Introducing Resilient Mamas

I’m so excited to share with you a re-launch of my blog and the beginning of a community!

As I’ve progressed on my journey both personally and professionally in the area of maternal mental health I envisioned creating a community where there is one understanding- that mothers can support each other without judgment, celebrate differences, hold space for one’s another’s stories, and empower one another to heal and grow. This lead to me creating the Resilient Mamas space. It’s a blog with inspriation and challenges, a Facebook community, and an in person group that meets twice monthly- once as a support group on the 3rd Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 at Circle of Life at once as a social gathering at Playgrounds Cafe in Lakewood and on the 2nd Tuesday from 10am-12pm at Playgrounds Cafe in Lakewood.

I look forward to seeing what this community grows into and am hopeful that mothers can be empowered through connection with one another to not only be vulnerable and open but to thrive inside and outside of motherhood with confidence and strength.

So welcome to Resilient Mamas! I’m so glad you’re here. I encourage you to visit the What is a Resilient Mama? page to find out more about the identity I wish to foster in each mother in this community.

Also if you’d like to be part of our Facebook group that will involve support and weekly challenges for growth you can join here.

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Self-Care Mondays #14: Re-Think Expectations`

The new year brings with it a lot of promise. We start to see the world as full of possibilities. We think of all the changes we want to make and goals we want to accomplish. But with this all fresh new hope comes something that can weigh us down- expectations.

 

Self-Care Mondays' _14_ Rethinking Expectations

Expectations are things we think SHOULD happen. This is different than hope. Hope is something we think may happen but with the knowledge that it may not. We are emotionally prepared to be disappointed but still in a positive mindset. Expectations can sometimes come with an entitled sense of thinking. I expect this to happen therefore it should happen and if it doesn’t I’m going to have a big problem with it. Danny Boyle said it best, “It’s a good place when all you have is hope and not expectations.”

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t have any expectations. We should expect to be respected by others. We should expect that we will meet our daily responsibilities. The problem becomes when our expectations of ourselves or others become attached to our sense of self and ability to accept those we consider as important in our lives.

Expectations in relationships is another blog post within itself so I’m going to focus on the expectations we have of ourselves mostly because this time of year is when we seem to have the highest expectations of ourselves. We list many resolutions and we place high expectations on what we will accomplish in the new year, and all of these expectations especially those we tie greatly to our self-worth can be a breeding ground for disappointment in ourselves and feelings of low self-worth.

So when you’re sitting down to write your resolutions ( and yes, please please write them), sit back and re-think your expectations.  When we write things down we can  not only get all of our thoughts down and out of the abyss of our minds but we can also concretize them, examine them from a different point of view, and choose to cross out those  that are too lofty or not the best fit for our lives right now. For example I wrote down as one of my resolutions to hike a trail of significant length this year. After looking at it on paper next to my other resolutions I realized it wasn’t the best fit for me this year. It may be entirely possible that I can achieve this goal this year. I sat back and was truly honest with myself. Having two young children and having some professional goals I want to set aside some time for when I can secure childcare I realized it’s not the time for this goal for me. I altered the goal to hiking on my own once per month setting not particular length as a goal. So when looking back on 2018 I can feel good about the time I took to hike, something I love to do, but not feel disappointed that I didn’t conquer the Appalachian Trail.

After you write down your resolutions ask yourself the following four questions to re-think your expectations.

