Mom of Fame – Karen: Parenting a Pre-Teen with Down Syndrome

When we decided to dedicate October to moms who have kiddos with Down syndrome we reached out to several moms who we admire and we are absolutely pinching ourselves that Karen responded. She is another amazing mom to follow on instagram (@karenjp0915) if you are a new parent to a child with DS or even a new parent in general. She has a lot of experience being a mom (and a grandma) to her 12-year old son Caleb and his three older siblings. She talks about the importance of parenting each child individually, what is was like to get Caleb’s diagnosis, and how Caleb is “more alike than different”. Please help us welcome Karen into our Mom of Fame!


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

My name is Karen and I’ve been married 30 years (!) to my husband David. Between us, we have 4 children and 3 grandchildren (with one on the way). Caleb, our son with Down syndrome, is the youngest at age 12. His sister Courtney will be 30 later this year. He also has a half-brother (39) and half-sister (41). We cover all ages in our family 🙂

What is the best piece of advice you were given about motherhood? Did you take it? Would you give that piece of advice to someone else?

I’ve been blessed with many wonderful role models in motherhood, including my own mother. So much good advice; it’s hard to narrow it down to one piece. But if I had to, it would be to parent each child individually. That each child has their own strengths, interests, opportunities and challenges. Providing an environment to help them each learn their own path can be tricky, but look for the “helpers” – circles of support. Churches, community groups, schools, etc. can be great lifelines to broadening the path for your child(ren).

How is motherhood different than you imagined it would be?

Wow. It’s harder and it gets harder as they grow up!

It’s such a blessing to be a parent, and it’s also a responsibility. Helping your child find out who they are; what they want to be – it’s work! But wonderful work. I’m very proud of my children and whatever they want to be or do, I try to support them and guide them.

Love them unconditionally. Be there for them.

What are your three strengths when it comes to motherhood?

I’m a “doer” – if there’s something that needs to be done to support my children, I’m there. They know I’m in their corner – loving them unconditionally. I try to be an example for them – for their faith and for giving back. Volunteering was a huge role in my upbringing and I’ve tried to instill that in my kids too.

Describe a time where you were completely overwhelmed as a mother.

When our son Caleb was born with Down syndrome.

I felt like I was suffocating at first; like the world would never be right again. I had no knowledge of people with challenges – what their lives were like or how to mother someone with a difference. It took time, it took support, it took him guiding us and teaching us.

We eventually found the path wasn’t so different. It’s challenging for sure, but it’s a beautiful thing to recognize that our world has broadened so much by having Caleb in our lives.

Is there anything you feel that you have lost about yourself since becoming a mother? What have you gained?

When I was young, all I ever really wanted to be was a “mom”. So I would say not really. I’ve had quite an eclectic career path including both for-profit and not-for-profit roles. All those roles though had led me to meet the most interesting people, and really prepared me for who I am today and what I do now.

What do you want your child(ren) to learn from you?

Love, kindness, empathy, responsibility, community, faith, friendship.

Since it is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, what is the most important thing you want people to know about Down syndrome or about being a mom to a child with Down syndrome?

I could write on this point for a dozen pages or so, but I would love people – especially parents who don’t have children with unique (special) needs to know that our lives are not so different than yours (in our personal experience). Day-to-day living with Caleb is very similar to bringing up his sister – school, church, activities, friends, responsibilities. We depend more on supports with Caleb (therapies, etc). but we also have plenty of wonderful activities to do each week and throughout the year. Our local community is very supportive of people with differences, and that’s been huge for us.

There are things that we have and will put into place for Caleb that we didn’t have to with Courtney and our older children – financial strategies and educational plans. We look ahead and plan more for him most definitely. But there are many who love Caleb and are there for him – helping him to become the best he can be. Whether that’s owning his own business, or working for someone else, we hope and pray that he grows into a productive, happy young man who loves the Lord and loves his fellow man. Including him in community events and traveling has helped.

