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Exactly five years ago, at 9:21 a.m., I got the first glimpse at the soul who made me a mother.


The doctor put her on my belly and I looked at her in awe. When they announced excitedly “It’s a girl,” I barely registered that information. I was staring at the perfectly formed tiny human that I grew for 42 weeks. I made that—and it was perfect! I admired the button nose, the chubby cheeks, the beautiful, perfect ears in disbelief. Wow! So this is what a miracle looks like!

We get to do all of that inside our growing bellies. It requires no thinking, not (many) deliberate activities or conscious action on our part. It just happens because that’s how nature made it happen.

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It’s magic.

What I didn’t know back then was that this tiny bundle of clenched fists and layered fluff would initiate the deepest, most profound transformation, soul evolution and mind-blowing personal development for me.

Today she is 5 and we’ve been busy celebrating her latest desire to be a mermaid. I’ve baked a sugar-free cake, the lemonade dispenser is empty and I can now sit down and share with you some of the things I’ve learned these past five years.

1. Parenting a child became revolutionary the moment I realized that this is my chance to reparent myself

The way I was parented was not ideal for me. I wish I were held when I was sent away to my room. I wish I were taught to ask questions rather than memorize. I wish I were supported in making mistakes and learn from them instead of striving for perfection.
I strongly believe that my mother and father loved me deeply, the best they could. But that doesn’t mean that was good enough for me.

So, when I had a child, all the painful memories of my childhood once again resurfaced. I thought them healed or at least gone. They weren’t.

When my daughter did something similar to what I did when I was small, I had a choice to react the same way my parents reacted to me and continue the cycle, strengthening the belief that it was the right thing. When she became angry, I could send her to her room to deal with it. That would have been the easiest for me. But then I remembered how that felt. Lonely. Raging. Misunderstood. “Me against them.”

So I didn’t.

Instead, I sat there, in the middle of her anger storm and took it all in. I allowed her to cry as loud and as long as she wanted to. I encouraged her to express it all, even (and especially) when it wasn’t “proper.” While I stood there, battling my demons and desperately repeating to myself, “I am a good mother. This is not about me. This is her right to be accepted and loved unconditionally.” And guess what? Eventually, the storm passed. The anger passed. And the silence followed. And that’s when the good stuff comes. Holding her, telling her that everybody has big feelings and that it’s perfectly okay to take them out of your body, mind, and soul. The soft, deep tears at the end. Hers. And mine. Mixed.

She healed her anger.

I healed my past.

I was kind when I could have been distant.

I stood still when I could have run away.

I opened up to feel sadness and helplessness, even when it was excruciating.

Everything my children do is an opportunity for me to repeat the history or create a new pattern of behavior and thought that would affect not only me and my children but the generations to come.

Sitting in pain is hard. But it passes. It always does. And that’s when the good things start happening. If we check out for the hard stuff, we are opting out from the growth and healing that come after.

2. When it’s difficult physically, it’s the most rewarding emotionally

The first year of the baby’s life is, in my opinion, the hardest. Birthing hurts and leaves scars, both physically and emotionally. Breastfeeding can be challenging and sometimes very painful. Lack of sleep is a medieval torture method. Adjustments must be made in identity, relationships, roles and responsibilities and the person I thought I was but no longer am. It’s transformational.

But that first year when my struggle was at its highest peak, that tiny baby who entered my life had one emotional role: to love me. She wanted to be held the entire time, cuddled, adored and snuggled. She could look in my eyes for hours and sleep while holding my finger very tight. She showed me what unconditional love meant for her and helped me remember and rediscover mine. It was hard work because I never knew that I could be somebody else’s everything.

3. When it becomes easier, it only gets deeper

When my baby started sleeping longer, becoming more self-sufficient, eating by herself and doing things more independently, that’s when I felt I was given the mental space so I can deal with the next stage:

tantrums, anger and tears

frustrations

questions

My child cried for 45 minutes because her cereal wasn’t crunchy enough.
She asked me “why do you like me, mama,” “what’s my risponsibilitee” and “why did the iPad battery finish and will my battery finish as well” in a span of 20 minutes.

Yes, I was gifted more sleep, but I need that so I can come up with better answers to these questions.

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4. Everything that is triggered in me by my child has more to do with me

All moms get triggered by different things. While for you, allowing your kids to roam freely during dinner and just come for a bite here and there is a perfectly fine way to conduct life, for another mother this is quite possibly borderline insanity. The difference? How we relate to these experiences based on our own history.

