The Vacuum Cleaner Parent

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The helicopter moms get the most attention, don’t they?  Just when you think that the world has finally stopped over-thinking parenting approaches, up pops an ad featuring a very exaggerated version of what we’ve come to know as the helicopter mom.

Perhaps I’m overly sensitive about the issue.  I do enjoy playing with my kids, after all, and this, as it turns out, is one of the hallmarks of a helicopter – according to some.

The term helicopter parent actually dates back to 1969, although it gained media attention in the early 2000’s.  Meant as a pejorative term to describe the parents who just can’t seem to let go – the ones who call college professors when grades are low or those who maintain hyper-presence in the children’s lives, I think it has morphed into so much more.

Today moms who are involved in the PTA, cheer the loudest from the sidelines, or even (gulp) play with their children at the park all get labeled helicopters by the mompetitors on the sidelines.

And while the world loves to laugh at the helicopters among us, another kind of parent goes largely unrecognized.

The Vacuum Cleaner Parent.

Never heard of it?  Read on.

The Vacuum Cleaner Parent (VCP) is the non-parent:  The parent who refuses to set any rules, teach right from wrong, or provide any sort of structure for their children.  Don’t get me wrong, VCP’s are fun.  They don’t worry about things like “age appropriateness” or going overboard, these non-parenting parents have a simple goal in mind:  Avoid confrontation.

And therein lies the problem…

At some point, most kids go to school.  And when they go to school, they are expected to follow certain rules and adhere to a school schedule and routine.

Those poor kids who have been whooping it up with their VCP’s – who needs a bedtime, anyway? – tend to have a difficult transition into this new, structured lifestyle.  Not only is the structure difficult, but the boundaries can be very hard.  VCP’s aren’t known for teaching social boundaries, so these kids tend to over-step and have a considerable amount of catching up to do.

In short, they get in trouble.  They talk out of turn over and over again because they never learned the meaning of interruption.  They get out of their seats at regular intervals because, well, they never really had to worry about staying in their seats.  They use words that aren’t acceptable because they learned them at home – but they didn’t learn that those words hurt.  Taking turns at the park?  Who needs to take turns?  And they are completely exhausted from lack of sleep.

They do what they’ve learned, as all kids do.  Sadly, they weren’t prepared for the real world.

So the VCP’s suddenly go into overdrive.  They don’t confront the actual issues.  No, these non-parenting parents follow their kids around, cleaning up their messes.  They vacuum up the evidence until the next thing comes along.

They blame the teachers.  They blame other kids.  They blame the school, the class, or the team.  Whatever they do, they don’t stop to think about what caused the problem(s).

All families are different.  All kids should be treated as individuals.  But one thing in parenting remains the same – it’s up to us to prepare our children for the outside world.  Just as the helicopters need to step back on the over-parenting, the vacuum cleaners need to parent a little bit more and teach their kids some valuable lessons.

There is a happy medium in there somewhere…and it’s up to all of us to find it.

Obsessive Momming

We think of it as a competition, but it’s not.

 

For it to be a competition we would need a clear starting point, a finish line, and an impartial judge or two.

 

For it to truly be a competition we would need to be grouped according to various factors, because it would need to be fair.

 

No, it’s not a competition.

 

This thing that seems to fester below the surface, rearing its head only in response to the latest media craze, is all internal.

 

There is no prize at the end of the parenting journey.  In fact, once you enter into it, the journey never really ends.  Just ask your mom.

 

And yet, moms feel pressured.  They internalize input from various outlets and react accordingly.

 

They go to great lengths to demonstrate that they are just as much mom as that mom over there…

 

That they might even be more mom than the mom down the street…

 

That they are, indeed, mom enough…

 

The real problem, of course, is not finding a way to become the most mom.  Being the most mom ever is unattainable, after all.

 

The real problem is the fallout that our children experience when moms feed into this fabricated competition.

 

The real problem is the emotional repercussions of all of this obsessive momming.

 

Pressure has a trickle down effect.  It starts at the top and it slowly works its way down to the bottom.

 

And there, on the bottom, are the innocents.  The ones who are supposed to focus on fun, learn through play, and, above all, to be loved beyond compare.

