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Welcome & What to Expect from this Practical Parenting Blog

Magistri Mama is a parenting blog that exists to help families live healthier and less stressful lives through public health education and practical parenting practices, tools, and ideas. I started Magistri Mama to learn new skills and keep my brain sharp while being a full-time parent.

Parents need sensible, practical answers to parenting problems so they can have time for the fun parts of family life. This isn’t the blog to check for ‘foodie’ toddler snack recipes or Instagram-ready room design: I rely on my fellow mommy bloggers for those dreamy posts. Every minute of my long day is filled just keeping my family safe, fed, clean, and educated. I laugh when people tell me “don’t worry about a little dust or keeping your house perfect.” I appreciate their confidence in my housekeeping, but I aiming for “sanitary” and work hard to meet that standard in a house with an energetic toddler and several pets.

Magistri Mama is a parenting blog that offers an applied researcher’s parenting suggestions

I hold a doctorate in biological anthropology, have over two decades of experience in research and technical writing, and served as a mentor and teacher to university and medical students from 2000 to 2018. All of my research has dealt with practical, real-world issues of human health. When I needed to learn the many parenting lessons in the first year of Magistri Milo’s 1 life, I approached each one as a critical thinking exercise or research project. The academic product for such activities is dissemination, which is just a fancy way of saying ‘sharing what you learned’.

Despite being out of academia, it seems wrong to keep hard-won life and parenting lessons to myself when others might benefit.

It is not necessary that Magistri Mama readers adopt or adapt any of my suggestions: even deciding that a suggested solution is not right for you is in itself an action that employs conscious and purposeful consideration. Sometimes creating a plan of action starts with identifying actions you don’t want to take. In my book, any progress toward an appropriate outcome is good progress.

“…nothing can prepare a person for parenting except doing it: parenting skills come through ‘on-the-job training.” –Magistri Mama.

Despite my extensive formal academic training, years of research experience, and public health work and collaboration with professionals in infant care and feeding, I quickly realized that nothing can prepare a person for parenting except doing it: parenting skills come through ‘on-the-job training’. While some people get at least some of this on-the-job training from responsibilities given to them as the older/oldest sibling in a large family or babysitting children across a wide range of ages, I have discovered that those roles are too limited in responsibility and intensity to compare to actual parenting.

When our family celebrated surviving the first year of parenting, I realized that although books tell expectant parents to expect chaos and emotion, they cannot provide adequate description of the impact of child-wrought chaos and emotion delivered when the parents are sleep-deprived, haven’t showered or eaten properly in recent memory, have fluctuating hormones, have ten thousand household tasks to accomplish, are stressing about returning to work or not returning to work, have a mountain of baby gear from well-meaning friends and family to sort through, and are worried about their baby getting enough food. Just as books cannot adequately describe running a marathon or fighting in a military battle, words fail to capture the intensity of parenting reality.

a man, woman, and child walk up a hill holding hands- a family outing
Photo by Alberto Casetta on Unsplash

The first year of parenting includes a steep learning curve for most first-time parents because it is the first time they must assume full responsibility for every aspect and decision impacting a vulnerable person’s life.

I had experience from babysitting-based care of toddlers through elementary-aged children and Magistri Man (my spouse) had teaching experience with preschool through high school aged kids. However, neither of us had ever cared for a newborn or infant for more than a few hours. I now realize that babysitting and teaching do not develop a full range of parenting skills because they occur in systems already set up by others responsible for the overall safety and health of everyone in that system.

While I have been pleasantly surprised with the critical thinking challenges that parenting provides because I need an outlet for my intellectual curiosity, I wonder how families with more than one child, single parent families, and families with both parents working full time can keep up with the ever-changing landscape of their children’s needs and make the headspace to address their baby proofing and home care challenges in ways that maximize health, safety, and family time.

