Motherhood is Magical: Redefining The Lily Cafe

Lately, I’ve been struggling with my motherhood posts. I’ve gotten caught in wanting to both fit in with other mom bloggers even though motherhood is only one focus of The Lily Cafe and with trying to talk about the kind of mom I am, which sometimes is at odds with what other mom bloggers write about.

I adore reading mom blogs. I’ve found honesty, funny stories, encouragement, and a plethora of ideas. But the more and longer I read them, the more I feel out of place. After trying to fit in last year, I decided to focus on my mom truths and write about how I raise my kids, even if it differs from what many other moms do because maybe there’s another mom or dad out there who does things the same way I do. And I’ve found them, and it’s made me feel less alone.

But I’ve been struggling lately. I somehow went from talking about my particular style of motherhood to getting so caught up in it that I feel like I’m just earnestly writing with no real goal. Am I simply telling my story? Am I trying to tell other moms there are many ways of doing things? Am I, goodness forbid, trying to get moms to do things my way? I’ve lost sight of what I’m doing.

So, I’m changing things. I’ve taken a hard look at who I am as a person because that informs how I parent. My values are the ones I’m handing down to my kids, so they guide me. I trust my instincts and my background in psychology to help steer me. I don’t have all the answers, but I have a lot of handy tools and knowledge.

At my core, I’m a dreamer. I believe in magic. When I was a kid, I had a doll I loved so much that I used to wish on a star that she would come to life. Of course, she never did. But, even today, my heart still hopes. As an adult, I see the magic life has to offer. It’s subtle, but beautiful, and it’s something I want to pass down. I want my kids to enjoy life and see how magical it is. It’s not always easy, but there’s something beautiful about a new sunrise.

Motherhood is magical. I’m not going to lie and say it isn’t hard sometimes. But I can’t help but see how magical it is. Having kids is a great excuse to return to childhood, to recapture the dreams I once had, the joy I once experienced, the imagination that still drives me into the pages of a fantasy book. Being able to remember my childhood and the sheer fun I had makes me yearn to give the same to my kids. I want them to have fun, to explore, to get messy and creative, and develop a larger than life imagination. I want them to believe in magic, too.

That’s the kind of mom I am. I can’t write about the hard days, the tough times, the days when my kids only seem to tantrum and melt down. I can’t because I can hardly remember them. I know I discipline them in the moment, I know I have sturdy boundaries. I know what I’m doing when they misbehave. But, at the end of the day, I only remember the funny things they said and did, the giggles and bright smiles, the excitement of doing something they don’t get to do everyday, the unmatched joy on their faces as they eat a piece of chocolate.

I’m sure I can relate to just about any mom. I’m sure I’m tired and just want a break. I’m sure there are days when I just want to cry because it was that bad. I’m sure there are times when I question myself as a mom. But I just can’t remember. So, if you stumble across this blog looking for this, you’re probably not going to find it.

I’m not seeking to fit in or not fit in with other mom bloggers. I’m going to make my own place and sit happy. I’m not going to give advice, how to guides, and write about all the baby gear you do and don’t need. I’m not going to try to sell you anything but books. This is where I’m going to write about who I am as a person and mother and how that informs how I parent. I’m going to write about how I do it, how I find motherhood to be mostly a breeze, and how glorious I find parenthood to be. I don’t aim to be the mom who talks about how wonderful motherhood is in opposition to all the moms who keep it real, because this is real to me. I can’t do the nitty and gritty because I just don’t choose to see and focus on it. Besides, do you really need another mom to keep it real, to tell it how it is? I also don’t want to be that mom that people point to and say she’s sugar coating motherhood. If I talk about how wonderful motherhood is and nothing else, it’s because that’s really how motherhood is for me. I can’t say it enough: I just don’t focus on the hard parts. My brain doesn’t seem to let me.

To me, motherhood is magical. I hope you embark on this magical journey with me, but I won’t take it personally if you decide to depart the Cafe. Here’s to many wonderful adventures on this journey called parenthood!

Advertisements

Deep in the forest, you might hear playful music and tinkling laughter. If you follow it, you might stumble on a place crafted from intricately twisted branches, glossy emerald leaves, and soft petals donated by majestic blossoms. Boughs heavy with Spring gracefully arch far overhead, permitting golden sunshine to dapple the patrons below. Mothers smile as children laugh and play. Bards tell their tales of love and woe. Nymphs and dwarves and humans curl up on soft moss, buried in enchanting tales. Here, the spring water is always cold and the sweets are, well, sweet.

Welcome to The Lily Cafe.