 

Riley had mixed emotions as we walked down the street to attend her Kindergarten orientation this week.  For a variety of reasons, preschool has been a struggle this year.  Coming off a great first year with incredible teachers, this year just paled in comparison.  She felt different and less self confident from the very first week, and it hasn’t improved much since.

 

Kindergarten has, for the most part, been a source of pending excitement.  Walking to school appeals to her, as does going to school with her best buddy.  But, after a year of ups and downs, separating remains a challenge.

 

Needless to say, my expectations were low on this particular day.  I assumed she would stay by my side as we visited each classroom.  That would have been just fine with me.  This was, after all, an opportunity to get to know the Kindergarten classrooms and see the students in action.  It was a day meant for observation.

 

I was pleasantly surprised when she marched right into each classroom and made herself at home.  In one room, she drew a solar system.  In another, she colored a fish.  And in a third, she played house with some other children.  She had the time of her life.

 

I stood back, smiled often, and cheered her on.

 

But I couldn’t help but observe some other experiences throughout the morning.

 

One little girl preferred to stick close to her mom.  Her mom wanted her to join with the other kids.  The longer it went on, the more anxious the mom became.

 

At one point, she placed the little girl in a chair and told her to draw.  The little girl complied, scribbling a few colors on a plain white piece of paper.

 

When she returned to her mother with the finished product her mother took a quick look and said, “That’s it?  You didn’t make much of an effort.”  The girl quickly looked to the ground and disengaged once again.

 

My heart broke for that little girl.  While I’m sure that she draws more complex pictures at home and at preschool, it was probably the best she could do in a new and overwhelming situation.

 

The anxiety her mom experienced when her daughter didn’t meet her expectations (in front of many other moms) trickled right down to her daughter, and made her feel like a failure.

 

Obsessive momming isn’t healthy for anyone involved.  It leaves moms feeling inadequate, and children feeling like they aren’t good enough.

 

It causes anxiety and disappointment across the board.

 

It’s not that I don’t have great hopes for my children.  I most certainly do.  But, at the end of the day, my greatest hope for my children is that they live a lifetime of happiness.

 

And that happiness begins with a happy, pressure-free childhood.

 

Because it isn’t a competition.

 

 

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Every Mom is Mom Enough

Every mom is Mom Enough.

 

You can listen to the hype, if you feel like beating yourself up for a while.

 

You can believe the negative spin, if you’re into cyber-arguments with other moms.

 

You can even scroll through the what-ifs in your mind for a while, if you feel the need to indulge your feelings of guilt (we all have them, after all).

 

Or…you can walk on.

 

You can choose to avoid the arguments.

 

You can remind yourself that you are, most certainly, Mom Enough, no matter how long your nursed those babies of yours and regardless of where they slept.

 

There is no war between attachment parents and non-attachment parents.  There is no medal to be won for the “best” parenting choices.  There are just little ones who need us.  Small people who look to us to help them learn and grow.

 

Infants need a few things…

  • Unconditional love
  • Nourishment
  • Hugs, kisses, and snuggles
  • Protection
  • Empathy
  • Patience

 

Even on the hardest days, when showers didn’t happen and sleep was non-existent, you most likely managed to meet their every need.

 

Older children need a few things too…

  • Unconditional love
  • Nourishment
  • Hugs, kisses, and snuggles
  • Protection
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Self-esteem
  • Assertiveness
  • Independence

 

Most moms know the difficulty that is a day with overtired toddlers and tantrums 35,000 feet in the air.  Most moms know the pain of a child scorned by his peers and the helplessness of standing back and letting him assert his own needs.  Even on the hardest days, you most likely managed to meet their every need.

 

Teens need all of the above, and then some…teens also need:

  • Freedom
  • Unconditional support
  • Gentle guidance
  • Forgiveness
  • Understanding

 

Moms of teens know the anxiety of the missed curfew, the party that might include drinking, and dating.  Moms of teens know about rebellion, self-esteem issues, and friendship trouble.  Even on the hardest days, you most likely managed to meet their every need.

 

It doesn’t matter if you subscribe to the latest and greatest theory in parenting, consult a professional along the way, or just learn by experience.