  • Is the motive for this resolution primarily to fulfill a need for self-worth? Will I somehow feel more worthy as a person if I fulfill it? In this case cross it out. What’s more important is shifting your mindset to believing in your worth right now, accomplishments or no accomplishments, being the mother you want to be or falling short of that constantly. A better resolution in this case is to work on feelings around self-worth in this area by rejecting self-judgmental thoughts and reducing shame with self-compassion.
  • Is the motive for this resolution primarily to  fulfill what I believe others expect of me? Wanting to be a “better” partner or “better” parent not only is an unclear goal it’s also pretty undefinable. What constitutes better? Improving how we contribute to our relationships is a wonderful intention but we have to make sure we are tackling it with a tremendous amount of self-awareness. Choosing to become a “better” mother by adopting traits that don’t feel authentic to ourselves but rather something someone wants us to be with only set us up for either disappointment in ourselves when we can’t make ourselves be different or feelings of inauthenticity that will lead to discomfort and potential resentment in our relationships. Wanting to be more present with our children because that’s something we value is a great mindset. But forcing ourselves to be Pinterest perfect mommy because we think it’ll make the family happy or make us well-liked is only going to end up more like a pinterest fail.
  • Can I cope adequately if I don’t even come close to meeting this resolution? How will it impact my sense of self-worth if I don’t achieve it? If you’re like me and have set the resolution to lose a certain amount of pounds each year and feel utterly disappointed when you don’t meet that goal this question is for you. I consistently have never met this resolution and it has immediately led me to thoughts of “I’m never going to lose weight,” “I’m so lazy,” or “I never follow through on things.” Because this became my yearly habit that sent me into a cycle of self-loathing and poor body image I’ve given up on new years resolutions that deal with weight altogether. This year my resolution is to start making healthier decisions more often than unhealthy decisions. I’m not going to focus on a strict eating or exercise plan but rather start asking myself at the end of each day- did I make more healthy decisions today? If not that’s okay, I try again tomorrow. The important thing is I’m thinking of it each day and agreeing to consider my physical health more often. This is the way I’m hoping to move towards better physical health while keeping this goal at a distance from my self-worth. Alter your resolution in a way that won’t set that self-defeating cycle in motion for you.
  • Is this resolution realistic, achievable, and able to be altered and adapted frequently without becoming disappointed and easily frustrated? It’s no secret that society puts a lot of pressure on us to achieve a lot rather quickly. We’re always looking for the quickest way to achieve something and even when we do achieve it we’re barely don’t popping the bottle of champagne before setting our sights higher. Think of how quickly people asked you when you were going to have another child after having your first. Sometimes I wonder how more simplistic our lives would be if you society gave up the need for instance gratification and “never enough” thinking. So this is where sometimes our resolutions can become too concrete. If you can’t alter your resolution to become more achievable its time to re-think your expectations. For example, “I won’t yell at my kids anymore” is not only unrealistic for some parents that struggle with this but also pretty unachievable if its become a habit. Making it more realistic such as “I’ll become more aware of how I’m communicating with my children by keeping a daily diary” is not only achievable but more realistic as a first step to decreasing yelling. Also if you set yourself for never yelling at your kids how will you feel if you yell at them one day? “I failed. I’m an awful mother. My kids deserve better than me.” We begin to resent ourselves with this thinking, we feel irritable, then our kids are demanding or not listening, and we yell because we’re irritable and feeling defeated. It becomes a vicious cycle. We have to use real honesty with ourselves about what we are capable of accomplishing and be willing to alter our goals as we go along so that we can feel capable of accomplishing them.

 

The reason re-thinking expectations is a form of self-care is because it gives us the ability to give ourselves room to breathe when it comes to our goals. Whether it’s a unexpected injury, struggles with mental health, or just realizing we set our sights a little too high we need to give ourselves the grace and space to change our expectations of ourselves and our lives. When we alter our expectations first we’re able to prevent the cycle of shame and negative thinking that accompanies failure. We’re able to recognize that although we may not have achieved what we initially intended we are worthy of re-evaluating based on what we can handle, what there is space for in our lives, and all the while realizing that none of it has anything to do with our worth as a person.

 

Self Care Mondays #12: Slow Down

We hear often the importance of slowing down and reducing the busyness of our daily lives. But how does one actually do that? Especially when our daily busy tasks seem so necessary. So when you don’t think you can move anything off your plate then a way to reduce the stress of the busyness and increase your self-care is to simply do these tasks   s l o w e r. 

Self-Care Mondays #12- Slow Down

Sounds crazy right? I thought so too. I’ve lived my life with the belief that doing things as fast as humanly possible frees up my time, time for self-care nonetheless. But as I’ve approached motherhood with this belief I have found that doing things hurriedly has not only robbed me of my enjoyment of the moment but has been a missed opportunity for self-care. Self-care while I am caring for my children. Relationships and interactions in and of themselves are self-care! They enhance our feelings of worthiness and belonging and fill our need for connection. So approaching our daily interactions and tasks in which we care for others with a slower pace helps enrich these experiences.

This epiphany, for me, came from learning more about the RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) philosophy of parenting. Magda Gerber, the founder of RIE, stressed the importance of sitting back, slowing down, and simply observing our children. And now I have found that applying that philosophy to both my children and myself has given me a nourishment of my mind and spirit.

