Ah, parenting…the most exalted, most exhausting job ever. Bringing a child into this world is perhaps one goal we all seek to achieve at some point in our lives, but once we have this child our whole existence is changed. It’s very normal to feel frustrated, overwhelmed and even shocked at how parenting is nothing like what we had imagined it to be growing up. Who would have thought that dinner time, bath time and bed time would be so nerve-wracking at times? In our imagination we only pictured our little ones to be perfectly-behaved, obedient, sweet angels (not that they are not). Reality hits hard sometimes, doesn’t it? But wait, we’re NOT heading down desperation lane with this post. There’s hope, there’s always hope when it comes to how much we love our children. After all, when we are tired, wired and at our wit’s end, it’s only because we want things to go our way and they’re not. Those expectations of an ideal parent-child relationship are simply standing between us and our kids, keeping us from bonding with them the way we had hoped.
What are we doing wrong? Why isn’t parenting as rewarding as the media portrays it? Why are some parents more fulfilled than others, you may think? Because we often conceive parenting as a set of rules and theories that apply to ALL children. We’ve been socially trained to follow the footsteps of our predecessors in raising our young disregarding the ever-changing environment we expose them to. As a mother of both a boy and a girl living in a modern city, under normal circumstances, I can’t help but observe those fast-paced changes and worry about my children’s future. Will I be able to raise healthy, kind, loving, well-rounded individuals? Just thinking about this grave responsibility makes me hyperventilate! But I know one thing I had to learn the hard way. Parenting doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a child, a unique child whom you’ll learn to understand as much as you’ve already loved. It takes time. And you’ll get there. In this post I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far in my 8-year-long motherhood journey. I’ve summarized all the irksome, worrisome, troublesome parts of my parenting experience, which you may pretty much relate to. So here are 5 things which are NOT parenting.
1. Parenting is not a race or a competition: I know, it’s tempting to compare notes with other parents, gather experiences and share advice but once you feel that you’re really failing at this thing called parenting because you’re not doing what other parents are doing, you need to stop. We’re not competing. We’re in this together. And if you ever feel that you can’t handle any more braggers, just keep your distance, there’s no guilt or shame in choosing what’s best for your kids, AND your well-being.
2. Parenting is a means not a goal: you know that cheesy proverb that says “happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life.” Well that also applies to parenting. Instead of worrying about accomplishing milestones and checking off lists, just enjoy every moment you get to spend with your kids. Your presence and role-modeling is enough of an accomplishment. So if you don’t get them to stick to a routine within a week, that’s really OK. Be consistent, yet flexible. Firm yet understanding. The last thing your kids want is to feel their home is more of a military camp than a cozy atmosphere to learn, grow, and just be themselves.
3. Parenting is not self-sacrifice: We’re always told that fully-dedicated moms are the best moms. Can you imagine how depressing this statement may be for working moms? Why is motherhood always portrayed in such an overly idealistic light? Please stop feeling constantly guilty for excluding your kids in some activities you pursue on your own or with your spouse. It’s perfectly acceptable to want some time for yourself to recharge. Your kids will thank you the most for being a happy, well-adjusted, and outrageously creative parent.
4. Parenting challenges don’t get easier with time: you know what we parents don’t need along the way? Illusions. But negating the statement that things won’t be getting easier is not…”negative” (does that make sense?) Actually, it’s not the parenting challenges that will get better, but you’ll be a more equipped parent to handle those ever-increasing challenges. Yes, sadly every phase of parenting has its glitches, but trust me, you’ll nail them. There will be tough days, tear-jerking incidents, and lots and lots of self-doubt along the way, but you’ll be ok. Really! Negativity, busted!
5. Parenting is not all what you are: when they placed that bundle of cuteness in your arms, you instantly realized that nothing in your life will ever go back to the way it was before. But this doesn’t mean you’ll have to adopt a new personality as a protective, superheroic parent. Regardless of whether the kiddos believe mommy and daddy have superpowers or not, mommy and daddy are (Your name) and (Spouse’s name) first and foremost. Your interests, needs, likes and dislikes should never be affected by your responsibility as parents. In reference to point 3, keep those parts of you alive – for sanity’s sake at least. Avoid falling into the trap of begrudging the single life.
