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Your Burning Questions

In my reader survey (which you can still answer...it isn't too late!) the last question was:
Is there anything you've always wanted to ask me? About my blog? About parenting? About me? If so...go for it! (No guarantees that I'll answer it, but I'm open to ideas!)

There were a lot of responses, some that I am more than willing to answer and others that I am not. Some of them I just don't have the expertise to answer and others I won't answer publicly for privacy reasons. Some questions warrant a post of their own, but there are also some recurring themes in the questions that I thought I would address in one post. Here we go...

About PhD in Parenting

Why did you start blogging? Is this your first blog?

I started this blog in May 2008 to learn more about blogging and social media. You can use the Archives drop-down in the right side-bar to access archives from any month if you want to see how things started out and evolved.

I wrote a bit about my reasons for starting the blog in my post called Why I check my stats and why you should too:
I didn’t start blogging just for myself or for the community. I started blogging for professional reasons. Not because I ever wanted to or expected to make a ton of money writing this blog. Rather, I did it because my day job involves working with organizations to help them improve their websites. I advise my clients on things like search engine optimization, web analytics, social media, web writing and more. Although I know a lot about the theory behind these topics and have had some opportunity to dabble in them in practical terms while working with my clients, I wanted to get in deeper. I needed an ongoing long-term project that would allow me to try out certain techniques and measure their success. So I started a blog. But rather than write yet another blog about search engine optimization (yawn), I decided to write about a topic I was passionate about, one where I felt I had something to contribute, and one where I thought I could get something back from the community. I decided to write about parenting and in May 2008 I jumped into the crowded waters of mommy blogging, not quite knowing what I was getting into or what it would become.

This is not my first blog, but it is my first parenting blog and my first popular blog.

Where did you get the name for your blog?

My blog is called PhD in Parenting, which is a play on words (I don’t really have a PhD in Parenting…nor does anyone that I know of!). I chose that name because I approach the topic of parenting the way others may approach a PhD. I have spent some time steeped in literature written by others. I have analyzed different theories. I have done some of my own research and experimentation.

I explained this a bit in my About This Blog page:
I’m working on my proverbial PhD in Parenting. As someone who has spent a lot of years in a classroom, I learned that sometimes I need to take notes and explain things to others before I can truly master them. I spend a lot of time thinking about and reading about things that will help me to be a better parent, so I decided to start writing about it to with the hopes that more of it will sink in.

Maybe my blog will help others along the way too. Perhaps someone else that is struggling with an issue will read something I wrote and take something away from it. Maybe my husband will read the book reviews since I can’t convince him to read the books. Maybe family and friends will read it and get a better understanding for why we parent the way that we do. Maybe no one will read it, in which case it will just act as my own study guide.

I learned in my many years in a classroom that I need to take notes and explain things to others before I can truly master them myself. My hope was that by writing about parenting issues, I would become a better parent myself and maybe help out others along the way.

Do you actually have (or are you studying for) a PhD? If so what's the subject?

No, I don't have a PhD, but I do hope to do a PhD one day (once my partner finishes his PhD). I hope to do it in the field of corporate social responsibility. 

My real job

What is it that you do for a living? (for work)? I'm just curious.

I own my own consulting company (I do not work from home, I have an office close to my clients) and I do a lot of web consulting as part of my business. My social media participation is both for fun and for research/experience purposes. I have competitors who advise clients about how to use twitter for their business and they've never been on twitter themselves.

Do you make a living with this blog?

I make a partial living with this blog in a couple of ways. I gain tremendous knowledge about social media from managing this blog and the related social media presence and that knowledge helps me in my client interactions. I also make some money on advertising revenue on this blog. The advertising revenue alone is certainly not enough to feed my family, but it is significant enough that it allows me to spend more time on the blog than I did previously and allows me to say no to client projects that do not interest me.

