In which we are not hired as writers of small talk

#1:  here is a note to the universe: don’t ask me how wedding planning is coming. I realize you’re trying to make small talk, but it’s boring to me and it’s even my own wedding. Also? Not a lot has happened since we last had this conversation 2-3 weeks ago. Meh.

#2:  oh, I forgot to ask
how is your wedding planning coming?

#1:  rrrr

#2:  (except I know– you have a venue and you have a date to look for dresses)

#1:  rrrrrright

#2:  If things were going poorly, I’m sure you could use the question as an excuse to vent. so the fact that you find such questions dull is a good thing!

Maybe you could respond that wedding planning is dull, but do you know how big a toddler’s poop can get? (as big as an adult’s, according to [redacted] and my own recent personal experience with toddler poop)

#1: hahahah
I can talk about horse poop….

#2:  I bet horse poop is more interesting than toddler poop
but not as interesting as owl poop
owl poop is the best
well, owl pellets are the best

#1:  yes, that is owl barf

#2:  which is sort of like poop
but you know, different

#1:  owl barf is fascinating

#2:  it serves a similar purpose to poop without actually being poop

#1:  “ugghhh, I ate too much bones.”

#2:  but the actual response is probably, “It’s going fine. Nothing exciting happening, which is a good thing. How’s that toddler of yours?”
“Any interesting poops lately?”
“I hear that toddler poo is just fascinating.”
“mmm hmm.”
“Is that so?”

#1:  have you ever compared toddler poop and horse poop? how do you feel about owls? we should be hired as small talk writers
Here’s my answer: the toddler grows up, and the horse needs its poop picked up for life

#2:  horse poop probably smells better

#1:  quite possibly. They’re all vegetarians.

#2:  do vegetarians have better smelling poop?

#1:  I’m not sure. But at least you can get used to the smell of horses — they eat only a few things, all horses all the time, eat the same few things.

What are your deep thoughts on poop?  (Also, I know I should have put a poo-related pun there instead of “deep”… any suggestions?  pressing thoughts?)


  • EC update:  At almost 15 mo, if the potty is in visual distance, DC2 will take hirself to the potty, sit down (the sitting down is what took the most effort– but ze finally no longer gets hir leg stuck in the potty while trying to sit), and pee and/or poo.  If no potty is in sight, ze will just go wherever ze is.  If the diaper is still on, ze will use the diaper while sitting in the potty.
  • DC2’s diaper rash is SO BAD when hir diaper doesn’t get changed right away after a poo that ze got sent home on Friday because of it.  Poor darling.
  • When I mentioned to hir new daycare teacher that DC2 will go potty on the potty if they take hir, the teacher said very emphatically, “Not in THIS room.  We do NOT do pottying in THIS room.”
  • We’re counting the days until we can transfer DC2 to the Montessori that starts at 18 months.  Ze has a slot reserved and everything.
  • We miss the old daycare.
  • It’s unlikely at this point that we will get any money back from our 4.5K prepayment from the old daycare.
  • DC2 had been eating wheat and enjoying it, but we’ve stopped it again on the off chance that that is why ze is allergic to hir poo.
  • DC2 seeks and destroys pens and pencils, breaking them into their component parts.  Ze is very good at climbing and can get them wherever we hide them.
  • At a party the other day, DC2 picked up a nerf gun that had 2 cartridges loaded and another next to it.  Ze carefully removed the 2 cartridges, then loaded the gun with all 3.  Upon learning that we did not teach hir how to do that, an adult nearby said we’d have to watch out for hir.
  • One of my goals is to make sure that DC2 survives childhood.