So whether you think you’re doing this parenting thing all wrong and can’t help but feel lonely and isolated at times, you’re actually never alone in this. Loving someone who is totally dependent on you in their first few years can be quite scary. But have faith in this love and your strength as a caregiver, mentor and protector of this child. You were made for this, and this child is exactly the way he or she is supposed to be. If you can remember to parent the child you have, not the child you always wanted, you’ll succeed in every level of this parenting game, with a little help from them, believe it or not 🙂
Have you got your pen and paper ready? Your take-your-own-life device? Wait, you haven’t planned how you were going to do it yet? Ok, never mind. Let’s just write the letter.
Dear —- (that’s gonna be the first loved one to find out you why you did such an major act, so they’ve got to be special)
Explain your terrible state prior to the act. Use words such as tired, fed up, exhausted, worn out, beat up. Don’t be afraid to use exaggerations and hyperboles, afterall you need to make it seem logical. They won’t believe you had been in such a terrible state all along or that you’d actually do it but you have to convince them.
Now start reminding that person of all the amazing things they had done for you and how utterly ungrateful you are for turning your back on them. Tell them you have reached a point where your reasoning has failed you; where you were so depressed and lonely that nothing and no one even mattered. Not your parents, nor your siblings nor your spouse and children, if any. All you could think of was a way out. Even if that way defied your own destiny. You couldn’t fight anymore. You didn’t want to hold on to any more hopes. Nothing and no one gave you hope. You had eyes that could see but you didn’t want to look out for the light. You had hands that could hold but you didn’t want to reach out for help. You wanted to stay where you are. You chose desperation. Yes, you chose it. Desperation didn’t choose you. You decided to curl into fetal position and cry. You shut the world out. You turned your back on life. All you could see where the thorns on the rose, the greyish skies where rainbows hide. You may tell them you’re a failure, not for the many times you failed, but actually for failing to find the will to try within you.
And just before you think I’m judging you for your suicidal thoughts, I just want you to know that I, too, have had them. We all have them. Yes, we’ve all been so low that we could no longer bear life’s afflictions. Everybody is prone to depression, anxiety, mental illness. You’re not a weirdo and you’re certainly not alone in this. The only difference between someone who acts upon these thoughts and someone who refrains from cutting their own rope is how hopeful they remain. The despaired aren’t weak. You aren’t weak for seeking help. You aren’t weak if you cry. You aren’t weak if you’re burnt out, broke, jobless, divorced, betrayed. You are stronger and more free when you understand the wisdom behind your affliction.
I don’t know what would make you want to read a “how to write a suicide letter”. I don’t know why I’m putting myself in this position where I might be misunderstood. But I’m writing this for somebody, anybody who needs to read this, to know they’re so loved and cherished. You need to know you are an indispensible person in someone’s life. You mean the world to somebody and it’s not up to you to decide to leave them. No. Your time has not come and don’t ever think that by taking the nearest exit you’ll rid yourself of heartache. Don’t ever think that by writing a suicide letter you’d justify yourself to your loved ones.
Don’t think that by escaping your brokeness you wouldn’t break someone else’s life.
*To someone I love, someone I don’t even know, hang in there
It’s been a while since I’ve last written a parenting blog post. I don’t know why I always feel unfit to give advice or share my views on parenting. Oh, yes, I actually do know why. Because as a mother of a special needs child, I often feel that I can’t relate to the parenting styles that most people around me have adopted. Or, perhaps, it’s the other way around? Aha… that’s it! It’s mostly people with “normal” kids who can’t relate to my views and experience raising a different-slash-special-slash-unique-slash-amazing child.
