Archive for the ‘mothers’ category

How chores & family meetings have changed everything

May 14, 2012
This young girl is showing the value of family chores. She is washing windows. This task gives her connection to family, self esteem and self-discpline, all of which cannot be bought at K-Mart or Wal-Mart. Yes, it takes more time for mom to involve the kids. Yes, the kids won't do as good as a job. Yes, it requires family meetings and encouragement. it's worth the investment in your family.

Love the action in this photo as well as the reflection in the windows. Appearances can deceive. This 9-year-old is gaining self-confidence, skill, self-discipline, self-esteem and connection to her family.

This post is from a mom in Ireland who read “Raising Able: How Chores Empower Families” and began applying the practices with her two kids. 

Somebody tell Hallmark that we already had mother’s day. It was a few weeks back.

We started family meetings in January. We have had a weekly family meeting for three months. As a family, we have cleaned out the shed, scrubbed the carpet, and had a stall at a carboot sale [flea market]. The children have cleaned the bathroom, washed windows, hoovered, worked a huge amount on the dishwasher, washed the dogs, brushed the dogs, cooked frozen sausage rolls with no help, lit the fire, made firelighters, and swept the floor: All since we began chores.

This young man is hanging out damp laundry to dry. He is doing a green chore, which is common in Ireland. Such a simple chore for a child that brings complex benefits, such as self-esteem, self-confidence, skill, connection to family and self-discipline. These are priceless. All through family meetings, family chores and encouragement. Mom does the chores with the kids. that helps enormously.

Hanging out the laundry instead of hanging out with his friends brings priceless self-discipline and counteracts entitlement.

We have gone bowling, had lunch in various venues, made trips to the playground, played cute family games of hide and seek, become expert at Connect 4, and even camped for one night in April in Ireland.The children have learned to work together and to enjoy their jobs. It was a joy to see my son busy with the hoover [vacuum cleaner] and singing a song. He seems to particularly enjoy telling the boy next door that he can’t  come out now because he has his jobs to do!

My daughter is 9, and she had never really done chores before. I explained to her that I needed her help, and that she had to work for our family the same way as the rest of us do. She likes when I work with her. She now tells me more about her feelings and her life. She seems so much happier since we put her to work. She likes to tell me that other girls are princesses. We are not princesses, we are women who are useful and the dad in our house likes us just the way we are.

As a parent, family meetings are hard work. It is totally worth the trouble. We are so much more together as a family, and I wouldn’t have missed that game of hide and seek or seeing that baby lamb at the campsite, for all the tea in China. “Raising Able” has given me the ideas and skills to make memories my family will always cherish. Thank you Susan.

This little guy is making scones. His mother is allowing him to make a mess in the kitchen. This is how children learn to cook - by making a mess. Cooking is not a chore. Cooking is a fun exploration by combining ingredients. Let kids discover the joy and excitement and satisfaction of cooking for famil members. Start them cooking early and often. Do not baniish kids from the kitchen.

This little guy proves that cooking is not a chore. Combining ingredients and transforming them into something delicious is an adventure that brings pleasure to family members. It will require parents to allow kids to make a mess in the kitchen. Go with the flow!

Kids resiliency will surprise us

April 23, 2012
kids learn resiliency from all kinds of situations, even in divorce, single parents, single mom, single mothers. children of all ages will survive whatever their childhood delivers

Learning how to get along on the playground is fundamental to resiliency.

I know a 10-year-old only child of estranged parents constantly in court over who gets to see the child when.One parent always wants more time, rigidity and control, and drags the other parent and pricey lawyers to court. It’s a sad difficult situation. I can’t wait to see what this develops in the child, alias “Morgan,” who is surrounded by doting adults — mother, father, step-father, aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Daily, Morgan gets to wrangle with adults who deliver conflicting, true, false, tempting and misleading information. In ten years, Morgan has been exposed to a plethora of people, situations and family constellations.

I predict Morgan will develop discernment and powerful instincts for people, truth and trustworthiness. Morgan may become a psychologist, lawyer, or CEO with leadership skills because s/he will know how to get people to do what s/he wants — which is the art of management and leadership.