  • I now understand why my parents let my sister tear up my stuff.  If tearing up the receipt that came with DC1’s library books keeps DC2 happily and safely entertained for 20 min, that’s worth the confetti and loss of a “bookmark”.
  • This early potty training is AWESOME.  Seriously guys, I cannot tell you how absolutely cool it is do to this part-time pottying with diapers the rest of the time.  DC2 prefers pooing in the potty and we prefer dumping it out of the potty to cleaning it off hir rear.  It is SO much easier getting started than it was with a 15 month old who had already been diaper-trained.  Just like the book said it would be.  Wish we’d had the book when DC1 was 6 months old.  If you have a baby who can sit-up, get a potty and just try putting your baby on it as soon as ze gets up in the morning (or after a nap).  It is addicting and totally awesome.  (Also saves diapers and lessens the ick factor.)
  • I think we discovered one of the anti-perfectionism tactics that DC1’s first grade teacher used last year.  Last year when DC1 got a problem wrong and we’d ask hir about it when the homework came home, ze would shrug and say, “Yeah, the reason I got that wrong was [this silly reason], I know it’s [correct answer] now.”  This weekend I wanted to discuss a comment hir teacher had left on a math problem, saying that DC1 should have rewritten the (Saxon math) problem and done borrowing, which DC1 had done one of the Singapore math ways in hir head instead (and gotten incorrect).  DC1 said ze had never looked at the homework and never looks at hir returned homework(!)  So ze has had no clue about what ze has gotten wrong or right or why (except on spelling tests, for some reason).  And it isn’t discussed in a growth mindset way, but is treated as a fixed mindset thing– you do the work and it’s done and that’s it.  So I guess we’re going to start going through homeworks to talk about and to demonstrate learning from mistakes.
  • DC2 waves hello and bye bye.  It is SO CUTE!  Update:  and claps!  Update:  first word [older sibling’s name]  Ze also sounds like a happy little puppy when ze gets excited.  *pantpantpant*
  • DH said, “It wasn’t so much an accident as an out of potty experience.”  Then he started talking about the pottygeist.  He tried to make a joke about the excretionist, but it failed.  DC2 thought it was hilarious, but who can trust what the potty gallery thinks?

Adventures in Elimination Communication

Have you noticed that we’re kind of hippy-dippy parents?  We are.  (We do vaccinate on schedule… we’re hippy-dippy parents with PhDs.)

Anyhow, we started gentle potty training with DC1 around 15 months, even though we really should have started at 12 months when ze didn’t want to poo in hir diaper anymore.

It was so much fun, that we vowed to start with any future DC2s once the poo became more solid.  DC2’s poo is now more solid.

DC2 also hates wet diapers with a violent passion.

The first step of elimination communication is un-diaper-training your baby.  The baby has to realize that ze is peeing.  With DC1 this was easy– ze could stand so we let hir take showers and pointed out peeing when ze showered.  Ze had a hilarious expression the first time it happened, sort of a “what is this?”  DC2 isn’t stable enough to stand in the shower and probably won’t be any time soon.

So, for us, Step one was pulling out the incontinence pads we’d gotten for DC1’s night training and putting DC2 on top of them with shiny new-to-hir toys to keep hir occupied.  Then we kept watch for sudden wetness.  (This part was a little weird.)

When the wetness occurred, we would move on to Step 2:  cueing the baby.  Most folks cue the baby with a “pssss” or “tsss” or “peeeee” sound.  My family apparently has a song they sing to the tune of “Twinkle twinkle little star” (“Tinkle, tinkle…”) that I thought I made up with DC1, but it turns out is something my grandma used to sing to my mom and her siblings and my mom must have sung to me and my sister even though I don’t remember it.

We repeated this for 2 days whenever we thought of it, probably 20 min a try, a few tries a day.  Day 3 we decided to Step 3:  introduce the potty.  Sadly our tiny little potty got a crack in the bottom while stored in the attic which makes it useless as a potty.  (But it’s recyclable!)  And it has been discontinued.  Fortunately DC2 is bigger than DC1 was, so can use the next size up Baby Bjorn potties, of which we have two.

DC1 always peed after waking up, so we figured to try that with DC2 as well.  It worked.  We caught a pee almost immediately.  I tried later in the day with the cuing song and also caught a pee.  The next day I caught another one and thought, “There is no way this can be so easy.”

So of course the next time I tried, baby didn’t pee when cued, and the time after that ze stood up and peed all over me instead of in the potty.  (That has happened a couple times since then as well, but we stay upbeat about it.)  But we’ve been catching a lot of pees, especially right after sleeping in the morning and right after naps.  It’s pretty amazing.

