Parenting

Celebrating Motherhood

In the United States, during the month of May, we take a day to celebrate mothers. All the work they do, all the care they provide: it’s a chance for children to celebrate and thank their mothers in a special way.

Because motherhood is the third-prong of MS//Mommy’s mission, next to healthy living and living with MS, I wanted to spend the month talking about mothers and some of the aspects that go into motherhood.

I am hoping to make this a theme for every May, so to kick off my first year, I am focusing on some concepts near and dear to my heart: the beginning stages of motherhood and all I have learned about it. In subsequent years I hope to examine other aspects of motherhood in greater detail that may be missed or overlooked this year.

So what is this month going to look like?

What to Expect for the Month of May

Be on the lookout for posts that range from trying to conceive to the trimesters; from giving birth to breastfeeding. I am sticking with what I am familiar with this year and some of these posts will address motherhood and MS as well.

I am super excited that several posts will be featuring stories and advice from other mothers with the information they wish they knew before getting pregnant, having a newborn, and raising a toddler. I found that as I went through each stage there was a gap in my knowledge and a lack of awareness of that gap. I wanted to compile recommendations to provide for other mothers who might be in a similar situation.

What I will be striving to do throughout the month: presenting a non-judgmental look at motherhood. Everyone approaches motherhood differently and what might work for one person may not work (or seem off) to another. Unless there is a clear and present danger for the child, there really isn’t a wrong way to approach motherhood, rather it may be considered unorthodox. With that in mind, throughout the month I will be encouraging constructive discussion surrounding motherhood.

This will be a month filled with personal stories, recommendations, and taking the time to appreciate our mothers and all they’ve done for us. So let’s take the rest of May and celebrate motherhood!


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The Check-In

A Different Type of Love

A few months before I met Ash, I had an acquaintance confide in me that they didn’t love their partner as much as they loved their newborn.

The love, they said, for their partner was replaced with a deeper love for the baby.

They felt guilty by this shift in the relationship, but knew that this was necessary to being a good parent.

I wasn’t sure how to respond because I wasn’t a parent and I wasn’t in a relationship, so I did what any awkward single person would do: I nodded and affirmed that they had nothing to feel guilty about. It made perfect sense to me: love for a partner could easily be replaced with love for a child. Biologically, we are geared towards wanting to care for our offspring more in order to ensure its survival into adulthood.

They were talking about simple biology and I had no reason to disagree. I asked if they told their partner about this shift in relationship dynamics. They hadn’t at the time, but that was a very difficult conversation, so I didn’t blame them.

Now that I am nearly a year-and-a-half into parenthood, I remembered our conversation: the aquaintance wasn’t wrong about the shifting love. The love I have for Jai is deeper than the love I have for Ash, but it is a different type of love.

I still love Ash deeply, more so every day because of all that he does for his family, but the love I have for Ash is completely different from the love I have for Jai.

Different Types of Love

Psychologically speaking, there are 7 different types of love. For Ash, my love is more nuanced and a combination of erosludusand pragma. Whereas my love for Jai is storge and therefore completely platonic in nature.

So it isn’t that I love Ash or Jai more/equally I just cannot compare or measure the love for either because the love is so different.

The fact that my acquaintance was concerned about this conundrum is not unusual: there are plenty of forum posts and articles out there where mothers admit to loving their children more than their partners.

Unfortunately, what does not seem to be addressed is that the love between partners and the love between parent/child has to be different. I feel like this is obvious, but there shouldn’t be the same sort of sexual feelings for the child that would happen with a partner.

Continue reading “A Different Type of Love”

Parenting

You Are Enough

This is the final week in a 3-week series on parenting observations. Week one is based on gentle parenting, week two is about parenting with compassion, and week three is about parenting with a disability.

These posts are based on my personal experiences as a parent and are not meant in any way to judge other parenting styles or decisions. I am offering my personal research and conclusions as possible suggestions for others out there, therefore these posts will be as objective as possible. When it comes to parenting: provided the method isn’t abusive, there really isn’t a wrong way to parent your child. Be secure and do what works best for you and your family and ignore outside judgement.


