Laughter: “An Instant Vacation”

I was teaching a self-care class on Wednesday to hair stylists, who certainly do their share of counseling, when one commented she’d seen this great sign, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”  I agree wholeheartedly so when my younger daughter sent me this cat picture a few months ago, I saved it for when I need a good laugh and decided this week to share it with you.  Hope this tickles your funny bone.

“Jabba” the Cat

May “the force” of laughter be with you.  Enjoy your weekend!

Rules of the House

As a psychotherapist, I work with many adults who are still struggling with their childhood “programming.” These are the rules and beliefs that your family of origin used, often unconsciously. It is very easy for someone who grew up in an abusive household to think that abuse is “normal.” Then the cycle continues.

One very common “program” is the “Don’t Rock the Boat” rule. This means that no matter what, family members either act like a dysfunction isn’t there, or try to “sweep it under the rug.” For example, a family with an alcoholic mother may never talk about the subject and may even step over her and keep walking if she was passed out on the floor.

Another common “program” is the, “Everything is Fine” rule. With this belief in place, each member of the family puts on “masks” when they have to interact with other people. For example, the mother and father could be going through an ugly divorce, but the children are all smiles and act as if everything is great. The parents do the same thing when in public.

What these programs have in common is untruth. These families don’t want to express their pain and dysfunction, so they never give themselves a chance to work through their problems. When they get to my office, they can be holding a lot of anger towards their parents, children, siblings or other family members. These folks have a choice: anger or forgiveness. As Kambri Crews, author of Burn Down the Ground says, “Forgiving others and making peace with the cards you have been dealt is within all of us. Generally speaking, people aren’t purely evil or good. Life is much more complicated than that. ” Well said, Ms. Crews.

Self-Care for New Families and Parents

Bringing a new baby home often feels overwhelming and exhausting.  The regular feedings of a newborn, physical recovery from birth, and changes in relationships contribute to the shock experienced by new families. A myriad of information on parenting exists and most theories focus on either the needs of the mother or the needs of the baby.   There is no perfect formula to parenting and no answer that works for every family. Viewing parenting as a relationship can help parents navigate a way that works for their family.

The relationship between a mother and child is symbiotic.  The needs of both members must be met consistently and appropriately or the relationship is jeopardized.  Ensuring the mother is physically, emotionally, and spiritually nourished is essential to her well-being.  When a mother’s needs are unmet, she may feel resentful, depressed, or overwhelmed. When a mother is unbalanced, she cannot provide the positive energy needed for her infant and soon neither party is nurtured optimally.

Self-care is an important part of wellness and feeling positive towards the mothering role. Self-care may include exercise, innercise(breathing, yoga and meditation practices), good nutrition, and activities that make the mother feel energized and good about herself. Couples must take the
time to nurture one another.   When the needs of the mother, baby and couple are met successfully, parents feel confident and families become stronger. Finding the balance and harmony is more important than following a prescribed method of parenting.

Today’s guest author is Jamie Bodily, postpartum doula.

Wait-Watch-Listen

It’s so easy to get caught up in the frenzy of daily life, we often forget that the answers to our problems aren’t instantaneous like a text message.  Because most women are “fixers,”, it’s challenging to wait for the solution to emerge rather than forcing our agenda.  One of the lessons my younger daughter taught me is to take a break when we’re at an impasse rather than pursuing her doggedly which rarely ends well.

Along these lines, I’ve been practicing the skills of “wait-watch-listen” to keep myself from overreacting to situations and build confidence that “the need goes out and the answer appears.”  While I may have been more skeptical years ago, I’ve seen enough evidence now to trust this works.  Sometimes it takes more time than I’m willing to give it, but I’m learning to be patient.

Today I had lunch with a good friend who brought me the solution to a problem I’ve had.  Although I hadn’t figured it out myself, I had decided to wait until a clear answer emerged because none of my ideas had worked.   So I kept telling myself, “Don’t take action or make any decisions until you’re certain of how to proceed.”  I wasn’t, but when my good friend made her suggestion, I knew it was the way to go.

Life has a way of unfolding although not necessarily on our schedule.  The next time you feel stuck, watch and listen for the answer you’re seeking.  It’s well worth the wait!