 

Parenting with Psychology: Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development

I spent a lot of time in psychology classes. I guess that’s what happens when you decide you want to be a psychology major and then get a higher degree in it. Though my focus was on clinical psychology with the goal of working with people with psychiatric disorders, I was more interested in children than adults. Developmental psychology was everywhere in my education. Erikson, Freud, Piaget, Vygotsky…

My favorite is Erik Erikson. He aligned with Freud, but departed from him when it came to human development. According to Erikson, we progress through 8 stages throughout our lives. Each stage spans a certain amount of time and involves a crisis that needs to be resolved and a virtue to be gained. Successful resolution of each crisis provides a building block for the next stage.

Since his stages go from infancy to old age, and since I’m obviously nowhere near old age, I’ll just be focusing on the first 4 stages.

0-18 months: Trust vs. Mistrust

18 months-3 years: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

3-5: Initiative vs. Guilt

5-13: Industry vs. Inferiority

Trust vs. Mistrust

This first stage starts as soon as a child is born and lasts until they are about 18 months old. It’s fairly simple: either the child will learn to trust their caregivers or they won’t. The virtue that is to be gained when trust is established is hope, hope that there will be someone to take care of them.

When I was in grad school, my psychodynamic psychology professor told us, “You can’t spoil a child.” At the time, we were studying Freud’s theories, but those words stayed in my head. I always knew motherhood wasn’t going to be easy. Raising a small child into a responsible, contributing member of society is not easy. Caring for a newborn who wasn’t going to sleep through the night wasn’t going to be easy. But my tiny squirmy babies needed me, were completely reliant on me to meet their every need. You can’t spoil a baby. All they have are needs.

For those first 18 months, my babies would be dependent on me to take care of their basic needs. They would either learn to trust I would take care of them or learn I was not trustworthy because I couldn’t or wouldn’t meet their needs. It wasn’t always easy, but ensuring my babies successfully resolved this conflict was important to me, especially since it’s the first. That meant I breastfed on demand, didn’t sleep train and instead responded to every cry, scheduled my days and activities around the schedule they naturally developed, soothed them when they needed it, and followed their lead. They learned to trust I was going to be there for them and know they can always turn to me when they’re hurt, fearful, uncertain, and nervous.

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

From 18 months to 3 years of age, children learn to be autonomous in their activities and develop willpower. How many parents are laughing right now? It might be a laughing matter, but there appears to be a developmental reason for why it’s called the Terrible Two’s.

According to Erikson, starting around 18 months of age, children start to learn they are able to move around in the world on their own. They discover a wide world ready for their exploration, and they want to do it on their own. They want to test their limits and see what they’re capable of. As parents, it’s easy to say they’re not ready and take control, but that strips them of their sense of independence and autonomy. Instead, they feel ashamed of wanting to do something Mom and Dad think they cannot do and doubt their own abilities and ideas.

Above all, children at this age just want to know it’s okay to be them. It’s okay to want to explore. It’s okay to want to have crazy ideas. It’s okay to do things their own way instead of the way Mom and Dad insist is right. They’re discovering new things every day and are anxious to try it out on their own. It’s often a battle of wills between child and parents. As parents, we see a tiny child who shouldn’t or can’t be capable of doing certain things, but the child wants so hard to just try.

Before becoming a mom, I had heard quite a bit about the Terrible Two’s and Three’s. I was ready. I braced myself. I was prepared to weather the battles, the tantrums, the meltdowns. Except my oldest turned 2 and was the sweetest child ever. Sure, he had his tantrums, but, when I explained why he couldn’t do something, he seemed to understand and we somehow managed to head off tantrums. It might have also helped that he had a speech delay and didn’t really talk until he was 3. We played 20 Questions a lot, but he never seemed to get frustrated. He knew we would eventually figure it out and was patient with us. He also had a terrible fear of time outs, and is still scared of punishment.

I also understood he was growing up fast and wanted to try things on his own. When it was safe, I let him. I let him explore. I let him learn and practice new skills. I encouraged him to try new things, but never forced him if he wasn’t ready, and was always ready to offer help when he became frustrated. He was always prepared to let me know if he wanted to do something on his own or if he wanted me to do it.

My daughter is at the beginning of this stage. She’s already very independent, vocal, and dramatic. I don’t know yet if she’ll display the typical signs of a Terrible Two’s child. She throws her fits, has her tantrums, but always knows a hug from Mommy makes things better. She understands when I give her reasons, just like her brother. She’s happiest when I let her do and try things on her own. I always hover over her just in case she needs me, but, as long as I don’t interfere, she’s as happy as a clam. I just have to remember to give her the same freedom as I did her brother. With two kids, sometimes I feel a little rushed to get things done, but I still have to remember she’s learning new skills and needs time. I don’t want her to be a willful child, but I do want her to have willpower.

Initiative vs. Guilt

From about 3 years to 5 years of age, children learn to take the initiative and find purpose. Otherwise they may feel like a nuisance and feel guilty and as though they can be nothing more than a follower. They know they are capable of doing things, so now they learn to become assertive and take the lead in order to accomplish things on their own. They develop purpose in their actions.

