An Examination.

January 31, 2017 § Leave a comment

Funny how some days can sneak up on you. Today for instance, I am missing home. I am missing home, but not just home – I am also yearning for special moments I once enjoyed.  I miss inviting a good friend over for tea and chatting while our children play, laughing at the mischief they create together, always with one eye watchful for potential toddler tumbles.  I miss spa pedicures and special dinners with my mom and sister, relaxing into the ease that family brings. I miss the house I rocked my babies in, and the beautiful views of sunrises it offers.

You wouldn’t think I would be missing home today, a rare sunny day during a Pacific NorthWest winter, but here I am. Alexa is playing the Lumineers and the song Nobody Knows comes on. It speaks of how hard it is to say goodbye, and how you don’t really realize how hard till you try. It speaks of journeys, and the road home, and how love keeps us going. It recommends to live the day doing what you can, ‘cause nobody knows how the story ends.

So here I am, writing, and doing what I can. I have interspersed my obligations of the day with tasks that bring me joy so as not to slip too deep into a sadness.  As I am watchful of my self-care today, in some funny way I begin to sense a heavy ribbon of gratitude woven through all that I feel.  I embrace the sweet memories created with loved ones in a place I call home, and I feel grateful for each beautiful experience. More than grateful, I feel enriched.

Each time I look at my teenage son, about to turn fourteen and already taller than me and wearing his Daddy’s shoes, even though he no longer says “Daddy”, I marvel at the light speed with which he has grown. My first born, I recall holding him in my arms and can even still remember his newborn smell. My eyes well up as I realize how far away those days are from where I stand now, and I pray the experience will be echo’d when I hold my future grandchildren one day.

With each wave of temptation to sink into what I am missing, I strive to see what is right in my world. A smile comes to my face as I recall with great clarity dreaming of this exact day. It was during a decade of pregnancies and nursing, up several times a night and rarely ever experiencing a moment to myself for all the demands of my young children. I remember imagining a day when my children would have more independence and not cling to me for every need. I emphatically wondered how far away that day was and how I would fare on the journey to get there.

I recall once, during my early high school years, one of my friends was unexpectedly scolded by her mother for repeatedly wishing for the coming weekend, barely able to contain her excitement about the planned activities. I found it remarkable that she would be scolded for such excitement until her mother explained that she was wishing her life away, and suggested she enjoy where she was at right now. Wise words commonly heard today, but not often heard in the early nineties.

As I close, I resolve to return to the present and embrace the gifts of the here and now. With a beautiful Namaste, I express my gratitude for the walk through cherished memories of my past and open my heart to how I want to feel today.

 

 

Mom Fatigue

May 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

If you are a mom, there is a good chance you have a very full definition of this term already in your head, and its resonance is why you are reading this now. It’s different for every mom, and as Mother’s Day approaches, I feel it deserves some real estate on my blog.  Also because my kids were complaining about having nothing to put in their lunch this morning and mismatched socks on their feet because I had no time for groceries or laundry this week. My response was less about empathy, and more about weariness.

I saw a Facebook post the other day outlining What Moms Really Want on Mother’s Day. It included:

  1. sleeping in
  2. silence
  3. to pee uninterrupted
  4. somebody else to cook
  5. a clean house.

I read that and heavily exhaled. Yes, so true. And then it hit me. Isn’t it crazy that none of those things involve celebrating our children or spouse? Enter Mom Fatigue.

We love our children. We love them so much we compete with every other mom in the PTSA to show what good moms we are. Some days I imagine we are all greyhounds, chasing that artificial hare speeding around the track, and I think to myself, who picked the hare, and how fast it goes?  Who decides that pace?

I see moms every day struggling with “not good enough” self-doubt, forever questioning how they could have done something better, been more organized, or how they missed a detail. Even on the good days, all it takes is one FB post or one Pinterest reference to send you into a tailspin of what you “should” be doing.

The word “should” just might be the most destructively–charged word in the English language.

 

I found reprieve this week in an exercise from Sanaya Roman’s book “Living With Joy”. In it, she offers:

 

“You may have been taught that being busy creates self-worth”.

 

(notice how there is no judgement in that statement? It just offers an idea for you to consider and decide if it aligns with your experience)

From this book, I learned to differentiate between Personality-driven activity (all the shoulds, and obligations we have created in our life) and Soul-driven activity – those activities done with your higher purpose in mind.

Weigh that for a minute in your mind, and as you do, gently walk yourself through your schedule today. For each activity, consider how it makes you feel and how it relates to your higher purpose? Keep in mind that your ego will try to step in and begin justifying your choices to help you feel better, but follow your intuition. Do you feel resistance and negative emotions in response to the activity, or do you feel excited about it, like it is aligned with your true nature?

