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Deepen Your Relationships

Healthy relationships take time, patience and a concerted effort, in order to develop properly.  Some relationships may feel seamless, while others may not.  Have you ever felt like giving up on important relationships, simply because you felt “stuck”?  I must say, I have fallen into this “stuck” feeling plenty of times.  Often, though, the lack of hope that many of us feel in our relationships can be attributed to lack of creativity in the relationship.  There have been relationships in my past, which have been damaged by misunderstanding, lack of communication and an inability to be creative.  I now hold myself responsible for overlooking the importance of nurturing some of my most valuable relationships.  During the times when I was supposed to consider the ways in which the other party needed to be loved, I chose to assume that the love I was giving was enough; unfortunately, such a narrow way of thinking caused valuable relationships to whither away.  Still, valuable lessons come from our most challenging experiences.  Here are five important relationships, which we can all take the time to nurture a little bit more:

Self
-Care for yourself, DAILY!  Whatever energizes you, makes you feel excited about life or helps you to connect with others, focus on doing more of that.  Self-care is the most valuable care we can give to anyone.  Developing a deeper bond with ourselves can be challenging for many. Start small and try not to overwhelm yourself.  Taking as little as ten minutes a day to breathe deeply can greatly benefit us all.  As soon as the weather permits, use nature’s greatness to tap into your self-care.  A daily walk can help you discover new ways to reenergize and focus on your personal care.

Spouse
-Our spouses need to know how much we still love and care for them. Without the verbal and physical expression of our love, sometimes, our spouses can feel left in the cold. Leaving a random love note for your spouse can keep the romance alive in a relationship. A love note is a short, simple and easy way to remind a loved one of how much you care for them. Grab a post-it note and tell your spouse you can’t wait to see them this evening. Remind them of how sexy they are. Whatever message you choose, this unexpected gesture of love can change the outcome of your spouse’s day.

Children
-Our children are born to feel connected to their parents. When this connection is broken, challenges in the parent/child relationship can occur. Scheduling ten to fifteen minutes of daily bonding time with your child can drastically improve this relationship. Play your favorite songs in the morning to get the positive energy flowing with your child. Parents can even schedule a few minutes of horseplay with their child, each morning or night. Children, no matter their age, love to see their parents act silly. Join in the fun and think of ways to bring the joy back in your relationship with your child(ren). For older children, what if you took the time, each day, to listen to your child’s thoughts without offering an opinion? Creating a happy and trusting environment for children deepens their connection to their parents.

-Parents
When was the last time you sent a hand written note to your parents, telling them how much they mean to you?  Mothers, especially, are soft and pink and enjoy the thoughtful things in life.  An unexpected love letter from his/her child will make any parent’s heart melt.  If letters aren’t your thing, can you plan a date night for you and your parent(s)? What if you had a blast from the past night?  Our parents have so many wonderful stories to tell us.  Allowing them to reminisce on past, enjoyable experiences not only keeps their spirits up, but telling stories with our elders helps to keep their minds sharp.

-Friends
-When was the last time you actually picked up the phone and called your close friends? Many of us having forgotten to use our phones for their most basic function.  Develop a habit of making your relationship with your friends feel thoughtful and cared about.  Even if you can’t call a friend as often as you would like, can you remember an important date or event, which would require you to call and congratulate them?  Whatever you choose, think of thoughtful and creative ways to make your friends feel appreciated.

-WorkPlace Relationships
Many of us spend precious moments at work, which takes away from our time with loved ones.  While there, why not make the best of our work experience?  Professional relationships do not have to feel daunting or forced.  Sometimes, a simple acknowledgement of our coworker’s efforts can go far.  When was the last time you thanked your coworker for contributing to a group project?  Can you leave a thank you note in their mailbox for carrying your load while you took leave?  Whatever the gesture, reminding our coworkers of their value in the company makes our work experience just a little bit more tolerable.

Maintaining a healthy connection with our spouse, our parents, our children and our careers can challenge us, from time to time.  Remembering that our connection to others gives great meaning to our lives can help keep us all on track.  Building connections with important people in our lives is beneficial and crucial to our long-term happiness.  If rebuilding stronger relationships with your loved ones is part of your self-care journey, give yourself permission to take this important step.  Determine which relationships energize you. Put a plan in place to keep this going.

