Don’t forget to give back, TO YOURSELF, this holiday season

You’ve heard the saying “It is in giving, that we receive” and I know you get this.

You live it every day. You work hard so your kids are fed, clothed, clean, kind, warm, educated and happy. At the end of the day, you get to feel satisfied in a job well done and valued by your family. You love buying the perfect gift to see your kids faces light up. Doing for others, gives you joy. Up until a point.

If ALL you do is give, and you don’t do enough receiving in return, you fall out of balance. Falling out of balance shows up differently for different people: resentment, jealousy, overeating, overdrinking, for me, it’s recurring illness and chronic pain.

If you’re waiting for your family, co-workers or mother-in-law, to appreciate all you do for them, you are going to be waiting for an awfully long time.

Instead, follow these holiday hacks to start giving back to yourself this holiday season. They will help you feel appreciated and balanced after a season full of giving.

  1. My favorite Christmas tradition is checking into a hotel room BY MYSELF for two nights after Christmas. There is nothing quite as wonderful as a day where 100% of the decisions are based on what YOU want to do. Where shall you go? What do you feel like eating? What are you in the mood for? How long do you want to stay? LUXURY and a great way to make sure you still remember what your own inner voice sounds like.
  2. If you can’t take an overnight, take a day. Sun up to sundown. Get a good book, explore a new area, check into a day spa. The key is to not DO anything, just to BE, and enjoy being yourself in this beautiful world we live in.
  3. Buy yourself a present. If you are out shopping for others and you find something you really love, BUY IT and wrap it up!  Who says gifts have to come from others? You were very good this year and you deserve something beautiful. Put it under the tree and get creative with the tag. Sign it “Your #1 fan” “Your favorite admirer” write a nice note that says “for all you do”.
  4. Say thank you. If you work and work but never hear ‘thank you’, it’s easy to slip into resentment. Learning to thank yourself for what you do is an incredible life skill. “I thank myself for putting wrapped gifts under the tree for my children .” “I thank myself for upholding our family and religious traditions.” “I thank myself for donating toys and food.” “I thank myself for cleaning my house and cooking a great dinner.”
  5. Make a brag board. Write down all the things you did that you are proud of and post it on the refrigerator for your family to see. “Bought red shirt for the school assembly.”, “contributed to teacher gifts”, “drove on field trip”, “swept the kitchen floor”, “made chili for dinner”, “hung lights”, “folded laundry”. Doesn’t matter how mundane, it just feels good to write down all you’ve done and post it like a trophy on a shelf. Revel in your accomplishments and appreciate yourself.
  6. Celebrate your accomplishments! You made through the crazy holidays! You only lost one present, you didn’t burn the turkey, you remembered to water the tree, so many victories! Get together with your girlfriends and raise a glass to yourselves.

So if you are likely to overdue the giving and doing this time of year, create balance by giving yourself the appreciation, solitude and recuperation time you need.

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” 
― Parker J. PalmerLet Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

 

Have you fallen into the responsible mom trap?

Stay home moms are especially vulnerable of falling into these two traps but working moms can certainly find themselves stuck here too.

I asked a client the other day, “What percentage of your daily tasks are done out of obligation?” She figured about 90%. 90%!!! This is self imposed slavery!

Feeling like you HAVE TO do something traps the spirit and makes you feel powerless. “Shoulding” your way through life will wreck havoc on your energy and rob you of your own power and sense of authority over your life. It’s a mental prison and it takes it’s toll.

The most common reason why you hear moms say obligatory things like “I have to pick up your brother” “I need to start working out” or “I really should get a head start on my Christmas shopping” is because we want to feel important.

Many of us quit our jobs to stay home and raise kids and we need to prove that we are needed, valuable, and that our lives have purpose. The last thing we want is for someone to think we are sitting on the couch, watching reality TV and eating bon-bons. We take our mothering job seriously by filling our lives with obligations. 

If this sounds like you, the question to ask yourself is, “Have I accomplished my goal of feeling needed?

Can I check the box that says “I’m a responsible mom”?

If so, let’s check it and MOVE ON to something more freeing and empowering for the human psyche.

The second trap we can fall into, trying to prove we are hardworking responsible moms, is commiserating with other hardworking, stressed out people.
It took me FOREVER to believe my husband when he told me that he wants to hear how easy and joyful my day was! He would come home from work and talk about how stressed and overwhelmed he was, so I would pick the most stressful part of my day and share back. Solidarity, it’s how women support each other. You tell me what’s bugging you, I tell you what’s bugging me, we vent, we laugh, we feel better.