An example of this was when I was changing my daughters diaper the other day.  I told her as I was changing exactly what I was doing to prepare her and I slowly and deliberately thought about my tasks. It enhanced my connection with her as I caught her wide eyes and smiling face and looked at her. We started intensely at each other and I soaked in this connection. It filled my soul in that moment having that bond with my daughter.

My son was having a melt down about leaving the house and instead of putting his shoes on for him as he wailed and complained I simply looked at him. I held his eyes in mine and he reached for a hug. We held each other and I let go of getting to where we were going on time. In that moment we were deeply connected and I was calm.

I am finding that I am also trying to model it to my own children. My daughter was laying in her lounger and was wide awake. Usually I would see this and see a need for her to be stimulated, to be “doing something” with her time for her own development. But instead I sat back and watched her. She was opening and closing her hand. The sunlight was shining on it. And she was rubbing it against the mesh lining of the inside of her lounger. She was enjoying the moment herself, learning about the movement of her hand, the touch of the lining, the feeling of having the sunlight shine down upon you. So I put the toy down that I had picked up to put in her hands. I sat and marveled at her and in a way I was watching her grow before my eyes and allowing her to do it in the way she wanted and at her own pace.

I’ve started to deliberately move through the house at a slower pace. When I have a free moment and my mind is buzzing with what I should be accomplishing I focus on one task and do it slowly.

A part of me will always having racing thoughts and a quick moving mind. A part of who I am is a person who is active and wants to do so many things in this world and I embrace that. But doing these things at a slower pace lets me enjoy them more fully and appreciate the accomplishment rather than breezing by to the next course of action. And breathing in that moment when I am caring for someone, finishing something, or even washing a dish is a way I am saying to myself, “You are here in this moment, you are worthy to slow down and enjoy it, breath it in before it passes by.”

So in Magda’s own words let your mantra this week be, “Go slowly and with great patience.”

-Go slowly, and with great patience.-Magda Gerber

Self-Care Mondays #12: Make a Self-Care Plan

One of the most important tenets of self-care for me is that self-care is a prevention tool. This means that engaging in self-care practices can prevent stress, becoming overwhelmed, having emotional breakdowns, coming into negative head space, or disillusionment. The most important thing however, is that self-care is used in a way to prevent first, then treat. This means that self-care is engaged in a routine and daily fashion not just relied upon when stress takes over. So engage in creating your own self-care plan in order to make sure you’re maintaining emotional health instead of just remedying it when it starts to falter. Here are some tips:

make-a-self-care-plan

 

  1. Creating a self-care plan can be done in the way that best suits your personality. If you’re a little type A and need some structure to your day make sure you write in (WITH PEN) your daily self-care practices or rituals. If you’re more type-B don’t worry about having a set plan for each day but pay attention to the rhythm and flow and stay mindful of the best times to utilize for self-care. Either way make a commitment to at least a 10-15 minute self-care ritual each day. You may have to test and trial times and spaces that work for you based on your schedule. You may think that you’ll wake up an hour early each day and then keep hitting the snooze button- then its time to change what time is best for your self-care ritual.
  2. Each morning  take some time to think mindfully about which practice would most benefit you during your self-care time. This is important because we can easily fall into doing something that is mindless or not as impactful during self-care time. “Me time” is different than “self-care time.” Self-care time is mindful and focused on doing something to enhance your emotional and/or physical wellbeing. “Me time” is giving in to whatever desires you have for yourself and maybe even indulging- there is nothing wrong with this. However, self-care time is more planful and intentional and a NECESSITY, not a luxury. I have watched so many nap times come and go where I didn’t feel any more nurtured or rested because I sat in front of the TV or on the internet for 2 hours and that wasn’t refreshing for me. That “me time” wasn’t working for me so I had to devote the first half hour to mindful self-care and then I could turn on the tube.
  3. Keep a list of self-care practices readily available. Sometimes it can be daunting to even sit down and think about what we want to do for ourselves. Having a list of self-care rituals at hand can be helpful to select what is best for ourselves that day. Breaking self-care rituals into different categories that address our needs can also be helpful. Feeling a little in need of more social time? Have a list of self-care rituals that help address loneliness or disconnection such as writing an email to an old friend, scheduling a coffee date with another mom, or Skyping with your cousin who lives overseas.

