The old saying is true. Like it or not, you (mom) set the tone for your family. And your kids want you to be happy. Period.
I like to think of mothers as the pillars of a temple. As a mother, you’re the foundation, you uphold the roof, and your family revolves around you. If you’re not happy, rested and balanced, your temple becomes weak, and your family feels it.
For some of us, happiness is simply a feeling of content. For others, it’s periods of joy and the typical ups and downs of everyday life. And let’s face it – early parenthood is one of the most challenging times for you and your partner, and you can’t expect that you’re going to really truly “happy” all the time. That’s normal.
Your circumstances may prevent you from living your dream life right now, but the future is up to you. You can choose to have your own identity beyond mother. You can choose to do work that fulfills you. You can choose to care for yourself and nurture your relationships. You can choose to be a happy, fulfilled woman, and model that for your kids.
Because at the end of the day, your kids don’t care about the size of your home or your stock portfolio. They just want unconditional love, and happy parents.
Why? I’d love to hear from you.
Why do you think your happiness matters? How do you think your happiness impacts your family?
Please share your thoughts with our community in the comments below!
If you you’re feeling tension with your partner, boss, feeling anxious, confused, or stuck in any pattern that you know you need to change, you will likely get stuck in fear. If you’re not aligned with your partner, or if you’re baby isn’t sleeping, you might fear that you’re doing something wrong, that you’re a bad partner or parent, or no matter what you try, nothing will ever change.
Regardless of what you want to change in your family, here are my Top 5 pieces of wisdom
to help you get out of wherever you don’t want to be:
Personal Challenge: Take a few minutes to consider what’s not working for you and/or your family, and write it down. From there, envision what you really want. If you had your ideal family life, what does that look like, and how would that feel? Write down your vision, and then ask yourself, what’s standing in your way? Chances are there will be a chorus of fears spinning in your head. That’s totally normal, but it's a VITAL step to making the changes that you know you need to make.
- Admit that something’s not working. If you’re struggling, deep down, you know it. Acknowledging that there’s a problem is the first step to making positive changes.
- Be willing and ready to change. You can’t change anything if you don’t want to change, and chances are, you won’t change if you’re not ready. Hopefully you won’t get into a crisis before you start to crawl out, but sometimes that’s what it takes to be willing and ready to change.
- Identify your obstacles. When you want to change a family dynamic, you’ll find many excuses why you can’t. You might tell yourself that it’s not the right time, or that you can’t because of XY and Z. These are your obstacles, and chances are, they are deep fears.
- Get aligned with your partner. If your partner isn’t willing or able to support you to change what you know you need to change, you probably won’t get very far. Sometimes you may need to stand up for what you need, but you won’t know unless you ask if s/he is willing to support you.
- Accept support. If you have family, friends or a loving spouse who’s offered to help you, step aside, and let them help. If you know deep down that you need outside support, give yourself permission to reach out, and ask for it.
I suspect that everyone reading this already knows that breastfeeding is best for babies; that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk exclusively for the first six months. No disrespect to La Leche League and other organizations who work to raise awareness about the benefits of breast milk, but enough already. I think we got the point.
The pressure to exclusively breastfeed our babies has become so strong, that women who CAN’T breastfeed are shamed into a horrific amount of guilt if they’re unable to lactate. There are hundreds of thousands of new moms worldwide who aren’t able to breastfeed. Adoptive moms, surrogate moms, moms who've had medical complications, moms who simply don't produce enough milk. And then there are regular moms like me...
I found breastfeeding stressful, painful and I struggled with milk supply for many agonizing months. I nursed and pumped night and day. I drank gallons of milk-inducing teas, and spoke with a lactation consultant daily - all to avoid supplementing with formula.
Looking back, I realize the stress and anxiety was my biggest problem. The lactation consultants all wanted to keep me exclusively breastfeeding. I seemed to be the only one in my new moms group who was struggling, and I didn’t know any experienced moms who may have given me permission to relax and give my baby a bottle of formula every now and again, and give myself a break. That's all I would have needed, and ironically enough, it was a non-mother friend who suggested it when she found me in a puddle of tears.
A friend of mine, after intricate planning for a natural home-birth, ended up with an emergency C-section, followed by a serious infection, two extra hospital weeks with IV antibiotics, followed by mastitis, more antibiotics, etc. The result was a crippling case of postpartum depression and an inability to produce enough milk to feed her baby. Her depression was so crippling, her mom had to take care of her and the baby for six months. With medication, she recovered.