At this age, many children are in preschool. They’re developing friendships and social skills. They’re learning to be apart from their parents. If they have successfully resolved the previous conflict, they will know they have autonomy, they know they are capable, and they will be able to take the initiative. They become capable of starting their own games and are increasingly able to draw others in to their play.

My son is towards the end of this stage. He’s definitely needed more than a little push to take the initiative. His happy place is letting others take care of him and it’s been a bit of a struggle to get him to do things on his own, to develop his own ideas, and decide what he wants to do. He knows he’s capable, knows he can. He just lacks the desire. So, I give him the space to develop his own ways of entertaining himself. I let him become bored so he can find new things to do on his own. I encourage him and provide ideas, but I let him take the lead. When he says he wants to do something, I do my best to accommodate him, to show him his ideas are interesting and he should follow where they lead. He definitely has no problems with taking the lead when he’s playing with his sister. But sometimes it’s tough because she’s learning to be independent at the same time.

Industry vs. Inferiority

From ages 5 to 13, children learn to be industrious and develop a sense of competence and accomplishment. They’re capable of figuring how they stack up against their classmates. Otherwise they’ll feel inferior to their peers and incapable of performing at the same level.

At this age, children are in school. They’re learning to navigate academics and developing a social life. They spend much of their waking time learning, often away from their parents. Grades enter their lives and their progress and knowledge are tracked in a way they can follow. They know whether they are deemed to be productive or not and whether or not they are actually learning. They also have a good idea of how their peers are performing and will start to measure their abilities against those of their classmates. If they do not feel they are measuring up, they will likely develop a sense of inferiority.

Sooner than I’d like, my son will be at this stage. He will be off to Kindergarten, whether or not he’s ready to start his academic life. He’ll learn everything the curriculum has to offer and will have to do homework (though his preschool already assigns it at the end of the week, so he should be used to having it). He’ll learn to be productive every day and the value of active learning.

During this stage, my parents had my siblings and me doing workbooks every summer to keep our brains working and to help us retain what we had learned. I have every intention of doing the same with my kids. I aim to teach them to work hard, learn everything they can, and feel accomplished and competent in what they do. I can’t stop them from constantly comparing themselves to others, but I hope to ensure they are on the same level and can still feel pride in what they are able to accomplish.

 

It’s not easy being a parent, but I like to think I have Erikson’s stages as a guide. It makes it easier for me to understand my children’s behavior, reminds me to be patient and that it’s my job to help them learn based on where they are and what their abilities are, and helps me guide them towards adulthood so they stand a good chance of being successful in whatever they choose to do. Erikson might not be for everyone, but he’s definitely for me.

And if you’re like me and fall between 18 and 40 years of age, our conflict is Intimacy vs. Isolation.

The KonMari Method Won’t Work in My Household

I grew up in a cluttered house. My mom did her best to keep it tidy, but it wasn’t easy with 3 kids and a husband who collected furniture (we once had four tables and desks in the family room, not counting the coffee table). I wasn’t the tidiest kid and my closet was where a tornado lived. But, as I got older, everything started to have a particular place to live. There was still a lot of stuff, but everything had a home.

I still carry that with me. Everything has its own place, and I’m not happy when it’s been moved. Just as my husband when he moves the salt shaker 6 inches. I like to keep things tidy, and it helps everyone know where everything is. So I try my best to keep our home tidy. I find a place for everything and put them back where they belong.

I’m constantly drawn to minimalism and am interested in learning more about Marie Kondo’s method. But…I live with three pack rats. My husband stores old journal articles in multiple boxes and has textbooks from two decades ago that he’s keeping for when our kids are older. My almost 5 year old screams whenever we mention getting rid of his baby toys. My almost 2 year old has a fond attachment to trash. Kondo’s method works best when everyone is on board. I don’t think having only a quarter on board is going to cut it.

Besides, I think I’ve already decluttered my own stuff. If I get rid of anymore, I won’t have anything left.

In theory, I love the KonMari method. It sounds like a lovely way to live in a home that brings one great happiness. It’s also a fantastic way to declutter and tidy up, and ensure everyone knows where everything is. It makes for a lovely home that, in theory, is much less maintenance than a home full of clutter that has nowhere to go.

But there are also things I’ve read about it that doesn’t make me want to convince my family it’s the best thing for us. First of all, having to sit with something and contemplate whether it sparks joy just sounds time consuming. I have two kids to play with, discipline, run after, and feed all day every day. I don’t have time to sit with everything and ask it if it brings me joy. Besides, joy is more of a transient feeling for me. There are some things that will never spark joy in me. But there are a great number of things that go in and out of being joyful to me. In the summer, my Christmas decorations spark no joy, but, once December hits, I’ll be joyfully decorating and singing “Deck the Halls.” I have books that don’t spark joy until I’m in the mood to re-read them. But my biggest problem lies in everything having a home. I already do this. Ahem, I try to do this. I do this, but I’m only a quarter of this household. What’s the point of everything having a home if I’m the only one who knows it’s address? It’s exhausting to get everything home by myself every day after it’s taken a few wrong turns and wandered into something else’s home and taken up residence.

