Do you feel any pressure to be a “super mom”?

whatever that is

I don’t.  The only time I even come across this concept is when I accidentally click on the NYTimes or spend too much time on blogrolls full of professional mommy-bloggers making their money pretending to be SAHM.  (Oops, hear that sound?  that’s the sound of us losing readership because we’re terrible horrible people who could never make it on BlogHer. Whoops!)

From what I can tell it has something to do with being Martha Stewart + Sheryl Sandberg put together.  Not 100% sure there.  And not having an equal partner in parenting and taking care of the homestead, despite living with an adult husband.  Having a sparkly clean house definitely fits in there as a measure as your worth as a person.  Thank goodness nobody I know IRL ever talks about that kind of thing.  We would have to get a house-cleaner or something.

Maybe this is why people get weird about how much responsibility we’ve piled on our elementary schooler.  Maybe I’m supposed to be taking care of all that stuff under the super-mom rubric.  Meh.

This is kind of like that post where we asked if baking was a *thing* in reality or just on the internet.

I was flipping through mommy blogs recently and felt like I’d seen every single topic before and had already posted a reaction post, like 2-4 years ago.  Some of my reaction posts though aren’t very polite to post on people’s sites who are clearly hurting because the patriarchy is making them believe stupid things.  Still, I kind of wish I could.  WTF is up with people’s entire feelings of value and worth being wrapped up in whether or not their house is clean?  Oh wait, we already asked that two years ago.  Oh and Choice feminism, we’ve addressed you (we’re pro-, but not for the standard, why can’t we all get along reasons).  Women feeling like they have to say they’re not perfect, check.  Why we can thank our mothers for not feeling guilty for working…  And what is UP with all that guilt in parenting nonsense in the first place?  If you believe the internet, all women hate each other, are neurotic about the state of their houses, and are wracked with extreme guilt about their parenting choices (or are super defensive about not being parents).  That just doesn’t mesh with our reality AT ALL.  The internet is a super weird place.

Am I just oblivious and is this super-mom pressure really a thing?  Or is it yet another way the patriarchy introduces anxieties to women in order to make money off them?

December Mortgage Update: And money and school zones

Last month (November):
Balance:$37,254.58
Years left: 2.75
P =$1,054.86, I =$159.55, Escrow =$788.73

This month (December):
Balance:$34,190.77
Years left: 2.5
P =$1,066.94, I =$147.47, Escrow =$788.73

One month’s prepayment savings: $7.90

DC1 currently goes to private school.  Ze goes to private school because ze needed to start K early and the public schools wouldn’t talk to us about that.

The public schools have now changed their tune.  They have a district webpage on how to start K early, how to skip individual classes, and how to skip grades.  They note that enough people have taken these options that they now offer 7th grade algebra and 8th grade geometry at the middle schools.

At the same time, while we’ve been living in this transition neighborhood (the last frontier not changed into student housing, though I’m fairly sure there’s a houseful on our block), our school zones have changed twice.  And each time they’ve gotten worse.  We are now in the worst elementary school zone, and the “athletic” middle school.  Note that neither of these schools are the closest to our house… no, we’re the “rich” neighborhood that gets moved every 5 years to even out the “poor” districts, instead of the actually rich neighborhoods that never get touched.

If DC2 doesn’t need acceleration, then we have a chance at lotterying into a bilingual program at one of the better elementary schools.  That still wouldn’t have been enough for DC1 (and hasn’t been enough acceleration for some of our collegues’ kids, though it did work out until said kids became fluent in Spanish, at which point the lessons became much too slow).  Of course, DC2 has been, if anything, hitting milestones earlier.  Hir birthdate means that maybe only one year of acceleration would be needed instead of two (ze just makes rather than misses a cutoff), but that’s still one year too many to be eligible for the bilingual program even if ze did get in.

So that leaves us with choices.  1.  We could move before DC2 needs to start kindergarten, which could happen sooner than we think.  If we’re going to do this, it might make sense to sell the house before sabbatical/unpaid leave so we don’t have to deal with renters, just storage.  (Untold moving costs, though we’d probably buy a smaller house if we bought again, but I’d probably also get a longer commute which would suck.)  2.  We could send DC2 to the same private school that DC1 goes to ($9K/year).  3.  We could not try to accelerate and see what happens with the bilingual program lottery.  (Free, except in potential future therapy bills)  4.  We could accelerate as fast as possible through the elementary school and just cope and deal. (Free, except in time spent in conferences with the school.)  We could also rent an apartment in a better school zone, but the quality differential isn’t enough for that to be a feasible option like it might be in a large city– none of the elementary schools are all that great.