Lately, instead of sharing what it’s like to have such a child, I sort of drifted away from my goals for this blog. I haven’t been able to write, and I’d like to say I’m sorry to my readers who feel inspired by my “courage” to share parts of my life. It’s been quite hectic and tough in my household, and I honestly started questioning this whole “raise awareness” approach that I was so enthusiastic about during my early months of blogging. Was I really helping others understand my son better by writing about how hard our life is or was I just arousing pitty?
People still give me this puzzled look saying ‘How do you know he’s autistic, he “looks” fine?’ To me, that’s just saying “we really don’t believe this ridiculous diagnosis, but hey if that’s your way of justifying his misbehavior.” It hurts when people ask if there’s a “cure” for autism or whether he’s getting any better with all those endless costly therapy sessions, and all I want to say is “if you’re nagging about how long it’s taking, try living a day in my home and experiencing this unpredictability and uncertainty yourself…oh yeah, and here is our therapist’s bill just in case you feel so bad for us that you’re willing to pay it.”
I have no spite for parents who don’t have special needs children, in fact I’m always willing to answer any question related to autism and my son, based on what I’ve read and experienced myself. Why would I blame someone who’s never had to deal with all the things I deal with if they wonder “what it’s like” and genuinely wants to help? However, I would blame someone who deems her/himself a parenting expert or an educational specialist if they “can’t relate” to my confusion or struggle as a special needs mother. You simply can’t justify this person’s “lack of knowledge” or “failure to empathesize”. You simply can’t allow this deliberate denial nor tolerate this disregard to your feelings and your child’s.
In this day and age, more and more children are being diagnosed with all sorts of learning difficulties and mental disorders. We can no longer overlook those children’s needs or write off their developmental delays as “phases they’ll get over oneday”. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Until they do (and if they do) we must remember that special kids are no different, they thrive on love and understanding, they feed on support and affection. They need to be merged and mainstreamed, not left behind and isloted as if they were malfunctioning defected creatures. Yes, their lives are hard, but they won’t get any easier if we judge their parents or treat them differently, out of pure ignorance. So to those who can’t relate to my special kind of motherhood, I say: “Get a freaking book already.”
Stay awesome, special moms ❤
I first learned about World Autism Day about 5 years ago. April 2nd was just another day on the calendar until that fated day when the “A” word became a part of my life. I say the “A” word because I knew almost nothing about ASD back then, it was a disorder that would never touch my family, or so I thought. And when you don’t know what something really is, it’s only natural to develop irrational fears of it.
From the day my son was born I always “felt” there was something unusual about him. He was a very fussy baby who was very hard to console once a tantrum stroke. When he was about a year old, I noticed that he was a little over active and wouldn’t respond much when we’d call his name. This was the first flashing light for me but I didn’t want to even think about the possibility. Then one day I received a translation task from a client in the medical field. It was about autism. I remember reading the document and nodding once, twice, thrice “Yes, yes, he does that…yes, that’s true…Oh my God…this can’t be happening to me…” I turned my head away from my screen and to my husband who was sitting on the couch looking at me, probably wondering if I’d totally lost it. “I think we should take our son to a specialist,” I muttered with a lump in my throat. And that was the beginning of a long and unnerving search for a correct diagnosis.
The challenges began, and so did the appointments and consultations which never seem to end. Our first appointment was with a neuropediatrician who was specialized in autism. She was very blunt and her diagnosis explicit. “Your son has a very mild form of autism, oh yes, and the hyperactivity is due to the ADHD which accompanies some cases of autism.” She said it, she said the “A” word. my mother burst in tears on our way out of the clinic, I refused to believe a single letter of the diagnosis. “Mom, calm down. It’s not over. I’m getting a second opinion.” She looked at me surprisedly, trying to grasp what she just heard. And before we knew it, we went through a series of assesments and evaluations, meeting over 20 specialists in mental health. I spent a few months in Lebanon for my son’s speech and psychomotor therapy. My whole life was turned upside down. At first I wanted someone to tell me my son is just going through a phase. I wanted to stop all those doctor visits and cut down on all those expenses on services which seemed useless to me. So I went back to the Gulf to my husband and I pretended that my son was OK, it was just a phase that will soon end. I knew deep within that I was only deluding myself. How can I deny the obvious?