How I do it all

This was a recurring theme for sure. Here are some of the things you asked:

How do you eat and sleep, blog, work, be a wife AND care for your children? Considering doing my own blog but just don't know how to do that with 24hours/day...

How do you balance blogging with work with parenting? Especially when writing on hot-button issues that need a lot of comment babysitting and ongoing discussion?

How do you make it all work? Working out of the home, blogging, activism and of course mothering! I'm exhausted and my blog suffers :)

As I mentioned above, I initially started this blog just to learn about social media. But over the years it has become an important outlet for me. Prior to writing the blog, I was active in various parenting message board communities as a member and as moderator. I got sick of answering the same question over and over again though and quickly realized that my blog would allow me to write about the things I wanted to write about and to develop a community around those things, rather than just answering other people's questions all the time. I've found it very rewarding and it has become an important part of my life and something that I prioritize.

I wrote a bit about how I achieve balance in my post called A working mom seeks balance. The key to me is achieving balance over time and not every day. Another really important element of balance for me is having a partner who is truly an equal partner in our family and home life. I shop, cook, and pay the bills. I do not clean, do dishes, shovel snow, or take out trash. I sometimes do laundry, but usually he does it.  Sometimes he takes the kids to school, play dates and activities and sometimes I do. I know in a lot of households, the mom still carries most of the burden of managing the household, but that is not the case here.

Because I own my own business and because I am at my computer at a desk all day, babysitting contentious posts is not too difficult. As things come in that need to be addressed, I can address them. Sometimes I opt not to write about the contentious issue of the day because I know that I have too much work or too many family commitments that day to be monitoring and responding to comments.

I also don't sleep a lot. I do most of my blogging late in the evening after everyone else in the house is asleep.

And I'm exhausted, but I can't just give up things that are important to me and all the things I do (blogging, career, family) are important. I can slow down in one or more areas as needed, but I couldn't imagine cutting any of them out.

How I write

How do you go about writing a post (inspiration and text). Every post is so well written and you make such great points that I wonder if much of it comes from personal knowledge? Or, is a lot of it research based... Also, how do you choose your topics? What inspirational sources do you use?

Inspiration comes from a lot of places. It comes from articles I read, from things people say, from personal struggles, from questions that I ask myself and then go off and research. I do really need to be inspired about something to write about it though. I find that I really struggle for the words if a topic doesn't just grab me. But if I am inspired, the words just flow out onto the screen. I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me to write about certain topics or suggesting that I write about them. A lot of them are interesting, but sometimes I don't feel like I have anything to add beyond what has been said already, so I don't post about it because it would feel forced. I do, however, share a lot of articles on twitter and on my facebook page that I don't necessarily write full blog posts on.

How long does it take you to write a typical post. I get to riled up and take sooooo long to write I should never blog. Just wondering how long it takes you and can't imagine how you find the time.

My brain moves fast and my fingers move almost as fast. I had a few people staring with their jaws wide open at me at Blissdom because I can type so fast. I learned how to type in high school and mastering it was a survival technique when I was writing 6 term papers per semester in university, especially since most of the materials that I was quoting or referencing back then were in hard copy only, so note taking and quoting of things required them to be typed out in entirety rather than being copied and pasted from an electronic file.

In terms of how long it takes to write the typical blog post, that depends whether it is opinion based or research based. An opinion based post, even if its 2000 words long, will usually not take me more than an hour or two to write (e.g. Oh those technology obsessed neglectful parents or Don't judge me or Grin and bear it? Parenting, happiness and the pressure cooker). Research-based posts that are on a single study (e.g. writing about new research that has been released) or about a topic that I know well, will usually not take more than two hours either. For example, my Open letter to the Nestle Family bloggers took me one hour to write. But there are other posts, like my Co-Sleeping Safety post, that required a lot of research and that I worked on for several hours a day for several days.

My other half

I am curious about your partner/husband and how he participates (or does not participate) in your activism.. what he thinks of you, what parenting issues you agree on or clash over and how you resolve those.

