Emily Oster

38 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

The Business of Parenting

With Hillary Frank

Emily Oster

38 min Read

Today’s bonus episode is an audio recording from one of my appearances last month in Montclair, New Jersey. It was an amazing night. Hundreds of people were there, Hillary Frank was there, and now you can be there too, in some small way, by listening to this episode. The event was hosted by Watchung Bookstore and held at Temple Ner Tamid. I was so lucky to be joined by Hillary Frank, who asked me some really thoughtful, smart questions about my work on parenting. If you don’t know her, Hillary is the creator of the podcast The Longest Shortest Time, and Here Lies Me, and the author of the book, Weird Parenting Wins. Big thanks to her, and to all of you who came out and asked her questions at the end. Now, here’s Hillary.

Hillary Frank:

I am so happy to be here with Emily and we’re grateful that we could be here at Ner Tamid. Thank you to Ner Tamid for hosting us, and to Watchung Books for putting this on. So, Emily-

Emily:

I’m so excited.

Hillary Frank:

Welcome to Montclair, Bloomfield.

Emily:

We’re in Bloomfield.

Hillary Frank:

Your book is called The Family Firm, and you focus on what you call the business of parenting. As I was reading the book, I couldn’t help thinking, so much of parenting and parenthood feels emotional. It’s all emotionally charged. But when I think of business, I think we want to take the emotion out of that. So can you explain what you mean about making parenting a business?

Emily:

Absolutely. When we first engage with someone, if we get married to them, we trust that we’re going to build this life together, and we like each other, and it’s pretty… It’s not easy always, but you’re doing your stuff, and you’re doing your thing separately from each other, and it’s great, and you get together, and you have dinner together, and it’s very relaxed. Then you have a kid. It’s like, “Oh my God, we have to do so many things that we didn’t think about, that we were going to have to do, and we have to do them all at the same time.”

Then you get your feet under you, and then your kid gets a little older, and The Family Firm is, at least for me, motivated a lot by the experience of having at least slightly older kids, where the logistics start being this enormous part of your life. So this kid has to be here at this time, this person has to be here at this time. There’s the birthday parties. Who’s going to be in charge of this? You end up with this enormous management problem. What happens often there is, although you are basically running what I refer to as a small to medium-sized enterprise, you are doing it with the tools of two people who can just lay around on the couch whenever they want, and never have to do anything, and somehow that’s not meshing.

Often, we end up in this situation where you think, “Well, it’s just going to work out because we love each other.” I guess the message of the book is, you could love your partner but still want them to complete their Asana tasks. And that if you in fact structure things so people know more about what is expected, so you’ve actually thought deliberately about the choices you want to make, and how you want your day to go, and who’s going to do what, that you could actually have more time to lay on the couch, or do the things that you liked to do before because you aren’t constantly fighting fires on the logistics side.

So, I think that’s hard. Some of the message of the book is almost to get people to recognize that, just because we are having an email exchange about this experience doesn’t mean I don’t like you. It’s not that I don’t like you and that’s why I’m emailing you. It’s just that we are also trying to run a business here, and we can separate those. My husband’s also an economist, so it’s much easier. I think it was easier for us to take a little bit of that leap because we’re both total weirdos. So I think everyone could be a little… Just marry an economist and you’ll be fine. That’s the takeaway for today.

Hillary Frank:

So when people go into parenting, we have a lot of shoulds on our mind of how you should get your kids to sleep, and how you should feed them. The things get more complicated as they get older. So, what are some of the shoulds that you’ve heard?

Emily:

I think what’s great about shoulds is that you can be should in both directions. So you should put the kid in there to sleep in their own room, but you also should have them sleep in your bed, and you also should have them sleep in their own bed, in your own room, and you also should breastfeed forever, but you also should stop. So this culture, the pressures of parenting do come around a lot of the expectations that other people put on the things that we should do. Often, the pressure is because, “I think you should do the things that I do.”

That’s basically what I think. That’s the fundamental culture of interacting with other people’s parenting, is that they should be doing what you’re doing. The reason for that is because that’s how you’re doing a good job. I think we got to break that a little bit and say, “I should do the things that work for me, and you should do the things that work for you, and just because they’re not the same things doesn’t mean that one of us is shoulding wrong.” But, it’s difficult not to want other people to do your things.

Hillary Frank:

You said in the book that you have a friend who ate with his kids at the table because otherwise he heard that they would become serial killers.

