Supermom is getting tired

I work with a lot of supermoms. They would never call themselves super, though, they are more likely to call themselves failures. They are measuring their success by how much they accomplish in a day. But we are living in a time where the expectations on what Mom “should” accomplish in a day are very high. We feel the pressure not only to raise our children but to keep a clean home, a happy husband, stay fit, cook healthy meals, bring home income, maintain friendships, and to do all these things WELL. Not only do them WELL but also, because we live in a time of many choices, we feel pressure to ENJOY all the choices we make.

This is a great privilege and I do not want to go back to the old days of fewer choices. But I see a lot of Supermoms getting tired and wondering when they get to rest. They miss having a performance review, a raise, and acknowledgement of their hard work. The old ways of striving for success aren’t working for them anymore. These Moms used to make a list of things to do, cross them off, and feel satisfied. Now that they’re Moms, the list is endless, there is never enough time in the day, and they never get to sit down, relax, and feel content. When Moms are exhausted from working too hard, they take it out on those around them, take it out on themselves, or both. Being in this frustrated, annoyed, blaming state only makes them more tired, less productive, and fuels this belief that there is more work to do.

It’s time to change the way we think of success and time. When you are 80 and you look back on your life, what will you have wished you spent more time on? What activities are important because they give you energy to fuel you throughout the day? I know that I won’t care my house was messy 50 years from now but if I need a clean house in order to energize me through the day, then it becomes a priority.

Because time is intangible if feels infinite. But if we look at in a more finite way, that there are 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week, it helps us prioritize. Take a look at how many hours in a day you are spending and decide if that sounds balanced to you?
3 hours blessing my home and my family (feels better than cleaning)
2 hours shopping & preparing meals for my family
3 hours supporting my relationships (phone calls, planning get-togethers, family dinners, date nights, facebook)
2 hours taking care of my body (exercise, looking nice)
2 hours responding to my kids needs, giving them love and attention.
1.5 hours just for myself (reading, watching TV, etc.)
3 hours creating wealth (paying bills, earning income, investing, taxes)

Your life is your own, to do with it whatever you want. Making choices based on YOUR values and priorities is key to happiness. I know that if I don’t get to sit and dine, at least one meal of the day, I am bitter and unproductive. That becomes my priority as well an hour of relaxation time before bed. That leaves 15 hours. When I’m 80 and I look back at this time of my life, I hope I will have enjoyed the time I spent with my kids. That means about 4-6 hours a day. Too much time with them, I get cranky. Not enough time, I feel I’m missing something. Everyone is different, this is what is true for me, right now, at the ages they are.

It’s time for Supermoms to switch their perspective from doing EVERYTHING well, to doing what is important to them to achieve joy and look back on life with satisfaction. Learning to leave things un-done is a challenge to many over-achievers but it is a must for today’s Moms. What ball can you drop today that will help you feel lighter, more productive and more satisfied? What expectation have you already let go of that you are happy you did?

When your kids drive you crazy.

Sarah was exhausted. No matter how many activities she scheduled for her son, he always wanted more. She worried about overbooking him (and herself) but every time they had a day at home, he ended up climbing the walls and driving her crazy.

Julie was frustrated. At home, her daughter was exuberant and talkative, but out in public, she shut down. She scowled and clung when people tried to talk to her and refused to participate in activities. Julie couldn’t understand how her daughter could act so rude to people who are just being nice.

When parents feel calm and at peace, it brings out their best parenting skills. But when we argue with the reality of who our kids are, we drive ourselves crazy. “Why can’t he just come home, sit down, and get his homework DONE instead of dragging it on for hours.” “What’s so hard about making friends? Just go up and ask them if they want to play.” “Why can’t she be more like the other kids?”

When we argue with our child’s TEMPERAMENT, we lose. All kids were made with built in personality traits that we can certainly squelch but the effort will exhaust and frustrate us and cause our children to be unhappy, believing they are innately flawed. A better way is to understand how your kids are wired and parent, based on who they are. But how do we know what is temperament, something we cannot and should not try to change, vs. something they just haven’t learned yet and it’s up to us to teach them? This is the classic nurture vs. nature debate and the best resource I have found is the book Nurture by Nature by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. This book uses the classic Myers-Briggs Personality Type assessment many people discover from human resource departments, but is geared towards raising children.