And who knows, the school zones might change again.

I’m guessing we’ll probably just stick with the same private school if it’s still in business.  Who knows.

Why is this all so hard?

How to fix some random kid (and grown-up!) problems

We get a lot of comments, both good and bad, about how much stuff we make our oldest kid do.  Ze, for example, makes hir own lunch for school, has a list of household chores to do (mostly limited only by height restrictions), and is in charge of remembering things like homework and recurring special things like pizza money on pizza day or that Wednesday is special uniform day.

It’s expecting a lot of a 7 year old (and even more of a 6 or 5 year old, which DC1 once was!)  But it’s something we need to do to keep our household running in the absence of a full-time live-in housekeeper.  As full-time working adults with high-level jobs and a 2 year old we just don’t have that kind of mental load.  And DC1 is capable and it isn’t usually that big a deal when we all forget things.

Except occasionally DC1 forgets to wear the special uniform 3 weeks in a row and we get an email noting that if there’s a fourth time, then demerits will follow.  We’re not sure what demerits are going to do, but they sure sound scary.  Or DC1 will forget chores or homework and blissfully spend the evening playing board-games with DH, only remembering long after bedtime or the next morning that there’s an assignment due.

So here’s what we do that works.

Uniform, pizza money, and school holidays/fairs are all put on DC1’s wall calendar.  Each day at bedtime ze crosses off the day and sees what is listed for the next day.  If it’s the special uniform, ze takes it out of the closet and hangs it on hir dresser knob.  If it’s pizza money, ze demands it from DH and puts it in hir back pack.  If it’s a holiday, then we’re reminded.

For that long list of chores, during one of DH’s business trips I made DC1 make a full checklist of all the chores ze has to do each night.  Homework (or workbooks on weekends), piano practicing, making lunch for the next day (if applicable), putting away the clean silverware, loading the dishwasher, feeding the kittens, helping fold laundry (if applicable).  (See, we’re tyrants!  DC1 never gets to do anything fun.)  Once all of those chores are done, DC1 is free to spend hir time as ze wishes on weekends, and can do anything except video games on weekdays (since even the checklist couldn’t help DC1 remember hir chores if video games are an option).

Of course, it’s not enough to do the homework or make the lunch.  Those items also have to make it into the backpack.  So there’s a new rule that they have to go into the backpack as soon as they’re done.  They’re not allowed to sit out on desk or counter where they can be forgotten and then I have to turn back to get them on the way to school and everybody is late.  Because I hate that.

So… calendar, checklist, and automation.  That’s how we keep things together with DC1 during the week and that’s how we’re able to give DC1 so many responsibilities.

Related:  financial diffraction talks about using her calendar to keep track of money

How do you and yours get out the door in the morning every day of the week?  Any tips?

On preschools and biting: Part 2 — what works

There are lots of reasons that kids bite.  Many of them relate to developmental exploring our senses things and teething, particularly with early biting.  This post isn’t focusing on those– this post is focusing on biting for behavioral/emotional reasons.  Feeling bored.  Feeling frustrated.  Feeling threatened.  Not knowing what else to do to get what you want.

We bought a couple of books.  One of them is really good, On Biting.  The other one, The Biting Solution was less so– the advice basically boiled down to, here’s some questions to ask… then figure out your own solutions with the kid’s help.

The thing about biting is that generally it really is a symptom that something else is not going well.  Same as any kind of conflict.  Treat the underlying problem, not just the symptom.

In DC2’s case there’s a couple of things going on.  The first is, well, let me quote DH here:

Environment:
Many RI and some RII children are very possessive.
Several RI children use physical violence as the first response to any issue, including biting, hitting, kicking, grabbing, and pushing.

Conflict resolution:
The teachers handle all problems the same way.  They lecture the aggressor, almost always using phrases that emphasize how the teacher is sad about the action.

Result of current methodology:
The victim learns that other kids will try to take things from him/her, and must develop a response. Typically he/she becomes more protective/possessive of things. Since he/she is observing/experiencing physical violence, quite possibly that becomes his/her future response.

The aggressor learns that the teacher is quite regularly sad, and that the other kid gets to have something he/she wants.

