Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

A Parenting Meme

Monsieur Mandarine has tagged me, and what a great prompt for a post. The original meme (started by Litlove) attempts to gather information on cultural differences regarding parenthood. So let’s begin with some introductory facts for those readers not familiar with me:

I’m new in the parents club and probably still have that smell of new mom. Mother of a five–month–old little boy, I was born and raised in Colombia, but I married a wonderful “gringuito”. So I have lived in the U.S. for the last 11 years; three of those currently in Salt Lake City, which as many may know is the Mormon mecca. For fear of being tempted to “wisefy” my answers, I have not read Litlove’s or Mandarine’s answers yet, but will do so as soon as I finish here.

How do you view your role as a parent? What are you there to do?

This may sound cuckoo but I believe (without putting my hands on fire) that we all are born with a personal mission… A personal challenge we came to this world to accomplish in order to evolve. Because I’m a new mom, it’s possible that my impressions of my son are totally tainted by inexperience, but he strikes me as a very old soul, which only reinforces my notion that he probably came to this world to do something specific. And I don’t mean save the world or something pretentious like that. Who knows what his challenge is… Conquering a fear, maybe? We all need to do some of that to liberate ourselves and grow up.

I believe that our son chose this family for a reason. Joey and I provide the setup he needs to begin working on his quest. That comforts me, because it means that my imperfections are exactly what he needs. However, this doesn’t mean that I can just rest on my flaws and let the child grow like a wildflower. Becoming a mother is also MY challenge. It is something I chose, fully aware of the fact that living this experience would force me to change in many ways, hopefully for better.

So to finally answer the question, I believe that my role as a mother is to help my son grow up to the point that he’ll go off and try to do what it is that he came to do. I need to provide a nurturing environment and a framework to guide his actions, so he can share the world with others. But I also need to get off the way of the person he wants to become. My son is not MINE. He didn’t come here to be my child. In cliché terms: I’m the bow; he’s the arrow. My job is to launch him, and try to do it well.

In your social circle, are mothers expected to work or are they encouraged to stay home with the child?

I have lived in both worlds. I was raised by a stay–at–home mom, in a culture where staying at home with the kids used to be the norm for married women. Then, I joined the job market in the U.S. and my professional circle was full of highly–educated working moms.

A very long time ago, my husband told me that he expected me to work, but with the very real arrival of a baby to our home, he’s seen how it goes in the trenches and has opened up the options to me: Stay with our baby if you want; it will be great for him. But go out and work if you feel you need it. Now we live in a city where stay–at–home moms are a definite majority. These women have 3-7 children… Who could work like that?… I don’t have any friends here, but that’s the crowd that surrounds me these days. I feel that if I choose to stay at home for a while, here, I won’t be judged.

How do you feel about your child’s education? What’s good about it, and what do you wish could be done differently?

I can’t speak for what it currently is, since Joaquin is so young that “education” is just at a basic “stimulation” level and disciplining doesn’t make much sense with an infant who still can’t control his own hand crazily waving a rattle.

My plan is to raise a curious boy who can share the world with the rest of its dwellers (not a little center of the universe), a teenager who will know enough to stay out of trouble, and an emotionally intelligent man who will tackle whatever life brings to him: Be it big business problems, or a diaper change.

How do you share the childcare with your partner? Do you tend towards different activities or different approaches to parenting?

For all this time since our baby was born, I was lucky that Joey has been a student. He’s been busy at times with school work, but overall, has had time to save me and give me some time off when I’ve been about to lose my sanity. He can do (and is called to do) everything I do except for breastfeeding. He’s on duty (and I’m off) from the moment we put Joaquin to sleep until 5 am. He’s the monkey in this household, and so his time with Joaquin is a lot more playful and physical. Before having kids I always thought that I would be the overprotective one. It’s funny to see that it’s actually quite the opposite. I didn’t know this, but it seems I married Papa Bear.

We come from families with totally different dynamics and parenting styles. It is my intention to fall somewhere between both ends of the spectrum. I see good things and opportunities for improvement on both approaches. My gut feeling is that Joey and I share the same core values and will resolve most differences without huge drama. However, I expect a lot of friction when deciding courses of action whenever Joaquin gets sick. Joey likes medical and pharmaceutical intervention a lot more than I do (wink).

What are the most important virtues to instill in a child?

Independence (as in self–reliance), responsibility, honesty, and the clear understanding that each of us is just an ant in this world, and the rest of the people don’t have to put up with you and your whims.

What’s the relationship like between mothers at the park and the school gate? Would someone you didn’t know help you out in a stressful moment?

Many moons must pass before I’m able to answer this one. I’m sort of anti–social anyway, so who knows if I’ll ever meet other moms to be able to tell.

