A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Print Friendly and PDF

It strikes me, after being a parent for eight years, that at least one of my kids’ needs are different enough to warrant exploration. This child is brilliant, kind, and tender-hearted, but complete collapse occurs when exposed to big groups, the seams of socks, or noise. Disciplining, even the gentle type we try to employ, is a game of finding exactly the right words so my super sensitive child won’t spiral into a world of self-loathing when corrected.


I worry about the present. I worry about this child’s future. There is nothing wrong with my kid, but I feel out of my league in trying to give this one exactly what is needed to keep growth and happiness on course.

It may be because I’m raising an orchid.

Orchids versus dandelions

We’ve all seen dandelions. The resilient flower can grow in the cracks in concrete and thrive in almost any climate. Now apply those traits to a child. There are dandelion kids that can persevere through small and large challenges, including poverty, neglect, and abuse. These children bounce back, keep growing, and aren’t thrown off course by most situations.

The opposite is an orchid child, a term that hit the scene in the early 21st century when researchers found that around a fifth of kids in the study struggled with situations the majority them didn’t. These orchid children tend to be introverts. They thrive on routine and are especially sensitive to their environment. Picky eating and noise sensitivity can be signs of an orchid, as can having a hard time with change or transitions, either large or small.

FEATURED VIDEO

In the beginning of my orchid child’s life, this wasn’t a big deal. Infants and toddlers are often clingy, and new situations and big crowds throw them out of the comfort zone they enjoy. As time marches on and we enter the school-age years, this overly sensitive reaction to all things wears me down, and I am sure my child feels misunderstood. I need an answer to the questions what does my orchid child need, and how do I provide it?

What creates an orchid?

Why some children fall into the dandelion category while others are orchids is not 100 percent clear, but researchers believe genetics play a part. Orchid children seem to have genes in common that place them firmly in the fragile category.   

While researchers continue to look into glucocorticoid receptor gene NR3C1, a gene that Duke University called a genetic marker in orchid children, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University are also exploring gene CHRM2 – associated with alcohol dependency, it is also considered a possible orchid child gene, and this makes sense.  

Researchers know that orchid children are at higher risk for depression, alcohol dependency, and a cortisol stress response that may contribute to their overly startled reaction to small incidents. They also sometimes suffer from behavioral issues. Other genes are also under investigation when looking into orchid children, but all look to have something to do with behavioral issues, stress, and addictions.

My research wasn’t yielding encouraging news in the beginning since depression, anxiety, and drugs kept coming up in all the research about orchid children as adults. I clung to the only silver lining I could find which was that I didn’t intentionally give my kid these genes, so no mom guilt on that one.  

I know that like a seed can’t decide what kind of flower it’s going to be, children don’t choose their genes. From birth some children may be wired to the hypersensitive habits of an orchid. Fortunately or unfortunately, just like an orchid is hyper-sensitive to its environment, so are orchid children. In fact, researchers found that how much they are affected is  astounding.  

Environment changes everything

Parents of orchid children don’t want to change their children. Highly sensitive children bring their own perspective to situations, often exhibiting extremely honed observation skills and tenderness and empathy to spare. The fear with orchid children arises when we look at all the possible bad outcomes related to their genetic disposition. No one wants their child to grow up to be a manic depressive alcoholic because of an increased sensitivity level and some genes.  

It can be frustrating explaining every transition in detail multiple times, even if we’ve done it before. Knowing that one wrong word will set my orchid child off on a tirade of self-hate is shattering.  

A recent article in The Atlantic offers some reason for hope. According to the researchers and contributors I should be concerned but also empowered. Children who grow up in a supportive environment that offers what they need don’t wither, in fact, they often thrive. David Dobbs, author of the article, went as far as to conclude that with a good environment and solid parents, orchid kids “can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people.”

A benefit to all that sensitivity is that orchid children are prepared for, and receptive to, help. A recent years-long study developed at Duke University showed that dandelion children, the resilient breed, are not affected by intervention programs, for better or worse. They generally manage through their circumstances and aren’t pulled too far down by bad environments or too far up by programs meant to help.  

Orchid children are. This means that despite the fact that they are in a tough spot in a world full of dandelions, they are susceptible to environments of support and will grow quite well when exposed to them.

What does my orchid need?

