The fine art of escaping your children

Like many Moms, I have a hard time prioritizing my needs, over my kid’s needs. It’s just too easy to think, “I’m fine” “I don’t mind missing yoga again” or “I don’t really need to take time for myself.” I used to have a hard time spending money on myself. The hardest thing was to PAY a babysitter to then spend TIME and MONEY on my own frivolous fun. Before I became a Mom I used to judge those mothers who spent lots of time away from their kids and couldn’t wait for them to go back to school. Now my back to school happy dance is an annual event and right now, I am sitting in a hotel room, spending money and time by myself.

Having mental rest is my #1 trick to a happy, purposeful life. After having so much kid time this summer, my brain gets full of their thoughts and ideas, making me feel tired and overwhelmed. Some people can ignore everyone around them and just tune into themselves. I envy them, but I act more like a sponge, soaking up other people’s emotions, energies and thoughts. For me to wring myself out and have access to me, I need to escape.

The first time I escaped, by myself, I spent the day at beautiful Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. I was hanging on to sanity by a thread. I felt so guilty over needing the break and then so selfish over taking the break, that I could barely relax after an 8 hour spa day. What turned the corner for me was this: “Would I ever hire someone to look after my kids, who never took time to herself?” “Would I trust a nanny to watch my kids 40 hours a week if I knew she ONLY worked and never rested or played?” NO! That sounds unhealthy and unbalanced. Yet here I am, trusting myself to “be a good Mom” on very little personal time!

For the last five years, I’ve been taking a getaway weekend by myself about once a year. At first I brought my sister along, or used points to pay for the room, to make me feel less selfish and guilty. Now that I see how beneficial it is for me to be alone, I indulge it. To eat what I want, when I want, without cooking, cleaning or hearing complaints is HEAVEN. To go to bed when I want and sleep as late as I want feels fabulous. The best part of these weekend escapes is I get access to ME: To think my own thoughts, be inside my own head, plan out my year, dream about the future, spend time in nature, HEAVEN! I still hear myself say to my family, “Why don’t you come with me?” or “I don’t have to go, I can just stay home.” It’s like I forget how much I need it until I get it. If you are spongy like me, and need solitude to wring out and feel whole again, take these four steps and give your kids the whole and healthy Mama they deserve.

The Art of Escaping involves 4 steps.

  1. Setting Boundaries. It doesn’t matter how small you start but you MUST be the one to carve out time for you. It could be you are unavailable after 11pm. It could be Sunday mornings between 8-10am. The first Wednesday night of every month is yours to do what you want. Stick to this boundary like you are stopping your child from running into the street. It is not negotiable. They will pick up on your level of conviction and respect your decision (once they’ve tested you a few times).
  2. Doing nothing. In our hyperproductive world it’s popular to worship BUSY. But constant busy-ness distracts us from our inner world and inner guidance system. To feel whole and mentally calm, try giving yourself permission to do nothing. Accomplish nothing. Wander. Be. Go where the wind takes you. Start with ten minutes and work your way up to a whole day. It feels like being a kid again .
  3. Give generously – Money has an energy to it and isn’t meant to sit and stagnate. If you have trouble spending money on yourself, think about giving it to other people. Help people be who they are meant to be by paying them to massage you, cook for you, teach you about wine, make you pretty, play with your kids. You make their day by letting them fulfill their purpose here on Earth.
  4. It’s not about you. You are here, doing some important work raising kids, spreading love and uplifting your corner of the world. You escaping to get quiet time, isn’t really about you. It’s about pushing the refresh button on you, so that you can be whole and healthy and show your kids what it looks like to be their best and enjoy their lives. Taking time to care for yourself is a gift you give your family. Do you know anyone who had a mother who didn’t take great care of herself?  Ask them what it would have felt like to have a Mom who supported her own physical, mental and financial well-being.

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?

I believed the propaganda

I confess.

I believed it.

The soft focus, the clean & pretty Mom, the happy baby, the dream that my life would soon be filled with love, peace & contentment.  And it was.

And it wasn’t.

I loved being a Mom and I LOVED my baby.  But suddenly, that was all I knew.

I wanted to do everything right.  I valued my new role and took my responsibility seriously.  But my baby wasn’t cooperating with my vision.  He was fussy, sensitive, cried a lot and slept a little.  I felt lost and confused.  I had no way of validating that I was doing a good job.

