Are you a “bad mommy”?

As I walk through my house I see my daughter’s forgotten lunch box, my son’s forgotten jacket, a sink full of dishes and an overflowing hamper.  What I hear in my head is, “I’m a bad Mom”.  My child is cold = bad mommy.  My child is hungry= bad mommy.  I’m a lousy housekeeper = bad Mommy.  When my child eats too much sugar & watches too much TV, I think “bad mommy”.   And I know I’m not alone.  I’ve taught enough classes and coached enough clients to hear this theme repeating throughout this generation of Moms.  When did this happen?  I’m pretty sure my Mom’s generation didn’t judge themselves the same way, (ok, maybe a dirty house meant you were a bad wife) but there wasn’t the same emphasis on being a good Mom.  I love the advancements we have made towards understanding what is good for kids and how children deserve our respect, time, and devoted attention.  The problem is, believing you are “a bad Mom” does not help you parent any better.  When parents are stressed, we usually lean towards being overly permissive, or overly authoritative.  Stress does nothing to motivate us and instead creates inconsistent, negative parenting that we are not proud of.

Somehow, our culture got a mixed up idea that “good parents don’t let their children suffer”.  This is leading to a generation of kids who are afraid to take chances, move out of Mom’s house and have a sense of entitlement. Perfect parenting is stressful and teaches kids that being perfect is the goal of life.  It’s time for the parenting culture we are living in to change from one of “perfection” to one of “growth”.

Most parents deny being a “helicopter parent” but when I ask who would drive their child’s lunch to school after they forgot it at home, most say they would.  I’ve done it three times myself, BUT I’M STOPPING TODAY!  Instead I’m going to think about what lessons I am robbing my children of by coming to their rescue every time?

What can you learn from a forgotten lunch box?

I can skip a meal, feel hunger, and it’s fine.  I can survive a mishap.  People forget things and that’s ok.  Mistakes happen.  People share what they have.  The Universe provides.  People like to help others. People are generous. Carrots taste better when you are really hungry.

What can you learn from a forgotten jacket?

Compassion, strength, how to keep your body warm in other ways, resourcefulness (the lost and found is a gold mine!), friends and strangers care about you, suffering is temporary and nothing to be afraid of, you are stronger than you thought.

What can you learn from a messy house?

Some work always gets done, there are higher priorities, it’s ok to let other’s help you, your mess does not define you, perfection is not important, not everyone has the same strengths, if I don’t like it, I can change it.  Kids might decide to take matters into their own hands, in which case they learn to create change and use their dissatisfaction to improve their life.

Switching your perspective from doing everything perfectly, to learning and growing from every opportunity sets a great example for our kids.  They learn to be human, make mistakes, grow, take risks, struggle, survive, experiment, and pick themselves back up again.  When I was in school, I was terrified of making a mistake so I opted out.  I answered questions with “I don’t know”, I never raised my hand, never tried hard, and kept quiet. It wasn’t until I went to college and heard others talk about their school experiences that I realized how much I missed out on.  Life is meant to be lived, fully and with freedom to be yourself.  Avoiding problems is avoiding life.  As parents, we can’t be open to learning and improving when we are berating ourselves about how bad we are.  It’s time to embrace our mistakes as learning opportunities and every day, ask “Was I better today than yesterday?”  and “Where can I praise my child’s effort instead of his/her result?” Perfection will never be achieved but growth, is doable.

I love to hear what you think equals “bad mommy”.  Crying kids?  Injured kids?  Disappointed kids?   When you are stressed, do you err on the side of overly authoritative or overly permissive? Jump over to my facebook page and let me know.

What’s the deal?

What’s going on with kids and stress?  Today, children are reporting more anxiety, depression, and worry than ever before.   If you Google “stressed out kids” you will find advice to rearrange your child’s schedule, improve diet and increase exercise.  While this is valid, it’s not enough for me.  I like to understand the big picture and have tools I can use anytime, anywhere, especially when I see my own kids showing signs of stress.

My experience coaching stressed adults, leads me to agree with Psychology Today‘s description of two “Waking states of awareness, Conceptual and Embodied.”  When our brains are in a “conceptual” state, they are busy thinking, evaluating, judging, questioning and worrying.  When we shift to a body focused awareness, our thinking takes a vacation.  Sensing movements and emotions engages the brain so fully that one cannot be aware of their five senses and worry at the same time.   Have you ever noticed that you cannot think yourself out of worry?  But when you engage in a “sense drenching” experience like rock climbing, dancing to music, or cooking, the worrying takes a break without effort?