 

It doesn’t matter if you breastfeed or formula feed, use cloth or disposable diapers, or co-sleep or sleep train.  None of that matters.

 

What matters is that you provide unconditional love, nourishment, affection, and empathy.  What matters is that you always help, and never hurt.  What matters is that you are forgiving, patient, and a positive role model.  What matters is that you care.

 

As you celebrate Mother’s Day, and every other day of being a mom, please remember this:

 

You are all More than Mom Enough.

 

And there is no space in this world for Mommy Wars…

 

More Than Good Enough

A few months ago it seemed like there was a heavy focus on competition among moms.  The media loves a good conflict, and jumped at the chance to get moms talking/fighting about who works harder and various other things.

It worked, for a few weeks.

But then we all went back to our lives.

Because, at the end of the day, we have kids to raise, jobs to do, and laundry to clean.  There’s only so much time for debating.

But lately, I’ve noticed a new trend in the world of blogging.

There’s a negative vibe out there right now, but this time it’s self-imposed.

(Not that anyone is admitting to that last part.)

Twice in the last week I’ve read posts questioning whether or not Pinterest makes moms feel like “bad moms”.  Seriously?

I know these posts are written partly in jest but, still, the feeling must lurk beneath the surface to make it post-worthy.

Does it make me less of a mom if I’m not as crafty as some?

Do the amount of original crafts I create increase my mom-ish-ness?

Will my kids be smarter, better adjusted, or more prepared for school if I create more amazing and pin-worthy crafts?

Are moms really thinking about this?

If so, it makes me a little bit sad…

Please stop by Mommy Moment to continue reading this article.

Parenting Without Anxiety

Does he know all of his letters? 

Does she know her letter sounds?

Does he put on his own shoes?

Can she tie hers?

Did I pack a healthy snack?

Did I remember the water?

Is she independent enough given her age?

Did I nurse them long enough?

Parenting is enough to give even the most stable adult a complex at times.  The decisions are endless and there is always something to ponder at the end of the day.  Even when you’re 99% certain that you got it right, there’s always that 1% lurking somewhere in the back of your mind.

Do you know what makes that 1% even worse?

The constant input from others.

Yesterday I wrote “The Great Mom Debate” in response to yet another media attempt to bring the so-called “mommy wars” back into the limelight.  It feels brand-new each time such a segment airs, but the truth is that this has been going on for many years.

For one reason or another, moms are always questioning one another.

While the not-so-silent wars between us are enough to make any mom cry once in a while, it’s the end result that has me worried.  With this constant cycle of questioning and criticizing, we seem to have created a culture of anxious parenting.

Parents today overthink everything from finding the perfect crib to making the perfect baby food to baby proofing every square inch of the house to only playing at the “safest” parks to raising the most well-adjusted, bully-free, intelligent, Harvard-grad-to-be ever in the history of children.

Parents scour the Internet in search of the best and most up-to-date parenting information.  They seek out only the best foods, the best classes, the best clothes, and the best products for their little ones.  And then they talk about all of those “bests” all of the time.

And when they hear about something new?  They break out the iPhone, search out that new “best”, and order it immediately.

But products can only get you so far…

Then there are the worries about reaching milestones, obsessive comparisons to other kids the same age, and the constant “teaching” at home.

Have we all forgotten about the power of play?…

Please stop by Mommy Moment to continue reading Parenting Without Anxiety.

The Great Mom Debate

You can read this study and wonder if you’ve made the right choice, the best choice, for your family.  You can think about the alternatives and long to be in the group that seems to have it all figured out.  You can let the guilt wash over you as you silently tally up the times you’ve felt isolated, depressed, or questioned your parenting skills or choices.

You can do all of that, but that won’t do you any good.

You can watch this upcoming TV segment and become enraged that such a segment even exits.  You can blame Anderson Cooper and lash out at the moms who willingly participated in a show that perpetuates the “mom wars” among us.  You can take to Twitter, Facebook, and Google + to air your grievances against Anderson Cooper, The Huffington Post, and any other “news” outlet joining the “mom wars” bandwagon.

You can do all of that too, but that probably won’t do you any good either.

