Last Updated on August 16, 2023

Some semi-structured thoughts on parenting.

Parenting history

It seems only a modern trend that parents get so obsessed with their own children. In the past in some places:

Rarely did parents “refer to their children with nostalgia or fondness.” It was not uncommon for the New England colonists to call their newborns “it” or “the little stranger,” and no extra measures were taken to protect these little intruders from harm.

Zelizer found a memorable, five-word phrase to describe this historic transformation. Children had become “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

Most babies are not that attractive

This is funny – a little tongue in cheek but a little true too:

The only acceptable pictures of newborns are the ones taken by a professional photographer who uses great lighting, a top-notch camera, advanced Photoshop skills, and extreme selectivity in picking acceptable photos. You can trust these photos because they are taken by someone who (1) doesn’t love your baby and (2) will have a very short-lived baby photography career if they produce only ugly photos of children. The babies in professional photos are softened and edited to within an inch of their lives—sorta like cover models—because it’s never too early for children to learn about our superficial society.

The Sh!t No One Tells You: A Guide to Surviving Your Baby’s First Year

Life with a baby

Before life with a newborn, I asked lots of people what to expect. The best description was that a newborn is just like getting five new puppies – very cute and heartwarming, but very messy and frustrating at times and a lot of work!

This is all compounded by the sleep deprivation. And not just the lack of sleep, but the fact that your sleep is randomly interrupted, which is torturous at times.

(For the record I adore my baby and it’s all worth it.)

Baby lessons

A few random lessons learned

Mostly time-saving lessons learned.

  • Snap studs are the devil. Minimize these, only dress babies in clothes with zips as much as possible
  • Put baby in a size-up nappy/diaper overnight, and only change it if they poop
  • In fact, just always size up in diapers
  • If you are giving baby a bottle, see if they will take it without warming it up, it’s a simpler process if they will drink it cold/room temp
  • Invest in a good baby carrier, being handsfree is awesome

General baby resources

The best things I read for education were Expecting Better and The First Six Weeks.

The best things I read to help manage expectations (and a fascinating sociological analysis) was All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.

Baby equipment

This is a list of the baby equipment I used and liked.

Baby sleep

I read a lot about baby sleep- 10+ books – and I regret it in hindsight. I find reading books helpful for most things, but not for this. It just set unrealistic expectations and created frustration.

For the record, the best two I read were On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep , and Precious Little Sleep. In hindsight I would just subscribe to the Huckleberry premium. It’s worth it.

Beyond swaddling, one tip that worked for us is warming the cot. (Initially I thought this was very tedious and over the top but it turned out to be worthwhile). Just warm up the cot a little bit with a heat pack or hot water bottle before laying baby down. I guess babies particularly don’t like getting into a cold bed!

Also wind/gas is a real problem! It’s worth becoming a pro at burbing/winding a baby.

Cultural differences

I’ve lived across four different continents, and the values and approaches around pregnancy and parenting have been vastly different. Bringing Up Bébé was an interesting comment on US vs European approaches.

Do more things asynchronously

Doing things asynchronously becomes especially important because you lose control over your own time to some degree when a baby turns up. Whether it’s work, study, or the gym sometimes it’s only possible to do it on demand when you can fit it in, not on any type of schedule.

Antifragile parenting

I think about this a lot, because the drive to (over)protect is so strong.

This is the tragedy of modernity: as with neurotically overprotective parents, those trying to help are often hurting us the most.


Nature vs nurture

The book  The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do is fascinating, and takes a lot of the pressure off! Read it for sure.

Toddler lessons

A few thoughts on toddlers

As for the so-called terrible twos, it’s real – well at least it has been for me.

Give them choices

The advice about giving kids choices is good. “Do you want carrots or cucumber” plays much better than “eat your cucumber”.

Smooth transitions

My kids tantrums all seem to occur around transitions. We ease this by giving lots of warnings before a transition, “we are going to go in the car soon” etc.