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PostPartum Depression Can Build Connections

Postpartum Depression is tricky. It sends all kinds of mixed signals to the ones who love us most. It teaches family and friends to distance themselves from a woman in distress. Postpartum Depression helps strangers pick a part a mother’s actions, without understanding her needs. It teaches mothers that she is wrong for not connecting to her child at all times. On the surface, Postpartum Depression looks like anger, rage, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, confusion, smiles, sleep deprivation and more, all wrapped together. On the inside, it feels like “HELP. NOW. PLEASE!” Far too many new mothers receive these unwanted gifts, after bringing their children into the world. When treated, PostPartum Depression loses its power. It no longer strips families of their unity. PostPartum Depression does not have to take lives.

Like many women who bear children, I, too, experienced PostPartum Depression. After having my son, I was already prepared for the warning signs, though. I knew there was a possibility I would experience the emotional, after effects of childbirth. The stress of caring for a crying child while my own heart bled was hard. “Could I do this?”, I thought. “Could I care for a child, build my career from scratch, maintain a healthy relationship with my husband and thrive amongst friends and colleagues, while in my mid-thirties?” The answer was, YES! Pacing myself was key to my emotional success, so I learned.

There were days when I wanted to turn back the hands of time and “un-mommy” myself. I struggled. I needed help. I needed time. I needed space. I needed self-discovery. I needed reemergence of self. I needed self-care. I needed patience and understanding from others. I needed support. I tried to battle through, hoping my fervent efforts gave me the recognition I was craving; the recognition that proved to the world how much more I loved my son than I loved myself. Isn’t that what mothers are supposed to do? Aren’t mothers supposed to neglect their every need, in order to meet her child’s needs? Not this mother. Not anymore!

Postpartum Depression taught me:

It Does Not Just Go Away
In order to battle this ugly beast, mothers greatly benefit from remaining proactive and seeking treatment. Our role as a mother is the most valuable one many of us will ever take on. The impact of our actions can have lasting affects on our children; therefore, seeking treatment is key. Understanding that any form of depression requires us all to understand its purpose. While it does not always produce the results we desire, reminding ourselves to address our issues keeps us in a healthier mental state throughout each day.

Tell The Truth
PostPartum Depression loves liars; it feeds off of a parent’s dishonesty. PostPartum Depression wants you to surrender to the fear of being judged. It taunts you into believing that your story has no value. Give yourself permission to be free. Confide in someone who values your life’s experiences. Remember that what you are going through matters. Our children require us to get the help we need, so we can thoroughly service their needs.

Parents With PPD still love their children
No matter how many times I cried for seemingly no reason, no matter how many times I lashed out at my husband for misunderstanding my distress, no matter how many times I wished for a moment to breathe without my child being in my presence, I still knew I loved my son and would fight until the bitter end to protect him. My love for my son was the not in question. Remembering his worth constantly reminded me of my own, which is how our bond remains in tact.

Make My Needs A Priority
Luckily, I was waiting for PostPartum Depression to show up. I began making changes during the early part of my relationship with my son. I stopped doing it all. I started asking for help. I took more frequent breaks. I took the cape off and gave myself permission to be human. Remember to give yourself what you deserve, too, Parents. What hobbies interest you? When was the last time you wrote in your journal? Have you had a nap lately? Each time I gave myself a break, each time I napped, each time I reconnected with friends and family, each time I found time to be alone, I reconnected better than ever with my baby. Choosing to reconnect with myself allows me to find the patience and understanding needed to raise a child. I experience less emotional triggers when I choose not to get it all done at once. When I put myself at the top of my list of priorities, I experience an awakening in my personal relationships. My loved ones benefit greatly.

Forgive Myself Often
PostPartum Depression can make loving mothers feel like a failure. It can make a mother with the best of intentions feel as though she is unequipped for the job. PostPartum Depression can take mothers on a long, emotional rollercoaster ride. After you’ve had an emotional outburst, after you’ve distanced yourself from your child, after you’ve pushed everyone away, ask yourself for forgiveness. If you had it your way, PostPartum Depression wouldn’t exist. You’d be the perfect mother. Luckily, life forces us to use our challenges as tools for change. PostPartum Depression may be ugly. It can, however, teach women the importance of reconnecting with self, in order to connect with the ones they love most.

