Archive for the ‘Self-care for mothers’ category

Tanning Mom — do as I say, not as I do

May 21, 2012
Patricia Krentcil looks pretty scary. When she got charged with child abuse because her 5 year old got sun burned, it's an over-reaction by the media. Tanning is not appropriate for kids, obviously. Patricia Krentcil clearly has a tanning addiciton. Good parenting is about setting a good example.

Patricia Krentcil, the famous tanning mom who is charged with child abuse because her 5-year-old daughter got sunburned.

I feel empathy for Patricia Krentcil, the tanning mom charged with child abuse because her 5-year-old red-headed child came to school with a sunburn.The authorities over-reacted to Patricia Krentcil’s bad example for her five children.

Since when is a sunburn is considered child abuse? If anything, the tanning salon is guilty of negligence for allowing a 5-year-old into a tanning booth. If that happened at all. Mom says the kid stayed out in the sun too long.As the mother of four children, I understand the need for parental self-indulgence, and the results of insufficient “me-time.” I became cranky, depressed and resentful when I spent little time and money on me.

With five kids, hiding away alone in a tanning coffin sounds like much-needed peace-of-mind for Patricia Krentcil. All caregivers can benefit from “me time” to make us better parents and keep the marriage going — in activities that aren’t self-destructive.

Tots-to-teens can see through parental hypocrisy of, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Tween and teens abhor hypocrisy and will call parents on it. Kids absorb unspoken messages when we tan until we bake, drink until we fall down, smoke until we hack, and eat until we waddle.

When kids witness addictive behavior in action, they’ll feel the impact for the rest of their lives. They’ll understand addiction as something to turn to in times of despair and depression. They’ll experience the anger, helplessness, disappointment and frustration of addiction in those they depend on. They’ll either see addiction as inevitable and acceptable or an evil to be avoided.

The real message from The Tanning Mom is parents need a break from their kids, that sets an example worth imitating.

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.

Big lessons from little ones

February 28, 2011

slowing down, conscious parenting, savoring the moment, appreciating everything that children can teach us, living in the moment can all be learned from children. Children can be wise teachers. Carl Honore wrote about about being in the moment because of what his son taught him about bedtime routines and bedtime stories. Slowing down is an important lesson of parenting. Having patience is one of the most important things a parent can learn from their children. Parenting is about patience, love and forgiveness.Welcoming my firstborn into my world when I was 22 years old changed the course of my life and taught me more about life and love than I ever imagined.

Casey Anne and her three siblings put every human excrement imaginable on my narcissism and flushed it all down the toilet. She forced me to think about someone else besides me, and to put me second. Ironically, that became a habit. A decade later, I had to resurrect my needs from the toilet and take better care of me.

My children taught me how to be interrupted and still get something done — in addition to taking care of them. The hardest jobs are when you’re constantly interrupted — like secretaries, teachers, nurses and mothers.

Bob and I bought a house that had been neglected when the children were 4, 2 and 6 months old. The 35 windows were so gray with dirt that you couldn’t tell the weather outside. Every day for a month, I plopped them in front of Sesame Street and washed three windows until chaos erupted and I surrendered — another lesson from three children born in three-and-a-half years.

The most valuable lesson was patience, to slow down to their pace, to revel in the present moment. To appreciate humongous earth movers and construction sites; wild animals like squirrels, ants and robins; the wonder of a train station or airport.

Bob and I spent more than a decade giving the kids a nightly bath, reading a book, singing a song and tucking them in. It was like a meditation, and it worked, because they stayed in bed and went to sleep early. It bonded us for life.

In a lecture on Ted Talks,  journalist Carl Honore said that reading a bedtime story to his son taught him to slow down his hectic life. It inspired Honore to write a book “In Praise of Slowness,” a valuable lesson to most 21st century Americans.

Now in their 20s, my “children” continue to teach me different lessons about relationships, technology and  life. They’ve returned the favor — I was their most important teacher because humans learn more in the first four years than they do for the rest of their lives.

When my children were little, they patiently allowed me to make the same mistake, over and over, until I figured out to do something different. Nowadays, they could have more patience now with their ol’ Mom, but they haven’t had any children to teach them — yet.

What have your children taught you?

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.

Family vacation duration – v=x+y-z

August 11, 2010
this cartoon is about chores, but the the one from today was about surviving vacation.

This is a sample of "Pajama Diaries" from their website. Buy today's Boston Globe to see the whole cartoon.

The formula to determine the length of a family vacation is featured in today’s comic strip, “The Pajama Diaries” by Terri Libenson: V= X + Y – Z.

V= Vacation time, X= number of children Y= sum of their ages, Z = number of weekly meltdowns.

The mom does a calculation and announces, “Aaand the grand total is … 3.5 days!!”

Family vacations can translate in family endurance tests. Whatever your relationship is with your children when you’re at home will be intensified ten times when your family is on vacation.

Learning to enjoy, not endure your children is an art that takes time, training and practice. I learned it for my four children by taking discussion classes with other parents, reading books based on ONE consistent approach pioneered by Alfred Adler, and practicing.