Months later, we decided to relocate to Lebanon to pursue a decent therapy plan and an accomodating schooling environment. It was the best decision I’d ever taken, and, despite all the difficulties, I’m glad to see some progress in his behavior and communication.
So why am I telling you all this, you might wonder? I’m not sharing this personal part of my life to boast about any achievement. I’m still far behind on what I think I should have done for my son. Then again, I’m a perfectionist, there will always, always, be more to do anyway. But, believe it or not, I decided to give myself some credit for once and say that what I’m doing is something some parents in our society refuse to go through. I may have run away from the truth at first, but when I faced it I felt the greatest relief ever.
Accepting autism as a part of your family life is the best treatment. Studies say autism can’t be cured, only managed. That might be true but all those stories of hope people share with me about how their ASD children thrived as adults make me wonder whether autism is as debilitating as we think it is. Perhaps it’s society’s view of children with special needs that is the real boundary here, not the disability itself. That’s why raising awareness about mental illnesses is crucial. The stigma that underlies autism and other disorders is a mere fabrication of the minds of uneducated, ill-informed individuals; an old wives’ tale that must be forever forgotten.
As a mother of a quirky smart kid I just want to tell mothers who’ve battled for acceptance, mothers who might think they have an ASD case at home, mothers who don’t know what to do with their recently-diagnosed child: You are strong, but you need understanding and support. Everyday is autism day, don’t wait for April to light it up blue or change your profile pic. And most importantly, don’t be ashamed of having a child on the spectrum. I’ve heard agonizing stories of mothers concealing their childrens’ mental disorders or learning difficulties. It neither helps the child nor you to hide such important issues from family and school. You are no less of a mother if your child has a problem. You’re the greatest mother if you gather the love and support he/she truly needs from those who can willingly offer it. Teach the world about your child and your child will gradually start learning everything you ever wanted them to learn about the world.
Going through rough patches is part of our everyday motherhood. There will be ups and many many downs, but don’t give up. Don’t stop trying, giving or hoping. The hardest part is not knowing what to do, but once you know what needs to be done, what’s there to fear? Trust your hunch, it’s that God-given little voice inside that guides you through life. Accept, love and forgive yourself just as much. Be ready to push yourself when no one else can.
This is everything I’ve learned so far. This is what has kept me sane! Oh, and word of advice: don’t take other people’s remarks so personally. Forgive them, for they do not know. They haven’t walked a mile in your shoes, or spent a night lost in your worried thoughts. There are so many people out there who are more than willing to listen if you ever want to talk. I’m one of them. Please feel free to drop me a line in the comments below or email me: email@example.com
I’d be more than happy to offer any advice.
Stay awesome, strong Mama 💙💡
I’ve read somewhere that it takes a special parent to have a “special” child. I remember that cheesy phrase giving me so much comfort and confidence at some point. I also know that, with everything I’ve been through being a parent of a special needs child, it takes more than confidence and strength to carry on. It takes faith and a lot of hope (sometimes false ones), to play that special role.
As I was looking at some old photos of my son which my mother in law showed us today, I realized just how deeply affected I am by my son’s condition. Continue reading “With a little help from my friends”
They say autism is a spectrum of symptoms varying in severity and functionality. They don’t tell you about the spectrum of disappointments, exasperations, fears and worries that will always be a part of your parenting journey.
They say autism is a communication disorder. They don’t tell you about the disorder and isolation that will turn your life upside down.
They say many autistic children like things in a certain order or made in a certain way. They don’t tell you how exhausting it is for you as a parent not to be able to do things spontaneously without facing a major tantrum.
They say temper tantrums are very normal for individuals on the spectrum. They don’t tell you about the nights you’ll spend crying, wondering if there will ever be a stress-free day in your parenting life.
They say ASD children need love and understanding. They don’t tell you you’ll need that same amount of love and understanding yourself to carry on.
They say ASD children have trouble making and keeping friends. They don’t tell you you’ll start losing your own friends too.