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Let it Go

Trying to get it all done can be one of the most honest, genuine, unrealistic and selfish acts we can commit against ourselves. The pressure of people pleasing, being successful, raising a family, being a good spouse and finding time for ourselves can overwhelm even the calmest of souls. Connections between parents and children get lost because of hectic schedules. Spouses find themselves bickering over who forgot to put the ketchup away. The dog won’t stop barking because he’s anxious as all hell. The kids won’t stop screaming their heads off, throwing their food or asking for your time. The house is a mess, too! Oh, and let’s not forget about the mounds of letters, emails, text messages and other chores you have to find time to complete.  Does it have to all get done? It can surely feel that way, sometimes. Wine, Anyone?

Why have we submitted to so many unrealistic expectations of ourselves? Many of us forget what relaxing or quiet time even feels like.  Like the rest of the world, I find myself sometimes feeling anxious and overwhelmed when trying to meet everyone’s needs. The thought of remaining calm through the chaos sometimes seems unrealistic. Then I examine the patterns of  my calm moments from the past and realize-nope; it’s me! I’m neglecting myself again.  Self-neglect is usually an unconscious choice we make when trying to help better the lives of others. The assumption  is usually that we must pour everything into everyone else’s cup before ever pouring into our own. Ultimately, this genuine, yet damaging behavior ends up leaving us feeling depleted and resentful; important relationships become strained.  Inner-peace becomes nonexistent.

I often wonder about the types of relationships children would engage in, if parents modeled more examples of self-care.  What would life look life if more people chose to make themselves happy, too?  I wonder what would happen if more love and affection were displayed at home? What if we let it all go sometimes?  If I want my child to benefit from my parenting style, what does he need? My son needs his parents at their best. He needs us both to feel as emotionally, mentally and spiritually connected to ourselves and each other as possible.   Taking care of myself allows me to connect more to son and my husband. Doing so allows me to examine my challenging behavior and make more informed decisions for my relationships, going forward. When I embrace my selfishness, I am ok with not getting it all done. I learn to respect my ability to take it all in, one moment at at time. Then I go out and treat myself.

Many of us serve others with the best of intentions.  Building strong and positive relationships with anyone must be led by love of self. Is it such a bad idea to just relax? Why not let the dishes pile up and go out for some family fun? Why does date night ALWAYS have to take a back seat? What if we could all live in a place where disruption had no choice but to flee? What if chaos and confusion felt more like distant cousins, rather than our better half? Nothing is outside of our reach. Finding happiness in our children, in our spouse, in our career or any other external force is limited. Our true happiness starts and ends with the choice of self-preservation.

 

 

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Blending With Ease

Becoming a blended family can be challenging for so many families. It is not always easy for parents and children to cohesively step into their new roles. With the daily stresses of life, the commitment it takes to effectively raise children from previous relationships, combined with the financial burdens that plague so many families, it is no wonder becoming a blended family takes practice. Often times, the roof seems to cave in before the foundation has even been built. This leaves many families feeling overwhelmed, unsure of their new roles, and frustrated with the outcome of their life as bonus parents and children. Even after years of attempting to make it work, many families do not achieve the blended family success that they had hoped for.

The truth is that becoming a newly cohesive unit takes time and practice. While many times, parents’ initial efforts to effectively blend their families may not work out as they planned, there are so many valuable lessons to be learned along the way. I wonder what it must feel like to be a young child, receiving love from so many caring and loving adults. Couldn’t we consider any child to be lucky for having multiple people spread love to him/her? How can every parent spread love to a child, while still making one another feel significant? How do we help ease the tension amongst adults who are trying to coparent? How do parents determine the rules and boundaries of their new family dynamic?

Through my personal and professional experience, I have learned that there is enough love to spread to all of our children, so long as our intentions are in the right place. For parents who feel lost, know that there is hope and success for any family who wants to thrive in their newly blended roles. While the key to each family’s success may not be the same, trial and error are usually our greatest allies.  Providing an abundance of care and nurturance to our children can be done in a positive and productive way. There is room for everyone to give and receive love from our precious children.  Remembering to keep the lines of communication open at all times is crucial in the development of this new unit.

Here are a few tips to help families find peace in their new roles:

1- Seek Professional Help First
Becoming a blended family takes practice and dedication from everyone. Parents are in charge of setting healthy standards; this is to ensure everyone thrives in their new family structure. If parents do not have the language to help their children effectively transition into their new roles, assist them by seeking professional help. A licensed Parent Coach or a Family Therapist/Counselor may be able to provide everyone with the appropriate language needed to move into their new roles.