Here are some examples of self-care rituals from various aspects of human need. You can ask yourself what area you feel you have the most need in and select a practice from that category.

Spiritual– Read from a religious text or spiritual book, pray, reflect, or meditate, journal, educate yourself on a spiritual subject you’ve wanted to learn more about

 Emotional– write in a gratitude journal, write a letter to yourself talking about your strengths, open up and ask for support from a friend, engage in healthy coping skills, read a self-help book, journal, engage in some form of creative expression through writing, art, dance, or music

Physical- exercise, yoga, sensory rituals that heal such as hot baths, aromatherapy, schedule a massage

 Social – write an email to an old friend, go a new group or social event and meet new people, engage in an online support group, schedule time out with friends, schedule a date night or private time with your partner, call a friend or family member just to catch up

Intellectual– read the news, read a book, engage in a hobby or start a new hobby, make a list of goals, join a group based on your interests

 

Take 5 minutes today or tomorrow to engage in making a self-care plan and stick to it no matter what. Making this a daily ritual can have an amazing impact on maintaining good emotional health.

 

The Other Side

 

The Other Side

 

 

I was in a dark place this last week.

It was dark outside. It was dark inside my mind. I was not me.

I allowed myself to stay in this dark place for quite awhile. I allowed the sleep deprivation to keep me under water. Instead of fighting to thrive I just decided to survive.

Some days as moms we talk about how it is just about getting through the day. But when that becomes every day for a period of time it starts to feel like a dark place. You don’t want to just survive. You want to live, to experience happiness, accomplishment, connection, and fulfilment.

And then this morning I took a brief walk. It was just 5 minutes around my city block while I listened to music but the air felt fresher, my eyes stayed forward instead of looking down, there was a bounce in my step. And it hit me- I had reached the other side.

It’s hard to remember when we are in our dark place that the other side exists. That is is waiting for us. Sometimes it’s up to us to get there and sometimes life circumstances brings it to us. But it is there. Sometimes it gets hard, really hard to find it or wait for it to come. But it’s always out there somewhere.

It’s the place where our best self exists. It’s the place where we feel more whole. The sun shines in our mind. We see all that is before us and are grateful. We see a beautiful self in the mirror and not the monster that was there before.

I write to remember this moment, that refreshing moment of entering the other side. I write so that I remember that it exists if I leave it and am in a dark place again.

I will not get this past week back. I can not take away my mistakes. I can not erase the irritability, the coldness that I spread to my son because he was the only one there to take it. It hurts when I think about it. But its something else I need to remember. I am capable of allowing myself to be less than I am when I’m in dark place. I must be gentle with myself and then others, I must assert my needs, I must ask for help.

So I’ll hopefully be on the other side for awhile. The dark side will start to slowly pull me back. My self-awareness is my best weapon. My belief that I am worthy of always being on this side can help keep me here longer. And if I do get pulled back to the dark side my memory of the other side can hopefully keep my stay there shorter and the strength and motivation to get back to it stronger.

 

 

So this happened last night.

4 hours of demanding TV in the middle of the night before he went back to bed. It has been a couple of nights we have struggled with this. I believe TV may be a big coping mechanism for my son because it was something I used a lot (unfortunately) during our big move. The grandmas spent two weeks with us and just left and it makes sense that he would have some difficulties adjusting to their absence. I’ve learned how hard it is to tow the line with your child in the middle of the night when you live in an apartment building. My fear that the neighbors will complain snowballs into our deportation from Australia back to the United States and my husband losing his job. My therapist self knows this is a completely irrational thought but it doesn’t stop me from giving in so my son stops crying. So I try to find the humor in it and help him through this transition. He screams “WHY?! WHY?!” wanting to watch Super Why. My husband and I laugh at what the neighbors may think. It gets funnier when he switches back and forth between asking for Super Why and Daniel Tiger. “WHY?!? Daniel?!?! WHY?!?!” The neighbors must think we have a guy named Daniel living with us that is causing some serious distress to our 2 year old. So we make it through the night somehow and I survive the day by getting coffee while Harry blows kisses to our usual barista. He never blows kisses back.When Your 2 old screams in the middle of the night, -WHY-! WHY-!- Don't worry. He's not having an existential crisis. He just wants to watch Super Why.