Our brains cannot be in Conceptual and Embodied states at the same time.  This is why child development experts cringe with the “academic” focus pre-schools and Kindergartens take today.  Since I entered education 17 years ago, I rarely see puppets, felt boards, or  similar tools that help children engage their senses.  Singing, music, storytelling (with props rather than pages), time in nature, art and free play have all but disappeared from primary classrooms.  During the same time, anxiety and stress in children is increasing year after year, surpassing the complaints of stressed out adults.

Our schools praise these “left brain” thinkers and work to re-focus our “right brained” spacey, doodling kids.  I was proud of my “left brain” son who was so bright, so “conceptual”, that he learned quickly, memorized facts, asked a zillion questions and was always aware of what was happening around him. My husband and I considered putting him in a Waldorf, Sufi, or Montessori School (whole brain focused) but it so went against his nature that we chose a traditional school where his natural abilities would be rewarded.  Seven years later, we question that decision, as we are now homeschooling him to due to a stress related illness called Adrenal Fatigue.

The remedy for all types of stress is to re-engage the “right brain” or “Embodied Self-Awareness”.  Martha Beck has some great exercises in her new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.  (Join me for discussions about this book in an over-the-phone book club starting in March.) For now, just try this “sense-drenching” exercise:  Remember the last time you had a moment of bliss where you allowed yourself to be completely present.  What sights did you see?  Recreate the scene (write it down or tell your child about it).  What smells were present?  What tastes do you remember? Sounds?  Remember what textures you felt against your skin?  Immerse yourself in this sensory experience and you will shift your brain state to the part of your brain capable of joy, peace, calm, and relaxation.  Read My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor to see how blissful life can be when you lose function of your left hemisphere.

We are naturally programmed to use both halves of our brains.  Providing our children opportunities to lose track of time and immerse themselves in art, music, imagination, nature and storytelling is the best way to reduce stress.  Throw out the reading log and let your child snuggle in to you while you tell them a story.  Throw out the clocks and schedules and dedicate a day to mindlessly wandering in nature.   Throw out the TV & video screens (which increase the stress response and help disassociate us from our bodies) and celebrate boredom.  Exercise reduces stress because it releases cortisol and can shift us to an embodied brain state.   If the exercise is listening to directions, running to point A, throwing to point B, and moving your body like this to point C, it can aggravate kids’ attempts to shift by continually being brought back to their thinking brain.   Keep exercise playful and unstructured when possible.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I just have to say it:  GO PLAY.  YES, I’M TALKING TO YOU. Kids learn by imitation.  So get up from your computer and do something that feels like play to you.   Put on music and dance, sign up for that creative writing class you’ve been wanting to take, take your dog to the park, or play a round of golf…….it’s for the children!  What’s your favorite way to shift into your right brain, embodied self awareness?  Share it below.

Need more convincing?  Listen to the fabulous Christine Carter‘s persuasive argument that when adults have sex, it increases their children’s capacity for happiness!

2012 is gonna be easy!

I love a New Year.  A fresh start.  A clean slate.  Everyone working to improve their bodies, their finances, their relationships, their careers.  Hope, optimism, belief, determination- a life coach’s dream time.

But where does it go come February?

Here’s my list of the biggest killers of New Years Resolutions.

1-    Perfectionism:  I don’t mean my house is immaculate kind of perfectionism.  I mean the black & white thinking.  “I’m either on my diet or off”  “I’m either saving money or spending it”  “I’m either a good parent or a bad one”.  If you give yourself a label “I’m lazy”, “I’m an idiot”, “I’m impatient”, “I’m a loser”, “I’m fat” then you are playing a game of perfectionism you will not win. A better way to stick to your resolutions is to see yourself in a constant state of flux.  “I am moving closer to my goal right now or away from it.”  “I am becoming more fit or less”  “I am learning to be kinder to myself or I am forgetting to be kinder to myself.”  The truth is, life is not static, and pretending things are set in stone, will suck the motivation right out of you.

2-    “It’s too hard”:  I catch myself saying this all the time.  “Keeping the house clean is hard”,  “Being a solo-prenuer is hard”, “Dealing with health problems is hard”. Hello, pity party!  Do you want some whine with that?  If I look back in human history, or right now in cultures all over the globe, my life is pretty damn easy!  It is a ridiculously untrue thought that my life is hard and when I believe it, it doesn’t serve me.  If you are like me and you hear yourself complaining about things being hard, try changing it to, “this is easy!”  Eating healthy is easy.  Exercising is easy.  Making money is easy.  Raising twins is easy.  Balancing work/family life…easy!  The more you think it & say it, the more you will find evidence to prove it’s true.  Isn’t it just as true that change is easy?

