“It’s Important To Be A Flexible Parent,” Says Real Mom Rachael

Every mother has a tale of tribulation to share. The pain and sacrifice are often underplayed, as they take everything in their stride, stay calm, and remain unruffled. Through our #RealMom Series, we hope to be able to do justice to these incredibly powerful stories that we bring to you. Meet New York-based flexible parent, Rachael Tarfman-Perez,  a New Yorker mom transplanted into a southern California locale who shares her positive parenting story that stopped us in our tracks.

Flexible mom - Rachael

“The real story about me is that I kind of went into motherhood head first without really putting a lot of thought into what it really entailed. My husband and I got married back in 2003 and we were pregnant two weeks later. This left me with thoughts in my head of ‘wow! I’m pregnant…now what?”

So my son was born in 2004 and it was very difficult for me in the beginning. I received different messages about breastfeeding (how long and how often was recommended); whether to wake up your sleeping baby for feedings; nap times (how long and how often); best food for baby and when to begin (we decided to go organic); and many other issues (that I cannot remember now). My second son was born in 2006 and now I had a toddler and a newborn to deal with which made things difficult because I wasn’t sleeping much (thankfully I was a SAHM and was able to nap when the littles napped). 

Real Mom - flexible parent Rachael quotes

We are flexible parents:

My daughter was born in 2009 and now things really got complicated with a kindergartener, toddler and newborn. I felt like I was seriously engaging in a daily juggling act and had no idea how working moms accomplished it all. I was sleep-deprived, didn’t’ have time to really clean my house (and no money for a housekeeper), and was constantly running around doing shopping, various appointments (i.e. doctors, dentists, etc). Somehow, I found a good rhythm and had some experience under my belt by this time. We were not like other parents…which made things harder for us. We didn’t use pacifiers, our littles stopped napping at about 3 years old and never slept in the car, we always made sure they went to sleep at a good time (appropriate for their age and didn’t stay out late at night with friends or family), and we lived a healthier lifestyle (which included exercising and healthier meals than other family members). 

The difficult part for me was suddenly realizing that my “free time” was basically gone and there was no turning back. My focus had to be on the little ones to make sure they were always fed, rested and safe without worrying about my hair, clothing or even makeup. Taking time for myself became a luxury as well as time with good friends. We were able to schedule playdates with some friends because I did have friends that also had little ones but it wasn’t the same as going out for coffee or quality friend time (like I was used to having previously). It also meant that since I made the commitment to stay at home with the kids I was not going to have the career that I went to school for (as a marriage and family therapist). It was difficult to realize that my identity was now being defined as the mom of 3 cute little kids and not for the skills that I developed through my education and experience.

Rachael wearing Santa cap
Stay-at-home moms vs working moms: According to a research, stay-at-home mothers spend an average of 18 hours per week in child-care activities, seven hours more than working mothers.

Life is full of surprises:

Since then I set up a part-time therapy practice for about 9 years until right after my father passed away (2016) and then added a fourth child into the mix in 2018. While I have a good amount of experience being a mom, I am always learning new things. I also appreciate my kids because of what they have taught me and I love being around them. I have always struggled with my weight as well and with four pregnancies under my belt, it has been difficult to maintain a regular exercise schedule. However, during the pandemic, I decided that I wasn’t getting any younger and wanted to get this extra weight off my body. I changed my lifestyle and added an exercise program and have successfully lost 40 pounds!

And I have just recently been inspired to create and publish my first children’s picture book. They say life is full of surprises, well mine definitely has been.

One rule that I have always lived by is to remain a flexible parent:

When one is too rigid in their beliefs it is difficult to learn new things. When it comes to children and their development, they are all going to be different. It is more beneficial to allow them to be themselves and follow their lead. It is also important to make sure that they are kind and respectful and follow the rules of the family while allowing some wiggle room during difficult times.

This flexible parent learned that the 3 things you cannot force a child to do are:

  1. Eat
  2. Sleep
  3. Potty train

Kids will eat if they want to, sleep when they want to and learn to use the toilet only on their terms. We, as parents, can coax and encourage them to do these things but ultimately it is up to them to make those decisions.

I had no village to speak of (and still don’t):

My village. Well, I had no village to speak of (and still don’t). My husband and I have been raising our four kids entirely on our own without many “date nights” or vacations on our own. For various reasons, our parents were not really able to or we just preferred to do it ourselves. So I have been slightly jealous of other friends that had really supportive family networks but at the same time we have survived. I think it has made us stronger.

(If she doesn’t work): What is it like being a stay-at-home mom? What would you change?

Being a SAHM has had its’ benefits and challenges for sure. The pros of being a SAHM:

  1. Not having to be at work every day and leaving kids in day care (extra expenses)
  2. Setting my own schedule
  3. Taking care of our kids our own way
  4. Being able to dress any way I wanted because I didn’t have to uphold a professional appearance.
  5. More time to play and interact with the kids.
  • Research by PEW Research Centre on SAHM vs working moms
  • Infographic on SAHM versus working mom
  • SAHM Mom versus working mom
  • Stay-at-home moms vs working moms - Research findings by PEW

The cons of being a SAHM:

  1. Not a lot of extra money for the household 
  2. My identity was solely defined on my role as mom/’housewife’ (domestic goddess)
  3. I didn’t get many breaks from the kids when I felt overwhelmed because hubby had to be at work each day
  4. Couldn’t just leave the house (anymore) to just ‘run to the store.’ Any trip to go out entailed lots of diaper changing, feeding, clothes changing, potty time, organising kids into car seats and using the stroller. 

I hope that my kids are able to keep positive and supportive people around them:

I want my children to grow into independent, strong, smart and productive adults. I really hope that they can find their path in life and what they are most passionate about so they can have real careers that are fulfilling. I hope that they are able to keep positive and supportive people around them in their lives and maintain good relationships with their parents and siblings. I also hope that they make good decisions for themselves and always remember to visit their parents (often). 

Rachael enjoying flexible parenting

AboutRachael Tarfman-Perez:

A brand new author (and it is kind of surreal to say that) but she wasn’t always interested in writing books. Click here to know more about her.

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9 thoughts on ““It’s Important To Be A Flexible Parent,” Says Real Mom Rachael”

  1. I could resonate so much with this blog. My husband and I have been active parents and take turns when the other needs break. Though we too don’t enjoy alone time as our kids are always with us, but we make small moments count.

  2. Stubbornness is actually not working these days and we need to understand and think what our kids want to do.This post is so informative for parents.

  3. Stubbornness in today’s time will not work and as parents, we need to be flexible to deeply understand what the children of this generation want. Your blog post offers handy tips in that regard.

  4. Great to read inspiring stories of real moms. I agree with rachel’s thoughts completely and believe in keeping a flexible parenting approach.

  5. Children learn from their parents by observation. Being flexible is something a parent should indulge in as if not it is sure to rub off on children and make them stubborn.

  6. Rachel’s thoughts of being flexible can be helpful to many moms. Sometimes we tend to be over strict with our kids routine but if we try to be flexible then it will help to maintain our sanity.

  7. I loved this series on your blog. it is always great to read inspiring stories of real moms. I agree with rachel’s thoughts completely and believe in keeping a flexible parenting approach. it helps in making a close brand with kids.