2- Do Not Force The Relationship
In blended families, it is important for everyone to take time to get to know one another. Allowing children to be themselves is crucial in helping them adapt to their new role as a bonus child. Creating extreme rules and boundaries from the beginning can be damaging to the budding relationship. Change can be a struggle for children, so remember to give them time to grow and adjust to this wonderful, new life.

3- Connect To Your Inner-Child
Do not underestimate the power of connecting to your bonus children through playful behavior. While some children may resist your attempts at connecting with them in this manner, do not give up. It is important to gather evidence about the child’s likes and dislikes before you engage in this technique.

3- Take Time For Yourself
Becoming a blended family can be difficult for adults, too. Therefore, gently reminding yourself that you are new at this will help you along the way. It is important to make the time to be happy. Do not forget to do some of the things that kept you feeling alive and energetic, prior to your new role. This may carry you further than you could imagine.

4- Be Honest With Your Spouse
Letting your partner know your joys, fears and frustrations in your new role can be extremely helpful. Do not assume that your partner can read your mind. Also, do not assume that your partner is having an easy time transitioning, either. Be sure to check in with one another frequently. Leaning on each other for support is crucial in the success of your new family.

5- Do Not Take it Personal
Expecting immediate, positive results can be damaging to a parent’s self-esteem. Everyone needs time to adjust, so do not fret if your bonus children need extra time to warm up to you. Remember to be patient with yourself during this process. Be sure appreciate yourself for the wonderful attempts you are making at creating a successful family dynamic.

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Enjoying Your Time Without The Kids, Guilt-Free

After spending hours, days, weeks, months and years of tending to the needs of children, parents can start to lose the wind in their sail. Raising children full-time can be exhausting, to say the least. Some days are better than others, but most days present new challenges to overcome. As a Parent Coach, a Wife and a Mother, I fully understand the different emotions that so many parents experience, and why. I am a loving parent who adores my son. I appreciate the different adventures that raising him bring. Absolutely no one or nothing can bring me joy the way my baby does. From his bright smile, to his enthusiastic nature, to his energetic spirit, my lovely bundle of joy has brought me more happiness than I could have ever imagined. Conversely, with all of his love and enthusiastic energy, MAMA GETS TIRED!

I recently came to the realization that I had not taken much time away from my son since his birth. With the exception of a few appointments, my regular trips to the grocery store and a few dates with babe, my son and I have been inseparable. Don’t get me wrong-being with him is always a joyous experience. My baby’s presence is infectious. He always gets me through life’s most difficult times. Still, the fact remained that I was not spending enough time away from him. Through this realization, I decided that it was time for some major self-reflection and shift in focus. I needed to examine my state of being so I could get to the root of my parental challenge, which was mother/child separation. Why had I gone so long without taking a break from my son? Did I not trust him with a caretaker? Was I nervous that an emergency would arise in my absence? Was I just not ready to separate from my baby? NOPE. None of the above, Alex. I simply FORGOT to take care of myself.

As a full-time mother and entrepreneur, finding personal time can be a challenge, albeit extremely important. Lack of self-care can lead to neglect, frustration and resentment- none of which I enjoyed. It was time to take personal inventory in order to begin living a fuller life. This past weekend, my husband and I decided it was time to go on our first “baecation”, since having our son. He encouraged me to prioritize my own happiness, and this time I happily obliged. My husband helped me to realize how much I had been outsourcing the best parts of myself to everyone else. Man, was I exhausted! I love seeing the beautiful smile of my baby boy and tending to his every need. I take pleasure in providing for my husband’s needs, too. I also love coaching parents and serving my community. Still, it was time I became more considerate of my own needs.

It makes me feel good when my man knows what is best for our family. I appreciate it when he demonstrates authority out of necessity for his loved ones. I could not have been happier at the outcome of our impromptu getaway. We were able to drive freely without any interruptions or distractions. Cruising to the sounds of loud music without being concerned with busting our baby’s ear drums was refreshing. The absence of a crying baby, who HATED being confined in his carseat was more than I could have asked for. There was no baby in sight, no anxiety to meet his needs, and it felt great! I was comforted knowing that my son was in good hands. My husband helped me to remember how much my happiness mattered. Through experiencing this parenting challenge, I was able to search within myself in order to regain control of my life. I said yes to extreme self-care, and the rest is gravy, Baby.