My clients want to respect the essence of their kids and support who they are, but they want to stay sane while doing it. Accepting your child’s personality, as it is, and parenting them accordingly, is so worth the effort. Here are a few questions to consider…..
Does your child like to play with toys or board games as they are intended “S” or will he create his own version, changing rules as he goes, for something totally different ”N”?

Does your child need time at home to fill up their energy tank “I” or does staying home drain them and make them antsy “E”?

Does your child refuse to accept responsibility when they cause pain or sadness in someone else? They may be a deep feeler “F” and the thought they caused someone harm might be too much for them to take. Or are they perplexed by the emotional reaction they caused, “T” and need an explanation as to why the child is crying.

When it comes to making decisions like childcare, school choice, summer camps, understanding your child’s personality type is SO helpful. Instead of comparing your kid to others, look at who they are as a unique individual and ask yourself, how can I help them to be their best?

Being a former reading specialist, it drove me crazy that my daughter didn’t like books or reading. Once I realized she was an INFJ and was more interested in her OWN ideas than someone else’s, I could help her learn to like reading. By changing the endings, letting her lead, and using the pictures to tell alternative stories, I helped her discover the joy of storytelling. I also need to make sure she has plenty of unstructured time after school where she can invent and be the boss.

My ESFJ is way harder on himself than I could ever be. So instead of reminding him to “be good” or suggesting he pay attention in school, I have learned to celebrate mistakes. “Oh well, no big deal” is a mantra I try to use a lot of in my home as well as, “guess what awesome mistake I made today?”  Unlike INTP’s, whose mission is to question authority, ESFJ’s cannot function with conflict so maintaining harmony at all times is of primary concern.

The Serenity Prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous is a perfect mantra for parents. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” You can gain wisdom by assessing your personality profile, online for free. It’s geared towards adults but if your kids are older you can use it for them. Also check out Nurture by Nature. It’s super fun (unless you are an ISTJ or INTJ, then it’s torture☺) but it works best if your child is age 4 or older to get a clear picture of their type.

My much-loved, dog-eared, duct-taped copy.

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Joseph Campbell

Helping kids with empathy

News of the shooting in Newtown, CT. is vibrating through my body.  I can feel the weight of it: the suffering, fear, shock, desperation, anger, and grief.   It shows up in me as real, physical pain:  stomach ache, headache, tension in my neck, jaw, abdomen, crushing chest, and a feeling like boiling blood I know well as anxiety.  I live on the opposite side of the country and yet I am connected to those parents, teachers and kids at Sandy Hook Elementary in a very real way.  When I was a kid, and heard tragic news like this, I didn’t know how to handle my emotions.

Whether the scary stuff on TV was real or imaginary, as a kid, it felt the same.  I was afraid, but I didn’t know what to do with my fear.  It seemed the right thing to do was to “feel bad” for others.  My big, empathic heart couldn’t handle the guilt, grief and fear.  This wasn’t my pain or my problem, but somehow I thought that if I suffered, I could alleviate the suffering of others.  If I joined them in grief, if I carried the burden with them, I could lessen it.  I was wrong.  All this got me was decades of chronic pain, anxiety and a fear of bad things happening. I tried writing notes and donating money, but it never felt like enough.

Tragedy’s, like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, are opportunities to teach our children healthy ways to deal with their emotions.  It can be hard to notice if your child is reacting in these ways but asking them what they feel, and what they do with that feeling, is a good place to start.  Many kids (and adults) will cope by….

