Dana is a Georgia SAHM to her 20 month old son, Michael (Mick). Dana always pictured a house full of kids. She wanted a "big farmhouse with a giant table surrounded with little mouths to feed. I still hope we have one more...I can always dream!"
When asked what her favorite family traditions are, Dana says, "Well, I'm Sicilian, so with any family gathering, there is food and conversation. I think that I just enjoy the tradition of being with family, food, conversation, and gathering casually. Also, family is not just by blood alone. We have family that extends beyond our bloodlines, and grows and grows each year."
Dana exudes strength, courage and inspiration. As I sat write her introduction, I felt that I could not adequately capture her incredible story, so I will share the rest of it with you, in her own words.
How long have you been blogging, and what do you blog about? I began blogging with a spiritual journey in 2008 (& haven't written anything in that particular blog in over a year). Then shortly after starting that blog, my right shoulder collapsed from Avascular Necrois and I began my 2nd, most popular blog, I Already Gave My Right Arm To Be Ambidextrous! I blogged about awaiting my shoulder replacement, which took 5 months before my surgery was done. I continued the blog with my rehab and life after with my other chronic pain conditions. Then, 9 months after my shoulder replacement (12/10), we adopted our son. I continued that blog and for the last year have been starting up my new blog about being a mom with chronic pain conditions, Chronically Mommy. I had my right hip replaced in May 2012 and changed my most popular blog's title to go with my my new life's balance--Now Read My HIPS! (really fitting too because I am an advanced belly dancer as well. LOL!)
You can also visit Dana at her BTR Radio Show Dana Morningstar--Chronically Mommy and Now Read My HIPS! (Formerly I Already Gave My Right Arm To Be Ambidextrous!) , on her Facebook pages- Chronically Mommy, Now Read My Hips, and Dana Morningstar's BTR Show. You can also check out her new website
(still under construction, but take a peak) Georgia Generations Autoimmune Arthritis Movement.
What's your parenting style?
I am very child focused. I let him take the lead, but once he starts testing the waters and pushing his bounderies, I let him know that Mommy is the boss. What I say goes. I also make sure he knows that when Daddy is in charge, then he is in charge. I do not follow attachment parenting. Mick has never slept in our bed except if he climbs in our bed in the middle of the night. He was in the bassinet next to our bed for 3 months. When he turned 4 months, he went into his crib. He always slept well, and did not have a problem with the transition. I use time out for discipline.
Do you and your partner have the same dicipline styles? We have the same discipline style. I am the main disciplinarian. Since I had 3 months of rehab with my hip replacement (May-Present), he was the primary disciplinarian, and I am now reclaiming that status. It is rather difficult. My son is trying to go to Daddy for everything when he doesn't get what he wants from me. I guess he is getting it now! How are they the same/different? He thinks he is too young at 20 months for time out, to be told no, to start potty-training, to get something himself if you ask him to get something. I have worked hard to raise an independent son. He could hold a bottle himself at 6 months, was using a sippy cup at 6 months and a straw at 7 months. He was using a spoon at 8 months and eating/feeding himself somewhat by 8 months. He was saying 15 words at 6 months and using sign language by 5 months already. I gave him puffs at 6 months, and he was able to grasp one the very first time and put it right into his mouth! We both talk to him all day as we do anything, including him in everything. We both tell him what not to do and why, whether he truly understands or not. We both agree that he will sit down to meals for at least 10 min, and after that, let him run. We put his plate down to his level and let him grab things as he plays. We agree that he needs a very strict schedule. We agree that because he has awful temper tantrums, we let him tantrum and walk away. We do not agree how to deal with them in a public place. I generally, still do the same, but I move him out of people's and harms way first. I do feel that people judge. They don't get why a child tantrums. They look at the parent. What are we doing wrong. No one is doing anything wrong. The child has emotions he can't deal with at the moment. We have been there, but we have developed coping skills. The child is too young to know how to cope just yet. After a moment, he is fine, and it is like nothing happened. My hubby, picks him up and puts him in his carseat and starts driving. This doesn't help anything at all! He feels like he is in trouble. He screams the whole time. Then, every time one of us puts him in the carseat, he thinks he's in trouble. The screaming continues!!!
What parenting disagreements have you and your partner struggled with?
We disagree whether or not a stern voice is considered yelling. Mick will not listen if you get down to his level and speak softly and slowly and gently. He won't even hear you. I have to deepen my voice and make it almost like a smoker's voice. My hubby thinks that it is yelling and is against yelling. Yet, when he gets angry that Mick isn't listening, he yells--go figure!