And I couldn’t stand the not knowing.

So I read.  Parenting book after parenting book.  Searching for validation.  I wanted someone to show me, prove to me, I was doing things right.  I wanted to know that I had taken this precious little human and not screwed him up.  I hated when people talked about “maternal instincts”.  What the &*%$# is that?   I had none.  I wanted a report card.  A job description with a checklist so I could make sure I was doing things well.  But I didn’t have one, so I decided to worry.  It seemed like worrying was something a good parent would do.  It felt conscientious, diligent, and productive.

From the outside I looked confident, but I was working hard:  reading, worrying, researching, studying for a final exam that never came.

On the inside, I had lost the ability to relax, or even take a deep breath, this is what I now call, “The Land of Crazy”.  Perhaps, your “crazy” is different than mine?  Maybe the loss of spontaneity or predictability drove you crazy?  Maybe your crazy came from arguing with reality?  “This should be easier”, “My child shouldn’t act this way” “My husband should help more”.  Maybe you never felt crazy, just full of peace and joy all day, in which case stop reading this! For me, the realization that there is no report card or professional review to tell me whether I am meeting or exceeding expectations was a terrifying concept.  I had spent my life following rules and using other people’s expectations to determine whether I had value and success. The most important job I will ever have and no one is here to tell me if I’m doing it right?  What the hell kind of craziness is that?

The best kind.  The kind we can learn from and use to bring us closer to the truth.  The truth that only WE get to decide if we are good, successful parents.  That every temper tantrum,  every power struggle can be an opportunity to grow closer to our authentic self.  I learned little by little, a yoga class here, a supportive friend there, teaching parenting classes (might as well put that research to good use), taking time by myself, learning to trust other caregivers.  I learned that WE have the power to decide what kind of day we are going to have, and how much joy we choose to take from our experiences.  I learned the long, hard way, but I am thrilled to have a short cut to share with you!

The things that mean the most to us (jobs, relationships, money, parenting) are usually the things that challenge our beliefs and make us feel a little lost and confused for a while.  Now I see that this is as our opportunity to create new beliefs that are truer and more aligned with our best, most authentic selves.  Instead of thinking “I have to do this right” or “My child should obey me” or other frustrating thoughts, I deliberately think thoughts that allow me to feel successful and parent from a place of peace and confidence.  “I choose how I behave” or “I decide if I’ve been successful today” are more empowering thoughts that we can actually control.  Some people sit on a mountaintop and meditate for hours, ME?, I use my daughter’s refusal to wear pants as my own path towards spiritual enlightenment.

I believe parenting struggles are a perfect opportunity for personal growth.  This passion we have to raise great kids, and our motivation to stay sane while raising them, is all the fuel you need to learn the tools to live your best life.

JOIN ME on an 8-week, life coaching program to learn to use your parenting challenges to create your most idea life.

The Parenting Club

Parenting can be an exciting time, but it can also be a time for anxiety and confusion as we adjust to new roles.  With support, information, and coaching, this can be the best time in our lives. Join me in this 8-week life coaching program and learn the tools you need to worry less and enjoy more.  You will develop confidence, clarity, and increase satisfaction in your everyday life.

  1. The Cycle of Change – Most people go through 5-6 major transitions in their lives and becoming a parent is certainly one of them.  We will learn about the predictable path of change and how to use it transform us into our best selves and live the life we were meant to live.
  2. Drowning, Choking, and SIDS, OH MY! – Along with becoming parents comes worry.  This class is about learning the difference between instincts and anxiety and how protect our children while not letting worry take over our lives.
  3. The Everybody – “Everybody says I should breastfeed”, “Everybody says I should stay home/go back to work”.  This week we will discuss who “everybody” is and how to listen to what’s right for you.  We’ll talk about the difference between your essential self and your social self and how to filter these messages in a positive way.
  4. “Why do I do all the work?” – Discussion of gender roles, distribution of labor, and tackling those household chores that just have to be done.  We’ll take a look at our families of origin to see how our expectations have formed and learn practical tools to make everyday life better for all.
  5. The Quest for Balance – What does it mean to live a balanced life and is it even attainable?  We’ll talk about transitioning back to work, settling into staying home, childcare and how to make life more fun with less guilt.
  6. Maintaining Healthy Relationships – Whether it’s complaints about husbands, in-laws, or girlfriends.  This is the time to work it all out and create the helpful, supportive tribe you desire.
  7. Developing Your E.Q. – Your child-rearing years will go much smoother if you increase your emotional intelligence to help you both navigate through the wild world of feelings.
  8. “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” – Why is it so hard to put ourselves first?  Understanding the challenge of self-reverence as we develop tools to celebrate our victories and take pride in our accomplishments.