Emily:

Yes, he did tell me that’s why he did that. But what’s so interesting about that example is that then I had another… That person’s, not surprisingly, an economist, as most of my friends are economists. But the conversation with another economist, she explained that when she got married to her husband, he was like, “We eat dinner together.” His family eats dinner together at night. She explained to me how messed up she thought that was.

Basically, the first time she went she was like, “I couldn’t believe what these people are like. They’re like, ‘At 6:00, everyone has happened to be at the dinner table.’ What kind of nut jobs are these?” She had this lovely childhood where she was very close to her parents, and everything worked out great. It’s just, that wasn’t part of their thing. That wasn’t part of their structure, that wasn’t the time that they connected. So I think there’s this… The shoulds are so much driven by either what we’ve heard, or the experiences that we had. I feel very strongly, you have to be sitting at the table. But also, it’s not because of the serial killer thing. It’s a side benefit.

Hillary Frank:

I have a kid who’s turning 13 in a little more than a week.

Emily:

Good luck.

Hillary Frank:

Thank you. But I really wish that I had had this book 13 years ago, so I’m really mad at you.

Emily:

Okay, fair enough.

Hillary Frank:

But really, because it would’ve saved me a lot of really intense arguments with my husband. You make the argument that those arguments, a lot of them are due to poor family management. So, can you give us some examples of how this happens? Where’s the breakdown that causes these arguments?

Emily:

A good example of this is… Actually, I’m out of town today and I’m not out of town that much. One of the things that happens when one person is the primary parent in some domain, and you haven’t really talked about how that domain goes when they then are not there, things happen wrong. I think, during bedtime, that bedtime is at 8:30. Every night I do bedtime, and I do bedtime, and I do bedtime, and bedtime is 8:30.

Then you imagine the scenario where I’m out of town and I call at 10:00, and my partner’s… The kid is still is watching TV. I’m like, “What the fuck is the matter with you? Bedtime is 8:30. Are you going crazy?” It’s like, “Well, that’s not my rule,” and that is a source of conflict. What’s hard about that kind of conflict if you haven’t talked about it in advance is, how does my partner know that my bedtime rule is really strict, but my rule about you have to take a bath is very relaxed?

I believe my personal situation is, bedtime is very fixed, and bedtime is bedtime and that is totally non-negotiable. But I couldn’t care less if you take a bath. It’s true. I will give my kids a bath. My husband doesn’t do baths. It’s not his thing, fine. So the kid’s little dirty, it’s not such a big deal. But I think-

Hillary Frank:

You just wipe them off, just wipe-

Emily:

Exactly. You white wipe a little face. It’s true, he basically bathes in his food, but it’s fine. So the message I try to talk about in the book is that there’s a huge amount of value to discussing some of these things in an upfront way so you can agree on what are… Or at least try to agree on some of the things that are important to you. What are the aspects of parenting of your life? What are the values that you find most important, in both the abstract but also in very concrete ways? What are the things that are most important to see happen every day?

Now, I think there’s two caveats to that. One is that, if you start having those conversations and you are the primary person who does most of the things, it can be easy to just be like, “Here are the rules. We do this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this.” I think there’s a recognition, I talk about this some in the book, that you cannot die on every hill. Everything cannot be the most important thing. It can’t be that, “When I leave town you have to literally replicate me,” because if I feel that way, I can’t go.

Everything cannot be the most important thing, so recognizing in these conversations that some things are shared values, some things are really important to one of us, and some things are more optional. The other piece of this that’s hard is when you start having conversations like this about, “What’s important to me? What do I want to do? What’s important in my parenting?” Especially these big picture things, sometimes you’ll disagree. It’s really hard to have a conversation where you know will fight, but you will fight anyway.

If you disagree about some fundamental thing, “What is a reasonable dinner?” Or, “What should people have for snack?” Or, “What extracurricular should they do?” Or, what school they should go to? Or whatever it is, you are going to argue about that. There is no way to not have that argument. That argument is arriving. It is better to have it on purpose, surfacing those conflicts in a moment when you have a moment to talk about them, when you are not in a hot state, when no one just messed it up and did the thing you didn’t want, I think that that is a better way, a more business-y way forward than to just wait until it comes up again, and again, and again, and scream at each other.