One time half-naked DC2 even walked over to the potty hirself (with parental assistance), but then got distracted by the bathtub and peed on it instead.  Oops!

The true joy of this method has been the poos we’ve caught.  It is just so much less icky to dump poo in the toilet and then rinse out the potty than it is to deal with a poo covered rear end.  I understand that many folks who do EC are better at catching poos than pees because their babies give more signs they’re about to poo, but apparently DC2 is a stealth pooper.  (DC1 used to do an adorable wiggle-dance.  DC2 just explodes without warning, usually while on hir tummy.)

The end goal, of course, is to be able to figure out when the baby is about to pee and for the baby to start to hold pees for the opportunity to go.  DC2 does seem to have bigger pees the more we do this, but we’re still clueless about the communication part.  Maybe we’ll figure it out or maybe it’ll all work out when ze starts talking to us.

Also:  we’re only doing occasional elimination communication.  Ze’s still mostly in diapers and the mother’s helpers all use diapers.  (One of them thinks we’re weird beyond belief, another thinks we’re really cool, and the remaining two haven’t been around for a post-nap pee yet.)  The Diaper Free Baby swears that occasional and part-time (that’s a step up from what we’re doing) elimination communication are fine, so we’re trusting them on that.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  And so far, other than DC2 maybe fighting a little more about getting that diaper back on, there doesn’t seem to be any harm done.

So anyway, Elimination Communication:  messy but WAAAAAY easier than potty training later.  Surprisingly so.  And much easier than we ever thought it would be.  (Also, kind of fun!)

Going early and slow

Back when I started this article, people were talking about Race to Nowhere… one of those movies about pressure cooker parents messing up their kids.  (Note:  neither of us, despite our elite circles, has ever actually met someone whose parents pressured them thusly.  We believe they exist, otherwise Amy Chua wouldn’t be, but are by far the minority… or at least don’t actually end up at the elite institutions with which we are familiar… maybe they go to Princeton.  No wait… one of us met a first gen Chinese girl with one of those moms, but she didn’t go to an Ivy for college… just grad school.  The other one of us remembers a couple of pre-meds on her hall in college, also of Asian descent.  But they seemed perfectly fine, except for the not really wanting to be doctors part.)

Of course, on the mommy forums, folks were taking this documentary to mean that kids should not be allowed near a written letter until they are 5 years old at the absolute earliest, and that’s only if you don’t get into the local Waldorf school, in which case age 8 or 9 is better.

The argument seems to be around whether you’re providing your kids with an advantage by “hothousing” them (or as some like to put it, “enabling them to reach their potential”) or by letting them “enjoy their childhoods” (or as I like to say, “be Rosseau dream-children”).  Proponents of the anti-learning model argue that we’re stressing out our kids with all the pressure.   Arguments in the other direction (that I haven’t actually heard made by a real person, just by articles against hot-housing) seem to focus on children getting into ivy schools later in life and becoming successes, whatever that means.

What the arguments seem to ignore is that when you start something early instead of late, the learning can be more leisurely and more fun.  There can be LESS pressure instead of more pressure.  Deadlines are far away and nobody expects a child to show genius at such a young age for task X, Y or Z.  The time can be spent focusing on the learning and the joy, and when it stops being fun, you can take a break and come back to it later, no harm, no foul.  Plus there’s the meta lesson that even if you don’t get something right away, with practice and time you will get it eventually.

We’ve seen the positive aspects of starting early and going slow across several aspects of DC1’s life.

Potty training

Unlike most parents, we found potty training to be pretty fun.  Unlike most parents, we started pretty early.  15 months.  We would have started earlier but before reading the research I thought you had to go all or nothing.  Ze wasn’t completely trained for many years (went a week without accidents right before age 2, was mostly dry before 3, was dry at night before 5).  The joy of starting at 15 months is you feel a bit naughty doing it– people who find out will be more than happy to provide their opinion of why you’re torturing the child or you’re the one being trained, etc.  (To which I would say, “Did you know that before disposable diapers the average age of potty training was 18 months, and in cultures with infant training, the average age of being completely trained is 12 months?  It’s really interesting, the potty readiness signals were created by Barry T Brazelton who was working for Pampers at the time.  They seem to coincide with the worst time to start training.”  You can see I have the speech memorized– as a professor I use people not minding their own business as an opportunity to educate.)