And I hear what you are thinking…”Well that’s a neat exercise, but I can’t just drop my obligations cause they don’t feel good, I’ve made a commitment to them!” Right?

If you discover activity in your day that is creating resistance and negative emotion, it doesn’t mean you have to drop it. This new awareness is gifting you with choice. Perhaps the choice is to drop it, but more practically, maybe the choice is to shift your perception of it. Reach for a better feeling thought about the situation. Consider it from a different angle or perspective and see if there is a lens through which you can see the activity in a way that better aligns with your inner purpose.

For example, when I tried this for myself the other day, I lay in bed after hitting the snooze and walked myself through the planned activities of my upcoming day, applying the lens of Personality-driven vs Soul-driven. It was going very well at first, until I got snagged on washing the dishes (the ones I have left for several days). Hmm, I don’t love doing dishes and there is no way scraping day-old food off a frying pan is part of my higher purpose!  The job still needed to be done, and seeing how it’s unlikely I will get a butler for Mother’s day, I chose to look at it from another angle. How do I feel when the dishes are clean, put away and available to me when I wish to use them? Way better than I feel when I go to make dinner and can’t find a clean pan anywhere in the drawer. I reached for the better feeling thought – the one that fills me up when things are where they are supposed to be when I need them. I also love the way the kitchen looks when it is clean. It brings me joy to see a clean kitchen, and living with joy is most definitely part of my higher purpose.

 

“You may have many reasons why you cannot change your life right now. If you do not begin to create reasons why you can, change will always be a future thought, and you will not be on the path of joy”.

-Sanaya Roman

 

You have a choice to live joyfully*! Learn not to be trapped by your own creations. Everyone around you will thank you for it, and feel liberated to do the same!

Wishing you a joyful Mother’s Day!

 

 

*If you need a little nudge on how to live more joyfully, see below for an exercise from Sanaya Roman’s book, “Living With Joy”.

  1. List seven things that you love to do, that feel joyful when you do them, and that you haven’t done in the last several months. They may be anything – lying in the sun, taking a trip, getting a massage, accomplishing a goal, exercising, reading a book.
  2. Beside each of these seven things, list what stops you from doing it – something either inside (such as your feelings) or outside (someone or something, such as lack of money, that keeps you from it).
  3. Take two or three things on your list that hold the most joy for you, and think of one step you can take toward each to bring it into your life.
  4. Mark your calendar with a date and a time that you will bring each of these joyful activities into your life.

And my voice will be like antibiotics!

April 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

Every parent knows well the rule of thumb that you must be disciplined with antibiotics. You administer them one time, effectively, and deliver the full dose. Fearful consequences have been drilled into every parent’s head that if you are not precise in following this rule, the result is that the germs will become used to the antibiotics and no longer respond to their impact.

It dawned upon me today that reminding your kids to do stuff works the same way!

We recently re-started our kids piano lessons. They went on hiatus when we moved across the country and took back burner to the many other items on our list required to get settled in (find a doctor, dentist, school, etc.). Through a friend’s referral, we landed a fantastic piano teacher. The kids love him and we love that he comes to the house – everybody wins. Except my kids don’t practice.

What good are lessons without the daily practice – nada. So I nag, and I remind, and offer conditions. Everything you’d find in the What-Not-To-Do Parenting Manual (there isn’t one manual actually, there are loads, but you get my point). Even so, in the absence of a better solution, here we are.

As I tried to coax my two younger children out of the sprinkler on this unusually warm spring day, and into the hottest room in the house to practice their piano, I could hardly blame them for resisting. I reminded them several times, but it had no real intention behind it, and like the germs that have become immune to the antibiotics, my words had no effect.

Then the epiphany came. It’s like antibiotics. If I am constantly asking for the same thing over and over, the kids never know when action is truly required. They also learn no self-management for themselves. When they need to do something, it needs to be delivered one time, strong and true and with a full dose, just like antiobiotics!

It was one of those moments when you wonder how you got this far into parenting without realizing sooner what seems so obvious now. The metaphor of me standing on a mountain top proclaiming the news quickly fills my brain….”And my voice will be like antiobiotics!”

 

 

 

Brave Forest Rangers

February 24, 2016 § 1 Comment

Family Meeting 4:30 today, at the table.

Really it was a Mom-and-kids meeting because Dad was in Barcelona for work, but as they say, timing is everything. These are the words my kids saw written in window marker on our kitchen window when they came home from school today.