 

Two new parents embracing one another an their newborn baby.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

I know that many families are be fine without outside help and education, but I think providing public health and practical parenting resources for families is a valuable contribution to the greater community that I can do even with the many time limitations in my maternal season of life. I have always been a ‘helper’ and want to model this behavior for our son because our children learn more from our behaviors and how we spend our time than from our words.

I decided to offer public health information and our family’s parenting solutions and ideas to other families in hopes of giving others more time and energy to enjoy their family. I had already created a structure for business called Magistri Consultants, LLC. Instead of soliciting work on projects for others, I decided to begin an online educational and discussion entity that is now MagistriMama.com.

Magistri is the plural form of the Latin word magister, which means pilot, guide, or teacher. My consulting company Magistri Consulting, LLC was designed to provide services from me and other current/former adult educators: the plural form of the word is appropriate in that context. Magistri Mama is currently a one-woman show, but the strategy for growth and expansion includes expertise and suggestions from other folks. I have also selected some symbolic magistri that inspired the company logo LINK.

A Latin dictionary showing the definition of Magistri
Public domain: Lewis & Short (1891)
Harper’s Latin Dictionary. Clarendon

We were overwhelmed as older fist-time parents, but focused on working smarter instead of harder.

Our family grew from a surprise adoption after 10 years of unsuccessful fertility treatment and adoption applications, including an agency that went out of business on us after boasting about their 90-plus years in the adoption business. We first met Magistri Milo’s amazing Birth Mama at 2 pm and he was born two hours later.

A man holds a child and both are laughing-parent/child fun
Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

Because we had basically given up hope of growing our family before this meeting, our newborn blessing arrived with almost zero logistical preparation and no material readiness on our part besides a car seat and sidecar crib, both still in their boxes. (Thank goodness they were required by our adoption agency!) We ordered items from Amazon from Milo’s hospital room so they would be waiting for us on the doorstep when our new son was discharged.

Coupled with our older age (46) as first-time parents, this trial by fire challenged us to develop a parenting style and methods that conserved energy and dealt with drudgery through planned systems with the right tools and routine. As a person with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), life skills like planning, housekeeping systems, and creating/maintaining routine are areas in which I struggle. I therefore decided to approach parenting like my new job, applying research principles and critical thinking skills to each issue and implementing solutions that provided the best outcomes.

Magistri Man is a natural systems thinker, so he agreed with this approach and facilitated us working as a team. [Note: This doesn’t mean that our two decade marriage flowed along happily in the wake of parenting– I’ll address this in a future post. Spoiler: Marital satisfaction tanks in the first 12-18 months after the first child arrives. We had a happy outcome, thankfully.]

Despite having a decade of attempted family building to discuss and decide the values we wished to support and exhibit as a family, we completely underestimated the enormous amount of headspace that parenting work occupies. Overwhelm, distraction, and constant interruption characterize the first years of parenting. Because this is ‘life as usual’ for someone with ADHD, I believe that my life-long experience as a person with ADHD has been a benefit to my parenting journey: many ADHD coping skills transfer nicely to parenting.

New parenting is a lot like having ADHD.

Anatomical model of a human brain-cross section
Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

Many people with ADHD report being in a near-constant state of overwhelm because our brain ‘information filters’ don’t work like the information filters in neurotypical brains. Because our filters are less functional, our ADHD brain must use important analytical headspace to sort and prioritize incoming information, shifting this important work from an automatic process to an intentional process handled by our executive functioning system. This limits the other analytical work our brains can do because part of it is always working to replace the function of our filters. This means that we ADHD folks often have daily experience battling overwhelm and reduced headspace that neurotypical people usually experience only in specific circumstances.

Stimulant medications and healthy lifestyle practices can often help ‘turn on’ ADHD information filters, but there is great variation in the degree to which medication impacts ADHD traits. I am grateful for the improved function that I have received due to my ADHD medication and even more grateful that I was diagnosed and started treatment before Magistri Milo came to us.