Potty training for us went much like all the other skills.  It was fun watching DC1 get better and better at this new skill.  Very relaxed.  Whenever it wasn’t relaxed we’d just stop.  And that would feel fine too, because the feeling of naughtiness would go away while on break.  Then we’d go back later.


Reading isn’t quite as good an example, because we didn’t deliberately start training DC1 to read (I did read  a couple of books on how to teach infants to read via flashcards, but decided that wasn’t fun and only taught sight reading which isn’t phonics.)  We did, however, read a lot to DC1, and I tend to run my finger along the words as I read children’s books because that’s what my mother did (possibly from her Headstart training).  And we have literally hundreds of children’s books to flip through and chew on, many at baby height.  We also introduced the Leapfrog CDs long before DC1 could decode because DC1 was really into frogs at that age.  The side effect of that was that ze knew all the phonics rules (in verse form, “The A says ah, the A says ah, every letter makes a sound the A says ah”) so that as soon as hir brain was ready for phonics, the inputs were already there.  On top of that, we have some great simple puzzles that attach words to pictures or letters to words and pictures.  These worked so well that we hope to do the same for DC2 even if ze isn’t as into frogs as hir older sibling.


I love math and I love teaching math, so math is something we start right away, counting baby lifts and baby fingers and toes and ears and eyes and noses.  Numbers are everywhere and we point them out.  Following that, any kind of manipulable can teach simple addition (two raisins plus two raisins is one two three four raisins).  Skip counting is also a lot of fun.  We practice these kinds of games when we’re waiting for things, even if it means I occasionally get dirty looks.  Better dirty looks for “hothousing” than for my kid getting stuck in the slats of a chair yet again.  Later on we added workbooks and money games from Scholastic books.

We’re totally Boicing our kids.


There are some disadvantages besides the occasional dirty look and accusation of doing horrible things to your children in order to win at life or something.  Sometimes the whole point of learning something new is learning to overcome a new challenge.  When learning is easy and happens over a long period of time, and doesn’t have those frustrations that a deadline will bring, the child may be missing that important lesson.  Additionally, when a child knows something that hasn’t yet been taught in school, that can lead to boredom when it is finally covered.  Though perhaps the boredom is a societal problem, not because of us.

[Disclaimer:  We do not recommend trying CIO-style sleep training or solid feeding earlier than what doctors recommend– baby brains and baby tummies aren’t ready for those until about the date the AAP recommends or they show signs of readiness.  Of course, anyone knows that trying to feed a baby who doesn’t want to be fed is not fun for mom and dad, and CIO generally isn’t ever fun.  So if you keep to the rule of only doing things early if they’re fun for all, you should be ok.]

Anyway, my point is that introducing something early doesn’t necessarily lead to pressuring.   In fact, sometimes it keeps you from ever having to pressure.

How do you make choices about when to introduce new concepts?  What did your parents do?

Adventures in cloth diapering

With DC1 we got a gift of newborn-size g-diapers.  They were a pain to use and leaked.  So we didn’t use them.

We flirted with cloth diapering more in earnest around the time to start potty training.  On the recommendation of a friend, we used Fuzzibunz pocket diapers, size medium.  We had 6 of them and used them pretty much on weekends (since we didn’t want to bother daycare) and sometimes evenings.  When DC1 was completely potty trained during the day and had grown out of the mediums, we bought 3 size larges for night and some insert doublers.

Fuzzibunz were ok.  A bit of a hassle compared to disposables, but not too bad.  We swore we would cloth diaper DC2, but only after poo got solid.  It is much easier to remove solid poo.

Fast forward several years.  And me being sick of emergency late-night Target runs, but unable to buy in bulk because DC2 grows out of a diaper sizes in an unpredictable manner.  (We seem to have settled on size 2 for a while at this point, but who knows how long it will last.)  I figured if we had some cloth diapers in reserve, we could at least wait until morning to run out to the store.