I would ask other parents to teach their children about “difference”. That having special needs or being a different skin color adds to a beautiful variety to community – wherever you might live. We believe that Caleb is “more alike than different” but also the “different is beautiful” too.

Mom of Fame – Kelly : Single Mom, Boy Mom, Super Mom

We are so lucky to have this continually growing group of moms that are willing to share their stories and experiences with us. Next up on the Mom of Fame is Kelly. She is a single mother of one awesome *almost* 12 year old boy. She talks motherhood, raising a son on her own and the humor that comes with being a #boymom.

Please welcome her to the mom of fame!


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

My name is Kelly and I am a single mother of an amazing almost 12-year-old boy, Dylan. We are settled in Michigan with our dog Ryder and have been here for almost 8 years.

What is the best piece of advice you were given about motherhood? Did you take it? Would you give that piece of advice to someone else?

I would say that the best piece of advice anyone ever gave me was to offer a bottle right away even though I was breastfeeding. Many people are so quick to judge what is best (breastfeeding or bottle feeding) and so for me when I was able to do both, it gave me a sense of relief and freedom. I primarily breastfed up until 8 months however, there were times I was sick and needed to be on antibiotics that I could not breastfeed, so I was thankful Dylan was already used to a bottle when he needed it. It was also nice to be able to pump and have him get used to someone else feeding him.

How is motherhood different than you imagined it would be?

No one could have prepared me for motherhood. It is so much more (the good and the bad) than I could have ever imagined. It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

What are your three strengths when it comes to motherhood?

3 supermom powers that I have are:

The ability to raise my son to be a good human being
The grace to be able to find humor in almost every situation
Perseverance (it has been challenging raising a son on my own)

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Describe a time when you were completely overwhelmed as a mother.

I had to laugh at “describe a time where you were completely overwhelmed as a mother”…. EVERY DAMN DAY came to mind!

If I had to choose one moment that stands out it would be when my son was 7 months old and we flew to Washington State from Michigan and were waiting for his father to return home from Iraq. We didn’t have housing yet so we were staying in a hotel room. I had help picking up our truck that had been in storage so we had a vehicle. My son ended up with Pneumonia and so did I along with mastitis. When I went to take us to the doctors, the truck had died. So I had a sick baby, no transportation and no help. We finally ended up taking a taxi (yes it was before Uber was a thing) to the hospital. When we finally got home with our antibiotics, all he wanted to do was nurse however I couldn’t. I remember crying sitting on the bathroom floor thinking “how am I going to get through this”! After hours of crying on both of our ends, he took a bottle and we were both able to sleep. A team mate of his fathers came and fixed the truck so we were no longer stranded and his father returned home a few days later from deployment.

Is there anything you feel that you have lost about yourself since becoming a mother? What have you gained?

I lost a lot of myself becoming a mom. For a long time I forgot who I was and what I liked to do because all of that energy is put into raising another human. At some point that changed and I was able to become a better version of who I was before I was a mom. I have gained so much being a mom! I have gained patience, grace, tenacity, and honestly a life long best friend. My son is a missing piece to my life that I never knew even existed.

What do you want your child to learn from you?

I want my son to learn how to love people, and love big! To me, raising someone with good values who makes a difference in the lives of those around him is what is important to me. I want him to see that anything is possible and that as cliche as it is “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”!

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You are a boy mom! You and your son seem to have such a wonderful relationship. For other moms that are raising boys – What would you say is your number one piece of advice for having such a close relationship with your son is?

I love being a mom of a boy. And honestly, I cried when I found out he wasn’t going to be a girl! Now, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. He is my best buddy, he brings me water when I am sick, is my biggest fan, loves life, and is just an overall good person. To moms who are raising boys, I would say, raise boys who are well rounded and teach them it is OK to have feelings. We are raising men who will one day hopefully be a partner to someone else, and will need to be loving and strong. And get ready to learn more than you will ever want to know about boogers, farts, poop, sports, dirt, and so much more!