The Grass Is Always Greener For Moms

Has anyone been watching the Canadian tv series Workin’ Moms on Netflix? I first heard about it a few months ago when some of my friends recommended it.

At that point, I had kind of written it off since I wasn’t technically a “working mom.” I worried I wouldn’t be able to relate, and to be honest, kind of brushed it off as rude that they had their own tv show. Those working moms….

But since we’ve had more time at home lately, I’ve found myself binge-watching a lot of tv shows. Sometimes late at night (or in the wee hours of the morning) when I can’t sleep, I surprisingly get some time to watch tv shows that I know my husband will have no interest in.

As I’m sitting here now writing this, it’s, 5 a.m. and I’m doing just that. I’m noticing that the working moms’ club is definitely not exclusive to only moms who work 9-5 jobs outside of the home. In fact, it was never meant to be that way.

How so, you say? Well, because EVERY mom works.

Some may work part-time, some overtime, some even work multiple jobs. But most of us moms never really stop working! Especially if our kids are still little and really as long as they’re still living at home.

Once they go to college the work doesn’t actually stop. It just becomes “work” around trying to get our grown children to cut the apron strings. The focus of parenting changes to teaching them to support themselves without us physically being there every day.

Our Current Situation

With most schools deciding to go virtual in the Fall, the workload is suddenly feeling like it’s going to be even BIGGER for all of us. Parents are having to make really hard family decisions.

A mom struggling to work and spend time with her kid

Questions moms are thinking about right now:

  • How do I keep our family safe while still being able to provide for their needs?
  • Who will make sure my kids are where they need to be academically if they haven’t seen a teacher face to face in months?
  • Am I qualified to be my child’s teacher on top of everything else I already do?
  • Do I have the time, energy, and patience to teach them?
  • How will I get my “real” job done and make sure they’re still learning?
  • How can I possibly keep my sanity any longer?
  • What will all of this cost?
  • How long is it going to last? How long can we live like this?
  • Will people think I’m selfish if I prioritize what I want instead of what my kids need?
  • Is the risk of sending my kids back to school in person worth it?
  • Should we uproot our whole family and move somewhere else?

Some moms don’t even get to decide anything. The choices have already been made for them! Luckily I have a partner in all of this, but some moms don’t. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that is for them!

For me, the question is whether or not it’s a good time for me to go back to work.

Outside of a few part-time jobs, I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom for the past 5 years. It feels like I’m being forced to decide if going back to work right now is more important than the safety of my kids.

Then I start to think about not only my family’s physical needs, but also how much they need to be with their friends and how we all need a break from each other. What ends up happening for me, is I just get overwhelmed with all of the unknowns and what-ifs. I usually just put the decisions off and hope they’ll be easier later.

As I listen to other friends of mine trying to navigate making these difficult decisions for their own families, I’m reminded that the grass is always greener.

No matter what your situation is in parenting, there’s always going to be someone else’s life that seems better. It’s so easy from the outside to think others have it easier than we do, but in reality, we all have struggles. We all just carry them differently.

Moms who are jealous of each other

What we choose to share with others isn’t always the real picture. So, I think we as moms have to stick together. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’ll keep saying it… It takes a village!

Here are a few ways that we can help each other wade through these waters together.

I’m sure you can think of other ways to help the moms in your own life. I’d love for you to share your ideas in the comments!

6 TIPS TO HELP MOMS MAKE BIG DECISIONS

1. THINK ABOUT YOUR VALUES

What’s most important to you and your family? Make that your priority.

Take a break from social media so you can quiet all of other peoples’ opinions and focus on what really matters to YOUR family.

2. REACH OUT FOR SUPPORT

Whatever your situation is, you are not alone.

Some days it may feel like you’re the only one struggling with something, but I guarantee someone out there is feeling the same way. You just have to look for them!

3. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE

We won’t know all the answers right away and we may never know ALL the answers. Give yourself some grace to make mistakes and just try to put one step in front of the other.

Take it one day at a time right now. We don’t really know for sure what tomorrow’s going to look like anyway. So I suggest making decisions about the future based on how things look right now.

4. STOP JUDGING OTHERS

A friend of mine recently told me about how several years ago her daughter wanted to go further in gymnastics. She couldn’t though because the only thing offered at her gym was practice every day from 4:30-5:30.

And when she asked how working moms did it, she was met with an awkward glare. I think she described the other person as saying something like, “Oh you’re one of those.” Or maybe she just interpreted it that way.

A mom being hypocritical and judging another mom

The point is, every mom’s situation is different and we all are doing the best we can.

Aren’t we supposed to be on the same team anyway? So don’t judge other moms for the decisions they make for their families.

Chances are when you start focusing on yourself, making your own decisions will be a lot easier.

5. DON’T BE TOO SENSITIVE

This may sound like a contradiction, but what I mean is don’t take everything personally. Sometimes what may feel like someone judging your ability to be a mom, isn’t.

It may be your own insecurity. The person you’re feeling that from may even be projecting how they feel like a bad mom on you because they wish they could be more like you!

6. LEAN IN TO HELP

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You may have never actually taken your next-door neighbor up on their offer to help watch your kids. Now is the time to do it. One day you can return the favor somehow.

Or hire help if you can. It’s ok to pay someone to come clean your house once a month if that will help make your to-do list a little shorter on the weekends.

