My son was born on a cold winter day in 2014. Born with a very critical condition, he was transferred by ambulance to another hospital for further treatment at a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The weeks he spent in NICU were quite tough for me because I had to recover from the childbirth while worrying about his condition. What’s worse, I was told by my son’s doctor that my son had suffered from low oxygen levels during the birth, which could cause severe symptom later. A different doctor suggested that some children with the same condition could show developmental disorders later in life, while others would be totally normal.
I was terrified and started to deeply worry about my son’s development. At the same time, I couldn’t help blaming myself, wondering if I could have done better to prevent that incidence. Although he didn’t show any medical concerns when he was discharged from the hospital, he was qualified for early intervention as he had been admitted at NICU. Thus, my son started early intervention and had regular diagnosis meetings when he was 3 months old, supported by pediatric occupational therapists, developmental pediatricians, and pediatric psychologists.
The challenges that I faced as a parent
I cannot change the past, but I can change the future. So I decided to do my best to help my son develop well. But how could I do it? As a first time parent, I soon faced numerous challenges.
I faced the challenges to build right knowledge as a parent. As I was focusing on my work until a few days before delivering my son, I hadn’t had time for preparing to become a parent. Thus, my parenting experiences started with trial and error. I soon realized that I needed to rigorously learn about early child development and build the necessary skills. However, when my son was a newborn, I barely had time to learn child development and to master parenting skills because most of my time was spent taking care of the demanding baby. So, searching and skim-reading internet articles became my habit, and I was overwhelmed and often confused with the huge amount of information on the internet and social media about parenting, such as “8 ways to foster your toddler’s literacy”, “how to teach alphabets to your baby”, and “7 ways to boost your child’s brain power”.
Such information made me feel insecure because I had no ability to judge each piece of information. Unfortunately, a lot of internet advice was not working well for us, as some articles only provided band-aid fix solution instead of long-term solutions. Without ability to judge such info, I tried methods one by one, and then either failed or succeeded.
I was not confident in my new role as a parent, and my self-esteem was shrinking, facing the challenges to find the meaning and purpose of my own life in the new role as a parent. After pursuing higher education and working in an intensive professional career as an economist for many years, I had my son and left my job. I was struggling to find purpose at this new stage of my life. Also, one of the toughest parts of parenting is no appreciation from others. Under such circumstances, I hardly had confidence in myself, and I felt my self-esteem shrinking. I felt I was nobody.
Without confidence of my own, my son’s achievement and growth became the source of my sense of achievement. When my son was young, I could not help but compare my child with others, in terms of the level of development. If he achieved a milestone, I was feeling relieved; if not, I felt very anxious and put pressure on myself.
I started to accumulate fear and worry over my son’s safety and development and over the future in which he would be living. The list of my fears was even growing: What if SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) happens to my baby? What if I die in a moment from a heart attack? What if my baby would face racial discriminations in the future? Those may sound ridiculous, but without anyone to count on, worry and fear became my close friend.
Also, when I had my son, I started to worry about the future in which my child would live. I nervously reacted to negative news widespread throughout the media. As my main news source became popular media and social network focusing on sensational news, the world’s outlook seemed quite gloomy.
The breakthrough that finally came to me
After struggling to find solution for a long time, I gradually improved my situation and finally found a breakthrough in my parenting.
I learned child psychology and parenting skills from child development professionals with whom I was working for my son, from a few reputable books, and my experiences in assisting teachers at my children’s preschool classrooms. I learned approaches and principles, internalize the knowledge, and put into practice what I learned. Through that process, I was able to develop my own way that worked for me and my children. As long as I master the principles, rather than the surface, of child psychology, I am able to analyze situations (such as toddler tantrum) and find workable solutions. At the same time, I do my best to observe my children because after all, no one knows my children better than I do.
Learning early child development made my life much easier when I had my second child. Once my daughter was born three years after my son, dealing with sibling rivalry and paying attention to both children equally were some of my top agendas as a parent. I had learned from a reputable book about how birth order affects each child’s personality and development and how parents can deal with sibling rivalry. Thus, I was able to cope with their fighting well, overall. Otherwise, I would have been anxious and conducted online search looking for one quick fix solutions after another.