We agree on a lot of issues. Some things he is more passionate about than I am and other things I am more passionate about than he is. I can't think of any activism or parenting issues that we clash on completely. There are some areas where were are not 100% on the same page, but I think there is room for some variance in parenting styles and for each partner to give the other some leeway to parent in the way they see fit. We resolve differences of opinion on parenting issues the same way we would with differences of opinion on other issues (i.e. I'm always right....JUST KIDDING) -- i.e. by talking about it and reasoning with each other.

I wrote a bit about him being an attached dad for Father's Day a couple of years ago.

What is his role in your family (stay a home Dad? bread-winner?) and your thoughts on fathers.

He is a PhD student at the moment. He was a stay-at-home dad and student for 5 years. I stayed at home when our children were infants and he took over after that. This is the first year that both of our kids are in school full-time (preschool for Emma, Grade 1 for Julian), so he is now able to focus full-time on his PhD.

In terms of my thoughts on fathers, I think they are great. I also think that same-sex non-biological parents are great.  I do think that fathers are not as valued as parents as mothers are and I think society needs to shift and to give men both equal responsibility in parenting and equal opportunity in parenting.

Why you call him your partner instead of your husband.

We got married because we had to. He is an immigrant and when we moved to Canada, people were not allowed to bring their common-law spouse into the country. You had to be married in order to apply for immigration (or he could have applied on his own, but that could have taken years). So we got married because it was the only way the government would recognize our relationship, but neither of us is a fan of the institution of marriage. We believe that people should be able to enter into a contract with each other without the state dictating the terms around that relationship (who can marry, who can't marry, what benefits married people get that non-married people don't get, what happens if your marriage breaks up, etc.).

My parenting style

A lot of people were interested in discipline and had questions about discipline. I've written before about My Discipline Spectrum, but I will probably answer some of the more specific questions in follow-on posts too.

How did you discover AP?

When Julian was born, I knew nothing about Attachment Parenting. We had a crib, in a separate room. We had a swing. We had some sort of baby carrying contraption, but not a sling. I did plan to breastfeed though. There was no question about that. However, when he was not able to latch on and when I could only see the lactation consultants a couple of times per week to work on it, I went searching for help online. I wondered if it was possible to exclusively pump, because I couldn't see myself giving my baby formula, but I also couldn't get him to latch on.

When I Googled "exclusively pumping" I found a message board of other moms who were doing it. I started chatting with them there, and then moved on to the breastfeeding boards as we figured things out. But while I was on those boards, I noticed some of the moms had a signature saying that they were an "attached mom" or that they were on the Attachment Parenting board, so I looked into it, learned about it, and was thrilled to realize that I didn't have to parent according to the mainstream books.

We ended up bringing Julian into our bed, because he wouldn't sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time in his crib. I ended up buying several slings. We learned about self-weaning, gentle discipline, and more and it just meshed with how we wanted to raise our kids.

Lurking, commenting and more...

What do you think about people who "lurk?" The word itself has a bad connotation to me, but honestly I really love to read lots and lots of blogs, but don't really participate in many of the comments sections. Sometimes I wonder if the blogger would rather not have me read at all if I am not writing. No offense, I love the idea of commenting, it is just not something I often want to do.

People are welcome to read silently or to jump into the conversation. I don't have anything against lurkers, but I do sometimes wonder who those avid readers are that never comment. I would love to get to know them better through their participation in discussion on the topics that I write about.

I do need commenters though, because I thrive on the interaction and on the feedback. So if I looked at my stats and saw tons of people were visiting but no one was commenting, then I would be discouraged. However, I recognize that every blog is going to have a mix of avid readers and avid commenters and that is okay too.

I know that some people don't want to comment or don't have time to comment, but I do hope that everyone feels welcome to comment. I wouldn't want people to have something they really want to say and feel that they couldn't say it. Comments are always welcome.