The segments will air and the articles will be published.  They will say what they want to say and spin it to get more viewers.  As John Mayer once pointed out, “when they own the information, they can bend it all they want.”  That’s the power of media.

The real question is why does such a study even exist?  How did parenting become so difficult that more and more moms (and dads) are reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety and relying on medications?  When did life become so difficult? 

And, most importantly, what can we do to stop this cycle?

We are living in difficult economic times.  That is no longer considered news.  Most families include two working parents.  Many parents work more than one job to make ends meet.  Health insurance is not to be taken for granted.

Social isolation plays a big role in the world of the stay at home parent, particularly when the kids are very young.  Competition among moms is high for a variety of reasons.  Mom guilt lurks around every corner.  So does the financial guilt stay home moms experience when times are tough and the financial responsibility relies on the other parent.

Every parent has stress right now.  Every parent has happiness right now.  Every parent experiences a little bit of both.

The challenge is to find more support for parents everywhere (both working and non-working) so that fewer people experience symptoms of depression and anxiety overall.

Because the people who truly lose in all of this are our children.

Infants and children pick up on stress, depression, and anxiety.  Studies have shown depressed affect in infants of mothers struggling with depression.  Children imitate those symptoms.  They start to experience difficulty sleeping, low appetite, social isolation, frequent tantrums, and other behavior issues.  They don’t deserve any of this.  They deserve to roll down hills, run through the sand, and chase butterflies.  They deserve to experience the unbridled happiness that should be taken for granted during childhood.

If our kids grow up unhappy because we were too busy arguing, comparing, and wallowing in what could have been, then all of this is meaningless.  Our day-to-day lives might be very different, but our goals are probably very similar.  We all want to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted kids who will one day go on to do the same.

Instead of focusing on the negative by arguing over who has it the best, who endures the most stress, or who is the “best” mom, I say we all band together and form a unified front against these so-called “mom wars”.

Because, at the end of the day, every mom has a similar story to tell.  Every mom has once been covered head to toe in vomit with a kid in each arm while willing the washing machine to work just a little bit faster.  Every mom has fought back tears when leaving a child behind for the first time.  And every mom has fought to protect their child in one way or another.  We are not that different, all of us moms.  In fact, we are very much the same.

So let’s make a deal:  Let’s agree to stand tall as a group and stop feeding into the “mom wars” frenzy.

Let’s:

Provide support to one another, because #allmomsrock.

Stop judging.

Help another mom in need.

Focus on the positive.

And…

Stand up against the “mom wars”.

We all have a story to tell.  Let’s share our stories and listen to the stories of others.  Let’s celebrate our differences and make every effort to learn something new along the way.  Let’s be the friends that we want our children to be.  Let’s stop this “war” and give the media one less topic to cover.

If Verizon Wireless customers all over this country can, in a single night, stop Verizon from adding extra charges to their wireless plans, just imagine what the moms can do if we really join forces.

And that, once again, brings us back to The Mom Code.

What do you say moms?  Are you with me?

 

New Year: New You

It’s almost January again.  This can only mean one thing:  After a long month of over-indulging on food, alcohol, and just about everything else, people everywhere will make their New Year’s resolutions.

Statistics tell us that most people will resolve to manage debt, lose weight, improve diet, drink less, reduce stress, volunteer more, get a better job, and finally quit smoking.  Those same statistics tell us that within 6 months, only 46% of people who set resolutions will continue to work on them.

Resolutions tend to encourage all-or-nothing thinking.  People set large goals (such as going to the gym every day) that might be hard to attain, and end up giving up when life gets in the way.

People who set more manageable goals, on the other hand, have a better chance of maintaining those goals long term.  Promising to hit the gym 3-4 times a week allows more room for error.  If you miss a day or two due to illness or a crazy work schedule, there are still 5 other days left in the week to get there.

Still, I think there’s a better way to handle this New Year’s resolution thing.  I think we should all skip the goals and resolutions this year and focus on happiness instead.  Kicking stress to the curb is an impossible task, it’s part of life after all, but improving your emotional well-being is both attainable and well within your grasp.  Happy parents raise happy kids.  It’s time to think about happiness.