Flashback to earlier this morning when we were a spectacle of unpreparedness and harsh words flying down to the bus stop in the car cause we were too late to walk, lacing up shoes and pulling on jackets as they hopped on one foot, granola bar in hand, up the stairs of the school bus. Exhale.

How did this even happen? It’s the same routine every morning getting ready for school, and they’ve been doing it for years, so how did we get to this point? It’s not every day like this, but when it’s bad, it’s awful. Something’s gotta change.

So this is how the meeting went down. I spoke, while they drank hot chocolate and coloured (so they could sit still long enough to listen, well mostly listen, we had several tangents where I had to bring them back to the initial discussion).

Mom: This morning was yucky. For all of us. I’m sure you didn’t appreciate my behaviour any more than I appreciated yours. I don’t feel it is necessary to re-hash everything that happened, because it’s really the same stuff that goes down all the time, but that is precisely why I wish to talk to you right now. That type of behaviour, from either of us, should not be the norm. While it’s normal to get off balance every once in a while, what happened this morning should not be the expectation. There is no joy in that. And we should always strive for joy. And the quickest way to get there is by love.

It is true that we all have triggers. Things that spur us into a strong emotion. Buttons that get pressed in us that elicit a much larger response than would be expected: a sudden burst of emotion, sometimes you aren’t even sure where it came from, but there it is. You will find there is inner work you can do to release these triggers, but for now, let us agree that they exist and learn how to best support each other when we recognize them happening.

The answer to that, is bravery. It comes from a place of love, but ultimately it is bravery.

As a child your age, when my own mother was triggered, I did not understand what it was, let alone how to support her in it.  Bravery is easier when you understand a situation. So I’m going to explain to you what is happening when I get triggered, in the hopes that you all can be brave enough to call me on it when it happens, rather than absorbing the negative energy yourself, or throwing it back at me, which as we saw this morning, leads to no good either.

You see, when someone is triggered, the emotion feels so much larger than anything else, so it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees. Are you familiar with that expression? It means that if someone is on top of a mountain looking down, it is easier to spot where there is a forest, what its boundaries are, and how big or small it is. For someone standing inside the forest, there are so many trees in the way that they cannot see how big or small it is, or where it ends and begins. It becomes very helpful to get out of the forest, if that person on the mountain calls down to them and says, “Hey, you’re in a forest! But if you go in that direction, you can find your way out”. The person in the forest can then make their way out of the forest.

Does that make sense to you guys? Any comments or questions so far?

So my question to you is, are you brave enough to call me on my triggers? When Mommy is caught up in a whirlwind of emotion, will you please call to me from your mountain of different perspective, and let me know I’m in a forest?

And when you are in a triggered state, full of powerful emotions, will you receive my words when I call you on it, and tell you that you are in a forest?

If we can all try our best to be brave forest rangers, perhaps we can better support each other through our weakest moments, and we can all get on to more joyful moments?

I closed the meeting with a right hand in air promise to be brave and receptive as the moment may call for it, to treat our family members the way we ourselves would wish to be treated, and to lead with love whenever we are able.

Onward Brave Forest Rangers!

 

The Secret to Stay-at-Home-Parenting

September 10, 2015 § 1 Comment

It occurred to me yesterday as I was chatting with a good friend over the most delicious chai tea latte I’ve had in months, that I have discovered a secret that not every stay-at-home parent knows. Naturally, I have to share it with you.

Backstory: During our family’s “newborn years” (we have four children, so this lasted for roughly a decade), there was one argument trap my husband and I would repeatedly fall into. You may recognize it from your own newborn and infant years, and it goes a little something like this:

Parent 1: “Hi honey, I’m home”. <slowly takes in the home environment noticing that it looks like a tornado went through>.  “Um, so, what did you do today?”

Parent 2: <already exhausted and amped up at the same time because the day has been long but the reinforcements have arrived> ”Hi honey,” <huge exhale>, “Geez I don’t even know, it’s just a blur most days.”  <wondering why the reinforcements have draped their coat over the chair instead of hanging it up and are sitting down instead of reaching to take the baby from your hip while you are preparing supper>. “How was your day?”