If the teacher didn’t see the start of the issue, she often treats the more angry child as the aggressor and the more sad child as the victim.  Sometimes that labeling is incorrect and both the aggressor and victim learn that physical violence can work.

The second thing, that we found out recently, DC2 is a bit bored.  When there’s more to do and more to play with and more interaction, there’s less time to get into these kinds of scuffles and any one toy isn’t as important.  I wouldn’t have thought of this, but it’s in the book and the current temporary solution addresses this issue (temporarily) even if not the lack of conflict resolution.

I hate the way that so many things about this parenting thing have forced me to become an expert on things that I’m not trained in.  I shouldn’t have to know more about PCOS and infertility than my big-city OB/GYN (I’ve had better luck with my small-town docs!) and I shouldn’t have to learn more about biting in a group childcare setting than someone who has been running a daycare for over a decade.  But there you have it.

How to run a daycare:

Culture

In a good daycare, culture will be consistent across classrooms.  Instead of relying on the teachers coming in knowing what they’re doing, a good daycare will train the teachers in the culture of the school.

At DC1’s first school, they had property rights.  Whichever kid was playing with a toy would get to play with it until she was done.  If another child wanted to play with the same toy, he was encouraged to trade toys.  If the first child didn’t want to trade, then she didn’t have to.  Those were the rules that everybody followed.

At DC2’s second (religious) school, they focused on sharing.  If a child wanted to play with a toy that another child had, he asked politely.  Assuming that the first child hadn’t just picked it up, she would say, ok, and then hand it to the first child.  A teacher would praise the interaction in the background because yay sharing.

In both of these cases, the teachers were consistent across all rooms and all ages and the kids trained each other.  It was amazing seeing little hellions start at the school and turn into angels within a week.  (And new teachers go from being completely lost to being completely in charge!)  Because culture is strong.

When we asked at this current daycare what their culture was, the director told me, “taking turns” which means that when the second child grabs the toy from the first child, the teacher is supposed to say, “It’s not your turn yet” and then wait and remember to give the toy to the first child when it’s that child’s turn.  She admitted that usually by that point the second child had forgotten if the teacher remembers.

When I asked the assistant director, she said no, taking turns wasn’t what they did, it was sharing.

When DH asked the teachers, different teachers gave him different answers.

In any case, none of them are actually doing what they say they’re doing.  There is no method for sharing/trading/property rights other than violence.

Spreading culture

In a good daycare, not only will there be training from the director and from lead teachers, but teachers will work as floaters (an additional teacher or substitute teacher) on a regular basis and occasionally switch rooms.  They’ll share playground time.  They will train each other and help each other.  The director will also float on a regular basis.

What they should do

There are a number of different options for dealing with conflict.  The best stop conflict before it starts and makes each conflict that does occur into a learning experience so that conflict is less likely to happen in the future.

When something happens, they should talk with the victim first.  They should engage the aggressor in the discussion as well.  They should explain why the action was wrong, not just that it made the teacher sad.  And, importantly, they should talk about the alternatives to physical violence.   What should the child have done instead?  If there’s a good and consistent culture at the school, the child will know the answer to this question.  If not, then the school needs to decide what the answer is going to be and start teaching it.

As we said before, the best thing is to keep conflict from happening in the first place.  When there’s a strong culture and kids know what they’re supposed to do, that helps.  So does that 6th sense that many great daycare teachers have.

Here’s DH again on conflict prevention:

When a child starts to get frustrated, the only responses being used are redirection or lecturing. Redirection is not being done with engagement, but more like just shoving the child off in a different direction.

The teachers are not seeing problems before they start.

And on communication:

“Use your words” is a fine phrase, but being more specific is more educational.  Teach children gestures and words to help them communicate. The 18 mo room teacher, for example, does a good job teaching kids how to handle issues with other kids.  She teaches them body language and phrases.  “Stop”, “no”, (hand up palm out).

There should be no discrepancies between what is told to parents and what is actually done inside the classroom.  Directors and teachers and kids should all be on the same page.

So where are we now?  Well, we visited a few more daycares and got on the waitlist for one of them, a new Montessori where two of DC1’s former teachers are now teaching.  The director said all the right things and believes in continuing education for the teachers and has Montessori certification.  It’s a bit more traditional Montessori than we’re used to, but the culture of the school seems to be good and it seems to be conflict free from what DH saw.  There will be slots available in both the 2s room and the 2-3 year room in January.  It’s also very close to DC1’s school so we’ll be back to only having to do one set of pick-ups and drop-offs.