Hillary Frank:

You talk a lot about decision-making in the book, and that there’s endless decisions to be made, that you never thought about the kinds of macro and micro decisions that you would have to make on a daily basis as a parent. You argue that we shouldn’t just go with our gut, which I think is the easy thing to do. You’re feeling emotionally charged about something and you’re like, “This is what I feel. I’m going to go with this choice.” But you argue that we should invest time in deliberate decision-making. Can you lay out what that looks like with your tools and model?

Emily:

Yeah. First I will say, is it can be okay to parent with your gut, as long as you are comfortable with all of the things that come after that. Some of what happens when people tell me that’s the approach they want to take, then they explain that they’re then upset when things don’t… That they’re then second guessing themselves, I guess is what I would say. So some of the, “I’m going to parent with my gut,” works great if what that means is that you are constantly questioning whether you did the right thing, then in fact you’re not really parenting with your gut in quite the way that you maybe think that you are.

So this alternative, or this approach that I take in the book, is to just think through deliberately some of the things that either come up all the time and think about, “Should we have policies about this? Should we have something written down about the way we’re going to operate this?” Some of that is about literally, “Do we have a policy about food?” Or, “What do we want our schedule to look like?”

Some of it is the bigger picture things like, “What are the three things that are going to serve me? What are the three things that I want to see in my day every day? What are the three things that I want, the three central values that our family has?” What’s our family’s mission statement?” Not every piece of this is going to be helpful for every family. But taking a moment to, in many of these places, really engage with the decisions that you’re making every day, or big decisions that you make occasionally, and trying to talk about them and decide what you want to do.

Hillary Frank:

Can you tell us what your family’s mission statement is?

Emily:

We’re trying to raise adults. For us, that’s a big piece of how we think about what we’re trying to do as parents, get our kids ready to leave us so we can lay on the couch like we did before. No, but just thinking about… For us, that’s a big piece of it.

Hillary Frank:

So, let’s talk about sleep.

Emily:

Yeah, let’s do it.

Hillary Frank:

Right. In the book, you have examples of data clearly showing that quality sleep is essential. Can you give us an example of how to manage sleep? Based on the data, how do you pick a bedtime?

Emily:

Sleep is totally great, and we have a lot… As you said, there’s a ton of data showing that if kids do not get enough sleep, that’s bad. You can show it in manipulations where you give kids even an hour less sleep at night for a week, and then when they do bad at tests, and their parents say they’re a jerk, and all kinds of stuff at the end of the week. So there’s a lot of evidence that even relatively small manipulations.

Now when they tell you, you ask, “Well, what’s the right amount of sleep for an elementary school kid?” It’s 9 to 11 hours, that’s actually an enormously large range. So the question is, “How would I know if my kid is sleeping enough?” I think what I like about this example is it’s actually not… There is an answer. There are two things you’re looking for. One is, “Is my kid sleepy at school? Is my kids seen sleeping during the day? Does teachers say that they’re sleepy?,” et cetera. The other is, do they weekend oversleep?

If you let your kid sleep… If you’re getting them up for school every day, but then on the weekend you let them sleep as long as they want, and they go two extra hours, they’re not sleeping enough. They should basically be getting up about the same… It’s like adults. How do you know that you are sleep-deprived? If I told you, “It’s Saturday, and somebody’s taking your kids, and you can sleep as late as you want,” you’re not getting up at the same time. Don’t look at me, I know you’re not getting up at the same time that you were. So if your kid is doing that, that is a signal that they are also sleep-deprived. So, you need to tighten it up.

I will say, I have found with my kids that this is something they really internalize. So relative to some other things like, “Don’t eat so much candy,” where I’ve made no progress at all, the idea that sleep is important, and that you should be listening to your body’s cues about whether you are tired. They are laser focused on whether they’re getting enough sleep, to the point of titrating their bedtimes by 15 minutes to try to optimize in various ways. But, I feel like it’s something kids can recognize a little bit in themselves.

Hillary Frank:

That’s a great skill. You’ve amassed so much data about parenthood and kids. What’s some of the most surprising data you’ve come across in your research?

Emily:

The place I’m mostly surprised by data is when it isn’t there. So when there are questions… I’ve talked on, lately, various forms about data on breastfeeding or treating mastitis, which is a common breastfeeding complication, or storing breast milk, or vaginal tearing, Jay’s favorite topic. There are a lot of the spaces in pregnancy, and particularly in things that are medical but woman-specific, where I think we are lacking. We’re just lacking information, and it’s often in places where I feel like that question is 100% percent answerable.