Do what works for YOU! I’m not pretending to be an expert, but I do want moms to know that they aren’t alone. We have to stick together!

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Unusual Pomp and Circumstance

Last Friday was my kids’ last official day of school. Surprisingly they weren’t as excited for that day to come as I expected. I thought they’d be thrilled to be done with homeschooling with their least favorite teacher. But to them it felt like any other day.

Maybe that was because the days are all blurring together now and they really didn’t know what day it was.

We were blessed by a family whose business sponsored an ice cream truck in our neighborhood to celebrate the last day of school. A few days before their teachers had hosted end of the year “parties on zoom.” But it just wasn’t the same.

That night at dinner I asked my 5-year-old if he was excited that he finished Kindergarten and was moving up to 1st grade. His response kind of threw me for a loop.

“But I didn’t finish Kindergarten!” he said. 

That’s when I realized that he was seeing everything from a totally different perspective. Through his eyes, school stopped abruptly two months ago and he never went back.

He didn’t get to have a Kindergarten graduation where his name would have been called so that he could walk across the cafeteria stage to get his diploma. There was no party with his classmates or watching movies and eating sugary treats during the last week of school.

school bus

I know that graduating from Kindergarten isn’t as big of a deal as graduating from high school. He didn’t miss his Senior prom or his Senior Skip Day. Luckily for him, there will be plenty more years of school to see his friends again. There will be time to make memories and participate in all the traditions.

Our kids may be resilient and forget all about the year they were stuck at home for months at a time without even being able to see their grandparents or friends. They may even be enjoying the extra time they’re getting at home with their family. They might not mind the lack of structure, and that they’re getting to stay up late every night.

But they are still feeling the effects of all the birthday parties and vacations that have been cancelled. They still might be sad that they didn’t get to hug their teachers goodbye on the last day of school.

Even though it might not be the same, they are still finishing their school year and moving on to the next. So make sure to let your child know how proud you are of them.

celebrating the end of school with water balloons

HOW TO CELEBRATE THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL:

  • Have an ice cream sunday bar.
  • Throw a dance party.
  • Let your child pick out a new outside water toy for the Summer.
  • Have chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast.
  • Watch a movie together as a family and let your child pick the movie.
  • Take a special picture on your front porch (even if you forgot to do it on the last day of school and have to take it a week later.)
  • Have a water balloon fight.

You don’t have to organize a 50 car parade of friends and family, but you can still make their end of the school year feel special. Get creative!

This article from Psychology Today has more ideas on how to help your child deal with disappointment. Share in the comments your ideas!

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HOW TO CELEBRATE THE END OF SCHOOL DURING QUARANTINE

Donuts For Lunch

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about how to limit screen time. Ironically after hitting publish, I immediately felt guilty. I didn’t even want to share the post on social media.

I felt like such a hypocrite!

Who was I to tell people how to limit their child’s screen time when I couldn’t even enforce those boundaries myself? I had the best intentions. But somehow I had lost all motivation to be creative with my kids. I lost the energy to put up a fight when they pushed back.

Somehow my kids had gone from getting a few hours of screen time a day to me letting them pretty much have as much as they wanted.

I felt like the world’s worst mom.

Why Moms Need Self-Compassion

Don’t get me wrong. I knew that it was ok to bend the rules right now. We’re all stuck at home and we can’t see our friends. But the amount of screen time my kids were getting was making me feel sick.

On top of that, when I was able to gather enough energy to make my kids turn off their devices they didn’t understand why. My 8-year-old started talking back. Taking away all the limits made them think they were completely in control.

But since we’ve been dealing with this pandemic, I’ve been trying really hard to give myself self-compassion.

That means forgiving myself. It means letting go of all the mom guilt. It means not holding myself to a higher standard than I would hold others.

If one of my mom friends called me and told me how horrible she was feeling about letting her kids have too much screen time while we’re in the middle of quarantine, I would tell her not to. I would tell her all the reasons she shouldn’t feel guilty and remind her that she’s doing the best she can.

WHAT IS SELF-COMPASSION?

Self-compassion is defined as extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. It’s being kind to yourself and understanding that we’re all human and we make mistakes. No one is perfect and super mom doesn’t exist.

There will be days when I don’t get to the dishes until 10:00 at night and the breakfast crumbs will still be on the table.

It’s ok if we don’t get through all of the assigned school work every day. That won’t make me any less of a mom.

Sometimes we all just need a break. We need time to work through all the mixed up emotions we’re dealing with. We need time to ride out the storm. If letting our kids watch tv or play video games for 4 hours is the only way we can get through the day, it will be ok.

It’s ok if we eat breakfast at 10 am, have donuts for lunch, and pizza for dinner. We might even top it off with ice cream for dessert.

Because it’s not always going to be this way.

And tomorrow’s a new day. Just because 1 or 2, or even 4 or 5 days go by where my kids have what feels like way too much screen time, that doesn’t mean we can’t get out and do something awesome the next day. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I’m doing tons of fun stuff with them too.

There’s always tomorrow to go for a hike or a walk around the block. We can try the Pinterest craft or Youtube drawing tutorial another day. We always have the weekend to try a new recipe or play a never ending game of Monopoly.

