Being a stay-at-home mom who answers questions on Quora…

I’ve answered a couple of questions about being a stay-at-home mom on Quora recently, and I quite like the answers. I invite you to go read them along with all the other great answers to these two questions:

Is it anti-feminist not to be okay with women being homemakers?

What is it like to be a stay-at-home mom?

On speech delays and parental panic…

I have no preconception that I’d like to see you be or do. I have no desire to foresee you, only to discover you. — Mary Haskell, in a letter to the poet Kahlil Gibran

The Kid with his giraffe earsThe Kid is almost 2, and he’s not really speaking yet. He babbles, he signs, he knows a couple of words, and he makes animal sounds. But he doesn’t talk.

Even a cursory amount of Internet research turns up dire warnings about speech delays. The extreme importance of intervening with speech therapy early is often stressed. I’m not discounting this, and indeed, we are getting speech therapy for our son. If it helps him, great, and I certainly don’t see how it can hurt. Although if it does cause him undue stress, I will probably discontinue it.

The most difficult thing about this situation — and I imagine this is true with every parent of a child who experiences some kind of delay or abnormality in their development — is to tamp down the anxiety. I tell myself every day not to stress about this, that The Kid is doing just fine in other areas and is likely just a late talker. This is a case where access to too much information, via the Internet, is probably a bad thing. It raises anxieties unnecessarily, leads me to fret about the rarest of outcomes and makes me worry that my child is not “normal” enough.

I never even wanted my child to be “normal.” Of course, no one wants their child to have a developmental disorder or a disease. But I mean that I don’t want my child to fit comfortably into what is average and expected for every person. I certainly didn’t. Rather, I want The Kid to be exactly who he is, even if that means he’s not talking like the other kids his age.

Thomas Sowell has researched late talkers and has found a corollary between late talkers and ability in music, math and memory. He also gives this sage advice, which I think applies to all parents and children:

In this age of labels, when there is a government program for every label, parents have to be on guard against having their children pigeon-holed. The stakes are just too high.

Take a blended approach to learning

No matter what the subject, there are a thousand people who have a one-size-fits-all solution to sell you. As a new parent, I’ve been reading a lot of parenting books lately, and the sheer amount of contradictory advice can be overwhelming. But this is true is pretty much every arena where I have an interest: self improvement, getting organized, writing, even taking care of the environment. Green Daily identifies this problem in the article, “Green impotence, or the ‘every solution creates a problem’ problem.” The truth is that there is no one solution that will fit everyone’s needs. But just because you can’t find an easy, packaged solution doesn’t mean you should give up altogether. You’ll have more success by taking the time to craft a solution that fits your individual needs.

Not even the great guru of getting organized, David Allen of Getting Things Done fame, can claim to have the one solution to all of your organization woes. He has developed the perfect system to meet his specific needs, and in his book about it, he shares a lot of good ideas, some of which may work for you or me. The trick is to identify and borrow those ideas that are workable for you, and leave the rest. There’s no need to go to extremes: to either adopt the system wholesale even if it causes you pain or just abandon it altogether and declare it evil. Take what works for you, leave the rest and thank Mr. Allen for sharing.

This is the best approach to all new subjects you are learning about, whether it’s parenting or self improvement or how to manage a project effectively. Read widely and absorb what many people have to say on the subject. Try out those aspects that make sense to you and see if they work for you. If they do, adopt them. Leave the rest. Keep learning and tweaking and adapting as you go along. You are not obligated to all or nothing.

Unfortunately, this is just what proponents of a particular system would have you believe. Take attachment parenting, for instance. If you get at all involved in the community, you might think that if you don’t practice co-sleeping or baby wearing, you aren’t doing “real” attachment parenting. And probably you aren’t, not the way it is defined by its fanatical adherents. However, you can adopt only those aspects of it that make sense for you and your family, and you’ll be doing quite all right. There is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. And I don’t mean to pick on this one particular community. All “movements” seem to have their extremely rigid adherents who claim that if you don’t practice by the book, you’re not really practicing (even hula-hooping).

I propose that it is better to question, test and draw your own conclusions — in other words, think for yourself — rather than blindly follow any system set down in a book or website.