In short, no matter what we do to our kids, they are resilient and something positive may emerge from our mistakes and difficult situations.

I know a young person who grew up living in public housing with one parent hooked on drugs. This person has sworn to never be without money as an adult. That experience created a powerful motivation, work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit.

No matter how we mess up our kids, and it’s guaranteed that we will mess up because there are no perfect parents, most of them survive and thrive. Moms and dads have a propensity towards worry and guilt, which is good. We should worry about what we do and constantly improve how we manage and nurture our kids. Worry and guilt are triple if your child is adopted, has a learning disability or some other handicap, or if you’re a single parent. All of these obstacles are learning opportunities.

When they leave home and find their own path, it’s amazing to see how seeds and weeds planted during childhood grow beautiful sometimes unexpected flowers.

‘You’re fine just the way you are’ & other gifts from Mom

April 16, 2012
on mother's day, the best thing a mother can do for a daughter is to accept her, as she is, without offering improvements and criticism about body image. Anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders affect tweens, teens, children, teenagers and adolescents.

The four girls in 1961. Do you like the bobbles on my hat?

One of the most precious gifts my mother gave me and my three sisters was this simple statement: “You’re fine just how you are.” She shopped with me for size 11-and-a-half shoes, 36DD bras, and shirts with extra long sleeves to fit my generous frame. NEVER did she comment or show any negative body language towards my solid foundation, curves and useful long arms.

When my three sisters or I complained about a less-than-perfect body part, Mom shrugged it off, emphasized good posture, Stomach in, head up, shoulder back, and of course, looked us straight in the eye and said in a kind sincere voice, “You’re just fine the way you are.” She convinced me that I am indeed, just fine the way I am.

body image and anorexia, bulimia and other body-issues plague girls and women today. mothers on Mother's Day can do well to say, YOu're just fine the way you are. MOther-daughter relationships can be built on a solid foundation of acceptance. we are not barbie dolls

Mom with her four daughters. I'm the youngest, bottom right.

I still feel fine, and found a man named Bob who thinks my extra-large curves, feet and arms are just fine. After carrying three 10-pound babies, (and one 8 pounds 11 ounces) stretch marks covered my belly. Bob calls those marks of motherhood fire because they emanate from my pubis and resemble a fire, the fire of life. Bob’s and Mom’s total acceptance of me bring tears to my eyes.Apparently, I’m lucky. My son Ian and other young people warn me, “Most young women have body issues.” He’s right. Eating disorders are epidemic among girls, teens and young adults.

Contrast the total acceptance Mom gave us with the blog post below about a Brazilian woman’s experience about her body image copied from Bullying Stories on wordpress.

[This is the second in a series of Mother’s Day blogs because mothers deserve a month’s worth of posting.]

I am 30 years old. Born and raised in Brazil, I lived there for 24 years. Growing up in a house with 3 sisters and being the only “chubby” one, it’s not so hard to imagine the “verbal” bullying I had to endure. … It came from adults for the most part and it was targeted, recurrent and persistent. …According to them, I was chubby, short, my forehead was too big, my face was too round, my hair was too thin, my breasts were too big, etc…In addition, I’d have them compare me and my so-called “flaws” to my sisters/relatives. That was extremely unfair since we’re all very different both physically and personality wise. Needless to say, such comparisons always ended with them determining or hinting my “disadvantaged” position. When I would go buy clothes, I’d always have what they said in mind: “you can’t wear this, you have to wear that.”
Years went by and I took extreme/unhealthy measures to lose weight (think throwing up and drinking hot water and soap). I got thinner indeed but the bullying never stopped completely. It was extremely detrimental to my emotional development and well-being. It affected the way I conducted all my personal interactions. For a long time, I even forced myself to avoid any possibility of having real relationships with boys. I’ve met a few and even though they were nice to me I simply could not believe that we could have a normal, healthy relationship. I would always question myself: ” why would they want to date me? That can’t be serious.”

See her whole post at Bullying Stories on wordpress.