I gained confidence as a parent after I created my own mission statement. Mission Statement is a brief statement about what matters most to you, reflecting your value and vision. As I wrote in a past article, My mission statement was:
My Mission: I strive to fulfill our potential.
As a parent, I try to promote my children’s healthy growth, imagination, and creativity through encouraging playing; enhancing their scientific minds and curiosity; and giving unconditional love and support to them.
As a spouse, I support my husband personally and professionally, and always believe in him.
As an individual, I treat myself well and continue to pursue my own dreams.
As an economist, I continue to invest my time and energy to brush up my skills as an economist.
With my mission statement, I finally featured myself as an individual as well as a parent. In line with my Mission Statement, I was able to set priorities. Most importantly, I started to have a sense of ownership in my parenting, which boosted my confidence. Now I knew what I was doing, what I should focus on. I knew what I do to my family. I selected internet information with better judgement ability, because I knew my own value, and those articles based on different value are not relevant to me.
Knowing that information is power, I strived to seek for information that could make my parenting more effective, help me to foresee the future, and let me see the world based on fact rather than fear or feeling. I looked for good quality of information from trustworthy sources. As I wrote in my past blog article, once I start seeing the world based on facts and data, I became mentally healthier. For example, I learned that the number of infant deaths is much lower than it used to be, and it is proven that parents’ proper acts (such as having infants sleep in a safe place) significantly decreases risks. Such knowledge helped me to raise my child sanely instead of driven by fear.
How my life changed
My parenting became much more effective and joyful once I found the breakthrough. I now very much enjoy raising children and feel comfortable being a parent. When I was a brand new parent, I was always anxious and under a lot of pressure to do well in the new field. Now, I know that I’m also learning as a parent and as an individual. I am still developing my skills and of course make mistakes sometimes, but I am sure that I can find a way to solve problems with my spouse and kids because I built confidence as a parent and an individual.
The best compliment words I’ve ever received
In his early days, my son was regularly met by a group of child psychologists and developmental experts for developmental diagnosis at one of the leading children's hospitals USA. I learned a lot about child psychology, child care, parenting, and child development from those experts. When my son was two and a half years old, he was diagnosed as being very healthy and completely normal condition. At the last meeting, a child psychologist, who was the leader of the group, said, "It is amazing that you raised your child in such a way without a background in early childhood education. You must have a talent for being a mother.” It was truly the best compliment I received in my life. At that moment, I was almost moved to tears, remembering the days of raising my son in frustration, despair, and loneliness since his birth. I felt that my hard work and struggles as a parent had been finally rewarded and recognized. I would be more than happy to be recognized for my effort as a mother rather than any illustrious career or any other success that I could have had.
That said, I was actually not talented as a mother, contrary to what the psychologist said. If I had a talent, my parenting experiences would have been much easier from the beginning. What made a difference in my parenting was that I was able to get the right information from the right sources, such as a few good books I had thoroughly read and the early child developmental specialists I had been working with. A generation ago, the wisdom of parenting was merely inherited and quality information was shared by only a small number of people. Nowadays, information is easily available on internet, and I believe that anyone can make use of right information by knowing where to look, who to turn to, what information to trust.
At the same time, it is heartbreaking that the majority of parents – especially mothers – in the world will not be recognized for their parental efforts no matter how hard they work. I cannot help thinking that I was lucky because there was someone who acknowledged my effort as a mother. If my son had been born normally, I would never have met the psychologist, and of course I would be one of many mothers who would not be rewarded for their hard work in raising their children.
My parental journey is still at the early stage, and bringing up children is a long-term project. I may encounter different types of challenges as they get older. Nevertheless, I wish that my children will someday remember me as a good mother.
Why I blog
After relocating from USA to Jordan, I started blogging in 2019 to share my thoughts and experiences as a parent, economist, policy maker, my expat experiences in Jordan and USA, and beyond. I’m excited to meet new people around the world through my blog and hope that my experience and knowledge can help other parents empower themselves to make a difference in their children’s lives and the next generation to follow.