In this final post of my “parenting observation series” I want to leave this as the major takeaway: we, as parents, are enough for our children. If we provide food, shelter, clothing, comfort, and education, no matter how imperfect it may be, we are enough for our children.

There is a lot of outside pressure on parents to be perfect and have it all: have the perfect house, job, relationships, food, clothing, education – the list goes on and on.  No parent can ever win the external societal judgement game. The standards for good parenting as dictated by outsiders is so high that it can drive us bonkers.

For those of us with the added obstacle of a disability, seeing what parenting without a disability looks like can be even more discouraging. But our children rarely see the disability in the same way we do.

We must practice self-compassion and ignore everything the outside world has to tell us about our parenting abilities. The only people who need to be in our minds is our children and how they view us.

And surprise: our children will love us no matter what and overlook any perceived imperfections we think we might have. They are, at this point, incapable of seeing our imperfections.

Remember how you viewed your parents in early childhood: one parent was stronger than Superman and the other was the only perfect source of comfort. Sometimes both aspects manifested in one person.

Our children view us no differently. They don’t see the same flaws or recognize what we cannot do. What they see is what we are capable of doing and how that relates to them.

Nota bene: This post will be using the universal “you/second person” pronouns throughout, so while it may not speak to your experience directly, it may apply to someone else you know.

 

Being the Perfect Parent is Overrated

One of the biggest issues I have as a parent is worrying that I won’t be perfect enough for my son. I push myself to the point of overload trying to be perfect on a daily basis, so it would follow that I would want to be the perfect parent to Jai.

This is not possible.

In fact, it is strongly discouraged to be a perfect parent for a child. Making sure that everything is done for them, they get all that they desire, the house is immaculate, and they get perfect grades every single time (so you help them out) – all lead to a dysfunctional relationship and stunt a child’s abilities to manage the real world in a healthy way.

If children do not learn about the world, how to manage adversity, and how to critically think through various problems if the perfect parent is doing everything for them, they will struggle as adults on their own. Learning about disappointment and how to manage it is a valuable lifeskill that gets lost if a parent avoids exposing a child to conflict as part of their perfect parenting routine.

Attempting to be the perfect parent can also create bouts of depression in the parent striving too high. This is not surprising because the attempt to be perfect outside of parenting raises a person’s chances of being depressed (I currently suffer from perfectionist paralysis in my own life).

By attempting to be perfect for Jai, I am setting myself up to be less able to help him if I am too depressed by my need for perfection. It’s a vicious cycle.

We want to fail as parents from time-to-time. It humanizes us to our children and helps strengthen any relationship that develops once they are adults. Providing a healthy example of failing in an adult and focusing on what they can learn from us and from their own failings will help promote long-term success in their own lives.

It requires a level of self-reflection that may be hard to swallow, but in the end it helps us grow as adults too.

Saying “I am Enough”

All of this isn’t to say that we should go out and purposely fail, but to acknowledge in a gentle way that it will happen and that’s okay.

Focus not on any failings you might have such as “I could have done this differently today,” or “I could have handled that situation better,” but on what they teach you and all the positives you did throughout the day. Our brains are wired to focus only on the negative, so it is important to rewire them to allow the positive in more often.

If something happens that makes you feel like a failure, try these steps to work through it:

  1. Apologize to your child if necessary even if they are too young to understand. It’s a good habit to get into and makes it completely normal for them when they are aware of it.
    • “I am sorry I yelled at you when you took off your diaper and got poop all over the floor. I was upset over the smell and the mess I would need to clean up. I understand that you are not aware of how much I dislike poop, so I am not upset with you, just upset over the situation.”
  2. Figure out what you could have done differently and create a plan of action should the incident happen again. Spoiler: it probably will.
  3. Take a few minutes to breath and comfort yourself. If you are tense or stressed out, make a cup of tea and allow yourself a few sips before continuing about your day.
  4. Forgive yourself for that failure. Remind yourself that you are not perfect and that is okay.
  5. Find a couple of things that went right during your time with your child. Focus on them any time you start to think about something negative.
    • “We sat and read three books, one of them being my favorite. I could tell my little one really enjoyed my favorite as well.” or “We ran around the chair for 5 minutes laughing at each other over how silly we were being”
  6. Repeat to yourself: “I am a good parent/caretaker, I do the best I can, I am enough for my child.”