What he was asking me to do instead felt so rude!
Girlfriend: “My kids are such slobs. They leave their stuff everywhere, complain about having no food to eat yet still manage to make a mess in the kitchen.”
Me: “My kids are delightful in every way. They never make a mess and if they do, they clean it up.”
WHAT!? That is NOT how we support people we care about! But husbands are different than girlfriends.

When we complain to our husbands, he sees our problems as something he needs to fix.  When we share our crises, mishaps and exhaustion of the day, even with good intentions, it makes him feel more depleted and wondering why he’s working so hard in the first place.

Focusing on the negative put us into our own mental prison instead of giving ourselves permission to fully enjoy those moments when everything is going smoothly and easily.

Can you check the box that says, “I’m a hard-working Mom”? If yes, let’s check it and MOVE ON to focusing on those moments in the day when you felt deeply relaxed, present in the moment, and truly grateful. Share THOSE moments with your husband. Then he feels like his hard work is worthwhile because his kids get to be with a happy, balanced mommy all day.

Are you ready to MOVE ON from hardworking, needed and responsible? Start by replacing “I have to” “I need to” and “I should” from your vocabulary and replace it with “I choose to”, “I intend to” and “I will”. You’ve earned your Supermom patch, it’s ok to kick your feet up, relax and do some fun things just for you.

Why trying to make your kids happy, will make you miserable.

Seek purpose, not pleasure

As parents, we all seem to want one thing: our kids to be happy. Sure, we want them to have good friends, good grades and a clean room, but the reason we want those things is because we believe it will lead to a happy life. There is a cultural paradigm that says “You can only be as happy as your least happy child.”

I’ve heard clients say to me, “I’m happy if my kids are happy.” or “When all three of my kids are happy, then I can relax.”

THIS IS NOT A GOOD PLAN!

Happiness is not a sustainable emotion. Humans are not wired to be happy all day, every day. In fact, humans normally operate at a 50/50 rate when it comes to positive or negative emotions. Sadness, loss, separation, anger, rejection and illness are all part of the human experience. When we label these things as bad, we cause unnecessary stress, anxiety and depression.

Our brains are wired to feel negative emotion, but we are also wired to seek pleasure. So when Facebook ads tell us that whiter teeth and chocolate truffles will make us happier, our brains think, “I need that.” When TV commercials tell us that there’s a pill to take if you feel uncomfortable in social situations, we believe something is wrong with us. Constantly seeking pleasure and avoiding natural, negative emotions is making Americans miserable. Between us wanting our kids to be happy, and the media implying happy is the only allowable emotion, what do we aim for?

What’s the goal for our lives, if not happiness?

Purpose, meaning and fulfillment is a kind of happiness that is longer lasting. It’s not about seeking pleasure, but about living life according to one’s values. When we engage fully in our activities and take action on the things that matter to us, we feel connected and aligned with our highest selves. Growth, meaning and forward momentum help us believe we are moving in a positive direction which is key to living a fulfilling life.

The sun didn’t shine in Seattle for three months last winter. The collective depression was subtle but it wasn’t until the day the sun came out that everyone noticed the contrast. Suddenly people were smiling, whistling, singing, SO HAPPY! It wasn’t the sunshine that made people happy, if so, Californians would have been giddy after 7 years of drought. It was the contrast. Californians react the same way when it rains! Seeing sunshine, after so many cloudy days, made Seattlelites stop and engage fully in the moment. It helped them be optimistic and think positively about the future months to come.

So think about giving your kids a contrasting experience to increase their ability to engage the moment. Nothing makes you appreciate a hot shower like a camping or backpacking for a few days. Sugar tastes so much sweeter after not eating it for a week.

Instead of indulging every item on your kid’s Christmas list this year, to try to make them happy, appreciate the joy and contrast in yearning for and not having. Anticipation & delayed gratification are human experiences that increase meaning.

You might be disappointed that the kids and teachers at school don’t treat your child they way you’d like, but try using these experiences as an opportunity for growth, purpose and to create a more meaningful future. It’s hard to teach your kids to appreciate good friends until they’ve had some bad experiences. We can help our kids think about how they want to treat people and believe the changes they make will help create a kinder world.

And most importantly parents, we’ve got to live it, to give it. Kids learn by imitation so we can’t expect them to live meaningful, fully engaged lives if we aren’t modeling how to do it. If you would like to feel like you are making positive forward progress and living according to your values, instead of getting stuck in the pleasure seeking cycle, schedule a free life coaching session today.