  1. Worrying, pulling-back from life, living small and fearfully, breathing shallowly, just in case a threat shows up.  Constantly staying in fight or flight, when there is no immediate danger, is horrible for your emotional and physical well-being and does nothing for those suffering. You can read more about my results of living this way. This adds more fearful energy to the world, which causes us to do things like horde weapons of mass destruction and maintain the right to bear arms against our neighbors and classmates.
  2. Get Mad – We can be angry at the shooter, the NRA, video games, the president, the lack of care for mentally ill, anyone.  For many people, anger is more comfortable than fear so they stay here, hoping it will lead them to productive action.   This is the “fight” response, in action.  It feels good to use it and get the energy out, but adding more of this angry/fearful/fighting energy to the world is just going to result in more violence.
  3. Get Tough- Many times, big hearted kids (and adults) will grow tough exteriors to mask the really deep feelings and negative thoughts they think about themselves.  They ignore, act cool, like they don’t care, deny their own dark side, and try to act perfectly, sometimes even self-righteous. (The emotion will be looking for a way out so don’t be surprised if they explode at a dead cat in the road or missed soccer goal).
  4. Guilt/Sadness – Somehow we get the idea that if we suffer along, it helps alleviate the burdens of others.  When I feel sad and guilty, that just adds more suffering and depression to the world.  Instead, feel the grief and guilt in your body and transform it into love.  Hug your kids, appreciate your life, but do it from a place of love, not fear.   (You’ll know the difference because love feels expansive, fear feels graspy and scarce).

In order to send love to Newtown, Connecticut, you have to feel it in yourself first.  The first step for all of us is to acknowledge and label their emotion.  When a big, scary, yucky feeling gets named, it diffuses it and makes it easier to manage.  Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” or “What am I trying NOT to feel?”  Is it anger? sadness? guilt? fear?  Then acknowledge that no one is perfect, nor were we meant to be.  We all have the potential for darkness, given the right brain chemistry and environmental circumstances.  Look for something you have done or said you feel bad about and forgive that part of you.  (Notice where you feel the guilt in your body and what color it is, then breathe into it and relax around it until you can transform it into a color that feels like love, seems weird but it works).  Once you can forgive yourself for your shortcomings, you can fill it with love.  From this place, you can then send gratitude and love out to the world, the victims, the troubled soul of the shooter, everyone.  Pet your dog, sing Christmas Carols, cook something delicious, make a list of things you love about yourself and your kids.  Do whatever you can to shift to the state of gratitude and peace.  The world doesn’t need more suffering.  The world is hungry for love.  Take this opportunity to role model for your kids how much power they have to feel and send LOVE.

Be A Quitter

Be a quitter

For generations parents have been telling their kids “Don’t be a quitter”.  Quitting gets a bad rap but for today’s busy families, it’s one of the best things you can do.

Gabrielle Douglas, Olympic Gold Medal Champion and all-around awesome cutie pie, had to quit lots of things in order to be successful at gymnastics.  Her decision to quit her school, her hometown, even living with her family, led her to victory.  She was smart enough to notice that trying to make other girls like her, was keeping her from excelling at her sport.  She had to quit her old gym in order to grow into the athlete she was meant to be.  It wasn’t easy but it felt right.

Every time we quit something, we make room for more of who we are meant to be.  This can create a temporary void until we fill it with things that feel more authentically us.  (Ask anyone who has been through divorce or an empty nest about this void, it’s scary!)  But it is a necessary step to lead us closer to our best life.

Ben was a super star soccer player.  He lived and breathed his passion for soccer and it showed.  His family’s life and future plans revolved around Ben’s competitive, traveling soccer team.  When Ben turned 12, he was ready to try something new.  Nine years of intense year-round soccer left little time for him to try new things and he was ready to explore a new identity.  He thought about joining the band or trying out for drama, maybe even a girlfriend?

Ben’s parents had a hard time with this but after a year of seeing their son unhappy, they said goodbye to soccer and hello to band. Gabrielle Douglas’ Mom had a hard time letting her quit her life to pursue her passion but eventually succumbed to Gaby’s relentless persuasion.

Michelle’s daughter wanted to quit basketball her sophmore year but her parents said no.  They encouraged her to stick with the team through high school.  She excelled and got that full basketball scholarship her parents were expecting.  After the first semester at University, burned out, she quit her sport, lost her scholarship, and moved home to attend the local community college.  Thirteen years of playing basketball was enough and she knew it. It was time to explore who she was without it.

Quitting things is about growing into a new identity that is more closely aligned with who we are meant to be.  How do we know when to let our kids quit and when to encourage them to stick it out?

Short answer:  we can’t know.  We have no idea who they are meant to be in this lifetime.  But they will tell us if we learn to listen and watch for these signs:

Time – Do they change their mind from one week to the next or are they consistent with their feelings after a month or two.