In the end, the KonMari method is appealing, but will not work with my household. I live with three pack rats. Only recently have I been able to convince my husband to give up things he’s had from before we met a decade ago (things that he hasn’t used in at least that long). Not only do these three people keep everything (and they’ll say it sparks joy), but they clean by tossing. I can never find anything because they see a space and toss something, anything, into it. And no one ever listens to my cleaning instructions. It’s exhausting to constantly clean after they’ve cleaned up. Sure, I have my kids clean up when they’re done playing and they listen, but only one of them currently understands cleaning up. The other thinks it’s a game and will dump it back out.

What I really need is a 7 letter word. S-T-O-R-A-G-E. Boxes, baskets, tin cans. At this point, I don’t really care. I just need storage for all this stuff three-quarters of my family can’t stop collecting, can’t figure out how to clean up, and won’t toss out.

The Devices Stay Home

My kids have free access to tablets and sometimes their dad’s smart phone (I still proudly use a flip phone, so it’s not as much fun). When we’re home.

With the exception of my husband’s phone (of course), all devices stay home as a rule. I started this as soon as our oldest child had a tablet when he was not quite 2. Since neither of my kids expects to take devices out with us, it’s never been a struggle. Actually, the rare times that we do let them bring whatever they want, they’re more likely to fill my bag with toys than devices. I’m definitely a proud mommy.

Before we were parents, my husband and I noticed the trend of entertaining kids with devices out in public. We’ve witnessed couples out to dinner, though it looked more like they were dating their devices than each other. We’ve seen kids of all ages sitting in shopping carts with their eyes glued to a screen. We’ve watched a family pass around devices at a restaurant so everyone had something. We’ve listened to children whining until their parents handed over a phone. We don’t judge, and we definitely don’t know why anyone chooses to be so connected so there’s nothing for us to judge, but we decided that wasn’t for us.

The devices stay at home because we want our children to learn to self-entertain when we’re out and about. We’re a PBS watching family and I like the message from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood about playing, singing, or imagining anything while waiting. I want my children to observe and learn about what’s around them. I want them to see how people interact and get involved with shopping, looking at things, and how to order at a restaurant. My five-year-old makes his own drink orders and says please. There’s always something to do, talk about, or play with.

The devices stay at home because we want our children to learn how to behave in public. If we’re constantly shoving a device in their faces to keep them quiet, still, or otherwise well-behaved, they’re not actually learning how to behave in public. Instead, we’d probably see more meltdowns if we leave the devices at home because they’ll have come to expect them. By not having devices when we’re out, they learn how to behave. They learn what they can and cannot do and why. They learn how to comport themselves in public, as well as what we expect of them when we’re out.

The devices stay at home because we don’t want our children to become reliant on technology. We don’t want our kids to learn that, when they’re bored, tired, agitated, or otherwise a bit unruly, they’ll get a device to entertain them. Instead, we teach them to tell us how they’re feeling and what might help them out. If they need a break or more attention or they’re just plain done, they learn to verbalize it instead of whining to get the device. They learn how to make do with what they have rather than expect a screen. It also makes them more engaged with their surroundings. Both of my children are curious about everything we come across. They want to know about everything and help with everything. They want to touch what they’re allowed to. They’re exploring their world instead of a virtual one that doesn’t actually exist.

We’ve done this for about 3 years now. My kids are well-behaved in public. They don’t have meltdowns. Sometimes our oldest will whine when we’ve been out for hours and he’s tired, but it helps us know our limits as a family so that everyone gets a little of what they want. They’ve also learned to not bother others. Usually, other people will look at them and smile and they’ll react with hiding their faces. It also doesn’t hurt that they both prefer to stay as close to us as possible. The best part, though, is they’re fully engaged with their surroundings and don’t rely on devices to entertain them. They’re constantly learning when we go out and it carries over to our next outing.

Sure, I wouldn’t mind a quiet, leisurely shopping trip or interruption-free meal. How many parents wouldn’t? But I don’t want my kids to become device zombies just because I want peace. I wouldn’t have become a mom if that’s what I wanted. I wouldn’t mind peace and quiet while out anywhere with my kids, but I don’t think that’s in their best interests, and we’d be missing out on a lot of learning moments.

