My story starts with a simple question that popped in my head. How can I start becoming a good mother to my future children?
Back then, I wasn't a mom, I wasn't even expecting. Husband and I had decided that we wanted to have a kid and it was only just the beginning of a new chapter for us. We were playing with the idea of being parents.
I'm not gonna lie. I have been wanting to be a mom ever since I knew myself. It was a weird curiosity, I was just looking forward to the experience of pregnancy and birth, a set of sensations I would not be able to know in any other way. I adore children. I always have. Nurturing a child with my own resources was my lifelong dream.
But what if my resources were not the right resources, or what if they weren't enough?
After all, pregnancy creates a paradigm shift in one's life. After going though that paradigm shift, you become a parent and then, nothing is ever the same again.
Of course, there are millions of moms and dads out there who look like they know what to do by nature, or at least learn on the go.
But the instinctual resources that would appear by themselves after nature would make me a mom just did not feel enough to me.
Many kids silently suffer in their own families because their emotional needs are not recognized by their very tired moms and dads. Many kids don't realize their own suffering because they don't know any other way. Millions of emotionally neglected or offended children around the world just keep on sheltering under their parents' love because they have no other place to go, nor would they go if they were given the option.
I was seeing it everywhere: on the streets, in books, in movies, in personal stories (take the stories posted by Humans of New York, for example). Most adulthood mental struggles are rooted in a childhood trauma, no matter big or small. Trauma is dangerously common among children being raised even in normal, loving families.
“We don't yet know, above all, what the world might be like if children were to grow up without being subjected to humiliation, if parents would respect them and take them seriously as people.”
― Alice Miller
One day I distinctly remember walking from office to lunch and I started thinking, "What if I got pregnant right this day and clock started ticking for me, for only 9 months to mentally prepare myself to be a mom.
I knew I would want to read a lot. I just knew myself, I would be a geek over it.
But life has its other battle fields. We constantly have to learn and unlearn for our school, our work, our career, our hobbies. Even planning a weekend trip takes up a considerable research time. Put it on top of building a business form scratch as a couple living in a foreign land, having to learn tons for it every day. With so much to learn in my pipeline, reading for an inexistent child sounded too overwhelming and it definitely belonged to the lower shelves of my priority list.
So right then and there I wondered: what if there was an online service to learn about "parenting" concepts one at a time, through an app, possibly with audio options so that I could just put on my headphones and go at it while doing other things?
That day passed, I didn't immediately get pregnant (actually, not for another 6 months or so) but the idea stuck with me.
But back then, I was quite uneducated about parenthood, just like everyone else before becoming a parent.
I was curious about two main groups of things: how to look after a child physically, and how to look after a child emotionally. Things I didn't realize back then:
-How to physically look after a child is a job that's learned on the job. Books can only get you imagining but the actual manual work is what makes you an expert. :)
-There are hundreds, if not thousands of different opinions about any given topic when it comes to children. Say sleep, feeding, potty training, brushing teeth, you name it. Pick any one these and you'll quickly realize that there are several opposing opinions on that very subject, and guess what, all of them are right (except for the outdated ones that are scientifically proven to be wrong). So everybody picks their own rights and wrongs on the go.
-Children change you. They change you to your atoms. They redefine you. You find a new self within your old self, take the pieces from your old self that serve you, and dump the rest. So parenthood is more of an internal journey rather than a set of actions you take to raise a child.
I got pregnant, not knowing any of these and of course I started reading right away. I came up with a list of books to read from online communities and friends, eliminated the ones that addressed parents of 2+ years old kids, and started reading.
Some of the books I read, for example the first few chapters of The Baby Book by the Sears Family, that is, the essentials of Attachment Parenting got me so hooked up emotionally that I started counting the days until I would look into my baby's eyes.
Through books I learned about the 5s method, the importance of the golden hour after birth, the benefits of baby wearing, hypnobirthing, why I would not sleep-train my child, and many other things, all of which shaped the way I chose to start my parenthood journey.
And I kept on with my idea. I named it Apparent, wrote a mission statement for it and started to explore what Apparent would be. An app, a newsletter, an ebook, a podcast? It was all a mystery. I didn't know what Apparent would be but I knew exactly why it would come into existence: to raise generations of self-confident children raised in healthy parent-child relationships.
Time passed, I became a mother. I absolutely adored my baby and constantly read and kept learning but I realized that my learnings were changing in context.
-I no longer needed to look up how to get a baby to sleep through the night: he simply didn't, and we made peace with it.
-I no longer read about what to do when my baby puked all the milk he'd just drank. He would fill himself up in the next feeding.
-I no longer read about what to do when x, y, z happened. I no longer needed that advice. The "job" was teaching me all I needed to know.
But I doubled on reading other things.
-I kept reading about how to understand my baby, understand and respect his sovereignty.
-I kept reading about how to prove to him, day after day again, that he could trust me and his father.
-I kept reading about what I needed to do when I felt helpless, failed, discouraged or when I felt like I wasn't able to help him.
Soon it became crystal clear. (This became crystal clear from 6 weeks onward.)
90% of parenthood has to do with guiding you and your child through difficult mental and emotional states.
Parenthood is a mental game. It takes a strong mental fitness and a solid mindset to put your relationship in the front row, always, no matter what.
Relationship comes first. Not breastfeeding (or not breastfeeding). Not good sleep habits. Not catching milestones before other babies. A healthy and nurturing relationship is the first priority. Even through bleeding nipples, even through sleepless nights, even though meltdowns, even through stress, guilt and drama. The essential for every parent-child dyad is the relationship.
In all of the chats about parenthood that I do in person with friends and family, and also in online communities, I realize one common thing: parenthood can be so stressful that it can drive auto-pilot parenting, causing hurtful reactions to a child's behavior, which leads to children who are seamlessly traumatized within their own households.
-Children who are not tolerated for their mistakes and blunders.
-Children who are loved but not respected as individuals.
-Children who are not allowed to express their emotions.
-Children who are judged and punished for their behaviors.
Families who are depleted, hopeless, helpless, not knowing how to deal with the stress, the anger, and the guilt that comes afterwards. Families who don't know how to make use of healthy boundaries that would help their kids thrive in life.
Parents who need the mentality, the vision, the clarity on how they want to design their relationship without falling victim to their automatic reactions.
I'm here to change that. I adore children. I trust parents. I bet on families. I want all parents out there to be the best possible mental coach for themselves and their children.
I'm building Apparent for my own mother's past self, imagining: what if she not only loved, but also understood me?
Apparent helps parents become their own mental coach for difficult situations, helping them be more present, aware and mentally stable to raise happy, confident, empathetic children. And generations of them.
With love and respect,
Basak Anil, founder of Apparent