There’s a lot of really hard questions in the world. What is the optimal diet? That’s a really hard question. It’s really hard to figure out from data. It’s hard to do randomized drugs. It’s hard. It’s a hard question. The question of, how long does breast milk stay fresh if you leave it out on the counter? It’s not hard. This is not a hard question. People could answer that. There are a lot of things like that where I feel like we’re just like, “Why don’t we have that?” I don’t know if that’s part of my soap… That’s my soapbox.

Hillary Frank:

A lot of the tools in your book seem like primarily designed for two-parent households, in middle to upper middle class. So, I want to have you talk about parents who live outside of that. What about one-parent household, or people who are co-parenting with maybe an unwilling to participate parent, and people who have fewer resources?

Emily:

One thing I’m going to say, there’s an acknowledgement here that a lot of the tools in the book, or at least some of the tools in the book, are really well-suited for when you are trying to work out your values with someone else. At the same time, at least some of the choices in the book, talking about school choice and so on, are things where resources by choice, and there’s a privilege in having those choices.

What I will say, I think a lot of the book is focused on these bigger decision-making pieces. Those pieces, I don’t think are as specific or should not be as specific to people with resources, or to particular family structures. In the end, we all face decisions pretty much no matter what our circumstances are. We all face decisions, we all face decisions under our constraints. These tools, these decisions are basically about making optimal decisions or making the best decisions for you under whatever the constraints are that you face.

So I think those tools may be broadly useful, and I also think it’s important to sort of recognize that those skills are something that we could convey more broadly. The skill of understanding data, the skill of making decisions based on data, I don’t think should be the purview of particular groups of people.

Hillary Frank:

Something that I really don’t like with a lot of parenting books is that they’re written from a my way or the highway perspective, that’s why I wrote Weird Parenting Wins. But the thing about those books is that, a lot of the time, they make you feel like you’ve already failed because you are reading that you should have done something a certain way three months ago or three years ago. In your book, you talk about how ideally we would be adopting some of these techniques when our kids are babies, or maybe even before they’re born. But can you give those of us hope who, asking for a friend, have an almost 13-year-old, how can we incorporate some of these tools into an already existing family unit?

Emily:

I think that there’s always opportunity to alter up what you’re doing. I have this decision framework and the fourth F is follow up, the idea that most of the decisions we make, you can change. You can change what you’re doing. I think there are opportunities in almost all of the spaces, the times we are in parenting, to reevaluate where we are in terms of what we do. One thing for a lot of parents of slightly older kids, is actually the question of reevaluating how much stuff we do.

So when you tell people, “I wrote a business book about parenting,” one of the things that people are like, “Oh, are you using spreadsheets to cram more activities in?” “Actually, it’s almost the opposite.” A lot of the book is about saying, “Hey, you should sit down and think about, what do you want Saturday to look like? Do you want it to actually be back-to-back travel soccer? In which case, that’s awesome and enjoy yourself. But if you don’t want to be back-to-back travel soccer, you may actually need to actively choose to not have that.” I think those are choices that it’s never too late to make those choices, and it’s never too late to sit down and have some of these conversations.

Hillary Frank:

So it’s like, “What’s important to us? What are the must haves?” Then, “How do we work backwards from there so that the other things don’t take over?”

Emily:

And, recognizing the constraints of time. You can’t have your kid sleep… If your kid has to go to bed at 8:30 to get the amount of sleep that they need, they cannot do gymnastics from 5:00 to 9:00, because 9:00 is after 8:30. There’s something very fundamental there. People are like, “Oh, well just get it in…” “No, it’s after 8:30.” Some of that recognizing, “What are the big chunks?,” and then we need to build around that, and that’s going to involve trade-offs. “Maybe you don’t do gymnastics, it’s okay. You’re not going to the Olympics. Nobody goes to the Olympics.” Okay? I’m just saying, nobody goes to the Olympics.

Hillary Frank:

So, I would love to open this up to audience questions now.

Emily:

Don’t tell me your kid’s going to the… Somebody’s going to be like, “Actually, my kid’s at the Olympics.” I’m just like, “Okay.”

Speaker 4:

Hi.

Emily:

Hi.

Speaker 4:

You talked about, you can’t die on every hill, but what if your partner doesn’t have a lot of hills and you do? How do you compromise?