Use parenting as your path towards personal fulfillment and creating your best life!  This 8-week journey is a great way to learn life coaching skills for you to use in your career, your money, your family and your life.

Sara says: “When I started this program I felt like I won the lottery!  These skills are just what I needed to take my life to the next level.  I felt pretty good before but I didn’t realize how much better I could be.  I feel in charge of my own happiness and ready for what lies ahead.

Tanya says: “Cheaper than therapy and lasts longer.  Practical tools that apply to all areas of life.  I loved feeling supported and understood.”

Anna says: “Oh my gosh! Feeling normal and sane, not to mentioned empowered, is invaluable! I would have paid 10x as much!”

Schedule a free discovery call to see if this program is right for you.

This 8-week coaching program is held over-the-phone, from the privacy of your own home, car, or wherever Mom’s can find some peace!  The calls are held once a week for 8 weeks with optional homework done over email, in between calls.

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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!

Is Your Child Stressed?

I don’t know about you but when I’m stressed, it is OBVIOUS to everyone around me!  But what about our kids?  Children don’t always have the vocabulary or self-awareness to be able to articulate their emotions in a way that we can hear them.   In fact, their emotions are so strong that just labeling them with a word (“you feel sad, angry, over-stimulated, overwhelmed”, etc.) makes the feeling seem more manageable and immediately helps them calm down.  American kids are more stressed out than every before, how can we know if our kid is one of them?

Misbehavior – When you are seeing recurring patterns of misbehavior, try to figure out your child’s motivation for acting out:  power, revenge, attention, excitement.   If there isn’t one, it might be stress.  See if you can find an underlying cause:  overbooked schedule, stressful environment, lack of predictability or just misalignment with the child’s authentic self (too much coping required).

Forgetfulness – “I forgot my Math book and I have a test tomorrow!” can be a normal problem but if it’s happening regularly, the child may be either stressed or self-sabotaging.

Illness – Some kids have magic bodies that won’t let them detour too far off track.  Notice if your child easily gets headaches, stomachaches, excema, colds, flus, etc.  I know whenever I’ve had a job that wasn’t good for me, I was constantly dealing with one illness after another.

Checking Out – Some kids do a marvelous job at taking care of themselves when stressed.  If you notice your child daydreaming, mentally zoning out or shifting into a trance-like state, congratulate yourself on having such a self-reliant child, but note that they are probably stressed.

Clouded decision making – I remember seeing a Dad telling his 4 year old he could have any toy in the whole store and this kid proceeded to have a total melt down at Toys R Us.  Sometimes what we think is fun, can be too overwhelming for kids and you’ll know they are stressed if they are having a hard time making simple decisions like what to wear, they want for dinner, or who to play with.

Arguing & Whining – We all take our stress out on those who are closest to us (ask my poor husband!).  Kids are no different.  When they get in the car after school and immediately start bickering, you know they are purging all the negativity they picked up during the day.  Whining can usually be cured with loving attention or a nap.

Overeating, Under-eating, Difficulty Sleeping – Kids and parents alike.

Do you have a sensitive child?  Sensitive children can be like the canary in the mine, alerting us to problems we all may experience if we don’t pay attention and switch gears.  Luckily, there are MANY things you can do to reduce stress in kids, in fact too many for one blog post.  Until next time, try working on just one: your own.  We are all built to mirror the emotions of people around us unless we intentionally focus on holding a higher state.  It can be really hard to feel good when your child doesn’t but it’s one of the most helpful things you can do for her/him.  Your kids will automatically pick up on your worry, spoken and unspoken stress.  Instead, find out what makes you feel good:  exercise, sleep, yoga, healthy foods, life coaching, meditation, hiking, card games, gardening and do it.  The quickest, most effective way to reduce stress is to switch your thinking.  Say these words to yourself (if you can believe them) and to your children.  “There is nothing I (you) have to do right now”   “All is well”  “It’s ok to rest”  “Everything is unfolding exactly the way it’s supposed to”.

If you have another restful thought or mantra you love, please share it!