BALLSTON LAKE – For longtime rule-follower Laura Rafferty, becoming a mom brought out her rebellious side.
The Ballston Lake resident released a book on how she became a “Rebel Mama,” eschewing some of the mainstream methods of child-rearing in favor of following her gut. The book blends memoir and non-fiction, covering topics like co-sleeping, circumcision, separation anxiety, mom guilt and more.
“It is not meant to be a how-to guide for parents. This is just me helping you understand that it’s okay to feel different,” Rafferty said.
Growing up, as the North Troy-native writes, she was a stickler for doing everything by the book.
“I was raised Roman Catholic and my holy-rolling, 8-year-old self was grateful to Moses for putting stone to tablet, giving us guidelines for life.”
She dreamed of becoming a writer, though she delayed the dream in favor of studying business at SUNY Albany and securing a job at General Electric, where she’s worked in the human resources technology department for the past 15 years.
“If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I wanted to be a writer,” Rafferty said. “I always had that in the back of my mind a goal . . . to write a book.”
The inspiration for the book’s subject matter came when she and her husband Justin welcomed their son Jack into the world in 2019. While Rafferty entered into motherhood intending to follow all the many guidelines laid out for parents, she quickly found some just didn’t work for her son.
“He was just a really tough baby,” Rafferty said.
In 2020, she decided to “write about all of the challenges I had through this process and [about how] what people [told me] to do was the polar opposite of . . . what I felt I should do,” Rafferty said.
She wrote whenever she found scraps of time in between work and raising Jack.
“I wrote a lot when the baby was napping on me [or] at night in bed. A lot of it was written on my phone and in the notes section of my phone,” Rafferty said.
It’s written in a conversational tone and gets personal, as she discusses everything from conception to breastfeeding.
“I wrote it like I was talking to a good girlfriend. If it was something I would share with a good girlfriend, it made its way in there,” Rafferty said.
Beyond personal anecdotes, Rafferty provides data that she found helpful in her parenting research.
“Each chapter is a topic that I thought I really had, like the blueprint to . . . And then once I actually was doing it, I was like ‘This feels like so against my core,’ ” Rafferty said.
Co-sleeping was one such area.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents sleep separately from their infants for safety purposes. Before Jack’s birth, Rafferty planned to abide by that and have him sleep in a bassinet at first and then move him into his room by the time her maternity leave was up so she could get a good night’s sleep.
“So naive,” Rafferty said, looking back. “[When] the baby came . . . all of a sudden that didn’t make any sense to me.”
She also diverged from her original plan when it came to nursing.
“The book [covers] until he was about 18 months old but I nursed him until he was about 2 and that was something I wasn’t planning on doing,” Rafferty said. She was going to go by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation and wean him around the 1-year mark, but after struggling to get him to switch to solid foods she extended that.
Since she released the book in September, she said readers have reached out to thank her.
“One . . . reached out to me and she said, ‘Your book literally gave me a sigh of relief and I am now keeping my son in my bed with me without feeling guilty about it.’ And I was like ‘My day is made; my job is done,’ ” Rafferty said.
The reformed rule-follower welcomed her second child, Benjamin, earlier this year and already feels like she has enough material to write another book (or two).
“I was having a hard time adjusting to this little toddler who needs me but [also] this helpless baby who literally needs me in the true sense of needing; balancing that emotionally was really a challenge.”
It’s led to a bit of mom guilt, a topic that Rafferty covers in “Rebel Mama.” She manages it by trying to give herself some grace.
“One bad day or one rough patch isn’t ruining all of the good you’ve already done with your child,” Rafferty said.
She also noted that taking care of herself helps her better care for her kids.
“I don’t have to feel bad because I’m taking a nap or taking a shower or something like that, those are actually just essential parts of being a human,” Rafferty said.
“There has to be some sort of balance where you’re prioritizing yourself. Every day is not an option; the glory days of self-care and massages [are gone] so you’ve got to get realistic with it. But if you need a night out with your girlfriends, or you need to just binge watch something on Netflix, you don’t have to beat yourself up.”
Being a mother comes with a laundry list of challenges.
“No matter where someone is in their motherhood journey, whether they’re pregnant, they’re trying to conceive, they have a newborn, their kids are teenagers, their kids are married, the work of . . . a mother is like an unsung hero,” Rafferty said.
“Tell all the moms out there that they’re doing a good job because no matter how confident they are in their decisions, no matter how good they feel, I think every mom is always [wondering] ‘Am I doing the right thing? Can I be doing more?’ ”
“Rebel Mama: Breaking Free From Motherhood Norms and Parenting From Within,” is available on Amazon and at the Open Door Bookstore in Schenectady.
Best advice you’ve received?
“Don’t let anybody should on you.” It’s advice Rafferty attributes to Pinky McKay, an author, breastfeeding expert and TEDx speaker, who wrote the foreword for “Rebel Mama.”
“If somebody tells you . . . ‘You shouldn’t be doing that, you should be doing this,’ if that is not how you feel, then let it go,” Rafferty said.