Orchid children’s needs are much the same as any child’s. Empathy, kindness, and an understanding of their struggles is key. Dr. Thomas Boyce, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California, spoke to Susan Cain for her “Quiet” podcast titled “Parenting the Highly Sensitive Child”. He stresses knowing which battles to pick and which to let go.   

Physical stressors, such as fabrics that itch or noises that are too loud, will set off an orchid. It’s not a show they are putting on or something they have much control over. Brain scans show they are wired to respond dramatically to certain factors, so don’t fight with them about the physical ones. This is why my orchid doesn’t wear socks, even if it’s cold outside. The seam of the sock is an issue, and it’s not worth the fight.  Sandals are our go-to.  

Former orchid child and now scientific director of the Imagine Institute, Scott Barry Kaufman, also spoke during that podcast. He says overprotecting orchids is a mistake. Yes, they need to be shielded from obviously over stressful situations, such as being thrown into a group of 100 other kids with no preparation or assistance while being forced to wear itchy pants and eat sour food. However, they need to grow up knowing their parents are confident in their abilities to survive, despite how fragile they are.

Parents do best to pick experiences that are reasonable and discuss what is going to happen. They can then send their orchid child off with the assurance that his parents know he’s going to be fine. A supportive environment is not an overly protective one but one that tries to understand the challenges an orchid child faces and help them learn to navigate the world.

Obviously, predictable routines suit orchids well, as does a gentle form of punishment. Research shows that yelling and spanking damage children as opposed to actually changing their behavior, and for orchid children these aggressive approaches likely won’t be tolerated well.

The beauty of the orchid

Dandelion and orchid children are different, but one is not superior to the other. Though there are very specific challenges that come with raising an orchid child, orchid children possess remarkable skills that, in the right environment, benefit them.

The overly responsive reaction to stress that is deep within their genes makes them highly responsive to social and emotional cues when they are in a nurturing environment where they receive support. The behavioral issues, when dealt with in a disciplined yet gentle way, can be tamed to help these children make beneficial decisions about risks that might be worth the reward.

Orchid children are more prone to illnesses, many of them respiratory, and being raised in a family where stress is the norm causes them to fall ill more often. However, in an environment that is the right fit, orchids will experience less illness than dandelions, the children who have lower reactions to either positive or negative environments.

Knowing the news is not all bad, simply detailed, helps me on this journey forward. We can offer a supportive environment, let the small things go, and work on behavior management calmly. Knowing how essential this is to all my children, but especially my orchid, makes it even more of a priority than it was before.  

Orchid children have the most to lose, a genetic predisposition they can’t control. They also have the most to gain. Just like with any flower, it depends on where they’re planted.  

 

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.

If there's one thing you learn as a new mama, it's that routine is your friend. Routine keeps your world spinning, even when you're trucking along on less than four hours of sleep. Routine fends off tantrums by making sure bellies are always full and errands aren't run when everyone's patience is wearing thin. And routine means naps are taken when they're supposed to, helping everyone get through the day with needed breaks.

The only problem? Life doesn't always go perfectly with the routine. When my daughter was born, I realized quickly that, while her naps were the key to a successful (and nearly tear-free!) day, living my life according to her nap schedule wasn't always possible. There were groceries to fetch, dry cleaning to pick up, and―if I wanted to maintain any kind of social life―lunch dates with friends to enjoy.

Which is why the Ergobaby Metro Compact City Stroller was such a life-saver. While I loved that it was just 14 pounds (perfect for hoisting up the stairs to the subway or in the park) and folds down small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment (you know, when I'm brave enough to travel again!), the real genius of this pint-sized powerhouse is that it doesn't skimp on comfort.

Nearly every surface your baby touches is padded with plush cushions to provide side and lumbar support to everything from their sweet head to their tiny tush―it has 40% more padding than other compact strollers. When nap time rolls around, I could simply switch the seat to its reclined position with an adjustable leg rest to create an instant cozy nest for my little one.

There's even a large UV 50 sun canopy to throw a little shade on those sleepy eyes. And my baby wasn't the only one benefiting from the comfortable design― the Metro is the only stroller certified "back healthy" by the AGR of Germany, meaning mamas get a much-needed break too.

I also appreciate how the Metro fits comfortably into my life. The sleek profile fits through narrow store aisles as easily as it slides up to a table when I'm able to meet a pal for brunch. Plus, the spring suspension means the tires absorb any bumps along our way―helping baby stay asleep no matter where life takes us. When it's time to take my daughter out, it folds easily with one hand and has an ergonomic carry handle to travel anywhere we want to go.