What’s the quickest way to ruin holiday festivities?

Do you know the one thing that will ruin your holiday faster than anything else? 

It’s not overcooking the turkey, heated political debates, or cranberry sauce on the carpet. The one thing that ruins holiday dinners is EXPECTATIONS. When you have visions of cinnamon scented candlelight over peaceful conversations with joyful children lingering over delicious cuisine, it’s a recipe for disaster!

Visions of perfection?

The reality is, Thanksgiving is not a holiday for most Moms. It’s everything we normally do: clean, cook, wash dishes, manage children, but with more people around and football on the TV. So how do we lower our expectations without feeling like a negative pessimist?

Keep it real….and have fun with the worst case scenario.

Before the holiday begins, get together with your family or friends and make a list of all the crazy shit that could possibly go down during a simple holiday dinner.

My moms going to subtly hint that I should lose weight.

I’ll become a frenetically crazy cleaning machine two hours before people arrive and my children and husband will hide from me.

Uncle John will show up early spouting the latest Fox News reports about “He who shall not be named”.

Aunt Jen brings appetizers but shows up late saying she got the wrong time, directions, or somehow makes it my fault.

The favorite football team loses and everyone’s in a funk.

My Dad asks my husband how much money he’s saving for retirement….again.

Grandma drinks too much and starts telling me that I’m over-parenting my kids….again.

I’ll be upset that I’m doing all the work, don’t get to relax, and I’ll take it out on my family.

My mother-in-law will tell me that I’m doing it wrong. Bonus points for every “it”.

Whatever you can think might happen, write down all your predictions and see how many things you get right. Compare notes with other families to see who had the worst holiday dinner, then take that Mom out to celebrate her win.

Holidays are like the world series of motherhood. They aren’t designed to be restful and relaxing for YOU. This is game time, expect the worst, hope for the best, and get to work. The closer you align your expectations with your reality, the more fun you will have.

If you have changed your holiday tradition to make it more fun for YOU, let me know!

Is your day full of hard work? Then claim the next day as “Mom gets to do whatever Mom wants day” and celebrate your holiday victory. When you take a day to yourself to play and relax, take a photo and share it on my Facebook page so we can take inspiration from each other! 

How to help your child increase confidence

It’s so hard to watch your child temper herself, hold himself back, not want to try new things, even turn against things she loves just to fit in with her peers.

Our encouragements of “just be yourself” seem to fall on deaf ears. I had a client call the other day worried because her SIX-YEAR-OLD stopped wearing flowery headbands, bracelets and crazy tights because the other girls were making fun of her. She was already developing a separate persona at school; the quiet, well-behaved, rule follower who blended into the background. Luckily, at home, she still allowed herself to be silly, goofy and relaxed.

The risk kids face when they try to create a perfect self-image, is they lose touch with their inner, emotional life. As Simone Marean from Girls Leadership puts it, this inner emotional life is our GPS. It tells us what is right for us, what is wrong for us, what feels yucky that we should avoid. When we try to be perfect, we’re not allowing ourselves to be human.

The good news from the research of Challenge Success and Girls Leadership, is how much influence parents have to help kids release perfectionism and stress, access their full range of emotions, and gain authentic confidence.

Where do YOU find yourself scared to take risks?

To try something new that you won’t be good at right away?

To go against the crowd, knowing people will judge you?

When do you worry about what people will think?

Do you have a hard time apologizing or losing?

Do you try really hard not to make a mistake and then beat yourself up when you do?

The number one way kids learn is by imitation so if want our kids confident: to be free to take risks, make mistakes, go against the crowd and not care about other’s judgement, it starts with us.

These tips from Girls Leadership will help your perfectionistic sons as well.

  1. Celebrate mistakes. Go around the dinner table and talk about who made the best mistake. Let your kids see you trying new things and bombing, embarrassing yourself, and forgiving yourself.
  2. Let your kids see you experiencing uncomfortable emotions: mad, sad, embarrassed, disappointed, proud, contentment, jealousy, confidence, apologetic, brave. Show them by example what it means to be a whole human being.
  3. Let your child see or hear you having conflict and resolving it. Kids don’t realize it, but all healthy relationships have conflict. Learning how to ask for what you want and talk about your feelings is such an important thing to learn. Demonstrate how to resolve conflict and apologize with your kids, your partner, your extended family and friends.

If you think you might be mired in perfectionism, but yearn for confidence, check out my Supermom is Getting Tired coaching program and show your child by example how to be their best, most confident self.