Cloth diapering technology has improved dramatically.  After a bit of internet research, we decided on BumGenius All-in-one (organic, though really I just cared about the AIO part).  These are one size fits all by way of an ingenious snap system.  Instead of being pocket diapers, they have two layers of inserts sewn on the inside, but in order to enable relatively fast drying (80 min in the dryer in our experience), they’re only sewn on the top and bottom edges of the insert/diaper and there’s space between the diaper and the insert while washing and drying.  Except that snaps are a bit more finicky than velcro (but last longer), they’re really no more difficult than disposables in terms of ease of use.  Even with non-solid poo.  (Though note:  we are breast-milk only so the poo doesn’t smell bad… it might not be this easy with formula poo.)

After use, we throw them in the washing machine.  Once we’re ready to do a full load of laundry (or we run out of cloth), something that happens once every day or two, we rinse them on cold.  Then we throw in the rest of the laundry, add soap, and do a regular cycle.  We dry for 60 min, clean out the lint filter and any obviously dry laundry, then dry another 20 min.  Not much more effort than our regular laundry cycle.

I had originally bought 6, just for emergencies, but they were so clever and so nice to use, I got another 6, for a total of 12.  We don’t make the mother’s helpers use them and we don’t use them at night (since we’d rather DC2 sleep than wake us up demanding a diaper change).  So DC2 still goes through ~48 disposables each week, or half a box of the size 2s (ze is ahead on the poo curve on top of being a hearty pee-er).

Anyhow, cloth diapering technology is really amazing these days and it’s gotten much easier to use.

We were not paid for this post and neither Fuzzibunz nor Bum Genius knows we’re alive (if they did, that would be kind of creepy).

Have you or has someone you love tried cloth diapering?  How did that work out?  Any favorite brands or tips?  (Alternatively, have you ever wondered why parents with young kids talk about poo all the time?)

Night training

Our then-four-year old (almost five) still needed a diaper at night, despite having been mostly day-trained since ze was 2.  (We still get the occasional accident in conjunction with a growth spurt… I imagine these will continue.)

Every morning the cloth diaper or pull-up or diaper would be heavy and soaking.  DC would toss if disposable or put into the laundry if cloth.  (This was a bit annoying to me because prior to ending cosleeping DC was completely night trained– never ever peed when asleep from birth to almost age 3!  Always peed first thing upon waking up.  But moving to hir own bed seems to have granted deeper sleep.)

The bulk of the internet says it is impossible to night train.  The bladder will get big enough one day.  But maybe use cloth diapers so ze feels wet.  When diapers are no longer wet, you switch to underpants.  For those with bed-wetting which is different from not yet being night trained there are fancy devices that ring when the bed gets wet, but in general, the recommendation is just to wait.  The other part of the internet suggests limiting water for several hours before bedtime and waking them up at midnight to drain.  I don’t like the limiting water part because I wake up thirsty, and figure DC shouldn’t be kept from listening to hir thirst.

One of my colleagues said they’d been in the same situation and she just put them in underpants and within a couple weeks her kids were night-trained.

So we told DC we’d be trying an experiment over winter break, and it might work or it might not work.  We went to Target and picked out new sheets and new mattress pads and a pack of those plastic pads for the incontinent.  We explained that DC should tell us if ze had an accident and we’d change the sheets etc.  We moved hir water bottle to the bathroom to make sure if ze got up to drink ze also drained (ze was not happy about this change after the first night).   For the first few nights DH did night wake-ups.  It didn’t seem to make a difference, was killing DH, and caused some bizarre screaming from DC who apparently reacts the same way as hir mommy to unexpected wake-ups.  So we stopped that part.

Night 1 there were two major accidents.  DC told us.  We thanked hir profusely for telling us.

Over the next couple of weeks we alternated between big accidents and just slightly damp underpants, as if ze peed a little bit and then realized and stopped.  Occasionally DC told us proudly ze had gone to the restroom.

And then no more accidents (watch!  Ze will have one tonight!  Because, as our department secretary says, “they’ll make you a liar every time.”)