What would giving yourself more self-compassion look like for you? I’d love for you to share in the comments.

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A Mom’s Guide To Surviving Quarantine

Inside: Tips for surviving quarantine with young kids. 

If you had told me a few months ago we would be forced to stay home and schools would be closed until further notice because of a deadly virus, I would’ve thought you were talking about a scene from a Sci-Fi movie.

When we were planning a trip to Jamaica for Spring Break last month, my husband casually mentioned getting travel insurance just in case the coronavirus became a bigger deal and we couldn’t go.

At that point, I had to google what he was talking about. I had seen a few memes on social media, but I was pretty clueless about what they meant.

About a week later, he started hoarding non-perishables in bulk from Amazon and I still thought he was crazy. Fast forward to today, and I’m glad we got the travel insurance. My only regret is not stocking up on more toilet paper.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard a lot of advice about everything from social distancing to protecting our health, mastering homeschooling and even parenting. Some of it has been good advice, and some bad. MOST if it has been well-meaning, but it hasn’t always been credible. The challenge is, figuring out who is right.

But the best thing I’ve read is that it’s ok to feel all the feels.

Recently I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions. I’ve had feelings of sadness, anger, loneliness, hopelessness, joy, laughter, exhaustion, gratitude, confusion, and doubt. The reality is with at least another month of social distancing to go, I’m going to keep feeling all of these things and more.

I’m trying really hard to give myself self-compassion and grace. This pandemic is new to all of us. So we have to cut ourselves some slack. We’re all still figuring this out and adjusting to a new way of life.

If that means we allow our kids to play more video games and eat more sugar, it’s ok.

I’m trying to be more of a “yes mom” right now because I want my kids to be happy. Being stuck at home for weeks at a time is hard enough and I really want to try to make it fun for them.

Plus sometimes there’s really no way to get a break other than by letting them watch tv or play video games. If that means that I’m the world’s okayest mom, I’m fine with it.

So go ahead, feel all the feels.

But that doesn’t mean you have to let all those negative feelings rule your life.

How do we stop them though?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure that out. I’ve written blogs on self-care and as a former therapist, you’d think I’d have this part down pat.

But a lot of my tips don’t really apply to this new way of life. I can’t go get a massage or a pedicure. Meeting up with my girlfriends for dinner is obviously out of the question. The gym is closed. I can’t really go ANYWHERE!

To be honest, there’ve been days when I haven’t had any motivation to do the things I know I should be doing to cope. But I’ve been putting one foot in front of the other and going through the motions, hoping that eventually it will pay off and I’ll wake up from this bad dream.

Finding joy while coping with quarantine

There have still been ups and downs, but I’m starting to figure out how to cope.

3 WAYS I’M SURVIVING QUARANTINE

How each of us copes with quarantine will be different. You have to figure out what works for you.

Here are a few tips to help you do that:

  1. Think about what makes you happy. What do you enjoy doing? Do you have any hobbies?
  2. What can you do to escape from all of the negativity and bad news?
  3. Learn a new skill. You could take an online class or learn how to knit. You can learn almost anything by watching YouTube videos.
  4. Do those things every day or as often as you can.

This is what I’ve been trying to do every day to help me cope:

  • Creating Art
  • Walking or Running
  • Reading

CREATING ART

For me, art doesn’t have to be anything fancy. If I think about it too hard, I’ll get hung up on being perfect and that’ll stop me from doing it.

Color Your Heart, is a great activity you can do every day that will be kind of like an art journal for how you’re feeling.

Here’s how you do it:
– Write down the feelings you’re having.
– Choose a color to go with each feeling.
– Color in your heart to show how you’re feeling.

Here’s the one I did earlier this week.

Color Your Heart Activity

My kids found it and wanted to do one too. This is a great activity for helping your kids express how they’re feeling and helps you open up the conversation if you haven’t been sure how to do that.

WALKING OR RUNNING

Just getting outside and moving has been a priority for me over the past few weeks. I usually prefer running, but since I haven’t had much energy lately I’ve been doing a lot more walking.

It doesn’t really matter though. Getting out of the house by myself and moving my body is what helps me!

READING

I love to read and get wrapped up in a book. Sometimes I stay up way too late at night reading, but I guess there could be worse things!

I just finished the book I Owe You One, by Sophie Konsella.
It’s a great book about love, empowerment and how our families make us who we are. It has a happy ending, which we can definitely all use right now!

If you’re looking for a book that’s a little more suspenseful, The Wives by Tarryn Fisher is for you. It will keep you guessing until the very end and you won’t want to put it down.

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I’m trying my best to find the good in every day and celebrate the small wins. I know there will still be moments of sadness, fear, and anger about our situation. But what matters most right now is that my family is safe. We’re spending more time together than we ever have and we’re trying to treasure that.

One day this will all be a distant memory!

If you enjoyed reading this, please share it with someone who you think needs to hear it!

3 TIPS FOR COPING WITH QUARANTINE

Feeding Your Baby Formula Doesn’t Make You A Bad Mom

If you’re considering feeding your baby formula, but worried it will make you a bad mom- think again. There’s hardly any information out there to suggest that choosing formula over breastfeeding is ok. That doesn’t mean it’s not. What’s really important is that your baby is fed!

When my 8-year-old was born, I really wanted to breastfeed but I just couldn’t.