They say some autistic children can have attention and hyperactivity issues. They don’t tell you you’ll be craving 5 minutes – just 5 minutes – of peace and quiet a day.
Autistic children are special indeed, but autism is a very lonely and foreign place for a parent. Though there may be hope, that hope waxes and wanes very unexpectedly. As you seek to make every day as systematic and predictable as possible for your ASD child, the outcome is almost always unpredictable.
But as parents, we never give up. We never stop believing things will get better one day. Yes, we accept destiny with a full heart but we all (secretly) wish we could have just one “normal” day for a change.
With all due respect to the elderly in this society, but they all just need to chill! As a parent, albeit it a young thirty-something parent of two children under 10, I believe I have the knowledge and ability to run my life along a safe course. I don’t do drugs, I don’t commit crimes, I don’t feed my kids litter, I don’t keep them awake till after midnight, I dress them in clean clothes, etc… Basically, I count as a good candidate to parent, thank you very much. If that’s what’s considered “mothering”, I surely can’t be doing it all wrong! Right?
This short-sighted vision of parenting, however, does not work very well with today’s definition of the term. To be a good parent you have to be a lot of things, not just a housemaid who slaves away in the kitchen cooking, baking and scrubbing floors, or a hermit who severs social ties to raise a family.
I’m so tired of hearing stories about how moms did nothing but handwash fabric diapers or those obnoxious braggeries about how they potty trained all their children by 12 months in that golden era. You can forget about stating facts and relaying scientific data related to the physical readiness to potty train which most children exhibit by age 2. If you decide to wait it out against your elders’ recommendations, you’ll be looked down upon as the lazy mother who’s too busy texting and tweeting to notice the signs (because, obviously, children at age one SHOULD already by ready to tell you “verbally” that they need to go.) Trust me, your great aunt is more experienced than your pediatrician.
I’m really tired of all the well-intended yet unwelcome tips and endless guilt trips the nice old ladies take you on with their remarks. Why can’t they just let this generation of mothers be whatever they choose to be? Whose expectations should we be living up to, theirs or our own? Yes, their days are definitely different, perhaps they did have better days back then. Times have changed, and this stressful lifestyle demands a change in approach to parenting, caregiving and house management. The comparisons make no sense when it comes to multitasking, for example. Mothers in the olden days didn’t have the same tasks, interests or passtimes. In defense of moms like myself, I believe we’re all doing an outstanding job surviving this wretched heartless world while teaching our children all the necessary lifeskills to ensure a safer, brighter future for generations to come. More educated conscious moms means higher awareness (and earlier intervention) to issues that require special attention, like learning difficulties, delays and impairments, or physical disabilities.
They say we should respect our elders, but how about a little appreciation from our elders as well? How about the respect we deserve for trying to fix a world our predecessors have left broken? We are certainly not the only generation of parents responsible for the moral degredation we witness today. Instead of constantly grieving over the past, we’d be far better off with a little more help and a little less meddling. It’s our time to make mistakes, just like they did, and our chance to learn the lessons they obviously didn’t learn: To live responsibly and teach responsibility, to raise well-rounded personalities not puppets we boss around at will. We don’t want our children to be us, we want them to be better. As a parent, I want to make sure I’ve left no stone unturned, no study unresearched, no effort unexhausted to see my children blossom. I want to bask in the satisfaction that I’ve done all that had to be done so my kids won’t be disappointed that I’ve been a neglectful parent. If that’s not enough for the generation of mothers before me, I might as well blame my inadequate parenting on every war that has plagued this country, wars that were caused by our elders’ unwise elections and re-elections of corrupt figures of state, rather than statesmen. At least we’re trying to change something instead of whining incessantly.
I will always pay much respect to every mother on this planet who would blindly give up anything to secure every child’s need, no matter what her age is or where she is from or how mean she can be to younger inexperienced mothers. We’ll always need to learn vicariously from parents who have longer years of experience in this domain, but we, too, can learn a thing or two on our own. That’s called life, and no one can live it for us no matter how knowledgeable they think they are.