In the mean time, the current Montessori requested that we move DC2 up to the next room (I’m guessing too many other parents complained).  All of the kids in the new room are 6 mo to a year older than DC2.  The teachers are still not perfect, but they’re a lot better.  Instead of constant Lord of the Flies behavior and screaming in the morning, DH only counted 4 incidents of violence in the 90 min period he observed when DC2 was transitioning.  The kids are mostly better behaved.  (DH related a fun incident this morning– the bully in the room kicked down another child’s block tower, and the morning teacher told the child that she could make another block tower and kick it over herself, and then all the kids there turned to the teacher and told her, “No!  We don’t kick toys!” So maybe some cultural training going on in the new room.)  The teachers are more alert and more cuddly and excited.  DC2 hasn’t bitten since ze was moved.  (The teachers do not seem to have been informed that they shouldn’t praise DC2’s intelligence in front of hir, despite conversations with the director who said of course it would never happen.) DH suspects DC2 will get bored of the room before ze ages out of it.  We think this solution will work until January, but we’ll definitely be moving then.

Update:  related post from Wandering Scientist

Update 2:  Yesterday when I picked up DC2 (which I do one day a week) when I walked through the I room on my way back to the playground there were about 8 kids and no adults in the room.  I waited for the teacher to return (with a child who had just made a break for it) and on my way out told the director that there had been no teacher in the room when I went through.  Before I made it out of the parking lot, the director came out and told me that it wasn’t the teacher’s fault, a kid had made a break for it, she hadn’t been gone any time at all, it was a parent’s fault for leaving the door open, etc. etc. etc.  And I said I’d just informed her because I thought she would want to know.  And she said that she was just telling me that it was a safety issue and that’s why the teacher left the room and it was just for a second, and I said that they should have better systems in place so that a teacher wouldn’t have to leave the room. And then she asked what I would suggest, and I suggested having/calling for a floater, or opening a door and letting another teacher know the situation, and she said that she could tell that something wasn’t working for me and they’re doing the best that they can and that if I was having problems with them I should set up a meeting.  The conversation only ended when I got out my phone to call DH.  I’m pretty sure they will be glad when we’re gone.  But I couldn’t say anything then because we can’t be gone until January.

How can I tell if my problem is really a problem?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the patriarchy likes to force problems on people where none actually exist.  (By people, of course, I mean women and minorities mainly.  That’s kind of patriarchy’s thing.  White guys get fewer “damned if you do/don’t” manufactured problems.)

The internet is full of this kind of thing.  So we thought we’d give a tutorial with some examples.

“How can I tell if my parenting problem is really a problem?”

An excellent question.  Because sometimes your problem is a real problem that needs a solution, and sometimes your problem only seems like a problem because that’s what the patriarchy wants you to think, because if you’re busy worrying about something that’s not actually important, you’ll have less time to say, fight the patriarchy.  Bonus points if you get other people worried too. Answering that question is really simple in theory, though perhaps not as simple in practice– try it out and say what you think.

Step 1:  Notice that you think there might be a problem but (important!) realize that there may not actually be a problem… it’s possible that that’s just what they *want* you to think.  (“They” being the patriarchy, of course.)  This is probably the hardest step, and it might be one that you want to go through each time you’re irritated or worried, just in case it’s just the patriarchy messing with you and you can then attack the patriarchy rather than the perceived problem.

Step 2.  Ask yourself,  Is this really a problem? What makes it a problem? Why do I think it’s a problem? Here’s where you go… what are the consequences, is this actually hurting anything, do I just think it’s a problem because of culture or because someone told me it’s a problem even though nothing is actually being hurt?  Or are there real consequences?

Step 3.  Ask again, if this is actually a problem, is there a different underlying root problem.  (Crucial Conversations suggests something similar.)  Sometimes the problem you see is really just a symptom of an underlying deeper problem, and fixing the symptom is just a band-aid solution to a larger issue that needs addressing.
Here are some examples:

Biting at daycare is a problem because 1. If a kid does it too much they get kicked out and 2. Biting hurts people and we have an underlying belief that we shouldn’t hurt people that we would like to impart to our kids.  3.  Why is DC2 biting?  Is the actual problem that the kids are not being taught conflict resolution and ze’s constantly getting stuff grabbed from hir?