What do you fear most for your child?

Right now? That a stupid narcissistic president will send him off to fight in a war the world doesn’t need. Closer to now, I really hope that our parenting will be enough to keep him off trouble (e.g. drugs, alcohol, getting someone pregnant) when he hits the dreaded teenager time. Even closer to now, I’m terrified to think of someone stealing him from me because he’s so cute (see? I totally still smell like a new mom).

How do you discipline your child and what are the errors you would put most effort into correcting?

So of course with a young baby, there’s not much disciplining going on yet. The coming changes in our lives (night–shift guy starting his first job in a new career) have forced us to begin practicing some tough love (i.e. sleep training — the one with quick results), and I’m starting to TRY to carve a little space for myself. But negotiations with a five–month–old can only get to a point.

I’m not really sure of how it will go. I have sort of a plan for the level of softness/strictness I’d like to strive for, but it doesn’t make any sense to talk about parenting plans until I see how it really plays out. Motherhood has revealed things I didn’t expect about myself.

Do you think the life of a child has changed much since you were young?

Heck yes!… It feels like now you have to protect your child from so much danger. All of that danger probably existed when I was a child, but information changes everything. What kind of a parent would you be if you didn’t act on every safety item brought up to your attention by today’s more knowledgeable world?… I used to play outside all day long, only coming home for meals. But Mama Bear doesn’t feel too comfortable imagining that for her little cub.

What’s the best compliment your child could pay you for your parenting skills?

I don’t know… Maybe just telling me that he had a happy childhood. That’s where we all “break” and later need therapy, don’t we?… Not that my child won’t need it. After all, everything is always our parents’ fault : )

. . . . . . . . . .

Hey Papa Bear!… I want to see your answers to this (the whole thing). It will also be nice to see a new post in that forgotten blog of yours.


  1. On , mandarine wrote:

    These are great answers. I love the notion that our children are not ours.

    What you say about fear of danger is something I am struggling a lot with. I think today’s parents are way overprotective, but the look and judgement of society is completely different than before. A century ago, if I had regularly left my son play unwatched with a whole bunch of kids on the banks of the river and he had fallen and drowned, I would have considered it hard luck, and so would my neighbours. If the same happened today, I am not sure I could escape public prosecution for negligence, and I would live to regret my carelessness anyway. Ambiant guilt instilled in parents has drastically changed the way kids are raised, and I am not sure it’s for the best.

  2. On , Maria wrote:

    So true. And it reminds me of a childhood story I often laugh about…

    One time, when I was maybe 12 and my sister 9, my mom stopped on her way back from our school at the house of an acquaintance who was a fashion designer. Mom told us she was just going to try on a couple of outfits and she’d be back in a little while. But it was not a little while. I can’t remember how long she stayed in there while Ana and I were stuck waiting for her outside in the car.

    It was a looooong time by children standards, and on top of my aggravation, I also had to endure an extra level of annoyance: My sister, a fiery Sagittarius was NOT a patient little girl. First she started whining. Then she went to crying. Pretty soon she reached the anger stage… FOAM came out of her mouth as she angrily shook the front passenger’s seat (where I was seated) in sheer desperation of the confinement.

    To me, the story is a funny memory that illustrates how different my sister and I used to be. The fact that my mom left us waiting in the car has never been an issue. That’s how things used to be 20something years ago, when I was a child. But when I told the story to Joey, he was all Whaa??? Your mom left you alone in the car all that time?… By today’s standards (and maybe American standards), what my mom did that time (and many others with a much shorter wait) would be considered serious business, and she could probably even risk custody if the scene had happened today.

    Yeah. Today’s society is way overprotective of children.

  3. On , Litlove wrote:

    I loved your answers and second Mandarine – I also think that children are not ours in that sense, and I would agree wholeheartedly that we provide the environment that (hopefully) offers them what they need to gain independence and confidence. I think you sound like you’re doing a wonderful job of the hardest possible job in the world.

  4. On , Maria wrote:

    Ah, you know… Easier said than done… I want to read this again in a few years and see if I’m really acting according to all my words. Thank you for the meme. It was very interesting to think about all this.

  5. On , Petie wrote:

    Thanks for sharing – I’d missed your blog and was worried about you.

  6. On , Maria wrote:

    Worried?… Like she may have cut her veins worried?

    I didn’t tag you on this, but it would be cool to see your answers to this meme…

  7. On , Petie wrote:

    No! Not that kind of worried! Goodness, no. I just thought you were super busy without Joey help. I know it took an adjustment, but Joey said Joaquin played the part and behaved for you.

  8. On , Petie wrote:

    What do I do? Copy the questions and answer them in our blog? I’m not familiar on meme etiquette. :)