Adult students and an instructor in a college classroom
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

During my time as a university faculty member and mentor to students undertaking research, I realized that they often described difficulties with prioritizing the overwhelming numbers of tasks, initiating or competing new or challenging tasks, and didn’t have experience breaking down large goals into ‘do-able’ tasks. These issues are hallmarks of an ADHD life. Because neurotypical students had not previously experienced the barriers and ‘analysis paralysis’ that many of us ADHD folks experience regularly, they simply didn’t yet have coping stills and strategies to address these new problems.

When I suggested that these stressed-out students implement strategies used and recommended by ADHD experts and members of the ADHD community, they reported better progress, less stress, and more successfully completed their research project. Most students implementing ADHD coping strategies also exhibited improved self-confidence after discovering that a faculty member shared their difficulties and was still able to have a successful career. It was personally rewarding to find that my life-long work for self-improvement added value to my mentoring toolkit.

The success due to the application of ADHD-driven coping strategies in university life leads me to expect that strategies and approaches to parenting developed with an ADHD-friendly perspective would be similarly valuable to parents. I look forward to hearing from readers concerning this expectation.

What to Expect from Magistri Mama

Personal Suggestions

Magistri Mama will offer personal suggestions to address parenting and household issues that we have encountered, those that are common on internet parenting advice discussion boards, and (we hope) requested from Magistri Mama readers. Our family has arrived at these solutions through critical thinking coupled with experimentation and through suggestions and support of friends, loved ones, helpful folks at home improvement stores, internet discussion sites, and through internet and traditional research. They are offered with the caveat that every situation is different and families should adopt and adapt suggestions to fit their own circumstances. It is simply easier to find a solution when you have a starting idea.A mother tosses her laughing daughter into the air-parenting fun

Photo by Thiago Cerqueira on Unsplash

Evidence-based Public Health Information

Because Magistri Mama was created by a former college educator, this blog relies on evidence-based public health information supported by research and the academic literature. While acknowledging the fact that scientific knowledge has limitations that researchers work to reduce, we will not debate the veracity of practices supported by the peer reviewed literature and the healthcare professions.

Perspective and Tweaks to Consider to Improve Daily Life

There have been staggering life changes involved in my overnight transition from a working professional without children to an unemployed person with full-time responsibility for an infant. As an anthropologist, I have been interested in how these personal changes have impacted the social roles I occupy and those that others assume and expect me to occupy. Similarly, as an adoptive parent, I have found myself explaining the way modern adoption works and fighting the long-held tenets of secrecy and judgment that birth parents were subjected to for making and implementing adoption plans. Because social roles and life events impact health, these changes also relate to public health practice and prevention.

Community & Mutual Support

Many people have their hands in a circle--a sign of teamwork
Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

The online placement of Magistri Mama will allow discussion, contribution, and feedback from other families during their short breaks between work and family tasks whether they are in urban or rural areas, are disabled and experiencing the many barriers to community that our society maintains: we can reach caregivers browsing the internet while trapped under a blissfully sleeping baby, grandparents hanging out in the bathroom while they sit with a toilet-training grandchild, and working parents furiously Googling to see what else they can do to help soothe their teething toddler. The more engagement contributors, perspectives, and ideas we have to choose from for each parenting or public health issue, the better and more quickly we can address the practical aspects of family life and get to the fuzzy happiness of spending time with our family.

Recommended Tools & Equipment with Step-by-Step Instructions

Magistri Mama will recommend products that we have researched and chosen independently (many before we even dreamed of MagistriMama.com) and explain our reasons for our choice. Recommendations may include affiliate marketing links that earn small referral fees. (See a list of our affiliate relationships.) Magistri Consulting, LLC has another division (magistrimarketing.com ) just for affiliate marketing: this helps me remain transparent while taking advantage of this opportunity. I want you to feel free to purchase any item(s) of interest from whatever source works best for you and your budget. I do not accept free items in exchange for reviews or for recommending products: I purchase items as business expenses and list them on my tax return.

I look forward to this new adventure and serving you and your families! –MM

  1. Milo is not his real name. We are limiting publication of our child’s image and personal details online.

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