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’re anything like me, you’ve planned motherhood to fit neatly into the space between a successful career, and nestling into a home with just the right partner. You’re an urban, Type-A, used-to-controlling-your-life woman who’s joined the Mommy Club during an age of unreasonable expectations on women. You know—that mythical 70’s Wonder Woman badass who could do it all, and still feel sexy (yeah, right!).
When you have a baby, everything spins out of control, and you start to feel like you’re living in a house of falling cards. Haircuts, folded laundry and sleep become luxuries. Your life revolves around naps and poops. You may begin to feel like you’re failing at everything, and become OCD about creating order. If so you’re simply craving control. Welcome to your new (out-of-control) life.
Now, everyone’s surely told you that it will get better, but I’ll share a little secret with you. It doesn’t just happen. You don’t wake up one day and magically have an easier life with a flock of family to help. You have to decide that you don’t want to feel this way, and take steps to take care of yourself so you don’t become a totally depleted, empty shell of a woman who doesn’t resemble the real you. If this sounds familiar, don’t beat yourself up. This is all normal. And it can change, if you decide that you want it to change.
Here’s something you can do right here, right now:
Let go of the idea of the Perfect Mom, because she doesn’t exist. Yes, you will make mistakes. Yes, you will lose your patience, and you will torture yourself about all the things you think you’re doing wrong. But that doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. In your baby’s eyes, you are perfect, just as you are.
Breathe that in for a minute, and then….
I’d like to invite you to do a little exercise. Write this down. Put it in your wallet or stick it on your bathroom mirror, and read it daily. Let it be your Mommy Mantra, and then, apply it to every aspect of your life.
“I am good enough.”
If any of this resonates, if you’ve been feeling guilty and stressed and worry that you’re not a good enough mother, leave a comment here and share with all the other moms reading this who feel just like you. It’s anonymous, so you can spill your guts. Now go spill ‘em!
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.
As a committed international adventure traveler, I often get asked for tips for traveling with tots in tow. You asked - here they are!1. Keep it Simple
I swore when we had kids that we would still travel to cool places like Africa and India and more specifically, NOT travel to any big, tacky, all-inclusive resorts. After a few miserable cross-country and international trips, I gave in and realized it just wasn't any fun. Now, I'm not even embarrassed to admit that we travel to Mexico and stay in those big all-inclusive beach resorts every year, and we have fun! 2. Strategic Airplane Seating
If you're traveling more than 2 hours, buy a seat for your kid, even if your baby is under two. It will be worth every penny. If you don't have an extra seat, be strategic about your seat assignments. If traveling with two parents, book aisle & window seats -- the guy in the middle will gladly move! If that's not an option, get to the airport early, bring your baby in your arms (mom) for check-in, smile, and ask politely if there are any better seats for your family. Sometimes, unless a flight is oversold, the ground staff may even "block" a middle seat, giving you a whole row.
3. Feeding for Take-offs and Landings
Time feedings during take off and landing. If they're nursing, sucking on a bottle, or snacking on cheerios for take-off and landing, their ears will pop naturally, it will be easier on you, and they're more likely to pass out with the motion.
4. Car Seats You might hear that you need car seats on the airplane, but you don't. If you're renting a car, leave your car seats at home and book car seats with your car rental company. Request infant, toddler or booster based on your child's needs. If you must bring car seats, check them so you don't have to bring them through security. You can buy a car seat cover like this to protect your seat in general baggage.
5. Go With the FlowInstead of stressing about naps and where your kids sleep, can you give yourself permission to forget about your routines, where and when your baby sleeps, and just have fun? Your baby will sleep in the car, in the stroller, she may get overtired or want to sleep in your hotel bed with you. Can you let go of your fear that your baby won't get enough sleep, or have sleep regressions when you get home? Honestly, it's going to happen whether or not you stick to your routines and schedules, so why not skip the stress and have more fun!?!I know there's so much more travel wisdom out there, so if you have any more great family travel tips, share them with us here!
Those of you who already know me, know that I’m totally transparent and humble about my own parenting struggles. And I’m just going to tell you straight: Nearly 9 years into parenting, I still struggle with a lot of the same things that you do.
I still don’t get enough sleep. I’m still plagued with fears, anxiety and guilt about what I should and shouldn’t do. I’m constantly worried that I’m doing something wrong, and I often feel like I’m failing at everything. I’m scared that my kids will struggle at school, that they won’t make any friends, that my apartment will never be clean enough, that my kids don’t get enough protein, and that they’ll hate me when they grow up. And even though I know this is all totally normal, I still feel crappy about it.
The thing I sense that you and I most likely share is the worry, the anxiety, the fear that we’re not good enough parents, that we’re doing something wrong, that we’ll never get enough sleep, and the (annoying!) feeling that every other parent looks like they’re handling it with more grace than you are. And maybe those other well-rested, happy parents really are fundamentally relaxed, Zen people. Or maybe, as I suspect – they’re all lying!
If you want to hear more about this topic, you DEFINITELY want to listen to my recent tele-seminar (download here), where I’ll be sharing some of my best-kept secrets: the ones that really help me, and families like you sleep and feel better.
And as always, I love to hear from you. If you're struggling with sleep or any new parent anxiety, share them with me here. Tell me what's keeping you up at night and how you're feeling.
And if you're just sleep-deprived and ready to change, please reach out to me. You can schedule a complimentary connection call HERE.
I look forward to hearing from you!
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. :)
One day, shortly after my son was born, my 2 ½ year-old-daughter asked me to smile, and launched into a heartbreaking Vaudevillian song and dance to get me to laugh. She literally asked me to be happy, which of course made me cry. And then she repeated the same thing daily for weeks. It was my first clue that something was seriously wrong. What did my daughter see? How could she tell that I wasn’t happy?
I didn’t know I was clinically depressed, I just thought I was sleep-deprived, and if I could only get some sleep, I would feel better. I was able to get out of bed and go to the office every day, and I was sort of able to function, but it got increasingly worse. I became a chronic insomniac. I became dependent on sleeping aids. My fuse got shorter and shorter. I slept an average of 8-10 hours per week, in 15-45 minute midnight naps, regardless of how many sleep remedies I took. I was brain-dead at work, a mess when I came home, and pretty much an empty shell of a woman.
It was a long, hard, lonely road to get out of this mess, but I did it. I got help. I accepted support. My husband didn’t leave me. I took medication with shame, and it worked. Some days I forced myself to go jogging in the rain, sobbing. Other days, I gave myself permission to take time out of my workday to get acupuncture. Eventually, I started sleeping and functioning. Then I started to smile, and found myself laughing and playing with my kids. It took a few years to fully climb out of this hole, but through small, consistent and persistent actions, I did it. I quit my job. I lost 30 pounds. I devoted my life to serving families in crisis. I’m now living life on my terms, working my own hours and more able to enjoy quality time with my family. Though it’s not perfect, and I’m still a chronic insomniac (!!), I can now say with confidence, that I have arrived at my destination. I am happy, and my whole family feels it.
But here’s the main takeaway I’d like to share: Whether you’re clinically depressed, depleted by sleep-deprivation, or simply not content with something in your life, you can change. Don’t wait as long as I did. Get support if you need it. Your kids want you to be happy, and so do you.
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!
In this video, I share some of my tips for parents of babies and toddlers about sleep -- and how to get more of it. (Newsflash: It's probably not what you think!)