The writing on this poster made by the Body Shop to raise money to eradicate violence against women reads, "There are 3 billion women who don't look like supermodels and only 8 who do." Mattel sued The Body Shop and forced them to stop selling this poster.
The writing on this poster  made by the Body Shop to raise money to eradicate violence against women,  “There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do ” incited Mattel to sue The Body Shop to stop selling this poster.

Recovered martyred mothers

April 9, 2012

Becoming a mother at age 22 forever changed my life. The biggest shock was to think about someone else’s needs besides and before my own needs. Until then, it was pretty much all about me, me, me.

three kids in three and a half years requires zone defense and matryed mothers. putting yourself FIRST is key to successful motherhood. parenting is about good mothering and taking time for yourself. mother's day is about doing something for YOu. honoring mother on mother's day is about taking  care of yourself.

Here we are in 1984 with three children born in 37 months. People often said to me, “You have your hands full.” Duh!

When this beautiful reflection of perfection showed up in my life, it seemed natural to make room in my self-centered agenda. She was an easy baby who still allowed me some me-time. When her brother arrived 25 months later, I managed to find “me time” while staying home with them, I either traded childcare with friends, hired babysitters or hubby watched them while I went out for fun.

Our third child came along 17 months later and we went from one-on-one defense to zone defense. It became difficult for one or both parents to meet their needs. As long as a I surrendered, everything was fine. However, that meant I couldn’t:

  • go to the toilet alone,
  • have a phone conversation longer than 30 seconds,
  • put something to my lips without a group asking, “Where’s mine?”
  • sleep for more than three hours in a row, or
  • leave the house spontaneously.

One Sunday afternoon I prepared to go play soccer and realized “It’s not worth it.” A new era of self-sacrifice began — to the extreme. Like many mothers, I began to put myself last.

The kids had new shoes, doctor’s visits and play dates. I wore old shoes, procrastinated going to the doctor, and rarely saw my friends, except other moms at play dates. This era lasted for more than a decade until I woke up and became a recovered martyred mother.

It’s a common syndrome. Last week a friend who has three teenagers and a bad back said, “I have nowhere comfortable to sit at home.” I told her about my relax-the-back chair that cost more than some of our used cars that I never would have bought during my martyrdom.

“I was a stay-at-home mom for years. Now I don’t make much money,” she said apologetically.

My mother’s wisdom, from her grave, sounded loudly in my mind. “That’s what your money is for!” and “If one of the kids needed that chair, you’d buy it without question.”

I suggested to my friend, “Start a cookie jar to save for it. Make it known that you want cash gifts for special occasions to save for the chair. Put ‘found’ money there.”

After my descent into the valley of self-sacrifice for the kids, I re-learnedI am worth it. When mom is happy, everybody is happy. I began spending money on myself. I took piano lessons. It’s reasonable when there’s extra money to spend some on you. If you have less money, figure out frugal and free thrills. Budget some amount of money and free time each month for me-me-me time. It’s a worthwhile investment.

Whatever you do, remember, too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart — William Butler Yeats.

This is the first of a series of Mother’s Day posts.

Mistakes, mothering and guilt

September 15, 2010
raising chickens is like raising children. Sometimes you make mistakes. mothers and guilt

Those yellow globes were Big Red's eggs-to-be.

This has been a rough week so far. I killed a chicken that was still producing eggs. We plucked one egg from her guts, then saw the eggs-to-be at left. It was really fascinating.

I butchered Big Red because of her age and what I thought was low production; an unidentified bird has been hatching discolored eggs — I blamed the old dame; and Big Red has had some health issues in the past.

So it was off with her head. Then I saw the evidence in her guts and the next day one of the six remaining birds laid a spotted dirty egg — like I attributed to Dead Red.

The computer router broke this week. I bought a new one mail-order twice the price of a regular store, then waited five days for delivery. Grrrr.

I broke a beautiful pottery bowl ($35 handmade) by dropping a bag of frozen spaghetti sauce on it. Dumb.

This morning I tried to add a jacket to a load of laundry on our Whirlpool Duet mid-cycle, and the machine went berserk. I cried. I felt like I broke or killed everything I touched.

Bob, my “starter husband” of nearly 30 years said,  “The washer is under warranty.” A repair person is coming today.  After an hour on the phone with Leo in the Philippines, the new router works.