I tried.

I really did.

Of course I’d heard about all the benefits of breastfeeding your baby, and I wanted those things. I wanted what was best for him. But continuing to breastfeed would have meant sacrificing so much.

He was never satisfied. We suffered through two hour-long breastfeeding sessions only for him to still be hungry when they were through.

I listened to my friends’ advice and asked for a lactation consultant right away while we were in the hospital. When we got home, I called the lactation hotline for more guidance.

We tried everything they recommended. I made an appointment with another lactation consultant in the hospital’s outpatient office. They showed me different feeding positions, taught me lots of tricks, and even gave me a nipple shield to help with latching. It helped a little.

But my baby still wasn’t satisfied.

He just couldn’t latch. I had plenty of milk and I was in pain because there was no release. But I would have endured all the pain in the world if he was getting the nutrients that he needed.

The bonding experience that everyone says you get from breastfeeding wasn’t there. It was quite the opposite actually. I was so stressed and resented every feeding session. I was constantly in tears, and my husband felt helpless because there was nothing he could do to help.

We Tried Everything

Finally I decided to try pumping exclusively. So that way at least my baby would be getting the nutrients of breastmilk. But then not only did I have to pump for 30 minutes every 3 hours, I still had to feed my baby. On top of that, I had to clean and sterilize the 50 tiny little plastic parts that the pump required to work. Oh, and we had the bottles that came in 5 different parts, which also had to be cleaned and sterilized after each feeding.

Mother pumping breastmilk to feed her baby.

By the time I was done with one feeding, it would be time for another feeding session. Plus because my baby wasn’t getting enough to eat, he didn’t nap well either. As a newborn, he was only taking one or two 20 minute naps a day. I really felt like I couldn’t do anything right!

I felt like a failure as a mom. 

We lasted about 4 months struggling to figure out breastfeeding and pumping.

Then I went back to work part-time and the only place that I could pump was my boss’s office. I worked intake at a psych hospital, and there was nowhere else private enough to go. I was constantly worried that my boss would forget I was in his office pumping and barge in on me. Plus I wondered if the sound of the pump would bother people in the next room who were in session. Needless to say, that didn’t last long.

At my postpartum check-up, my doctor said I had inverted nipples. She asked if it was something that I’d always had. Of course, I couldn’t remember. It could be a sign of cancer, it could be from all of the pumping, or it could be something I was born with.

I had to go to a specialist and have a biopsy to rule out cancer. Everything came back clear, but I still have to go back for yearly ultrasounds.

When I became pregnant again a few years later, my husband said, “I don’t think you should put yourself through all of that stress again! Why not just feed him formula?”

“Why Not Just Feed Him Formula?”

Was he crazy? I mean, I knew I didn’t want to go through all of that again, but what would happen if our baby didn’t get all of those nutrients that breastmilk provides? Is feeding your baby formula from the beginning even an option? 

Plus, I’d heard all the bogus claims like how breastfeeding makes your babies smarter. How could a mom deprive her child of that opportunity?

So I started doing research and not only did I find out that my husband wasn’t breastfed, but I also found out that feeding your baby formula is really ok!

Copy-of-MASTER-COPY-carly-templates-700x1550-2

The American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend breastfeeding as the best nutritional source for your baby. I’m not trying to tell anyone they shouldn’t do it.

But Harvard MD Claire McCarthy says we shouldn’t demoralize formula feeding. She points out that since such a strong emphasis is put on breastfeeding, it makes it seem like it has to be all or nothing. Then more moms give up trying because they think they’re failing anyway and they might as well not try.

Mom Shaming Carries On

But people still shame moms for choosing not to breastfeed. Hospitals don’t even offer formula as an option until you ask, and even then they might try to convince you to try breastfeeding.

I can’t remember how many nurses I had to tell when we were in the hospital with our 2nd that I was going to feed him formula. I think the question was asked at every feeding. And EVERY time it was like a stab in the gut to me.

I still feel guilty when I’m with my mom friends and they start talking about breastfeeding like it’s the only option.

Mom holding baby with a bottle of formula in front of her.
Listen, I now know that breastfeeding is hard, and it’s probably not easy for anyone. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try or that you should give up easily.

What’s Important Is Feeding Your Baby

What I am saying is that it’s ok if you do give up. It’s even ok if you don’t ever try. Feeding your baby formula doesn’t make you any less of a mom. It definitely doesn’t make you a bad mom. If you decide to feed your baby with formula, you are still FEEDING your baby.

Actually, according to the CDC in 2018, less than 50% of infants are exclusively breastfed through 3 months and about 25% are exclusively breastfed through 6 months. You are not alone if you decide to choose formula.

We all have to stop judging each other and start being more supportive. Everyone has the right to decide how they want to parent their children!

Being a mom is hard enough without all the judgment!

So if you have a friend who is struggling to breastfeed, please please please don’t make her feel judged. The best thing you can do is support whatever decision she makes! It’s hers to decide.

Quote about not saying anything if it’s not nice

Share this with a friend that you think needs to hear it. No mom going through this should feel like they’re the only one. 

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pinterest image about how feeding your baby formula doesn't make you a bad mom

 

8 Gifts Moms Really Want For Valentine’s Day

So let’s be real. The gift that moms really want is not something you can buy from a store. What moms really want is to be able to drink their coffee while it’s hot and pee alone in peace. The best gift you can give is to take the kids out of the house so they can do whatever they please for a few hours.

