We sat down with entrepreneur and mother-of-two, Sandy Bodeau, to get learn more about parenting a child with Down Syndrome, balancing work and parenthood, and more.
Motherhood comes in all shapes and forms. When it comes to parenting little ones with disabilities, having the right resources makes all the difference. That’s why Sandy Bodeau created Mara the Wondergirl — a website and blog where parents to children with Down Syndrome can learn more about their experiences, and feel supported in their own journeys.
Sandy Bodeau is an author, entrepreneur, and digital creator. She is a mama to two beautiful children. Her youngest child, Mara, was prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome. After receiving this diagnosis, Sandy did everything she could to prepare for Mara’s arrival and make sure she would have all of the resources she would need to thrive! We sat down with Sandy to get her take on all things motherhood, Down Syndrome, balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood, and more.
Q: What are a few of your favorite activities to do with your kids?
A: I always follow my kids' lead when it comes to activity planning. I let them do some free play and watch what is catching their interest that day. If my oldest is playing with his dinosaurs, I try to plan an art activity involving dinosaurs or grab a book about dinosaurs. Similarly, if I see him playing with his stuffed animals, I may plan a birthday party for one of his stuffed animals. That way, I feel like I am not disrupting their day and I have learned that you can teach absolutely anything to your kids through using their topic of interest (for example, practice counting by counting how many dinosaurs they are playing with, practice mixing primary colors to create secondary colors by coloring a dinosaur, etc).
Q: How do you balance being a “Wondermom” and being an author/entrepreneur?
A: Great question. I balance it all by understanding that true balance does not really exist when you wear so many hats. My goal is to be really present wherever I am at the moment. When I am in mom-mode, my kids are my priority and I know that I will not be as efficient as a business woman. By the same token, when I need to get work done, I know that my kids cannot have my full attention and I explain that to them kindly. In summary, I have found my own version of balance by being at peace with the fact that you cannot do it all at all times, or be everything for everybody.
Q: What are your favorite tips and tricks of Motherhood?
A: My biggest trick as a mother is trying to put myself in my kids' shoes. It is an exercise that requires a lot of patience but through which I have created a very special bond with my two children. I do not see myself as an authoritative figure when it comes to them. I am their guide from a very respectful and compassionate way. They know I take their feelings seriously no matter how insignificant the outside world may think one particular issue is. So, if I had to share a trick with another mom as to what works for me would be: listen to your kids. Validate their feelings. It may not seem like a good deal to you as an adult, but showing lack of understanding for those big feelings will for sure create a relationship of distrust, and I know all parents would love to think that their relationship with their children is based on respect and trust.
Q: How did you feel when you got Mara’s diagnosis?
A: I initially felt terrified when I received Mara's prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. I was very afraid of the unknown. I did not know what the diagnosis would mean for our family and for my unborn daughter. However, this lasted only 4 days. On the 5th day, I woke up and told myself: "this stops today. No more crying. If you feel this sad, you are passing that to your baby girl". I never looked back and went on to have a wonderful pregnancy. I decided that information is power and spent the rest of my pregnancy preparing to greet my daughter with open arms and prepared to be the best mother I could be for her.
Q: What is one thing people don’t know about Down Syndrome that you want them to know? / What is a misconception about Down Syndrome you want to correct?
A: I would like people to know that a life with Down syndrome is a life worth living. My daughter's life is beautiful. She is a happy, funny, sassy and LOVED baby.
A big misconception about DS is that the diagnosis is a burden for the family. It could not be further from the truth. Our family is BETTER because of Mara's DS. Every single day, Mara shows us what life is truly about: trying, persevering and not giving up. That life does not need to be perfect to be tremendously beautiful.
Q: What is the best part of raising a child with Down Syndrome?
A: The best part of raising Mara this far has been the perspective about life she has given me. Mara has connected me to a part of my soul that I did not know existed. Thanks to her, I am more present, more aware, more compassionate and many other things that have made me a better human since she came along.
Q: What is one piece of advice you’d give to other parents raising children with Down Syndrome?
A: My one piece of advice would be: build your own path and do not spend your life listening to others' experiences. If joining support groups is what you need, do it. They did not do anything positive for me, so I left that path and decided to build my own. When I did not like the traditional approach taken by traditional therapists, I decided to research other ways of helping Mara thrive. I chose a neuro developmental approach and she is thriving. Is this the correct path for your family? Only you know that. So, follow your heart and never stop believing in your child's abilities.
Q: You are such an incredible and inspiring supporter of Down syndrome advocacy. What are a few of the best resources parents can access to learn more and help support as well?
A: Thank you very much! When my daughter Mara turned one, my husband and I created a website in her honor and it was designed to be the website I did not find when I was pregnant with her and she was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. The goal of our website — www.marathewondergirl.com — is to be a hub for all parents with a focus on special needs. I share my personal journey but also inspiring stories, resources, and expert advice. I wanted to create a site that empowers all families to equip their kids, particularly during the first few years, to the best of their ability.
After my shameless plug, I would highly recommend parents read about Glenn Doman's work/books and the Institutes that he created; thanks to which I have been able to be my daughter's own therapist and, I must say, she is thriving!
Q: What do you think the most important lesson to teach your children is?
A: I do not know that I can pick only one lesson, but my main goal as a mother is for my children to know that they are loved exactly as they are and without conditions; that they should always treat others with kindness, compassion and respect; and that they should find something that they feel really passionate about regardless of how meaningful or important society may find it. If I get to raise them feeling loved, capable of showing others compassion, and able to do something that they love, I will feel successful as a mother.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: Yes. If you are a mother who just received a Down syndrome diagnosis, do not hesitate to reach out to me via social media. You can always contact me via Instagram at @sandythewondermom and I will be so happy to help you and let you know that you and your baby are going to be more than OK.
Remember that no matter what your parenting journey looks like, you always have a community of others around you. Reaching out to people like Sandy online, finding resources to help, or sharing your own story, are all amazing ways to keep that community alive. At Doona, we make innovative products that cater to all mamas and little ones. We aim to make each day simpler, so you can focus on what matters — your special bond with your child!