3-    “I deserve a reward”:  Most people use this as a way to cheat on their resolution.  (Often in combination with ‘I worked hard, therefore, I deserve it’).  We think this is self care, but really it isn’t.  It’s usually said defiantly, as though we are rebelling against our own desires to feel better.  What we are really saying is “I deserve to be overweight & unhealthy”,  “I deserve to be broke” or “I deserve to be unhappy”.  Try using the same sentence in support of your resolution “I deserve to work out & feel healthy”, “I deserve to have a tidy home”, or “I deserve to spend less & have more money in the bank”.  I believe you ARE deserving, and that you deserve to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments.

4-    Be open to more & better:  Take a look back at 2011 and write down what worked for you and what didn’t.  Even if you didn’t complete your resolutions, spend time thinking about how your life has changed for the better.  What improvements were planned and which weren’t?  Even if you had some real difficulties, think about positive things that came from it.  Now imagine yourself one year from now.  Even if you don’t accomplish your resolutions, what by-products might you enjoy as a result of the attempt?  Might I make a new friend, even if I quit the gym?  Might I make some new connections, even if I didn’t get that job?  Might I learn something about myself that I couldn’t have learned any other way?  There is always opportunity for growth and increased joy in our lives, and we don’t always know where it will come from.

So take some good guesses, make those resolutions, be kind to yourself whether you stick with them or not.  2012 might just have some wonderful plans in store for you.  If working with a life coach is on your list of ways to improve your life, email me today to take advantage of my special New Years offer of 5 sessions for the cost of 4.

What I learned from a smelly, underwater, pothead.

In one week, I had four clients tell me that their work environments are going through rapid changes:  finance, government, health care, and pharmaceutical sales. If there is an industry that isn’t experiencing these kind of changes, I don’t know what it is.  Real estate, education, retail, computer engineering:  between outsourcing, budget cuts, and automation, it’s easy to assume the jobs you or your spouse hold today will not be around, or be dramatically different, by the time your kids are in the job market. When the world seems to be changing fast there are a few ways we tend to cope with these changes.

A common reaction is to panic.  When we see changes happening around us, we look for familiar structures to cling to:  “If I have an 8 month emergency savings, then I’ll be safe”.  “If I just work harder, I’ll be safe”.  We look for rules and systems to believe will make us feel secure.  This leads to generalized anxiety, stress, sleep disturbances, and health problems.  Worrying about an uncertain future and placing your security in rules that are constantly changing, can turn “making a living” into “making a dying”.

Another common reaction to change is denial.  (Imagine high pitched voice here) “Everything is great and peachy, nothing will affect me, I’ll just keep drinking, spending, overeating, blaming and whatever else it takes NOT to notice that I feel scared.”  This helps people by giving them something else to focus on “I need to lose weight, spend less, get my kids grades’ up”. This method distracts from, but doesn’t resolve the core issue.  Believing scary thoughts like, “I have no choice but to stay in this job I hate” causes you to feel fear.  Ignoring this fear by focusing on other problems, just leads to a lifetime of feeling crappy.

When panic and denial fail to solve the problem, there is one method left.  I learned this personally from a smelly, pot-smoking, scuba diving instructor who was the last person I expected to gain such wisdom.  (The stench of his body odor was so profound that they are embedded together in my memory). In order to get certified, I had to remove my face mask and snorkel, 30 ft. underwater, and put them back on.  To say I was scared was an understatement.  I reassured myself that I new “the rules”, I had memorized the procedure and was prepared.  But as soon as it was off, I started to PANIC.  I frantically swam toward the surface as fast as I could, crazy, flailing around in a terrible state.  My dive instructor firmly grabbed arm, held me down, and tapped the side of my head.  Somehow, that tap on the side of my head, ignited another part of brain:  my instincts.  I calmed down immediately, cleared my face mask and snorkel, and was fine without ever thinking about it.  It was weird, like “how did I just do that?” All it took was someone else to grab my arm and tap my head.  We are all built with these innate instincts to help us through times of fear, the problem is we don’t have access to them when we are in panic or denial.

My work as a life coach is similar.  I hold my clients down by making them relax and stay calm on the phone. Then, I tap into their instincts by asking them to question the thoughts they have been thinking. “Is it true that security comes from your job?” “How do you know the changes that are happening are bad ones?”

Once we let go of the old ideas that are no longer working for us….

