I knew exactly what my parenting style would be—until I became a mom

Parenting authentically will look different for every mama.

I knew exactly what my parenting style would be—until I became a mom

Some nice words that describe my personality are: self-disciplined, productive, focused, structured, driven. Some less-nice words that describe my personality are: controlling, rigid, impatient, perfectionistic.

On the Enneagram framework, I’m a type 1, which is literally called ‘The Perfectionist.’ I’m about as far on the J side of the Judging-Perceiving spectrum on Myers-Briggs as one can get. I crave productivity, I thrive on routine, I am motivated by the pursuit of perfection—so much so that sometimes I believe perfection is a real, achievable thing. (Go ahead, moms. You can laugh. ?)

But honestly, if you saw me on a normal day of motherhood, you’d think I was the most loosey-goosey parent this side of Lake Michigan. I do prioritize a few things that ground our day—my daughter wakes at 7:00, takes a nap around 12:15, and goes to bed at 7:15 most nights. But sandwiched between those sleep cycles, anything goes.

Sometimes my daughter watches too much TV. Sometimes she’ll entertain herself in her play kitchen for hours. Sometimes we go to the park.

Sometimes we bounce from toy to toy, with me desperately trying to keep her from having another meltdown. Sometimes I hold out when she asks for snacks when I know she’s actually just bored, and sometimes I cave because it’s not a battle I have the energy to fight, and also, I’m on a work deadline.

We don’t do art projects, I don’t scour Pinterest for sensory activities and we rarely venture to the library for story time. (And I’m a former elementary school teacher!) I don’t have a specific discipline model I follow step-by-step, and my parenting philosophy is basically just to treat my child with respect, set limits that help her to be safe and kind, and hope she turns out to be a good human.

When I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with my daughter Selah, I imagined that my perfectionism would have to die a slow and painful death. And it did, kind of.

For her first year, I was hyperfocused on her sleep schedule, feeding times and play routines, but I felt my perfectionism slipping in other areas—the cleanliness of my house, the squishiness of my mom-bod, the amount of writing I could get done in a week.

After she turned one, the rest of it began to slip, too. Selah went down to one nap and suddenly we had a whole lot more time to fill—but I was still working full-time, often from home. She began throwing tantrums like I’d never seen before and I quickly realized that the real work of parenting had begun. An extra nursing session and some time in the Solly wrap couldn’t calm her anymore.

My perfection died the slow and painful death I’d been predicting, and at first—I didn’t even miss it. (The freedom! The flexibility!) But now, several years into this parenting gig, I think I’ve swung the pendulum too far.

I’m not saying I don’t set limits (I do), or that I let Selah run wild (I don’t), or that I cave to her every demand (far from it). But I am saying that I don't always feel like I'm being my authentic self when I have no plan for how I want our days to go and no long-term vision I’m reaching toward.

As much as I've been told throughout my life that I should loosen up, I actually appreciate some of the orderly pieces of my personality, and I miss them.

It’s not great to chase perfection and be inflexible, and we all know this is impossible with children anyway. But I also believe that my ability to bring order to chaos and make intentional use of my time is a strength, and one that can serve me and my family well, especially in this season of life.

Throwing out the rulebook for awhile served a healthy purpose: I learned who my daughter is and what she needs and what she responds to and how she connects with me. But now I’m ready to reconnect with who I am as a person and who I’d like to be as a parent. For right now, parenting authentically looks like trying to find the balance in who I am (a perfectionist planner), who I became (a bit too passive), and who I want to be (a purposeful mom).

Rather than a parenting rulebook, I’m playing with the idea of creating a family manifesto—a vision for who we are as individuals, what we collectively want for the good of our family, and how we plan to use our collective strength for the good of each other and the world.

But for today, maybe we’ll watch just one more episode of Daniel Tiger. Mama still has work to do. ?

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

Keep reading Show less
Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less

The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

Keep reading Show less