On her first excursion alone with the baby, she was scolded by another mom for feeding her baby a bottle of organic soy formula. The woman smugly said, "Breast milk really IS better for your baby." Can you imagine?
This kind of righteousness and down-right nastiness amongst mothers is shocking, and it needs to stop. The cultural pressure to exclusively breastfeed is hard enough, and I believe that the increasingly high rates of PPD would drastically decline if we stopped putting so much pressure on moms.
So please ladies, give other moms--and yourselves--a break. A bottle of formula every now and then is not going to kill your baby, and it won't make your milk dry up. Instead of beating yourself up, maybe you can leave a bottle with your partner and go out for a drink, get a pedicure or simply do something to take care of yourself?
If this resonates with you, read this article, and share your experience with other moms in the comment section below. It's so helpful to know that we're not alone.
If you're reading this, you may be feeling hopeless that you'll never sleep again. I'm sorry. I know. It sucks. It really, really sucks in the not funny, losing-your-mind kind of way. But good news: there is hope.
Even if you've tried everything, even if you've read every book and tried every sleep training method under the sun, there is hope. Though all the branded sleep-training strategists will try to convince you that their system is best, there is no right or wrong way to teach your baby to sleep. You are the expert -- all you need is permission to throw the books away, and believe that you're in charge. If you haven't seen what happens to parents who read every baby sleep expert book, in a nutshell, here's the (hilarious) story.
Though I'm adamantly against all of these branded baby sleep books, with their confoundingly complex sleep-training methods and systems (which lead nearly every desperately sleep-deprived family to repeated failure), I reluctantly wrote my own new e-book.
The title, "Three Vital Steps To Help Your Baby Sleep", cracks me up because it's really the antithesis to everything else you will read and very different than a simple 3 step cure. I just wanted people to read it (therefore the annoyingly catchy title). Though it actually DOES include 3 Vital Steps, they're not what you think. It's all part of my evil plan to actually provide something useful that won't make families feel like crap, but actually help them sleep. I'm reserving some free copies for my community, so send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with E-BOOK in the subject bar, and I'll send you a copy - my gift!
Meanwhile, I give you permission to burn all your other books. Henceforth, you will have no need for them. :)
I'm leaving my family to spend a week on the beach with a girlfriend. No kids, no interruptions, no cooking, care-taking, whining or guilt. You may not be ready or able to take a real retreat like this, but it's up to you to find a way to get out, so you can come home a happier, healthier, more rested person. Check out my best-kept escape secrets below, then schedule something for yourself today!
You both have jobs, but only one of you gets paid. There’s a common myth that the Bread Winner has a harder job, but it's just not true. I’ve been on both sides of this fence, and I guarantee that childfree office work is a trillion times easier. I was shocked when my former boss tap-danced into the office on Mondays, openly giddy to be free of diapers and tantrums. I get it now. The harsh truth is that parenting is the hardest job you will ever have.
I don’t care if you're a banker or lawyer or candlestick maker, you Bread Winners get to leave, you get a break, you can pee whenever you want, your work has material value, and you don't feel like a loser when you can’t manage a shower or finish folding massive mounds of laundry.
So the next time you wonder why your spouse is so stressed when you come home from your relaxing office job, think twice before you ask why. Instead, I dare you to swap jobs for a week and see how it feels to be needed 24/7, to have your work focused exclusively on naps, puke and poops. You will learn a lot, and your marriage will benefit, because you will finally understand what it feels like to walk in your partner’s shoes.
You lovingly rocked and shushed and soothed your newborn, and have likely enjoyed many peaceful moments while she slept in your arms. You learned to ever so gently to lay her down, and it worked – for a while. Then sometime between 4-7 months, you find that you can’t get her to fall asleep so easily, and your previously peaceful sleep routine turns into a 45-90 minute ordeal. Suddenly, no amount of nursing, rocking, bouncing and shushing works, and no matter what you try, she wakes up screaming the minute you put her down. Repeat 8-12 times, night and day, and you end up feeling like you’re in a bottomless pit with no way out. I've been there, I know.
First of all, you haven’t done anything wrong. You’ve been helping your baby sleep, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if it stops working and you find that your entire life revolves around trying to get your baby to sleep, then maybe something needs to change.