What do you wish you knew before you became a parent? I wish I knew that when you have 2 parents, and one works, that it wasn't such a competition as to who works harder. I don't know if this happens in every household, but I think it does. It might not be so obvious or so outwardly spoken or discussed, but I'm pretty sure it's there. So the competition in our household is: my husband who was the main caretaker for 3 months, was working. He dropped off our son at day school at 8 a.m. M-F and picked him up at 6 p.m. He woke up with him, got him dressed, fed him breakfast. He works as a professor, so summer months, he does research in his office. When he came home from work and picked up Mick, he either ordered dinner or picked that up too. He sat down to dinner with Mick and made me a plate. Then he gave Mick a bath, put jammies on him, got him ready for bed, and put him to bed. (playing was involved in there too). Weekends he cared for Mick all day so there were more diaper changes and more playing and more meals. He helped me with my showers because I was unable to get in and out of our tub. By 3 weeks post-op, I was making dinner so he didn't have to do that. I was playing with Mick on the couch. I just couldn't pick him up to change diapers. So I began slowly to do things around the house, like dishes, laundry, getting Mick dressed, fed, dinner, etc. My hubby was taking him and picking him up to and from day school and doing the night time and morning routine. I no longer needed help with my showers by 6 weeks post op. He claims that the spouse wo works and cares for the child works much harder than the spouse who stays home all day and doesn't work. I completely disagree! Of course our situation is totally different from everyone else's. I am a full time volunteer for autoimmune arthritis and related diseases. I do it all from home and online mostly. So I was doing this all while recovering from my hip replacement surgery, then also doing light housework, making dinner, and helping with what I could when they returned. When things were normal, before my surgery, I was the main caretaker. I did almost all housework except dusting and vacuuming. He would help with anything I asked for help with. He always did the night time ritual and bath time. He went into work M-F and T and Th were his late nights because he would teach until 6:30. I sent Mick to 2 half days at a day school (T and Th) so he could interact with kids his age and for his immune system. Otherwise, I was with Mick everyday. My hubby would also go into work on a weekend day to get extra research done and would work out every morning before he went into work. I can tell you that I worked as hard as having a job and taking care of a child full time by keeping house, running volunteer work from home and taking care of a child PLUS I HAVE SEVERAL CHRONIC ILLNESSES WITH PAIN, STIFFNESS, DECREASED RANGE OF MOTION AND FATIGUE! I think I work a heck of a lot harder than him. I would have never told him that though. But it is amazing how competitive men are. He brought it up, and I think he put his foot directly into his mouth!
Since you've become a parent, what advice would you give yourself, if you could go back in time (to before you had kids)? Well first, I would say, don't get a chronic illness! Of course, there is obviously no control over that. I think I would have not put off adopting our son so many years. My husband and I had been married 10 1/2 yrs when Mick was born and adopted. We tried for 6 years to adopt also. I believe that although we have gone through so much with my health and surgeries, we were married in 2000. Mick would be 12 by now if we started right away. We could have had 3 kids by now, and grown. Now I don't know that we can have another. We will be 38 and 39 and I have several chronic conditions to deal with, not to mention Mick isn't 2 yet. I can't have 2 right now. A toddler and an infant is just too much to even imagine yet actually live.
10 Super Questions1. How is your family traditional? How is it untraditional? We are a man and woman with a child. We met as undergrads at a Catholic University. We are both Catholic. We share the same belief system. We are the same age, grew up with similar backgrounds, and our families grew up in the same area with similar backgrounds. It is untraditional in that right after we were maried, my health went downhill. I went on disability after a left hip replacement at age 29. Having a family with a chronically ill mom is very different from the norm from planning your day to changing your plans!
2. Does your actual parenting style differ from what you thought it would be before you had children? If so, how? We always thought we would not be fast food parents, we would not use time out and would just take a toy away. We thought we would not yell. We would do sit down dinners at the table and not be so strict about schedules. Well, we have a child who does not eat! He is so skinny, that we have to resort to fast food as a last resort often because we just want to get calories in this kid after offering several different dinner choices. He is not really old enough to understand that a toy has been taken away. We take a toy away that he threw for instance and he says thank you. LOL! We said we wouldn't yell at our kids. My mom yelled all the time, and I swore I would not do that to my child. My hubby said he wouldn't yell because his parents never felt the need to yell at him. He yells now because he has a short fuse. I don't really yell, but I use my "mangry" voice. LOL!
3. What was the best mothering advice you ever received and who gave it to you? Remember each stage of development is just a stage. They will get through it, and move on to another stage. Just when you get used to that stage, he will be on to another stage, etc., etc. Don't worry so much or make yourself so anxious about each stage because they will be out of the stage just as quickly as they go into it. Have faith and be the strong woman that you are. My aunt gave me this advice.
4. What was the most surprising thing you learned in the first year? I was amazed at how much children absorb and learn! They are amazing little sponges! If we would just pay attention to how much they learn, we would learn more each day.
5. Has your view of the world changed since you became a parent? If so, how? You definitely pay more attention to the little things. I have noticed that as Mick gains his independence, I have watched myself gain and lose mine through chronic illnesses. At some points, we were going through similar experiences, we were learning how to deal with living in the world around us, how to interact and survive in our world--like walking for instance. :-)
6. What is something that you have learned about yourself since becoming a parent? I learned that the patience I need with myself, I also need with a child. I try to never lose patience with myself, and I have learned I need to also be patient with a child who is learning about the world around him.
7. What about your child(ren) reminds you of yourself? I was a dancer. He loves music and dancing. He knows all the songs, and loves to dance to the commercials on TV. He learned how to work the stereo and play CDs at 6 months. He would play my belly dance CDs for me and watch me practice. He would often dance along.
10. What annoys you most about other mothers? I don't like when other mothers judge or assume. I am a darn good mom. Don't make assumptions that I am not a good mommy because I have chronic illnesses. I can do everything for my son that you all can do for yours, I just do it differently. It might take me longer, and I may take a more round about way to get things done, but it all gets done nonetheless. Also, when I am out in public with my son, I don't like when mothers make comments loud enough for me to hear, and they are rude about it. It is so RUDE! Tell me to my face, or say nothing at all. My son has temper tantrums. I leave him alone at home and let him work it out. Sometimes it takes a while. If he is not harming himself or in harm's way, he is fine. I only intervene if I think he will get hurt. If we are in public, if I can, I move him to a safe place and away from people (best that I can considering). People will say things like, why would I take him out in public? What is wrong with that kid or that mother? He is a toddler! It is that simple! There is nothing wrong with him or me. I find it hard to believe that another mother never had a child with temper tantrums in their toddler years. Mick started early too with them--11 months. Toddler years are gonna be rough! I hope he ends up having terrific 2's!
Thank you so much for sharing with such heartfelt honesty, Dana! I enjoyed this interview and you ARE a Super-Mom!