Somethings I learned about waiting too long to step away from mommy duties are:

SELF-CARE IS KEY
Let’s face it. Parents, especially mothers give everything to everyone, ALL.THE.TIME. It’s no wonder folks think we are crazy! Parents will greatly benefit by consistently building relationships with themselves and with one another other. This can be done by engaging in daily self-care practices. These practices can include making time every night for a warm bath, engaging in quiet time throughout the day, taking daily walks, breathing deeply or simply expressing appreciation for ourselves.

AVOID BECOMING ACCUSTOMED TO THE BURN OUT
Taking periodic breaks from my son will help to renew my energy. Asking others to step in and help before becoming overwhelmed will help to keep my stress levels down. By maintaining open lines of communication with my husband, my family and friends, I will be able to maintain the level of support I need when it is time to take a mommy break.

CHANGE THE SCENERY
Monotony can definitely set in after starting a family. While predictability can be reassuring, it can definitely take the fire out of a relationship. Sometimes, parents need to take risks with one another. Ditch the schedule and just go with it. During our drive out of town, my husband and I immediately felt more connected to one another. The change of pace left us both feeling thankful for the other person.

LET GO OF THE MOMMY GUILT
I decided not to become consumed with the opinions of those who disagree with my self-care practices. PERIOD. Parents, you do not have to explain to others, your need to take a break from your children. No one works a job 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. WHY SHOULD YOU? Take a break, Parents. TAKE LOTS OF THEM! Taking care of a family does NOT equate to losing sight of your individual needs and self-worth. So long as the needs of your loved ones are consistently being met, feel free to do whatever makes you happy.

Peace of Mind: The New Normal For Parents

Her days were consumed with a sink full of dirty dishes, soiled laundry piled up to the ceiling, an energetic toddler, animals in constant need of affection, bills that were piling up and a hubby who needed his fair share of attention. “EVERYTHING IS GREAT!”, were my client’s words during our initial coaching session. I knew right away she was in distress; after all, she called upon me for help. Chaos and stress had become her new normal. There seemed to be absolutely no time for this stay-at-home mom to catch her breath.

I often wonder how much more alive full-time parents would feel if they could dedicate personal time to themselves. I chuckle when I hear others express how easy they believe it is to be a stay-at-home-parent. While stay-at-home parents are fortunate to be able raise their children by their own standards, THEY STILL NEED HELP! Being a full-time parent is exactly that..FULL-TIME!

The average stay-at-home parent does not have the luxury of taking breaks throughout the day. There is no supervisor to whom they can report their child when he/she refuses to take a nap. Parents cannot call Human Resources and ask them to take away their child’s play-time privileges whenever he/she chooses not to eat the wonderful veggies you pureed. Instead, stay-at-home parents can use these five helpful tips that are sure to help ease some of the pressures of parenting.

1- PUT YOURSELF FIRST
The moment you realize that your family members are happier when you take care of yourself, the easier it will become for you to implement a daily self-care practice. Wake up earlier than everyone and take some time to be alone before the house erupts. Sign up for a class that you’ve been wanting to take. Take yourself to dinner and a movie once per month. Start researching that new business you’ve been thinking about. Whatever you decide, do it for YOU.

2- LIVE IN THE MOMENT
It is hard for parents to stay in the moment; however, it is important to remember that there is no reward gained from worrying over the things we cannot change, nor is there a reward gained from obsessing over the things that have yet to happen. Try to remain focused on life’s most precious moments, which are happening now. You will start to appreciate life more.

3-DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
Remember to take it easy on yourself when things do not go the way you planned. You are doing the best job that you can, so be gentle with yourself. How do you expect others to take it easy on you when you cannot do the same?

4- PRIORITIZE YOUR TIME
Understand that someone or something will ALWAYS get the short end of the stick. It is impossible to be all things to all people at all times. Remember to first take care of the things that are most important to you; those who love you most will understand this.

5- COMMUNICATE YOUR NEEDS TO LOVED ONES
Involve your community of family, friends and neighbors whenever you need a break. Do not feel embarrassed when you need help. Waiting until your pot has boiled over can be dangerous. There is absolutely no victory is struggling in silence; none of us can survive parenting alone.

Deciding to make ourselves a priority can make many parents uncomfortable. With only twenty-four hours in a day, many of us are feeling the pressure of getting it all done. How can we expect parents to manage it all, AND take time for themselves? While I am sure it may seem impossible to do, I can assure you that there are many ways for parents to achieve this goal. Let’s get creative!