All of this will take some time because we have to undo years of bad habits, but starting off slow will help build confidence and self-compassion  in our abilities as parents. These examples will benefit our children in the long run. It’s really about focusing on what we are able to do – not what we can’t do.

And remember: you will always be enough.


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Parenting

Compassionate Parenting: Mindfulness and the Child

This is the second week in a 3-week series on parenting observations. Week one is based on gentle parenting, week two is about parenting with compassion, and week three is about parenting with a disability.

These posts are based on my personal experiences as a parent and are not meant in any way to judge other parenting styles or decisions. I am offering my personal research and conclusions as possible suggestions for others out there, therefore these posts will be as objective as possible. When it comes to parenting: provided the method isn’t abusive, there really isn’t a wrong way to parent your child. Be secure and do what works best for you and your family and ignore outside judgement.


Being a parent or caretaker requires a level of compassion that is almost second nature from the beginning. It’s as if when the child is handed over, they also hand over the inherent tools needed to be loving, compassionate, and caring for the little one.

Just kidding. That’s the narrative we’re told when we’re about to become parents.

That isn’t actually the case: it takes time to fall in love with this new human being. While some things do come naturally, being compassionate may take longer to foster and that’s okay. Compassion isn’t given, it’s developed through a lifetime of experiences.

Going several months with sleep deprivation makes it hard to want to understand what’s going on inside the little one’s head, but it’s something to consider, especially when they won’t stop screaming.

In a child’s ugliest moments, it is important to see things from their perspective to better serve their needs. As with Gentle Parenting, this isn’t about being permissive, but finding ways to use available parental tools in the most effective way.

Nota bene: This post will be using the universal “you/second person” pronouns throughout, so while it may not speak to your experience directly, it may apply to someone else you know.

The Difficulties of Growing Up

Understanding babies and toddlers is a rather foreign concept. As adults, we are furthest away from them developmentally as possible. Teenagers can be easier to understand, if only because we may have recently come out of that developmental stage.
Toddlers have a difficult life.
As silly as that sounds, it is true when looking at things from their perspective. Several years ago, before I even thought of having Jai, I read a post about how hard toddler’s have it. I haven’t been able to find the exact article, but there are others out there with the same concept. It talks about life from a toddler’s perspective and speculates what they might be thinking.
Life From a Toddler’s Perspective:
  • You can understand most, if not all, of the words spoken to you, but you have limited ability to respond in a way that your caretakers understand. Certain noises or actions will elicit responses, and while they may not be an effective way to get your needs met, it gets the ball rolling.
  • You rarely have a say in anything. You could be playing with a toy, watching your favorite show, eating your snack, and your caretaker picks you up and asserts their will on you in some manner. Moves you to another room. Straps you into a chair. Changes your diaper. You did not want or ask for any of this.
  • Once more: you don’t have a say. There’s food put in front of you and you don’t like the taste or are bored with it. But your caretaker won’t let you out of your chair until you consume an arbitrary amount. You are put in your crib for a nap, but you don’t feel tired and don’t want to be left alone.
  • Rules are abstract concepts. You want to explore and try everything now that you are mobile, but every time you get close to something interesting you get yelled at or moved. You eventually get that something is “no,” but that’s a “no” in the moment and may not be a “no” in a while. So you want to test to see if there’s consistency.
  • There is no concept of self-preservation. You can walk and you see your caretakers go down stairs, why can’t you on your own? Now they get upset when you venture too close.
  • There is no concept of ownership. Everything your caretaker has is yours and everything of yours is yours and everything the other little human you’ve been brought to see is yours, and now there’s crying and you don’t understand why your caretaker is being stern with you for taking that toy.
  • Emotions are new and shift everyday. You don’t understand what they mean or why you feel this way. The only way to feel better is to have an outward release of those emotions by yelling, crying, or throwing something because why not? This causes your caretaker to react in ways you don’t understand.
  • In the same vein, learning happens all the time, but you don’t understand your limitations. You see your caretaker do something or an older child do something that you want to do, but you aren’t able to do it in the same way when you try which is very frustrating.
The list can go on and on, but the point is made: it’s difficult to be a toddler when it’s hard to understand what is going on and you don’t have the tools to manage it.
Keeping these ideas in mind when dealing with a little one will help raise personal awareness and compassion for your child. Essentially every part of being a toddler is frustration, from not being able to understand to not being able to manage emotions. When they are throwing a tantrum or being resistant, it’s nothing personal to the caretaker, it’s because they are incapable of managing their feelings the way adults have been trained to do.
Therefore when confronted with a toddler’s frustration, the adult can take a step back and be compassionate to what might be upsetting their little one.