The one exception is when we have to go to the hospital or doctor visits. Those wait times can be excruciating and there are so many things they can’t touch. There are also many, many other things I don’t want them touching because who knows what they would bring home. When I know we’re going to have long waits where there’s little to entertain them, I’ll permit them to bring devices, but I usually have to convince them it’s okay.

I don’t judge parents who choose to use devices with their kids. We’re just not those kinds of parents. I love that my kids don’t rely on technology. I love that they’re curious and quick to learn. I love that they like to contribute to the conversation, or take it down some really strange roads. I especially love that they know exactly what we expect of them when we’re out, and that they most definitely are well-behaved.

The 7 Things I Do On Those Sleep Deprived Days That Could Be Hard

Motherhood is relatively easy for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have those sleep deprived days after endless nights of waking with my almost two year old every hour of the night (teething and rainy nights are tough for her).

Those days can be challenging. I recognize that my patience isn’t where it should be and all I want is some quiet. I silently beg my kids to be fine playing on their own. I countdown to naptime and bedtime. Everything that normally doesn’t bother me has the potential to be utterly frustrating.

But I’m resourceful and know myself well enough to know my shortcomings on those days. It’s easy to snap at my kids, but it’s not fair to them. Remembering that helps me hold my tongue.

I used to be a behavioral interventionist. I used to go to work with a literal and figurative toolkit. I carried toys, games, and activities in my bag and, on those days where I wasn’t feeling 100%, I brought in the good stuff, the things the kids loved and new surprises. I also carried in my training: how to form a relationship where the child wanted to engage with me, how to handle tantrums and non-compliance, how to enlist the parents for help, and the routines and schedules that were already established.

As a stay at home mom, I wake up at my workplace. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my toolkits.

Here are the 7 things I do on those sleep deprived days that could be hard:

  1. Get dressed. I do this every day, but, on those days following the rough nights, I tend to be a little neater in my attire. I wear the clothes I used to wear to work. It reminds me I’m here to do a job. My bosses are little and demanding, but I’m the big boss, and I should act that way.
  2. Routines and schedules. My son has his schedule and my daughter has her routines. Luckily, they mesh well with each other. Sometimes I change it up, but not on those sleep deprived days. Oh, no. Those routines and schedules are key to a productive day, happy kids, and less stressed out mommy.
  3. Let the kids lead. I’m too tired to think up new activities and games, so I let my kids guide us. This isn’t too hard since my almost 5 year old has a million ideas rattling around his head. The hard part is all of it rushes out of his mouth and I have to figure out what he’s trying to say. But I let them tell me what they would like and not like to do.
  4. Bring out old or new toys. These kids practically live in a toy store. They have very generous grandparents and a dad who loves toys as much as they do. Inevitably, toys get shuffled to the side and it’s those that I drag out. They’re always delighted because they usually don’t remember these one-time favorites. Sometimes I also have brand new toys squirreled away, and these sleep deprived days are when the kids get them.
  5. Long baths. My kids love water. They’ll easily spend an hour turning into fish if I let them. That’s one less hour I spend chasing after them. They’re not always great at playing together, but they also don’t rely on me to play with them. Morning baths are a great treat and afternoon baths take up the space between naptime and dinner (and dad coming home). It makes bedtime more relaxed because all they have to do is get dressed and brush their teeth.
  6. Bake. I love to bake. Baking is easy for me and I’ve mastered baking with small children. They also love baking with me, and the little treats I give them to keep them away from the eggs. All I have to do is ask if they want to make cake or cookies and they’ll go running to the kitchen. Come to think of it, I think they enjoy sitting on the counter more than anything else…
  7. Have patience. It’s hard. I’m tired and possibly holding the last of my rope, but they still need me to be their mom. I can’t snap at them just because I’m tired. I just have to remember I am exhausted, probably fighting headaches, trying desperately to keep my eyes open, and definitely not at my best, so I make more of an effort to be overly patient and kind to my kids.

It’s not easy being at home with small children when you’re tired, sick, or otherwise not feeling 100%. Those days happen, but I don’t let myself use that as an excuse to be anything but the kind of mom my kids need and deserve. I don’t give myself the space to be okay with having mom fails left and right.

Is it hard? Yes. But seeing them cry because I needlessly snapped at them is harder.

I’m not the of kind of mom who is okay with failing or being an okay mom. I knew motherhood was going to be tough and I’m determined to rise to the challenges it presents. Just because I’m tired doesn’t mean my kids aren’t expecting me to be the same old mom as yesterday. It just means I have to have plans in place and practice kindness and patience a lot more than usual.

And, if all else fails, being authentic with my kids and telling them mommy is tired or not feeling well goes a long way.

I Give My Kids Reasons Instead of Saying “Because I Said So”

“Because I said so” has no place in my home.

As soon as my kids were no longer newborns, I started giving them reasons for why they couldn’t do something.

“No, you can’t eat paper because it’s not food.”

