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My two kids need two different types of parenting—and it took me a while to realize that

My oldest is neurodiverse. My youngest neurotypical. They both need me in different ways.

My two kids need two different types of parenting—and it took me a while to realize that

Before I had kids, I would often daydream and imagine them. Their faces weren't clear, but I knew they would be tiny versions of me and my husband, and I was sure they would also be perfectly behaved. I equated this to my own experience of being an "easy" child—my mom could give me one sideways glance and I knew to act appropriately or I was in big trouble.

I assumed I would parent the same way and my children would reflect my open heart while also having perfect manners... because I wouldn't have it any other way.

Then I had kids and was confronted with a new truth: What happens when our parenting reality doesn't match our expectations?


I have two beautiful boys now, ages 8 and 6. It was a long and complicated journey just to get them here on earth. My older son is sweet, sensitive, smart, introspective, quizzical and complicated. He is not a good listener and can be inflexible and impulsive. He has a hard time socially. He is a "sensory" kid, a "grey area" kid, a pie chart kid, a maybe ADHD kid, a definitely not ADHD but maybe autism spectrum kid, a pre-spectrum kid, a who-knows-what, kid.

We have been through countless evaluations, interventions and therapies to get him where he is now, and have come to realize he is his own complicated and brilliant design of a human and not any particular label.

He is, however, neurodiverse, a term I have struggled with and simultaneously celebrated as his proud mom. He has defied all my ideas and expectations of what I thought my kids would be like, and he has challenged my motherly instincts to the darkest depths of my soul. I've fallen to the floor in a puddle of frustrated tears more often than I care to admit, and I'm working about a thousand times harder than most moms just to keep him at stasis.

On the contrary, my younger son is neurotypical, and mostly what I imagined. He is happy, sweet, funny and social. He often has to be the peacemaker in situations to help out his big brother. He hasn't struggled at all the ways my older son has, and watching him develop only two years behind in such a different way has been incredibly eye-opening.

My husband and I have parented these two boys the same, yet they are so very different. It has confirmed to me what we already know—that so much of this parenting thing is not in our control.

A friend of mine recently sent me a quote by Dr. Shefali, author of The Conscious Parent that really resonated with me. It said "parent the child in front of you and not the child you fantasized about having."

It has taken all of my patience and dedication to parent my neurodiverse son, but it has surprised me and brought me joy in ways I also didn't expect.

My son has a hard time making friends but he can tell you anything you need to know about the solar system. He is an avid reader and a better mathematician at 8 years old than many adults. He loves to surf because he says he feels the ocean in his soul. He is a Minecraft Roblox warrior. Most importantly, he asks wise and meaningful questions about life and complicated feelings.

Quarantine has been especially difficult for him and our family dynamic. Most parents have struggled during this time, but compound that with having a child who needs extra exercise and structure; who was used to having hours of intervention and support weekly to thrive, and who struggles socially. It was a perfect storm, and it was the most difficult challenge we've faced together, but we did it.

He has made parenting that much more of an exquisite learning experience, certainly not what I expected, and often times frustrating and heartbreaking, but a challenge I've accepted with an equal amount of grief, grace and gratitude.

Like all mamas, my love for my baby boy is fierce and boundless and I will continue to fight for him every day of my life.

So next time you see a parent or child struggling, open your heart and have compassion. They are probably working harder than you, even though their child may not reflect that. Whether it's parenting or some other struggle, we are all navigating some version of our own expectation versus reality, as we wander through this messy, beautiful and complicated journey we call life.

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One of the main reasons we launched the Motherly Shop is to help take some of that stress away. We've tracked down the best brands and products developed by people (and in many cases, women!) that truly work to serve the needs of real mamas, especially throughout the overwhelming transition into motherhood.

That's why we knew we had to introduce mamas-to-be to the science-backed and expertly-formulated protein collagen for pregnancy from Needed. And as one of our bestsellers, it's clear you've been looking for it, too.

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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.

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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:

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

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