There is no magic one-click fix to raising children. It feels like a never-ending cycle of trial and error, frustration and doubt, and fear that you’re forever damaging your child.

That’s where parenting classes come in handy because you find out you’re not alone, learn a new approach together and come away feeling better and armed with a plan to respond differently when children behave poorly.

That’s the MOST challenging aspect of parenthood: we cannot control our children. We can only control our response to them.

If you want to enjoy, not endure your children and pave the way for a low-hassle adolescence, sign up for my six-week online parenting course starting Sept. 1, 2010. Brat-proof your family, gain sanity and be the parent you want to be.

Moms deserve downtime, too

August 4, 2010

I’m on vacation with my husband and four-20-somethings and I want to have some down time and relax. To avoid filling the role of family servant, I had a family meeting when we arrived.  I forgot to send out an email in advance asking about who will cook what, when. Last year, my oldest daughter coordinated all of it and I did my part.

As always, the Double E – encouragement & expectation – plays a role, as does my behavior.  I had to learn to step back. My husband has developed the tradition of hosting Thanksgiving dinner for “his”  relatives. I’ve taken on the role of his assistant and chief bottle washer, instead of my normal role of chief cook. It has given me practice of being a man on Thanksgiving — to do my small role, a big part of which is cleanup, and then leave the area. Relax. Watch football [not!]. Take a walk or a canoe ride. Play bridge or Scrabble or Banannagrams. At first it was odd to be relieved of the responsibility. Now it’s glorious to NOT be in charge of THE MEAL of the year. It’s kinda fun to watch him plan and coordinate it.

Same with summer vacation. I have to put on the reins and STOP myself from running the show.  Some women do not cook during vacation [or the rest of the year]. The family goes out. They get takeout. People buy prepared food. Not cooking requires a passivity that doesn’t come naturally to me.

Mothers, I’m here to tell you that passivity can be learned. Someone who is hungry will take initiative. Dirty dishes in the sink are NOT my responsibility! They can pile up. We can use paper plates. I can learn to kick back. I can encourage and expect others to prepare dinner, buy food, and make plans.

I can enjoy my vacation, too and do what I feel like. It’s kind of like my attitude towards our family dog. I am not the dog owner. I’m the dog’s stepmother. I do what looks good, feels good and what I feel like in the moment. I have absolutely no responsibility for the dog. It’s glorious! I’ve learned to be passive, to let go, to learn that complaining about profuse dog hair does no good.

The question is, and it’s a good question to ask when parents have a conflict with offspring: “Whose problem is it?” All that dog hair is MY problem. Hunger is MY problem at dinner. I can rustle up a few nuts and wait and see what appears, produced by someone else. It’s glorious. I’m off to read my novel, because dinner is not my problem.

Children will not go away when ignored. Marriages will.

July 28, 2010

THE MOST important relationship in a family is between the parents.

Parenting means keeping marriaging. Keep the marriage going by investing in it. Bob & I are spending time traveling in china together, without the children. We make the effort to spend time together. We have marriage dates. We have fun together. We have sex. We laugh.

Here we are in China, having fun together. You can have fun in your own back yard and bedroom, too. Go to China when college tuition bills end.mother, or father-father.

Divorce is the MOST disruptive event in a child’s life – emotionally, economically, and logistically. No child wants his/her parents to get divorced. Period.

Hence, parents  invest in your relationship. Take these actions.

  1. Take time to be together regularly. Set a monthly date if necessary. Laugh. Have sex. Have fun together doing something you both like.
  2. Talk daily. Ironically, when my husband traveled for corporate America, we talked MORE because I set aside 30 minutes at the end of the day after the kids were in bed to talk to him, uninterrupted. I made it a priority to stay in touch with him. We had a rule — no fighting when he was on the road because it felt like a dead-end when we hung up, with nowhere to go.
  3. Go away together as a couple once a year, for at least an overnight. “As a couple” means without the children! Find someone to take care of your children – pay, trade, ask relatives or friends. I found people to care for our four children and a dog. Crazy people are out there! Some of them are childless & might enjoy the adventure. Others do it because they’re related to you. We did all of the above – paid, traded, and asked friends/relatives.
  4. GET TUNE-UPS regularly. You maintain your car and your house, do the same for your marriage with the same regularity. Without fail. Filling up your tank every week with gas translates to weekly dates as simple as reserving time together after putting the children to bed.We had a standard in-house date of dinner and a movie. I fed the kids early, put them in front of their movie while we ate. Then we put them to bed and watched our movie.
  5. Get professional help until you learn to communicate openly and heal your childhood wounds. Therapy, workshops and groups are all WAY CHEAPER than getting divorced. Invest in your marriage, it’s worth it.

We followed the above guidelines and are going on 30 years together, and survived raising four children, moving five times and financial crises.

The first 20 years are the hardest. After the children leave home everything seems so simple. I fell in love with my husband again after the children left home. It’s wonderful to be with my life mate and the father of my children.

We drove over many bumps in the road to get here, with unexpected stops and destinations. HANG ON for the ride. It’s worth it.