So when my child stands up during dinner time to go fetch a toy, I could just say, “Please sit down, we are all still eating dinner.”

That normally doesn’t happen.

Instead, many of us bring out the big guns almost immediately:

“If you stand up from the table there is no more food!”

“You’re driving me crazy! I’ve been preparing this food for hours, and all you do now is take a bite and leave!”

“Go to your room. Dinner is over!”

“Sit down right now. Otherwise, I will take all of your toys away!”

“You are disrespecting me!”

“Really? Is this something you really MUST do right now? Really?”

“I’ve been working hard so I can put this food on the table! You now sit down and eat it!”

In reality, we are mostly reacting from a place of hurt.

I was raised with a scarcity mentality. There was never enough; there might not be more tomorrow, the food was precious and everybody had to finish their plate even when it wasn’t necessary or enjoyable. I understand why my parents did it. They were subjected to this as children of parents who had to survive during not one, but two wars, lack of food, safety and love.

I’m grateful I don’t have to battle with this anymore, so I choose to let it go. When my kid is full, I respect her judgment and body. When she doesn’t like the food I cooked, I am sure to make a note of her preferences without taking it personally.

It’s never about something that my child does. It’s all how I view it from my own experience. But the unconscious, knee-jerk reaction is almost always the same one I encountered as a child. The biggest triggers I feel gravitate around food, expressing negative emotions, self-discovery, perceived danger and academic results.

5. The way I talk to my child is the way she will talk to herself and others

I discovered this as I was eavesdropping during bedtime. I put the kids to bed one evening and I stepped out. The three of them share a room—and one of them is noisier than the other two.

My oldest daughter was softly whispering, “It’s ok, I’m here with you and I love you very much. You are safe. Just close your eyes, cuddle your Mimi and think about all the happy things that happened today.”

Noisy child continued making noise. She followed, “Now I’m serious! You close your eyes! It’s time! Right now!”

Even though it was funny, I could hear myself in her words.

The other day, just before bedtime she was making a list of all the things she loves: “I love my family, I love my papa the most, I love my mama, I love my brother, I love my sister, I love my Mimi, I love myself, I love my toys, I love my bed. The end.”

We talk about self-love, self-compassion and treating ourselves and our bodies with kindness, gentleness and love. And now, she says it out loud “I love myself.” It was the proudest I’ve ever felt as a parent. What more do I want to instill in my child if not a base of self-love?

In many homes around the world, however, parents still believe in “tough love,” telling the kids they are not enough, they are not doing enough and they haven’t achieved enough—in an effort to so motivate them to do more.

And while this goal might be reached and those kids will indeed become more successful, their inner dialogue will mirror the words they heard: “you are not enough,” “you are not doing enough,” “you haven’t achieved enough.”

These are my lessons. While not all have been easy to accept or allow in my heart, they have been radically changing the way I think, behave, love and react to my children and the other people around me.

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Things We're Loving

It was s historical moment for the word and a scary moment for a woman who had just become a mother for the first time.

When the Duchess of Cambridge made stepped out of the Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital on July 22, 2013, with her new baby in her arms she was happy—but understandably scared, too.

Kate Middleton recently appeared on Giovanna Fletcher's Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast and when Fletcher asked her about her postpartum debut Kate said she was understandably freaked out when she stepped out with her newborn.

"Yeah, slightly terrifying, slightly terrifying, I'm not going to lie," Kate said.

During the podcast the Duchess opened up about her pregnancy and birth experiences, explaining how much hypnobirthing helped her and that she didn't know whether she was delivering prince or princess until Prince George was born as she'd opted to be surprised.

She was surprised and thrilled when she met her son, and looking forward to post-pregnancy life after spending her pregnancy quite ill with hyperemesis gravidarum (a seriously debilitating form of extreme morning sickness). She was so happy, but it was also (very understandably) an overwhelming experience. In addition to all the pressure new moms feel, Kate had an army of photographers waiting outside the hospital for her.

"Everything goes in a bit of a blur. I think, yeah I did stay in hospital overnight, I remember it was one of the hottest days and night with huge thunderstorms so I didn't get a huge amount of sleep, but George did, which was really great," she explained. "I was keen to get home because, for me, being in hospital, I had all the memories of being in hospital because of being sick [with acute morning sickness] so it wasn't a place I wanted to hang around in. So, I was really desperate to get home and get back to normality."