But if you insist on buying a Valentine’s gift for the mom in your life here a few ideas. Better yet, give her one or two of these gifts and then take the kids out of the house so she can actually use them!

I’m doing a series on self-care. So I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my favorite things that I like to use to take care of myself.

IDEAS TO HELP YOU GET ORGANIZED

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I love anything by Kate Spade. How cute is this journal my sister-in-law got me for Christmas? She has good taste!

I would love to have this sticky note set to write my never ending to-do lists. They may never get done, but at least they would look good!

If you really want to go all out, this Kate Spade Office Supplies Tackle Box has everything moms need to stay organized!

GIFTS TO PROMOTE RELAXATION

If the mom in your life is anything like me, when they get the chance to relax in the tub, they light a candle too. These Woodwick Candles make a crackling sound when you burn them. So they help soothe your sense of sound more than just a regular candle would.

BOOKS TO READ

I love to read any chance I get. Getting into a good book can really help me forget about whatever mom stress I’m dealing with. The only downside is that I stay up too late reading. Then I still have to get up super early to take my kids to school. I don’t think that’s going to stop me anytime soon though. Here are a few of my favorite books that I’ve read recently:

GIFTS TO PAMPER

Most of the time, moms are the ones to get up in the middle of the night with the crying baby, so we often lose sleep. Kate Somerville’s Intensive Exfoliating Treatment can help! It improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles including crow’s feet. The best part is that it only takes 2 minutes to use! A little goes a long way so don’t let the price tag fool you. You can make the travel size stretch for several months!

You can follow the exfoliator up with this Organic Rose Water by Insta Natural. If you have sensitive skin, I highly recommend this. It not only soothes and hydrates, but it naturally balances your skin’s ph to help you get your natural glow back.

In the Winter, I love to wear my Lamo Moccasin slippers around the house to keep my feet warm. You can never have too many pairs of slippers. Since they do get a little stinky after about a year, it’s nice to trade them out for new ones.

I hope this helps you decide what to get that mom in your life who needs a little help taking care of herself this Valentine’s Day!

If you’re a mom reading this, share what you hope to get for Valentine’s Day. I would have added chocolate, but I kind of want that from a local chocolate store, not the kind you can get on Amazon!

Make sure to follow us on Instagram so you don’t miss out on any of our future posts!

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My Anxious Life

Living with anxiety is not new to me. In fact, I remember the first time I realized I might have it. We were going down the escalator in Macy’s at Lenox Mall. Anyone in Georgia knows that Lenox is the busiest mall in Atlanta. Nothing specific really happened to trigger my anxiety, other than the store being really crowded.

The details are kind of a blur. But I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of panic covering me like a blanket. I started feeling like I was in another place- like I was about to pass out.

It was like I was outside of my body physically, but I fully knew where I was in my head.

mom who looks really anxious and nervous

I remember saying something to my husband about how I didn’t feel right and then I started to get really upset. He looked at me like I was crazy, but once he realized I wasn’t joking he said something that made me snap out of it. I don’t remember what that was either, but I think it had something to do with reminding me to breathe.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized I had a mini panic attack that day. I think I’ve always had some form of anxiety, but it’s changed as I’ve gotten older.

As long as I can remember, there have been periods where I’ve had trouble sleeping. As a little girl, everything had to be just right in my room in order for me to fall asleep. My stuffed animals had to be in a specific spot and the bathroom light in the hallway had to be on with the door opened just a crack.

When I was 8 or 9 I would sneak into my parent’s bedroom and fall asleep on the floor in front of their bed. For some reason, I just felt safer there.

Something was different about me.

I had plenty of friends back then, but I was always a little awkward physically. I had frizzy curly hair that I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to brush out.

It’s a miracle I didn’t get teased by more than
my brothers!!!

My growth spurt hit at 12 or 13 and I shot up taller than a lot of the boys in my grade. Along with that came huge hips and what I then called “thunder thighs.”

I wasn’t like the other girls in my grade- the ones that boys paid attention to. Those girls had straight hair and they were super skinny. I know now that the things I was ashamed of back then are what make me who I am.

I’m still working on my self-confidence, but I’m able to recognize that my thighs are strong, and my curly hair makes me unique.

But I also think that feeling so strongly about being different made me nervous. I remember lying awake late at night replaying all the conversations I’d had that day, obsessing over what I said or didn’t say. I’d stay up so late worrying that I couldn’t wake up on time for school the next day.

Once I got closer to graduating, I had more important things to worry about. I stressed over where I was going to college, what I wanted to be, and getting a perfect 4.0.

I know it’s not that abnormal to worry about those things, but I remember the only B I got in high school like it just happened yesterday. I’ll never forget how devastated I was! I think I took the obsessing and worrying a little too far.

Maybe I had anxiety back then and just didn’t know it yet.

What Is Anxiety Anyway?

The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.

I can definitely say I’ve been able to check all of those boxes at some point in my life. But now that I’m a mom, living with anxiety has taken on a whole new meaning.

What Anxiety Looks Like For Moms

It’s worrying that I yelled too much last night and I didn’t play enough. And falling asleep wondering if my kids know how much I love them.