”Government work is stable”      “No one quits in this economy”      “It’s ok to suffer if you are close to retirement”,

then, we can allow in some quiet wisdom we didn’t even know was there.

“I’m more capable than I thought.”    “Now’s the time for change, everyone else is scared.”   “I only have to please myself.”   “The possibilities for my future are endless.”

Think about times in your life when you have been genuinely scared.  (Being robbed at gunpoint, seeing a bear in the woods, crashing a car).  How did your instincts step up to help you?  Maybe in our cushy lives, we don’t encounter enough real fear and we forget that we have this built in, instinctual system to help us out.  Look at the difference between fake fear (stress, anxiety) and real fear, and tell me about times when you felt your instincts kick in.

-Instincts are quiet and easy to ignore.  Anxiety is loud and takes over your ability to think about anything else.

-Instincts offer a clear, actionable step to take.  Anxiety suggests pacing, eating, general yuck…oh, I just hate anxiety!

-Instincts can be a thought that pops into your head but usually just one (not 1,000) and it’s often funny and always clear and calming.

-Instincts can be a physical sensation in the body (hairs go up on back of neck, goose bumps, nausea, etc.) but again, easy to ignore.  Anxiety is a runaway train that you can’t get off until your brain thinks it is safe.

If I can find wisdom from a smelly, underwater, pot head, I am confident you can find your quiet wisdom, too.

TMIT?

Seventeen year old, Anna wrote her parents a note saying “{My younger sister} would kill me if she knew I was telling you this, but I am so glad you wouldn’t let us have facebook accounts.  I can see how I would get roped into it like my friends are.”

Fifteen year old Sarah was telling her teacher, “At first when my parents took my cell phone away, I thought I was going to die.  But after the first few days, I can’t believe how much better I feel.  Don’t tell my parents, though, they might not give it back.”

Thirty-eight year old Eileen just got back from a fabulous vacation with her husband and kids.  She says, “I think the main reason it was so great is we had no cell phone or internet access the entire time.  It was so relaxing”.

What are the consequences of our kids having access to electronic devices so many hours a day?  Texting instead of talking?  Soicalizing online with video games instead of creating games in person?  Building relationships over texts, facebook, and other social media sites instead of building relationships in person?

My main concern about kids and media has always been about what are they not doing.  When kids are plugged in, they aren’t using their imagination, they aren’t feeling their emotions, they aren’t learning to resolve conflict or entertain themselves, they aren’t learning how to self soothe (yes, even adults need this skill).  But since I have started my life coaching work, my main concern has changed. Being connected to so many electronic devices seems to reduce the feeling of joy.

Here is one teenagers description of what her life is like today.  “Your life can go from fine to misery to elation, all throughout the course of one English class.  You never know what people are going to post about you on myspace.  Will they make fun of your outfit?  Your day is ruined.  Will they post about the guy you hooked up with last weekend? Your month is ruined.  Will the guy you like change is relationship status? Awesome. Will that photo of you with your top off get spread around school?  Your life if over. There is no peace.  If you don’t text someone back right away, they think you are mad at them.”

I care about the social and emotional well being of you and your kids. I believe we have way more stress in our lives than necessary.  If you feel like technology is taking over in your home, I want to empower you to set some limits for you and your children (even if it seems like no other parent is).  Technology can be addictive.  Your kids will probably not set their own boundaries just like Eileen probably would have been checking emails and facebooking, if she could have accessed it on her vacation. You can limit all cell phones after 7:00pm.  You can prevent kids from having facebook or other social media accounts.   You can honor an electronics free day, one day a week. One hour of screen time a day is a popular limitation parents of younger children use.  Try it with older kids and yourself.

Sometimes it’s easier to make positive changes for our kids than it is for us.  Use them as a motivator to do something you intuitively know is good for your family. A little TV time while Mom is making dinner saves everybody from insanity.  Helping your kids feel socially connected and part of the mainstream culture is something they will thank you for.  Tune into your instincts to know how much is too much.  Ask yourself, would I take a photo of my child right now?  What activity did my child do today that was worthy of photographing.  Most of us wouldn’t think to take pictures of our kids watching TV or sitting with their DS, because intuitively we know it’s not a memory worth preserving.  We are much more likely to photograph them cooking their first batch of cookies, building a fort, putting on a dance show, creating an obstacle course, playing a sport, camping, sledding, making art, playing school, sleepovers, picking flowers, building a treehouse, selling lemonade, etc. Don’t let modern life take you away from your instincts about what is good for your family. You already know.

Wishing you lots of photographic moments this spring.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me