at refrigerator temperatures. Good news! This means there’s not a strong data-based reason to throw out formula right away if you store it in the fridge.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on another common formula question: should you throw away old formula powder?

#emilyoster #parentdata #babyformula #babyfeeding #parentingstruggles
...

What’s the most important piece of advice for new parents? Here’s one answer, but I want to hear from you! Share your suggestions in the comments ⬇️

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingtips #parentingadvice #newparents #parentingcommunity

What’s the most important piece of advice for new parents? Here’s one answer, but I want to hear from you! Share your suggestions in the comments ⬇️

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingtips #parentingadvice #newparents #parentingcommunity
...

What's in the bag of a Vagina Economist? 👀 Someone please tell me this looks familiar to you.

What`s in the bag of a Vagina Economist? 👀 Someone please tell me this looks familiar to you. ...

Comment ”link” for a DM to learn more about tongue ties 🔗

Breastfeeding is often difficult, especially at the start. For babies with tongue ties, many infants (and their moms) struggle to get the hang of a good latch. This can lead to painful nipples and to inefficient feeding, and then low weight gain.

So what does the data say about the increasingly common practice of cutting tongue-ties in infants to improve breastfeeding success? Several weeks ago, @nytimes published a long and quite scary article on this topic.

After diving into the data, here is what I found. There is limited evidence that frenotomy procedures improve breastfeeding efficacy and the harms of the procedure are minimal. Many women do report that it alleviates pain and helps them with breastfeeding. However, it should not be a first-line treatment for breastfeeding problems.

#parentdata #emilyoster #tonguetie #tonguetiebabies #breastfeedingsupport

Comment ”link” for a DM to learn more about tongue ties 🔗

Breastfeeding is often difficult, especially at the start. For babies with tongue ties, many infants (and their moms) struggle to get the hang of a good latch. This can lead to painful nipples and to inefficient feeding, and then low weight gain.

So what does the data say about the increasingly common practice of cutting tongue-ties in infants to improve breastfeeding success? Several weeks ago, @nytimes published a long and quite scary article on this topic.

After diving into the data, here is what I found. There is limited evidence that frenotomy procedures improve breastfeeding efficacy and the harms of the procedure are minimal. Many women do report that it alleviates pain and helps them with breastfeeding. However, it should not be a first-line treatment for breastfeeding problems.

#parentdata #emilyoster #tonguetie #tonguetiebabies #breastfeedingsupport
...