Reflections: An Interview with Karen Young

At the start of each year, we often take time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll continue to post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC ---

I asked my mom if I could interview her about motherhood.

She said yes.

Because she's my mom.

And she's awesome.

And I begged a little.

Here's what we talked about!


Q: How many children do you have? What years were they born? A: I have 2 daughters, one born in 1981 and the other in 1983.

Q: But you love your first daughter more, right?  'Cause she's the best daughter?  Mom, hello? *Crickets chirping* 

Q: What are some of your memories about being pregnant? A: When I was pregnant with my first child, my friend was pregnant with twins at the same time. I gained about 10 pounds MORE than my friend…and she delivered her twins a month early!

With my second pregnancy, it felt so different, I was sure it was a boy. It wasn’t.

I also remember that I went into labor with my second child during the season finale of M*A*S*H - February 28, 1983. It was a really good episode!

Q: You had two miscarriages, both after your second child. Did that affect your decision to not have more children? A: Not really, I was a working mom with two little kids and at 35-36 years old, I just didn’t feel like I had the energy to start all over with a newborn.

Q: Where did you get maternity clothing? A: I made some, shopped at a maternity and children’s shop in town and got some clothes as gifts. I wore a lot of the same pants over and over with different tops.

Q: Did you have special nursing clothing? A: Yes, nursing bras, my maternity tops and anything loose-fitting.

Q: Did you take any classes or read any books about pregnancy? A: Yes, definitely. Our local hospital had a program run by some of the nurses for husbands and wives (or you and your support partner). I think it lasted six weeks. The last week included a hospital tour. I also read some books about breastfeeding and baby development. No Google for me!

Q: Did you know what to expect during labor? A: For the most part. My husband was there the whole time. I was mostly monitored by nurses and the doctor was only there at the end for each delivery.

Q: Did you get a lot of advice from your female family members or friends? A: Not lots.

Q: What do you remember from your labor(s)? A: I had horrible hemorrhoids after my first child’s labor and I was VERY AFRAID of that during the second labor. I also remember being chastised by the nurse after my first labor. She said that my diet during pregnancy caused my hemorrhoids. Stupid woman.

My message to laboring women - “Do not push like you’re going to the bathroom!”

I remember that after my first labor they used a UV light for healing (of stitches, maybe?). It was kind of awkward because they stuck this giant light between my legs.

Also, I had to have an enema before my first labor, but they discontinued that policy by the time I had my second.

Q: Did you have an induction medication or epidurals? A: I don’t really remember, but I think I had an epidural with both labors.

With my second child, labor stalled and I was a week past my due date. I was induced to continue to labor. During the induction meds, the doctor and my husband were discussing the Civil War at length and I found that fairly irritating. I had to remind the doctor that “I was the patient”.

Q: Did you deliver at home, a hospital, or somewhere else? A: 2 hospital births

After delivering my first baby, I was put in a “ward” with other mothers for a time until I was moved to a private room for a day.

Q: How did you feel when you saw your baby the first time? A: I was excited to see that my first child had LOTS of hair. I did NOT want a bald baby. Bald babies would have been sent back for further cooking!

I didn’t have ultrasounds during either pregnancy, so I was, of course, happy to know whether the baby was a boy or girl.

With my second, I was really surprised since I was certain it was a boy. My second daughter also had hair, so she was allowed to stay.

Q: Did you breastfeed? Why or why not? A: Yes. I breastfed because I was cheap and it was easier. I did have some trouble once I got home from the hospital, but I eventually figured it out. I exclusively breastfed until I went back to work (5 months with my first, 6 months with my second) and then both babies were fed formula at lunchtime, but I still nursed in the mornings and evenings.

Q: When did you start solid foods? A: We started solids around six months and we used rice cereal. I was advised to start solid food if “the baby seemed hungry” even with nursing/formula. We introduced one new food at a time and I used some jarred food and made some of my own.

Q: Where did your babies sleep? Did your children share beds/bedrooms? A: We had a bassinet in our room for a few weeks with each newborn before moving them to a crib in a separate room. When we moved our second child out of our room, she shared a room with her two-year-old sister.

Q: Did you keep baby books for each child? A: We had a baby calendar for both of them, but I’ve misplaced them. I did save cards from their baby showers and some major holidays.  