Parent 1: “I don’t know why you always ask how my day was. It’s always busy and it’s always hard.” <sighing deeply as Parent 2 passes the baby over>

Parent 2: <feeling like they have made a monumental effort to be interested in Parent 1’s day as it’s the last bit of energy they have left to give to someone else; feels like the edge is near and it’s time to tag out>. “Oh-kaaaaay. Well, I’m exhausted from [insert long list of play-by-plays arising from the day at home that seem trivial to Parent 1 but represents a huge amount of work for Parent 2]. Oh, and don’t forget I have my dentist appointment this evening”. <secretly grateful to have even a few minutes to themselves even if it does mean fluoride and teeth cleaning>

Parent 1: <feeling the barometer rising because their mind is already overloaded with stuff from work, and their brain just can’t take any further items today; they just need a break> “Ugh, ok. You couldn’t have booked that during the day? I’m exhausted. You get so much time at home, and I’m at work all day, then I gotta come home and watch the kids – I get no break!”

<and snap!>

Parent 2: “Are you kidding me?! YOU get no break? You have it so much easier. At least you get to pee alone, and shower peacefully every morning without children banging on the door! You get to have lunch hours and speak to adults regularly and use your brain!.  I’M the one who is exhausted!

Parent 1: “You get to stay home with our children. I would trade you that in a heartbeat. You have no idea what I do at work or how hard it is. Have you seen my calendar?!”

And close scene.

The argument goes on from there with each side trying to “convince” the other of who has it easier, only the joke’s on them because neither one of them have it easy. There is no winner. Alas, they won’t learn that until later when they have entered the “sweet spot” (the stage where the all the kids are out of diapers and sippy cups, but not yet teenagers).

You may have noticed that much of that argument was in italics. That is because there is a lot of underlying emotion influencing the situation that neither of them can appreciate because they’ve never walked a mile in the other’s shoes. More on this later.

I don’t remember the exact date I figured out the secret. I feel like it was more of an evolution as I gradually gave myself permission to use it. But here is what it comes down to.

Most work days, legally, consist of 8 hours. A lot of professions demand closer to 10, but at some point you get to leave work and go do something else. Maybe it is family, sports, relaxing, or whatever. The work day ends, and your personal choices begin. Speaking of personal choices, for many working parents, they have probably chosen a job/field that is challenging, rewarding or fulfilling to them in some way (some working parents have not, and to that I say, go find a job you love cause you spend more time working than you do anything else and if you aren’t loving it then it isn’t worth it). Bottom line, the work can be demanding, but in most cases you have chosen it because it fits with what you love/are good at, and you get fulfilment from that.

Same goes for stay-at-home parents. They also have chosen what they do because they love it. They love their children, caring for them, and experiencing amazing childhood moments with them. And they get fulfilment from that. That doesn’t mean it isn’t demanding, just like above, but they have chosen it for a reason, just like above. Where the difference lies, is that the stay-at-home-parent’s day DOES NOT END. From the time they wake (which is often through the night when you have newborns), straight through to supper time, dishes and bedtime, the work day continues. If you’re lucky, you still have a little energy left to spend with your spouse between kid’s bedtime and adult bedtime, but you consistently have that lack-of-energy/sleep fog that never seems to end.

So what’s the solution? What is the secret to the stay-at-home-parent’s sanity and energy saver? What is the magical answer that allows you to feel yourself (not just someone else’s caretaker) and allows you to appreciate your working spouse instead of resenting them for being able to sit down at their computer with a coffee and read their email without interruption? Quite simply, you give yourself permission to have a break. A break for you. You find a time during the day that has the least resistance with the kids (nap time, TV time, whatever) and you create “me time”. And you don’t feel guilty for it. Here’s why.

If you are going to work from sun up to sun down, you need a break. If you take that break when your working spouse comes home, that builds resentment because they haven’t yet walked that mile in your shoes. They don’t see all those italics. So you take your break when your body is telling you to. You know exactly what time that is. Early to mid-afternoon, when your body starts feeling sluggish, your head is feeling heavier, and you think to myself “man, I need a coffee”. So get one, grab that book that’s been waiting for you, or your journal and pen, or better yet, meditation cushion, and start your break. Commit to it. Don’t just justify it as a well-deserved indulgence, own it as time that is rightfully yours.

I still practice this secret today! I’m out of the diaper and sippy cup stage, but my evenings are now filled with soccer practices, girl scout meetings and drama rehearsals. My day starts at 6:30am and doesn’t end until 9pm (even later if hubby needs a knot rubbed out of his shoulder). If I don’t take my “me time” in the afternoon, when my body starts telling me it’s needed, then I am not nearly as fun to be around in the evening.

You know this stuff.

The better you are to yourself, the better you are for everyone else. “Me time” is the opportunity to connect with yourself, which allows the highest good to flow through you when you do interact with your family members. Do you really think they are getting the best of you when you are strung out exhausted, feeling like you lost the contest of who has it easiest? Of course not.

Don’t live your life in the italics. Be free to be yourself.

With light and love. Namaste.

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