Kate wanted to get home, but she also really did want to share her baby boy with the public who had been so supportive of her young family, she explains.

"Everyone had been so supportive and both William and I were really conscious that this was something that everyone was excited about and you know we're hugely grateful for the support that the public had shown us, and actually for us to be able to share that joy and appreciation with the public, I felt was really important," she shared, adding that "Equally it was coupled with a newborn baby, and inexperienced parents, and the uncertainty of what that held, so there were all sorts of mixed emotions."

"All sorts of mixed emotions."

The now-iconic images of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge exiting the hospital with their firstborn have gone down in history, but so has Kate's bravery that day.

There's been a lot written about whether those pictures put pressure on other moms who might not feel ready for heels and blowouts right after giving birth, but one thing critics of the photocall often miss is the positive impact it had on other young women.

Yes, Kate looked beautiful, but she also looked like a woman whose body had just given birth—and the iconic images of her in that polka-dot dress taught a generation of women that the female body isn't an elastic band and that recovering from birth takes time.

"I, myself remember being really surprised when Kate Middleton came out of the hospital holding Prince George," Tina, now a mom herself and a model of postpartum realness in Mothercare's "Body Proud Mums campaign" explained last year.

Tina recalls how Kate's postpartum appearance showed her a reality society hadn't: "She had the baby bump, and I remember being surprised that your belly doesn't just go down after giving birth. I also thought how stupid I was to have ever thought it would. I guess pre-children you just have unrealistic expectations."

Tina wasn't stupid, she just hadn't been shown the truth.

So thank you, Kate, for stepping out of that hospital in 2013, despite being terrified, and showing the world your beautiful baby and your bump.



News

Despite the encouraging growth of free or subsidized preschools in some American cities, the fact remains that preschool and daycare cost about as much as rent in many areas.

But there's some good news, which is that parents who pay for preschool or daycare while they're at work may qualify for a credit that can help you save money on taxes this year. Here's what all parents should know before filing their returns.

Is preschool tuition tax-deductible?

The sum of your child's entire preschool tuition is not tax deductible, but you may be able to get something better than a deduction: a credit called the Child and Dependent Care Credit, worth up to $1,050 for one child and up to $2,100 for two or more kids.

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How do I know if I'm eligible for the Child Dependent Care Tax Credit?

There are a few criteria to be eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Credit:

  • If you have someone take care of your child so you can work or look for work
  • Your child is under the age of 13 at the end of the tax year (no age limit if they are disabled)
  • You must be able to claim your child as a dependent
  • Your filing status must be single, head of household, qualifying widow or widower with a qualifying child, or married filing jointly.

Does preschool tuition count as dependent care?

Yes, it does count if you are paying someone to take care of your child so you can work or look for work. Day camps, such as summer camps and sports camps, count as well, but overnight camps don't.

How much could I potentially get back on taxes for preschool tuition?

If you are able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit, you may be able to claim up to $1,050 for one child and up to $2,100 for two or more children.

The great thing about credits is they are a dollar for dollar reduction of your taxes. So if you owe taxes of $1,050 and have one child, you may qualify for a credit of up to $1,050 and wipe out the taxes you owe.

The credit is based on a sliding scale: Depending on your income, your credit is 20%-35% of your childcare expenses up to $3,000 (or $1,050), and 20%-35% of childcare expenses up to $6,000 (or $2,100) for two or more kids.

The bottom line: While this tax credit is unlikely to completely cover your child's preschool tuition for the year, don't miss out on this tax credit if you're paying for preschool or daycare for your child so that you can work. And remember to check your eligibility for other tax credits and deductions for families, including the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Credit.
Work + Money

Celestial baby names are flying high right now, and the brightest star of them all? Well, it's actually Luna, the name of the Roman goddess of the moon, and the Latin word for "moon."

At #23 in the US in 2019, Luna's rise has been, well, astronomical ever since it re-entered the Top 1000 in 2003, for the first time in almost a century. That was the year that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was first published, featuring the kooky but courageous Luna Lovegood.

The once-unique baby name has since been picked up by stylish celebrity parents such as Penelope Cruz, Uma Thurman and John Legend, and now ranks in the Top 100 in at least 18 other countries, including Australia, Chile, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway and Slovenia.

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But if Luna's meteoric rise to the top of the baby name popularity charts puts you off, here are 100 more magical, moon-inspired baby names to consider.

