End the Mommy Wars

The degree of support I’ve felt from the online mothering community over the years has been amazing. When I was a newbie mom and newbie blogger, people came out of the woodwork to offer support, encouragement and kind, thoughtful advice. I knew I was never alone in my mission to raise my children to reach their potential, even when my husband was deployed and the rest of our families were thousands of miles away. I have the great good fortune to now pay it forward here within the HDYDI community.

End the Mommy Wars from hdydi.com

Mommy Esq.’s three lovely children and my two loud ones enjoyed breakfasting together.

I’ve made lifelong friends online. A lot of people I know think it’s a little creepy to take my kids and meet up with “strangers” from the internet, but they’re not strangers. There’s an honesty to my relationships in blogosphere that I strive to achieve in my real-life relationships. Just yesterday, my daughters and I spent the day at the Texas State Fair with Mommy Esq. and her family. They welcomed us into their home and lives with open arms and hearts. Mommy Esq. was an online friend of years, but has been a “real-life friend” for only months. It’s quite something to see our children begin to develop similarly deep friendships with each other.

My twins are my first and only children. The greatest mothering lesson they taught me, as soon as I was able to see them at around 36 hours old, was that there is no one right way to parent. M has different needs than J does. Their father meets those needs differently than I do. There’s no right and wrong, only my way and other ways, as long as there is love, goodwill, open-mindedness, and patience.

Certainly, there are parents who harm their children, from ignorance, incapacity, lack of will or, rarely, malevolence. Sadly, I have observed the effects of neglect and abuse, and children of those parents need us to step up and contact the authorities, serve as foster parents, and be ready to adopt them if need be. Those parents are rare, though, and they’re not going to take your advice anyway. Why waste energy on doing anything but sharing what worked for you and taking advice from others that might work for you?

Imagine my dismay to get online last night to discover that while I had been relishing a gorgeous friendship born online, one of the mothering communities in which I participate, The Official Group of National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc. had blown up in judgment over breastfeeding, of all things. Honestly, I couldn’t be bothered to read back through all the ugliness, but from what I could glean, a male non-member had communicated his feeling that breastfeeding images were sexual, and moms had lined up to judge and attack each other. Breastfeed. Don’t breastfeed. Some moms can’t breastfeed, so no one should ever discuss breastfeeding. Breastfeed in public. Never breastfeed in public. Share breastfeeding images proudly. Never ever ever share a photo of your child at your breast. If you don’t tandem nurse, you’re a bad MoM.

Stop it, I say. End the Mommy Wars.

Mommy Esq and Sadia from hdydi.com

Mommy Esq. and I decided that at least one photo of the two of us was in order. The sangria was a nice treat at the car show.

Our children do not need us to feel judged and defensive. They don’t need us to judge and offend. They need their parents and other mentors and role models to talk to each other, to figure out what works for each parent-child pair. They need us to celebrate the differences between our families and our parenting styles, not condemn all who do it differently than we choose to or must.

I am deeply thankful that in all the years I have been part of the HDYDI community, first as a lurker, then as a commenter, then as a guest poster, next as a contributor and, most recently, as the coordinator, I haven’t seen anything but support for the MoMs and DoMs out there. Thank you all for making this a safe place to discuss and explore how we can best parent our individual, unique, extraordinary children within our individual, unique, extraordinary life circumstances.

And I beg the moms of the NOMOTC Facebook group to remember what brought us together in the first place. Bring the kindness back. Let the hurt and anger go. End the Mommy Wars. Don’t worry about who’s right, only about what’s right for you.

End the Mommy Wars.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

An Unlikely Pair: Living with Functional Multiples (And, Hi, Nice to Meet You!)

Summer 2013 -8423We are blazing a trail here, my hubby and I! Our family does not really fit into any established category.

Yes, I am most definitely the mother of multiples. But, am I the mother of twins? Mmmmm… No, not really.