Below are a few tips to help you think about you for a change:

1.    Find your tribe:  Between parenting, work, and marriage, it can be difficult to focus on friendships.  Women who feel supported by friends are better able to cope with stress and difficult situations.  Commit to your friendships by establishing weekly phone calls and regular face to face interactions.  Remember, friendship is always a two-way street.  You need to be able to listen to and support your friends as much as they listen to and support you.

2.    Talk it though once:  While research supports the importance of female relationships when it comes to feeling supported and heard, it also indicates the need for limits.  Talking through the same worries or issues repeatedly with a friend can quickly become a form of rumination known as “co-rumination” which can increase the stress hormone cortisol.  Talk it through once then do something productive like take a walk, play with your kids, or cook a healthy meal.  Resist the urge to continue dissecting the same stressful situation repeatedly.

3.    Think positive:  Stress is everywhere and bad things happen, but that doesn’t have to mean that life is stressful or bad.  People who celebrate the small accomplishments along the way and visualize a positive outcome are more likely to reach their goals and enjoy the ride.  Try not to let one difficult day leave you feeling depressed and/or guilt-ridden for days to come.  Acknowledge the stressor, work through it, and find your happy place.  When parents feel positive, their kids tend to experience more positive emotions.  As it turns out, looking on the bright side really does make the world a better place.

4.    Smile often:  Research shows that smiling actually does lift your mood.  It’s true.  That’s why it’s so contagious.  Stuck in a funk?  Force a smile.  Although faking it might seem unlikely to work, plastering a smile on your face can cause you to experience a mood lift.  Of course, engaging in uplifting behaviors helps too.  Play with your kids when you’re feeling down.  Let their smiles bring one to your face too.

5.    Hug it out:  Have you ever noticed that you feel less tense after you pull your kids in close for a big hug?  Experiencing touch from a loved one or someone you trust has been shown to reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure.  Grab your husband and/or your kids and hug it out as much as possible.  It will help the whole family.

6.    Avoid all or nothing thinking:  People who think in black and white experience more stress.  One bad choice does not a bad parent make.  Over-generalizing leads to a very negative pattern of thinking that can be difficult to correct.  Give yourself a break when you make a mistake, and allow yourself the chance to correct it.  We teach our kids to take a few deep breaths and then try again.  You have the right to do the same.  We all make mistakes and we all experience negative emotions at times, it’s what we do with them that counts.

7.    Work on coping:  Life is hard at times. Stress happens.  We can’t control everything that happens on a daily basis, but we can control how we react to stressful situations.  Give yourself a minute to process the stressor, use deep breathing to calm your anxious or angry reactions, and examine the situation before you react.  Make sure you have a few different coping strategies that work for you:  Visualization exercises, yoga, exercise, positive social interactions, and meditation are all proven stress reducers, but you have to do what works for you.  If chamomile tea and a good book provide stress relief for you, by all means make that happen.

8.    Stop the gossip:  Have you ever walked away from a gossip heavy conversation feeling just a little built guilty?  You’re not alone.  Judging others and engaging in gossip can increase stress levels and leave you feeling worse than when the conversation started.  Resist the temptation to join the gossip and engage in more positive and meaningful conversations instead.  Leaving the negativity behind will free you up to think positive and visualize all of that success coming your way in the New Year!

How will you increase your happiness this year?

Mompetition No More on Yahoo

“It might be the stilettos versus the yoga pants. Or it could be the organic fruits versus the fish shaped crackers. Perhaps it’s the home school moms versus the private school moms versus the public school moms. And let’s not forget about the PTA moms versus the working moms. They’re in on this too.

It doesn’t really matter which subset we’re talking about because it all boils down to one common problem: Mompetition…”

Hey Friends…I’m over on Yahoo today talking more about the “Mompetition” that seems to be sweeping the playgrounds, and just about everywhere else. Won’t you stop by Yahoo and read “Mompetition No More”?  Please share your thoughts in a comment over there.  Let’s get this conversation started!  Thank you!

Ending the Mompetition

““Mompetition” is not a new idea.  In fact, mom bloggers write about it often.  They might not be using the cutesy term, but they are writing about the feelings moms experience when other moms attack them.