“No, you can’t have the scissors because they’re sharp and you might hurt yourself.”

“No, you can’t pull the cat’s tail because she might scratch you.”

“No, you can’t have Mommy’s glasses because then she can’t see you.”

Of course I knew they couldn’t understand me at 3 months old. They just smiled at giggled at me. But I didn’t want to be the stereotypical parent who yells “because I said so” at a retreating child’s back. Of course, that might still happen. They are, after all, only human.

Having been told “because I said so” as a kid, I know the anger, frustration, and overall feeling of being completely ignored the phrase generated in me. Not being told why I couldn’t do something made me angry and frustrated, and probably contributed to the hostile retreating back and door slams of my early adolescence. But it also made me, my feelings, and my wants and needs feel ignored.

Why can’t I do xyz?

Because I said so.

But why?

Because I said so! You live under my roof, so must obey my rules!

True words, but they still left me feeling ignored and unable to express myself. I know I wasn’t an adult, but didn’t I still deserve some respect? After all, adulthood isn’t very far away for a 13 year old (according to U.S. law, of course).

As a mom, I recognize kids need boundaries and rules. They need to understand what they can and cannot do. Of course I impose rules and restrictions. But I will never do so if it makes no sense. I don’t make rules to be controlling or just to make rules. I have rules to keep everyone safe, keep the household running with everyone having the opportunity to contribute, and to introduce and enforce the greater laws of the land my kids will be subjected to as they get older and venture away from my grasp.

In my mind, “because I said so” does not engender understanding or learning. It’s a strict “that’s just how it is” and leaves a lot of questions. Of course I expect my kids to respect me, do as I ask, and listen to me, but I will never ask for blind obedience or acceptance.

By giving my kids reasons, I’m telling them why they can’t do something so they understand, can incorporate it into their personal histories and schemas about themselves and life, and know I hear them and respect them. They know what and why they’ve done something wrong. My almost 5 year old is a champ at not repeating mistakes and we hardly ever have to repeat why he can’t do something. Sometimes we slid and just say no. He’s more likely to repeat what he did wrong. When we tell him why in a way he understands, he gets it and doesn’t do it again.

But my favorite part is that, by not saying “because I said so,” I’m opening up a world of possibilities, creativity, and exploration.

My son knows, and my not quite 2 year old daughter is learning, that I always have a good reason for why they can’t do something and, when I don’t, they’re free to do what they want. If it doesn’t hurt or impede someone, go for it!

You want to have your snack and draw? Go for it!

You want to turn the coffee table over and use it as a boat? Sure!

You want to sweep? It’ll take longer, but I have to do it anyways and it’ll be good practice and good helping, so why not?

My son is constantly testing what he can and cannot do. But he doesn’t throw tantrums when I say he can’t. He expects a reason. Sometimes I say no, but don’t have a good reason, so it turns into a yes. He gets so excited when he discovers something he can do.

I hope this understanding carries over into adolescence, but I’m not holding my breath.

But I am grateful that it has averted tantrums. Even my daughter does this cute little bent over posture with arms dangling and pouty face when I say no, but she is getting the hang of it and understanding I have good reasons.

Instead of tantruming, they’re off looking for the next great adventure that has a good chance of being a yes. But they’re also learning what isn’t okay and why.

Isolating Myself for the First 3.5 Years of Motherhood Was the Best Thing I Ever Did

The moment you reveal you’re pregnant, you’re inundated with people telling you it takes a village, find your tribe, join mom groups, find play groups. Basically, surrounded yourself with moms.

I did none of this, and I couldn’t have been happier.

They say to connect with other moms because only they can understand. Only moms can give advice you can trust. Only moms can commiserate.

When I got pregnant with my first, I was in grad school (for clinical psychology with an emphasis on children, so I don’t have a “guide,” but a really, really good idea of what to do). My group consisted of the oldest person in our cohort, three moms, and me (the only married and childless person in the cohort). They supported me throughout my pregnancy and offered advice. But most of our time was focused to helping each other survive grad school and find balance between our personal and professional lives.

Until I started blogging last year, that was my last contact with a group of moms.

Oh, I had my mom, aunts, cousins, and my sisters-in-law. But my only frequent contact with a mom was my mom, who sees motherhood has an individual journey where every mom wears her own shoes. Basically, everyone parents differently and it’s none of her business.

For the first 3.5 years, I was a stay-at-home mom, though I did spend a chunk of time working with children with autism. We enrolled our son in classes that put us in contact with other moms and kids. We went to playgrounds and libraries and my son ran away from the other kids. But as an introvert who is slow to warm up to everyone, I never belonged to a mom group, never made mom friends.

I’m sure there are some moms who might be horrified at the thought. After all, only another mom can understand you, validate you, and offer “real” advice. Seriously, as a childless grad student, it was occasionally my job to provide parenting advice and strategies to parents (that worked! And we did have some grateful parents).