Life will probably never be as predictable as I'd like, but at least with our Metro stroller, I know my child will be cradled with care no matter what crosses our path.

This article is sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Shop

The phrase "women can have it all" has always left a sour taste in my mouth. Sure, our options for fulfillment extend beyond the home. But between wage gaps, the astronomical cost of childcare, student loans and ever-rising living costs coupled with shrinking wages, can we have it all?

Some women know their calling is at home with their babies and they make it work. They budget like it's an Olympic sport and find resourceful ways to save money. Many women are single mothers and are the sole earners in their homes. Every household has different needs and we absolutely deserve to choose whatever best fits our lifestyle.

Whatever that fit may be, it never encompasses "all."

I knew from a young age that I loved babies and wanted a family of my own, but that vision always included me working. Maybe it was the 90's TV boom of Ally McBeal and Detective Olivia Benson but I knew I wanted a career. I wanted a purpose that contributed to the world outside of my home. I knew I wanted a degree or two, maybe three. The fact that I made up my mind so early and never wavered, made me sure that "mom guilt" was something that other women felt; women who maybe felt the pull to be home but other circumstances were in their way.

FEATURED VIDEO

Mom guilt wouldn't hit me, I'd be immune, I thought.

Fast forward to the first month I went back to work from maternity leave. I ugly cried on my way into the office so frequently that I kept makeup in my car so I could fix it before going inside.

I'd dive headfirst into work until I had to pause to pump. Work, pump, work, pump, shove in some lunch at my desk at some point and sprint out the door to get my baby. I was productive but distracted. When I was at work, I wanted to be home. When I was home, I thought about the possible mistakes I had made at work.

I was in a job that was full of stress, last minute late nights, terrible pay and no appreciation. But from the standpoint of working and having a family, I had both. I had it "all."

Some days, I felt as though I was maybe just ungrateful for all the responsibilities I had to juggle. I blamed my attitude.

Facing my unhappiness at work and the baggage I brought home to my daughter and husband weighed on me. Then, six months postpartum, I lost my dad. I packed up that baby and flew home to say goodbye.

At the visitation, his colleagues shared many memorable stories, but the ones that kept coming up were his dedication to his wife and six children. They were memories of my sisters and I hanging out in his office, coloring while our mom worked. In fact, one of my masterpieces, a mosaic Great Dane, still hangs in my dad's old office window on Court Street because the owner of the building watched us grow up and didn't have the heart to take it down when he retired.

Dad was an attorney who nearly always made it home by 5:30, something unheard of in the world of owning your own practice. He didn't live to work; he worked to live.

I realized that when I leave this world, I don't want anyone to tell my children stories about how hard I worked. I wanted them to tell my children stories about how much I loved them and that they always came first. I had to make a change.

The right doors opened in the next month and I eagerly took on an entire career change (not something I necessarily recommend with a 7-month-old, but we made it work). I closed the doors of childhood ambitions that didn't match with the type of mother I wanted to be. It wasn't sad, it was liberating.

My new job included work from home days and a team of women, mostly moms, who value hard work and success but prioritize family and their roles as mothers. That attitude starts at the top of the company and trickles down. It was a breath of fresh air after seven months of feeling like I was suffocating.

Despite these life changes, I still don't have it "all." What I do have is realistic expectations for what I can accomplish in a day.

I have a house that looks like it's been ransacked Monday through Friday. I have a sink full of dishes.

I have a car littered with smashed cheddar frogs and peanut butter smears. I have a bedroom containing endless laundry baskets of clean clothes that get folded and put away maybe once a month.

I have a supportive partner whom I madly love and helps me rage clean all of the above when we can't take it anymore. I have a happy, healthy daughter who couldn't care less about dishes, laundry and dog hairballs.

I have a job that contributes to the betterment of humanity and a team who makes office days a joy.

I have women in my ear sharing their disdain for me working out of the home, but I also have women in my ear championing me as a mother, wife, homemaker, and career woman.

Maybe the answer to finding that peace was leaving a toxic job. Or maybe it was found in losing my dad and having my daughter in the same six months. Perhaps it was the priority shift that followed those changes. It could have been extending the same grace to myself that I so willingly give to those I love. Whatever it was, I'm grateful to have found it so I can enjoy living in our good old days, today. I don't have it all, but I really love everything I have.

