I was just the subject of a college paper my boy’s girlfriend had to write. Nothing like being under a microscope ! I’m posting the questions and my subsequent answers because I’m thinking it may just be a great jumping off point for discussion:
1.What are some of the challenges you have faced as a parent?
Being the mother to a special needs child with health issues is by far the most challenging part of being a parent. Knowing just how much leash to give your kids, and how not to swoop and smother them as they find their own way is an ever-present challenge.
2. Have you ever received any type of parenting education?
No. We didn’t even go to lamaze classes :P Which is fine, because there is no set of rules when it comes to parenting…only guidelines and case histories. When I first came home from the hospital with my special needs baby, I ran to my bedroom to pick up my dog-eared copy of “What to Expect When You are Expecting” ….. only to find a brief paragraph on what to expect when one gives birth to a special needs child…. the paragraph told me to seek professional help elsewhere…. so much for baby books!
3. How has parenting changed as your children have grown and developed?
Not sure how to answer this one…. parenting perceptions have changed societially (i.e. Tiger Moms vs. Baby Wise, etc….) But I’m not sure how my own personal parenting style has changed. I suppose my role as a parent has evolved from primary care giver, to primary first aid boo-boo kisser to primary philosophy giver, taxi driver, and finally primary loan giver. I look forward to the roles changing up again to friend, babysitter, and finally child to my children…..circle of life.
4. Did you have accurate expectations of what it would be like to have children before you became a parent?
I believe so. I was prepared for the work aspect , but I did underestimate how much joy I would feel as a mom raising fun kids.
5. How do you balance family life with your other interests/jobs?
I gave up a successful career as a performer to raise a family. In order to keep my life in balance, and keep a “hand in” I do an occasional symphony performance or drama or recording gig just to keep my skills in check, and to keep me from feeling like I never get to do what I want to do anymore. I do one big show every other year.
I also run a Social Media marketing boutique out of my home. It allows me to work from home and still go on field trips or make the occasional frantic run up to school with a forgotten assignment or lunch. Best of both worlds!
6. What kind of support do you receive from family, friends, schools or the community as a parent?
Because I live so far away from my family (my parents divorced and I was moved away from the midwest in my teen years) I did not have the usual benefits many of my peers had raising their kids. My in-laws are 40+ years older than my husband, and they were not viable grandparents to help raise our kids. Both of my sets of parents live too far away to fill the typical grandparental roles, so my husband and I had to wing it when it came to baby-sitters and weekends away from the kids. My kids don’t know any different, but I do. I grew up spending every weekend at a different set of grandparents…my grandparents literally fought over who got to watch my brother and I as we grew up.
As the parent to a special needs child, I was amazed at the amount of support the Early Childhood Preparatory programs Oregon had for Caitlin. From the time she was 2 weeks old she was eligible for services, and was regularly visited by nurses who checked in on her, gave her physical therapy and helped me navigate through the public schools.
7. Is there anything you don’t like/don’t enjoy about being a parent?
I tire of the monotony of cleaning… It’s a never ending conundrum. I bore easily with volunteer moms at the school who complain about their husbands. I hate neighborhood gossip. I hate having to play momma bear to my special needs child, as I continually watch parents leave my child out of other reindeer games.
8. Has your philosophy on child-rearing changed as you have had more than one child?
I don’t believe so, but I’m sure it did. I often joke that my bonus child (my step-son from my husband’s first marriage) got the best version of me as a mommy. I was all of 25, just did a year as a theme park princess, and knew all the best ways to engage a young kid. I had patience for days and knew better than to push my luck, as our relationship was more environmental vs. biological. I literally spoiled him into submission, using treats as both motivation and reward. I also had to be ultra careful not to do anything that might be controversial. For example, if he had a nightmare and wanted to crawl in bed with his daddy, I would immediately leave the bed and go sleep on the couch, because the divorce was anything but amicable, and I needed to make sure that nothing could be twisted in a way that would hurt my husband’s time with his son.
My first born, got a more maternal version of me…we co-slept for the first year (much to my in-laws dismay) She was my shadow, and still is, at 14. She never left my sight in a mutual way.
And my youngest got a much more pragmatic version of me. With all of her health issues and brain delays, we navigated the world much differently…. much more cautiously and with purpose.
But….really, I think it is that each child brought something different to the equation, not necessarily that my child-rearing changed….For example….if Kelly as a toddler ever broke free and started running down the street, she would always look back and make sure I was chasing her. Caitlin, on the other hand….NEVER looked back. I was paranoid that Caitlin would go home with a stranger, because she just didn’t know any better.
9.What is your favorite part of being a parent?
There is a sense of accomplishment when I feel we are parenting well. It’s not always the case, but when we are sitting around the table talking over dinner and I see/hear the processes we’ve put in place working, I feel great about always putting my family first.
10. Is there anything you would change in your child-rearing if you had another child?
I’m not sure I would…..I’m sure there is something…..I would try and get help to be better organized, so that I could pass organization on to my children.
11. What are 1 or 2 pieces of advice you would give someone before they become
Go do everything you want to do in your life….travel, experience, do, be… make sure that when you have kids it is because you can’t imagine life without them, not because you think it’s time to go down that road. Don’t put an age on parenthood. I wanted to be a young mom…. I now wish I’d waited a bit and travelled/experienced more.
12. What has been most rewarding part of being a parent? What do you get out of being a parent?
I have front row seats to the best reality show on earth. With a vested interest in the characters, and a cameo role here and there :)
13. Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself from being a parent?
I’ve had to deal with my parent’s shortcomings along the way. I realize now that my parents did their own personal best as parents, even if they hit well short of the mark sometimes. My youngest daughter is so much like myself that I find her especially revealing to me. Also, she is brutally honest with me about my own shortcomings…sometimes comical, and sometimes not so much….
14. How has your relationship with your spouse changed as you both have parented?
He was a parent when I met him. So it’s not really a fair question. I was attracted to my husband because of the father he was to his son. I did my best to step in and compliment his methods, and became an instant parent the moment I committed to being with my husband.
15. Do you want to have more children?
I did. I will always wish I had more. But when Caitlin was born with multiple midline birth defects, I knew it would be unethical to bring another child into the world. A second special needs child might have stretched my parenting resources to the brink, which would not be fair for anyone. I always wanted to get the last one out of diapers before I tried for another one…..still waiting….
Now it’s your turn. Yes, YOU! ….what were your greatest challenges you’ve faced as a parent?