It’s hearing a siren and hoping it’s not someone I love. This feels even worse if it happens when my kids are at school!

It’s thinking that my friends don’t like me anymore when I haven’t heard from them in a while. Then it’s checking my phone every 5 minutes to see if they texted me back when I ask them if they want to meet up.

It’s walking into a party praying that I don’t look ridiculously out of style in my jeans that never fit right after I had kids and my sweater from last season.

It’s hoping that my child isn’t being a mean kid on the playground, but being too scared that he is to intervene and find out. And if he is, it’s being too uncertain of my parenting style to know what to do or the right words to say.

It’s worrying that my son’s going to fall off the monkey bars and break his arm again. Or that my other son’s getting too close to the edge and will fall off too. Then he’ll end up needing surgery again and he’ll be so scared because of what he’s already been through.

It’s lying awake at night thinking of all the things I need to do, worrying that I’m going to forget one of them. Then finally getting up to make lunches at midnight or sign my child’s permission slip, because I don’t trust myself to remember.

It’s making my kids hold my hands extra tight in every parking lot and losing my cool when they don’t listen and run off.

It’s worrying that the car in front of me is going to slam on the breaks. Sometimes, when it’s raining really hard and I’m driving in it, it’s worrying that I’m going to start skidding across four lanes of traffic and end up in the median. And if I do end up dying, what will happen to my kids? Who will take care of them? Where will they live? Who will be there to see them graduate and help them plan their future weddings?

Sometimes, it’s not wanting to get out of bed.

All the time, it’s second-guessing myself as a mom. Wondering if I’m doing the right thing. Questioning if I’m feeding my kids the right thing- if I should be giving them more veggies and less candy.

Are these things all normal? Does every mom feel this way sometimes about their kids? I don’t know, but what I do know is that if you’re out there feeling this way, you’re not alone.

There Is Help For Moms Living With Anxiety

Mom feeling freed from her anxiety.

If you’re feeling anxious or worried enough that you feel like it’s stopping you from doing your job as a mom, please reach out for help. Find someone you feel safe talking to. It can make a big difference! Psychology today is a great place to start.

Some other things that help me are:

  • Journaling
  • Deep Breathing
  • Regular Exercise

Check out my previous blog on Self Care For Busy Moms, for more tips on managing anxiety as a mom.

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Let Them Be Little

Why am I always trying so hard to rush my kids to grow up? I put a lot of pressure on them to be “big” and do things for themselves.

That’s not always a bad thing. I know they need to learn eventually and if I’m always doing everything for them they never will. But sometimes I wonder if I’m stealing their childhood.

Is society’s sense of urgency making me parent that way?

When my kids were babies, I just wanted the sleepless nights to end.

Everyone would say things like:

“Enjoy the baby snuggles while you can. They’ll be gone before you know it.”

But I was secretly searching baby books for answers about when it would end.

I wanted to know what age they had to be when I wouldn’t have to wake them to feed them anymore. Then I wanted to know how much they needed to weigh before they could sleep through the night. Once I read that when a baby weighs about 12 lbs they can last all night without feeding. I became obsessed with how much they weighed after that.

When they were between 2 and 3 years old, I was researching what age to start potty training so that we could get out of diapers.

Once they were able to eat solid food, I was waiting for the day they’d be able to feed themselves. Then I was counting down the days until they’d be in school full time, so I could really get a break.

I think my youngest has probably felt this the most. Without realizing it, I compare what he can do to what his big brother can do. But I forget that his brother is almost 3 years older. I assume that because my oldest can go to the bathroom by himself, so should he.

I forget that he’s at a different stage developmentally and being potty trained is still a new-ish skill for him. As much as I want him to wipe himself and remember to wash his hands with soap without being reminded, he is only 5!

Can We Just Slow It Down?

Last week I had a moment where I realized I need to stop rushing my kids to grow up though. You know those moments as a mom where you feel like you just want time to stand still?

The ones where you picture your kids leaving for college and you realize that everyone was right….Your days where your kids are at home with you are numbered. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t get sentimental like this often, but every now and then I do. 

Sometimes I worry that my 5 -year-old missed out on a lot of the things that little kids are into like Mickey Mouse and Elmo. When he wanted to watch preschool shows, his brother would tell him they were for babies. Since he thinks his big brother hung the moon, he stopped asking to watch those shows.  He graduated right to super heros and Sponge Bob at age 3! 

Little brother and big brother
Dressing just like big brother

Goodbye Too Soon?

A few years ago, we realized that our kids were both really interested in Legos. The younger one was able to put together regular size Lego sets, so we decided to get rid of all of our duplo Legos. Ever since then, my youngest has asked why we had to get rid of them. 

This year, he asked for more for Christmas. When I was helping with the holiday party in his classroom, I noticed that he went right to the Duplo legos during the free play time. Plus any time I ask him what he does during centers at school, he says that he plays with the duplos.

So Santa got him a set of duplo Legos. They must be his favorite gift because he has played with them over and over again. Instead of spending a few hours putting together a Lego set and then losing interest when it’s done, he creates something new every day. 

Last week I noticed that the instruction booklet that came in the duplo Lego box had a piece missing. The missing piece was the part that said the age range was 1 ½ +.