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?

When I first became a mom I had high hopes that the mean girls from adolescence would have transformed into friendly moms who enjoy pleasant social interactions.  Wrong.  I thought a morning at the park meant instant connections with other moms with kids of similar ages.  Wrong again.  I thought that, at the end of the day, we would all be in this together.  Still wrong.

It turns out that those mean girls, and possibly a few others, have a new routine.  They’re no longer using words like “slut” to describe girls who offend them in some small way.  They are no longer spreading vicious rumors and writing hateful comments on school lockers.

Now…they are engaging in Mompetition…”

Please stop by Mommy Moment to continue reading this article.

 

Mommy Moment

Feeling Lost in Mommyhood? (Tips for raising your mom-esteem)

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” –Eleanor Roosevelt

 

In my previous post, I addressed the idea that the overwhelming amount of external pressure in the world of Mommyhood can sometimes cause moms to suffer from low “Mom-Esteem” .  Being a parent is hard work and, even on a very good day, there is usually some amount of unpredicted stress that gets internalized throughout the day.

 

There seems to be a new level of mom competition out in the world today.  Moms are obsessively making comparisons, sharing their parenting stats, and commenting on the parenting styles of others.  It can be hard to know who your friends are with so much competition clouding the conversation.

 

And then there are the experts:  The grandparents, the friends and relatives with no kids, the people who seem to have the answers to all of the questions you never asked.

 

Add in the day-to-day stress of sickness, school issues, time management, trying to please others, trying to care for yourself, and, most of all, caring for your children, and you end up with multiple chances per day to see your mom-esteem plummet.  I know because I’ve been there.  Below are some tips to help you keep your mom-esteem high, even on the most tiring days:

 

1. Embrace your choices: You can’t please everyone.  This is not a new concept, but it is one that can be hard to remember.  Up until recently, I was a people pleaser.  I struggled to make decisions in my own best interest because it might upset someone I loved.  This past Fall I made a decision that some people close to me could not understand.  I made it because I had to put my kids first.  I had to do what was right for them.  Some people turned on me.  Some might never talk to me again.  That was when it really hit me:  You can’t please everyone.  As a mom, everything takes a backseat to your kids.  All important decisions come with the question, “what about the kids?”  It took this hard decision for me to realize that pleasing other people for a few hours isn’t reason enough to put my kids through something very stressful.  You can’t please everyone.  Feel good about your choices.  You made them for the right reasons.

2. Avoid comparisons: Sometimes we do it to ourselves; sometimes other people do it to us.  Either way, comparisons rarely end on a positive.  No two kids are the same.  No two moms are the same.  All families are different.  Comparing milestones, preschools, language development, and eating habits is useless.  Try to flip it.  Sharing strategies that helped you might really help another mom with a similar situation.  But if the comparisons just won’t stop despite an effort to focus on the positive, walk away.  You know that you’re doing your best on any given day.  That’s all you can do.

3. Accept compliments: It seems so simple, yet it can be so hard to do.  There’s something about motherhood that conditions us to credit everything good in our lives with a little luck.  You’re working hard every single day.  If someone notices that your kid shares well, has good manners, is respectful, that you handled a situation well, or even that your hair looks great…just say thank you.  You don’t need an excuse for your greatness.  You earned it (do I need to remind you about the endless night feedings, diapers, and bouts of the stomach flu you’ve endured?).  You’ve done the work; accept the praise that comes your way.

4. Choose wisely: Did you know that excessive complaining and negativity among women is actually contagious?  It’s true.  Studies have been done.  Everyone needs to vent and blow off steam, but if you find yourself in a friendship fueled by complaining and negativity, it might be best to take a break.  Try to surround yourself with positive friends who are willing to listen and show support, but who also know how to make you smile.  I have one girlfriend who quite literally lights up every room she enters.  Due to work schedules and kids we don’t get much alone time together, but when we do we spend the first 15 minutes discussing how happy we make each other.  At 36, I’ve finally learned that it’s ok to walk away from negativity.  I don’t have to be there for everyone, especially if other people are not willing to be there for me. Choose wisely.