It’s Okay to Speak Up to Your Children, Too!

In my grandmother’s generation, “children were to be seen but not heard.”  Only parents/adults deserved respect.  Next, parents learned to “listen so their children/teens would talk,” but still expected respect from them.  Today, it seems that many children and teens openly disrespect their parents, and we allow it.

What’s happened?  When did we start worrying more about our children’s love and approval than teaching them to be considerate and thoughtful?  A few months ago one mom told me that she was so hurt by her three year-old yelling at her “I hate you,” she collapsed in a puddle on the floor.   Another mom related how her 10 year-old screamed at her for opening the room to her door without knocking so she apologized.  The problem is not that these situations occur, but that we don’t assert ourselves and use reasonable consequences because we’re afraid of how our children will respond.

Like all moms, I know how hard it is to speak up and enforce limits.  But I learned that although I felt bad , it was more it was more important to teach my daughters  RESPECT than be their friend or fear their disapproval.  I treated them respectfully and expected the same.

When my younger daughter yelled at me, I warned her once and sent her to her room.  When my older daughter wouldn’t listen, we didn’t go to the mall that day.  While they didn’t like it then, now they value respect, consideration and courtesy in their relationships.  We joke about my younger daughter running from me saying, “No more consequences.”

SPEAK UP.  It works.

Bonding with Your Baby

Bonding  prenatally and after delivery creates a foundation for the parent-child relationship.
Here are some bonding tips:

  1. Place your baby on your chest after birth and put a warm blanket over both of you. Hold, touch, and talk to your baby. Your body releases hormones that encourage bonding and attachment to your baby. You and baby do not need to be separated during the first hour after delivery unless there is a medical concern.
  2. Have dad take off his shirt and hold baby skin to skin.
  3. Massage your baby.
  4. Sing to your baby. Sing whatever you want, it doesn’t have to be kids music.
  5. Read to your baby. Read prenatally and post-delivery to your baby. Babies can hear in the womb and respond to your voice.
  6. Talk to your baby.
  7. Tell your baby “I love you.”
  8. Soak in the smell of your newborn. Who doesn’t like the smell of a newly washed baby?
  9. Your breastmilk is composed of the things you eat, so it tastes different at each feeding. Eat a variety of foods to treat yourself and your baby.
  10. Smile! Babies love faces and newborns can see from their mother’s breast to her face.
  11. Use a wrap, sling or carrier and keep your baby close to you.
  12. Play with your baby during diaper changes. Peek-a-boo and This Little Piggy are fun games.

Jamie Bodily is founder and director of ParentsCount. Jamie offers private and group “Happiest Baby on the Block” classes encouraging gentle baby calming for fussy babies.  For more-www.parentscount.com.

Motherhood is Hard Work, So Cut Yourself Some Slack!

The media creates images of perfect mothers such as June Cleaver and Claire Huxtabel. TV moms look perfect, have spotless homes, and great relationships. Magazine covers portray moms holding beautiful babies, breastpumps and briefcases who are perfectly made up.  From such images women define their “shoulds” and “musts”creating unattainable standards of perfection and judging themselves for not keeping up.

The truth is that motherhood is hard work. As women become mothers and face the accompanying stressors and challenges, they often internalize their  inability to cope flawlessly as personal failings.  Add sleepless nights and fussy babies and it’s not hard to see why mothers lose confidence. When the idealized view of one’s self and motherhood collides with reality, they criticize themselves rather than recognizing how well they are doing given the endless expenditure of physical, emotional and mental energy that goes into caring for children.  Pretty amazing!

Nuclear families encourage isolation, especially in the early days postpartum. Experienced mothers rarely discuss hardships inherent in mothering.  No one wants to admit they felt less than adequate, irritable, anxious or depressed maneuvering new motherhood while this is true.  Although the internet provides some connection, many moms lack the  face-to-face support needed to see that everyone faces challenges and make mistakes.  Supporting themselves and each other by acknowledging that motherhood is hard work and that perfection must be tempered by reality  is what’s needed.

So, starting today cut yourself and the moms around you some slack.  You’ve earned it.  You deserve it!

Jamie Bodily is founder and director of ParentsCount which provides birth and postpartum doula services, childbirth education and counseling