Sleep “issues” are a problem if A. the kid is grumpy from not getting enough sleep or  B. Mom and dad would like more quiet time (or more sleep). They are not a problem because C. Everybody else’s kid seems to sleep more or go to bed earlier so I must be doing something wrong or there’s something wrong with my kid. But many people complain about C without A being an issue at all and while simultaneously complaining that dad never gets to see the kid because the kid goes to sleep too early. If C is the only reason, then it is a non-issue. But it’s a non-issue that a lot of parents have (because most kids aren’t exactly average), so they commiserate in the comments and it builds as something that seems like it should be an issue. Complaining about sleep problems that aren’t real problems becomes the normal. Being anxious is the normal.  It doesn’t have to be.

So that’s our quick guide.  Do you have any examples you’d like to share?  What kinds of problems have you discovered were actually not problems at all?  When have you found that the superficial problem is actually masking a deeper issue?

On preschools and biting: Part 1– the story

DC2 is a biter again.

To catch new readers up, DC2’s wonderful daycare went out of business because of financial difficulties stemming from a theft.  Ze learned to bite at a second temporary daycare at DC1’s school that had too high of student/teacher ratios.

Then we moved to another daycare that was great.  DC2 stopped biting.  Ze started saying “STAHP!”  There was re-direction, conflict management.  It was great.

Then DC2 aged into the next room.  The room where the two main teachers had been fired a few months previously because one of them claimed the other one disciplined a child with hitting, but waited to make the complaint longer than required by law (which would be immediately).  The replacement teachers… aren’t as good.

DC2 started crying at drop-off.

And eventually, ze started biting again.  And being bitten, though not quite as much as ze bites.

Every incident report was the same.  Other kid tried to take the toy DC2 was playing with, so DC2 bit hir.

They tried pacifiers.  They tried tylenol.  The assistant director, who is a huge bully, called me back to the front desk one day before picking up DC2 to sign the latest incident report and loudly quizzed me about the problem in front of a bunch of other parents.  She actually did that twice.  The third time I yelled at her… but more on that in a few paragraphs.

Eventually we decided it wasn’t teething that was the problem.  We noticed that ze had stopped saying “Stop” at home and had stopped putting hir arm out to indicate to stay away to DC1.

We also noticed my colleague’s kid was no longer attending the daycare, and asked why.  Turns out their kid was kicked out for biting.  At the new place, my colleague said, hir kid bit once and then hasn’t since.

When DC2 got an incident for biting another kid because ze wanted the other kid’s toy… that’s when we put two and two together.  All of the previous incidents involved someone trying to take what DC2 was playing with.  Why weren’t they addressing this extremely common children’s problem.  Why didn’t they have property rights or sharing or trading or some system of management so kids knew what the rules were about playing with toys?  What happened between the first room and the second room?  Why didn’t they address the root of the problem?  Why were they just focusing on bandaid solutions after the incident and then yelling at me (note, always at me, never at DH, despite the fact that DH does 80% of the pick-ups and something like 98% of drop-offs, because the assistant director is a sexist bully) about it?

DH started observing carefully in the morning and afternoon and would report to me that the main teacher in the mornings didn’t notice kids unless they were crying.  The other teacher was a little bit better, but neither of them were any good with incidents.  They moved from disciplining one kid to another, always disciplining the kid first and ignoring the kid who was crying.

So I mentioned to the daycare director (while signing another bite report) that my husband had been observing the room and he’d noticed that the teachers didn’t seem to be as experienced as the ones in the 18 mo room.  I mentioned that DC2 didn’t bite in the 18 mo room.  I asked what their culture was with regards to property rights– did they do sharing or let the kid who was playing with the toy keep playing… she said they did taking turns so the teacher would let the kid who had it keep playing and then come back later and give it to the other kid if she remembered.  I requested that she observe the teachers and see what she thought.  She asked which teachers, and of course I didn’t know (since DH does the majority of drop-off and pick-up), so she went on and on about how two of the teachers were extremely experienced and on and on and I said, well, maybe it’s the college kids, and she got relieved and thought I’d been talking about the morning teachers.  Of course, it turns out that the college kids are the afternoon teachers who are doing fine and the “experienced” morning teachers who are terrible.