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Lego instruction booklet

I know the plus sign after the 1 ½ is open-ended, but I wondered if my 5-year-old read it differently. Did he think his brother would think he’s a baby for playing with them?

It made me realize that he might need permission to just be 5. He might need me to give that to him. So I thought of a few things I can do. 

6 Tips For Giving Your Child Permission To Be A Kid:

  1. Build-in time for pretend play. Sometimes if I’m not careful, my kids will go days in a row where they don’t actually play with their toys. We’re always rushing from one activity to the next after school and on the weekends. Then when we’re at home, it’s easy to just turn on the tv or let my kids play endless amounts of video games. I “try” to set limits on screentime and when that time is up, I tell them to go in their play room and play. Sometimes they resist and complain that they’re bored, but I show them how they can use their imagination.
  2. Play more. My goal is to actually sit down and play with my kids, when I can, at least 30 minutes a week. During this time, I make sure to turn off all devices and play whatever they want me to.
  3. Organize their toys and make them easier to find. By helping my son find his Paw Patrol and PJ Mask characters and putting them in a special place, he’s more likely to go play with them when he’s bored. 
  4. Talk about how it’s ok to like toys or shows that older siblings might say are for babies. I’ve had to remind my 5-year-old often that he’s not a baby even if he likes different things than his brother.
  5. Watch Peter Pan and sing ‘I’ll never grow up’. This one’s a classic and always makes me wish I was still a kid. 

In the end, I also have to stop putting so much pressure on myself to be the perfect mom and feeling guilty about how I might’ve messed up. Deep down, I know that I’m doing the best I can and my kids know how much I love them.

If you enjoyed reading this, be sure to follow me on INSTAGRAM, so you’ll know when new posts are up!

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The Best Positive Parenting Strategy For Getting Kids To Listen

Recently I polled my readers in my facebook group about what parenting topic they’d like to read about. Several moms responded with something to the tune of, “Help me with my stubborn child!” I had to laugh because I didn’t really have an answer. This is something I struggle with almost daily.

I think that’s mainly due to the fact that I myself can be pretty stubborn. My husband and I butt heads, because we are both stubborn and neither one of us wants to give in even when we’re wrong. So unfortunately I think my children are doomed to inherit some of our stubborn traits.

Being stubborn or strong-willed as a child isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. It could even be an indicator of future success according to a research study published by the American Psychological Association. But as a parent it can be really frustrating. Approaching stubbornness using positive parenting solutions can help.

I’ll never forget a time years ago when a mom I was babysitting for asked her son if he wanted a spanking. I laughed to myself when he said yes. Then he continued to misbehave and she had backed herself into a corner.

The only way she could deal with his misbehavior in that moment was to spank him. The option for him to make a good choice and change his behavior was pretty slim, since she had already set him up to fail.

Granted, he could have said no and made the decision to stop throwing toys at his brother, but he didn’t. Sometimes the way we say things as parents can set our kids up to fail and we don’t even realize it.

Different Parenting Styles

Just like the world is full of different types of people, there are different styles for parenting kids. Depending on your personality and your upbringing you may lean towards one or the other.

I prefer to use logical consequences and positive parenting styles. Since I’m realizing my kids have sensitive personalities, I also try to avoid yelling as much as possible. (Although, let’s be real, I do lose my cool and yell sometimes, especially when I’m trying to get them out the door.)

I also don’t believe in spanking my children. I’m not going to get into too much detail about why now, but I don’t think it helps. I also don’t want my children to grow up to be afraid of me.

When I was working towards becoming a registered play therapist, I learned about child psychologist Garry Landreth. I quickly realized that the way he approached parenting and therapy with children aligned with me. He believes that if we can understand the way a child sees the world, then it will help us understand why they behave the way they do.

The Choices, Cookies, & Kids Method

Landreth developed the positive parenting solution Choices, Cookies, & Kids when his 3 year old daughter had her hand in the cookie jar. He realized that in order for her to become a successful adult later in life, she needed to learn how to make the right choice on her own.

So instead of blurting out his usual response, “No, you can’t eat all the cookies,” he decided to give her a choice. He told her that she could choose to eat 1 cookie or that she could choose to eat none of the cookies.

Choices, Cookies & Kids involves using statements that help your child learn how to control their own behavior. If we are always telling our children what they can and can’t do, they’ll never learn resposibility. And it will be harder for them to know how to react when we aren’t there to tell them what to do.

HOW TO OFFER CHOICES:

  1. Offer two choices. One of the choices will be the “right choice” and one will be the “wrong choice” that will result in a consequence.
  2. Follow through with the consequence. Make sure to do what you said you would if your child chooses the wrong choice.

For example: Instead of saying, “Do you want a spanking?” the mom I mentioned before could have said this:

“It’s not ok to throw toys at your brother. You have two choices:

1). You can either play nicely with your cars and choose to continue playing with them,

OR

2) You can choose to keep throwing cars at your brother and choose to have them taken away.”

Notice, how many times I used the word choice or choose. This is key, because it reminds your child that you are putting the responsibility on them.

USING CHOICES TO MANAGE TANTRUMS:

Now let’s say that your child is throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, because they want you to buy them a toy. If you wanted to use this method instead of simply saying no, you would say something like this:

“I can see that you really want a toy, but we’re not getting any toys today. If you choose to scream you will be choosing not to watch tv for the rest of the day. If you choose NOT to scream and yell, you will be choosing to watch TV when we get home.”