Image credit: adweek.com
Today’s Modern Mom is so different from yesterday’s. She’s an exuberant multi-tasker who can keep up with this age’s extremely fast pace, satisfying both her family and herself. She’s a competent career woman, skilled chef, meticulous housekeeper, affectionate nurse, Supernanny, agile yogi and fashionista. Her perfect life is just too good to be true. At least that’s what our subconscious mind is led to believe. Although this ideal mom exists only in the imagination of the marketing heads of famous global brands, her image of excellence has been promoted as the archetype of motherhood by the advertisers for many years now. This mom arouses our envy for all the energy she has to dress well and look polished while working in and outside the home. We covet her glowing complexion as we question the effectiveness of our own branded age-defying creams that aren’t doing the trick. She must have a nanny, a chauffeur and a personal trainer – we think – because all that daily stress from rushing through mornings, doing house chores, to preparing a hot family meal should surely show on her slender high-school-girlish figure. It’s exasperating to wonder what we’re doing wrong with our lives that we always look so worn out and feel miserable by the end of the day. You see this mom hanging out with friends, attending parties, and getting promoted. “Where does she find all the time and why can’t I be her?” a riled mother may ponder.
The media, which overly fixates on beauty, youth, and sexiness, is spinning motherhood against nature. It is no wonder that feelings of grudge would gradually sneak into a mom’s heart to the point of emotionally rejecting the noble, albeit confining, role of child-rearing.
The Modern Mom is being shamed by every global female-targeted brand for her post-pregnancy body, dark-circles and grown-out hair roots. Every single commercial she sees on TV indirectly (though not unintentionally) mocks her rather scruffy looks, slowly guiding her to a more whimsical domain which, sadly, exists only in movies, drama series and ads. Yet she speculates on the chances of becoming like this or that star, graceful and polished, even while knowing they’ve got a team of make-up artists and image manipulation experts working behind the scenes.
To counter-market motherhood in “Real Moms with Real Bodies” campaigns is to simply limit a lifetime of love, devotion, and selfless sacrifice to a mom’s physique. A mother is more than just a body, she’s a soul. A soul that gives life…her life to other souls.
I’m not saying a mother should be allowed to neglect herself if she chooses to but it would be unfair to turn the focus away from her real mission to just her body and appearance. It is far more beneficial to market motherhood for what it really is, a journey of a passionate individual through the winding roads of parenting. A mom is not always in control of situations, she doesn’t always make the wisest choices, and she barely has time to eat a balanced breakfast, let alone make effort to look fabulous, before scurrying out the door.
Watching all these celebrity moms smile, strut and strike poses on TV and social media, a Modern Mom becomes certain that she can only attain success by owning a booming fashion enterprise and would only be seen beautiful if she hides behind layers of foundation. Then again, any woman, married or not, childless or not, must feel extremely intimated by the immaculate picture of beauty and youth portrayed in the media.
We don’t need to see a mom’s stretchmarks as a proof for conception. We know it’s terrible to watch one’s body age but there’s far more to motherhood than a sagging body and thinning hair. A mother is an amazing strong spirit, wrapped up in a fragile shell. I hope that someday the media would truly honor her human side instead of compounding her insecurities. If we don’t owe that much respect to the woman who endures the hardest pain to welcome a child into this world, then to whom should we?
We all have always stories
We don’t tell
We all have feelings we don’t share
There are parts of us
That don’t show so well
But this secrecy is the cross we bare
All our lives we’re taught
To stay away from fights
We’re warned to escape
The very first ray of light
But we’re lured to the sun
Like a moth to a flame
And there’s really no use
To turn the other way
Or surrender to shame
All my life I knew
I had something to give
Every word I write is
A reason to live
And though some parts of my soul
Still don’t clearly show
They’re bound to shine through
That’s what I surely know
Oneday I’ll stand in the sun
And let its rays surround me
And finally embrace
The happiness that just found me
I’ll walk right through the walls
And break through the dark
Like some Supernatural being
That’s the faith inside my heart