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.

The one thing stressed teens need from Mom and Dad

How helping fix problems and focusing on struggle can make it harder for our teens.

I had a hard time when I first became a Mom. Besides the normal, new mommy angst of “Am I doing it right?” I had a difficult baby. He had a hard time eating and sleeping. He needed constant movement, would get easily overstimulated yet easily bored and cried constantly. I needed support and I needed it bad. I joined as many new mom support groups as I could. One day, I found myself sitting in on a cement wall, alone, in someone’s backyard, watching my child, finally happy, sitting and playing with little rocks. The house was too noisy or crowded for my sensitive baby so I sat, exhausted, angry and lonely outside with the garbage cans and the dog poop. All the other moms were inside sipping coffee and chatting while their babies played happily on the floor.

Every once in awhile, a well-meaning Mommy would come out to check on me “You should come inside. He just needs to learn to deal with it. I’m sure he’ll get used to it after a bit.” A few minutes later, another Mom would come out, “You know what I do, I sleep with my baby, that way she feels secure and comfortable in the daytime.” After that I got, “What if you came inside and just breastfed him, then he’d feel comfortable and you could visit with us.” All the advice was valid and helpful but it just made me feel angrier and more alone. What I really needed was someone to say, “It’s really hard isn’t it. Some days just totally suck but you are such a good mommy. I don’t know how you do it all. Here’s a cup of hot coffee.”

I think we do the same thing to our teenagers. We underestimate the amount of stress they are under and we offer helpful suggestions and advice when all they really need for us to say “It is so hard and you are doing a great job. I am so impressed at how well you are managing. Here’s a cup of tea and a cookie.”

The more we can offer this kind of compassion and support, the better chance our teens have of developing their own compassionate “inner best friends” that encourages them through the tough times. Adolescence is the age where we start to develop our own “inner mean girl” who says things like, “What’s wrong with me?” “Why can’t I get it right?” “Nobody likes me, I’m stupid, ugly, fat, lame”, “I’m going to fail”, whatever. This inner mean girl will take charge and steer our life if we don’t get a hold of her and cultivate an equally strong inner best friend.

Kids learn by imitation so the best way to help them cultivate a kind inner voice is to hear us say it to them. In order to offer compassion to our teens, however, we first need to offer it to ourselves. Think about it, these kids of ours used to light up when we walked in the door, now they close it on our face! They thought we were beautiful no matter what we looked like, now they criticize our outfits, our hair, our singing, our choice of words (or is this just me and my kids?). Our babies have turned on us and that totally sucks! We used to look to their joy and exuberance to cheer us up at the end of the day, now we have to work hard to not be pulled into their negative spiral. No matter what we say, we are wrong. Our babies have done a 180 and it’s ok to give ourselves sympathy and recognize this is a hard phase for us, too.

Once you are feeling heard and validated, we can take a minute to recognize that the teen years are inherently stressful. You have this body whose hormones are out of whack, that is highly tuned in to other people’s thoughts and opinions, who can spot a fake a mile away yet are surrounded by inauthentic teenagers. Our teens have brains and bodies that are wired to be outside, moving constantly, listening to their own internal voice, yet are sitting on hard chairs, between 4 walls for 7 hours a day, listening to other people’s ideas. Today’s adolescents are swimming in perfectionism and sometimes, all they need to get through another day is compassion.

Our teens don’t always need us to fix their problems or focus on the struggles with our helpful suggestions, sometimes they just need to know they can do it on their own. “You are doing an amazing job, I can’t believe how well you are managing.” “Do you know what a mess I was at your age?” “By the way, there is nothing you need to do today. The day is yours.” “I try to worry but when it comes to you, I just can’t think of anything. I just know your future is bright.” “You have such a good head on your shoulders, I know you’ll be able to solve any problems that come your way.” “How did I get so lucky to get such a great teenager?”

It’s not easy to let go of worry and control and start trusting our kids to figure things out by themselves. That’s why I created “Leading Your Teen” teleclass.

Would like some support figuring out whether it’s time to lean in or let go? Click here and I’ll tell you all about this 5-week class designed for parents who want to worry less, love more, and create a more peaceful relationship with their teens.