I have two best friends that I’ve grown up with. They know me. They understand me. They validate me. They sometimes ask questions that get me thinking. I have my mom who will always give advice when I ask, along with telling me everything everyone said would work that didn’t work on me. Sorry, Mom.

But, you know what? I’m glad I isolated myself from other moms for 3.5 years, and I’m reminded every day of this every time I read a mom blog.

The comparison. The mom shaming. The judgment.

For 3.5 years, all of that was absent from my life. I got to focus on my kids, getting to know them and their particular needs without someone else hovering over my shoulder. Pure bliss!

When my son turned 3 and was nowhere near potty trained I didn’t feel like I was doing something wrong, didn’t feel like he and I weren’t measuring up to thousands of other kids. When my daughter was 6 months and waking every hour, I didn’t feel pressured to sleep train. When my kids throw their rare public tantrums, I don’t give a flying fig about what someone else is thinking.

I spent 3.5 years not comparing myself or my kids to anyone else. I spent that time getting to know my kids and their particular needs. I became confident in my ability to parent. I combed through hundreds of pages of links, compiling information and dozens of ways to reach the same goal to shape something that would actually work with my kids.

I didn’t know motherhood was supposed to be so hard that we’re supposed to reach for wine bottles…by the case? I don’t know; I don’t drink! I didn’t know motherhood was supposed to leave me feeling guilty and in tears and questioning every little thing I did. I didn’t know motherhood was supposed to have me begging for me time, a day at the spa, or just one opportunity to go to the bathroom alone. I didn’t even know there was a divide between working and stay at home moms. I didn’t know motherhood was supposed to be simultaneously filled with overwhelming love and joy at these small humans and near-crippling fears of am I good enough?

I knew motherhood was supposed to be exhausting because I watched my mom raise 3 of us, and my brother and I were 2 under 2. But she raised 3 to my 2 and was later diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, so I always think I have it easier.

Yes, I am tired. But, to me, motherhood is easy. When my kids get rowdy and earsplittingly loud, I smile, remember they’re just kids with lots of energy I’m envious of, and grab a piece of chocolate for that sugar boost. Getting to know who they are as people has been an honor and privilege. Finding the source of their tears and tantrums is my job, as sometimes a meltdown is the only way they can communicate their frustration, anger, and sadness when they lack the vocabulary. Finding fun ways to get them to do what I want them to turns into silly games, and teaches me a lot about them. I had no idea my son was so competitive!

If I had followed the same advice and guidelines that inundate moms every day through the Internet and, hopefully, well-meaning people, I would be bald. If I had compared myself to other moms, I would probably be in a padded cell. If I had subjected myself to judgment and shaming, I would be swimming in my tears.

I don’t believe motherhood is hard. I think being a mom wading in a sea of other moms is hard.

By isolating myself from other moms, I became confident in my mothering abilities, got to know my kids and their particular needs, and am able to tailor what I do to what they need. Overconfident? Heck, yes! I spent the majority of those 3.5 years without real mom contact working hard to be the mother my kids need. I know them better than anyone else. So, yes, I am 100% confident in myself as a mom and you’d better believe I’m a perfect mom. My kids tell me so with their hugs, kisses, laughter, and love. And clinginess.

By surrounding myself with other moms, trying to fit in with them, trying every technique they did, I wouldn’t be all of the above. I wouldn’t be the mom my kids need. I would have been putting everything other people deemed best on them.

Isolating myself from other moms for the first 3.5 years of my motherhood journey was the best thing I ever did. I felt zero pressure to do anything a certain way and at a certain time. My kids are sweet, silly, creative, polite, and rather well-behaved in public at almost 2 and 5. They reach milestones on their own terms, when they are ready, and they know I will always challenge and support them.

The Grass is Not Always Greener

I’m a mom of two, but sometimes I feel like a fraud. Sometimes I fret about how other people see me when I’m out with my kids, and not because of how I parent. But because of how I look, which is absolutely absurd, but, nonetheless, a true experience.

I’m one of those ageless Asians. With two Chinese parents, I look like I’m permanently stuck in high school even though I’m 31. It’s easy for people to say how lucky I am and how much they wished they looked like me. Uh, no. Would you want to be mistaken as a high school kid when you’re in a professional environment or just trying to take care of your kids? I’ve seen the surprised looks. Which is funny, because the way I look shouldn’t have any bearing on how well I can do anything.

But I’m also one of those moms who bounced back right away. I’ve seen many celebrity moms being shamed for bouncing back so quickly and posting pictures of their flawless bodies weeks after giving birth. I’ve been afraid of saying it’s not impossible, but not anymore.