Continue reading “Compassionate Parenting: Mindfulness and the Child”

Parenting

Parenting with Compassion: Remembering the Caretaker

This is the second week in a 3-week series on parenting observations. Week one is based on gentle parenting, week two is about parenting with compassion, and week three is about parenting with a disability.

These posts are based on my personal experiences as a parent and are not meant in any way to judge other parenting styles or decisions. I am offering my personal research and conclusions as possible suggestions for others out there, therefore these posts will be as objective as possible. When it comes to parenting: provided the method isn’t abusive, there really isn’t a wrong way to parent your child. Be secure and do what works best for you and your family and ignore outside judgement.


This week isn’t based on any parenting style, it’s about remembering the importance of incorporating compassion in day-to-day parenting. It’s easy to forget being kind to ourselves when having a particularly rough day, but by keeping it in the back of our minds each day we can combat any unwarranted judgements we make.

Incorporating compassion in the daily routine won’t alleviate all the stress from parenting, but it will help make the more stressful moments easier to handle and remind ourselves of our humanity. We are imperfect beings and tend to be the hardest on ourselves when we feel that we aren’t living up to our expectations. Yet, it is important to remember that the person most deserving of compassion is yourself.

Nota bene: This post will be using the universal “you/second person” pronouns throughout, so while it may not speak to your experience directly, it may apply to someone else you know.

Embracing our Flaws

Humans aren’t perfect.

I feel like that is worthy of a “well, duh” response. But perfectionists need constant reminders that they aren’t perfect. Perfectionists try so hard to get everything right, everything in place, everything “just so” that they forget they are attempting to achieve the impossible: humans cannot be perfect and anyone who attempts to do so will be doomed to fall short of expectations.

Again, all of this is pretty obvious.

That desire for perfection can transfer over to parenting. For myself, I want to make sure I do everything just right for Jai so he is well-rounded, well-adjusted, and a happy human being. But the thing is, in my desire to be perfect, I am setting him up to fail.

The best thing I could for Jai is show him my failings as a person and as a parent. It humanizes me to him, but more importantly, it provides a healthy example of an adult making mistakes, owning up to them, and handling them in a mature way.

How I handle my imperfections is important. When I mess up, I need to show him that it’s okay and to apologize either to him or in front of him. Sit down and explain that I have flaws and how we handle those flaws are important. I want him to see how I grow from my mistakes so he knows that mistakes aren’t a bad thing, but a chance to become a better person.

That’s all easy to say in theory, but in practice, it’s one of the hardest things a parent can do. There’s always that fear of undermining ourselves in front of our children. I am not sure if that will entirely be the case. I suspect it will allow them to have a deeper respect, and therefore more likely to listen to us, than cause them to misbehave and not listen.

When we do something that we don’t like, when we have that moment of imperfection, it is important to be mindful of what it is about that moment that upsets and frustrates us. Understand that we are doing the best we can given the circumstances and figure out what would be better tools to use in the future.

By embracing flaws and acknowledging them as part of our humanity, we can free ourselves from our personal judgement. There will be moments when the judgement comes through and we may be frustrated with ourselves, but by being mindful in those moments can help refocus us to what we are capable of doing for our children.

Continue reading “Parenting with Compassion: Remembering the Caretaker”