Would ze have trained on hir own in those two weeks without changing to underpants (the true counterfactual)?  I’m skeptical.  It seems more to me that hir body gradually learned to avoid having accidents and having to wake up in a wet bed in a way that having a wet diaper never bothered hir.  Even if the internet disagrees.

So I dunno, I think my colleague was right.  Sometimes you just need to try something and it will work out.

Have you ever just tried something and it worked out?

Words for pee

I have to pee a lot these days.  Before I had a kid, or rather, before we started potty-training, if I had to leave a meeting early or something at work to use the restroom (if looked askance), I would say, “I had/need to use the restroom.”  Then came potty training and a lot more comfort with bodily functions, and I say, “I gotta/hadta pee,” or occasionally, “I haveta go potty.”  Which is silly and unprofessional, but pretty much all my colleagues are at that point as well.

Back in college, I would say, “I must needs micturate” because in college one can say things like that.

Growing up, we would use the euphemisms “big” and “little” for #2 and #1 respectively.   DH’s family uses the standard poo and pee so we went with that.  My grandma would always talk about her dogs widdling (whereas our cat “used the litterbox.”)

Here are some options from #2:

wee wee
golden showers

What words do you use for pee?  Have they changed throughout your life?

Life Changing books

A lot of books have small influences on your life.  But a few books are useful, powerful, and different enough to change EVERYTHING.

Your Money or Your Life :  See our post on this phenomenal book here.  If you haven’t read it yet, read it!

The Paradox of Choice:  See our post on this book here.

Mindset: some day we will post on this one…

Bogleheads Guide to Investing : This book is awesome because it can save you a ton of money.  How to match the market at the lowest cost, and why that should be your goal.  Simple but powerful.  I am so excited– we sent this to my partner’s father and he’s actually changing his entire investment strategy because of it.  Getting a Vanguard account and everything.  No more calling us to ask about tech stocks (and us saying, uh, we do index funds).  He even said he was thinking of getting a fund with a 4% load that his broker recommended, but now instead he’s going to invest directly through Vanguard himself.  I’m not used to partner’s family changing things based on our advice.

Help!  My apartment has a kitchen! : Saved my ability to eat reasonably priced healthy food on a strict time schedule.  Also Faster! I’m starving! once DC got big enough to need to eat a full-sized meal too.

Taking charge of your fertility :  Gave me a better understanding of how and why I was messed up.  For normal women it will probably just give them a better understanding of themselves.

Our Babies, Ourselves:  Confession-time.  I used to be a scared excrement-less mother.  I was terrified not only that my baby was going to die (though that part was understandable), but that I was going to destroy hir one way or another if I didn’t pay attention to the right research.  This book freed me from all that.  Sure, I still scour pub-med when I hear something and am trying to decide whether or not to apply it, but this book showed me with strong scientific grounding that there are infinite good ways of raising a child and although children may turn out differently they generally don’t turn out better or worse because of it.  It let me relax and listen to my instincts more.  If what I was doing felt right (given I wasn’t abused or neglected as a child myself), it probably was the right thing to do.  Plus all those nights when DC fell asleep on DH’s chest weren’t going to kill anybody (given we’re not obese).

Related:  Diaper Free Before Three.  You don’t have to do Brazleton signs of potty readiness vs. infant training.  There’s a whole scientifically validated times when potty training is easier or harder (in fact, Brazelton’s signs correlate with one of the worse times to try… which may have something to do with the fact that his research was paid for by Pampers).  Kids used to train before age 2, now it is after age 3.  That’s not because we were harming kids before!  This book was freeing not only because of the potty training thing but also because it illustrated the points made in Our Babies, Ourselves with an example concrete to today.

What are books that have changed your life?

The Persecuted Majority vs. The Vocal Minority

We already talked about how our hobbies are not judging your choices.  I am constantly seeing blog posts wherein a member of the majority group complains about a small vocal minority’s choices as somehow being wrong or superior (but not superior as in better, superior as in smarmy).  The article will then go on to explain precisely why the minority is blowing something out of proportion or there’s no science yet or that they’re just superior jerkwads with their superior attitude.  (This last one irritates me because A.  I’m often in that minority, except as a silent member, and B.  Outside of, which one does not have to read, I don’t actually know minority member folks who are that kind of vocal on most of these issues.)

