Labor Pains: My Parenting Choices Aren’t Choices Because I’m Broke

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parenting choicesI’d like to think that my parenting choices are just that — choices. But at the end of the day, my parental behavior is determined by my paycheck.

The media “mommy wars” are never-ending. There is always a new parenting debate that begs us to choose sides. Co-sleeping or not? Daycare or not? Nanny or not? Extended breastfeeding or not? These questions aren’t parenting questions. They are questions of money. We take the sides we have to take. Well, I won’t speak for anyone else. I’ll just say I take the sides I have to take — because I am broke.

When it came to co-sleeping, we didn’t have a choice. When our son was four months old, we moved into a brownstone in Brooklyn, in the middle of winter, that did not have heat. Well, there was some heat, but it was negligible. It was freezing in that house. The fear of rolling over onto my child and killing him in his sleep was replaced by the fear that he would freeze to death — and he made it into our bed. The winter came and went, and he was still sleeping comfortably between us.

Some of my friends insisted that we needed to get him into his own bed. It’s important for sleep training! He needs to learn to self soothe! He needs his own space early, to nurture his independence! Well, he’s never going to have his own space in our house. It’s a one bedroom floor-through. He sleeps in the middle of the living room, in a Pack N’ Play, or he sleeps at the head of our bed in his crib. We can’t afford to move, so those are the only choices we have. Yes, I can say that my son is a warm, well-socialized child because of the bonding he has experienced through co-sleeping. Or I can say that we don’t have a choice — so thank God it doesn’t seem like we’ve screwed him up too bad. Yet.

Childcare in my neighborhood in Brooklyn is ridiculously expensive. We quickly learned that we would need to take care of our child without any outside help. People generally respond to this in a very positive way.  It’s the antithesis of all of those stories of celebrities and rich people who are flocked by nannies at all times. Good for you! A child needs his parents! Yes, he does. But all the time? Nope. I don’t think so.

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