Q: Do you remember any difficulties you had? A: I was concerned that my first child was a month old and wasn’t sleeping though the night. (I nursed at 11 pm.) I talked to nurse friend and she suggested using a pacifier instead of nursing (as long as my child was gaining weight). It took about a week of the baby waking and getting a pacifier instead of nursing.

I don’t remember when my second child started sleeping through the night, but I don’t remember it being an issue.

I remember that in the winters, bathtime was an issue because we had a drafty, poorly insulated house. We would take the kids to the basement to bathe in front of the woodstove.

With both girls, c.1984

Q: Did things get easier or harder with subsequent children? A: Easier, because I had experience. My attention was divided between two children, but I felt like I knew better what I was doing.

Q: Were your children well-behaved? A: I think they were both well-behaved. My second child was a little less “cooperative”, particularly during church time. However, I thought they both had a good attention span for their ages especially compared to some other children (friends’ children) of similar ages. I’m not sure if it was due to good parenting or just good luck. We did a lot of “looking at book time” and I think that helped with their ability to sit still.

Q: What do you remember most fondly about your babies' first years? A: I remember that I enjoyed watching my parents with my children.  My father was retired by that time and it was fun seeing him play with my girls because that was something he was often too busy to do with his own children.

Q: How much TV time under 2? A: Not much. We didn’t have many TV stations, and we couldn’t always get the PBS station. The girls watched some TV at the babysitter’s house. We didn’t get a VCR until late 1980s, but we didn’t really watch a lot of videos either.

Q: And no video games? A: No video games.

Q: Did your children have any serious illnesses? A: My first child needed a hernia operation when she was 6 years old.

My second child needed a hernia operation at 6 months and she had walking pneumonia during kindergarten. She also had some trouble with croup when she was in kindergarten and eventually had some asthma issues.

Both girls had the chicken pox – ages 6 and 4.

But no broken bones!

Q: Did you stay home with your children or did you work outside the home? A: I was an elementary school teacher, so I worked full-time, but was home during summers. My husband owned his own business and had a more flexible schedule. If the kids were sick, usually my husband stayed home with them.

Q: Since you worked, who watched your children? A: We used private, "at their home" babysitters.

Q: What were some of your hardest/saddest moments as a parent? A: It was always hard when one of the kids was sick or injured. Fortunately they weren’t ever seriously sick. And it was difficult watching my children struggle with normal adolescent issues. I was hard being unable to “fix” everything.

Q: Do you have regrets as a mother? A: I don’t really have regrets because ultimately I’m happy with how things have worked out. Sure, it would have been nice to have more money or a bigger (less drafty) house, but basically I was happy with our decisions at the time. I think we did the best we could with what we had. And honestly there isn’t any point in feeling bad about past decisions. They’re over.

Q: Are there special mementos you cherish from (or of) your children? A: We still hang a lot of their handmade Christmas ornaments each year and I really love looking through old photo albums.

Q: Are there things mothers do today that you think are crazy? A: I think too many parent let their children dictate what happens in the home, in the store or in school. It’s crazy that a parent would have an out of control child and say, “I just don’t know what to do.” Parents shouldn’t act (or be) so helpless.

I think that using “time outs” as a discipline tool is silly. Sometimes you need a little cooling off period (both as a parent and as the child), but I think that parents who believe that there should be NO physical punishment or correction are absolutely wrong.

I think that kids now get way too many material things. They just have too much STUFF. And because they have so much, they don’t appreciate or take care of their things the way they should.

Parents should require that their children take care of their things and make sure that they’re put away. It teaches them to respect their home.

And I don’t understand parents who don’t expect their children to contribute to the chores of a family. It’s important for kids to have “jobs” within the home. Giving an allowance is fine, but children shouldn’t be paid to do the dishes or make their beds. Those are jobs that everyone has because they’re part of a family and those are the responsibilities of each person in the house.

Q: What’s your biggest piece of advice for mothers raising children today? A: Teach your children personal responsibility.

Q: What were some of your proudest moments as a mother? A: I remember that a family member without children commented about how fun it was to spend time with my children. And I remember feeling very proud when people complimented me on how well-behaved my children were.

I’m also proud of having two grown daughters who are independent and am proud of the way they’re living their lives. I’m proud of the men they’ve chosen to be with, too.

My husband and I wanted to raise children that we would enjoy spending time with once they were adults. I feel like we’ve succeeded.

The whole family, January 2013.

See.  I told you my mom is awesome.