The days look really similar to life with twins, but they are not. My children are not twins in the traditional (or even biological) sense. They did not share my womb. They were not born on the same day, although I have heard of the Irish mom who gave birth to twins, her first daughter at 23 weeks and the second daughter eighty-seven days later! So, maybe what day they were born isn’t as much of an issue here. Of course, the fact that they are not even biologically related is the real kicker!

We know they are not twins, yet we are parents of multiples, just the same. Our situation, although not unique, sits in a different category altogether. There are those that would argue that we don’t even belong here on a blog about multiples. I don’t suppose it really matters in the end. I can tell you it was tough! I see my life in many of your stories.

A bit of our story

We have six older kids, and when we realized they were all flying the coop at once, we decided we needed some new life in the home. We looked into foster care.

At the same time, I was studying to become a Chemical Dependency Professional, and the plight of drug-exposed newborns was near and dear to my heart. I studied the physiological effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain in adults. Let me tell you, watching an infant struggle with the pain and misery is a whole other ball game!

We sought training via an intensive care nursery in our state that specializes in caring for and teaching others about the effective handling of drug exposed and drug addicted newborns. In June of 2011, we got word we were fully licensed and ready to go!

Isaiah

On July 11, 2011, our son (then foster son) came home at 24 hours old. It was appalling to realize that the nurses at our local hospital had zero experience or understanding of how to care for drug exposed newborns. They told us that he was having issues with feeding, but they weren’t quite sure what to do to help him. They had a “good luck with that!” attitude. Thank goodness we had been trained!

Our journey had begun.

For the first four months, Isaiah was the only little one in our home. I spent the first two of those months helping him gain weight in spite of the drugs passing out of his system. I had to help him cope with the sensory overload that was his constant state. The tremors were incessant. He often whimpered as if he were in pain.

I cared for him in our basement bedroom, with the lights low and a soft sound machine for background noise. I needed to wake him to eat every one and a half to two hours for the first two months of his life. That sounds easy enough, but part of his response to sensory overload was to shut down and sleep. He slept eight straight hours after his first supervised visit with his first mom. He was only 3 days old and already struggling with failure to thrive. We simply could not wake him! Still, we tried, every hour until we succeeded in getting him to eat.

In spite of that regimen, Isaiah lost over a pound in his first week home, and only gained slowly and painfully for the first two months. If they had not placed him on the higher calorie formula intended for premature infants, I am sure that it would have been even longer.

Infants who are meth exposed are notoriously plagued with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and often have, shall we say “explosive,” diapers. They also commonly have trouble coordinating the muscles in their mouth to suckle and swallow effectively. So he lost far more than we could get into him at first. Such is the life of many foster moms!

And then things got really interesting!

When four months had passed, Isaiah had recovered from the withdrawal phase.  Life was settling into something that looked a lot like “normal”.

What do you know? The phone rang! Enter Zoe.

Zoe was also drug exposed, although primarily to an intense nicotine addiction. There was secondary exposure to methamphetamine. She screamed twenty out of twenty-four hours a day. The first three months of her life were a constant struggle to keep her calm and comfortable.

At the same time, we had our Isaiah evaluated by the local Birth to Three program and began his Occupational Therapy for dyspraxia.

Zoe was three months old before we had made a discovery that resolved many of her early issues. The introduction of a probiotic to her diet stopped the screaming like flipping a switch.

New normal

We settled into the therapy and care routines that carried us through many months. Today our lives look a lot like the typical life of parents with two-year old twin toddlers.

Functionally speaking, Isaiah and Zoe behave much like twins. They are very close. They have started to build their own language and pretty much drive each other nuts 24/7!

Occasionally they have other issues tied to their sensory integration difficulties. Zoe struggles with “gravitational insecurity” and Isaiah has multiple sensory issues including feeding/textures, certain sounds, strong smells. We are preparing to go through an 8 week-long session of the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol in hopes that we will help his nervous system to develop the capacity to filter some of these things out. Therapy keeps us busy.

In the midst of all of that we have the joy of watching these two phenomenal little people grow and develop into who they were meant to be, just like any other parents of multiples. While the kids don’t share that biological connection, in all things functional, I am most definitely living the very busy life of a mom of multiples! I have the same joy. The same intensity. A different perspective.