Emily:

I think there’s a distinction between, you can’t die in every hill and you can’t make every rule. So if the answer is, “My partner just is happy with whatever and is happy for me to make all the rules,” then sure, you make all the rules. The place where this becomes tricky is when you expect someone to implement an infinite number of rules that you want, as opposed to isolating… It’s almost just a cognitive overload issue.

I always think about when my daughter was three, we left my in-laws with her for two days, and we gave them [inaudible] six single space pages of basically, “Here’s what happens in every 15 minute block of the day, and here are all the things.” The thing is, that wasn’t very helpful because they missed some of the important things like, don’t put the rice in the burrito, and then things went off the rails. I think we would’ve been… Similarly, that control, you have to figure out how to give up.

Speaker 4:

So, prioritize.

Emily:

You need to prioritize, yeah. Also, to recognize that it’s okay to do things a little different, for sometimes people have a little different things, the ways they do it. It’s going to be okay. It’s okay.

Speaker 4:

Thank you.

Speaker 5:

I feel like on social media there’s so much out there, a lot of the should. “You should do this,” and a lot of language around gentle parenting. I would love to hear your thoughts, your perspective, on what gentle parenting is. It’s hard to even really find the definition.

Emily:

No, it’s not really well-defined. There’s not a… Unlike some of these things with parenting where you’d be like, “Oh, it’s that book, The Four S’s.” It like [inaudible] by having five S’s, or however many Ss there are, that’s this book. The gentle parenting is this nebulous thing. It sounds good because, what’s the alternative? Mean parenting? That’s what I adopt. There’s a core idea in a lot of this gentle parenting, which I would describe as listening to your kid and using some of these scripts to try to diffuse situations.

In my view, many of those scripts can be very, very useful, and they have worked with my kids in various ways. I think recognizing almost some of the emotional height that you come to when you are having complicated interactions with your kids, and thinking about diffusing that, that’s actually a very central point of a lot of this gentle parenting, which also comes up in almost every other parenting discipline thing that you talk about, even things with timeouts, God forbid.

There’s always that, “Don’t get mad, diffuse your own self.” Where I think this becomes more complicated is when we get into a situation where you are trapped in something where that’s very difficult to implement. So probably the most evidence-based thing we know about discipline in these age ranges is just that consistency is important. That whatever is the thing that you adopt, you need to do it every time. So this comes up in one, two, three magic, where it’s one, two, three timeout. Every time, you have to follow through on that, because how your kid understands the idea of consistency, and that’s what they come to expect.

That can work fine in gentle parenting if you are able to be consistent. Where people often run into an issue is, sometimes you need to leave the house with your children with their shoes on, and you may not be able to negotiate shoe putting on for an infinite period of time. At some point, you may just need to put on their shoes. So thinking about this as a part of an overall parenting discipline structure can be super, super useful. At the same time, probably it is worth thinking about some of the logistics in a way that is helpful, where it would be possible to implement.

Speaker 6:

Hi. I’m curious about your criteria for implementing policies, you used that word before. An example would be when kids can have treats after dinner. For example, we’re pretty laid back, and we generally will let them have something after dinner. But every once in a while my husband will pull, “We don’t have treats every night after dinner,” and it’s like an arbitrary thing that comes in. My kids are pretty laid back too, but I guess it’s like, at what stage… You answered it a little bit just now with the idea of consistency, but do you always have to be consistent? When does a policy… At what point can that be useful, and at what point is it just another rule that we’re trying to follow?

Emily:

Partly, that’s enormously dependent on what your kids are like. For my kids, if we said, “In general, we have no desserts.” That’s actually not true. In general, we always have desserts. But, imagine the policy was no dessert. Then one day we said, “We’re going to have dessert,” then they would ask every single future day, for infinity. I think that is annoying, basically. So some of this is about figuring out, how are your kids going to respond to particular things?

I also think there is, and this is something I learned from teaching, a lot of value to externalization in rules. So we have a set of policies about dessert involving ice cream, that ice cream is available on Thursday and Friday nights. It looks very quite arbitrary about why, “You can always have a dessert…” But anyway, whatever. Ice cream is only for Thursday and Friday. I don’t get into why. It’s written down, it’s in the Google Doc, the food policies.

But when they say, “Can I have ice cream? It’s a Tuesday,” you just say, “I’m sorry, I wish that I could do that. But, it’s in the Google Doc.” You could do that with your students too. You’re like, “I wish I could change this, but it’s in the syllabus guide I wrote and fully control.” But I think there is this piece… I’m joking, but there is some of this of just figuring out what works. There probably are places, even with your own kids, where having a consistent policy would help you feel better about it, or would help them feel better about it. Maybe it is not about desserts, maybe it’s about some other thing where they want to take more. They want to understand more, “What are the boundaries?”

