When I was pregnant with my first child, I read almost every parenting book I could get my hands on. I was determined to be a different, and better, mother than my own. But I was shocked at how scary these books made parenting sound; the shared message seemed to be “don’t do this, or you will ruin your child’s life and future” and “handle your children with grace, because if you make a mistake you can create a very disturbed child.” Now these are exaggerations to an extent but regardless they were very overwhelming words for a hormonal and scared mother-to-be. These books strove for a sort of perfect parenting that did not allow for mistakes, let alone ill-timed bathroom breaks that result in marinara sauce all over the kitchen, children and dog. I knew I would never be a perfect parent but I needed to know that I would be ok at this parenting thing.
And of course I am not alone. Most mothers read these books and vow to never use bribery, manipulation or coercion to parent their children. Promise to never yell and certainly not participate in the occasional spanking. We would break the pattern that our parents had set before us and we would be amazing!
Fast forward 11 years and three girls later and I have a completely different approach to child rearing; nothing is ever as simple as “never”, sometimes a lie works better than a truth, bribery should not be seen as manipulation but early learning capitalism and a threat only works if you actually follow through. Does this make me a bad parent? Many parenting books would say yes but I say no parenting book has all the answers and no parenting book should make you feel like a failure after reading it. There is no instruction manual for raising kids and there are no one size fits all for parenting. We all come to the table with baggage, different kids, excitement and anticipation for the crazy time in our lives when we step out of being children ourselves, put our big kid pants on and become parents.
So why MammaYoda?
Star Wars has played a significant role in my family for the last several years. My husband, Will, and I were not huge Star Wars fans during our childhoods, and therefore didn’t feel the need to share the series with our daughters. However, having worn out many of the animated classics, we were looking for something new for our Friday Movie Night with the girls. Our eldest, Sophie, suggested Star Wars because she had a friend in her class who loved it. Will and I prepared the girls for Darth Vader, let them know we could turn it off at any moment if it was too scary, and prepared ourselves for a short movie night. To our surprise, all three girls loved it, and so did we.
As I watched the whole series, I found a great appreciation for Yoda. He had such a calming and quiet presence, but maintained authority and was gentle even when action was required. This seems so much like what all parents strive for: a balance between authority and serenity. I thought to myself, I want to be a mom-version of Yoda: MammaYoda.
Now you that you know about how MammaYoda came about, let me tell you a little bit about myself.
I grew up in Miami and New York City and graduated from a relatively small high school with a class of 50. I tried going to a big ten college because I wanted to be “just a number”, but came home with my tail between my legs soon after my first year vowing I would never leave Manhattan again. As a graduate from Marymount Manhattan College, I worked in social services for a couple of years before deciding to go back to school for my Masters in Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
After working for several years toward my doctorate, I decided to try my luck in the corporate world and was able to parlay my research skills and understanding of human nature into a career as a private investigator. I loved my job and what I was doing, but having children was not necessarily conducive to a career in private investigation; picture breast feeding on a stakeout – not easy! So I left my job to focus on bringing up my three feisty little ladies.
As my children have grown, I have as well. Like most mammas, I started out scared and feeling very unprepared for parenthood. I then decided to focus on me and what I could do to make the moments, because there are always so many moments when you have children, calmer and smoother for my little kiddies. And after quite a few growing pains, experimentation and learning moments, our family has turned a corner where we are more engaged, considerate and our words matter to each other.
Knowing you are good at parenting is not often an easy thing to see. In the beginning I relied heavily on my friends asking my advice, strategies working well and friends coming back for more advice. I then realized I had a knack for helping parents figure out the best next step for their family so I enrolled in some coaching and parenting classes. It was in these classes that I realized I was ready to help more than just my friends and MammaYoda was born.