5. Keep a small moments journal: Parenting is all about the small moments.  Days can be wonderful and days can be overwhelming, but there are always small moments of pure joy at some point during the day.  Capture them with your camera when you can, but use your words to remember the details.  I’m not talking about a lengthy essay, just a couple of sentences.  Like when your two year old finally figures out how to put the Mega Blocks together.  Or when your three year old draws a picture of the whole family.  Maybe it’s just a few funny comments you heard, or the first time your baby says, “I love you, Mommy”.  Look for the small moments of wonder each day and write them down.  Twenty years from now you won’t remember the sleep deprivation or the unfriendly comment that left you feeling defeated, but you will want to remember those little moments of happiness.

6. Challenge yourself: Whether or not you work in addition to being a mommy, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.  When Sean was on tour I felt like I was just cycling through the same day over and over again.  This blog is as much a challenge for me as it is a creative outlet.  Every time I hit “post” I panic.  Will I get any comments?  Will they be positive or negative?  Does anyone even care?  But I truly enjoy the time spent doing the research, writing the articles, and communicating with other moms.  It can be a challenge to keep up with it, but it’s incredibly rewarding.  After years in the fashion industry, and then time spent at home, my best friend recently took a new job that is completely different than her previous life.  She’s doing really well and always sounds really positive when I ask her about it.  Whether it’s training for a 10K or taking an online class that interests you, try to challenge yourself.  I think you will find that you feel really good about yourself when you are able to step away from the routine, even for just a few hours a week.

7. Avoid personalizing: I have to admit that I struggle with this a lot.  Someone makes a comment intending to upset me, and I let it.  Sometimes even just a look can leave me feeling unsettled.  Here’s the thing:  You never truly know what someone else is going through.  On the days when I remember to just laugh things off or turn the other way, I always feel much better about myself.  At the end of the day, I know that I’m doing a great job as a mom.  If someone doesn’t agree with my parenting style it doesn’t mean that I’m wrong; it just means that we’re different.  Try not to personalize the comments, stares, and feedback.  Make that Eleanor Roosevelt quote your new mantra and release yourself of a huge burden.  You don’t have to take on other people’s negativity just because they’re dishing it out.

8. Find your outlet: I read.  A lot.  I sometimes drive Sean crazy (when he’s home at a decent hour) because I read by way of Kindle on my iPhone.  I hide under the duvet and cruise through chapter after chapter while I should be catching up on sleep.  I can’t help it.  It’s my outlet.  Years ago I was in a book group and loved it.  Sometimes we talked about the books, but often we spent the time catching up and talking about whatever was happening in the world at the time.  If I had the childcare, I would be back in a book group for sure.  I have a friend who has a monthly girls dinner out with a group of old friends.  She really looks forward to those dinners.  Another friend joined a running group and can’t get enough of it.  Find what works for you.  As much as we LOVE our kids, we also need a break once in a while.  Take one.  You deserve it.

9. Prioritize your marriage/relationship: Parenting can easily take up your whole life.  It’s wonderful and amazing and everything you ever wanted, but it’s a full time job.  It’s easy to put your marriage/relationship on the back burner.  Plan date nights.  Even staying home can be a date night.  Turn off all electronics, light a candle, eat at the TABLE (gasp!), and spend quality time talking and connecting.  It’s amazing how much a wonderful night with your significant other can truly help you forget about your stress and feel better about yourself.

10. Exercise: Believe me I know, it’s hard to find the time and the motivation.  But, wow, it feels good when you’re on a roll.  Whether you invest in the treadmill at home or find the YMCA (or gym) with the daycare, allow yourself some time a few days a week to get moving.  It’s good for your body, it will help you sleep, and it will rest your worried mind.  You do so much for everyone else; try to focus on you.

 

High mom-esteem won’t come overnight.  It’s a gradual process of changing your thinking, your responses, and your ability to put yourself first some of the time.  Hopefully some of my strategies will work for you.  If not, maybe this will inspire you to figure what will work for you. Everyday I work a little bit harder to try to turn away from negative input and focus on the small moments of success instead.  I hope you will give yourself permission to do the same.

 

You tell me:  What coping strategies work for you?