Speaker 7:

Hi. I’m thankful for this last question because this would’ve been a massive deviation otherwise. I just wanted to know if you had seen any of the studies coming out about cadmium and lead in dark chocolate, and how bad is that?

Emily:

It’s fine?

Speaker 7:

It’s fine?

Emily:

It’s fine. Yeah, it’s fine. The amounts… Look, it’s not good to eat… The lead is the main thing here. It’s not good to eat lead, don’t go eat lead. But the amounts that they are finding, this is not an amount of lead… This is not your main source of lead. I don’t know it that makes you feel better or not. But basically, the problematic levels of lead we see are basically in water, or in paint, or in the old bathtub that’s on your back porch, or in your soil, not in your chocolate bars. So I just wouldn’t think about that anymore, honestly.

Speaker 8:

Hi. Just in follow up to that, how does a study like that get to all of us and we’re worried about it. You’re an economist, you’re smart, we’re all smart, we’re all here-

Emily:

We’re all smart.

Speaker 8:

How does that get past-

Emily:

Right. So I think there’s two versions of the answer here. One, that particular thing, that’s not really a study. That’s just, some people do some consumer testing. Panic headlines. But I think that there’s a deeper question, which is… I wrote this morning about this thing about processed food and cancer, which has some of the same flavor basically, and that’s a real study published in an actual journal that says processed food is correlated with cancer.

When you kind of dive into it, it’s just garbage because the people who eat a lot of processed food are different on every single dimension that you could possibly imagine, and more. So to say it’s the fault of breakfast cereal, when every other thing is different, it doesn’t make any sense. So there’s an interesting question, I posed this to my class the other day, “Given that that paper is very poor, whose fault is it that you are seeing it?”

Is it the fault of the people who wrote the paper? Because you shouldn’t write papers if you don’t have any causation. Is it the fault of the media? Because they should be able to read table two, rather than just the headline. The thing that was most interesting was the student who basically ended the conversation, everyone agreed with them, by being like, “It’s our fault. Because if I was not taking this class and you hadn’t explained this to me, I would’ve sent that article to all of my friends, and then people would read it.”

People like when people read their stories, and people like to write papers that are going to get covered in things and have people read them. So I guess what I’m saying is, it’s your fault. Or, maybe her fault. I don’t know. It’s one of you two, for sure, is at fault for this. But, I think there’s a lot going on behind these things. That’s why we need more data literacy.

Speaker 9:

Can you talk about, when there’s no secret option C?

Emily:

Yeah, sure. This is something that I think about a lot in the space of hard decisions. There are many circumstances in which we are faced with two options, and because neither of them is good, we never make a choice. I’ll give you an example. Somebody yesterday in my Instagram Q&A asked, it was about marriage, “I want a second kid, and my husband doesn’t. How can we both be happy?”

What’s useful to recognize, and I think part of what she was saying is, “We’re going along and we’re looking for this secret option C. We’re looking for something where we can both have another kid, and also not have another kid.” I know it seems unlikely, but I’m just saying, if we wait long enough when we don’t commit to one of these things, there’s always this thing out there. That one’s really obvious because, of course, you can see there can’t be something there. But I think in choices where it’s maybe less black and white, I think we do still… You get to something where it’s like, “Okay, I could do option A or option B, and they’re both bad. They’re both not the thing I wanted.

Somebody asked me about this in the context of, “I want to have a VBAC. But also, I don’t want to have an emergency C-section. I want to try for this, but also I’m waiting, and waiting, and waiting to commit to the scheduled C-section, because I keep hoping something will happen.” “Well, there’s only these two options. You can try this and it might add an emergency C-section, or you can have a scheduled C-section, and then you won’t have had a VBAC, and that’s it. Those are the only two choices. If you wait, and wait, and wait, the choice will be made for you. There’s no way to not make that choice, and there isn’t any secret option C.”

So pushing to recognize that in a lot of situations and say, “Okay, when you are faced with these two choices, what you have to do is choose something that is not perfect.” Once you have recognized that, I think it can actually be very helpful because you can then think about, “Well, how can I make these options as good as I can, because there’s no third thing? So how can we think about making it right, because either we’re going to have a kid or we’re not going to have a kid. How can we think about, what is the way we could make one of those things work better?” Turning off this secret option C is part of that good decision-making.