How far back do you go back to read comments? There have been times I mulled over posts and it took me several days to figure out / collect my thoughts. What you you think a reasonable period is for adding to a conversation?

I get notification of any new comment, whether it is on a post from 2 years ago or the post I wrote today, so people are welcome to add to the conversation anytime they want. A lot of people who comment also subscribe to the comments, so they will also get a notification if someone posts something much later. Some of my posts have ongoing conversations that have continued over years with people jumping back into the conversation whenever an interesting new comment is added.

More to come

I'll be bringing you more content based on the results of the survey as time goes on. This post was just to answer some of the easy burning questions that you had. I hope I satisfied your curiosity. :)
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Reader Comments (15)

Yes, yes, yes to this:
I think society needs to shift and to give men both equal responsibility in parenting and equal opportunity in parenting.

November 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTepary

Just wanted to say that this was a really fun post to read. I only started reading your blog about 6 months ago, so it's nice to get some background... good for you for being cool about sharing details on your life! I appreciate when bloggers who are more issue-related are also willing to share some personal stuff. :)

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFearless Formula Feeder

Thanks for lifting the curtain to see the great and powerful Oz. I'm just dipping my toe in blogland (my blog went public this summer), so I am a rookie and reading posts like this does really help us just starting out.

I'd love if you could speak to how you approach marketing via social media and marketing more specifically, and DIY coding and design.

Thanks for the background...seems only fair to share a little back.

I am a lurker who comments on the odd occasion. My reasons? I have limited time on the net and would rather spend the time reading and learning about a range of topics on a range of blogs rather than discuss the finer points of topics on a lesser number of blogs. I'll comment if it is a topic close to my heart and I feel I have something to share that would benefit others, otherwise I will remain quiet and just be thankful that there are wonderful people out there so willing to share their knowledge and opinions!

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I confess, I lurk. I lurk because I love to read your blog, but don't always have time to compose a response. I lurk because I am often intimidated by other comments that seem so much more insightful and informed than mine would be. I lurk because I don't know that I have anything useful to say. I lurk because the discussions I have about the issues you raise I have in person with my IRL friends. I guess I'm just a lurker. But I'm a lurker who loves this blog! So even if I never comment again, you can know I'll still be reading and taking your insights into my parenting, my community and my life.

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterQuotidian


Thank you for saying hi! :)

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thanks Anna!

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I can say that I used to be a lurker... now I'm enjoying commenting and starting/following discussions. Of course it depends on the topic too and sometimes I just don't feel I have anything worth writing about the topic.

On an different note, I was thrilled to read a little about your background and how you came to find AP and became a blogger. I can certainly relate to how you've evolved (and are still evolving) and find that so many of the moms I speak to have come to AP in the same exact manner. Including myself.

This is why your blog (and others similar to yours) are so important to me. They are intelligent, insightful and honest (true to the heart) and come from a perspective that I relate to. Through your blog I find the courage, motivation and support to 'stay the course' in the paths I have chosen for my life and parenting style (more than what I have IRL unfortunately). So, thank you. Thank you for asking about our thoughts and thank you for sharing your own.

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAida

You know, about the "How I do it all" paragraph, I think it's funny how people (especially women) each time another woman proves herself and work and has also a family and kids, ask always this question :) It's like anyone assume that mothers are not at all good (or shouldn't be) for something else, as well.

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCinnamon Mind

Cinnamon Mind,

I don't disagree with you. I also find it interesting how others think mothers neglect their children because they do something outside of the home. Or, how others assume that a male partner "helps" with the kids rather than co-parents. That's a small beef of mine.

Still, I am always interested in that question because I work 60 hours a week and try to maintain a blog. I am fortunate to have a partner who stays at home with our young children, but I find it difficulty to carve the time out of my schedule to work, spend significant time with my children (I leave work early every day to spend time with them), put the kids to bed, work on the things I left at work so I could see my kids, and then blog. I'm always curious how others do it and maintain the brain power to do it as smartly at PhDinparenting. I've found great writers have a practice, and I like to know how others do it.