Big Red is in the crock pot for dinner. Bob said, “Don’t worry about the bowl.”

My problems are like a ping pong ball compared to the asteroid-size problems faced by the inmates I visit in prison for Toastmasters. They usually provide me a reality check and realign my outlook. Some days, hormones and problems still get me down.

I remember days like this when raising four children — feeling like I was doing and saying the wrong things that would impact them for life. Being a mother is hard. Being a human being is hard. I have to live with my mistakes and guilt, wipe away the tears and keep going.

Wild women don’t get the blues

September 8, 2010

Mom-baby play groups and a woman’s book group saved my sanity and made me a better mother.

I loved the Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues Book Group. We met one Friday night a month and tried to talk about the book in between comparing kids and men, and supporting each other through life’s passages.

We came together to read other people’s tales, and ended up sharing our own. My friends reminded me I was “normal” and normalized my expectations. Some stories made me grateful to have my husband.

We Wild Women went away annually for the weekend and left the kids home with dad. We rented waterfront , stayed up late drinking wine, told stories and occasionally talked about the book.

Those weekends were like therapy to remind us of US, the non-mom person. We got up late, went on walkabouts with no agenda, no children or men to feed or drive somewhere. We skinny-dipped and cooked for each other.  New members were regaled with Wild Women adventures to initiate them into our clan.

Even though conversation drifted towards those we had abandoned for the night or weekend, we celebrated the freedom of gathering in a circle of women to nourish our souls.

With great sadness, as our children graduated from high school, women began dropping out of Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues Book Group. They stopped prioritizing our Friday night meetings. We were lucky to get a few women to our once sacred meetings. Some women said goodbye, moved and got divorced. Some disappeared without a goodbye.

When we finally dissolved the group, we had a meta-meeting and invited everyone who had been a member over its 15 years tenure, sat in a circle and had a bittersweet reunion.

Other groups have filled the hole left by the Wild Women, which I had envisioned belonging  to until I died. I will cherish the memories of our meetings and weekend jaunts. They introduced me to many good books and cultivated the art of friendship and conversation.

I’ve coached moms who have forgotten about THEM. They’ve sacrificed everything for their families and get depressed. Motherhood is like that. It’s easy to get swallowed up by the Great Mother archetype, taking care of everyone else, and forgetting about our own needs.

As all archetypes do, they will drop us, and the drop is HARD. Children grow up. Mothers and marriages need to remember who they were before children invaded.

She’s gone away

August 19, 2010
She's gone away. My youngest daughter is off to college, again and finally. She's the fourth and final and it feels to final to have our house empty again. Empty nest is a cruel reality.

Kristen at a crossroad of her life.

Kristen  left on Monday for her first semester of graduate school. Her car full, the house empty. I feel the familiar yin-yang of college students coming and going of the past 11 years.

This time is different. Nothing could have prepared for the day when the youngest left, never to return for more than a visit.

I moved a few orphaned belongings to the attic, feeling like an orphan parent. I donated a bag of clothing , scaled down food purchases, and expect her to turn up in the morning, at dinner time.

I can’t believe she fit everything into her little Celica and how orderly she left her room. My soul is disorderly and crammed with conflicting emotions. I detoured my life and put the four of them first, ahead of my own needs, career and life.

Empty nest was expected, anticipated and prepared for. I gave them skills to live independently — based on the ability to make good decisions. Now I now coach other parents to teach children and teens the art of independent decision-making.

I’ve done my job well. I’m as obsolete as her empty bedroom. My relationship with my four grown children is optional, and hopefully out of desire, not obligation. We’re establishing new traditions and reasons to get together. How often is often enough? How many calls and visits are intrusive? At what point does an adult child’s extended visit imply he should pay room and board?

There’s always new ground to cover in parenting, which is why children invading our lives enriches, challenges, frustrates, entertains and gives us a purpose.

It has been worth every sacrifice. My husband, dog and I mourn over the end of an era. The dog tried to stow away in Kristen’s already-crammed car. Bob and I had a good long wet hug when she didn’t show up for dinner.

It’s been a good run.