Hillary Frank:

What about in cases of ambivalence where you yourself are like, “I want to have another kid, and I don’t want to have another kid, and I can’t make up my mind?” No one else thinks that?

Emily:

No. Yeah. No. In some sense, then you’re just seeing no secret option C with yourself. A lot of these things aren’t so much about conflict, but it’s just really hard. That’s just a really hard choice because you have to recognize, you’re taking a risk either way, a risk of disappointment either way. Those decisions, they’re bad. That’s it. They’re just hard. It’s just hard things.

Speaker 10:

Hi. So, let’s talk screen time.

Emily:

Yeah, let’s do it.

Speaker 10:

I feel like that’s something that keeps a lot of people up at night, and I actually just saw in your newsletter-

Emily:

You shouldn’t watch TV before bed. That’s [inaudible]. Okay. Yep.

Speaker 10:

Right. So said you had published a thing today about, they continue to link screen time to ADHD, and all of that. There are some guiding principles out there around, “What are you having your kid watch? Are you watching it together? Are you talking about it?” But, I would just love to hear any of your current thinking to help guide the whole screen time thing.

Emily:

Sure. Okay. So there’s one pretty clear thing about screen time, which is you should not watch TV before bed. So actually, we know that kids watching screens within the hour or so before they go to sleep actually disrupts sleep. That’s the one… Screens are not great, going back to the sleep business. Other than that, we have this tendency to think of screens as bad, and to have this idea in our head that, “Screens are bad, so less screens is good,” and screens are…

Just generally, I’m going to think about them as bad, and so then I’m going to use them without really deliberately thinking about them because, of course, you have to sometimes use screens, don’t be ridiculous. But I’m just going to feel bad about it, and that’ll be how I manage this. The reality is, I don’t think there’s anything in the data that would say that some amount of screen time is bad. What is true is that screens are time that you are not doing something else. To the extent we have anything that suggests that there are concerns with this, a lot of it’s about displacement.

That if you are watching television for seven hours a day, then you don’t have time to do your homework, or go to school, or go outside, or sleep, or something else. So, that for me really frames a lot of the screen time. The way I talk about it in The Family Firm is the idea of separating out the content questions, which are often so top of mind from the staring at the wall question. Basically just saying, Think of screen time as your kid is just… They’re like, “I’m going to go to my room, I’m going to stare at the wall. I’m just going to sit there and stare at the wall.”

If your kid told you, “For half an hour before dinner, while you enjoy a glass of wine, and simmer the tomato sauce, and make some pasta, I’m going to sit in my room and stare at the wall,” you’d be like, “Wow, my kid’s the most amazing meditator,” and you would be so happy about that. In some sense, that’s because the alternative in that time is not that they’re doing something enriching, it’s that they’re whining, or bothering, something about that. So, that may be a reasonable time for screens.

So thinking about, where in your life do the screens fit that they are taking away from… That they’re productive, that they’re a good use of time. Recognizing people like to sit, and watch TV, and relax, and that’s okay. That’s part of modern life. You do that. People probably [inaudible] forever not on screens, but people like to relax. It’s okay. It’s okay to relax sometimes. But if we get into a situation where your kid said, “Look, I’m going to sit in my room for seven hours a today, I’m going to stare at the wall,” you would be like, “You know what? No. Meditation, that’s too much. You’re not a monk. Let’s do something outside.”

Similarly, you think about screens like that. So for me, that’s really helpful and it’s informed a lot of how I think about navigating screens. Which is, you can have unlimited screens on the airplane because that’s it. It’s the airplane. But during this time in our house, we have some times that screens are used, and sometimes that they’re off limits. But the good/bad is not super helpful here.

Hillary Frank:

Last one.

Speaker 11:

You talked a lot about you and a partner making some decisions about your family, but can you talk about when you incorporate your children into that process? I think our family has a very similar… Our goal is to raise independent, self-sufficient adults. So how does that fit into some of these parenting decisions that we think about making?

Emily:

Okay. Such a good question. I think the answer is, as early as possible in curated ways. Your kids are shepherds of their own life in some way, so you want to have them, as much as possible, have some say. But on the other hand, they have crazy ideas. So there’s figuring out, “How can I start scaffolding smaller decisions and bringing them into smaller decisions, and then letting them make more decisions later?”