I’m looking forward to connecting with other mamas out there who are in the same boat!

Research-Based Parenting

“Trust your instincts” is an excellent parenting strategy … but it’s not for me.

I choose not to raise my children the way I was raised. I have a deep-seated worry that if I go with instinct, I’ll fall back on the parenting style I lived with in my own childhood, replete with yelling, threats, and inconsistency. I want better for my children.

Before we started trying to conceive, I spent over a year in therapy. Ironically enough, I originally went in because my husband didn’t understand my reluctance to become a mother. At my first appointment, I told the therapist, “I’m here so you can tell my husband that I’m just too crazy to make a good mother. We just can’t have kids.” A year of talk therapy later, I’d come to terms with my childhood and come to believe that my depression was manageable condition rather than a tragic curse. I felt that I’d slain my dragons and could be the parent I believe that children deserve to have. I read parenting book after parenting book, taking notes on the things that made sense and even larger notes on the things that didn’t. I came up with my parenting credo, making sure that my husband was on board: Our goal is to raise a happy, wholesome, healthy, productive adult.

There’s a reason I overthink.

My research didn’t end when I became pregnant. I peppered first my ob-gyn, then the girls’ pediatrician, with questions. I selected doctors who would partner with me to give my kids the best possible start they could have. I selected a daycare program that would partner with me to raise J and M, not just provide us with a daytime babysitting service. Their infant class teacher knew them so well that I bought my house based on her recommendation. I wanted to situate my daughters to go to the school that their former teacher’s daughter attends. She assured me that it would be a good fit for them, and she was right.

I continue to read. The book that’s had the biggest impact on my parenting is Nurtureshock, published in 2011. I’m currently reading Stepmonster to get some insights into what I can do to encourage the healthiest and most positive relationship I can between my daughters and their new stepmother and stepsisters. There are pieces of Raising Your Spirited Child that I find helpful, but I hate the author’s tone and her suggestion that we need to shape a child’s world to her intensity. Instead, I choose to teach my girls to direct and control their intense reponses, channeling their spiritedness into creativity and community service instead of explosions and hysteria.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the dance studio lobby while M and J were in their ballet/tap lesson, reading The Foster Parenting Toolbox. Another mom asked me whether I was taking classes. I told her that I wasn’t. I was just beefing up on my parenting. This mom and I have been casual friends for several years, but aren’t particularly close.

“You don’t need to read that stuff!” she said. “All a child needs is love and discipline, and you’ll be fine. You’re a good mom!”

I flailed around for a response. I tried to explain that I feared that being a good mom didn’t come naturally. I needed to read the research and hear other parents’ thoughts to inform my own parenting. I’ve honed my instincts over the years until I’m pretty sure they’re trustworthy, but I still think through every act of parenting. It’s exhausting, but the last place I’m going to let myself get lazy is when it comes to guiding my children, within the strengths and weaknesses that come naturally to them, to becoming happy, healthy, wholesome productive adults.

A lot of people don’t get it. That’s okay. If your instincts work for your kids, good for you. But please, let me overthink with mine.

What’s your parenting approach? Do you run on instinct? Do you research? Do you balance the two?

Sadia overthinks the raising of her identical twin almost-7-year-old daughters in the Austin, TX area. She is divorced and works full-time in higher education information technology. Her overthinking approach works quite well, although she’s now attempting to end the weekly Saturday morning meltdown. First stop, sugar elimination from weekend breakfast.

Whirlwind Schedule

If you’re anything like me, things start to whirl out of control at this time of year. Here in the US, the school year is winding down, and the end-of-school events are ramping up. Between recitals and dress rehearsals (dance and piano), awards ceremonies, talent shows, birthday parties, selecting summer camp programs, and the school cultural celebration, I’m feeling a little frayed at the edges.

The fact that J and M’s birthday is next month just adds insult to injury. I confess that, while we’ve decided on a time, location, and theme for their party, I have made no headway toward making invitations or finalizing the guest list.

