A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

“Blank slate” parenting is the ability for a parent to enter into parenthood without too many assumptions and expectations.This may sound difficult, but it is possible.


Most parents enter into parenthood with some basic assumptions: their child is going to be cisgender (their gender identity “matches” their birth sex), gender conforming (their interests and expressions are in line with what most expect from their birth gender), and heterosexual.

Considering that many children are not these things, these assumptions may be inaccurate and possibly detrimental for both the parent and the child.

Unless a parent is having an intersex baby, the parent will likely find out they are having a natal male ora natal female, either during the pregnancy or when the baby is born. Once this is revealed, all sorts of associations are created!

If the child is a natal male (born with male anatomy), the parents will likely assume the child will always identify as a boy and will engage in the “typical” interests and affinities of most boys.

If the child is a natal female (born with female anatomy), the parents will assume that she will always identify as a girl and will engage in the “typical” interests and affinities of what society expects girls to be interested in.

If the child is a natal female, parents often assume they will one day be interested in males. If the child is a natal male, parents often assume they will one day be interested in females.

Even if these assumptions are not explicitly stated, they will implicitly become the foundation of what your child understands is expected of them.

Children have an inherent need to please their parents, so feeling

“other than” what their parents expect can range from uncomfortable to

downright scary.

Anything other than what has been envisioned and assumed results in the parents needing to make a “shift” in what they had expected. The nature of the shift will depend on how tied the parents are to their expectations, and what this difference means to them personally, socially, and culturally.

What if, instead of adopting these basic assumptions, parents remained open to who or what their child is or will become?

What if parents provided a blank canvas for their child to paint, rather than providing a paint-by-numbers template?

What if society evolved to the extent that people understood the difference between sex and gender, and the knowledge that some people are simply born transgender?

Imagine how much easier it would be if parents understood not to get too attached to the sex of their child at birth!

What if parents learned to ask“Do you feel like a boy or a girl? Both? Or neither?” instead of telling the child who they are based on anatomy?

What if society at large acknowledged being gay/lesbian/bisexual asa natural way to be, a way of being that is just as valid and recognized as heterosexual?

What if parents learned to say, “Do you like boys or girls?Both? Or neither?” instead of making assumptions of a heteronormative nature?

Parenting from a blank slate standpoint would essentially eliminate the “coming out” process.

Children would be able to evolve and share as their identities developed.

They would not have to hide parts of who they are for fear they might be disappointing their parents. They would not have to overcome the expectations/assumptions that were placed on them at birth.

They would simply be their authentic selves, and parents would know these selves sooner rather than later.

Rather than making assumptions, ask questions, often and early, to help learn who your child is. The questions will serve two purposes: you will learn about your child, and your child will learn that there is a beautiful spectrum of human diversity, not just boxes in which one has to fit.

In order to provide a blank slate for your child so that they can be free to display their authentic self, you must be mindful of your own projections and assumptions. Such things impede the ability of your child to have an actual blank slate on which to create.

Recognize your child is their own individual being, and that you are lucky to witness their true self unfold. Remain curious about how this little individual will turn out.

Your message to your child, both implicitly and explicitly should always

be: “Any way you are is OK.”

More tips for “blank slate” parenting:

—Instead of assuming and then waiting for them to correct you, ask about who your child is.

—Expose them to and talk about diversity: different family structures, identities, and communities.

—Be aware of language. Avoid using the gender dichotomy like“boys and girls.” Try not to use strongly gendered language to refer to your child and others. Incorporate many gender-neutral phrases and expressions to allow more space for your child to decide how they relate to gender.

Excerpted from The Conscious Parent’s Guide to Gender Identity: A MindfulApproach to Embracing Your Child’s Authentic Self by Darlene Tando. Copyright © 2016 F+WMedia, Inc.  Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Join Motherly

Comments20x20 ExportCreated with Sketch.
Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

You might also like:

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

You might also like:

For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

You might also like:

There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.