Baby names that mean moon

Girls' names that mean "moon" include a multitude of attractive Turkish names containing the element ay, meaning (you guessed it!) "moon." These range from rising international star Ayla to popular picks like Miray, Belinay and Aysima, which are all in the current Turkish Top 50 for girls.

Boy names that mean "moon" include dozens of dynamic Japanese names like Michika, Reito and Tsukio, which can all be formed from different kanji combinations to give various moon-related meanings.

Moon-inspired girl names

  1. Aruna: This pretty Japanese name, which can mean "moon love" (depending on the kanji characters used), is a perfect underused alternative to popular A-sandwich choices like Aria and Aurora.
  2. Esmeray: A beautiful Turkish name with the evocative meaning of "dark moon", which might appeal to lovers of rapid riser Esme.
  3. Lusine: Also spelled Lucine or Lusineh, this sophisticated Armenian choice could make for an unexpected route to Lucy or Lou.
  4. Mahina: A moon goddess in Hawaiian mythology, whose attractive name literally means "moon" in the Hawaiian language.
  5. Sasithorn: This poetic word for the moon is also used as a name in its native Thailand, pronounced "sah-see-TAWN". Sweet short form Sasi also means "moon".

And here are a few more of our favorite lunar names for girls from around the globe:

  1. Adzumi
  2. Aysel
  3. Channary
  4. Hala
  5. Indu
  6. Livana
  7. Lua
  8. Mahrukh
  9. Miray
  10. Neoma
  11. Orana
  12. Quilla
  13. Runa
  14. Saran
  15. Sihana
  16. Tsuki
  17. Vinterny
  18. Volana
  19. Zira
  20. Zulay

Moon-inspired boy names

  1. Ainar: This strong-sounding Kazakh name is actually unisex, meaning "male moon", "fire moon" or "pomegranate moon" (what a great image!).
  2. Isildur: A literary lunar name from J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium, in which it belongs to a heroic king.
  3. Jerah: A rare Biblical boys' name with a contemporary sound, which could make for a great underused alternative to the likes of Noah and Jeremiah.
  4. Mani: Properly spelled Máni, this energetic mini name belongs to the personification of the moon in Norse mythology.
  5. Vikesh: A strong and striking Hindu name which is fairly common in India, but virtually unknown elsewhere.

And here's a selection of other great moon names for boys from around the globe:

  1. Asaki
  2. Aydemir
  3. Badar
  4. Chanchai
  5. Dal
  6. Ehaan
  7. Hilal
  8. Iyar
  9. Kamer
  10. Koray
  11. Luan
  12. Mahan
  13. Maziar
  14. Naito
  15. Nantu
  16. Qamar
  17. Rakesh
  18. Rua
  19. Zoro
  20. Zunair

Galactic moon names

We recently reported on the rise of planetary baby names, as well as of mythological names relating to the heavens, like Apollo and Zephyr: Greek gods of the sun and the west wind, respectively.

But how about the names of other moons? There are some stellar options out there, mostly drawn from myth, legend and literature—right on trend, but rarely used.

Galactic moon-inspired girl names

  1. Amalthea: A moon of Jupiter, named for the goat (or goat-keeper) who raised the infant Zeus. It would make a lovely longer form for the fashionable mini-name Thea.
  2. Calypso: A fun-filled name with a lively rhythm and musical links to the West Indies. Callie and Cleo could make for great nicknames.
  3. Leda: The name of the beautiful mother of Helen of Troy in Greek mythology is surprisingly underused, despite its simple, international appeal: it was given to just 17 baby girls in 2018.
  4. Thebe: Far rarer than Phoebe, but with the same light and simple sound, Thebe is another moon of Jupiter.
  5. Skathi: This tiny moon of Saturn is named for Skaði, the Norse goddess of winter and archery.

And here are a few more appealing faraway moon names for girls:

  1. Anthe
  2. Belinda
  3. Bianca
  4. Carme
  5. Cressida
  6. Despina
  7. Elara
  8. Galatea
  9. Helene
  10. Io
  11. Larissa
  12. Mab
  13. Miranda
  14. Ophelia
  15. Pandora
  16. Perdita
  17. Rhea
  18. Rosalind
  19. Thalassa
  20. Titania

Galactic moon-inspired boy names

  1. Ariel: This handsome Hebrew name may have become far more popular for girls in the US, thanks to a certain Little Mermaid, but it's a truly unisex choice in Israel: #4 for boys and #23 for girls in the last year on record (2016).
  2. Fenrir: The name of a monstrous wolf in Norse mythology, and of an evil werewolf in the Harry Potter books—but if Wolf itself can catch on…
  3. Hyperion: One of the Titans in Greek mythology, Hyperion lends his majestic name to another of Saturn's moons.
  4. Narvi: Also spelled Narfi, this quirky Norse mythology name belongs to the father of Nótt, the personification of the night.
  5. Umbriel: A moon of Uranus, named (along with Ariel and Belinda) for a character from Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock. The name was probably inspired by Latin umbra "shadow."