The last straw for me came when the assistant director accosted me again while I was signing an incident report and started going on and on about how at least this time, for the first time, DC2 had shown some compassion for the kid ze bit.  As if DC2 was some kind of sociopath.  UGH.  (Note:  this was NOT the first time DC2 said sorry and hugged or kissed the kid after, no matter what the assistant director thinks– in fact, ze has been doing that a lot because ze thinks that makes it ok to bite!).  So I repeated to her the things that I had told the director, only far more directly and far less diplomatically.  Readers, I may have spoken with her quite strongly. (As with many bullies, she backed down once I politely and firmly showed some spine.)

When I repeated many of the things DH had said specifically about the morning teachers, she got upset and went on and on about how one of them has 8 years experience in special ed.  As if special ed and 2 year old management have anything to do with each other.  Which I told her.  She also told me that the school’s version of conflict resolution is not taking turns, but sharing, which is something completely different!  She and the director don’t even agree on what the school’s policy is.  In any case, the teachers in that room aren’t doing EITHER.  I repeated that all I wanted was for them to observe and train.  She said since I was getting my information from my husband, would it be possible for me to observe?  I said I trusted my husband and have to work.  She ended as I was walking out the door saying that she *does* regularly observe the classes.  I rolled my eyes and bit my tongue, remembering how much the teachers in the 18 month room think she’s clueless (not that they said that in so many words, but they apologized profusely and left things unsaid because she “doesn’t really understand that accidents happen when you switch to underwear for the first time at school, bless her soul” when she was a bitch about DC2’s first day of potty training and sent us an email as if we hadn’t worked things out with the teachers ).

On the plus side, she hasn’t harassed me since, which is nice.

In fact, when DH went out of town this past week, for the first time the assistant director didn’t come up with some ridiculous excuse to keep DC2 out of school. (I don’t know if I complained here about how last time DH was out of town, she essentially accused me of faking a doctor’s note that DC2’s eczema wasn’t contagious and then called the doctor’s office and wouldn’t let DC2 in school even when they told her over the phone that it was ok so I had to spend a huge amount of money on last second childcare so I could teach and had to cancel a class and not get any work done for three days.  Even though my kid wasn’t sick!  It was awful.),  So I was able to view the classroom in the morning myself, briefly in a heart-breaking way on Tues and Wed before taking DC1 to school, and at length on that Monday because DC1 had an in-service day.

It was like lord of the flies.  Seriously.  Kids grabbing things from each other, screaming, hitting, pushing, the teacher trying to do a dozen things and giving up.  Punishing kids but not, again, getting at the root of the problem.  Each new kid crying woefully once getting there.  No wonder DC2 didn’t want to be dropped off.  It wasn’t a safe environment.  Now, DC2 loves the afternoon teachers and loves the second half of the day.  But it is easy to see why ze complains about the mornings.  Even DC1 commented on what a horrible job the teachers were doing once we hit the parking lot.

I talked to the third person who is occasionally in charge at the front desk– the director’s grown daughter.  She was sympathetic, but then said she didn’t know what their policy was on sharing/trading/kids grabbing toys.  She didn’t think they had one.  And she didn’t think that kids could learn conflict resolution at that age because they weren’t verbal enough.  I mentally face-palmed and told her she was wrong– after all, they communicated just fine in the 18 month room(!)

In the mean time, they haven’t done anything about the morning teachers.  They haven’t observed (unless the incompetent and unobservant assistant director has, but she’s an idiot with no childcare knowledge or background).  The director gave DH a print-out of the WebMD webpage about biting, which A. is woefully incomplete and B. they aren’t following anyway(!).  Drop-off continues to be painful and we wish I didn’t have morning classes and DH didn’t have a morning conference call he has to make.  Ze’s always playing happily in the afternoon though and claims to love daycare and her teachers… in the afternoon.  It’s not bad enough to pull hir out without a back-up plan yet.

DC2 doesn’t bite because ze’s a biter.  Ze bites because it’s the only way ze can protect hirself and the only way ze can get what ze wants in a badly run situation.  Biting is a symptom.  Biting is not the problem.

So we’re visiting other day cares (it took a while to get appointment times to work out).  Hopefully we’ll have a new one very soon.  If we do, we will probably pay two daycares in November while ze transitions, but it will be well worth it.  We’d been planning on doing a meeting with the director armed with knowledge, and the suggestion that they have their 18 mo teachers observe and train their 2 year teachers, but at this point it doesn’t seem worth it.  Especially since they’re not receptive to being told how to run their business, and it isn’t our job to tell them what to do.  Even though what they’re doing isn’t what they say they’re doing and what they’re doing isn’t working.  They must have just gotten lucky with that 18 month room.