The hardest thing about that is letting them make choices that you think are wrong. Not wrong in a, “This is going to ruin your life.” But actually, “You will not enjoy signing up for the musical because you don’t like to be out of the house for this many… You are not going to staying at school until 7:00 at night. You can tell me you’re going to love it, and we should talk about what it’s going to look like, and I’m going to let you make that mistake. Then when the next musical comes, you’re not going to sign up for it.”

But I think that working it in and figuring out, “Where can I give this particular kid the leeway to help to structure their time and make their choices, and where do I need to keep the scaffolding in?,” that’s the challenge. But, that piece is very doable. I think one tool that we use a lot is just, at times, the start of a semester, some natural break in the kids’ life schedule, to sit down with them and think about, “What does the next six months look like?” That’s also an opportunity to think about, what additional decision-making are they able to do?

I will say, we try a lot to give them autonomy, make them make their own breakfast. That’s actually the thing, as a parent, I find the hardest to follow through on. My kids are supposed to make their own breakfast. The other day, last week, I made my son cheese omelet every day because I had mistakenly made him a cheese omelet once, and then every day he was like, “I wanted cheese omelet, I want a cheese omelet, I want a cheese omelet.” So it’s something that I think is very hard to follow through on, but it can work.

Hillary Frank:

Okay. That’s it for the Q&A. Thank you very much. This was really great.

Emily:

Thanks for listening. If you like what you heard, subscribe to Parent Data in your favorite podcast app, and rate and review the show in Apple Podcasts. You can subscribe to the whole newsletter for free at www.parentdata.org. Talk to you soon.

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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. 💙
...

Exciting news! We have new, high-quality data that says it’s safe to take Tylenol during pregnancy and there is no link between Tylenol exposure and neurodevelopmental issues in kids. Comment “Link” for a DM to an article exploring this groundbreaking study.

While doctors have long said Tylenol was safe, confusing studies, panic headlines, and even a lawsuit have continually stoked fears in parents. As a result, many pregnant women have chosen not to take it, even if it would help them.

This is why good data is so important! When we can trust the data, we can trust our choices. And this study shows there is no blame to be placed on pregnant women here. So if you have a migraine or fever, please take your Tylenol.

#tylenol #pregnancy #pregnancyhealth #pregnancytips #parentdata #emilyoster

Exciting news! We have new, high-quality data that says it’s safe to take Tylenol during pregnancy and there is no link between Tylenol exposure and neurodevelopmental issues in kids. Comment “Link” for a DM to an article exploring this groundbreaking study.

While doctors have long said Tylenol was safe, confusing studies, panic headlines, and even a lawsuit have continually stoked fears in parents. As a result, many pregnant women have chosen not to take it, even if it would help them.

This is why good data is so important! When we can trust the data, we can trust our choices. And this study shows there is no blame to be placed on pregnant women here. So if you have a migraine or fever, please take your Tylenol.

#tylenol #pregnancy #pregnancyhealth #pregnancytips #parentdata #emilyoster
...

How many words should kids say — and when? Comment “Link” for a DM to an article about language development!

For this graph, researchers used a standardized measure of vocabulary size. Parents were given a survey and checked off all the words and sentences they have heard their child say.

They found that the average child—the 50th percentile line—at 24 months has about 300 words. A child at the 10th percentile—near the bottom of the distribution—has only about 50 words. On the other end, a child at the 90th percentile has close to 600 words. One main takeaway from these graphs is the explosion of language after fourteen or sixteen months. 

What’s valuable about this data is it can give us something beyond a general guideline about when to consider early intervention, and also provide reassurance that there is a significant range in this distribution at all young ages. 

#cribsheet #emilyoster #parentdata #languagedevelopment #firstwords

How many words should kids say — and when? Comment “Link” for a DM to an article about language development!

For this graph, researchers used a standardized measure of vocabulary size. Parents were given a survey and checked off all the words and sentences they have heard their child say.

They found that the average child—the 50th percentile line—at 24 months has about 300 words. A child at the 10th percentile—near the bottom of the distribution—has only about 50 words. On the other end, a child at the 90th percentile has close to 600 words. One main takeaway from these graphs is the explosion of language after fourteen or sixteen months.

What’s valuable about this data is it can give us something beyond a general guideline about when to consider early intervention, and also provide reassurance that there is a significant range in this distribution at all young ages.

#cribsheet #emilyoster #parentdata #languagedevelopment #firstwords
...