I am, as my daughter M once put it, “overwheeled.” She says “overwhelmed” now, but “overwheeled” is up there with “lellow” for “yellow” and “yosen” for “used” in my favourite J-and-Misms. (She just looked over my shoulder and informed me that I spelled “favourite” wrong and should “spell it American.” I figure letting my daughters watch and participate in my writing process can’t be a bad thing for anyone.)

I’m not too proud to ask for help when I need it. A huge part of the reason that I hurried back to Central Texas after my divorce was to return to the amazingly supportive community that I am part of. The stuff on my plate right now, however, can’t be outsourced. I need to be the one making sure I get ballet costume photos taken for Grammy and Grampy. Only I can make modifications to my work schedule to get to all these events on time. It’s up to me to make the display on Bangladesh for the event celebrating diversity at our school.

For the next month or so, I need to go into get-it-done mode. There will be less sleep for me. I’ll be working through all my lunch breaks. I’m going to have to figure out each day’s schedule at the beginning of the week. No flying by the seat of my pants for me. This will be a month of checklists and spreadsheets and schedules.

It’s going to be a great month and will leave us with a ton of great memories, but I am looking forward to June.

How do you handle the crazy times?

For those of you with infants right now, how does it feel to hear how completely I’ve managed to forget the feats of juggling I was capable of when my littles were truly little?

Sadia, her twin daughters J and M, and the family cats overextend themselves in the Austin, TX area. Sadia is a recently divorced single mom and works full time in higher education information technology.

MLK Day Is More Than a Day Off

Growing up in the UK and Bangladesh, I was raised on Mahatma Gandhi’s life story and words as the embodiment of a worldwide move towards civil rights and mutual respect between people and between peoples. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. embodied those same values, and today’s US-wide commemoration of his achievements is a reminder to discuss his legacy with our daughters, now aged 5.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t taking full advantage on an extra day off work and school. We let J and M stay up an hour past bedtime last night to watch The Empire Strikes Back for the first time. Do you remember the first time you heard the line, “Luke, I am your father.”? It was quite something to see the looks on our girls’ faces! We’re showing the Star Wars films to the girls in the order in which they were released. We’re old-school nerds like that.

Before I read Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, I hadn’t given much thought to talking to the girls about diversity. I figured that our multicultural, interracial, international, interfaith marriage would speak for itself. Bronson and Merryman’s chapter on talking about race influenced me deeply, however, and I committed to discussing these issues with our daughters.

M was the one to bring up MLK at dinner last night. “We watched a movie about King Martin Junior at school,” she told us.

Dr. King

We clarified Dr. King’s name, and talked about his accomplishments. We boiled it down to something pretty simple: Dr. King helped people understand that everyone could be friends, regardless of the colour of their skin. “Oh!” observed M, “Like we’re a family, but you have dark brown skin and me and Sissy and Daddy is peach?” She has previously described her very fair-skinned White grandmother as “pink.”

Sadia and family

That seemed like a decent enough introduction to the lessons of MLK Day, so we left it that for dinner time. Later, however, J brought up MLK, and I had a burst of inspiration.

Me: You’ve always had a sister, right! And that’s pretty special. Does that mean you can’t have friends who don’t have sisters?
J: No. [Classmate] has no sister, and he is my friend. I don’t know very much about having no sister and brother except you have to play by yourself and that is sad.
Me: You and [Classmate] are different when it comes to having brothers or sisters, but you can learn from each other.
J: I love [Former neighbour] and she has no brother or sister.
Me: I love her too. It would be pretty sad if you only had friends who were exactly like you.
J: I would miss [Former neighbour].
Me: What Martin Luther King, Jr. and his friends taught us was to be friends with people who are different in all kinds of ways.

I could use that reminder myself. It’s time for me to stop complaining about how rude and insular people are in our new town, and make a real effort at understanding the culture here. It’s time for me to embrace differences. As is so often the case, teaching my children reminds me to a better person.

In what ways has raising your children reminded you of your values? Are you a better person for being a parent?

Sadia is working US army wife and mother of 5-year-old twin girls. She and her family recently moved to El Paso, Texas.