Part 2 [which will post weeks from now] will detail some suggestions for what preschools should do to prevent biters from happening, emphasizing environmental factors, based on extensive reading and experiences with well run daycares and less well run ones.

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How do you handle the mental load of partnered life?

For those of you with partners, of course.  Unless you have a personal assistant!

In married life, especially when you have kids, there are often things that you have to do or get done.  Appointments to manage.  Places to be.  Things to sign up for.  If it were just you, you’d take care of all of those things (assuming you’re not in the “personal assistant” bracket).

Once you’re married you have to coordinate things and someone has to remember things.  But it doesn’t have to be you.  In “traditional” marriages, the wife takes care of these things.  She even takes care of the husband’s social engagements.  She keeps track of everything, makes all appointments, and is responsible if something is forgotten or missed.

That type of arrangement makes economic sense on the whole.  It makes sense to have one person taking care of everything so the other person is free to think about other stuff.  It’s a division of labor and one person specializes in appointments and filing paperwork and so on.  There’s no accidental double-booking unless the person in charge does that double-booking, and presumably that person will notice.  It doesn’t have to be the wife, but it makes sense to have one person in charge.  That person doesn’t have to be in charge of everything– it might make sense for one parent to take care of all the adult stuff and another all the kid’s stuff, or one person the house stuff and another the school stuff.  There’s lots of different ways to arrange it that are both egalitarian and efficient.

We don’t do that.  We are both in charge of almost everything.  We have little black books that we coordinate.  We have a list on the refrigerator for groceries.  I do take care of all the bills (even DH’s credit cards, though he is responsible for reviewing it each month for fraudulent charges) and DH is mostly in charge of the cars (even mine, though since I’m the one driving it I’m more likely to notice when the sticker says I should get another oil change), but for the most part, and especially for the kids part, we both take care of everything.

I noticed this lately when I emailed one of my colleagues about a play-date.  Our kids go to the same school and are friends and I know him but I don’t know his wife.  He forwarded to his wife and she emailed back.  Similarly, we got a birthday party invitation for another child who is DC2’s age from another colleague’s wife, not from him.  Usually the invitations for things go to me via email or to our joint junk mail account, but to DH by text because I never have my phone with me.  With DC1’s best friend whose mother is super-mom, and often on-call, we’re equally likely to get a text playdate from the dad or the mom (and occasionally the college-age uncle who babysits for them)!  Generally we email the dad, but just because that’s the email address that pops up first (alphabetical order).

There’s drawbacks to our non-method.  We have to consult each other.  We have to make sure our books are synched.  (Yes, we could have a calendar in the kitchen near the grocery list like my family did growing up, but that would be an additional thing to update!  Once DC1 is old enough do start doing hir own social calendar, we may switch to that.)  It’s extra effort, extra time, and extra mental load that only one person could have.

But there’s also benefits.  The biggest benefit is that when we forget to do something or forget to go somewhere, it’s both of our faults.  It’s hard to be mad at someone for forgetting when you forgot too!  Also with both of us needing to remember and both of us checking our planners and our shared junk email account, there’s a bit of overlap and perhaps a greater possibility that one of us will remember or notice even if the other doesn’t.  I’m not sure if that works, but we’re both so busy I bet either one of us would forget just as much if it was just on us all the time.

#2 doesn’t have kids, so this is much easier.  We delegate, and we talk.  For example, we just moved to another state.  This requires SO MUCH COMMUNICATION, folks.  I mostly coordinated that, since I have the time, but he has most of the money.  Every day we would say, what do you need me to do for this move?  Did you hear back from the movers?  Did you pay the security deposit or shall I?  We have a joint savings account, and we need to talk to each other about planned transactions because of Regulation D.  We share spreadsheets and lists in Google Docs (drive).  Sometimes we IM each other during the day, and then we each have a chatlog of what we talked about.  It can certainly get tedious having this conversation every day — there was a point during the moving process where I lost my shiz because he asked me about tasks one too many times — but mostly it’s been working for us.  We’ve also found in other areas (e.g., kitchen) that it’s helpful to put one person explicitly in charge– doesn’t matter who– and that person directs and delegates to the other.

 

For those of you with partners, how do you divvy up the mental load of planning and deciding and answering and filing?  For those of you without, what methods do you use to keep track of everything that needs to be done?

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