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.
Next week, I'll be on a plane to Mexico, and all of this air travel has me thinking about this video.
Think of the Oxygen Mask speech you hear every time you board an airplane. It may seem counterintuitive to take care of yourself first before your baby or toddler, but in this video, I share tips for little ways you can take care of yourself, so that you can nurture both you and your baby without falling into the mom-default mode of total depletion.
Check it out below, and take good care of yourself!
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.
I rarely watch video links, but when my favorite writer emails one to me, I open it. This TED Talk by bestselling author Sarah Kay knocked the wind out of me. It left me in tears, and inspired to teach my kids life's most valuable lessons, by showing them that living fearlessly and happily is more important than anything else. So mothers, fathers, anyone who is or will be a parent someday, take 3 minutes to hear this message. Your kids will benefit, and so will you.
Some of us are simply petrified of natural childbirth, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of! An epidural can be a great thing. (Yes, I had epidurals for both of my births.) However, know that if you go that route, you can’t do all the stuff you’re able to do in a natural birth – things like walking around, laboring in a birthing tub, being free from constant fetal monitoring and an IV, etc. I didn’t understand that completely until I was in labor and learned that all the medical things like the IV and the fetal monitor and lying on my back, were all non-negotiable due to the epidural. Somehow I thought I would be able to convince the hospital staff to let me skip the IV and the fetal monitor and that I would win because I usually get what I want. Yeah, right!
If you choose an epidural, here are my Top Five Tips:
1. Labor at home for as long as possible. Take a bath, rest, breathe, and go to the hospital when your contractions are coming regularly, about 3 minutes apart.
2. Have an advocate (partner, doula, mom) with you at all times, to help you discuss any suggested medications and/or interventions.
3. Ask for medication before you need it – it may take over an hour for the anesthesiologist to show up. (You can also request pain or anti-anxiety meds as soon as you’re admitted.)
4. Be nice to the nurses. You may be stuck with them until the shift change (7am and 7pm), and you want them on your side!
5. Try to time the epidural right. You don’t want it too early (it may wear off while you’re pushing), and you don’t want it too late (you may miss your opportunity). Discuss with your birthing team to determine the ideal timing for you.
Remember this is your body, your baby, and the choices are yours. Though you may not always get what you want, don’t be afraid to speak up!
Guest post by Jennifer DeLuca, Owner of BodyTonicPilates Gymnasium On September 25th 2009, I found myself in a very strange place. I was at home with my just-turned-one-year-old son and my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, as a single parent.
I might have been in shock when the door closed behind my ex-husband, but how could I even tell? My daughter had just started preschool three days before. Precocious, curious and easily bored, I could tell her need for stimulation was growing exponentially. My son was your typical one-year-old boy: exhausting. During the day he was constantly on the move. At night he would wake up and cry so loudly and so often that I finally had to move my daughter out of their room and into mine and insert earplugs, so the two of us could at least sleep. And still, there was dinner to cook and stories to read, some semblance of normalcy and stability to uphold because, even though I knew it was okay if it happened, I didn’t want my children to see me fall apart.
In the meantime I had a small business to run. I own BodyTonic Pilates Gymnasium in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I am the proud boss and co-worker of 8-10 instructors there and was teaching clients and apprentices 4 or 5 days per week. I’ve always been responsible, but I think that this level of responsibility warrants an entirely new word. It was a completely unmanageable existence, but I didn’t see any way around it. I was just spinning around and around like one of the balls I was keeping in the air.
Within the midst of all of this, I was approached to co-lead a Pilates and yoga retreat in Tulum, Mexico. My first thought was, “I have too much on my plate.” And then with a little uncertainty, and a hint of mischief, I said, “I’ll do it.”
I went. And I slept and I practiced yoga, and I taught Pilates, and I ate three full uninterrupted meals per day, with many uninterrupted conversations, and met many interesting people. There was sun and sand and water and blue sky as a constant backdrop. On the very last day, after all the guests left, I walked to the waves, took a deep breath in and burst into tears. I would never be able to return to my life the way it was. I could not allow myself to live a life with no time for a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt and a croissant. I could not live a life without space for beautiful sounds, scents, sights and nature and laughter with good people.
When I arrived back in Brooklyn, the kids were fine. The ex was fine. BodyTonic was fine. And each of them grew a bit without Mom there. Voids got filled and new spaces opened up. I could see that the more I cared for and nurtured myself, the more that everyone benefited. The myth of “too much going on to get away,” is just that, a myth. The truth is, I was not acting in a responsible way by being totally responsible for everything and in fact, I was probably being irresponsible.
In the next few days I served croissants and yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfast, even if it wound up on the floor. I downloaded the sound of ocean waves to have in the background while I cleaned up at the end of the day. I spent my nights in candlelight. I reserved a day each week to take care of ME. The following month, I began sending the kids to Dad’s to sleep one night per week. From a stressed out mom at the end of her tether, I was restored to a caring, present, patient and fun parent! I became a full person again, someone I was be happy to be. A year later I completed my Yoga Teacher Training at OM yoga Center NYC and now I am gearing up for our Pilates and Yoga Retreat 2012 and all of it's positive aftereffects.