And here are more magical moon names for boys from myth and legend:

  1. Aegir
  2. Atlas
  3. Caliban
  4. Ferdinand
  5. Francisco
  6. Janus
  7. Loge
  8. Neso
  9. Nix
  10. Oberon
  11. Pan
  12. Prospero
  13. Proteus
  14. Puck
  15. Sao
  16. Stephano
  17. Surtur
  18. Titan
  19. Trinculo
  20. Ymir

This post by Emma Waterhouse was first published on Nameberry

Learn + Play

My son is terrified that he might win his school's reading contest. If he does, he'll be invited, with the other winners, to attend a special lunch at a local Chinese food restaurant. My son loves books. He hates Chinese food. In fact, he hates pretty much any food that isn't chicken fingers, french fries, ketchup, bagels and cream cheese, or cereal. Occasionally he'll eat a jam sandwich but only if the jam isn't homemade. He'll eat apples, but only Red Delicious. And carrots. Raw.

I know what you're thinking. I let our child dictate the menu for the entire household based on his sugary and basic likes. Except I don't. I just have a very picky eater.

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His fussiness over food has been something I've struggled with. I devoured articles on picky eaters and followed their advice to the letter. Did you know that if you present picky eaters with a certain food an average of 17 times they will finally try it because it seems "familiar"? Except he didn't.

I tried sneaking "good" food into what he would eat. Bran muffins harbored shredded zucchini. Pizza sauce hid pureed carrots. Chocolate cake was made moist with pumpkin. I felt like a cheater. And still, it didn't work. This kid has olfactory skills that would shame drug-sniffing dogs – assuming the drugs smelled like broccoli.

I model good eating. A plate loaded with organic veggies aside whole-wheat pasta, for example. Homemade bread teeming with hemp seed. Even my "bad" food is good—biodynamic wine and homemade tortilla chips.

Nope. He had none of it.

I felt inferior to friends whose toddlers nibbled shrimp or requested sushi with an adorable lisp. I envied their breezy sophistication. Their worldly and open-minded kids. I feared a life that precluded ever taking my son to a restaurant that didn't offer a kids' menu. I imagined the future people who would never date him, joking with their friends about his love of "nuggets." I imagined the jobs he wouldn't get because the executives, over lunch, would conclude he couldn't think outside the box, given that his food was served in one.

But most of all, I worried about what my son's narrow appetite said about me.

I was pedestrian. Parochial. Predictable. Picky.

It's with that realization that I was able to abandon my mission to convince, cajole, bribe, trick or otherwise coerce my child into eating food he refuses.

I ate pizza for the first time on my 19th birthday. Tried lasagna in my second year of college. And finally indulged in spaghetti and meatballs when, at 23, I was poor, studying in France and ordered the cheapest—and most recognizable—thing on the menu. I was 25 before I tried any type of ethnic food. Twenty-eight before I ate lobster. I still don't eat ketchup. Or mayonnaise. Or mustard. I'm not just anti-condiment. I also won't touch fish with their eyes intact. Liver. Tongue. The list goes on and on.

My own childhood menu consisted of bologna sandwiches (white bread, thank you very much). Saltines. Boiled potatoes. I ate hamburgers, plain. Chicken (white meat only) with no skin or sauce, broiled. Iceberg lettuce and carrots. Occasionally I would eat an apple. My brother refuses to accept I've ever been a child since I didn't eat peanut butter, "the official food of childhood," he points out.

What changed? Well, I grew up. Moved away from home. Spent time in another country renowned for its food. On my own, I began to experiment. To try, just a nibble. With no one taking inventory of what went into my mouth, I felt freer to explore and draw my own conclusions.

I'm beginning to believe my son will follow a similar path. Just the other day he tried red pepper. "Yuck," he said.

Will he someday meet me for sushi? I doubt it.

But I don't like sushi anyway.

Life
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