Like we said, we’ve already addressed this issue with TV.  The majority of folks watch TV.  A minority don’t own a TV.  It’s probably generally thought that people who don’t own a TV do so because they believe that decision to be superior.  The majority, of course, does not have to justify its decision.  They have a TV because the majority has a TV.

Exercise is generally thought to be healthy and there’s peer-reviewed articles and so on showing its benefits.  Most of us don’t exercise as much as we ought to.  That doesn’t mean that the people who run marathons are trying to show us up.  Folks who are vocal are probably trying to find partners to run with.

Epidurals… this is a really big one.  I cannot tell you the number of blogs owned by PhD women with science degrees that say super nasty things about women who try to have a natural childbirth.  Also the lady who runs the NYTimes motherlode blog.  Titles to the effect of, “Having a natural childbirth does not make you a better person.”  H’okay…  And my childless partnerless colleagues who think women who have natural childbirths are crazy (“Um… B?  I had a natural childbirth…I hope you don’t really believe what you just said”).  The majority of women in the US use epidurals.  By FAR the majority.  Women using epidurals are not some persecuted minority.  Are there some women who strongly believe that one should avoid the epidural if possible?  Certainly, there are.  And not because they believe women should always suffer either (having an epidural, contrary to what some of these blog posts would have you believe, is not a feminist statement).  There’s some good evidence that it leads to slower labor, among other things, and I know people who have had epidurals go wrong leading to bizarre or unpleasant side effects.  There actually are pros and cons that any woman should consider carefully before making a decision (disclaimer:  I could not care less what you decide, but I do think it’s important to have full information).  Some women who have made the choice to go natural are very vocal about these potential cons, possibly beyond the bounds of peer-reviewed science.  But without these women, who would let people know that there was even an option?  Who would organize the Bradley classes so that natural childbirth can include as little pain as possible?  The minority sometimes has to be vocal to let folks on the margin of the majority know that they have a choice.

Breast-feeding… whether this is the majority or minority culture depends on where you are in the country.  Right now the entire country has recently tipped towards doing some breastfeeding.  But it’s interesting that you can see the vocal minority of breast-feeders (I was one!) and the vocal minority of formula-feeders, depending on where in the country you are.  And the majority pressures you to do whichever you’re not.  I was vocal because I was coursing with hormones, felt like I was invincible, and wanted to make it easier for other women to breastfeed their babies as well.  When it’s common-place you’re less likely to get those disapproving looks.  When visiting cities where I was in the majority it was so much easier to nurse and I didn’t feel any need to advocate.  (I also figured it wasn’t culture keeping moms who weren’t nursing from nursing in the city, whereas culture and lack of support is definitely a main reason in the small town.  In the city women know they can nurse and where to find support and they may need information on alternatives… in Small Town there’s a big knowledge gap in addition to culture being against it.)

Potty training… I wish we’d met a vocal minority person on early potty training before DC decided at 12 months that ze didn’t want to poo in hir diaper anymore.  As we said in a previous post, I didn’t know it was possible to do something in between infant potty learning and Brazelton’s signs of readiness.  Now I’m quite vocal about it, putting on my professor hat and educating people who said nasty things to us when we started at 15 months.  It’s not that I care when you train your kid… there are pros and cons to all of the ages of training.  But I’d like people to know that if they start young they’re not scarring their kids for life.  There’s support.  They’re not the only ones.  The vocal majority trains their kids after age 3.  That’s fine.  But there are other ways.  I’m sure many people went away from my lecture thinking horrible things about me, but that’s their problem, not mine.  And vocalizing their concern for my precious toddler crossed a line anyway.  They needed to know there’s no reason to call CPS.

The majority doesn’t like to let go of its status.  I’m sure other social scientists have full-blown theories on this subject (and published papers and stuff).  But the majority likes to keep the status quo.  The majority likes to tell the minority to shut up and stop being so arrogant.

Maybe you have to be a vocal minority if you want to stay sane in a majority culture.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a few outliers that share your own culture.  Or you’ll steal a few folks from the majority, and maybe, deep down, that’s what the majority are afraid of.