Body – When you tell them it’s time to go to _______, does their body collapse?  Do they literally drag their feet out the door?

Voice – My daughter complains and collapses when it’s time to bathe but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let her quit!  The voice used for whining is a different tone than the mature, often quiet whisper of TRUTH.  Listen and see if you can hear the difference.

Tears – When we are preparing to move to our next stage of life by quitting the old and moving to an unknown future, “Truth Tears” show up.   This can be confusing to parents who think “if quitting makes you sad, why quit?”  There is a different quality to these tears that accompany an out loud acknowledgement of “I know I’m meant for more than this and I’m ready to see what it is, but change is scary.”

Quitters try new things.  Quitters are open to new ideas and new experiences without fear.  Quitters know who they are and who they aren’t and they are FUN to be around.  Life is a game of “You’re Getting Warmer”.  Look back on your life and tell me what’s the best thing you’ve ever quit?

Take inspiration from the teens at my summer camp:

“I’m going to quit trying to make everybody like me”

“I going to quit being so hard on myself”

“I’m going to quit a friend who drags me down.”

“I’m going to TRY to quit caring about what other people think.”

Parents Feel Peer Pressure, Too

“Don’t forget about the showcase on Friday, it starts at 10am.” I hear every morning as I drop my daughter off at a week long cheerleading camp.  Summer is here and I am pining for “me time” like a love-struck teenager longs to be back at summer camp with her first love.  My 8 yr. old loves cheer camp but the 2.5 hours per day is hardly enough time to do the things I want to do.  I want to write, plan and teach classes without my daughter.  I want to exercise and run the errands she hates but summer is here and things have changed.I really don’t want to go to “the showcase” this Friday.

I’ve watched her do cheers all week, about 6 hours a day.  I feel confident that I won’t  be deprived by not seeing her perform with the other camp cheerleaders.  I have great friends that will send me videos if I want.  I didn’t go last year, and the world did not crumble.  My husband misses this stuff and doesn’t blink an eye.  I really don’t want to give up that extra hour on Friday, when I get so few as it is.

Yet here I sit, on the bleachers, watching “the showcase”.  And apparently, I’m not the only one.

Sometimes we succumb to peer pressure, just like our kids will.  We decide to do things that we may not really want to do.  Breast feeding, work meetings, kid birthday parties, family gatherings or class reunions.  Peer pressure is just as real for adults as it is for kids so as I waited for “the showcase” to begin, I decided to take my own advice.

In my “You Can Talk to Me” class for 9-12 year olds and their parents and my “Getting What You Want” summer camp for girls 12-15, we talk about how to stand up to peer pressure.  Before you take action, you first want to link to your values.  In this case, I value my quiet time, especially during the summer months, but I have decided to go anyway and I don’t want to feel resentful.  I value connecting with other parents.  I value arranging play dates for my daughter with the other Moms (more quiet time!).  I value using life’s everyday challenges to help other parents, live more purposeful lives, ie. write a blog about it.

Anytime you are doing something that’s not your favorite activity but the societal, peer, or family pressure may be too much for you, link to YOUR values!  Maybe you dread spending your meager time off at your spouse’s family reunion?  If so, find a way to link it to one of YOUR values:  spending time in nature, finding a new recipe to try out, talking about a book you loved, mentally plan a trip you’d like to take, sketch something, etc.  Before you’ll know it you’ll be having a good time, on your terms, because you decided to.

Bev felt pressured to put her boys into classes like the other Moms: soccer, music, foreign language, gymnastics. She longed to socialize with these other Moms but her boys just wanted to stay home and play in the dirt. She could either force her boys to cope with classes they hated to make friends and feel a part of the crowd, or listen to her boys and her instincts and let them stay home. She decided to linked to her values, hired a sitter to stay home with her boys, and took classes of her own.  Bev got out of the house to socialize by taking art and exercises classes, something she always wanted to do.

Living deliberately, on purpose, gives you so much power. Notice when you feel peer pressure (and talk about it out loud if your kids are old enough).  Listen to and respect your inner voice, make the choice you want in a way that reflects your values, & then make the most of it.  Acknowledging peer pressure and modeling how to make your own choices is an awesome skill to teach to your kids.

I’m not the only one