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJacob

Jacob, you're right. You know, my point was exactaly that that staying home mothers have their specific way of criticizing and judging working mothers for neglecting their kids - and usually they start with this question (they don't ask it seeking for advise).
I was really bothered once when a staying home mother made a in front of me a very loud and clear comment: she said that a working mother is not a good mother, that a good mother should give up everything (from job and career to friends and make-up) to dedicate all her time to the kids.
You know, I felt she was somehow disturbed, but her comment really disturbed me :)

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCinnamon Mind

Thanks for all the answers! :) Are you going to share statistics of the other questions regarding how many of your readers answers each question by checking box A, box B, etc?

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlina


Yes, I will. I wanted to leave the survey up for a full week first, since not everyone gets around to reading it every day and some people may miss out on answering otherwise.

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I read this comment a couple of days ago now, and it has stayed with me.

I am, for the sake of an easy definition, a SAHM. The reasons why are complex (as I am guessing they are often are). However, it is a choice that I am happy with most of the time.

I would never assume a mother who works out of the home is neglecting her children. However, there is someone else caring for the children during the hours that the mother is not present. The tasks of making sure children are fed, clean and well cared for (and all that includes with regards to overall development) have to be done by someone. In an ideal world this would be shared between partners and the community. It is intensive work.

When I read the question "how do you do it all?" I read a question of "what is your support system like?" Who can you rely on to safely take care of your children while you are doing something else other than homemaking/childcare? Some women have better support than others, and I think this is central to their being able to incorporate roles other than homemaker and parent into their lives.

Of course not all women need to become mothers, and not all mothers need to stay home. And not all mothers need to work out of the home. The guilt around these choices is more harmful than helpful in my opinion.

As a mother I see it as my responsibility to assess how I can be the best mother I can be. If that means I need to rely on family or pay someone to care for my child/ren so that I can earn a living or do what I feel I was born to do, I need to accept that and move on. There is no shame in that. Likewise I see no shame in women who do chose to stay home, despite the sometimes strong cultural message that they are 'giving up'.

Of course, many women fall somewhere in between and are not 100% at home or working 100% out of the home. And the vast majority of women shoulder the bulk of the homemaking/childcare whether they work outside the home or not.

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I am a lurker and never really thought about how that might affect a blogger until I read this! I will try to comment more often. Here are my thoughts about this particular post:

1. Boy, do I appreciate this blog. It's the closest to a match with my parenting choices (and intentions) that I've seen. And as a new parent (my son is six months old), it's a real lifesaver to know there are others out there who did the reading and came to similar conclusions. And it's even better when your posts give me new food for thought or even change my mind about something. There are few things that give me greater pleasure than thoughtful parenting.
2. Thank goodness for TRUE equal parenting. My partner of nine years (we've managed to dodge the marriage bullet thus far, although insurance benefits and our desire not to make our religious parents TOO miserable may snag us someday) is very much the equal partner, and I don't think he gets credit for all he does. Give your partner a hug from me and thank him for letting me see that equal parenting can work on a long-term basis.
3. YAY for secular parenting with a moral context! THANK YOU for turning me on to Parenting Beyond Belief. I'm feeling more confident that we can do something radically different from our parents without losing the good things about our upbringings.
4. I'm a PhD. Just don't do it; I lost almost a decade of my life to a pursuit that wasn't what I expected at ALL. But I do truly appreciate your "academic" approach, as it appeals to my urge to research exhaustively and approach all information critically until I'm satisfied with the assertion. My mother calls my son my "second dissertation." HA! He's already so much better than my first.

So you may not hear from me for another several months, but I wanted to share this and thank you for being the best break from work I can imagine.

One of Your Many Lurkers

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

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