You might also like:

Work + Money

It's been more than a year since Khloé Kardashian welcomed her daughter True Thompson into the world, and like a lot of new moms, Khloé didn't just learn how to to be a mom this year, she also learned how to co-parent with someone who is no longer her partner. According to the Pew Research Center, co-parenting and the likelihood that a child will spend part of their childhood living with just one parent is on the rise.

There was a ton of media attention on Khloé's relationship with True's father Tristan Thompson in her early days of motherhood, and in a new interview on the podcast "Divorce Sucks!," Khloé explained that co-parenting with someone you have a complicated relationship with isn't always easy, but when she looks at True she knows it's worth it.

"For me, Tristan and I broke up not too long ago so it's really raw," Khloé tells divorce attorney Laura Wasser on the podcast. She explains that even though it does "suck" at times, she's committed to having a good relationship with her ex because she doesn't want True to pick up on any negative energy, even at her young age.

That's why she invited Tristan to True's recent first birthday bash, even though she knew True wouldn't remember that party. "I know she's going to want to look back at all of her childhood memories like we all do," Khloé explained. "I know her dad is a great person, and I know how much he loves her and cares about her, so I want him to be there."

FEATURED VIDEO

We totally get why being around Tristan is hard for Khloé, but it sounds like she's approaching co-parenting with a positive attitude that will benefit True in the long run. Studies have found that shared parenting is good for kids and that former couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse" are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Khloé says her relationship with Tristan right now is "civilized," and hopefully it can get even better with time. As Suzanne Hayes noted in her six guiding principles for a co-parenting relationship, there's no magic bullet for moving past the painful feelings that come when a relationship ends and into a healthy co-parenting relationship, but treating your ex with respect and (non-romantic) love is a good place to start. Hayes describes it as "human-to-human, parent-to-parent, we-share-amazing-children-and-always-will love."

It's a great place to start, and it sounds like Khloé has already figured that out.

You might also like:

News

Kim Kardashian West welcomed her fourth child into the world. The expectancy and arrival of this boy (her second child from surrogacy) has garnered much attention.

In a surrogacy pregnancy, a woman carries a pregnancy for another family and then after giving birth she relinquishes her rights of the child.

On her website, Kim wrote that she had medical complications with her previous pregnancy leading her to this decision. “I have always been really honest about my struggles with pregnancy. Preeclampsia and placenta accreta are high-risk conditions, so when I wanted to have a third baby, doctors said that it wasn't safe for my—or the baby's—health to carry on my own."

While the experience was challenging for her, “The connection with our baby came instantly and it's as if she was with us the whole time. Having a gestational carrier was so special for us and she made our dreams of expanding our family come true. We are so excited to finally welcome home our baby girl."

A Snapchat video hinted that Kim may have planned to breastfeed her third child. What she chooses to do is of course none of our business. But is has raised the very interesting question, “Wait, can you breastfeed when you use a surrogate?"

FEATURED VIDEO

The answer is yes, you sure can! (And you can when you adopt a baby, too!)

When a women is pregnant, she begins a process called lactogenesis in which her body prepares itself to start making milk. This usually starts around the twenty week mark of pregnancy (half way through). Then, when the baby is born, the second phase of lactogenesis occurs, and milk actually starts to fill the breasts.

All of this occurs in response to hormones. When women do not carry a pregnancy, but wish to breastfeed, they can induce lactation, where they replicate the same hormonal process that happens during pregnancy.

A woman who wants to induce lactation can work with a doctor or midwife, and start taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone (which grow breast tissue)—often in the form of birth control pills—along with a medication called domperidone (which increases milk production).

Several weeks before the baby will be born, the woman stops taking the birth control pill but continues to take the domperidone to simulate the hormonal changes that would happen in a pregnancy. She'll also start pumping multiple times per day, and will likely add herbal supplements, like fenugreek and blessed thistle.

Women can also try to induce lactation without the hormones, by using pumping and herbs, it may be harder but some women feel more comfortable with that route.

Inducing lactation takes a lot of dedication—but then again, so does everything related to be a mama. It's a super personal decision, and not right for everyone.

The important thing to remember is that we need to support women and mothers through their entire journey, no matter what decisions they make about themselves and their families—whether Kardashian or the rest of us.

You might also like:

Life
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.