I can’t help it that I lost all the baby weight, and then some, less than a month after my first was born and all of it within 6 weeks after my second. I didn’t do anything special or different. I didn’t start working out right away. Actually, I spent most of my time severely sleep deprived and sitting around with a newborn sleeping on me and the rest of the time having food jammed down my throat.

Before having kids, I said a fond farewell to my pre-baby body. I thought I would never see it again. I was certain I would be like the average mom who gained pounds and kept it, developed a permanent little pooch from birthing babies, and my body would fill out nicely.

Let me take a step back and mention I also come from slim parents. My sister and I are forever stuck shopping in the juniors section and hoping and praying we find a 00 somewhere in the mix. I had hoped that having babies meant I would be moving up in the world of fashion and could actually fit all those darling pieces I would see everywhere. I dreamed of all the beautiful clothes I could finally fit into. I had clothes I had to use safety pins on that I would finger and say, “One day I won’t have to stick pins in you to wear you.”

After both babies, I was so determined to keep the weight that I consciously chose to not try to lose it. If I hadn’t been so exhausted, I probably would have cried when I found out every pound I’d worked so hard to gain was gone. It was like a slap in the face. Once again, my genes has cursed me.

Going in to pregnancy, I knew it was 50/50. If I took after my mom, I would gain and keep. Since I look a lot like her, I figured that was my destiny. But my mom was always quick to point out my dad’s sister, mother of two, stayed slim. 50/50. I wouldn’t know until the other side of pregnancy, but I made the choice to try to keep the weight.

I didn’t want to bounce back. I wanted people to see me with my kids and nod and smile and say, “She looks just like a mom.” Instead, my overall youthful appearance has me fearing people will think I’m the babysitter or older sister or maybe even an aunt. Thank goodness my oldest takes every opportunity to scream, “Mommy!”

But what makes me feel like a fraud the most is whenever I read about moms on a fitness journey to shed those last few baby pounds. I’m drawn into their stories, their struggles, their triumphs. I’m right there cheering them on and wanting to give a hug during those inevitable backslides. I become so invested in their journeys that, when I come out of the story, I feel sad that I don’t have one, too. Somehow, I feel like I’m missing out on a seemingly universal mom experience.

As a child, I remember watching my mom exercise with old exercise tapes. My siblings and I would try out some of the exercises here and there. We would laugh and my mom would think we’re silly and say this is what happens when you have babies. See? I thought the fight to lose those pounds was going to be mine, too.

But nothing made me sadder than trying to find mom groups and finding group after group dedicated to working out to shed the baby weight. I was tempted to join, but was afraid they would look at me and ask, “What baby weight?” The mom club can be kind and cruel. Oh, I’m sure I made it out to be a bigger deal that it probably would have been, but being around moms who were actively trying to lose the pounds and being a mom who simply wanted to be active would have just made me feel like more of a fraud. I couldn’t offer tips or strategies. I couldn’t fully sympathize. I could offer my support, but, having had my slimness thrown in my face my whole life has me wondering how well that would have gone over.

“How would you know? You’re soooo skinny!”

I didn’t ask for this, but I’m stuck with it. I’m a mom who naturally bounced back. I put less than zero effort into it. I hear moms say they wish they could have bounced back right away. Being the mom who did just that, all I can say is the grass is not always greener.

I Don’t Know Whether to Celebrate or Grieve Whenever I Get My Period

As a teenager, menstrual cycles were annoying, gross, and pointless. I had no intention of having kids and just wanted to rip my uterus out. After I met The Husband, they were a cause to celebrate because it meant I was not going to be a mom yet. After having an early miscarriage and subsequent successful pregnancies, I am now conflicted about them.

Over the past 5 years, I’ve had only about a handful of periods thanks to pregnancy and enthusiastic breastfeeding on my children’s parts. Having one after so long was kind of surprising and I couldn’t quite remember what to do. But the most surprising part was how I felt.

On one hand, it was a relief. Not only was my body still functioning in this annoying way, but it meant I was not having a third baby. We’re very happy with two, so every period will be a celebration of not having a third child.

On the other hand, it means the potential of child is lost. I really don’t want another, but, after a miscarriage, I think of this bleeding in a different way, at least for now. It’s the loss of a child that could have been. It’s not like the miscarriage since I know my body had recognized a pregnancy that time. But it is still a loss. The egg is gone and so is the possibility of whoever could have come from that egg.

As my daughter and I work on weaning, I know these cycles will be back with a vengeance. I wonder what they’ll be like this time. After my first baby, it was definitely different. We were preparing to have his sibling and every period was a way of tracking my cycle to figure out the best time for conception. This time, it’ll just be the loss of an egg.

I won’t lie and say it’s just another cycle. It is, and it’s not. I don’t know whether to celebrate not having a third child or to mourn the loss of a potential child. For now, my mind will waffle, but also wonder if it’ll ever go back to being annoying, gross, and pointless.