If your child continues to throw a fit, then you would respond with, “You’ve chosen to give up TV for the rest of the day.”

If your child stops crying and calms down, then you would say, “You’ve chosen not to yell and scream, and now you can watch TV today!”

** You can use whichever consequence will have the most affect on your child. I allow my kids 1 hour of “tech time” a day and they really look forward to it. So I use this consequence most of the time, because I know it will usually work.

MAKING IT WORK

Be sure to be consistent and follow through with the consequence. If you don’t do what you’ve said you are going to do and allow your child to watch tv later in the day, this won’t work.

This may be really hard at first. It may seem like it’s too much trouble and you might feel like it would be easier to revert back to your old way of handling misbehavior. Any change is hard and your child will need to see you follow through with this technique a few times before they learn how it works.

IT’S WORTH IT

For me, the challenge to adjust my thinking is worth it. Using positive parenting strategies helps strengthen my relationship with my kids, because they feel heard and understood. When I’m using these positive strategies instead of reverting to yelling and threatening, everyone in my family is happier! Who doesn’t want that?

Let me know in the comments if you try this and how it works!

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6 Reasons To Stop Cleaning Your House Before Play Dates

Ok I know what you’re probably thinking. Not another one of those blogs where she tells me to do the opposite of what I really should do- like the one about how to have fun at the playground. Because, why would I tell you to stop cleaning your house?

I’m serious this time though. Let me tell you why.

I’m in a local moms club and we have play groups where groups of us with kids who are close in age meet up once a week. A few months ago, I was at playgroup at a friend’s house. One of the other moms commented on how clean the house was.

She said, “It looks like no kids live here! I really wish other moms wouldn’t clean up so much before we come over. It just makes me feel worse about how messy my house is!”

This is not the first time I’ve heard a mom say that. In fact I remember hearing people say the same thing when I started doing playgroups almost 5 years ago. As much as I agree, it’s so hard for me to do!

I remember a few years ago when my son had his first play date without me at a friend’s house. It looked like a cheerio bomb had gone off and there were toys everywhere.

At first I was a little shocked, but then the mom apologized for the state of her home. In my head I was thinking, “Thank you! Thank you for not cleaning up. Thank you for making me feel better about my own house.”

Stop Obsessing Over The Mess

Yesterday, a mom friend and her two kids were coming over for a playdate. All day I was obsessing about what a mess my house was. I started to notice all the piles of board games and coloring books that I needed to go through and reorganize.

stop cleaning your house before play dates because it will just get messy again

Then I realized I was letting myself get too stressed out about cleaning my house for a play date.

I remembered the conversation I had with my friend at playgroup and decided to try to let some of the mess go. Of course I ended up still cleaning up some of it. But I took some of the pressure off myself for my house to be spotless.

The funny thing is, when my friend came over I really don’t think she even noticed the mess. I had planned to apologize to her about how my house was a disaster, but when I looked around it didn’t even look that bad!

The more I think about this, there are so many reasons you shouldn’t clean your house before a play date. Here are just a few:

WHY YOU SHOULD STOP CLEANING YOUR HOUSE BEFORE PLAY DATES

It Makes Others Feel Guilty

If you host a play date at your house and it’s spotless, your friends will probably feel like my mom friend did at play group.

They might wonder how you have it all together and question why they can’t seem to ever keep their own house clean. Outside of their being food all over the floor and bugs everywhere, your friends will feel more comfortable if it’s a little messy!

Someone Has To Break The Cycle

It only takes one person in your circle of friends to not clean their house before the play date to give others permission to do the same. But if you do clean up, then the cycle will keep going and everyone else will feel like they have to. So, be the one to break the cycle.

As hard as it is sometimes, it actually feels pretty liberating to let some of the mess go. Plus, if your friends are going to judge you for the state of your house cleanliness, are they really true friends anyway?

It Takes Away From Your Kids

Always stressing out about cleaning your house takes away from the time that you could be spending with your kids.

No mom has ever looked back on her life and regretted spending too much time with her kids.

As hard as it is to let the mess go in the moment, you will miss out on so many experiences with your family if your constantly cleaning.

It’s Just Going To Get Messy Again

Unfortunately, even if you do clean up, your house is just going to get messy again. A fun play date ends with toys everywhere and dress-up clothes off their hangers. It means that the toys were actually played with.

Kids making a mess on a playdate which is why you should stop cleaning your house before playdates

No One Will Notice Your Mess

We always notice the things we don’t like about ourselves more than others do. The same goes for the things we don’t like about our homes. Chances are no one but you will notice the crayon marking on the wall behind your couch or the crumbs of food under your dining room table.

Yesterday, my friend never batted an eye about the mess in my house. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought anyway.

Too Clean Is Not Realistic

Do you really want your friends wondering if you actually live there because your house is TOO clean? Kids learn by making messes. They wouldn’t have the experience of making cookies with you if you didn’t let them make a mess in the kitchen with the flour.

Kids make a mess when they play too. They have to dump out the whole bin of action figures to find the exact one they are looking for. They need to line up every single hot wheels car to have a car race, or else it just isn’t the same! Let them live!

We might have a slight toy car addiction!

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