I’d like to invite you to think about how your baby sleeps, and be honest with yourself. Do you really think you’re helping her sleep with all the bouncing and shushing and nursing and rocking? Is it helpful to go in and out of the room, pick her up and put her down, over and over again, while she’s trying to fall asleep?
If any of this resonates with you, maybe you can give yourself permission to simply DO LESS. I’m not saying you should send her off to boarding school at 5 months old, but can you simply pull back a little bit, and empower her to feel 100% secure and safe falling asleep without all your help?
You're a new parent, and you're trying to roll with all the constant changes. One day you think you have it all under control, the next you feel like you've totally lost it. You can barely get out of the house and shower daily, and the sleep deprivation is playing tricks on you. This is unfortunately one of the hardest parts of your journey, and an impossible problem to solve. The only way to really cope with all the changes is to embrace it, and know that every time you get into a good groove, something else will change. If you’re emotionally prepared, it might feel a teensy bit easier, but not much.
If you like predictability and routine (like me), you will spend much of your time trying to organize and control everything. That’s fine if it makes you feel better (it does for me), but one thing that will NOT change for the foreseeable future is that you no longer have control over most aspects of your daily life. You will try your best to be the Perfect Mom, to have everything in order so you feel more relaxed; you will have good days and bad days, and few of them will feel totally successful.
The more you allow yourself to let go, accept that your new life is chaos, know there's nothing you do to make it Perfect, the better you will feel. Embrace it, because basically, you have no other choice!
Yesterday, I spoke with a new mom who’s having a rough time. She’s at home with her 7 month old, breastfeeding, doing all the childcare, night parenting, and guilt-ridden for not feeling very happy. Naturally, she loves her son, grateful for the opportunity to be with him, but she feels trapped, lonely, and like every other mom is having more fun. Sometimes it’s so bad she gets into the shower at the end of the day and just cries. She’s crippled by sleep-deprivation, her husband works 12 hours a day, and doesn’t get how awful she feels. He gets to go to work, which is by far the easier job.
A few years ago, when my kids were 2 and 4, I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in 10 years. He was divorced with no kids, and was so genuinely excited to hear all about my family. “Wow, you’re a Mom,” he said. “That’s amazing! What’s it like?”
My response was a shock, like a bucket of ice water thrown at my face. “I don’t like it at all,” I said, with far too much honesty.
His face fell. His jaw dropped. And I instantly knew I had made a terrible mistake. Moms aren’t allowed to feel this way, certainly not allowed to say it out loud.
I began dog-paddled backwards,“Of course I love my kids, and I wouldn’t change a thing, but…Diapers? Mopping up vomit? Bleeding nipples and breast pumps? Being awakened repeatedly through the night and at 5-6am daily for four consecutive years?”
No, the truth is that I like nothing about the actual job, yet I love my kids more than anything else in the world. So I do it anyway, even if I hate it sometimes.
If you’ve ever felt this way, I urge you to be honest with other moms. Write about it. Go on camera and tell the truth. Perhaps if we didn’t expect that mothering would be the most joyous time of our lives, we wouldn’t feel so blindsided and guilt-ridden.
Dear Mel,I wish someone had told me that motherhood isn't always the most joyous, beautiful, glamorous event that the media portrays. I wish someone had prepared me for the fact that it might be the most humbling, emotional experience of my life, and that I might not actually love my new role as a Mommy.
Instead, I was blindsided by trauma, plagued with incessant fears and anxieties that I was abnormal, that every other new mom was happier than I felt, and that I was therefore, an exceptionally bad, inept mom. In retrospect, I now know that there's a conspiracy to trick billions of smart, independent and progressive women into believing that motherhood is fabulous, the penultimate joy, and that we can successfully juggle our careers, parenthood and mariages, all with a cheery smile.
The truth is, some new moms don't instantly bond with their babies, many of us have extreme difficulty breastfeeding (a learned behavior that we cannot possibly learn when it's not visible for us to learn!), and more women experience crippling postpartum mental health issues than is accurately reported. I believe that this is due to unrealistic expectations, and the lack of awareness about how hard and humbling motherhood really is.
So today, as you recover from a c-section and prepare for going home with Walker, who you and Hudson will love like you've never loved before, I wonder...Should I break it down and tell you the truth, or let you find out on your own how emotional and painful this transition may be? Because I wish someone had told me, I am dedicating this post to you and Hudson, as you embark on this remarkably profound journey. May it be peaceful, uneventful, and easier than my experience.Love,Natalie